Sunday, February 8, 2015

2014 Musical Year In Review, Including Top 5 and Most Anticipated for 2015.

2014 Music Releases Reviews

I listen to a lot of music, mostly rock 'n' roll, especially Heavy Metal, with a fair amount of experimental stuff. I can enjoy danceable music, and my first musical loves can be traced back to classical composers. With that said, it is not surprising that the releases I review below are also electic. It IS mostly Heavy Metal, as this is my favorite genre and my specialty, but I hope to pique the interests of most readers with at least one review. Note that this list is not intended to be all-inclusive or a 'best of' 2014; it is instead a list of music releases I sought out, stumbled upon, or heard in some fashion. I get zero releases sent to/paid for me, so this list is the culmination of my own interests, knowledge, and means to acquire releases for 2014. There are several releases I would like to hear that I missed, for various reasons; money, time, and space being foremost. Keep in mind that Nunslaughter alone released 16 things this year! I also haven't been keeping up with current music periodicals, 'zines, etc., so I've NOT heard some “big” releases. I hope you can find a few gems below, I  had an excellent musical year and have officially inducted many of these releases into my regular rotations.

P.S. There is a 'Favorite Of' list at the end of this rant along with a list of recommended album pairings.

P.S.S. Apart from new releases, this was a year to fill in some musical gaps. A recurrent theme was Death Metal, especially of Finnish origin or style. I have had much enjoyment listening to Demilich (whom I can't wait to see at MDF XIII!), Abhorrence, Xysma, amongst others. If you're looking for something ultra-heavy with a bundle of surprise technicality and originality, like a brood of spiders spilling chaotically out of an overturned and colossal cadaver's thorax, then I recommend the aforementioned artists and the Finnish Death Metal movement in general.


REVIEW FORMAT: Artist - 'Release Title [Relevant Edition Information]' (Country of Origin)

Full Lengths
All Hell - 'The Devil's Work' (USA)
    YES! This album has been stuck in my player since Horror Pain Gore Death advertised the sale of a digital version of this debut album (they also have a demo). You can likely still get a hard copy from the band's bandcamp, as I did. Imagine the filthiest proto Black Metal band with strong early hardcore punk roots doing Samhain covers. They manage to really keep the early Danzig style on several tracks without ripping off at all; short catchy songs with vicious lyrics and rapid pacing.  Vocals are gruff and need not screech or belch, they are tough enough on their own. Full points awarded for well-placed Tom G Warrior “UGH”s. The production is extremely organic and classic-sounding all around, mix is solid for all instruments (including bass!).
    Top Tracks:
 (all of them! ...but especially) “Suffer For Me” just try and catch your breath during this track!
“Breaker” tough as nails, tougher than your spine!,
“The Reaper's Touch” heavy 'Earth AD' vibes,
 “Samhain Wind” you may feel the need to double check that this not a Samhain cover, it's THAT GOOD.

Autopsy - 'Tourniquets, Hacksaws, & Graves' (USA)
    As always, a solid album. If you don't already love Autopsy, this won't change your mind.  If you DO already worship their cookie monster burps and schizo wails, fast-slow pace alternation and general insanity, this album won't disappoint! If you don't already know Autopsy, this is a fine introduction to their unique and influential Death Metal. A great album by one of (if not my all-time) favorite Death Metal acts!
    Top Tracks:
“Savagery” great opener with many Autopsy staples,
“King Of Flesh Ripped” again, classic Autopsy style,
“Autopsy” a self-referential to their back catalogue, lots of fun for long-time fans to read-along. Follow the bouncing severed skull kiddies!

Bastard Sapling - 'Instinct Is Forever' (USA)
    I've been a fan of these guys since I saw them open for Tombs at their 2011 'Paths Of Totality' record release show in Brooklyn. This album continues the band's ability to take mid-carreer-to-recent Immortal-style icy-to-melodic riffs to create majestic and stately Black Metal in a way not often successfully accomplished state-side. This style is mixed more heavily with slower, sludgier elements on the new album. I prefer the 1st full-length, 'Dragged From Our Restless Trance' but this one is no slouch.
    Top Track:
“Lantern At The End Of Time” captures the epitome of the band's strengths and development for this album. Features Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand on backing vox.

Children Of Technology - 'Future Decay' (Italy)
    The return of the crusty Motorpunx! This album is a great follow-up to 2010's “It's Time To Face The Doomsday,” with a heavier hardcore punk vibe than previously heard. The greatest improvement is in Deathlord Astwulf's vocals which feature some great extreme thrash-like shrieks. Overall, I prefer “ITTFTD” as an album because it's composition is more dynamic but this is in no way a bad or weak release. In fact, there are much stronger 'War And Pain'-ear Voivod strains throughout the album, so I wager this one will age quite well!
    Top Tracks:
 “Blackout” sums up the albums styles well; cool solo, vocal acrobatics, pace switches, tough riffs,
“Under The Ripping Storm” good flow, thrashy and dirty, cool gang chant in the background.

Die Form - 'Rayon X [Deluxe 2 Disc Edition]' (France)
    This edition includes alternate versions/mixes of album tracks (mostly more acid house-ish) as well as some unreleased tracks. I like this edition as I prefer some of the alternate versions and it is very informative, deductively, to the Die Form writing process. The songs are good representations of Die Form's characterisitically spartan, sleek, and sexy song structure and composition style. They keep the synths sounding slightly modern but use a fair amount of analog or analog-sounding equipment (my ears are rather untrained in this regard); the album doesn't sound like Die Form just bought a bunch of new toys they want to show off, but instead updated some gear to better deliver their vision.
    Top Tracks:
Disc 1
“Black Leather Gloves” as characteristic of Die Form's fascination with S&M culture and their general style as anything they've released. Instant classic!,
“Perpetual Motion (Perpetuum Mobile)” catchy and simple, goes down smooth.

Disc 2 (Bonus)
“Schaulust” classic arrangement style and sound, will please old fans, make new ones,
“Angeline” EXACTLY how Die Form covering Kraftwerk woud sound. Very different direction from what I've heard of Die Form before but excellent result!

Electric Wizard - 'Time To Die' (UK)
    The 'Wizard emerges from a drug-induced stupor to release another fuzz-saturated masterpiece of sludgey doom!    
    Top Tracks: ALL OF THEM!!!
 ...but especially “Time To Die” for the main riff,
“I Am Nothing” for the obscene thickness of the guitar/bass
“Funeral Of Your Mind” for the concept and title chant/chorus, and of course, the RIFF
“Sadiowitch” for the riffs, again, with an anguished vocal delivery and lyrics about heroin addiction.

Goatwhore – 'Constricting Rage Of The Merciless' (USA)
    NOLA's Goatwhare unleash another album of Blackened Thrash with occasional early Death Metal leanings. Very comparable to the last 2-3 releases, however the demo through 2nd LP will always be my favorites.
    Top Tracks:
“Baring Teeth For Revolt” very old sounding fist-pumping Thrash, new live set classic!
“Heaven's Crumbling Walls Of Pity” moody, relentless, raw, fast. Very 2nd Wave Black Metal vibe until the solo. The drums blast away into oblivion, overall song feels like a leftover from first 2 Goatwhore albums so super-score on this one!
“FBS” perfect example of Goatwhore's ability to make choas-inducing violent Thrash songs, this should also be a live staple!

Grim Legion – 'Unholy Resurrection' (USA)
    Read my review of this incredible doomy Death Metal act feat. John Paradiso of Evoken here: Grim Legion Review
    Top Tracks (remain): “Dark Ritual” and “Unholy Resurrection” with hat-tipping to “Blood Addict” and “Alien Predators.”

High Spirits - 'You Are Here' (USA)
    Here's some excellent Hard Rockin' Heavy Metal cumin' atcha, courtesy of Chris Black (ex-Nachtmystium, Superchrist, amongst others). If you cleaned the filth off Superchrist and knocked it back 5-10 years musically, you'd have High Spirits. “High” octane and ready to roll, this is just classic material for rockers. Extremely accessible (in this case, totally a great thing) and catchy as a pop jingle but much more pleasant to bouncce around between your ears.
    Top Tracks: ALL OF THEM. Seriously, this is one of those special few albums where every song does what the album is supposed to equally well and no one song is any better than the rest (or only marginally so). If you like one, you'll like them all. And I think you'll LOVE them!

Horror Vacui – 'Return Of The Empire' [CD Edition on HPGD] (Italy)
    I've been eager to review this one! Horror Vacui have developed a more unique and diverse sound from their previous LP. Overall, I still hear tons of Fields of the Nephillim in the vocal delivery, heavy Chameleons (UK) vibes in the guitars, with a touch of 'the Banshees, Nosferatu, Southern Death Cult, etc. There are more references to the Amebix and I hear clearly some Killing joke influence so this is quite a monster of an album I cannot recommend enough! In short, imagine some doomy and crusty metalpunks glooming up some powerful riffs for maximum Batcave delivery!! Note that this review is for the CD version of the album which has bonus tracks that are difficult to find on their original vinyl format. I also have the vinyl version, which has far fewer tracks but better sound quality, particularly on the guitars. The CD still sounds excellent with great track balance, especially on headphones!
    Top Tracks: “Return Of The Empire” kicks off the album with intro arpeggios very reminiscent of something from the Amebix's 'Monolith' album, followed quickly by some  Fields of the Nephilim-ish jangles, some excellent driving bass, aggressive drumming.
“5000” has the best (and only!) mash-up of early Killing Joke and Southern Death Cult styles with a touch of the Chameleons (UK) over Amebix type lyrics; “No Masters, no chains” is the refrain. What a totally unique and dynamic combo that only Horror Vacui could pull off!
“The Right Cure” is jangly and aggressive, this seems most characteristic of Horror Vacui's own sound.
“Time” sounds like the Chameleons (UK) covering Discharge, so prepare yourself!
“til The Last Drop” sounds like the Chameleons (UK) in a super-group with the 'First, Last, and Always' Sisters of Mercy line-up!
“Light of Darkness” is moody and feells very much like later Fields of the Nephilim being covered by a pack of punks... which is fairly accurate. Tough and catchy!
“Screen of Infamy” is very catchy and does a good job of build-up/release throughout the song. More Chameleons UK vibes here!
“Opus Tenebris” has some serious Nosferatu (UK) vibes in the arrangements and keyboard stylings, tempered by the ever-present and ever-loved Chameleons UK riffs. 'Fangs' for another great track, Horror Vacui!
“Desperate Adelia” breaks out a moody, brief intro, follows with some Killing Joke riffs, goes into a great vocal melody and shimmery guitar part over an insistent drum beat. Man, I really like the vocal melodies on this one!
“Lortnoced” is a cover of Discharge's classic “Decontrol” and Horror Vacui bring a whole new dark dimension to it!
“Underworld” has an interesting and catchy main riff, and shows off the bass a bit more in the mix.
“Fall Of Empire” is apparently an alternate version of “Return Of Empire” and has a very different feel in the mix and speed; it is dirtier and faster! It really works as a closer on the CD version of the album as it forms an outro version of the opening track.

*Hmmm... this seems to be ALL of the album tracks, what might that mean???

Judas Priest – 'Redeemer Of Souls' [2 Disc CD Digipack version] (UK)
This album gets better with every listen! Without reservation, I feel that this is their best since 'Painkiller.' Badass riffs, variable guitar tones, vocal acrobatics wich catchy melodies, driving percussion? CHECK. 

Disc 1 Top Tracks: “Dragonaut” just try and NOT sing along! I really dig the guitar tone on this one, plus the arrangement feels very much like a classic Priest song. A throwback right here!
“Redeemer of Souls” the soaring chorus followed by the riff progression makes for some excellent fist-pumping sing-along action!
“Halls Of Valhalla” probably my favorite from the whole album! Not only are the lyrics right up my alley, Rob Halford's opening scream seals the deal before the song even gets under way. Judas Priest singing about Valhalla, do you really need me to convince you that this track is awesome?
“Sword Of Damocles” is appropriately majestic and really hit home this year with things going on in my life. It's a close second to “Halls Of Valhalla” for top album track.
“March Of the Damned” is a great rallying cry for Metalheads worldwide, plus it's a classic-sounding track!
“Battle Cry” the strongest song from the 2nd half of the album, this one starts off slow and atmospheric, gives way to some heavy riffage and an uplifting vocal delivery that makes you want to scream out your own battle cry!

Disc 2 Top Tracks: really all of them! Any of the tracks not mention as top ones on disc 1 should have been replaced by these tracks for a much more solid album. These songs all feel about 30 years older than they are! I don't listen to the last track “Never Forget” as much, as it is a slow ballad, and is bested by “The Beginning of the End” on disc 1.
“Snakebite” is full of so much swagger, you just have to love it!
“Tears of Blood” fakes you out with a slower but catchy riff that suddenly speeds up and rips through great song. This song also hit home for me this year dealing with some past issues.
“Creatures” also sounds much older, has a great sinister vocal delivery with solid riffs. In fact the one that shows up at about 1:08-1:09 is WAAY tough and reminds me of something from Bathory's “Under the Sign of the Black Mark!”
“Bring It On” is a great example of how Judas Priest can make you fist-pump with your middle finger extended to all that oppose you!

Massacre – 'Back From Beyond [Limited Edition CD version] (USA)
For starters, this is a different-sounding Massacre than the “From Beyond” era. This release sounds more like a polished Sunlight Studios album with a touch of extra groove. In other words, a bit like older Jungle Rot. Once you put expectations aside and just listen to this as a Heavy Metal album, there are a lot of good riffs on this album. At 14 original tracks, a TON of work went into this album. I feel that most of the songs are about ½ AWESOME riffs, ½ grooves and guitar chugs that detract from the focus of the song. Also, a more analog production on the drums with less double bass would have delivered a more brutal, brooding sound to match the guitar tone and style. All of the songs have some good parts that get me really pumped but the following stand out. Note that this edition has x2 Death covers as the 15th & 16th tracks.
Top Tracks:
“Ascension of the Deceased” is a slightly faster track, initially, with better arrangement than most of the album; it rips and chugs along with better skill at taking the listener for a deathride.
“Succumb To Rapture” has a great death/thrash-y opening riff that gives way to late '90's groovy chugfest, returns to the death/thrash riff, gets super '80's thrashy and tough briefly (including a squealy solo), slows it a bit for a strong finish of Swedish style death. This is probably the oldest sounding song on the album, which is likely as the 7” single for it was released in 2012 with “Back From Beyond.”
“Back From Beyond” is an appropriate title track for this album as it showcases the album's attempt to combine older Massacre with their newer style. This is acccomplishdy by some fast death/thrashy riffs followed by some slower slugs and moody guitar solo over an equally moody bass line, speeds back up into the opening riff for the finish.
“Honor The Fallen” maintains a midpace for 3:16 and just sounds like some solid Swedish stuff with a more polished production (but not too much here). This is probably the most success example of the new Massacre style on the album.

Mayhem – 'Esoteric Warfare [Vinyl Box Set Edtion]' (Norway)
What an incredible album! The sound is a continuation of the style on 'Ordo Ad Chao' but with more structure/syncopation in the arrangements giving it a more militant, almost industrialized feel in a VERY good way. There is some of the vibe of the better parts of 'Grand Declaration of War.' This album is themed after esoteric notions and psychological tactics during the Cold War, with a heaping dose of Armageddon thrown in; it's what 'Grand Declaration...' could have been, in my opinion. That said, the whole album is written by Teloch (ex-Gorgoroth), except the vocal arrangements and lyrics, they are wisely left up to Attila, one of my favorite vocalists, generally speaking. Eerie  claustrophobic to atmospheric guitars produce a sense of passing into the void after excessive destruction, relentless drums pace this journey, tortured and dynamic vocals further cement the ice in your veins and the horror throughout the album. If Skinny Puppy did an album about Psychological Warfare in a more Metal style, it might sound as disturbing as this.
It's hard to pick a favorite track, as the album has a great flow with a well-executed concept; the whole album is solid and is one of those rare albums like the High Spirits one above that if you enjoy one song, you probably wil enjoy them all. If pressed, I'd pick “Trinity” as it is about the Trinity bomb testing and features the famous sample of JR Oppenheimer stating that he had become “Death, the Destroyer of Worlds” after successful bombing tests.
The packaging on the red vinyl box set is awesome, it is like an antique 12”x12” dossier on war machines and esoteric symbols found in a bunke somewhere. This set is limited to 1,000 copies (mine is #989) and includes the bonus track “Into the Lifeless” which I really enjoy for the bass production on the song, loud and throaty. If you like the rest of the album, this track is also probably indispensible. 

Midnight - 'No Mercy For Mayhem [CD Edition w/Bonus Live CD]' (USA)
Solid rockin' sleazy n' speedy Blackened Heavy Metal album! It is worthy as a successor to 'Satanic Royalty' though this release is more rock oriented. This one took a bit longer to grow on me than the previous LP but it sinks its hooks in much deeper with each listen than 'Satanic Royalty' can, with more replayablity. There's still plenty of Motorhead and Venom vibes, but I hear some more AC/DC type influences as well.
Top Tracks: my only complaint is with the intro, “The Mercy Curse” it doesn't really do anything for the album and feels out of place. Maybe with repeated listenings I'll understand it better... Anyway, “Evil Like a Knife” blasts right into you with the aforementioned influences heavily present. Fists will pump, necks will snap! “Prowling Leather” has a nasty and riff full of piss and vinegar that just swaggers on over and does what the fuck it wants. The title track is slower and is as close to a rock ballad as I've heard Midnight get. Good but not my favorite track. “The Final Rape Of Night” build it back up with heavy Venom vibes and gang vocals on the chorus that work surprisingly well, adding a very punk/hardcore element. “Degradation” has a super-rockin heavy riff I just love! Complexity? WHO NEEDS IT?! “Woman Of Flame” feels more like 'Destroyer of Worlds' era Bathory and 'Calm Before The Storm' era Venom. Also good, but not one of my tops on the album. “Try Suicide” crashed down on the mellow to open up the mayhem again. This should be a live staple! “Whiplash Disaster,” as its name may imply, takes a Thrashier approach, initially, then goes for a more slowed Motorhead feel, into some rocking solos and bass lines that feel a bit punkish, Mentors-meets-Ramones comes to mind but I can't place the songs/riffs. We get a solo finish. This is probably the most complex song on the album. Rounding out the release is the excellent final track “Aggressive Crucifiction” which has a very catchy chorus/main riff that is very fun live.

The bonus disc is a re-release of the rare 'Alive on the Streets of Cleveland,' a live performance from October 30th, 2013. It has great quality and classic Athenar stage banter with a solid set list. Worth picking up!

Midnite Hellion – 'Bitchin'At Champs! Live at Backstage 11-15-2013 [Live Album]' (USA)
Midnite Hellion are an awesome Heavy Metal band from New Jersey, mostly. This release is a great example of why their current vocalist needs to stay with the band, permanently! Midnite Hellion has been plagued with line-up changes since its inception, however I hope this proves to be the most stable as it is my favorite. They play a unique fist-pumping mix of early Metal styles. Iron Maiden and Grim Reaper come immediately to mind, but that is very limiting of their sound. We get 28+ minutes of a live show and about the same in an interview that serves as a valuable document of the band's history, influences, and current line-up. This is a great introduction to the band for those unfamiliar, and the live quality is pretty good, so pick it up!

Necrophagia – 'Whiteworm Cathedral' (USA)
A return to form for Necrophagia! This album goes for a slower, thicker style reminiscent of 'Holocausto De La Muerte.' Phil Anselmo is credited with the majority of the song writing on that album, and I feel that it had the best production/guitar tone of any other Necrophagia release, as well as some of their most potent arrangements. So for this album to return to a comparable style was like striking cadaver at the bottom of a grave!The drums are slow and primitive, the guitar is like a slab of rotting meat; heavy, thick, and crusty. Killjoy's vocals are good as always, and stick to his lower-to-mid registers. Mirai (of Sigh) has written some of his best keyboard parts for a Necrophagia song here, as his voice selection and presence in the mix make the most sense I've heard on a Necrophagia album. I feel that his parts have often overshadowed the rest of the track on previous releases.  The samples are also of a more controlled length. As a side note, I purchased the vinyl edition, which has a different cover than the CD, and despite what the record claims, it is NOT a 45 RPM album, it is 36 RPM!!! 
That said, onto my top tracks:
“Reborn Through Black Mass” is a solid chugger with enough twists to keep the corpse shambling along. Heavy and old like a collapsing mausoleum!
“Fear The Priest” dirty, deep bass over a twisted main riff, simple but varied arrangement of a select few riffs, Exorcist-themed lyrics. You can't go wrong!
“Elder Things” is much faster than any songs preceding it and would be a hellish monster live! The guitars' crunchy production sounds extra good here. Overall, a much Thrashier feel, including a solo, which I find ballsy in a time when most bands' Lovecraft-themed songs are slow and moody.
“Coffins” is simply too tough not to be a top track, not to mention the bass production! The rhythm of the song is perfect for me, not too fast, not to slow, just right to crush skulls!
“Rat Witch” gets special mention as it has a distorted, discordant riff I find comparabel to Mayhem. This is interesting as Mayhem was hugely influenced by Necrophagia, most notably in Maniac's vocal delivery. The Death-ier parts are heavy and are similar to those in “Coffins.”
Yessir! “March of the Deathcorps(e)” is a fun song over about the classic B-film, “Shock Waves” with the inimitable Peter Cushing. The beat is march-like with a stuttering guitar riff that, while not super Death-y, is nonetheless super fun and makes me love this song! We also get an unusual solo at the end that sounds melodic even.

Nunslaughter – 'Angelic Dread [CD Edition, w/Bonus Disc]' (USA)
Nunslaughter FINALLY releases another full-length, making the scramble for new tracks scattered over infinite releases slightly easier, albeit briefly. Continuing their brand of extreme metal self-branded 'Devil Metal,' Nunslaughter are always different and always the same. You can expect quality and you can expect a wide range of heavy influences across the Metal decades and genres! The bonus disc consists of tracks previously only available on 7”, re-recorded for this release. It is interesting to hear all of these tracks with a comparable production and all in one place. As many of the individual releases the original versions are on are practically impossible to get, this is a smart way to get some more Nunslaughter for your dollar.
Top Tracks: “Looking Into The Abyss” is some nasty early-sounding Death Metal that recalls Impetigo for me.
“Twisted Spirit” evokes earlly Incantation cavernous vibes, with a shorter song length and fewer time signature changes, this is distilled heaviness!
“Coffins And Crosses” mixes suped-up Speed Metal with Punk vibes with early 90's Death Metal chugging for a potent and interesting Metal Meltdown!
“Three Nails One Liar” great song title, more importantly mean as hell bass line and production, drums beat that'll start the pits and kick your ass, guitars that drop in and propel the madness!
“Death Beyond The Gallows” is relentless in its riffing and drumming. Just when you think it'll slow down, it speeds up, next time around it DOES slow down, and even tougher than you'd think, speeds right back up to the main pace, builds it up and brings back to the main riff for a dynamic and tough song that is surprisingly complex, and that's just barely halfway through the song! It slows down quite evilly at the finish for a superbly well-rounded track!

Obituary- 'Inked In Blood [CD Digipack Version]' (USA)
    I actually bought the vinyl version, but the digital download included the two bonus tracks from the CD digipack edition, which are re-recorded versions of “Intoxicated” and “Bloodsoaked” from 'Slowly We Rot.' This doesn't deviate from Obituary's patented Celtic Frost-tinged 'Swampy Death Metal' style, with enjoyable production to match. The drums sound fairly organic for a much-produced and processed, high-profile Death Metal album. The guitars sound awesome, especially over headphones for the digital version, or good speakers for the vinyl. No real surprises here, old fans will find what they've come to expect from this Death Metal institutioin. New fans will have a good starting place to understand what the fuss (or should I say 'stinkupuss') is about. I admit that this album can't top 'Cause of Death' or 'Slowly We Rot' but I certainly find it a worthy addition to the Obituary discography.
Top Tracks: “Violence” is a pissed-as-hell classic that with an extra-tough main riff. Song features a primitive and effective solo. Song structure revolves around brief departures from the opening/main riff and quick returns to it for maximum effect.
“Out of Blood” opens with heavy Celtic Frost vibes and rolls into some traditional and very old-sounding Obituary swamp riffing. Not much variety until 2/3 into the song, then the breakout solo drops to give pause before dropping back into the main riff over a more traditional sounding Metal solo that then plays off the main riff effectively for a solid closing.
“Paralyzed with Fear” continues the Celtic Frost vibe (of course) with some Thrashier elements thrown in, this song feels much like the primordial stew sound of multiple influences that lead to the development of Death Metal in the first place. In short, this is one of the oldest sounding tracks on the album. The riffs don't snag you quite as fast, this song is more of a grower than a shower. We get a slow solo 3/5 through and then some slogging through a slowed version of the main riff over double bass drum rhythms. This pattern persists through the rest of the song over some divebomb solos.
Honoralbe mentions to “Century of Lies” for having an excellent riff to open the album up and “Minds of the World” which also has a great riff and old-sounding solo squeal about 2/3 way through, but lacks a bit in delivery via the arrangement. Both songs are still solid!

Raison D'Etre – 'Feasting In Valhalla [Live Album]' (Sweden)
This live album from a 2014 Swedish show is a good demonstration of the Raison D'Etre sound; dark ambient that calls to mind ruined architectural husks still emitting miasmas of doom from the heretical and alchemical works performed within. Good quality. 'Nuff said.

Raison D'Etre – 'Mise En Abyme' (Sweden)
This release really captures an essence of a ritual happening in just the next room, as though you have nearly broken the membrane to another dimension through arcane means, but have not enough power to complete the spell. A great release to put on in the background and let wash over you, it is intentionally not well-balanced soundwise so that it creeps and slithers up next to you before it touches you, sending shivers through your soul.

Rigor Mortis – 'Slaves To The Grave' (USA)
What a great return to form! There are plenty of classic riff styling on this album to satisfy old fans, while also showing development with some melodic riffing, especially on solos, most notably on “Poltergeist” that works way better than it should. I imagine I can hear the 13th Planet Studios sound creep through, but this is way crunchier and with more gain than I've heard on any Ministry releases. Some of the riff structures maybe... anyway, great album. I wish it weren't a farewell to Mike Scaccia, as I really like all of his work that I've heard (mostly Rigor Mortis, Ministry, Rev. Co., and 1000 Homo DJ's), but I must say that he helped create a fine piece as his last!
Top Tracks: “Rain Of Ruin” takes a much purer Thrash form with a great riff to get oneself shuffling about into a tight bridge, followed by a trippy but effective solo over the main riff which flows back into the bridge to be conquered by the chorus riffage, gang vocals and general fist-pumpingly worthy action. Further solos expertly propel the song back into the chorus, for another bridge and chorus tight finish.
“The Infected” opens with some banjo insanity that teaches Taake's 2011 song “Myr” a thing or ten. I'm not 100% sure it IS an electric banjo, but if not, the guitar sure as shit is played like one! In either case, a bossy bass line breaks it up so the song can flow into some serious Thrash chugs with a Crossover edge and some faster bridge riffs that interplay a few times into a solo of the opening 'banjo' riff which melds with the previous riffs for a melting pot finish.
“Curse Of The Draugr” has basically one riff that it sticks close to, but it's a good one!
Special mention to “Sacramentum Gladiatorum” and “Ludus Magnus” which together are one 2-part 13:54 minute epic track about Gladiators. Ballsy move, gentlemen! Especially considering that this relies on very few riffs and heavy repetition to carry it, the effectiveness and bravery of including this track on a Thrash album with Death leanings, is noteworthy. Imagine Rigor Mortis writing something like Bathory's “Twilight of the Gods” and you'll have it.

Ritual Chamber – 'The Pits Of Tentacled Screams [Demo]' (USA)
Ritual Chamber produces ugly, ritualistic, cavernous Black/Death Metal much in vogue currently, however they do so with more skill and a darker atmosphere than most. I have the cassette version, my copy of which has considerable more hiss than the digital version posted on their bandcamp. I typically HATE cassettes for just such a warpage, but in this case it adds an element, perhaps much like Ted Skjellum's infamous copy of Vader's 'Necrolust' demo. I will eagerly await a full-length from this band and would love to see a live show.
Top Tracks: “Glorious Curse of Almighty Death” has a great riff that gives way to some 'atmospheric noodling' (think of a Blacker diSEMBOWELMENT) on the guitar, back into some cavernous sounds, repeat.
“A Thermonuclear Fate” opens with some anxious-sounding tremolo over some tough bass line and drum rhythm into an almost Wolves In The Throne Room riff... but Deathier. The pace is kept pretty much the same with some expected cavernous riffing to finish with a return to some eerie, ethereal lead riff, again reminiscent of a blackened diSEMBOWELMENT.

Sacrificial Blood – 'Souls For Sale' (USA)
Prabably my favorite new and active band disccovery in the last 3-4 years, Sacrificial Blood brings nothing but METAL to one's ears. In an alternate universe where Death Metal started about 10 years earlier, developing out of a primordial stew of early Heavy Metal, Speed Metal, and proto-Thrash Metal, Sacrificial Blood would be a band with a predictable sound. Since we don't live in that universe, here's your chance to bend time and hear some solid music that's, again, nothing but METAL.  Includes the bonus tracks “We Rule The Night (Frigid Bich cover)” and “Up Thy Ass (Scepter cover).” This is my favorite of Mike Keller's projects that I've heard, by the way. The album has a perfectly organic production, with excellent mixing of ALL instruments (including the bass!). If you like classic Metal of the 70's and early 80's, this is for you!
Top Tracks: “The Nightmare Has Returned” opens this beast up with a Speed Metal riff that breaks into a tough-as-nails version that mutates with various guitar accents and solos until it breaks down a bit towards the end of the song to lead into a tougher, slower finish that then itself speeds back up and returns to a fast version of the main riff for a strong finish. This is a great example of Sacrificial Blood's older influences and skill at complexity in songwriting whilst maintaining the Metal edge at all times. The nightmare has indeed returned, Sacrificial Blood; well played on your opening track to your second LP.
“Hellfire”another old-sounding opening riff that interplays with itself over Mike's harsh bark (no belch, no screech, only dog is real!). This song is less complex but still extremely effective delivery and arrangement. Not a dull moment! We do get a well-executed solo towards the end before returning to the main riff.  I love the lyrics, they are about having the fire of Metal in your heart. Clearly you do Sacrificial Blood. Incinerate your enemies!
“We Will Remain” starts up much faster and has a decidedly Thrash style bordering on proto-Death, bringing the album about 10 years forward in influences drawn upon. The bridge riff is very unique, then returns to a faster version of the main riff and bridge, etc., repeat. I hope Sacrificial Blood does, in fact, remain!
“D.T.S.” I'm not sure what the abbreviation means (it's probably obvious and I'm just being a low-brow neanderthal, but hey that might be okay too), but I know that I love this song. Again a Thrashy feel, but this track returns to older influences, especially in its breaks and bridges. Again an excellent and vintage solo can be heard before the song slows down to allow Mike to bark out his denial of commercial Metal and the rockstar mentality. For The True!
“Tyrant Of Pain” again sounds very old, but has such a unique mix of Metal styles and influences that it sounds like all your favorite 70's and 80's Metal bands, yet like none of them and better than any individually for its potent distillation of the most efficient parts. About 1/5 of the way into the track, we get a tough slow down that speeds back up to return to variants on the main riff before returning to the slow part (the chorus). We do eventually get a spotlight on the bass before the track goes into an almost Slayer-like freakout (if there was less Thrash and more Speed influences), bridges back to the main riff progression and chorus to finish.
“The Pack” opens with some fast drums to pump you up until the guitar drops in and Mike drops a "GO/UGH" type command to start it off proper. Great riff that's super catchy, beware this pack of notes! The song does slow down and get tougher with a solo overlay that builds in speed and complexity to herald the return to the fast version of the main riff for a closing.
“Souls For Sale” is probably my favorite track on the album. Perhaps from familiarity as this song has been in the Sacrificial Blood set list for some time and I've seen them maybe 4 times, plus I have their live album. The main riff is just so catchy and iconic, again heavily influenced by 70's and early 80's Metal. It sounds like Motorhead meets Oz to me! The song structure is basically: main riff, bridge riffs, return to main riff, break down main riff and mutate it to allow drum flourishes and guitar solos, return to main riff, bridge riffs, end. This song does lean heavily on the opening riff, but it's one of those riffs that is powerful enough to make it work. As of this track, my soul is sold.

Why yes, that IS all the tracks on the album. What might that mean, hmmm???

Spirit Caravan -[Title unknown. Live album on CD-R, available on 2014 tour] (USA)

I know little about this release other than that I bought it from the band at their Brooklyn show at the Saint Vitus bar, and that the recording is from a show “in the UK” per the opening track. Good quality recording, includes stage banter, and is an apparently edited 10 track show or 10 tracks cut from various shows. It appears to be circa 2001, as Wino introduces “Retroman” as “a new one.”

Statiqbloom – 'Black Mirrors' (USA)
If there was a soundtrack to taking MDMA and LSD in an abandoned factory while you were pissed as hell to the point of a psychotic break, it would be this mini-album. It's a cassette version of basically the tracks from split with Zex Model, plus some noisey extra tracks. See previous blog entries for review of the band's sound and live performance. As I stated there, this band is pretty much 'Remission'-era Skinny Puppy, some Throbbing Gristle-type noise, and some early EBM bass lines comparable to Front 242, early Front Line Assembly. In short, AWESOME!

Tombs – 'Savage Gold' (USA)
This Tombs album is a bit more stripped down in its sound, most notably in guitar and drum complexity. The rhythms rely more on blasts than previous releases. Tombs does continue to deliver a heavy atmospheric and bleak Black Metal with hardcore and shoegazes influences, something like Deathspell Omega meets Neurosis, however I feel this release is less effective than the last two LPs. A lot of work went into the album, but it feels a bit stretched thin. Perhaps it would have benefitted from some trimming into a shorter album or mini-album But that's just my thoughts. Still a good release though!
Top tracks: "Echoes" carries the heavy atmosphere and sorrow that I have come to love in Tombs. It starts off melancholic, drops some slow heavy riffs to make it's point, tremolo-tricks them out, breaks them down into some simple leads, and continues to play with these riffs and their interplay throughout the song to drive the vocal delivery towards it's conclusion with a monsterous riff that feels like it's about to break into some Celtic Frost but cuts short right before the fuse blows. This is a fairly complex track!
"Edge of Darkness" starts off fast and keeps it that way, harkening back to early waves of European Black Metal, slows it down towards the end and finishes with some Tombs-classic slabs of crushing guitar dissonance and atmosphere.

Triptykon – 'Melana Chasmata' (Switzerland)
Tom G. Warrior strikes back in this, the 2nd LP from his current project, Triptykon! This is, I feel, the heaviest Triptykon release yet, almost as heavey as Celtic Frost's 'Monotheist.' This album again features artwork from H.R. Giger, a bittersweet fact considering Giger's death this year. The album continues the heavy and sorrowful path begun on 'Eparistera Daimones' but succeeds with defter skill; the heaviness is more crushing and often faster, much more reminiscent of early Celtic Frost, and the sorrowful is handled with more subtlty and atmosphere. I cannot wait to see Triptykon perform this year at Maryland Deathfest!
Top Tracks: “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is a helluva intro song, with deep Celtic Frost 'Morbid Tales'-era stylings that bust in after a very 'Monotheist' type intro section. We get some slower, heavier material next more reminiscent of previous Triptykon releases. Tommy G. and the gang then slow this down FURTHER for some really devastating measures and start to bring it home with a return to the main chorus/riff and finish with some early Celtic Frost moody, doomy, chords. Excellent guitar production!
“Altar Of Deceit” opens with some moody bass and guitar interplay which starts to develop a Far Eastern theme, to my ears. This then gets obliterated by a tyrannically heavy riff that just keeps morphing into more and more crushing strains through the chorus break and some moody interludes and solos to return to the tough crushing riffs and again variants there-on until the chorus returns again to end the track.
“Aurorae” is an especially atmospheric and moody song more in the vein of sorrow and solitude than anger, at least outwardly expressed. It requires a specific mindset to appreciate. As for its musical composition, about halfway through the song, it shifts from beautiful but sad droning riff to include a more human element with Tom's vocals and a crusty guitar backdrop to add to the soundscape. The song does build a bit into a bigger, heavier sound and just screams (quietly) desperation. There's a Thorough reference in there somewhere... Anyway, this has been great listening for me as I walk to the subway in Brooklyn on my way to work early in the morning; with the ground covered in ice and snow, few souls about, and the sun struggling to find the energy to rise and banish the cold and dark. I recommend trying to find similar surroundings in which to listen to this track.

Velvet Acid Christ – 'Subconscious Landscapes' (USA)
As anyone who's let me gab on about music will tell you, VAC is one of my favorite electronic bands. Inventive, trippy, angry, and often sad, VAC make some unique music to make your head spin! This album continues in the vein of Maldire, but adds a ton more eerie chorus voices and trippy backing tracks. It feels most like a combo of Maldire, HexAngel, and Calling Ov The Dead. It grows on me with every listen! This is my first (and I think their first) VAC album on vinyl, and I must say that the sound-quality is superior! I would REALLY dig some vinyl re-issues of older VAC albums, even a good set of headphones with the digital version hasn't quite matched the quality of the vinyl. Of course, I must admit that I have a pretty good speaker system set up for my vinyl, so your results may vary. See my review of VAC live!
Top Tracks: “Taste The Sin” is menacing and acidic (in every sense of the word I know). Slow and brooding with an uplifting finish, this is great example of mid-paced VAC styling that I love.
“Dire” has a fun toybox main riff with some expansive and psychedelic backing tracks. Very catchy.
“Strychnine” is fast and trippy, a great example of this facets of VAC's style.
“Zalflex” has a great mix of trippy and somber parts to get lost in, along with a really killer lead tone in the last 30 seconds to make your head melt!
“Evil Toxin” is slow and brooding again, this time with some toybox lead overtones that further the sinister vibe in their dichotomy with the rest of the song.
“Empusa” has some great sonic soundscapes to get lost in, it feels a lot like a lost track from somewhere between 'Hex Angel' and 'Lust For Blood.'
As a aside, the drums sound awesome on this record! So loud, and actually somewhat organic on the bass drums. The snares sound a bit analog too, mostly, so this is a plus!

Weep – 'Weep' (USA)
Rejoice for the weeping has returned! Most notable improvement on this album? PRODUCTION! All the instruments sound crisp and clear, the mix is the best of any album they've down, with each instrument getting equal footing, as indicated. Most appreciated of all, for me, is Doc Hammer's voice! Previously buried in the mix (occasionally for very appropriate effect, but often at a loss to the song), we can finally fully enjoy his vocal style and range. The terms 'husky' and 'croon' come to mind, but there is a definite vulnerability previously hard to pick out. This album has a more chill vibe than 'Alate,' the previous LP, which was more raw and acutely painful. This album still has melancholy but has some uplifting bits as well, suggesting an emotional healing is happening. Overall, this may be my favorite Weep release for the above production reasons alone, not to mention the song-writing itself. That said, my favorite track by them will likely always be "Lay There and Drown" from 'Never Ever.' We do also get an Icehouse/Flowers cover in "Icehouse" that is well executed.
Top Tracks: "Wake Up It's a Dream" has a very catchy keyboard riff that works well with an equally catchy guitar riff and dig Doc's mid-range vocal delivery early on that builds a bit in the chorus.
"The Walls" has a drum beat that catches my ears, so to speak, and recalls Bauhaus stylings. The song bounces between this somewhat tribal rhythm to a halting chorus. I hear Killing Joke vibes in the guitar riff and drum styling as well, the chorus of "We will never be the same again" dropping back into the main rhythm and riff is especially effective.
"The Wanting House" has a great catchy riff and a good balance of melancholy without needing to slow down until the chorus. This has been in the Weep live set for a while so I'm very pleased to finally have a recorded version, as it always made an impression the 2-3 times I've seen Weep live.

Wolves In The Throne Room – 'Celestite' (USA)
The atmospheric and ambient counterpart to 'Celestial Lineage,' this album is a pleasure, if you're into this type of thing. While comparable to 70's Tangerine Dream, Wolves In The Throne Room retain a certain sense of the Imperial, of mighty reign never heard in any Tangerine Dream release. This is especially true on the album opener, “Turning Ever Towards The Sun.” “Initiation At Neudeg Alm” has some very guitar-produced atmospheres I dig. “Bridge Of Leaves” is more droney and is great to get lost in. “Celestite Mirror” has a similar skill but lulls you away with more beauty and complexity. Definite Tangerine Dream vibes on this one... if they ever decided to use extreme amounts of gain and heavy strings on their guitars. “Sleeping Golden Storm” recalls late 70's Tangerine Dream and Burzum's ambient albums done in prison.


Carcass - 'Surgical Remission/Surplus Steel' EP (UK)
    Collects 4 tracks from the 'Surgical Steel' sessions. We get 2 new tracks in “A Wraith In The Apparatus” and “Livestock Marketplace” as well as collecting “Intensive Battery Brooding” from the “Captive Bolt Pistol” single and “Zochrot” released as a flexi single from Decibel magazine. Additionally, there is an 'outro' version of “1985.”

Electric Wizard – 'SadioWitch' single (UK)
    Contains the eponymous single and a 4-track demo recording of “We Love The Dead” called “Black Flowers.” “Black Flowers” is very raw and is an interesting insight into Electric Wizard with a less studio and more live sound.

Iron Force – 'Dungeon Breaker' EP (USA)
Brooklyn's Thrash Maniac's drop a dirty speed bomb on your ears here! It rips from start to finish, with gritty guitar, primitive and organic sounding drums, and harsh vocal rasps.
Top Track: “Summon The Grave.” Though all the tracks are good, this one grips your throat a little bit tighter, bangs your head a little bit harder, than the other 4 tracks. This one feels especially raw and extreme!

Iron Force - 'Executed' EP (USA)
See above! This EP was released first and it's not quite as nasty as it's younger sibling, however it still rips start to finish! While 'Dungeon Breaker' feels more like early Sodom, this EP has more Speed Metal influences.
Top Track: “Iron Force” catchy riffs and dynamic vocals make this a victory. Throwing some well-placed 'Ugh!'s always score points!

Iron Force – 'Speed Kills: Bootleg Up Your Ass [Live Album]' (USA)
Good quality live album. We get some silly between-song banter that is never too drawn out. It gives a good feel for the Iron Force live experience, as I can attest. I think “Outrun The Axe” is my favorite track; it benefits from the live treatment and bests the EP version for guitar sound and vocal delivery. I am glad that the drum sound form the EP's has carried over to the live album; they are in the forefront of the mix and sound mean!

Maximum Oversatan – 'Satanic Invasion [Demo]' (USA)
Another project of the ever-busy and ever-Metal Mike Keller (notably from Sacrificial Blood), this is some dirty Blackened Heavy Speed Metal with a sub-Venom demo production and style mixed with Motorhead and Piledriver. Don't like the sound of it? Then forever be a wimp AND a poser!
Favorite track: “Reap On Command,” solid riffs that will get you headbanging over Mike Keller's trademmark 'less is more' approach on drums. This is probably equally true of all the tracks on the album, but this one is my favorite. As an aside, I love how Mike arranges his drum rhythms, every beat is dead-on, no frills, all heavy, all driving. He can and does play faster, more complex parts, however you'll find no digital trickery or double bass petals here! Primitive kit, primitive style!!! All 3 Demo originals are blazing, however, their cover of Running Wild's “Black Demon” is also formidable!

Mayhem – 'Psywar' single (Norway)
Single includes and alternate mix of Psywar that I find very similar to the album version. B side is an exclusive track entitled “From Beyond The Event Horizon” which has a very slow first half, breaking into a faster, discrodant part. It feels like a Lovecraftian creature slowly uncoiling its appendages and then unleashing chaos on the mortals in observane of it.

Rippikoulu – 'Ulvaja' EP (Finland)
FINALLY new material from the Finnish masters of slow death! This release finds them moving into a more depressing and slow mood with deeper vocals, similar to the progression of Celtic Frost to Triptykon, though I hear equal diSEMBOWELMENT vibes, with occasional early My Dying Bride flourishes. In short, this EP is a favorite! Eponymous track “Ulvaja” is a great example of this description, and is yet another bleak song for me to listen to early in the morning amidst the frozen and desolate south Brooklyn landscape.”Loputan” has a blacker vibe and shows some Incantation vibes, albeit with fewer time signature changes, by far! Album closer “Jää hyvästi kaunis kesä” has more choral parts that are beautiful and haunting, completing the mood initiated with the opening track. This EP demonstrates a development of the Rippikoulu sound, and I am excited about it (though I would certainly NOT complain about another 'Musta Seremonia'). I look forward to a full-length release soon!

Von – 'Mother' single (USA)
Here's the first 'Dark Gods' single. What are they? Singles from the upcoming 'Dark Gods: Rise of the Architects' album slated for 2015, with an exclusive track or track version (e.g. demo versions). Each single also comes with the Dark Gods comic book, each with a different cover (some with optional wrap-around covers, meaning some singles have more than one cover available, to the frustration, or delight, of collectors). Each single is limited to 25 copies. Tracks on the 'Mother' single Include: "Mother" which has a moody, melancholic opening showing a different, more depressed side to Von. Clearly development is taking place in the Von sound. This may piss off many, but listening with open ears, I'm really excited about this song. It's well executed and would be received by many Metalheads into slow, dark, depressive stuff, perhaps if it didn't have the Von name attached. I challenge the listener to take this track as it is, an awesome slow and haunting track, not as the herald of the next "Satanic Blood." Following "Mother" is "The End" in demo version. It too is slow and moody, relying more on atmosphere created by minimalist keyboard and eerie vocal rasping in the background. It drones a bit too, giving this whole single a sort of Blackened depressed psychedelic feel that I first heard pioneered by Von on the 'Dark Gods: Seven Billion Slaves' album.

Von – 'The Culling' single (USA)

Tracks Include: "The Culling" which opens with some samples and a very psychedelic, doomy riff done Von style (primitive and repetitious to maximum effect) with harsh vocals and a slow guitar  solo. This is the nastiest sludge song I've heard in a long time! Next up is "Forbidden" which starts off much more traditional to 2nd wave Black Metal then gives way to a massive doom riff that does eventually speed up into a classic-sounding Von riff and arrangement about halfway through the track, carrying the song into a tense finish before easing up with a return to the slow riff as a fade out.

Von – 'Muse Of Evil' single (USA)
Tracks Include: "Muse Of Evil" which is again a Doomy, droney, and atmospheric piece that ends with some minimalist acoustic guitar, then smashes back with a return to the main riff. "Insidious" follows it with a slow and quiet intro with distorted whispered vocals over some ambient noise. This one is more for private listening in a dark room.

Von – 'Abandon'  single (USA)
Tracks Include: "Abandon" and the acoustic version thereof. The album/single version does open with an acoustic guitar strumming some sad sounds giving way to some noisey guitar and bass about halfway through to give a strong sense of anger coming out of isolation. The acoustic version has a much more country vibe but the weird ambience in the background make for a far more sinister song than any country I know. The acoustic version is instrumental and may actually be more disturbing!

Von – 'DemonSkin' single (USA)
Tracks Include: "DemonSkin" which starts off slow and atmospheric with a repeated jangly guitar riff that gives way to a much more classic Von riff, albeit slowed down, after 2 minutes, it just gets heavier and more raw sounding from there until the moody finish! Next up is "Flesh Of My Flesh" in its demo version. The quality does sound very primitive, making this the oldest sounding Von song to be on the singles. It has the hypnotic and dark Von style, again a bit slowed down, then gives way to some effect laden guitar atmospheres that are fairly creepy.



Electronic Saviors, Volume III

This is the 3rd installment in the series, which raises funds for cancer research. The series is spearheaded by a cancer survivor and electronic music fan.  I purchased this mostly for the exclusive Velvet Acid Christ mix and Toxic Coma (Velvet Acid Christ side-project) tracks. It's also a great way to support a worthwhile cause and get a feel for what's going on currently in this scene. For me, stand-out tracks were the aforementioned VAC & Toxic Coma tracks. The latter relies heavily on psychedelic electronic meanderings and Aqua Teen Hunger Force samples. Though there were some artists that I either haven't heard of there were also several I've not heard of for a while. There is plenty that I will probably check up on, so compilation purpose acheived (introduce artists to the listener and, in this case, support a good cause).

Grime! Greed! Gore! [3-Way Split. Dirty Mike & The Boys, Violation Wound, First Class Elite]
Dirty Mike & the Boys open up the split with their filthy hardcore punk stylings reminiscent of the G.G. Allin glory days.

Violation Wound features Chris of Autopsy and is more rock-oriented, with a don't-give-a-fuck attitude and definite aura of authenticity in the lyrical delivery.

First Class Elite is composed of most of Asphyx, the Swedish Death Metal act. This is most apparent in the guitar tone, which is the most extreme on the split. The overall composition is later hardcore that has moved far from Punk Rock and closer to Metal in its intensity and heaviness. Very interesting production, this one has taken me time to warm up to, but I appreciate it more with each listen.

Graves At Sea/Sourvein [12” Split]
Graves at Sea are a crusty, sludgy doom band that tend to encroach upon Death Metal peripherally in their sound. This is a decent introduction to their style, but I find their demo, 'Documents of Grief' to be indispensible, so go look for it!

Sourvein return for some more potent rocking but Heavy Doom/Sludge Metal tracks. Good stuff! I recommend checking out their whole catalogue. Also, they are way more intense live than I could have expected, great showmanship!

Nunslaughter/Witchtrap [7” Split]
Nunslaughter honor their Columbian Black/Thrash/Heavy Metal companions Witchtrap by writing the titles of their two split contributions in Spanish ("La Ofrenda" and "Altar De La Muerta"). The lyrics are still in English. Witchtrap drop some early Heavy Speed Metal riffs with "Sex Commander" that gets you thrashing and fist-pumping followed by "The Devil's On The Loose" which starts off a bit moody and then breaks into some early Destruction style riffage.

Nunslaughter/Perversor [7” Split]
Nunslaughter deliver some more Devil Metal goods in the vein of their 'Angelic Dread' album described above, so see that. Now, let's take some time to pay more attention to Perversor (generally speaking, good advice for life in my opinion). They are a Chilean Blackened/Death/Thrash band, meaning that they sound like the glorious days when extreme genres were all one, simply "Heavy Metal." They start off the B-side with "Old Temples of Death" which sounds just like it suggests, primitive proto- and early-Death Metal that calls to mind Possessed, amongst others, for me. This is a must hear and is probably my favorite track from any non-full-length release listed here. "Venomous Madness" follows with a heavier early Von vibe mixed with maybe very early Sodom and Sarcofago. Potent poison indeed!



Darkthrone - 'Sardonic Wrath' (Norway)
    Classic and often overlooked Darkthrone album (YES there are more and better albums than 'Transilvanian Hunger'!) with commentary disc in which Fenriz and Ted discuss the album, as it plays, song for song. Learn the secrets of Darkthrone, such as the bears that haunt Ted's house, ganja-smelling recording studios, whose drums Fenriz borrowed, Darkthrone influences and creative processes, and what Satyr considers to be appropriate album length. If you've been missing the commentary-disc re-issues, I recommend them. They provide interesting anecdotes and deepen one's understanding of the Darkthrone mindset, so if you're a diehard like me, these are invaluable!

Fantom Warior - 'The Archive' (USA)
    This self-released compilation includes 1985's superb 'Morbid Invasion' demo, session outtakes from same, 1987's 'Fantasy Or Reality' album, and 2012's “Retribution” single. That is to say, EVERYTHING Fantom Warior has released to date! This is some nasty NJ Thrash Metal of a style bordering on Death Metal with great Speed Metal sensibilities in the guitar arrangmenets and drum style. Early Slayer-ish production with catchy and vicious riffs, and variable vocal delivery styles (shrieks, unaltered spoken, deep proto-growls, etc.) make this compiliation a MANDATORY release for Thrash maniacs the worldover! Head over to their facebook (be mindful of the correct *mis*spelling above) and order a copy, NOW. Keep your ears open for a new album in 2015. From what I've heard of it in live shows, it's going to be killer, no-frills, and possibly very groundbreaking. Until then, KILL RIP DESTROY!!!

God Macabre – 'The Winterlong' (Sweden)
    This review is for the Relapse Records 2014 vinyl re-issue, which also includes Macabre End's EP and a previously unreleased God Macabre track. Firstly, this is a classic example of Swedish Death Metal, with all the production style you'd expect. This edition's mastering maintains that sound. God Macabre includes some excellent slow, somber parts in their songs as well, giving them a unique edge over other Swedish or Swedish-inspired Death Metal bands. The unreleased track, “Life's Verge” sounds very classic to God Macabre in arrangment and style with a grittier guitar production. The Macabre End tracks must have been transferred from a high-quality source, as they sound clear, awesome, and as I imagine they were intended. Pick this up!

Impaler – 'Undead Things' (USA)
I feel Impaler really gelled their style on this one! 'Rise Of The Mutants' EP through “Wake Up Screaming” all displayed Impaler's many influences, but 'Undead Things' really demonstrated the most solid mix of these into a style that would be continued on subsequent releases. This re-issue also includes the great unreleased 'Meat Wagon' demo. The eponymous track is a lot of fun, especially live!

The Klinik- 'Box Set' (Belgium)
FINALLY, a comprehensive and AFFORDABLE collection of Klinik tracks. Historically expensive and difficult to find, the entire Klinik catalogue is present in this set of 1000 units, spread out over 8 CDs. The set includes a live show in the Netherlands from 1986, which I believe is exclusive to the set, as well as a disc of miscellaneous rarities. The rarities include exclusive compilation tracks, 7” tracks, split tracks and 2 previously unreleased demo tracks. Comparable to the Dive box set released the year prior, this is a must for Klinik fans! If you aren't familiar, the Klinik are a Belgian EBM group known for playing live in long leather trench coats and gauze-wrapped heads with stripped down and harsh electronic tracks about anger, lust, and anomie (amongst other mental health concerns). Dark and often claustrophobic, the Klinik was a huge influence on bands like Front Line Assembly and, later, Suicide Commando.

:Wumpscut: - 'Wreath Of Barbs [13th Anniversary 2-Disc Edition] (Germany)
This is a fine re-issue of a solid :W: album, complete with DVD-sized digipack and remix disc. This album is a decent intro to :Wumpscut: if you are unfamiliar, though my favorite will likely always be 'Cannibal Anthem.' Simple, stripped-down, and moody electronics with mostly slower BPM's can be found here. The remix album has 9 tracks on it, five of which are “Wreath Of Barbs.” My favorite is probably the Instinct Primal XL remix of WoB which is fairly trippy and dancey. It feels like a VAC remix, so you know I'm going to love it!


Favorite(s) Of 2014, Top 5, Full-Length Releases:

1. Sacrificial Blood 'Souls For Sale'-the most original of my top 5, so it goes first, also it     was released earliest in the year so it's had longer to endear itself.

2. Horror Vacuii 'Return Of The Empire'- so catchy and infectious, an extremely original     combination of influences create their sound. Also, the band members are all     super nice, thanks for hanging out with me! This album goes second, if not for     those reasons, then as an unofficial '#1 part 2' as a non-Metal release.

3. All Hell 'The Devil's Work'- had this been released earlier in the year, giving me more time to grow to love it further, this might have moved up a place or two in this list. Such solid arrangement, delivery, and production!

4. Mayhem 'Esoteric Warfare'- there simply so much to digest and such great atmosphere evoked that this could be on regular rotation for months and new parts to love and be disturbed by would continue to be discovered.

5. Midnight 'No Mercy for Mayhem'- this was a close decision, with Judas Priest and Triptykon high in the running. Ultimately I chose this as it has a higher percentage and run-time of songs/song parts I adore. It may not be the 'best' or most original of the three, but it is the one that I play the most, thus it makes the top 5 'favorites' list.


Recommend Pairings
Ok, so albums are like food in that you can pair them with each other for various effects. See below for some recommended mixings of select 2014 releases. Put the releases in a queue, shuffle them up, enjoy!

 1.    “Iron Sleaze” Ingredients: equal parts Maximum Oversatan, Midnight, Sacrificial Blood. Blend together with booze and prepare for a night of Heavy Rockin' Metal Madness! This can be lightened by including a full portion of the 'Redeemer of Souls' album. Your dish is then called the “Scum Priest.”

 2.    “Deviled Dregs” Ingredients: Combine on-hand quantities of Nunslaughter and Necrophagia in as homogenous a mixture. A night of cadaverous constipation followed by foetid flatulence guaranteed!

 3.    “Abysmic Sublimination” Ingredients: Combine Mayhem's brand 'Esoteric Warfare' with Raison D'Etre brand 'Mise En Abyme.' Mix well and enjoy alone by candlelight for maximum brain twisting thought manipulation. The ambient interludes will play off the atmosphere of the Black Metal compositions to give abysmic gulfs to anticipate the upcoming assault. This works especially well for “Throne Of Time” into “Katharos” followed by “Aion Suntalia.”

 4.    “Wolves In The Confirmation Class” Ingredients: mix equal parts “Celestite” and “Ulvaja” until well-combined. The flavors shall complement each other to give rise to more potent highlights and deepen the lows for maximum oppression and gloom. An especially potent mix is “Celestite Mirror” into “Jää hyvästi kaunis kesä.”


Top 5 most desirable albums that I DID NOT have opportunity to hear (I no particular order):

 1.    Godflesh - 'A World Lit Only By Fire'
 2.    Hessian - 'Bachelor Of Black Arts'
 3.    Old Wainds - 'Nordraum'
 4.    Coffinworm - 'IV.I.VIII'
 5.    Traitor - 'Delaware Destroyers'
*Runner-up mentions to Thou and Theologian

#2 A Split-Second “Stained Impressions” Demo re-issue.


Highly Anticipated Albums of 2015 (In no particular order):

 1.    Von - “Dark Gods: Rise Of The Architects” and associated exclusive singles
 2.    Fantom Warior – new full length
 3.    Ectovoid - “Dark Abstraction”
 4.    Maximum Oversatan – new full length
 5.    Hot Graves - “Magnificent Death”
 6.    Marduk - “Frontschwein”
 7.    Black Shape Of Nexus – new full length
 8.    Velvet Acid Christ - “Dire Land: The Remix Album”

*Reviews copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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