Author: Bryer Wharton

Dissension | Ancient Chaos | Self-Released

Ancient Chaos

Street: 11.04
Dissension = Deicide + Morbid Angel + Malevolent Creation

There’s quite a lot to respect and enjoy with Salt Lake City’s Dissension, who take a hefty influence from early-’90s death metal. One of its most enduring qualities is that—at least, in my opinion— it’s better than most of Deicide’s catalogue, more than half of Morbid Angel’s catalogue, as well as that of Malevolent Creation. Ancient Chaos sounds like it could have come straight from that golden era of death metal, just without the Scott Burns production sound, which is definitely nice. The production is beyond fantastic—each instrument is clear yet raw.

It’s outstanding in all ways, but a standout is the sound of the drumming from the masterful Alejandro Gomez, who is no stranger to extreme metal. The drum sound and clarity is one of the album’s biggest strengths. A lot of drummers today in extreme metal rely on drum triggers or just an overproduced sound that lacks that organic feel that is so necessary in creating metal. If an album’s produced tones don’t match the band’s live performances, it almost feels like what you hear on record is a giant cheat.

Ancient Chaos’ songs all have an aura of intense blasting, thrashing and even a bit of technical death metal. The influences of Dissension’s sound that Ancient Chaos displays doesn’t detract from it, as it doesn’t sound like a homage or retro album in the slightest. Tempo changes and a heavy dosage of riffs make Ancient Chaos a repeat-listening offender. The title track, with its riff march of death sounds, is a clear highlight. Dissension could be considered a rebirth of an underrated death/thrash band, Incendiant, who released one self-titled full-length. This reviewer/listener is glad to have the entity that was Incendiant back in a new form. Your time spent listening to anything is valuable, but Dissension offer your money back in one listen. –Bryer Wharton

Various Artists
City of Dis Compilation
City of Dis
Street: 11.11.14
City of Dis = Charles Bronson + Anal Cunt + Disfortune

This waste of magnetic tape is a bombardment of awful, ugly, crappy noise. It was probably recorded in somebody’s basement. Also, why are most of the bands named after a movie star or a character? Bill Murray would be so appalled that his name is being used for a band that sounds like a bag of hammers being thrown into a wood chipper, though Steve Buscemi might be flattered. Shit, I can really only pull the sarcasm so far—”shitty” as the bands that make up the City of Dis sound are, it’s some fanciful noise to be taken with a grain of salt. The fact is that the bands on City of Dis create violent noise for themselves over anything and do it on a budget of beer and Top Ramen. Much as one may think it’s silly, it’s something whose existence in SLC one should be glad about. –Bryer Wharton

Invincible Force
Satan Rebellion Metal
Dark Descent 
Street: 03.10
Invincible Force = Force of Darkness + Desaster + Messiah

Black thrash has become a formidable genre of metal over the years. This four-piece from Chile has some thrashy riff chops. That said, what makes a good chunk of the power of the black thrash genre is production. Satan Rebellion Metal is actually produced quite well—the low ends are low, and it sounds clean and crisp. Unfortunately, that style of production actually hurts the band’s debut-full length. There’s not much high end on the riffing. The genre has always meant to have a raw, grating, gritty style. Going back and listening to some demo and split material, the band’s sound is much more raw and effective than what is put forth here. The songs seem to fall flat and redundant, which is sad because without the focus on the lower end, there’s a really good record here. –Bryer Wharton 

Cannibal Corpse
A Skeletal Domain
Metal Blade
Street: 09.16
Cannibal Corpse = Malevolent Creation + Monstrosity + Deeds of Flesh

Well, this was a pleasing surprise! Arguably the flag bearers of all death metal, Cannibal Corpse are going to make fans old and new very happy with A Skeletal Domain. Admittedly, I kind of stopped caring about the CC after Bloodthirst, and that was 15 years ago. I listened to every album the band put out afterward and always found a few tracks I liked, but I never really listened to the albums. I have a feeling that this one is going to be playing on my stereo and in my head for a while. Erik Rutan did not produce the album (he did the last three). It’s a welcome change-up that brings a lot of the older elements of CC mixed with the new to the table. It has a bulky yet crisp, not overly blasting drum-click-track sound and a feeling of renewed interest in actually writing good death metal songs. With new songs like “Kill or Become” standing as strong as the classic “Hammer Smashed Face,” this Corpse is ready to crush once again. –Bryer Wharton

Savage Deity
Amulet of Sin
Street: 11.25.13
Savage Deity = Morbid Angel + Death + Mortem
Sub-genres of death metal, like slam and variances of brutal death metal, sound like a fat guy gurgling on feces. Fans of true death metal—playing straight up crunchy riffage, vocals you can still understand and a large emphasis on actually playing an instrument with ability stay true in the underground and Savage Deity, from Thailand of all places, have offered up an album of classic death metal satisfaction. Amulet of Sin has the properties to appease the folks who listen to death metal for the heavy feeling of it all, as well as the folks who like to dissect albums. Either from the super crunchy thrashed up riffs, to an unbelievably heavy bass sound, to drumming that, while suffering some production flaws, still sounds tasty. There is a completely and severely damn proper riff on “They Reign,” one of the best death metal songs I’ve heard in a while. –Bryer Wharton

Anal Blasphemy/Forbidden Eye
The Perverse Worship of Satanic Sins Split
Night in Terrors
Street: 02.28
Anal Blasphemy/Forbidden Eye = Beherit + Archgoat + Blasphemy

I’m not quite sure what the fascination is with metal bands starting their band names with that oh-so familiar, feces-producing body part—maybe just the fact that it’s dirty and sounds gross. Add the cover art to the gross/shock factor that features a mostly nude nun with “Satan” sprawled across her buxom chest. Is the music as shocking? Well, Anal Blasphemy are actually the veterans on this split. The Finnish black metal band doesn’t offer a lot that’s new under the sun, but their tunes are dark, polished and less ugly than one might have expected. Having the newcomer, Forbidden Eye, follow them on the split actually makes the anal blasphemers less gross sounding. Forbidden Eye offer the superior black metal here—gritty in tones, yet ugly in sound. It’s a semi-raw black metal sound, but it’s plentiful on the ugly side. If I wanted to seek a full-length from either band, it would be Forbidden Eye. –Bryer Wharton


The Living Magisterium
Deepsend Records
Street: 09.03
Emblazoned = Unleashed + Autopsy + Entombed

A little bit of old school goes a long way, and Emblazoned do a great job of mixing American death with the good old Swedish death. This Milwaukee based foursome have another EP release—as for which direction the dudes go from there, I’m not sure—considering the glorious “Metal-Archives” have Emblazoned labeled as a black metal band. Such is not the case with The Living Magisterium, but, contrary to popular belief, all’s fair in metal and death. The crispy-tuned guitars go from the tinny, harsh-old school Swedish sound to a bone-crunching riff festival of blood—I’m talking rivers of the red stuff. With just as much emphasis on the bass guitar—which at times seems like an afterthought in death metal—the knife strikes fly fast and hard, wounding any listener within the five tracks offered here (granted one of them is an intro-track). Emblazoned may not be the originators of sliced bread but it doesn’t matter because this is a tasty layered cake of death fucking metal. -Bryer Wharton

Stormlegion Reissue
Higher Power/MVD Audio
Street: 10.01
Kommandant = Conqueror + Sodom + Angelcorpse
Reviewing a re-issue always seems a bit odd no matter how old the release may be, kind of feeling like treading on an already commented territory. Chicago black metal outfit Kommandant’s debut full-length, released in 2008, was actually reissued previously in 2011, limited to 300 copies and on tape. The re-issue here is straight up—no bonus tracks and has all original art—basically a good way to snag an album that got a limited release previously. The tunes are black metal blazers with tinges of war metal themes, ditching the atmospheric and going for the blast-beat-ridden jugular. Chicago’s metal scene is owning a lot of genres right now, and this serves as a pick-it-up-if-you-didn’t-have-it-already release. –Bryer Wharton
Grand Magus – Sword Songs

Grand Magus
Sword Songs

Nuclear Blast
Street: 05.13
Grand Magus = Atlantean Kodex + Manowar + Visigoth

There are plenty of times when, since I write about music frequently, I feel that I’m at an advantage because I’m not familiar with a band’s previous work—or sometimes at a disadvantage. I definitely feel at a disadvantage with Sweden’s heavy metal powerhouse Grand Magus. Sword Songs, the band’s eighth studio album, doesn’t sound a lot like I remembered Grand Magus sounding when I caught a few tracks of theirs. Some of the material I heard had a doom metal style to it or just a classic heavy metal sound, but there was never anything as crunchy and riff mongering as Sword Songs.

The production is a big change, as it seems a bit cleared up, but the big difference from everything I remembered of Grand Magus is that this album comes out swinging more heavily than anything I had heard from the band before. “Freja’s Choice” is backed by a bombastic crunching riff. I should point out that none of this is bad at all. From start to finish, there is no boredom, no waiting or skipping to the next track. It’s all killer and catchy as hell. The title Sword Songs is appropriate here. It’s all battle and more victory than any defeat. Grand Magus channel listeners’ inner warriors to pump their fists, head-bang and do their best vocal impressions JB Christoffersson’s larger-than-life voice. Not to eat my previous words after the massively punching-riff-oriented first five tracks, the songs “Last One to Fall” and “Frost and Fire” feel like more familiar Grand Magus territory. Their tempos are a bit slower and more epic. The sweeping classic heavy metal songs prior fade into the even more subdued “Hugr,” the album’s chill track. The album ends with “Every Day there is a Battle to Fight,” a lift-your-head-up-high type of track—considering the battle-worthy album, it’s an appropriate end. It reminds listeners to fight through their pain and fight the good fight in the end, to not give up the battle of life. I have to admit, it sounds like a Manowar lyric (silly), but sometimes that can be a good thing, considering that “Manowar silly,” amid their legion of followers, can’t ever be a bad thing.

I give fair warning for followers of great heavy metal: Grand Magus’ album gets pretty damn addictive. Once it ends, I’ve compulsively felt the need to hit play on the first track and get to the metal again. If I ever had such an inkling before while listening to the small sampling of Grand Magus, I would have sought out at least one of the prior seven full-lengths and promptly purchased it. Back to that opening statement of the sort of half-and-half feeling I had for Grand Magus before this album: I can’t help but be glad my first helping from the band was Sword Songs. Despite my feeling at a disadvantage in reviewing this new album with regard to Grand Magus’ fans, I’m ready to go back and really listen to the older Grand Magus material just based on the glorious songwriting and skills shown here. –Bryer Wharton



With Doom We Come

Napalm Records
Street: 01.05
Summoning = Emyn Muil + Nazgul + Elffor

I admit that I am a Summoning novice. I have not fully explored the band’s discography, which is as epic and grandiose as the music that the band puts to tape. With Doom We Come is shoving me in that direction, however. 2017, for me, felt like a lackluster year with stalwarts treading water and with only a small handful of releases that pleased my growing old-man-cynic palate. Yes, while I’ve listened to this release quite a bit all in 2017, it’s still a 2018 release. The biggest point of comparison I have for Summoning with albums I’ve listened to extensively is 2006’s Oath Bound (mostly because I still have the promo sent to me almost 12 years ago). It’s a stunning showcase of how much an artist can stay rooted in what they became known for as well as change so much. It’s no wonder the Austrian band maintains and increases a loyal fanbase to almost a cult-like status. Their Tolkien-inspired music also appeases listeners and genre fans who don’t have much interest in the vast amount of Tolkien-inspired power metal acts. All said and done, here it seems a bit futile because I’m sure that diehard Summoning fans could put my descriptions to school.

With Doom We Come feels quite connected to its title, in Tolkien lore as well as the overall feeling of the album. The title could be a reference to the “Ents’ Marching Song,” a song that the Ents sing as they march to Isengard. As is almost a trademark of Summoning, there are plenty of key and orchestral moments. On past Summoning albums, the keys often felt lighter. On With Doom We Come, the keys feel darker—an overall feeling of darkness and an ominous feeling. The album’s tracks do not follow a specific theme or story, as they are all individually themed, lyrically. “Herumor” was a Black Númenórean from the fourth age, a Dunedain that came under the influence of Sauron. “Carcharoth” is a large werewolf from the first age.

There is an interesting juxtaposition of the listening experience you can have: It can be an easy listen—a sort of background music—or a hard listen, something to follow intently and to try to glean every nuance that Summoning have included. This duality of listening experiences is nothing new for Summoning. However you may choose to listen, easy or hard, With Doom We Come consistently evokes a theme of darkness in the music, partly due to quite low depths of the keys, guitars and vocals. The layers are immersive with plenty of multi-tracking—again, not a new thing for Summoning. The band’s multidimensional releases are easily why they have such a robust following and are leaders among artists instead of followers, and why there are a great deal of artists who imitate Summoning’s ethos and sound.

Tolkien’s world obviously contains a great deal of darkness. As with “Carcharoth” and “Herumor,” With Doom We Come feels without ultimate victory. There are tales of battle, such as “Night Fell Behind” that ends with the lyric “Our business is like men to fight, and hero-like to die!” “With Doom I Come” exclaims, “Death to light, to law, to love.” Summoning are storytellers with their lyrics but more so with the musical element. Listening to With Doom We Come significantly feels like the listener has experienced a grand story despite that the album is just over an hour’s length. While I get a weighted, dreadful feeling listening to this latest offering. That doesn’t mean that other listeners might feel something a bit different, because with each listen, I find a different rhythm or melody I didn’t find before. A story’s words may be more focused than its musical accompaniment, but it’s still open to different interpretations. Summoning’s music has always been built with layers, and this new output is nothing different, with many layers to discover and interpret. With Doom We Come is another exciting addition into the anthology of Summoning. –Bryer Wharton