Sunday, May 12, 2019


Life got busy and I slowed down a bit, but my renewed fire hasn't actually flamed out.  As proof, here's twelve more albums I just don't have the time/thoughts for full reviews on.

Imprecation - Damnatio ad Bestias 
Eh, this is fine.  Honestly this is easily going to be the DTD segment with the most "it's a'ight" ratings to date.  Part of this is because I've just gotten better at passing over promos I don't want to listen to, so I'm generally just going to find stuff I either like a lot or things that are in my wheelhouse but unremarkable.  The other part of why this is is because I've started getting promos from Dark Descent Records, and god damn are they a frustrating label.  There's no denying how important they've been to the underground and the hand they've played in helping twisted death metal roar back to the forefront of the modern scene, but at the same time they've been a recurring frenemy of mine for years because they so clearly have a distinct style they specialize in and it's just so fucking boring and formulaic.  All of their truly great releases are from bands that stray from the tumbling, chaotic black/death that typifies their signature sound.  Crypt Sermon?  House of Atreus?  Craven Idol?  Tyranny?  Hell yeah man I'll eat that shit up.  Imprecation here?  Eh, this is fine.  There are definitely good tracks here, "Beasts of the Infernal Void" absolutely rips my spine out with those rapid fire tempo changes, but for the most part this is exactly the nasty death metal you'd expect of anything on the label.  And eh, it's fine.

Warchest - Sentenced Since Conception 
Maybe it's just the Chilean connection here, but my first thought upon hearing this ripper was... well, Ripper, who would've lit the entire thrash scene on fire in 2016 if everybody wasn't too busy lining up to suck Vektor's overwritten dong to notice them.  It's not a dead-ringer though, Warchest lacks Pablo Cortes, the bassist and chief songwriter of Ripper, and as such Sentenced Since Conception is noticeably average in the realm of low end wizardry and songwriting whereas those elements are precisely what set Experiment of Existence apart.  I'm being unfair though, because Warchest are certainly capable on their own, and they bring the fucking heat as good as thrashers nowadays.  It's all the head-rolling speed of Dark Angel with the bloody-jawed ferocity of early Sepultura, and that's really all I can reasonably ask for.  The songs themselves may lack in staying power and that's why it's hard to write about and wound up in this feature instead of a full review.

Lyfordeath - Nullius In Verba 
This one is just giving me a headache.  There's nothing wrong with this, it's just way too fucking full of itself for its own good.  Maybe it's bad form to talk about the EPK itself but the one for these guys had all this r/iamverysmart bullshit akin to a Rick and Morty fan talking about how "Love isn't real, it's just a fuck-chemical in your brain" or whatever when explaining what the lyrical themes of the album are.  It was a bunch of Extremely Online teenage nihilism shit.  Admittedly this tainted the entire experience before I even heard a single note.  This is just really basic prog-death that isn't really bad on its own but now the album cover with the Vitruvian Man on it and all the superfluous Latin just makes me roll my eyes whenever I remember it's there.  Maybe it's petty, but that kind of pretentious shit just annoys me to death and the last place I really want to be reminded of it is in the middle of listening to fucking death metal.  You know how Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets every New Years Day that the start of a new year on a Gregorian calendar has no astrological significance and you invariably fight the urge to tombstone him through a table?  That's what this is like.  And come on your band is named fucking Lyfordeath get the fuck over yourselves.

Krypts - Cadaver Circulation
Dark Descent album 2/4 for this feature, and honestly this is probably the best one.  This is DDRcore in every sense of the word with how cavernous and chaotic it is.  It's filthy death metal slathered in reverb with a heap of black and doom metal involved as well and that's what like 70% of their roster is at its core, but Krypts stands out a bit entirely for the doom sections hitting ridiculously fucking hard.  Those slow, crawling sections are all fuckin' monstrous, and each hard left turn into them smashes your ears against a rock, and in turn it makes every chaotic blasting section all the more effective since it's less of a blur of white noise and more a series of barbaric whiplashes.  This is by no means top tier stuff, but it is indeed above average, and the atmosphere is downright menacing.  Like most things in this particular volume of DTD, it's not particularly memorable in the long run, but the relatively short runtime of 37 minutes keeps this a concise experience that just smashes your face, reminds you everybody you love is going to die someday, and then fucks off to go torment somebody else.  It's very effective.  It also helps that the riff about two minutes into "Reek of Loss" is one of the best damn grooves I've heard all year.

Flashback of Anger - Shades
Well don't these guys look like a fun-loving bunch of goofballs.  Shades is a weird album because the lyrical focus is very atypical for Italian prog/power, focusing on societal ills, anti-capitalism, weird revenge fantasies about the 2015 Paris terrorist attack at the Bataclan, cracking cold ones with the bros, Hiroo Onoda, Marco Polo, and... I think John McAfee?  It's hard not to pay attention to the lyrics with this one purely because they're so out of left field for the genre.  But with that said, they are still an Italian power metal band, so you could've guessed how this sounded based on that alone.  Yep, very keyboard heavy, high pitched mousey vocals with a comically thick accent, lots of double bass and flittery melodies, all the tropes are here.  This is more accurately described as "progressive power metal" but really it's just in the latter day Symphony X style where it's very noodly but still very groovy and straightforward (though not nearly as heavy as the Jersey Boys).  I say often that power metal tends to be a genre nowadays that creates great individual songs more than great albums, and this is no exception.  Without a doubt the opening tracks, "Ripped Off" and "Numbers" are easily the best songs on display, with the former being a speedy early Sonata Arctica styled flower metal number with an impossibly catchy chorus, and the latter having a much groovier approach but still knocking it out of the park.  The rest of the album, unfortunately is much less interesting, with a handful of basic power metal songs, some really sluggish slow tracks, and an absolutely insufferable ballad with "Dawn of Life".  "Marvels of the World" is pretty solid but by that point you've sit through seven mediocre-to-bad tracks and you just don't care anymore.

Delirium - Urkraft
These German folk metallers are the shining example of "ok".  Delirium is actually in the running of being the okayest band I've ever heard in my life.  This is just plain and simple pagan metal with very little else going on, it's just folky black metal and that's pretty much that.  And honestly, that's fine on its own.  I think Urkraft is a fine album and it's certainly nice to hear some actual folk metal in 2019 instead of a Wintersun ripoff that gets the tag attached to it simply because that makes them a few degrees separated from Ensiferum.  Delirium doesn't play that grandiloquent "battle metal" style though, they're much more in the vein of Mithotyn or Manegarm.  This is midpaced earthy and folky black metal with no tricks up its sleeve, and while part of me wants to rip the album apart for being so derivative and unimaginative, I honestly can't bring myself to do so since it's executed so well.  So your mileage may vary, but if you're a fan of pagan metal I really can't see any reason to not at least recommend this.

Vircolac - Masque
DDR 3/4.  Once again, this is fine I suppose.  It's a bit more chaotic than the other four here and it descends into some quasi-noise rock incoherence at times but it always sounds intentional so it works well enough.  This is deceptively complex but it all kinda coalesces into a mush and I can't say I enjoy it all that much.  True story: I originally started writing a full review for this where I started off with a rant similarly worded to what I wrote in Imprecation's blurb up there, but after writing about half of it I decided that this album was actually too good and varied to actually be a representative for such a screed about this label releasing samey chaos all the time and scrapped it.  Now that I'm sitting here a month and a half later, I can't for the fucking life of me remember what was so different and interesting about this.  I'm listening to it right now and it just sounds like Generic DDR Band #666 and I'm just completely tuning out.  This kind of thing works so much better live, because on record here I can't convince myself to care.

Rancorous - Stealth Dominion
Hey this one was actually an independent submission instead of a promo dumped in my inbox, so I haven't totally sold out!  Stealth Dominion here, the band's second demo, takes a lot of influence from that inimitably brutal era of metal where thrash metal was just beginning to get too extreme to simply be called "thrash" and death metal was starting to blossom from the grave rot.  So naturally, there are smatterings of boundary-shatterers like Dark Angel and Merciless all over the place.  This is probably a much less apt comparison but I'm also reminded of the much less well known English black/death band Spearhead.  I think it's the trebly demo quality production that gives me that impression, but it's there.  The point is that this is raw and primitive death/thrash played with enough conviction to make the rough mix and underdeveloped songs not matter so much.  Most of the tracks run for a whopping two minutes and the whole thing is over in under ten, so on one hand this definitely needs more time in the oven.  On the other hand, sushi isn't cooked at all and it tastes great as long as you don't get some shitty wypipo roll with avocado on it.

Frosthelm - Pyrrhic
These fetuses hail from the grim and frostbitten deadlands of... North Dakota?  Yeah, Frosthelm hails from Minot, a town apparently most well known for being the birthplace of Wiz Khalifa, which is somehow even more confusing.  But while browsing wikipedia to learn about this completely dead area of America, I did learn that it's home to the largest Scandinavian heritage festival in the country, which helps explain a lot about Frosthelm here, because while this definitely has enough Skeletonwitchisms to be considered "black/thrash", Norwegian BM influence is so off the charts that I honestly probably wouldn't have even guessed the band was American on first listen.  The vocals are razor sharp and the riffs slice cleanly, but I think the album's greatest asset is the cold and unforgiving atmosphere.  This album really knows when the pull the brakes and let a quiet moment take over, which is impressive for a band based primarily around ripping thrash metal.  I've been sitting on this one for a long while now because, frankly, I just don't really have much to say about it.  It's good thrashy black metal but the songs don't seem to have enough staying power to hook me too well.  "Pisslord" and "Immortal Nightfall" are very good but I just never find myself wanting to revisit them.

Lvcifyre - Sacrament
And finally, DDR 4/4 for this round.  In all honesty, Lvcifyre is right up there with Desolate Shrine when it comes to exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about when I say "DDRcore".  This is the same chaotic and raw black/death metal that nearly every band on their roster plays anyway, but this sits at the exact center of the wheel, with absolutely nothing taking center stage or pulling them in a direction that'll give them a real identity.  On first listen, I remember sitting through the first four tracks and just yawning every few minutes with nothing exciting happening, just a whirlwind of cacophonous blasting and growls with no hooks or atmosphere, exactly what I expected from them based of my experience with their previous work, to be honest.  But the last track, "Morderca", just grabbed me right away.  What was this?  Suddenly they were playing what sounded like early Venom run through a death metal filter, complete with out of place howling vocals that sounded like the band had finally just completely lost their minds and tried something new, driving themselves mad in the process.  As soon as it was over, something dawned on me.  "That was too good, I bet that was a fucking cover", I said to myself.  Lo and behold, "Morderca" is indeed a cover of a track from 1986 by the Polish band Kat.  So basically the best thing I can say about Sacrament is that it introduced me to an old classic band that I overlooked.  Otherwise this is everything that unimpressed me back in 2014 with Svn Eater with nothing new or improved to bring to the table after a five year silence.

Widower - Cataclysmic Sorcery
We all know I love black/thrash, but it really is worth noting that it seems to reward mediocrity when looked at as a whole.  For every Destroyer 666 or Desaster, you'll have a hundred bands like this that just kinda happen.  I'm probably being a bit unfair here, but honestly this is just another case of a band that writes great songs that have no staying power.  When this is on, I'm rocking the fuck out, letting the venomous vocals absolutely devastating drumming tear my flesh from my bones, but as soon as it finishes I just kinda forget that I even listened to it in the first place.  All of the ingredients are here, the riffs are blistering, the songs are fast, the percussion sounds like a monsoon, it's really god damned cool in a vacuum, but I think the guys need to, I dunno, shore up their songwriting chops somehow?  I don't really know how to explain it other than "be better", which is unfair and unhelpful.  Maybe it's just a San Antonian thing, because I had similar problems with Hod and Pious Levus as well, so what the fuck do I know?   Widower is certainly the best band out of the three though, that's for sure.

Lunar Shadow - The Smokeless Fires 
And let's finish this off with an album that I had actually penciled in to be in the running for my yearly Top 13 on first listen and fell off super hard by the third listen.  I still think this is pretty okay in certain respects, but man it didn't take long for me to remember why I didn't like Far from Light two years ago either.  The Smokeless Fires has all of the exact same elements, good and bad.  And frankly, they're mostly good, but there's one huge fucking elephant in the room that drags the whole thing down a lot.  These instrumentals are incredible, with expansive, winding songs that flow gorgeously from one section to another, with searing leads and fist pumping riffage that rival anybody in the current trad metal scene, with even some very subtle and beautifully added influences from meloblack.  Lunar Shadow could be kings of the god damned genre... if it weren't for the fucking vocals.  This is astounding to me since they've actually gotten a new vocalist since the debut two years ago, but shockingly he's not even a little bit better.  Just like before, the vocals are frustratingly wimpy, unbelievably lightweight, and wholly lacking in range.  He sounds completely untrained and in way over his head, harmonizing with himself well and sucking at everything else, he's only marginally more threatening than Kevin Heybourne.  I think Max Birbaum has the same voodoo curse as Ced from Blazon Stone/Rocka Rollas.  He's an incredibly good guitarist and an even better songwriter who for whatever just can't seem to land a good vocalist for the life of him, and it's a shame, because this has a ton of potential.

And that's all I really have to say about that.

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