Sunday, October 14, 2012
Thornafire (Chile): Eclipse Nox Coagula (Ibex Moon)
The quality of this album is excellent. The songs illustrate a very serious work ethic in terms of guitar riffs utilized and in the ways that the tracks are constructed. In the almost 40 minutes of practically flawless death metal, Thornafire’s songs highlight guitar work that ranges from huge, quick-impact rhythms to cold, dissonant moment of heaviness and sometimes the heavy riffs may have an affinity for the immediacy of thrash guitar, but this is all with a very strong coat of a thick death metal tone. The songs flow so well that perhaps with repeated listens the different elements may become more comprehensible. What the listener will feel is headbanging death metal of excellence.
Thornafire sounds like a very experienced band and have an air of talent and conviction in the execution of the material. The sound is both massively heavy and easy to hear what the band is playing. Here and there, blasting shows up, but mostly Thornafire is uptempo and fast, without employing the blasting constantly. Overall, the drumming is about hitting hard and carrying an intense, distinctive flow.
The personality of the vocal style comes through clearly. At certain moments it is close to the low growling, but overall it is of the more intense, slightly higher growling where there is an intensity or anger that shines through, meaning that enunciation is distinguishable, and it is not just one big blur of growling.
If you are very selective in death metal, Thornafire is a band that is worth your time. In fact, this album competes with the best death metal out there in 2012. They may not famous in the U.S., but fame and quality of music are not the same thing. Quality. Personality. Strong songwriting.
Vesperian Sorrow (U.S.): Stormwinds of Ages (The Path Less Traveled Records)
Call it “symphonic black metal,” but really the most important thing about this album is the band’s objective of creating high quality songs. The atmosphere of the songs revolves around black metal melodic guitar work, enhanced with background atmospheric keyboards. The music exudes complexity in a similar way that Emperor’s music does. It sounds like a lot is happening in the song, there are a lot of layers of things going on and you will hear all sorts of details after repeated listens.
This album is about an hour long; therefore, it is meant to be a total musical experience, in which you already know you will need to hear it lots of times because there is too much going, in a good way.
Personally, I appreciate the type of work that has gone into making such an album. The band is striving for excellence, for a musical adventure with different levels of experiencing the sounds.
Time will tell how well this album will stand up some ten years from now, but it sounds like Vesperian Sorrow has crafted their own masterwork. www.reverbnation.com/vesperiansorrow
Tension Prophecy (Iran): Riot of Sacrificers
On this album Tension Prophecy is doing their darnest to keep their death metal low, blasting and direct. They have the speed and the mosh moments pretty well calculated. “Homicidal Premonitions” is pretty straight from the Suffocation school of death metal. As soon as the song starts, you and your dog should form a circle pit in your room for this one.
When “Necrophobic” kicks in, this one sounds airtight and it’s overkill on the brutality. It’s all good: guitar solos, heavy as a brick guitar riffs and incomprehensible growling. “Pretension until Death” is made for immediate impact. It has a simple beat, and that’s why it tickles your brain so fast. Another good one.
Those are not all the songs, of course, but the main thing is: Tension Prophecy is death metal. Hooray death metal! Basic, good, intense death from Iran. www.reverbnation.com/tensionprophecy
Nocturnal Torment (U.S.): They Come at Night (Deathgasm)
Nocturnal Torment works with the heaviest, thickest, fattest sounding guitar work.
It is not particularly easy to hear clearly what the guitars are playing because the sound is so thick and even sludgy. As a result, the band trades in clarity of instrumentation for a huge wall of sound that is as convincing as it is undeniable.
In theory, this sound probably should not function. Not only are the guitars very low, the vocals sound monotonous and also low. The drumming is of the nonstop blasting and frenzy variety.
Here is the thing, though, Nocturnal Torment captures the attention from the beginning and quickly gets the listener caught up in the barrage. Do the songs sort of sound the same? Sort of! There are slight, almost hidden melodies that make the songs different. Nocturnal Torment is so good at what they do, that you’ll growl along in no time.
Nocturnal Torment plays very fast and sounds massively heavy, proving that they can do both very well. A job done well. Fun. Impressive. www.deathgasm.com
Southwicked (U.S./Belgium): Death’s Crown (Abyss Records)
This band has Allen West, who is of course known for his work with Obituary. Do you happen to like Obituary? Those heavy Obituary grooves and an ear-friendly death metal vibe that I am tempted to call rock and roll. But don’t get the wrong idea. These riffs sound like Obituary and certain parts might remind of certain bits in Obituary albums.
The vocals are low, which is different from Obituary’s painful growling, but the overall drumming, the guitar work and the feel says that Allen West is just doing what Allen West is known for. Listen to those Allen West signature guitar solos!
“Give the people what the people want” is the philosophy this band and Allen West. Personally, I can’t get enough of this stuff. Then again, I do like Obituary a whole lot.
Morbid Execution (Poland): Vulgar Darkness (Deathgasm)
Call it “ancient death metal,” “early death metal style,” or perhaps “primitive death metal.” It is the feeling of death metal that is the crucial centerpiece of the music. Thus, being the fastest, technical or things that constitute musical braggadocio are simply done away with.
The point is to have solid death metal songs where the listener is pulled into the action, and not made to witness as a passive bystander. The songs require little else from the listener, except a love of headbanging metal.
Master/Death Strike, Autopsy, Hellhammer are valid reference points, but I wonder if such a perspective is too narrow. Why would people who totally love Motorhead or Slayer, for instance, not like this music? Maybe even Pantera fans?
Do Motorhead and Autopsy have radically different fundamental goals? Both are about no-nonsense rock n roll. Morbid Execution is no-nonsense rock n roll, but in the form of crushing death metal.
Morbid Execution is, if you will, a simple, un-fancy, non-blasting death metal style. What is important is the overall vibe of heaviness and rawness. Growling with forcefulness, steady-beat uptempo drumming and simple, catchy guitar work that sounds heavy in the old school way.
This is definitely easy to get into. It’s meant that way. Turn it on and get moving. www.deathgasm.com
Makam Selatan (Indonesia): Blasphemer Him
Makam Selatan is bullet belt, corpse-painted angry cat gremlin cave black metal highway to blasting. It sounds ugly, nasty and raw. In other words, Makam Selatan is doing things right. The four songs (18 minutes total time) on this EP are quintessential, stereotypical fast black metal and it will make you glad that these lunatics do it that way because it sounds good.
To hear things correctly, you have to turn this up a lot because this is no big-budget, tech fancy endeavor. It sounds like it was recorded in the grandparents basement. Perfect. I hope they never get a better production because it will ruin the insanity and magic.
They cover Cradle of Filth’s “Devil to the Metal,” but in this way, the song sounds pretty different, more garage black metal. This music is available for free at www.reverbnation.com/MakamSelatanID
Cryptopsy (Canada): Cryptopsy (self-release)
Their previous album “The Unspoken King” apparently angered many listeners that want the band to play technical, skillful death metal, and not deviate into other genres, in particular if it is a trendy style.
The new album “Cryptopsy” presents the band concentrating on able instrumentation, a high-intensity delivery throughout the release. In addition, the band exhibits no desire to freak out the listener with moves of eclecticism. Instead, they laser focus on very upfront and energetic drumming and all-out pounding heaviness.
Fulfilling certain expectations about the name of Cryptopsy signals an album where the objective is live up the musical capital they have built up throughout their existence.
Since Cryptopsy is a famous name in this genre, the main point to emphasize here is that the band has decided to give their public what their public wants. Think of it a very good apology for “The Unspoken King.” www.cryptopsy.ca
Coffin Texts (U.S.): The Tomb of Infinite Ritual (Dark Descent)
Coffin Texts plays serious, big-leagues death metal. It is the type of death metal that immediately sounds like they did not write these songs in a half-hearted, quick way.
I, for one, find the music very satisfying. This type of intense, blasting, frenzied, death metal responds to a metal obsessed mentality, played at such mind-numbing speed that people mosh or go crazy in other ways because it is an instinctive reaction. That is a logical response, as bouncing off the walls would also be.
In reality, the care and attention to detail required to make these songs work means that musicians behind this monster that is Coffin Texts have got to be perfectionists and dedicated to their chosen field. Listen to it with headphones on and it is ridiculous that this sounds so coherent. It sounds like mad scientists putting together chemistry equations of brutality.
Death metal for grown ups? Coffin Texts lays out all their cards on the table for the listener: songs of the highest quality, seriously intense blasting drumming, and the type of vocals that invite the listener to join in because they are pretty infectious. The vocals are all classic-style death metal done by a person who brings a distinctive feel to growling, perhaps with a tad of old black metal feeling, too.
The key words with Coffin Texts are: intelligence in song composition, and earnest devotion to their death metal. www.myspace.com/coffintexts
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Power Theory (U.S.)
On a previous issue, this zine observed that Power Theory’s album “An Axe to Grind” is:
“Straight-up, no-tomfoolery, rocking, mean, traditional heavy metal, as Power Theory have learned from bands like Accept and Judas Priest.
Power Theory has a gritty, hard, street heavy metal sound; thus, this is not “keyboard metal,” nor “symphonic” stuff: just loud guitars, with heavy-metal riffs, and heavy-metal solos; midtempo and uptempo drumming that concentrates on hitting hard (speed is not the main thing) and double-bass kicks in the correct places; and a singer that sounds in the Udo Dirkschneider/Lemmy style.
No sugary melodies, no breakdowns, no blastbeats, no thrash, no core, no emo, no cookie-monster vocals, no stupid hardcore yelling, and any kind of stuff like that.” www.reverbnation.com/powertheory
Bob Ballinger (guitars) replies to some questions.
With “An Axe to Grind”! You have delivered a real heavy metal work, with not a single weak song to be heard anywhere. Can we begin by you telling us about where you, as a band, come from, musically? So, only the guitarist Bob Ballinger remains from 2007, when the band started? What is Colossus and Night Myst, how old are those bands? Was Bob active in heavy metal bands in the 90s?
BB: Hello and Thanks so much. We were all from common, and different, elements of Hard Rock and Metal. I think there are certain bands we all have great respect for, and are influenced by, such as Deep Purple, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, UFO, Manowar, Accept, Saxon, Scorpions, and Savatage. But for example our individual tastes contain: Grave Digger, Running Wild, Type-O-Negative, Metallica, Testament, Sacred Steel, Cirith Ungol …. I could go on and on haha.
Yes from the original line-up only myself but Dave came in not much longer after the start.
Colossus was very ahead of it’s time musically and first surfaced as a 3 piece unit in the early 80’s when Jay and I were very young, a cross of vintage Motorhead, Saxon, and Exciter, there was another line-up a few years later that was 4 piece and Jay and Steve as members and there are some old recordings we have. Night Myst was my first band I assembled when I fully returned to the scene in the early 2000’s. A Hard Rock-Metal band that self-released a 5 song EP called “Nocturnal Demise”, in essence it was an early foundation of Power Theory as some of the EP song riffs were re-worked musically and lyrically by myself and Dave and were recorded on “Metal Forever”, Power Theory’s debut EP. As far as being fully active in the 90’s no, for several reasons: first and foremost I was a young father with 3 sons and my place was to be with them, secondly I was not about to sell myself out and play any of the grunge, ballad, rap/rock, or new metal styles that were mainstream in the 90’s, lastly True Metal never dies so I just kept writing and knew the time would come and then boom Pantera killed the trends.
Your other guitarist Steve Stegg was in metal in the 1980s, like Sleepy Hollow? Does your drummer Lorin Savadore play on this album? Had been long enough in the band for that?
BB: Yes, Steve also was an original founding member of Blood Feast and Tapping the Vein, both bands have had good success. Lorin is the only drummer on “Axe” and has been in the band since June 2011, he is a hard hitting, double bass machine.
Now, the bassist Jay Pekala was also in Colossus and Night Myst, but he only joined Power Theory in 2011? Why is that? And Dave Santini has been in other regional bands? Is that true, like the band RiffRaff? Is that a tribute band to AC/DC?
BB: Jay was a member of Colossus but not Night Myst. We had been living in different areas and such and Jay was avidly teaching Muy Thai fighting and mixed martial arts in NJ and then we got back in touch via Facebook and he came to see us play in his area. Dave was yes, but he too was raising a son and trying to put together a band when we were introduced and he’s been with me since the first “Jam”, no ha ha it was and original metal band but one of my favorite AC/DC songs too.
Playing this type of heavy metal in this day and age, when everyone talks about the crisis of the music industry, what type of expectations of success do you have?
BB: Well, with our first release we got the attention of the market we targeted, the European Metal community and got our foot in the door, and with “An Axe to Grind” I believe we showed strong growth all around and that allowed us to kick that door open wider and start to gain a level of credibility as solid no bullshit band, and with this next release we are now writing and tracking for we have a goal of pushing Power Theory into a “cult” status in the same market and blow the door wide open. It takes some level of work every day to keep this thing going; social media, writing, pr, pr, pr and we have 2 pr companies on our team as well haha. We all have day jobs still because it doesn’t pay the bills, but that is not why we do this, we love it and are realistic to know the days of industry excess and gluttony are gone. We own all the rights to our masters and our music 100%, we invested our own blood, sweat, and money to get this thing this far and won’t stop. It will eventually pay for itself and then a little more and we know you have to invest in your business to make it grow.
It is very noticeable that you have tightened up the heavy metal quite a bit. For example, there is no love song nor ballad. Is it simply the way things have worked out so far, or do you have a problem with slow songs/ballads?
BB: Haha no problem with those kind of songs, but they are not meant for the type of music we play, slower melodic parts or bridges are okay when they fit the song theme and moods.
How much autotune is there on the vocals? How much overdubbing? If I happen to catch you at the local club, playing, would you say your singer sounds this way, more or less?
BB: There is no auto-tune at all on the vocals and I believe if you see us live you’ll like Dave’s vocals even better, again this is no bullshit heavy metal!
On the song “PureSteel” there is a noticeably bouncy drum beat. It gives the song a very cool vibe. “Deceiver” has a very “bang that head” feel. How do you go about writing songs with a heavy metal anthem style? What is the work ethic of the band, actually?
BB: The songs all start out as riffs and grow from there on, Pure Steel was a riff that turned into a song in the rehearsal room. Some of the riffs were worked out by Jay and I outside (of the rehearsal room) and then completed the songs/arrangements in there with the whole band adding parts. The band rehearses 2 times a week together and everyone does theie homework individually. When studio time is upon us we will add more rehearsal time.
You write songs about playing heavy metal music. Why do you think it is normal for you guys to write self-referential lyrics about the genre you play? Does playing a form of music considered “uncool” by many metal fans into “modern” styles and trends, do you ever feel sick of whatever is the newest thing in metal, be it the breakdowns, the people with the windswept hair, the emo screamo core bands?
BB: Sometimes the songs just have that feeling and they come out that way, but we really don’t try to force it, that’s when themes and lyrics can be too much of the overdone clichés and become too mainstream. A few years back some of the newer types of metal fans started turning their backs to the stage etc., when traditional, true, and power metal bands would play and then only face the newer death, metal core, and extreme genre bands, that’s when the Heavy Metal Scene started to weaken. It created fans who were separatists’ and elitist’s and they failed to support all Heavy Metal, whether it was their favorite genre or not, and the industry looked away from us again. Those fans were too narrow-minded to realize that the newer types of Metal wouldn’t exist if traditional Heavy Metal never existed. But the good news is I see that wall has been broken down lately as the shows we are playing are including more genres of Metal bands that are capable of crossing over.
You have a song called “A Fist in the Face of God,” which I assume is not religion-friendly. Do you have lyrics about the war in Afghanistan or things like social matters? It appears that you do not have too much on things like that, and I wanted to ask why? Do you buy into this idea that musicians should have no opinions about real things, that they should only talk about rock and roll?
BB: No, it’s not really anti-religion at all. Actually, the song is about a person who feels like he lives a good life, doing moral things the “right” way as society says to, and feels God is never there to support him because he’s always getting shit on.
I personally feel that as an artist it is very unfair for me to force my personal political and social beliefs and opinions on people through my art, and I feel there is no place in Heavy Metal for Politics and Religion. I also read a lot of books; history, fact, fiction, fantasy, biography, and a lot of my lyrics are en extension of those, but in a sub-rosa way that I relate to in people I have met and situations I have experienced that are very similar. I just recently read a line that summarized as; “A man who reads will live a thousand different lives, and a man who doesn’t read lives only one…”
Why do you suppose that it is common to hear metal people say that musicians “need to shut up and play yer guitar” and ignorant stuff like that? Do people think that musicians are like circus animals that need to obey the audience’s desire for “pure entertainment” and express no views on war, economics, corporations, capitalism, or the music business or whatnot?
BB: I’m not really sure, some people will never change and are just narrow minded and ignorant. I don’t think so but that kind of thing (protest style music) burned out on me a long time ago and it’s been overdone, again only my opinion and why I chose to deter from it.
Finally, what would Power Theory have to do to get on that New England Metal and Hardcore festival?! Do they have mostly bands with dreadlocks, synchronized jumping, emo core clean/scream stuff? I don't know that much about it! Give the necessary info to be in touch with your band.
BB: Thanks for your time also. Updates, tour dates, and news can be found at: www.facebbok.com/powertheory, www.powertheory.net, www.puresteel-records.com/powertheory.
I don’t know much about the New England festival either, but we will be paying Warriors of Metal Open Air Festival IV again in June 2013 and if you are a fan of Traditional, Power, and Thrash Metal then this is the place to be, check it out: www.warriorsofmetal.com