Peccatum - Lost In Reverie

Peccatum
Lost in Reverie

The End Records

Norway’s Peccatum are back four years after their last album, Amor Fati, with Lost In Reverie. This album was written and performed by Ihsahn (Emperor) and Ihriel (Star Of Ash), with guest musicians providing additional drums, percussion and vocals on some of the tracks. This album covers everything from stark, single instrument passages to full-on black metal production. In between, the band reveals the experimental flair they’ve developed since their last album. Track 1, “Desolate Ever After,” begins with a minimalist, string-section intro. The track continues with light female singing, then hits with a barrage of dissonant noise, male vocals and distorted guitars. Track 1 distills the entire album down to its essence in the way it represents all of the tracks moving from heavy dissonance to stark ambiance. Track 2, “In The Bodiless Heart,” starts off with acoustic guitar, female vocals and a striking bass line, serving as an introduction to the band’s more experimental side. Track 3, “Parasite My Heart,” is the first real reminder of this band’s past ties with extreme black metal. There are four other tracks on the album, all equally good. This is a great album in both performance and production. I was mesmerized from beginning to end.

 

This review originally appeared in Written in Blood, August 2004, Issue 188. 

The Lamb Of God Ashes Of The Wake 1

The Lamb Of God
Ashes Of The Wake

EPIC

The Lamb of God precision attack is honed and ready to destroy everything in its …wake. Ashes Of The Wake is the latest from L.O.G., and like its predecessor, As The Palaces Burn (2003), Ashes… is comfortably situated as one of the best albums of the year. Ashes Of The Wake also serves as the band’s major-label debut on Epic Records. While the overall vibe of this release is on track with what they’ve done in the past, the technical playing and ever-increasingly complex song arrangements have elevated this album well beyond anything they’ve done in the past. The band attributes their “always progress” mentality to their early years, when they were known as Burn The Priest in Richmond, Va. According to bass player John Campbell, the scene in the Richmond area produced so many good bands that if you didn’t continually get better, you were sure to get blown off the stage. To this day, Lamb of God still adheres to their rigid practice schedule by rehearsing five times a week.

The band’s highly rhythmic writing style takes center stage once again on Ashes Of The Wake. This release is equal parts traditional thrash metal mixed with today’s progressive death metal. Their music also contains a distinct melodic component. Layering, mostly in the guitar department, has an increased role this time around. Just about every song features dissonant harmonies or the guitarists playing two completely different parts on opposite channels. The band chose “Machine” from The Machine Shop to produce the album. Although their choice was a departure from the pool of traditional metal producers, the result of the choice is absolute perfection. The album retains a very heavy edge while at the same time attaining a near-transparent quality. The sound is crystal clear; you can feel the heaviness but still hear every component of the music.

Ashes Of The Wake includes a demo version video for the song “Laid To Rest.” In my opinion, it’s everything a video should be—nothing but mics, mixers, headphones, guitars and drums. I’ll take a video done in the studio over the usual contrived situational video any day. In an odd twist, as it turns out, the title track of the album is an instrumental. Like fuzzy-faced diamonds in the rough, guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler finally prove they are more than competent guitar soloists—now if we could just get them to play even more solos! Along for the ride during the instrumental is former Testament guitar god Alex Skolnick (currently with the Alex Skolnick Trio) for a guest spot. An equally deity-worthy performance is contributed by former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland (currently with OHM). Simply stated—I couldn’t possibly be more into the music of Ashes Of The Wake.

This review originally appeared in Written in Blood, December 2004, Issue 192.

Crisis_Like Sheep Led To Slaughter

Crisis
Like Sheep Led To Slaughter

The End Records

It’s been seven years since the last album from Crisis. They’ve just released their latest, Like Sheep Led To Slaughter, and I’m struggling to hear something new from this band. Despite a new drummer and the addition of a second guitarist, this still sounds pretty much like the first two releases (Deathshead Extermination and The Hollowing). In a rare instance of research on my part, I re-listened to the first two albums, along with Like Sheep … Besides getting a gutful of this band that will surely last a lifetime, I came to the conclusion that the three albums are, for the most part, interchangeable. Even with the new drummer, the drumming fits the same earthy, free-form, rhythmic patterns as before. The guitars, fresh blood and all, don’t have anything new to offer. Other than the occasional “solo-ette,” these guys rarely ever touch anything other than the lowest three strings on their guitars. About the only variation I hear from song to song and album to album is Karyn Crisis’ vocals. I’ve never really been into her vocals in the past, but after my most recent Crisis force-feeding, they’ve sort of grown on me. Her cackles and squeals edge on the bizarre, but those attributes, coupled with her very intense and brutal death delivery, result in Karyn being one of the more compelling female vocalists in death metal. Musically, Like Sheep… falls a bit short. There are some good dark, plodding musical moments that explode into fury, but then there are other parts that are just plain boring. They branch out a little with a sitar intro to track 4, “Nomad,” but how unusual is the sitar anymore? I’ll bet you could find a sitar somewhere on an NSYNC album. This is decent, but I expected more from this release.

 

This review originally appeared in Written in Blood, August 2004, Issue 188. 

Lovelorn  Leaves’ Eyes

Leaves’ Eyes
Lovelorn

Napalm Records

Theatre Of Tragedy vocalist Liv Kristine Espenaes is backed by the band Atrocity for the formation and debut of Leaves’ Eyes, Lovelorn. Alex Krull, vocalist for Atrocity (and Liv’s husband), also makes a vocal appearance on a few of the tracks. This release sounds pretty much like what you would imagine from this sort of partnership; female vocals over gothic, ambient metal. Exclude some of the operatic vocals and some of the more pop/rock hooks and you have an Enya being backed by a metal band sort of sound. I actually like the quieter moments of this release more than the metal parts. The heavily distorted guitars seem to clash with the vocals. I could do without Alex’s death vocals too – they sound out of place. Over-all, this isn’t bad. In addition to performing as the band Leaves’ Eyes, Atrocity is releasing their latest effort, titled Atlantis. This release is the long awaited follow-up to 2000’s Gemini. Atlantis is huge in scale; the runtime alone is nearing 56 minutes. They pack a ton into those 56 minutes too; this album is all over the place. I don’t know a lot about this band, but from what I’ve heard of Atrocity, Atlantis seems to be a mixture of everything they’ve been in the past. While Atrocity started out as more of a straight-forward death band in the early ‘90s, the late ‘90s found them branching out by experimenting with electronic/darkwave to create ethereal soundscapes. Atlantis is very aggressive in parts, hinting almost to the point of extreme. Other areas of this release feature more of a flowery, ambient sound. The vocals are in-line with the music, hard-hitting death vocals are inter-laced with cleanly sung passages and operatic choruses. This is good. I’m not completely into it, but it is worthy of a second listen.

 

This review originally appeared in Written In Blood, January 2005, Issue 193.

Jungle Rot_Fueled By Hate

Jungle Rot
Fueled By Hate

Century Media

Jungle Rot is back with their third full-length release, Fueled By Hate. Is it really three different albums, or is it the same album released three different times? I mean, seriously, these guys pull off a decent mid-tempo death tune, but isn’t there anything else to warrant a third full-length release? Jungle Rot must be surviving on a massive (albeit brainless) following. The guys in this band are obviously of limited ability. That’s fine every now and then, but the simplicity gets boring. This band sticks to what they can do and what they’ve gotten away with doing for so long. If you buy Fueled By Hate and hear two songs, consider yourself briefed on the entire release, then spend the rest of the 30-minute playing time pissed that you bought it in the first place.

 

This review originally appeared in Written in Blood, August 2004, Issue 188. 

Slayer  Still Reigning

Slayer
DVD Still Reigning

American

Slayer has been putting out records for 21 years now. In that time they’ve released eight studio albums of original music, including a little gem named Reign In Blood (1986). I’m sure in the last 18 years they’ve tried to put Reign In Blood to bed, but that’s a monster that will never sleep. In an attempt to appease the old Slayer loyalists, the band has released the DVD Still Reigning. The DVD was filmed in Augusta, Maine on July 11th. The entire Reign In Blood album was performed during the second half of their most recent tour, but a little cutting and pasting has the album’s performance front and center as soon as you hit “play”. Other songs from the evening’s performance make the DVD, including: “War Ensemble”, “Hallowed Point”, “Necrophiliac”, “Mandatory Suicide”, “Spill The Blood” and “South Of Heaven”. “Slayer In Their Own Words” is a special feature on the Still Reigning DVD; it’s a compilation of interviews with the band and fans.

 

If I have one complaint about this release, and I do, it’s the same complaint I have of about every live DVD or video release – too many damn camera angles. There’s someone responsible for directing the cameras that is getting paid. There’s someone else that gets paid to edit all of the camera angles. If they don’t keep camera views changing, zooming in and out, etc, then they don’t have a job. It’s just too much in my opinion, and ruins the continuity of what is happening on the stage. I guess besides earning their keep, the DVD editors realize that the band is getting up there in age and isn’t exactly as active on stage as they once were. I guess the editors feel their snappy camera work and clever editing will make up for it. Tom Araya (bass/vocals) still works the crowd with his hair spinning around like an airplane propeller – the guy looks as though he still has every strand of hair that he was born with. As for the guitarists, well, they’re getting a little portly. I have $5 that says Kerry King would have trouble touching his knees, let alone his toes (and no, I would not say that to his face…). I’ve got to give them credit though, they still sound as good as ever. Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman have always been better song writers than skilled, technical guitar players, but they are truly at the top of their game on this DVD performance. How Kerry gets those fat little sausages he calls fingers moving at the speed he does is a wonder of nature (Again, I’ll keep my comments to myself if ever in Kerry’s presence).

 

This is a good DVD presentation of Slayer. It’s even better when you consider the price is less than $15.

 

This review originally appeared in Written In Blood, January 2005, Issue 193.

Buried In Oblivion  Into Eternity

Into Eternity
Buried In Oblivion

Century Media

Canada’s Into Eternity redefine and set new boundaries for progressive metal with their release, Buried In Oblivion. Layered vocals with a European flair are mixed with a very aggressive, almost death approach. The two styles work well together. Musically, this band plays with the same melodic/heavy mix as the vocals. The pace of this album just never quits. I waited for the album to drag at some point, but to my amazement, it kept rolling with an undeniable intensity from one song to another. Chris Krall was brought into the band as lead vocalist for the writing and recording of Buried In Oblivion. The vocals are equally as complex as the music, with all five members contributing to the vocal tracks. The results of the multiple vocal inputs are clean singing, rich harmonies and a variety of death vocal sounds.

 

Musically, founding members Tim Roth (guitar) and Jim Austin (drums) are joined by Rob Dohery (guitar) and Scott Krall (drums), all sounding as if they’ve been performing together for decades. While the music features heaviness that would rival some of the more extreme bands out there, at other times, such as the title track, the band uses nothing but acoustic guitars and a string section. The variety in the music isn’t a hard transition—the band moves from one approach to another with seamless perfection.

 

One of the strongest metal albums of the year to date is The Forsaken’s third release, Traces Of The Past. This band has taken the somewhat over-worked Swedish metal formula to the next level with an inventive mix of aggression and technical ability. While the obvious At The Gates, The Haunted and The Crown comparisons hold some amount of water, The Forsaken’s infusion of their brand of melodic guitar harmony definitely sets them apart from their Swedish counterparts. While the guitarists use Traces Of The Past as their personal riff dumping ground, the music never sounds too busy or disjointed. Their very creative thrash/death style of play keeps the release moving along at a nice clip, while their less-than-subtle duel guitar grooves hold everything together. Awesome solos too!

 

The U.S. version of Traces Of The Past includes two Metallica covers (“Blackened” and “Creeping Death”), Slayer’s “Spirit In Black”, and Grave’s “You’ll Never See”. The U.S. version also includes the previously unreleased track “Project : The New Breed 666″.

 

This review originally appeared in Written in Blood, September 2004, Issue 189. 

Leaders Not Followers Part 2 Napalm Death

Napalm Death
Leaders Not Followers: Part 2

Century Media

Leaders Not Followers: Part 2 is Napalm Death’s follow-up, believe it or not, to their 2000 release Leaders Not Followers. The originator of the series was a five song ep, six songs if you include the cleverly “hidden” Dead Kennedys song “Nazi Punks…”. Hidden tracks are cool, but what I love are the maddening pricks that put a 2 or 3 second blurb at the end of 13 minutes of silence. You end up holding down the fast forward button, wondering to yourself, “When it will end?” Your anticipation ripens just as you fast forward right through the non-track. You then try to stifle the urge to kill as your CD player softly laughs at you with mechanical whirs and spins as it takes you back to the beginning of track one. It’s never happened to me…, but I’ve heard about it.

 

Leaders Not Followers: Part 2 is 19 cover songs. If you’ve ever wanted to know which bands influenced Napalm Death, then have at it. Napalm definitely puts their stink on these covers, but stays true to the spirit of the original recordings. Everything from ‘80s punk and hardcore to early ‘90s metal is covered on this release. I must admit, a good percentage of the song selection is new to me. Apparently, my head was lodged way too far up the ass of Iron Maiden and Metallicaback in the ‘80s to be familiar with the music from bands such as The Offenders, Anti Climax, Discharge, Siege andDie Kreuzen. The exception comes by the way of Hellhammer’s “Messiah”, Kreator’s “Riot Of Violence” and Sepultura’s “Troops Of Doom”. A live video for Cryptic Slaughter’s “Lowlife” was added to the release.

 

The one thing I want to know is where is second guitarist Jesse Pintado? He’s not listed on the cover, nor does he appear on the live video. I tried to find out at the official Napalm Death forum, but posts like “Who’s your favorite member of the band?” quickly discouraged my efforts.

 
This review originally appeared in Written In Blood, January 2005, Issue 193.

beyond the Embrace Insect Song

Beyond The Embrace
Insect Song

Metal Blade

It’s so strange to hear rock music anymore. Metal, for the most part, has moved far into the extreme, while rock music has moved far into the corporate, “MTV” world. Beyond the Embrace’s album Insect Song is a rock/metal hybrid, although they are much more metal than they are rock. The singer brings the rock element with a gruff, bluesy style of singing, while the music is pretty much planted in a classic metal sound, merging classic metal harmonies (Iron Maiden definitely comes to mind) with a more Swedish inspired approach. The singing and music, at times, meet in the middle with sort of a metalcore feel. I wish the guitarists would do more three-part harmony stuff and utilize all three guitarists. I’m sure having three guitarists works well live, but I think they should have used three distinct guitar parts more during the recording of Insect Song. Overall this is pretty good. My interest waned a few times throughout the album, but for the most part, this isn’t bad.

 

This review originally appeared in Written in Blood, September 2004, Issue 189. 

Yourcodenameis:Milo - All Roads To Fault E.P.

YOURCODENAMEIS:MILO
ALL ROADS TO FAULT E.P.

Beggars Banquet

You can now officially add My Bloody Valentine to the list of over-used (and more often than not misused) stack of vernacular that lazy journalists are spewing out these days in an attempt at teasing the world into believing that soon we’ll stop waiting for Kevin Shields to quit teasing with collaborations and soundtracks because we’ll have (insert band name here). Oh well, such is the risk you run when you actually read the press sheets. Despite the initial disappointment, it must be said that ycni:m have in fact taken the same formula that the last The Used seemed to be stretching for… only The Used failed and ycni:m didn’t. Where The Used sold their black soul for a more accessible sugar-punk radio sound, losing most of their venom in the process, ycni:m aim for the trophy of British Fugazi (no, they aren’t that good yet): let the pretense lay, the music should speak for itself. Does it work? I suppose so. I did after all listen to the whole thing a few times over even though I was, and forever will be, reminded that I’m still waiting for that Kevin Shields album.
This review originally appeared in Glitter Gutter Trash, February 2005, Issue 194.