Monday, February 19, 2018

2017 Demo and EP Roundup

I have accumulated a lot of these this year.  Rather than have each one get its own post, due to their lengths, I figured I would just do a roundup post.

BONE AWL: THE LOWEST ROAD
Despite the fact that Bone Awl has been going strong since 2002, the band has only released one full-length album.  But they are pretty prolific all the same, putting out at least one release every year until 2011 when the band suddenly went on hiatus.  This demo was the band's first release since that time.  According to liner notes, these songs were recorded as demos for a full-length that was supposed to have come out in 2013.  That apparently never happened.  I had always heard a lot about Bone Awl, but never really checked them out.  Their mix of black metal and punk is not exactly reinventing the wheel, but it is an impressive blend nonetheless.  

COSMIC VOID RITUAL: THE EXECRATED REMAINS OF THE SABATIER SYSTEM
Technically, this one is a compilation.  It collects together each of the band's demos and combines them onto one release.  It still only comes out to four songs though.  Cosmic Void Ritual is an American one-person death metal band that sounds Finnish.  The one individual in the band goes by the "name" Unknown Entity.  I was definitely drawn into picking this up by the Lovecraftian album cover.  The riffs are dark and twisted with an unsettling guitar tone.  Unknown Entity is clearly heavily influenced by the early 1990's Finnish death metal scene, with music that calls to mind Demilich (unfortunately, the vocals do not really measure up), Convulse, and others.  This is nightmarish death metal that more than lives up to the album art. 

CRIME: FIRST CRIME
Ah, yes.  I can get behind this band's name.  It is simple, yet very effective.  Crime is a very new band from Chile, and this is their first release.  They play a sleazy brand of traditional metal, which is not at all surprising given their South American location.  The band definitely seems to use their name as a theme, opening things up with a hair-raising sample leading into the fist-shaking "Highway Robbery".  The best song on the album is the anthemic "Give Your Life to the Ruin".  This is a great start from a promising band.  

DRAGHKAR: WORLD UNRAVELED
Draghkar is another new death metal band that sounds like they would have been more at home in the early 1990's when death metal was really starting to come around.  Draghkar has a raw and filthy, malevolent sound that calls to mind groups like Incantation and Morbid Angel.  With those kinds of influences, it is no wonder that this demo tape has garnered some attention.  Draghkar do a great job of subverting expectations on this release.  Instead of blazing through each song, the band slows things down masterfully, crafting an occasional doom/death sound that Asphyx would be proud to play.  Another promising debut.

ENSEPULCHER: NO SANCTITY IN DEATH
And here we have yet another death metal band that is clearly stuck in the past, not that that is necessarily a bad thing.  Ensepulcher's frame of reference is the early 1990's Swedish death metal scene.  Think Dismember, Nihilist, and others and you have the idea.  They even manage to have a similar buzzsaw guitar tone that the Swedish scene was well-known for.  If I did not know any better, I would have sworn I was listening to some early Dismember demos when I put this one on.  The music is fast-paced and intense, with rough, snarled vocals.  Whether or not to check this one out depends entirely upon opinions of the Swedish death scene.  I love it, but freely admit that this band really does not offer anything new and innovative.

GHOST HORIZON: THE EROTICS OF DISGUST
I did not choose this one.  I placed a decent-sized order with a distro and they sent me a couple of tapes as a bonus.  I do not turn down free stuff, but while one of the tapes was a pretty decent melodeath band called Mistweaver, this one is more of a black-gaze album with post-rock influences and not the kind of thing I typically listen to.  I probably would not have chosen it at all.  This is an emotional release, full of anguished and tortured vocals.  There are some decent moments where the black metal influences shine through and it sounds pretty decent, but then a crooning vocal section will start in and change the dynamic completely.  I do not mind the album over all, but there are definitely moments that I could do without.  It is a little weak for my typical tastes.

KATAKOMB: CHAINED TO A WOLF
Katakomb is a Swedish black metal band of whom there is very little information on the internet.  I think it is a one-man act, but I am not even sure of that.  This is a two-song demo and the first song is fairly standard for Swedish black metal, with clear influences of Marduk and early Watain.  It is a very dark and foreboding release.  It is hostile and harsh and not terribly melodic.  The only real problem with this release is an extended sample at the end featuring a man singing in what sounds like Russian while flies are buzzing.  It sounds like something out of Fiddler on the Roof, other than the flies, which sounds woefully out of place on the rest of this release.  And like I said, this continues for about five minutes.  Other than that, this is an impressive first release for an uber-kvlt black metal band.

NERVE SAW: CALL OF THE CASKET
Nerve Saw is the one-man death metal project of former Hooded Menace bassist Markus Makkonen.  As would be expected for a well-known member of a doom metal band, Nerve Saw's sound is generally slower and heavier, with the exception of third track "We, the People", which is a much faster-paced track.  The songs are filthy and grimy, just what one would expect from a Finnish death metal band.  This is an impressive release and I look forward to more from Nerve Saw.   

PARTY CANNON: PERVERSE PARTY PLATTER
Okay, it is pretty easy to see that this band is absolutely not serious about anything.  With the Toys 'R Us-inspired band logo, ridiculous name, and even more ridiculous cover art, this group is definitely tongue-in-cheek.  The song names don't really give off a serious vibe either.  Of particular note is "Fornicating in Ethically Sourced Fair Trade Chocolate".  Party Cannon is a slam band.  More particularly, they refer to themselves as "party slam".  However, there is nothing that sets Party Cannon apart from other slam bands musically, and you really can not understand the lyrics in most slam bands, so despite the much different and much more positive lyrical content, ultimately it is a difference without an effect.  But I like a good slam band and Party Cannon is a good slam band, so I can overlook any of the other issues.

SABRETOOTH: METAL ANIMALS
I was a little disappointed with this one.  I love the album cover in a cheesy, sort-of-ironic way.  Most of the song titles reference animals ("Steel Falcon", "Iron Rhino", "Sabretooth Strike"), and this is a traditional metal band from Finland.  I did not think it could possibly go wrong.  Unfortunately, despite some decent ideas, there is one flaw to this release that pretty much completely ruins it.  The band uses an echo effect on the vocals.  Through.  The.  Whole.  Damn.  Thing.  It is really fucking annoying.  It is impossible to focus on what is actually happening in the music because that damn echo keeps going and going.  Honestly, I first thought that I had some sort of defective tape, but I listened to it online and the echo effect is there too.  So, Sabretooth, lose the echo effects.  Seriously.

TELEPORT: GALACTIC USURPER/STELLAR DAMNATION
Ah yes, here we go.  Like the Cosmic Void Ritual release, this one is also a compilation, collecting together the band's 2011 and 2013 demos.  I have actually covered this band before, in particular the Stellar Damnation demo, back in 2014 when the band contacted me.  I remembered being fairly impressed with the band so when I saw this compilation tape for sale when I was buying some other stuff, I jumped at the opportunity to pick up a physical copy of it.  Teleport is a Slovenian band that sounds like a somewhat blackened version of Vektor.  They play highly technical thrash metal with vocals performed as more of a black metal rasp.  This was the best release of all the stuff I have covered in this post.  The only quibble that I have, and it is a very small one, is that it would have been better to have the demos on either side of the tape instead of both being on the same side and repeated on the other.  Like I said, it is a small complaint. 

VOID TENDRIL: ENSNARING THE DEMIURGE
Recently, I re-discovered the Decibel Blog, in particular their Hall of Fame features and the demo posts.  I use both to discover new music and it led me to this demo by U.K. death/doom band Void Tendril.   This is one of my favorite demos I have picked up in the last year.  It is truly dark and disturbing.  It creates an uneasy feeling with fast-pounding drums, but slower dissonant guitar riffs.  The vocals are sepulchral and match the tone well.  It is a slower, heavier beast of a release.  There are some haunting melodies at times, particularly in the beginning of second track "Shivering Residue".  I am very anxious to see what this band does next.

VOID TERROR: SOUL HARVEST
This is the other one of two demos that I picked up after reading about them on the Deciblog's demo roundup page (coincidentally both bands have "Void" as the first word in their name).  This is the band's first ever release and it is some old-school-sounding death metal in the vein of early Immolation and Incantation.  It is the type of filthy and raw, evil-sounding death metal that I love.  Hopefully some more stuff will be coming out soon from these guys, because this demo contains just two songs and I would love to hear some more.

WITCH VOMIT: POISONED BLOOD
Witch Vomit is a very classy name for a death metal band.  Between the band's name and the pretty cool album cover, I figured I would take a chance.  The album cover is very appropriate because the band sounds like they just escaped from a tomb.  From the cavernous production to the desiccated vocal style to the meaty riffs, this band pushes all the right buttons for a truly horrific death metal band.  Witch Vomit has been around for a few years now, but have only released one full-length album and some other short recordings in addition to this EP.  I will be keeping an eye out on this band.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Amazon Mailday 2/15

FETID ZOMBIE: GROTESQUE CREATION (2015)
How is no one talking about this band?  Seriously, this is fucking criminal.  Mark Riddick has made a name in the underground metal scene with his amazing artwork (including the album cover shown here), but he also makes some really impressive death metal.  Sounding like a cross between early Rotting Christ and a little bit of old school death metal, Fetid Zombie's music is haunting, captivating, and surprisingly melodic.  I first found out about the band when I randomly picked up a split the band appeared on with Greek black/thrash band Swamp.  I was blown away by Fetid Zombie's work, so when I randomly came across a full-length album, I jumped at it.  And I am damn glad I did, because this album is fantastic.  Seriously, Riddick's music is just as impressive as his artwork.

MAUSOLEUM: SUMMONING OF THE DAMNED (1992)
I used to read about stuff mentioning Wild Rags Records a ton, particularly on the old Metal Inquisition blog.  It was an underground metal label in the late 1980's to late 1990's specializing in death metal and grindcore which was fairly infamous for being a bit sketchy in their business practices.  Well that and the head of the label being wanted for income tax evasion and disappearing.  Anyway, I came across a seller selling a bunch of old Wild Rags demos from the early 1990's and decided to pick something up for the hell of it.  Previously, I only had an Impetigo album from the label, so this was something kind of new.  Mausoleum is an old school death metal band and this is a quick three-song demo.  It is fairly interesting stuff while listening to it, but ultimately not particularly memorable.  There is likely a reason this band never released anything beyond two demos.  Apparently, there was talk of a reunion at one point, but that never came to fruition.

MOTORHEAD: 1916 (1991)
Would you believe that this is actually the first proper album I have ever owned by Lemmy Kilmister and company?  It is true.  Previous to this, the only thing I owned by Motorhead was a Greatest Hits compilation, which I bought some time before deciding that such compilations were kind of lame.  As much as I enjoyed it, I never really saw a need to pick up something else.  I decided to change that and picked up a reasonably cheap one that contained a song I knew I enjoyed ("I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)").  I was a little surprised by the diversity of this album.  I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from Motorhead, but was shocked by some of the slower songs, in particular the heart-wrenching title track.  Of course there were the fast-paced Jack-and-coke-fueled tracks, but the variety made this a damn good album.

WATCHTOWER: CONTROL AND RESISTANCE (1989)
In the late 1980's, a lot of thrash metal bands were becoming more and more progressive and technical.  Bands like Heathen were at the forefront of this movement, but one of the best bands to tackle the style was the underrated Watchtower.  Watchtower utilized influences from genres as diverse as jazz fusion in their brand of thrash metal.  What results is a bizarre mix to say the least, yet Watchtower, in particular guitarist Ron Jarzombek, have the chops to pull it off and write some damn catchy songs to boot.  The biggest problem with a lot of technical bands these days are that the technical ability oftentimes overshadows the hooks.  Watchtower never fell into that trap.  Unfortunately, this was their last full-length.  There have been some short releases in recent years, so it is always possible we could see another Watchtower album soon.

X JAPAN: BLUE BLOOD (1989)
This is the second time I have bought this album.  The first one I bought, I made it through the first side of the cassette and the tape snapped off the reel.  I tried to fix it myself, but that did not work out so well.  So, that was it.  A lot of Japanese metal is just like the rest of Japanese pop culture, weird.  X Japan (or just X) is incredibly diverse with some speed metal tracks to go with mid-paced rockers and ballads.  The lyrics often alternate between Japanese and English.  There are a number of highlights, including the touching "Endless Rain" and the infectious "Week End".  This was a band I was just wanting to experiment with, along with other Japanese bands, such as the much more straightforward Loudness, but I am glad I took a chance on them. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Mailday 2/14

Just one today.

SAXON: STRONG ARM OF THE LAW (1980)
There was a time a few years back when I really got into some massive New Wave of British Heavy Metal stuff.  Obviously Iron Maiden was a focus, but I also was obsessed with finding stuff like Angel Witch, Blitzkrieg, Diamond Head, and others.  But I never really got into Saxon for some reason.  I decided to take a flyer on an early Saxon album.  This album is a tale of two halves.  The first half is somewhat mid-paced, radio-friendly hard rock which would not seem out of place on a Def Leppard album.  The second half is much harder and faster and is what I was hoping to hear from a NWOBHM band.  I still prefer Iron Maiden (of course), Angel Witch, Blitzkrieg, and Diamond Head, but I may have to do some more looking into Saxon.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Mailday 2/13

Three more for the collection.

ABSU: BARATHRUM: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (1993)
No, I have no idea what that title means.  Absu is one of the most highly-regarded American black metal bands, but they are a band that for some reason, I just have not checked out all that much.  Previously, I only had their 2009 self-titled album on vinyl, and I love that album so it is a big mystery why I have never checked anything else out.  This album is quite a bit different from that release as the band is more of a death metal band here.  The Celtic Frost influence is pretty clear, especially in some of the experimentation that the band uses which calls to mind Into the Pandemonium.  Despite the much different sound, this is a terrific release, and maybe it is finally time to delve more into Absu's discography.

DECEASED...: THE 13 FRIGHTENED SOULS (1993) 
On the other hand, this is a band that I am very familiar with, even if I have not heard quite everything the band has done.  I generally have heard all of their full-length releases, but the band releases lots of other stuff in between albums, and that is where I am still filling in some gaps.  This is an EP released shortly after they released their first full-length album and features four new songs and a cover of Voivod's eponymous song.  All of the songs are terrific, as is to be expected with Deceased.  This is absolutely one of the most underrated metal bands of all time.  Everything they have done is absolutely killer and this EP is no exception.  It is nice to find something rare like this for my collection.

NOCTURNUS: THRESHOLDS (1992)
Over the last six months or so, I have been really digging into my old cassettes and listening to that stuff over and over again, while adding to that particular part of my collection.  I previously had Nocturnus's The Key, and while I enjoyed it, it did not make a huge impact on me.  That really changed recently and the album has been catapulted into one of my favorite death metal albums of all time.  So, it was time to check out some of the band's other releases and this is the follow-up.  It is clear that Nocturnus was trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice as the band took the aspects that worked on The Key and ramped them up on this one.  What results is a pretty decent follow-up that just does not quite have the same charm to it.  I still really like this one, but it is not quite up to the same level.  Maybe in time it will be as The Key did not immediately have a huge impact on me either.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Autograph and 38 Special in Omaha: February 8, 2018

Guest post from Mrs. Metallattorney, because I did not feel like it.  

I've been informed that Metallattorney will not do a review for the concert we attended last Thursday evening in Omaha. Apparently, he draws the line at Autograph opening for 38 Special. Regardless, this concert deserves a review, and not entirely for good reasons. It took place at the Ralston Arena, which is a small arena in Omaha. (Or as the band, while technically correct, but wrong in spirit, kept referring to as Ralston.) We were in a bit of a rush to get to this one because of other commitments earlier in the day, and the Ralston Arena did not make anything simple. The tickets we had required us to enter a certain door (on the complete opposite side of the building from where we parked), and the tickets themselves said nothing about any of this. We eventually made it in, and found our seats.

Autograph opened, and they played for 45-60 minutes, including “Blondes in Black Cars”, “My Girlfriends Boyfriend Isn't Me”, “Loud and Clear”, and of course they closed with “Turn Up the Radio”. They also played some stuff off of their new album, including the title track, “Get Off Your Ass”. Autograph was the primary reason we attended this concert, because I missed seeing them in December (with Slaughter). Unfortunately, the sound for Autograph was objectively terrible. The guitars could not be heard at all (unless they were the only thing playing, and then it sounded like a hoard of angry bees in a tin can), and even the vocals were tough to hear at times. Luckily, drummer Marc Wieland, and bassist Randy Rand were very capable, since they were the only ones we were able to hear. I don't know who was to blame for this debacle, but they really should reevaluate their chosen profession. By the time Autograph finished playing I was extremely bitter that we even spent money on this concert.

Thankfully, the sound for 38 Special was significantly better. To be honest, I am not overly familiar with most of 38 Special's music. They seem to fall into the category of band's that Metallattorney has lumped Foreigner into, Bands Who Make You Say, Hmmmm.... I Didn't Know That Song Was by That Band. While neither of us knew many of the songs by name, they played numerous songs that we recognized. They opened with “Rockin' Into the Night” (one of the songs we recognized), and played “Wild Eyed Southern Boys”, “Fantasy Girl”, “Trooper With Attitude”, “Second Chance”, and a medley including “Teacher Teacher”. Of course they closed the main show with “Caught Up in You” and returned for an encore to play “Chain Lightning”, “Hold On Loosely” and “Travelin' Band”. 38 Special was enjoyable enough, and although I was getting pretty tired by the end of their show (I'd had a long week), that was through no fault of their own.

Perhaps, the most entertaining part of the entire experience was a gentleman on the floor who seemed to be at the wrong concert. He appeared to be moshing. Apparently no one told him he was at a 38 Special show. But, I found his enthusiasm adorably refreshing. So, here's to you, Mr. Mosh Pit Dude at a 38 Special concert. You do you!

All in all, I suppose I'm glad that I finally saw Autograph, and 38 Special was a pleasant surprise. However, I find myself feeling that I need to see Autograph again in the hope that they may sound better (like an actual band rather than a bass and drum duet), which is disappointing because I am cheap.


Mrs. Metallattorney (The Better Metallattorney) :)

Mailday 2/12

In order to get a few more posts going, I am going to start doing a quick and easy write-up whenever I get something in.  This should help getting things going a little bit.

So, today I received four albums in the mail.

BELIEVER: SANITY OBSCURE (1990)
Yes, there are some decent Christian metal bands out there.  Believer is probably my favorite of the bunch, with the possible exception of Trouble.  Believer plays technical/progressive thrash metal in the vein of their antitheses Heathen and Atheist, with a little bit of Voivod thrown in for good measure.  When you look at the song titles and the lyrics, the band's religious leanings are pretty obvious, but the music is so damn good that it is pretty easy to not have to focus on that.  Satanic bands can be just as annoying about their "message" too, but for some reason Christian bands sacrifice quality of music for the message more often.  That is not true in Believer's case.

BOLT THROWER: ...FOR VICTORY (1994)
Fuck yeah, Bolt Thrower.  Honestly, this is probably my favorite name for a metal band, ever.  Plus, it helps that Bolt Thrower is fucking awesome.  Unfortunately, the band no longer exists, so I will never get the chance to see them live, but I am still in the process of discovering some of their older stuff.  Really, I only had a few of their albums previously, so there is a long way to go.  This is one of the band's higher-rated albums and it is not hard to see why that is.  The band's trademarked grinding riff assault is on full display, accompanied by Karl Willetts's gruff roar.  There are some great riffs and songs on this one and it has quickly taken the spot as my favorite Bolt Thrower album.  It only took one listen.  It is that good.

DREAM DEATH: JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY (1987)
A criminally underrated album from 1987.  I first heard about this album from perusing the Decibel Hall of Fame.  I had never heard of this band, so I looked into it a little bit, and then quickly decided I had to find it.  This is possibly a very early progenitor of the death/doom sound, with quite a bit of thrash thrown in for good measure.  The Celtic Frost influence is obvious from the muddy riffing style and singer Brian Lawrence's angry bark.  The Lovecraftian and horror-filled lyrics match well with the band's dark and dreary sound.  How this album managed to escape me for so long is beyond me.  As with many other bands, Dream Death has re-formed in recent years.  I may have to check them out.

GHOST TOWER: HEAD OF NIGHT (2012)
I love finding obscure albums from bands from my home state of Nebraska.  Technically, almost all bands from Nebraska count as obscure as Cellador, Xenomorph, and maybe Narcotic Self are the only Nebraska metal bands to make any sort of impact on the metal scene outside the state, though Garoted seem to be on their way.  Ghost Tower is a short-lived band that released two full-length albums and play a mix of thrash and doom metal with some impressive occult-sounding melodies throughout.  The vocals take a little bit of getting used to, but the music is pretty damn impressive to make it worthwhile.  The band does actually kind of remind me of a thrashier Ghost at times.  It is a shame they no longer exist as they had some real talent.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Metallattorney's Top 5 Concerts of 2017

Over the last couple of years, the number of concerts that I have attended has skyrocketed.  A huge part of that is the fact that my wife has realized that even though she may not enjoy the bands, she does enjoy going to concerts.  And she has started liking a lot more metal, making it more palatable for her to attend the concerts.  She may never really like thrash or black metal, but more melodic bands do tend speak to her to some extent.  For a time, it seemed like the only time I posted was after attending concerts, though I am trying to fix that.  With concerts becoming such a major part of my own metal fandom, I thought it would be interesting to name the five concerts of 2017 I enjoyed the most:

5.  KREATOR, EZRA, GAROTED
I have seen a lot of local bands in recent years, but Garoted at this show was the one that blew me away the most.  Garoted has started to make a little bit of noise in the metal underground and they put on a blistering performance this night.  They were not the headliners though and Kreator, a band I never expected to see live, was as good as they are on any of their albums.  The German thrash metal band was incredibly impressive, as I had hoped.

4.  THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, SUFFOCATION, NECROT, WORMWITCH
I am not the biggest TBDM fan, though I do enjoy their particular brand of At The Gates worship.  If TBDM was the only band playing, I may not have attended.  This concert was all about seeing Suffocation, and the veteran brutal death metal band exceeded my expectations, even though Frank Mullen did not sing.  But what pushes this concert so high in my mind was the fantastic performances by Necrot and Wormwitch, two up-and-coming death metal bands that will be very interesting to watch in the next few years.

3.  IRON MAIDEN, GHOST
There were two bands in particular coming into 2017 that I have always wanted to see.  I ended up seeing both bands last year.  Iron Maiden is certainly the highest profile band from that short list.  Somehow they ended up playing in Lincoln, Nebraska, which I never would have expected.  So of course, I had to go.  Their show was incredible.  I just hope it leads to more metal bands playing in Lincoln.  The best part of the night though was that my dad was able to get my wife and I seats in the luxury boxes, elevating this from another concert to a huge event.  It might have been the concert of the year, but the next two were tough to top.

2.  MAYHEM, IMMOLATION, BLACK ANVIL
I really do not know what to say about Mayhem's performance.  It was the most memorable live show I have ever seen.  The theatricality of it and the atmosphere were both extremely tough to top.  The notorious band lived up to their reputation with an incredibly dark and powerful show.  The supporting groups were certainly no slouches either.  Like Kreator, I never expected to be able to see Mayhem live.

1.  TESTAMENT, SEPULTURA, PRONG, DYING GORGEOUS LIES
Testament was the other band I was referring to in the Iron Maiden entry.  I knew there would one day be a chance to see them, but I have long wanted to see them anyway.  I was devastated when I was 18 and was not able to see them in Lincoln because the show was a 19 and over show.  Testament has long been a favorite band of mine, so I desperately wanted to see them live.  The fact that they were touring with Sepultura was that much better because they were also once one of my favorite bands.  

Additional Notes
-I finally saw the last of the Big 4 in 2017 when I saw Anthrax.  And honestly, Anthrax quite possibly put up the best performance of any of the Big 4.  They were certainly the most energetic and that energy was infectious.  I wanted to put that concert in my Top 5 based on their performance alone, but the other bands on the bill were Code Orange, The Devil Wears Prada, and Killswitch Engage.  So, I just could not justify a spot on the list.

-The Goatwhore concert also almost made the list.  They played with four local bands and that is probably the biggest development in the concerts I have attended.  I have seen Garoted, Ezra, Drowning in the Platte, Exit Sanity, Orpheus, Autopsick, and Narcotic Self this year.  They have all been surprisingly good, with Garoted being the main highlight.  The Nebraska metal scene is improving drastically over the last few years and it is great to see local bands get a chance to share the stage with major metal bands.

-I would be interested in my wife's list.  I doubt it looks very similar.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Metallattorney's Annual Late Top 20 of the Year

Yeah yeah.  I am late to the party.  As usual.  I actually prefer doing my list around the first of the year because I often pick up something late in the year that might make the list.  That was actually not the case this last year, but it helps to plan for that possibility.  So, without further ado, here is my Top 20 of 2017.  I will be doing a couple of other year in review posts in the next few days as well.  But here is the big one.

20.  WITCHTRAP: TRAP THE WITCH
Leading things off is Colombian blackened thrash maniacs Witchtrap, a group that I have been following for several years now.  Witchtrap is the very definition of a Hells Headbangers band, playing filthy Motorhead-meets-Venom-style metal with whiskey-soaked vocals.  Hell, the first song on the album is even called "Lemmy".  There is nothing really original or ground-breaking here, it is simply sleazy and dirty heavy metal.  There is always something to be said for that. 

19.  BELL WITCH: MIRROR REAPER
The winner for Album Cover of the Year is this amazing piece of artwork here.  It would be a shame if the album itself did not live up to it.  Luckily, it does.  This is an amazing, somber sonicscape that really takes time and patience to truly appreciate it.  The album is one 85-minute long song and is one of the best funeral doom metal albums I have heard in a long time.  It does not quite reach the heights of the band's "I Wait", but it is an incredibly impressive work of art.  Just like the album cover.

18.  DYING FETUS: WRONG ONE TO FUCK WITH
Dying Fetus remains one of my favorite brutal death/slam bands.  They were the first such group I truly got into and they still put out some of the best albums in the genre.  But after over 20 years, some of the energy the band once had was starting to wane on their last album.  The new album title and artwork though promised uncompromising brutality, and it definitely delivered.  This is the most fresh and vital as the genre as a whole has sounded in years.  Dying Fetus is definitely back.

17.  NIGHT DEMON: DARKNESS REMAINS
I love a good traditional metal album and finding a band that combines the aesthetics and sound of early 1980's Iron Maiden is usually a pretty damn good thing.  Night Demon is unapologetically retro, in the best way possible, but still manages to find their own identity.  The songs are catchy as hell too.  Night Demon is more than just another New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal band.  They have the ability and songwriting skills to stand out.   

16.  PALLBEARER: HEARTLESS
Pallbearer took the metal world by storm a few years back with their breathtaking debut album.  The doom metal band is capable of some truly heartbreaking melodies while still maintaining a metallic edge.  The band has become a little more progressive this time around, but the doom riffs still shine through.  I do not like this one quite as much as their debut, but it is still a seriously impressive release.

15.  SUFFOCATION: ... OF DARK LIGHT
In what is likely to be a running theme, Suffocation released one of their best albums in years.  This happened with several bands this year.  Suffocation does not do anything new on this release, they just continue to pummel the listener with their trademarked technical brutality.  The band brought in two new members which have really helped the band rediscover some of the energy that made them one of the greatest death metal bands of all time.

14.  SINISTER: SYNCRETISM
Sinister has never gotten the respect they deserve.  They have simply put out terrific death metal album after terrific death metal album for almost thirty years.  And yet, many people do not have any idea the band even exists.  Sinister remains one of the most evil-sounding death metal bands going, a quality they have had since the very beginning.  They simply have a knack for this sound.  This time around, they sound rejuvenated by the addition of a couple of new members.  It results in a very strong album.

13.  SKELETHAL: OF THE DEPTHS...
Oftentimes the best death metal comes from completely unexpected sources.  This is not the best death metal album of the year, nor even the best debut album by a death metal band, but it is a damn good release.  The French death metal group Skelethal is at their best when they are playing fast-paced, grinding songs, and their slower stuff tends to bring things down a little bit.  But this album is mostly full of the high-energy, frenetic riffing that the band does best.  And so it is that this debut album makes the list.

12.  IMMOLATION: ATONEMENT
There are still a lot of imitators coming out these days, but Immolation remains an incredibly original and influential death metal band.  They have also been one of the most consistently amazing bands in the genre.  Every single album is great.  And yet, this is one of their best ever.  

11.  ENSLAVED: E
Of course Enslaved is going to make my list.  I honestly did not expect them to this time around.  For some reason I do not really get excited about new Enslaved albums, though I will pick them up every time and I always enjoy them.  This one in particular is one of the better prog-Viking metal-era Enslaved albums.  The album starts off a little bit slowly, but it turns around quickly and becomes a terrific release from the band.

10.  KALOPSIA: ANGELPLAGUE
This is the best album of the year that was sent to me from a band or label.  Kalopsia plays an old-school style of occult death metal that is recommended for people who like Sinister, Angelcorpse, and others.  I am damn glad this label found me, because it introduced me to an incredible death metal band that I otherwise would not have come across.

9.  MEMORIAM: FOR THE FALLEN
Rising out of Bolt Thrower's ashes, Memoriam pays tribute to the band and its fallen member in a variety of ways.  Featuring both slow-burning tracks and faster-paced songs that bulldoze the listener, Memoriam does a terrific job of making up for the loss of the influential band it was born out of.  The band is a little more dreary and it is clear that loss drives this album, but it is still as sharp and vital as anything Bolt Thrower ever did.

8.  NE OBLIVISCARIS: URN
I have seen a lot of negative reviews of this album from people who have been big fans of their previous material, but this is the first release I have heard from them, and it blew me away.  I am not the biggest fan of progressive metal, but this one really got to me.  It has some beautifully crafted songs with complex structures.  There is a lot going on on this album and it is worth listening to over and over to hear everything.

7.  SOULROT: NAMELESS HIDEOUS MANIFESTATIONS
2017 must be the year of the death metal debut because this Chilean group is the second debut to make this list.  It is obvious by the name of the album and the album cover artwork that this band's specialty is Lovecraftian themes, and the music definitely fits.  Soulrot's sound is more rooted in Immolation with a little Morbid Angel for good measure.  It is a hideous, beastly sound.  The band has been pretty prolific in their short lifespan, and I am definitely keeping an eye on them. 

6.  SEPTICFLESH: CODEX OMEGA
I am starting to enjoy Septicflesh even more than their Greek countrymen Rotting Christ.  Their last couple of albums have definitely been better than Rotting Christ's last couple.  Septicflesh has perfected the sound of symphonic extreme metal, surpassing Fleshgod Apocalypse, Dimmu Borgir, Carach Angren, and others.  They are now the leaders in the subgenre and now, ten albums into their careers, they have quite possibly released their masterpiece.

5.  TEMPLE OF VOID: LORDS OF DEATH
Now this is what death/doom should sound like.  Temple of Void's sound calls to mind the progenitors of the genre.  Toss in some elements from the debuts by Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride, add a little Celtic Frost and Asphyx, and there you have it.  The music is full of crunching, chugging riffs and deep, growled vocals.  Temple of Void is still capable of putting together some haunting melodies to contrast with the roaring, beastly riffs that make up the majority of the album, and these are the biggest highlights.

4.  NECROT: BLOOD OFFERINGS
Here is the Debut Album of the Year.  There have been a ton of great death metal debuts, but Necrot takes the cake.  One of the many bands that I have seen live this year, Necrot blew me away and this release carries that forward.  Necrot's style calls to mind a combination of the slow, grind of Bolt Thrower along with the buzzsaw riffs of Dismember and other early Swedeath bands.  It is quite simply the best death metal album of the year.

3.  CRAVEN IDOL: THE SHACKLES OF MAMMON
In a year without a Destroyer 666 release, this is as close as it gets.  Featuring some razor sharp riffs, this blackened thrash metal band from the U.K. creates a maelstrom of chaotic noise.  This has long been one of my favorite styles of metal and Craven Idol does a damn good job of stepping into the shoes of some of the Aussie groups that have quit (looking at you Atomizer).  But Craven Idol are not simply imitators, they bring their own style to the genre.

2.  VENOMOUS MAXIMUS: NO WARNING
Mastodon's "Show Yourself" was probably the catchiest metal song of the year, but doom metal band Venomous Maximus's "Spellbound" is really fucking close.  Sounding something like The Cure playing Black Sabbath, this album really came out of nowhere to completely blow me away.  Featuring some of the most infectious riffs I have heard all year, plus some terrific crooning vocals, and fantastic songwriting, this is a great album from start to finish.  

1.  POWER TRIP: NIGHTMARE LOGIC
I struggled with this decision for awhile.  I have never had a band be the Album of the Year more than once and Power Trip took my Album of the Year honor back in 2013.  But, this album is head and shoulders above any other release from 2017.  It is an absolutely crushing release with fantastic riffs and some great songs.  And so, for the first time ever, Power Trip takes home their second Album of the Year from this blog.  And it is well-deserved.

Albums that barely missed the cut:
Accept: Rise of Chaos
Nightbringer: Terra Damnata
Void Ritual: Heretical Wisdom
The Black Dahlia Murder: Nightbringers
Jordablod: Upon My Cremation Pyre

Friday, January 5, 2018

Sinister: Syncretism (2017)

Dutch band Sinister is one of the great, overlooked bands from the early 1990's death metal explosion.  A lot of that is due to geographical isolation.  There just has never really been a massive metal movement from The Netherlands, particularly in regard to extreme metal bands.  There are a lot of symphonic and power metal bands, but not a ton of great death metal bands, though those that do exist (Asphyx, God Dethroned, Pestilence) have been incredible.  And yet, Sinister still flies under the radar.  This is Sinister's 13th album, a surprising total for a band that has not achieved much of any notoriety.       

Sinister has always possessed a particularly evil, hostile sound and that is on full display throughout this release.  This is one of the band's strongest albums in years.  In fact, the band sounds rejuvenated after a couple of somewhat weaker releases the last few years.  A large part of that would likely be the addition of new members at guitar and bass.  The band's aggressive, grinding riffwork hammers on the listener, and the pounding drums and brutal vocals add to the experience.

Even after all of this time, Sinister still has something left in the tank.  They are veterans of the death metal scene, but still sound as fresh and vital as they did in the early 1990's.   

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Septicflesh: Codex Omega (2017)

Septicflesh is a band whose back catalog I have been exploring in depth this year.  I have been into the Greek symphonic death metal band for several years now and typically come on strong in my end of the year lists.  This release is no different.

Always at the forefront of the symphonic extreme metal genre, Septicflesh has managed to release what is quite possibly their strongest album to date.  And I say that as a big fan of the band.  They have mastered their craft after all these years, a seemless blend of brutality and beauty.  There have been a few missteps along the way, although they have typically confined them to individual songs, rather than entire albums.  But this is their strongest album overall yet. 

The biggest improvement in the band has been their songwriting.  It is harder to tell now whether this is a symphonic band incorporating metal elements or a metal band incorporating symphonic elements.  The songs are simply crafted so well that the elements of the band's sound blends together perfectly. 

I cannot stress enough that this is an excellent album by the band.  I have been a big fan for years and this year delved way deep into their prior releases, including demos and EPs from their early years.  This is the best I have heard from them, and that is a very high standard.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Possession: Exorkizein (2017)

Yesterday's post declared Necrot's Blood Offerings the top debut full-length of the year.  This is possibly the closest competitor, and this is a damn good album as well.  Possession is a blackened death metal band from Belgium, of all places, who have a number of EPs and demos under their belt.  Previously, the best band I was aware of from Belgium was Aborted, so I am pretty excited to find a new, quality band from the country.

Possession sounds a lot like Behemoth circa Zos Kia Cultus.  It is a blasphemic, dark and evil sound, complete with foreboding organ music opening the album and filled to the brim with hateful, black metal-styled riffs and some heavy low-end.  The album kicks off with a needless intro, but quickly moves into the monstrous "Sacerdotium", the highlight of the album.  The vocals are delivered in more of a black metal-esque rasp, but deeper.  "In Vain" is another highlight with the first doom metal-esque riff that eventually segues into a faster-paced section. 

There are only a couple of minor missteps.  The band utilizes some samples for atmospheric effect that could have been skipped, especially at the beginning of "In Vain" where the organ music leads into a spoken word section that is completely out of place.

Possession is a very promising blackened death metal band.  This is an impressive debut full-length for the young band.