Wednesday, July 31, 2019

review: Sacrilege

The Court of the Insane
Pure Underground Records
2nd August 2019
Metal Archives registers no less than eight bands named Sacrilege (It could be worse; there are 11 bands named Sacrifice, and even worse, there are 20 bands named Tormentor). In addition, this Sacrilege, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal one, is not the other British band (punk; then thrash; then melodic doom) that the older generation may remember from the three studio albums in the 1980s because, according to Metal Archives, this NWOBHM band had only three demos in the 1980s. Then there was silence the 1990s and the 2000s.
This is now their seventh album. Talk about late bloomers! The albums began arriving in 2011 and this is the one for 2019. Maybe the musicians’ kids grew up and moved out of the house, and now the guys have discovered that they are able to keep making music. Can you imagine what it is like to be called a NWOBHM band and to have three demos from the 1980s? There are actually hundreds of those bands that recorded only a demo or a single, if that. Can you also imagine going through decades of thinking about one day resurrecting the band?
That’s what must have happened at some point in 2011 when the music started rolling down the pipeline. They are elderly British gentlemen that were inspired by the greats of the 1970s and early 1980s, and that’s what they play. The riffs are in the style of classic heavy metal and hard rock, and thinking of the music as an updated or current version of 1980 heavy metal is not far from the mark. The main thing is to have rocking songs and in the familiar format of verses and choruses, and with melodies and solos. The riffs are big and catchy, with a certain foundation of the year 1980 (think: Sabbath, Priest, Scorpions) and the new sounds that inspired youth to form bands. The vocals are gritty (DIY or street metal; not polished and layered) and the lyrics a bit on the angry side, like someone who watches the news and reacts to politicians, preachers, crime, etc. In short, fans of the NWOBHM and oldie heavy metal in general have another album to pick up this summer.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

interview: Orator (Washington State)

On the 28th of July, 2019 Orator played at the Mirkwood Public House in Arlington, Washington State, U.S. They are technical extreme metal. Online they have an impressive album called Kallipolis (2018) with lyrics and artwork that shows a philosophical approach. Metal Archives says that they used to be called Stealth Force Mutilation and in 2017 they apparently had a two-song demo with gore-and-violence lyrics, including with profanities. Obviously, they have chosen to change gears towards a more intelligent approach to the lyrics to go along with the skillful playing. We inquired about the concept of the band. Isaac, who plays one of the guitars and does the main growling, says, “The name Orator, we settled on that because it’s not very pigeonholing as far as lyrical matter. If we named ourselves something violent, then we’d probably have to have something very violent as subject matter. Orator all it means is a public speaker. A public speaker could be a storyteller. I feel it’s the opposite of pigeonholing. It’s also very tied to the subject matter of our release Kallipolis.” Will the concept continue on future albums? Matt (guitars and backing vocals) adds, “The new one will probably be a concept in its own way. We wanted that flexibility. It won’t focus on philosophy and the Greeks. It’s in the process of being built.” Isaac continues, “We have the skeletal structure, but we haven’t had the time to flesh it out.” Isaac explains that they have been busy doing things like selling tickets to open for Fleshgod Apocalypse. “As soon as that finished I had to set up the tour that we’re about to go on. I managed to do that, but it doesn’t leave much room to be creative. If I were to tie it (the new ideas for an album) to the whole concept of Orator. It’s a public speaker …” Matt completes the thought, “from a pulpit or a soapbox who has something to say. We do have something to say. The lyrics are very deliberate. They’re posted online and we want people to check them out. The next one will have more current issues. Everyone will be able to identify it. The next one might end up taking us extra to do it, but it’s going to set the bar” in terms of what they seek with their art.
Earlier in the conversation Matt explained Isaac and himself had recently graduated from college, and he also explained that the other band members are about the same age. We ask what makes a young band take the road of music that is difficult to play due to the technicality and blazing speed? What made the members of Orator go for this challenging music? Matt says, “Our interests are different, but in some respects it’s similar. We both like Fleshgod Apocalypse. Behemoth is near and dear to my heart. When I first heard Behemoth I didn’t like it, I wasn’t ready for it. Early on I was into metalcore. I liked Darkest Hour. I loved the riffs and melodies. Amon Amarth, you know, stuff like that. You can’t go wrong with that, but I also like to go fast!” About the desire to go for the technical, fast guitar, Matt continues, “I don’t know that I can blame it on a single band.” For instance, he says, “I heard Man Must Die and for some reason those riffs hit the spot. It clicked mentally. Music theory was always kind of interesting to me. ‘This sounds really cool. Why does it sound really cool?’ That pulled me into that. Musicians that are playing that fast.”
For Isaac it was “Suffocation. I really enjoyed Despise the Sun and Souls to Deny, the comeback album. I spent a lot of time in mosh pits when I was younger. I went to one show and my friend pulled me into the pit and I’ve never looked back. It’s so extremely cathartic. I can’t get enough being in a pit when a band that I’ve connected with is playing. It’s therapeutic.” How did he go from the pit to technical guitar playing? “It started with a frustration with some of the bands I was listening to or being exposed to. I just started writing music that would invoke the same feeling (the pit) in anyone else. I wanted to be a vehicle for anyone else to experience that.” Matt agrees, “If we’re on stage and we see people in a pit. That’s it. That’s all we want.” Isaac remembers, “For the Fleshgod Apocalypse show, there were 10 or 15 people who were pitting. That was one of the most gratifying experiences that has come from this so far. People really enjoying themselves.”
In order to play Orator music you have to be obsessed with being a good musician and knowing your instrument and what you want to do with it. For some of the material for the show on this night, Isaac says that he was rushing trying to be ready and do it right. He felt that he was not ready and he had to keep practicing. He recalls being “Terrified. We had to perform these songs in front of these people and if I couldn’t do it, then what are we going to do? Not play them? We had told people that we were going to perform our album from start to finish, we can’t back out.”
They didn’t back out. A good time was had by the people watching the swirling riffs fly in every direction. They will bring their music on the road. Orator begins touring on August 2nd in Bend, Oregon, and it goes until the 11th of August. Check their Facebook page for all the relevant information. Friends in the town of Bend, Oregon, it is time to rock and roll.

Gallows Hymn (Washington State)

Here are some pictures of the Bellingham, Washington State band Gallows Hymn. They played in Arlington on the 28th of July, 2019. They are pagan extreme metal with lots of melodic passages and very percussive drumming and they call themselves "progressive folk metal." Fans of Viking- and pagan-themed bands would be correct to consider this band one of their own. The night in Arlington they showed that melody and atmosphere are very important to the music. The melodies might recall epic metal, but they might also have a bit of 1970s progressive rock and even a bit of psychedelic rock, too, depending on the knowledge of the listener. At any rate, they pleased the people watching in Arlington. One particular thing this observer noticed was the awesome cymbal work on the part of the drummer. From the looks of it, the drummer has thought about how to be creative with the drums and finding beats that enhance the songs. On this particular night the vocals were not cutting through the sound very well. Regardless, the screamer performed with abandon and confidence, and the rest of band turned in good work, too. They announced that they have an album coming up. Check the band out and make sure to hand those bags of cash over to them so that their plan to conquer can begin now. Today, Arlington, tomorrow, the world.

Weary: Demo 2018 (Washington State, U.S.)

Weary: Demo 2018
1.Offering to the Madonna of Sorrows 06:45
2.Unto the Shadowy Depths... 07:45
3.A Ghost That Never Was 07:05
Weary is a new entity launched in 2018, but Sam (drums and lyrics) and Jess (strings and vocals) don’t lack experience, which is why they quickly issued the Demo 2018 recording. On July 28th, 2019 we talked about the music of Weary with the band. When people ask what genre it is Jess says, “I don’t even know what to call it.” Both Sam and Jess express the view that they don’t care about the rules of the genres. It’s heavy, it’s extreme metal, but they go as far as to say that grunge is in there in the music in some small way. It may not be that obvious, but, as Sam explains, when they were young kids listening to radio rock, that’s what young people in Washington State heard on the airwaves. Sam emphasizes that he has always liked a good melody, including if it’s black metal or extreme metal in general or whatever else it is.
When they were coming up with the new music, they had the feeling that it was not really sticking to any particular genre. The name of the band comes from being tired of the nonsense of scene cliques and scene politics. The recording has a lot of black metal in it (Sam and Jess used to be in the unorthodox black metal band Sacrament ov Impurity), but they don’t claim to uphold any definition of traditional black metal. At the same time, when they go into speed mode, the sound, the riffs, the vocals and the drums leave no doubt that fast extreme metal is a persistent part of the sound. On the demo, headbanging metal is the dominant force, but the softer, quieter and melodic passages offer an ear-catching contrast. The music in certain places has a catchiness that might surprise attentive listeners. For instance, the third song, although enveloped in an extreme metal framework, begins with a riff that rocks and this is one of the ways that the traditional heavy metal, hard/classic rock and grunge may be manifesting themselves in subtle ways. It will be interesting to hear where things go from here. The band plans to begin recording the debut album in the fall of 2019.
They have been writing and rehearsing, and on August 17th at Evelyn’s Tavern in Clear Lake, Washington they will be on the following bill: Entrails (reactivated Skagit County punk/thrash), Weary, The Unfortunates, and others. When asked about the live presentation for Weary, Jess adds that they will play in street clothes without any ritualistic ornaments on stage. In terms of geography, if this writer’s memory is correct, the band explained that Clear Lake is, more or less, in between Mount Vernon and Sedro-Woolley in Skagit County, Washington where the show will happen.

Monday, July 29, 2019

review: White Mantis

White Mantis
Sacrifice Your Future
Iron Shield Records
13 September 2019
White Mantis is a thrasher’s thrash band. Down to the crossing of the two t’s and the dotting of the two i’s, other thrash bands check out this band and exclaim, “Das nenne ich Thrash!” From the perspective of the band, the capitalist politicians like to say, “Vote for me and I will make the future better!” White Mantis is not interested in those promises from baby-kissing and hand-shaking politicians, if this album is anything to go by. It seems like dystopia is a very appropriate topic for them to base their fast music. In this horrid future the mutants dwell under the bridge of the old road to the sewage treatment plant in your neighborhood. Don’t ask the mutants to tell you about government policies to make life better nor about how corporations are “helping to make a difference.” It is all foul-smelling deception in the eyes of the mutants who experience every day humanity’s great product roll on the way to the plant.
Sharp riffs, fast songs and wild shouting, with drumming to keep a mosh pit going until the break of dawn, the band dreams of becoming every headbanging thrasher’s favorite new band. According to this book of heavy metal written by White Mantis, headbanging moshing thrash is the best recipe when life gets you down or when you want to celebrate in a moshing way. Saturday night’s alright for the pit, but so is any day when good, consistent, reliable thrash is on the agenda. Loud and proud is their brand since they began waking up the neighborhood in the city of Munich in the state of Bavaria, in southern Germany. Did you know that Munich has a huge Oktoberfest, the festival of festivals for all beer-loving peoples? Between Oktoberfest and White Mantis, things should be looking up for the thrashers in Munich. Expect to bang your head with fast songs and lyrics about the post-apocalypse and dystopia. The album should please the devoted fan base of classic-style zombie-and-mutant thrash, whether it is the U.S-American, Brazilian, German or any variety that upholds the tradition.

Izthmi pictures from July 28th in Arlington, Washington State

Here are some pictures from Izthmi's performance in Arlington last night at the Mirkwood Public House. Izthmi is atmospheric melodic extreme music. On Bandcamp they have one song and it points to the epic direction that they go for with their sound. Given the lack of knowledge regarding the band's music, it's not possible to write in any competent manner about it yet, but what is possible to say is that music should be engaging for fans that support DIY bands working up their way towards accomplishing something worthwhile in the sounds of ambitious extreme metal, as already mentioned. The first track or song that they performed sounded like one long suite, although this is speaking strictly from a perspective of no knowledge of the song titles, lyrics and other details. At any rate, it sounded very interesting and there were some very nice passages of blasting speed and also melody. This publication would certainly like to find out more about the band and their plans for the future. We'll have to see if we can get more information coming your way, dear reader, at some point here in the future.
Apologies to the reader and to the band for the bad quality of the pictures. This is simply the way the pictures came out and many more were deleted due to their bad quality. The pictures might have been clearer perhaps if the lights on the stage had been turned on, but for some reason they were not, which was a shame. Of course, it doesn't help that the person taking the pictures is not a professional photographer, either. Accept these pictures as evidence of the band in Arlington, Washington State, and not as examples of great photography.
Thank you to the members of Izthmi for making the trip to these northern forests where the trees are tall and the streets are narrow. It was great to see them bring their heavy metal to the people of the north. Let's hope that this is not the last time that the fans in Everett, Marysville, Granite Falls, Lake Steves, Granite Falls and the general area have an opportunity to catch the band in action.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Sunday night July 28 in Arlington, Washington state

Friends in the Everett/Marysville/Arlington areas,
This is a reminder that tomorrow night (Sunday night) this show takes place.
July 28. Gallows Hymn / Orator / Izthmi
Sun 7 PM · Mirkwood Public House · Arlington, Washington
"The Northend Roar presents: Gallows Hymn returns to the Mirkwood with some of the raddest PNW bands around. Brutality together with with some nordic-style hellish fuses equals... metal. Don't miss it."
[Gallows Hymn used to be called Empyrean]
FYI: Metal Archives has a review of Orator. This is what Metal Archives says about the band. FYI: This review is not by Metal Bulletin Zine. It is here for your information.
Kallipolis, or “beautiful city” in Greek, is both Orator’s debut album, and the nice yellow cover art. For a band in its infancy, this is impressive death metal and shows a band that’s got more chops than their age suggests. Opener “Kallipolis” starts with a nice clean guitar section before the metal kicks in. This song is a pretty decent introduction to what you’re in for with its swirling riffs and hyper-fast drumming. It blends seamlessly into “Emperor” and by this point the tricks the album will throw at you will be revealed.
First and foremost, the drumming here is absolutely insane, which isn’t surprising considering the exceptionally talented Marco Pitruzzella is the one behind the kit. He is in numerous bands and offers his services as a session drummer for even more death metal projects. His drumming style is very intense and it’s a love-it-or-hate-it paradigm; on the one hand, his speed is almost unmatched and can play really fast for a really long amount of time, however on the other hand his drumming isn’t creatively adventurous and quite triggered. Me, personally? I don’t care that it’s triggered. I think he’s a fantastic drummer and I’m usually a fan of the projects he’s in (special mention to Anomalous who created one of the best technical death metal albums I have heard). Orator is no different in that regard, as this is another project I can get behind. Marco’s drumming is, yet again, the highlight of any album he’s on and that rings true here. He blasts and kicks his way around with such speed and aplomb that it’s hard to ignore. I’m a big fan of his drumming and I guess that’s going to positively bias my score. Shrug.
The riff work is still impressive, pulling out chugging and rolling riffs all over the place. I quite like the lead work as that’s where the more memorable parts come out. There’s some nice solos, such as in “Mentor” and “Follower.” The solos are neither bombastic nor wanky, rather they fit the music quite well. I don’t think it matters too much as there’s a lot of other things going on to fill that gap. Vocals are a harsh yell. I like the fact that there’s some sort of legibility to the lyrics, but I can see that the style might be an acquired taste.
“Emperor” is more intense and flowing for its runtime, but the songs don’t always follow that sort of feel. “Elder” has a punchier, pounding feeling with its main riff and is a bit more of a headbanger. Then there’s “Follower” which is a mostly instrumental piece until the very end and contains more melody and the bulk of the album’s solos. So, despite the songs all following similar traits, each song does actually have its own identity and can stand alone.
A level of criticism will be the short nature of the album. The intro track notwithstanding, we’re left with just five songs. These songs are quite lengthy for this style of death metal, but it’s still an album that only just cracks the half-hour mark. When the album ends I’m always disappointed that there isn’t any more music to listen to. I guess this makes the album highly repeatable, which is what I have done, too. Despite the intense nature of the drumming and the hard-hitting riffs, the album itself is very easy to digest and isn’t that difficult of an album to listen to. For people not into this style of clear, hyper-blasting death metal, this album would actually be a good place to start. The drumming and vocals may be the points of contention and the reason someone may enjoy the album or not, but to me this is some very good quality stuff and worthy of picking up.
FYI: Metal Archives has a review of Empyrean. This is what Metal Archives says about the band. FYI: This review is not by Metal Bulletin Zine. It is here for your information.
"Empyrean", which can mean "the highest part of heaven", seems to be a popular name for metal bands and that could cause problems in future for this band from Washington state as it strives for recognition in its own right. That would be a pity as the music on this self-titled EP is lively and catchy melodic black metal even though the sound is on the light side. The production is especially clear and bright and the drumming is very clean. Instrumental passages in the band's music are almost sparkling, which may or may not have been the original intention but at least they show the musicians' talent and enthusiasm for playing as a tight and skillful unit. Lyrics delivered in a gruff and almost indecipherably thick BM vocal style hark back to the Irish Gaelic past: a past of war-like resistance to overwhelming enemies and defiance in the face of incredible odds and oppression.
Opening track "The Calling Pipes" is a stirring song with martial tunes and riffs, lots of clashing cymbals suggestive of sword-fighting duels, and moments of atmospheric post-BM longing for days long disappeared into the misty mythical past. The spidery lead guitar solo is a major highlight as is the moody coda. Second track "Taimid Bas d'Eirinn" continues with the martial theme and flavour but with a more swanky and jovial air urging listeners to join the party as fighters head off into battle. The fight may end up with everyone dead and gone but hey, if you're going to die (and everyone eventually dies in the end), you may as well go out with a big bang and take as many of your foes with you as you can. Again the long instrumental section emphasises a lead guitar solo leading the rest of the instruments into war and the impression gained is of a long fought and arduous battle.
"Holocene Incarnation" is the sole instrumental track which in itself isn't bad but it doesn't offer much that the band hasn't already done; sure, it's an opportunity for the musicians to show off their skill and ability to play as a tight unit but that's about it. Quite a few songs could have been hived off it as there are fast and slow sections, and plenty of virtuoso playing. "Wanderings of Khaibut" sounds the most Odinpop of the entire recording with catchy rousing tunes and riffs. As it continues, the music finally achieves the emotional heights that were dormant in earlier tracks and this track turns out to be the best one of the four on offer.
The EP is a good if not very original package that may have been done to attract the attention of record labels which may explain its minimal nature and conservatism in its themes and musical style. It certainly showcases the musicians' talent and songwriting abilities, and they play with plenty of energy and enthusiasm. I'd have liked to hear a more distinctive and individual sound, something that distinguishes Empyrean from all the other bands calling themselves Empyrean or Empyrean something-or-other. Perhaps more time spent playing together and experimenting with their sound and instruments may be all that the guys need to develop a distinct style. On future releases, the band can afford to take more risks with its sound and themes - I think these guys are keeping something up their sleeves that may surprise their fans.