National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2012 Show Report

Every year, NAMM bestows upon us shiny new toys for musicmakers of all genres to make new (and old) sounds with. NAMM 2012 was no less a musical heaven for the products, gadgets, and innovations that help make metal happen. We took a spin through the showroom floor at Anaheim Convention Center to check out some new equipment that our metal cohorts use and abuse. Full report after the jump.
Continue reading

TERRORIZER – Hordes of Zombies

World Downfall is by far one of the most devastating and influential grind albums in existence, so it’s a damn shame that Darker Days Ahead was an atrocious flop. Unlike Darker Days’ ugly guitar tone, uninspired songwriting, and lack of enthusiasm, Hordes of Zombies returns to form with a slightly different, but still masterful approach.

It’s impossible to fill the shoes of the late Jesse Pintado, but new guitarist Katina Culture does a great job on the album. The riffing style is much thrashier, opposed to Pintado’s all out grind/groove oriented riffs, but the thrashy riffs fit TERRORIZER nicely, especially having Pete “Commando” Sandoval return behind the kit, with his trademark blasting in tact. The biggest difference on Hordes of Zombies is that the catchy, short surges of groove that was so prevalent in World Downfall is not as noticeable, but the overall feeling of the album is still definitely “TERRORIZER.”

The title track begins the album proper with a midpaced groove and familiar vocal pattern style seen before. Anthony Rezhawk emulates original singer, Oscar Garcia, to perfection with short bursts of lyrics throughout the songs. Tracks like “Subterfuge” and “Evolving Era” have nice blast beats with a spectacle of thrashy, headbanging riffs intermingling throughout.

Ignorance and Apathy” has a KRISIUN-like feel to the beginning, while tracks like “Radiation Syndrome” and “Flesh to Dust” continue the brutality. All tracks within Hordes of Zombies flow nicely, and “Generation Chaos” even has a short melodic passage in between all the blasts and fury. “Forward to Annihilation” never lets up, and the high octane closer, “A Dying Breed” finishes this energetic, fresh sounding album.

It’s a shame that MORBID ANGEL chose to record their new album without Pete Sandoval, but perhaps it was a blessing in disguise, as Hordes of Zombies certainly lays Illud Divinum Insanus to waste. That being said, the only grind bands you need to pay attention to these days are LOCK UP and TERRORIZER. (Season of Mist)

ABSU – Abzu

The term “U.S. black metal” is often mocked in many circles, but one exception to the rule is ABSU. The self-titled album was just the tip of the iceberg for their unique blend of thrash/black metal style, and Abzu will certainly be hailed as one of the top albums of 2011.

Upon pressing play, the immediate high falsetto scream is belted out, and “Earth Ripper” has thrashy elements, choppy black metal riffing, and drum perfection all meshed into one. The disharmonic black metal riffs found in “Circles of the Oath” really accentuate how far and mature the band has come along since their earlier death metal inspired albums. The riffs remind the listener of newer MAYHEM colliding with the acoustic interlude brilliance of DISSECTION. With the acoustic passage segueing into “Abraxas Connexus” and “Skryring in the Spirit Vision,” the continuous thrash spirit is alive and well with these occult masters, highlighted by the drum fills and quick hands of the underrated drum beast known as Proscriptor.

Compared to their previous albums, songs on Abzu are generally shorter, but the closing 14 minute track, “A Song for Ea,” is a spectacle in itself. From a mid paced beginning, changing into a whirlwind of thrash metal haven, the first half of the track forms an aggressive aura. The riffs then slow down, but stay interesting, adding excellent solos to enhance the atmosphere, finally ending with acoustic guitars. Once you think the album is set to a close, an epic and brutal end is brought forth.

Abzu takes many listens to comprehend and fully appreciate all that is offered, as new notes, cymbal crashes are all discovered upon each new listen. Newbie and mainstream black metal listeners won’t “get” ABSU, but for the extreme metal veteran, Abzu is a must buy. (Candlelight Records)

IMMOLATION – Providence

Fresh off the release of last year’s Majesty and Decay album, IMMOLATION has once again conquered and solidified their part as being one of the most consistent and prolific death metal bands ever with Providence.

IMMOLATION wastes no time with any intros, and within seconds of “What They Bring,” you already sense that the EP will be brutal, blasphemous, and destructive to the ears. Ross Dolan’s vocals are still deep and brutal, but over the years, his enunciation style has become clearer without sacrificing brutality. Drummer Steve Shalaty has definitely topped IMMOLATION’s previous drummers with his technique and intricacy. And who can forget Robert Vigna’s twisted songwriting with his demonic riffs, perfectly placed pinch harmonics, and strange song structures? “Illumination” starts off with violas in the background, only to be unleashed with a fury of blasts and harmonics that make Christians cower in fear.

The title track slows the pace, but the brutality never diminishes.  Something that haunted IMMOLATION in the past was poor production like on the Failures For Gods album, but much like Majesty’s production, Providence sounds clear, flawless, with plenty of low end. “Swallow the Fear” is one of the best songs IMMOLATION has written in the last few years, encasing their entire repertoire of killer riffs, drumming, and catchy vocal lines.

IMMOLATION is a band that is still going strong with fresh ideas and high quality songs, which is very promising, especially for a band that has been around for over two decades. This EP was released as a free download, so be sure to check them out live at a city near you and buy their merchandise so they can survive and keep writing excellent music, while putting these trendy “flavor of the month” bands to shame! (Scion A/V)

CYNIC – Carbon-Based Anatomy

Like hardcore OPETH fans, CYNIC fanatics will vouch for anything the band releases. Carbon-Based Anatomy is nice material to quench the thirst of said fans, but this release is not quite up to par with their full length releases.

Half of the instrumental “songs” on this EP have some experimentation and provide a full experience to the listener, but let’s get to the facts: there are only 3 new songs here. The vocals are clean and well done, Sean Malone returns to reprise his role as the bass extraordinaire, but something is missing. The CYNIC staples of Paul Masvidal’s “robot” vocoder vocals, mixed with death metal growls are nowhere to be found, and as a result, the disc sounds too light and fluffy.

The title track shows that Masvidal and drummer Sean Reinert have a more free flowing approach to CYNIC’s newer material. An intricate, but structured progressive jam session is the result. Along with his airy vocals which provide the CYNIC touch, Masvidal has improved his already excellent guitar work, and spruces up the title track with his best solo since DEATH’s Human album. Reinert’s masterful drum patterns and skill makes the band who they are.

Box Up My Bones” continues the free flowing fashion with tasteful, controlled, progressive drumming, but the lack of great riffs and seemingly “soft” and flowery parts drag the song a bit, and weighs the mood down. “Elves Beam Out” features all the progressive CYNIC elements, but this small glimpse of songs already shows that Traced in Air was a far better output.

This release is a teaser which leaves their fans clamoring for more, but the power and fresh ideas from Focus are long gone. It seems as if CYNIC are content with this direction, but don’t be surprised if the new full length has minimal expansion, and sounds more like Carbon-Based Anatomy version 1.5. (Season of Mist)

ARCH ENEMY, DEVILDRIVER, SKELETONWITCH, CHTHONIC @ Club Nokia, Los Angeles (9/27/11)

The North American Khaos 2011 Tour had a metal genre for everybody – black, thrash, nu, and melodic metal were all represented nicely.

CHTHONIC has gained quite an increase of popularity in the U.S. since their first go around at Ozzfest in 2007, and that notion was proven by the rabid crowd that showed up early giving full support to the “Orient metal” from the Far East.  The band performed tracks mostly from the new album, Takasago Army, and new tracks like “Takao” and “Southern Cross” went over tremendously well in the live setting. Vocalist Freddy Lim owned the crowd with his enthusiastic charisma and wowed onlookers whenever he pulled out the er-hu to accentuate why CHTHONIC stands out as a unique band.
Continue reading

CHTHONIC – Takasago Army

CHTHONIC have been working hard promoting their brand of “Orient metal” to the masses by touring the U.S. with SATYRICON, performing at select European festivals, and appearing in countless metal publications. Seediq Bale showed the band’s maturity in songwriting, and Mirror of Retribution broke the band into greater heights by showing that they can hang with the big boys. Takasago Army continues in the same vein, and the band delivers their best album to date.

Vocalist Freddy Lim has tightened up his vocals with more variation, using his deeper vocals on a more constant level, but his Dani Filth-like vocals still remain an integral part of his delivery. The production is excellent, and all the instruments blend in crisper and clearer than on the previous album. “Takao” and “Broken Jade” are the most listener friendly songs on Takasago Army, and not surprisingly, they are the best tracks on this disc, utilizing their entire repertoire with catchy vocal patterns, melodic hooks, and tasteful riffs.  CHTHONIC’s unique element in the world of extreme metal, the er-hu, is still a prominent instrument, and provides a distinct Asian flavor, as heard on “Legend of the Seediq” and “Oceanquake.”

The riff master behind CHTHONIC, Jesse Liu, has improved his songwriting skills with each subsequent release, and his solos on “Southern Cross” and “Mahakala” make the album so soothing to the metal ears. Although this release is slightly less catchy than Mirror of Retribution, the band forges forward with a good product comparable to their Scandinavian folk metal counterparts.

CHTHONIC have found their niche within the extreme metal world by combining Swedish/Finnish riffs, CRADLE OF FILTH’s style, a splash of IRON MAIDEN, and Taiwanese based mythology/concepts all thrown in together. The band doesn’t offer new ideas or riffs that CRADLE hasn’t done already, but the album should appease their faithful fans worldwide, and the songs should go over very well in the live setting. (Spinefarm Records)

SIGH – Scorn Defeat (reissue)

Before SIGH decided to become an avant-garde and unorthodox extreme metal band, they were an excellent up and coming black metal band from the Far East – a unique band from Asia who drew the interest of MAYHEM’s Euronymous and his label Deathlike Silence Productions. The direction of Scorn Defeat paved the way for SIGH classics such as Infidel Art and Ghastly Funeral Theatre before they ditched the traditional black metal sound.

The first part of the disc is the Scorn Defeat album proper, and epic songs like “A Victory of Dakini,” “Weakness Within,” and “Taste Defeat” still sound as refreshing as they were the first time around. Some VENOM covers and rough tracks from the Requiem for Fools EP and split with KAWIR are also featured on here. The gem of this reissue however, are the Desolation and Tragedies demos, which showcase SIGH in their raw and promising form. Since the demos are rare and almost impossible to find, this is a great addition for SIGH fans of any era.

Scorn Defeat still holds up well in this day and age of digital recording and over-compressed guitars. Unlike 99% of reissues, this one isn’t just repackaged with two live tracks and new liner notes, or a simple remastering of the same songs – this release actually contains listenable substance that matters. This reissue clocks in at 105 minutes, so fans who already own the original won’t feel cheated for picking this one up again. (Deepsend Records)

LOCK UP – Necropolis Transparent

LOCK UP have set the bar pretty high for properly executing blistering grind albums, and their TERRORIZER-inspired grind/death style is seemingly unstoppable. PENTAGRAM guitarist Anton Reisenegger pays homage to original axe grinder, Jesse Pintado (RIP), by writing a few angry and aggressive songs to say the least.

Upon pressing play, “Brethren of the Pentagram” blasts and grinds your face in immediately, and you can bet that Necropolis Transparent is going to be one hell of an album with no compromise whatsoever. The fury of Nick Barker’s (ex-DIMMU BORGIR) insane drumming, the chaotic guitars, and Tomas Lindberg’s (AT THE GATES) tortured soul all equate to a combination made perfectly from hell. Songs like “Anvil of Flesh,” “Rage Incarnate Reborn,” and “Vomiting Evil” are guitar driven, super catchy, and brutal, with a tinge of the European flavor.

Bringing in Jeff Walker (CARCASS) and ex-LOCK UP vocalist Peter Tägtgren (HYPOCRISY) for a good chunk of the songs sure doesn’t hurt, either. Their vocal styles compliment Lindberg’s harsher style nicely, accenting some catchy lines in a few tracks, such as “Necropolis Transparent,” “Parasite Drama,” and “Through the Eyes of My Shadow Self.”

There are plenty of worthy grind albums these days, but LOCK UP is the closest band to rival the debut album from TERRORIZER. With short, blasting tracks that make sense, this is one of the few “supergroups” who are not overrated, so be sure to pick this one up for a dose of grind filled goodness. Wherever he is, Jesse Pintado is somewhere out there smiling and proud of this effort. (Nuclear Blast Records)

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE – Agony

With so many “brutal” and “fast” bands sprouting lately, Italy’s FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE has cemented their brand of symphonic death metal into the underground realm. The band has generated lots of buzz, and received plenty of acclaim recently due to their hard work and endless touring on the road.

Symphonic elements are a huge part of this album. When placed tactfully, keyboards can certainly enhance the music to epic proportions, such as with EMPEROR’s In the Nightside Eclipse. When the symphonic parts don’t let up at all and allow the music to breathe, it distracts the listener from the actual music, much like METALLICA’s S&M performance.

Unfortunately, Agony falls prey to the latter notion, as there are times on the album where the symphony parts do not enhance the guitar riffs, but instead, the constant blasting, typical vocals, and fast riffs are too much to the point of becoming a wall of noise. Much like HATE ETERNAL, Agony has a constant barrage of blasts and double bass with not many riffs that stick, as noted in “The Hypocrisy,” “The Imposition,” and “The Deceit” – it gets to the point where the songs seem as if they mesh together into one long song.

Midway through the album is where the songs take some shape, as “The Violation” produces some excellent results with catchier riffs and straightforward execution. While “The Egoism” and “The Oppression” contain better structures and ear catching solos, the album wears down the listener, and feels extremely long due to the never ending blast beats and bland vocals.

Agony is slicker and more polished than its predecessor, Oracles, but the main drawback is that the music sounds familiar and the band concentrates more on style than substance. Aside from that, FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE is a band with excellent musicians, and their symphonic/grind style may be something new for people who are bored with the traditional grind/death metal bands or want a more brutal approach than the more popular symphonic bands like DIMMU BORGIR or CRADLE OF FILTH. FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE is not for everyone, but as their past tour itineraries suggest, fans who like the styles of DECAPITATED, VITAL REMAINS, THE FACELESS, and DYING FETUS should enjoy this release. (Nuclear Blast Records)

FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE – The Egoism by NuclearBlastRecords