REVIEW: Midmourner - Adorned in Fear and Error EP

Midmourner is a Alabama band that decided sludge was the way to go, and I can get behind that. If I had to guess, the group has a bit of experience with the genre. The band is just too direct with it's subgenre focus for it to be coincidental. With other bands, you usually get a more doomy sound somewhere in the midst of their music, but not with Midmourner – at least not on their EP, Adorned in Fear and Error. This is, probably, the most definitive example of sludge metal you can get – for better or worse.

The best way to describe what Midmourner has done here is: a crap-load of bass. Holy hell, there is a astonishingly large amount of bass here. If I was to guess, I'd say the whole EP is based around the bottom line more then anything else – almost like a less blackened version of Bell Witch (I had to do some digging to see if Midmourner was an only bass band, but nope). I'm more used to a bassy guitar that has a crunch to it, a effective and common technique used so that the more sustained notes sound drawn out and gloomy – or, you know, sludgy. But, Midmourner has got it's own way of doing things - albeit providing a much more simple and direct sound. What's really great is that, if you were to listen to their live recordings, it all translates to actual performances really well. I wouldn't be hard-pressed to say that their music works somewhat better live then it does in a studio setting. Which, to me, is a great sign of a capable band.

Themes on Adorned in Fear and Error are along the lines of issues with religion and power, it isn't too original but I liked the effort the band takes to accentuate this with occasional audio clips. They really let me understand what was even going on in times where I didn't quite understand what the band was trying to do. A good deal of the atmosphere comes from the vocals, some of the shriekiest vocals I've heard in a good while, but they do convey a clear sense of fear and unease – which fits right in with the subgenre. It's actually surprising just how atmospheric this band can be sometimes, Midmourner really finds a way stand out on it's own two when it comes to this. I couldn't help but feel like what was being conveyed was a genuine viewpoint, rather then just there for shock or awe.

Problems are, more or less, to do with the realities of being a sludge band. Some tracks seem to meld into one another, becoming pretty much indistinguishable from the last. For the most part Adorned in Fear and Error really does sound like one big song, aside from a couple tracks that have a intro or intentional endings rather then droning on until another song begins. Bass being a huge focus here also somewhat stifles the experience at times. Sometimes songs are just too drone-like, they meander whilst the vocals squelch on for what feels like unbelievable lengths of time. Midmourner isn't terrible by any means, but I can't help but feel like their consistency somehow hinders the band a little (strange to say).

I can't say that Midmourner, or Adorned in Fear and Error is the end-all piece everyone is looking for when it comes to sludge. I wouldn't even see why it would need to be. But, this is a good EP for those looking for their sludge/drone fix. Do I think Midmourner has the ability to be something massive? Yeah, I personally do. But, I haven't a clue how they'd get there. It'll be interesting to see what comes in the future. Until then, I'd say if this band is playing in the area to check them out. Live performances seem to be a strong-point for the band. Oh, and did I mention this EP is on cassette?

-KEITH, THE ODD-

Keep up with Midmourner on Facebook, or check out their label, Old Lion Records, here.

INTERVIEW: Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn, Vocalist of Ondt Blod

[K] What is it like being a hardcore band in Norway? Has there been any difficulties?

When we started out, hardcore was kind of a buzz in Norway, giving us a head start. There is also a good underground music scene in Norway, consisting of DIY-scenes and rock clubs interested in taking in new bands. However, the combination of vast distances and few inhabitants kind of excludes the possibility of living of the road if you´re not huge. We´ve been able to strike the balance between mainstream presence and radio play on one hand, and building up a fan base through heavy touring on the other.

[K] I'm not too familiar with oppression occurring overseas, as it is a strong part of Ondt Blod's message, can you shed some light on the situation?

I am of the Sami people, which is the indigenous people of Scandinavia. The surrounding states of Norway, Sweden and Russia did for hundreds of years all colonize the far north, all demanding taxes, killing of religious leaders and other classical colonial shit. At the turn of the 19th century, the Nation-states divided the north between each other, and started violent assimilation of minorities into the new constructed national identity. “wild and savage” Sami were forced to abandon their language and ways, to become proper Norwegians. The shame of being told over generations that you are sub-human is profound, and many of the elder generation still struggle with this shame.

Although the assimilation program was called off in the sixties, the Norwegian government is still trapped in colonial policies. Sami reindeer-herders are forced to slaughter off much of their flocks, as the government thinks the amounts of animals are higher than the ecosystems of the land can handle, while at the same time selling off the same lands to mines and wind-power industry. The suicide rate of Sami youth is more than a hundred times higher than that of young Norwegians.

We are of a new generation of pissed Sami artists, bringing indigenous issues to the popular culture.

[K] Is there a moment, or even an entire song, on 'Natur' you could say you are most proud of?

Nah, man. Its all good.

[K] Has language been a barrier for Ondt Blod, at all?

Not in a direct way. So far, we´ve only been touring Scandinavia, and Norwegians, Swedes and Danes to some extent all understand each other. The nerve and the energy of the music is also such an important part of punk and hardcore, meaning that if you bring raw force to the table, foreign listeners might get a kick of the music, even if they don’t understand the words (paired with the fact that no one without a lyric sheet hears my lyrics anyway when I scream).

Of course, being such a great band as we are, there should be left no doubt that we would have been multi billionaires had we decided to sing in English. So our decision to keep it real has indirectly cost us glamour, cars and millions of dollars.

[K] What would you say 'Natur' does to evolve the sound and style of Ondt Blod?

While our first record was more of a straight punk/hardcore record, Natur is a bit more experimental in several directions. We wanted to make the record without any self-imposed restrictions on genre and credibility, resulting in cheesy saxophones, chugging, ballsy metal riffs and beach’s boyesque harmonies, as well as incorporating the ancient Sami song tradition of joik on the album closer “Giron”.

We´ve also worked a lot on our melodies and choruses, making way for both “right in the feels”-emo moments, and beer soaked, punkrock anthems.

[K] What are your plans after 'Natur' is officially released?

We release Natur 9th of March by throwing a huge release party in Tromsø in Northern Norway, the city where we got the band together during our first years at the university there. After the release party, we´ll sober up; get in the van and head out for a full Norway tour through the spring, from the far north to the south. If we come out alive of the tour, we´ll do a festival run this summer, playing Norway and Germany.

[K] If Ondt Blod was an animal, what animal would that be?

We have previously compared ourselves to with the strength, work ethics and grace of a horse, the Bruce Springsteen of the animal kingdom. Beautiful, but might kick your teeth in.

[K] What/Who do you hate the most?
Rape-culture, global warming, late capitalism, overcooked pasta.

[K] Worst experience while playing live?

I love playing live. If it were not for touring, I would not bother playing music. Of course, sometimes both the pay and the crowd is close to non-existent, the gear shitty or my voice sore (or not present). But 9/10 times it is a blast. So I don’t think I have any particular horror-stories for sharing. 

[K] What would you say the band's biggest weakness is as a unit, and it's greatest strength?

I think that our biggest strength is our will and dedication to work and rehearse; making us one of Norways best live bands (honestly there are like two bands better than us at this time, not mentioning names). Our greatest weakness is probably our dynamic strength, making us better suited for lifting heavy gear and playing 40-minute sets than running the New York Marathon.

[K] When you aren't playing, what are you doing?

Two of us are in law school, one is a teacher, one does music full time and I am a policy advisor. We also play video games and drink.

[K] If you had to give up music – what would you do to be creative?

I am always writing stuff, verse and prose, professionally, academically, or for the band. So I guess I would dig deeper into writing.

[K] It would be short sighted to say every band that plays heavy only enjoys metal, what are some other bands and genres you enjoy?

On tour we usually blast sweet power pop tunes in the van. “Ripe 4 Luv” by Young Guv is a go-to record.

[K] Ideal live line-up?

Refused, The National, Run the Jewels, Mastodon and Slayer.

[K] What's the worst interview question you've ever been asked (Aside from these ones, haha)?

We were doing a facebook-live interview prior to a talk show appearance, when I got challenged to a rap-battle. The show host started to beat box straight away, setting the stage for my performance and possible demise of pure embarrassment. I backed out the last second, avoiding what might have become the most embarrassing moment on Norwegian television this century.

I'd like to say thank you to Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn for the interview and answering even the weirdest of my questions. Ondt Blod is set to release their new album 'Natur' on March 9th of this year via Fysisk Format, you can check out my review here to see what I thought of the album.

You can find out more about the band, and keep up with everything Ondt Blod on Facebook here.

-KEITH, THE ODD-

REVIEW: Ancst - Ghosts of the Timeless Void

Way back, I had the chance to review Ancst's Compilation 'In Turmoil' and, though Direnotes was certainly in it's infancy then, I clearly remember Ancst having a vastly different sound. In fact, I believe I even compared it to black metal and blackgaze. Now, certainly there are some faint hints of that between the fine lines here, but maybe I just didn't know what I was talking about back then - because Ancst is clearly under the Hardcore umbrella. Hell, I wouldn't even go so far as to consider them blackened now.

It's not exactly for the worst, in my opinion. With Ghosts of the Timeless Void, the band has certainly become far more cohesive. Yes, it's Hardcore, but it isn't like a lot of the more spastic and schizophrenic stuff that resides within that subgenre. Instead, Ancst has a lot of melodic moments, a bit of black metal in the composition, but generally things are more digestible and understandable. It's far easier to sit down and listen to this album as a whole then even their earlier work. It does lend to more then a few typical moments -breakdowns, relentless yet never changing vocals, similar tones for almost all the tracks- but it ultimately makes for a far more enjoyable record.

For hardcore, Ghosts of the Timeless Void really feels laid back. Transitions are great, and the more melodic composition gives the whole album a flow I can appreciate. It's almost a beast unto it's own at times, ditching a lot of the repetition encountered with other records. Outside of the vocal work, I've noticed a bevy of black and death metal undertones. Tremolo picking is here and very welcome in this environment. Chuggy death metal goodness has definitely found itself somewhere in the basis of this record, rather then the typical shrieky and metallic hardcore soundscape. Not so surprisingly it reminds me of later BLEEDING THROUGH, as they were metalcore but had a lot of black and punk metal stylistics going on.

Of course, Ghosts of the Timeless Void makes some bold claims of a social political message – but I'm not too sure how well that works. It certainly sounds angry, the whole album has it's own flavor of bite, but I feel like it's themes are applicable to a general situation of political corruption rather then all the insanity that has been going on lately in the world. Perhaps this is due to the band being in Berlin and having problems of it's own, while I'm in North America expecting something dealing with certain Presidential figures as of late, but I feel like sometimes subjects such as this require a higher degree of extremity in the music to properly express such a message as political corruption and 'waking' people. Again, it doesn't really make the album bad. And, as someone who listens to some very extreme bands on the daily – it might be that I'm more used to a extreme presentation when it comes to content.

Ghosts of the Timeless Void isn't going to bash you over the head with it's beliefs, but maybe that is a good thing. Ancst has certainly come a long way since I last encountered their work, and a cleaner more direct sound feels far more the product of experience and learning over time. Its a good year for protest, and Ancst may just have the anthem people are looking to get behind.

-KEITH, THE ODD-

Keep up with Ancst on their website, and or their label Lifeforce Records.

REVIEW: Arketh - 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew

Experimentation is a word often thrown around within the extreme metal spectrum, usually when a particular subgenre decides to cross with another. You got black metal crossing with just about any genre these days, its almost common to the point that straight-forward black metal has become somewhat rarer. Though, I don't know if there has been more then a handful of times I've truly experienced something I'd call genuinely experimental or different - but Arketh's 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew... It's an album that is promised to have a lot in terms of experimentation, and it aims to take a risk far beyond most other groups and projects.

Australia is really starting to impress me, Arketh is probably the first real Australian Black Metal group I've ever heard and they've got me hooked from the first track. There is a certain bravery about the composition of this album, Arketh is lo-fi but achieves a good deal with a bit with the inclusion of keyboard, sax, and reverb thrown into the mix. Not the first black metal group to use saxophone, not by far, but probably one of the few to use it so consistently and so well. In fact, a good deal of the album includes it – aside from 'Trismegistus', the opening track, which genuinely feels like a ages-old undiscovered black metal demo from the late 80s. For a while I'd thought that maybe the entire album would lean on this for it's experimentation, but it doesn't. Somehow, things keep getting stranger.

To me, 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew seems to get genuinely interesting with the track 'The Fool Who Persists In His Folly'. This track is so odd, so impressive, that I can't even place the words that I generally could when it comes to labelling a group like this. It begins with a bit of sax, yeah, but Arketh really lays in with some spastic guitar work, a really fun section of unsettling laughter, and, oddly, some slower male singing vocals. The album is almost prog-metal at this point, songs begin as one thing and end so completely different that the listener feels as if they've went on some horrifying journey. I'd say it was through the darkness or something to that effect, but I don't even know what I've been going through at this point. I don't know if I really want to know.

I do have some gripes with the album – which I guess is to be expected with something so experimental in nature. I did really enjoy the very traditional black metal vocals on this, the more experimental ones on 'Where Nameless Ghouls Weep' are wonderfully strange, but when the singing vocals come in, and the slower more gloomy bits of writing, 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew begins to fall out of it's groove. I just cannot get behind that final track, it is so slow and so uninteresting in comparison to all that has came before. Why there had to be something like that on the album baffles me, because it leaves a painfully boring stain on what I'd say is one of the best black metal records in recent years.

Arketh leaves a lot for other groups to live up to this year, and will most certainly be a basis for me when it comes to every black metal group that comes my way and claims 'experimental'. 12 Winter Moons Comes The Witches Brew takes some noticeable risks and comes out on top with something strange, but compelling for fans of both black metal and obscure music. If either of those are you, or even if they aren't, I highly recommend adding this to your collection.

-KEITH, THE ODD-

Check out Transcending Obscurity on Facebook and their website for all your Arketh needs and more extreme metal from across the globe.

REVIEW: Coffin Torture - Dismal Planet

A lot of bands make some hefty promises, but it isn't too often that they fully pull through. Coffin Torture is a duo that specializes in gritty grime-ridden sludge; sounds so bleak and filthy, you'll feel the need to take a bath afterwards. It's almost terrifying to think that their newest album, Dismal Planet, is actually the product of two people. Something far more then manufactured, like a passionate for disdain brought to life. It makes me wonder, what sane minds could create something this?

I almost find it surprising that this is Coffin Torture's first full-length, these guys are killing it in a way I'd expect only sludge/doom veterans could do. Instruments are so massively distorted, I can't tell what is bass or guitar, but I'm loving it nonetheless. True, it could be considered a wall of sound with how chaotic everything is at all times, but there is a certain direction everything takes that pulls it away from some noise album and right into the realm of sludge. Really, it's almost surprising how busy Dismal Planet can be. Usually, I'd expect a whole lot more sustain and slow as hell drum lines, and there is a whole lot of that, but I don't feel like Coffin Torture wants to be strictly defined as a sludge metal group. That, or they'd like to keep the doors open for experimentation and growth down the line.

For instance, songs like 'Bolted Down, Boiled to Grease', 'D.H.F.', and the album's title track are what you'd call standard sludge – albeit 'Bolted Down, Boiled to Grease' really toys with the formula by progressively getting lower and lower, until the song feels as if it's boiled down to nothing. Both have the low and slow, distorted to hell, sound; are basically a corruption of doom metal. But tracks like 'Gustave' are borderline black metal, just without an abundance of treble, and far faster then anything else you'll hear on the entire album. The track itself is a wonderful oddity within Dismal Planet, and if Coffin Torture feels the need to expand or do something more along the longs of what 'Gustave' is doing, I'd certainly be aboard.

The only real hints of this being a first full length is the general randomness of the tracks, not in the sound but in the themes and titles. I almost expected, with a title like Dismal Planet, a little more effort was going to be put into connecting the whole – but that really isn't even an issue, just something I personally expected after hearing so many albums over the years.

Even after several spins, Dismal Planet still surprises me. I almost can't believe this is a duo, and I am still surprised this is the groups first full-length. So little mistakes were made, consistency was kept, and some risks were actually taken to keep things from being too similar. With so little information on the minds behind this wonderful abomination, I can't really gather what their musical history is or if this is a fluke of talent. Either way, we got Dismal Planet out of it.

-KEITH, THE ODD-

Keep up with Coffin Torture on Facebook here. Or, their label, Sludgelord Records here.

OV THE SHELF: Canata Sangui; Or, I Have A Really Long Album Title - Do I Sound Edgy Yet?!?



As with anybody who's taken the time to review music, my shelves are completely full (and my record crate, both) and then some. So I thought, I might as well begin to give some of the odd titles I own a good hard listen - as I've bought into many grab bags from many labels over the years, snagged any cassette or LP I could at a bargain price off Bandcamp, and raided label bargain sections. Some of this stuff isn't even opened after three or four years of ownership, I'm a physical media addict really... or a bargain addict - your choice. There is no doubt some of this stuff is the worst crap ever, or the general opinion is that it is. Some of it nobody has heard, as the bands existed for such a small amount of time as to only release a single 7" with all their money, in which they made their own sleeves out of construction paper and stamped them (yes, I own two 7" EP/Singles that fit that bill). I got some radio-only promos, some stuff I've won in contests. Oh, and a 7" that has a whole albums worth of micro-songs jammed onto it, including a cover! I got a lot of stuff and I'll have even more in the future. So, here is my jokingly titled new way to provide you, the reader, with some more useless information.

I got this particular title from a Season of Mist grab bag, you get 10 CD's for 20 bucks, and it isn't
What on earth is the man on the far right wearing?
that bad a deal for someone looking to be surprised. The junky presentation of this thing really stuck with me though - confusingly and poorly thought out album art, looks rushed to me, thoughtless font, no unique album logo, and that booklet is just terrible with a goofy kids font throughout. I mean, there really isn't a single thing here to draw a person in. You crack the digipack open and things get worse, the CD is a light blue nightmare of plain. No wonder someone stuck the 'Female Fronted All Bass driven!' sticker on there, otherwise I'm not too sure I'd have bothered.

The music, I got to say that it never really reaches the heights or level it could have. Things are far too tame, and far too grounded in the throw-away Gothic Rock trends that were present at the time of it's release (2009). The band's lyrical concepts are the band's complete focus here, which all sound like black metal chants sung in a symphonic-metal fashion. You are pretty much read massive sermons on truly bizarre occult ideals, which should be awesome, but it never pulls you in aside from a few choice moments. I'm not sure the singer has a unique enough presence to properly capture the imagination and interest of someone who is into this content - actually I know she doesn't/didn't. It isn't that she is a bad vocalist, but maybe not the right one for the job. I'm not going to be so nice as to say she did anything interesting here, as most of the songs are the same styled singing with no true highs or lows, just some middle ground standard female vocals. Nothing gets epic, nor operatic, nor intense. In fact, the only real attempt at variety is a utterly embarrassing groaning growly vocal inclusion, which is trying way too hard to be edgy. When not backing the main vocalist, it hilariously falls apart and sounds like a vastly discounted Septic Flesh vocalist.

This photo makes me smile, and this interview at MysticMetal
might give some insight as to the bands disastrous mentality.
Now, the biggest travesty of all - the all-bass on this album really just is yawn worthy. I've covered projects like VOD in the past, I'm well aware of the capabilities of a all-bass project. This band used it's bass to pull off mundane things - generic fill-in-the-note progression, two bass guitars doing same-old bass things, powerchords upon powerchords - I'm sure you get what I mean. It's typical by-the-numbers Gothic Rock, done in a different way to seem unique. But, I ask, what is the point if in the end your just going to make it sound the same as everything else? Especially when all the complicated moments are done via keyboard. More and more keyboard... more and more effects. It's plain, just like the stupid cover design.

I'm not too surprised this band only had a handful of demos and this album. Good news is some did move on, and I'm hoping they've been able to expand further then what they did with 'On Rituals and Correspondence in Constructed Realities.' To me, the best underground bands throw a lot of experimentation into their first album, because the underground is a place for that. But, to throw something so safe and straight forward as this out there? I'm not too sure that was a good idea. It is interesting to see the route Season of Mist took with its picking releases compared to now. It was a much different world for music in 2009, who's to say this didn't feel like a sure thing?

FINAL THOUGHTS:
I feel like this was made for some misunderstood high school kid, sitting in the corner and drawing eyes on a notepad all lunch hour. They aren't too different, not really misunderstood, their life doesn't really even suck, but it's boring - this person wants to be unique, but extreme metal is just a bit much for them. So, lets go grab the safest possible thing for them - Canata Sangui, because no one else bought it and now its like $2 at the record store.

Oh, and six members for this!?!?

YOUR HOST
-KEITH, THE ODD-

REVIEW: Whipstriker - Merciless Artillery

WHIPSTRIKER
MERCILESS ARTILLERY
HELLS HEADBANGERS


Really, I can't find a delicate way around this, nor do I see why I really should dwell on it as I write this – Whipstriker fancies Celtic Frost to the umpth degree, or at least have shared a decent amount of influences. Sure, you got a bit of Venom in there, etc – yeah, a lot of bands cite them as an influence, but wasn't the result of a more 'extreme' Venom ultimately Celtic Frost? I think so. I wouldn't go so far as to say the group are copycats, not even close. But hell if they aren't an iteration of that legendary band, intentional or not.

My god, even the vocals on this album sound ripped straight from the bowls of a Celtic Frost album. If I hadn't known more about this group, you could tell me Whipstriker's vocals were that of an early Tom Warrior and I'd believe you one-hundred-percent. Songs are, pretty much structured like something you'd hear off a early Celtic Frost album but, let me get off that. Everything else Whipstriker does seems to be very much their own. Lyrical themes don't always matter, metal is about so much more then lyrics, but Whipstriker really knows how to illustrate a hellish battlefield... well, pretty much hellish anything when it comes to the subject matter at hand. Besides that, you're getting a much better guitar tone here then even Celtic Frost. For all I can say about my love of Whipstriker's listed influces (Venom, Motorhead, Onslaught, etc), this group sounds so much better then any of them. They are one of those bands I can truly say, has surpreceeded their forefathers and would even please the more 'pure' fans of metal (the kind that was around when the big bands were little and followed them through the ages). So, no, I don't feel like all these comparisons hold the group back. Well, at the very least, they don't hold Whipstriker back when it comes to Merciless Artillery. Personally, I've heard nothing else prior but I may have to after hearing this.

And, what's this I see? They are Brazilion? Color me, not surprised. Brazil has some of the best metal and best metal fans this world has to offer. For some metal that I could only describe as blackened thrash speed... something (a wholly technical for those who care about a genre label). Well then check out Whipstriker, why not? I mean, you should at least be checking it out to see if it really does sound that close to Celtic Frost – feel free to prove me wrong.

REVIEW: Owl Maker - Paths of the Slain


OWL MAKER
PATHS OF THE SLAIN
SELF-RELEASED

Owl Maker rides a fine-line between the world of driving rock and doomy stoner-metal bands such as Red Fang, and Mastodon, the combination providing just enough energy to distinguish itself from the countless duplicates floating around these days. In fact, Owl Maker seems to find its home in more high-energy riffs and hooks then the sometimes proggy doom-like aspects of it's cousins. This band has a bevy of catchy chorus work to enjoy, which often feels styled after more traditional rock and heavy metal. I'd go so far as to say that verses serve merely to compliment the main attraction, or strengthen the idea of a particular chorus, and, though more complicated compositions do lie somewhere in the standardized writing – they just don't stand out so much. This all works well, and makes tracks like 'Witches', which breaks the album's formula with harsher vocals, more effective. Owl Maker could have just kept things straight forward and they would have been fine, but the band does take a moment here and there to diverge – which is a particularly nice touch.

Though I'm singing high praise for this group, it is not without it's sins. The band loves it's layered effects, almost no song is without them. It can sound really good at times, but far too many tracks have vocals with a washy chorus effect, and the guitar can have a distracting amount of flange. 'Freya's Chariot' has probably the most 80's level synth I've heard in years (or maybe it's something like a moog?), but it's not implemented very well. And, what happened with the end of 'Ride with Aileen'? That has to be the most jarring fade out I've ever heard, and who fades out with the first song of the album? Worse yet, a few tracks seem to just fall flat compared to some of the others, lacking the overall energy and creativity that made the rest so catchy, or memorable (like 'Witches'). You start to get the feeling, at times, that Paths of the Slain is dipping a little far into the tired-and-familiar formulas of similar bands.

Take it as you may, Paths of the Slain is pretty good. I can't help but feel, especially taking the album's few shortcomings into consideration, that these songs are heavily meant to be played live. No, there is nothing sub-par about them, but with a few abrupt stops, and numerous effects that have clearly been amplified throughout a more clean and direct recording process, it becomes pretty evident rather fast. I personally believe Owl Maker would benefit from a more raw sound, but that may just be my inner stoner-metal fan speaking out where it shouldn't. At this point, I'm going to say that Owl Maker has a bright future ahead and Paths of the Slain is a good jumping off point for quality and writing, but some unique strides need to be taken for the band to really stand apart from the numerous other bands within the stoner-metal/doom-metal spectrum.

Sorry! No bandcamp to embed this time! But feel free to check out Owl Maker on Facebook.

REVIEW: Mortiferum - Altar of Decay (Demo CD)

MORTIFERUM
ALTAR OF DECAY
BLOOD HARVEST RECORDS

It's Demo time again, whereas a band is actually brave enough to put out something of theirs without running it through the wringer. This time Mortiferum is up, 'cause they think they got the chops to drop a Demo as a CD with a label and everything. Brave, I tell you. Maybe cocky or, maybe, confident. Then again, it's death metal, a genre constantly fighting to regain it's purity. Maybe we need releases like this, something a little rawer. Something unrefined and gritty as hell.

At a point in time, I was often met with a few individuals that told me of a thing called 'pure death metal'. I didn't really understand, I didn't really care to understand. They ran down the list of what makes it what it is: heavy, dark, raw, invasive, but simple. I didn't wholly understand, in my mind death metal was often a very technical thing. Over time, I experienced a few bands that skirted on the definition, but today I believe I've come to experience it. Never before has four tracks made me question what I knew about a subgenre of metal; that made me consider the possibility that there was possibly something else out there. Mortiferum's demo does that and more. Their sound is utterly monolithic, impassible waves pounding against your ears; simple and to the point, but not lacking complexity where it is needed; methodical at times, but capable of providing a bevy of break through moments.

But really, if you didn't understand that adjective-happy poetic outburst – the demo is good. It's the closest thing I can imagine when it comes to pure death metal. Not a whole lot of alternate tuning here, Mortiferum doesn't switch things up between songs, not a lot of filler. Granted, you got your spooky intro and a interlude, and, yes, there are bells tolling. However, I think they work as well as one could hope they would. The lack of over-production also lends to a more gritty sound, songs genuinely feel creepy; the atmosphere is fantastic. Notes rumble, bass thuds, and damn, the drums – I don't even understand why they work. In any other instance, these drums would be crap. But the tinny, cheap sound seems to add to the eeriness of this group. My only true gripe is the vocals, which never falter but never quite excel either – they remain that tried and true guttural sound. It's pure, yeah, but it also makes me aware of why exactly bands like this are so rare: the pure way presents a lack of variety and experimentation.

Mortiferum, holy hell, what pit did this band crawl from? What it contained within these four tracks, this raw churning mass of unbridled horror – it makes me think: what is next for this group?

REVIEW: Flummox - Garage Prog EP

FLUMMOX
Garage Prog EP
MURFREESBORO, TN

I'm no stranger to the likes of Flummox, no. I've both reviewed them back in the day (see here) and they were gracious enough to be featured on our Suicide Awareness compilation. Aside from that I've often listened to their work on the side over the years, though as I've taken a year long absence, I've been completely out of the loop - and, what do you know, they've released a EP and, news to me, now consist of 5 members.

Still though, I'm going to have to say that, with the Garage Prog EP, things are still generally very... how do I put it... Flummoxy. The group has a very spastic, almost schizophrenic sound, and though it seems to a little toned down when it comes to progression (maybe even considering this EP to be 'progressive' might be a reach this time, as the EP features some drastically shorter songs aside from 'Black Phillip'. Then again, who is to say prog has to consist of strictly lengthy songs?) there is a good level of unpredictability here. In fact, I have to admit that the EP itself is probably even more enjoyable then their previous album, Selcouth. Tracks like Tom Walker Blues are a lot more simple and straight forward, like the group has a better sense of what to do with themselves, but rather then seeming like an attempt at mainstream appeal - it feels like a natural next step for Flummox. It's not like things have just switched to power ballads, piano solos, and the infamous I–V–vi–IV pop chords or something as mundane as that.

Amazingly, nearly the enitre EP was recorded live. Showing that Flummox is a highly capable band, especially Blake Dellinger who still remains the defining presence here, his bass work and vocals alone always seem to provide something wholly unique and make me year for the days of highly experimental bands like Mr. Bungle. It isn't to say the other members don't do their job well here, but the simpler songs do tend to lend themselves to less definition when it comes to guitar and drums. But, if you want to see what everyone is capable of - there is a wealth of Flummox material to browse on their bandcamp (Phlummoxygen probably being their best effort, in my opinion - for the entire band).

Flummox most certainly lives up to their chosen name, time and time again. And have proven their reliability and capability as a band to put together increasingly unique and varied music. Unless Mr. Bungle ever comes back, Flummox is my personal replacement. There is a reason that I've been listening to them all these years and continue to to this day.

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Hellhammer - Apocalyptic Raids EP

THROWBACK THURS:
HELLHAMMER
APOCALPYTIC RAIDS EP
1984

It is no secret that I'm one of those pesky Tom Warrior (Or Tom Gabriel Fischer, if you so choose) fans. I have no disillusions of ever making contact with the man, nor do I really see why it'd be necessary - I adore his music, and very much connect with a great deal of his newer music's themes, but I'm not sure I'd ever connect on a social level. Nonetheless, Mr. Warrior has had a rough A-to-B. His initial projects were a bit rough, Celtic Frost's greatest achievements were undoubtedly their initial albums - just when Tom Warrior began to hit a new stride with Monolith, issues arose that broke the band up. I don't even know happened to Coroner, a great project that only saw life as a demo. Apollyon Sun wasn't too too bad, but no one really seemed to care for the industrial style. It really wasn't until Triptykon, after countless appearances and producing other albums, that things came together. And, to this day I frequently dig through the legacy he's left. So, today, I'm beginning with the closest thing his first project came to a genuine album: the infamous Apocalyptic Raids.

The keyword, when it comes to this EP, is ideas. For Hellhammer, and a good deal of Celtic Frost, seemed to be based around the formation of ideas. A good deal of the ideas on Apocalyptic Raids indeed did transfer into the vast library that would follow. The ideas on this LP are decent and interesting, no doubt sapped to hell by the time I write this, but the overall execution is pretty much what you'd expect from a bunch of over ambitious kids - it's sloppy, but nonetheless inspiring to some degree. Tom Warrior's vocals are, for the most part, exactly the same as they were up until Celtic Frost's Monolith. What this basically means is... Tom can't sing. Most of the time he sounds like a ranting cultist, which is extremely effectual, but the singing is, as best I can describe, style over substance. What really shines to me is the sludgy droning nature of the guitar, which stands out when some songs are a whole lot of Tom not 100% knowing what to do with his instrument (such as the whole of Triumph of Death) or his voice (like all the songs on this EP). Of course, at times things are just so bare bones that it feels like the whole project was rushed - which, it pretty much was. What else can you say but... the whole of Hellhammer was ideas, and for the most part this EP was where they came together. Though, the bass leaves me thinking that, perhaps, it wasn't solely Tom Warriors inexperience that made things a little sloppy and slow at times. From the book 'Only Death is Real' I've gathered that Tom Warrior and the late Martin Eric Ain had a whole deal of creative and ideological differences that both shaped and destroyed Hellhammer and Celtic Frost time and time again. I've read the story, but I honestly wonder if there was more to it then stated.

It's honestly no surprise this content is all rough, sloppy, and iffy. The ideas however last to this day and have inspired countless. Hell, Messiah is still one of my all-time favorite songs. It's just interesting to see where the legend really began. Sometimes a person needs to look back, see where things began, before they start claiming the superiority of a certain artist. Thankfully, Tom Warrior has left a sizable legacy in his wake, for all to experience his endless ambition and devotion - you can see how he's used his own limitations as an advantage, and that is truly why things like Hellhammer remain so influential to this very day.

REVIEW: Ondt Blod - Natur

ONDT BLOD
NATUR
FYSISK FORMAT

To preface this, I do not speak any language common to Norway – so I can't really give a accurate opinion on the lyrical content. Which is a shame, really. Usually, though I often refrain from political discussion and arguments, I find interest in hearing about the opinions and situations occurring in places besides the United States and Canada. Oh well, what a shame.

Ondt Blod is a hardcore, almost metalcore, band from Norway. The reason I say they are almost metalcore, is because 'Natur' happens to feature a good bit of actual singing from both the vocalist, Aslak Heika Hætta Bjørn, and even some female backup at times. Okay, so, it pretty much IS metalcore. But, that doesn't really detract from the overall experience... unless you dislike that particular genre. Nothing about the vocal style is bad, nothing about the singing is bad, it all meshes together quite well with the harsher vocal style in a rather cohesive manner. When it comes to foreign speaking bands, I tend to treat the vocals as a instrument or effect, and in this regard I found them quite enjoyable.

'Natur' boasts a rather wide variety of styles at times, almost always incorporating metal and punk. What really impresses me is that the band sometimes delves into the sub-genres of either. At times, yeah, it's pretty standard fare – nothing you couldn't hear elsewhere if you want to. But the personal touches are what counts with Ondt Blod. You could be listening to a simple punk-influenced progression, only to be hit with a heavy hitting dissonant section that sends you reeling. On the other side of the coin, softer sections can be surprising as well (especially since they never devolve into something so mundane as a piano solo) and, mind blown, the energy of the band is never robbed by ballads or awkward experimental tracks. Sure, there is a place for those sorts of things, and bands that can pull them off, but Ondt Blod doesn't take the risk – and is all the better for it.


Ondt Blod was a pleasant surprise for me, and I think it will surprise you as well – so long as you are open to more metalcore styled songs. In all honesty, I'd scantly call the group hardcore, perhaps they were more on their debut album, but that really doesn't matter. It's Norwegian metal with style, more of a mainstream appeal, and probably one of the few I've heard from the area that isn't black metal.

REVIEW: Spite (US) - Antimoshiach

SPITE (US)
ANTIMOSHIACH
INVICTUS PRODUCTIONS

There is something different about Spite and their newest album, Antimoshiach, and it took me a good while to pinpoint what it was. Initially, Antimoshiach feels like typical black-metal fare, the first half of 'The Devil's Minyan' being vastly misleading when it comes to the following content - almost to the point where I was a little weary that I might be listening to something so generic that I'd have nothing to say about. Thank whatever-you-believe-in, that this album picks up almost immediately. Spite has a certain distinct style on offer, where a good bit of the focus is on constructing sinister, varied, compositions to suit the album's themes rather then walls of distortion and vocal tracks so hopelessly broken that you have no hope of knowing what you are truly listening to (even though the band seems to consider itself 'raw'). Sure, there is some typicality, but I'll get to that later.

Noticeably, Antimoshiach doesn't really have a whole lot of distortion or anything compared to it's black-metal kin. It has some familiar ideas, things you could hear with other bands like  Vampire, but for some odd reason it seems just a bit toned down; always feeling a bit antiquated - but it ends up working out for the better, attributing the ominous atmosphere this album occasionally delves into. Sometimes things go back a bit too far though, getting so simple as to sound a little bit like old school Horror Punk, but that is never for long. Most of the 'black-metal' feeling comes from Spites vocalist, who just goes wild with all the lyrics.Half the time I don't even know what is being said, something about Satanic wars and blood and whatnot, but he is having a blast with it. I particularly love when they begin to howl - there is something extremely effectual about the distance and ominous tone it can create within this album. I've got to say, without him I'm not too sure if the band would be what it is. Not to say everything else isn't great, but the vocalist definitely pushes everything to the next level.

As for that typicality, there are some times where Antimoshiach just feels like any other low-fi black metal band. I'm talking same old drum beat, same old dissonance, and most certainly same-old lyrical content. For all I can say about the vocals, the content behind them is creative, but it has been done and done again within black-metal and I as much as I'm liking Spite as I write this, I can't rightly give the album points for having such a been-there-done-that element. Also, this album is criminally short. I was through the album four times in less then a couple hours, but I can at least say I wasn't bored of it. Not even close.

Final thoughts on Spite's Antimoshiach? Everything good has shortcomings, and with so few problems and so much to like, with the general toned-down distortion and amazing black-metal vocals, I got to say that this album is definitely something that should be, at least, checked out. For me, it's probably worth a purchase, but definitely something to be included on a playlist down the road - when it releases early February, 2018.

Direnotes Compilation finally released!

At long last, Tears of Dymphna, our compilation for Suicide Awareness, has been released! Featuring a bevy of amazing bands from across the globe, and across genres, this has been a long time coming and it's finally up for free on Bandcamp.

Of course, if you choose to pay - all money goes to the American Foundation for Suicide Awareness, in Memory of Joshua Ham.








Thank you to the artists and bands who kindly donated their talents:

VOID RITUAL (US)
ALLFATHER (UK)
CAIRISS (UK)
DARKEST AEMBER (Brazil)
A PROPHECY MISREAD (US)
SUPREME VERDICT (US)
PERMAFROST (US)
INFRACTUS (Brazil)
KHAOS OF DEATH (Barcelona)
THE SEQUENCE OF PRIME (US)
THIS PRESENT DARKNESS (US)
RECDOOM (Sweden)
FLUMMOX (US)
VOD (Canada)
BLACKLANDS (Germany)
MATRAVIAN (US)
DRACONITH (Canada)
THIRD ISLAND (Ireland)
THE OPPOSITE OF HATE (UK - Courtest of Progressive Gears)
LORENZO BEDINI (UK)
THE HOURGLASS (Romania)
MY HOLLOW (Canada)
ARAKARA (US)
DOOMCULT (Netherlands)
DHAMPYR (US)

REVIEW: Abused - Another Day, Another Step Away From God

ABUSED
'ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER STEP AWAY FROM GOD'
CALIFORNIA, USA

(Reposted from BrubbADubb)

Yes, the holidays are upon us and, I don't know about you, but I needed some unadulterated rage to get me through. All the stress of picking gifts for people, some of which you are aware will not be appreciated, the insane crowds, and the judgmental eyes of those more well of eyeing that basket of bargain bin gifts you are about to buy - cause hey, the internet doesn't pay. So, imagine the delight I felt upon coming across Abused's recent turnout 'Another Day, Another Step Away From God'.

What would you call this anyhow? Metalcore, blackened Metalcore? Is there even a reason to add a label? I don't know if I'm the one to answer the question, as I work through words and descriptors are needed. So, if I was to call it anything, it would be.... Metalcore. But, don't let the stigma of this particular sub-genre deter you. Abused knows how to provide a well orchestrated collection of furious noise that always hits its mark. Every track is a surgical strike against the psyche, not always knowing where to hit you from next, but succeeding through sheer exposure - the composure's slight disorganization somehow allowing for unpredictability.

Along with the wonderfully welcome display of unbridled emotional outage displayed through sharply composed tracks and angered biting vocals, Abused manages to provide a sense of absolute dread. This album feels like a something, someone, coming to an end - and not peacefully, at that. A sense of an absolute end before finality is present here, a undefinable rage amidst the general chaos; blooming insanity. Something about all this made me love the album even more, perhaps because it called upon thoughts of my own complicated-yet-not-so-complicated teenage years in a genuine and direct way. 'Another Day, Another Step Away From God' begins as brash attack against questionable ideologies and a general display of anger towards the world, but the final third spirals into doomy and despairing climax - even going so far as to include atmospheric and odd guitar sections alongside airy keyboard sections. It seems like, for whatever the vocals wish to display, the writer or writers seem to eventually gather that everything is pointless; the fight is eternal and endless, but something inevitably needing to be fought.

That, or I really read into the album far too much due to my holiday dread mounting. Either way, 'Another Day, Another Step Away From God' is a damn good time and a damn good album. What it does, it does well. Some might see 'Metalcore' and be turned away, due to the more popular groups within the sub-genre, but you'd be doing yourself a serious disservice not seeing what this album has to offer.

REVIEW: Luna's Call - Divinity

LUNA'S CALL
DIVINITY
LINCOLN, UK

(Reposted from BrubbADubb)

More then likely, people will draw more then a few comparisons to older Opeth albums when listening to Luna's Call, at least when it comes to this album, and that isn't too surprising as Opeth has been massively influential - the gap left from their stylistic change was one that needed to be filled. The real question is: which band deserves to fulfill that role. Would I say it's Luna's Call? Admittedly, no. But that isn't to say that Divinity is entirely bad.

You see, for every Opeth-ism present here, Luna's Call at least does it right, or outright corrects it's less . You are going to get the soft to death vocal combinations, the softer vocals almost always layered, the clean guitar sections with both acoustic and clean electric guitars, melancholy lyrics, (possibly synth?) orchestral sounds, keyboard stuff - its all very standard progressive metal fare. But, where other bands have padded their songs with obnoxiously long instrumental sections (seriously, there was a point where entire albums 2-3 tracks, or entire songs on their own), Luna's Call knows when to trim the fat and keep things moving. Even longer tracks, some reaching upwards of 9 minutes, aren't boring despite being somewhat predictable - cleaner instrumental sections almost always are followed by heavy death-esque sections, vise versa, etc. Divinity is, if anything, crafted well.

Sadly, the band seems intent on shunning the more original elements here. Vocals are mostly excellent, especially the harsher sections, as they do not sound at all like something out of Opeth. It's a seriously harrowing performance, one that I enjoyed ever second of. On the other side of the coin... The clean vocals are almost complete rip-offs of, you guessed it, Opeth. There really is just nothing so different as to say its not a clone of something on a Opeth album. Hell, even the AM Radio/Phone sounding vocal effects can be heard on songs such as 'Screaming Silence.' Again, it isn't bad, but it isn't original.

Check this album out only if you really like the Opeth sound and writing structure so much that you wish they still sounded something like Blackwater Park or Watershed. I'm really not sure why anyone would want to hear more of that, as there are literally hours upon hours of similar content from the band, but if you're after something similar - check out Luna's Call and their album Divinity. Personally, I'm just going to go listen to the half-dozen Opeth albums I have on my shelf, rather then suffer through yet another clone.

REVIEW: Regnat Horrendum - Heathenland

REGNAT HORRENDUM
'HEATHENLAND'
KALININGRAD, RUSSIA


(REPOSTED From BrubbADubb, who is me so... who cares)

I firmly believe that most musical endeavors are capable of transcending the language barrier, especially so in within the realm of metal. It only makes sense that a emotionally charged genre would be able to carry that emotion past the thinly guised nature of lyrics. Though, when it comes to certain bands and sub-genres - things can be more about theme, especially with black metal, so this review is partially an experiment - with my hapless guinea pig being: Regnat Horrendum and their album 'Heathenland'.

First and foremost, however, I have to say that Regnat Horrendum is by no means a terrible band. Heathenland is a wonderfully composed black metal album that isn't afraid to veer off into whimsical, sometimes cheesy-as-hell, territory. The album begins as somewhat typical, though competently produced, black metal fare, but that doesn't really last past the first track. Afterwards, a slew of experimentation begins. Regnat Horrendum loves the synth, piano, a tiny bit of twangy Hills-Williams influence, and they are not afraid to dip their tracks in it - sometimes even drown everything in hideous late 90's level synthetic technology. Really, with most bands this could be considered a horrible thing, but I find that it adds a little charm to the generally biting style black metal is known for. Think, I suppose, Turisas with a black metal vocal style - within the medium of writing, that is probably the only real way to explain what Heathenland is.

It's not always a great time though, I feel like piano solos can be a great addition but when it comes to metal a whole lot has been done. At this point, its just a little too typical for me - especially when it's just there to add 'prettiness' to a ugly genre like it is here. Perhaps if something more unique had been attempted, I'd feel differently, but nothing was. Because of their abundance, the last bit of Heathenland is a snore fest and almost completely loses the fun factor. Things become way too... symphonic. Truly, this is a top heavy album.

Now, as for if the general themes and tones of the music can be understood by the average English listener? Well, I suppose I'm not average, but I can't understand anything going on in Heathenland. Then again, I don't exactly know Russian, not in the slightest. I'm not sure that really detracts from the entertainment value though, Regnat Horrendum could be howling about the woes of catching a VD from a herd of sheep and I wouldn't know it - but the lack of understanding does allow the vocals to be considered more of a instrument. Though, it's black metal dude, most of the time you can barely understand what is being said by most of it's bands anyhow.

As for Heathenland? It's a good listen, a great album with very few short comings, a few goofy moments (mostly because of cheesy synth), but a whole lot of effectual metal for those who love more experimental black metal offerings. It can be a little slow though, and there can be way too much keyboard, but if that doesn't detract you at all - by all means, give the album a go.