MANES – Teeth, Toes, and Other Trinkets

Manes - Teeth, Toes, and Other TrinketsAh yes, it’s been a long wait for anything new from Trondheim, Norway’s MANES.  As a nice stop gap measure before they release their upcoming work, Be All End All, the band have released a compilation entitled Teeth, Toes, and Other Trinkets.  The comp is a mixed of alternative versions, unreleased, studio recordings, live recordings, and other nuggets in the MANES collection.  You’ll get a unique and wide spectrum of sounds within and overlapping rock, electronica, and metal.

So does it stand on its own as a worthy release?  Absolutely.  Teeth, Toes, and Other Trinkets is wonderfully morose and soulful in that way.  It starts more uptempo but eventually falls deeper into despair towards the conclusion.

Most tracks have vocals with a few scattered instrumental ones.  The biggest standout is the live version of “Ende” which is just so passionate.  “One More Room” and “Nobody Wants the Truth” are the kinds of great songs that prime RADIOHEAD used to dish out.  The way second to last track, “Diving With Your Hands Bound [Nearly Flying],” pulls the listener down into the depths is profound to say the least.  Final track, “Deeprooted [8-bit],” is given the classic video game-style treatment and more or less diffuses the atmosphere that the previous songs created.

To say that Teeth, Toes, and Other Trinkets is “mood music” is an understatement.  If you’re not in the mood for this, then it’s best to save it when the mood strikes you.  The best aspect is the fact that the material here is good enough for you to be chomping at the bit for their forthcoming record. (Debemur Morti Productions)

ANIMALS AS LEADERS – The Joy of Motion

Animals As Leaders - The Joy of MotionTo be totally blunt, ANIMALS AS LEADERSThe Joy of Motion is a flawless album for what it’s meant to be.  From basically every aspect, the band has achieved pure prog bliss.  Expect the band’s technical wizardry to provide a nice range of different sounds and vibes all in perpetual motion.

Songwriting is the priority throughout The Joy of Motion so you won’t find self indulgent song sections that are there just for the sake of showing off.  Fans of the heavier end of the musical spectrum will enjoy the heavy MESHUGGAH-inspired riffs and the nods to technical death metal found scattered throughout.  But for the most part, ANIMALS AS LEADERS keeps it light and bright.

Prog nerds will differ on what they like best about The Joy of Motion but a personal favorite is the string slapping.  Who needs bass when you’ve got 8-string guitars?

Deep analysis or discussion is totally unnecessary.  ANIMALS AS LEADERS have made it as easy as possible for you to just sit back and wholeheartedly enjoy the album.  Flows like melted butter.

If you want to hear from one of the best prog bands around, then look no further.  Prog the fuck out. (Sumerian Records)

AMON – Liar in Wait

Amon - Liar in WaitIt’s been a very long time since the metal world heard from the Hoffman brothers following their departure from DEICIDE.  Using the pre-DEICIDE band name of AMON, they are back with a new style of death metal.  AMON is now more technical than the first four DEICIDE albums ever were.

Brian and Eric Hoffman go for a technical death metal sound that varies between off-time dissonance, melodies, more technical solos, and straight forward brutality.  It is cool to hear new sides of their playing after all these years.  Who knew they could solo like this?

However, there is so much shit packed into each song that the cohesion or flow is often broken or thrown out the window at seemingly random times.  There are plenty of good sounds throughout Liar in Wait though. And there’s no denying the KRISIUN-like approach to pacing and intensity. Don’t expect any breakdowns or any breathing time.

The production leaves something to be desired as it sounds like high quality demo recording rather than a record from two guitarists who helped to pioneer the death metal genre.  You will be hard pressed to find a more frequently used crash symbol in metal than on Liar in Wait.

It’s going to take many spins to remember much of what AMON has recorded due to the combination of riff overkill and more or less “standard” death metal stylings.

Overall, Liar in Wait is raw and rough in obvious places.  But the bottom line is that two guys that played on some of the most groundbreaking albums in metal should do better.  (Amon Records)

BEHEMOTH – The Satanist

Behemoth The SatanistAs demonstrated by TESTAMENT‘s Chuck Billy, it is possible to make a strong comeback from cancer and resume a successful career.  Thankfully, BEHEMOTH‘s Nergal has followed suit and returned to form.  The Satanist is the sound of a band ready to resume their upward trajectory in the metal world.

The album takes a new approach to that of the fist-in-the-face attack of albums past.  This one is about “feel” and atmosphere rather than simply pummeling the listener.  But it still sounds 100% like BEHEMOTH.  They call more upon their black metal beginnings than ever in sound and style.  The Satanist is perhaps the band’s most dynamically rich work to date because of all the various song parts.  Horns, synthesizers, and choirs help to add flavor.  Most of the songs have a mid-tempo foundation with plenty of clean electric guitars, and fast parts here and there.  However, the action never feels slow per se.  Thematically, there are tons of references to the bible as well as, you guessed it, Satan.

Opener, “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel,” sets the tone with its blackened ritualistic atmospheres and predominantly mid-tempo pace.  Second track, “Furor Divinus,” starts out like the MAYHEM classic, “Funeral Fog.”  “Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer” is The Satanist‘s catchiest track with its simple, straight forward structure that just glides forward.  A song like “Amen” demonstrates their growth as there is a quiet, dark interlude in the middle of the blasting fury.   The same could be said of “In the Absence ov Light.”  “O Father O Satan O Sun!” is one hell of a closer and is the album’s most powerful track.

All in all, The Satanist is a good album.  Does it break barriers or is a game changer?  No, but it is a step forward in growth for BEHEMOTH.  And moving forward is paramount.  (Metal Blade Records/Nuclear Blast Records)


THE HAUNTED – Eye of the Storm

thehaunted.eyeofthestormNearly three years and three band members replaced and THE HAUNTED appear ready to atone for their previously subpar releases.  If the three songs on Eye of the Storm are any indication of where the band’s head is at, then it’s time to rejoice.  On this 7″, THE HAUNTED are back to doing what they do best: thrashing better than any band on the planet.

Generally speaking, THE HAUNTED reclaim the sound and style of their first three or four albums.  Interestingly, this digital single/7″ only gets faster with each song.  “Eye of the Storm” is a muscular song which features those sweet but short dynamics and touch of  melancholy that has made the band stand out during their career.  The intro riff on “Infiltrator” is just one of the sweetest metal riffs you’ll ever hear.  So damn good.  Finally, “My Enemy,” is a scorcher complete with Kerry King-like guitar whammy bar action.

Not only is Eye of the Storm a must for fans of the band, it’s a great reason to get excited for the next full-length.  (Century Media Records)

CODE – Augur Nox

Code  - Augur NoxThe truth is that the vast majority of black metal bands that have arrived on the scene long after the legendary scenes in Norway and Sweden made their marks have been nothing to rave about.  Most of the newcomers have been too derivative and/or falling short in the quality department.  This is precisely why CODE‘s new album, Augur Nox, is of importance.

Continuing the avant garde and progressive spirit of Norwegian black metal, the UK’s CODE dish out a unique style on their own.   CODE is not about being Satanic, necro, or aggressive throughout.  Rather the band is fiercely modern sounding with a strong dynamic range.  In many ways, it’s like a marriage between the technical and riffing proficiency of NEVERMORE with the progressive and compelling atmospheres and dynamics of contemporary ENSLAVED.  Speaking of the latter characteristic, CODE always create a strong feel or tone with each track.

Throughout Augur Nox, you can’t help but feel the novelty, the freshness of it all.  You haven’t quite heard these riffs before nor this style before.  It’s difficult yet great to not able to categorize this album into a commonly used descriptor.  Overall,  the songs on Augur Nox are always building towards something.  The band never simply blast out fast songs nor trudge along.  In a way, the songs are subtle and understated in a clandestine, obscure manner.

If you’re ready to step forward with the new breed of black metal, then CODE‘s Augur Nox is a mandatory destination.  (Agonia Records)

DEICIDE – In the Minds of Evil

Deicide - In the Minds of EvilAfter helping to pioneer death metal, DEICIDE show on In the Minds of Evil that there is plenty left in the tank.  It may come as a surprise to some but the album is pretty damn strong.

Stylistically, the band continue the direction that they have been pursuing since The Stench of Redemption.  Thus, the action is straight forward and easily digestible with lots of lead guitar work.  However, there are some nods to classic DEICIDE and a noticeable CANNIBAL CORPSE-era Jack Owen touch.

The band sound very cohesive as everyone contributes equally with excellent performances.  Vocalist/bassist Glen Benton‘s vocals are powerful and strong and nearly every vocal line is catchy to varying degrees.  The riffing is very beefy and always busy.  Kevin Quirion is a fine lead guitarist and he puts nice accents on the songs and his well rounded solos are as good as well touted players like James Murphy.

Overall, In the Minds of Evil doesn’t let up quality with only a few places getting monotonous.  While it doesn’t rank among their classic first three albums, you’d be hard pressed not to be able to enjoy such a solid and catchy album.  (Century Media Records)


Corrections House - Last City ZeroTo state that hyperbole and false statements of quality are hallmarks of the music industry would be stating the obvious.  Additionally, the term “super group” is often thrown around too haphazardly.  Just because a bunch of guys from bands that people dig form a side project doesn’t really mean a thing.

Well, the truth is that CORRECTIONS HOUSE have proven to be one of the best new bands in extreme music and their full length debut, Last City Zero, is an instant classic.  The band is indeed a collection of guys from bands that people have dug for a long time: Mike IX Williams (EYEHATEGOD), Scott Kelly (NEUROSIS), Bruce Lamont (YAKUZA), Sanford Parker (MINSK) and Seward Fairbury.

Sonically, CORRECTIONS HOUSE is free form in the sense that the songs are not composed of a traditional band configuration (guitars, bass, drums) nor traditional song structures.  Instead, the band are unbound in their sound – using layers of cold mechanical electronics, different brooding guitar and saxophone sounds, various vocal styles, and various other sound effects.  The album explores experimental stylings and acoustic guitars in varying degrees. Some songs are sonically heavy like “Serve or Survive” and “Bullets and Graves” while others are stripped down like the title track.

Last City Zero is  more of an experience than anything else and a spiritual one at that.  The band’s atmospheric soundscape approach is absolutely potent.  The feelings of desolation, desperation, and nihilism cannot be understated.  What I’m trying to get at is that for many, Last City Zero will speak to them on a deeply profound level; a life changer if you will.

Bands like CORRECTIONS HOUSE don’t come along too often and the magic here is undeniable.  Awesome.  (Neurot Recordings)

KEN MODE – Entrench

Ken Mode - EntrenchRemember the good old 90′s and early 2000′s when a plethora of metalcore, mathcore, post-hardcore, etc. were busting out so many underground gems? Well, that fine tradition continues thanks to Winnipeg, Canada heroes, KEN MODE.

KEN MODE‘s dynamic range and overall musicality is what continues to distinguish them from any perceivable peers. You’d be hard pressed to be able to predict what comes next on Entrench. The best way to summarize Entrench is “atmosphere.”

The band can crash and bash with anyone (i.e. “Counter Culture Complex” and “Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sic“) but it’s the unique way in which they create atmosphere that is the most compelling trait. KEN MODE show no interest in creating fleeting, temporary impressions. They are focused on only dishing out compelling songs. Be sure to check out “Romeo Must Never Know,” “Figure Your Life Out,” and “Monomyth.”

Entrench also has a good mix and song order to keep you on your toes and not fall into a lull of up tempo poly rhythms or slower, chunkier songs.

Any further description or analysis would only delay you from checking out one of the best albums of 2013. Also, make sure to catch these road warriors when they come through your town. (Season of Mist)


Beastmilk - ClimaxLet it be declared that BEASTMILK are destined for stardom.  In addition to their songwriting skills, charisma, and musicianship, these Finns have that special intangible that separates the stars from the merely “really cool” bands.

While a long list of bands and labels, such as JOY DIVISION, BAUHAUS, SISTERS OF MERCY, DANZIG, post-punk meets gothic rock, etc., could be used to describe their sound, the band describe themselves as “Apocalyptic death rock from Finland.”

From the first seconds of album opener “Death Reflects Us,” you are overcome with the instant classic feel of it all.  The huge chorus just sweeps over you and nirvana ensues.  The uber catchy songs don’t stop coming as Climax pushes forward.  And it’s not just about the hooks, BEASTMILK create a dark, haunting atmosphere that lends to their charisma.

The closer you listen to Climax, the more it’s clear how much each band member holds up their end.  Great musicianship all around.

BEASTMILK‘s debut full length, Climax, is an instant classic – one of those albums that you’ll be spinning nonstop and telling all your friends about.  Greatness is here.  (Magic Bullet Records/Svart Records)