Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Condenados - The Tree of Death (2017)

The Gothic doom aesthetic summoned forth by The Tree of Death is not one I commonly come across, so it's usually one I do appreciate to some extent upon exposure. At least, I appreciate that it still does exist and that not every genre adherent has fled to the more funereal death/doom scene, or to all out stoner classification, not that there's anything wrong with those niches, but they just don't really speak to my sense of desolation and helplessness quite as much as the more traditional end of the spectrum. Condenados of Chile clearly trace their aural DNA back to the older Sabbath records, but what ultimately manifests throughout this sophomore effort is something akin got a Solitude Aeternus, or to take it a little further, they're like a South American strain of the style that Candlemass made popular throughout the mid to later 80s and beyond. In fact, there are moments on this record which created a real sense of déjà vu for records like Epicus Doomicus Metallicus or Ancient Dreams.

Not because they copy the Swedens note for note, mind you, but the combination of such assured, mournful and monolithic riffs with the clear attempt at a resonant, operatic vocal style by Fernando Vidal drew me straight back to how impressive that was when I first heard that material from overseas and how well it translated Sabbath's blueprints into a staggering new architecture. Now, I'm not saying Vidal has that power, range or perfect control over such a voice that Messiah Marcolin did, and he's ultimately got a more worklike inflection not unlike Robert Lowe, or John Gallo of Blizaro, but he certainly knows his range and gets as ambitious as possible within it. For the most part, it works rather well, and a few harmonized lines help enrich it, but there are admittedly a few points where it falls a bit flat and uneven. That said, some of the riffing here really compensates, simple and plodding but well thought out to create an atmosphere of weeping statues and old cemeteries during autumn. Just the right balance of melody and crushing weight to the rhythm guitars, and the bass tone throughout the album is also thick, fat, and highly effective, whether rounding out the opening of a tune on it's own or supporting the hunchbacked guitar chord patterns.

It's not always the saddest approach to the style, and they do occasionally sway into some more solid, uppity grooves, even going so far as to burst out into a fast almost doom-core part in the waning minutes of one track, which they then convert back into a slower crawl with bluesy Paradise Lost memories sealing its fate. It's great to have a surprise like that once in awhile, and whatever other atmospheric effects or nuances Condenados employ, as in the intro with its church organs and solemn escalation into metal, they do so pretty well. Do I wish there were more than that? Yeah, and a lot of the time the Chileans are just really straightforward...not all riffs here are created equal, and while performed powerfully they'll lapse form the memory ere long. The first track does also feel over-sized without much of interest to fill it out, but this is the exception to the rule Altogether, The Tree of Death is successful at what it sets out to paint...a melancholic mosaic of sinking spirits, an order of monks cowering from the weight of the Divine, and a tombstone lying on a hill beneath the shifting seasons, your name slowly being etched across its surface.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

https://www.facebook.com/condenadosdoom?fref=ts

Monday, January 16, 2017

Draugsól - Volaða land (2017)

To think I can remember a time when Icelandic black metal was unanimous with Sólstafir and Sólstafir alone, but in recent years the country is literally exploding with harsh, cold, and compelling sounds that transmute their parent genre into something not quite so readily predictable, but still recognizing the fundamentals of their other Scandinavian forebears. Draugsól has only been around for a year or so, but with their debut full-length the trio is easily able to make a name for itself among fellow countrymen like Svartidauði, Sinmara, Zhrine, and Misþyrming, although I think it's obvious that they have a marginally more conventional feel to how they put together their material, drawing on a lot of propulsive blast beats, grinding black/death rhythmic undercurrent and spikes of dissonant chords that puncture through the roiling, earthen tones of the rhythm guitars like high speed tectonic shifting.

But Volaða land brings quite a lot to the table, from its more agonizing, spastic rhythmic elements to moments of architectural glory where the melodies spew forth and reign supreme. Vocally they use a more low-end, death growl rather than the raspy norm, and it's ugly and nihilistic and only vaguely seems to care about adhering to the riffing structure. But this functions fairly seamlessly whether they're sputtering out low-end tremolo picked riffing or the various breaks and changes coursing through their often 7-9 minute compositions, which also benefit a lot from a willingness not to lay into endless cycles of mundane repetition, instead becoming these explosive, cracked landscapes that are worth crossing even though your feet are likely to be burned and stabbed numerous times. I catch a little Marduk and Immortal here, in the utter relentlessness when they're firing at a full clip, and manifestation of a lot of angular, edgy bursts of rhythm that channel the same Morbid Angelic death metal roots that those other bands helped script into the black metal lexicon.

The debut also knows when to concede the aggression to a more atmospheric touch, as in "Spáfarir og Útisetur" which opens with cleaner guitars and then erupts into a powering Viking-like mid pace momentum with grooving drums that reminded me of some of the earlier Enslaved discs. But for the most part it can get rapid-fire to a fault, where the band seems almost ready to stumble over itself once it hits a certain crescendo. There is also a noticeable dearth of really interesting progressions in the guitars themselves. Enough variation and intensity that they avoid tedium, but there weren't a lot of moments at which I felt like I instantly wanted to replay a particular riffing section. In the end, though, Volaða land is an estimable, if not entirely formidable statement of arrival, one not lacking in potential for evolving further. If you're a fan of both fast-paced 90s, synth-less black metal out of Norway or Sweden, as well as some of the current crop of Icelandic upstarts, then Draugsól is at least worth checking out, even if this didn't quite leave me with as strong an impression as an Aphotic Womb, Unortheta or Söngvar elds og óreiðu.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

https://draugsol.bandcamp.com/

Friday, January 13, 2017

Sepultura - Machine Messiah (2017)

I can't sit here and tell you that Machine Messiah has rid itself of all the vapid, bouncing, predictable hardcore grooves that the band more or less mastered and subsequently exhausted with the albums Chaos A.D. and Roots back in the mid 90s. I also can't promise you that I've suddenly become a fan of Derrick Green's vocals; granted, the guy's been with the Brazilians now for almost 20 years, and his style has never deviated too far from the original, roughshod and grunting and barking aesthetics of his predecessor. No, despite the fact he has always been technically sound on the many releases he has fronted, his harsher vocals have always felt played out to me, lacking individual distinction against the hundreds or thousands of other groove metal or nu-metal growlers you'd have found at the corner bars during the Ozzfest era and forward. His sound has not changed much here, and it simply lacks the viciousness or raw, murderous quality that I associate with and love from early Sepultura.

But here's what I CAN tell you...

This is the most engaged I've been with a Sepultura record since 1993. That's not to say that albums like Dante XXI, Kairos and The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart lacked any semblance of highlights. Sure, I could string together a solid album's worth of content between 1994 and 2013. Maybe even a double disc set. But Machine Messiah manages to strike an eclectic range between the band's tribal instincts, their LCD grooves and then a slightly tighter and more technical Sepultura which offers a lot more candy for the ears. A lot of this comes directly through Andreas Kisser's writing and performance...when he leaves behind the stolid attempts to ape the success they had with such simple mosh components in the 90s post-Arise, he explores some more compelling and busy picking sequences that really tipped the balance for my desire to listen repeatedly. It makes me wish this were the norm for this band in the 21st century, that they had expressed a desire to become increasingly more progressive like a lot of their international peers had already achieved by the late 80s. I realize that would seem anathema to a core of their audience that just wants to reel around violently and crush each other, but it's a damn shame...

It even carries forward to the leads, which are very well executed, never extended beyond their welcome and almost unanimously catchy whether they just be frenetic and spontaneous, atonal, Eastern inspired and exotic, or all of the above. Having these licks riding atop even the most banal of rhythm guitar breakdowns instantly adds some levity and depth which I feel a lot of albums they've put out have largely lacked. Eloy Casagrande also turns in a spotless performance here, effortlessly putting up a level of energy that would be fit for most modern thrash or death metal records, but constantly applying that primal, ethnic, 'jungle' spread of fills and rumbling grooves that will remind many of the more (and only) interesting moments of Roots; only here, I like the riffs better, and that goes a long way. Bass-lines are perfectly mixed, just fat enough to register against the clean but punchy rhythm guitar tone and often a little busier than you've come to expect from that area. In truth the album sounds really great overall...polished but not lacking some force where required, and also leaving some room for the more elegant lead tone, cleaner guitars and so forth.

So with so much going for it, the few flaws here are quite easy to forgive. The vocals are acceptable, even when he's doing his lower range Layne Stayley-meets-Nick Cave crooning like in the titular intro or "Cyber God". Would I like it better with Max? I'm sure a lot of folks would, but that's not to discredit a reasonable effort from Green. The grooves in tunes like "Iceberg Dances" are straight from the Chaos A.D. playbook, or reminiscent of other bands from Machine Head to 90s Ministry, and even if a lot of them weren't so interesting, they do at least tap into that same, sweltering testosterone center in the brain that makes you want to riot a little. The lyrics are honestly pretty bland, the usual self-help sociopolitical stuff which is supposed to make you feel good but just doesn't possess enough grasp of imagination, metaphor or catchy phrasing to make that difference. Also it has a song called "Cyber God" and I really wish we were through with everyone having a song dubbed "Cyber" something. That feels 1998 at best.

But it's the strong variation in pacing between thrashers and slower bruisers, and the willingness to toss out a few new ideas like the colorful orchestration synthesized into "Phantom Self" that kept me paying attention through the entirety of the disc, and that give me some further hope that all sparks of inspiration and creativity have not fled the band across the decades, and maybe they're on the verge of producing something great again. That said, I'll gladly take stuff like this in the meantime.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10] (facing the blind of collective delusion)

http://sepultura.com.br/

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Shaarimoth - Temple of the Adversial Fire (2017)

Norway remains slightly underrepresented in the death metal scene, but there have certainly been a number of excellent contributions through the years, from the Darkthrone debut Soulside Journey, through the turbulent stylings of Molested's Blod-draum,  towards the constant shifting and compelling morbid landscapes that make up Obliteration. As with a number of their peers, the members of Shaarimoth hail from the better known of their nation's metal exports genres, comprised of former or current members of Disiplin and Gehenna, and thus their background of experimentation and extremity is crucial to rounding out what is, for the most part, a pretty unique angle of approach to how they tackle the deathening.

Temple of the Adversial Fire is structured more like a narrative sequence of dramatic, roiling peaks and valleys than a more consistent or mathematical, riff-based death metal formula. While there are clearly some trace elements of bands like Morbid Angel, especially in the guttural vocals and the oft alien vectors of composition, it seems as if the trio of F, R, and J seem focused more purely on the ritual experience of the record on the whole than on drafting individual riffs to have an audience throwing horns at the ceiling. Clamorous, noisy bursts of double bass drums and eerier, upper range open string pickings are contrasted with layers of chanted and growled vocals, while there is no shortage of the use of ambient effects from bells and other percussion to more horror-like synths and voices. They play a lot with structure on the whole, to the degree that I never felt I could predict what was going to happen at any given moment, and this unbridled level of creativity cultivates from both their black metal backgrounds and the death metal tropes that inspired them.

The record is saturated with strange anthems like "Lord of Putrefaction" which bounces between both death and thrashing sequences, where some of their most memorable and foreign sounding riffs are scrawled upon a Cyclopean, atmospheric canvas, and "Fires of Molok" which is a really interesting piece with great, fat bass lines and fills, and a shuddering, lurching mid-paced tempo that is threaded through with faster guitar sequences that constantly keep the ear engaged. Dissonant explosions of aggression run aground against consonant, glorious melodies for a really interesting balance that maintains a refreshing flavor throughout the entire track list. That's not to say they can't lay on the more purely Morbid Angel or Behemoth-like maneuvers ("Beast of Lawlessness") and inject them with fits of proficient wizardry for the shred-crowd, but no single side of this album overwhelms the other, and that's clearly a veteran touch.

It's all captured in a mix that is both shadowy and punishing, but never excessively polished to the point that it exits its earthen, organic core (which even the cover hints at). The drums are good and loud, perhaps a little more on my speakers than the guitars which are often lighter, but once they tear out into a heavier sequence all the low and high end balance out to put puncture holes in your spirit and I just loved following the various echoed vocal lines as they ricochet off the cavernous upper ranges of the record. In short, this is a pretty excellent sophomore album from a band which does trace some identity to its legendary forebears, but also broadens its own horizons by taking some similar risks to what those influences were often known for. I've been through it about six times already, and I'm still picking up new details, so it's an easy recommend for people into the more atmospheric but energetic old-school fueled sounds that other bands like Heaving Earth and Nader Sadek have tapped into, or perhaps even Behemoth on The Satanist. Awesome stuff.

Verdict: Win [8.75/10]

http://www.shaarimoth.com/

Monday, January 9, 2017

Bestial Raids - Master Satan's Witchery (2016)

Both the band's name and the album title are pretty apt to tell you what this going to sound like: raw and warlike blackened death metal which is the perfect fit for the Nuclear War Now! imprint upon which it's been released. Master Satan's Witchery sounds like someone took a number of primal extreme metal merchants like Hellhammer, Sarcofago, (old) Sodom and Blasphemy, melted down their essences, stirred them into a cauldron until they had been reduced to an essential, evil oil or ichor, and then corpse painted themselves with the resulting Satan-stuff before taking up rusted axes, spiked gauntlets and armbands, and squeezing themselves into leather and combat boots, with the open exposure of chest hair optional. Now, that sounds pretty goddamn awesome, I will admit...

And on SOME level, Bestial Raids is pretty awesome. They are raw as the fucks they do not give, and this attitude saturates their pounding, grinding, wrenching compositions as if they were rags soaked with blood and vomit. Liberal with the feedback, slathering the rhythm guitars in a tone that will literally churn your stomach, and powered by a percussion section that sounds like a bunch of hard objects being shoved through a lot of mouths full of teeth. They almost sound like a more uppity version of a band like Teitanblood, though a little more punkish in nature and not so absolute in the level of caustic emptiness that their music manifests. But yes, somewhere between those Spaniards' sense of nihilistic tone and the normal goat- or war-metal fixtures you'll find on the rest of the Nuclear War Now! roster or Hell's Headbangers, Masters Satan's Witchery delivers a firebrand of ugliness and punishment which is undoubtedly going to find some audience which deliberately seeks out that sense of infernal truth, blasting and broiling clamor and chaos.

Now, occasionally I would count myself among that audience, but not so much here, because for all its vile aesthetic primacy, this record just falls short for me when it comes to creating memorable riffs of any sort. They feel like half-formed things writhing in the murk of the distortion, and while that is indeed the modus operandi behind records like this, it just didn't last beyond the mandatory spins I take through a review title. The snarls and barked out vocals are fitting, the energy on all out assaults like "Angel of the Abyss" is one that I can appreciate, and Bestial Raids do live up to the task of creating a propulsive paean to the first wave abominations that influenced them, but I just feel at this point like I've heard too many of these sorts of records, that I can't normally be inspired by the raunchy atmosphere and instinctual savagery alone, that they require something a little extra, and Master Satan's Witchery didn't quite have it. But, there are certainly folks out there who are going to get a lot more from this than I did, so if you're into bands like Black Witchery, Proclamation or the unholy Canadian trio of Blasphemy, Conqueror and Revenge, have at it.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

https://bestialraidsofficial.bandcamp.com/

Friday, January 6, 2017

Substratum - Substratum (2016)

Another album emblematic that heavy metal can feel both 'retro' and like it's covering a patch of new ground simultaneously, the eponymous Substratum debut came a little late in the year for me to court it as much as other 2016 greats by Sumerlands, Spell, and Eternal Champion. But not TOO late, of course, never too late because this Washington state act's music has a timeless quality to it which functions without friction alongside those 80s bands and sounds from which it is partly indebted, which alone should stoke the nostalgia of those who were around at that time listening deep to the rosters of labels like Metal Blade, Roadracer/Roadrunner and New Renaissance, back when 'pure' heavy, speed and proto power metal composed a large percentage of their rosters.

Substratum might not come across as science fiction as its cover artwork implies, but the band has a number of weapons at its disposal which bear mentioning. First, there's a real strength to the rhythm guitar riffing which isn't founded on aggression or technicality, but on nuance and detail and just enough of an adventurous bent that each tune feels like it's bringing something newer than the last. From the raw chugging mid-paced neckbrace riffs to the more melodic maneuvers, each feels fairly fleshed out, while leaving space for some busy and interesting, nimble Harris-like bass lines that don't simply clone the rhythm guitars 100%. Leads erupt with precision, but again we're not dealing with a band that tries to be too cocky or flashy, so they never bite off more than they can chew, and the solos are memorable enough on their own to stand up against the excellent, choppy riffing dispersed over the nine tracks. Add to this a solid, bright, crashing drum mix and the rather organic, not overly processed tone used for the guitars and you've got an album that feels like it could be played right in front of you in a studio session or on a stage.

But for many listeners, it's vocalist Amy Lee Carlson who will steal the show, possessed of a rich and bewitching timbre that is both varied and just edgy enough to sound like she means it. It's hard to pin it down exactly, because I can hear elements of everyone from James Rivera and Eric A.K. to Ann Boleyn and Debbie Gunn, and she's not afraid to mix up the bite or sustain with which she delivers each verse or chorus. I won't say they're all equally perfect lines, but that's another thing...she's just getting started here, like the quintet as a whole. There still seems plenty of room to grow, but this debut is already a formidable springboard from which to launch future ideas. A great balance of tempo and technique, Substratum is a debut disc which feels 'lived in', like a lot of care was placed into creating something genuine and not just a soulless doppelganger for the sounds that inspired it. That's not to say it's strikingly original or immortally catchy, but it's more than just checking off its necessary boxes, and more than enough to subscribe me to whatever they'll pursue next.

Verdict; Win [8/10]

https://www.facebook.com/substratumseattle/

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Haxxan - Loch Ness Rising (2016)

Killjoy's raucous, overbearing, expressive snarl almost gives him an unfair advantage when it comes to fronting extreme metal, and I'd have to say that pays off rather well on Haxxan's debut Loch Ness Rising, an effort which has come out of seemingly nowhere to debut on the suitably sinister Hells Headbangers imprint. He is not the only member of Necrophagia to feature on this project, however, because it is basically that entire band in its current incarnation trying out a marginally different style than on their mainstay. And I have to say, those differences are what gives this one a rather intriguing polish, to the point that I found this record superior to a lot of what its better known counterpart has been producing for the last decade and change.

It definitely cultivates some comparisons to Necrophagia, not only in the vocals themselves but also the use of slower, thrashier riff sections which hearken back to a classic Hellhammer/Celtic Frost aesthetic, but also remind me of that band's other Midwest US protegees like Usurper. Samples are incorporated sparingly when they can create a morbid or martial atmosphere over the simpler riffs, and they'll also sprinkle on organ-like synths or other effects that bind together well under Killjoy's verbal splattering, and create a little bit of a cult/Hammer horror vibe encased in an occult black metal flesh. Often you'll pull away this black & roll feel, as if they were channeling Satyricon off their last 3-4 albums, which is no big surprise since there are the obvious off-project ties to that band. But where I was actually taken aback were a few of the harmonies and melodies they'll lace through the more commonplace rhythms, giving it a nice, majestic icing to its evil heart...several times across the track list, for example in "Arcanum Arcanorum".

Some of the rhythms themselves will rock your face off, like those of "Babalon" or "Disciples of the Silent", just simple and oblique and Satanic-as-fuck grooves which instantly brought be back about 30 years to when that was a profound practice against the backdrop of metal bands getting increasingly more tech and extreme. Haxxan know with surety what they are setting out to do here, and every one of those bold riffs is balanced out with some higher pitched, evil notes and Killjoy's unmistakable multi-beast growls. The more experimental stuff like the Eastern-flavored instrumental "Aiwass" offers a decent break in the action, and seems to be paying further homage to the record's theme (Aleister Crowley), but ultimately it's just those Inferno-rocking patterns of chords and snarls that really won me over with this. A strong, steady, evil debut for those moments when you don't feel like you need much speed, just a surefire vehicle towards damnation.

Verdict: Win [8/10]

https://www.facebook.com/Haxxan-174927032567336/

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mordskog - XIII (2017)

Mordskog sets up its debut full-length XIII quite well, with a haunting, writhing acoustic piece that instantly manifests a dark, unhinged mood through both its vocal narration and accompanying whispers you can hear right at the edge of perception, while a deeper drum beats up a clamor in the background. This isn't the only ritualistic piece on the entire album, and similar aesthetics pervade even some of the more straightforward tracks, but as so often happens with bookend intros and outros, it created an aura of mysticism and the occult which can't quite be captured in the pure black metal that dominates the rest of the disc. To that extent, I suppose I could only have emerged a little disappointed with the rest of the material...

But not because the Mexican trio is incompetent by any means at summoning up vile tremolo picked patterns that straddle the border between black and death metal, or the steady lava floes of hellish chords that seem drawn directly from the roots of the genre, when simpler patterns slathered in rasping vocals were what reigned, and not attempts at orchestration or complexity. At its heart, XIII is a paean to when the style felt  at underground, with a few slivers of novelty in how they'll carve out the cleaner or chant-like vocal lines and aforementioned atmospherics against the grating rhythm guitars. There is a bit of variation in the picking style, for instance in "Aequo Pulsat Pede" a couple of their winding melodic patterns were redolent of old Rotting Christ, and other parts reminiscent of the mood and primacy of vintage Samael. But if were straight down to the riffs, they don't really have a ton to offer that feel fresh or memorable, so you really have to focus in on those little bass grooves, or the wealth of different vocals, or just the overall evil shadow they collectively cast, to find yourself truly absorbed.

Mordskog are no rank amateurs, and several of them have played live or in studio with other bands from Hacavitz to Endstille to Vital Remains, and so there's definitely a level of confidence and maturity in how they put these tracks together which serves to overcome the predictability I felt for some of the playing. The production is clear but moody, with some real solid drumming and a good balance between all the instruments, which in turn doesn't manage to obfuscate the varied vocal tricks and chants they employ throughout the album. They also fill out their songs with just enough of a shift in tempo and riff construction so that they never fall into the trap of dull repetition; and just as they begun the effort with an intriguing opener, they end with a clanging industrial/noise piece which also kind of takes you by surprise. Definitely not a bad listen here, but I'd like to hear them go a little further outside the norm with the riffs themselves.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

https://www.facebook.com/mordskog

Saturday, December 31, 2016

16s for '16.

My Top 16x2 Metal Albums of 2016

01. Deströyer 666 (Au) Wildfire
02. Voivod (Ca) Post-Society
03. Virus (No) Memento Collider
04. Ihsahn (No) Arktis.
05. Hail Spirit Noir (Gr) Mayhem in Blue
06. Mouth of the Architect (US) Path of Eight
07. Whipstriker (Br) Only Filth Will Prevail
08. High Spirits (US) Motivator
09. Opeth (Se) Sorceress
10. Lesbian (US) Hallucinogenesis
11. Howls of Ebb (US) Cursus Impasse: The Pendlomic Vows
12. Deathspell Omega (Fr) The Synarchy of Molten Bones
13. Hammers of Misfortune (US) Dead Revolution
14. Oranssi Pazuzu (Fi) Varahtelija
15. Sumerlands (US) Sumerlands
16. Paradox (De) Pangea
17. Vanhelgd (Se) Temple of Phobos
18. Morgue Supplier (US) Morgue Supplier
19. Borknagar (No) Winter Thrice
20. Khemmis (US) Hunted
21. Chthe'ilist (Ca) Le dernier crepuscule
22. Cadaveric Fumes (Fr) Dimensions Obscure
23. Spell (Ca) For None and All
24. Gravebreaker (Se) Sacrifice
25. Blood Incantation (US) Starspawn
26. Reptilian (No) Perennial Void Traverse
27. Zaum (Ca) Eidolon
28. Eternal Champion (US) The Armor of Ire
29. Witherscape (Se) The Northern Sanctuary
30. Stilla (Se) Skuggflock
31. The Levitation Hex (Au) Cohesion
32. Miasmal (Se) Tides of Omniscience

As usual, there's a much longer list over at RYM with brief descriptions of each, but not in any sort of hierarchical order. Sample size was 758 albums and EPs that I listened through in 2016, and for the first time, I'm actually combining both formats into one single list (the Voivod really was that good).

My Top 16 Non-Metal Albums of 2016

01. White Lung (Ca) Paradise
02. Perturbator (Fr) The Uncanny Valley
03. A Tribe Called Quest (US) We Got it From Here...
04. Weezer (US) The White Album
05. Wardruna (No) Runaljod - Ragnarok
06. Youth Code (US) Commitment to Complications
07. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizzard (Au) Nonagon Infinity
08. Radiohead (UK) A Moon Shaped Pool
09. The Neon Demon Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
10. David Bowie (UK) Blackstar
11. Street Sects (US) End Position
12. Strvngers (Ca) Sonic Erotica
13. Phantogram (US) THREE
14. Kanga (US) Kanga
15. Bat for Lashes (UK) The Bride
16. Death Grips (US) Bottomless Pit

My Top 16 New Movies of 2016

01. Kubo and the Two Strings
02. Midnight Special
03. The Handmaiden
04. The Revenant
05. Your Name
06. Zootopia
07. Captain Fantastic
08. Captain America: Civil War
09. Approaching the Unknown
10. The Lobster
11. Batman: The Killing Joke
12. 10 Cloverfield Lane
13. The Nice Guys
14. Hacksaw Ridge
15. Deadpool
16. Doctor Strange

My Top 16 New Games on a Screen in 2016

01. The Witness (PC, PS4, Xone, iOS)
02. Civilization VI (PC)
03. Dishonored 2 (PC, PS4, Xone)
04. Stardew Valley (PC, PS4, Xone)
05. Salt & Sanctuary (PC, PS4, Vita)
06. Total War: Warhammer (PC)
07. Hyper Light Drifter (PC, PS4, Xone, Ouya)
08. The Banner Saga 2 (PC, PS4, Xone, iOS, Android)
09. Firewatch (PC, PS4, Xone)
10. Ratchet & Clank (PS4)
11. Darkest Dungeon (PC, PS4, Vita)
12. Enter the Gungeon (PC, PS4)
13. Dark Souls III (PC, PS4, Xone)
14. World of Warcraft: Legion (PC)
15. Final Fantasy XV (PS4, Xone)
16. Starbound (PC, PS4, Vita, Xone)

My Top 16 New Games on a Tabletop in 2016

01. 7th Sea 2nd Edition (RPG)
02. Inis (board game)
03. Clank (board game)
04. Oceanos (board game)
05. Quadropolis (board game)
06. Aeon's End (board game)
07. Arkham Horror (card game)
08. Manhattan Project: Energy Empire (board game)
09. Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition (board game)
10. Pandemic: Reign of Cthulhu (board game)
11. Oracle of Delphi (board game)
12. Imhotep (board game)
13. Star Trek Panic (board game)
14. Gods of the Fall (RPG)
15. Jorvik (board game)
16. Odin's Ravens 2nd Edition (card game)

My Top 16 New Novels for 2016

01. China Mieville The Last Days of New Paris
02. Guy Gavriel Kay Children of Earth and Sky
03. Steven Erikson Fall of Light (Khakanas #2)
04. John Langan The Fisherman
05. Dan Vyleta Smoke
06. R. Scott Bakker The Great Ordeal (Aspect-Emperor #3)
07. Aaron Dembski-Bowden The Master of Mankind (Horus Heresy #41)
08. Alan Moore Jerusalem
09. Yoon Ha Lee The Ninefox Gambit
10. Brian Staveley The Last Mortal Bond (Unhewn Bond #3)
11. Bradley P. Beaulieu Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (Shattered Sands #1)
12. John C. Wright The Vindication of Man (Countdown #4)
13. Adrian Tchaikovsky Spiderlight
14. Drew Magary The Hike
15. Mark Lawrence The Wheel of Osheim (Red Queen's War #3)
16. Lily Brooks-Dalton Good Morning, Midnight

My Top 16 New Comics for 2016
01. Weird Detective (Dark Horse)
02. Future Quest (DC)
03. Black Hammer (Dark Horse)
04. Black Road (Image)
05. Batman TMNT (DC/IDW)
06. Rough Riders (Aftershock)
07. Batman: Europa (DC)
08. Over the Garden Wall (kaboom!)
09. Lake of Fire (Image)
10. Midnighter and Apollo (DC)
11. Moon Knight (Marvel)
12. The Black Monday Murders (Image)
13. Doom Patrol (DC/Young Animal)
14. 4001 A.D. (Valiant)
15. The Dark Knight III: The Master Race (DC)
16 Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (Marvel)

This is a new category I'm trying out, for titles with 2 or more new issues this year.

Was also going to do a new TV shows list, but it'd be pretty short...

Westworld
Stranger Things
Son of Zorn
Justice League Action

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Putrified - The Flesh. The Scythe. The Tomb. EP (2016)

It's always welcome to hear a Swedish death metal band that does not necessarily conform to the prevalent trends of that country, which is of course the endless recycling of ideas set forth by the luminaries Entombed and Dismember to the point that they've become tiresome when not written and performed exquisitely. Now, to be fair, that DOES still happen from time to time, but I've long been more interested in the groups like Repugnant, Necrovation, Corrosive Carcass or Bastard Priest who marry some of those predictable aesthetics to something other than the pure tone-driven schematics so many of the 4th and 5th generation impersonators live and die on. Putrified, a younger band with a couple demos and EPs under their belt, does at least fall into this camp, even if the material on The Flesh. The Scythe. The Tomb. isn't exactly super catchy or mind blowing.

They do rely on some familiar tropes like a couple thrusting D-beat rhythms, but even there they do so more from the hardcore/punk side than the death metal of their peers. Vocally I am reminded of the legendary Martin van Drunen, with a caustic and grotesque growl that feels like the singer's entrails are being unraveled while he is recording, albeit not quite so bloody or memorable. Guitars are dirty but they don't employ the same precise HM-2 tone you've become too overly accustomed to. That said, they're not beyond mixing things up, as they do with their B-side acoustic segues dubbed the "Maleficium" duo. The drums are tinny and intense, and the band also employs a little more of a forceful melodic bent that, when combined with the raving vocals and raw speed, verges on a more intense black or war metal aesthetic which also adds some much needed variation. It's all cast in the gloom of that ages old sort of primal production value which will inevitable render it timeless, not because all the songs are amazing but just because it feels so pure.

Second half of the EP, minus those mentioned instrumentals, is devoted to a pair of covers, and while I can give or take the abusive version of the Misfits' "Devil's Whorehouse", which has been ramped up in intensity, the rendition of Celtic Frost's "Morbid Tales" is a real treat, supplanting some of the more leaden groove dimensions of the original with pure black/death metal bursts that make the breakdown just as sick as ever, and the echoed vocals and edge-of-perception organ ambiance do a lot to help transform this into something which feels more in line with the Putrified originals. Not to put down their own tunes earlier on the recording, but this was actually my favorite part of the recording. That said, while this collection of tracks overall didn't completely sate me, I definitely did enjoy the style and the production they used here, so when time comes for a full-length I'm likely to check it out and hope that it persists with this sort of blasphemous, energetic, but cavernous atmosphere.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

https://www.facebook.com/Putrified-139314062811752/