More often then not, I turn to WILLOWTIP when I want something new. This Pennsylvanian label often describes their releases as 'forward thinking metal' and often that's an accurate portrayal of the bands they sign. Your always bound to get something Death Metal or Grind-based but all of their bands seem to do something very out-of-the-norm (i.e. GIGAN, BARING TEETH, etc). INGURGITATING OBLIVION seems to sort of follow this rule with 'Continuum of Absence' but with some rather fatal flaws I can't seem to overlook.

The band has no problem laying out extremely heavy riffs, as expected. This is, no doubt, a top quality band with the expected exceptional playing that comes of a WILLOWTIP band - especially by the bassist, Christian Pfeil, who seems to always push through the mix with some truly memorable and unique bass-lines. In this respect, everything is tight and well done - nicely assembled as you'd expect. However, the flaws present themselves when you realize that 'Continuum of Absence' is a whopping 50 minutes long. 

This album opens with a 10 minute Death Metal barrage, which simply becomes far too boring and repetitive by its end. Following this track with a 4 and a half minute song isn't too bad but the second track sounds like a extension of the first - creating a very drawn out and tired experience right off the bat. As the album continues, this trend persists. Songs are just too long and don't contain enough substance or experimentation to warrant 6-8-10 minute Death Metal epics. I just ended up wanting everything to end as fast as possible.

Though there is potential here and some good moments, I don't honestly feel like this group knew what they were going for. There seems to be a aim for Progressive Metal aesthetics but instead your just getting standard Modern Death Metal on repeat.

Thank you and Happy Holidays from Direnotes!

Direnotes would like to thank you all who read for a great year! This little home blog project is still just a wee-baby but its grown so much thanks to the support and patience of so many great musicians, labels, and PR thirsty to give themselves some exposure and me something nice to listen to! It might not seem much but to me, it means a lot.

Hopefully this coming year will have a lot in store for both me and the readers as Direnotes is going to be heading in a few new directions - maybe even providing video reviews for physical releases! 

I hope you and your families are all having a fantastic time - but it here or Hungary (ha)!

REVIEW: ENTRENCH - Violent Procreation

Holy crap, ENTRENCHED really is pissed! 'Violent Procreation' carries with it the subtlety of a thrashing and clawing animal caught in a trap. Violating listeners years with insane levels of thrash akin to none I've really heard before. Its not Power Violence or anything like that, ENTRENCH simply encapsulates the power and forward intensity that Thrash Metal is supposed to be.

Now, I'm sure that other bands have hit the nail in the past twenty odd years - I'm sure there are countless that I've not even heard yet. However, ENTRENCH calls back to the older, more raw, aspect of Thrash with 'Violent Procreation'. I've been stuck with Death-core and Metal-core bands labeling themselves as 'Thrash' for way too long - often raising my hopes before finally laying on the disappointment. 'Violent Procreation' picked me up from that, simultaneously knocking me unconscious at the same time.

Oddly, this band consists (or consisted) of the old 3-man principal - keeping everything creatively tight and simple. Thank god, Joel E. Sundin has consistent bass skills to keep up with the overwhelming powerhouse that is Fredrik Pellbrink... The man delivers all of the guitar and vocal intensity single-handedly. Sadly, the drummer Victor Holmstrom appears to have passed away - no doubt that has been a great loss for ENTRENCH.

Great Thrash. Period.


To get it way out of the way: Yes, I am a fan of Devin Townsend. My favorite album was 'Ki', I didn't like the original 'Ziltoid' and 'Epicloud' was balls - also, I don't really see why Strapping Young Lad should return in any complicity. Also, Casualties of Cool was amazing. Anyhow, somehow I've been blessed with a copy of Devin Townsend's most ambitious album in the history of... ever.

While, yes, the first section of Z2 'Sky Blue' acts as a sort of loose tie into the rest of the album, with some vaguely existential and somewhat meaningless connections - it is extremely clear that 'Dark Matters' is where Townsend's heart resided. Not to say that the first half is bad by any means, it just feels somewhat unimportant compared to the rest of the album. I, personally, did not enjoy much of Ziltoid The Omniscient and the whole album was very scattered to me but 'Dark Matters' plays off much like a old radio broadcast paired with some fresh and somewhat daring steps in metal. Cheesy effects are scattered throughout everywhere, hamming up the album more then even the over-the-top dialogue does. There are actually multiple characters and sections where Ziltoid takes part in the songs, becoming a active entity within the story-line rather then fancy dressing - which means you don't have to look up what exactly the story of this album is, you can actually listen and know what is going on.  This is all paired with a increasingly heavy and pulse-pounding progression into orchestral-infused industrial tracks - I especially love when a whole album, rather then a single song, progresses.

What you got here is genuinely worth the hype; genuinely worth hearing and listening to. That being said, you also got something incredibly simplistic in comparison to albums like 'Deconstruction' but in the best way possible. Its almost as if maybe Devin Townsend's touring with Gojira brought him a little more down to earth with song writing because there is a lot done with little on Z2.

Now, sadly, as I mentioned before - 'Sky Blue' isn't bad by any means but its simply not as fun. It opens with 'Rejoice' - which is at best a good song but not great and sort of just wanders from there. To be perfectly honest, it feels as if Anneke van Giersbergen has been way too much a part of Devin Townsend's music for too long. At no discredit to her, she is talented, however I've heard her as part of many other albums and bands - her style and contributions have rarely varied. But, really, she has been making many songs sound very same-y from Devin Townsend for way too long and is a good deal why I felt that Epicloud was sort of Epiclousy.

Dark Matters is where the best is on this double album but I'm sure many will enjoy Sky Blue - just not as much as those who'll enjoy Dark Matters. Now, I see that Devin Townsend is going on a break and I wish him all the best - even if there are no more albums.

REVIEW: SLUP - Dramatorgie

I almost fell for it - SLUP almost had me for a loop. You see, this is Goregrind and its supposed to be a muddy, choppy, and completely offensive exploitative ride. The vast majority of people are supposed to hate this; they are supposed to be in disgust of the imagery (see: SLUP - Dramatorgie album art for example), the sound, the lyrical content. The fans and players of this genre live for your dissatisfaction. So, my response to SLUP is an astounding: meh.

There have been bands like this for a long time now, they spew some offensive lines here and there and rattle the convictions of youth and adult alike. However, this band sadly is completely ineffectual due to the fact that these individuals speak in Czech - and I'm sure they rocked the boats of Bohema quite a bit but for English speakers, the most important aspect of Goregrind has been stunted.

So, what we are all left with is the rather plain downtrodden bones of goregrind - the shock is all gone and I'm left hearing things I've heard a million times over. Its the same old riffs and hooks that grind, goregrind, pornogrind, etc use constantly; same old and tired guitar tones; same drums - and, my god, the mixing on the vocals is so wrong that it sounds as if someone is just singing over some instrumental track they found for free.

Unless you are Czech or speak the tongue, you are not going to like this. That is, even if you like Goregrind because all the shock of this rock won't be present for you.

REVIEW: Publicist UK - Demo

I don't judge demos by their overall quality, more for their potential - not that there is anything overtly wrong with PUBLICIST UK's Demo. What is here is most definitely interesting, it encapsulates the despair, disdain, and restlessness that its members seem to be feeling towards the world. The extremely passive-aggressive use of monotone vocals really thrusts the listener into some otherworldly expanse - almost always you find yourself pulled into some lonely and despairing state of being. That, is most definitely what I'd call 'potential'.

However, there are a few hiccups - nothing major. I do love the song 'Never Gone To School' for its overall strangeness and 'Slow Dancing To The Bitter Earth' has some extremely bizarre lyrical content. But, the songs sometimes take a very long time to build up to a cohesive blend. Its almost as if the songs intentionally come off as a bit sloppy at first only to fake out the listener in some fantastic musical climax. Both tracks are like this, coming off very shoe-gaze like. Each starts sort of down-to-earth and aspiring but then completely pummels your ears with endings that I'm absolutely in love with.

There isn't too much I can go on about with only two tracks to work with but for what little there is, I find myself falling for it. PUBLICIST UK is odd, to say the least, but endearing. I'm hoping I hear a full album soon.

Sorry guys, no bandcamp for this one!

In This Moment And Maria Brink Actually Bothered Listening To Fan Backlash!

I posted a article months back about how sex doesn't always work as well as intended in marketing and there was a pretty strong emphasis on Maria Brink's decline from a relatively attractive woman, albeit unconventionally, to some sort of idiotic goth porn-star image - which completely robbed her music of its credibility to me. However, as I'm one for chances, I've been keeping a ear out for Maria Brink and IN THIS MOMENT's progression to whatever the hell they are going for. As usual, I expect the worst when it comes to bands aiming for mainstream success, but color me surprised when IN THIS MOMENT actually bothered to make a substantial and sensible change in direction.

Though their music now hops this strange line between the GENITORTURERS, ROB ZOMBIE, and LIMP BIZKUT - IN THIS MOMENT actually bothered. Gone now is the horrifyingly idiotic abuse-me image, which Maria Brink tried desperately to back up in countless interviews and a certain infamous magazine cover, and now comes a era of what I could actually consider a empowering image (kinda). See, now ol' Brinky has her clothes on - they are tight and all but shes going for scary attractive. This, to me, is way different then the muck we all usually see and I applaud her for also having extremely original outfit design - none of that Hot Topic or Vampire Freaks crap here. And, though, I'm not exactly drooling over the woman or anything, shes showing some direction towards building a fan-base that can be attractive without feeling as if they need to be promiscuous or something - or clueless.

So, I really don't like the new music or anything but I do like the fact that the band let Maria put on some pants or a dress again. Its nice.

REVIEW: Dreamgrave - Presentiment

Admittedly, I've been waiting for something like DREAMGRAVE for quite sometime. Its the sort of music that exists on some ethereal balance, not quite one definable sound but a perfect storm of many ideas and snippets - unrestrained if you will by too many generic-ties. I'd like to say bands like FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE fall within the lines of this rare sub-type but I can honestly say that, nah, DREAMGRAVE is the real deal here.

Of course, DREAMGRAVE is heavy as hell - Dömötör Gyimesi and Mária Molnár know their stuff and they add their vocal talents here and there quite well. And, at a superficial level you could say that the vocal overtones strongly reflect a Melodic Death-metal demeanor. However, beneath that is a plethora of schizophrenic variety ranging from choirs and organs to flutes and wild cutting riffs that I love the hell out of. János Mayer, the keyboardist, so perfectly provides a plethora of emotional interludes. Every song reflects a stunning emotional and stylistic cavalcade - not to mention its the sort of thing everyone has been wanting from the progressive scene for quite sometime. 

This literally blows the hokey-pokey nonsense of DEVIN TOWNSEND and even OPETH right through the roof - providing a more serious experimental progressive tone. Its a thinking-mans metal, for people who are looking for something beyond the second-hand PANTERA's, SLIPKNOT's, and LAMB OF GOD's that are shoved down our throats these days. 

One downside? The cover-art looks way too much like FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE's 'Labyrinth'.


If you've heard anything about OLDE, its no doubt good. The band has already made a significant impact with 'I' and no doubt its roll has just begun, especially with the first full length being titled 'I' (obviously). So, if I sound like I'm singing the same old tune as other publications - I probably am. However, if you haven't had the chance to hear what their all about then I implore: read the following review.

OLDE is something of a phenomenon. You've sort of heard similar projects before - like MASTODON, RED FANG, or maybe even NEUROSIS - but OLDE has a harder edge about it, almost like it was a less experimental LUMBAR album. And, whereas the aforementioned bands somewhat struggled with their musical identities overtime - OLDE simply does not. Sure, the bluesy doom-laden stoner riffs are all there - though with a little more technicality then usual; vocalist Doug McLarty's pipes are gruff enough to make one think the bear on the albums cover is no doubt some representation of his vocal style; and enough BLACK SABBATH inspiration is present that it beats you over the head repeatedly - but, OLDE works. 'I' captures the essence of all modern Doom and Stoner bands and encapsulates it into the album which should forever define the genres from hereon out.

Hypaethral Records, you need not worry - there is no preconceptions of OLDE being 'some new-school, svengali-created trend-jumpers' in my mind nor should there be in anyone's minds. My god, buy this album.

REVIEW: INFESTUM - Monuments of Exalted

A true rarity, INFESTUM and their 'Monuments of Exalted' really drum up some hope when it comes to the future of Black Metal and Blackened Death Metal. For a genre full of stubborn old-school elitists - its nice to see that INFESTUM knows how to breathe some life into a Metal genre that desperately needs it.

To me, INFESTUM seems to have all the versatility and vision of DARK FORTRESS but take it to a level all their own - combining classic Black and Death Metal composition with towering otherworldly Pads and pulse-pounding electronics. 'Monuments of Exalted' isn't a release that wants you to feel dreary and disillusioned - INFESTUM wants you to bow before their monumental force.

To say there is anything genuinely bad about this release would be night impossible for me. From beginning to end 'Monuments of Exalted' pulls you in and lets you feel what INFESTUM is all about. The only nay-Sayers I could imagine are purists who dislike the inclusion of electronics in their music or higher budget production values. To that, I say that eventually Blackened Metal had to take a step forward and this is it.


Oh, its Death Metal time folks. And, I'm not talking like Melodic Death Metal like IN FLAMES or TRACEDAWN - nope, I'm talking classic mid-era Death Metal. The sort of stuff that actually had something to do with topics such as... well, death!

Apparently, PUTRID EVOCATION takes their metal very seriously - being a extreme band from extreme Chile, or so I'm told. This is European extremity by the way - so your most likely going to feel like throwing up after you've finished listening to ECHOES OF DEATH in its entirety. Sadly, the whole thing is a been-there-done-that sort of album. Don't get me wrong, I like Death Metal and I enjoy its tropes. Hell, I even like how this album sounds as if it's been recorded in some deep chasm somewhere. However, I've heard this album before so many times - even the vocal style is extremely akin to bands like CEREKLOTH. Actually, this whole album could pass easily as just another CEREKLOTH album - every bit of it. Though, I suppose its in the nature of 'classic' to follow tropes and traits of older, more successful bands.

On the positive side, PUTRID EVOCATION's ECHOES OF DEATH is most definitely real, pure-blood, Death Metal. With that, however, it also falls into the same-old tropes and styles of similar acts. You aren't really getting anything new or unheard of. Still, its worth checking out if your a hardcore fan of the genre.

REVIEW: Edge of Haze - Illumine

For those who don't know, I am a fan of Doom, Gothic (what few 'Gothic' bands remain), and Progressive rock/metal breeds. The vast majority of my personal music collection mostly consists of these genres - just because I review a decent amount of Black Metal doesn't mean I listen to it exclusively or for recreation. Anyhow, that being said, EDGE OF HAZE really fits into a rather comfortable niche for me - and will no doubt do the same for fans of DEVIN TOWNSEND, OPETH, and the like. Actually, I'd go as far as saying that EDGE OF HAZE really gathers the best progressive elements of DT and OPETH to make what I'd consider to be some sort of vastly misunderstood mega love-child.

Now, I don't really see how the Gothic bit fits in. I think its a tired and overused junk statement that this band instantly rises above. For instance, the only true Gothic band I know of is MOONSPELL and though they are one of my own favorite bands, EDGE OF HAZE is a whole other beast. The band has this fantastic idea of taking tired chunky simple-riffs and applying them without much shame - which I actually like, despite that seeming like a negative statement. ILLUMINE almost carries the aesthetics of punk in that way, consisting of endless simplicity though layering it to create something wholly new. I've heard the heart-wrenched and angry harsh lyrics followed by cleans - but here the lyrics remind me of OPETH songs while the music has that Neo-progressive vibe of DEVIN TOWNSEND's 'Z2.' And no, they certainly didn't copy anything. Its just there and wonderfully different but all-the-same familiar. Perhaps the production also helps support that statement as its up there with all the over-polished big bands these days, only I think if I went to see EDGE OF HAZE live it might actually sound exactly the same as what I'm hearing on ILLUMINE.

EDGE OF HAZE is a treat for Prog lovers and they really show it with ILLUMINE. Laying up at night and going through tracks such as 'A Storm At The River' and 'The Newfound Horizon' was something I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did.


My e-mail inbox, since the advent of bands such as DEAFHEAVEN (though the band isn’t bad by any means), has been pelted with way too many meloncholy progressive black metal bands. I mean, when your aim is soley to be a carbon copy of a band - I don’t honestly even see the point in pooling all your money and time into some shoddy rip-off, really. Jan F. Lindsø’s VYRJU, just so you know, has no affiliation with with that comment. I bring up the project because, to be frank, even with a few flaws - VYRJU doesn’t try to be something it isn’t; doesn’t try to copy.

Now, I’m honestly not fully sure what genre to place this EP in - I’d thought black metal or something along those lines (Not because the title of the EP is ‘Black’) but as you progress from beginning to end with ‘Black’ the whole thing sort of finds its own voice. The vocals, initially, are crazy intense and I do mean crazy. Jan Lindsø screams like a crazy person who want to do crazy things to you; put crazy ideas in your head - strangely a very good companion to Black’s fiercely emotional song-writing.  In a rare stylistic choice, however, this is contrasted with some very nice singing vocals by guest Tim Yatras (Germ, Austere, ex-Nazxul, ex-Woods of Desolation etc). It places the EP into a melodic light and towards being more of a experience than just a run-of-the-mill collection of songs.

Now, the project has just a few flaws, something I enjoy about music like this - it isn’t over-processed. At times the progression is very typical for the blackened approach to metal. Later tracks glide into a typical trebly, screechy, and minor scale sort of direction - attempting to provide a wall of distortion to carry the intensity of the vocal styles. This is somewhat a shame because the opening track ‘The Constant Void’ really has a good hook/groove/rhythm/melody thing going on.

Though not exactly new in style or progression, maybe even a tad obvious in direction at times,  Jan Lindsø manages to pull you in by the end of his 4 track EP ‘Black’. Here is hoping to hear more from him with VYRJU.

INTERVIEW: Drummer James Balcombe of Osmium Guillotine


Coming straight from Essex -homeland of acts such as Crass, David Byron and Paul Allender- is Osmium Guillotine. A punk-infused Traditional Metal foursome that seems to be bringing some more life to fans of bands like Iron Maiden or even Dio. 

*Firstly, I’d like to say thanks for taking the time for this interview as well - it means a lot to hear from bands such as yourselves.

No worries, thanks for having us!

*What sort of struggles have you faced breaking out in the Essex scene?

Certainly when we first started out playing our style of ‘traditional’ heavy metal, back in 2009/2010 the local metal scene seemed to primarily consist of metalcore/screamo bands, as that style was pretty popular at the time, and we kept being put on those sort of line-ups. I’ve nothing against those bands or their fans, but it did mean that for us it was harder to find an appreciative crowd for the style of music we were into. Fortunately, in recent years there has been more of a resurgence of bands and metal nights which are better suited to our style, and through that we’ve been able to make a few allies with other local bands who’d experienced the same struggles, and collectively gained a supportive fan base.

*Not many bands are lucky enough to play with alongside likes of Dennis Stratton and Blaze Bayley, how did that come about and how did it help push Osmium Guillotine forward?

Obviously we’re all big Iron Maiden fans, so the opportunity to share a stage with former members of the band is a great honor. The Blaze Bayley gig was a few years back at a venue in Chelmsford, Essex, which we were offered a support slot for pretty much because the promoter knew our tastes and style of music would suit that crowd. The Dennis Stratton support slot was a lot more recent, and that one was extra special because we were actually joined on-stage during our set to perform a rendition of ‘Prowler’ from the first Iron Maiden album, with Dennis on lead vocals & guitar, so that was an awesome moment the band and myself personally will be something I’ll always remember.

*Traditional metal has sort of lost its steam these days, do you guys think Osmium Guillotine can make a difference in the genre?

True, that particular style it hasn’t been at the forefront of mainstream heavy metal for a while (excluding the ‘big names’ who headline festivals every year!) but it’s always been out there, you just have to look a little harder to find those bands. There’s definitely been a ‘British Metal Revival’ lately, with new festivals and metal events happening locally more tailored to traditional heavy metal, NWOBHM, thrash metal, etc. there will always be a place for it, even if it’s not what the mainstream music media ever considers ‘popular’.

*What albums/bands would you say inspired the formation of Osmium Guillotine and the creation of your first album - or maybe just stuff you guys jam to?

The first band that springs to mind obviously has to be Iron Maiden, for me personally their ‘Powerslave’ album was the album that really helped me discover heavy metal, so they’ll always be an early influence, likewise bands like Saxon, Judas Priest and many other bands from the NWOBHM-era. On the other side of the coin, the early Black Sabbath albums have definitely played a big part in the development of our sound. Other notable bands for me include anything from fast, raw energy of Motörhead, to more progressive stuff like Dream Theater. Our guitarist/vocalist Peter is big into the likes of Pantera and Alice in Chains so some of that creeps in as well, but overall we have a pretty varied mix of tastes, from thrash metal, punk, blues, jazz and even folk goes into the ol’ influence bag.

*Though Traditional Metal these days follows a pretty standard route with content, you guys manage to mix things up with some really unique lyrical content in songs like ‘Phobophobia’ and especially ‘Goomba.’ Would you say that it was your choice to go this unique route or simply something that happened?

We don’t really stick to any particular theme, lyrically, it really is just as the ideas come. Some of the songs are more tongue in cheek, or based on something fictional, while other songs have a more serious down-to-earth level. Phobophobia is a genuine thing I found out about, which is literally a ‘fear of fears’, people have a phobia of developing a phobia, seemed like a good topic to write about! Goomba is lyrically a bit more tongue-in-cheek as it’s actually written from the perspective of a Goomba (enemy from the Super Mario games), about what a horribly short and repetitive existence they live.

*I don’t usually ask this, but what exactly is the inspiration for the band name? Even in my experience with countless death and black metal bands - I’ve yet to even hear the word ‘Osmium’ used.

‘Osmium’ is actually on the periodic table, it’s literally a type of heavy metal! We were originally deciding between that and ‘Guillotine’ as two potential band names, and then figured, what if you had a guillotine made of osmium? Having your head taken off with the heaviest metal - Osmium Guillotine!

*Do you think Osmium Guillotine will hit North American in the future?

We’ve had quite a few CD and merch sales come from America, so someone over there must like us! Yeah naturally if we ever have the chance to play overseas we’d jump at it, but it’s a costly venture for us just to play gigs further afield in our own country, we all work full time jobs to cover our costs as playing in an underground metal band isn’t really a big money-making thing. But who knows what the future holds, if an opportunity arises for us to get out of England and come play some shows in different parts of the world, we will grab it with both hands.

*What can we expect in the future from you guys?

Our next release will be a live album, “Osmium Guillotine – Live From The Asylum” which was recorded at the Asylum venue in Chelmsford earlier this year, we plan to release this in mid-October, with a big launch gig at the Asylum venue.

We’ve recently had a change of personnel in the band, as our bassist Dan has unfortunately had to leave the band due as he’s recently moved away too far to gig/rehearse with us on a regular basis, so we’ve just welcomed Josh Birch into the band on bass and are now concentrating on rehearsing and gearing up for our first gigs with this new line-up, we do some new songs in the pipeline as well so people can definitely be expecting to hear some new material for our upcoming gigs.

*Thank you for your time and I really appreciate, again, that you took the time to do this interview! \m/

Cheers, keep the metal flag flying!

REPORT: HAKEN have a new video - and a new EP!

If you haven't gotten the chance to listen to HAKEN, a group of extremely unique UK progressive metallers, now is your chance. It was no secret that they've been working on something new, however, with 'Darkest Light' it looks as if the group is upping the technical ante even compared to 'The Mountain'. Now, I'd usually be skeptical over a band releasing a new EP only a year after their previous album but HAKEN has never failed me in the past - and with 'Darkest Light', well they've certainly went way over my expectations.

Check out the new video here:

If you like that, the EP will be released digitally on Nov. !!th and you can already pre-order the vinyl or CD here:

IN MEMORY: Coldbringer Recordings

So, I've happened upon something that I've personally not yet experienced in my many years dealing with the 50,000 sub-genres of Rock, Punk, and Metal. You could say I'm lucky for this, or that the avenues I use for purchase rarely stock out-of-stock or print items (duh) - BUT I've managed to come across a Dead Label. Not only this but almost any band tied to this label sputtered out of existence as well (as far as I know).

So, in memory of this derelict label - I hereby erect this blog post in its honor. Direnotes remembers... and also happens to have a copy of 'Part 2 - Weeping Wailing and the Gnashing of Teeth.'


  • 2002-2012 (By evidence)
  • Los Angeles/San Francisco  


  • End on End 
  • Life In Pictures 
  • Part II 
  • Bleeding Kansas 
  • An Arrow in Flight 
  • Life at these Speeds 
  • Comadre

SINGLE: Khaøs - After The Silence

Band:  Khaøs
Single: After The Silence
Genre: Hard Rock/Trad. Metal

It isn't too often I check out something that falls too far out of line with my (honestly) obscure tastes - nobody really wants to listen to something they are unsure of, even if they are reviewing it like I do. But, sometimes I decide to tone things down some and check out a band that doesn't exactly fall in line with what I like. So, after getting a much appreciated dose of support from a bevy of quality record labels and PR - I managed to catch wind of KHAøS.

Though the name implies extremity, KHAøS is actually more of a Hard Rock group that draws slightly from the well in which classic metal acts such as DIO and RAINBOW. And, with their single 'After The Silence' the band has starting going a route which promises anthems-a-plenty on their forthcoming album 'Risen'. Which, may possibly be something I'll be feature here on Direnotes.

Sadly, the song really speaks for itself - which makes reviewing it a bit difficult for someone such as myself. However, if it makes listening to the video below any easier - I can promise you that the verses make sense, are not filler, ARE meaty, and the chorus is incredibly catchy. Though I can't promise you'll like this group or their new single - this reviewer is enjoying what he's heard from their new singe and can't wait for 'Risen' to hit the shelves.


REVIEW: Old Witch - Come Mourning Come

Band: Old Witch
Album: Come Mourning Come
Genre: Funeral Doom

I'm almost completely sure that I've just had a near-death experience - or at least I've been completely bewildered for about 36 minutes. Funeral Doom has always captivated me but OLD WITCH, all I can say is that if I decide I'm listen to 'Come Mourning Come' - I'm not coming back anytime soon.

The average person will not listen to this willfully, as I hook up my stereo and experience the saddening depressive soundscapes of OLD WITCH - I'm pelted with questions as to if I'm alright or not. Though, I'm at a loss as to how to answer that. You see, the illusive group (whom i can find absolutely no solid information on) seems to have some deeper understanding of the hyper-depressive experience. Sorry to pelt on bands like DEAFHEAVEN (which I honestly do like) but their emotional aim's do not even scratch upon the surface of 'Come Mourning Come' and it's six harrowing tracks. Not only that, the deep whining and chugging riffs challenge my expectations of Doom as well - almost coming off as a horrifyingly depressive caricature of WEED EATER.  And really, that is the best comparison I can draw up. OLD WITCH gnaws and bites at you; drags you down and beats you senseless. It is a creature which properly illustrates the sub-genre in which it represents and acts upon it to the maximum. Not for the faint of heart.

Funeral Doom at its best - would be something I'd say if OLD WITCH didn't kick things up several thousand notches. No, OLD WITCH sets a new standard that I'm unsure will be met in the near future. Do not let this quiet release slip by your radar - seriously.


REVIEW: Duke City Riots - OK to Burn EP

Band: Duke City Riots
Album: OK to Burn
Genre: Experimental Rock
Albuquerque, New Mexico

My wife happens to reside in the mountainous city of Albuquerque in New Mexico (a.k.a. Not Quite Real Mexico But Getting There). So, naturally when I'm somewhere completely unknown and unbelievably temperate - I gravitate towards places familiar.  It took me a while but I managed to find a rather good record store not too far from where she's at. And here I find DUKE CITY RIOTS 'OK to Burn' sitting there with 'FREE' written on its shrink wrap. To say the least, I was confused and expecting something entirely awful to be given out free. I mean, I've heard some unbelievably bad bands at least sell their CD's for a few bucks with moderate success - why was this free? Answer is: I have no idea.

You see, DUKE CITY RIOTS is not even close to bad. Granted, I'm not expert in the realm of rock or that particular scene but as someone who delves into a genre where people scream and yell for a hobby - I have to say that 'OK to Burn' provided the break I needed with a sufficient irony in its lyrics to feed my relentless cynicism. Also, these guys really know what they are going for and don't really bother to bombard you with over-the-top technicality or anything - the simplicity really shines here. There is a sort of Rockabilly sensibility to this EP as well, so expect some really decent anthem's to come out of 'OK to Burn' - especially with the song 'Monagability (Women on the Beach)' which even the band seems to know is the main highlight of this EP.

DUKE CITY RIOTS is for those who crave something new in the tired little niche they call Rock (real rock, not Pop-rock). You aren't going to get solo's and you aren't going to get anything overtly over the top but you'll get something incredibly fun with 'OK to Burn'. And, personally, this shouldn't have been free - I'm almost ashamed to have not supported these guys with a purchase! Stuff like this belongs on the shelf.


REVIEW: DEVICE - Device (Self-Titled)

Genre: Heavy Metal
Vancouver, British Columbia

Yeah, its no surprise that with me being Canadian I'm a fan of Canadian music. Though, it should also be noted that I'm a fan of good music in general as well - so regardless of maple leafs, hockey, and slightly higher alcohol percentages - I'm still going to provide a honest opinion. So if it sucks, it does but hey -sorry- this time DEVICE does not.

Hailing, obviously, from Canada - but more specifically the ever-rainy Province of British Columbia is DEVICE (who share the name with the abysmal David Draiman band - hopefully by their second album they aren't called DEVICE B.C.). This band really borrows the energy and feeling from bands such as JUDAS PRIEST, W.A.S.P., IRON MAIDEN, and just about anything else along the lines of Traditional Heavy Metal (Hell, even the art is Traditionally drawn - to best of my knowledge, at least). However, borrowing energy doesn't mean that DEVICE is copying or anything like that. The band retains their own, very distinct individuality within the metal genre hemisphere. It isn't any surprise that I've been seeing these guys pop up all over the place. The entire album is just ripe with metal anthems, its the sort of album that totally oozes 'metal pride' over extremity - I can get behind that.

Listen-ability is key to me when it comes to albums and when I can somehow still thoroughly enjoy a band proudly and publicly even with songs with such remarkably cheesy titles like 'Miracle Metal' or 'Am I the Iceman?'- that tells you something, especially since I'm a very insecure kind of person when it comes to my music selection. Traditional fans show some praise: finally something new for you folks to sink your teeth into!


REVIEW: WARFUCK - Neantification

Album: Neantification
Genre: Experimental Grind-core

I'm not usually the greatest fan of Grind-core, the music I can dig but the vocals most-times ruin it for me - it all feels like a vehicle to bring home a message of hate or political uprising - whatever. Though, occasionally there is a band or two I can get behind that break the tiring mold of using that aggressive short-style. WARFUCK, with its incredibly vulgar and not home-friendly name, a Uber spastic and aggressive duo from France - is actually one of those rare grind-core bands that do stand out. 

The styling of WARFUCK, as previously mentioned, are somewhat spastic in their approach. Rather then focus almost specifically on fast up-tempo in-your-face riff-age, WARFUCK likes to start fast and slow down just enough to drop a metric tonne of hard-hitting sludge-styled or sometimes thrashy bars atop your head. Between this, you also get some very punk influenced drum-lines as well as moments that almost sound like something off of a newer CRYPTOPSY album. What exactly is going on with WARFUCK, I don't think I'll ever know, but I'm enjoying every last second of it.

Sure, there is a few drawbacks to WARFUCK. Specifically dealing with the length of the songs and the constant use of narration of frame the subject of a specific track. 'Neantification' loves itself some narration, that is definitely fact. But, most of it is narrated by someone I have no idea or know of. If its one of WARFUCK's members or some overseas political activist, i don't know - but sometimes they sound to be on the verge of crying. However, the short and fast nature of the songs don't really lend well to this sort of addition. Some songs are just too obvious in content and doing this adds redundancy to something that is just too spastic and short to be redundant (sort of a self-contradiction). 

Anyhow, the album still holds up extremely well even with its solitary flaw. If you want it hard, fast, extremely aggressive, meaningful, and wholly refreshing in the realm of Grindcore - I suggest you get your hands on WARFUCK's 'Neantification'. And hey, they are on Vinyl as well - check it out!


REVIEW: Winter Gate - disIllumination

As I run amok in all manner of indie and underground band, never delving deep enough to touch the horrid likes of 'noise', I generally tend to miss out on what they like to call 'melodic' bands. Its not that I avoid them or anything, I think its just that after such a powerful era full of IN FLAMES, SOILWORK, INSOMNIUM, and their countless clones - people are sort of tired or weary when the thought of investing time into yet another melodic death metal band.

Now, I'm not saying WINTER GATE doesn't know what they are talking about - I know India has some great bands and they are up there - but to me, at least, they are not the 'Classic Progressive Death Metal' they claim to be. You see, WINTER GATE isn't bad by any means but they very much feel like a slightly darker version of INSOMNIUM. Even the vocal style, for the majority of disIllumination, is almost identical. When the band attempts to sound different they quickly, intentionally or not, slip back to a melodic and atmospheric styling almost identical to INSOMNIUM. To me, this really isn't to the determent of WINTER GATE but they certainly aren't too Classic Death and even the 'progressive' element just seems to be a little flimsy - only 'Deaths Embrace' really progresses.

Still, I feel this band has a charm to them. I'm not usually able to get a hold of much material from India or Eastern Countries so its nice to see their interpretations of metal that aren't something stupidly stereotypical. Instead, WINTER GATE shows me something very inspired by bands you wouldn't think had too much presence in that area of the world. Sure, they really are just a atmospheric melodic death metal band but that isn't so band and either is the strong resemblance to INSOMNIUM.

If you enjoy a small trip, as disIllumination is merely 2 semi-lengthily tracks, to the yonder-years of decent melodic death metal and a little bit beyond - I suggest supporting WINTER GATE!


I've been a fan of SHINING (NOR) for a few years now. As expected, I sort of fell in love with their experimentation on BLACKJAZZ and then trailed my way back to their non-metal days. To say that SHINING (NOR) is typical is to say that Gasoline is nutritious and great with cereal. However, with ONE ONE ONE - I can confidently say that your getting a very safe album compared to BLACKJAZZ. I'm not fully sure why, maybe due the intense and experimental nature of BLACKJAZZ being a little too so for mainstream audiences. Or, maybe the band just wanted to keep things playable without butt-loads of equipment and effects. Who knows, though I can say that if your expecting the same thing with every subsequent album when it comes to SHINING (NOR), you've been gravely misinformed when it comes to the nature of this group.

Now, I ordered this vinyl from Amazon. And, if you know Amazon, they always seem to leave you guessing
Nice simple little setup. 'One One One' somehow
manages to standout vibrantly in my collection,
which is something I can appreciate.
as to what version of a vinyl you can get. If your a all-black purist - this can be detrimental to your purchase decisions and if your not, it can be too if you want that cool colored version. With this I got a great deal (only 10 bucks) so I didn't want to miss out on picking up one of my favorite albums - I got black, which is OK and better since I got it on 180g. However, the album has scuffs even with being sealed and had signs of use and a non-typical label - this copy looks to be a test pressing of some kind. Its official though, for sure. Its just odd that I got this one random copy out of Amazon's random pit of vinyl despair.

Packaging is great on the exterior but I really hate the white inserts. This, sadly has no special inclusions or additional effort. Though, I'm not too surprised as SHINING (NOR) has always just been about music and the album was pressed to be listened to - so I can forgive it. Though, the odd simplicity of the cover is extremely attractive somehow. One gripe, however, is that my version has no markers as to which side is which. Thankfully I like almost every song on here.

Sound wise, you are going to get a pretty damn good pressing. As mentioned, SHINING (NOR) is about the music so they press their stuff on durable 180g solid vinyls. Its almost like, even with all the effects and that, this was mastered specifically for vinyl first. It opens strong and ends strong, no skipping or hiccups of any sort. Which is great since I've started to hear vinyl horror stories lately.

If you like SHINING (NOR) and vinyl - obviously it goes without saying that you should pick it up. If you've never experienced them then you should probably check the band out. And hey, this also comes with a download code.


The Hard Truth: Just a Few Asian Metal Bands That Are Insanely Better Than BABYMETAL

Now, in recent light of BABYMETAL basically not being a real metal band (then again, that was always obvious) - i feel the need to show that not all Oriental metal is over-hyped sugar-soaked nonsense. Now, a good deal of these bands are heavily guarded by relentless and sometimes nonsensical J-or-K fans - but if your willing to just ignore their relentless fascination with effeminate males you'll probably find something redeemable. Of course, I'm not mentioning just immediately obvious bands - or at least not the inevitable eras where these bands succumbed to marketing pressure (a common issue overseas).

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a fan of some really Raw Metal and that I'm a massive fan of almost anything Tom Warrior has ever done. Now he isn't directly involved with Gallhammer but this crust/blackened punk band was heavily inspired by the Hellhammer years and I'd like to think that if Tom and gang were a bunch of insane Japanese women - this would be the end result.

The obscurity of this band is no doubt due to its completely un-google-able/youtube-able name. Unless you know the song titles or somehow stumble upon them (as I did many years ago) - you aren't really going to find anything. Though, if you do, you'll find that there is a lot of strangeness going on with this band. Of course, their videos mainly are label-picked slow songs (with the exception of Zenith and Detox) but everything else contains a rather peculiar progressive edge to it. And, as you can guess - their initial releases far outweigh anything they've done recently.

DIO~Distraught Overlord
Obviously there is no relation to the late Ronnie James Dio contained within this band, no influence to speak of either. Man though, DIO~Distraught Overlord really kills it with originality. The band doesn't really seem to know how to handle to subject of evil and demons in their image, as they try to do, but the effort to connect sound and vision is there. Later down the road they had a few clean songs but I really didn't mind too many of them - but the older stuff is obviously better. There is something entirely epic about how the band thinks they are more hardcore than they actually are.

I don't think I'll ever understand the title of this band, no doubt something lost in translation. However, Unsraw sort of reflects a need for extremity in Asian music - and how it can be done pretty well. I sort of feel the band, though, sort of didn't know how to handle their semi-death-metal influence and ended up with small sort of singy-parts that I'm not fully sure worked in their favor.  Still, I have some love for this extremely unknown band and their strange look. To this day, they haven't dropped the ball on their metal roots.


Its sort of hard to explain SILENT HELL. They sort of have insanely good production values but just go all out in volume and extremity. At times they remind me of bands like iwrestledabearonce ('Late for Nothing' era) but other-times there isn't much to compare them to - at least for me. And wow, that lead singer? She is a freaking beastly sounding vocalist.

Well Deserved Mentions
Obviously there are way more bands you should check out in order to purify your expectations on the Asian/Oriental Metal-scene. I try to stick to stuff that is rather unheard of but there are definitely major choices I do support.

  • (Early) D'ESPAIRSRAY

And so much more...


Yeah, those two little girls? They're 16. 
For those who don't know, I'm no stranger to Japanese Music. I'm willing listen to it just about as much as any other foreign music. It just happens to be that - in the realm of Metal, you are going to have to ride the language barrier at least a few times. Especially if you've written for webzines in other countries, such as I have in the past. I hold no real grudges against the Japanese, though their pop-scene is insanely unique and far too upbeat (even with dark lyrics present).  If you look deep enough, you'll find some great bands such as CHURCH OF MISERY, UNSRAW, and DIR EN GREY. Granted the latter loves to hop between experimental metal and ironic J-pop, the Japanese really do have a certain confidence when it comes to experimentation - especially in metal.

Now, enter BABYMETAL A sweeping, strange, phenomenon which has broken the international barrier like no other act (I dare not call them a 'band'). Once a pop (or 'Idol' in Japan) singer, the vocalist 
Suzuka Nakamoto and two companions Yui and Moa were barely even aware of what metal actually was. Actually, BABYMETAL was the product of Kobametal who envisioned Nakamoto being surrounded by 'little angels' - as if that isn't creepy. In fact, Kobametal said the idea for BABYMETAL was a 'divine message.' Initially a lot of hate was thrown towards the group, with mostly everything they did sounding like utter crap to most. But somehow, that changed within the last little while - with the band hitting hard and selling out live performances across the USA.

Though, is BABYMETAL actually anything to take serious? Will a wave of Japanese 'Idol' Metal groups hit the scene and change everything? Is it really 'ruining metal'? The shortest answer is: no.

The group, though they have their merits in creativity, exist far outside even the borders of Nu-metal and Lite-metal groups such as LIMP BIZKIT and DISTURBED. Sure, you'll find all walks of life drawn to this group - be it cynical Metal fanatics, DJENT Fanboys, Metalcore/Hardcore moshers, nerds looking for some stroking material, or those who delve into the cheap animation that the country is known for. But BABYMETAL isn't actually a band and therefore doesn't really pose a threat - especially when the group itself seems to barely even know the waters in which they wade. This is the reason that BABYMETAL carries a strange innocence in its music - singing about Chocolate and tackling grade-school issues such as Bullying is just what they know. The chances of encountering a deep metaphorical song about the corruption of the Japanese Government (like you'd find with DIR EN GREY) are slim to... never. You are never going to hear such things from BABYMETAL - and its doubtful that the group is going to start picking up BLACK SABBATH, CELTIC FROST, and VENOM records to work on their integrity within the metal spectrum. Its just three young girls dancing to metal music. Its almost like saying that MURP is going to shake the foundation of death metal.

Is it really that bad that people want a more positive outlook in a genre crowded by meat heads, depressive poets, and angry ex-boyfriends? I, though I don't enjoy BABYMETAL, can see how people are beginning to crave some variety in Metal - and how the group arrived at a opportune time to provide it. Sadly, there won't be any earth-shattering longevity and innovation from BABYMETAL - the band will no doubt fizzle out as fast as it came to North American audiences - but I'm hoping it can at least open the way for more experimental international music to make itself known. However, I could do without the dancers.

-Keith J Ham-

REVIEW: ANCST 'In Turmoil' (Compilation)

My thoughts on the strangely melancholy anthems of ANCST were initially mixed. At first, with the opening track 'Ascetic', I was under the impression that perhaps ANCST was taking cues from the notorious 'Black-gaze' masterminds of DEAFHEAVEN (which there isn't anything wrong with that at all). Though, by the time the final track 'Peripheral' graced me with its wonderful 'The Dark Knight' opening - I wasn't so sure what I'd just heard.

Yes, there is definitely a good bit of Black-gaze on 'In Turmoil'. The band really doesn't attempt to hide its roots in anyway and instead opts to allow the entire Compilation -rather than just a song- progress into something completely different. This allows the bitter-sweet semi-angry tunes of ANCST to act as a single entity rather than every song being a overblown melancholy epic as is the case with nearly all Blackgaze bands. By the time the album ends you feel like a genuine transformation has happened somewhere within the music. Though this also means that tracks vastly differentiate at times - making some tracks feel a little bit like filler while some are masterful exercises in emotion and extremity. Prime example being that the aforementioned 'Peripheral', though a good song, feels more like something you'd hear from the (now defunct) CROWPATH rather then then carrying on the Black-gaze influence of previous tracks. Though there isn't really too much wrong with this, considering that the entire package is simply a cleverly assembled Compilation, I do feel like the progression was a little too obvious in the end.

Simply put, despite this being a handful of wayward tracks and demos, I feel like 'in Turmoil' almost acts like its an actual album rather than what it actually is. I love its Black-gaze inclusions and even the most Crust/hardcore elements. Somehow, what is here is entirely fantastic and somewhat epic in execution. If your looking for a more-varied (and more angry) cousin to bands like DEAFHEAVEN, RITUALS, and even something along the lines of LOCKTENDER - I'd definitely suggest adding ANCST's 'In Turmoil' to your collection.

-Keith J Ham-

REVIEW: Swine Overlord 'Parables of Umbral Transendence'

The most surprising thing about Swine Overlord, at first, is the fact that its massive sound is the product of only three members. Granted, there is definitely multitracking going on with 'Parables of Umbral Transcendence' (duh) - I still find it surprising that the guitar voices are so varied. Secondly, I found it more surprising that Swine Overlord is probably the most accurately titled band ever. Either these guys knew exactly what they were going for or accidentally made the happiest of coincidences when it comes to guttural vocals and off-the-wall band names.

Now, when it comes to the typical tropes of the 2013-2014 Death Metal era - most bands opt for the 'traditional Death.' Swine Overlord, however, opts to bring back a Death Metal style akin to those more prominent before today's vintage kicks - Swine Overlord simply just cuts to the chase and provides you with some seriously solid Guttural Death Metal.

Now, Swine Overlord doesn't quite stick always to their excellent and honestly brutal stylizations. On tracks like 'Porkchop, the Man-Butcher' the band decided to mix things up with the inclusion of more 'blackened' vocals. This really adds contrast and variety to the formula. As well, experimental inclusions such as vocal layering and bare (as well as obviously heavy) bass lines. There isn't really any moment that you'll find yourself tired of the music (granted you enjoy death metal) or feeling that the trio lacks in skill. Actually, on almost any given track, Swine Overlord's members are almost always given a moment to show off their talent.

If your looking for some damn heavy death metal - you'll be hard-pressed to find anything that trumps Swine Overlord.

Swine Overlord:
Anthony Davis (Vocals)
Will Peplinski (Guitars, Bass)
Devin Alford (Vocals, Drums)

Notable Tracks:
Cadaveric Pantomime
Umbral Transcendence
Porkchop, the Man-Butcher

REVIEW: Siftercide 'Self Titled'

It isn't often that a band as completely insane as Siftercide reminds me of Free-form Jazz. But, I happen to feel that the 'who knows whats next' nature of the band almost allows it to act as a sort of Extremity to its equally unpredictable cousin. Though the real question at hand is if it shares the same quality.

One minute your listening to what I can only describe as somewhat standard grindish-deathish underground mayhem - then all of a sudden there is some (seriously sub-par) synth trumpets or something going down within the music. This sort of feels like a attempt to mash Ska and metal together but the result is completely awful - every track with this style is completely jarring and out of place. I'm sure with a little progression, this early inclusion on the album would've worked pretty well except the band functions with the blistering pace of hardcore punk song-writing styles - meaning that nothing really exceeds two minutes. Because of this, it almost feels like Sifterecide decided to just throw as much as you as fast as possible in the hopes that someone might like at least one song. And, my god, the vocals on this album take every form of 'death', 'hardcore' and 'black' generics possible - leaving you tired of hearing the singer or singers (the band does not disclose their names or identities in order to act as though Siftercide is some sort of music entity of its own) almost instantly due to the complete lack of originality.

Thankfully, in this muck of a Self-titled debut - a few songs did manage to stand out. Particularly 'Fluffers' and 'Maaht' are pretty good and feel a little more composed than the rest of the album. This is, no doubt, due to the fact that they lack the horrible method that Siftercide takes in its experimentation. There is no synth trumpets, punk riffs, aggravating off-tempo composition, and (thank god) no extremely bad attempts at 'blackening' the vocals. Which makes these two tracks sort of refreshing compared to everything else.

The worst part of Siftercide's debut is that there are some great ideas hidden within - sadly they are massacred by a slew of problems and completely terrible attempts at experimentation. Sorry Siftercide, I know this album is probably your baby but this album is simply too cocky for its own good - some serious focus needs to be had and the 'experimentation' needs to be dialed back or removed completely.

=Keith J Ham