Sunday, December 28, 2008

Review: Nightrage - Descent Into Chaos (2005)

Nightrage [ Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter ]
Descent Into Chaos

When the Greek melodic Death Metal outfit Exhumation disbanded, guitarist Marios Iliopoulus enlisted several notable musicians well-versed in the Gothenburg style to form the supergroup Nightrage. Featuring the venerable Tomas Lindberg (At The Gates, The Crown) behind the mic, workaholic guitar wizard Gus G. (Firewind, Dream Evil), The Haunted's Per Jensen behind the kit, and Brice Leclerq (Dissection) on bass, the Greco-Swedish outfit released their debut album Sweet Vengeance to critical acclaim in 2003. Two years later the band returned with Descent into Chaos, though Jensen and Leclerq were replaced by Fotis Benardo (Cradle of Filth, Septic Flesh) and Henric Carlsson (Cipher System) respectively. Although I've not heard Nightrage's debut album, the consensus among those who have is that Descent into Chaos is the lesser of the two releases in terms of quality. Be that as it may, the band's sophomore album is still a powerful dose of Scandinavian Death Metal overflowing with technicality and ferocity.

Nightrage has the luxury of containing two talented powerhouses in Gus G. and Lindberg. Gus is unquestionably one of the strongest axemen on the scene today, preferring substance over show. Like all of the projects he's been a part of, his impact on Descent into Chaos is significant. Paired with Iliopoulus, Gus' traditionally styled riffs wreck havoc throughout the album, from the high technicality displayed during "Being Nothing" to the crushing riffs of "Silent Solitude". "Solus" is a mid-paced instrumental track that serves to showcase both guitarists' versatility through soulful solos and heavy twin-guitar harmonies. Fredrik Nordstrom (Dream Evil) makes an appearance on this track to offer up some airy keyboard passages as a bit of added atmosphere.

Lindberg is, well, Lindberg. Those acquainted with his performances in the various bands he's been involved with will know exactly what to expect from him on Descent into Chaos. An instrumental figure in defining the Gothenburg style of Death Metal, Lindberg doesn't stray an inch from his familiar throat-ripping howls. On occasion he adopts a bit of a barking delivery style akin to more modern singers in this genre, but for the most part he varies little. For me, this actually brings the listenablity of the album down a notch since the vocals are so one-dimensional. The one instance of vocal diversity occurs during "Frozen" when Dark Tranquility's Mikael Stanne provides some very brief clean vox during the chorus. Involving cleanly sung moments more often would definitely have enhanced the appeal of Descent into Chaos, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that they're used less often than on Nightrage's debut.

While the vocals can be considered a bit monotonous, the album's musical variation keeps things entertaining. "Being Nothing" and "Omen" are by far the fiercest tracks on the disc, featuring some highly technical and speedy riffs along with some thundering blastbeats from Benardo. The menacing guitar leads atop traditional power metal riffs make "Silent Solitude" a highlight, but the standout track for me is "Frozen". The song begins with a short atmospheric guitar intro that leads into some extended soloing and more frantic blastbeats before settling in with excellent dual-guitar riffs ala Judas Priest. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Stanne's brief appearance brings some much-needed variation to the vocals - if only for an instant.

Fans of uncompromising melodic Death Metal will undoubtedly enjoy this album, but for the casual listener it's just a tad too one-dimensional to be remarkable. Gus G. and Iliopoulus give stellar performances, as does Benardo, but aside from the flawless technical delivery there's really not a lot to hold your attention over repeated listens.

Track Listing
1 Being Nothing 3:10
2 Phantasma 3:32
3 Poems 3:00
4 Descent into Chaos 3:05
5 Frozen 4:04
6 Drug 4:06
7 Silent Solitude 3:33
8 Omen 3:44
9 Release 3:08
10 Solus 6:44
11 Jubilant Cry 4:45
12 Reality vs. Truth 3:36
Total Runtime 46:27

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Review: Raw Silk - Silk Under The Skin (1990)

Raw Silk
Silk Under The Skin

The mid-to-late '80s can arguably be considered the "Golden Age" of melodic hard rock, with bands like Survivor, Loverboy, and Asia riding their teased hair and spandex to rock radio success. The Greek rockers of Raw Silk came together in 1989 in order to grab a bit of that success for themselves, releasing their titillatingly covered debut album Silk Under The Skin in 1990. The album exhibits everything you'd expect from the genre - saccharine keyboard melodies, crisp guitar leads, and sing-along choruses - but remains within those pre-defined boundaries, offering little except to those who can't get enough of this bygone era of rock.

Silk Under The Skin is one of those albums that is enjoyable to listen to, contains enough variation to keep each song interesting, but in the end is ultimately forgettable. The standout track is "Irene", with excellent keyboard and guitar interplay and plenty of '80s pop-rock elements. Frontman George Florakis has a good voice for this type of rock, rarely struggling to achieve the result he's after. The only song that finds Florakis putting forth a dismal performance is the horrible ballad "Heroes Don't Cry". I can only guess that the band was going for a "tough but sensitive" power ballad here, but the result is a heaping pile of failure. I could stand listening to the entire song only once, and even then just barely. Definitely a track that demands the use of your skip button. With "Irene" and "Heroes Don't Cry" bookending the quality of Silk Under The Skin, the remaining songs do a decent job of providing entertainment and, for aging Gen-Xers like me, a bit of nostalgia.

If you're a huge fan of the aforementioned bands, this album is for you. To date it's the only release from Raw Silk, but several of the original members have reunited so a new album is certainly plausible. If you can't stand '80s hard rock, move along; nothing to see here.

Track Listing
1Second Advent3:48
2Journey Of No Return3:49
4Heroes Don't Cry5:29
5Street Girl4:14
6Just Like A Dream4:26
7Broken Vows3:28
Total Runtime33:07

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Review: Ravens Moreland - Sin Has a Soundtrack! (2008)

Ravens Moreland [ Website | MySpace ]
Sin Has a Soundtrack!

Ravens Moreland is a gritty Post Punk band from Long Beach, CA, spawned by Bruce "Raven" Moreland. Bruce is a veteran of the punk movement, having co-founded the '80s one-hit-wonder Wall of Voodoo as well as having served time in the synthpunk outfit Nervous Gender. For his latest, eponymous foray into the anti-establishment sub-culture, Moreland recruited other underground veterans such as guitarist L. Ron Jeremy (a member of the horror/goth punk band Frankenstein and the revitalized 45 Grave) and drummer Jarrod Alexander (a founding member of hardcore punks Death By Stereo and a current member of The Suicide File) while he handles the vocals, bass, and keyboards himself. The sadomasochistic-themed Lock Up Your Mothers was the band's first release, followed now by the six-track EP Sin Has A Soundtrack!.

Moreland's sophomore release is not the in-your-face, "Fuck Off!" tirade many people associate with the punk genre. Instead, Sin Has A Soundtrack! is a gloomy, grimy journey through the seedy underworld of West Coast alleys and dives. "Apathy" stands out as the most anarchistic track due to the lyrical content and Moreland's disgust-filled delivery, but still incorporates the riff-driven crunchiness and heavy bass groove that permeates the entire album. Those simple riffs and melodies, along with some well-placed keys and Moreland's disheveled vocals, are what make Sin Has A Soundtrack! such an accessible album. Imagine mixing the sleazy rock of early Mötley Crüe with the smothering weight of Danzig and you'll have a pretty good idea what Ravens Moreland is all about. Songs like "Gone Home To Hell" and "Cat On Fire" draw their energy from the L.A. rock scene of the mid-'80s, though they discard the flash and excess of that era for raw emotion and swagger. "Franky" is my favorite track of the EP, with an intensely groovy bass riff and mournful keys that all work together to compliment the lyrical content. Moreland's voice is rough but genuine and, except for a couple of ill-advised falsetto moments, is a perfect fit for the band's sound.

Sin Has A Soundtrack! is a solid example of apocalyptic Post Punk, but not the glossy suburban styled muck passed off as punk by bands such as Green Day and Blink 182. If that's what you're looking for, Ravens Moreland will kick your ass and leave you weeping in the gutter.

Track Listing
1Gone Home To Hell4:32
4Cat On Fire4:08
51 694:00
Total Runtime27:12

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

Review: Jewish Juice - In Memore (2006)

Jewish Juice [ Website | MySpace ]
In Memore

Hailing from the Italian region of Tuscany, the NS trio Jewish Juice formed in 2006 and wasted no time in releasing In Memore, their debut demo of blackened thrash. While the demo is in fact two years old, it embraces a sound much older than that. The simplistic thrash elements and gritty production of In Memore call to mind an era when Black Metal was evolving (or devolving?) from the speed/thrash genre of the '80s. Thus the music of Jewish Juice is neither symphonic nor overly brutal.

Overall, In Memore is elementary and somewhat catchy but a slightly menacing aspect does exist thanks in part to the duel vocals of Cernunnos and Beaker. It's here that the band attempts to inject their own take on the genre, with the lead vocals being both Black Metal shouts and Death Metal roars delivered in unison. This experimentation results in the songs sounding as if they're suffering from a bit of schizophrenia and ultimately tends to distract from what's going on musically. Thankfully Jewish Juice shifts mostly away from this nontraditional vocal style after the first two tracks, with the blackened vocals moving to the forefront and the Death Metal vox held in more of a supporting role.

Musically, there's little going on here that can be considered extraordinary or unconventional - but that's not entirely a bad thing. Cernunnos, in addition to his vocal contributions, does a solid job of infusing each track with some sinister and meaty riffs. To build suspense on lead-off track "Brucia", he uses his riffs in conjunction with a militaristic cadence laid down by Riccardo Aureli. Songs "Crystals' Night" and "Totenkopf" find Cernunnos shifting to an all-out blackened tremolo. The standout track, however, is the heavy "In Memory...". An old-school thrash monster, complete with very interesting (and clear) bass lines from Beaker, the song emphasizes short guitar leads in addition to constant crunchy riffs. "Totenkopf" is almost equally as interesting as "In Memory..." thanks to some catchy riffs and a somber guitar interlude that sounds inspired by the Clint Eastwood Western films of the '70s.

In Memore doesn't really break any new ground, although the tandem vocals are a bit unusual (though I would advise the band to scrap that idea). In spite of the demo's rough production, Jewish Juice is able to show their potential to be a solid thrash outfit. The NS elements are very subdued in comparison to most bands of this ilk, which lends an even more approachable quality to the band and their music. I'm interested in seeing where Jewish Juice chooses to go from here.

Track Listing
1 Brucia 4:51
2 Crystals' Night 1:53
3 In Memory... 4:01
4 Totenkopf 4:27
Total Runtime 15:12

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Review: Anti-M - Damage (2008)

Anti-M [Website | MySpace ]

Anti-M is a California electronica band formed by keyboardists John Wardlaw, Ruston Slager, and Mark Rumer (who's no longer with the band). Before you dismiss this review as being off-topic, their latest release Damage marks a significant shift in style for Anti-M. It seems that while he was writing Damage, Wardlaw had been listening to some heavy music by outfits such as Godsmack, Lacuna Coil, and Evanescence. Inspired, he recruited singer Barbara Moseley and guitarist Jon Moseley to provide Anti-M  with a heavier, Gothic Rock oriented sound. The result is a perceptible shift from their previous albums, but only slightly so. The progressive, synthesized elements remain entrenched but there are enough points of interest to catch the attention of open-minded rock and metal fans.

The most distinctive thing about Damage, from a rock/metal perspective, is the voice of Barbara Moseley. She can easily hold her ground with such notable metal maidens as Lotta Höglin (Beseech), Anette Blyckert (Nightwish), and Liv Kristine (Leaves' Eyes, Theatre of Tragedy), though she appears to be a relative newcomer. She handles a slight majority of the vocal duties on the album, with her best performance coming on the ambient ballad "Deep". The track is keyboard heavy, but Jon Moseley delivers a stirring solo to go along with Barbara's warm vocals. The following track, "Rage", has a distinctly Loreena McKennitt feel to it, with some Middle Eastern styled guitar leads and a mesmerizing, fairly complex solo. As good as both tracks are, they're by no means metallic or even rockish. The very early stages of Damage, songs "Let U In" and the title track, are the most up-tempo of the album and can be compared to late-'80s Lita Ford with their screeching leads, slightly subdued riffs, and layered vocals.

By the sixth track, "It's All Inside", Anti-M begins a palpable shift back to their earlier style of progressive/electronic rock. This song in particular is the first not to feature Barbara's welcoming voice, which makes for a bit of a jarring transition - not to mention the ballad sounds as if it should have been included on the Top Gun movie soundtrack. "Beautiful Babe", on the other hand, finds Slager doing an impressive Bowie impersonation with Barbara helping out on backing vocals. From this point on, Barbara returns only in supporting roles as the music continues to cultivate more of a New Wave sound than anything heavier, with "Into The Rain" being the best song from the latter half of the album. It's a soulful guitar-driven ballad, slightly reminiscent of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters", with a strong, expansive solo from Jon. "Sixth Extinction" is notable for being the most progressive song by far, with intricate bass lines, somber piano passages, and complex guitar/keyboard solo interplay.

Damage is definitely not a metal album, and only at times is it a rock album. However, for metal and hard rock fans with eclectic listening tastes, the album does contain quite a number of intriguing moments and is certainly worth investigating further. Anti-M may not have made the leap from electronica to Gothic hard rock, but they're headed in the right direction and with Barbara remaining behind the mic the distance to that goal has been significantly reduced.

Track Listing
1Dreaming In Metaphor4:49
2Let U In3:09
6It's All Inside4:56
7Little Things3:50
8Beautiful Babe4:07
9Waita While4:11
10Rose of Love4:43
11Godzilla vs Rodan1:53
12Into The Rain3:48
15Damage In The Dream5:54
16The Sixth Extinction7:05
17No Kill I4:54
Total Runtime1:13:08

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Review: Weeping Birth - Anosognosic Industry of the I (2008)

Weeping Birth [ Website | MySpace ]
Anosognosic Industry of the I

Vladimir Cochet - the Swiss mastermind behind the one-man Black Metal projects Unholy Matrimony and Mirrorthrone - has resurrected Weeping Birth, the first foray into the haunted recesses of his creativity. It's been five years since the debut Weeping Birth album A Painting of Raven and Rape was unleashed, but the sheer intensity of Anosognosic Industry of the I proves that Cochet's sinister mind remains in top form.

Anosognosic Industry of the I is first and foremost an insanely brutal album from start to finish. With a running time of over 70 minutes, it's easy to turn away from such prolonged and relentless ferocity. For fans of depraved Black Metal, doing so would be a mistake. As furious and violent as the majority of these tracks are, Cochet doesn't rely solely on hypersonic tremolo riffs and inhuman blastbeats to color his canvas. Scattered throughout the album are oases of sanity to contrast the nightmarish onslaught, such as the crushingly catchy riffs that make a brief appearance on "I Was" and the attention-grabbing solo on "Detestable Birth Tapestries With Snakes Embroidered".

Cochet's twisted vocals are just as hellish as his music, with the majority of the lyrics being spewed forth in a raspy style seething with hatred and contempt. Death Metal gurgles and grunts are also to be heard in abundance, but as with the instrumentation Cochet tosses in a few surprises to keep the album interesting. The mid-point of the aggressive "Der Tanz Der Toten", for example, gives way to a sudden tempo shift that paves the way for a clean spoken-word delivery of the French lyrics - along with a bit of demonic mumbling - which works perfectly with the eerie keys and old-school Thrash riffs. "Mutisme" is an epic, bombastic horrorscape with the lyrics spoken in an intensely hateful manner, while "Shadowless" finds Cochet singing in a clean, almost Viking Metal style. While all of these various, seemingly unrelated elements may sound as if they leave Anosognosic Industry of the I an indigestible noisefest, I found the contrary to be true. Without Cochet's experimentation and obvious extreme attention to detail, this album would be an unlistenable 13-track barrage worthy of perhaps one listen but no more - at least not without some painkillers.

Anosognosic Industry of the I is an intriguing album, even for metal fans who aren't often interested in such brutal aspects of the genre. Although I am not usually one to partake in this style of metal, I found few flaws with the album. The first three tracks blend together so much that you really have to listen in order to pick up the transition from one song to the next. The same can be said for the following three tracks, though it's at this point of the album where Cochet begins to introduce some variety to award those listeners who've managed to survive the first stage of the disc. Programmed drums are also a pet peeve of mine, but Cochet has done an excellent mixing job so that they aren't overpowering or annoyingly distinct. He's also devoted a lot of effort to putting together some pleasingly interesting fills and patterns that keep the percussion elements from becoming one-dimensional.

Fans who adore insanely intense Black Metal will be more than satisfied with Weeping Birth's Anosognosic Industry of the I. If you can't stand this style of music, you won't be able to stomach this album. But if you approach it with an open mind and give it a chance, you just might be surprised.

Track Listing
1 Then The Moon Came 4:10
2 Hurle à La Mort 4:17
3 Totalitarian Grievance 5:01
4 I Was 4:01
5 Detestable Birth Tapestries With Snakes Embroidered 4:52
6 Der Tanz Der Toten 9:10
7 Vaginal Secretions 5:15
8 Orgasmic Fetid Breath 5:03
9 Love, Death's Betrothed 7:14
10 Immobile 6:45
11 Mutisme 3:02
12 Shadowless 7:27
13 Le Mauvais Oeil 7:15
Total Runtime 1:13:32

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review: Redliner - promo (2008)

Redliner [ Website | MySpace | Facebook | Twitter ]

New Jersey tends to get a bad rap, but over the years the Garden State has managed to produce a number of successful rock and metal artists. Symphony X, Bruce Springsteen, God Forbid and Bon Jovi are just a few that come to mind. Rough, working-class rock continues to be a positive Jersey export thanks to up-and-coming bands like Redliner, who've recently released a 3-song promo in advance of the January release of their debut album Vengeance.

Taking their cue from tried-and-true '80s hard rock, the guys of Redliner have put together three catchy lil' songs that will get your feet tapping and your fingers noodling those air guitar strings. All of the tracks on the promo are extremely guitar-centric in a Van Halen sort of way (which is a good thing). Dan Chrzan lays down plenty of gritty, melodic riffs that recall the days when songs like "Panama" and "Breaking the Chains" ruled the radio. Not satisfied to rest his laurels on riffs alone, Chrzan consistently fires off some sizzling solos throughout the disc that impress while managing to stay just shy of being pretentious. The rhythm team of Steve Tortu (bass) and Don Valentino (drums) can be heard distinctly in the mix, giving the tracks a good bit of punch and plenty of groove. Behind the mic, Jim Santora has a swaggering, no-frills style that works well with Redliner's honest brand of rock. He doesn't overpower the music and knows his limits - and to stay within them - yet still manages to perform convincingly. "Never Got The Chance", for me the most memorable song on the promo, finds Santora's performance coming together most impressively with Tortu's thumping bass, Chrzan's chunky riffs, and Valentino's spot-on beats.

This promo proves that the guys of Redliner have put together three quality songs, but they're still an emerging band with room for improvement. The transitions seemed a little choppy at times, and occasionally a solo from Chrzan felt out of place, but these are minor gripes that can be corrected easily. I've stopped assigning "stars" to promos since there have been times when the handful of tracks on the promo were the only good things about the album they preceded. That being said, all indications are that Vengeance will be an album that fans of guitar-driven hard rock will want to get their hands on.

Track Listing
1Knock Me Down3:24
2Never Got A Chance5:44
3Damaged Girl3:51
Total Runtime12:59

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Review: A Thousand years Slavery - A Fury Named Spartan (2008)

A Thousand Years Slavery [ Myspace | Facebook ]
A Fury Named Spartan

A Thousand Years Slavery is a relatively young Swiss deathcore band from the French-speaking Montreux region of the country. Formed in 2004 after the dissolution of the musicians' former projects, the quintet released a 3-song promo two years later and eventually earned a spot opening for Michigan's The Black Dahlia Murder. The EP A Fury Named Spartan is A Thousand Years Slavery's latest effort, released by the small Swiss label Conatus Records.

What is most striking about the band's sound on A Fury Named Spartan is the liberal mashing of two heavy and brutal styles of metal - metalcore and technical death metal. This blasphemous coupling results in a veritable stew of breakdowns and noodling solos. On "Epicurean", for example, axeslingers Laurent Maffli and Cédric Dardenne deliver thunderous start-stop riffs embedded within some crisp, intricate leads to create a mind-numbing aural assault. Hammered along further by some tremolo riffing as well as Cédric Strahm's roaring 4-string, the one word that comes to mind is power. Drummer Julien Quillet alternates between ferocious blastbeats and more traditional patterns as the mood of the song dictates. This brutal symbiosis emerges again and again throughout the album, and is the defining factor in A Thousand Years Slavery's sound.

Practically a vocal chameleon, Roan Emele is the voice of the band and ranges from blackish rasps to guttural howls to cleanly sung bridges and choruses. He doesn't confine himself to one style on any given song, instead choosing to interject whichever fits best emotionally. Some detest the clean vocals found on practically every metalcore album, and for good reason, but when done outside the formulaic "box" they can impact the overall feel quite significantly. Emele definitely throws the "generic" out the window with his style, so expect a little out of the ordinary from A Fury Named Spartan.

While on the topic of how this EP is out of the ordinary, the song "Une Etoile Incandescente" must be mentioned. Whereas the other 5 tracks on the album are heavy, powerful, and ferocious, this particular composition is evocative for it's subtlety and restraint. Atmospheric and acoustic in its entirety, it contrasts sharply with the aggressiveness found throughout the disc and provides - in my opinion - a welcome respite from the onslaught. That being said, the song is not entirely soothing, as Emele delivers the French lyrics in a haunting whisper punctuated by muted snarls. Some fans may be seriously put off by this little twist, but I think it helps show the band to be much more than the usual one-dimensional acts parading around the genre.

I'm by no means a fan of metalcore, as anyone who regularly reads this site knows, but I found A Fury Named Spartan to be much more than the lackluster efforts one normally comes across in this style of extreme music. Open minded metal fans could do worse than to check out this release, so give 'em a try.

Track Listing
1 Epicurean 5:53
2 Drastic Oversleep 3:30
3 An Eternal Tree 5:19
4 Une Etoile Incandescente 2:49
5 A Fury Named Spartan 3:01
6 Betrayed Flavour 4:53
Total Runtime 23:17

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Review: Adbullah - Graveyard Poetry (2001)

Abdullah [ MySpace ]
Graveyard Poetry

Modern stoner rock has ebbed and flowed in popularity since its inception by bands like Kyuss and Sleep  in the early '90s. The genre has its roots in a much earlier time, however, as it is heavily influenced by the psychedelic, doomy hard rock of the likes of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. A fresh take on those classic sounds brought on a new popularity for a time, spawning many bands of which only a handful have managed to persist. The beginning of the current decade saw yet another wave of stoner rock resurgence, producing bands like Nebula, Priestess, and Cleveland's Abdullah. Formed in 1998 by frontman Jeff Shirilla, the band endured several line-up changes before releasing an EP and two long-players, the last of which was Graveyard Poetry.

If you're at all familiar with this particular genre, you know what to expect from Abdullah's sophomore effort - almost. Central to the band's sound are the down-tuned guitars, psychedelic vocals accentuated with ample reverb, and prominently featured bass lines. Indeed, Abdullah delivers the requisite elements in spades. What makes Graveyard Poetry stand out from other stoner rock releases are the very distinct NWOBHM influences. Sure, their sound has Black Sabbath stamped all over it, but guitarist Alan Seibert takes his riffs in a direction more reminiscent of other classic bands of that era such as Judas Priest, Saxon, and Motörhead. This results in a much more up-tempo album than one normally finds in this genre, with songs like "A Dark But Shining Sun" and "Strange Benedictions" standing out as groovy little burners. Stoner purists will still find plenty to be pleased about, as songs like "Secret Teachings Of Lost Ages" and "The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs" stick to the loping style of riffs the genre is known for. The rhythm section of Ed Stephens (bass) and Jim Simonian (drums) is a huge reason for Abdullah's successful formula. Stephens' thunderous bass adds serious force to Seibert's riffs, whether they ooze along on "Behold A Pale Horse" or leap from the speakers on "Deprogrammed". Simonian is a master behind the kit, maximizing the effect of the crash cymbals and serving up some pretty intricate beats.

I've not made much mention of Shirilla's vocal performance, but he is just as strong behind the mic as the rest of the members are on their respective instruments. The majority of Graveyard Poetry features fairly standard stoner-like vocals - plenty of reverb and overdubbing, lending a bit of a spacey and detached vibe. Shirilla contributes plenty of emotion and power, and there are times where he steps a bit outside the box to add some variety. "They, The Tyrants", for example, features harsh vocals more akin to a thrash performance than stoner rock. There's a bit of a Ministry feel to the mechanized riffs and unrestrained solo on this track as well, but the song is by no means out of place. For the most part, though, Shirilla sticks to the tried and true for a rock-solid performance.

Graveyard Poetry is an album that seemed to skid under the radar when it was released. With the genre emerging yet again thanks to bands like The Sword, however, the album has a chance to please a new crop of stoner rock fans. Abdullah is still active and releasing demos, though Simonian has left the group. The band has a wide appeal, so keep your eyes on 'em.

Track Listing
2Black Helicopters6:19
3A Dark But Shining Sun3:36
4The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs5:15
7Beyond The Mountain4:49
9Strange Benedictions7:14
10Secret Teachings Of Lost Ages4:05
11Medicine Man4:37
12Guided By The Spirit4:02
13Behold A Pale Horse7:58
14They, The Tyrants3:39
Total Runtime1:04:39

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Review: Brigantia - Chronicles of Doom (2008)

Brigantia [ MySpace | Facebook ]
Chronicles of Doom

From Ireland's County Tipperary comes and interesting new doom metal band called Brigantia. Getting together in 2007, the trio of Dave Gleeson (vocals, guitar), Neill Nevin (bass), and John Clarke (drums) have released their first recording in the form of the appropriately titled Chronicles of Doom demo. Being their first stab at putting together a recording, the production isn't top-notch but it doesn't really have a significant negative impact on the music. Brigantia's identity overcomes the studio deficiencies and stands out sharply, making Chronicles of Doom an intriguing demo.

What interests me most about Brigantia's sound, aside from the clear Cathedral influence, is the similarity to the style of doom the lads of Type O Negative put forth early in their career. Even before they adopted the blatant Gothic image, Type O was known for lavishly distorted riffs, serpentine time changes, and Peter Steele's angered vocals (far different from his now-famous bass). Gleeson's riffs on Chronicles of Doom are a tad groovier than those on early Type O releases, but familiar distortion tricks can be heard here and there though they he uses them more sparingly than does Kenny Hickey. The time changes, however, run rampant among the demo's five tracks. While mixing things up too much can really bring an album down, it's a testament to Brigantia's songwriting ability that Chronicles of Doom never falters or meanders off track. Instead, each song is full of little nuances that tend to offer something new each time the disc is spun - which to me is a sign of excellent craftsmanship.

As skillful as Gleeson is on the six-string, I won't dare say that he possesses equal vocal ability to Peter Steele. Perhaps partly due to the weak production, Gleeson's voice comes of as being a little thin overall. He's not a powerful singer, but he does convey a feeling of desolation very convincingly. Augmenting his clean delivery is an occasional bark or howl, while "Better Dead Than Red" finds him snarling his way through the more up-tempo sections of the song with a throaty death metal menace.

Even after many listens I had a difficult time isolating a single track as my favorite, since they all have plenty to offer. Whether it's the galloping, groovy riffs on "Churn The Sea", the bold bass lines on "Better Dead Than Red", or the overall sense of hopelessness created by "Definity Found", there's much to like about this demo. They're not necessarily breaking any new ground with Chronicles of Doom, but Brigantia is a very talented band that has a lot to offer metal fans. I'm excited to hear what these guys can do with proper production, so here's to hoping a label snaps Brigantia up soon.

Track Listing
1 Inseminoide 4:39
2 Churn The Sea 4:07
3 Definity Found 5:19
4 Ride To The Sabbath 4:41
5 Better Dead Than Read 5:42
Total Runtime 24:28

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Review: Lahmia - Forget Every Sunrise (2008)

Lahmia [ MySpace ]
Forget Every Sunrise

Melodic death metal is a genre that is overflowing with bands of all calibers, from the truly innovative to the woefully inadequate. In recent years it has become difficult to find a band in this style that can offer something new or fresh enough to make a positive impact, but Italy's Lahmia may well be one of those outfits that will ignite some interest. Forget Every Sunrise is the Romans' second demo and is, in many ways, very impressive. The artwork and production are both professionally done but, of course, it's the music that makes the band - not the packaging. And in this regard as well, Lahmia is exceptional.

The core of the band's sound is the Gothenburg style of death metal, much in the same vein as bands like In Flames and Children of Bodom. While Lahmia isn't offering anything really groundbreaking on Forget Every Sunrise, neither are they aping the bands who've already found success in the genre. Instead they bring to the table a fresh take on the style, incorporating significant melody and a touch of Gothic atmosphere without relying on keyboards to make it all happen. Instead, guitarists Flavio Gianello and Samuele Piacenti weave together breakneck riffs and thrashy melodies with some pretty somber acoustic leads to create a tight backdrop that exudes an overall feeling of brutal melancholy. The track that best illustrates Lahmia's interpretation of the genre is "Glass Eyed Child", which incorporates a significantly higher dosage of doom elements to give the song something of an early My Dying Bride or Katatonia feel. A distraught solo from Gianello opens the song, which soon expands with some meaty riffs before frontman Francesco Amerise adds his gurgling growl and anguished shrieks to the mix. Amerise tends to stick with a growl throughout most of Forget Every Sunrise, but he does belt out the occasional shriek in very convincing fashion. He also briefly breaks out a rather decent clean vocal style on most of the tracks which adds yet another dimension of Gothic atmosphere. Along with "Glass Eyed Child", "Game Of Sacrifice" stands out as a highlight as Amerise teams up with Gianello and Piacenti to deliver a song that is heavily influenced by more traditional power metal, with some excellent dual-guitar riffs and a very memorable bridge.

As previously mentioned, Forget Every Sunrise does not break any ground but it does prove Lahmia to be a very talented band capable of producing some interesting and enjoyable songs. Their skillful blending of Gothic and power metal elements with a strong melodeath foundation - sans keyboards - is a breath of fresh air the genre certainly needs, so keep an eye out for Lahmia to begin their rise through the death metal ranks.

Track Listing
1 Nightfall 4:40
2 Grinding Dreams 5:29
3 Glass Eyed Child 5:53
4 Game Of Sacrifice 5:19
5 The Last Dance 5:49
Total Runtime 27:10

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