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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Manhattan Project - Engineering Chaos

Artist: The Manhattan Project
Release Title: Engineering Chaos
Year: 2016
Label: Self-Released/Independent
Genre: Progressive/Djent
1. Engineering Chaos
2. The Manhattan Project
3. A Vitruvian Paradox
4. The God Complex
5. Vishnu
6. X - 10
7. Nuclear Sun
8. Metanoia
9. Day One: Trinity

Formed in 2013, Greek progressive metallers The Manhattan Project have brought a fine fusion of progressive, symphonic and djent material to the table with some startling technical ability to enhance their modernistic approach. Refining and honing their sound over the intervening years, the group finally prepares it’s debut full-length album that was self-released on December 9, 2016.

On the whole, the album here is mostly based on a strong central framework of tight, technically-challenging progressive rhythms. Loaded with sterling displays of complex, challenging riff-work that offers grand sweeping displays of styles ranging from shredding virtuoso leads to deep, churning grooves and even blistering djent rhythms that are incredibly dynamic in range as well as feverish intensity, the guitar-work on display offers plenty of great and worthwhile moments. With the album favoring to pair these elements alongside pounding drumming and rather fine bass-work to shore up the heavy-hitting aspects here, there’s plenty to like here with the main approach before it gets to the biggest highlight in its outstanding keyboard work. Featuring plenty of grandiose, cinematic-style material that’s exceptionally impressive by adding an additional layer to the remaining parts of the material and coming off with a fine fusion-style of djent, prog and orchestral styles that mixes together exceptionally well. The album does seem to run into a problem of coming across way too stagnant and mechanical at times with it’s rather one-note sound being frequently the target of overly-familiar and commonly-used patterns that makes the album a clone of itself far too often. For a debut effort, though, that’s not as big of an issue as it could’ve been.

While featuring a few minor problems with the overall familiar approach of the material, the group is nonetheless off to a solid start in the genre with a rather enjoyable offering that puts up enough to really like for fans of the more modern djent or progressive sounds who are encouraged to check them out while all others should heed caution.

Score: 81/100

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

F.O.A.D. - Birth of Extinction

Artist: F.O.A.D.
Release Title: Birth of Extinction
Year: 2016
Label: Defense Records
Genre: Old-School Thrash Metal
1. Avoid the Smell of Semen
2. Chaos of Reign
3. Legion of the Dead
4. Doomed Rebirth of Christ
5. Deathcamp VIII
6. Bastard Son
7. Holiday in Armenia
8. Among the Living Carcass
9. Bastard Son
10. Doomed Rebirth of Christ
11. Morbid Truth

Initially formed back in the 1980s, Swedish thrashers F.O.A.D. existed in various forms until 2012 when the bands’ line-up solidified and the group was able to finally release their first song before proper demo material arrived several years later. Recorded as a three-piece before being joined by second guitarist Steffan Johansson, the groups’ full-length demo bolstered by their demos was originally released November 25, 2016 on Defense Records.

Being conceived in the original birth of the genre, there’s quite a lot of rather impressive old-school moments on display throughout this one. This readily employs fiery, frantic thrash riffing and charging patterns sweeping along at generous, dynamic patterns full of vicious thrash that rips out tight, energetic rhythms that are full of a dark, decrepit atmosphere straight from the genre’s early days. Keeping the ravenous work in check is a series of more mid-tempo and crunchy style of riffing that enables for a still-intense if slightly more melodic series of rhythm patterns that lets the riff-work breathe a little more and opening up a nice variation for the material to not remain strictly one-dimensional which besets the album’s single biggest qualm. The album isn’t really that distinguished by a great deal of innovative and memorable moments as the vast majority of the album rips through its blend of fiery arrangements that are competently pulled off and executed but don’t have much else going for them. There are points where it dips into the familiar quite too often to dole out the violence, and it doesn’t really handle the kind of impact it really should. Likewise, the fact that this one comes complete with demo recordings that are quite obviously of a lower quality and taken from a different recording session yet is passed off as a full-length makes for a jarring and nonsensical feel which causes this to stick out rather sharply. Overall, though, considering it’s a debut it’s not too much of a detriment.

Overall not all that terrible of a release and certainly one with its fair share of positives, the fact that there’s quite a lot to really like with the influx of old-school rhythms and arrangements, no matter how cliche and familiar they may be, make for a nice addition to any old-school thrash fan in particular.

Score: 79/100

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Astrophobos - Enthroned in Flesh EP

Artist: Astrophobos
Release Title; Enthroned in Flesh EP
Year: 2016
Label: Triumvirate Records
Genre: Old-School Black Metal
1. Enthroned in Flesh
2. Tabula Rasa
3. Blood Libation
4. The Cadaver Monarch

Never one to rush through a release, Swedish black metallers Astrophobos have long been built on their willingness to contribute their full will to their work by taking plenty of time to hone and fine-tune their craft without rushing anything out under their name. After a two-year break from their debut full-length that shows Fredrik Widigs as a session drummer, their new EP was released August 26, 2016 on Triumvirate Records.

As was apparent on their previous efforts, the band is simply out tackling the same fertile and explosive grounds that was laid down back in mid-90s Norway. Firing off those ever-familiar swirling tremolo-picked rhythms and smoldering, brimstone-accented riffing that packs a punch with fiery, dynamic patterns and galloping up-tempo paces with plenty of fervor and enthusiasm, tackling the expected arrangements and tone effectively throughout here. This is pretty much the main guise of the effort which keeps this running short and to-the-point throughout here until it gets to the epic closer, which nicely switches this up into a far more complex and sweeping series of arrangements with the extra running time allowing for the different variances to be present through here to counteract the more traditional elements. That, in a nutshell, is the album’s main problem in that it’s just way too familiar and similar to most other second-wave black metal elements, as it’s the same general tremolo riffing backed by blasting drum-work that’s become quite commonplace throughout here. It’s really the biggest issue against this as despite the short length there’s not a whole lot really wrong with it.

With a lot of high-quality work and no real down-spots other than the overly-familiar and similar rhythms here as part of their old-school homage, there’s more than enough to really get into this one and makes for quite a worthwhile choice of second-wave aficionados or fans of the bands’ previous works.

Score: 85/100

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Skeletal - Dreadful Life

Artist: Skeletal
Release Title: Dreadful Life
Year: 2017
Label: Inverse Records
Genre: Retro Death Metal
1. Death Works Overtime
2. Sewers of This World
3. Leap of Faith
4. Life and Dread
5. Downward Spiral
6. Reaching Out
7. Ravaged
8. Return to the Grave

Formed back in 2007, Finnish death metallers Skeletal emerged from the underground to once again spread the classic, old-school approach to the genre which makes for yet another band in the crowded field of European revivalist death metal bands. With the band slowly and surely getting better with each release, the groups’ debut full-length was released February 2, 2017 on Inverse Records.

Immediately out of the gate, the band attempts to display their love of classic and old-school death metal with a churning, frantic sonic attack that’s quite boisterous and dynamic. There’s a blistering, fiery sense of old-school elements present throughout here with the album generally bouncing along to feverish, frantic tempos that bring along most of the absolutely engaging moments within this one. Coupled with the fact that the majority of tracks feature blistering thrash-style riff-work and dark, sprawling rhythms alongside those sparkling tremolo-picked accents, altogether these elements help with the old-school feel while also managing to be such enjoyable patterns and arrangements that they’re immensely enjoyable on their own. When this drops into more relaxed territory, there’s a shift away from the thrashing energies into a more tight, mid-tempo crunch that offers a steadier influence on their pacing which makes for a striking and enjoyable companion piece of material which isn’t far removed from the ravenous and thrashing earlier material and changes it up just enough to get some wholly enjoyable work thrown in as a result which is what makes for a great time overall here. The only place it stumbles is the rather weak, plodding piece that just doesn’t offer up much here and seems like it’s out-of-place with the material as a whole which does lower this one slightly. Otherwise, this one is such a fun and engaging old-school style release.

Filled with a lot of rather engaging and enjoyable positives throughout here, there’s plenty to like about this which is surprisingly heavy and vibrant for a debut release which makes this one a particularly strong and worthwhile offering for all fans into revivalist or simply old-school death in general.

Score: 95/100

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valfreya - Promised Land

Artist: Valfreya
Release Title: Promised Land
Year: 2017
Label: Independent/Self-Released
Genre: Melodic Folk/Black Metal
1. Horizon
2. Odin's Fury
3. Mortal Supremacy
4. Pandemonium
5. The Icelanding Sagas
6. Shame and Despair
7. Peuple du nord
8. Promised Land
9. The Choice
10. Warlords
11. Evolution
12. Undying Tale

Trying to harness their sound, Canadian folk/black metallers Valfreya have spent many years being able to hone their unique and engaging mix of folk and black metal together in a fine mix of styles that continue to show inspiration and influence from Norse mythology. Having dominated the live scene in the interim, the group finally returns from a five-year gap with their self-released sophomore effort January 10, 2017.

Coming across immediately, the band offers a stellar outpouring of their chosen style as they offer some of the finest concoctions of their style as they can. The major focus here is on the tight, lock-step riffing that manages to simultaneously merge their stuttering folk leanings chugging along with the stellar tremolo-picked melodies of their black metal side. This framework makes the material here come off with a highly appealing side as the folk-driven black metal is tinged with nice symphonics to complete an engaging overall atmosphere that captures the epic spirit involved in the conceptual storyline running throughout the album. Given that this epic splendor results in the vast majority of the album containing a rousing, bombastic feel throughout this is played at a bouncy, up-tempo pace that perfectly suits the album’s given themes and manages to give this a strong, stylish and engaging tone that makes for a really enjoyable listen. The biggest issue here is that the album tends to come off rather stuffed and full, especially in the later half where it’s simply more of the same being presented here since this one doesn’t really offer up too much all that different from the vast majority of the other tracks here which means that the album runs together and becomes hard to distinguish from itself quite easily. However, this isn’t that big of a detriment with all the enjoyable material present elsewhere.

Although it’s a little bit longer than what it really should be, the fact that there’s far more to enjoy about this one with its strong mixture of raging folk tunes and fiery black metal rhythms makes this one a fine choice for aficionados of folk-influenced black metal or this type of material in general.

Score: 90/100

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Grond (Rus) - Worship the Kraken

Artist: Grond (Rus)
Release Title: Worship the Kraken
Year: 2016
Label: Xtreem Music
Genre: Old-School Death Metal
1. Invocation
2. Kronos the Devourer
3. Steel Coffins
4. White Waters of South
5. Blood Monk (Goatlord cover)
6. Worship the Kraken
7. Below the Thunders...
8. Devonian Tyrant
9. Japetus the Ice Gate
10. Typhoon Is Coming

Stepping furthering into the abyss, Russian death metal horde Grond have taken the H.P. Lovecraft influences both in their sound as well as lyrical matters as these influx of elements into their old-school death metal format turns into a far more dangerous entity than before. Following up the EP release the year before and being the last output as a three-piece outfit, the groups’ sophomore effort was released July 1, 2016 on Xtreem Music.

Considering the bands’ influences, this one comes as no surprise what to expect throughout here with this one really exploring these to it’s fullest extent. Opening up immediately with the churning, deep grooves of the Swedish-style scene with the swirling patterns charging in the mid-tempo realms with a series of blistering patterns in tight, controlled measures. It makes for a wholly aggressive time here with the album’s main rhythms carrying the film along through the atmospheric sections, and with the balancing act carried out here by going for the straightforward, simplistic chug style of riffing there’s the ever-present balance of intensity and aggression with more restrained and controlled setups. In the end, though, that mid-tempo churn ends up being the album’s main downfall. The preponderance of thick, atmospheric riffing that’s present here doesn’t sound in the slightest bit interesting at a slower level as the deceleration into doom-like tempos comes off as entirely draining on the experience as a whole as the counter to the lively mid-tempo elements offer a far less involved sense of energy. It comes off without all the same energy and ruthless intensity in these sections which manages to hold off the best sections of the album into spurts that are enjoyable when they appear but still doesn’t come off with the interest level it really should. It’s where the album stumbles, and is what keeps it down.

While it’s not nearly as interesting when it slows itself down into the more doom-centered sections as it does in the more straightforward death metal sections, those overall enjoyable death metal sections are enough to make this a somewhat worthy choice for those into the Locevraftian style of old-school death metal.

Score: 83/100

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Guttural Corpora Cavernosa - You Should Have Died When I Killed You

Artist: Guttural Corpora Cavernosa
Release Title: You Should Have Died When I Killed You
Year: 2016
Label: Gore House Productions
Genre: Brutal/Slam Death Metal
1. Blood Has Been Spilt
2. See You in Disneyland
3. Remorse for What
4. I Want to See the Light Leave Your Eyes
5. Does He Twitch and Jerk?
6. Anyway, I Had a Good Time
7. There Is No Remedy for It
8. They Would Wiggle and Squirm
9. Crazy World. Lot of Smells.
10. If Anybody Says Their Facelift Doesn't Hurt, They're Lying
11. You Should Have Died When I Killed You

Coming back into action, Taiwanese slammers Guttural Corpora Cavernosa brings their trademark sense of professionalism and general competence when it comes to the genre yet offers a slightly more impressive bent on the material than last time. Having spent the four-year gap obviously honing and fine-tuning their material, the bands’ sophomore effort was released July 8, 2016 on Gore House Productions.

Perfectly capturing the intensity and savagery of the style, the band immediately gets their main influences out in full accordance with the style. Rife with deep, thick riffing full of wet slams and heavy-hitting rhythms that are full of the slowed, simplistic style of the genre as this riff-work comes off with the same type of mid-tempo groove favored throughout here. It’s tight, vicious and quite intense for the most part here as the thick riffs and pummeling rhythms carry this one along quite decently when it wants to here. As simple-minded as it seems, the fact that it still manages to capture the necessary brutality in the riffing thumping along to ferocious slam patterns pummeling throughout here which does get quite enjoyable. While this approach doesn’t make for a bad approach, there’s a singular underriding flaw in this which comes off as way too formulaic and simple-minded than it really needs to be. For the most part, there’s so little changed from the common-ground attack utilized in the genre that it’s not only difficult to pick out what tracks are playing but also distinguishing the band from others in the genre as this one doesn’t leave all that much to chance here simply going through thick slams without really changing up much throughout here. It’s compounded by the fact that this one has such a dreary pace for much of it’s running time that the dull tempos only enhance the rather lagging approach to this one, leaving it quite unremarkable here.

While there’s some solid and at times engaging work here, the utterly bland tempos and an overall majority of rather familiar work to be found here makes this one quite a problematic affair to behold and really only makes this one a pick only for slammer completists or the undiscerning brutal death fanatic.

Score: 59/100

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Yayla -

Artist: Yayla
Release Title:
Year: 2017
Label: Merdümgiriz Records
Genre: Ambient Black Metal
1. Altars in Temple Sewers
2. Everyday Is Death for Us
3. Pandora
4. Funeral
5. Steadfast Chaos
6. Endless Regrets
7. Mantras of Separation
8. Rats
9. Pastorale
10. They Are Losing You from Me

Finally coming back to form, Turkish ambient black metallers Yayla are joining the continued and expanding ranks of work from mastermind Emir Toğrul as he continues to explore the psychotic madness with yet another one of his solo efforts. Abandoning the approach of the bands’ original works with the five-year layoff, the bands’ return effort and fifth overall was originally released February 5, 2017 on Merdümgiriz Records.

Much like with the vast majority of the bands’ previous efforts, the overwhelming sense of this one is still right up-front with the overbearing ambient elements. Fueled by the dark, desolate guitars droning on endlessly throughout the soundscape here alongside the rampaging drum-work that’s utterly nightmarish, there’s such a strong and overall impactful amount of churning tremolo rhythms to drive this one along rather nicely. This atmospheric black metal-laced background is complimented nicely by the ever-present synths that adds a further dimension to the work throughout here, generating the kind of atmospheric evocations of madness typified by the droning riff-work as well as providing the melodic outlines for the stylish interludes that break up the aural assault featured elsewhere. It’s a strong and dynamic approach that results in finely-crafted, unrelenting assaults of melodic turmoil and madness with outbursts of furious black metal energies, and that serves this one well for the most part while pointing out one minor aspect of this that is a minor drawback. The album’s insistence on providing as many interludes as it does here is enough to interrupt the flow of the album’s descent into madness that was so engaging and coordinated that it feels somewhat like another band broke into the recording and placed them there as they’re stylistically out-of-place with the slower relaxing moods in place of the charging aggression and ambient workouts that were so proficient. Still, that’s not nearly enough to worry too much about this one.

Managing to work out quite a solid and impressive series of elements together with plenty of enjoyable features, this is an extremely strong and dynamic offering that continues to offer up Emir as one of the finest musicians in extreme metal and makes this a worthwhile offering for any fan of his other acts, the genre as a whole or the band’s past efforts.

Score: 92/100

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Victorius - Heart of the Phoenix

Artist: Victorius
Release Title: Heart of the Phoenix
Year: 2017
Label: Massacre Records
Genre: Power Metal
1. Shadow Warriors
2. Hero
3. End of the Rainbow
4. Die by My Sword
5. Sons of Orion
6. Heart of the Phoenix
7. Empire of the Dragonking
8. Hammer of Justice
9. Beyond the Iron Sky
10. Virus
11. A Million Lightyears

Following their current trend, German power metallers Victorius have been continuing to hone their skills in the live format as the bands’ recent hiatus has allowed them to produce a tighter, more vibrant sound through all the enhanced activity they went through. With the live activity resulting in a three-year gap between releases, the groups’ fourth full-length was originally released January 13, 2017 on Massacre Records.

Almost immediately, it’s apparent that the bands’ hard work has paid off in dividends as there’s an immense blast of forceful and power-packed power metal. Taking the same general approach as before which takes the form of sterling rhythms, triumphant vocals and sparkling melodies interwoven into a tight, charging speed-metal core, forming the essence of plenty of spectacular power metal bands throughout its history. As well, these tracks that gallop along at rather nice mid-tempo speeds here rather than going overboard with the bombastic overkill balance out the more chugging-centered patterns that hold off the driving rhythms in favor of harmony-laden keyboard and more cheese-driven speedsters that tend to be more emblematic of the genre’s more current output of layering plenty of the keyboards and vocals over the driving drumming and explosive guitar melodies that adds worlds of harmonious rhythms to the tracks throughout here by adding the triumphant nature to a strong baseline of work. The strong melodic interjections work quite nicely here at forming a blistering sense of power running through a toughened exterior, though it does highlight the fact that the band does dip into those shallower depths somewhat frequently and brings about a rather formulaic approach which doesn’t need to be there with the album working nicely with the stronger rhythms generating quite a lot to like here and the lighter approach does undo a lot of that good will. It’s not completely extinguished but does bring it down somewhat.

While it’s still a somewhat new and novel experience for the group, there’s plenty to like here with the bands’ rather impressive attack getting utilized to it’s fullest extent which has the great effect of making this one a wholly worthwhile release for fans of triumphant, highly melodic power metal.

Score: 92/100

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Endless Curse - Slave Breeding Industry

Artist: Endless Curse
Release Title: Slave Breeding Industry
Year: 2016
Label: Self-Released/Independent
Genre: Death Metal
1. We Lived in Chains
2. Get Free
3. Boiling Blood
4. Listen
5. I'm Too Old
6. Breathe Greed
7. False Flag

Formed back in 2009, German death metallers Endless Curse have come together to fulfill their mission statement of bringing intense death metal through a series of vicious beatdowns and tight performances utilizing all the extreme elements at their disposal. Following their first EP release, the group went on a four-year hiatus has finally allowed the band to bring out their self-released debut on October 28, 2016.

With a strong preference on utilizing the extremity throughout here, this one really manages to sweep through a wide array of influences to bring out that chosen sound. Fueled by a boiling, rumbling hardcore-influenced riffing style, the short, stuttering tempos are up-front and thoroughly intense throughout here which manages to work quite effectively at generating the pummeling sections required for a primal beatdown. Given that the material is incorporated against thrashy, vicious death metal rhythms and churning arrangements, the fact that there’s a wholly overwhelming and intense sound throughout here makes for quite a strong overall impact throughout here which comes off quite nicely here with the album’s thick, vibrant production that truly maximizes this one’s pummeling and brutal approach. The only downside to that approach is the unfortunate fact of bringing out way too many instances where the material is so similar to each other that the material becomes a general blur of vicious, intense riffing and drumming without distinguishing itself from anything else. There’s a big swath of the album that blends together into the same repetitious elements that come off rather close to each other sonically which is where this one really comes down despite the remainder of the album being quite enjoyable.

As a debut, there’s enough leeway here to hold up the great amount of positive aspects to this one as that comes off rather nicely here and makes this one quite the appealing effort for fans of this rattling, pummeling style of intense death metal or those that prefer the bands’ style of influences.

Score: 80/100

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