Author: Bryer Wharton

Nuclear War Now!
Street: 12.15.14
Morbosidad = Bathory + Sepultura + Sodom

The four songs on this nice and vicious MLP release from Texas underground black/death metal heroes are balls-out, fantastic, need-to-hear ear-crushers. The band known for having some pretty gritty production tones actually took a bit of a cleaner approach with these songs, and it sounds amazing—even on an MP3 promo. The tones presented have that tinge that make vinyl hounds know this will sound even more amazing on that precious wax. The black metal side feels slightly toned down for Morbosidad—instead, the MLP reeks of the dark thrash chaos similar to the black metal bands in the equation with hints of death spewing. Add some of the Brazilian speed contingent, and you get the idea—only with renewed hate and even more glorious speed and gritty, tar-tainted riffing. There is a reason Morbosidad are underground heroes, and Tortura furthers that nail into the metal cross. –Bryer Wharton


Tree and Stone
Street: 04.15
Oxcross = USX + Clutch + Karma To Burn

Heavy and extremely loud rockers Oxcross bring forth the riffs. Those riffs flow like the springs and streams of the Wasatch Front, starting as trickles and turning into massive rivers. There’s a familiarity in the styles Oxcross throw down, but not so familiar to make them feel like a clone of something else. The record has an inspiring effect, at least for me, to listen to dozens of other bands that were stuffed in the nooks of my mind. It’s riff after riff, and they’re written with the utmost panache. The production is beyond superb, and listening to a digital version of the album feels intensely close to listening to vinyl. The rich sound in a digital package begs for a vinyl release. That could be a complete mind blow. –Bryer Wharton

Cemetery Fog
Towards the Gates
Iron Bonehead
Street: 08.01
Cemetery Fog = Paradise Lost (old) + Winter + My Dying Bride

This Finnish doom band made some waves with their rough and gritty 2013 cassette demo, Shadows from the Cemetery. With Towards the Gates EP being Cemetery Fog’s first official release, time will tell if the band takes off. There is a huge difference between the demo and this release. Though Towards the Gates takes a cleaner approach with more funeral doom elements, it’s a hell of a lot faster than most funeral doom. I appreciate the progression and getting something new out of listening to the EP. Melodies are explored further, adding a different type of atmosphere. “Embrace of the Darkness” is an excellent song with elements of everything the band has done with the new flair. Cemetery Fog may not offer something entirely new, but the depth of the EP is well worth the visit to the Cemetery. –Bryer Wharton

Patricidal Lust
20 Buck Spin
Street: 11.12.13
Vastum = Grave + Asphyx + Acephalix
So the riff slug-fest that was Vastum’s debut album now has a follow-up, Patricidal Lust, and it out-slugs the debut in proper death metal fashion. I’ve mentioned before that death metal is getting a weird reputation because of new bands mixing in stuff that doesn’t make sense just to be different, and that old bands that should just give up putting out lousy albums. Breathe in the putrid air of Vastum—it’s a bit newly putrid and just as properly old school putrid. The fact that the band doesn’t bust out of mid-pace tempo (though they get pretty close) gives Vastum an ultra gloomy feel. With riffs, however, that crunch bones like twigs (or roll over soft fatty flesh), like a deathly rolling pin the combo of gloom and heavy makes the new record a nice sensory mix of something to the extent of “Well, now we’ve made you depressed, so we will crush you!” Well I’ve got a crush on this, so take that Vastum. –Bryer Wharton
Street: 04.29
Annihilator = Megadeth + Death Angel + Anthrax
“Feast” is an appropriate title for this special edition release, and SLUG HQ was lucky enough to get a fancy copy of it. The digibook two CD and DVD package has the goods of the full-length, Feast, which follows in what Annihilator has been doing for the last decade. Best described as modern thrash, it’s something I highly applaud the band for doing instead of focusing on the past and trying to remain what the band was back in the ’80s. The Canadian crew moves forward with each release. Of course, there’s a massive amount of riffs from Jeff Waters—and with those riffs come some great soloing and guitar work. “No Way Out” makes itself a classic Annihilator cut. It’s all a shred fest minus the gooney ballad “Perfect Angel Eyes.” Disc two, Re-Kill, is a bunch of re-recorded cuts from Annihilator history that lack the personality of the original tracks, but there’s a nicety in the new versions and it plays out well as a bonus disc. Last but not least is a DVD of the band performance at Wacken 2013. So, literally, this is a “feast”—lots of audio and video to boot. Thrash on and annihilate. –Bryer Wharton

Nuclear Winter
Street: 09.06
Altars = Incantation + Blut Aus Nord + Teitanblood

There are albums I like to call a hard listen—meaning the musicality of it all isn’t easily comprehended at any point in time when you listen to it. Australia’s Altars follow leads like Portal’s weird atmospheres and the heavy guitar layering of Ulcerate, and most likely not even intentionally build on both of those elements. The Altars hit on two angles: The wall of sound bursting where there is basically no breathing room in between the music and spacier moments, almost as if Altars are airing out their gristle-caked teeth until the next beefy bite. Altars have managed to craft an album that scoffs at what death metal is expected to be. The trio grab you by your bottom lip, smack you in the face and then give you a pat on the back. The albums that resonate are the ones that give you something every time you hear them—add to that notion an album cover that could be hanging on a fancy museum’s wall (think Edvard Munch). The trilogy of songs “Paramnesia parts I-II” are possibly the best damn things I’ve heard in metal for a while. -Bryer Wharton

Descend Unto Gehenna
Slaughterhouse Records
Street: 10.31
Succubus = Kreator + Sodom + Bolt Thrower (old)
Short, but sickly sweet is the order of the day from this Malaysian death/thrash band. It’s fervent, and—seemingly with tantalizing ease—the band manages to capture the early ’80s of German thrash flavored with many more death sprinkles on top. Succubus take the chaotic approach of their slashing over grooves fixing on great—for a lack of a better term—“old school” qualities of the death metal and thrash genres, but do it without sounding like a hack or re-hash artists. The production job from JR Torina furthers the grasp that the music takes with that bit of an echo-like classic thrash vibe without sacrificing any volume or importance of any instrument played. The only real complaint here is that it’s too damn short—once your neck starts to get stiff from the unavoidable banging, the music’s over! –Bryer Wharton
Deathrite – Revelation of Chaos

Deathrite – Revelation of Chaos

Revelation of Chaos

Prosthetic Records
Street: 07.24
Deathrite = Benediction + Asphyx + Acephalix

Germany’s Deathrite, born in 2010, take on the tried-and-true style of D-beat-grinding death metal. For a band that is relatively new, it’s a hard task. There are a lot of bands doing this exact same style, and the question is: Who executes better? Revelation of Chaos starts out strong, especially with the heavy-ended, punchy tune “Determinate to Rot.” As the record churns, things start to get a bit stagnant and redundant. The production also has a bit of a hollow sound to it, which, for the long haul, can get a bit annoying. I hear influences of early Bolt Thrower and Dismember creeping their way into the D-beat sound. For any genre of metal, bands have to stand out and stand out hard—a mediocre album doesn’t cut it anymore. The best thing out of listening to the album is the sound-of-a-live-performance feeling, which tends to make one ponder if Deathrite sound about 50-percent better live.
–Bryer Wharton 

Rob Zombie – Electric Warlock

Rob Zombie
The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser

Street: 04.29
Rob Zombie = Kiss + Marilyn Manson + Alice Cooper

It seems like Rob Zombie is one of those artists who is either loved or hated even, when going back to his huge breakthrough with the Astrocreep 2000 album. Personally, I’m kind of a take-it-or-leave-it kind of guy. I like some of his Rob Zombie and White Zombie albums, but I also dislike a few. These days, I find myself enjoying his films more than his music. I thought that the much disdained Lords of Salem film is vastly underrated. I found it to be a great psychological horror and atmospheric work that was extremely well-done for the budget it had. Well, now we have Rob Zombie’s newest album output and another original film, 31, on the horizon.

Hellbilly Deluxe 2 and Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor Records played to the strengths that RZ pulled out on his debut solo album: hard rock/harder-edged metal with some synth elements and lyrical themes that take classic horror/sci-fi into a more pop realm. Electric Warlock seems like all the gusto and momentum RZ had going for him fell completely on its face, with even some diehard fans possibly wondering what Zombie was thinking for the new album musically and lyrically. Maybe there was a rush from the record label—because RZ’s records sell a lot. The songs are short, with a select few running close to the three-minute mark. Only the last track has a run length of over five minutes, and it’s mostly an atmospheric, zone-out song. The album feels like it’s over a few moments after you start listening to it.

Song length isn’t really the problem, though: You can have short songs and have them be completely catchy. The problem with Electric Warlock is that every song just feels like ideas and thoughts but never feel complete. Many of the riffs seem to repeat from song to song. Ironically, the catchiest song on the record, “Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO,” sees Zombie doing his best Cotton Eyed Joe vocal impression. It’s mostly catchy just because it’s annoying. When I listened to past Zombie albums, I’d always think to myself, “Damn, this song would be cool to see live,” because Zombie is renowned for his elaborate and highly visual shows. I can’t really say that RZ is known for creating crafty lyrics, because a lot of his most popular songs rely on massively repetitive choruses. But that’s always been RZ’s catch: to make those stick in your head like glue, choruses that translate to explosive and sing-along live shows. The lyrics for Electric Warlock are completely forgettable. The record and its songs are also highly populated with the atmospheric pop/creepy, obscure vocal samples that don’t really set any tone or mood—they just kind of exist, unlike the potent Charles Manson girl’s vocal sample from White Zombie‘s “Real Solution #9.”

To add to an already flawed album, the production tone for Electric Warlock’s guitars sounds weird compared to previous RZ albums. The tone comes out flat for the moments that are supposed to be heavy, which might be disappoint for RZ fans that expect that heavy punch. I’m just the critic here. Some folks may and could find enjoyment from the new album. A flawed album doesn’t mean that RZ musically is losing touch or any speculation of the sort. RZ has his fan-favorite records. He only plays one or two songs, if that, live from his Sinister Urge and Educated Horses records. Luckily for RZ, a bad album really won’t translate to poor concert ticket sales, because people for the spectacle. Even with a new record to promote a live show, he will only have to play at least two new songs. [USANA, 07.20] –Bryer Wharton

In Times 
Nuclear Blast
Street: 03.10 
Enslaved = Emperor + Borknagar + Windir 
This is the next step in the constant evolution of the black-gone-Viking-gone-progressive metal dudes. In Times is similar to Enslaved’s 2012 album RIITIIR but nowhere near the same. I keep coming back for helpings of In Times. It’s one of those albums that, no matter how many times I listen to it, I keep finding new, little and fantastic nuances. In Times is about progression and songwriting maybe more than any Enslaved album to date. The tempo and momentum changes make the almost hour-long album go by in the blink of an eye. The transition from melodic and calm styles then to fast black metal riffing make the album-listening experience unlike many records that wear thin after a few listens. Although Enslaved were born in the ’90s Norwegian black metal era, they’re a great example of the idea of moving far past those so-called “glory days.” Time only improves Enslaved metallic dominance. (Bar Deluxe: 03.13) –Bryer Wharton