Vancouver-based technical death metal crew Archspire have been active since 2009, but gained attention after their previous album, 2014’s The Lucid Collective, mainly due to the incredible speed and technical skill of the musicians on that record. It was fast, violent, and hectic, and predictably divided opinion over the issue of whether the music was simply so technical and polished that it lacked any soul. On their third full-length album Relentless Mutation Archspire seem to have engaged in some critical self-reflection, enabling them to create one of the most stunning albums in the entire genre to date.
I do love a bit of Egyptian-themed death metal. This is Scarab’s second-full length album following 2010’s ’Blinding the Masses’, their sound is what you might get if Italy’s Hour of Penance had the same Egyptian/middle-eastern influences as technical death metal heavyweights Nile, or perhaps a slightly slower, more nuanced Demigod-era Behemoth. While this is not the most original death metal album of 2015, and this Egyptian band clearly wear their influences (both musical and cultural) Scarab have a lot to offer here for fans of death metal.
DIR EN GREY are a band whose past seems to haunt them. They formed in 1997 in Osaka, Japan as a visual kei band playing a sort of gothic-themed type of rock music. Visual Kei is “a movement among Japanese musicians, that is characterized by the use of varying levels of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, often coupled with androgynous aesthetics.” Their image from their early years has done them no favours with much of the western metal community, which in my view is an absolute tragedy. DEG have been on a continuous evolution as a band, moving from alternative rock to a unique style of metalcore. In 2008, with Uroboros, they continued their evolution by exploring elements of death metal, progressive metal, and avant-garde music. These elements were explored and deepened in 2011’s Dum Spiro Spero producing their most accomplished album yet with long, haunting, pieces, significant orchestration, and a level of unprecedented unpredictability. On ARCHE DEG continues that natural evolution.
ZOM are a blackened death metal group from Dublin, Ireland. With their debut full-length album ‘Flesh Assimilatiion’ they join bands like their fellow Irish compatriots Malthusian in the fight to create the most cacophonous, cavernous death metal out there, and do a marvellous job of it, blending catchy, punishing riffs, with brutal vocals that demolish everything put before them, all amplified by rough, raw, loud production that sounds primitive and heavy as hell.
While ZOM don’t necessarily do much to reinvent the entire genre of death metal, one simply cannot deny the compelling nature of their sound. There is something totally honest about the rough nature of their sound: Sabbac hammers and smash away furiously behind his drumkit while guitarist Sodomaniac produces some of the heaviest, catchiest riffs heard this year. While some are a conventional (but still enjoyable) blackened death metal affair, other moments (particularly the last three tracks of this album) bring in influences from bands like Death and Slayer and make for some really memorable tracks.
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.
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.
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””