Thursday, August 8, 2019

DRAINING THE DREGS: VOL V

I have so many fuckin' releases I've been sitting on.  Let's just do this.

Frust - Recurring Dreams 
This Austrian one-man project has been sitting as the "One I'll do next, for real" for months now, and I keep passing it up to write about other stuff.  It's not because it's bad or anything, it's perfectly fine actually, but like most Dreg Drainers, I just struggled to really think of anything to say about it.  This is labeled as "post-black" metal but it's really not in the conventional sense.  Instead of long, expansive, winding tracks with loads of atmosphere, this is just kind of the God is an Astronaut of black metal.  What I mean is that GIAA is post rock condensed into digestible 4 minute songs, and Frust isn't much different.  There's plenty of shifting between cold harshness and ethereal clean guitars, but it tends to keep the percussion pretty busy and all of the songs are rather short, with the average length (barring the nearly eight minute closer) probably landing just short of four minutes.  The blasts of aggression are actually god damned vicious despite the guitars being very buzzy, and the more atmospheric clean parts tend to sound more tribalistic than anything else.  It's pretty busy, all told, and it works very well as a slightly different take on the style.
RATING: GOOD 

Deceitome - Flux of Ruin 
This is basically just old school death metal with no frills and no new ideas.  Bands like this are a dime a dozen nowadays and I really don't see any reason to hold Deceitome in higher regard than any other random extreme metal band.  It's cool to get another band from a less renowned country (Estonia this time) but this is just a short EP full of Entombed style riffs and tone with a very direct approach despite the occasional Immolation-esque twisty riff.  "First Cause, Funeral Rites" stands out a bit for the constant tempo shifts keeping everything properly disorienting and chaotic, but man I've heard so many no-name disorienting and chaotic death metal bands in the last several years that I'm not going to be able to remember a damn note as soon as I move on to the next album here.  I probably sound like I'm just writing this off, and that's not exactly fair, because this is perfectly good for what it does, but holy shit the fact that the scene is still content to churn out album after album of this exact same sound is so fucking tiring at this point and I can't believe we're still doing this with no intention of trying something vaguely new.
RATING: SOLID BUT FORGETTABLE

Chine - Like Vultures
The world doesn't need any more Swedish melodeath, but Chine is actually a pretty fun addition to the saturated scene simply because they have a bit of a playful bounce to their riffs despite eschewing the typical Gothenburg sound.  The whole "midpaced non-riffs with Iron Maiden melodies" thing never shows up here, instead taking a more typical (albeit digestible) death metal approach and filtering it through something bit more on the poppy side.  The main riff in "The Scavenging Elite" is so fucking infectious despite its braindead simplicity that I've found myself returning to this EP more often than I probably should have.  Hell, "A Line in the Dirt" almost sounds like a logical midpoint between Slipknot and Meshuggah and it's still a raucous good time.  This is dumb, stupid, idiotic caveman metal with very little of the savagery that implies (like Jungle Rot or something) and instead just feels like dumbass bro-metal with a little extra bite.  So I can't necessarily say I recommend this for fans of dirty death metal like the previous entry, but I can't help but be charmed by the devil-may-care attitude of this stuff, so I find myself enjoying it.  It does have an issue with all four tracks being fairly similar (even down to the runtimes) so I can't necessarily say this shows a lot of promise in the songwriting department either, but it's a fun little romp and I don't dislike it.
RATING: IT'S FUN

Widow's Peak - Graceless 
A big chunk of this DTD feature is going to be short demos and EPs, if you haven't realized already, and these Canadian techmeisters are no exception.  Graceless is another short debut six-tracker, and this one is very much in line with the sensory overload twenty-riffs-per-minute tech death that was all the rage ten years ago.  This is very much reminiscent of Hour of Penance, Archspire, or Decrepit Birth, all of which are great bands, but Widow's Peak here just feels like an imitator to a throne.  Right now, everybody knows Archspire are the tech kings ever since Origin fell off, and this is the kind of usurper that shows up and declares their intentions five seconds before being pancaked with a cartoonishly large mallet.  These guys aren't bad by any means, but like many others in the style, they're just one of many and don't really stand out for any reason.  It's hard to explain what makes the best bands in the tech death niche so good, but Widow's Peak is right on the cusp of whatever that intangible is.  A track like "Headless" has some excellent groove thrown in there and that makes it stand out as the highlight, but most of it is just incessant blasting and riffs that might be great but are so thoroughly buried underneath a deluge of cymbal crashes and vocals that never shut the fuck up that you'll never really hear them.  A wise man once said "Nobody listens to Dying Fetus for the tech parts", and Graceless is pretty much twenty solid minutes of Dying Fetus tech parts.  There's potential here, but right now it's a bunch of sound and fury and they really need to step it up if they're ever going to carve out a real foothold in this mountain they're trying to scale.
RATING: FINE

Reptilium - Conspiranoic 
Man what is up with all this conspiracy themed shit I've gotten this year? Backstabber, Kremlin, a few others I haven't mentioned yet, and now Reptilium from Ecuador.  I don't even know what else there is to say about this, it's just cookie cutter BDM with djenty guitars and guttural growls and pretty much nothing else worthwhile.  What makes this one bad instead of simply forgettable is that the riffs themselves are all just boring as shit.  It's just non stop chugs the entire time.  And it's not like it's slam where that's kind of the appeal, there's obviously an attempt to be more techy and high minded through the manic drumming and non stop vocals, but the riffs themselves, the very basis of what metal is in the first place, is just lame and unimaginative.  It reminds me of my first car, just chugging along for a few minutes before breaking down.  It's actually at this point in writing that I realize that simply calling this brutal death metal is something of a misnomer, because the super djenty guitar tones and frequent breakdowns actually makes this closer to deathcore than anything else.  All of the tropes are here, from the unenunciated gurgly vocals to the frequent drops and breakdowns and slams, it's just flat and stupid and static and not enjoyable.  This particular style doesn't have to be particularly dynamic of course, but this particular release is just plagued with very samey sounding songs (by the third track I'd already counted at least four or five times the band dropped out entirely to let a vocal line finish before being followed up by a massive slam).  I suppose this is just a logical midpoint between slam and deathcore, and I know plenty of people who adore this niche, but man I just can't stomach this unimaginative dreck.  Even at only fifteen minutes long this is too much for me to handle.
RATING: BAD 

Hellraiser - Heritage 
Alright let's shift gears for a bit, because that's several short releases from extreme bands in a row.  Let's look at some more traditional stuff out of Italy.  Now we all know what Italian power metal sounds like, but I'm actually going to cut Hellraiser some slack here because they don't even have a keyboard player, which is like the white fucking whale of this scene.  So yeah, this doesn't rely on any crutches that bands of this ilk often rely on like flashy keyboards or overblown symphonics.  This is just all riffs all the time, and that's a nice change of pace when it comes to this geographical scene.  Unfortunately, that's not really enough to make this worth recommending.  Despite some gnarly riffage in "Plagues of the North" and some primo Diosabbath worship in "Delvcaem", this is all in one ear and out the other.  I find myself kinda bluescreening when it comes to trying to write about Heritage because so little of interest really happens throughout the 52 minute runtime.  There's good solos and some thrilling vocal acrobatics (which are pretty reminiscent of Tobias Sammet) but the vocals themselves don't really gel with the music all that often, feeling more like an aftereffect slapped on to make it "whole" because instrumental albums don't count or something, I dunno.  This is just the quintessential type of album that really doesn't do anything to justify its own existence in a genre that's so wholly saturated with mediocrity and has been for decades.  I realize that's kind of an unfair criticism but really, why listen to this when I can just listen to Edguy instead, ya know?  At least Tobi manages to craft some maddeningly infectious tunes every now and again.
RATING: ZZZZZ

Unburnt - Arcane Evolution 
These Canadian death/thrash/black/whathaveyou duders are pretty much the exact reason I started Draining the Dregs in the first place.  Like... come on man what can you really say about this?  I think part of the problem here is that this just sounds like a complete rehash of Goatwhore and none of the reviews I've skimmed of this EP have seen fit to mention that, which is kind of baffling because holy shit it's so obvious.  Goatwhore is a good band but there's no doubt in anybody's mind that they have only released a few genuine bangers across their career.  Unburnt here sound like any of the tracks on A Haunting Curse or Carving Out the Eyes of God that aren't "Alchemy of the Black Sun Cult" or "Apocalyptic Havoc".  So basically this sounds like four decent filler tracks from a decent band prone to loading albums with filler.  The riffs are pretty much the exact type of chuggy balancing act of death and black metal and even the vocals are a dead ringer for Ben Falgoust.  The press junket for this album (that every other review just fucking regurgitates, come on guys do some actual work) namedrops more modern bands with a semi-mainstream foothold like The Black Dahlia Murder, Veil of Maya, and Dimmu Borgir, but pretty much none of them are accurate apart from maaaaaybe Veil of Maya since half the band comes from Odium, a melodeath band with some obvious influence from the midwestern djentcore pioneers.  But really, Goatwhore is the only point of comparison here, and that's not even a matter of me having a narrow view, that's just exactly who this sounds like.  Maybe it's not fair to keep harping on this point, but I think the reason I'm doing it is because I've made very clear that I like Goatwhore but have a real problem with how much filler they release, and Unburnt here is just 15ish minutes of Goatwhore filler and the only fucking thing I want to hear at this point is for them to take more influence from one of their total rippers instead.
RATING: I DUNNO I CAN ONLY THINK OF GOATWHORE 

Kneel - Interstice
According to itunes, I've actually listened through this album like six times before now, but I honestly remember nothing at all about it.  Typically that'd be one hell of a bad sign, but honestly listening to it now I think it's pretty rad and I have no idea why I neglected it as hard as I did before.  Kneel is a one-man project from Portugal, and while it isn't necessarily overflowing with new ideas, Pedro here delivers one hell of a solid slab of metal infused hardcore.  The yelling vocals and frequently punky riffs and frequent chugging breakdowns plant this pretty firmly on the hardcore side of the equation, but there's a lot of molten metal fury in here.  I can also peg some likely influence from Dillinger Escape Plan and SikTh with all of the squealing dissonance and off-kilter mathcore techiness (check the intro to "Occlusion").  In all the whole experience is just an exercise in total chaos, and like any good fan of aggressive music, I fucking love this sort of total incoherence coalesced into something beautifully mangling.  I think now that I'm actually writing about it I can see why I've forgotten about this album despite apparently spinning it so often, and that's simply that it's a bit too much too quickly.  It's honestly not even really a negative quality, it's just sensory overload presented in such a way that it comes off more brutally heavy than whizzy and disorienting.  At only 36 minutes this really shouldn't be too much, but I think my tiny pea-brain can only take so much of it.  Either way, that's more a fault of my own than the release itself.  Any fan of punishing grooves presented in wonky, angular attacks should take to this like bees to honey, and it definitely one of the few things in this feature that I can recommend without a real caveat.
RATING: GREAT 

Giant Dwarf - Giant Dwarf 
Let's do another gear shift, too much extremity can wear on even my own senses.  So here we find ourselves with some heavily fuzzed out psychedelic stoner rock from Australia, though I feel like you could've guessed that yourself based entirely on the cover art.  Despite this not being my usual stomping ground, I actually dig this quite a bit.  This has just enough dark heaviness to appeal to fans of Mastodon and Sleep but feels more at home in the hazy opium dens occupied by Kyuss and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats.  There are some odd moments and instruments thrown in here, like a sitar and the most on-the-nose reference to their homeland with a didgeridoo.  The problem is that each song flows together so well that I can't even remember which tracks these odd moments even show up on.  This is probably the album's chief flaw, because it's pretty solid stoner rock/metal that I can definitely get behind every once in a while, but it's kinda short on highlights and works much better as an experience than an actual collection of songs.  Even then that's not really a flaw as much as it's something you need to consciously remember when listening to it, but the fact that these guys obviously have a lot of cool ideas and they're all kinda lost in the shuffle is a bit of a disappointment.  As a result I tend to think the album is a bit front loaded, with the one-two punch of "Golden Walrus" and "Black Thumb" are easily the best tracks on display.  You can't really go wrong with anything on here though, it's pretty nice the whole way through and I can definitely see myself coming back to this fuzzed out swamp of swing beats and overbearing incense smoke.
RATING: GOOD

Cathartic Demise - Cathartic Demise 
Another self titled release, this time from Canada, and boy howdy this is another great one.  This is the other one (along with Kneel) that I can definitely say is great and worth a listen without any sort of lingering qualifier.  Cathartic Demise is just all riffs all the god damned time.  They're listed on MA as "Progressive Thrash Metal", and that's true to an extent, but I view them more like Satyrasis or Skeletonwitch or something where there are so many other influences that it feels disingenuous to only mention thrash in their genre tag.  The other big one here is death metal, and that manifests most strongly in the percussion, which is a total fucking salvo of destruction.  All three tracks on this debut EP culminate in a devastating whirlwind of riffage, with progressive passages here and there that flow so seamlessly that you can be several minutes into a lengthy tapping section without really noticing (like the epic closer, "Solar Returning").  I know there's kind of an unspoken thing that releases in this feature must not be very good if they're not getting a full review, but Cathartic Demise is proof that that's not really the case.  This is just three tracks that barely scratch the 20 minute mark so there really isn't all that much material here, all told.  The tracks are indeed dense and loaded with manic riffs and gruff yells that straddles the line between catchy and chaotic nearly perfectly, but this one sentence is all you really need to understand it.  Just check it out if you like the namedropped bands above, because I see some great things in this band's future.
RATING: AWESOME 

Absent/Minded - Raum 
This has been pretty positive overall so let's end this with two scoops of lame shit.  Absent/Minded is apparently four albums deep at this point but you'd never guess because this is so fucking amateurish and dull.  They're touted as "sludge/doom" or "post-doom" or something along those lines but you'd figure that would mean they're doing something really heavy or really creative respectively, but that's not at all the case.  Just check out the first track, "Deep Roots Aren't Reached by the Frost" to get the gist of the whole album.  It starts off with two solid minutes of kinda watery acoustic shit with loads of delay like some kind of Explosions in the Sky type deal, but once the actual metal portion starts it's just laughably weak.  This guitar tone is so wimpy.  It sounds like it's supposed to be this oceanic riff that just crushes your spine but it's delivered by such a shitty 60w Line 6 practice amp tone that it falls flat the fuck on its face before it even really gets a chance to try.  The vocals shift between spoken word whispering and incredibly weak growls, and the music so haphazardly flops between post rock, funeral doom, and black metal tremolo riffing that even Opeth is shaking their heads at how cut-and-paste this hackjob is.  Every song is long for the sake of it, nothing sounds natural, and, worst of all, it's just fucking boring.  Despite the light weakness of the album its greatest crime is simply being mega fucking dull.  Absolutely nothing happens and I'm going to half ass the rest of this sentence purely so I can stop listening to it.
RATING: WEAK AND BORING

Wykan - Brigid: Of the Night
Well in fairness this isn't as terrible as I remembered it being on first listen, but it sure as hell does fail to grab your attention for long stretches of time.  The core of this is really Weedeater type stonery doom metal with deep, gurgly growls for vocals, but they do switch it up at times with some drawn out Pink Floydian prog sections and occasional full on black metal blasting.  So when you take those base influences you do actually get a fairly interesting Sabbath-cum-extreme-prog vibe that I can't say is too particularly common, but the songwriting still leaves a lot to be desired.  The first track spends way too much time in the spacey prog section before it actually gets going, and from there it kinda flops around like a fish out of water for a few minutes before kinda petering out.  The middle of the three tracks, "Breo Saighead" is probably the best one just because it stays interesting the whole time, but overall the whole thing just really needs some more time in the oven, because this is a lot better than I remember it being when I first heard it a month or so ago but definitely fades from memory pretty quickly.
RATING: COOL I GUESS BUT DEFINITELY UNDERDEVELOPED 

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

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