YOB examine true self on ‘Atma’

I find it both funny and fitting that the day after the world’s doom metal pioneers Black Sabbath were heavily rumored to be reuniting in their original form to record a new record that we have for discussion the latest album from who arguably are today’s finest representatives of the genre.

But while Sabbath’s reunion is bound to be underwhelming and disappointing – let’s face it, how can it not be? – the latest effort from the mighty YOB is anything but that. Ever since the Oregon-based band reunited and delivered the earth-battering 2009 effort “The Great Cessation” (my personal favorite album of that year and from the band in general), they’ve been on fire. Their live shows have leveled audiences, they seem to have achieved a spiritual elevation, and their creative output have them on a path to be remembered as one of this era’s best metal bands, period. Regardless of genre.

“Atma” is YOB’s latest, their sixth overall effort and second for Profound Lore. Their gargantuan, relentlessly heavy doom also pays some homage to death metal, drone and post-metal, and unlike most of the other bands that comprise their genre, their lyrical content is not flooded with blood, guts, cemeteries, ghouls, and skulls. Instead, the band’s visionary Mike Scheidt chooses to look inward and explore his mind and soul. As it is, the term atma is one used by Hindus and Buddhists, among others, meaning the summation of and highest sense of self. Very basically, each period of your life, you’re a completely different person, even though you lived as the same physical being. As you grow, your experiences change you, and you’re certainly not the same you were four years ago, for example. I’d argue I’m nowhere near the same person as I was in February. But all of those periods of your life make up your overall being, how you came to be who you are, your ultimate self. It’s an incredibly heady, inspiring concept that certainly could leave you talking to others or yourself all night about what it all means. YOB explore that and more on “Atma,” and chances are you could put 10 listeners in a room with the record and 24 hours, and each would come away feeling and absorbing differently. That’s the mark of something special, a piece of work that’ll change in your heart as you grow. It’s timeless.

As for the music, “Atma” is like the summation of all of YOB’s parts. It’s certainly not “The Great Cessation 2,” and it really bears no strong resemblance to any of the band’s earlier records. But taking it as a whole, you can hear little pieces of their history, tricks they picked up over the years that became a great part of the overall YOB machine and helped make this record what it is. Another thing that’s different is Scheidt barely registers a growl on this thing, as he mainly reaches for that high-nasal, early Ozzy Osbourne style of delivery. Sometimes he’s as grounded as he’s ever been, such as his whispery, gravelly clean vocals near the end of closer “Adrift in the Ocean,” a song that kicks off with Katatonia-like gothic doom beauty, gets muddied up, and then turns into a fiery, expressive piece of guitar poetry.

“Before We Dreamed of Two” gets off to a bit of a trippy start, and eventually it finds its way into deep, suffocating pockets of drone and noise. It’s my favorite track on the record and the one that sounds the blackest, almost like Sunn 0))) could have been a slight influence. The title cut is calculated and plodding, with sequences that are just total demolition, with Scheidt’s most savage vocal work on the record, and during the song’s middle point, a narration gives you a clear, concise description of the atma concept. “Prepare the Ground” is as close as we get to grasping death and destruction (though in no way is it explicitly just about that), as Scheidt directs the preparation of “the burial mound,” but at times the lyrics get a little clunky. “Upon the Sight of the Other Shore” is the only piece on here I’m having trouble embracing. Musically, it’s just fine, as Scheidt, bassist Aaron Reiseberg, and drummer Travis Foster (as well as guest Scott Kelly of Nuerosis) are in perfect alignment, but something about the vocal delivery rubs me wrong. They sound a little strained and don’t feel terribly natural to me, which is an odd thing for a band that normally is so organically creative. But those are small bumps in the road, really, is doesn’t detract from the overall quality of this album.

I’m sure this will be argued, but to me, YOB are doom’s best hope for being this era’s band that transcends generations. I easily could see their records being passed down 10, 20, 30 years into the future as our time’s finest example of what makes this style of music so great. YOB are a sign of hope in a gigantic sea of mediocre metal, a declaration that maybe you can do things differently, say things other artists aren’t and refuse to put a lid on your sound while maintaining every ounce of your credibility and power. “Atma” is yet another document proving all of these theories true. Personally, I like “The Great Cessation” more, but that’s neither here nor there. They’ve grown from that record and aren’t the same band or individuals they were at that time. “Atma” is what YOB are now, in this moment, and it will pave the way for what they do next. It’s a part of their overall DNA, and it’s pretty damn good at that.

One final note: The amazing cover art was painted by Stevie Floyd of Dark Castle. Those two bands just wrapped a North American tour together, and they’ll be hitting Europe in September. Those dates are below.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/yobdoom

To buy “Atma,” go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com//index.php?option=com_ezcatalog&task=detail&id=773&Itemid=99999999

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

YOB/Dark Castle Euro tour dates:

09/16, Tilburg, NL (Incubate Festival)
09/17, Bielefeld, DE @ AJZ
09/18, Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen
09/19, Stockholm, SE @ Kagelbanan
09/20, Oslo, NO @ Betong
09/21, Gothenburg, SE @ Sticky Fingers
09/22, Arhus, DK @ Musikcafeen
09/23, Hamburg, DE @ Hafenklang
09/24, Berlin, DE @ Lovelite
09/25, Prague, CZ @ Klub 007
09/26, Stuttgart, DE @ Club Schocken
09/27, Vienna, AT @ Arena
09/28, Munich, DE @ Feierwerk
09/29, Milan, IT @ Lo-Fi
10/01, Dornbirn, AT @ Transmitter Festival
10/02, Lausanne, CH @Le Romandie
10/04, Barcelona, ES @ Be Cool
10/05, Madrid, ES @ Ritmo & Compas
10/06, Porto, PT @ Hard Club
10/07, San Sebastian, ES @ Mogambo
10/09, Paris, FR @ Les Combustibles
10/10, London, UK @ Purple Turtle
10/11, Leeds, UK @ The Well
10/12, Edinburgh, SCO @ Bannermans
10/13, Manchester, UK @ Star & Garter
10/14, Bristol, UK @ The Croft
10/15, Hasselt, BE @ Muziekodroom

Bloodthirsty Wolvhammer may have a killer on their hands

Now and again, a record pops in out of nowhere and blows you away. That’s become less and less common because of how damn much music is out there to consume, and as a music critic who gets bombarded with new albums (many of which I never even get to hear), finding one of those breakthrough efforts is harder to accomplish. So you tend to remember those gems.

One of those that leveled me last year was the first full-length from Minneapolis black metal/hardcore/crust sludgers Wolvhammer called “Black Marketeers of World War III,” released by Init Records. Not only did the album name stick out as both foreboding and darkly sarcastic, but the band name stood out as well. That’s not easy to do when part of your moniker has something to do with wolves, because there have been so many of those over the years.  But Wolvhammer? That sounds like something my dog would want when he’s in hot pursuit of the cat. In an interview with Decibel last year, the band described the awesomeness of wolves and their adoration for Hellhammer as what’s behind their name. Nothing pretentious or ridiculous. Just an honest, awesome, pure heavy metal name. Same with the band.

The band is getting ready to release their sophomore effort and first for Profound Lore on Oct. 25. The new platter is called “The Obsidian Plains,” and if you’re wondering how that smoldering bastard is going to sound, you can get a sample by visiting the link below. The label released “Writhe,” the first track from the record, and if you were into “Black Marketeers,” you’ll probably be pretty psyched when you hear this thing. This record sounds like it’s going to be a beast, and we still have two months to wait before it drops. Patience is a virtue. It also is not something I practice well.

To hear “Writhe,” go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/mp3/WOLVHAMMER_Writhe.mp3

If this is the first you’re reading about Wolvhammer, or if you just want a taste of their earlier work, you can grab their first two EPs “Rich With Bloodfuel” and “Dawn of the 4th” for free from the band. That link’s below for your downloading pleasure. We’ll certainly have more about “The Obsidian Plains” in the future, especially once we get our hands (even if those hands are digital) on the thing. So, please do stop back.

To download the EPs, go here: http://www.wolvhammer.blogspot.com/

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/Wolvhammer?sk=info

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

FTF invite you to ‘Die Miserable’

One of the records I’m most exciting hearing about this year is the new one from Canadian grinders Fuck the Facts. I feel like I’ve been hearing about “Die Miserable” for 14 years now, but I assume that’s the anticipation and isn’t grounded in fact. The assertion we base things on fact here at Meat Mead Metal would be one of folly.

But this afternoon comes news that the band’s ninth full-length finally will hit the shelves Oct. 11 via Relapse Records, who put out their last two efforts “Stigmata High Five” and “Disgorge Mexico” (that eventually got movie treatment by way of filmmaker David Hall). It’s not as if the band has been silent since putting out “Disgorge Mexico” in 2008, as they’ve toured relentlessly and even put out a handful of smaller efforts, including “The Wreaking” and “Unnamed” EPs, a “St. Jean Baptiste 2010” live piece, as well as a nine-track “Live at Whitby” document.  Along the way, they also celebrated their 10th anniversary and that, too, sparked another tour from these road warriors.

There’s no preorder info yet from the label, but likely that’ll be coming pretty shortly, as they already have the Brutal Truth stuff up, and that’s not out until Sept. 27. You can keep checking the Relapse shop link below if you’re an obsessive freak. Also below are, yes, more tour dates from these sleep-deprived, well-traveled, hard-working  maulers. Catch them if you can (or, basically, if you’re in the Maritimes).

Track list for “Die Miserable” is:

1. Drift

2. Cold Hearted

3. Lifeless

4. Census Blank

5. Alone

6. Die Miserable

7. A Coward’s Existence

8. 95

Here are the band’s current tour dates:

Aug. 15 – New York, NY @ Public Assembly++
Aug. 18 – Rimouski, QC @ Cactus Show Bar+
Aug. 19 – Moncton, NB @ Manhattan+
Aug. 20 – Halifax, NS @ Gus’ Pub+
Aug. 21 – Charlottetown, PEI @ Baba’s Lounge+
Aug. 22 – Fredericton, NB @ Capital Complex+
Aug. 23 – Edmundston, NB @ GPS Bar+
Aug. 24 – North Bay, ON @ Granite Club
Aug. 25 – Sudbury, ON @ Jubilee Hall
Aug. 26 – Toronto, ON @ Hardluck Bar
Aug. 27 – Port Burwell, ON @ Southern Ontario Metal Fest

++ w/ From Ashes Rise
+ w/ Misery Index

For more on the band go here: http://www.facebook.com/FuckTheFacts

To visit the band’s shop, go here: http://fuckthefacts.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://relapse.com/

For the label’s web shop, go here: http://relapse.com/store/new_releases.aspx?Subset=2

The Cleansing would be at home in the death metal swamps

The Cleansing (photo by Pia Ry)

There’s something about death metal band The Cleansing that seems a little swampy. No, they don’t use mouth harps or banjos or sing about alligators. Instead they sound like they would have been right at home alongside the Floridian death metal uprising of the early ’90s alongside Death, Obituary, Malevolent Creation and even Atheist.

But the band’s a relatively new one, and they hail from Denmark rather than the Sunshine State, but their model is very rooted in the classic sounds of two decades ago, and where those death pioneers went after their initial births. There is a bit of a Euro death feel as well (I can sense some Vader and Behemoth in spots), but those times are not quite as prevalent. They’re releasing their second effort “Feeding the Inevitable” on Deepsend (we talked about that label’s reissue efforts last week), and for those who like their metal honest, straightforward, a little ugly, and sometimes brainy, giving this band a listen might do those listeners some good. This isn’t that slicked-up death metal we’ve come to know the last half-decade or so, but it also isn’t terribly lo-fi or grimy, like it came from someone’s basement. It’s a pretty damn good sounding record, pulverizing, lurching, and a meat-and-potatoes brand of death. That meat’s raw, by the way. Be careful consuming undercooked flesh.

“Feeding the Inevitable” is the follow-up to the band’s debut record “Poisoned Legacy,” that dropped in 2009, and one noticeable difference is that guttural voice you hear on these tracks. That’s the voice of singer Toke Eld (formerly of Usipian) who takes the place of Martin Rosendahl, who also handled bass duties and now is out of the group. Now, this is where it gets weird. Eld was a member of The Cleansing from its formation, but he wasn’t able to record vocals for the debut, so Rosendahl did them. That wasn’t a problem this time, and his deep, throaty  growl is all over this thing. He isn’t the most dynamic or unique frontman in the world, but he does just fine for what this band does. I don’t think anyone will listen to The Cleansing for only one aspect of their music anyway, as it all blends together and works as well-oiled parts to a larger machine, so Eld does the trick just fine.

The guitar work is pretty interesting, and you can hear some prog in their progressions, which is where the Atheist and even Cynic comparisons enter the picture. “Third Eye Staring,” “Hour of Decadence,” and “Law of Reciprocity” all have headier, trickier guitar parts and loopy solos courtesy of ax men Jeppe Hasseriis and Andreas Lynge (both formerly of Usipian, like Eld). These are the types of songs that’ll have the musicians in their audience all excited because of the inventiveness and atmosphere Hasseriis and Lynge’s playing injects into the songs. Even a track like “Processed for Contamination,” which is pretty mid-tempo and a real change of pace for an otherwise devastating, speedy record, really benefits from everyone thinking outside the box and trying on new, more airy and cleaner tones. It still has a heaviness to it, and it also is the eeriest cut on this whole record. Personally, it’s my favorite track on here and one that shows their open mindedness.

But if you’re more interested in simply being blistered, this record has that, too. “The Promethean Promise,” “Your Flesh, Your Curse,” and the smashing closer “Crossroads,” which sounds like modern industry being crushed under the weight of imminent Armageddon, should satisfy your craving for barbarianism and classic, old school death metal. But even though these cuts show their more primitive side, there’s still a great deal of thought put into these tracks, so you can tell they’re not swinging away without thinking about their target’s weak spots.

I’m not sure “Feeding the Inevitable” is going to be a touchstone death metal release for 2011, but no one’s saying it has to be. It’s a solid slab of true death that’ll get your fists pounding on the table, but it’ll never make you feel like a meathead in the process. Don’t underestimate that. As much death metal as I hear doing what I do, more often than not I feel dumber when a record’s over. This one always left a good taste in my mouth – raw meat! – and kept me coming back for more. For me, that’s all I really ask as a listener. Give me a reason to return, and The Cleansing have done just that.

For more on the band, go here: http://thecleansing.net/

To buy “Feeding the Inevitable,” go here: http://www.deepsend.com/?page=1

For more on the label, go here: http://www.deepsend.com/?page=5&id=1799

Something old, something new: Nihilist, Craft

Nihilist. And their hair.

Southern Lord’s been doing a lot of crusty, hardcore-related releases lately, and true to the label’s form, they’ve been pretty damn worthy additions. Heard those Greek bashers Sarabante yet? You should, because like the other bands in their underground release series, they’re damn good. They also have the new one coming up from Balaclava called “Crimes of Faith,” a follow-up to their excellent “Shame” effort that came out on Forcefield, and the debut full-length by supergroup All Pigs Must Die.

But the label hasn’t abandoned metal by any means, and now we’re looking at a couple of exciting new releases, one of which will give listeners a proper history lesson (and listen), while the other will scare the living hell out of you. This is one of the many reasons we write about Southern Lord so often, because their stuff rarely steers you wrong, they add depth to your understanding and experiences in metal and, quite frankly, we just really like the label. Always have.

First up, and the one I’m personally most excited about, is “Carnal Leftovers,” a complete collection of Nihilist recordings that many people probably have only heard about but not actually had a chance to experience for themselves. The band eventually paved the way for the formation of legendary death metal band Entombed, and Nihilist’s bass player Johnny Hedlund went on to form one of the most important Viking metal bands of all time in Unleashed. So this is pretty vital stuff to have at your disposal, and there are only 2,000 copies of this thing being made, so you want to leap on this as quickly as you can.

The collection includes all of Nihilist’s demos – 1988’s “Premature Autopsy” and 1989’s “Only Shreds Remain” and “Drowned” – as well as a bonus 7-inch of the first Entombed demo. That’s a pretty damn thorough document, and if you’re a fan of these Stockholm-based bands, this will seriously fill out your record pile. The package comes as an attractive double gatefold album, with a mounted 7-inch pocket, and the liner notes contain words from members of bands such as Autopsy, Asphyx, Arch Enemy, At the Gates and Dismember. The package will run you $20 plus shipping (and having ordered from them in the past, they do an incredible job ensuring the thing will reach you safe and sound), and the label expects they won’t have copies of this for very long.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.threeman.net/

To buy “Carnal Leftovers,” go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php

We tried to find a non-middle-finger photo of Craft. We failed.

If the state of the world’s economy (especially the one here in the States) isn’t enough to put a chill in your blood, there’s always black metal cult Craft to get the job done. They made a huge impact with their last album, 2005’s “Fuck the Universe,” and their latest record “Void” just saw the light of day on Carnal Records. If you live in the U.S., you can only get the thing on import, unless you can wait until Sept.27 when Southern Lord gives the record a proper North American release. As terrifying as some of the music SL’s put out in the past, this is a true contender for their most devastating, horrific band.

The Swedish band started out as Nocta in the mid-1990s, but eventually they morphed into Craft and released their first demo “Total Eclipse” in 1999. But an eclipse apparently wasn’t going far enough into the darkness, as they dubbed their first full-length “Total Soul Rape,” and followed that up two years later with “Terror Propaganda.” “Fuck the Universe,” also released domestically by Southern Lord, really what seemed to make Craft’s mark on the metal world, and after a six-year layoff, they’ll conjure their magic once again. The band’s sound is filthy and violent, and as fear-inducing as their music can be, you’d be hard pressed to deny it also isn’t impossibly catchy in spots. I say that especially regarding the limited clips I’ve heard of the new material. The record is not available for pre-order as of yet, although when it is, we’ll be sure to let you know. Or you can frequent the link we gave you for the Nihilist release, and eventually it’ll be there in the store in all of its hellish glory.

Track listing for “Void” is:

1. Intro (John’s Nightmare)

2. Serpent Soul

3. Come Resonance Of Doom

4. The Ground Surrenders

5. Succumb To Sin

6. Leaving The Corporal Shade

7. Want To Commit Murder

8. Bring On The Clouds

9. Void

For more on the band (and to hear cuts from “Void”), go here: http://www.facebook.com/craftblackmetal

For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/

Diamond Plate, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Vale of Pnath say, ‘Hello, consumer’

Diamond Plate

I’m trying to save money for vacation, something I’m pretty terrible at doing. Yet, here I am, as a chance to get away approaches, and I find that I have to pull back on my record-buying just to be certain. I thought I went to school and got a job to make sure I would have money for silly expenses such as these (and, um, for bills and groceries), but alas, I must wait.

But you’re not coming with me, so who’s to say you can’t go spend a little bit of cash? Go nuts! If the state of this country gets any worse, we won’t have a currency system soon, so do it while you can. This isn’t a great day for new releases, but there are some worthy ones you might find interesting. I’ve got three in mind for you in case you can’t wait for next week’s mammoth releases (YOB! Moab! Today’s the Day! Totimoshi!) and need something to tide yourself over another seven days. Not that you should write these off as stop-gap buys, because they’re not that at all. Sometimes you just want to buy, right?

What were you doing in your teenage years? Finishing school? Trying to figure out what field offered you the best chance at future security? If so, are you feeling stupid about that now? I know I am. But for the members of Chicago thrash band Diamond Plate, they’re making music, damn capable stuff at that, and at times it’s easy to lose track of just how young these guys are. I know every time I think of a young band striking out on their own and making records at such a young age, I think of stuff like Black Tide, a group that never really was any good but got a ton of publicity because of their age. Diamond Pate also can play, and while I’ve yet to see them live, the talk is the stage is where they’re most dangerous. Their age is just an oh-by-the-way factoid.

Their first full-length “Generation Why?” is a well-played, meaty, satisfying record that, while certainly not perfect, is worth checking out. They’re also in the right spot with Earache, as the label has been the home to other thrash revivalists such as Municipal Waste, Bonded By Blood, and Evile, so they won’t be steered into the wrong places. This also isn’t the band’s first barbecue, as they already have two EPs and a split contribution to their resume, so they’re quite seasoned for being such young fellows. Guitarists Konrad Kupiec and Mario Cianci certainly don’t come off like wet-behind-the-ears rookies as they can flat out shred, and frontman/bassist Jon Macak sounds as if he could front a gore-minded death metal band just as capably as he does Diamond Plate. One small complaint is his shrieky approach can wear on you after time, and he doesn’t have a ton of emotional diversity to his voice quite yet. But that all can come in time, and they do an impressive enough job on “Pull the Trigger,” “Tomb With a View,” “Casualty of War,” instrumental “More Than Words” and classic Exodus-flavored “At the Mountains of Madness” to help you see their enormous potential.

For more on the band, go here: http://diamondplateband.com/HOME/HOME.html

To buy “Generation Why?” go here: http://earache.com/uswebstore/index.php/cPath/667_669_739

For more on the label, go here: http://www.earache.com

Fleshgod Apocalypse

We’ll move onto Italian symphonic-operatic extreme metal band Fleshgod Apocalypse and their second full-length record “Agony.” Yeah, when I say operatic and symphonic, this isn’t Nightwish or something like that. Sorry if you got that mental image or something. This is the band’s first effort for Nuclear Blast after spending time with Willowtip (they put out the band’s debut “Oracle” and follow-up EP “Mafia”). In fact, if you’re a fan of the band’s first two offerings, you won’t be disappointed with this one either. It’s dramatic, over-the-top, insane, heavy as hell, and a devastating dose of sonic lava that should please fans of techy, terrifying death metal.

I’m not going to go into too much detail here because I have a review assigned to me by Lambgoat, and that’s due pretty soon. Rest assured, I’ll post a link to that review on this site once it’s live, like I do with all my other Lambgoat stuff. I know. You’re relieved. But the record is a strong one, and considering they have a larger label at their disposal, their profile should rise even further. Another thing that should help them out is their current jaunt on the Summer Slaughter Tour alongside bands such as The Black Dahlia Murder, Darkest Hour, Six Feet Under, Dying Fetus, Whitechapel and … ugh, Powerglove. The carnival runs through Aug. 21, so you still have a chance to see the band in a live setting to see if they can recreate the insanity of their studio efforts. Remaining tour dates are:

Aug. 10 – Montreal, QC – Olympia

Aug. 11 – New York, NY – Irving Plaza

Aug. 12 – Worcester, MA – The Palladium

Aug. 13 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre Of Living Arts

Aug. 14 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom

Aug. 16 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade

Aug. 17 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution

Aug. 19 – Houston, TX – House Of Blues

Aug. 20 – San Antonio, TX – Backstage Live

Aug. 21 – Dallas, TX – House Of Blues

For more on the band, go here: http://www.fleshgodapocalypse.com/

To buy “Agony,” go here: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/Search/flesh_god_apocalypse

For more on the label, go here: http://www.nuclearblastusa.com

Vale of Pnath

Speaking of Willowtip, you always can expect the Pittsburgh-based (Zelienople, to be more accurate) label to scrape the underground for new bands you may not be aware of yet but who ultimately have insane chops and ferocious hunger. I’d go out on a limb and say Willowtip’s roster may be the most talented in metal from a musician standpoint. When you hear their bands, you never think they have all bark and no bite, and their latest signing Vale of Pnath is no exception. Their debut record “The Prodigal Empire” arrives today, and if gory, grindy, excellently played death is your style, you might want to give this Denver-based band a shot.

Grabbing their name from Lovecraft lore and leveling their audience with interesting, creative hammering, the band follows up its 2008 self-titled, self-released first EP with a nine-song effort that wastes no time making an impact. Their soupy, loopy guitar tricks, brain-bashing drumming, fluid lead play and growly vocals all prove how capable and dexterous this band is, and people who like to geek out to technique probably will have a ball picking this apart. I really got into black metal-flavored “Borne Extinction,” bludgeoning “Brain Butchers” and “Sightless” (reminded me a lot of really early Darkest Hour) above everything else on this effort. One complaint I have about the record is the songwriting isn’t the most unique, and they could use some time self-reflecting and self-analyzing to find ways to stand out from what’s become a pretty loaded sub-genre. They sure sound like they have the ability to do so, and this debut is a noteworthy piece of work that sounds like a solid first step toward greater things. This band is one I’ll follow into the future with great curiosity to see how they shape-shift on future albums.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/ValeOfPnathCO?sk=info

To buy “The Prodigal Empire,” go here: http://www.willowtip.com/releases/details/vale-of-pnath-the-prodigal-empire.aspx

For more on the label, go here: http://www.willowtip.com/

Pirate beers and Lake of Blood

Every Saturday morning, I drive up to the convenience store that’s up the hill from our house to buy newspapers. I am going to make a fantastic elderly person one day. Anyway, there was a group of kids standing outside, all about 14 or 15 years old, and while most of them were wearing reprehensible T-shirts from bands I won’t mention, one kid was decked out in an Exhumed shirt. I was so proud. I wanted to give him $100. But I kept the money for myself.

But that’s not why we’re here today for a rare Saturday update. Instead, it’s because I’ve been lax on providing stories about beer, so I figured I’d do something about that. See, last night I had the opportunity to have a wonderful bottle of Dogfish Head’s Squall IPA, sold in a neat-o champagne bottle (which you can see in the photo to your left) and emblazoned with an old ship on the side. Good pirate beer, I guess, which was fitting because I planned to watch the Pirates snap their seven-game losing streak while enjoying this brew, but the San Diego Padres ruined that shit. Jerks. Luckily the beer is fantastic and took some of the bite out of another disappointing loss.

Typically, I like darker beers and tend to shy away from lighter ones, but I make an exception when it comes to Squall. The potent beverage (9 percent ABV) has quite a hops presence, which you’d expect from an IPA, but it’s not overwhelming. I’m not exactly a hops lover either, but instead of it dominating the taste, it instead blends with the fruity, caramel undertones and makes for a pretty refreshing experience. We ate my world famous ham BBQ last night, and it went pretty well with the spicy sandwiches. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work together, as I didn’t think this through beforehand, but it was fine by me. I followed this with a Sam Adams Wee Heavy, and as much as I like that beer, I found I’d rather have had more Squall. So that’s a win for this beverage. I hope to have a little more soon when I visit the Dogfish Head restaurant and brewery in Rehoboth Beach. That won’t be the only thing I drink there either. My wife is so pumped.

For more on Squall IPA, go here: http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/occassional-rarities/squall-ipa.htm

To read a review of the beverage, go here: http://beeradvocate.com/beer/profile/10099/49838

There, of course, also was some metal floating around last night. I gave another listen to the new Wolves in the Throne Room album, and while I don’t want to get into any detail about it yet, I do think it’s a major step up from “Black Cascade.” I also went digging a little deeper to find out more about Lake of Blood, an atmospheric black metal band out of Los Angeles that reminds me of Wolves as well as Agalloch. Their new record “As Time and Tide Erodes Stone” (forgive them their grammatical error … we’re all prone) sounds like something that would be right at home on Bindrune Recordings. The two-track album came out in March on Human Jigsaw, and it’s a really rich journey, with dramatic black metal dressed with folkish acoustic dashes and skull-drubbing drumming that often feels like a relentless rain shower slamming down upon you. The album is available on their Bandcamp page as a pay-what-you-want offering, and that link can be found below. It’s rainy and miserable here today, and this band seems perfect for that type of weather. Check them out, and have a splendid weekend.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/lakeovblood

To grab the album on their Bandcamp site, go here: http://lakeovblood.bandcamp.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.humanjigsaw.com/

Record resurrection Pt. 2: Deepsend reissues Gorguts, Coffins, Sigh

With reissues being the theme of the week, we have another trio of refurbished albums out on the market by way of Deepsend, and if you’re psyched about all things death metal (um, and some black metal), you’ll probably be pretty stoked by their offerings.

Deepsend isn’t solely in the reissue game, mind you. They also have impressive bands putting out brand new stuff, including the upcoming effort “Feeding the Inevitable” from The Cleansing, that we’ll be taking a look at really soon, as well as the new killer from Spectral Mortuary called “Total Depravity.” They have a really brutal roster, and it isn’t packed with bands that are interested in clean sounds, pristine production, and color spreads in magazines. They do it raw and ugly, and it makes Deepsend a reliable place for those who like genuine death metal. But today we’re going to look at some of the music they are reintroducing to the marketplace, all from bands you probably know about. But don’t hesitate to see what else this label has to offer, because if you’re looking to buy these three albums, you’ll probably like their newer artists who maybe haven’t reached your headspace yet.

For more on the label, go here: http://www.deepsend.com/?page=1

Gorguts

Getting “From Wisdom to Hate” by Gorguts back out in circulation is a pretty shrewd move, and it should help both Deepsend and the band in spades. See, Canadian death legends Gorguts have reformed and are working on a new record that’s expected to drop later this year or next on Century Media. But this new incarnation of the band should please fans and music tech geeks alike, as longtime leader Luc Lemay has added guitar wizard Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia) and bass monster Colin Martson (Krallice, Dysrhythmia, Behold … the Arctopus), so you probably can imagine how ridiculous that’s going to sound (the early clips prove this true, by the way).

Not that Gorguts haven’t always leaned way into technicality, because clearly they always have, but their 2001 album “From Wisdom the Hate,” the last full-length Lemay’s band put out, was a bit of a mix between a more streamlined sound of their earlier work and the batshit insanity of 1998’s “Obscura,” a Gorguts classic. There was some hand wringing over that at the time, but a decade later, especially after death metal’s been completely oversaturated and, as a result, significantly watered down, this thing sounds like a breath of fresh air. The craziness is there, and while it may not be quite as dominant as the record that preceded it, the guys didn’t back off using their wealth of skills. It’s airy, melodic, but always beastly and crushing. My guess is it won’t sound a thing like their upcoming record, simply because of the radically realigned lineup, but who cares? I’ve always been a guy who never really liked super techy death metal because too often it feels like all science and no emotion, but “From Wisdom to Hate” never falls into that trap. That’s probably why I always embraced this record and still do to this day. Glad it’s back in circulation.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.gorguts.com/

To buy “From Wisdom to Hate,” go here: http://www.deepsend.com/?page=5&id=1175

 

Coffins

I always have had a soft spot in my heart for Japanese death scoundrels Coffins. First of all, what a simplistic yet amazingly fitting name. If you were in a record store where everything was thrown together, with no genre designations, and you really wanted to hear some death metal, you’d know you’d be getting it by seeing the name Coffins. How could anyone mistake that for anything else? Plus, their album covers always are morbidly creepy, and there’s never any doubt, just by looking at their record artwork, that you’re in for a night in the graveyard. The fact that they don’t speak English yet growl all of their lyrics in that tongue is nothing short of precious. This is pure, old-school death through and through, and it’s a total blast to hear. It’s ideal for a night of sitting with friends, getting devastated, and testing the limits of your home stereo system. Love it.

You get all you can handle of this band on their brand new “Ancient Torture,” a two-disc collection of their compilation tracks, vinyl-only cuts, as well as contributions to assorted split efforts alongside bands such as XXX Maniak, Lobotomized, The Arm and the Sword of a Bastard God, Cianide, Skullhog, and more. Plus, there’s sweet artwork by Mike and Mark Riddick, who you can always depend on drumming something up that’ll look awesome on a T-shirt. If you’re new to Coffins, expect burly, sooty, gritty, doomy, punishing death metal that pulls no punches and has no interest in sounding polished. This stuff reminds me of when I spent Sunday afternoons in high school trying to tune in the local college stations for their death metal matinees. Also, look for a nice scattering of cover songs on here whose original creators – Cathedral, Carnage, Asphyx, Pungent Stench, Goatlord, Venom – should be mighty proud to hear reinterpreted. Heavy, heavy shit.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.coffins.jp/

To buy “Ancient Torture,” go here: http://www.deepsend.com/?page=5&id=1541

 

Sigh

I’ll be totally honest: I have zero interest in the current goings on with Japanese experimental black metal band Sigh. I’ve essentially disliked their last few albums, and they’ve gone so beyond what I find interesting that I don’t really care what they do next. I might not even listen to their next album. Why bother? But I didn’t always feel this way about the band, and their debut record “Scorn Defeat” remains in my collection to this day (I bought the reissue Enucleation put out a few years ago). Too bad I’m now going to have to shell out money for the new double-disc treatment it’s getting, but there are bigger problems in the world.

In 1993, when this record was released, Sigh was a trio and didn’t have quite the oddness and skronkiness they do now (though there always was something a little bit different about the band). This record initially was released by Deathlike Silence, the one run by deceased Mayhem leader Euronymous, and when it surfaced, the world was really just beginning to understand the depths and power of black metal. The three who recorded this album – Satoshi Fujinami, Mirai Kawashima, and Shinichi Ishikawa – actually remain in the band to this day, but things have changed so much that what you hear on “Scorn Defeat” and what they committed on 2010’s “Scenes From Hell” bear zero resemblance. This collection contains the same production Enucleation released a few years ago (with artwork by the Riddicks), but attached is a second disc of material that contains cover songs (Venom and Mayhem) as well as demo and rough mix versions of other songs. I never get much out of demo cuts beyond an initial listen or two to see how things changed in the end, but I know some people eat up this stuff. It’s certainly worth your time both to hear how incredibly awesome this band was at one point and to get a taste of black metal’s second wave that didn’t come from Nordic minds.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sigh/103130959727847

To buy “Scorn Defeat,” go here: http://www.deepsend.com/?page=5&id=1862

 

Decapitated can’t be stopped on ‘Carnival’

Polish death metal band Decapitated is lucky to be intact. Actually, scratch that. We as listeners are lucky to have Decapitated in existence, offering up a crushing new tech masterpiece that’s deliriously good.

This band seemed headed down the right track when they signed on with Nuclear Blast a few years ago following their 2006 album “Organic Hallucinosis,” released by Earache, but tragedy struck afterward when they were involved in a traffic accident in October 2007 near Russia. That incident claimed the life of the band’s drummer Witold “Vitek” Kieltyka and severely wounded singer Adrian “Covan” Kowanek, leaving guitarist Waclaw “Vogg” Kieltyka not only dealing with Decapitated’s future but, more importantly, coping with the loss of his brother. Vogg took time away from performing, then started working in a music store before fellow Poles Vader asked him to fill in on guitar for their tour. Eventually, he started thinking about his own band again and whether a resurrection was possible and proper.

Vogg assembled a new lineup for the group’s comeback record “Carnival Is Forever,” and the results are stunning. Their fifth album is a punishing, mind-blowing tour-de-force that not only does the band’s reputation well, but also serves as a proper salute to Vitek. Surely Vogg’s heart will always hurt, as he lost a sibling and a musical partner he played with since they Kieltykas were young. But he should be proud of this triumph of a record that should catapult the band into the upper echelon of Nuclear Blast’s roster and the massive death metal heap.

Below, find a link to my review of “Carnival Is Forever” at Lambgoat’s site. Typically I ignore the comments there (unless, of course, it’s constructive criticism, which I always welcome) but a few questioned the number I assigned to this album. I will say that I kept going back and forth from 8 to 9, and eventually I settled on an 8. People who think it deserves higher, I don’t disagree with them, really. In fact, since I submitted the review, I think I’m leaning more toward a 9. But that’s the state of music reviews. You write something so you can give people a glimpse of a piece of work as close to the release date as possible, but albums typically grow or fade over time. That’s the nature of it. And I listened to this record many, many times before writing the piece. So a few weeks ago, I felt it was an 8, but now, I can see where a 9 would be fitting as well. So there you go.

To read my review at Lambgoat, go here: http://www.lambgoat.com/albums/view.aspx?id=2937&band=Decapitated&review=Carnival%20Is%20Forever

The band also will be hitting North America for a tour in support of “Carnival Is Forever,” and those dates can be found below. Also on the bill are Decrepit Birth, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Rings of Saturn, and The Haarp Machine.

09/30/11  Montage Music Hall – Rochester, NY

10/01/11  Kingdom – Richmond, VA

10/02/11  The Acheron – Atlanta, GA

10/03/11  State Theater – St. Petersburg, FL

10/05/11  White Rabbit San Antonio, TX

10/06/11  TBA

10/07/11  Clubhouse  – Tempe, AZ

10/08/11  SOMA – San Diego, CA

10/09/11  Foro Alicia – Mexico City, MÉXICO

10/10/11  The Whisky – Hollywood, CA

10/11/11  DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA

10/12/11  Branx – Portland, OR

10/14/11  Studio Seven – Seattle, WA

10/15/11  Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, B.C. – CANADA

10/16/11  Republik – Calgary, AB – CANADA

10/17/11  The Exchange – Regina, SK – CANADA

10/18/11  Park Theater – Winnipeg, MB – CANADA

10/20/11  Miramar Theatre –  Milwaukee, WI

10/21/11  Mojoe’s – Joliet, IL

10/22/11  Alrosa Villa – Columbus, OH

10/23/11  Peabody’s – Cleveland, OH

10/24/11  Opera House – Toronto, ON – CANADA

10/26/11  Club Soda – Montreal, QC – CANADA

10/27/11  Gramercy Theater – New York, NY

10/28/11  The Reverb – Reading, PA

10/29/11  Saints & Sinners Fest – Asbury Park, NJ

10/30/11  Jaxx – Springfield, VA

For more on the band, go here: http://www.decapitatedband.net/

To buy “Carnival Is Forever,” go here: http://store.nuclearblastusa.com/Search/decapitated

For more on the label’s site, go here: http://www.nuclearblastusa.com

Record resurrection Pt. 1: Dekapitator, General Surgery

Reissues, to me, serve two purposes. For one, it lets listeners get up to speed on a band perhaps he or she didn’t get to the first time around. Second, in the digital and iPod age, it gives the consumer a better version of an older album that perhaps didn’t translate so well to your little hard drive you’re carrying around. I also understand some people who complain about reissues, especially if it’s a record that’s only a few years old and is being re-released to cash in on a band’s popularity. But no one’s forcing you to buy the new version, right?

Anyhow, I happen to be a fan of reissues, for both of the reasons listed above. For example, I made sure I got the new, re-done versions of the Carcass and Death albums because the packaging is awesome, it comes with tons of extra content, and they sound way better on my iPod than the versions I had. Relapse just put out a couple of reissues that serve me better in the other category, giving me more exposure to bands that, for whatever reason, don’t comprise much of my collection.

Dekapitator

First up are San Jose death thrashers Dekapitator, not to be confused with Polish death metal fleet Decapitated. For now, the band is listed as on hold, and not dissolved, but they haven’t hit us with a new record since 2007’s “The Storm Before the Calm,” and even though the group has been together since 1996, that was only their second album. Of course, their frontman/guitarist Matt “Hellfiend” Harvey was and is again consumed with his death grind outfit Exhumed (we discussed their awesome new record “All Guts, No Glory” a couple weeks back), so it’s understandable that Dekapitator has to sit on the sidelines for the time being.

If you discovered the band with “The Storm Before the Calm” or are new to them altogether, there’s a fantastic document out now in the form of their reissued debut album “We Will Destroy … You Will Obey,” originally released in 1999 and long out of print. So you’ve either been hunting for this thing or you’re simply intrigued by the band’s vintage black thrash sound, which does sound a bit dated today, but in such an awesome way. You can tell by listening to much of the new wave of thrash bands that this style is kind of what those groups were going for, but Dekapitator is the real thing. None of these newcomer groups come close to matching them, and even with the slight cheeseball factor, it’s such a great, pulverizing debut. There’s hell, war, bloodshed and carnage all over this thing, and sometimes Harvey does his best falsetto, like he’s dreaming of thrash’s glory days in the mid-1980s. I grew up in that period and listened to all that stuff, so this is like a nice nostalgia trip, at least philosophically. The whole album has been repackaged altogether, and included are four bonus cuts. Plus, the album art completely, totally rules.

If you’re into vintage thrash, some of death metal’s earliest power, and a little bit of horrific silliness, you’ll want to grab a copy of this. It’s just a bad-ass record that reminds listeners sometimes it’s cool for a heavy album to just be fun. Best heard drunk while holding a battle axe.

For more on Dekapitator, go here: http://www.facebook.com/Dekapitator

To buy, go here: http://relapse.com/store/

General Surgery (in their current form)

I already mentioned Carcass, and a band that gets a lot of grief for being a clone of theirs is Swedish band General Surgery. There’s a damn good reason that happens, basically because the people that accuse them of such blatant copying are pretty much correct. They sound a hell of a lot like a band trying to be Carcass. But that doesn’t mean their music isn’t good and worth your time, because I’ve always found it is decent listening. It’s OK not to take every metal record you hear as seriously as the U.S. Constitution, you know? Just listen to it, and if you like it, then like it. Sorry, that’s just always irritated me. As many bands that are in existence, some are going to sound alike even if that isn’t the intent. Focus on the quality of the music. You’ll live a happier life that way. And by the way, Carcass’ Jeff Walker has said some complimentary things about General Surgery. Anyway, I kind of dug the limited amount of stuff I heard from this band over the years, and was looking forward to revisiting “Necrology,” a deluxe reissue of their 1991 EP (now with three bonus tracks, all alternate versions of “Necrology” cuts). By the way, the lineup you hear on this reissue is totally altered from the one that lives on as General Surgery now. So know that going in, just in case you got into the band with their more recent material.

Anyway, this 10-track effort is sticky with blood and disgusting as hell, as the dual vocals lurch out like a combination of belching and choking on bile. It’s heavy, thrashy, monstrous, and a real blast to absorb, even if it triggers that gag reflex. This is all figurative, of course. If the music literally was sticky with blood, I wouldn’t touch it. Germ freak, right here. The vocals on “The Succulent Aftermath of Subdural Haemorrhage” sound like a lion and demon battling for the stick. It’s ridiculous. “Crimson Concerto” fuses both classical music geek and flesh eater hunger in the same package; “Slithered Maceration of Ulcerous Facial Tissue” is a brow-beater, especially when it comes to the rapid-fire drumming; and “Grotesque Laceration of Mortified Flesh” has a pretty sweet grind groove and those blood-curdling growls you’ve come to love from this band. It’s like being operated on while you’re awake. Who doesn’t love that?

If you can’t shake the Carcass thing, then you probably won’t like this or give it a chance. If you just appreciate a total splatterfest of grindcore and death metal that turns your stomach as much as it pleases your ears, this reissue just might make your heart fill with joy. Just don’t be surprised if you can’t eat for a few days after you’re done with “Necrology.”

For more on the band, go here: http://generalsurgery.se/

To buy “Necrology,” go here: http://relapse.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://relapse.com/