Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brutal. Thrash. Attack. Demolition Hammer's Epidemic of Violence is One of My Favorite Records of All Time (1992)

One of the best cover arts known to man.
Smash your skull. Beat your face in. Mosh 'til death. Demolition Hammer lived by the rule of vicious speed. The Bronx-based thashers were late to the thrash party, releasing their first full-length in 1990, but they proved to be faster, heavier, and more ferocious than those that came before them, making death metal look meager on several occasions. While Tortured Existence is a classic in and of itself, Epidemic of Violence is the record that perfected the Demolition Hammer formula and cemented their place in metal history. Like it or not, the album is heralded as a template for barbaric thrash and callous music. Lyrics mercilessly punch you in the face with ruthless and savage word choice. Yet, they're still carefully chosen in regards to elegant rhyme scheme. Flow was key for the band's music, and even a few spooky, medically-inspired lyrics aren't going to interrupt that. And in case you were wondering, Demolition Hammer has been split up for quite some time now.

But that's beside the point. Their music is just as legendary as the day it hit shelves. Few bands (and even fewer thrash acts) have reached the level of brutality Demolition Hammer achieved, confirming my initial thoughts upon hearing Epidemic of Violence years ago: don't play this this for weak-hearted. Thrash riffs pushed to the extreme make up the majority of the record's meat, often transforming into full on death metal riffs. Although death metal was without a doubt alive and well in 1992, Demolition Hammer was still key to the genre's development and furthered thrash metal into the decade following the '80s when most bands were going kaput. Thus, brutal thrash was born.

Musically, the record is a nice mix of thrash and death metal with added emphasis on thrash. Vocals appear in the form of a bloodcurdling roar - powerful, yet perfectly controlled and refined for the subgenre. Honestly, they wouldn't feel out of place on an early death metal album when vocalists were still testing the water with growling. They aren't the rugged, deep bellow most death metal vocalists favor these days, but rather akin to that of early Morbid Angel. Guitars ruthlessly assault you with staccato alternate picked riffs and speed-focused passages. Epidemic of Violence never has a dull moment and you habitually wrestle to keep up with the music. The real champion, however, is the drumming, which can only be accredited to the legendary Vinny Daze. Sadly, Vinny is no longer with us, but his unrelenting velocity will always be remembered, especially his skilled double bass rolls.

Highlights include (though the whole album is a highlight) the title track, "Human Dissection," "Pyroclastic Annihilation," "Carnivorous Obsession," and the amazing "Aborticide."

Not to cut the post short, but it's been surprisingly hard to place my thoughts concerning one of my favorite records. But that's how the cookie crumbles sometimes: you're so wrapped up in the sheer awesomeness a collection of music offers that the brain goes into a music coma. I'm quite partial to the music coma myself because it lets me enjoy my favorite albums without analyzing them consciously. I'm sure Demolition Hammer wouldn't have it any other way either - lyrically, the band would agree with my dilemma.

Indeed, 1992 was a good year.
The Metal Advisor

Friday, January 27, 2012

Recent Hauls Part Seven

1. &$%#! This one came to me with a cracked case. No matter how perfect Amazon may seem as a vendor, you can't ever trust the shipping company. *Sigh* Luckily, the music is pleasant, if not a tad on the more mellow side of what I was expecting. As far as I know, Shining's music is usually stereotypical black metal, but this release strikes me as a nominal approach to the subgenre, stripped of what typically defines black metal, resulting in extreme metal that's just outside of the norm. Because I'm not familiar with any of Shining's other work, this is good enough for me, and I've been enjoying VI - Klagopsalmer immensely. Excellent cover art, too.

2. Oh, man, this one has been on my list forever. Literally years. It's odd that I neglected to pick up Sodom's Tapping the Vein all this time because first impressions tell me this is one of the best thrash albums released in the nineties, bar none. It's amazing that Sodom cranked the record out because other bands in the time period completely watered down or changed their sound to fit in with what the people "wanted." Tapping the Vein is vicious, diabolical, and heinous - it takes no prisoners and rips your face off. Considering the band's record of consistency, it's no surprise the album is as excellent as it is. Plus, Angelripper's vocals are downright savage. HIGHLY recommended, and a wonderful successor to Sodom's classic material, although this is arguably a classic itself.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vallenfyre - A Fragile King (2011)

After seeing a handful of friends enjoy Vallenfyre's debut on, I gathered they were, at the very least, worth checking out, and only then did I decide they were band I needed to add to the never ending list of music to look into. For whatever reason, Vallenfyre pushed their way to the top of the list past bands I've had indexed for years, when I chose to purchase A Fragile King from Amazon. I can't say I was anticipating the album's arrival, like say, a new Iron Maiden record, but I was surely intrigued at what I was going to find upon popping the disk into my CD player.

Being composed of members from legendary bands notwithstanding, I'd vouch Vallenfyre very much need an introduction, especially if you're not familiar with death metal. Members of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and At the Gates call the band home, and while I don't have a vast amount of experience with any of those bands, I assumed the record was going to be an excellent listen because those groups have a mythical status throughout the metal community. I wasn't wrong on my assumption, as the majority of A Fragile King is fantastic, but I find most of it feeling too samey. It's like the eating steak for a week in a row--yes, it's delicious, but it gets old quickly. They're almost too consistent.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

French Metal: Je

In light of hells_unicorn's recent review on Metal Archives, I decided it was time to give Je a try merely for their French lyrics. If you know me, I'm a total sucker for lyrics in languages other than English--French, Swedish, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian--it makes no difference. While the majority of Je's lyrics fly right over my head because I'm not a native French speaker, bits and pieces I undoubtedly understand; I've never been the kind of person that needs to understand lyrics to enjoy music, and Je's work still invocates the feeling of desolation it originally intended.

Prior to my discovery of Je, I had no experience with shoegaze, and I had absolutely no interest in checking it out. Although I can't say Je are completely representative of the black metal/shoegaze/post-rock combo sound, I can tell you I totally dig what I'm hearing. The majority of the guitar riffs are fashioned from downs-stroked picking patterns and, when combined with melancholic melodies, make for a black experience despite the addition of other influences mixing the sound up.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Smattering of Thoughts on Judas Priest

Being back at school gives me countless hours to think pointless thoughts that would never cross my mind otherwise. I imagine this is a product of returning to the grind--stresses enter the brain and make us do funny things, but the peculiar thing is that, in the midst of all this, I'm pondering Judas Priest's influence on metal as a whole and their individual history as a band. And, at this very moment, I have the classic "Sinner" playing through my headphone setup in all its glory. I suppose that could be the reason I'm amusing myself with this, too.

Nonsense aside, Black Sabbath might be accredited with inventing heavy metal, but Judas Priest arguably dropped the blues influence, thus honing it into something purer and deserving of the genre name. That's not to say Black Sabbath wasn't deserving--they certainly were--but their very early material appears to have traces of what predated heavy metal's perceived core, namely the bluesy vibe so many bands tapped for inspiration. Initially, Judas Priest was indeed guilty of this, but with the release of Sad Wings of Destiny, the band became a bona fide '70s heavy metal band, which surely makes one wonder: was Judas Priest actually the first heavy metal band, despite what critics preach? I can't decide that for you, but it's definitely something to consider.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Check Out: Blood Stain Child

While I can't say electronic music mashed up with metal sounds particularly appealing, Blood Stain Child manage to pull it off quite well, especially when you consider the recent failure Morbid Angel had when they attempted the same thing. Granted, it wasn't even the same kind of electronic music, but the very thought of electro and our coveted form of music sounds, well, disturbing. The danceable form of electronica has been newly embraced by the mainstream, so combining a harsher form of music with something decidedly more accessible seems like bad match. But, really, it isn't. When these Japanese metallers do it well, they do it well. I'm talking music your mom might like listening to. It's got drive, a nice beat, and catchy melodies galore.

That's not the secret to Blood Stain Child's formula, however. The key is the pop. A good chunk of electronic music is all about the pop hook, the one that makes you want to listen to the song over and over and over until you wear it out, and these guys have the formula down pat. Tracks like "Stargazer" and "Electricity" are accessible enough that they could be played at the next dance party you attend.

Blood Stain Child step into two boundaries, the freshly labeled trance metal and the more tried-and-true melodic death metal. This isn't melodic death metal in the vein of, say, Insomnium, but instead the Swedish Gothenburg scene. Two vocalists straddle the music: a female for the cleans and a male who takes over harsh duties. The harsh vocals are nothing to write home about, but the cleans are out of this world.

If others can pull off this type of combination as well as these Japanese metallers, I welcome it with open arms. The question that remains, however, is if it will catch on or not. I'll admit that I'm not too knowledgeable about the paring, only having heard others like Sybreed, but I'd definitely like to explore it a little more. Hopefully the band will continue on with the style Epsilon introduced, and people start to notice.


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

French Metal: Deathspell Omega

Since I've been sitting on my butt for these French metal posts, it's time I got back to grind on figuring out which ones to add to the blog list. Deathspell Omega are one of the more popular bands that call France home, and their recognition within the metal community is definitely deserved. If you aren't used to black metal, they'll polarize you. And even if you're familiar with a little black metal, they'll still do it to you.

Deathspell Omega are what fans call orthodox black metal. They take Satan into a theistic context and make music out of it. It might sound weird, but, in all honesty, it isn't --if you think about how many metal bands chose Satan as their main lyrical theme, it makes perfect sense. Are they really serious? I couldn't tell you, but I couldn't care less because I don't listen to Deathspell Omega for their lyrics.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Anyone Heard the New Stuff Adrian Smith is Churning Out?

Yeah, well, it ain't great. I expected more from one of my guitar heroes, and he didn't really deliver, but I guess it isn't all his fault because he's working with Sikth frontman Mikee Goodman. Seriously, what an odd freaking match. The song is overly boring sounding like it's lacking "that" source of inspiration. Absent are memorable guitar riffs, melodies, and the other makings of a good song. Oh, and the vocals are dreadful.

If I didn't mention it already, the band is called Primal Rock Rebellion, and the song "I See Lights." Give it a listen here. The album is due out in late February, but I can't say I'm looking forward to it. Surprise me, Adrian.


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Newcomers Cryptodira Release The Four Quarters (2012)

Okay, boys and girls. I want to bring you something a bit more obscure, a fledgling band that needs all the support and exposure they can get. And they're deserving of it, if I do say so myself, beacuse they're quite good at their instruments and can piece together an engaging piece of music that holds a listener's attention. The interesting thing is that Cryptodira categorize themselves as a progressive death metal band, and although I pick out slight bits of death metal, it is not the main part of their sound. I hear a lot more Between the Buried and Me, post-rockish sections, and hardcore-derived passages with syncopated rhythms and start-stop riffage. Nevertheless, that doesn't make The Four Quarters any less enjoyable; it's just the opposite of what I expected when Mike (the guitarist) described Cyptodira to me.

So what the heck is a Cryptodira? Questions about the band's name took priority over anything else, even listening to the EP--they certainly had my attention at that point. But the curious thing is that a Cryptodira is a taxonomic suborder relating to turtles and tortoises. Um... what? Regardless of where the guys got their name, I find it pretty interesting and creative that they pulled the name out of thin air. Before Mike and his crew came along, I hadn't even heard the word before. To be honest, I'd still love to hear why they chose it as their name.

For the most part, The Four Quarters is definitely enjoyable. I'll say that much. But I don't find it particularly unique, especially when I notice similarities between it and Between the Buried and Me. I can't call myself a fan of Between the Buried and Me either because they unnecessarily draw out their music, but Cryptodira do exactly the opposite, wrapping their songs in tidy and neat little packages that don't feel like a chore to listen to. And that's a plus.

On the other side, I find the clean vocals weak sounding as if they're carelessly slapped on top of the music. The harsh vocals lack the oomph an aspiring death metal band requires--and that's just it: they strike me as more of a metalcore-type vocal instead of the deep, gruff growl characteristic of so many death metal bands. That's really the only downfall to the EP, in my eyes. By adding a new vocalist, the band will move one step closer to their ultimate goal of being progressive death metal. Well, that and a substantial change in sound, of course.

Naturally, the musicianship on The Four Quarters is very good and a highly satisfying listen at that. The first time I gave the EP a run through, however, it went straight through me and nothing stuck, but that's what additional spins are for: to pull apart and really understand what you're listening to. Cryptodira's music isn't all that complicated, but it does employ some interesting time signatures. Three of the four tracks are over six minutes as well, so this really isn't casual or easy listening for the normal music lover.

But back to the musicianship; it's surprisingly tight and clean for what appears to be a demo-like EP. The drumming is probably what I enjoy the most, and I normally don't favor groovy drumming, but instead speedier drummers with lots of intricate fills. I usually find groovier drummers too repetitive, but Taibi has done a nice job of mixing his playing up.

The overall verdict on The Four Quarters is a positive one. You've got a band full of charisma and pizazz which should carry them throughout the music world. Gentle post-rock sections mesh nicely with heavier passages. Vocals could be improved, but, in the grand scheme of things, the gripe is relatively minor. In the end, though, this is a well-done collection of music, not perfect, but indeed pleasant.

Download the band's EP for free in 128kbps quality at this location. Here's to hoping higher quality becomes available.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Step Back into Obscurity: A Look at Malevolence's Martyrialized (1999)

Since forming in 1994, Malevolence has come a long way after battling with a seemingly rocky future. Lineup changes, a rather lengthy hiatus, and a number of other obstacles threatened the band's existence, but in recent years they've reunited with hopes to release new material. It takes mad guts to reform and face a fanbase after years of inactivity; bands that do so repeatedly gain my respect because one wrong move and fans rage at music that doesn't sound exactly like the back catalog. That being said, 1999's Martyrialized is the act's second full-length and a fine one at that. The untitled forthcoming release will have quite a mini legacy to follow.

Yes, it's especially impressive that Martyrialized is the group's second full-length. Normally, I expect a band to take a handful of albums to find their own unique sound, but Malevolence shoved their foot into the death metal scene's door and established themselves as more than a carbon copy early on in their career. The building blocks to their sound were firmly cemented into place and offered a look at what Portuguese metal was like. And let's be honest, how many Portuguese metal bands can you name off the top of your head? Before Malevolence, I could name a whopping sum of one. I'll assert the first time I gazed at Martyrialized's cover art, I assumed it was going to be a culmination of generic death metal that would pass through my system fairly quickly, only to be forgotten about and thrown into the "music for later" pile. The thing is, you can never judge an album by its cover. In all the time I've been listening to music, I've rarely done that, but every once in a while it happens. This time I was off. Like, all the way out of the earth's stratosphere.

Dare I say it, Malevolence's uniqueness owes itself to the utilization of orchestral elements that don't overpower or fight with the rest of the instruments. Unlike a certain recent release, they're well-balanced and create a fixed atmosphere I've come to recognize as Malevolence's own. It's quite exciting. In part, I'd guess it's due to the flat, yet square production. It's unlike anything I've heard recently, though it may credit its quality to being a product of the '90s. The production, guitar riffs, and synths mingle together to create an interesting feeling that is a whole 'nother world, a totally different place that helps me escape reality and into a fantasy metal realm. The chord progressions in a few of the tracks are all together sublime, most notably in the chorus of "Hunters of the Red Moon," and concoct a sound that's indicative of something that's pretty damn marked and distinguished. Yeah, I know. That isn't very descriptive. But it's fitting for a band like Malevolence and once the record passes through your system, you'll instantly understand what I mean. I've never had this much trouble putting a band's sound into words, but I guess we all get stumped at some point. Bravo, Malevolence crew!

Another interesting aspect of Malevolence's sound is that they're on the more melodic side of death metal. But don't get me wrong - this isn't the wimpy drivel coming out of the Swedish Gothenburg scene that's almost always nothing more than a pile of steaming pop music. Malevolence's tunes are well-composed and filled with interesting hooks that draw you to the music like mosquitoes to a bare arm. You'll be glued to the perplexing melodies for hours on end and wonder how on earth a few metalheads came up with something so ingenious. And that's just the beauty of it: music knows no boundaries, and I think Malevolence pushed them so many years ago in 1999. It's undoubtedly a shame they remained so obscure with the release of Martyrialized and into their breakup, but I have high hopes their recent reformation will post different results and get them the recognition they deserve. 

As for favorites on the record, "Hunters of the Red Moon" might just be my most played on Matryrialized, though it would be nothing without its musical brethren. The album must be listened to in full to gain the lush effect Malevolence's music creates. It's simply hypnotic. Okay, so that might sound a tad cheesy, but I'd hope my readers recognize that some albums only work when listened to as a whole. It's like picking one track off of Queensr├┐che's Operation: Mindcrime and trying to figure out what the whole album is about. You ain't gonna get nothing out of that one.

I whole hardheartedly recommend you give Martyrialized a look. As you've probably already surmised, it makes for a considerably interesting listen, and while interpretation may vary, it's unique enough to merit repeated attention in order to dissect its inner contents. I know for a fact that these Portuguese metallers would appreciate you giving their music a try. You've got nothing to lose anyway. Go for it.