Ludicra – The Tenant (Profound Lore, 2010)

Amidst the gorgeous album art and liner notes for The Tenant, there are pictures of each band member in the confines of an apartment, peering at us through a window. For me, The Tenant is all about confinement (lyrically), and the escape from its grasp (musically).

Ludicra easily harness the powers of atmospheric black metal to express melancholy and disgust. Laurie Sue Shanaman's screaming voice is the ideal vessel for utter anguish. The Tenant builds upon that black metal bedrock to build a complex and beautiful edifice. The guitars progress from that subterranean aesthetic into realms of major chord contentment, triumphant crescendo and thrashing release. Laurie Sue Shanaman's screech slides into semi-chanted, melodic singing. Her Nico-like croon takes us far afield from the expected. At times, Christy Cather offers her own tortured vocals to the mix, often on top of the clean singing.

In “A Larger Silence,” bouncing acoustic passages flow into victorious guitar solos. The song ponders the act of suicide, presumably by jumping off a bridge, and asks “Does it feel effortless? Does it feel free? Is it as easy as they say?” “In Stable” thrashes like “Devil's Island” while Laurie Sue Shanaman laments being “Suffocated (in bags) of compulsion.” An enthralling NWOBHM riff intervenes to recall the best moments of Cobbett-era Slough Feg, tinged with strands of The Fucking Champs.

Aesop Dekker ably helms the ship through all manner of rhythmic seas. His drumming rises above the din at times and we get a glimpse of the absurd talent at work. Ross Sewage can be heard throughout the album, pulling us through the depths with a bass sound that is perfectly mixed while maintaining an acquatic rumble. John Cobbett and Christy Cather deliver an endless array of riffage that is ultimately progressive in its scope.

“The Undercaste” starts with an intro that wouldn't be out of place on Powerslave, then quickly shifts into a shuffle built on a memorable guitar melody. The song explores the meaning of hardship and hunger as well as the plight of the weak and worn. “There's never enough (of anything) to go around.” Clean guitars mix with harmonious leads and evoke visions of doom. The song descends into melancholy and the clean depths of layered voices. Despite lasting 10 minutes, “The Undercaste” never tests my patience.

“Truth Won't Set You Free” starts again from a point of hopelessness, but moves into vast and shifting melodies that certainly touch upon the might of Weakling. The tone shifts perceptibly throughout the song, moving closer and closer to furious victory. At the six minute mark, the guitars launch into a glorious staccato thrash; it's certainly one of the best riffs on the album.

The title track finally sheds light on the curious album photos, exploring the meaning of confinement “Within your walls of want, The frame in which you haunt.” “The Tenant” is probably the most progressive track on the album, dealing out mid-paced, arpeggiated chords that shift from dark to light at 4/4 speed.

In the end, I'm enjoying The Tenant very much, and I think I will be for a long time. The album conveys a host of emotions via excellent songwriting, and never for a minute does it exude eau de fromage. Ludicra have a completely unique and recognizable sound; I imagine it takes an open mind of sorts to appreciate their vision.


Ludicra will be touring the U.S.A. in April. I've got a ticket to see them in Brooklyn with Krallice, Castevet and Attake.

Ludicra home


Landmine Marathon - Sovereign Descent (Prosthetic, 2010)

Sovereign Descent is fucking red-hot. As “Exist” fades in, you'll feel like you're standing in front of a blazing grill, attempting to pull a righteous cut of beef from the flames at the exact moment it goes from raw to rare. On Rusted Eyes Awake, the meat was in the hooks; the oft mentioned “Earache” flavors were obvious but not overpowering. On Sovereign Descent, the meat is perfectly cooked, and the juices are still running red. This is a cohesive and raging album that stands on its own merits.

At its heart, Sovereign Descent is a slab of outstanding, mid-paced death metal with a soul of grind. The instrumentation isn't revolutionary, but the spirit that propels these songs is peerless. Dylan Thomas and Ryan Butler present a parade of withering riffs in a guitar tone that radiates heat like napalm. Matt Martinez' bass maintains a rolling boil throughout. The rhythms range from strolling doom to barreling blast beats, and through it all, Grace Perry belches fire.

“Exist” really is a fantastic album opener. It takes some time to process what you're hearing, but once it's warmed up, the song will destroy you. It elicits uncontrolled headbanging at 2:20, a circle pit at 2:30 and from there, I'm hooked. Lyrically, “Exist” is a love song in the same way Carcass' “No Love Lost” was a love song. 'Nuff said. The guitar sound is marvelous and gives fiery life to the grinding riffage. A glorious and complimentary solo drives the song to the edge of madness, and then a tremolo dive sends the track into blasting mayhem.

In terms of females plying death metal vocals, Sovereign Descent is the high water mark in my eyes. Without much in the way of processing or effects, Grace Perry conveys the monstrous essence of death metal. Some vocalists scream in this style simply because it's the convention. Grace Perry shreds her vocal chords to tell you something important. Like any great album, the lyrics are an integral part of the art. Everything here is thought provoking and goddamned poetic. My appreciation of Sovereign Descent was definitely enhanced by the words therein. “The direction is far from up; the corruption runs so deep; we are all left unheard screaming for peace.”

The production aims at conveying a burning ember vibe. Everything here is pushed perilously close to the limit. Strangely, Mike Pohlmeier's drums cross that line and are mixed in the red. From the very first track, you'll notice that the drums are mixed so aggressively as to have that distorted Death Magnetic sound. Some part of me wants to take issue with it, but as the album progresses, it becomes a part of the overdriven whole. Sovereign Descent merits this kind of production as much as Death Magnetic did not.

At times the riffage is simple but effective. “Justify the Suffering” evokes the martial drone of Bolt Thrower. “Foul Revolt” sports an addictive shifty riff. I get the distinct semi-melodic feel of a God Dethroned tune, but Grace Perry's unhinged vocals keep the song on the very fringes of sanity. “Rise With The Tide” fucking moves, and we are implored to “become an iconoclast, seize this virtue that is so faint.”

“Steadfast Hate” has slow doomy passages that would make me think of My Dying Bride if Grace Perry wasn't bellowing over it all. She sounds like the words are erupting through a tracheotomy on this track. That slow riff shifts into a higher gear, and the vocals become positively demonic. As with many tracks on the album, I get the feeling this song would elicit an epic pit.

If you've got a taste for incendiary grinding death, I highly recommend picking up this album, if only with asbestos gloves. I'm certainly looking forward to witnessing the scene these tracks will create in a live setting in the not too distant future.


P.S. Doesn't the album art rule?
P.P.S. You can stream the entire album here (for a limited time, I'm assuming).

Landmine Marathon Myspace

Full disclosure: Prosthetic provided me with a promo download.


Immolation – Majesty and Decay (Nuclear Blast, 2010)

I've got to be honest; the last Immolation album I bought was Here in After in 1996. I saw them live a handful of times in that era and then completely lost the script. Along the way, I lost track of traditional death metal itself, I suppose. One listen to Majesty and Decay, however, was enough to make me a (non)believer again. This is an incredible album.

Majesty and Decay is the first traditional death metal album I've felt a real connection to in a long time. Its success unfolds on several levels. First and foremost, the album displays stellar songwriting. Every track is filled with riffs and rhythms that are sophisticated, compelling and memorable. Every time I walk away from Majesty and Decay, I have songs stuck in my head. The production is heavy, dynamic and near-perfect. This thing will snap your neck. Lastly, the piercingly intelligent lyrics tell a great story. The album feels like a post-apocalyptic walk on “The Road” with Cormac McCarthy. It's a thematically complete and completely harrowing piece of death metal.

Robert Vigna wields his guitar like a snake charmer and writes astounding riffs to match. “The Purge” kicks off the album with an absurd rhythmic barrage and riffage that will not get the hell out of my head. This thing changes speeds constantly but fluidly. It swings and swaggers in time signatures I can't fathom. An acoustic break adds atmosphere while Ross Dolan advocates for cleansing the earth of the human cancer. Fucking tremendous.

“A Token of Malice” continues in the same infectious vein. Bill Taylor and Robert Vigna trade insane solos and play complimentary riffs that interweave despite moving at completely different speeds. The lyrics, while dark and apocalyptic, could be read as condemnation of our treatment of the environment. Ross Dolan's bellowed vocals are commanding and vicious throughout.

The title track is the killer – you'll have no hope of getting the slithering main riff out of your head. Tremolo picking accompanies a swinging drum line that moves like a belly dancer on fire. “Divine Code” maintains the high level of quality riffage and rhythm. Here for the first time we see a return to the anti-religious sentiment that is the backbone of Immolation's message.

The songs that follow are no step down in terms of memorability and continue to mesmerize while keeping the head banging. Just when we've reached the saturation point for bludgeoning death metal, we get an amazing interlude. Harmonized lead melodies accompany subtle acoustic guitar work as bombs explode on the horizon. This is certainly the sound of mankind's demise by our own hand.

Throughout the album, Steve Shalaty gives an extremely impressive drum performance. There is a great deal of space offered by the rhythmic diversity on Majesty and Decay. Steve Shalaty takes that opportunity and runs with it. The drums get a sweet spot in the mix and are wonderfully produced. Everything here sounds organic and thundering. Ross Dolan's audible bass is also fantastically mixed, and he somehow manages to enhance the rhythmic mayhem.

“The Rapture of Ghosts” starts with another ingenious riff and ends up being one of the strongest tracks on the album. Majesty and Decay doesn't diminish in quality as it rages to its devastating end. This is an album I'd love to see performed in its entirety live. Has my absence from Immolation made me prone to appreciate Majesty and Decay more than a dedicated Immolation listener? I don't think so. This is a godforsaken masterpiece in any metal universe.


Immolation Myspace


Flaming Tusk – February 28th – Legion, Brooklyn, NY

After being blown away by their debut album, I decided to get a taste of the Flaming Tusk live experience. I needed to know whether or not these guys are the real deal; many good bands I've discovered recently don't achieve much in the way of live performance.

My brother Frank and I rolled into Brooklyn on Sunday night to catch Flaming Tusk at Legion in Williamsburg. Legion is a fairly nice bar with a good selection of beers. The back room is evidently a great space for music if you dig a cozy vibe. Before Flaming Tusk went on, we got a chance to meet some of the band members, and they are extremely nice guys. That's a good start.

Following a brief intro, the band launched straight into “Ichor,” and promptly began to decimate the modest crowd. My burning question was answered immediately; Flaming Tusk are the real deal. The sound in the room was surprisingly true and balanced. My brother, the audio engineer, gave his seal of approval to the mix.

The first thing that struck me about the performance was the vocals. Stolas Trephinator can reproduce his croaking screams and gurgling grunts perfectly live. It's kind of shocking. The guy is charismatic, confident and downright terrifying – everything you want in a metal front-man. The rapid-fire monologue in “No Smiles” was particularly impressive.

Lead guitarist Don Blood and his compatriot Zosimus sounded tremendous. The interplay of their disparate yet harmonious riffage was a sight to behold. I didn't use the adjective “sludge” in my review of Old, Blackened Century, but the word came to mind as I watched the performance. Flaming Tusk is, after all, the absurdist daydream where Enslaved makes Mastodonic love to Baroness in a post-rock moonscape while Abbath stands by and cackles.

Every song flew by and induced copious headbanging. The excellent songwriting and composition on the album manifested in what I like to call the “metal suspension of disbelief.” It's the state where I become totally immersed in a live metal performance, forget that I'm in a room full of people, and completely lose my shit. It's what I live for.

In a small room with no PA (except for vocals), the drumming was more prominent than on the album. Dumnorix Xristophage fucking raged behind the kit, and the songs sounded just a smidge more lively than on tape. I feel like the rhythmic peculiarities of the songs were magnified in a pleasing way. With the help of bassist Schneidaar, the rhythm section made the tunes seem preposterously heavy. Album opener “Anathema” was a musical stampede. “Tell your God I approach,” indeed.

“My Red Sun” and “I Nap In Blood” rounded out the run of righteous tracks from Old, Blackened Century. The lone cover song was “Ground Hog” by Spirit. This went completely over my head, but thankfully my encyclopedic brother was there to inform me that Spirit was a psychedelic rock band from the late 60s and 70s. The song sounded good to my ears, and if nothing else, it showed that Stolas Trephinator can belt out clean vocals as well as he can gargle marbles. I suppose it also gives us a glimpse into the eclectic influences at work.

“Abigail (Guts Down The Drain)” and “26 Legions” closed out the excellent set. Although I think Flaming Tusk have increased in skill tremendously since the Abigail EP, these tracks of raging blackened sludge via memorable post-rock melodies are still infectious.

As you can probably tell, I think Flaming Tusk are a worthwhile and completely unique band. They have a ton of potential. The upward trajectory of their skills guarantee Flaming Tusk a big upside. The live show seals the deal. Expect big things from these guys.

Check out their Myspace page for upcoming shows.



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