Saturday, October 10, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Gruesome "Savage Land"

I managed to snag a vinyl copy in silver, commemorating Relapse Records' 25th anniversary as a label. Congrats, here's to 25 more!

So, back to the record itself, this release collects a Death Metal super-group, most notably to me Matt Harvey of gore-metallers Exhumed and Robin Mazen of doomy deathsters Derketa, for a special project.

Intended as a tribute to Chuck "Evil" Schuldner, especially his work on Death's Leprosy album, Savage Land delivers! Stylistically, the album has an unmistakable Chuck-feel which Death fans should appreciate. All the Gruesome tracks are superb, though none match 'Forgotten Past' for catchiness (in my ears anyway!). Further descriptions of the music would be akin to reviewing Death's Leprosy album (this should be very telling of the quality of Gruesome's writing and production), which would not only be redundant but beyond my skill (I imagine myself as Wayne and Garth, prostrated, crying "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!").

So, instead, I'll extol my appreciation of the loving attention to detail on the Gruesome album. As I'm not much of a tech-head and couldn't tell you about equipment similarities, I'll talk about lyrical similarities, mostly. Savage Land pays homage to Death by opening with the album's eponymous track and also contains 8 tracks total. We get a twist on the song 'Leprosy' in Gruesome's 'Gangrene' with Death's 'Open Casket' now becoming Gruesome's 'Closed Casket.' Both tracks even occupy the same slot in the tracklist, namely #6(66). I also imagine that the album title, Savage Land, is in reference to the song 'Primitive Ways.' Both songs also share similar arrangements as do Death's 'Forgotten Past' and Gruesome's 'Demonized.' These tracks share the same tracklist slot as well. Ed Repka has also been enlisted to create Gruesome's cover art. There is clear intention to mimick elements of his work on Death's Leprosy cover art, as the main compositions are VERY similar. Most noteably, we have as the central theme a close-up of a figure to the viewer's left, with two figures in the background to the right doing something which further tells about the central figure and develops the 'story' of the picture. The Gruesome cover is in fact more brutal, but both covers are excellent.

This release exemplifies, to me, the adage that imitation is the highest form of flattery. I am eternally grateful to Chuck Schuldner for the enjoyment his own work has given me, not to mention the many ways he has influenced my own playing. I now would like to thank Gruesome for making such an excellent and honest tribute to Chuck, while also adding an indispensable album to the history of Death Metal!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, September 20, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Hexx "No Escape" and "Under the Spell" (2015 Vinyl Re-Issues on Metal Blade)

This year, Metal Blade Records released a great treat- re-issues of Hexx's first two albums! I must admit, I wasn't too familiar with this band other than in name until the start of this year when the band came up in discussion with friends.

Anyway, Hexx is a really special and unique band in that they began as a Heavy/Power/Speed Metal band, progressed to include Thrash elements (comparable to Metal Church and Agent Steel, though to a lesser degree), then further developed into a Death Metal band. Of note, their latter line-up included Clint Bower, who's work in Abscess,The Ravenous, and Eatmyfuk I really admire. I'm so glad I discovered this band in time to catch these re-issues! For those of you cool enough to already be fans, these versions come in deluxe gatefolds and in several colors. All are VERY limited (mine are from a 200 copy run!). There's a bonus track from the demo of pre-Hexx band, Paradox on 'No Escape' and 'Under the Spell' has a live version of "Edge Of Death." The sound quality is excellent and has a distinct analog feel.

A detailed interview describing the band's history and releases can be found in the Chilean Death Metal only 'zine, 'Compilation Of Death' 3rd Issue, distributed in the USA by Hell's Headbangers.

 Hopefully, there will soon be vinyl reissues of my favorite releases by Hexx, "Quest For Sanity," "Watery Graves," and "Morbid Reality" to complete the set!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Laibach- "A Chicken In Every Pot, Laibach In Every City (2015 North American Tour Live Album)"

This is a live, digital-only album exclusively available as a gift to pledgers who supported Laibach's North American Tour 2015 via Indiegogo. It consists of tracks recorded live from the tour and is 1 hour, 52 minutes in length.

Disappointingly for me, no tracks are from the show I attended in NYC, though the set list was the same or at least very similar. Anyway, the album includes the pre-recorded voice which introduced songs and set highlights (for me): The Whistleblowers, B Mashina (yeah Iron Sky!), Bossanova, and encore tracks Tanz Mit Laibach and Leben Heisst Leben.

The tracks are all high-quality and do a great job capturing what it was like to hear this tour. Hopefully, at least some of these tracks will be made available in some form for Laibach fans who missed the tour or were unable to donate (lacking 'Kaptial' harhar).

I would also LOVE more coverage of Laibach's North Korea performance, but that's a whole other story...

Until then, I'll (digitally) covet my copy; Das spiel ist aus!

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Kommandant "The Architects of Extermination" (limited digipack version, 2015) + "Promo 2015"

The promo mentioned in the post title features three tracks, all album versions (songs 2-4), so I mention it as a cool collector's item only.

The digipack version of The Architects of Extermination comes with a HUGE poster flag and a bonus track ("Killing Word"), which is interestingly placed in the middle of the album, suggesting to me an intention to include it in the first place. If it was simply a track that didn't fit on the album or wasn't in the same style/skill level of the album, it would make sense to place it last, as sort of an afterthought, avoiding album-flow interruption. This inclusion as a middle track makes me very curious to hear the track and speculate on the decision not to include it on the standard CD/LP version; if it didn't fit, it wouldn't be placed in the middle of the album, right?

So, back to packaging. The artwork looks very much like Soviet propaganda art, a perfect choice for the band's aesthetic. The lyrics are mostly unprinted, with some portions available in the booklet. See below image for some ideas about the type of imagery that accompanies Kommandant albums.

As I wait to press play on the album, I'm still hung up on the bonus track, hoping that "Killing Word" might be about Frank Herbert's Dune... we shall see!

1."Let Our Vengeance Rise" opens the album slowly and with much atmosphere building via ambient textures. It develops into a march, presumably as our vengeance rises and organizes. About halfway through, the vocals/guitars/bass/remainder of the drum kit deploy for a slow, heavy, discordant tone-setter.

2. "The Architects Of Extermination," bearing the album title's weight, starts strongly with feedback and vocal madness, as well as a catchy mid-90's Black Metal riff... it feels sort of French (ala Deathspell Omega perhaps). Also about halfway through, there's a song change as tracks drops out and the song becomes briefly very atmospheric and effects-laden, returning to its discordant, blackened meanderings rather quickly. Now that we've been introduced properly to the Architects, we can move on to:

3. "Oedipism" really brings forth an element that was more peripheral on the opening tracks; that of decadence and degeneration. The music is similar to the preceding tracks, but more discordant and eerie, though faster and more structured. It introduces a really demented riff change at 2:31 that seems like the twisted ramblings of madness as structure breaks down. This seems like it could relate to the madness inherent in the tale of ascendancy/decline of Oedipus in traditional Greek mythology. It could also have to do with some Freudian concepts regarding Ego, narcissism, sexual drive, and all sorts of conflict. In any case, I wish the lyrics were printed, but this song is quite deranged!

4. "Acquisition Of Power" returns to almost pure discordance, reminiscent of Blut Aus Nord's "The Work Which Transforms God." The drumming is also the fastest and most intense yet. It is as though the troubling psychological destruction of the last track has led us to a vicious, neurotic bid for power. The last 1:14 minutes are really intense, with a slow militant marching beat adding maximum heaviness.

5."Killing Word" changes pace, and is the most structured song on the album, it is highly syncopated, and feels most like some Industrial-Metal hybrid. Maybe Godflesh behind enemy lines, brainwashing foes. It feels like a march mixed with degeneration, with serpentine riffs and disorienting vocals. Perhaps the auditory equivalent of riding the Old Man Of The Desert high on spice? No, I'm not just reaching, I'm shark-jumping. But this is another bizarre, decadent/degenerate track.

6. "And Nation Shall Rise Against Nation" continues in the style of "Acquisition Of Power;" discordant, eeire, comparable to B.A.N., but this time slow, huge, and lumbering in sound. Perhaps like Nations rising against each other, ha! I like the title, very prophetic, in a Revelations kind of way.

7. "Rise And Fall Of Empire" feels like a third part to "Acquisiton/And Nation..." with more discordant guitars and eerie, disorienting guitars/bass/vocals. Seemingly following the eponymous Empire's rise and fall, the song builds until the last minute or so (of 7+) with clean, demented vocals over a fade-out of the other instruments.

8. "Onward To Extinction" follows a similar structure with a quiet beginning, building from a guitar solo (as in by itself, not frenetic string plucking), to a furious mid-bit and a quiet close-out. This track, however, is far more menacing, as it should be!

Overall thoughts: this album takes further the progression of 'The Draconian Archetype' towards less frenzied, more cold, atmospheric compositions. Less Marduk, more Cold Meat label deathly Industrial vibes. The production is much more obscure and actually heavier for its pace.

I feel we can look at Kommandant's catalog as a story; the earlier material is hungrier, fiercer, more militant. It is as though a new regime gathered its forces and launched an assault on listeners, by 'The Draconian Archetype' the regime had won and was taking over, seeking to control the masses. Now, in 'Architects' the supreme totalitarian dictator brainwashes the masses and degenerates into opulence. This new album feels more cerebral versus the more visceral earlier material. It is like an auditory, hallucinatory, subliminal propaganda terror-tactic. It takes a while to absorb, but makes an indelible mark; compared to the iron-gauntlet-to-the-face of, say, 'Stormlegion.' So what about "Killing Word?" It breaks up what I propose to be a quadrilogy of tracks (Acquisition/And Nation/Rise And Fall/Onward). It only makes sense to interject it if the whole album is a concept, then a supposed ruler (who recently acquired power) could in fact rise to such heights of fear and respect that his (or her) name alone could become the impetus for killing. Thus the track would fit here in the story... maybe.

Well, enough Asperger-esque hyper-focus and strangeness on my part (perhaps I've become just as demented as I find this release). I really like the album, and find Kommandant get more and more interesting to me with every release. I'm really excited to see them at Martyrdoom IV this November to experience how these new songs fit into the set and compare to the two times I've seen them previously. Perhaps more about the concept behind the tracks will be revealed via the material's live presentation. In any case, it should be incredible and intense.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Saturday, September 19, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Ectovoid "Dark Abstraction" (2015)

Birmingham, Alabama's Ectovoid return from the Other-realms to deliver another slab of demented Death Metal madness!

Ectovoid continue in the varicose vein of their previous LP and demo (they also have a live cassette), with heavier, crunchier guitar production and catchier drums with tighter songwriting. The lyrics continue to obsess over disembodiment, suspension of logic, and overall altered states of consciousness. I find that their lyrics remind me of the latter portion of William Hope Hodgson's 1908 novel, "The House on the Borderland." Fans of H.P. Lovecraft should check out this author, and of course, this band! No tentacle monsters, but plenty of weirdness and experiences beyond comprehension to humanity.

Musically, the band should please fans of Asphyx for their brutality, and guitar production; as well as Autopsy die-hards for their doomier elements and time signature changes. I find the drumming to be a mix of both bands' (Ectovoid has plenty of originality, which is why I like them, but I hear influences I share, which is also why I like them). Fans of Swedish and Finnish Death Metal bands of the late 80's/early 90's should be pleased as well.

The album is cohesive stylistically and all tracks satisfy, with opener "Obscene Altars" doing its job of introducing the album well, however two tracks really stand out, for me. These are "A Prisoner of Paradox" for menacing Autopsy vibes, judicious cymbal use, and HEAVY Sabbathian riff at its mid-point, not to mention a cool guitar solo. "Precipice Of Absolute Chaos" is another favorite and opens with some very slow riffs, conjuring images of someone tentatively approaching the eponymous chasm. This breaks to some ancient Death Metal stylings with an excellent cadaveric "UGH" and more apt cymbal punctuation. The main riff is quite catchy, the song has plenty of hooks, and also has a great closing guitar solo; short, twisted, and effective.

Let me make explicit that though this band can be compared to the aforementioned bands/styles, they are not clones and have their own style. I hear distinct development from Ectovoid's earlier releases, with a deadly Thrash edge creeping in to these songs, adding intensity to the compositions. If I had to use one phrase to sum up the band (and efficiently make several poorly-executed references at once), I'd say they are always reaching for one step beyond death, questing for the ultimate reality.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Skepticism- "Ordeal" [Vinyl/DVD Edition] (2015)

Alright, so before reviewing the album itself, I'd like to discuss this edition. The album comes in CD+DVD and black, white, or splatter vinyl+DVD.

I obviously ordered the splatter vinyl version. So why the DVD? Well it seems I did misunderstand the guitarist of Skepticism at MDF when we discussed upcoming material. I thought he said that a live album, THEN a new album were going to be released on Svart Records. Turns out, the new album IS the live album. Let that sink in.

This is an album of new material, but recorded ENTIRELY LIVE. There is no 'studio' version of the album, the official version is forever this live performance. Imagine the pressure! "Ordeal" is certainly an appropriate title. The DVD included is the live show, however music videos for "Pouring" and "The March And The Stream" were made for the live versions played after the Ordeal set.

For those to whom Skepticism is already known, the music should come as familiar in style, certainly holding its own against their catalog of releases. For those unfamiliar, prepare yourself for extremely slow, somber, keyboard/organ-heavy Metal with dismal growls and laments. Often working on a formula of 'theme' development and return, Skepticism songs are haunting hymns of annihilation. I found this album to get better and better as it wove on, becoming heavier/more dense and disparaging towards continued self-existence in emotional impact with each song. Perhaps it was just the cumulative effect of the songs' weight.

As the music is very typical of the Skepticism sound, I will focus more on emotional impact and lyrics in this review.

Now for the new songs themselves. "You" and "Momentary" are the first two tracks and flow into one another musically. They appropriately occupy side A on the vinyl version. The lyrics to "You" can be interpreted a number of ways (like most on the album), but is clearly about longing. "Momentary" similarly could be interpreted a number of ways, but seems to be about crushing despair following a brief respite of joy. Perhaps this is the joy of the longing fulfilled albeit all too briefly, leaving a more turbulent waking in its passing.

The vinyl B side and next movement of the album contain "The Departure" and "March Incomplete." So, "The Departure" lyrically presents a paradox of loss; when something departs, it also arrives. Much personal interpretation could be made, but I would like to think it's an ode to fans and friends that have stuck by the band and its members through their own trials. "March Incomplete" also flows right out of the previous track, musically and lyrically (again, this is played live so that >15 minutes of playing with no rest or mistakes!). "March Incomplete" is more of a story about unfinished writing that develops into an existential ponderance on the value of completing a goal or letting it die. Perhaps continuing the story from the first two tracks, "The Departure/March Incomplete" tell the difficulty of dealing with loss, deciding whether it's worthwhile to continue onwards. Matti's scream of "It's an ordeal!" really punctuates this.

The album's next movement answers "March Incomplete"'s question in the following track, "The Road." Lyrically the track is about unwavering dedication to a path, despite opportunity and desire to (de)cease. Matti bleakly adds that "for the journey, I will not be known." What a great anthem for those of us bearing burdens, suffering in silence! Although I enjoy and can deeply empathize with the lyrics to all the tracks, this one is my favorite. It really speaks to where I am and have recently been in my life.
That said, the appropriately-named "Closing Music" track is my favorite musically. It begins with a (funeral) march, building in dynamics, atmosphere, and heaviness to Matti's closing, spoken, remark, "There is only silence!" This brilliant closure finishes a track that is rather clearly about being borne by pallbearers in your casket to the grave site, then becoming fully interred under the earth. "The Road" and the album are indeed completed.

Presumably after a respite and much celebrating, Skepticism closes out the album with excellent live performances of previously released classics, "Pouring" and "The March And The Stream."

Hopefully this album draws you into Skepticism's world and gets you digging into their catalog for more. I feel extremely lucky to have seen them at MDF and hope to get another chance sometime soon. Until then, commiserate along with 'Ordeal.'

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, September 13, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Iron Maiden- "Book Of Souls" [CD Hardbound Edition] (2015)

'Maiden's 16th Studio album, "Book Of Souls" arrived on my doorstep Labor Day Weekend, so what better way to spend a Monday off? As Iron Maiden are one of the few Heavy Metal bands my partner and I agree on, it was especially nice to share this one with my significant other (you'll come to love Von yet, you'll see!). I bought the CD Hardbound Edition, though I was tempted to get the 3 vinyl version! The artwork is quite good throughout, see my teaser photos.

The album, overall, is quite good, with all band members getting a chance to shine. In fact, the release feels more like a showcase for each member's unique style and personality. Of course Bruce has TWO songs about planes, including opera-ballad closer "Empire Of The Clouds." Yes, there's three of eleven songs longer than 10 minutes, but none drag; they are nuanced and interesting enough to flow well. The album has plenty of throw-back riffs; "The Great Unknown" is similar in riffage and arrangement to "Alexander The Great" on 'Somewhere In Time,' for example. It's a bit lacking in hooks but it's a good tune. Steve Harris' song, "The Red And The Black" is probably the oldest-sounding (though "When The River Runs Deep" plunders the depths of the 'Maiden catalog) and best track on the album. Lyrically, it's Iron Maiden's "Ace Of Spades." Tons of gallops and the album's first and best 'whoah' sing-along!

The first part of the album closes with the long title track, nicely book-ended with an acoustic riff. This song probably has the most balanced start-to-finish arrangement for musical feeling, with only "Empire Of The Clouds" worthy of competing. Before I move on, "If Eternity Should Fail" is a good mostly mid-pacer with some decent gallops and opportunities for Bruce to stretch his vocal chords. Also it's very strong in the song's latter portion! "Speed Of Light" is another solid track, probably my second favorite on the album, with a great video. It really sets the throwback theme in motion with Bruce's opening vocal delivery and, most importantly, the cow bell!

I suggest taking an intermission (as I did) before starting the 2nd half of the album, beginning with "Death Or Glory" an appropriately energetic song to perk you up after "The Book Of Souls." This whole portion of the album deals, lyrically, with death. This fact, coupled with my proposed 'showcase' of all band members, truly makes the album title 'The Book Of Souls' exceedingly apt. These latter songs are still strong, but not as good as the first half, to me. Of course, the album is a bit of an endurance test so I'll have to try each track individually to fairly rate its merit.

Ok, so a summary of 'Maiden's longest-ever song (18:03 minutes!), "Empire Of The Clouds" about an experimental airship crash. Why? Because 'Maiden are Nerd Metal, that's why! And I love it. So the song takes about 4 minutes to drop in the guitars, building up from Bruce's simple but catchy piano line. The song stays mid-pace throughout and re-drops the guitars for the last minute or so. I really like the track, but if I were arranging it, I'd make more use of the guitars playing the main piano line, as it is really catchy! Again, great track, not gimmicky, historically accurate and enlightening, a fitting closer for an excellent album.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

CONCERT REVIEW: Gravehill, Ghoulgotha, Horrendous, Mutant Supremacy @The Acheron, Brooklyn NY Aug 12th, 2015

Time for another Ghoulgotha review! The band was cool enough to chat with me before the show and sign my shit, give me stickers and a set list, etc., so thanks guys!

I'll come back to them, though. First up for the night was Mutant Supremacy who had some great 'Venom'-ous Motorvibes to their late 80's/early 90's USA/Swedish-infused Death Metal... Brooklyn Style! Whatever I mean by that; anyway; they played first and were lots of fun, I'll have to make it a point to catch more of their shows!

Horrendous came up next, and have been rotting on the tongues of Death Metal fans lately. Their 2014 release "Ecdysis" didn't win me over until about 1/2 through, but I do like 2012's "The Chills." I must admit that their sound made more sense live; something clicked that didn't before for me. Horrendous have what so few bands in general have, let alone in the Death Metal realm: originality. Instantly sounding like Death Metal, but overall not quite like any other band (though you'll hear nods and influences to many classic acts, especially American, particularly early Death), what makes them special, to me, was the feeling that this was a band right on the cusp of Death Metal developing. They sound like they are pushing Heavy Metal and Thrash Metal beyond their limits into something foul and undiscovered, much as it must have been when Massacre, Death, Possessed, et al., were first exhuming their own style from the graveyards of Metal past. Check 'em out live, you'll be glad you did!

Ghoulgotha took stage next and had an awesome set, albeit shortened for time constraints. This sucked especially hard for me as Ghoulgotha was my main reason for going to the show (not to disparage the other bands!). Their new album is mind-blowing, destined to rank high on my personal 'Best of 2015' list. I'm still hoping to see live versions of 'Arteries Unblest' and 'Abnormal Paralysis' sometime guys!

Gravehill closed out the night with a powerhouse set (despite bass issues) of dirty Thrashin' Death Metal madness (with a slight touch of gritty, early Black Metal...). Gravehill, like Horrendous, I was somewhat indifferent to in recorded form (though the "Metal Of Death" Demo is great!), prior to seeing them live. Also like Horrendous, much changed in the live arena; Gravehill are so energetic and engaging live, not to mention their sound is much heavier! I definitely need to go back and give their catalog another listen... 

To end (as I began) on a personal note, I bought a copy of Mindrot's 'Endeaver' 7" single from Gravehill drummer Rhett Davis' distro at the show. While this is a great score in its own right, to purchase it from Rhett Davis, best known to me for his work with Morgion, was incredible! Realize that Morgion are amongst my all-time top Death Metal bands, ever; they hold their own with the likes of diSEMBOWELMENT for something special that hits hard and deep. This includes their early brutal stuff and the later, melodic stuff. I was exposed to their Relapse Records catalog first via the re-issue (not being old or cool enough to discover the demo or 7" first), and without further derailing this post into Morgion territory, it made a huge impact on me that hasn't lessened; perfect listening for sunrise and sunset!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

CONCERT REVIEW: Mac Sabbath, Hymen Holocaust, Goat Wizard at The Knitting Factory, Brooklyn, NY, Sat., Sept. 12th, 2015

This was a big day for concerts; I had to choose between Toxic Holocaust at St. Vitus, Nuclear Assault/Whiplasher/Murphy's Law at The Gramercy, and this show. I made the right decision.

I've already seen Toxic Holocaust twice (though another time would still be awesome), and Nuclear Assault are playing MDF 2016, so I'll catch them there. Besides all that, when will I ever get the chance to see Mac Sabbath again?

For readers unfamiliar, Mac Sabbath is a Black Sabbath cover band whose lyrics and stage show revolve around scathing McDonald's parodies. For example, their cover of "Iron Man" is "Frying Pan." This song, in fact, launched the group to fame as a video was made of their 1st gig (in California, by the way), which Black Sabbath themselves noticed and approved of. Since then, the video has gone viral, Mac Sabbath have written more songs, and have now completed their 'East Cheeses' Tour. Not hooked yet? The band all wear costumes and have McDonalds/Rock/Metal themed personas. Their actual identities remain anonymous, though I have strong suspicions about the singer...

On Drums, the Catburglar, AKA Peter Hot Criss Buns: 

On Bass, The Grimalice:

On Guitar, Slayer McCheese (though it should be Motor McCheese, in my opinion):

Fronted by Ronald Osbourne:

For me, there's little more enticing than Black Sabbath and clever puns, but more on Mac Sabbath later. Openers Goat Wizard played a gnarly set of effects-heavy Doom Metal, comparable to Sleep's 1st & 2nd albums with lyrics as delightfully cheesey as the band name. Their vocalist also had a costume, that of some sort of Sun-Worshiping Forest Shaman, whose mask reminded me a bit of the garb from the end of Stuart Gordon's H.P. Lovecraft-inspired movie, Dagon.

On a personal note, this band hails from Bethlehem, PA in South-Eastern Pennsylvania (or SEPA), which from a NEPA boy like me, gains instant respect as there is NOTHING out there. To have created enough of a name for themselves to open this show says oodles about the band's talent and reputation, especially coming from an area that (to my knowledge) still has essentially no scene. I wanted to nab these guys between sets to probe into the current local scene and wax nostalgic over how awesome Wegman's is a coupla too, tree times (heyna?) but alas, Goat Wizard returned to their mountain peaks (or somewhere else hide-able) before I could locate them.

Hymen Holocaust took stage next, they play a late 70's Punk/early 80's USA Hardcore style Rock that is enjoyable on its own, but with ridiculous over-the-top lyrics. They opened with a song about masturbating. I'm not sure if they played longer than their stage banter lasted, but I was in stitches the whole time! I was laughing and head-bopping along so intently that I actually forgot to take a photo! Anyway, if something like the Circle Jerks, Negative Approach, and The Mentors rolled into an efficient, gut-busting whole sounds like fun, catch these Brooklynites on some Brooklyn night.

RIGHT, so back to Mac Sabbath. After a veiled stage prep, the band opened up with their rendition of 'War Pigs' AKA 'More Ribs,' followed by 'Chicken for the Slaves (Children of the Grave),' 'N.I.B.B.L.E. (N.I.B.),' 'Sweet Beef (Sweet Leaf),' 'Lord Of The Swirl (Lord Of This World),' 'Zipping Up The Uniform (Symptom of the Universe)', 'Cherries Are Fruits (Fairies Wear Boots),' 'Frying Pan,' and ending with 'Pair A Buns (Paranoid).' They also played a version of 'Hand Of Doom' whose name I didn't catch.

'Ron Osbourne' had some great one-liners about "Fast Food Metal," really funny stuff! Hopefully Mac Sabbath continue un-sued (they have Black Sabbath's approval, but not McDonald's; parodies are able to bypass copyrights as I understand it...), maybe even release an album of the above tracks, done their way (wait, maybe that's how Burger King Diamond does it...).

Though someone in the audience hollered out for 'Electric Oven Funeral,' I'd love to hear the eponymous 'Mac Sabbath,' 'The Gizzard,' 'Fat Salad,' 'Happy Meals Of Confusion,' 'Superhot (about the Liebeck v. McDonald's Restaurants case re: too hot coffee),' 'Under The Bun,' 'Grilling Yourself To Live,' 'Dirty Whoppers,' and 'Never Say Fry!'

Of course, if they could enlist the vocal talents of Runnie J Dippo, songs such as 'The McMob Rules,' and 'The Sign Of The Golden Arches' could be performed.

No matter which way Mac Sabbath flips their burger, I'm lovin' it.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Thursday, September 10, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Christian Mistress, High Spirits, Savage Master, Python@St. Vitus Bar, Brooklyn, NY, Sept 9th, 2015

I didn't get any good photos this time, so use your imagination!

First up on the bill was Brooklyn, NY's Python, featuring Lino Wreker AKA Desecrator, et al., on guitar and vocals. He has this great King Diamond/Sabbat (Japan) vocal approach I really dig. Few attempt and fewer succeed at any style resembling this! I am familiar with his work in Villains and Ceremonium (circa 2000). The Ceremonium connection was a chance one I made after first hearing them at a friend's home this past weekend. Anyway, this was Python's debut record release show, and it was great!
Python is a power trio which utilizes some Venom/Sabbat (Japan)/(very early) Bathory type riffs with the focus on some heavy and traditional Doom Metal like Angel Witch, Candlemass mixed with occasional middle-eastern type riffs/scales. At least that's how they sounded to me, I arrived a bit late and missed a few songs! Desecrator's vocals remain in the style I love with the added elements of creepy whispering and prayer or mantra-like chanting delivery. Excellent stuff!

Savage Master took stage next with their brand of Heavy Metal, influenced in style and appearance by bands like (early) Death SS, The Mentors, Judas Priest, Sabbat (Japan). More fantastic Metal! They currently have a 7" EP and an LP to their name, as far as I am aware. Savage Master also played Ragnarokkr Fest this year, which I missed, but I hear they were great there as well!

High Spirits took stage next and stole the show, for me! Chris Black always puts out quality material, my favorite being his Superchrist project, AKA MotorMaiden (at least in my head). I also recently got to listen to his Aktor project, which sounds a bit like Lemmy-era Hawkwind mixed with Kraftwerk. Weird and trippy with a touch of heaviness, so you know I love it!
Anyway, back to High Spirits! They delivered an intense show, featuring "Another Night In The City" (which was well received by a NYC audience), "Full Power," "Demons At Your Door," "I Need Your Love," "I Need To Know," and "High Spirits." For those unfamiliar, High Spirits play stripped down, efficient Hard Rock/Heavy Metal that's catchy as all hell (and not the Misfits song, though maybe ALMOST as catchy). I dare you to listen and not start singing along! Those familiar with this blog will recall my review in the 'Best of 2014' post of their "You Are Here" album. I really should have described them more in depth in my review of the Defenders Of The Old Fest III post, but I was so excited...heh... for Exciter!

Christian Mistress completed the show with a high-octane set of songs. I'm not too familiar with their catalog at this time, but there were songs from at least the last 2 LP's I believe. Anyway, the band was really energetic live, with their vocalist coming into the audience at one point to stir us up! Also, the guitars were especially heavy live with the vocals a bit huskier and smokier in a way that improved the sound too.

In short, this is a great tour that is totally worth checking out for fans of old Hard/Heavy Metal!

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, August 30, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Controlled Bleeding/Sparkle In Grey (Split)- "Perversions Of The Aging Savant" [CD & Digital Editions] (2015)

So I discovered this release after poking around on the Controlled Bleeding facebook and decided to give it a whirl. For those unfamiliar, Controlled Bleeding (and founding member Paul Lemos) have had a widely varied career, but perhaps are best known for noisy industrial assaults, ambient passages, and Wax Trax!/Nettwerk type Industrialized EBM. I was previously unfamiliar with Sparkle In Grey, prior to purchasing this album. You can order physical copies (digipack CD, limited to 300 copies, some signed by Paul Lemos) or digital downloads here. The split has 10 tracks, 6 for Controlled Bleeding, 4 for Sparkle In Grey, with the CD and digital versions having 1 unique bonus track from each artist. That means each release has 12 tracks, with 14 total available for purchase from this split/session. I bought the CD, was pleased, and downloaded the 2 tracks unique to the digital version.

The split is broken up into 2 parts, the 1st being "The Perks of Being a Perv" AKA the Controlled Bleeding section. The 'Intro' track has some chill acoustic guitar devolving into bizarre bongo and distorted voice madness, followed by the head-bobbing drive of 'Garage Dub;' a bass guitar riff droning behind some snazzy jazzy drums and a reverbed-to-psychedelic-fuzzed-out guitar lead that's quite exceptional. I haven't heard anything quite like it this side of 60's Germany. Maybe I'm just ignorant of experimental rock post-'Krautrock' movement, but this definitely felt like it could belong to that time and mindset. 'Spingtime In Brooklyn' is a tender and calming keys and tripped-out guitar type of tune. I really dig it, but my version of springtime in Brooklyn (having lived here for 4+ years) would be far angrier, probably much more in line with the vibe of the next track, 'Perks Pt. 1' which is a nasty Merzbow-meets-Throbbing Gristle noise-punishment endurance test. This is followed by the mildly noise-to-calming guitar-jazz ambience of 'Birdcanned Pt.1.' Good come down there, with just enough variance to keep you paying attention for the next track. 'Birdcanned Pt. 2' starts with distorted chicken vocals leading into demented near-No-Wave jazz insanity.

Sparkle in Grey take the helm next with 'The Rant Of The Idiot Savant- Idiot Savant Pt.1-4.' Pt. 1 is tender keys and strings with strange found-sound background textures that feel like slipping into a depressive fugue in a haunted house. Pt. 2 takes it into a more beautiful direction, perhaps as the fugue turns into personal fantasy with lots of strings, subtle keys, and interesting percussion. I say interesting because the recording sounds very low-fi, adding some dirt to the otherwise very clean track. Perhaps the very grounding element of percussion, time-keeping, prevents the track from pulling away from reality entirely. It seamlessly flows into Pt. 3 which keeps most of the same elements, except they become eclipsed by terrifying noise bits that would be most unsettling to listen to in the dark, alone. It's like the suspension from reality's distractions begun in Pt. 1 has now lead to hellish introspection, personal demons loosed over a near-pristine daydream. The track drops elements out until it's reduced to only keys for a somber and lonely finish. Pt. 4 takes a new direction with a loud, wet bass drum and jangly guitars. The suspense is higher if you've listened all the way through Pt.'s 1-4, as you don't know what might come next. It slowly builds and adds/subtracts elements, never really reaching a hard climax, but satisfying nonetheless, finishing with a reduction to only a jangly guitar and then many seconds of silence. Perhaps this is the sound of working through and resolving underlying psychological issues uncovered with by a meditative fantastic-turned-phantasmagoric fugue through music. May your experience be so enlightening.

BONUS TRACKS (AKA 'Extra Perversions'):
CD Version: Sparkle In Grey 'Melvano Pt. 1'- combines eerie strings, bongos, cymbals, and found-sound water samples to produce disturbing atmosphere.

Controlled Bleeding 'Live In Brooklyn, 2012'- more psychedelic guitar riffs and textures. Dreamy, transcendent, highly recommended.

Digital Version: Sparkle In Grey 'Iurop Pt. 2'- an instrumental track containing more strings and jangly guitar over jazzy drums (recorded in a dirty low-fi style). It feels very chill yet energizing; it's refreshing like a cool drink on a hot day. It's really a great track but wouldn't have fit in the 'Savant' progression on their portion of the split. Definitely worth picking up if you enjoyed their tracks on the split proper.

Controlled Bleeding 'Untitled Trang Song'- a really fun song that's easy to dance to and very upbeat in composition. It's basically some pleasant female vocals with a repeating progression over jazzy drums and bass lines, with some fuzzy, tripped out guitar making its appearance towards the end. It's a bit repetitive, but the repeated bits work so well that I can't get enough of them; the portions which deviate make the return more powerful.
------ ------ ------
Overall, a great release to put on and chill out to, I like to use it to wake up while I'm exercising or walking in the morning with the rising sun. It's varied enough that it keeps my attention but not so abrasive that I have to give it my full attention; I bob along with its passages as I move about doing whatever else. For me, this will be a release that I don't put on every day, but when I want it, nothing else will do.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Saturday, August 22, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Tau Cross "Tau Cross"

Another awesome super-group collaboration for 2015 (see my upcoming posts on Gruesome and Johansson & Speckman), Tau Cross most notably (to me) combines the mighty D-beats of Away on drums and on loan (from space-thrashers Voivod) with the stirring vocals of Rob "The Baron" Miller of crust godfathers Amebix.

I ordered the colored vinyl version (orange and green splatter) that adds to the atmosphere of the cover photo, setting a tone of Autumn, of fulfillment, death, and preparation for rebirth; which are common lyrical themes on the album.

 "Lazarus" kicks off the album with a crustier sounding Killing Joke riff that Voivod space-prog-ified. In other words, EXACTLY what you want in this album. Minor chords add some darkness and early Death Rock undercurrents mixed with recent Amebix stylings. Prepare to sing along when the Baron bellows out the chorus, LAAZARUUUS!!!!

"Fire In The Sky" opens with a brief keyboard intro and drops the guitar, but fast. The riff and keyboard/guitar interplay make for another catchy song.

"Stonecracker" baffles and delights me in that the riff feels like an Amebix appropriated KMFDM riff (specifically I'm thinking "A Drug Against War" and "Light"). Away's hammering is very 80's here, and I love every second of it.

"Midsummer" is depressive as hell with another great Baron-chorus to stretch your vocal chords on. Some more Killing Joke beats and flavor surface towards the end of the track before bridging back to the main riff progression.

"Hangman's Hyll" gives us another depressive sing along, you'll be remembering all your lost and dead friends, tearing up. Practically guaranteed. Should be on the cover with a warning sticker, methinks. The vocals here sound a bit muppet-ish at times, which is always a bonus for me, even if they sound more Bert than Cookie Monster.

"We Control The Fear" relies mostly on acoustic guitar riffs with some electric guitar and drums adroitly inserted to punctuate central moments.

"You People" feels more like Tau Cross did a mid-period Prong cover, not too fast, decent chorus, but not my favorite from the album.

"Prison" has some more Killing Joke vibes mixed with early Voivod (say, "Rooaar") drumming and gang vocals. Pretty solid.

"Sons Of The Soil" has some trippy guitar/synth effects behind the Baron's rasp until the Muppet-vocals return. A very slow, pensive song. Minimal aggression but quite enjoyable.

"The Lie" picks it back up but I find it to be the weakest song on the album, the least memorable.

"Our Day" has a minute-and-a-half of buildup before breaking into some decent speedin' an' hollerin' but also not my favorite track.

"The Devil Knows His Own" closes the album out with some depressive Baron-vocals and acoustic guitar, not much else (excepting a cello). This would have worked much better if the previous songs were stronger, but the second half of the album brings you back to earth while the first casts you into the sky, perhaps now ready for the long hibernation of winter, until the next harvest of this very exciting collective.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

CONCERT REVIEW: High On Fire, Pallbearer, Lucifer, Venomous Maximus at Irving Plaza, Saturday August 15th, 2015

I know it's been a while since I've posted much, but I promise I've got a ton of album reviews in the caverns, ready to spread their wings and spread aural rabies via your computer screen. Life has also been super busy but it's stabilizing now. Why so personal for this post? Well, it was a personal show. I've already seen High On Fire (with Goatwhore, great show!) and Pallbearer (twice), so why so special? Company. There's nothing like sharing a show with a friend (especially one you don't get to see often), both rocking out like idiots to some great tunes. If you can throw in some great pre-/post-show food (we did), then better still.

So, all that in mind (and likely now forgotten), let's move on to the actual review. Venomous Maximus played an energetic set, but I found the traditional Heavy Metal riffs a bit too dull. Their best feature was their frontman and rhythm guitarist, he needs a filthier, speedier Motorband behind him and his career is SET.

Lucifer delivered some (to me) uninspired 'occult' Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, very much still in vogue. I found great amusement in their practice of explaining song titles like "Morning Star" and "Azrael." If you don't know what these terms traditionally mean, you've got a LOOOONG way to go down the occult path my friend. Perhaps they are a good gateway band. To each their own (lefthand?) path I suppose.

Pallbearer continue to bore and frustrate me. I can really dig an act that has a slow burn, a huge buildup (see Black Shape of Nexus, a SUPER slow German Noise/Doom band), but there has to be a payoff! Pallbearer zigs when I want them to zag, seemingly dropping the casket at the least opportune time. Or, perhaps a more accurate metaphor, considering my Death Metal proclivities, Pallbearer drops the casket right into the hole, delivers a brief sermon and everyone goes home. No casket-smashing leaving a rotting corpse exposed to the rainy, storm-ridden elements; no tombstone-crushing hammering, no Mausoleum-heavy atmosphere,. Though I will say that their vocal harmonics are tighter now.

THEN, FINALLY, High On Fire. Their set was fairly heavy on the heavies, meaning faster songs. Their sound was spot on, better than the albums, especially for older releases. Perhaps it was the power trio, or the excellent sound, or maybe Matt Pike's new facial hair, but a distinct Motorvibe was in the air, and I picked up on more Motorhead influences in the songs than I had previously noted. And about Matt Pike... what a fantastic performance! I've even seen Sleep twice, and this was BY FAR his best performance. His playing was tight and the solos were incredible! If you have even a passing interest in his work, go see High On Fire on this tour!

In the spirit of making briefer, more focused posts, I'll leave you with that, hopefully tantalized and drooling enough to go see High On Fire, even if just for them (like me) and take a buddy, make it a night (also like me), and other commands (to be just like me)!

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, July 19, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Morpheus Descends "From Blackened Crypts" CD/DVD [Compilation Box Set]

Let's start off this review with a digressive story, how I discovered and met Morpheus Descends. I first became aware of them when they re-united to play Martyrdoom Fest II in 2013. While researching other unfamiliar bands to prepare for the fest, I was blown away by Morpheus Descends; they are an integral and original part of the influential NYDM scene that has escaped me for years! How had I missed them? Well, having only one full-length and a small host of rare demos and EP's, I suppose I can forgive myself... a little. Anyway, I have more on them in a separate post for their MDF appearance. I managed to run into current (and incredible) singer Craig Campbell (may former singer Jeff Reimer be remembered) after their MDF set, to express my enthusiasm for the band and the show (as well as ask for an autograph). He was in a hurry but advised me to drop by their merch stand later and he'd round up the band for signatures. I did this, and he followed through... with a twist. I got to talking with Sam Inzerra, who was totally infatuated with the idea of us both being the many-eth Sam in a line of Sams (neither of us are a seventh son, however). It was he who rounded up the rest of the band for me, walking around the fest with me, shooting the shit, and being an all-around awesome guy! In fact, the whole band was really approachable and grateful for my enthusiasm. I wish I could have been more eloquent than "YOU GUYS FUKCING RULED" but I suppose my point came across. Thanks again to Sam and the gang, you guys really made my day, I felt like VIP royalty!

So, onwards to Golgotha... I mean the box set. Essentially a collection of everything the band has ever recorded, there's also a double-sided poster and a DVD featuring interviews and various shows. The DVD is really worth the price of the set itself, it is a strong document of the band's history and development, clearly dedicated to Jeff Reimer, now deceased. The box is heavy cardboard with black-on-black lacquered ink. The DVD comes in a CD case with a heavy card stock cover. The new Putrid artwork for the poster is pretty awesome, though I'm partial to the surrealism of Brad Moore on the "Ritual Of Infinity" album. The booklet is a bit confusing as there's no list anywhere as to where the songs on the CD come from, but if you follow along the booklet, the tracks follow the order listed there:

1-2 “From Blackened Crypts” recorded 2014, now a 7” in 2015 from Dark Descent Records
3-11 “Ritual Of Infinity” 1992
12-16 “Adipocere” EP, 1991 by (pre-Morpheus Descends band) Morpheus
17 a 1993 version of 'Cairn of Dumitru'

1-5 “Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones” EP, 1994
6-9 “Horror of the Truth” EP, 1997
10 live version of 'Corpse Under Glass' from Martyrdoom Fest II, Brooklyn NY, 2013 reunion show
11-13 Rehearsal 1990
14,16 Rehearsal 1991
15 pre-recording version of 'The Cruciform Hills' from 1994
17 a 1993 version of 'Autumn Bleeds'

The booklet includes all the artwork from all the releases as well, including front and back cover and all lyrics. Sound-wise, this release is solid, even the rehearsals are listenable while still having that lo-fi, unbalanced feel I find desirable in rehearsal recordings. For new fans, here's chance to catch up (like I did) on an important and interesting NYDM band that combines the local brutality of their neighbors with the bizarre-ness and darkness of their Scandinavian counterparts (Finland, I'm eyeing you) for a unique flavor of Death Metal. For old fans, here's a great chance to complete your collection and go for a shamble down memory lane to visit old cadavers long since cannibalized.

A great compilation, this box set closes the casket on Morpheus Descends' past while simultaneously opening the lid on their future, thus unleashing more undead hordes to reach from beyond the dimensions of mortal men.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Stardust V Fest: Saint Vitus Bar, Brooklyn NY Fri-Sun, June 26-28 2015

Despite many set-backs, such as headliners Taake and Bethlehem being unable to perform, this festival still managed to have a great line-up and be a fun, intimate experience. I only was able to attend the Friday and Saturday shows, so I missed the second sets of material that the bands slated for Sunday performed as well as Mutilation Rites' performance. I must admit that the only bands I was familiar with on the final line-up were Black Anvil and Tombs, so I was excited to hopefully experience some cool new bands.

Friday's lineup consisted of Anicon, Fell Voices, and Wolvserpent. Anicon played some very competent Black Metal with some interesting melodious parts reminiscent of mid-90's Sweden. Fell Voices, however, was remarkable and provided the most memorable set I witnessed all weekend. The guitar and bass style created huge, grim, walls of sound while their drummer pounded away mechanically. The drumming was easily the most remarkable part; while not terribly technical for this set, Mike displayed unbelievable endurance, essentially maintaining a blast beat for an entire set, with few fills in which to rest. He was incredibly intense, too! The whole set felt like a ritual extirpation of pain; all vocals were shouted, sans microphones. Upon the countenances of all band members, despair and rage gave way to transcendence as the set closed, demons exorcised (or should I say 'exercised'?). Also, the Sisters Of Mercy levels of fog added to the performance, I'm still unsure how the band could even see their instruments. I really like their incense too, I couldn't quite place the scent but it was meaty and woodsy. Wolvserpent closed the night with some heavy Blackened-Doom. I appreciated that both band members were multi-instrumentalists (drums and violin, guitar and electronics) who would switch as needed during songs. This was a challenging set to play live and loop stations were used brilliantly.

Saturday Vorde opened our journey to the stars with Burzum-heavy Black Metal riffs, again featuring the inimitable Mike of Fell Voices on drums. Very exciting riffs here, I can imagine this band's name carried far on ashen winds. Svart Crown from France took stage next, playing some brutal, technical Death Metal NYC style, with lightly-blackened elements (crispy croissant death metal?). They were enjoyable and energetic, but were eclipsed, for me, by openers Vorde. Next up was Black Anvil whose set was cut short for technical issues. They had a projector with some interesting images of mostly flash-animated medieval woodcut-like stills. While the set was energetic, what was played was light on material from Black Anvil's debut album (also my favorite one) Time Insults the Mind. Tombs took stage next and finished out the night (and for me, the fest) with a set heavy on their second LP, Paths of Totality, with a track or two from (my favorite) Winter Hours, and many from 2014's Savage Gold. Readers of my blog may recall that in my review of Savage Gold, I felt something was lacking. That something was found for this set in the many talents of Fade Kainer (Batillus, Theologian, Statiqbloom, etc.) who played keys/electronics and added backing vocals. Fade's addition of textured atmospheres and keys really filled out these songs, as well as Saint Vitus' always excellent and perfectly balanced sound system. I can only hope a live album for Tombs materializes, as this was an excellent performance and fans who haven't experienced this line-up NEED to see it. I hope Fade Kainer remains a member of Tombs and that we can look forward to some album material with his contributions.

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, June 21, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Coffins- "Perpetual Penance" (Compilation)

Firstly, as the title of the post suggests, this is a compilation of previously released Coffins material. Mostly this consists of vinyl splits.

The first 100 orders for the 2 CD album also came with a free coffin keychain, though it contains no logos or indicators of the band (in fact appears to be a bulk ordered trinket item) it is still pretty cool. It'll be even cooler when I figure out what I'm going to put in it; it's hollow and has a pop out spoon thing that appears to be for snuff (or coke?). 

Right, so content time. What songs are on this compilation? This is the first collection to include any of the following tracks together:

1-3 from "Colossal Hole" demo cassette. These are early versions of tracks on "Fleshland" which were later re-issued on a 10" vinyl with barf bag and fake tickets by HPGD. My copy got signed by Coffins at MDF 2013!

4-5 from split with Noothgrush which was available on vinyl and CD

6 from July 2012 issue of Decibel magazine, released as a flexi 7"

7 from split with Macabra 7" vinyl. HPGD released this also with a cool pin and poster set. Very limited quantities, good luck finding the original press!

8 from split with Sourvein, which I got signed at MDF 2013. In an interesting turn of fate, Sourvein played before Coffins on the same stage, same night. It was like watching the split live!

1 from split with Warhammer

2 from split with Disgrace

3 from split with Hooded Menace

4-5 from split with Stormcrow

6-7 from "Live in Japan 2013"

8 is another live track, from Czech Republic in 2013. I don't believe this track was previously released.

Overall, a great compilation, there's some excellent tracks here, my favorite being the demo version of "Hellbringer." The artwork is really cool and a lot of these tracks are hard to find individually, not to mention this compilation collects 10+ releases! If you're not looking for the tracks from the other artists on the splits, this is a very economic way to get the Coffins tracks without extensive costs and time lost tracking them down and purchasing them separately.

At least this will hold me over until I start frothing at the mouth, rabid for more Coffins material!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Destroyer 666 "Unchain The Wolves" 2015 Vinyl Re-Issue on Hells Headbangers

This new edition offers slightly different artwork in a drawing of a wolf opposed to the classic photo of a wolf on the original release. I personally prefer the photo, but this looks pretty cool. The blue colored vinyl helps add atmosphere to the packaging as well, though the focus on cold and snow for an Australian band always seemed head-scratchingly opposite to me. The photos are all high gloss and the liner notes detailing the writing process of the album and the band's early days are also value-adders that make this release worth picking up. Not to mention the huge poster of the cover art!

Anyway, the sound quality is good but quiet so you'll have to crank this beast for maximum head-banging effect. The mix sound like a cleaner version of CD mixes I've heard in that the instruments don't all sound blurred together cacophonously (or is that ca-coffin-ously?), however the guitar blasts through super-filthy and loud in comparison to the rest of the mix. That is perhaps my favorite thing about this version, the guitar sound. Totally dirty and rockin' blackness!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Monday, June 15, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Demoliton Hammer "Tortured Existence" and "Epidemic Of Violence" Century Media Vinyl Re-Issues

Comparable to the Asphyx re-issue, these Demolition Hammer vinyl re-issues are high-quality in the packaging department with surgically separated tracks within each song to deliver maximum fidelity to its brutality. Much like .44 caliber brain surgery in fact. The songs sound here sharper and more precise, better able to snap your neck. The color options are quite nice as well, adding value to these editions. If you don't already own them, now's your chance to get some classicks! Pick them both up and you're set for an envenomed orgy of destruction!!

*Review and photo copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Asphyx "The Rack" Century Media Vinyl Re-Issue

A classic album on a classic format! The packaging is quite nice, with the clear vinyl feeling quite deluxe, leaving my barbarian hands trembling with the glorious gem held aloft, then plunged violently onto the rack... er, record player.
At least, my listening to this re-issue was a BIT like that. So what about sound quality? Quite good! The guitar stays forefront but all the tracks on each song are clear and well-balanced. I was at first somewhat displeased that it wasn't all soupy guitar and vocal bark, but hearing the bass shine through was quite nice. Mind you, none of the dirt has been removed, only separated and cataloged, so you can place each pile into its respective grave.
Keep up the high-quality re-issues Century Media!

*Review and photo copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Velvet Acid Christ- "Dire Land" (Remix Album)

So VAC dropped a 'remix album' of material from the Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes albums, which were tumultuous sessions for those who obsessively followed updates from the band's website and forum during the production of these albums (like I did). I know I'm excited to hear what's on this disc as a great deal of talk of very dancey/trancey stuff and/or alternate song versions was dropped while the aforementioned albums were in production. I feel and hope that this disc will close the chapter of this period of VAC's long and entertaining career, paving the way for a new chapter to open.

The album also documents Bryan of VAC's encounter and time with Rodney Anonymous of the Dead Milkmen with VAC's cover of "Big Time Operator" and a newly recorded version of "Lust" from the Lust For Blood album, now featuring Rodney on vocals. Having had the pleasure of seeing these performed live, I was excited to hear the album versions and relive some great memories.

The artwork is a continuation of that used for 2014's Subconscious Landscapes, with some more detailed and recognizable patterns (as in the front and back cover), as well as some more trippy and colorful abstract landscapes (as in the tray and CD artwork).

This album, according to the liner notes, is to compensate for the lack of singles from the Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes albums. Additionally, it states in print what Bryan has been discussing online, that this may be the last VAC release with a physical copy. Going forward, VAC may be a digital-format-only project. This would sadden me, as I like physical copies, especially after the excellent sound on VAC's first vinyl release, Subconscious Landscapes. This 'remix' album is more a snapshot of the last few years in the VACcuum world, including songs from the live sets of VAC's return to the stage. So, now for a song breakdown:
1. Christ Whore (God Module Mix)- [original version on Maldire] a different, clubbier version is presented here. While the original version has much wetter leads, this version has snappier ones with trance tinges in the mix instead of the somewhat gothic choral voices. The vocal delivery is stronger in the original but the echo in this version backs up the trancey feeling. A different version neither better nor worse than the original, to my ears.
2. Eye H8 U (Decoded Feedback Mix)- [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] this version ups the toybox qualities of the leads, stretched over a dancier bass line that makes me want to move. The original is much darker with some evil choral voices alternating with the toybox leads that feel more eerie in the original, more tender here. I prefer the original but this is a cool take!
3. Inhale Blood (Dead Hand Project Mix)- [original version on Maldire] with a bassline already set for heavy dancing, this track only needed a slight re-arrangement and accentation to make it a nasty club hit. This mix however took a different route than I would've, making a very different version from the original, with the remaining recognizable bits exact ports from the original. Amusing as an alternate version, I still much prefer the album version.
4. Big Time Operator (Featuring Rodney Anonymous) (Dead Milkmen cover)- a cover featuring the Dead Milkmen's vocalist, Rodney Anonymous, singing over VAC's interpretation. This is the result of a chance meeting (of the minds, haha) between Bryan of VAC and Rodney of DM at a show, in which Bryan got to sing on stage with the 'Milkmen. Played live during the 2014 NYC show with Rodney himself present for this an the next track on this remix album. This version is very fun, even more-so than the original as it now has some really dancey beats.
5. Lust (Anonymous Mix)- [original version on Lust For Blood] a newly recorded version featuring Rodney Anonymous again on vocals. The guitar has more reverb on it here, and the other instruments are clearly re-recorded, with essentially the same song arrangement. I do miss the left-to-right distorted vocal shift though. As this is one of my favorite tracks from one of my favorite VAC albums, you can trust my ears to be critical. That stated, this version is awesome! It puts me right back in the front row at the VAC show as Rodney screamed into my face. This version is practically worth the price of the album.
6. Sex Disease (2014 Mix)- [original versions on Neuroblastoma demo, Church of Acid, and Between The Eyes Volume 4] This version is much cleaner, with the leads much more audible. It's slightly shorter but similar in arrangement. I prefer the dirtier, sadder, earlier versions, but this one's good too. Hopefully inclusion of this track with heighten interest in the VAC back-catalog. The production is similar to that of Maldire, I'm guessing it's likely that the same equipment was used to record this version.
7. Dire (Disease Factory ov VAC Mix)- [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] I was pretty excited for this version as it was Bryan remixing one of his own songs, which normally has great results, but is especially interesting as the songs on Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes underwent many changes to fit with the developing tone of each album. The Art Of Breaking Apart album was beautifully unbalanced, but the following two albums took a much more cohesive approach to song writing and I know that songs were shifted for earlier or later release based on emotional impact. Anyway, this version is musically very similar to the album version, musically, with some extra glitchy fills and very heavy sampling. An interesting version, but I prefer the original as its emotional tone rings out more clearly with less bells and whistles.
8. Even Now (Slightly Tweaked Mix) (Edward Ka-Spel cover)- [from Dependence 2012 label compilation] This rare song is included here for those who didn't buy the compilation. An interesting cover, this feels like it could be an upbeat VAC track (rare as they are). The electronics are lush and enjoyable. Bryan wisely keeps the vocal delivery to his own range (though clearly challenging himself), keeping something of the feel of Edward Ka-Spel without aping (as this would be exceptionally difficult anyway). It's very cool to finally own this track!
9. Klaglas- [unreleased] again viewing this album as a snapshot of VAC's last few years, a chapter closing and a chapter opening, perhaps, I was very excited to hear an unreleased track. Reportedly many 'good' tracks were dropped from Maldire and Subconscious Landscapes due to ill-fits with the album vibe. This track is an instrumental. It's brooding and catchy, I really dig it as chill out music, but agree that it would have needed extensive reworking to fit in on either of the last albums, albeit maybe as a closer on Subconscious Landscapes (though Empusa's dark samples and depressive, almost pleading synth lines go a great job already!).
10. Bend The Sky (Dead When I Found Her Mix)- [original version on Maldire] I really like this remix, it takes the themes from the original adds expands upon them creating a world much more deep and epic. The overall effect is of some super-mix from Calling Ov The Dead and Lust For Blood; very eerie, very dark. A strong contender for best remix on the album!
11. Barbed Wired Garden (Assemblage 23 Mix)- [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] As Assemblage 23 have some really catchy, melancholic songs, as well as some really great remixes, this was one song I was really hyper (cursed) over! The remix starts out quite slow, adding a dull, lulling edge to the song. About halfway through, it picks up a bit but the overall pacing is on the subdued side. A good remix but I expected something catchier from A23.
12. Dystvonya- [unreleased] another previously unreleased track, likely not deemed appropriate for album inclusion for tonal reasons. Like Klaglas, Dystvonya is a great track but alas would not have fit on either of the last two albums. A severe piano lead gives way to some beautiful choral voices with overlays of anti-carnivore samples. There are some trippy acid synths in there too, making this a fairly complete VAC track, also sounding much older than it is, say from Calling Ov The Dead. This vibe only increases as the song progresses. Dark, trippy, hateful, with tender overlays might be the best descriptors. Again, somewhat of a slow-burn but the transitions keep it interesting. I'm very glad to have heard this song, it's quite good!
13. The Last Goodby (Controlled Collapse Mix) [original version on Subconscious Landscapes] while the original sounds very much like a leftover from the Hex Angel album in synth voice choice, arrangement, and emotional tone, this mix is quite different. The feeling that immediately comes to mind is post-2000 Front Line Assembly covering Pornography-era The Cure. This is the only other song to hold up against the Bend The Sky remix!

Missed opportunities/ideas for further remixes
So here's some ideas that I have formulated (in my own egotistical way) for future remixes. I won't hold my breath for an Agoraphobic Nosebleed remix, so these are some more realistic ideas:
1. Evoked (:Wumpscut: Mix)- this one should be pretty obvious. I mean, Bryan and Rudy go way back, :W: is a labelmate and already has a whole album called Evoke. Maybe another Remix War album should be in the works around this concept?
2. Hyper Curse (Hyper Mix)- a gabber remix of this should be a thing. The title demands it!
3. Ominous Rattle (Toxic Coma Mix)- as much as I love the title's inherent conjuration of the sounds of those dying and those approaching death, instead of making some eerie mix filled with Latin incantations and TB coughing samples, I submit for your approval a totally different path: babies crying and a toy rattle sample with diaper-wet leads and fart sounds.
4. a Tangerine Dream cover. This would be a great way to add some creepiness and danceyness to a classic while getting to really run some electronics through their paces. Mysterious Semblance At The Strand Of Nightmares would be awesome tripped out, VAC style.
5. a Depeche Mode cover. Though many come to mind, Black Celebration seems the most suited to VAC for its sad vocal delivery. I'd love to hear a Sadder Still-type version of this!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*