Revocation – Deathless

Deathless is the fifth full-length album from the Boston-based metal band Revocation, recently signed to Metal Blade Records. Revocation play an interesting blend of technical death metal and thrash metal not entirely unlike bands such as the British band Sylosis. While in the past Revocation have placed a lot of emphasis on technicality and a kind of controlled chaos, Deathless sees the band shift emphasis towards a much darker, heavier, and more focused sound.

Deathless is by far the heaviest and darkest album that Revocation have released to date. There’s a far greater emphasis on atmosphere here, with guitarists Dave and Dan taking their undoubted technical skill and applying it in a more focused way.  The down-tuned guitars shed unnecessary technicality in favour of creating a more cohesive sound with songs that flow more naturally with a more clearly defined sense of where they’re going. To be clear, the riffs are still incredibly technical, it just feels like they did a better job of writing ones that work together better. And the guitar solos are better than ever before, which is saying a lot considering how phenomenal Dave’s solos have been in the past. And the production is better than ever before. On previous albums the production has led to a slightly sterile sound, which isn’t great when you’re playing super-technical death metal. Here the music is allowed room to breathe more naturally, enhancing all aspects of their sound here.

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Fallujah – The Flesh Prevails

Very few metal albums have been hyped as much as Fallujah’s second full length album ‘The Flesh Prevails’ has. Though their first album put them on the map as one of better deathcore bands, blending technical death metal and progressive metal elements together, it was their Nomadic EP in 2013 that really made this a band to watch out for: ambient, heavy, and progressive all at once, the EP significantly raised people’s expectations for his band, though its short tracklist left us wanting more. So the question is: Does The Flesh Prevails live up to that hype?

In one word: yes. It absolutely does. On The Flesh Prevails, Fallujah take that deeply atmospheric and progressive death metal sound they began to really explore on Nomadic and really make it their own. There’s an even greater sense of atmosphere, but where Nomadic was dark and murky, The Flesh Prevails is ethereal and even upbeat. Of course, this is ultimately death metal so when I say upbeat take it in that context! There’s a great sense of contrast created between the ambiance and atmosphere created by the guitars and other instruments and the vocals; low, guttural, death metal roars keep The Flesh Prevails from floating away completely and keep it grounded.

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Rivers of Nihil – The Conscious Seed of Light

Rivers of Nihil’s debut album ‘The Conscious Seed of Light’ was actually released on Metal Blade back in October 2013. That means I’m pretty late with reviewing this album, but this album has impressed me so much that I feel I need to share it with you. If The Faceless and Fit for an Autopsy had a baby, this band would be it. Rivers of Nihil take a technical approach to death metal that is thoroughly brutal while also trying their hand at a bit of melody and ambiance, largely created by the two guitarists, as well as a nice sprinkling of black metal. I’ll be brief so you can just go and listen to the album straight away.

The twin guitars are at times pummeling, in the opening track ‘Rain Eater’ acting as an auditory jackhammer, drilling away at your eardrums with absolute ferocity, while at others such as on ‘Mechanical Trees’ where they play with the contrast between a down-tuned background chugging and ambient post-rock moments. The riffs come thick and fast, with the only problem being that there are so many riffs that I’m not sure which one I like the most! The drums compliment the guitars as an equally varied instrument, moving with ease between mid-tempo rhythms, to blastbeats, and other complicated, fast-paced arrangements. The vocals have a slightly deathcore edge to them but remain varied, with deep gutturals and powerful mids, while on some parts of ‘Place of Serpents’ they’re more hardcore. The vocals may be the only point on which Rivers of Nihil may divide opinion, as they’re not your usual death metal gutturals.

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Teitanblood – Death

I was not prepared for Death. I was tipped off about this album from a bunch of people over on last.fm and after I worked up the courage I eventually gave in and decided I would have a listen. From a quick look at their last.fm profile, at their picture and at the most common tags (three of them being “black metal”, “death metal”, and “war metal”) I went into Death with the idea that ‘okay, this is probably going to be pretty heavy.’

I was not prepared how heavy Death was going to be.

Death is the sound of a thousand corpses being crushed into the ground by some huge machine, their souls screaming out in agony, and all about the sound of war and noise. All of which, it goes without saying, takes place within an impenetrable vortex of torment and suffering. This is not an album of subtleties or complexity: it does one thing and it does it really fucking well. There is absolutely no intention of fundamentally revisiting what death metal should or could sound like. Instead, they see how far they can push it in terms of extremity.

Death is almost certainly the most relentlessly extreme and terrifying album you will hear all year. I certainly can’t remember a heavier one. The drums, performed by “J”, are like a machine gun, relentlessly smashing away with such ferocity and precision that it becomes a force of its own. “NSK” is responsible for the guitar, bass, and vocals and he is really at the top of his game here. The vocals aren’t really black metal so much as a range of howls and  roars ranging from shrieks to bellows to guttural growls; whatever works  in the moment.

The guitars are tuned low. Really low. The mix also results in a huge amount of distortion, and seems to blend the guitars, bass, and drums into a single cacophony of fury slightly below the vocals, while also providing a kind of ‘cavernous’ sound to the record, with some echo/reverb on the vocals and drums. Among the muddied, thundering guitarwork you also have occasionally flairs of dizzying, powerful, and electrifying guitarwork. Electrifying is a good word here, I think, because in the context of the music it almost sounds like a crash of thunder and lightning above the battlefield. There are some seriously headbangable riffs throughout this album, but the two that stand out for me appear towards the ends of ‘Sleeping Throats of the Antichrist’ and ‘Burning in Damnation Fires.’

That said, at times Death is so single-minded in its approach that it can become tiring, particularly when the album clocks in at a pretty massive 70 minutes. When you listen to Death it really does demand your undivided attention, but on the other hand Death lacks the variety and dynamics to make that sustainable over such a long period. By the end it does all stand to blend together a bit, which wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t demand so much time to finish in the first place. You may instead have greater success listening to the first half, taking a break, and then coming back to the maelstrom in a bit. And, in general, I certainly enjoy listening to this album. I love putting it on my record player, turning the volume up, and getting lost in it until the end of the first of the two records, before I go and do something else for a bit, and come back to finish it. But after that experience is over, I can never remember exactly which track I enjoyed the most, as they all sounded so similar. There are only a few moments I can point to that were real highlights.

Death almost requires a mindset change to appreciate it. I know it did for me and for others I’ve talked to online. Fundamentally, you have to know what you want out of this album before you go into it. If you go into this album expecting some avant-garde piece of art metaphorically exploring the metaphysical consequences of the human condition… you’re going to be disappointed. If you want unbelievably powerful, cacophonous metal, representing the most brutal and dark recesses of extreme metal, extreme music taken to its most extreme, then you’ve come to the right place, and what a place it is.

Liber Necris – Negative Creator

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Sometimes you click play on an album
without knowing quite what to expect and find yourself blown away by
what you find, and this is one of such occasions. Liber Necris’ EP Negative Creator
is one of the most ferociously heavy records I have ever had the
borderline-masochistic pleasure of listening to. Drawing together
influences from death metal, black metal, thrash, hardcore, and crust,
Liber Necris throw them all into the cauldron and what comes out is
nothing short of an auditory assault on the senses.

Liber Necris formed in Leeds, England in 2010. They released their debut EP The Immutable Aversion back in 2011 and Negative Creator is
their first release since, recorded by Rob Hobson at Silent City. I
cannot knock the production at all: it perfectly captures the visceral
sound of their music, while also adding a lot of atmosphere to the
music, such as the howls in the background towards the end of opening
track ‘In the Beginning (First Light)’ and the screams off in the
distance on closing track ‘The Eulogy for Our Earth.’

The music itself is brutal. If you were to ask me for another band as a sort of reference point for what to expect from this album, I would probably say Plague Widow,
who blend similar influences to a quite different result. The vocals
are varied, shifting between a high pitch black metal shriek (with a
considerable amount of power behind it too, it must be said) and a more
guttural death metal growl. The guitars likewise display their influence
from both black and death metal, with tremolo picked passages, powerful
riffs, and even some passages that border on breakdowns – of the good
kind, you can be assured. The drumming is seriously intense stuff, with blastbeats to accentuate the heaviest and fastest moments, and a lot of variety through the tracks.

Closing track ‘The Eulogy of the Earth’ is one of the most interesting
of the tracks here to me on the basis that it deviates so strongly from
the formula established on the previous three. The guitar leads are much
more melodic with a more atmospheric introduction before the blast
beats and black metal screams kick in (somewhat reminding me of early
Watain), though the middle section of this song settles into a strong
formula of vicious, intricate riffs and powerful drumming, while
alternating between howls and growls. The section just over 2 minutes in
reminds me of some of the more recent post-black metal music movement,
and then the band lays on some atmospherics in the background to
complement the tortured guttural vocals. The final minute of the track
moves from haunting and hypnotic to a powerful declaration of intent,
ending this record as forcefully as they began it.

Invidious – In Death

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Invidious are a Swedish death/black
metal band from Uppsala, Sweden, a city also home to Watain and In
Solitude. What first drew me to this band was the discovery that Pelle
Åhman, vocalist in heavy metal band In Solitude
(a personal favourite), was also the vocalist in a death metal band.
Having heard his fantastic clean vocals and spurred on by the few hints
of harsh vocals in In Solitude’s first two albums, I was curious to see
what Pelle had been getting up to in this side-project of his. Their
only release is this, their 2011 EP, ‘In Death.’

The first thing to make quite clear is that this is not In
Solitude. This is old-school Swedish death metal at its best. Chaotic,
heavy, low-fi and fuzzy, noisy, and heavy as hell. Each of the four
tracks on this EP are tight and focused assaults on the senses. Åhman’s
vocals are superb, at times sounding like Erik Danielsson of Watain but
with a more consistently extreme sound. One the one hand this means
less variety, but given the short length of the EP this isn’t a major
issue. The overall ‘sound’ of the band isn’t easily pinned down: on the
one hand comparisons could be made to Entombed, Degial, or Entrails. But comparisons could equally be made with early Watain, Valkyrja, or Dissection.

Opening track ‘Black Blood’
is a pretty strong start to the album. Blastbeats, nicely mixed bass, and some
frenzied, chaotic riff-work, with the harsh vocal acting as the icing on
the cake. This sort of description could easily be applied to the
following three tracks though; Dead Salvation Spawn, Throne of Death,
and Visions. But not all songs are created equal – some here are
evidently stronger than others. The chorus sections on the first two
tracks just don’t do it for me. The feeling of relentless chaos is lost
as they slow down for these choruses, often allowing single notes to
reverberate for seconds at a time and the drumming to slow down as Åhman delivers
what’s really quite a simple and bland chorus. The exact same can be
said for Dead Salvation Spawn: good until the chorus kicks in and then
just about bearable until they get back into their stride in the verse
sections again.

The last two tracks on this EP are the strongest by some margin. In
‘Throne of Death’ the chorus is a big improvement, no longer forsaking
the energy of the rest of the song and finding itself much more at home
within the context of the rest of the song. That said it still suffers
from the problem of getting a little lazy with the guitarwork behind the
vocals, content to just let a few notes hang behind the vocals.
‘Visions’ is my personal favourite from the four tracks on this EP, with
some compelling bass-work, all four members deftly transitioning
between the different parts of this song.

Ultimately, this is a good EP held back by a lack of time and experience
in refining their ability to write compelling tracks. It is for this
reason that while I will continue to enjoy this EP, I hope
that Åhman comes back from In Solitude’s compelling new album ‘Sister’
with a renewed sense of focus and a strengthened songwriting ability, to
put these into action in Invidious. There’s a lot to like about this
EP: the song is chaotic, heavy, and conveys a sense of honesty about
their vision for this band. I still recommend you give this a listen if
you’re into old-school Swedish death metal and keep an eye out for them
in the future, because there’s lots of potential here.

Behemoth – The Satanist

If you’re at all familiar with the death metal scene then Behemoth really need no introduction. For the uninitiated, however, Behemoth are a Polish blackened death metal band that formed back in 1991. Their progression from their early pure black metal sound to their more recent sound which is primarily death metal with some black metal flourishings is an important one. As the band grew they developed their death metal influences further, with Demigod arguably being their most accomplished work up to this point. Their their previous album (2009’s Evangelion) was a very cold-sounding album, devoid of humanity or frailty, which I think is exactly the sort of merciless sound they were going for. The Satanist, however, presents an interesting change in direction for Behemoth. Not only have they brought back their black metal influence in a big way, this is in many ways the rawest, most emotional, and most human album Behemoth have ever produced.

In terms of the songs on the record, this is easily the most diverse, powerful array of tracks that Behemoth have ever recorded. Tracks like Furor Divinus, Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer, and Amen are blisteringly fast and heavy, with Ora Pro… being surprisingly catchy, and bringing to my mind their earlier album The Apostasy. Amen is one of the heaviest tracks they’ve ever written, period. The guitarwork from Nergal and drumming from Inferno is absolutely insane on this track. Messe Noire is more in the style of Deathspell Omega, with eerie, twisted guitar riffs and drumwork, and a truly fantastic guitar solo to close the track. The importance of his vocals in the sound of The Satanist cannot be overstated, because they’re such a huge part of what makes their sound work. At times a ferocious bellow, at others one can hear his vocals crack and break as the intensity and emotion of the song overcome him.

In my opinion, however, the final four tracks are the strongest on the album. ‘The Satanist’ is really Behemoth trying something outside of their comfort zone. There is a big emphasis on Orion’s basswork (which is absolutely phenomenal through every track on this album, by the way) and on melody at a slower pace. It has a very ‘rock n roll’ feel to it in place, and I found myself enamoured with it. Ben Sahar has a middle-eastern feel to it, and feels in places like a war-chant, in part driven by the unbelievable drumming, and by the end of the track the track explodes into an anthemic masterpiece of death metal. In the Absence ov Light has one of the biggest riffs on the entire album, bordering black, death, and thrash metal, with powerfuldrumwork pushing the song forwards at a relentless pace, until about a minute in the song lapses into a quiet interlude. A saxophone plays softly in the background while Nergal reads a quote by Witold Gombrowiczabout Satanism as an ideology. Out of nowhere, the incredible riff fromthe opening of the track explodes back into the track and the track picks up right where it left off.

However, it is the final track, O Father O Satan O Sun, that is the pinnacle of this album. After a minute of atmospheric, noisy ambiance and droning guitars, we’re fed an unbelievably delicious bassline by Orion before launching into the epic verse. As Nergal bellows the truly anthemic lyrics to this track, the addition of many backing vocals adds a truly epic feel to the song. About 2 minutes in we’re treated to a very bluesy, rock n roll guitar solo from Nergal that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. The sense of atmosphere, of purpose, and of unbridled emotion and musicianship present in this track really epitomise everything that Behemoth stand for with this release. I think you can expect to see this album on plenty of 2014 end-of-year-lists.

Angist are a female-fronted old
school death metal band from Iceland! That line on its own should be
enough to intrigue you. Angist combine an insane level of brutality,
accentuated by strong dual guitar leads, very strong vocals from
vocalist Edda, and consistently strong drumming. It must also be said
that this is one of the few death metal releases I’ve listened to where
the bass has been so strong and mixed so well that sometimes I’ve
actually been able to listen along that instead of, say, the guitars, so
props to Haraldur for that.

It’s a really strong debut EP. If you’re looking for really brutal death
metal, with an interesting vocal twist, that actually has a keen sense
of melody throughout, look no further. There are some killer riffs, a
very atmospheric, dark sound, and five well-constructed tracks here. I
asked the band on Twitter and they’re heading into the studio next week
to record their first full-length, so now’s the perfect time to get
introduced to them!

Review: DIR EN GREY – “THE UNRAVELING”

DIR EN GREY‘s new EP “The Unraveling” follows their latest full-length album ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ which was released in 2011. The Unraveling has a new track, ‘Unraveling’, and 6 ’re-recorded’ tracks, but they’re much more than just re recordings. These are some of Diru’s older tracks completely re-imagined in the style of progressive metal that they now play, which has a lot more in common with deathcore in places, minus the breakdowns. But to fully understand “The Unraveling” requires placing it in the context of the incredible musical journey Japanese metal band DIR EN GREY have been on since their inception.

Their early years were characterised by a fairly conventional Visual Kei aesthetic with pop-centric songs, but also a surprisingly dark atmosphere. Since then, the band has grown and evolved on every release. Their second and third albums ‘Macabre’ and ‘鬼葬 (Kisou)’ witnessed the band beginning to delve into a definitely more metal-centric sound, as well as the avant-garde. Their fourth album ‘Vulgar’ is where they really made their mark, unleashing a very heavy, dark, grotesque album that began to move more towards a more American metalcore sound. This evolution became way more apparent on the subsequent albums ‘Withering to death.’ and ‘Marrow of the Bone’. Their two latest albums, ‘UROBOROS’ and ‘Dum Spiro Spero’ are where they really came into their own, however, and are now firmly a progressive metal band. The closest artist I could compare them to would be Opeth, but a significantly more twisted, heavier version with more Eastern influences. Continue reading “Review: DIR EN GREY – “THE UNRAVELING””