Owen Hart - Earth Control (Vitriol Records, 2011)

My review of this devastating metal amalgam and unhinged riff-fest is posted here at Metal Injection.


Vit - - - (Self Released, 2010)

(Yes, the album title is simply the character '-')

Vit traffic in only the starkest transpositions of murk and luminosity, haste and lethargy, despair and enlightenment. Clean guitar tracks explore cobwebbed corners of Americana, punctuating a death march of sludgy doom and passages of swifter blackness. All of this is conveyed with the utmost immediacy via tremendous riffs, even when moving at the most funereal of paces. These dichotomies extend deep into the lyrical content. The album chronicles the rituals of a cult who hope to awaken an ancient, Cthulhuesque god via self-sacrifice, achieving metaphysical revelation in the process. Weighed against that illumination is the soul crushing emptiness of the human experience, magnified by the knowledge that you exist only to augment this elder god's strength.

The interplay between major and minor scales is a prime vehicle for the album's contradictory forces. “The Ardour Of Saints” kicks things off with a grungy, upbeat and infectious series of chords. The song engenders feelings of hope and tranquility, even while driven by thundering drums. But that sentiment doesn't last. As the song draws to a close you can hear the chords decaying before your ears, notes slowly dripping from major scales down into dark harmonic dissonance. The result is gorgeously repulsive.

With little warning you're dropped into the crushing, lumbering riff that drives “Swansylvania.” Scathing vocals join the fray, and we get a taste of the abysmal torpor that pervades the album. The songs don't move with such a consistently sluggish languor, however. We witness the first outburst of speed as the track ends in a barrage of blastbeats. Sudden acceleration and deceleration are another hallmark of the opposing aesthetics Vit masterfully meld.

“The Ascension Ritual” enters with a strange set of stringed instruments, perhaps including a 12-string guitar and a ukulele. The excellent piece evokes sepia images of rural America and draws us further into the fold of the cult, who are purported to dwell in Swansylvania, Ohio (along with the band). The track meanders through strange and compelling chord formations before cascading into a distorted, double bass-driven monstrosity.

These compositions consistently breathe, move and mutate. The guitar work here is preternaturally creative, with memorable riffs parleyed in numerous voices. Lumbering, funereal doom is the prime mode of operation, but crushing syncopated and thrashy riffs are often interspersed with bouncy Opethian chord changes. Swifter sections often slide into the domain of ambient or even orthodox black metal.

The production on the album is crisp and spacious. The drumming ranges from subtle to pummeling, consistently incisive at any velocity. The vocalist's throaty croak is surprisingly comprehensible as it drapes a layer of filth over these tracks. His commanding attack and sepulchral enunciation beg for a deeper look at the lyrical content. Although the album is available digitally through Bandcamp, you'll only get a glimpse of the brilliant lyrics and ritualistic zeal of this cult by purchasing the wooden box set version of the album (affordably available from the band). Each box set comes with individually crafted lyrical inserts, replete with instructions for the cult's rituals. No two inserts are alike.

This is quite frankly a stunning debut album, simultaneously professional, compelling, hypnotic and unique. Vit excavate a perfect cross section of everything I find worthwhile in metal at the moment. If I ran a record label I'd get Vit on the phone and try to snatch this up to get it pressed and distributed posthaste.


You can stream the entire album below:

Vit will be out on a short U.S. tour with Vestiges at the end of December.

Vit Bandcamp
Vit Facebook
Vit Myspace


Skeletonwitch, Withered, Landmine Marathon, Ipsissimus – November 28th – Toad's Place, New Haven CT

My review of this excellent show, as well as a bunch of video, is posted over here at Metal Injection.


Gnarled Bark and Alpine Tundra – An Interview with Chase Ambler of Deafest

When my ears are burned out, and I'm suffering from metal fatigue, there's precious little heavy music to which I can turn for relief. Deafest provide that kind of palliative listening experience, playing instrumental, melodic black metal that delivers healing and transformative doses of nature.

Deafest's music originates in the ragged peaks of the Rocky Mountains, flowing through creeks of post-rock bombast, streams of glass-like tranquility and raging rapids of blast-beaten blackness. Their masterful Eroding Peaks was one of my favorite albums of 2009. In October, Deafest released Earth Turned Skyward, another superlative paean to the glory of nature and the wickedness of mankind.

Earth Turned Skyward is chock-full of absurdly entrancing melody, unwinding its charms without superfluous build-up or compositional waste. As with nearly all of Defeast's releases, Earth Turned Skyward is available as a free download, with a physical release coming from Ninth Meridian Records in the near future. I recently spoke to Deafest mastermind Chase Ambler, seeking to understand the origins of this naturalistic music.

Your music is very closely associated with natural themes. How does your affinity for the great outdoors inspire these songs?

During the summers when my family would come back to Colorado from Southeast Asia we would always go hiking in the mountains. At first I only enjoyed getting to the top and the vistas from the summits, but over the years I learned to love everything about the Colorado wilderness. When I’m up at my cabin I get feelings that I know need to be expressed through music. The hard part is translating them through my guitar. I think black metal is the perfect vessel to express my view of nature, because it’s so harsh and yet can contain great beauty, whether obviously or much more hidden. Of course Deafest’s songs are also influenced by other music, but about half of the sound is drawn from my memories and experiences in the mountains.

The name “Deafest” is used in a pejorative sense, describing mankind in conflict with nature. How does this misanthropic viewpoint factor into your compositions?

Definitely some of the darker atmospheres or melodies in my music stem from the sad truth that the wilderness is disappearing every day. It’s being replaced by ugly concrete, asphalt, and housing developments. It’s really easy to see the juxtaposition of natural beauty and man-made filth here in Colorado. You might be hiking and come over a ridge and there are electrical towers and power lines ruining a stunning view, not to mention the mines that rip up entire sides of mountains. It’s easy to long for a time when humans didn’t inhabit these parts, or at least didn’t destroy them. No matter how gorgeous the scenery is at a specific place, my mind always links the sorrow of human destruction to the view. This idea of no beauty without sorrow has played a large role in my black metal since the beginning of the band.

I'm interested in the paths by which people become ensnared by black metal. How did you first become acquainted with this type of music?

Black metal for me was a two step process. Stage one was the discover of Windir. Windir opened up the two great genres of black metal and folk metal to me. I then fell in love with Ulver and started listening to a bunch of other Norwegian black metal bands. After a while I got bored with the evil style of black metal and listened to other types of metal mostly.

Stage two happened a few years later when a friend showed me Wolves in the Throne Room and my black metal passion was renewed. That band was definitely a gateway to a bunch of different styles of black metal that I had not experienced before. I found that since I was introduced to metal through melodic death I really preferred melody in music, so melodic and atmospheric black metal really consumed me.

When you started to write your own music, which black metal bands helped form this vision you've developed?

I think the initial, and most obvious, influences on my work would have to be Wolves in the Throne Room and Windir. Other bands that I listen to constantly that have a great influence on my later writing are Shining, Dawn, ColdWorld, Agalloch, Krohm, Lantlos, Nyktalgia, Strid, Acheronian Dirge, Irrwisch, I Shalt Become, Angantyr, Drudkh, Celestia, and Altar of Plagues to name a few.

You've got a serious post-rock vibe going on in your music, and you manage to perfectly merge it with the austerity of black metal. What bands have influenced that part of your music?

A few years back Pelican opened for Opeth at a show in Denver. I of course had never heard this type of music before and was intrigued. Pelican played a show not long after with Mono, and Russian Circles and I was hooked. Mono quickly became one of my favorite bands in any genre and has an obvious influence on my writing, consciously at times and unconsciously at others. Other bands that I love are Sigur Ros, If These Trees Could Talk, Red Sparowes, and Liam.

Last year you abandoned the black metal screaming that previously accompanied your music. Why did you decide to do that?

It might have been due to the fact that I was listening to so many post-rock bands that are completely instrumental, but I think mostly it was because my least favorite part of my music was my vocals. Every time I recorded them I disliked them. When I decided to get rid of vocals altogether I decided it would force me to be a bit more creative in the song writing to keep the listener’s attention, and I liked that challenge. I still don’t know of many completely instrumental black metal bands so I like that about my decision as well. After I had already decided to do away with vocals I convinced myself that music without lyrics would be more ‘natural’ as well, and would become a sort of soundtrack to nature. If that is true or not I have no idea, but I liked the thought.

In this past year you also abandoned your drum machine and partnered up with Brett of Severnaya. I feel like his drumming brings an entirely organic and complementary air to the music. How did that come about and why did you make the change?

As I was writing my second album, Eroding Peaks, I felt it was time to take Deafest to the next level. The music deserved a real drummer supporting it. Unfortunately, my drumming skills were not progressing as I had hoped. Luckily, three of my friends are drummers, and Brett was the first to express his desire to record with me. At our first practice he already had the first song memorized from the demo I sent him, so I knew it was meant to be. After Eroding Peaks went so smoothly Brett moved from session member to actual member of the band, and he really helped sculpt some of my ideas for Earth Turned Skyward.

I feel like your music would stand up very well in a live setting. Have you ever considered the possibility of live performance for Deafest, or are you siding with Fenriz on that subject?

One of the main reasons why Deafest was started was because I hate playing live. My friends knew that and so they wanted to start a project with me that was for recording only. They got extremely busy with their other bands so Deafest became a solo project. Playing live has always been a terrifying experience for me in every band I’ve played in. It always takes all the fun out of the music creation process for me. Although Brett would love to play live he respects my misanthropic views.

In the last few years you've put out splits with diverse bands like Livimørket, Cynd, Mirovia, and Starless Night. How did those collaborations come about?

Well the spits with Dunkelheit, Severnaya, Cynd, and Mirovia all happened because the guys in the bands are my friends. The Livimørket, and Starless Night splits happened through mutual admiration of each other's music. The internet makes it so easy to enjoy great music from all over the world. There’s no way that I would have discovered these great bands from England and Florida without the web. Does that make me a poser for admiring nature and the internet at the same time? Probably.

Although physical representations of your albums are currently being released through Ninth Meridian Records, you've thus far given away digital copies of almost all your work. Do you plan to continue that distribution path?

A lot of bands put out their first demo or EP online for all to enjoy but then once they get a record label to put out their music they stop releasing stuff online. I didn’t want that to happen to Deafest. I knew that I would never make any actual money off of black metal, and I have a full-time job, so I wanted to keep releasing albums online. Brett and I record totally for free with our own equipment. Why would we charge others for what didn’t cost us a thing to make? The only thing that costs is the printing of the CDs, so when I was releasing Deafest through Mountain Drought Records (run by my friends and me) that was the only thing that we charged for. Luckily, Owen of 9th Meridian Records understands my philosophy and has no problem with us releasing the albums online while he prints the CDs for sale.

You write reviews of local Denver metal for Examiner.com, which I enjoy quite a bit. What's the metal scene like out there? Have you been to any interesting shows lately?

Colorado has a surprising and very diverse metal scene. I find out about new bands from here all the time, but for the most part Denver is not known for its metal scene like some other cities around the country. I wanted to shed a little bit of light on Colorado metal because we have some fantastic bands. Even though I grew up in Southeast Asia, my family has ancient roots in Colorado, so I have to express that pride. I haven’t had much money to go to shows recently but the last few bands that I saw were Envy, Wormrot, and Altar of Plagues.

How do you envision the future of Deafest?

Well I’d love to record on top of one of fourteeners here in the Rockies, but I doubt that will happen. More seriously though, I’m always looking for new sounds and moods to mold into black metal to diversify Deafest’s sound. Deafest will continue to play instrumental black metal with an emphasis on melody, but it really depends on what comes to me when I’m in the mountains, and what I’m listening to when I start writing.

On Earth Turned Skyward I played with the idea of the album as a single musical piece, because each of the songs has a different rendition of a section from the first song. The songs kind of fit together in a composition, and the final song has the climax that is meant for the whole album and not just that last song. I think those ideas worked really well in this album, so I wouldn’t be surprised if similar interweaving of songs is something that I pursue in the future.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate it.

Thank you so much for your great questions and thoughtful reviews. And of course, I’d like to thank everyone that makes Deafest possible, whether directly or through your undying support.


Incantation, Mortician - November 20th - Europa, Brooklyn

I posted a review and video of Incantation's Decibel Hall of Fame show in Brooklyn over here for Metal Injection. It wasn't a pretty night.


Withered – Dualitas (Prosthetic, 2010)

With Dualitas, Withered invite us on a meditative journey towards our internal void. The liner notes are prefaced with an essay that extols the virtue of insight meditation and asks us to “question the most fundamental elements of perception.” Dualitas guides us on this path via a sonic journey into the subterranean cavities of our minds. The album is a celebration of molten tones and cavernous resonance. With a painstaking focus on songwriting, Withered have crystallized their amalgam of sludge, black metal and deathly doom into obsidian perfection.

“Extinguished With The Weary” rages out of the gate with the force of a percussion drill, showering us with shattered rock as it spins down into the earth. Dylan Kilgore and Mike Thompson share guitar and vocal duties, spitting excoriating missives over mordant distortion. Mike Longoria's bass rotates around the music like a flailing downhole hammer, sporting a satisfying buzz throughout. The song slows through a section of sludgy sediment, giving us a first taste of the melodic atmospherics that will punctuate our journey.

“Reside In The Void” echoes up from a dripping grotto, crawling along with a melancholic lead over crisp, clean guitars. We stumble through unlit capillaries, accompanied by a pulsating bit of bass before the song digs into a dissonant wall of sludge. Beau Brandon's gorgeous drumming drives us on into the darkness, and we're joined by dueling guttural vocals. Then the drill flips back on, and we're sprinting through blackness, chased by superlative rhythmic bombardment.

Dualitas bores like a buzzsaw into our brain's bedrock but pauses consistently to allow moments of discovery in the caverns of our psyche. Frankly, I think the ambient interludes are extraordinary and go a long way towards making Dualitas transcendent. Phillip Cope's meticulous production gives ample space to the instruments, avoiding any claustrophobic compression.

Withered ask a lot as they usher us on this meditative path, and in lesser hands, the undertaking would reek of new-aged cheese. Thankfully, Dualitas doesn't shrink from the traditional darkness of death/black metal imagery. After the lyrics of each song, the band offer an exegesis of the words, explaining how they pertain to our goal. To make progress towards enlightenment we must look deeply into our human nature, focusing even on the unsavory elements we find therein. “From Shadows” deals with “our despicable potentials and darkest intentions.” “The Progenitor's Grasp” fights back against “the hold that antiquated spirituality has on all of us.” Withered hope you can follow this road and find “the smallest and darkest point in the very center of your mind.” The further you burrow into this singularity, “the farther you will be from the boundaries of reality and your internal void can reach magnificent proportions of emptiness.”

Dualitas actually gains momentum towards its end. “From Shadows” is one of the strongest tracks on the album, featuring a distorted dissonance that purrs like an engine. Its confluence of blazing grooves and memorable riffs recalls the delectable flavor of a Ludicra song. “Aethereal Breath” features the most stunning bit of melancholy on the album. Incredible drums dance around a clean riff before the guitars hammer out an avalanche of melody and rage.

In the end, Dualitas is what you make of it. The album might help you achieve a deep meditative state or grasp new conceptual revelations. It might simply present a fascinating listening experience. Either way, it's worth your time.


Withered Myspace
Withered Homepage

Withered are currently out on Danzig's Blackest of the Black tour. At the end of November they meet up for a run with Skeletonwitch and Landmine Marathon.

Full disclosure: Prosthetic provided me with a promo download, but I went out and bought a copy of the album.


Woe – Quietly, Undramatically (Candlelight, 2010)

Quietly, Undramatically harpooned me immediately on a sonic level, with rarefied, transportive riffs, bright production and vivid drumming. As a listening experience, the album is deeply tied into its lyrical content. On the one hand, the album ponders our mournful mortal struggles, and on the other, it tackles beguiling metaphysical quandaries. It takes a lot these days for anything approaching conventional black metal to grab my attention, but Woe have succeeded in branding a black mark in my consciousness.

Riffs always win the day. Chris Grigg delivers a deluge of memorable, melodic and varied guitar work. The mandatory waves of tremolo-picked pandemonium never fade into background noise. These songs demonstrate an ability to channel the tried and true essence of black metal in fresh, if not new, directions. The riffs are comprised of melodies that at times are austere and at others possessed of a bleak emotional undertow. Ghostly lead guitar accents augment some passages and sparing clean arpeggiations fill out the sonic seascape.

Evan Madden delivers an entirely human and entirely complementary drum performance. He eschews robotic blasting for rhythmic diversity and character. The sinuous, organic drums make this music lively and engaging to my ears while inducing much banging of the head. The percussion is forward in the mix, and I find its prominence refreshing. The cataract roils at varying speeds, mostly flowing at a brisk pace. The songs often bob along with a lilt that evokes memories of Enslaved's Eld. Other stretches move with the ambient abandon of Wolves in the Throne Room or the frenetic verve of Krallice.

Chris Grigg's vocals give life to brooding, enigmatic lyrical prognostications. He shifts between a heartier death gurgle and an anguished black metal scream, sometimes augmented by echoing reverb. “The Road From Recovery” examines the tortured path of progress, regression and depression, brought upon ourselves “because this body demands it always lose.” The title track is a meditation on one's own death, explaining how “I focus on the end and how I know that it will take me. Quietly. Undramatically.” This song features a brief presentation of excellent clean vocals, delivered with affecting authority. Their inclusion might repulse a purist, but I enjoy the depth they add to the track.

“A Treatise On Control” ponders our power to control absolutely nothing in this life, while also seeming to deny the power of a divine creator. “Without Logic” explores a knowing disavowal of rational existence, stating that “the world's been explained at the cost of my soul. A predictable planet's preferred by the weak. I look deep inside and refuse now to think.” “Hatred is our Heart” takes a step away from the cerebral proceedings, reading like an indictment of corpse-painted, theatrical black metal. The track, replete with gruff gang vocals, proclaims the integrity of artists who shun pseudonyms and false identities.

Seemingly apropos of nothing in the lyrics, the liner notes conclude with the the statement, “Some things change. Some things stay the same. Woe is Satanic black metal. Hatred is our Heart” I'm not exactly sure what that means anymore in this day and age, but it's quite possible I missed something along the way. Then again, perhaps “the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” Either way, this apparent dichotomy does nothing to dull my enjoyment of the album or the sentiments it explores.


Woe Myspace


The Secret – Solve Et Coagula (Southern Lord, 2010)

The Secret dispense with the icy cold black metal aesthetic, instead churning up a hot, humid tropical depression. A fetid breeze wafts scents of sludge over arpeggiated darkness with “Cross Builder,” and we get our first glimpses of the boiling demonic voice that will narrate this tempest. The offshore winds slowly gain strength before engulfing you in a teeming downpour of rage with “Death Alive.” Here the curious nature of this music fully reveals itself; the Secret are a perfect storm of hardcore riffs doused in dissonant darkness, tossed with frenetic drumming that shifts between thunderous hammering and bludgeoning blastbeats.

Tracks like “Weathermen” bring occasional lulls from the lashing blackness, slowing enough to let pools of viscous ooze flood the landscape. “Eve of the Last Day” brings a rare bit of tremolo-picked siren's call, certainly evoking Black Anvil before beckoning us to smash everything in sight with a doomy stomp. ”War Desire” follows a similar path, calling our attention to a minor keyed melody that floats above the tune before dragging us down into an atonal slaughter.

Marco Coslovich's vocals lead us into a cathartic cyclone of anger, taking aim at religion, society, war and the egregious excess of modern life. We're encouraged to burn it all down and walk away. The album's title invokes a dictum of medieval Alchemy, literally imploring us to “separate and join together” or “dissolve and coagulate.” I suspect this sentiment is in no way conciliatory; there's nothing redeemable about our world. In “Pursuit of Discomfort,” Mr. Coslovich informs us that “The only choice that we're free to make is to find the right circle of hell.”

Forged in their native Italy but recorded by Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studio, Solve Et Coagula is gorgeously produced. Michael Bertoldini's char-broiled guitar tone has a guttural gravitas that unsurprisingly sparks thoughts of Converge. Enrico Uliana's bass pulsates with distortion and adds heft to Tommaso Corte's rhythmic siege. Through it all, Marco Coslovich spews vitriolic diatribes in a voice that is nothing short of filthy.

Hardcore has made many new incursions into metal of late, but this experiment appeals to me much more than the endless splicing and dicing of Entombed DNA. Solve Et Coagula's appeal is immediate and visceral; I want to throw wide my arms and let this storm of anger wash over me. Now come tour the United States, please.


The Secret Myspace


Streetwalker, Flourishing, Unmen – October 19th – The Charleston, Brooklyn

I'm working on a theory that local grindcore shows are always fun, whether or not you're familiar with the bands and their music at all. My initial motivation to come out on this night was to see Flourishing, whose A Momentary Sense of the Immediate World EP is still one of my favorite albums of the year. A brief survey of the other bands on Myspace revealed an array of thrashing grind goodness. I was sold. In terms of promotion, Catbomb has been putting together some badass shows lately, so this was ultimately a no-brainer.

Death Mold, first on the bill, canceled at the last minute, taking with them all the mildewed witticisms I had in store. In their place we got a micro-set from GetOverHere!, an Unmen side-project inspired by a deep love of Mortal Kombat and its assorted finishing moves. Sporting a straight ahead, classic grind sound with a bit of brutality, GetOverHere! cranked out brief blasts of thudding riffage and growled gurgles. It was a perfect warm-up for the evening and an excellent performance for a last minute save.

Unmen unleashed a cacophonous grinding assault, shattering ear drums and getting some decent action from the surprisingly large crowd. While the band bowled austere riffage and gutterball grooves, vocalist Timm Sparks flew straight over the cuckoo's nest. The guy punched himself in the face repeatedly with the microphone while issuing demented screams in a stunning display of non-restraint. At one point he forsook amplification altogether, tearing across the room, screaming uncontrollably. Turns out he didn't need a PA after all.

Unmen choose a more dissonant take on classic grind, sprouting thrash vibes and power-violent overtones. Bass player Josh Walton jumps in on the vocals to expand the band's vile vocal palate while Marco Caruso leads the band down rhythmic paths that beg you to dance. Their set was certainly fun; I was compelled to pick up the band's demo afterward. Guitar player Jeremy Suria is also an incredible artist. I bought a pile of stickers and a T-shirt with some crazy illustrations for dirt cheap. (I hear his artistry skills are for hire.)

The last time I saw Flourishing my evening was cut short by the gods of public transportation, so I was quite looking forward to a repeat performance. The band threw down a set of mostly new material, a bold move showcasing their creative momentum. Guitar player and vocalist Garett Bussanick also plays in Wetnurse, but it doesn't seem to have injured the flow of new ideas in Flourishing.

Flourishing thrive on rhythmic diversity, and these new tracks displayed the full force of their attack. Drummer Brian Corcoran extracted an absurd perfection from his massive kit with seeming ease. Eric Rizk hammered out bass lines that alternate between complex melodic counterpoint and rhythmic augmentation of the drumming. Garett Bussanick seems to have concocted a fresh set of riffs that slip and slide lithely between melody and discordance. His vocal performance is still a maniacally over-caffeinated trip, with careening howls augmented by some newly clean speaking/singing. “Snake Charmer,” closed out the set as the sole crushing representative of their debut EP. I'm dying to hear their upcoming full length. Look for that to explode next year.

Streetwalker are out on tour, having successfully survived their trip from Seattle. Their punk inflected, thrashing grind assault is shockingly coherent and entertaining. Streetwalker feature a triple vocal attack; guitar player Chris Napolitano and Bassist Brandon Curry both toss in yells while Jacqui Alberts takes the lead with throat ripping screams. The band promised a “delicious set” and delivered the flavor, opening with “We Can't Win”off their latest album, Revelling In The Din of Humanity. I picked up the CD after the show, and it's absolutely worth checking out.

The inebriated crowd was a sloppy moshing mess. Several fine fellows appeared to actually be wrestling on the floor, their heads narrowly missing the steel beams that hold up the bar above. Jacqui Alberts' flying dreads formed a shield in front of the band, holding the raucous mob at bay. Folks felt free to scream out ridiculous requests, including a repeated call for a cover of “Dream Weaver.” It didn't happen.

Several songs were prefaced with explanations. “Pine Box,” a killer track, is about a man who hangs himself after being falsely accused of rape. Another song was about being locked up in the mental ward of a Seattle hospital. Good times.

Joe Rizzi carved a deadly rhythmic swath with his drumming, leading a charge that often swerved into realms of death metal to my ears. These tunes are entertainingly eclectic without sounding desultory. I heard strains of everything from Napalm Death to Obituary to waves of hardcore punk. It was in fact a vicious and delicious dish. Streetwalker are definitely worth your time. Their North American tour continues back west for another couple of weeks. Catch them if you can.


Krallice, Infernal Stronghold, Concussion – October 7th – Shea Stadium, Brooklyn

I was there for the last wretched game at Shea Stadium in Queens, lost by the Mets in pathetic, soul-crushing style. Although that blue and orange monstrosity of memory is bulldozed and paved over, some masochistic music lovers in Brooklyn have adopted the name for their performance and recording space. Located in the same industrial isthmus as The Acheron, Shea Stadium inhabits a second floor loft and matches a decent sound setup with a cozy, lived-in and mostly unfinished atmosphere.

Concussion sound great on tape; their Dried Blood EP (available for free on BandCamp) is sweet mix of Gothenburg-spiced thrash and hardcore rage. In person they didn't sound quite as articulate, but every bit as powerful. Lead guitarist/vocalist Blake looks like a metal postcard from 1982 with his snarling delivery and bobbing mop. Bass player/vocalist Bones played so hard that he actually broke a string. In all my years of concert experiences, I've never seen anyone break a bass string. Members of the crowd were moshing as if seeking a concussion of their own. The PA speakers at Shea Stadium sit directly on the low stage and don't offer the fidelity of an overhead rig, but the band muscled through with style. Concussion are a force to be reckoned with, and I'm sure we'll be hearing much more from them in the near future.

Infernal Stronghold took the stage next with 40 oz. bottles of Olde English and Colt 45 in hand. Although I came late to the game, I'm a big fan of the band's 2009 full length, Godless Noise. Infernal Stronghold peddle over-the-top, blasphemous and crude black metal with thrashing punk overtones. Although the band hadn't played a show since May, they were surprisingly cogent, if not sober. Infernal Stronghold ride the absolute edge of madness, emanating chaotic mayhem from a stage that could barely contain them. The massive alcohol consumption didn't seem to affect the band's blistering attack, but the stage banter did degenerate into complete incomprehensibility.

Infernal Stronghold played a couple of excellent new songs, one of which I believe was called “Infestation Obsession Possession,” or some such absurdity. Vocalist and guitarist Eddie Chainsaw introduced another new track, purported to be about dying before the age of thirty, and followed it up with gratuitously powerful belches into the microphone. Godless Noise tracks like “A Dog You Call God” and “Fuck 'Thou Shalt Culture'” ripped just as hard as the recorded versions. As the band closed out the set, drummer R.B.D. signed off with “if you think the show sucked, you can eat our shorts.” Yes, Infernal Stronghold bring the good times and show you don't need corpse paint to be clowns. I'm quite looking forward to new music and further live performances from these guys.

Krallice are the rare band that engage your mind as much as your ears. A census of my CD collection would show that Krallice and Dimensional Bleedthrough have been played far more than any other albums on the shelves in the last year. No matter how many times I spin these things, I always become cognitively absorbed in the listening experience. On an emotional level, these songs evoke wistfulness and wonder, with stints of the raging empowerment good metal will engender.

The live Krallice experience is another thing altogether. With the exception of Colin Marston, I've got to know the guys in the band a decent bit; they're a relatively laid back lot. Put them on stage and they are transformed by the physical rigors of this music. The Mick Barr screaming death into the microphone bears little resemblance to the guy I know. My own reaction to this music is different in person. My head has no qualms about banging through an entire 14 minute song. Several times on this night, I suddenly became self-conscious of the air guitar I was involuntarily shredding.

Krallice hadn't played live in six months, but it didn't show at all. “Aridity” kicked things off with a shower of feedback and gargantuan swing before gliding across impossible planes of mutant melody. Lev Weinstein quickly settled into the absurd gait of the song that would last a quarter of an hour. His performance was a sight to behold unto itself, as always. Colin Marston and Nick McMaster sport swivel necks while tapping out arachnid patterns on their instruments. Mick Barr disappears behind a wall of hair and emerges only to emit inhuman shrieks.

Two excellent new tracks followed, one of which had never been played live before. The new songs frequently feel familiar, but also display new dynamic directions for Krallice. There's no indication the band will stop evolving their sound in the near future. This was followed by the impossibly complicated “Energy Chasms,” which shows off one of the rare bits of Krallice guitar work you might be inclined to call a guitar solo. Another esoteric new track closed out the set before the band was called back out for an encore by a chant of their name. The blasting brief might of “The Mountain” brought the evening to an end, with Nick McMaster howling into the microphone and possessed of demonic fortitude as he pounded out the hyper-speed bass lines.

After the show, Krallice packed up to ship out to the Fall Into Darkness fest in Portland. They don't have any upcoming tour plans that I know of. Let's hope we get that new album soon.

Suren of f.666 has an excellent set of photos from this show here.


Wormrot, Defeatist, Mutant Supremacy, Psychic Limb and Curandera – October 3rd – The Acheron, Brooklyn

Metal is sprouting out of every rancid nook and cranny of New York City. On Sunday night, grindcore spewed from a joint called The Acheron, and it was another in a long line of venues I've not yet patronized. Situated in a veritable warehouse wasteland in Brooklyn, The Acheron closely resembles the trash compactor of the Death Star. The deep, narrow room has high ceilings and claustrophobia-inducing walls. The concrete floor is ideal for life threatening mosh pits, replete with a strange side door that opens directly into the melée. At some point during the night, the place started to fill up with water. No shitting. On the bright side, The Acheron has a nice, high stage and an excellent sound system. In a world of brutal basement shows, those last two features rank The Acheron amongst the elite.

Curandera blasted us with a dazzling display of muckified grind, frequently shifting velocity and generally making good use of the high quality sonic accoutrements. Next, Psychic Limb devoured every inch of the narrow stage with a cacophonous and spastic noise attack. Singer Brian Montuori's antics teased out smiles from the rapidly expanding and imbibing crowd. The band's vicious and intriguing tunes incited a pit into which I accidentally stepped. One quick taste of the brick wall was enough for me. I retreated to safer ground, but there's not much in the way of secure real estate at The Acheron.

Between the first two sets I made the acquaintance of Mutant Supremacy's gregarious front man, Sam Awry, as well as drummer Robert Nelson. No rock star bullshit here – just nice guys willing to talk it up with fans. No one seemed the least bit phased by the insertion of killer death metal into the middle of a genuine grind-fest. Infinite Suffering is still in heavy rotation, so I was really looking forward to this set.

Mutant Supremacy made good on the promise of their recorded music, absolutely annihilating the crowd with a hypnotic performance. “Extinction” started things off full throttle, instantly giving my neck a workout and demanding I scream along. Mutant Supremacy didn't have the most articulate mix from the soundboard. I would have liked to hear a bit more of Sam Awry's guitar in there, but it didn't detract from the destruction.

The set transported me back a good fifteen years to my early concert going days. The ripping death metal vibe reminded me of shows at long-closed clubs with line-ups chock-full of shredded carnage; Mutant Supremacy would have fit right in. I felt the same drooling jealous awe I did as a kid, witnessing professional musicians rip off complex riffs without breaking a sweat. Mutant Supremacy kill.

The Mutant Supremacy pit raged unchecked and reached its apex when the band tore into a cover of Death's “Zombie Ritual.” The guy in the Scream Bloody Gore shirt was certainly pleased. I don't have the slightest idea why Mutant Supremacy aren't signed to a label and touring the world amongst the elite.

Speaking of elite, Defeatist ratcheted up the evening's absurdity with a mind blowing display of grind warfare. The Acheron seems built to channel the sonic ethos of three-piece bands. Defeatist sounded infinitely clearer than they did when I saw them last at Cake Shop. Once again, Joel Stallings stole the entire evening with an ungodly display of drumming. He and Josh Scott comprise the most dynamic and explosive rhythm section you'll find anywhere. (Incidentally, the duo have an incredible side project called Radiation Blackbody that showcases those dynamics.) Aaron Nichols' vocals weren't particularly high in the mix, but his deceptively complicated guitar riffs sang loud and clear. The slide-stepping slaughter of “Death Holds Her Brood” sent the crowd into hysterics. Righteous.

Finally, Wormrot burnt the Acheron to the ground. Everything about this set was twice as precise, twice as fast, and twice as potent as the Bowery Electric show in September. A month on the road has transformed Wormrot into an inhuman grind machine. The crowd was berserk throughout the entire set, stage diving and otherwise beating the hell out of each other. The claustrophobic confines of The Acheron were magnified, as if someone had switched on the Death Star trash compactor in an attempt to grind us to bits.

The split with I Abhor again comprised a good chunk of the setlist, with a sweet selection of Abuse tracks rounding out the menu. The new song Wormrot debuted last month has coagulated into a thing of beauty. The band played for a good long while, leaving a bruise that will not soon fade. By now their tour is over and the 'rot are on their way back to Singapore. Safe travels, come back soon.

On a side note, I apologize for the lack of visual aides. I managed to leave my camera at home on this night. I'm not sure I would have caught anything but a blur, in any case. The kind folks at Brooklyn Vegan have risked their lives to lovingly document this show on film, so check that out over here.


Black Anvil, The Absence, Ipsissimus – September 28th, The Studio at Webster Hall, NYC

I was more than a little bit curious and concerned about this show. Put on by corporate sponsors as part of a new “Metal Night” showcase, I wondered what strings might be attached. Additionally, entrance could be gained by buying the new Black Anvil CD from Best Buy (in-store or online). Although this meant the show was essentially “free,” would this sales gimmick keeps fans away from Black Anvil's record release gig? The answer to that is no, plenty of people showed. Ultimately, the only oddity of this evening was the lineup, but the proceedings ended in complete victory for the hometown trio.

Walking up to Webster Hall, I was stunned to find a large crowd and a line of people down the block. Had Black Anvil really broken through like this? Not quite – I realized these folks were queued up for British alterna-yodelers James, who were playing in the main room at Webster. The Studio was modestly full at this point, but that would change. The only sign of corporate influence was a pile of Scion detritus that is no uncommon sight at metal shows these days. From a fan's point of view, no further corporate tithe was required to enjoy the evening.

The first band to plug in was Ipsissimus, from Connecticut. I had checked out the band's music on Myspace and was quite impressed. In addition, Mick Barr of Krallice had recommended their egregiously blasphemous brand of black metal a few weeks ago. Unbeknownst to me, these guys were recently signed to Metal Blade and are working on their debut album.

Ipsissimus have no lack of charisma. Bass player and vocalist Tichondrius is a frothing fount of bile but also displays a keen sense of humor. This is blasphemy for blasphemy's sake. Guitar player Ryan Adams (AKA His Emissary) maintains a head-down stage presence as he unleashes a tremolo picked storm. Drummer Haimatokharmes (!?) put in a preposterous performance, managing to keep up the grueling pace with panache. These songs are entertaining, bouncy affairs with quite a bit of icy melodic dynamism. In their finer moments, Ipsissimus evoke glorious thoughts of Dissection.

One oddity of the show was that each band seemed to have an equally large time-slot. Ipsissimus played for a good 40 minutes, and their set only dragged a bit during some extended instrumental passages. Ryan Adams' guitar tone was a bit thinner than on the recordings I heard; Ipsissimus might benefit from some additional guitar layering on stage, especially during solos. I picked up the band's excellent 2008 EP, The Three Secrets of Fatima, and I'll certainly be looking forward to their full length on Metal Blade.

The Absence were the odd men out. The band has always been of borderline interest to me, but as my tolerance for melodic death metal has declined over the last decade, that interest has faded. Be that as it may, I still wanted to see the band play live. The Absence have a new album out and have evidently been on the road playing new material to receptive ears. The crowd on this evening was mostly passive, but at the very least they were polite. Front man Jamie Stewart seems to thrive on energy, and he wasn't getting any from the audience. He let everyone know that, tossing out thinly veiled barbs about the crowd's concrete feet. To the credit of the concertgoers, this situation didn't devolve into catcalls or taunting. The band pulled off a decent set, playing a wide array of tunes while sounding taut and precise. I felt that the mix didn't do justice to the crunchy tone of their albums, but at least the guitars were audible (see Arsis' failure in this regard at the same venue).

Black Anvil opened their set with a startling cover of Von's “Veadtuck” (from their 1992 Satanic Blood demo). The soaring, sibylline instrumental was a perfect herald for the chaos to follow. This would be my fourth convocation with the Black Anvil triumvirate, and it was definitely the best. The mix at The Studio was auditory perfection. Gary Bennett's guitar sported its full tonal malignancy and each note was discernible. These guys always manage to tease the best sound out of a venue.

The Triumvirate tracks sounded fresh, precise and full of energy. “Angels To Dust” was absolutely pummeling and set off a raging pit in the now full venue. The song is a good example of the synergistic dynamics that drive Black Anvil. Paul Delaney may command your full attention with his manic bass attack and vicious screams, but when Gary Bennett steps up to trade off some bellowing vocals, you know that this is a team effort.

Black Anvil possess a hypnotic stage presence. Paul Delaney plays his bass as if it were a spitting cobra, and this life and death battle dominates your consciousness. Raeph Glicken is fixed with a terrifying glare as he unleashes devastating bombardments. Black Anvil beckon you to lose control, and under the thrall of their rhythmic assault, people do. For the first time in a good long while, I was compelled to take off my glasses and jump in the pit. It was worth the danger of dismemberment.

Black Anvil present an intense and cathartic concert experience. Tracks like “Dead and Left” and “Transparent” sit perfectly alongside older affairs to slake your metal thirst. If anything, the set was entirely too short for a headlining act, but such are the rules of “Metal Night.” I expect Black Anvil to win over an army of new fans when they head out on tour with Watain next month. Be there.


Mutant Supremacy – Infinite Suffering (Self Released, 2010)

A good death metal album will power you through many an unsavory situation. An excellent death metal album will also engage the senses when you don't need to take the world by force. Infinite Suffering is such an album, an engaging confluence of riffs, rhythm, attitude and ingenuity. This celebration of anger, retribution, desecration and death proves that the old ways are still the good ways. You don't need to trawl the the metal waters and cook up a schizophrenic genre gumbo to hit the spot; just serve death in the raw.

Mutant Supremacy reek of Incantation's musty miasma and assault you with a rolling cadence redolent of Morbid Angel. Any way you cut it, Infinite Suffering emits the comforting fetid aroma of early American death you'll recognize and appreciate. Finely reticulated riffage forms the backbone of this “mutant beyond control.” There are memorable and distinctive riffs at every turn, with an astounding amount of rhythmic variation soaked into the noxious atmosphere. Excellent solos waft high above the mix and feature quite a bit of demonic mojo.

Sam Awry's vocals display a satisfying sneer and evoke a bit of John Tardy's garrulous eccentricity. The lyrics make for quite an entertaining read, rhapsodizing about the repulsive end that awaits us all. “Morbid Dismemberment” is the only track that really steps over the gore threshold, detailing the acts of a grave robbing interior decorator. A few choice moments offer singalong opportunities. The chorus of “Extinction,” in particular, compels me to scream “Onward, onward, to death” into the faces of Times Square tourists.

Robert Nelson's drumming is fluid and perfectly reflects the loose, organic meter of these songs. The lively rhythms never slip into sloppiness as they swirl and swerve below the guitars. The production on the album is arid and unoffensive, letting the putrescent olfactory assault of these tracks shine through. Infinite Suffering stands up well to repeated listens, and I don't think any fan of the old school would regret adding this to their collection.


Infinite Suffering is available from the band on CD or vinyl through their Myspace, and you can stream the entire album here.

Mutant Supremacy have several upcoming NYC shows, including an epic evening with Wormrot, Defeatist, Psychic Limb and Curandera on Sunday (10/3) at The Acheron. I'll certainly be there.


Wormrot/I Abhor - Split (Scrotum Jus Records, 2010)

This split serves up a gourmet grind meal. I Abhor plate a curiously delicious appetizer to whet your appetite. Then Wormrot deliver the main course, a transcendent dish served on perfect porcelain and devoured in four bites. Of course, this breed of fine dining does nothing to fulfill your appetite, and you sure as hell don't belong in this establishment. Hit repeat, toss the tables, thrash the clientele and get the circle pit going.

I Abhor start you off with “Downfall”, where semi-clean, fat guitar joins a cymbal ride to create an austere, Assückian atmosphere. The first few seconds of this song make you wonder whether or not you're going to get some “Corporal Jigsore Quandary” action, but then I Abhor rev the engines and reveal their true nature. Dueling vocals battle over fantastic drumming while the guitars mostly slink and slither deep in the mix.

I Abhor change speeds frequently and do evoke an Assücking atonality in my infantile grind mind. Some guitar riffs border on experimental but at many points the mix obscures exactly what's going on. Blasts and grooves get equal space, and I really dig the snare-heavy drum action. The real charm here for me is the vocals. One guttural voice has swallowed the mic, while the other persona provides scathing vocalizations that remind me heavily of Daniel Jansson's work in Culted (purveyors of blackened doom). Everything here makes me want to hear more from I Abhor.

Then, well, Wormrot hand you your ass. If you are a fan of Abuse, this is mandatory ownage. These eight tracks reveal a band moving forward, gaining momentum, writing better songs and gunning for glory. Each tune has an individual personality, astounding hooks and complete memorability. “Twelve” gives us a Sesame Street sample out of left field and showers us with screams for 15 seconds. “Critical Human Stupidity” then dispenses a deft punk intro in 4/4 time that will throw you for a loop with its gleaming simplicity. A gurgle from Arif lets us know this motif won't last long. 35 seconds in we get a superlative riff that mutates through another groove and devolves into a barrage of blasts.

These tracks might display a greater rhythmic diversity to my ears than Abuse, and that's part of the magic. “Talkshit Holocaust” and “Terminal Turbulence” lay down distinctive riffs over an array of beats that you won't forget. “Retarded Collisions” has one of the most preposterously glorious grind riffs I've ever heard. No shitting; your motor neurons will be starting their own pit before you know what's going on.

I heard most of these songs for the first time when I saw Wormrot live a few weeks ago. It's a sure sign of their quality that each track was observably distinct and memorable. It was fascinating to witness Arif spew each of the numerous vocal styles displayed in these tunes. Rasyid may effortlessly rip off perfect riffs and Fitri might lay down many a precise blast, but Arif's dementedly dissociative vocals are the element that push Wormrot into madness.



Black Anvil – Triumvirate (Relapse, 2010)

Triumvirate came as quite a surprise to me. Black Anvil have evolved at a rapid clip, taking a step past the palm-muted, Morbid Tales informed chugging of Time Insults the Mind. That album galloped and grooved, dispensing death from horseback. Triumvirate barrels along like a locomotive, mercilessly mowing you down and only occasionally slowing the pace to hose blood off the cowcatcher.

Black Anvil have a certain street-smart, common sense approach to songwriting that really appeals to me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate songs that are catchy, memorable and crushing all at the same time. The band's black metal ambitions are free from dissimulation. This music simply kills, radiating a genuine desire to triumph and destroy. “What Is Life If Not Now!” is a statement, not a question. This veritable Zen koan of a song kicks off Triumvirate with prodigious force and purpose.

The production on Triumvirate is on a completely different plane from the band's debut. It sounds as if someone scraped off a layer of crust to reveal a gleaming monstrosity. Gary Bennett's guitars are huge and enveloping, Raeph Glicken's drums are mixed to perfection, and the bass is particularly percussive. If anything, Paul Delaney's vocals sounds twice as venomous on this album. The lyrics read like an evil poetic psalm, eloquently annotating an impious theosophy.

Triumvirate is filled with riffs that roll relentlessly down the tracks, alternating tromolo picked propulsion with sections of crushing combustion. The railway is not always straight; this train hits some pleasantly unorthodox melodic curves that don't derail the menacing atmosphere. Gary Bennett's predilection for spectral arpeggiation has become a pleasant trademark of the Black Anvil sound. “Dead and Left” sports a Christ-crushing, hammered on riff that gets me up out of my seat and sends me sprinting around my house in hysterics. “Angels To Dust” drives home a memorable melodic riff, then lets loose a rhythmic bombardment that does wonders for wrecking my neck.

I'm not fucking around with the train metaphors; I don't think I've ever heard an album elicit such a distinct sensation of raging along the rails. Be that as it may, Triumvirate is in no way limited by the sentiment it engenders. It's merely the sign of a perfect rhythmic execution of some damned fine tunes. If my constantly growing enthusiasm for Triumvirate is any indication, it will certainly end up as one of my favorite albums of the year.


Black Anvil Myspace

Triumvirate comes out on September 28th in America and the band will be playing a record release show that night in NYC (details here). I'll be there. After that, the band heads out on a month-long tour with Watain and Goatwhore in November.

Full disclosure: Relapse provided me with a promo download.


Wormrot – September 5th – The Bowery Electric, NYC

Sunday night was a tale of two shows. They happened in the same venue, they happened contiguously and the crowds overlapped a bit, but they honestly had nothing to do with each other. Maegashira and Wizardry walloped us with some massively entertaining, doomy, psychedelic grooves. Then Evoken crushed our souls, slowly pulverizing the crowd with a mind-blowing set of abysmal death. When their set ended in cataclysmic cacophony it was already pushing past midnight; these shows didn't even happen on the same day.

I was there for the three early bands, but I wasn't totally present. My mind was occupied with the drama surrounding the show's last minute headliner. After visa issues canceled the initial dates of their first U.S. tour, this would be Wormrot's first American performance. There was just too much anticipation involved to fully comprehend the paradox of this evening’s music.

The Wormrot dudes were exhausted after their 20 hour flight from Singapore, but they were clearly excited to grind America into dust. I spoke briefly to Arif before the set, and the prevailing desire was just to scream “GO” and do this shit. But Wormrot had to wait their turn. When Evoken finished their set, some people left, but most stayed, and an entire crowd of grinders who'd been loitering outside the venue materialized.

People gave a raucous yell when they heard Rasyid's guitar during the brief sound check. That same full-bodied, perfect Abuse tone was present. It made me drool instantaneously. As Wormrot started their set I think every person in attendance was plastered with stupid, slack-jawed smiles. The band raged with ease, blasting through most of Abuse, a good portion of the tracks off their new split with I Abhor, and at least one new track.

Arif is a complete fucking madman, belting out guttural gurgles and horrifying screams while treating us to strange interpretive dance moves during each and every groove. The long flight was clearly still on his mind; one song was dedicated to the pilot of their plane, and yet another was dedicated to the horrific turbulence they encountered while flying through the remnants of hurricane Earl. Arif has got those intangible front-man skills that are hard to define but absolutely essential. He asked at one point, “Does anyone here like black metal?” When folks enthusiastically cheered, Arif responded “Uh-oh,” before introducing “Blasphemy My Ass.” Wormrot are all about sarcasm.

Fitri's drum kit essentially fell apart several times during the set from the beating it was receiving. The ensuing repairs introduced some dead air that Arif broke by noting “This is why we're not rich.” Aside from those brief interludes, Fitri hammered the living hell out of the drums, effectively recreating the rhythmic perfection of Abuse. Like each of the band members, he looked at ease while fixing our broken minds. I would have liked if the drums were a bit higher in the mix (a rare sentiment at a metal show), but all told, the sound was quite excellent for Wormrot, if not a mite deafening.

Rasyid stood stone-cold serious as he deftly dispensed perfect grind riffage. He whipped the small pit into a rash of retarded collisions with his bombastic combination of speed and groove. His guitar seemed to retune itself throughout the performance, but it never sounded off. He never once touched the pegs; in grindcore there is no tuning. “Murder” probably produced the most insane action from the five or six guys who dominated the floor. During the thirty minute set Wormrot hit every track I wanted to hear and induced intense banging of the head. I was smiling through the whole affair, most likely spraying drool from my flapping lips like a hound.

This, my friends, was pure grind bliss. I can't tell you how excited I am that Wormrot are going to play again in NYC on the tail end of their tour (with a killer line-up including Defeatist, Mutant Supremacy, Phantom Limb and Curandera). I encourage you to catch this band at all costs. Wormrot toted a decent bit of merchandise across the globe, including two t-shirt designs, Abuse vinyl and the new Wormrot/I Abhor CD split. I can vouch for the excellence of the new split, which I picked up. The band played a handful of songs off of it, and they sounded fantastic live.

During my earlier chat with Arif, I asked about the band's travel arrangements, as I'd seen them post an advertisement for a NY based van driver for the tour. According to Arif, none other than Mike Hill of Tombs is escorting them on their American jaunt. I was in half disbelief of this tidbit until I saw the man himself talking to the band before their set. Really? Now there's a road warrior.


Altar of Plagues - Tides EP (Burning World, 2010)

My interest in exploring new black metal has really washed out to sea in the last year. That growing tide of indifference led me to pass on Altar of Plagues' White Tomb, despite a boatload of acclaim. News that the band would cross the Atlantic for a North American tour this summer eventually nudged me to check out the EP of which we speak. Tides flipped my dinghy on the first listen, tossing my black metal ennui overboard. These two songs (clocking in at 36 minutes) will dump you straight into the fathomless freezing depths to ponder the Pyrrhic victory that is existence.

“Atlantic Light” is possessed of a tonality that rolls like a tolling bell. To my ears, these riffs manage to transcend the atmospheric black metal norm, rolling along in grand melodic gestures that are propelled by the steady drumming. There's not even that much distortion on the guitars, but that's irrelevant. There is an emotional power here that's immersive and immense. I'm fascinated by the guitar stylings on these tracks; the subtle distortion lays bare the tremolo picked notes that would otherwise blend together into a wave of noise. There are some moments when I'm positively blown away by the maelstrom of melodies that flow from these guitars.

Tides is a journey through melancholy and rage with no lifeboat. Part of the appeal of these tracks is the transposition of traditional black metal screeches with semi-sung/screamed vocals that exude a crushing hopelessness. The lyrics to “Atlantic Light” are a fascinating meditation on the mighty ocean and mankind's unceasing quest to drain it of life. “The Weight of it All” dwells in the same emotional space, pondering our ability to blissfully ignore weighty matters.

At no point during these two expansive tracks does my attention wander. I personally consider the word “drone” to be a epithet in metal, and these songs do no such thing for me. As with any decent exploration of atmospheric black metal, the excellent drumming is a cornerstone of the songs' dynamics. “The Weight Of It All” contains the lion-share of blastbeats, navigating through a bleak tempest with a coxswain's discipline and a pleasantly organic drum sound.

In retrospect, Tides is much less produced than White Tomb, and I think that's part of its allure. An excellent interview with James Kelly (over at Brooklyn Vegan) provided quite a bit of insight into the spirit of this EP and also transcribes the lyrics. White Tomb obviously grew on me and is now a cherished brick in my metal wall, but Tides holds sway over my attention. This is the music that will be playing when my ship is crushed on the shoals of life.


Altar of Plagues are also mind-blowing in a live setting, as I found out here.


Humanity Falls – Ordaining The Apocalypse (Self Released - 2010)

The word “experimental” makes me flinch when used to describe music. I'm not usually partial to any deliberate re-engineering of the metal genome. Humanity Falls, however, have cooked up a compelling transgenic beast of an album.

So what is the experiment here precisely? Take the unhinged rhythmic essence of Discordance Axis, splice in some slap happy Gorguts DNA, some chop suey Suffocation brutality and add a bit of otherworldly Immolation anti-melody. Lastly, inject some absurd Larry LaLonde guitar madness and see where it takes us. If this doesn't sound appealing to you on paper, you should stop reading right now.

Before I skip off on an ecstatic exegesis of Ordaining The Apocalypse, you've got to know that this is a self-produced affair. The mix on the album is raw but ultimately comfortable and punchy. I wouldn't mind if the guitar was a bit further in the forefront, but the organic recording draws out a genuine vitality that might otherwise be squashed.

Any exploration of the Discordance Axis aesthetic would be DOA without some righteous drumming. Edward Bednarek definitely has what it takes. He's got a lock on that unrestrained, whip-crack Dave Witte vibe, overflowing with lightning fast fills. Although Ordaining The Apocalypse has a loose, click-track be damned soul, the drumming here sounds nothing short of amazing to my unprofessional ears.

Most of the experimental spirit on Ordaining The Apocalypse is expressed through the guitar work of Ammo Diaz. “No Room For Ingenuity” kicks off the album with slip n' slide Gorguts riffs spliced onto a grind corpse. Absolutely incredible, tight grinding death metal riffage frequently unfurls into free-form noise before coiling back around the taut drumming. Strange melodies seesaw over raging blast beats to create a pleasantly unsettling atmosphere.

Eston Browne's guttural roar bears an uncanny resemblance to Frank Mullen in his prime. His voice lends a more brutal air to the proceedings, emanating menace and madness. Floating on top of jack hammer drumming and inhuman riffage, Eston's insane screams churn up a perfect storm of rage. The subtle lyrics deal with persecution, madness, occasional savage violence and unsurprisingly, the apocalypse. An anti-religious sentiment is also enjoyably prevalent. As you can surmise, the subject matter runs more towards the band's death metal heritage, which is fine with me.

Crushing riffage and insane drumming are at the core of this chromosomal curiosity, but some of the best moments on Ordaining The Apocalypse are also the strangest. There are times when the curious riffs make me think distinctly of Primus (minus the bass, of course). “Denounced Manifestation” features a wide open back end where Edward Bednarek lets loose some absurd, freewheeling drum patterns while Ammo sautés some frizzle fry magic. It's superlative. “At The Temple of Everlasting Condemnation” is a tremendous clean guitar instrumental that could have come from the hands of either Gustavo Santaolalla or Trey Azagthoth. The echoing cathedral consonance is a perfect break in the album's brutality.

Ordaining The Apocalypse is an engaging experiment in unrestrained discordance, but constituted of a surprising cohesion. There's a solid sensibility couched in the adventurous nature of these songs that I appreciate. I've been enjoying this album a hell of a lot; many imaginary citrus fruits have met their demise during my listening sessions. I can't help but wonder how Humanity Falls would sound with a full studio treatment. Would a “clean” and vigorous production suck the life out of these tunes? I'm not sure, but I'd love to hear it. This band has tremendous potential, and they kill live.


Humanity Falls have just recently signed to The Path Less Traveled Records, and the label will release Ordaining The Apocalypse this fall. In the meantime, you can stream it in its entirety on the bands Myspace.

Full Disclosure: The band kindly gave me a copy of the album.


Fuck the Facts, Magrudergrind, Defeatist, Attake - August 7th - Cake Shop, NYC

I've only heard complaints about Cake Shop as a venue, but my first visit turned out to be a raging good time. In the pantheon of basement venues around New York City, the joint is fairly well decked out. It has an actual stage (albeit only several inches tall), a soundboard and a decent PA system. Sure, the floor slopes strangely down towards the stage. And yes, it's nearly impossible to see the band unless you're in the front. And of course it was a blazing inferno, but what do you expect? I think Cake Shop is what you make of it. I made cake.

My wife made a rare metal-show appearance on this night, if only to surveil the wares in the upstairs café (she's a baker by profession). I descended into the music space as Attake went on, and I quickly realized I'd have to get sneaky if I wanted to see the band (or take any pictures). Attake were quite entertaining, benefiting from a better sound mix than they had at Europa, where I saw them last. The band's meat and potatoes metal assault is great for limbering up the neck. If you were still feeling squeamish at this point, a good spray of sweat from Chloe Puke's hair should have got you in the metal mood.

I snuck underneath the PA system as Attake finished, trying to grab a decent spot for Defeatist. I've been wanting to see these guys for a good while. I couldn't repress giddy fanboy glee as Joel Stallings set up his drums. Even thought I missed the boat on Anodyne, I did feel a certain privilege in being able to witness their rhythm section in action. This was the second week in a row I'd seen Josh Scott play, and his bass rig was still set on 11.

Defeatist ripped through tracks off their new album, Sixth Extinction, as well as an assortment from the various splits and EPs that made up Sharp Blades Sink Deep Into Dull Minds. Aaron Nichols belched out vocals with a genuinely pained expression while slamming out rapid fire riffs from his drop-tuned guitar. Joel Stallings stole the show. The drum sound was incredible, approaching the pulverizing perfection that came though on the bands' early recordings. The Sixth Extinction tracks benefited from the bright snare attack they lacked in the studio. I would have loved to have shot some video, but my position was precarious as the crowd seesawed across the room in sweaty waves. People kept screaming requests for the the band to play faster, but that seemed an absurd proposition.

After a series of unfortunate events, this would be my first time seeing Magrudergrind live. I scooted over to the other side of the stage in between sets, grabbing a spot in front of a pole guarded by familiar faces. This pole proved to be a live-saver in the madness that would ensue.

I totally dig Magrudergrind's self titled LP from last year, and we got a good helping of those tunes. People pretty much went ape-shit bonkers for the band. Tracks like “Bridge Burners,” “Excommunicated” and “Heretics” got a rabid response. Folks somehow managed to crowd surf over the top of the audience without getting killed. Cake Shop's basement was now filled with the parboiled stench of punk sweat. My neck got an excellent workout, but I was saved from the worst of the pit by the aforementioned pole.

The mix for Magrudergrind wasn't quite as articulate as it was for Defeatist, and the guitar sound was a lot more blunt than on the recorded tracks. That Sunlight Studio vibe was mostly absent, but it didn't stop these songs from crushing. Avi Kulawy regaled us with frightening tales of over the top crowd participation at their last Cake Shop show (which I sadly missed). Only once during this set did I see a crowd member tear the microphone from Avi's hand to scream along. Good times.

I only got into Fuck the Facts quite recently. I've checked out their music before, but was never pulled in. The band released a short, free compilation album for Saint-Jean-Baptiste day this year, and that is what eventually hooked me. I started working back from there and finally discovered the glory of Disgorge Mexico. With all of that fresh in my mind, I was particularly excited for this performance.

The band took quite a while to get it together. As far as grind bands go, Topon Das has an almost unreasonably complicated guitar set-up. But then again, Fuck the Facts aren't your average grind band. As they started their set, I was surprised at the excellent sound. The band is absurdly proficient at punctuating raging blastbeats with melodic interludes, and that dichotomy was perfectly articulate in person.

The packed crowd was every bit as wild as it was for Magrudergrind, if only a tad more sparse. Mel Mongeon let loose her maniacal vocals on us while managing to stay deftly disentangled from the crowd. By this point I had no choice but to surrender to the stifling heat and the metal, letting my head bang with abandon. Technical difficulties only slightly marred the end of the set, but otherwise this was a tightly wound and potent performance. This night was a perfect end to a long streak of excellent shows for me.

Now bring on the Wormrot.

There are some excellent pictures of the show (including some appearances of myself) over here and here.



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