Wednesday, December 17, 2014

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

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.

Edge of Haze - Illumine

Interestingly enough, Edge of Haze is commonly lumped into the doom metal sub-genre, which is puzzling, given that their music is more reminiscent of pugnacious gothic metal (with proggy, industrial overtones) than anything else. The band's latest effort, Illumine, is a dazzler, too, being loosely based on a story of loss, rediscovery, and a new life--the book, Escape from Camp 14, fascinatingly, was the basis for the record, and the vast musical landscapes, which cycle between explosive riffs and low-key, atmospheric sections, do an excellent job of portraying the story in a rich, gripping way.

If you've had the fortune of reading Escape from Camp 14, Illumine's song titles will no doubt trigger flashbacks to the chilling tale. "Unlearn," for instance, hints at forgetting the horrors of the North Korean camps, no matter how the atrocities affected one's self-being, while "The Newfound Horizon" speaks of a new life in South Korea and the United States. Of course, without actually experiencing the atrocity that is a North Korean prison camp, this is purely speculation. But, god damn, is Illumine colossal in its impact and simply endless in the way that it can be interpreted.

Cleaver - The Sickest Tales

Cleaver is a band The Metal Advisor has had a particular penchant for, for the fact that they're closely related to death metallers Chton. The band even landed a spot on the best albums of 2013--a new release wasn't expected for at least a few more years. Nevertheless, Cleaver kills it yet again, but somehow takes a step back while doing so. The music is more primitive and raw--which is perhaps exactly as they intended, being enormous fans of primeval, first-wave black metal.

Comprised of three tracks, The Sickest Tales is as exactly as it seems: quick and to the point, while cutting through the bullshit. There's no horsing around here--all tracks share the same coarse formula, but implement different bits that make them unique in their own right. "Dead Men Tell No Tales" is peppered with enough double bass to make power metal envious. "I Walk the Path of Revenge" couples the dark chime of a bell with a malevolent midsection. And "Suicide" opens with a cowbell, which is generally unheard of in blackened heavy metal.

The Sickest Tales is excellent for the fact that it doesn't try to be something it isn't. There's no psuedo-technical posturing or instrumental wanking simply for the sake of it--the album is what it is and is damn proud of it. And that's how music should be.

MindMaze - Back from the Edge

If The Metal Advisor has been on your reading list for any period of time, you'll know that, in addition to heavy, thrash, and death metal, another penchant of mine is poppy heavy metal. Delain took the crown earlier this year with a stunning mixture of symphonics and sugary music, and MindMaze very nearly does the same with a culmination of progressive power metal and infectious melodies.

What holds Back from the Edge back, however, is one-dimensional songwriting where some tracks are shackled to a formula, but that doesn't mean the album isn't worth seeking out. In fact, for what it is, it harbors some brilliant moments, particularly in the longer, adventurous tracks where the band's chops really shine. Sarah Teets is undeniably a phenomenal vocalist and deserves every bit of praise directed toward her. In the coming years, she will likely remain the band's star and guide the four-piece to a prosperous and well-to-do future. See "Dreamwalker" and "The Machine Stops" for what MindMaze is all about.

Misericordia - Throne of Existence

Black metal--especially Dissection devotees--fans rejoice: Misericordia strikes back with their second full-length an astonishing ten years removed from the first. Naturally, with such a large gap between the two, you would assume that the second would be plagued with a myriad of issues, namely poor songwriting and a lineup desperately pieced together from remnants of the first. Surprisingly, though, none of those issues surface here, and the Throne of Existence is utterly brilliant, if only for the fact that it defies logic that the music should be less than stellar.

You might ask yourself, "Is the music genuine, being so closely related to Dissection?" And that answer to that would be a resounding yes. The sense of melody engrained in the music is nothing short of breathtaking which, for an extreme metal album, makes it wildly memorable. You'll be humming along with "For Our Father" before you know it.

For our Father, For the Holy One



  1. Try as I might I just could not get into Horrendous' new album ----- I think its the vocals.... the music is strikingly accessible, for death metal that is. The vocals are just too... I don't know how to describe it, thin perhaps for me? Hard to say...

    1. I totally understand. Most of the time, there's very little bottom end to Knox' vocals, which makes them a bit unconventional for death metal. But the music. Oh, the music. Horrendous' level of accessibility is a thing of beauty.

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