Napalm Flesh: Exclusive Metal Reviews

Posted May 24, 2012 in
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Welcome to this week's edition of Napalm Flesh! We have exclusive reviews of new albums from The Agonist, Outcast, Psuedogod, Six Feet Under, West of Hell and Witchtrap, reissues from Church of Misery and Wormed, and a live CD/DVD from Terror. And, as always, we have your rundown of this week's metal events in Salt Lake and beyond.

Event Listings
compiled by Bryer Wharton

Friday, May 25 check out A Balance of Power at 5 Monkeys (21+) with Riksha and Stillborn. $5 gets you in music around 8 p.m.

Also on Friday, Southern Lord's crusty hardcore upstarts Heartless return to Salt Lake with labelmates Dead in The Dirt at Raunch Records. Locals INVDRS and Oxcross open up the show, which kicks off at 7 PM and is free, but donations for the touring acts are strongly encouraged.

Sunday, May 27, check out thrashers Toxic Holocaust at Kilby Court with Midnight. Advance tickets are $12, $14 day of the show, music starts around 7 p.m.

Exclusive Reviews

The Agonist
Century Media
Street: 06.05
The Agonist = In This Moment + Arch Enemy
I was initially surprised by how much I enjoyed the sound of The Agonist. Alissa White-Gluz has an impressive range, moreso than many of her competing contemporaries, with both clean and screaming vocals. Musically, Prisoners is a striking sound the first few run-throughs, but loses a bit of its power on replays due to its standard songwriting techniques. There’s nothing necessarily lacking on the album, but likewise there is not much that is terribly memorable. The band is talented at using their instruments, but every aspect—tone, fretwork, drum patterns—is generic, though I do love the melodies they write, which do a lot to complement the vocals. If the rest of the band could step up and match the range and creativity of the vocalist, we’d really have something to write home about. –Megan Kennedy

Church of Misery
Master of Brutality (Reissue)
Rise Above Records
Street: 02.28
Church of Misery = Electric Wizard + Sleep
This reissue of 2001’s Master of Brutality is a comprehensive study in dirty, heavy blues riffing. Yoshiaki Negishi’s vocals sound like he gargles gravel and razor blades in the morning and washes it down with a bottle of 100-proof whiskey, while both Tatsu Mikami and Tomohiro Nishimura play their instruments through the oldest, dustiest blown-out amplifiers this side of Pentagram. This re-release includes two bonus tracks from their 2002 EP, The Boston Strangler, and a live recording of “Lucifer Rising” taken from Blood Curdling Nightmare. These songs greatly complement the tracks on Master of Brutality, continuing the slow, ominous march through scenes of psychotic killers with doom riffs and screeching vocals. Church of Misery are far more than a mere Black Sabbath wannabe band; they carry along that lost tradition of grimy, basement-born rock and roll. –Henry Glasheen

Church of Misery
The Second Coming (Reissue)
Rise Above Records
Street: 02.28
Church of Misery = Orange Goblin + Black Sabbath
Representing a giant leap forward in both songwriting and recording quality from Master of Brutality, 2004’s Second Coming gets heads banging right away with one of the grooviest riffs ever to issue forth from the almighty guitar. This album revels in its rock and roll swagger from start to finish, and though their serial killer subject matter is hardly what you’d consider light-hearted, there’s a remarkably free-spirited sound to their music on this record. Yet, the lugubrious pace of Master of Brutality echoes on in tracks like “Red Ripper Blues” and “Candy Man.” This re-release on Rise Above Records also includes “For Mad Men Only,” a May Blitz cover lifted from their second 2006 split with Sourvein, and it’s one hell of a song. Hearing this nigh-forgotten single from 1971 alongside the other tracks on The Second Coming demonstrates this band’s dedication to the ‘70s proto-metal sound, and solidifies their place in the pantheon of modern stoner doom godhood. –Henry Glasheen

Awaken the Reason
Listenable Records
Street: 04.04
Outcast = Meshuggah vox + Dillinger Escape Plan – cohesion
There’s too much going on during this record. Vocally, the monotone scream is more distracting than complimentary to the music. There are so many attempted styles blended into the sound that I can’t tell what the band was trying to accomplish. The only consistency is that everything is fast and heavy, which is not to say it is memorable. There is no overarching theme or style to the music. It feels as if the band itself is uncomfortable with the type of sound they want to build. My personal favorite track is “Awaken the Reason Part IV: When Dawn Brings Clarity,” heartbreaking with its piano interlude that is soon accompanied by haunting sound effects and far-away strings; the darkness in the melody reminds me of similar interlude tracks from Heaven Shall Burn’s album “Antigone.” But the moment is a lonely island in a sea of mediocre, confused and discordant songwriting. –Megan Kennedy

Deathwomb Catechesis
Hells Headbangers
Street: 05.22
Pseudogod = Conqueror + Beherit + Burial Hordes + Revenge
This debut offering from Russia’s Pseudogod plays out as a hit and miss album, thankfully with more hits than misses. The songwriting could be balked at as re-hashing, but I think the band was aiming for an overall vibe and a record meant to be listened to as a whole. The record would work perfectly in vinyl format, as the first half and second half have different momentums. Overall, the beginning part of the album is more dreadful and ominous with the second half being a bit more face melting. At the core, there are swirling, wave-like, slower tremolo riffs propelling the momentum of the tracks, then layered in the back, scattered among each song are additional riffs, giving the record an atmospheric effect at times. There are also full on brutal moments—“Azazel” is an appropriately nasty bit, and a little more than halfway through “Encarnacion Del Mal,” the speed is about as fast as it gets on this down-tempo blackened death metal record. The whole thing has an echo-like, tinny sound coming off as raucous and dirty with that core guitar at the root, standing out from the fuzz of the rest of the instruments. The vocal performance is a strong and ethereal death tone, constantly sending dreadful reverb throughout the tracks. Pseudogod reminds me a bit of a more subdued Conqueror with the nasty, grimy production of early Beherit. If you prefer your metal dark and dirty, Deathwomb Catchesis will be a worthy addition to your collection. –Bryer Wharton

Six Feet Under
Metal Blade
Street: 05.22
Six Feet Under = Obituary + Bolt Thrower - what made these bands awesome and smothered in Jungle Rot
There's a few universal truths in metal, and one of 'em is that fans with the remotest trace of intelligence (not necessarily brain surgeons, just those who possess multiple brain cells to rub together) despise Six Feet Under. Be it their tuneless neanderthal staccato, that they're Soundscan's fourth best selling death metal band of all time, that it's Nu-metal under the guise of "brootality" (Death lite? More like Death dumb!) or that against all odds Chris Barnes somehow managed to find something dopier than Cannibal Corpse to front, but for my money it's that the band's "bare bones" approach has never been "back to basics" as much as "mind-bendingly boring." Also, let's not discount the moronic embarassments into which these knuckle-scrapers have sidestepped over the years (Death n' roll? Graveyard Classics?, "4:20?", a feud with Seth Putnam?), which is why a new lineup, comprised of Rob Arnold (Chimaira) and some other regs, might be the necessary blast of freshness they've lacked since trodding anon in mediocrity from the beginning. Does it though? The complicated answer is "sort of." "Formaldehyde" has a chop or two, "The Depths of Depravity" swings and "Blood on my Hands" injects some layered riffing into the formula, but by and large Undead hopelessly wallows in staid sunshine state generica, grating, groaning and painfully indistinguishable ("Molest Dead"? "Vampire Apocalypse"?). Barnes’ lyrics have never amounted to more than a boner yuk, so tasteful engineering might be the album's saving grace, as his vocals are shoved lower in the muck, less primed to spoil the listening experience. Dry production mutes the intensity and ultimately Undead is left like a vaccum sealed turd, chalky and withered by time, leaving only the stalest and most vile elements intact (much like their fanbase). A new lineup is a tenuous step in the right-ish direction, but not enough to save the album from itself. Low expectations are essential for this one. –Dylan Chadwick

No Regrets, No Shame: The Bridge Nine Days CD/DVD
Bridge Nine
Street: 04.24
Terror = Madball + Buried Alive (duh)
No matter what happens, how embarassing their fanbase grows (fat kids in flat brims) and how "You're Caught" is basically the "She F*ckin' Hatez Me" of hardcore, there will always be Terror's first album to keep me somewhat on board. Lowest of the Low was a revelation of sorts, equal parts heavy mosh on account of Scott Vogel (Buried Alive, Despair) and not a single throwaway riff per Todd Jones (Carry On, Nails). This release aims to showcase that nascent era (2002-03) with a live collection of only Lowest era songs and an accompanying DVD. Immediately, I'm struck by the distinct lack of "Vogelisms" on the live songs, which was a disappointment (if you know, you know). The sound's not great, and had I not listened to the source material so much in high school, it'd probably just sound like someone feeding a Buick through a woodchipper. Still, for existing fans of the band, it's a worthwhile hunk of history (Vogel's opening "Stagedives!" brought a grin to my face). DVD footage (Showcase Theater in Corona and a music vid for "Push it Away") is solid, black and white with a nice editing job, but it would've been nice to see a little more into the DVD (interviews? oral history?) but I shouldn't complain. It's hardly essential, but a decent supplement for fans of that band and era of hardcore. –Dylan Chadwick

West of Hell
Spiral Empire
Reversed Records
Street: 05.08
West of Hell = Sinate + Zimmers Hole + Dream Evil
West of Hell combines the forward-thinking creativity of new wave thrash metal with the anthemic charisma of classic heavy metal, and for the most part, it sounds great. Chris “The Heathen” Valago’s dynamic vocal range shifts seamlessly between harsh, throaty screams and Rob Halford-style falsetto wails, while Ivan Verdoljak and Sean Parkinson play heavy, technical riffs. Yet, somewhere around track five (“Unworthy”), the album starts losing steam. Lengthy songs invite repetition, and many of the band’s mid-tempo riffs tend to outstay their welcome. West of Hell clearly demonstrates that they have plenty of ideas about how to shake up the traditional thrash metal formula, but an occasional lack of variety inhibits them from fully breaking free from predictability. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with embracing your influences, and this band does so whole-heartedly. –Henry Glasheen

Vengeance is My Name
Hells Headbangers
Street: 05.22
Witchtrap = Kreator + Holy Moses + Sodom + Destruction
I really wanted to like this record—at times I sincerely did. With repeated listening experiences, the droll and ultimate rehash factor (aside from one song, “Queen of Hell”), the album ended up as more of an irritant than something I want to go back to. As much as I hate the term, Witchtrap are retro-thrash with emphasis on the retro—more in the realm of German thrash with its black metal tinges, especially in the vocal department. If I want to listen to stuff like Kreator, early Holy Moses, Sodom, or Destruction, I'll just bust out their records instead of listening a band that is obviously worshiping all that German goodness. Most of the songs on Vengeance is My Name wind up sounding like the next, and the scratchy vocals mixed with higher-tuned riffing sound grates at my ear holes. It's sad—one really good song can't save a redundant record. –Bryer Wharton

PlanisphÆrium (Reissue)
Street: 06.05
Wormed = Dying Fetus + Vomit Remnants + Gorevent
Viva España! There's a reason this record from almost a decade back is getting a second re-issue. The obvious reason is the fact that it's really good—less obvious is the fact that many copycats pulled influence directly from this record. PlanisphÆrium was initially dished out from the fairly nefarious Japanese label Macabre Mementos Records—the very same label that released the now notorious Vomit Remnants (often noted as the originators of Slam Death Metal) as well as badassery from Gorevent and Terminally Aborted Your Ghost. In other words, the shit that label released has spawned in the modern age brutality has got to be numbered in the thousands. This re-issue sees the band’s only full-length and their first demos put together. Wormed have an uncanny knack for gruesomely busting out what some would consider slam—I'd relate it more to a brain exploding effect—by way of not just straightforward, heavy breakdowns, but breakdowns with drum pummelings. If you don't have this record in some physical format this is a great time to snag it. Willowtip is backing the band, and they released a single in 2010 that's an indicator of what could come. All in all, this is brutal death metal fan’s paradise, despite the death metal frog vocals. –Bryer Wharton