Saturday, June 18, 2011

Warbringer - Waking into Nightmares

On the right track it seems...

Expectations weren't set particularly high for Warbringer's sophomore effort, Waking into Nightmares, in my camp.  War Without End was okay the first time, but held absolutely no lasting value and isn't even fun for a romp nearly three years later.  It happened, they got exposure, put on a killer live show and garnered a strong fanbase.  I'll be the first to admit, Warbringer puts on one hell of a show.  Their youthful enthusiasm for their craft is rivaled only be the mighty Diamond Plate, and it really shows when on stage (which is ALL THE DAMN TIME.  I swear they were on every remotely thrash tour for at least two and a half solid years).  It's just unfortunate that the studio effort fell flat in fully capturing that energy and in turn brought light on the unoriginal thrash that they actually played.

Every problem has been addressed with Waking into Nightmares.  The production has been cleaned up and presents one of the better (and most fitting) jobs in modern thrash, the songwriting is more interesting, the band seems more energetic, and everything on the whole just sounds more akin to their famous live show.   The energy is conveyed so well on this record that it can actually be difficult to fight the urge to get up and engage in sweaty man bumping when tracks like the ode to the aforementioned mosh pit, "Living in a Whirlwind", start shredding through your speakers.  Riff wise, they still aren't the freshest chips in the pantry, but they're the best flavor so it really isn't all that worrisome to indulge yourself regardless.  These kids still love the early borderline death metal thrash bands like Slayer and Demolition Hammer, and as such still continue to flatter them by consistently taking cues and borrowing ideas, but they're done in such a way that it's neither thievery nor laziness.  It also helps that they're lighter than the aforementioned bands, emulating them mostly through tempo and attitude.  Tracks like "Scorched Earth" and "Prey for Death" carry a more second-tier bay area vibe ala Testament or Exodus, while tracks like "Abandoned by Time" and "Shadow from the Tomb" fill themselves with double bass and riffs possibly taken straight from Reign in Blood b-sides.  The latter pairing actually ends up being a far better pairing simply because Warbringer is better at taking heaps of influence from Slayer than Testament in the riff department.  Now on the flipside, their leads and solos take much more melodic cues, akin to those of the very same second tier California acts whose riffs they aren't all that good at lifting. 

Earlier, I mentioned Demolition Hammer, a much smaller name in comparison to the other two bands I've mainly used for comparison, and one may be wondering where that comparison comes from.  Simply put, John Kevill must have had Tortured Existence on repeat outside of his crib as an infant, because he grew up to have a voice nearly indistinguishable from the one found on Demolition Hammer's first two records.  This isn't even close to a bad thing, considering the vicious snarl is just as awesome in 2009 as it was twenty years ago.  The hoarse barks work extremely well with the melodic Slayer mishmash underneath, and any other style of vocals would just feel out of place.  The songwriting itself is actually fairly diverse despite heavily taking every cue from a whole two different bands.  "Jackal", "Severed Reality", and "Forgotten Dead" are rip roaring thrash numbers that take an equal amount of prisoners as they do shit (hint: it's none), "Shadows from the Tomb", "Senseless Life" and "Abandoned by Time" really harken to Slayer's mid eighties heyday of brutality with an early proto-death edge, and there's even a mellowish instrumental interlude in "Nightmare Anatomy".

I'd say there's something for everybody here, but that isn't quite the truth.  Despite the surprising variety and overall energy, everything still basically boils down to this sounding like a super group with Kerry King writing the riffs, Alex Skolnik writing the solos, Dave Lombardo behind the kit, and Steve Reilly on the mic.  While that basically sounds like a dream band, it does tend to borrow a little too heavily from the source material.  On the whole though, these kids have their hearts in the right place and will probably continue to produce legit thrash metal long after this retro resurgence dies out.  Time will only tell if Waking into Nightmares was a fluke, but for now I'm gonna give them the benefit of the doubt and say they're just maturing and will continue to improve. 

RATING - 81%

Friday, June 17, 2011

BITE SIZED: Iperyt - No State of Grace

I have absolutely no idea how industrial black metal works or is supposed to sound, all I know is that whatever Iperyt put out last February is something to be reckoned with.  No State of Grace is just totally suffocating in its atmosphere and overwhelming in its brutality.  The production heavily favors the enraged vocals and computerized percussion, with the bass and guitars pushed to the background.  It works really well for what the album is trying to do, which is to just completely isolate the listener in a desolate wasteland of misanthropy and despair.  Everything about this is angry and vengeful, and the industrial overtones help hammer it home like none other.  The traditional misanthropy that just comes with the black metal territory works hand in hand with the dead mechanization and isolation of the industrial elements and they blend together so well that it's hard to call this more of one style.  I dunno, it's hard for me to really formulate the words behind why I like No State of Grace so much, which is why this is a short BS review instead of a full one like I was planning.  Just know it's great.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Diamond Plate releases teaster track for debut album

Check it here!!

Diamond Plate has released a track from their upcoming Album of the Year contender, Generation Why?  Check it out, rerecorded version of my personal favorite, "At the Mountains of Madness".  Whaddaya all think?  Still best thrash band of the decade?  Bitter disappointment?  Lukewarm?  Regardless, spread the word, this band is gonna take over the thrash world.


BITE SIZED: All that Remains - ...For We Are Many

YOU ARE NOT STRUNG OUT, ALL THAT REMAINS.  STOP TRYING TO BE STRUNG OUT.  Really, this is a step up from the (to quote Shaq) horrawful Overcome, but they're still fucking up everything they are good at.  The ripping solos, the occasionally hardedged riff, catchy choruses, there are plenty of things All that Remains does just fine.  The problem lies in their unabashed blandness and formulaic songwriting.  Those particular problems still have yet to be addressed, and why should they?  They keep making money, they retain popularity, there's no reason for them to innovate.  As a music fan, that pisses me off, but that's business.  "Dead Wrong" is surprisingly very heavy and one of the better songs they've ever done, "Hold On" is a really light Strung Out ripoff but it's at least catchy and somewhat listenable, and the title track also kicks a surprising amount of ass reminiscent of "This Calling" from The Fall of Ideals.  The formulaic verse/chorus structure and vocal cliches have yet to leave but they're at least moving in the right direction.  Despite that, two good songs and one okay one out of twelve is pretty shitty.  This band could be so much more, but for now I'll stick with Blackhawks Over Los Angeles, and you might as well as well since All That Remains has been continually ripping off Strung Out while just adding harsh vocals and hoping nobody would notice for years now.

Monday, June 13, 2011

TOAD - Rotten Tide

Actually puts me at a loss for description

Rotten Tide makes me want to take a shower.  I don't mean that in the sense that "Well now that I'm covered in shit", but more "Holy hell that was dirty".  I'm not sure if it's the rough production or the rock influence, but both aspects only enhance the quality of the music to be found here.  This is an instance like Tiran where the dirt is also the main draw, although TOAD play something far detached from sleazy Motorhead worship.

Even though two of the tracks on Rotten Tide are pretty forgettable ("Pale Nimbus" and "Morning Disgust"), all five tracks are undeniably interesting in composition.  For example, the opening track, "Midnight Hunger", starts off with a slow and haunting lead line that gives the impression that we're in store for some old school mid paced black metal (the heavily distorted screams help my assumption).  It keeps along that same idea for about a minute and a half before smoothly shifting into a much more heavy metal influenced riff akin to Slough Feg's first album.  Around two minutes into the track, we're greeted with a straight up USPM riff in the vein of Jag Panzer or Omen.  All of this is smooth as well, it never once feels like a disjointed mishmash of styles.  Each song flows extremely well, and it really helps add cohesiveness to the strangeness of the music.  If I have any other complaint, it's that the percussion is fairly bland and the vocals are really monotonous in relation to how unique the music underneath them is.  It isn't all bad, they certainly fit well with everything and even have a few standout moments (The "Let chaos reign!" chant in "Necrophatic Vatican" for example), so I suppose there's no real reason for them to change.  There's also a distorted organ ala Deep Purple hidden somewhere in here but it's actually very hard to find.  The simplicity of some aspects coupled with the creativity of others works fairly well and actually adds to the rock n' roll aspect.

Overall TOAD and Rotten Tide surely earn my recommendation.  There are metallic aspects here in the aforementioned occasional riff and atmosphere, but the attitude of the band is actually a lot more rock n' roll than anything.  "Embody the Ghost" is my main example for that, but it's hard for me to actually put into words.  Just take a listen for yourself.  Very interesting black/heavy/rock mixture.

RATING - 80%

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Swashbuckle - Crewed by the Damned

"Shut up your fucking bird"

Fergus Buttpump: "Hey BastardHead, I just found this awesome band you'll probably like."

BastardHead: "Sweet, what makes you think it's my thing?"

FB: "Well, what's your favorite band?"

BH: "Running Wild, everybody knows that"

FB: "Excellent, what's Running Wild sing about?"

BH: "Apart from the Masquerade through Victory albums when they had a loose concept series going, they tend to sing about stuff like literature and history, they have a strong interest in American history as well as evidenced by "White Buffalo" and "Little Big Horn" among others. They've touched on great historical figures like Napoleon, Lawrence of Arabia, and William Ki-"


People like Fergus should be caned and bands like Alestorm and the focus of this review, Swashbuckle, should stop being compared to a band that sounds nothing like them. We can all agree that pirates are awesome and really not all that horribly different in spirit from another one of metal's favorite lyrical subjects, Vikings, so there is nothing wrong with exploring this theme. It's a brutal, rough, nasty era of history well worth the metal treatment. What I don't understand is why so many metal bands can take other historical concepts like Vikings and the Crusades and create fantastic art to go along with it, while virtually nobody can handle pirates without delving into stupid Disney style "Yo ho ho!" gimmickry. I'm not going to let my annoyance with the constant misrepresentation sway my opinion negatively here, but I certainly will let the over reliance on a cheap gimmick, unmemorable songs, and Nightfall in Middle-Earth syndrome sway me.

The sad thing is that there is plenty of potential to be found on Crewed by the Damned, the Jersey boys here are actually really competent thrashers, specializing in a heavier-than-the-norm style of east coast thrash with lots of gang shouts and a penchant for melody akin to an angrier Anthrax with a monotonous quasi-death/thrash screamer as opposed to a melodic singer. Unfortunately, for all their natural skill, they suck horribly at writing anything worth remembering. Apart from the early Slayer inspired riff at :28 in "Upon the Spanish Main", the awesomely catchy chorus in "Drink Up" and the general feel of "Dead Men Tell No Tales", there isn't much to grab your attention. Basically every song goes in one ear and out the other, and this includes the interlude tracks scattered between damn near every song. Really, I complained about there being too many on Nightfall, but it's absolutely absurd here. Of the 18 tracks, only 8 of them contain any sort of metal song within them (the unspeakably stupid cover of the Spongebob Squarepants theme song doesn't count). That's roughly only 20 minutes of of metal on a 42 minute metal album. Literally over half of Crewed by the Damned is made up of folksy pirate melodies and stupid jokes. There's a two minute track dedicated to people yelling "YARR!", it would literally be amazing if I was joking right now (yes I know I used that line in my last review, it's more fitting here, sue me).

That's not to say that all of these folksy interludes are bad, but they just clutter up too much space. "Paradise Defined" carries a very nice melody and moves along quick enough, but "What a Ship Is" and "A Fool's Errand" just never fucking leave. I honestly wonder what they're doing here, they don't set any particular mood seeing as to how they clash so blatantly with the fast and aggressive thrash metal that constitutes the actual metal songs. Did the band just enjoy screwing around with acoustic instruments on the side and figured they could shoehorn a couple of their more nautical sounding ditties onto the album just so it wouldn't seem so short? Apart from padding the album length, the interludes serve no purpose whatsoever. Adding forgettable acoustic folk interludes to an album consisting of forgettable thrash tracks just makes the album forgettable in two different styles. Bottom line, Crewed by the Damned is stupid and forgettable. There are a few moments here and there that are okay and one track that actually manages to blend the thrash with the pirate sound instead of the two ideas taking separate spaces ("Drink Up"), but the rest is an unsalvageable mess of blandness that's as dry as toast and about as appetizing.

RATING - 33%

Monday, June 6, 2011

BITE SIZED: Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus

Occasionally, I won't have the ambition nor the material for a full review, and with this blog I now have the liberty to post BS reviews.  No no, not bullshit, but what I call "bite sized reviews".  Just quick little one offs on shit that I can't squeeze a full sized review out of.  But honestly, for the inaugural BS, it might as well stand for bullshit, as the quick shot I'm taking is at Morbid Angel.

A lot has been said on the internet about this turd.  Basically, all you need to know is that Vincent sounds like shit, the industrial elements are god awfully amateurish ("Too Extreme" features a drum track that may as well be a fucking metronome) and the real death metal tracks are bland and uninspired.  This is a huge letdown no matter how you look at it.  "Blades for Baal" is probably the least retarded track here, but that isn't saying much.  "Existo Vulgore" and "Nevermore" use the exact same riff, "10 More Dead" and "Beauty Meets Beast" go in one ear an out the other, "Profundis, Mea Culpa" is a boring industrial track that Strapping Young Lad ditched back during the recording of their first album, "I am Morbid" is hilarious for the attempt at a cock rock singalong chorus.  The main offenders here are "Destructos Vs. The Earth", which belongs on Duke Lion Fights the Terror and "Radikult" which is... just... fucking "Radikult".  I can't explain the horror that is "Radikult", it's like Marilyn Manson, straight up.  I was baffled when Cryptopsy released "Bemoan the Martyr", but this is something else entirely.  Check it out just for the sheer insanity of it all.

Their next album should be titled Just Kidding

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Torture Squad - Pandemonium

 Fishing with MURDER

It is currently 3:30 in the morning, I'm sitting in bed in my underwear with my laptop, stricken with the most unenviable insomnia man has ever known. It was at this particular moment, no more than five minutes ago, that I decided that I have listened to Torture Squad's Pandemonium roughly four hundred zillion times in my lifetime, and everybody should do the same. Chances are that if you've ever heard of Torture Squad, it's because of this album. Need proof? Absolutely every single review for the band on the Metal Archives mentions this album, most referencing how awesome it is. It would literally be amazing if I was kidding.

Wanna know why everybody compares everything the band has ever done (both before and after this album) against this album? It's because it indisputably set the bar for what the band was capable of in terms of riff writing, songwriting, and intensity. The only time the band takes their foot off the gas is during "Requiem for the Headless Rider", the instrumental interlude that precedes the thrash-death-murder-killing-mania of the closer, "The Curse of Sleepy Hollow". I fully believe it's there out of necessity, the band probably wrote another modern thrash classic but the label refused to release it with so much insanity on one disc. They let Sadus get away with it once and the government really cracked down on thrashers since then. Almost every track featured has at least one standout segment that helps it plant itself firmly in your memory (the main riffs in "World of Misery" and "Pandemonium", the chorus of "Out of Control", the entirety of "Horror and Torture"). I believe that the album's main credit to its impressive longevity (in the era of the short-minded internet listeners) is its masterful blend of accessibility with brutality. Let's face it kids, this shit is catchy, and that's one of the reasons you can remember it so well.

Pandemonioum's sound is also perfectly fitting for its content. It has an old school death/thrash metal sound without seeming like it's trying to emulate its heroes. Instead of saying "Hey, this needs to sound like Beneath the Remains", they said "Hey, this needs to sound awesome", and thus they ended up with this overwhelming crunch that accents the punctuated riffing. The low end is a bit lacking in presence but it's hardly noticeable when the guitars are so thick themselves. Vocally the band is fairly predictable in the sense of which style (high growls or low growls) he's going to use at any given moment of a song, but the formula that Torture Squad sticks to just fucking works, and there's no need to fiddle around with something that completely slays as is. And when it comes to the formula, Pandemonium has managed what I once thought was impossible: to make an album that is really basic and formulaic down at its core, but creative and passionate enough to make every last song stand out on their own. It also helps that there are only 7 real full songs on the album so it never overstays its welcome, nor has time to run out of ideas.

This kicks ass, plain and simple. If solid, basic thrash is considered to be "meat and potatoes", then I declare Pandemonium to be "steak and fries". When you really try to analyze it, this isn't any groundbreaking innovation, it's just four dudes who decided to thrash their asses off and take the names of any posers in their wake. Fortunately for the listener, Torture Squad is smart and creative enough to really give each slab its own identity. There are no unmemorable blurs on this album, just straight through non-stop headbanging and moshing. Brutal death/thrash at its absolute finest. This didn't get popular on accident.

RATING - 95%

P.S. - The delay in posting this here was due to Blogspot getting all goofy and making my top bar disappear for a week.