Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Year-End Catch Up: Horrendous, Edge of Haze, Cleaver, MindMaze, Misericordia

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Horrendous - Ecdysis

Needless to say, Horrendous is tremendous. No, seriously. As corny as that sounds, they're as brilliant as can be in an age where the classical side of death metal is experiencing a surge of bands that quite simply don't do enough to stand out from one another. Horrendous has everything: traditional heavy metal-inspired instrumentals, raunchy death-thrash numbers, the Swedish razorblade guitar sound, and vocals that remind vaguely of Chuck Schuldiner. Put it all in a pot, give it a quick stir, and out pops something that just works. And it's beautiful.

While it's hard to say Horrendous' sophomore effort, Ecdysis, is completely flawless, what it does an excellent job at is sounding coherent for its 44-minute runtime. Every song has a link to the next, whether it be with the guitar's meaty, slow-to-decay aesthetic, fluid songwriting, or the instrumentals that do nothing more than required--this is death metal as it should be with no gimmicks, flamboyant attention grabbers, or studio tricks. The old days are alive and well and, with a retooled formula, just enough to make Ecdysis one of the best records of 2014.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sodom - Sacred Warpath (2014)

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Cover art of the year?
2014 has been an excellent year, there's no doubt about that. Riot gave us a very Reale-esque record despite losing the man to Crohn's disease almost three years ago, and Morbus Chron, Benighted, and others dropped masterpieces that may take high honors on best-of lists (or at least this one!) all across the metal blogosphere. But one release, lurking quietly in the shadows and from a veteran band no less, is positioned to join them--Sodom's Sacred Warpath.

At a glance, the EP isn't impressive. One new track surfaces in the roster, with three live cuts taken from their most recent tour following suit. But a closer look reveals a treat: Sodom appears to have captured a piece of their past with the new material and discarded a portion of the melodic mysticism found on their latest full-length, Epitome of Torture.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Evergrey - "King of Errors"

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Nine times out of 10, I enjoy music videos for what they are and leave it at that. They serve their intended purpose of painting a picture of the band's lineup or a song's subject mattter, but sooner or later I forget about them and focus on what matters most--the music. But sometimes, long after the fact, they manage to leave a lasting impression on me, even as the music quitely creeps back into my collection, jettisoned from the daily listening rotation.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review-ish Ramblings of a Madman: Alterbeast - Immortal (2014)

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Of the mass of swirling, chaotic metal released this year, Alterbeast's Immortal is among the best, and here's why: 1) while they take considerable influence from The Black Dahlia Murder (vocally in the higher registers, at least) the music is a totally different animal. Think melodic death metal meets technical death metal, and you'll have a good handle on the concept. It's nothing new, but it's 2) engaging, expertly written, and, best of all, entertaining, something that can't be said of many technical death metal bands--most of which place self-absorbed technically over hooks, well-crafted songwriting, and musical ideas that flow logically to and from one another.

That's a feat in and of itself, but what's more is that there isn't a single piece of filler in the track listing. Perhaps some songs are stronger than others, but that can be said of even the most "perfect" albums universally praised from one music enthusiast to the next. Consistency, variety, and no end of concise ideas are what makes this possible--for instance, "Flesh Bound Text" opens pleasantly enough, puzzling listeners with a classically-inspired intro, but just as the 45-second mark comes around, the music hits like a slap across the face with a barrage of notes and pummeling drumming.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dawnbringer - Night of the Hammer (2014)

1 comment:
Silly cover art, but don't be fooled: the music is excellent.
Dawnbringer's previous album, Into the Lair of the Sun God, was arguably the high point in the band's career, being praised for having all sorts of twists and turns that made the music a joy to absorb and pore over. With little indication, the instrumentals would morph from a drawn-out, distorted passage--with enough harmonization to make Iron Maiden jealous--into a clean acoustic section with chanted vocals. ...which was one of their biggest strengths.

2014's Night of the Hammer draws back the flamboyance, however, and is only similar in that it retains its traditional heavy metal flair. Much of the music is steeped in a primitive doom metal-based template that, for better or for worse, adds a bare bones feeling to the mix and helps enhance the patented Dawnbringer formula--that of big, basic hooks and memorable songwriting. Indeed, historically, the band has been known for particularly well-crafted choruses and melodies that retain replay value surpassed by very few in the business, and Night of the Hammer amplifies that by slowing the pace (which, in turn, makes the songs easier to follow).