Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Sonic Poison - Eruption Review

After a short series of mini releases, all in good spirits with speed and brutality, Sonic Poison from Finland unleash their debut full length Eruption through the solid Me Saco un Ojo Records. The band's blend of death metal, grindcore and hardcore shines in this short and fierce release, comfortably rooted in classic extreme metal of the late 80's.

The record is 20 minutes long and features 16 tracks, showing absolutely healthy levels of track duration / number ratio for such a release. Not at all as polished as more popular acts of the continent across the Atlantic, Sonic Poison still present the same amalgamation of frenetic riffs, potent grooves, frequent tempo changes as what you would expect from a band of the aforementioned genres. I was thinking of an unlawful marriage between really early Napalm Death and Extreme Noise Terror of the same time when it comes to the undulating tempos and overall madness Eruption, an album that lives up to its name.

Equally deranged are the vocals, which go on wild rides as the tense tracks come hammering one after the other at frequencies that the listener might give up trying to keep up with all the riffs. Sonic Poison don't invent the wheel with the record, and there are no unusual meanderings at any point in Eruption, so it is one of the cases of knowing really well what you're getting into. Nevertheless, the recipes are executed successfully and the outcome is a quite enjoyable grind record, especially for fans of a more old school approach instead of the ultra noisy new influences that more modern bands introduce.

With Eruption, Sonic Poison make a clear and solid case for themselves and bring forth a well-made record that can live up to the expectations, considering their earlier, smaller releases. It is fully jammed with ongoing riff ideas and everything is pleasingly heavy in what would be another piece of work that more fanatic fans would use as a “machine to keep posers away”.  

DAMAGE: 3.5/5


Sunday, January 29, 2023

Scalp - Black Tar EP Review

Plain and comprehensive, Scalp deliver a compact set of ultra aggressive, medium paced grind (yes) with their new EP, Black Tar. Clocking at just 12 minutes, the band’s ferocity once again aims for the throat with this mixture of the ugliest extreme metal genres and is done with you before you even notice.

With a bloated, harsh production, one crystal clear comparison can be drawn after the one minute abstract introduction of the EP: these guys are big Nails fanboys, and especially the singer. Black Tar doesn’t achieve the same earthquake as your average Nails rocker, but Scalp try hard to emulate the same kind of frenzy across the whole of Black Tar, especially in its faster moments like in “Jesus is God”, “Pollute” or the introduction of “Diabetic Necrosis”. The slower grooves are also sometimes too close unfortunately, for example in “Endless Relapse”, which sounds a lot like “Endless Resistance” or the excruciating slow ending of closing track “Broken Vein”. 

It is noticeable how Scalp practice less speedy, modern noise / hardcore-like breakdown parts quite often, something that made me wonder if Black Tar generally reaches the minimum limit of velocity to be considered grind, but the case remains. As far as the originality of this material goes, get ready for a short amusement park ride for all Nails fans and the likes, yet for me in this case, it would be more relevant to stick to the original. However, Scalp are heavy enough and hit hard with this fine EP, which lacks a bit in memorability what it has in fury. 

Three years since their previous EP, which was also 30% longer in duration, had me thinking that it’s high time this band releases a proper, careful debut full length album, and that will decide a lot about the perception they leave to the scene. 



Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Dryad - The Abyssal Plain Review

Beautiful, well articulated swirling chaos across all known and higher dimensions, the aural medium is being reeled out and stretched to painful extremes with Dryad's The Abyssal Plain. This record takes pride in itself being a violent troublemaker with a baseball bat, smashing the glass entrance of the city's biggest bank. As fragile as glass is, so are our perceptions on musical genres and I stand guilty of considering crossover or crust bands pretty predictable, yet in this case I stand corrected. 

Dryad picks these sufficiently mapped genres and transforms their aftertaste into something new, a creation that musically stays well in its lane, yet it all feels reborn and refreshing. There's ample space for the brutality of the band to shine, and it does through classic but fierce guitar lines, excellent drum work and amazing coherence among all the record's pieces. No need to mention that Dryad do not shy themselves away from black metal, a record that could well be put under that general label, yet is possessed by its own vivid demons. 

The non-vocal side of The Abyssal Plain is eerie and haunting, from the introduction clean guitar lines, to the masterful piano interlude "Chimera Monstrosa", or the adventurous noise / ambient "Raptures of the Deep" and the horror-like outro. Heavier moments are also served without hesitation for the better part of the album, especially in the memorable riffs of "Bottomfeeder", "Trenches" and the self-titled track. I absolutely fell for "Eutrophication" and savoured the transition from the fastest and most intense song "Loki's Castle", to an equally short in duration synth number "Hadal". 

If you aren't already sold, it's high time the clear highlight of The Abyssal Plain is mentioned: the totally outstanding vocal performance of the singer, Claire Nunez. Simply non-stop, agonising high pitched screams, a voice that sounds like thunder from across the plains, it locks all the different elements of the record together: a colossal offering with amazing concept, honest intentions, insightful material and real passion. Read more, listen more and find out what they are about, while diving into this exquisite monstrosity.



Saturday, January 21, 2023

Thy Darkened Shade - Liber Lvcifer II: Mahapralaya Review

We have waited too long and too patiently in the shadows for the next daring step Thy Darkened Shade would take in their full length catalog, since for the last nine years we were being occupied with sparse split contributions which were not enough to quench our thirst.

I grossly praised this band in 2014 and their album Liber Lvcifer I: Khem Sedjet, which was a follow-up to an absolutely brilliant debut and showed how these guys are among the best, if not the best black metal band of their time. And I was not wrong. Stellar musicianship and compositional dexterity are still the driving factors behind this massive, hymnic, operatic, multi-layered and complex black metal masterpiece that will not simply drop your jaw but it will smash it. Thy Darkened Shade nail it on multiple fronts with varied tempos, rich ideas all over the place, and an excellent range of vocals from harsh growls, to chanting cleans, to King Diamond tribute screams. 

You will be bombarded with eclectic guitar lines, very characteristic of the band, wonderful drumming and amazing overall aesthetics. You have not heard black metal like this from any other band on the planet. Without going into the lyrical concepts of the record too much, which you can decide to explore by yourself, it is worth noting how poignant the band sounds when taking things to even more epic heights than before in an album that has the glorious stench of the effort that was put to make it, and wears it like a badge. The sound is naturally perfect, all the instruments are healthily audible and pleasant, but above all, it’s the astounding maze of compositions that leaves the biggest mark here.

Liber Lvcifer II: Mahapralaya is packed to the brim with amazing melodies, its terrifying and intimidating presence glorifies not only the band, which was foolproof from day one, but also the genre itself. The tracks are long and demand attention, but once you cross to the other side you will be recorded with one of the finest releases of this scene for the year and possibly the years to come.

DAMAGE: 4.5/5

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

Ahab - The Coral Tombs Review

Eight years after The Boats of Glenn Carrig, oceanic mammoths Ahab return with an album that finally takes inspiration from one of the first and favourite books I read as a kid: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. All the virtues of the band are as lustrous as ever in The Coral Tombs, which communicates their experience and comfort at top-notch, unique doom metal that is barely limited in strict genres.

It kicks off with the most unusual Ahab introduction that has even been heard, the heavily ominous “Prof. Arronax’ Descent into the Vast Oceans” which features guest vocals by Chris Noir of Ultha. The song quickly finds port in more orderly, slow paced woeful melodies on clean vocals, and there is no more turbulence in the record. Classic gloomy atmosphere set in through the short tracks of The Coral Tombs, as the imposing riffs of “Colossus of the Liquid Graves” and “Mobilis in Mobili” comprise the more distinct, memorable moments of the album. On its latter part is where Ahab takes on prolonged compositions, where more space is created for the full growth of this band’s music and ideas grow as it progresses. 

“The Sea as a Desert” is one of the highlight, but also the closing number “The Mælstrom” (featuring the singer of Esoteric) also stands out for the great guitar lines of its darker side and the less linear drumming of its first half. The self-titled track and “Ægri Somnia”, as the rest of the album, hold close the imprint of the band and their recipe: heavier doses of almost funeral doom metal (not anymore) with melodic, slow paced cleaner passages, deep growls and cleans in all tracks. 

Yet, Ahab’s successful presence stems from other factors too apart from the great music: excellent storytelling and characteristic, personal sound. The Coral Tombs has the distinct highlights: great flow, powerful musicianship, engaging atmosphere,  and amazing addition of guest vocals by Ultha and Esoteric. Ahab was away for too long!



Saturday, January 14, 2023

Tiamat - Sumerian Cry Review

From the ashes of the more prolific Treblinka, now legendary Tiamat formed in 1989 and as soon as 1990 had their debut full length album Sumerian Cry created already. This is the first release to be recorded at Sunlight Studio, earlier than Entombed's Left Hand Path, even though the latter was actually released first.

At this stage, the band hand’t taken the turn towards more gothic metal patterns that happened later, 1994 with Wildhoney and on, but instead maintained a more extreme character very much in line with a lot of bands of its time that changed afterwards. Not shying away from growls and slow-paced, doom death metal, Sumerian Cry often borrows from early black metal for its riff sections, but it’s not as clear as you would point it today. This illustrates the state of the underground scene at the time, which had much less well defined boundaries between genres still, and Tiamat were also by no means a pure Swedish death metal band either. 

With a chalky production and based on not flawless but organic sound, Sumerian Cry would have been one hell of an interesting album to listen to at the time and still stands well in terms of enjoyment, even if it doesn’t really impress as much as classics of the early 90’s now. Johan Edlund’s vocals are one of the best aspects of the record, as are the sparse, agile solos of the tracks, which are otherwise built upon simplistic but hefty riffs with not a lot of variations. Often times though, only the drumming is a little bit underwhelming as it doesn’t hit hard enough to live up to the aggressive intentions of the rest of the composition. A bluesy, rock’n’roll xylophone session appears in “Evilized” which is the most unexpected moment in Sumerian Cry, which is appreciated even if it is, strictly speaking, out of place.

Solid tracks, all with wonderful macabre lyrics of underground metal, are “The Malicious Paradise”, “Apotheosis of Morbidity” and “Where the Serpents Ever Dwell”. All in all, Sumerian Cry has a warm 90’s sound, innocent mistakes that make it unique, and the contents of a hungry young band with a bright future. An acceptable start.

DAMAGE: 3.25/5

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Gates of Ishtar - A Bloodred Path Review

At the time of the late 90’s, Swedish melodic death metal had laid strong foundations around the Gothenburg scene and was still blooming at the turn of the millennium approached. Gates of Ishtar served their debut A Bloodred Path following just a couple of demos prior to it, unfolding an entertaining collection of material that stands as a prime example of its genre and time.

Moving mostly at fast paced tempos, there’s endless melodic guitar riffing in the tracks with frequent soloing, high pitched shrieked vocals and rather personal lyrics of struggle and desperation, despite the music’s general upbeat character, at least to the extent that melodic death metal goes on that. “Tears” is a wonderful piece for all lovers of this style and a highlight of the record, but there’s numerous moments in A Bloodred Path to enjoy how the instruments are treated and the creativity of the band. The drumming is equally energetic and there’s no clear dreadful point in the album and its demeanour.

Now, how many other bands of that time could have been described with exactly the same sentences? Gates of Ishtar definitely had their moments in this record, which still dares to step into faster / more aggressive territories, for example in the self-titled track, “The Silence” or the almost black metal-ish introduction of “Where The Winds Of Darkness Blow”, which is another highlight. With larger entities in the scene at the time, like In Flames, or At the Gates who were much closer to Gates of Ishtar’s music, it seems recognition was somehow not spared for all the quality records of the time. I don't understand this W.A.S.P. cover at the end of the record, but that doesn't affect the great work that was actually put together by the band.

With nine tracks and 33 minutes, A Bloodred Path depicted a band with a considerable amount of fury and truly wonderful parts that will wake your inner guitarist. Gates of Ishtar had in content what they lacked in popularity around that time, and this debut speaks very well for itself.

DAMAGE: 3.5/5

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Høstsol - L​ä​nge leve dö​den Review

Supergroups can be a hit or miss and more often that we would like to admit, the levels of excitement when looking at a project’s line up doesn’t match the quality of the material itself. That was not the case for me with Høstsol, a Scandinavian band featuring some legendary figures from the black metal scene: Niklas Kvarforth of Shining, Cernunnus of Manes and Kalmos of Ajattara.

With Länge Leve Döden, the musicians write a love letter to the ways of the genre as it existed back in the early 90’s around their areas, but more than that is achieved. The production (mastered by Andy LaRocque of King Diamond) is clear and slightly more modern, there are sparse ambient interludes bridging different parts of tracks and the compositions clearly bear the mark of their creators, especially the exquisite style of Cernunnus. The band doesn’t leave any space for misinterpretation about the kind of nostalgia they evoke, for example with the second  and best track “Det som en gång var (det kommer aldrig igen)”, a clear reference to the early Burzum album title with an extra addition: “it will never come again”.

Kvarforth’s vocals have a slightly higher pitch, more shrieked and painful than the anger-infused singing he does for Shining, and it works perfectly in the album. It consists of five tracks, and some slower-paced, emotive lines can be found in its opening and closing, while for the most of it, Länge Leve Döden is fast but doesn’t abuse tremolo picking. If you are a fan of the early works of Manes and bands of that time like Thorns, then the authenticity and acuteness of this release will move you. It is the perfect combination of all the aforementioned bands, executed by members of the scene that have been around from the first days and even 30 years later, it seems they are no short of inspiration. 

Points that you will love in Länge Leve Döden are the magnificent guitar riffs, the excellent vocals, the ambient passages and the amount of sentiment it is charged with, with a rather simple title statement that is also aligned with the roots of black metal: long live death.

DAMAGE: 3.75/5


Sunday, January 08, 2023

Vosbúð - Heklugjá Review

Sometimes an album’s formed perception benefits from the surroundings of the listener, or the conditions of the listening experience. Being the first (at least, to my knowledge) band to introduce the term “volcanic black metal”, Vosbúð from Iceland deliver their / his first full length album Heklugjá after a vigorous but potentially glossed over EP in 2019, setting the mark in the project’s journey for good. 

Thematics are described perfectly by the band’s self-genre assertion, and don’t let your mind rush to conclusions when it comes to the music, especially when knowing their roots. Heklugjá takes a stand for atmospheric black metal with dusty production, partially originating from the United States but with a firm personal touch and plenty of creative material in its long compositions. That is also the only drawback of the record, as its lengthy duration sometimes feels unnecessary, especially in moments when the tracks get a bit repetitive, not confident enough to affix the next idea. 

Fortunately, this is mostly clear only through the third and fourth piece, where almost exhilarated melodies lay hints of modern / post-black metal bands from the US and despite that, the flow of the album is at least maintained through this rocky path. A couple of songs are really long and packed with material, especially the opener “Myndhöggvari lífsins og dauðans” at 17 minutes, and the closing piece “Heklugjá” at the same length. Vosbúð’s ingenuity is boastful in these pieces and the album has potent messages as a whole, depicting a rather ambitious atmospheric black metal release that only slightly shakes due to it’s own weight. 

One hour might be too much to not build the urge to fast forward a bit, however Vosbúð do now shy away from epicness or high quality guitar lines, wonderful bass sound and a production to go along with its subject. There is no one fitting more to speak of volcanoes than an Icelandic band, and Heklugjá is a fine debut, imperfect at some intricacies and yet melded with passion.

DAMAGE: [3.25/5]