Originally published in ‘zine issue #33, 2005
Bane The Note
Bane returns with their fourth full length. While there’s plenty of shout-along choruses and moshy breakdowns, the record leaves me a little flat. The production is crisp and clear, but it seems that engineer Brian McTernan was more concerned with making a slicker-sounding Bane than capturing the anger and the fury that he did on Give Blood. Singer Aaron Bedard is just as angry as ever, but the guitars of Zach Jordan and Aaron Dalbec don’t really move this time, and seem more of an afterthought than the rails on which Bedard’s fury rides. The album’s opener, “Woulda Coulda Shoulda,” gives the listener a view into the past, but most of the album’s other songs are mid tempo, and one song, “Pot Commited,” even features a piano breakdown reminiscent of Verbal Assault’s “Never Stop” from the Trial record. The album even features a hardcore standby with a song (“My Therapy”) about how much hardcore means to them. All and all The Note isn’t a bad record, but falls a little short when stacked up against Bane’s previous efforts.
(by Blake Harrison) ■
Biomechanical The Empires Of The World
Here’s one of those bands whose songs are just grotesque collisions of styles. They’ll go from big fat Pantera grooves into some stuttering, off-time guitar heroics into subtle acoustic passages. Kind of an “everything but the kitchen sink” philosophy. Sometimes it works; often it doesn’t. The vocalist switches up quite a bit. There’s a few of those Phil Anselmo “Medicine Man” vocals, and a lot of power metal wailing that reminds me of old Queensrÿche or Savatage. The musicianship is top notch, I can’t slag on that, but the schizophrenic arrangements kind of keep the album from establishing any kind of mood or flow. If you dig shit like Watchtower or Atheist, this might make you cum all over yourself, but I’m not down with this at all.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Blood Red Throne Altered Genesis
This is black/death metal delivered with that stiff, clinical execution so prevalent in European bands. The drums sound too triggered, almost industrial, and the vocals are muddy and monotonous. The riffs are pretty mean, but the guitars are just too mild in the mix. These guys are aggressive as shit, though, and for that I give them respect. I just think this record would have been much better served by some really gritty, sloppy underproduction.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Flotsam And Jetsam Dreams of Death
Honestly, I didn’t know what to think when I opened the package and spied a new album from Flotsam And Jetsam. I think I actually remember saying “What the shit?” Yes, Flotsam And Jetsam is an old metal group, having been around since the mid ‘80s. Only a band that lived it the first time around could write an album that sounds like this. Their ambitious songwriting is musical, blending somewhat-technical late-’80s thrash metal with melodic hooks and ‘80s arena rock-style heavily chorused clean passages. Said parts are deliberately pushed into Queensrÿche territory through the addition of voice samples and the odd keyboard part. The “dark” song concepts and lyrics—which are intoned with crystal clarity—are amusingly cheesy, though unintentionally so. Flotsam And Jetsam is working hard and I respect that. Who would’ve guessed?
(by Lenny Likas) ■
Gemini Five Babylon Rockets
Man, I really wanted to like this record, too. Shit. The sticker on the front makes the comparison to the mighty Hanoi Rocks, which got my attention. Hanoi’s strength was in their looseness, their dirty, Rolling Stones-like swagger. This stuff is really closer to older Bon Jovi, which isn’t to say that it’s terrible, just lacking in rock ‘n’ roll attitude. When they’re at their most poppy and playful, this record can be a lot of fun, but when they try to get moody and serious it sounds like Linkin Park without the shitty MC. Disappointing.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Grand Magus Wolf’s Return
First of all, before I even listen to this one, the back cover pic of three dirt-caked and bloody clasped fists replete with studded gauntlets and tattoos looks raw as fuck. So I’m fucking stoked now. Plus, I see this is from Lee Dorian’s Rise Above label so I’m beginning to take appropriate care not to completely shit myself. Right off the bat, this sounds Swedish. Heavy rockin’ old-school metal with an overdriven bass and hairy, power metal singing. This trio’s epicus doomicus metallicus is dynamic and melodic, featuring meaty riffs, soaring vocals, classic guitar solos, and absorbing arrangements. Yeah, that’s a real nut-crunching riff. If leather and denim had never been invented, these dudes would probably be walking around naked. Features vocalist J.B. of Mike Amott’s Spiritual Beggars.
(by Lenny Likas) ■
Hate Eternal I, Monarch
So with a new Hate Eternal album you pretty much know what to expect. This can be good or bad depending on what you like. Personally, I am tired of most modern death metal bands trying to make a name for themselves by blending in aspects of hardcore or assuming that because what they play is “complex,” it has value. Hence I have always liked Hate Eternal. This may sound like I am saying I like simple low-brow death metal, but in all honesty what death metal isn’t is low brow. That is why we like it, right? The faster the better, and the more abrasive and harsh, the more response it will get from me! Hate Eternal understands these simple facts that keep mongoloids like myself interested and I am assuming they are mongoloids as well. So this record is a good match.
Similar to their past two records except with a warmer all over sound, this record is speed through and through! Drummer Derek Roddy holds the reigns and leads the band through nine tracks, all of which are wonderfully fast and precise, only letting up for a few groove-oriented parts that the band has employed for the first time on this record. These parts add some diversity to the flow but do not detract from the conviction and intensity of the rest of the album. I, Monarch’s riffs are multifaceted, but, like death metal of old, never complex enough to cause lack of interest. It is this fact that I think truly sets Hate Eternal apart. They write riffs! That is why I keep linking them to older death metal like Kreator or Morbid Angel. They are not riffs to sing along with or guitar parts created to win you over. These are just solid, sinister, and fast, just the way they should be with a name like Hate Eternal.
On a whole this record is an extension of the first two albums but the members have progressed as musicians. They added a few auxiliary percussion instruments, but they tastefully left them slightly low in the mix so they do not detract from the metal. I was worried that they might cause the listener to think of un-metal things like Jamaica or Sheila E., but fear not! Hate Eternal creates true metal for the sake of metal, and I, Monarch is no exception, even if they do own a maraca.
(by Jake Cregger) ■
Hirax The New Age of Terror
Who says that time travel isn’t possible? Hirax has returned to take you waaaaay back to the old school. Back to a time when bands like the Mentors and D.R.I. walked the earth, a time when you could talk about Megadeth and Metallica without wanting to cry, a time when Hirax released their last album, which I believe was Hate, Fear, and Power. (Hey, like I said, it’s been a long time.) Anyway, this album is a glorious return for Hirax. I would say it’s at least as good as, if not better than, anything I’ve ever heard by them. It’s got tons of meaty, thrash riffs, catchy, concise songwriting, and of course the soaring vocals of Katon De Pena, but most importantly, it’s got a fucking dump truck full of heavy metal attitude, and that’s something that’s sorely missed nowadays. A true lesson in violence. Amen.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Jesu 2004 album
I was not disappointed in hearing the album but not completely enthralled, not because this is bad material by any means but because it just was not exactly what I expected. The sound of this record is very similar to early Godflesh with thick bass and simple, processed-sounding percussion, while the guitars swirl around the minimal song structures set by the rhythm section. The drums are handled by none other than Ted Parsons (Prong, Swans), but they were obviously tweaked quite liberally in the studio to sound choked and precise. The bass tone is great through the entire CD, bubbling and crackling through all eight tracks. The guitar as I said earlier is somewhat of an afterthought but sounding great, adding feedback and moans around the consistent bass lines.
What was surprising is what these instruments did together with added keyboards and synth tracks. On their own the rhythm section would sound almost exactly like a slower Streetcleaner, drudging through long and crushing seven-minute songs, but on top the keyboards played melancholy melodies. Occasionally these parts wandered into new ground, which I cannot call poppy or happy but they were not necessarily cheerless and gutted. They were emotive! That is what surprised me. This album was far more emotionally charged then anticipated. Although, don’t worry, they were heavy as hell, but what came to mind was as if a melodic, expressive band broke into Godflesh’s practice space and jammed on their stuff, although it did not sound exactly as detached as that because all the while Justin Broadrick was singing on top of these tracks with the melodies. Not singing and whistling but with the aid of effects and programming following the melody. Although on the seventh track he turns off the effects and melodies to bark out some vokills. This is a treat and to remind the listener that he is still able to play something negative.
Listening to this record you know it’s heavy; it’s just a different kind of heavy. It is an almost soothing, relaxing heavy. This is a very well done record and laudable for many reasons; it’s just a new experience.
(by Jake Cregger) ■
Josh Small 2005 album
Basically what you get here is a collection of lo-fi banjo ditties accompanied by melancholy vocals. He also breaks out the mandolin for two songs. The album’s highlight for me is the sixth song, where Small switches to playing slide guitar for a fuller, richer sound. It seems to suit the mid-pace tempo of the music better than the banjo, an instrument that sounds best at faster-than-lightning speeds. Deliverance, people!
(by Adam Perry) ■
Mouth Of The Architect Time and Withering
A slow, dreamy album; nothing too punishing here. It sounds almost “soft,” even with the singer screaming his head off. This could be intentional, I suppose, but I don’t really like it. This type of sludge really needs a clear, hard-hitting production value or it just bores itself into the ground pretty quick. The CD features four songs, three of which are over 10 minutes long, to give you a further idea. Steer clear of this one unless you have money to blow on a really cool-looking beer coaster with a psychedelic pattern on it.
(by Adam Perry) ■
Raging Speedhorn How the Great Have Fallen
Wow, this U.K. band’s screamer sounds fucking hostile, like he’s got a mouth for war or something. I guess this band is pretty raging in a basic heavy rock kind of way, but the heap of hype touting how jaw-droppingly brutal they are just doesn’t add up. All the riffs are the same Sabbath rock riffs that everyone plays and the tempos are more often mid-paced to slower. They hold water, but there’s nothing here that’s new or especially thrilling. But don’t let that turn you off completely—if you dig shit like Cable or Alabama Thunderpussy, you will surely rock to this. And the secret track—a Richard Pryor-style prank call to a wanker who placed an ad for a “black” metal band—is muthafuckin’ laughalicious.
(by Lenny Likas) ■
Scum Of The Earth Blah…Blah…Blah…Love Songs for the New Millennium
Sorry, no grindcore for you. This is some shrink-wrapped, barcode-sportin’ bullshit for teeny boppers. Aesthetically, this is a celebration of American trash culture adorned with the Rob Zombie/Rat Fink/comics/tattoo parlor flash visual touch. Musically this is pathetic electronic dance rock with beats that remind me of ZZ Top’s synth-powered classics (no disrespect to the Reverend). A typical lyric: “white trash devil girl … get your dead on.” A fetid pile of misogynistic bullshit in the Rob Zombie style from Rob Zombie cronie Riggs and some dork from Powerman 5000. This disc also purports to contain bonus material that supposedly allows the listener to download software to adjust the sound and add effects or something—fuckin’ yawn. Yup, that’s more than enough words.
(by Lenny Likas) ■
Suzukiton Service • Repair Handbook
I’m pretty sure Suzukiton is a talented heavy instrumental rock band from Richmond, VA, but they might just be a small displacement Japanese motorcycle in disguise. Their songs seem to go nowhere in usually about three minutes, but that’s not to say you won’t enjoy the rocking ride. Their tones are good and the material ain’t bad by any stretch, but I’m definitely not floored. The Fucking Champs and Dysrhythmia are a convenient reference point. Go see them live for yourself, as I’m sure that’s where they’ll really impress.
(by Lenny Likas) ■
Thine Eyes Bleed In The Wake Of Separation
This is perfectly acceptable death metal, striking a good balance between the technicality and the brutality. Similar to the way Vader comes at you: disciplined, intensely focused. The production is adequate, albeit unspectacular, and unfortunately I feel like I could use that comment to describe the rest of the album. Of course there’s a killer riff here, a scorching solo there, but this album overall just gives me feelings of “been there, done that.” You know, the way you felt after Unleashed put out that same album for the tenth time.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Trephine 2005 album
This is obviously quite an accomplished band. They definitely get bonus points for not having a singer; singers are way overrated these days. We get assaulted here with metallic math rock for about 40 minutes. The problem with this record is a lack of hooks, or really stand-out riffs. But that’s not the point with math rock, is it? You want to be dazzled by the “math” of it all. Whoa, hey now, they just switched into a 7/8 time signature from 4/4 time! Wow, they were just playing metal; now it sounds like polka music! Alright nerds, go on and buy the album. You know you want it …
(by Adam Perry) ■
Unsane Blood Run
After an extended period of inactivity, NYC’s Unsane come roaring back with not just a return to form, but possibly the finest album of their career. Absolutely huge bass grooves, rock-solid, bare-bones drumming, and of course Chris Spencer’s signature bullhorn vocals and scraping/gouging guitar work. There’s no crass experimentation or self-indulgence to be found here; just savage, straight-to-the-point noise rock delivered by masters at the top of their game. Brilliant.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Valkyrie Sunlight Shines
This is interesting. The first song’s got a bit of that driving Iron Maiden gallop to it, but kind of primitive, like the Killers album or something. This is metal of the soaring guitar harmony variety, as opposed to the aggressive, cave-your-head-in variety, so consequently this isn’t really my cup of tea. But these are strong, well-written tunes and the vocalist is melodic and soulful without becoming operatic or cheesy, and that’s a tough line to walk with this type of stuff.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Vog 3 Song Demo
This is kind of like Sleep’s Holy Mountain with some of Acid Bath’s crooning and screamy vocal pile-ons. The tones of the instruments are nice and thick, which to me is the most important element of any doom/stoner rock type band. The 22-minute closer “The Colors of the Infiniti” feels more like a jam or a medley than a self-contained song, which isn’t really a good thing or a bad thing. I just wonder whether that’s accidental or by design. The production is excellent, especially for a demo. Really, the only thing that’s missing here is some good artwork and presentation. Musically Vog are pretty on point. Have to try to catch ‘em live; this kind of thing is almost always better in person.
(by JR Hayes) ■
Maryland Deathfest 2005
House of Rock, White Marsh, MD
by Lenny Likas
I’ve been attending Maryland’s international death metal extravaganza ever since its earliest incarnation of evil. Each year, I call my asshole friends to see who’s going. This year, no one. Typical. So with only myself to abuse, I launched my gas-guzzling hotrod in a tire-frying haze north to the new venue of this year’s fest, the House of Rock in White Marsh, Maryland. Not sure what to expect of the location, but not wanting to be too disappointed, I had loaded down my vehicle with a cooler of microbrews and several tweeds of modest girth.
After a brief bout of directional confusion, I finally rolled past the club to witness a horde of enemy policemen prowling around like angry ants. It was like a scene from Waco. Actually, it wasn’t as bad as that sounds. But the heat was definitely on, so I concealed my stash of spliffs and slipped in through the backside. Found a parking space in the middle of a swamp, then strutted toward the front door. I was surprised to see no meathead fuckface collecting money or checking IDs, so without further ado I walked right in and enjoyed a night of free mediocre deathgrind. Hells yeah!
I got there right after locals Pig Destroyer had played. I deduced this upon seeing grind impresario Scott Hull receiving congratulations in a puddle of his own sweat. First stop: the vendors’ hive, where anonymous scenesters grovel and the robber barons lick their blood-stained lips at the sight of an open wallet. Yes, there was alot of money to be spent here, let me tell you. I chatted it up with some cronies; some merch table folks asked me who I was because they thought they recognized me. I told them I had no idea what they were talking about. But I did buy an old Hiatus LP from the guy from Hater Of God Records. I talked to Craig Pillard, ex-Incantation. He’s got a really slow new group called Methadrone and they’re releasing an exotic DVD with Swans covers or something. I talked to my my friend EricT from Torture Garden Picture Company who had set up shop on the down low. I think he said he was doing a tribute that covers the entire Scum album. Cool stuff. Finally I headed back inside.
It was late in the day and I could see that already many of the attendees were hurting, sick, and drunk. There was puke, trash, and blood everywhere. In the distance, probably on the stage, Aborted was playing and they had the clicky digital death sound down to a T. I think I remember yawning a few times. At another point during the fest I remember standing near the pit and seeing people slipping and falling on spilled beer and broken bottles. Then I saw a few people helping out the staff by crouching down and scooping up shards of glass.
The next band I remember was Gronibard from France, and I liked their style: a bunch of skinny French dudes wearing women’s undergarments and playing completely unexceptional grind. The dutiful bouncers became confused when fans started jumping up to freak the fanciful Frenchmen. Unsure of exactly whom to throw around, the fat help just stood centerstage appearing dumbfounded as more and more Francophiles jumped up to dance like fops before tripping over PA monitors and crashing back into the crowd. Yes, a gay time was had by all.
Then the moment I had been waiting for—San Francisco’s godless Abscess polluted the stage. According to the band, this was their first show outside of California since the band’s inception over 11 years ago. I was beyond stoked! And when they opened with a personal favorite, “Speed Freak,” a hallucinative coma of feces, vomit, and dirty hypodermic needles descended over the crowd. The ripping d-beat action was kicking my ass, but when I looked around to see who else was thrashing I was surprised to see the rest of the crowd in an apparent daze. The band dropped into some really heavy psychedelic grooves, and guitarist Danny Coralles erupted into his trademark solos like a terminal psychotic.
Next up was Regurgitate from Sweden, who seemed way professional. Their set was really blasting, controlled, and abrasive. I was impressed with their tightness and competent grasp of textbook grindcore rudiments and song structures, which they used extensively to pulpify and scour the now re-energized crowd. Before Cryptopsy, boasting the return of original vocalist Lord Worm, could even mount the stage, I ducked out to blaze one and the rest is already a forgotten memory.
Day Two was much better, even though I had to pay to get in this time. Knowing what to expect after the first day, I sparked my doobie early into my last-chance power drive and had it in tweezers by the time I rolled into the parking lot. Fewer pigs today, I noted with a mischievous grin. At the entrance, some neo-crustbags loitered and I asked who was playing. “Rotten Sound is about to go on,” came the reply, so I hastily parked my wheels, pounded a few ice cold brewskies, and headed inside for what would be a real blast. I had seen Rotten Sound a few times before, but this day they were on fire like a fully loaded B-52 crashing on takeoff. I have to say it: their drummer plays at the absolute extremes of human possibility. His mastery and endurance seemed unattainable except by only the top one percent of practice-obsessed drum nerds. Awesome set.
Then came my fun-loving favorites, Birdflesh from Sweden. If you haven’t heard this trio, they play super-catchy grind with super-moshy breakdowns and have a completely absurd persona. The guitarist/vocalist was dressed like a mentally challenged ‘80s amateur wrestler, and the bassist wore a woman’s house dress and a long-haired skeleton mask. They bounced around the stage through one grinding anthem after another, much to the delight of the crowd. I noticed there were a lot more punkers inside for these guys.
The real highlight of the night, though, was General Surgery, also from Sweden, who were fucking beyond deadly. They raged through their set of old-school Carcass tributes with mountains of energy and enthusiasm. I was completely slayed. The band, draped in bloodstained dentist’s frocks, butcher’s aprons, and black ties, drew a huge response from the crowd at every pause. My fingertips began to feel sliced and bloody just watching the relentless six-stringed carnage. Savageness!
The end of the night would see legends Immolation take the stage, a band who never fail to impress me with their signature dark and twisted riffage. They played a bunch of really catchy songs from the new album, Harnessing Ruin, which, if you haven’t heard it, is really quite good. Excellent, intelligent lyrics, too, with bassist/vocalist Ross Dolan’s voice sounding as fucking heavy as ever. But I wondered at what hellish fate might have befallen longtime drummer Alex Hernandez, notably absent. The new basher was good, but Hernandez was really great, especially on that Disassociate album.
All in all, a solid rockin’ time and I look forward to increasing variety and more international acts for fests to come.
Find info on next year’s fest at www.marylanddeathfest.com. ■