Saturday, March 28, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Hot Graves "Magnificent Death" (2015)

I stumbled across this band while reading through a list of available titles on an album mailorder. Hot Graves was listed as something like "Black/Death/Thrash/Punk/D-Beat" in style, so I was  immediately interested. I ordered the Demo Compilation 2008-2009 and haven't looked back since! The band does in fact bring all those influences into their music. In short, they encompass many of my favorite facets in underground, extreme Rock/Metal. I even managed to see them live at Saint Vitus Bar a few years ago in either late 2012 or early 2013, I believe. Apparentertly I was the only person there who wasn't already a friend of the band; they played the show in NYC because they have/had a large group of ex-Floridian friends in Brooklyn. At least, that's what Myk, vocalist and guitarist informed me; we had been in contact as I had just purchased a 7" from the band  and the plan was for me to pick it up at the show in lieu of mailing. Great show, and I highly recommend catching them if you ever get the chance; they are funny as fuck and high-energy. Pink guitars, constant stage banter and audience abuse; what's not to like?

Anyway, I want to actually get to the review portion. Hot Graves just dropped a new album, called Magnificent Death on Primitive Violence Recordings. There are 50 copies in a deluxe package including a large button and medium print of the album art with a dropcard of different artwork, a baggie, and (most importantly), a toy! As a (slightly) more controlled toy collector (than my younger years), any excuse to get a new figure is welcome, especially if I can merge it with my interest in music, MOST especially if it's a big dumb creature, like this one. Of note, it also glows in the dark! There's a lot more about it and links to order the new album as well as to the Hot Graves bandcamp via their facebook page.




As I continue to enjoy recording my initial response to the first listening of an album when doing reviews for the current year's album(s), I will continue the practice below. I think this will make for a more interesting 'Muscial Year In Review' post, as it will allow for a great opportunity to show how this year's albums aged. Right, so let's get to it!

I previewed the lyrics, "Witch Hammerspell seems to be a revenge song for a nasty breakup, "Perdition Noose" is about what it seems; bad times and consequences bringing you down. Very 'real' lyrics. "Ripshit" is pretty much what you'd expect: do what thou wilt and fuck the rest. The chorus of "In The Night" is one of Hot Graves' catch-phrases for a while, so I guess it finally became a song. "Jeweled Teeth" is about the destructiveness of greed. The Celtic Frost reference to "Jewel Throne" is not lost on me, I hope it isn't lost on Hot Graves in the music! "Blood Ov The Unpure" is pretty much 'fuck posers, you're worthless and a cesspool.' "Dead Wizard Mountain" appears to be about murdering hipsters. "Roach Pussy Crucifix" seems to be about self-destructive behavior and drug abuse. This one's likely very personal. "Death Promises" may also be about killing hipsters, but this one seems focused on someone in particular. "Rupturestorm" is about lying in wait for people who attempt to put you down and totally destroying them. "Our Cavalry (In The Night)" is on the surface about siding up with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, but seems to be a rallying cry for the band itself and maybe its fans around them.

A SIDE

The album starts off with "Witch Hammerspell" opens with a slow guitar riff, nice and crunchy for the tone, with some string bends and more of an almost early Iron Maiden type development of the riff... then it breaks into some more 80's crossover type development, alternates between this an the Iron Maiden riff to settle on the crossover one to carry the track until some solos kick in. Overall, very grim. Excellent start, 'gentle'men!

"Perdition Noose" begins with a quickening drum beat and a tough chord progression, speeds up into 80's hardcore Punk/D-beat awesomeness. Well-placed "Uh!"'s punctuate the song while a quick solo gives it some character. Tough throughout! Okay, now it slows down for something like a breakdown then drops back in only to break down quickly again with some heavy as lead chunks of guitar chords to close.

"Ripshit" follows closely on its heels with some chunks and a creepy background scream followed by some MetalPunk riffs with guitar squeals. It takes on a Venom/early Sodom dirty, simple Thrash style, which quickly becomes more Thrashy for the chorus. Nice scream on the last chorus repeat! Some drum fills lead into a faster beat as the guitar thrashes and returns to the chorus. It slows down into some chunk and breakdown, briefly, and then develops the main riff which breaks into a solo Slayer-style (in freakout factor, not skill or style). The main riff returns unaltered and Hot Graves closes it out on a slowed chord hold.

"Night Hag" starts with some slow guitar chords, almost Earth AD-era Misfits-esque. It speeds up and develops a bit, keeping in a Punk vein. Until it speeds up further then returns for a slower and nasty as all hell breakdown with guitar squeals and solo that'll have you making that 'I just smelled something rotten' face you make when the music is really vile (meaning really good).

"In The Night" begins with some unexpected twin guitar attack! This is after a main theme is developed. The song breaks it down a bit, then goes into some D-beat toughness for the chorus with some Black Metal-ish guitar overlays and accents. These come more in the forefront and the song takes on a mid-to-late 90's Black Metal style aping the Norwegians. It returns to its Punk roots and also drops a small solo to end.

"Jeweled Teeth" starts fast, but not yet like Celtic Frost. Good speed and feel though, tough and hardcore Punk-like. The main riff becomes more apparent and the song takes a Thrashier approach for the chorus. Back to the hardcore Punk for the bridge. It goes through some development and breakdown that initially made me think of English Dogs but I can't place the song... anyway it slows down the riff then the song gets big and epic, so maybe I wasn't off with the English Dogs thought. It takes on a more traditional Heavy Metal approach including twin guitars then some string/chord bending and a sort of English Dogs meets Motorhead part crops up, and we're done!

B SIDE

"Blood Ov The Unpure" opens with a loud, slow chord, is palm-muted, returns, builds and drops a D-beat to carry the song forward. Thrashy riffs take over with the vocals. MetalPunk through and through! It keeps it simple, playing only slightly with these riffs to propel the song, which is just fine by me. It does a little break after the 2nd chorus, with slow chord chunks, bordering on Doom Metal. It's really milking the slow riffs now. Working though, it sounds tough. Here we go, it speeds up! Alternates with a slow version of the riff, repeats, gets back into the earlier stylings, brings back the D-beat to close.

"Dead Wizard Mountain" weird little guitar intro to some mid-paced chords and D-beat to drum rolls, keep the D-beat, punkish chord progressions with some almost proto-Black Metal stylings that are probably more later, darker hardcore Punk in impetus. This continues to play out. Very obscure stylings, I'm digging it! The song takes a more crossover approach and drops a guitar solo to a cymbal solo (?) maybe it's just my cassette, brings back the D-beat and twin guitar harmonies/solos almost. Back to the obscure, Black Metal riffs, slows down. I think the end is in sight... yep!

"Roach Pussy Crucifix" an "UH" and a tough ripping riff start it off. This plays out in more of a Thrash Metal approach, drops a cool epic solo reminiscent again of English Dogs to me. The main riff returns and plays around a bit before some guitar harmonics with a slight echo show up... very nice! A variant on the initial riff returns, song ends.

"Death Promises" oh yeah, cool drum intro, Motorpunk going on here! D-beats carry the song on (appropriate isn't it, a Motorbeat turning into a D-beat?). I also hear some heavy GBH vibes here. Oooh a slow part! Tough, tough, tough. WHAT?! It gets tougher? Then it mellows with some harmonics.... SURPRISE return of the initial style... THEN twin guitar harmonies. It slows again with crusty, doomy riffs and a drum roll. PHEW!

"Rupture Storm" a mid-pace riff gets it going, I'm still recovering from "Death Promises." Okay, so the riff develops a bit, good but not standing out yet. Develops a bit to vary the song. D-beats are heard, the riff hardens up a bit, does a thrashy break for the chorus, has a freakout string bend, then gets TOUGH as overboiled meat, drops another freakout bend/squeal, gets TOUGH again, okay, I'm really feeling this song now! and... that's it?!

"Our Calvary (In The Night)" takes a more Misfits approach then speeds it up for some Metalpunk, returns to the Misfits riff, takes some primitive Thrash turns and slows after the chorus, gets a bit epic in scope almost like a punk band covering Viking-era Bathory, heavier on the punk. It becomes a bit more like early Sabbath-worship Doom Metal, including twin guitars playing the riff for thicker sound. I'm getting a whiff of Angel Witch and Witchfinder General here... It slows further but stays a bit melodic with some palm-mutes to cut off the riff abruptly. Still dooming out with its tomb out. And a chord plays out to close.


Immediate overall impression: a lot more punk influences present on this one, along with some, perhaps, NWOBHM ones, with the twin guitar stuff. Low brow, high brow? In any case, good album, it sounds like Hot Graves, but has definite development to set it apart from their other releases as well. It is exceedingly difficult to stay consistent but not stagnant and Hot Graves succeeds. We shall see how this album ages, it ranked high on my 'likely to be a top 5 release for 2015' mental list prior to hearing. Time will tell! But as I'm 'Out Ov Time' haha, stay stenchful until next time!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Extermination Angel "Demo 2015" *UPDATED*

Having played as the first band of the first day of my first Maryland Deathfest in 2012, Extermination Angel already has a special place in my heart. That said, their music has solidified that place in my regular rotations as well. They play a fast, barbaric type of Death Metal that still has Thrash elements and is brutal as hell! So many bands play 'bestial' or 'war' metal or some similar moniker, but deliver, basically, boring blast beats and fast but uninteresting guitar riffing and maybe bass so distorted as to be non-existent. Extermination Angel avoids those pratfalls and clearly understands exactly how to make a primitive but fast and uncompromising late 80's Death/Thrash Metal something like early Kreator, Destruction, Celtic Frost, and Sarcofago. As awesome as their albums are, their live show is FAR more intense as the whole band is very animated and the two times I've seen them (MDF and at the Acheron in Brooklyn, NY) their live sound has been even crunchier and heavier.

All that said, check them out here. Now, on to the current battle executed by Extermination Angel, their 2015 Demo. The intro is a melancholic, depressive guitar riff that builds to a cymbal smash as the guitars drop in and we get a vocal exclamation to start off the album proper with "War Torture." The song quickly builds speed, drops an "UGH!" and it's on! Fast and bestial with primitive arrangements and progressions, this is like Celtic Frost and Sarcofago in style and production! "Formation" has a more late 80's American Death Metal type riff in its chugginess and progression which speeds up and continues in an American meets Bathory vein (moreso in the vocal delivery). It grinds out any doubts as to its intentions to close out the track. "Exterminate" starts off with samples of the same word (possibly from Doctor Who???)... and then it's over. "Never Be Born Again" finishes the album with an initially clunking riff that speeds up into an American Death Metal riff, comparable at the moment to Massacre and Morbid Angel but far dirtier in the production. There's a return to the slower version of the riff at the end of the song to show some mercy. It's a short demo, with the acutal 'songs' totaling 7:20 in length (plus a 38 second intro and the 19 second "Exterminate") but it's potent. It crushes its enemies, sees them driven before it, and hears the lamentations of their women.

As of the time of writing, I'm waiting to hear back from the band if they have any cassettes left, as I just have the digital download now. I missed out on a hard copy of their 2009 Demo so, never again!

Addendum, May 14th 2015: I've been informed that Shawn is no longer fronting Extermination Angel, instead he is now working on a project called Bestial Evil (from Maryland, there is also one from Italy). My review of Extermination Angel's 2015 Demo with the current line-up stands, however my review of the band live is no longer accurate. I would definitely see Extermination Angel again with the new lineup, however I must add that Shawn added quite a bit to the intensity of the live show and any current live shows may be significantly different. A review of Shawn's new band can be found here.

I remain very excited for future Extermination Angel releases despite any line-up changes. Update regarding hard-copy cassettes versions of the 2015 demo: apparently there was an issue with production and instead CD-R's are available.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: VON Dark Gods singles #7-12

To review, American pioneering primitive Black Metal act, VON have been releasing each track from their upcoming Dark Gods Part 2: Rise Of The Ancients album as singles with exclusive b-sides and a comic book illustrated by Venien. 2015 has brought us singles #6 onwards. See previous entries for reviews of singles 1-6, now it's time to review 7-12 as a lump... of blood, of course.




Dark Gods: 7
1. The Ritual Of The Black Mass
2. Sanctuary Of Lust (Bass Demo)

The A-side was previously released in 2013 as very limited advance single. It was still available via the band's website in digital format, but I can't seem to find it now. Admittedly, the website is as clunky, obscure, and difficult to navigate as the band's music, so it might still be lurking somewhere.

The 2013 version is 3:52 in length, this one is 6:07. It mostly is a slightly slower, slightly quieter version with a longer (near) silent intro and more repetition of the riff. It continues Von's current tendency towards sludgy riffs with a southern twist. I prefer the 2013 version for its mix and focus, but both are good. "Sanctuary Of Lust" sounds like it is only the bass tracks from the finished song and is near inaudible unless you have decent headphones, but this actually works. You feel uneasy because you're 'hearing' this creepy bass line play out, but are just barely aware of it. Good for playing in a dark room.

Dark Gods: 8
1. Black Lotus (Bass Demo)
2. Extinction

Continuing the eerie very quiet, bass-only formula of 'bass demo' versions of songs, Black Lotus starts very quietly then drops in some distorted vocals that sound like the spirit of a dying planet pulsing its throes through the ether of space. Minimalist keyboard backs it up and adds atmosphere. More dark room music!

"Extinction" starts with a drawling, southern acoustic guitar bit that feels like a corpse rotting away in a rocking chair on the Sawyer family's dusty porch. The song meanders about with this theme, feeling more like southern psychedelia than Black Metal. It's an interesting twist in Von's increasingly demented catalog.

Dark Gods: 9
1. Rise Of The Ancients
2. Behold! (Demo)

"Rise Of The Ancients," the title track of the upcoming album, again starts quietly, slowing building atmosphere with occasional distorted power chords breaking in to clobber you with heaviness. The vocals are as pissed and unintelligible as one could hope for from Von, minus the echoing of their early demos. THEN about 4:30 or so, the nastiness crashes in, and the track becomes very much classic in Von stylings; ritualistic, droning drums, distorted primitive guitar riff. Minimalistic all around. The song does bring in some more themes to play with after this bestial burst to close the track on a slow, depressive note, perhaps indicating the hopelessness of mankind, for the Ancients have risen.

"Behold!" marks another in the doomy and primitive annals of Von developing since Venien took over the project. It remains true to the primitivity of Von, but the riffs go more for depressive, minor key doomy progressions. A knuckle-dragging Neanderthal myself, I'm VERY into it!

Dark Gods: 10
1. The Council Of Seven
2. Birth (Demo)

"The Council Of Seven" opens with some atmospheric, cryptic notes sounding like depression in the next cave over, until the track smashes in with more doomy, primitive Von sounds. The production is a bit dirtier too, making this one of the oldest-sounding Von tracks. Imagine something from Satanic Blood Angel slowed down about 50% with a majestic finish and there you have it.

"Birth" is simply quiet and eerie, like something from Burzum's Filosofem playing in the background.

Dark Gods: 11
1. Architects Of Death
2. Death
3. Burn

"Architects Of Death" also has a Burzum Filosofem feel in style and production, so that's a hell of a start there! It drones on, not really varying much.

"Death" is a bit more active and feels more like classic Von played with a Norwegian Black Metal riffing style.

"Burn" is BY FAR the oldest sounding material and is indispensable to the classic Von fanatic.

Dark Gods: 12
1. Tombs
2. Blind God (Bass Demo)

"Tombs" opens with some reverb/echoed out acoustic parts much like "Extinction." The guitars get heavier and play with the theme a bit before fading out.

"Blind God" has creepy bass production and stands well on its own for atmosphere but I'm very interested to hear the complete version.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Saturday, March 21, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Defenders Of The Old Fest III, at The Bell House, Brooklyn NY, March 13th-14th, 2015

This was my first Defenders of the Old Fest, and the first in Brooklyn. I did not get tickets for the sold-out third day March 15th, which Nifelheim headlined. Unfortunate, but I had an excellent time seeing the Friday and Saturday line-ups! I also had friends stay with me for those two days, which made the event extras special.

FRIDAY THE 13TH

Day one I missed Magic Circle and Aggression, as I was getting out of work, meeting up with my friends, etc. "Machine of War" (aka Brian LLapitan with 2/3's of Maximum Oversatan to fill out the band) played NME's Unholy Death album plus "Stormbringer" (it's always great to experience songs about Michael Moorcock's Elric, outside of Hawkwind). Brian was INTENSE and it was great to see current and ex-members of Sacrificial Blood and Maximum Oversatan play with him, as I know them to be HUGE NME fans.


Couldn't get a good photo of Mike Keller on drums.

Destructor was up next and I must admit delivered an awesome show, they are much better (energy and sound-wise) live, versus recording. I'm not a huge fan of them (though I am only recently aware of them), but I recommend seeing them live if you're even remotely into their style of Heavy Metal.

Liege Lord followed and KICKED ASS! I only first listened to them on the Thursday before the fest, but these guys made an instant fan out of me watching them live; energy, tight and heavy song-writing, total Heavy Metal live package right here!

Riot V closed the night out with a solid set heavy on the Thundersteel album, which is just fine by me as it is my favorite of the 3-4 Riot albums I've heard (first couple, Thundersteel, scattered tracks). Their current vocalist was quite powerful vocal-wise and pulled off most songs quite well. Former members also took stage for a few songs which was a treat.

SATURDAY 14TH

I arrived just in time for High Spirits (see Brooklyn Vegan's article), having chosen to skip the likely FUBAR pre-show signing with the Rods and Exciter, and the opening acts. I opted instead for sleeping in and eating an early dinner with my friends.

Next up was a short set of October 31. I've seen them probably at least 4-5 times, but they are always enjoyable. I prefer King Fowley's band Deceased to October 31 but they are still good and consistently put on an entertaining and high energy show. King's props this time included a Freddy Krueger head water squirter, a bag of tinsel glitter, large signs. Their set featured a few songs from each album, closing with "Powerhouse" into a cover of Saxon's "Power and the Glory," a staple of October 31's live set.

Brocas Helm took stage next. I am also a recent fan of this band, having heard the name for a few years and foolishly (in hindsight) not taking the time to check them out. I must say, I am now a fan for life. Of the bands at the fest, Brocas Helm was probably the most pleasing surprise.

The Rods followed them up. Though their set was plagued initially by equipment malfunction, we did get a drum solo to kill time and the rest of the set was killer and extra-high energy. I saw the Rods once prior in a now-defunct venue outside of Dickson City, PA, near where drummer Carl Canedy lives. As I am from that area, that show in specific and the Rods in general have a special place in my heart. That show was one of very few good shows to come to the area after the close of places like Sea Sea's before I was of age. What more can I say of the Rods? Listen to them, love them, and most importantly, CRANK IT UP!

*Photos copyright Sam Shockey, 2015*

FINALLY, Exciter took the stage. I never expected to see any version of them live, let alone the classic lineup re-united after 30 years! Their set, like most of the bands from the fest, is largely available on youtube, so I suggest you check there for footage. The set was solid and consisted of the best parts of the initial 3 albums (my favorites!) The loud lived long, there was much violence and force, and the iron dogs played the city for a bunch of metal maniacs. Need I say more?
 

I couldn't get a good photo of Dan Beehler, but he kicked ass on the drums and nailed every vocal line. Impressive energy guys!


Additional info can be found on: Defenders Of The Old facebook

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, March 8, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Suicide live at Webster Hall, NYC, March 7th, 2015 + Alan Vega Art Review

Suicide is a hugely influencial duo, responsible for coining the term "Punk Music" to describe their sound. They play stripped down electronic rhythms with drum machines and synths over vocals that are often intense screams. For me, notable artists that have been influenced by Suicide are Henry Rollins, who included a cover of Suicide's "Ghostrider" in live sets for years; and Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters Of Mercy. In fact, Andrew collaborated with Alan Vega of Suicide on his infamous Gift EP which allowed him to legally use the name The Sisterhood and thus prevent Wayne Hussey from using it when the Sisters fractured following the release of First, Last, and Always. But that's a whole other story and I've just related the meat of it, as I understand it anyway. See the photo of my coveted copy of Gift below:


On Friday the 6th of March, while seeing if Suicide had anything posted online regarding the show, I discovered that Alan Vega was displaying artwork at a gallery in Chinatown NYC, called Invisible Exports. Per the website, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV (not to mention a seemingly infinite host of other music collaborations) has displayed projects there several times. Having time to do so, I visited the gallery to celebrate and enjoy Alan Vega's art, as well as to explore what sort of headspace he might be in during the show on Saturday. The exhibit consisted of  a series of sketches of old men made by Vega, as well as some light sculptures. The sketches were very loose and noodly, and I found different aspects of the faces captured in each were differently apparent when viewed from either the left or right, compared to straight on. I'm no critic so I'll leave it at that, but the portraits were interesting. The light sculptures were large installations of multiple materials (wood, metal, and electronic components) with various lights attached. The overall vibe was of an impressionistic, sketchy representation of walking down a neon-lit red-light district; decay and disorder amongst bright, inviting lights. I really liked the light sculptures and wished more than two were on display. The exhibit is open until March 29th, and though small and possible to view very quickly, I think it's worth any Suicide fan's time to check out. You'll also be near Shanghai Cafe, a favorite place of mine to get some cheap and DELICIOUS Chinese food (I highly recommend getting some dumplings and scallion pancakes) since my partner first took me there several years ago.

As for the show itself, NYC's Pharmakon opened the night up with some harsh and intense noise. A one-woman project of Margaret Chardiet, I could really feel the intensity as she yanked knobs, bashed equipment, and jumped into the crowd screaming. This is the type of music that's extremely cathartic, I would love to read an interview about how Margaret feels after performing. How she feels during the show is painfully obvious; it's obviously painful. Her style would have been quite at home with Cold Meat Industry artists like Brighter Death Now.

The Vacant Lots followed Pharmakon; a duo of gents playing guitar over some dancey electronic beats and minimal keyboards. The vocals are droned out and spacey, regardless of which member is singing. I will note that the keyboardist did put a bit more harshness in his delivery at times, though rare. The guitarist's mother was in the crowd, standing near me, so that added an interesting depth to the show. The Vacant Lots sound a bit like a polished Suicide mixed with more accessible Sisters Of Mercy and what New Order might have sounded like if they kept the music as minimal as in Joy Division, and as sad. An enjoyable opener.

Finally, Suicide took the stage. I was unsure of what to expect as Martin Rev (electronics) is 67 and Alan Vega (vocals) is 76. What I got was barely recognizable versions of Suicide songs (I could only make out "Cheree", a portion of "Frankie Teardrop", and what might have been "Ghostrider" with improvised vocals) as Martin Rev smashed, punched, and generally abused his keyboard setup to produce constant noise over EXTREMELY loud programmed drums at Motördecibels while Alan Vega mostly improvised the lyrics and screamed at the audience or wandered about the stage. Martin Rev was intense the whole show, shooting contemptuous grimaces at the electronics he was assaulting while I couldn't tell if Alan Vega is senile, crazy, or just didn't give a fuck. This was a Punk-as-hell show in that these artists gave it their all, still performing messed up Rock that challenges your expectations, even if they have to sit in a chair and even if it kills them to do so. This is Punk for life, this is "I'm doing it my way." In short, this is Suicide.



*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Saturday, March 7, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Devastation: Devastation Complete 1987-1989 (2010)

I just recently got my hands on a copy of this compilation of Croatia's Devastation, an excellent Thrash Metal band with equal parts late Heavy Metal/Early Speed Metal and Hardcore Punk roots. This makes for a potent mix of styles that is bound to get Metalheads going, it sure does for me!


This release consists of the band's 1987 Demo, 1989 Demo, live tracks, and rehearsal tracks. It includes extensive notes on each song in the booklet. My copy, which came from the band, also included a DVD-R of a live show of the reformed band in 2010. For information about the creation of each song and anecdotes, the liner notes are quite good so I will try to refrain from parroting that information back.

1987's “The Upcoming Mayhem Demo” starts with a noisy intro, over which spoken vocals promise some sort of impending destruction. The demo really kicks off with the following track, “Devastation” which has the intensity of a punk song melded with the toughness and catchiness of a Speed Metal track. Perfect unity! Basically a rallying call for fans of the band to go nuts, I'd lose my mind if I ever got to hear this live.
“Atomic War” is a bit heavier on the metal side versus the punk side on the guitars but we still get some great D-beats on the drums. Again, a uniquely perfect blend of hardcore punk and early-80's underground metal. The song is notable also for extensive guitar solo battling. The chorus is guaranteed to stick between your ears!

The demo has a competent cover of S.O.D.'s “United Forces” up next, followed by “Under the Scalpel Blade” which further ups the NWOBHM/Speed Metal influences of Devastation's Thrash Metal. A catchy guitar riff and vocal melody make this track a treat for me every listen. Admittedly, the guitar riff sounds a bit like an early Metallica riff, but that's not a bad thing in my book!

“Mosh Hard” is a bit of a filler instrumental that feels more like an instrumental cover of a Judas Priest song in its composition. This one had potential to be great, it just needed some excellent vocals and a few more hooks on the guitars. Still a good track on its own, but weaker than others on the demo.


“Slaughterers From Hell” brings the pace back up and closes the album with some more D-beats and Destruction type thrash riffs. The vocal delivery is more raw too, even on the chorus.


The compilation follows with a 1987 live version of “Atomic War” that is interesting for its place in the band's history, even if the quality is poor. Following that is a 1987 rehearsal version of “Slaughters From Hell” of pretty decent quality for a rehearsal. Next up is a 1988 rehearsal version of “Queen of Death” and “Atomic War.” Again, interesting for its place in the band's history and pretty decent quality.

The rest of the tracks on the compilation comprise 1989's “The Possibility of Life's Destruction” demo. The first track is a re-recorded version of “Devastation” which is notable for the increased vocal echoes and more confident delivery, however the demo quality isn't as good as on “The Upcoming Mayhem” so the guitars lose some power in the mix.
“Necromancy” follows with a super-tough riff that is way more harsh than any previously heard from Devastation. The vocal delivery is also more raw and harsh, devoid of the usual melodic chorus line. The riffs are very interesting, at times slow and almost like Black Sabbath, tough and pissed like Negative Approach, with D.R.I. elements, and even extremely fast to the point of proto-grindcore at others. This is really the riffers paradise of the album, so much to digest!


Next up is a great cover of Discharge's “The Possibility of Life's Destruction” followed by a tighter version of “Under The Scalpel Blade” which has similar differences from the prior demo as “Devastation” does.


“Naplam Fields” gives us more harsh vocals barked over a fast guitar riff that sounds to be equal parts noise and grind.


“Bigmouths Suck” is catchy and fun, I think we can all get behind the lyrics. The riffs are fast and have great and brief chunky breakdowns done right! Overall, this track again skates the edge of Speed and Thrash Metal in style and composition. Devastation provided a recipe for Bazillion Point's “Hellbent For Cooking” which I adapted to be vegetarian and re-dubbed “Bigmouths Suck Soup” I suggest you try it, it's delicious!


Okay, so tangents temporarily on hold, the next track is “Dead Zombie” which gives us an energetic beat to start, speeds it up only to slow it down and toughen it up. The track then speeds right back up and again slows for some heavy chords. I can almost imagine a human running from a zombie, being bitten, dying, coming back as a zombie, then dying again to be a 'dead zombie.' The vocals kick in about here as the riffs stay very fast along with the drumming, D-beat bordering on grind, with heavy extreme Thrash Metal vibes.


A re-working of “Slaughterers From Hell” now simply “Slaughterer From Hell.” This version has, I feel, the same differences as other re-recorded tracks on the second demo.


Next up is a cover of “Queen Of Death” by Gordi, who I will have to look up because this is a pretty cool track that feels like Venom/NME kind of vibe, albeit a bit faster at times.
“World In A Grave” is a slow, noisy track meant and able to carry all the weight and atmosphere the title suggests. It's a slow and moody way to close out the album before the outro, a sample of Chopin's “Funeral March.”

I highly recommend picking yourself up a copy of this album, it can be found on discogs.com. If you can get a version with the live DVD, I recommend that too. It has a show from 2010, I think. The band still has lots of energy and the quality is quite good. Come to the States Devastation!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

ALBUM REVIEW: Chrome 'Half Machine From The Sun: The Lost Tracks From '79- '80' (2013)

Ok, so today I'm reviewing a recently released collection of Chrome tracks recorded in 1979-80, a very fertile time for the band. According to the liner notes, Chrome chose not to include these tracks on any release at the time, feeling that the tracks were too 'commercial' and 'accessible.' I am doubtful that Chrome can in fact sound 'commercial' or 'accessible' in a broad sense, however I am excited to hear if perhaps these tracks represent the closest Chrome has come to sounding as such. In any case, the band has finally felt that the tracks are worthy of release and I am always eager to listen to Chrome. I'm also pretty excited that I managed to score a copy on limited colored vinyl from the band's own label.



For readers unfamiliar, Chrome were pioneers in the Punk Rock and Industrial Rock scenes, combining psychedelia with stripped down and dirty rock into a style they dub 'Acid-Punk.' As I am preparing to drop the needle on this record, I'm also preparing myself for a mind melting experience. I've padded my walls, laid out my jacket with the extra tight arms that wrap around back, and have cleared the immediate listening area of hazards and bystanders. I think I'm ready to do a stream-of-consciousness review of this 2LP release as it spins out. Wish me luck and a sane return.

SIDE A
1. Anything- Whoah! Noisy intro with some seriously distorted guitars and primitive keys kick this baby off. It hits a groove and sticks with it, vocals are notably distorted. This is 'commercial'?! Just goes to show you how hellbent Chrome was on experimentation in 1979. There are also some layers of background weirdness to digest here, they sort of creep in and out of the mix.

2. SALT- some guitar effects madness and obscure, insane vocal croonings lead into some near-ambient guitar sounds until the rhythm drops and we get some really flanged out guitar noise over a driving synth line and cleaner but echoed out vocal delivery. This may not be as caustic as rubbing salt in your wounds, but my brain already feels shriveled like a salted slug. Keep up the confounding work Chrome! Watch out the super-abrupt song ending!

3. Looking For Your Door- We get a really fun groove on this one, overall fairly clean production (for Chrome), this feels a lot like what the Sisters Of Mercy would produce on their early string of 7" releases in arrangement, style, and vocal delivery. Wow, Chrome really just rocks that groove like it's the last one on Earth, I can hear the influence here for Revolting Cocks and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult!

4. Tomorrow Yesterday- Highly distorted vocal delivery and a stuttering drum rhythm over a swaggering and deep synth line greet me on this song. Another excellent groove going on here, Chrome style! I suppose this is MILDLY more accessible in style and arrangement than other Chrome works of the period, but make no mistake, this is clearly Chrome and my half-machine lips are moving to extol the alien soundscapes unfolding before my ears. Lots of interesting vocal madness that switches from left to right speaker, so make sure you hear this on a stereo set up for maximum disorientation. The song definitely develops as it goes on, but sticks pretty close to the groove until fading out and ending the A side.

SIDE B

5. The Inevitable- opens with a moody guitar riff and some shrill keys rising in pitch as some vocal sample carries on unintelligibly in the background. This song is slower and eerie, I'm not sure where it's headed... apparently towards the same riff. Well, there's something to be said for a song called "The Inevitable" moving towards its predictable end.

6. Fukishima (Nagasaki)- More eerie intro noise gets met with an almost jangly bass riff to break into a gritty rock guitar riff that's actually way heavier than I expected to hear on this album! The vocals swirl about in a very confusing manner while the guitar drives on, perhaps analogous to the confusion after the first bomb dropped, as the second inexorably proceeded to its destiny. The groove is briefly broken by some acidic soloing, then drops back into the gritty riff before bringing it all down to a semi-ambient mood of menace and confusion with some backwards played vocal samples.

7. Charlie's Little Problem- Percussion beats switch left to right with some echo over a cheery synth line that sounds like a perversion of some Asiatic theme that I don't have the skill to place... I'm wondering if this is 'Charlie' as in the Vietcong? A very strange little instrumental piece, that was.

8. Ghost- mega-distorted vocals creep out like some drunken beastly zombie over a doomy guitar riff. This track is steeping in gloom and atmosphere! It feels like Skinny Puppy covering something from the first Black Sabbath album. Some foreground and background effects drive change in the song until the main riff fades out, followed by the close of the track.

9. Sound And Light- heavy guitar flange and fades drive another gloomy riff. I have the distinct impression of being heavily fuzzed out on drugs listening to a warped cassette of some early Doom Metal band. Pretty cool vibe Chrome! The song, side, and LP end with some nifty sounds comparable to a child's ray gun malfunctioning as the batteries die.

SIDE C

10. Autobahn Brazil- With a title including "Autobahn" I'm hoping for a twisted Kraftwerk reference, but instead I'm greeted by a very urban sounding groove over some atmospheric guitar drone/noise and vocal samples of people talking. The guitar and drums bits vary to produce some track development as the bass keeps plugging away at is own funky line and the samples play on. I imagine being strung out listening to people in the next room would sound an awful lot like this. The guitars are really spaced out here, lending a moderate Hawkwind flavor to the piece. There's a fair amount of background weirdness to digest too, the synths feeling a bit like a sped up version of the New Age type compositions Tangerine Dream would do in their early-mid '90's albums. Here though, the synths sound like a demented carnival theme beckoning from the abyss of space by this point. It's as if our strung out person from my description of the early part of the song has transcended his reality to completely escape his surroundings. The vocal samples return briefly at the end to bring us 'back down' to reality as some drum fills indicate the end of the song/high is nigh and thus it ends.

11. Sub Machine- we hear some say "Sub Machine, take 1" at the start of the track as some very shimmery guitar noise plays out over a slow, drawn out drum beat and bouncy bass. This speeds up a bit as the drum beat really drops in. This feels like some lost early Goth Rock song that had too many effects on it. Maybe like a more upbeat and more tripped out Chameleons UK with a touch of Echo and the Bunnymen. The song rides this groove to its conclusion with some extra guitar flanges to create atmosphere. The vocals swirl out in effects to close out.

12. Morrison- could this track be about Jim, old Mr. Mojo Risin' himself? The vocal delivery does feel like the Chrome version of a Doors cover while some bass builds some tension in the back and the guitars create some oppressive and swirling noise walls. Will the song pull away from its shoegazing? The drums keep teasing, dropping a rare beat to trick me into thinking this track is about to speed up and do the crazy, but instead the track quiets down and closes out.

13. The Rain- a downtrodden and fairly clear guitar riff introduces this song over some somber keys and slow drum beat, creating an atmosphere of sadness appropriate to the title. The keys develop a bit as the very clear vocals kick in. This is probably the most accessible track so far. I again hear a vibe like tripped out Goth Rock, again some mix of Echo and the Bunnymen and perhaps the Chameleons UK in the chord progressions. Of course, that could just be because I love the Chameleons and the title has 'rain' in it, haha!

SIDE D

14. Something Rhythmic (I Can't Wait)- I can't wait to hear the rhythm on this one... ok we get a distorted sound like a horn from hell that breaks to a more comprehensible guitar riff and drum beat, with clear vocals from both Helios Creed and Damon Edge. The vocal melody is very radio-friendly, this is like hearing some radio rock twisted through with minimalist electronic elements and further mangled through a lens of psychedelia.

15. Housewarming Party- sounds like a machine roaring and gurgling with indigestion start off this track with an obscure carnival like vibe barely holding it all together. It feels like Can's "Spoon" playing over broken loudspeakers at the Ferris wheel.

16. Sugar Moog Pops- another track with Edge or Creed introducing it as take 1, the track itself has spacey, semi-shrill choral keys over a complex drum beat, low and distorted bass line. The lead keys are rather beautiful sounding. I get vibes similar to Doubting Thomas' "Father Don't Cry" EP. Then some loud drum fills thunder in over the bass synth and the pretty lead keys fade into the background. The drums keep on rolling as the rest of the song takes an especially slow while to close out, THEN it builds back up and throws you back into the rhythm of the song with some lead sounds flange and bubble over it before fading out to close the track for real.

17. Intervention- 16 seconds of noise and we're onot the last track of the side, LP, and album!

18. Sunset- tribal-like drum beats play out over a echoing and chill guitar riff that sounds near acoustic as some sitar-like guitar effects slowly take over the song and drone on til the end.

Immediate post-album thoughts: yet another score for Chrome! Lots of good stuff to digest here. I can hear that some of the pieces are more commercial than I'm used to with Chrome, but I enjoyed it all nonetheless and there are plenty of real gems on here. I think this is a worthy purchase for any Chrome fan and a great place for new, prospective fans to start out.

I'm going to go rest my brain, so until next time, stay bizarre!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Friday, March 6, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Regress FF 7" EP

So this is a punk rock side-project of Fenriz from Darkthrone, released in 2015 but written in 1994. I had to order this straight from the Norwegian label, Neseblod Records, which has a lot of cool stuff available. Oh, the nailbiting as I hoped it wouldn't get lost in the mail! Thankfully it didn't and I am now the proud owner of 1 of 400 black vinyl versions of the EP. 100 came in clear vinyl, signed by Fenriz. I was too slow for that version!

Right, so as to the EP, it has just one song per side, with the A being "Rockemillion" and the B being "Conformist Nirvana." On the reverse of the sleeve, Fenriz describes the music as "just generic punk, not too hard, not too soft, not too fast, not too slow." We shall see, Fenriz.

"Rockemillion" is more complex than I expected, having an almost NWOBHM opening that quickly breaks to some simple chord progressions more recognizable as  simplified and "generic" 'punk rock.'  The song closes out with a heavier variation on the main riff, so again, much more composition and style to this song than I expected. The vocals are delivered in either a harsh bark or a more melodious singing, very reminiscent of something I'd expect on the second Isengard album! The production is raw as Necrohell, of course, so my approval is had in that department. As a comparison, I can hear similarities to Alexi Wildchild of Children of Bodom's punk side project, Kyl√§hullut, but Regress FF is far harsher in the style and production, as well as more complex.

On to the B side, or track duece, we have "Conformist Nirvana." It opens with some feedback, followed by a nasty guitar riff made extra gritty by the dirty production. This one is on the quicker side and has more of the clean and melodious vocals, with some gritty barks and a screech here and there. A VERY catchy track. Overall has the intensity of a Negative Approach track mixed with a Discharge track. Don't miss the Tom G. Warrior "UGH!"

My only complaint with this release is that there isn't more music, haha!

*Review copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

Sunday, March 1, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW: Marduk 'Frontschwein' (2015)


I'm enjoying reviewing while I listen to the albums for the first time, perhaps there is more authenticity in my immediate stream-of-consciousness comments; my excitement and feeling are more accurately captured. At the very least, this gives you, the reader, an idea what it's like to hear an album with me; tons of yelling out and fist pumping, head banging, complaining, commenting, monologues, etc. It's an interactive experience. Anyway, here we go:

1. Frontschwein- opens with guitar riffs reminiscent of the style found on 'La Grande Danse Macabre' followed by a drum march, the vocals kick in and interplay with the guitar riff as the drums kick it up a notch in speed. There's a quick break like the enemy breaking the lines and the song blasts back into the melee with a new riff, returns to its original strategy with the opening riff, plays with it and leaves it for dead.

2. The Blond Beast- this riff sounds very little like Marduk, instead it sounds like some militant punk chord progressions, sped up occasionally to blacken them up a bit. The drums stay VERY slow for a Marduk song, what might constitute a dirge compared to their normally blistering pace. Mortuus' vocals sounds like he's gargle/barfing blood and offal so major bonus there! The guitar does eventually tremolo-out the riff to further darken the song. I can't help but bop my head along to this one. By the way, the song is NOT pro-fascist, the lyrics all speak to the horror of war and either clearly state the futility of war or at the very least present an impartial description of war atrocities and events of WWII. I'd be highly pissed if this album was pro-fascist!

3. Afrika- the riff shifts like the sands beneath Rommel's treads here, with incessant blast beats to drive the engine of destruction. So far, this feels the most like the 'Panzer Division Marduk' album that this album is clearly the companion of/sequel to.

4. Wartheland- the riffs are slightly less characteristic of Marduk; not quite as variable or razor-sharp. Still good riffs, just a departure (but not from the mortals, heheh). This song has great arrangement, stays mid-pace mostly but speeds or slows it down slightly as it plods along to keep it interesting and keep your head nodding (along, that is, not asleep).

5. Rope of Regret- opening a machine gun fire sample, the song blasts out with some VERY classic Marduk angular, fast, and sharp riffs. Mortuus drops the vocals to a deep bellow then back up to a near-spoken croak. The excellent riffs return over a drum beat that uses bursts of blast beats varied with some double bass pounding paired with slow cymbal hits. Good song variability. Nobody matched Morgan's guitar riffs with insane drumming quite as well as Fredrick Andersson but this current drummer brings an interesting style to Marduk in his use of slower (slow for Marduk) and 'broken' blast beat (blast-pause-blast, repeat) drumming.

6. Between the Wolf-Packs- The main guitar riff, once it drops, it pretty catchy. It speeds up a bit, becoming more melancholic, then returns to the main riff (the melancholic part sits between the 'wolf-packs' in riff form, appropriate as this song appears to be about homeland Germany as its two major fronts collapsed). There is a slight pause then the song kicks back in for a refrain of the main parts of the song. END SIDE A.

7. Nebelwerfer- opening up the B side with a song about a chemical mortar launcher, this song starts off huge and slow, almost doomy. Certainly majestic. Mortuus commands over this moody guitar rabble with some heavier echo. The chord progression stays decidedly majestic and very slow. This and "The Blond Beast" are sticking out the most in my memory so far for being different and effective. Is that a synth I hear??? Nope, just some guitar with an effect on it to make it sound very dry. At about 3:20-something the pace picks up a bit, slows again quickly. This really feels like it could be the anthem of an undead corps of doom-bringers. Primitivity wins the day for this song.

8. Falaise: Cauldron Of Blood- a similar riff, slightly faster, to that of "Nebelwerfer" opens the track, very quickly drops into the hyper-riffs I love from Marduk over blasting drums with fast fills. WHOAH it breaks into a strange slower bit with a bit more melody. THEN smashes back into the chaotic fray of the previous riff, develops it a bit. That was a FAST bridge, like it was the a mobile unit or on fire or both, haha! I'm getting a definite Finnish Black Metal vibe off the main riff, specifically Sargeist. The guitars take a backseat to allow Mortuus to bark, then breaks back into the more melodic "bridge" part. Very neat, followed with 2-3 chunky and majestic chord plucks, ala later Bathory to close.

9. Doomsday Elite- moody, nearly formless guitar sounds bordering on noise start this track off, with a sample I can't quite make out over it. The guitar speeds up and the drums drop in with some incessant snare smashes. The guitar does a fill, then in screams Mortuus before the riff mutates, the song drops off into silence for a fraction of a second and then blasts back into the foray fully armored and at high speed. One more break of silence then the riff mutates again, is a bit faster. I'm digging the guitar riff. The guitar switches back to the 'main' riff as Mortuus continues to spew hymns of doom. A drum fill slows it very temporarily and the mutated previous riff returns and develops. I can hear bass finally! The riffs start to become more dissonant and chaotic like the opening of the track and the sample I can't make out returns. The music returns to its speediest incarnation, breaks for more vocals, drum fill and return to speed, again. Ok this is cool but it's about time to end the track boys. They don't, but the bass takes a turn playing the lead riff which is cool. I wish it happened sooner in the track (really in the album for that matter), to finally bring the boys back home and end the track.

10. 503- Sharp riffs open up to be met by a loud, slow drum beat like the timpani setting the shambling pace for dead armies to swarm over the heavens. The riffs stay sharp but the song beat stays slow, creating some tension. The drums speed up a bit, the bass drops in and the song takes a majestic tone over the darkness, like the Panzer tank actually appearing on the horizon to meet its shadow. The guitar riff has developed a bit but Marduk are keeping it simple on this one. Not working as well as Nebelwerfer but good. As I write this, the track takes a slight melodic edge, then returns to Mortuus barking and the timpani slows. NOW the track is just timpani and bass as Mortuus continues to list locations ravaged by Panzer attacks. The drums pick up pace a bit again. And... the song closes out.

11. Thousand-Fold Death- opening with some near ambient guitar sound, the track abruptly moves into overdrive and feels VERY 'Panzer Division...' in style and speed. It stays relentless with some guitar development in a descending chord that works well followed by some tremolo and the introduction of more majestic riffing that adds a great element to the song. It picks back up with a sense of urgency, bends the strings to break. We get only fast guitars with fast vocals from Mortuus sounding like he's trying to out-do Slayer, then the drum blast drops back in and the track returns to a majestic and fast riff, then a slow and majestic riff. We get a short fake-out ending then the majestic riff drops back in with the bass sounding loud and proud to back it up and build up troop morale. Catchy as Hell's own Platoon ditty!

PHEW! I survived that combat rather well. Final thoughts: great album, there's lots to digest here. This feels like a mix between the more experimental and overall slower stuff Marduk's done since welcoming Devo back into the fold on bass this time, however there's also a noted return to the raw and intense Marduk of earlier days. I'm interested to see what this line-up brings us for the next album, and I hope to catch Marduk live to see it all in action!

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*