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Our 'New & Upcoming Releases' podcast series introduces new underground releases to our listeners. This episode we focus solely on extreme metal.
Let the mayhem begin!
AUDIO
(1:19) POSSESSED - Revelations of Oblivion (Nuclear Blast)
(5:44) ASOMVEL - World Shaker (Heavy Psyche Sounds)
(9:00) HATE MANIFESTO - Herald of Hate (Helter Skelter)
(13:19) WULFAZ - Eriks gumbl (Bandcamp)
(16:25) MARTYRDOD - Hexhammaren (Century Media/Southern Lord)
(19:57) ANCIENT TORMENT - Satan's Legacy Come Flesh (Eternal Death)
(25:19) FIXATION - Into The Pain (Bandcamp)
(26:41) BRUTAL ORDER - Homo Homini Lupus (Bandcamp)
(30:48) OVERKILL - The Wings Of War (Nuclear Blast)
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Release date May 25/19 (Bandcamp)
Not sure how I've missed Martyrdod up to now. Yet another mighty fine D-beat unit out of Sweden, this veteran unit has been in existing since 2003 with Hexhammaren being their fifth full length release. While the overall intensity and harsh vocal style utilized here certainly harkens to the last two Disfear discs (Misanthropic Generation and Live The Storm), Martyrdod differentiate themselves through the insertion of melodic black metal riffage within their tracks.
The production is relatively clean, ensuring that the melodic guitar refrains resonate, but also allows the bottom end and the bull-horned vox to lay the smackdown at the same time, creating a potent combination. At once soothing and pummeling, this is perfect for extremists who like a modicum of tunefulness within their ear shattering excess.
Prime cuts: 'War On Peace', 'Cashless Society' and the title track.
[8]
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Release date May 3/19 (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Motorhead lives on through the punishing grooves found on this third full-length release from the U.K.'s Asomvel. Rumbling Rickenbacker bass taking front stage, emphatic don't-give-a-fuck lyrics roared rather than sung, and guitar-on-stun embellishment seemingly added as an afterthought, this takes you back to the mighty Overkill album. Close your eyes, then turn it way up and you'll clearly envisage Lemmy, Fast Eddie and Philthy Animal blasting this out in your mind's eye. Way cool!
The bass-as-a-lead-instrument is so up-front in the mix that your sub-woofer may threaten to shut down from excessive vibration. Then some straight-between-the-eyes lead guitar solos will send you scrambling for cover. Seriously, this is simply a blast to rock out to.
Yeah, yeah, it ain't original and some of the tracks are too repetitive/simple, but it's done with so much passion and energy, that all is not only forgiven ... it's friggin' encouraged! Hopefully the next album sees the band "evolving" and taking us on a flight on a Bomber. I'm booking my ticket now.
[8]
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Once more we turn our gaze to the stockpile of EPs, singles, demos and mini-albums ...
Blast furnace intensity from our first band HATE MANIFESTO with their Herald of Triumph (Helter Skelter) four track, seventeen-minute EP. This Greek black/death unit is certainly not kidding around, creating a wall-of-sound attack that marries the uncompromising power of death with some darting blackened riffage to amazing effect. Powerful discernible death vocals too, acting as the final fist-to-the-face welcome from the band. Furious from note one to last blistering refrain, this is heavy enough to even appease the uber-hardened war metal fanatic. Relentless. [8]
Ratcheting back on the intensity a bit, next up we have a three-track EP from TELEPORT entitled The Expansion (Bandcamp). Based out of Slovenia, Encyclopedia Metallum claims that the sci-fi/space infatuated band has evolved from blackened progressive thrash to progressive death. These ears still hear a bit of the blackened thrash in the grooves, especially on the opener, 'Beholder of the Silent Sea', the highlight of the twenty-one-minute release. Blast-beated in sections, the track takes the listener on a journey through several different riff passages, able to retain attention despite the plethora of goings on. The following two tracks aren't quite up to the same standard though, mainly due to the band letting their inner prog out. Still a good headbang and there's no questioning the instrumental talent displayed, but a little too meandering and unfocused for my tastes. Make it an [8] if you're an extreme prog fan though. [7]
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We continue venturing into the bottomless pit that is demo, EP, single and mini-album releases ...
WULFAZ up first with their three-track, eleven-minute EP entitled Eriks kumbl (sorry - translation attempts came up empty), available on Bandcamp. Grind-infused black metal is at the core here, lyrically focusing on Viking themes I'm told (all songs are sung in their native Danish, I assume). Melodic, yet blistering, elements of folk are also injected into the mayhem creating a modern, yet somehow also arcane, feel to the material. The vocals are of the throaty, lascivious nature, with impassioned shouts interspersed, adding to the overall smeared and feared sound. Fans of early Enslaved releases will certainly dig this. Out of Denmark something wicked this way comes! [7.5]
Brazil's BRUTAL ORDER up next with their debut of tough thrash metal called Homo Homini Lupus ("man is for other men a wolf" - Plautus), also available on Bandcamp. Musically in alignment with the title of the EP, the headbanging affair reeks of the ruthless, dog eat dog world we live in. Mostly in the mid-tempo, chugging pocket, with speedy sections interspersed, the band create a piece of controlled pummeling for the weary listener. Good production here, instruments clearly discernible, and the shout vocals of Tiago Xaves work well too. Not too brutal, but brutal enough to appease the hardcore thrasher. Kinda like Sacred Reich crossed with Metallica and Jungle Rot to these ears. Good, sturdy stuff. [7]
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Our 'New & Upcoming Releases' podcast series introduces new underground releases to our listeners. This episode we focus solely on hard rock and trad/doom heavy metal.
(1:35) MANOWAR - The Final Battle I (Magic Circle)
(7:48) SMOULDER - Times Of Obscene Evil and Wild Daring (Cruz del Sur)
(14:19) PYTHON - Walking The Night (Bandcamp)
(18:18) LITTLE TRIGGERS - Giving Me Up
(22:02) BLACK GALAXY - Wrath Of The Void
(26:33) THE BAND ROYALE - Loose Lips Sink Ships (Bandcamp)
(30:54) BOURBON HOUSE - The Devil On My Heels
(34:56) BAD RELIGION - Age Of Unreason (Epitaph)
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Release date May 3/19 (Epitaph)
Thirty-nine years into their career melodic punk kings Bad Religion continue cranking out albums like it's the good ol' 80s. On Age Of Unreason, the band's 17th (!) full length studio release, there aren't any surprises of note. Just straight-ahead, short bursts (with the exception one track, all clock in under three minutes) of rhythmically driven material that oscillates between radio-friendly, catchy material and up-ratcheted punk stormers. The recipe (for hate?) remains the same.
Some may question the validity of seeking out yet another Bad Religion album considering the sameness of material. Isn't having Recipe For Hate and The Gray Race in your collection sufficient? My response is the same as when people use the same argument towards Motorhead's Ace of Spades and Overkill or the Ramones Rocket To Russia and Too Tough To Die. Put up your hand up if you'd love to hear a new Motorhead or Ramones release. You're either a fan or you're not.
In this case, Age Of Unreason proves to be a good Bad Religion record, but not a great one. While the lighter fare proves to be memorable (refer 'Lose Your Head' and 'Candidate'), there isn't enough aggressive material laying the body blows that I crave. Sure, 'Old Regime', 'What Tomorrow Brings' and the title track gallop along briskly getting the blood pressure up, but there aren't enough moments here to raise it to a higher level. Sounds like too many tracks were written on acoustic guitar, rather than blasted out of an over-heated amp. Additionally, while the rhythm section is appropriately highlighted in the mix, the guitars are buried too low for these battle-hardened ears. That said, this is still a fun listen and a must-have for Bad Religion collectors. They just don't make bad records.
[7]
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Release date May 10/19 (Nuclear Blast)
Way back in 1985 when Seven Churches was released it was immediately obvious to those who worshiped at the altar of the loud that Possessed had created something new and exciting. The album had elements of thrash, but there was something heavier and more disturbing about this new sound which they labelled death metal (a year earlier on their debut EP). Seven Churches is an unquestioned stone-cold classic 10/10, still standing as not only the first death metal record, but also one of its best. However, the inadequately produced (by The Rods' Carl Canedy) Beyond The Gates was released the following year, not able to match the excellence of its predecessor. All was corrected in 1987 though when the band issued the immense The Eyes Of Horror EP which snapped peoples' attention back but quick. Then silence.
The band parted ways, most notably guitarist Larry Lalonde going on to form Primus, while bassist/vocalist Jeff Becerra was left paralyzed following a shooting. So here we are some 32 years later (!) with the first Possessed album in my greedy, trembling hands. Thoughts of 'I hope they can at least live up to Beyond The Gates' filling my mind, I pressed play.
First thought was relief ... they didn't fuck up, living up to the illustrious Possessed name/expectations. This sounds exactly like what you'd expect from a healthy version of the band in 2019. The guitars dart about adroitly, the drumming immense, while Becerra's sand-blasted throaty roar remains a unique weapon that only Possessed wields. Kudos to the band for the production job and to Peter Tagtgren for mixing duties (at Abyss Studios in Sweden).
After multiple listens, it becomes clear that this is not only a very good album, but a special one. Like their classic releases that preceded, Revelations of Oblivion doesn't have any weak spots. Track after track of high quality, high speed death affronts the ears over its 12-tracks proper (not including the instrumental intro and outros), making for an unrelenting 55-minutes of listening pleasure. Buy or die!
[8.5]
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Release date May 31/19 (Bandcamp)
I should probably start this off by noting that I don’t speak a lick of French. Which is relevant when listening to Montreal-based heavy metallers Thrash La Reine. From reading their bio I gain that the lyrics are inspired by punk topics, namely politics. While the lyrics might be punk and all in French, La Foi, La Loi, La Croix is in the international language of METAL!
The actual sonic signature of this band is hard to place, however, the opening track, ‘Pourchasser Le Dragon’ could very well be a Hammerfall song transcribed into French. The opening riff is killer, but it’s sort of the crux of my problem with this release. Nothing else on this album sounds like this song.
From track to track it sounds like they tried to do a different style and it doesn’t come across as cohesive at all. They do each style decently, but I would have liked to see them lean into one and gain a more refined sound. The album even ends with an out of place folk/power 9-minute epic. The closest they get to the ‘epic thrash’ sound they are going for is ‘Le Redempteur’, with aggressive vocals in a fast paced sonic storm set to the melody of power metal.
The problem once again: it’s just one song that sounds like that. The rest of the album is not very memorable, but there is a spark of something exciting in there that will definitely make me keep an eye out for another release. Until then, if you want some French NWOBHM there is always Sortilège instead.
(6)
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Release date March 29/19 (Magic Circle)
I'll come clean here, I'm a big fan of Manowar's early efforts. Battle Hymns through Sign of the Hammer all being high quality trad metal; pompous, but with enough hard-hitting material to carry the chest-beating bravado. Unfortunately, things went off the rails since then (35 years ago!), with only The Triumph Of Steel being a worthy addition to their discography. Sure, you can extract individual tracks from these later releases, but it's clear the band's best material is far behind them.
Which brings us to this new EP, its title leading me to believe that the self-proclaimed "Kings of Metal" were about to hang up their loin cloths, not surprising given the death of a long-time drummer (Scott Columbus) and the arrest of guitarist Karl Logan (on child pornography charges). A quick check at the band's website though and I discovered that no such plans are in place, leader/bassist/bringer-of-the-black-wind (heh, heh) Joey DeMaio only too happy to continue fighting under the flag of heavy metal. Hail and kill ... and all that, I guess.
Sharpening my writing sword for an expected slicing-and-dicing of this latest output, I hit play and am met with a symphonic instrumental opener, glorious and overwrought as expected (cue heavenly choirs and orchestral salutations) ... yet unexpectedly (and happily) short. 'Blood and Steel' follows, a mid-tempo thumper with catchy chorus that, while certainly familiar both musically and lyrically, works in getting the blood pumping.
Two epics close out the 20-minute EP, first being 'Sword of the Highlands' that starts out like something derived out of the Shire in Lord Of The Rings. Adams then does his spoken-word shtick for a bit before the track goes for the glory-in-death route. Yes, again, its derivative of past Manowar victories, but it works. I can see the European Manowarriors raising their banners in salute while the band plays this.
Last up is the surprising 'You Shall Die Before I Die' going about things slowly, hacking and slicing up its six minutes with lots of room for DeMaio to do tons of blubbering bass doodling (like something off of Into Glory Ride). Even more surprising, the bassist steps up to the mic and delivers a gurgling/mumbling vocal performance that sounds like an aging Shakespearean actor unwilling to accept that his voice is shot. However, yet again, it works.
So here I sit, somewhat disappointed that I'm not able to carve this to shreds. While mostly derivative in nature, it is well played and produced power metal, that is easily digestible. Perhaps this was a cunning decision by the band to introduce material slowly (two more EPs are to follow), allowing us mortals to more easily digest these sounds from Odin.
[7.5]
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