Friday, July 25, 2014

Overkill - White Devil Armory (2014)

2014 sees Overkill return with yet another record, in a time often referred to as a creative resurgence for band. Indeed, since releasing Ironbound four years ago, the five-piece's following has burst at its seams because the music returns to thrashier, bombastic roots, instead of the rhythmic groove implemented for the better part of the 1990s and 2000s.

In many ways, the newest installment, White Devil Armory, follows the same one-dimensional formula introduced in 2010, but what one must understand is that Overkill has never been about furthering their sound with each successive record. In fact, the band has always been quite the opposite, being about consistent, well-written music that bolsters a discography and instills confidence in a dependable group of musicians.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Un-Metal!: Autograph

Bands like Autograph were, and still are, subject to vitriol by the metal community--in the 1980s, they occupied a space dangerously close to hard rock, but were often confused with metal by mainstream media, not unlike what occurs with -core music today. Of course, much of the music that incorporates -core influence is in no way, shape, or form metal, and the same goes for Autograph, being that they were essentially glam rock with AOR tendencies, high distortion, and lots of shredding guitar solos.

Autograph's 1984 debut, Sign in Please, was, unsurprisingly, the pinnacle of their career. Their best-known track, "Turn Up the Radio," gained momentum only a few months after its release, but fell shortly thereafter, when the five-piece's follow-up hit shelves a year later.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Atrophy - Violent by Nature (1990)

Clinging to what was left of mainstream thrash metal by the nineties, Atrophy released their second full-length, Violent by Nature, to quiet acclaim, thanks to shifting tastes in the music world. Playing in a metal band into the nineties was no easy task; in fact, many chose to throw in the towel, take cover underground, or change style all together, in hopes of riding the next musical trend to stay relevant. Some, like Atrophy, however, were just getting their feet off the ground, but found their shoes firmly stuck in the same spot each time they tried to progress to the next level.

Rapidly emerging as the newest aural obsession, grunge made metal appear woefully outdated, and bands that chose to soldier on with no stylistic changes experienced inconsistent success rates. Naturally, Atrophy was one of those unfortunate souls, and while their first record, Socialized Hate, appeared to do relatively well, the follow-up, 1990's Violent by Nature, eventually tanked, despite receiving receptive press. Unsurprisingly, it would be their last before they called it a day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Harakkkiri - Deadly Katana (2014)

According to, a ruse is best described as "a trick, stratagem, or artifice" and, indeed, Harakkkiri fits the definition to a T. Posturing as a band with Japanese origins, Deadly Katana certainly looks the part, but the thing is, Harakkkiri hails from Chile, despite appearing authentic down to the deceiving makeup and black-and-white cover. The music has little, if anything, to do with the aesthetic, so if you find yourself thinking, "what gives?," you're not alone.

To make it simple, Harakkiri is essentially a tribute to classic, Japanese metal bands and wear their influences on their sleeves with the utmost pride. Loudness, Damzell, and others were clearly sources of inspiration, but if you dig past the cover art, a dash of early Sodom and various punk acts from outside of Japan also made the cut. It's an interesting combination of influences--a bit like a melting pot--but it's charming and works, at least for Harakkkiri's purposes, which admittedly aren't deep or very thoughtful.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vinyl Feature: 3 Inches of Blood/Angelus Apatrida's Self-Titled Split

Recently, I found myself in deep discussion with a friend about the supposed merits of vinyl, specifically modern vinyl. Some portray the medium as the path to nirvana, proudly proclaiming that every record sonically outperforms CDs, while others realize that it depends, largely, on mastering. And don't even get me started on poorly pressed vinyl with low bitrate MP3s slapped onto the wax--it sounds like total shit, as you probably expect.

Well, that got me thinking. Sadly enough, I'm no stranger to truly poor sound, because I've added a number of records to my collection over the years that I, quite literally, wanted to toss out of a window upon first listen. Thinking back on one in particular, it was a good learning experience and taught me a valuable lesson--to approach 7-inch records with caution--but I never quite got over the trauma. Yes, it's been languishing in my collection, and there's no urgency to play the damn thing ever again.

The record in question, 3 Inches of Blood and Angelus Apatrida's split, is a hot mess. It's fuzzy, grainy, and generally not an enjoyable listen, so, if you're one who values the extolled virtues of vinyl and "perfect" sound quality, this won't be up your alley. It doesn't help, either, that it's a 7-inch record. More often than not, those aren't particularly good examples of sound quality, anyway.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Cyntia - Limit Break (2014)

In the grand scheme of things, Cyntia is an odd bird. It's not often that one sees a bunch of girly girls playing metal, and it's even rarer that they actually excel at their instruments, instead preferring to spend time perfecting their looks in lieu of practicing. But the thing is, Cyntia isn't like most other glitter bands and defies the stereotype, sounding incredibly accomplished, like an ensemble who has been grinding away at the path to success for years on end.

The music certainly speaks for itself: Euro-sounding power metal, the occasional cushy J-pop melody, and, at times, a progressive tinge spit forth some of the catchiest metal this side of pop music. Cyntia has the chops to back it up, too, displaying the sort of dexterity expected of a band playing an entirely different sub-genre of metal and punches well above what Limit Break's rather underwhelming cover suggests. Vocals reach heights unbeknownst to all but the most accomplished frontmen (in this case, women!), and the performance stands as a testament to how far Saki has come since Cyntia's debut, in both raw talent and willingness to adventure outside her comfort zone. Indeed, listening to her hit the notes during "Night Flight's" chorus is one of Limit Break's defining moments and, without it, the song's climactic point would fall flat on its face.