Sunday, November 16, 2014

Concert Review: Horror Vacui, Bootblacks, Statiqbloom

Venue: The Acheron, Brooklyn, NY

This was a special show for me, as I was really excited to see Horror Vacui perform. I've been following them closely since their debut LP "In Darkness You Will Feel Alright" in 2012, and this is the first time they've toured the states. I have also sporadically been in contact with them since about the same time, so I was looking forward to actually meeting everyone in person (the whole band was super-cool and chill, thanks to them for putting up with me!). There is a review on this blog of the aforementioned debut, and there will be a review of their new LP for 2014, "Return Of The Empire" which will rank highly on my best of 2014 list, I reckon. Anyway, onwards!

First up was Brooklyn, NY's Statiqbloom, one of Fade Kainer's many projects. It seems every time I go to a show, he's performing with a new act! I am familiar with his projects Batillus, a killer doom metal band with heavy electronics (think Godflesh slowed down with Genesis P. Orridge providing gristly electronic noisy overlays); and Theologian (whose material I have to catch up on!), a noisy power electronics group of much industrial might. Statiqbloom might be my favorite of these projects, it sounds to me like 'Remission' era Skinny Puppy for its rhythms and hallucinatory nature, mixed with the harshness of Dive and a touch of Belgian EBM like Front 242 in the beats and bass lines. Fade always gets animated live, his vocals (whether augmented with effects or not) are commanding and he screams like he's excising some splinter from deep in his psyche. He is able to make laptop management, button mashing, and knob-turning look exciting and sexy the way rock and roll has affected playing the guitar. There was a projector show as well with some great imagery, black and white and just blurry enough to disturb, as you couldn't always quite tell what you were looking at. Furthermore, the imagery was occasionally more static-like, as in 'tv snow' lending a disorienting element that I appreciated. I certainly recommend seeing any of Fade's projects live, but especially this one!

Next up and also of Brooklyn, NY, were the Bootblacks. They brought a catchy darkwave/post-punk sound. The vocals were melancholic, reminiscent of Chameleons UK, Joy Division, and early Depeche Mode. The guitar was more noisy and deftly moved from lead to accent in the songs, I could sense some Bauhaus in there, especially in the noisy, proto-shoegaze finish at the end of the set. The drumming was original and also reminded me of Bauhaus, in that there was lots of variety in time-signatures; the drums were always as fast or as slow as they needed to be to propel the song but often did so in a rhythm less traveled. The real hook for me were the synth lines, also reminiscent of Joy Division but more-so New Order, mixed with early Depeche Mode yet again. The synth lines are very hooky, and seem to get their barbs in deeper each time I hear them, so listener be wary!

Finally, it was time for Bologna, Italy's Horror Vacui. Horror Vacui are a deathrock band in the vein of early artists like Christian Death and Fields of the Nephilim, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and early Bauhaus in that they still have punk aggressiveness and dirt along with excellent melancholy. Their sound is more desperate, sounding energetic and needing expression at any outlet rather than sounding desolate, cold and defeated. They feel more like a pressue valve demanding to let off steam rather than a broken, dead one. Too many 'goth rock' acts sound either too derivative or hopeless (which can still be good...) to capture the energy, the feeling of early Deathrock. Horror Vacui know EXACTLY what they're doing!  Their set was solid, including: "The Return Of The Empire" and "In Darkness," closing with a cover of Discharges' "Decontrol" that was quite impressive. The band played with much vigor and sounded great live, not an easy feat considering the layers of guitar effects and dual guitar approach, need for clear vocals (with their own effects) in the mix AND the fact that this was the last date in an intensive North American Tour. Drums were driving, bass was pounding, the guitars shimmering, and the vocals dominating. It would be hard to have more fun at a Goth/Deathrock show than seeing Horror Vauci as they are a great politically and emotionally aware melancholic punk rock that you can really move to! Definitely see them live and pick up ALL of their material if you like stuff like the Amebix, early Fields Of The Nephilim, Rozz Williams' Christian Death, Rudimentary Peni, and Chameleons UK with touches of early, 7" era Sisters of Mercy and early Killing Joke.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Concert Review: All Out War, Sworn Enemy, Living Laser, Recycled Earth

Firstly, I was disappointed that Boston's PanzerBastard couldn't play, but their bus broke down. Safe travels on the rest of the tour! I last saw them in late 2012, and they killed it, I've been a fan ever since.

Right, so about the acts that did play...  the show was at Brooklyn's The Acheron, a great venue for its variety. The sound is usually very good, always loud, and the staff I've encountered are friendly and down-to-earth. The venue is broken into a restaurant side and a venue side. The venue side is a bit narrow near the entrance ways, leading to frequent bottle-necking but widens near the stage. There is a separate toilet and bar on the venue side, which I think anyone who breaks the seal and comes back for more brew would find most helpful. It's kept me from pissing myself, I'll tell you. They keep a great rotating stock of micro-brew beer on tap, same for bottled and canned beer. They have food as well, but I haven't yet tried any. From what I've seen and smelled though, it is probably most excellent.

Recycled Earth, a NY hardcore band was my favorite act of the night, after All Out War. The hardcore elements such the ever-popular breakdown, but for the most part they sounded like an early demo from a Swedish Death Metal band that kept more punk influences. Their guitar tone was down-tuned, but throaty, and a bit buzzy, though not to Sunlight Studios levels. Overall, excellent super-heavy guitar sound which paired well with the bass. Very competent drumming and vocals. The breakdowns tended to be slower and more doomy, reminiscent more of Autopsy than, say, Agnostic Front.

Next was Living Laser, another hardcore band. They appeared about 10 years younger than Recycled Earth but played hardcore that sounded about 10 years older (Recycled Earth sounded like 1991 hardcore and Swedish Death Metal, Living Laser sounded more like 1981 hardcore punk). So, more accessible, simple sound and less unique tones and arrangements but very energetic.

Sworn Enemy is a NY hardcore band, and was up next. I'm not a huge fan of their material, it's a little too modern in its sound (guitar production, breakdown style, drumming styles) for my taste. They played very competently and knew how to rile up the crowd, so points for showmanship.

Finally, NY's premiere Metalcore act, All Out War! I have been a casual fan of All Out War for probably about 10 years now, and this was the first time I've seen them, so expectations were high. I must say, they delivered, and then some. This was easily the most intense show, the most brutal mosh pit I've experienced this year. What sets All Out War apart from the pack, at least for me, are the arrangements and the riffs; they balance out the breakdowns and the buildups with deft skill, the guitars are violently thrashy. Slayer wishes they wrote some of these riffs! All Out War have always been more nihilist and violent in their lyrics, to my knowledge, than the average 'metalcore' band. This band, like Philly's Starkweather, can best be categorized as 'metalcore' meaning a combination of 90's hardcore and extreme heavy metal, but each shows the possibilities and variety of the genre, rather than the similarities like so many others. By the way, check out Starkweather if you're unfamiliar, They tend wed more of a 90's Norwegian Black Metal riffing to their hardcore (which is also less breakdown-heavy and less predictable, uses more dark minor chord melodies too). Considering they were releasing material at the same time as, say, Thorns or Emperor, Starkweather seemed to reach some similar conclusions, through a different route, to extreme music. Anyway, back to All Out War! Their set was solid, including "Destined to Burn" and "Hypocrites of the Revolution." They played 4 or so songs from a soon-to-be-released EP which sounded INCREDIBLE. Probably my favorite material of theirs to date. These songs were much more Thrash Metal-oriented, leaning almost to proto-Black Metal sounds in intensity. There was less 'hardcore' leanings in the more stereotypical meaning of the term as applied to music subgenres. Instead, there was a pervasive sense of heaviness and inherent 'toughness' that really is the spirit of hardcore (as opposed 'the sound' of hardcore), in my opinion. The guitars seemed to have a darker tone too, though no effects or tuning changes were made, so either I imagined it or they just played their guitars differently. The songs were less predictable in arrangement so many of the fans didn't seem to know what to do. I banged my head mercilessly. I think this release has great potential to bring more metalheads into the All Out War fold, so I will probably be promoting it around my less hardcore-oriented metalhead friends to spread the bad word, heh.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Recipe: Thermo Nuclear Devastation Of The Leftovers

*Photo copyright Sam Shockey, 2014*

This recipe is of my own design, inspired by Bristol, England's Onslaught. I had some left over soft maple-smoked goat cheese and plum tomatoes, so I decided to combine them into a snack inspired by the first demo of Onslaught, which I happened to be listening to at the time of my hunger pangs. I hope to bring you more original Heavy Metal-inspired recipes in the future, as my skills in the kitchen build. I didn't even have to conjure Mephistopheles to invent this one, so there's hope for me yet!

1. I took my last 3 pieces of whole wheat, multi-grain bread, toasted them lightly, slivered my tomatoes, placed them on top with some leftover scallions (don't overdo it, go lightly!) and evenly distributed the cheese, and sprinkled some olive oil. I placed it back in the toaster oven on about 375F for a few minutes until cheese started to brown very lightly at edges and tomatoes were warm and soft.

2. Served with some spring mix salad, coated in more olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper. I mixed it thoroughly and had some baby carrots on the side.

Until next time, keep "treading the path towards death" of hunger!

*Recipe and photo copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Concert Review: Samhain, Goatwhore, Midnight, YDi at Best Buy Theater, NYC 1st November 2014

Show: Samhain, Goatwhore, Midnight, YDi
Best Buy Theater, Manhattan NY, 1st November, 2014

YDi: YDi, with whom I was unfamiliar prior to this show, are a Philadelphia hardcore punk band. They formed in the early 80's and were at the forefront of the development of the genre and future, more extreme strains. They often draw favorable comparisons to Negative Approach, which I can agree with, however YDi (pronounced "Why Die?") are more aggressive, pissed off, and experimental in both their arrangements and guitar sound/effects. The whole band played solidly with vocalist Panther really bringing an incredible amount of energy. He wailed his woes from end to end of the stage, frequently throwing himself to his knees, stomach, back, etc., rolling about on the floor. I'm not sure how I've never heard of these guys before, but I can tell you I'm a fan now!

YDi quote of the night: (from Panther, vocals) Aaarrrgh!


Midnight: one of my favorite bands to emerge in the last 10 years, Midnight play a potent mix of Rock n' Roll and Heavy Metal best described as Venom meets Motorhead in their respective hey-days, with all the attitude, noise, and grime associated with both. Wondering how one stage could contain the fury of Venom AND Motorhead AT ONE TIME? The answer is that it cannot. Midnight consistently put on intense live shows with frontman Athenar often breaking equipment at the end of their sets. This performance was no exception. I've seen them three times now (including one where Athenar attempted to swing from the rafters), and each time they exceed my expectations. Midnight has two LP's to their name and a legion of splits and EP's. Their set was solid and included: Evil Like a Knife, Prowling Leather, Endless Slut, Black Rock N Roll, Lust Filth and Sleaze, You Can't Stop Steel, Satanic Royalty. I highly recommend catching this band live!

Midnight quote of the night: (from Athenar, bass & vocals) Best Buy Theater? I remember when I used to steal CD's from  that place. Now I just steal riffs.


Goatwhore: Another one of my newer favorite bands (yes, I have many), I've seen Goatwhore at least 6 times now, and they are also consistent for high energy shows. Frontman Ben Falgoust (also of Soilent Green) is excellent at rallying the crowd to move around. Their guitarist and main creative force, Sammy Pierre Duet was also in Acid Bath, who are easily in my top 5 bands of all time. As Goatwhore was also the first Heavy Metal band I ever saw live, they hold a special place in my heart. For readers in NEPA, you may understand why seeing ANY Heavy Metal shows at all in the area is difficult and seldom at best NOW, not too mention 10-11 years ago. All that nostalgia aside, Goatwhore deserve much higher praise for their music and live performance. They tour constantly and have it down to a science. They play an interesting and catchy blend of Blackened Thrash Metal with Death and Speed Metal riffs thrown in for good measure. Their lyrics have always been a strong point and are rather poetic and intelligent, along with tough-as-nails. Because of their many influences, love and mastery of the riff, and fuck-you-I'm-going-to-sound-how-I-want attitude, I can almost call them the American Darkthrone (if they pulled out more punk/hardcore influences and had more unique production they'd win the title). Their demo and first album are more influenced by Celtic Frost/Hellhammer mixed with the frostiness and rawness of the infamous 2nd wave of Norwegian Black Metal. As their albums progressed, Goatwhore upped the Thrash Metal elements and added some Death Metal ones as well,  sounding like they fell out of the 80's when the genres were not yet differentiated. What does all that mean? It means Goatwhore will pummel you with loud and vicious guitar licks that are mostly super fast with expertly-crafted tempo and style changes to keep you moving and breathless. This set consisted of newer material, including: Nocturnal Conjuration of the Accursed, Embodiment of this Bitter Chaos, Baring for Revolt, Apocalyptic Havoc. See them and experience why they command the legions of hell!

Goatwhore quote of the night: (from Ben Falgoust, vocals) Pump your fists in the air like it's a Judas Priest show in 1984!


Samhain: Named for the pagan Celtic ritual whose traditions live on to some degree as modern-day Halloween, this was the band of Glenn Danzig as he transitioned out of seminal and influential horror-themed punk outfit The Misfits into his solo project. Samhain was darker, heavier, and more experimental than The Misfits or Danzig's solo work. They've earned a legendary status in the Metal/Punk underground. This brief six date tour was to commemorate 30 years of Samhain, as their debut album 'Initium' was released in 1984. The band was short-lived in its original existence,  so this was quite a rare show. I was especially privileged to see the last day of the tour, which also happened to be on Samhain Day, November 1st, as it was traditionally celebrated. Samhain played their entire 'Initium' album front-to-back and were, of course, covered in blood throughout the show. The set also included Unholy Passion, All Hell, Kiss of Steel, November's Fire, Halloween II, Mother of Mercy.

Samhain quote of the night: (from Glenn Danzig, vocals) Elvis never put on this much blood for you!

This was a fantastic show all around, what a KILLER line-up, these are all high-energy bands with rabid fan bases. Samhain has wide appeal due to Danzig's many projects/incarnations over the years so the crowd was quite diversified, always a plus in my book! Sound was good up front near the stage, but some people claimed the sound was fuzzy in the rear, which I would believe from previous shows at Best Buy Theater. There was only 15 minute waits between sets which was appreciated, except for Samhain for whom we waited about 35 minutes. My thanks to the stage crew(s)!

*Reviews copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Recipe: Open Casket Gut Rot

A new goal/project for me is learning to cook. I currently have an extremely limited repertoire, so cookbooks/websites have been a necessity. I have been enamored with Annick "Morbid Chef" Giroux's "Hellbent For Cooking" book, so I have set the challenge to myself to attempt to make every possible recipe in the book, with vegetarian substitution/alteration as needed.

I highly recommend the book, as it contains recipes from Heavy Metal bands the world-over, with information about the bands themselves as well as the recipes they have submitted. The recipes cover a broad range of styles and difficulties and are for appetizers, entrees, desserts, and mixed drinks. It is available through Bazillion Points, a Greenpoint, Brooklyn-based printing company:

The first recipe in the book is for 'Mummified Bacon Bombs' courtesy of Chris Reifert, drummer and vocalist of one of my favorite bands of all-time, Autopsy. They are essentially jalapeno poppers wrapped in bacon. As I wanted to make this vegetarian, I substituted the bacon with McCormick's Bacon Bits (they're vegan!). As I had no substance to wrap the bombs, they ended up a bit messy and open-faced. Thus, I UN-christen this treat the Open Casket Gut Rot!

See the book for actual recipe, but my version follows (no amounts listed as they will vary by amount of poppers made, I ate at least 12 in one sitting):

1. Split jalapenos, remove seeds, place on cooking sheet.
     Heavy Hint: wear gloves whilst doing this step. I decided not to, thinking, "Oh, jalapenos aren'
     THAT hot, I'll be fine!" About halfway through the process, my hands started burning and didn't
     stop for about 12 hours. Let me just say that no matter how carefully I washed my hands, urinating
     afterwords was quite uncomfortable as I passed some of the jalapeno irritant onto my 'morbid

2. Fill jalapeno halves with equal portions Monterrey Jack cheese shavings and cream cheese (I used jalapeno cream cheese for maximum effect!)

3.Top with bacon bits. A little extra cheese on top to hold it together helps.

4. Place in 400 degree F pre-heated oven for 10-20 minutes until cheese is melted and G.B.D. (which will henceforth be GBH for golden-brown and Heavy, the 'delicious' will be assumed)

 *Photo copyright Sam Shockey 2014.

Amusing Anecdote: taking this photo revealed that I had inadvertently changed the file settings on the computer so this photo was actually titled 'mariagecertificate' and a number. Whoops! I'm pretty computer illiterate so this doesn't surprise me. Now to find that there publish button to post this bad boy on the interwebs...

And now, for some Autopsy- Service For A Vacant Casket!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

What's In a Name? Challenging Gender Norms In Marriage.

What's in a name? Shakespeare would have us believe “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Does this apply to people as well, truly? This is the issue I wish to discuss, the customary practice of name-changing in marriage. More specifically, I wish to challenge the accepted and expected practice of the female partner taking the male partner's last name in heteronormative unions.
Though perhaps one of the more outwardly benign slightings of women in the world (compared to, say, job earnings and rape culture), this practice still hurts women in their fight for equality- to wit, encourages male domination and the destruction of the female's unique identity.
But first, a bit about me. I am a 27 year old male, living in New York City, who married his loving female partner in September of 2012. I am a feminist. When we married, I decided that I would change my name to hers, in place of the usual practice, or of even keeping our names separate and unique. I had several, more personal, reasons for doing this which are out of the scope of this discussion, but my feminist tendencies were the driving force. My aim in detailing this experience is in the hope that it leads others to question this punitive and demeaning practice of subsuming the female's identity into the male's as a glorification of a paternal society.
I again ask, what IS in a name? What is it's value? If you feel there is nothing in a name, as Shakespeare did, then surely the practice of name changing at all should be unnecessary in your eyes. Sure- you could argue, a name's not important, the female should be willing to give up her name freely. If so, why not the male too? Why not even swap names? Or better yet, choose some new surname that combines the beliefs and values, families and history of both partners equally?
Perhaps the first big decision lies in describing your unity. Remember, a marriage/wedding/civil union is designed to be an outward sign of continued, equivalent partnership between two individuals. So why should there be inequality in the rituals associated, such as in name-changing? This is your first act together as a married couple, is starting off your relationship in subservience to the line of the male really a good precedent?
Some might argue that a name does indedd carry great value, as it can be connected to a family history or one might want to honor a family member by carrying on a family name. Sometimes you just have a cool name that you want to hang onto. Maybe you've defined yourself with or against any implications that name has for you and others in your life. There are many reasons people find value in the name to which they were born. In any case, if you feel you have a right to keep your surname, so does your partner. Males, keep that in mind when you aks your future partner to change their name.
My own journey started with the courthouse, where we were met, thankfully, by an understanding official who was very interested and excited in my decision to change my name, once he understood our request. The DMV was just as indifferent as they ever are, though maybe I spied an infintesimally small eyebrow raising. However, at the Social Security office, things got more difficult. I was extensively questioned and the clerk was surprised that I could even do this legally. I had to assure the clerk that the courthouse had already sanctioned the decision. It struck me that an employee of the Social Security system was unaware of policy and reluctant to accept my decision. How did this endanger them? Is it not their job to facilitate this process? Was I not putting money in their pockets? So why the resistance?
This was a similar confusion I encountered throughout my experience of switching my name, a thread of "I don't understand" to "you can do that?" I am pleased that most people were really excited about it and some even said that they wished they had done the same. I recall one security officer at work remarked that he desperately wished he had been brave enough to fight convention and take his wife's name; his own he always disliked.
I am glad that this process opened the eyes of everyone I encountered, whether it was at the courthouse, the DMV, the Social Security office, my bank, my retirement plan, my professional organization and licensing authority, my employer and all the parties within such as the IT department for my system login information and security for my ID badge, the Post Office, the IRS, my family and friends, etc and so on.
I didn't fully realize just how much there was to do when one changes their name until I had to start doing it. Hopefully the list I started above gives you some idea. Even just changing my professional email from [] to [] was a hassle as I had to create a new email address, then update every single person/entity that used that email to contact me. It seemed like there was a never-ending list of things to do when I changed my name. I would also like to remind my readers that the majority of the changes listed above cost money, not to mention time. In a society were women already make less than men, are likely to lose out more on salary if they want to spend any time with their children beacause of limited maternity leave (and paternity leave, but that's another issue), women are presented with yet another gender-baised economic hardship in the cost of a name change.
Now what about my family's reaction? Well, this gets into some of the dicey personal issues that I want to avoid in this paper but as far as the family members who mattered enough to have at our wedding are concerned, my side of the family were befuddled but accepting, the way perhaps made easier by the fact I'd always been 'a bit strange' to them. Noteably, my uncle had his children make a congratulations card (which was sweet) but it was congratulating us on our (and I quote) "non-traditional wedding." Not on our wedding or partnership, or life together, but instead qualified with 'non-traditional' (though it was) as if to further cement in these children's heads that the way we did things was not 'normal' and that should be kept in mind for their own weddings in the future. As for my partner's family, some of my decision to take her name came from a desire to honor her family for taking me in and truly being a second family for me. I have never, and will never, think of them as 'in-laws' but instead as fathers, mothers, sisters, grandparents, and so on.
So what is in a name? For me, it was strife, hardship, frustration, financial burden, and lost time. What will you and your parnter choose when playing the name game? It is my hope that you will keep this story in mind. Complacency in the current culture is tantamount to encouragement; an object in motion remains in motion unless acted upon by another force. I would be ecstatic if this paper led to discussions with your own family and friends. My journey had its challenges, and most certainly was eye-opening, but I must admit that perhaps some of the potential impedence to completion was diffused by my being accustomed to a life of strife against prevailing trends and by this all taking place in New York City, where people are at least aware of various and divergent lifestyles existing, if not encouraged. I shudder to think what this process would have been like in a less progressive area. I will leave the reader with the words that we can make a difference in gender inequality by being informed ourselves, informing others, and taking non-violent action to change negative and damaging traditions inherent in our communities and cultures. Every action has a reaction, and ripples can spread wider and farther than one might think.

*Content copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Grim Legion "Unholy Resurrection" album review

New Jersey's Grim Legion exhumed their debut LP "Unholy Resurrection" this month on Philly's own Horror Pain Gore Death Productions label. I say exhumed, as Grim Legion formed in 1988, were active until '91, and finally reformed in 2011 to release to further demos with fellow New Jersian and current labelmate Mike Keller of Sacrificial Blood on drums (Mike has since moved on to focus entirely on Sacrificial Blood, check out their 2nd LP "Souls For Sale" for some outstanding speed metal with deathy, progressive, and classic heavy metal leanings). Grim Legion also bears the distinction of having John Paradiso of doomy death metallers, Evoken, on guitars and backing vocals as a founding member.
For fans who're familiar, you'll find an excellent and soon-to-be classic release. Otherwise, this is a great place to start your metal journey and support some local talent, as this is more a genre-defining rather than genre-changing release. The guitars are bloated, loose and down-tuned with plenty of chunk and tremolo alternerations splattered with squeals. The drums are loud, driving, and even commanding; they are loud in the mix. For vocals we have classic deep growls and mid-pitch screams occasionally peppering the mix with some insanity. My only complaints are that the snare is often too loud in the mix and the guitar a bit too muddy at times, but these are minor. The lyrics have more of a anti-religious tilts but there's plenty of classic death metal tropes as well.
The packaging features a horde of advancing skeleton warriors atop steeds, which has some great colors and the simple but effective Grim Legion logo. The concept works well but the execution is lacking as it looks a rather cartoonish and very digital. We do get 9 tracks, including an eerie and demented sounding intro, with stand-out cuts, for me, in the doomy riffs of "Dark Ritual" and the stuttering, swinging beat of the eponymous closer "Unholy Resurrection."  

 I am proud to boast that I also have the "Unholy Resurrection" demo, purchased when I saw Grim Legion at 2012's "You Can't Kill The Dead" Festival in Brooklyn, alongside Bone Ritual, Mausoleum, and Engorged, amongst others. Hopefully the older ones will be reissued. Yes, the show was highly memorable (except for the bummer that Abazagorath cancelled) and I recommend trying to catch any of the aforementioned acts, especially Grim Legion (this IS a post about them, after all!).
 And now, an amusing anecdote: whilst strolling about at 2013's Maryland Deathfest, I stumbled into John Paradiso setting up Evoken merch. We started talking and I quickly brought up Grim Legion as I had the aforementioned demo and was fiending for more (note: all of the prior material is exceedingly hard to find). He was elated that someone knew Grim Legion and appreciated it, promising me an album "next year." So, here we are, after almost 12 months of waiting, and I am NOT disappointed. I am just glad I didn't have to wait as long as old-school fans! Thanks John and Grim Legion past and present for bringing some killer material, I will look forward to some more shows this year! I will also hope that it doesn't take so long to release the next full-length, but for material this good, it's worth it.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Best Of 2013 Musical Releases PART III (Final)

1. Morne- "Shadows"
Firstly, I love Morne. This Boston band blends elements of post-punk, hardcore, sludge, and doom into a massive, crushing, and melancholic sound. Think Joy Division, Isis, Neurosis, and My Dying Bride (and a tiny touch of the Amebix) all together. Although many bands have similar sounds, Morne stands out from the pack are more than the some of their many influences. All of their releases are solid, with their demo being a little bit faster and heavier with later releases going more for melancholy. Nonetheless, if you like one Morne song, you are likely to enjoy the whole catalog. I strongly recommend this band and so does Fenriz of Darkthrone. In fact, the band's name appears on Max Necro's sleeve on Darkthrone's "Circle The Wagons" album (which is a classic in my opinion so pick that up too!). Morne recently had a show in Brooklyn with Tombs which I unfortunately missed in order to see the below band live, finally (it was worth it!).

2. Psychic TV- "Greyhounds Of The Future" 12 in single
The A side is new track "Greyhounds Of The Future which to me sounds an awful lot like Swans covering Hawkwind, so if that doesn't get you excited perhaps stop reading. It has a central riff that weaves in and out of the song with plenty of psychedelic meanderings and jams with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge's characteristic voice and lyrics calling out about the beginning and end-times. The B side is also a new track, "Alien Lightning Meat Machine Part II" which consists of some ambient electronics and sounds over Gen's voice for about 5 minutes which then gives way to some percussion and strings with Gen continuing and the song eventually finishing with some slow trippy variations on the music. The album is overall about 21 minutes long (just over 10 min per side) and I have been listening to it quite often (though to be fair I got it at the end of December). Gen has a varied body of work just with Psychic TV alone (from acid house to industrial/experimental/noise stuff and just about anywhere else), not to mention their work in pioneering industrial act Throbbing Gristle. If you are unfamiliar with any of this, prepare yourself to step into a much larger, much stranger new world. P.S. Psychic TV live were awesome! I'll have to post a review sometime but it suffices to say that I was not disappointed and Gen was super cool (I didn't meet them but Gen totally called out some rowdy toolbag concert goers on their shitty behavior when they started throwing beer cans at the rest of the audience).

3. Sacrificial Blood- "Live at Sinclairs, Long Island NY 8/24/13"
I am a huge fan of Sacrificial Blood (the band, not the material) and have had the opportunity to see them several times (each awesome though some with sound difficulties due to engineer or equipment failings) so a live album which basically showcases new songs from their upcoming 2nd full-length "Souls For Sale" was something I jumped at. This cassette-only release (damn it I hate cassettes!) is a bit poor in quality early on, but that may just be my copy. The artwork is simple B&W copied images of the band with tracklist. I won't say that this is a required release but Sacrificial Blood's full-lengths ARE (at the time of writing I have just finished listening to the 2nd full-length and it slays!!). They have a unique sound that blends (in order): Heavy Metal with progressive overtones, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, touch of punk and hard rock. They have excellent barked vocals, catchy as hell guitar riffs and driving percussion that is always tough and straightforward. These guys have been one of my favorite up-and-coming act discoveries of the last few years (though the main members have been musically active for quite a while) and I couldn't recommend them enough to fans of early 80's Heavy/Extreme Metal sounds.

4. Saxon- "Sacrifice"
Here we have classic Saxon material, catchy Heavy/Speed Metal in the NWOBHM tradition (quite literally on the 'British' part). See my review of them live in a previous posting. If you  like classic Saxon releases, check this one out. The whole album is solid with the following songs being particularly fist-pumpingly catchy: Sacrifice, Made In Belfast, Warriors Of The Road, Guardians Of The Tomb, and Wheels Of Terror.

5. Skinny Puppy- "Weapon"
I love Skinny Puppy and have supported them in all incarnations, since I got into them. Some of their more recent efforts (especially "The Greater Wrong Of The Right") have been very polarizing for old Puppy fans, but I think this release will bring a great number back to the fold. For those of you already familiar with SP, this release really scales the sounds back to the early days, I hear a lot of "Bites" and "Remission" in this new album in that the synths are stripped down, the percussion is simple and straightforward, often 4/4 stuff, Moroder-esque bass sequencers, and Ogre makes a full return to his droney and creepy monotone. We don't really get the swing beats I enjoy but that's just fine, the album is solid without them. For those of you new to the Pups, this is a good release to start on, then work back from. So, a song for song break down: 'wornin'' has a nice sequencer bass line with some simple and interesting choral synth leads with Ogre claiming that he's been "hiding out" over and over. Nice way to open the album, suggesting a return of some sort. To an older sound, perhaps? 'illisiT' starts off a bit more aggressive in the percussion, lead synth, and vocal delivery. There is also a good video for it: It feels quite a bit like it could have been on SP's "The Process" album, it especially reminds me of some demo versions of songs from said release, made available on some of the "Back & Forth" Series. 'saLvo' has a great lead synth, big and creepy with a nice percussive line and very creepy Ogre vocals. 'gLowbel' is a bit more whimsical in its music and vocal delivery. It feels an awful lot like it could be on an Ohgr album. 'Solvent' is next and is indeed a remastering of the self-same song from "Remission." Next we have 'paragUn' which feels a lot like something from "Mythmaker" in its vocal delivery and musical composition. Pretty decent but not an album maker. 'Survivalisto' feels a lot like early Front Line Assembly or related Bill Leeb projects in the drum beat and synth design. It doesn't sound like a rip off (what a strange thing THAT would be) just similar in style. "Tsudanama" stutters about its drum beat with some weird electronic leads. I hear a lot of cEvin Key's experimentation and recent stylings on this track. 'plastiCage' follows and is also a bit whimsical and feels like an Oghr song mixed with the "Mythmaker" style. 'Terminal' is very moody and somewhat atmospheric. Ogre does a more modern vocal delivery. Finally, the album closes with "Overdose" which is a return to the new-old sound heard on the beginning of the album. Creeping and crawling through its paces, I feel this is a strong closer. My only complaint is that the percussion is a little too forward in the mix on this track. I eagerly look forward to seeing Skinny Puppy for the second time (once in 2009) in February of 2014 and will post here when I do!

6. Suffocation- "Pinnacle Of Bedlam"
New York's own Brutal Death Metal legends, Suffocation, return with a new album that continues in the vein of the last few. What this means to me: the guitar tones are lacking in brutality, the compositions focus too much on technicality and solos, not enough on head-smashing riffs, and the drums sound way too plastic and triggered. This album does have some good guitar compositions but overall it just can't compare to "Pierced From Within," "Effigy For The Forgotten," or "Human Waste." Of note, I am in the video for 'As Grace Descends' which was shot at Duff's bar, New York. A friend and I waited around outside all day for a chance to get in to be an extra, and we succeeded. Look for the dumb guy with long hair in a blue over-shirt next to the guy with the beard in the Suffocation hoodie behind the drummer. Specific, right? So here's a picture. I DON'T OWN THE RIGHTS TO THIS VIDEO OR ITS CONTENT.

7. Suicide Commando- "When Evil Speaks"
For those unfamiliar, Johan Van Roy, creator of the Belgian Terror Body Music (TBM) electronic band, Suicide Commando brings us a new album of angry, high-octane dance tracks that attempt to bridge Front Line Assembly and the Klinik into one power-trip revved up to 45 RPM. This album is good but lacks the directness and hard-hitting angst or depression of other albums on the first half. With the exception of the stand-out title track, the album doesn't really get good until the 6th of 12 songs. A little mixing-up of song order or releasing just the second half of the album as an EP would have made this a very solid release for the band, but the first tracks feel like filler. Not a good move to START your album with weaker tracks. Prior and new fans alike should try the aforementioned tracks to see if the album is worth purchasing. I do highly recommend checking out their back catalog for newcomers! By the way, I was lucky enough to see Suicide Commando on their first US show EVER in Philly in 2013, front row.

8. Toxic Holocaust- "Chemistry Of Consciousness"
Another excellent slice of punk-fueled Blackened Thrash Metal from America. I am a big fan of all of Joel Grind's work and this release is no disappointment. I feel that Toxic Holocaust's approach to the genre leaves most other new-comers in the dust because of its sensibilities, its respect and genuine understanding of the genres, and its unique combination thereof. If you like Metal with your Punk or vice versa then get some TH releases! Also, I have been reading quite a bit about altered states of consciousness and psychoactive substances lately so that made this release extra-special. I wish I was able to see TH play locally for this release as I would have been very interested to chat up Joel about any experimenting or thoughts he had on the subject. I met him once when TH opened for the English Dogs (!!!) and he was really cool and approachable, as anyone who's read an interview of him would expect. Thanks Joel for being awesome and for making another gem of an album!

9. Undergang- "Søm Til Din Ligkiste" 7" EP
Here's over 12 minutes of crusty Danish Doomy/Death Metal to drop on the slab of your record player. I was first introduced to these guys when they opened for Autopsy in NYC in late-Winter of 2012, awesome show! If you like stuff like Coffins and Grave, or the now-popular-for-a-reason Obliteration with a ton of crust and distortion, this is a band for you!! This EP is a good place to start but my favorite release is 2012's "Til Døden Os Skiller."

10. Warbeast- "Destroy"
This Texan Thrash act, formed from about half of Rigor Mortis, is worth a listen if you want some excellent American Thrash Metal, late 80's style. I find their lyrics notable for being both about topical issues as well as cheesy horror/sci-fi. Come on, how awesome is a band that is named after the robotic terror from the film Deathmachine??? By the way, I got to meet Bruce (vox) when Warbeast opened for Destruction in 2011 (?, I think). He was really cool and approachable.

11. "Reflection Of The Negative" (Split, Cough and Windhand)
Here's some Virginian Sludgy Doom Metal to satisfy fans until each band's next release drops. Good tracks by both bands though probably not my favorite in either catalog.

AND NOW, THE TOP 5 RELEASES (for me) OF 2013 (in no particular order, except for fucking Sabbath):
1. Black Sabbath- 13
2. Autopsy- Headless Ritual
3. Inquisition- Obscure Verses For The Multiverse
4. Carcass- Surgical Steel
5. Darkthrone- Underground Resistance

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Monday, January 6, 2014

Best of 2013 Musical Releases PART II

Continuing where we left off, first up for review is:

1. Ghost (B.C.)- "Infestissumam" Having picked up a new moniker for shows in the US (B.C.), Ghost (Sweden) released their sophomore effort. I really enjoyed this release, though I will say that it moved more towards melody and away from heavy doom riffs. They are still there, but the proportions have greatly changed. What the album lacks in heaviness it more than makes up for in catchiness. Ghost still sound like they are writing albums back in the 70's heavy rock scene, so if sounds in that style over sarcastic anti-Christian lyrics sounds good to you, check out this album! Interestingly, the single released from the album "Secular Haze" is probably my least favorite on the album, though still very good.

2. Gift Of Gods- "Receive" Darkthrone's Nocturno Culto brings us a 4 song, 25 minute mini-LP of excellent Heavy Metal Thunder! 3 songs are original, 1 is a cover of the (Swedish?) band Universe. My favorite is the last track, 'Last Solstice' which features a tough riff with a mega catchy finish. The songs overall are long and mighty and fall much more in the realm of early heavy metal than most Darkhrone songs. Those familiar with Ted "Nocturno Culto" Skjellum's guitar style though will recognize the obscure riffings that sound totally familiar and totally unique. How this man invents riffs is quite beyond me! This is a top pick for one of my favorite releases in 2013, Ted can do no wrong! I am eagerly anticipating seeing him perform with Sarke at Maryland Deathfest 2014!!!

3. Grave- "Morbid Ascent" This EP features 2 new tracks by the Swedish Doomy Death Metallers, 'Venial Sin' and 'Morbid Ascent' with a cover of Satyricon's 'Possessed' and 2 more tracks of alternate versions of older material. The new tracks are classic for Grave, fast and brutal like someone dropping tombstones on you followed by a slow doomy breakdown like someone dropping an entire mausoleum on you, excellent combo!

4. Grave Miasma- "Odori Sepulcrorum" This London Death Metal band, feat. 2 members of Cruciamentum, has been on my radar since they played the first Martyrdom Fest in NYC in 2012. This album brings us a progression of earlier material, so there is still the fast/slow death riffs, now with even more dissonance! There is a bit more experimentation with guitar tones to create some demented atmosphere. Overall, I like where the band is going and recommend this release to fans of their material. If you haven't heard of them and like stuff like early Incantation, I recommend checking it out!

5. Haemorrhage- "Live Carnage" The twisted Spanish goregrinders/Death Metallers bring us a live album created at Maryland Death Fest 2012 (I was there!) I may even me visible as a pixel or two in the booklet's picture of the audience, hahaha! Anyway, I love Haemorrhage, they do a Carcass-like medical Death Metal thing but with more punk and hardcore influence present (hail the d-beat!) so that makes them stand out. If you haven't yet heard them, this is a good place to start as I had only heard a few tracks prior to this performance myself (afterwords I became a full devotee!). The sound is excellent on the recording as well. Notably, the band's vocalist Lugubrious has a unique deep voice that he uses to screech occasionally to great effect. The whole band is talented, but I'd like to give extra credit to one of their guitarists, Ana Belen de Lopez just because Metal needs more females. The ladies often rock harder and longer than you do gents! So with that sentence, let the jokes roll...

6. Hellbastard- "Sons Of Bitches" EP These English boys brought us the title of the "Crust Punk" genre and were very influential in developing its blueprint. This release brings us some great slabs of crusty crossover thrash that's worth a listen or ten. I was first introduced to these guys at Maryland Death Fest 2012, though I had some notion of the band prior, and have been following them since. If you already like them, this release won't disappoint. If you would like to hear the present sound of some progenitors in the crusty crossover scene, this would be a good place to start!

7. Helloween- "Straight Out Of Hell" So I am a sometimes fan of these German Power/Speed Metallers. They have some really solid songs and releases and some that are a less powerful. This one was dead on. If you are unfamiliar with them, I often describe them as the German answer to Bruce Dickinson-era Iron Maiden. The album is loaded with hooks and is admittedly quite melodic but that's part of their charm. I was able to see them live for this album which was quite fun, great set list, tons of on-stage energy, fanatic crowd; it's an experience I'd recommend even to passing fans of Helloween. On a tangential note, what is Klaus Nomi doing in their video for 'Halloween'?

8. Hot Graves - "Fashion Victim" EP. I love these Florida D-beat Punk/Hardcore/Black/Death/Thrash/everything'ers. Notably, this band was featured on Fenriz's "Band Of The Week" though I was rocking the demo tracks just prior. These guys are funny as hell and write some tough, nasty, awesome shit if you like Metal and Punk. They are basically all the good parts of your favorite bands put together. They were hilarious and punishing live so see them, if you are privileged to have the chance! If you've already heard them, you know what you're getting and should have bought this already. If not, and above description sounds even remotely enticing, get it!!!

9. Inquistion- "Obscure Verses For The Multiverse" For those not familiar, Inquisition started as a Thrash Metal band in Columbia, but is now an American Black Metal band of the highest order. They are, in fact, towards the top of my list for best North American Black Metal.This release is probably my favorite by the band and is a progression of the style they've been developing and honed on their last release, 2011's superb "Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm." They have a base style that is reminiscent of Immortal (a HUGE favorite of mine) in the vocals and guitar arrangements. This is a comparison many make and I feel is starting to plague the band because they are so much more than that, they most assuredly have their own sound that blends dissonance and melody in a truly unique and powerful way. Additionally, their lyrical content is noteworthy in that it has developed along with the beliefs of the band's frontman, Dagon. Most particularly, this album delves into 'Cosmic Satanism' for lack of a better term, that is it discusses the destructive and creative forces in the blackest regions of space, astral projection and black holes, the utter unstoppable-ness and rebellion against order (seemingly) that take place in the cosmos. Think something like the last Dissection album mixed with Carl Sagan. Yeah, that good. Hail Sagan, Hail Inquisition!!!

10. KMFDM "Kunst"- For those already familiar with the idiosyncratic Kap'n K and the Ultra Heavy Beat, then know that this album is AWESOME! It is a bit of a return to their older sound with simpler, analog synths, catchy, fast, and heavy guitars; and self-depreciating lyrics, including a throwback to the old rumor about killing mother-fucking Depeche Mode, not to mention the classic Brute! artwork and main discussion of the Russian Punk band, Pussy Riot. For those NOT familiar, KMFDM are an electronic band with very sarcastic and topical lyrics that really can't be summarized too well by me other than heavy rockin dance, I can only suggest you listen.

11. The Legendary Pink Dots- "The Gethsemane Option" LPD, UK pioneers in the gothic rock and industrial scene, return with a new album of heavenly and bizarre electronic spacey tripfests. Of note to those familiar, LPD have worked a bit with cEvin Key of Skinny Puppy of both their own releases and collaborations. If you want to hear what it would sound like if you put Hawkwind and Bauhaus together with Tangerine Dream, trouble yourself no longer with searching for that elusive Hawkhaus Dream record, buy the new LPD album (...and pretty much all the rest of the them)! Expect a post discussing the live performance I caught of them (SPOILER: it was incredible!!!).

12. Manilla Road- "Mysterium" I'm not cool enough to have heard about these guys before they were booked to Maryland Deathfest 2013, but I have been hooked every since I first heard 'Necropolis' on "Crystal Logic." This album ups the hammers and gets the ole fist pumping. If you want some classic early Heavy Metal like the first few Iron Maiden albums mixed with Judas Priest and ever so slightly slowed down, this band is for you!

13. Metal Church- "Generation Nothing" Metal Church are an American Heavy/Thrash Metal group known for their high vocals, catchy and crunching riffs. This release is a bit of a return to their earlier sound of the first 2 albums, but still with the Power Metal type sound that developed in more recent releases. If you don't like Metal Church, this is unlikely to convert you. If you are already a fan, this album probably won't blow you away but I am reasonably pleased with it and feel that it will probably grow on me quite a bit. In any case, I can hardly wait to see them live in March!

14. The Mission (UK)- "The Brightest Light" The Mission bring us another great Goth Rock album, heavy on the rock, which I appreciate. The album overall is a bit lacking in the hooks of early Mission recordings like the classic "Gods Own Medicine" but is still a solid release and probably my favorite by them in the 2000's. 'Black Cat Bone' is way catchy and my favorite on the album. The digipack version has some demo tracks which weren't that special but cool to include anyway. This was another act I finally got to see live this year, and they didn't disappoint, but more on that in other postings!

*STAY TUNED for the final posting in the series, where I will also name the best releases of those reviewed!

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of 2013 Musical Releases PART I

     So, firstly, this post is to discuss and rate albums that came out in 2013 that I heard. There were plenty of releases this year that I either didn't listen to or didn't know about, so the list is lacking quite a bit, especially in the Death Metal realm. What this post lacks in completeness I hope it gains in diversity so that any reader can find an interesting new release to check out. If I can spread music to at least one other person, this post will have been worthwhile.
     I would also like to add that while I discovered a number of (now) classic (to me) releases this year, they did not come out in 2013 or were compilations of older material that was re-released. I may utilize a separate post for discussion of said releases.
     Also, I will gladly review any music that you, the reader, would like me to, simply leave a message on one of my posts or email me at


(In alphabetical order by artist):
1. Autopsy- "The Headless Ritual"
This American Death Metal Act is one of my all-time favorite for the genre and in music overall. They are inventive and fiercely original. They traditionally combine over-the-top drumming with even more over-the-top vocals that sound like a demented Cookie Monster alternately belching or being castrated. This all over a nasty, doomy, bloated and distended sounding death riffs that only Autopsy could muster. This release is no exception. In fact, I am tempted to call it my favorite since the bands re-formation in 2008/2009 though all said releases have been solid. The album starts out with 'Slaughter At Beast House' which has some super old sounding leads and quickly breaks into some tight almost d beat drums and evolves into some atmospheric soloing and doomy riffs before slamming right back into the grue. 'Mangled Far Below' keeps a more steady pace but, as always, with very interesting drumming. 'She Is A Funeral' gets points for its length (7+ minutes!) of solidity with some interesting effects on the guitar to open and some very clean sounding solos that work. 'Coffin Crawlers' is nice and creepy on the riffs. 'When Hammer Meets Bone' has some great drumming with excellent riffage, the main riff masterfully manages to mangle some minor notes then get even faster. Then the song starts crawling in slimy doom, it's a powerful transition that hasn't failed to amaze every time I listen to it. 'Thorns And Ashes' has as its main riff a bit of a change for Autopsy, less demented sounding, more powerful sounding but it works as a segue piece for 'Arch Cadaver' a great fast-to-mid-paced sing along saturated with catchiness. The last three tracks 'Flesh Turns To Dust,' 'Running From The Goathead,' and 'The Headless Ritual' are all solid and work in a similar vein to the rest of the album. Overall this album continues in the steps of 2011's "Macabre Eternal" in that Autopsy still sounds like Autopsy but the members of the current line-up have let some more influences flow through to keep the Autopsy sound fresh and always interesting. If you like Death Metal, BUY THIS! If you like muppets, BUY THIS!

2. The Beyond- "FrostbitePanzerFuck"
This release continues the sleazy punk rock style that has been creeping into this American Black Metal band's act. This is most notable on the opener "Roto-Cunt." The rest of the album continues with alternations between sounding more like early Norwegian Black Metal with tons of tremolo picking and blackened punk rock sleaze, though the opener is definitely the best example. I was a bit disappointed by this release as I expected the band to have gelled their style a bit more, but it seems to me that they are clinging too much to the Black Metal when they really want to let the sleazy punk rock in, and they should because they do it well. This is an American Abigail waiting to happen. Other songs of note are "Necro Overlord" for its thrashy overtones with a very punk approach, I hear plenty of Motorhead in there too. I also liked the album closer "Exterminate Humanity" for its slowness and doom in the mega-tough main riff that sounds quite a bit like an early Darkthrone rip-off (in a good way!), The Beyond actually manage it quite well considering the rest of the album keeps it pretty snappy in the speed department.

3. Black Sabbath- "13" (review of digipack release with bonus tracks)
Let me save you the trouble of reading below, BUYBUYBUY BUY NOW! If you now or have ever liked Black Sabbath in any incarnation, this release will not disapoint! Black Sabbath are without doubt in the upper reaches of my top 5 bands EVER and this album solidifies that position. I will also add that having seen them tour for this album in Philly, they still deliver and excellent stage show!
Ok, so about the tracks: 'End Of The Beginning' got a good bit of radio play, which it deserves, the opening riff is slow and doomy reminiscent of Black Sabbath's title track from their eponymous debut, without being derivative. The song flows through with some more classic riffs that satisfy most deeply, not mention Ozzy sounds great! This song really feels like an intentional throw back song to the old Black Sabbath material with Ozzy in both sound and lyrics and is a fantastic way to open the record, showcasing that fact that the band and the magic are back. Never Say Die! Right, so then we have 'God Is Dead?' which is nice and moody and does the doomy blues as only Black Sabbath can. This also got plenty of radio play and deserves it. The riff development and progression towards the end really hit the spot, including a slow, restrained solo. 'Loner' is a fun track that feels more like something off "Never Say Die" in composition and style but keeps some restraint and slowness so that the song goes from semi-slow doom crawl to hard rockin mid-pace quite well. 'Zeitgeist' gives us an effect-laden opening and some acoustic guitars and feels quite a bit like 'Planet Caravan' again without being derivative. 'Age of Reason' opens with some catchy drums and a catchy as all hell guitar lead, this track should have gotten more airplay, as it is a bit more accessible than other tracks, but it still very majestic and characteristic of mid-to-later Black Sabbath sound. 'Live Forever' gives us some sturm und drang with slow doom and mid-pace heaviness that is quite good. 'Damaged Soul' follows with plenty of blues and soul, possibly with some the most underrated riffing on the album. 'Dear Father' has some super heavy and powerful riffs in classic old Sabbath tradition, it easily could have come from the "Master Of Reality" album. 'Methademic' also starts with some moody, sad acoustics and picks up with some slow to mid paced riffing. This is a decent track but weaker in comparison to the rest of the album. 'Peace Of Mind' has some great classic style as well, with the bass pounding on through, just the way it should be in a slower Sabbath song. This also feels like a slowed-down version of something that could have been on "Never Say Die!" which is A-OK by me! The album closes with 'Pariah' which is also slow and sad then flows into some mid paced heavy and memorable riffing. This may not be a super epic closer worthy of the incredible opening but it more than satisfies and would be quite remarkable if it didn't have to keep pace with the rest of the album. It's like comparing a handful of gems to a hill of gold, all are valuable just one is more-so.

4. Carcass- "Surgical Steel"
I love Carcass and this album was a great return to the melodic Death Metal that they pioneered. It opens with '1985' a great stage-setting instrumental that suddenly drops away to 'Thrasher's Abbatoir' which delivers just as much thrash death metal brutality as its name suggests, great solos! 'Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System' goes for more of a melodic approach but has mega-speed and toughness. 'A congealed Clot Of Blood' feels much older in the riffing and drum approach. Overall it has a feel like "Tools Of The Trade" updated a bit in production and style. This pattern of older style with a great mix of the more melodic style continues throughout the album with some more rocking riffs in 'Intensive Battery Brooding" (available in the digipack version or as a B-side on the "Captive Bolt Pistol" single 7"). If you like mid-period Carcass (and you should!) then this is a great release. They lyrics contain plenty of the classic Carcass medical musings but also a good bit of politics as well, which was much appreciated by yours truly. Keep in topical and brutal guys!

5. Coffins- "Fleshlands"
Coffins are an incredible doomy Death Metal band from Japan that sound an awful lot like the first Black Sabbath album mixed with Autopsy and the Amebix, so you know I love that shit! This album delivers very nicely their usual style with 'Hellbringer' being notable for its d beat smashfest that Coffins to so well, as well as 'Tormentopia' for its interesting and stonerish solos. A bit unique for Coffins! I look forward with great relish to seeing these guys at Maryland Deathfest in 2014!

6. Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult- "Necrovision" The female-fronted German Black-Death Metallers deliver another unholy slab of dark nastiness. If you like their prior work, this will not disappoint! The whole album is perhaps more on the side of Black Metal than previous releases, though it is more balanced about halfway through the album. Overall it sounds like some very necro-productions from the early days of the Norwegian scene as bands were just starting to experiment with the sounds that would become their brand of Black Metal, so this release should appeal to fans of that sound as well. Onielar does great vocals and guitars throughout the album though perhaps her best screaming is on the last track "Necrocosmic Vision"

7. Darkthrone- "The Underground Resistance"
Darkthrone continue to let their older and older influences shine through with each release, this one sounding like a classic and slightly progressive album from the 70's mixed with a slight touch of your choice of awesome early 80's bands and of course filtered through Darkthrone's own sensibilities. These guys are yet another of my favorite acts for their devotion to the riff and production, who are not afraid to evolve their sound to keep the sounds of the underground alive. 'Dead Early' has a great tough riff and is mid-paced. 'Valkyrie' is slow and majestic, score on this one guys! 'Lesser Men' starts off with a mean riff that moves in some obscure directions that continue to feel progressive but darkly so like Voivod, and a bunch of other stuff I can't put my finger on. 'The Ones You Left Behind' is an awesome fist-pumping sing-along that sticks in your head like crazy glue, Darkthrone has been showing quite a talent for this on the last 4 or so albums. 'Come Warfare, The Entire Doom' earns its name with its slow Sabbath-y intro followed by some galloping and rocking bits with some excellent tough riffs that just blow you away about halfway through and don't let up until the solo'd out end. Finally, we end the album with the extra-powerful and progressive sounding "Leave No Cross Unturned." How one song can be so long (13+ minutes!) and remain so catchy, intense, and urgent is quite a feat. Fenriz has made it long known that he loves long tracks and this one showcases his skill at composing such songs. This song also marks the record as longest Darkthrone song ever, beating 1992's 'Kathaarian Life Code' by a full 3 minutes and 10 seconds. This is quite a feat when you consider the amount of atmospheric intro on 'Kathaarian...' GET THIS ALBUM!

8. Death In June- "The Snow Bunker Tapes" (Peaceful Snow Demos)
This album continues in the vein of Death In June's acoustic folk albums. If you like this period of DIJ's career, this release won't disappoint. If you are not, this release is not likely to convert you. If you've never listened to DIJ, check them out if you are interested in a melancholic and misanthropic acoustic guitar-driven folk band that focuses on themes related to Germanic culture. By the way, DIJ are ultra Left-wing and Douglas P (the brainchild behind DIJ) is openly gay. He's worked with Boyd Rice though, so take that how you may. See my prior review of DIJ live for more info on the band.

9. DOA- "We Come In Peace"
Much like Death In June, this album sounds like their other releases so if you like them, you'll like this, if not, this won't change your mind. That said, I love DOA so this albums was great! It doesn't sound like a copy of older work. Stand out tracks are 'We Occupy' and 'Who The Hell Do You Think You Are.' Also much like DIJ, see my earlier posting on DOA live for more info on the band.

10. Dubcon "UFO pon di gullyside"
Here's another great cEvin Key (of Skinny Puppy) collaborative side-project. Dancy and tripped out, this is a great release to sit down and do something weird (or mind-altering!) to. If you like the stuff his Subconscious Communications label has been putting out and you like his Plateau project and want more in a similar vein, this release is for you.

11. Evil Army- "I, Commander" 7" EP
Their first major release since their self-titled full-length debut in 2006, this EP delivers what this American Thrash Metal group is known for: catchy hooks with fast nasty riffs and drumming, overall sounding like some of the best 80's black thrash that effortlessly incorporates some punk roots. I got to see the band on tour in support of the 7" and they sounded awesome! Even more powerful than on the recordings, quite blistering. I will say that a ton of rumors circulated around the tour suggesting that the members of Evil Army were stealing equipment, but I can neither confirm nor deny. I can only judge the music. Also, the show I saw ended very quickly and abruptly. The band showed up late, played only about 20-30 min (even though they were headlining) and then they bailed out early so that was a let down. This was exacerbated for some in attendance by the fact that Suffocation was playing a few blocks away at the same time and many had to choose between shows. I will add that it was an incredible, energy-packed 20-30 minutes though. If they can keep their shit together, this will be a band to watch, and they have already been featured on Fenriz of Darkthrone's 'Band of the Week.'

12.  Front Line Assembly-"Echogenic"
FLA is a mostly Canadian electronic band known for its prolific frontman, Bill Leeb and its early contributions to the industrial and body music genres. This album was a departure from even FLA's varied sound. It seems like Bill Leeb (FLA mastermind and former Skinny Puppy member) is having a hard time keeping all his projects separate (I can't even count how many projects he has, it seems there is always another or a new one), since this album is missing the intensity or directness characteristic of most FLA albums in favor of a slower, slightly trippy, and often pop or disco like leads/hooks hiding behind the distortion. I can't really get into this album too much, at best it will probably live on as background music for me at best. The album does attempt to return to a more focused and stripped down sound, which I appreciate, but it is largely unsuccessful. I hope this serves as a transitional album in the bands career, with the new line-up gelling together and pooling their talents for a killer release next time.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2014*