Tuesday, May 20, 2008


The Formation Of Damnation
Nuclear Blast Records

The gods of thrash metal have returned! Testament are back with their best album in years entitled "The Formation Of Damnation". With almost the entire original line-up restored (with the exception of Paul Bostaph replacing Louie Clemete on drums) these guys are force to be reckoned with! The guitar team of Alex Skolnick and Eric Peterson sound tighter than ever and vocalist Chuck Billy is a force to be reckoned with. He moves from his edgy, aggressive singing style to the voice from the bowels of hell with terrifying ease. (Not to shabby for a guy who had to battle throat cancer not that long ago). Greg Christian's bass lines thunder along side Bostaph's skin bashing mayhem bringing a massive, bottom-end assault.

Testament have had their share of up's and down's over the years, and at times it was only Chuck and Eric trudging onward with various musicians filling the other original members slots until now. Granted, the album's they did with these other players were still great, but this new release is what it's all about. "Formation" is a return to the glory days of "The New Order" or "Practice What You Preach". This line-up is like a well oiled machine; no matter how long these guys are apart, when they get back together it's like they never left. Lyrically it's very diverse; covering topics such as 911 (The Evil Has Landed), the evil of religion (Dangers Of The Faithless) and the loss of loved ones and what lies beyond (Afterlife). Ok, so they won't win any awards for originality in the lyric writing department, but so what? It's well thought out and when Chuck sings it, you better believe he's feeling it.

I can't say enough good things about this album. What I can say is; if you love thrash metal, you seriously do not want to miss out on this release.They are the ultimate icons of thrash that lay waste to bands half their age. Testament have fought long and hard to make it back to this point in time and on "Formation" they will prove once again that they have no equals.

- Craig Harvey

Friday, May 16, 2008


Master Of Illusion
Napalm Records

The cover for this album had cheese factor all over it. The dark wizard grinning manically while holding the magic crystal ball err... thing, with images of demons and angels held at bay on either side of him. Was the music any better? Ah...no. Unfortunately the music was as cheesy as the cover art. The keyboards reminded me of something out of "The Legend Of Zelda" video game and the singer sounded like some over the top metal bard. It was really hard to take any of it seriously (and I like fantasy based power metal!) The guitars were pretty good, as were the rest of the band musically, but I lost interest really fast on this one.

- Craig Harvey

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Candlelight Records

"When the going gets tough, the weird turn pro," opined the late, lamented Hunter S. Thompson and this is certainly a dictum that you could apply to many of the black metal oddballs emerging from France in recent years. Defiantly strange, but completely state-of-the-art seem to be the only rules of the game. In fact, Spektr's new EP Mescalyne is a nice epilogue to a year that brought us fantastic releases from the likes of fellow travellers Deathspell Omega and Glorior Belli. Rarefied company, to be sure, but this experimental black noise duo (the shadowy Hth and Kl.k wielding all manner of electronics and guitars but shunning any spotlight), live up to the standards set by the more high-minded and aesthetically singular of their peers. Mescalyne finds Spektr honing a sound that is as much technology gone mad as it is decaying structures and ghosts in the machines, blood-throated aggression melding with wide-eyed experimentation. Sonic touchstones include the aforementioned Deathspell Omega, Aborym, Limbonic Art and Satyricon. Don't make the stupid mistake of assuming that their enthusiasm for sampling and digital manipulation makes them any less heavy and efficient. Sometimes human hands can't do what is necessary - just ask Suicide. Mescalyne is an intriguing technorganic mess of banshee roars, razor-sharp distorted guitars flailing themselves right out of tune, stop-start schizoid song arrangments, vocal samples, warped electronic glitches and waves, and metallic-grey ambient atmospherics. There is more than enough room for this type of dissoance, unfettered experimentation, and nonlinear structure in extreme metal.

- Matthew Moyer


Walhalla Wacht
Napalm Records

This folk/pagan metal movement is really taking off! Heidevolk, a six piece Dutch outfit are serious proof of that. They carry the torch held high with pounding, galloping metal riffs, grandiose folk anthems and stories of their homeland's mythology. The vocals are all in Dutch, but their lead vocalist Joris has a hearty, powerful voice that shines with pride and power. Even if you can't understand a word of it, you'll get caught up in the catchy melodies all the same.

- Craig Harvey


My Earth Dream
Napalm Records

"My Earth Dream" is a great follow-up to their last album 'The Grand Design" which I was very impressed with. With this release the band has a real orchestra behind them and the guitar riffs are darker as well. Sabine Edelsbacher's voice is just immaculate as ever and it's a perfect match for the orchestra's magnificent symphonic textures. The cover art was again spectacular with an image of spiraling mystical energy descending from the heavens. The entire album is an emotional and powerful musical journey that continues to show Edenbridge's incredible talents.

- Craig Harvey


Napalm Records

"Nordlys" means "Northern Lights" in Norwegian (Say that 3 times fast!) and apparently they have a long and rich history of legend and folklore surrounding them. So yes, this another folk metal release, but not as traditional. It's not the burly, up-tempo, testosterone-laden songs about drinking, wenches and other manly boastings. For one, the vocals are most definitely female (courtesy of Carmen Elise Espanases) whose voice is rich and deep while still having a wonderful range. The music has more of a power/symphonic metal sound while leaning towards a gothic darker style. The lyrics are mostly in English so your not left scratching your head wondering what the heck they are talking about, while the songs move from furious, fast paced numbers to slower melodic pieces with ease. This is a great release from a band I will be anxiously awaiting to hear more from in the future.

- Craig Harvey

Monday, May 5, 2008


Roadrunner Records

I have been anxiously awaiting the release of this album for well over a year. I have followed every blog, news article or rumor surrounding the making of it. A bit obsessive? Perhaps. However, for a die hard Opeth fan such as myself, it was only natural. So, after putting it my car cd player for the short drive home from the office, I pulled into my driveway with the volume at excessive levels and listened to the rest of "Watershed" as the sky darkened around me. I had heard three tracks already prior to this which sounded great, but I wanted to absorb it all in one listen with no interruptions. After the final track ended, I walked into the house to contemplate what I had just heard. Clearly many more listens were in order, but this is my first initial impression of the cd.

In many ways this is some of the heaviest material they have ever done and also some of the most melodic. The songs tend to have abrupt start and stop moments that take you into directions unexpected and at the same time breathe new life into their sound. The band lost two longtime members, guitarist Peter Lingren and drummer Martin Lopez which many fans feared would spell the end of Opeth, as the chemistry between the musicians was something very special. Fear not however, as their replacements (Fredrick Akesson/guitar and Martin Axenrot/drums) were more than adequate to fill the gap. Fredrick is a more technical player than Peter in some ways, but he shows restraint and plays his leads to fit the songs. Martin Axenrot is a slightly more bombastic drummer than Martin Lopez was and much more straight forward. I do miss Lopez's jazzier world influences, but truth be told, Axe's drumwork sounds amazing throughout. However lets not forget Opeth's keyboardist Per Wiberg. He became the fifth member of the band on Ghost Reveries. His parts were more of a background agent there, while on "Watershed" he has a far more pivotal and up-front role this time around. However, let me move on to describe this album in more vivid detail.

The opening track "Coil" is Mikael singing with acoustic guitar, keyboards and guest female vocals by Nathalie Lorichs a local Swedish folk singer. This soft (and quite beautiful) intro is soon swallowed by the devastating "Heir Apparent" which harkens back to the brutality of the Deliverance album. No clean vocals make an appearance on this track. It's all Mikael's demonic signature death style he is so well known for. Fredrick does the main guitar lead and Mikael adds a slide guitar part that sounds simply brilliant. I never pictured slide in an Opeth track, but it really works! The heaviness intensifies on "The Lotus Eater" with Mikael singing clean over blast beats then moving into death vocals and back. "Burden" delves into a more 70's mellow prog feel that has a very cool organ solo (showing off Per's amazing talents) with a truly bizarre and disturbing ending to the song. "Porcelain Heart" is a dark majestic epic that shows just how much Mikael's singing talents have strengthened over the years. It's the most haunting track overall and sounds similar in feel to that of the last album Ghost Reveries. "Hessian Peel" starts off slower and just when you think this is how the song will play out, the band comes crashing full force into yet another Opeth onslaught that will leave you breathless. The final song "Hex Omega" is void of death vocals, but not of intensity and complex arrangements.

Overall I think "Watershed" is another masterwork for Opeth. The band has taken their sound and evolved it without sacrificing any of the musical integrity that has come before. Mikael's voice has more passion and dare I say it, more soul than ever. The acoustic passages are far more intricate than anything on the previous albums. The band truly sounds fresh and invigorated. I know some will complain because it didn't sound like this or that, but these people can't (or won't) except change. They want Opeth to remake Morningrise or Blackwater Park over and over. Anytime a band moves into a slightly new direction it's always a risk. However, let's face it, the band has not gone nu-metal or made something strictly to make money. If I have any complaints it's that the album could have had one more really heavy song. This aside, I am extremely pleased with this release (not to mention how lucky I am to have an advanced copy, as the album won't be out for another month.) Even more exciting, there will be a deluxe version with additional bonus songs, covers and other goodies (which of course I will buy the day it hits the shelves) including new cover art by Travis Smith. Great job guys! You've outdone yourselves again!

- Craig Harvey

Brown Jenkins

Moribun Cult

Brown Jenkins, a most unusual moniker for a black metal outfit (though it's a Lovecraft reference, chump, so the pedigree is in order), is an Austin-based solo experiment, far removed from what your preconceptions of the genre if you've only seen pictures of vintage Emperor and/or listen to sounds coming from the chilly North. However, if you've been following the furtive movements of a quietly growing horde of black metal boundary pushers located within the borders of our own U.S.S., "Dagonite" is yet another promising document of a scene that, paradoxically, doesn't exist because of its very isolatino and decentralized nature.

Brown Jenkins offers up five dirgy tracks of transendent, ugly, grim metallic sludge with only minimal vocal and percussive adornments - usually consisting of occasional bestial roars that seem to urge on the thick, humid waves of plodding/soaring heaviness, and Obituary-esque growls and a slow, driving drumbeat. All are executed ably by guitarist and conceptualist Umesh, who sheds band members much like Brown Jenkins has shed all distractions from the almost thuggishly precise metal pounding that forms the darkstar core of "Dagonite."

Brown Jenkins steers well clear of the tenets of black metal as usually practiced by various Cultists and instead heads straight for the gutter, face down in a pool of blood, piss and cheap wine. An enormous dense guitar sound is the central focus of the album - just monolithic fuzztone hatred - as reminiscent of the Melvins and Mudhoney as it is Spacemen 3, Grief, Merzbow, Bathory, Neu (there's that Krautrock essence that I have been detecting whiffs of in recent listens to newer black metal) and the snakelike riffs that John Christ wrenched forth for the first Danzig record, which is, of course, indirectly indebted to masters of the low-down sinister blues like Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. A fucking genius lineage, all told. Umesh seems to occasionally pause, mid-riffing, just to hear the harsh hum of the guitar strings ring and ring. "Dagonite" while at first a concept album based on HP Lovecraft's story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," shifted away from that concept (retaining only the song titles) and in the end became a poison pen love letter to the dark bludgeoning beauty that can be found within the oppressive guitar textures of black metal - and in the midst of isolating and amplifying them, to the exclusion of most other elementts of the "song" - Brown Jenkins has discovered a new darkness, for now, all his own.

- Matthew Moyer


Moribund Cult

Hornaaaaaaaaaaaa! A supremely twisted group of Finns who've been knocking around in various lineups for over a decade now, honing (or not, because this sort of metal thrives on a certain amount of sloppiness) their twisted, underground craft. Horna creates an ungodly, tinny, lo-fi racket that pulls together a lot of truly great bits of inspired old school amateurism - from the drunken scrapings of early Sodom and Dark Angel and Nuclear Assault to the white noise overkill of early Bathory and Burzum and a good dose of the more contemporary rocka-rolla black metallers like Dodsferd and Carpathian Forest with a tiny bit of Necrophagia/Wurdulak. A leering noisesome monster of a record, all scratchy high end with the guitar sounding like scabs being picked, submerged blunt force drum and bass and heavily echoed Nazgul-style high pitched shrieking vocals. "Sotahuuto" sacrifices the Luciferian Phil Spector wall of sound forged by Norwegian black metal for pure, freebased heavy metal speedthrills filtered through sociopathic self-hatred that makes every headbang-worthy note sound as dirty and fucked as possible. But it's their unwavering fealty to thee almighty riff - a lineage that goes from Bay Area longhairs to scratchy crossover 7"s to denim jackets covered in Destruction and Venom patches - that elevates them above a good many of their crepuscular brethren.

It almost fucking swings at times. Shhhh I didn't say it. I enjoyed it. This is a textbook fucking example of underground-and-nasty-and-proud of it metal that transcends itself by sheer dedication to primal metal and becomes so much more than a raw cult oddity. Shrieking tombstones of demonic fury.

- Matthew Moyer