Coliseum head further toward rock and roll greatness on killer new ‘Sister Faith’

If there was a physical Meat Mead Metal office, our “bands changing with time” file would be incredibly bloated and probably in need of a new folder. Or something. Wasn’t it just Friday that we were talking about this very subject and the cavalcade of reasons why this happens? OK, then no point rehashing all of that, right?

Let’s just dive right into Louisville-based Coliseum, a band that’s been awfully busy the past decade putting out four albums, recording for three different labels, and continually updating and morphing their sound to what it is today on “Sister Faith,” their follow-up to 2010’s excellent “House With a Curse.” Even that record was a pretty far cry from their Relapse effort “No Salvation” and their self-titled 2004 debut, where the band was much more into hardcore and fury, though it didn’t indicate a band that was losing its passion or rage. Not even a little bit. “Sister Faith” takes what they started on “Curse” and goes even further down the rock and roll path, streamlining their sound even more, but not for any dishonorable reason. This just sounds like a natural progression, very similar to what Baroness have been up to of late. Not so shockingly, those bands are touring together this spring.

coliseum coverYou still can hear plenty of punk rock influence in Coliseum’s sound, and they still do a nice job putting together tasty riffs that stick in your head long after the music has stopped. There also happen to be really good hooks on these songs, and the entire package is ridiculously catchy, making these songs perfect fodder for rock radio, if the playlist hadn’t been predetermined months ago. This could be a real breakout effort for the band, one that could get major label reps’ ears perked up (if they aren’t already) but definitely does not abandon Coliseum’s audience. You’re all just going to have to find more room on the bandwagon is all.

Guitarist Ryan Patterson remains your gruff, emotional voice behind the band’s music, and he even shows some different approaches to his work on this record, while drummer Carter Wilson and new bassist Kayham Vaziri round out the lineup. In addition, Coliseum are joined by special gusts Wata from Boris, Chris Colohan (Burning Love, Cursed), Elizabeth Elmore (Sarge, The Reputation) and a bunch more, making this a collaborative display where like-minded artists get to color in some corners in ways maybe the main trio would not think of doing. Having so many extra hands often muddles the experience, but not here. The guests pop in and make their own contribution to the greater whole, while Coliseum remain the steady voices of what is, arguably, their best record.

“Disappear From Sight” is your opening salvo, as the guys blast out with an uptempo, slight gazey anthem complete with barked vocals and to-the-point intent. Short, sweet, and on our way into the heart of this record. “Last/Lost” is an early killer, with Patterson sounding at his miserable best, especially when he howls, “All I see … failure!” Though those negative outlooks also sound kind of uplifting and motivating. “Doing Time” flat out kicks ass, with a punk-fueled rage and Patterson snarling, “Ain’t a prison, but we’re doing time.” Great song that sticks to your ribs. “Love Under Will” is a change of pace, with the vocals lower and breathier, and the music hitting a post-punk groove, while dark, bristling “Under the Blood of the Moon” is in the same vein. Sticking with the plasma theme, “Used Blood” is brooding and punishing, with a thick bassline and dark riffs.

“Late Night Trains” is a weird give and take as the music is noisy, but not overwhelming, yet the vocals are pulled back a bit. The chorus is a killer, though, and it’s the highlight of the track. “Everything in Glass” is rough and loud, one of the heavier songs on the collection, but it also has some of the hookiest moments where the band seems to be heading toward pop-sludge. It’s pretty neat. “Black Magic Punks” is a blast, almost as if the band channeled modern-day Darkthrone conceptually, and it’s a great rock and roll song. “Save Everything” and “Bad Will” both are cool little punk rock nuggets situated toward the back end of the album, and both are formidable. The title cut is grungy and has some soulful slide guitar, making me wonder why it isn’t closer to the front of the record. But, why not even things out, I guess. Closer “Fuzzbang” will obliterate you with buzzy, fun guitar work similar to Torche, catchy riffs, and sing-along verses and choruses that end this record on a major high.

Anyone who dismisses Coliseum because they aren’t churning out molten metal anymore is missing the point. These guys are a hell of a band, and they’re really coming into their own as songwriters. These 13 songs are as strong and consistent a collection as this band has released to date, and it’s one of those albums that gets stuck under your skin and stays there. Major hails to Coliseum, a band that keeps getting better as they go forward.

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Altar of Plagues morph into one strange beast on new ‘Teethed Glory and Injury’

altar of plagues
There are a lot of bands that change up their sound, and there are just as many reasons why they do it. Some bands get older and their tastes change, so that’s reflected in their music. Others do it because they want to be more accessible and sell as many records as possible, an approach that might not be the most exciting choice but makes sense from a dollars-and-cents standpoint.

Then there are bands like Irish trio Altar of Plagues, who simply grow more warped and ambitious, as they organically begin to grow into something different. Their first two records “Mammal” and “White Tomb” were sprawling, atmospheric doses of epic black metal, ambiance, and thought-provoking passages. They were often eerie and unsettling, but they were perfect if you simply wanted to stretch your mind and take in a psychological thriller disguised as an album. That pretty much changes entirely on their new record “Teethed Glory and Injury,” an album you’ll pretty much assume is different from the decidedly not-metal cover art of a dancer arched backward, her head practically touching her feet. But that black and white photo on the cover also should draw you into the record. How could you not be curious as to its contents?

altar of plagues coverAltar of Plagues have managed to make one of the strangest, most jarring extreme metal records of 2013 on their third release. It will turn your brain inside out listening to this thing, and you might not even realize it’s them if you don’t look at their name on the spine of the CD. There are more electronic elements involved this time (James Kelly certainly lets elements of his WIFE project bleed over, but not take over), the ambient haze arrives on an entirely different set of winds and weather patterns, and they show a sense of psychological menace that makes these songs the darkest of their run. It’s really hard to even describe the feeling you get from this record. I kept thinking the songs felt like one’s reaction after doing something heinous, as the perpetrator paces a dark basement or an attic trying to figure out what to do next. To escape? To snuff out one’s own flame? To do it again? There is so much here that’ll make you feel twisted and nasty inside.

Kelly leads the band, as he is your vocalist, guitarist, and keyboard player, while Dave Condon contributes bass and vocals, and Johnny King is behind the monstrous drums. The band also has chopped down their work, and instead of giving us four storybook-length songs like they did on their first two, these are nine cuts that are shorter, more urgent, more violent. But despite the band foregoing the epic route, they never cut themselves off, never cut the horror story short, and they become a completely different band under these circumstances. It’s one of the most breath-taking yet terrifying evolutions a band has ever had.

The record opens with “Mills,” a gloomy, gazey instrumental that builds over its four-plus minutes into a cascade of beats and a fevered pitch before launching right into “God Alone,” one of the most unforgettable metal songs of the year. Actually, delete metal from that sentence and it still stands. The riffs are stunted at first and churn over and over again while Kelly shrieks and wails, and as the song progresses, more and more layers come into play, making the song more complex and more terrifying. By the end, all of those levels are there to pulverize you and drag you under water with them. “A Body Shrouded” begins with a chilling sentiment, like the song could be an interlude, but then things open up, Kelly screams maniacally, and the atmosphere could suffocate you. “Burnt Year” is another scorcher, starting with WOLD-like beats and noise before the band takes devastating dives toward the ground, lurching over and over again, thrashing and bashing, adding a new entry to the definition of heavy.

“A Remedy and a Fever” trickles out of “Burnt Year,” with strange noises, Kelly howling over the madness, and weird guitar loops slipping in and making the room spin. Of course, the knives then are pounded into your chest, the crushing returns, and whirry, nightmarish ambiance takes the song to its conclusion. “Twelve Was Ruin” has more of a post-metal feel, with an exploratory guitar line snaking in and out of the song, and as the song builds, so do the layers of sound, guitar wails, and screaming. “Scald Scar of Water” has an off-kilter, black metal-style guitar line that takes the band back to sounding evil and violent, and eventually doom horns rise from the ashes, gangly riffs roll in, and sheets of clean vocals fall, making it feel like a dream state. “Found, Oval and Final” sounds a bit like a reprise of “God Alone,” with a similar style of guitar work and gurgling growls, and the record ends with “Reflection Pulse Remains,” that relies heavily on atmosphere. There is weird, cosmic blipping, tribal drums, unsettling emotions, and a colorful, wrenching finish that sounds like the band is letting their collective heart bleed out onto the floor until nothing else remains. It’s a total head rush.

This is an astonishing change of pace for Altar of Plagues, already one of the world’s finest metal bands, and it’s up to you if this sudden left turn works. It’s not like they went all Baroness and streamlined their sound. This band remains menacing, scarred, and dangerous, and it’s also clear they are one of metal’s most inventive, restless bands, never satisfied to stay in one place. “Teethed Glory and Injury” is a record that is bound to start conversations, turn people’s heads, and terrify the weak–minded. It also could be just the beginning of a stunning metamorphosis that is just in its infancy. That’s both chilling and eternally exciting, and I can’t wait to see their history unfold.

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Finnish prog-death warriors Amorphis create another metallic gem with ‘Circle’

Amorphis 2013 Photo By Terhi Ylimäinen
It’s silly to roll out a big introduction for a band like Amorphis, who have been there, done that, and repeated their dominance over and over again. Yes, they started off as a Finnish death metal outfit, recorded two of the most influential records in the genre’s history, and refused to rest on their laurels for the rest of their career. Their plight has been admirable, enthralling, and well-documented.

Now, I know there’s bellyaching amongst the masses who don’t like that Amorphis are no longer the assault machine they were on “The Karelian Isthmus” and “Tales from the Thousand Lakes,” their 1992 and 1994 masterpieces. They certainly have changed a lot over the years, especially when vocalist Tomi Joutsen joined the fold for 2006’s “Eclipse,” and from that point they have done a pretty stellar job keeping their music heavy and recognizant of their roots while also adding more elements of power, prog, and folk metal to their big bubbling stew. That led to some of the band’s strongest work to date, the dawning of a second golden era for the band that continues up to this day with the release of “Circle,” the band’s 11th studio album.

Amorphis - Circle - ArtworkThe nine-track, 46-minute “Circle” is a perfect serving of modern-day Amorphis, and they arguably haven’t written a stronger bunch of songs since those early landmark records. As promised, the record is a little darker and heavier in spots, with Joutsen doing more growling than he’s done in some time, but his clean vocals sweep and capture you, and the band’s hooks are undeniable. This is as close to a meeting of both Amorphis worlds as we’re bound to get, and it’s a stunner. I have barely stopped listening to the thing since I got the promo a month ago. It’s fucking glorious.

Lyricist Pekka Kainulainen was brought in again to work with the band – guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari, bassist Niclas Etelavuori, keyboard player Santeri Kallio, drummer Jan Rechberger, and Joutsen — but this time, instead of pulling inspiration from Finland’s national epic Kalevala, he weaves a new story all his own about a man who has, from birth, had to fight for everything, and after an accident he begins to channel inner powers. He is sent a guide, and from there fights to change his plight and destiny. As Kainulainen says, “This is a story of survival.” It’s also as purely metal a concept as you’re going to find, and the adventure is enthralling.

Ultra-catchy “Shades of Gray” opens the opus, with rougher, more death-inspired vocals proving they did mean to make some of this heavier, but with a sweeping chorus that very likely will get wedged in your head. It sure is stuck in mine and has been since the first time I heard the song. “Mission” has a mystical, key-driven beginning before it launches on the wings of power-influenced guitar lines and another impassioned delivery by Joutsen. “The Wanderer” is another high point, even if it isn’t for the protagonist of our story, and the song is built on well-delivered verses that tell of this lost soul and a chorus that, while dark and sad, also is hook-heavy and unforgettable. Great song. “Narrowpath” is our first true dose of folk metal, though it’s balanced out by heaviness, and believe it or not, it’s yet another song where the melody sets up in your head and refuses to leave. Noticing a theme here?

“Hopeless Days” is a huge song and truly theatrical, especially when a thunderstorm of synth lands and buries you between the verses and choruses. I imagine this song will be just gigantic live, and I hope I get a chance to witness that. “Nightbird’s Song” sounds like classic Iron Maiden when it begins, but then it turns on a dime and gets aggressive and growly. “Into the Abyss” is a little moodier and not as fast and bursting with power as the other songs, but it’s an effective track nonetheless. “Enchanted By the Moon” is slow-driving and synth-heavy for the bulk of its running time, even slipping into doom territory, but it ends with a nice dose of crunch and forceful growls. Closer “A New Day” may divide some followers a bit, because it’s pretty much a ballad, but it’s not wimpy by any means. This is your story closer, the one where our protagonist has found a new way and a reason to carry on, and the folk-flavored song has the heart and emotion it needs to hammer home its point and flash “the end” across your proverbial screen.

Amorphis are on a killer run of records that, yeah, aren’t of the death metal savagery of their early days but definitely are proof they have become better songwriters. This is a classic-style metal album with a good story, excellent hooks, razor-sharp performances, and I don’t imagine I’m going to tire of it anytime soon. If you’re enjoying the second phase of Amorphis’ life as much as I am, then you’re going to be pleased beyond words with “Circle,” one of their finest albums to date.

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Purson make vintage doom magic with incredible ‘The Circle and the Blue Door’

Ester Segarra
When I was growing up, I thought for certain that by the era we’re in now, there would be time machines. Of course, when you’re a kid you think of lots of stupid things that have no basis in logic or fact, but I was convinced that by the time I was in my 30s, I’d be able to go back or forward in time to watch things play out. Needless to say, I’m pissed.

I think if I could go back in time, a lot of what I’d want to see would deal with metal history. I’d want to see Sabbath at their peak both with Ozzy and Dio. I’d want to watch Iron Maiden at an early gig with Paul Di’Anno behind the stick. I’d want to witness the early Napalm Death shows before anyone realized what they’d become. Yeah, OK, I’d also want to see some important historical events as well, but I won’t lie and say seeing Zeppelin in their prime won’t trump something like, I don’t know, the signing of the Constitution. Although I could ask some good questions and explain how some of the things they were writing were going to bastardized to hell more than 200 years later.

Anyway, although there is no known existence of a time machine, I’m not completely convinced one might not exist and that we’ve had visits from the past. One glaring example if the band Purson, signed to Lee Dorrian’s awesome Rise Above and distributed in the U.S. by Metal Blade, and they sound as legitimately lifted and dropped from the late ’60s as any band I can’t think of. Their witchy, psychedelic-laced doom rock doesn’t sound like it’s paying homage to an era; it sounds like it was created there, inspired by those times, and transported to modern day. It’s kind of freaky hearing an album this true and inspired and realizing it was created in the now, and that’s a major compliment to this incredible band that you have to hear as soon as possible.

purson coverIt would be a stretch to label Purson as metal, though if they really did originate in the 1960s or early ’70s, they certainly would be considered roots of the genre when analyzed today. But that’s not how it went down, and while you can’t say Purson are creating extreme metal, there certainly should be crossover appeal for those who like their music traditionally doomy. I’d say if your record collection consists of old Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin and you complement that with Jex Thoth, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and even the Devil’s Blood, you’ll be right at home taking in the band’s debut “The Circle and the Blue Door.”

Purson is a five-headed machine, led notably by singer/guitarist Rosalie Cunningham, whose voice is the pure magic behind this band’s sound. That’s not to take anything away from the rest of this stellar band — guitarist George Hudson, bassist Barnaby Maddick, organ/wurlitzer/mellotron player Samuel Shove, and drummer Jack Hobbs (multi-instrumentalist Ed Turner also is credited with being a major force behind these songs’ creation) — but Cunningham’s vocals help this band transcend and make them special. Her voice drips with charisma and psychedelic wonder, and hearing her deliver these tales is an experience to behold. The moment she begins singing, with a voice that sounds like it leaped decades, you’ll be intoxicated. It’s futile to fight against her.

Opener “Wake Up, Sleepy Head” seems like a song that might serve better as a breather in the middle of the record rather than a lid lifter, but no matter. It’s a soft mover, with Cunningham singing at her most delicate, and her voice gets a watery little wash out to gives you that weary feeling. The leads us to “The Contract,” a cool song with vintage organ pumps, an occult feel musically, and a killer hook on the chorus, which is one of this band’s calling cards, by the way. “Spiderwood Farms” is built on a drop-dead killer riff and is one of the loudest songs on the album with Cunningham singing about a band of ghosts living on a farm who are just there to hang out and, “They mean you no harm.” Bad ass song all around, and one of the best one on this record. “Sailor’s Wife’s Lament” is a sad song, one close to Cunningham’s heart as she hopes that one day her lover can change, and it’s both breezy and tragic at the same time. That leads us to “Leaning on a Bear,” a song that could rival “Spiderwood” for best cut on here, as it pushes into steely Deep Purple territory, with driving melodies and an essence that makes me think of sitting in thick urban traffic on a hot day. Not sure that was their intent.

“Tempest and the Tide” has a folkish open and sounds like it would sound perfect emanating through a Renaissance festival (that’s a compliment, by the way). It’s airy and it wooshes, and it’s pretty much perfect. “Mavericks and Mystics” stomps up dirt, with a thick, bluesy guitar riff and Cunningham even gets a little confrontational when she wails, “It’s us against you all.” “Well Spoiled Machine” is more seductive and suggestive, with psyche keys and sci-fi wandering, while “Sapphire Ward” has some Led Zeppelin-style swagger and charged-up rock that should get your blood pumping. “Rocking Horse” has a lullaby style to it, with slow-burning guitars and flutes, while closer “Tragic Catastrophe” has tasty slide guitar, sorrowful atmosphere, a bit of balladry, a little thunder, and lots of Cunningham ruling everything.

Purson may not satisfy your extreme metal hunger, but maybe you should try something else that leans into a territory you might not be familiar with. Bottom line is this band writes great, memorable songs, with a psychedelic, vintage edge that sounds as it truly is four decades old. Plus Cunningham is a bonafide star, an incredible new voice in the rock and metal world who should be enrapturing us with her stories for years to come.

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Terminator 2 aren’t making ugly babies. They’re making destructive doom metal.


Their mission is to protect you

There are some pretty weird band names out there in the world of metal and extreme music. Gay Witch Abortion almost always is the first one that comes to mind when I’m thinking about these things. That name is pretty much unstoppable and untouchable. I always found Speedwolf a strange one. Aren’t all wolves relatively speedy? Killer band, though.

Then we get to today’s entry, the sludge-doom, weirdness trio from Denton, Texas, called Terminator 2. Yep. Like the movie. I can only imagine the Abbott and Costello-style conversations that’ll go on when someone is trying to explain the band, or even let other people know it exists, and when it comes time to dropping that band name into the conversation, the looks of bewilderment. “Wait, you mean you watched ‘Terminator 2,’ not listened to it. Are you stupid?” No. Not blind. It’s a band. Never mind. I’ve already had a similar situation happen over text message about the band. The other person thought I meant the movie soundtrack. Good times.

But all band name hilarity aside, Terminator 2 are as formidable and brutal as the movie itself. Their music is heavy, muddy, and abrasive, and while there’s a playful side to what they do as well, my guess is you’re meant to walk away bruised and bloody from this collection, being sent into the world by Handmade Birds, one of the most inventive, creative labels in extreme music. Oh, and the packaging of the cassette is pretty out there, too, with the case slipped inside a laser-cut slip cover, and a section that contains the lyrics on a fucking scroll. Come on, now. A scroll. That rules.

T2 tapeT2 is comprised of three dudes, as noted, that being vocalist/bassist David Saylor, drummer Ben Scott, and noisemaker Rob Buttrum, and they sound like they’d be a perfect late-night addition to a fest like Roadburn, where so many people’s minds already are in outer space that having these guys come in and devastate you in your oblivion could seem both cruel and welcoming. The eight songs on “Part 1” (originally self-released last year) were perfect fodder last week when the world was crumbling on itself, and every visit I have with this thing, I discover something new and unsettling. That’s a good sign that a record is going to stick with you, and this one has.

“Revival” opens the package on an eerie note before it detonates and begins burning brightly. The track is all instrumental, and it goes deep into outer space and slips into crushing doom and cosmic zapping that sound like shots of light blazing out of control. “Hollow Earth” begins with slowly tapped drums and noise squalls that lead the way for thick bass, harsh shrieks, and sludgy gruffness that ends on somewhat of a grungy note. “Methodic and Serpentine” is the most punishing track on the record, with harsh throaty vocals and a pace and atmosphere that reminds of the glory days of Prong and Ministry. It’s cement-truck heavy.  “No Teeth” is a little trickier, with histrionic guitars and some weirdness that makes me think of Suicidal Tendencies, and some of the gang shouts go down the hardcore avenue.

“Mathematics” brings back that hardcore-laced finish and mixes that with instrumental wackiness that would make Primus scratch their heads wondering what these guys are on. The melody lines are scratchy and noisy, and the bizarre presentation makes me think a little too much about formulas and integers. But I like a challenge, so that’s a good thing. “I Am God” is pulverizing and meaty, throwing down against “Methodic” for the most destructive cut on the record and making you realize these lunatics can beat the shit out of you. “Ancestralcide” is built by mucky bass, hellish shouts and screams, and overall ill intentions that spit poison in your eyes. The 12:42-long closer “Mortar and Masons” begins slowly and takes a while to get its foundation set, but once it does, it delivers tidal wave upon tidal wave of sludgy doom aimed to bury and suffocate you with force. It’s a pretty killer way to bring this off-setting, odd, metallic gem to a close.

So yeah, they’ve got a strange name that’ll make you think of the German guy who banged his maid and made a weird-looking kid, but maybe hearing this music will instead make you turn your head toward nasty doom and industrial-weighted heaviness. They have a lot lumber to unload and more than enough muscle to do so, and this first record is an undiscovered gem, at least right now. Go check out this fucker, and maybe we can get them on a bill with Gay Witch Abortion before it’s all over.

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Lair of the Minotaur’s ‘Godslayer’ EP will be one of the most explosive RSD releases

Lair band
I think we all can agree this has been a particularly shitty week in the United States, and what we all could use right now is a little release. Um, sorry, Laura Jane Grace. Anyway, yeah, there are new songs from hulk beasts Lair of the Minotaur, and it’s fitting we get these now because having these heathens back can only mean smiles on metalheads’ faces. We could use that.

The last we heard from the unit was in 2010 on their “Evil Power” album (out on Grind-House Records), a raucous, fun record that got a lot of loud play in my house, much to my wife’s chagrin. Their songs on battlefield glory, taking on mythical beats, and overall debauchery are great at the end of a bad week when you need a boost and 10 beers to make you feel better, and while their music is serious and as brutal as anyone’s, you can let loose and have fun because things aren’t a million percent serious in their cave. You can just enjoy yourself.

lair coverThe band has a lovely little gem out for Record Store Day, that being their new 7″ EP “Godslayer,” a nearly nine-minute package that might not tide you overly entirely for a new Lair full-length but should act as one healthy appetizer. The Chicago-based trio currently stands as longtime guitarist and lead yowler Steven Rathbone, bassist Nate Olp, and drummer Chris Wozniak, which is the same group that brought you “Evil Power,” and these two new cuts should brutalize you nicely, give you a reason to take off your shirt and yell in your house, and just have a fucking good time.

The opener is your title cut, a chugging, pounding slab of sludgy death and doom. This is total Lair-trademarked madness, with Rathbone howling his head off, the guitar work setting up a thick, bloody killing floor, and the drums pulverizing your senses. Toward the end, there are mad howls of the song’s title, complete with the rest of these goons making things as crushing and furious as they can, and the double kick drum assault that carries this into the night is deadly and borderline cruel. “The Black Heart of Stygian Darkness” has barked vocals, a thrashy demeanor, and some doom dumped in for good measure. Rathbone damn near approaches pig squeal territory in spots, and the song itself is as heavy as the band comes. Then it stops on a dime and sci-fi keys woosh in and bring the song to its eerie, science lab conclusion. You’ll be confused!

This 7″ is a fucking bastard, and you’d do yourself a lot of good to hit the shops Saturday morning and get your hands on this thing. I know I’m going to have it on my wish list.

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Other than Lair, there are many other metal-related goodies out for RSD. Below I’ll wrap up what you can look for tomorrow domestically. Yeah, OK, some of it isn’t really stuff we ordinarily cover here, but I don’t know what you all like. Get off my ass. Maybe you like one of these bands. Anyway, here goes:

RSD Exclusives:

  • All That Remains – “Fall of Ideals” 12-inch
  • At the Drive In – “Relationship of Command” 12-inch
  • Botch – “American Nervoso” Deluxe 2xLP
  • Cave In – “Until Your Heart Stops” 12-inch
  • Deep Purple/Type O Negative – “Side By Side: ‘Highway Star’” 7-inch
  • Deftones – “Live Vol. 1 – Selections from ‘Adrenaline’” 12-inch
  • Dio/Killswitch Engage – “Side By Side: ‘Holy Diver’” 7-inch
  • Dust – “Dust/Hard Attack” 2xLP Gatefold

RSD Regional or Limited Run releases:

  • Akimbo – “Live to Crush” LP
  • Between the Buried and Me – “Parallax 1 and 2” 3×12-inch vinyl box; “Anatomy of” 12-inch
  • Dio – “Magica” 12-inch picture disc
  • Earth Crisis – “Firestorm” 12-inch
  • Katatonia – “Buildings” 7-inch
  • Lamb of God – “New American Gospel” gray marble 12-inch
  • Snapcase – “Steps” 12-inch
  • Testament – “Dark Roots Covers” 7-inch picture disc
  • The Atlas Moth/Wolfhammer – split 7-inch

That, according to the Record Store Day web site, is what’s available. There’s probably more. Earache is doing a shortest LP in the world release, but that’s not listed. Likely it’s a European-only release. Anyway, I know people get all snooty about RSD and say it’s a way for labels to gouge you and blah blah blah. Whatever. No one is forcing you to buy anything. The point is to get you in the store, maybe you’ll find something you like, and perhaps it’ll ignite a love for shopping for music. I love it; it’s one of my favorite days of the year. Have fun, go buy records, and spend the whole night listening to your newfound treasures.

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Woe’s ‘Withdrawal’ is a progressive, dark breakdown that’s explosively impressive

If you’ve followed U.S. black metal band Woe since their inception, then you’ve certainly enjoyed quite a creative ride, as the Chris Grigg-led band has morphed significantly since it’s been a project. Part of that is Grigg working with a constantly rotating cast of musicians (not terribly unlike Death’s Chuck Schuldiner) and as time’s gone on, the Woe sound has grown.

The band’s third full-length record “Withdrawal” is no exception, as it is another leaps-and-bound progression beyond what was accomplished on 2010’s awesome “Quietly, Undramatically,” where the music already seemed like it had hit its peak. But that wasn’t the case at all, as with the arrival of this new record we hear a group that’s continuing to push musical boundaries and philosophies, still leaning heavily into black metal but also incorporating pieces from other extreme terrains into the mix. I imagine some people will be put off a bit by the alterations, because there are those listeners who take any change personally, but if you’ve been excited by the ride you’ve been on with Woe, then you’re ready to climb another major hill and be rushed into valleys, twists, and turns.

woe coverGrigg and his band – this time around he’s joined by guitarist Ben Brand, bassist Grzesiek Czapla (who also contributes vocals), and drummer Ruston Grosse – worked collaboratively on these songs, as Grigg isn’t solely responsible for songwriting on “Withdrawal,” and perhaps that’s why the sound has advanced and matured as much as it has from last record to this one. There are components of post-hardcore and punk rock on this record, blending nicely with the Woe’s furious black metal, and Grigg is as emotional as ever delivering his vocals, even doing some clean singing in sections of the record. I read in his interview in Decibel that he wondered if clean vocals could work in Woe and on this record, but they definitely do. They shouldn’t take away from anyone’s hopes or perceptions of this music being extremely volatile and pulverizing. Emotionally, they add even more depth.

Grigg is solely responsible for the lyrical content on the record, and you really should make a point to sit down with the words as you absorb the album. While his shrieks can sound indecipherable on the surface, you shouldn’t have any issue following with the lyric sheet because Grigg actually focuses more on enunciation than most black metal vocalists. The songs seem more personal than ever before and focus on hopelessness, despair, desperation, and inner turmoil. The way the words come out of his mouth (and Czapla’s when he’s in command) are rich with emotion and meaning, and you know you’re not just hearing these lines simply because they needed lyrics. These sound full of catharsis, suffering, and torment, almost like a personal bloodletting. You can’t help but feel personally affected by it all.

“This Is the End of the Story” starts with a flurry of guitar, which longtime Woe fans should immediately take as a sign of comfort, because it swirls and enraptures like Crigg’s lead work of old. There are wild shrieks and some progressive sections that remind a bit of Krallice (funny enough, the record was mastered by that band’s Colin Marston), and Grigg lets flow his clean singing for the first time on this track. Hardcore-style gang shouts pop in that feel a little out of place, but everything finishes in a flurry that should leave you breathless. “Carried By Waves to Remorseless Shores of the Truth” is pounding and full of anguish, as Grigg tells a story awash in bloodshed and personal horror, ending the piece howling, “We’re all fucked. There is no defense.” “All Bridges Burned” has an acoustic intro that eventually is ripped apart by thunder and passionate guitar melodies, and Grigg’s desperation shows as the song finishes with the lines, “Something’s got to change. I’m learning not to care. I’m never coming back.”

“Ceaseless Jaws,” a song written entirely by Grosse, is blinding and vicious, flying at you like a swarm of angry hornets. Yet, the song has some interesting pockets that have classical guitar flourishes and let you get a breather before everything ramps up again and heads for the cliffs. “Song of My Undoing” is one of the more interesting pieces here, opening with a blast of classic punk and hardcore, feeling loose and relentless, and letting the band go in and out of black metal pockets. It’s one of the most spontaneous sounding songs in Woe’s entire catalog. “Exhausted” is thrashy and fluid, and it sounds like a song that speaks of being mentally drained more than physical. The closing title track is surprising for how brief and to the point it is. The song is heavy and thick, with a bassline that snakes through it feeling like it’s caked with mud, and the words are practically devoid of complete sentences, with just a few words tossed here and there that certainly point to someone losing the will to carry on.

Grigg is one of metal’s more fascinating musicians, and each new Woe album has taken on a different personality because of the musicians with whom he surrounds himself and his own progression. This is a huge step ahead for the band, and excitement bursts out of every corner of this album. Woe is getting further away from raw black metal and is growing into something different, and that’s just fine. The band sounds confident and channeled, and these songs should rip the walls off every venue they play.

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Bone Sickness make disgusting, furious death metal on new ‘Alone in the Grave’

Bone Sickness
Sometimes you know just from hearing a band’s name what you’re in for. Morbid Angel. That doesn’t sounds peaceful and serene, does it? It sounds sinister. And unfortunately now, it’s also all marred with beats and other techno crap. But whatever. I think saying Iron Maiden gives you an idea of what’s in store. Napalm Death is a name that pretty much sums up that band’s music as well, isn’t it? Don’t have to think too much about that one.

In that line of thinking, along comes another band whose name is just perfect for them: Bone Sickness. It makes me think of stinking, rotting to the core, ugly, diseased death metal that sounds nasty, lacks any polish whatsoever, and is there to make your stomach lurch. Lo and behold, the band’s new effort “Alone in the Grave” pretty much confirms that those early inhibitions are true. This stuff is miserable in the best possible way and sounds like it was conceived in the dirt beneath a graveyard. That’s right, beneath it.

bone sickness coverThe Olympia, Wash., quartet found a perfect home for them with 20 Buck Spin, a label that would understand what these guys were going for as well as anyone else out there (with the possible exception of Dark Descent), and they’re offering up this band’s follow-up to their two-track EP that bubbled to the surface in 2011 and made its stinking presence known to those attuned to the underground. This seven-track, 18-minute collection (served up as a 12-inch and digitally, with Chips & Beer Magazine’s Hand of Beaver taking care of artwork) may be repugnant and disgusting, but it’s also really well played, as their guitar work from Chase and Rusty is searing and often really fun, and the rhythm section of Sam (who also handles vocals) and Mitch (also pitched in some vocals) are there to pound you into dust. Sam’s vocals? Ugly, menacing growls that sound infernally born. It’s pretty much perfect.

This filth-infested gem gets going with “Submit to Decay,” a washed-out, scuffed up fucker with strong guitar leads reminding of the glory days of Autopsy and Carcass that eventually ignites into a speed attack scratched up with gruff growling. “Strange Obsession” erupts into a cloud of smoking death, with fast, furious playing, and more beastly vocals that lurch underneath all of the sound. “Paranoid Delusions” is brutal and scraped up, with the speedier parts reminding a bit of Entombed, and doomy and gut-busting death leading the way. “Scraping the Bones” begins with a Black Sabbath-style melody, but that ignites into a full-blown assault with carnage and throat-pulverizing growls.

The title cut hits on a slower tempo that also nods its bloody head to doom, simmering in its pot of plasma while being raked raw by heavy riffing. “Death and Dismemberment” sounds pretty much like you expect it will, and that’s a good thing because it wholly satisfies with its lightning-speed riffs, pissed off, spat-out vocals, and menacing attack that feels bruising and neck-jarring. Closer “Tied to the Snake” is the oddball of the bunch, veering more toward thrash metal and calculated riffing at the start, but even that gives way to a volcanic eruption, vicious vocals, and soloing that reminds of the days when Slayer worried more about evil intentions than their drummer’s paycheck.

If you like old-school death metal and grindcore and are sick of what those genres have turned into for the most part, consider Bone Sickness a refreshing breath of charnel air. Their music is ugly, their artistic intestines are basically spilled onto and sticking to the floor, and they seem to have no desire to clean up their gory mess. This is true death metal, something that diehard fans who know their shit will gorge themselves to death on, and that hopefully will put a nail into the coffins of the millions of pretenders in the world.

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The Body remain one of world’s loudest, scariest duos alive on ‘Master, We Perish’

the body
(NOTE: This review was written and posted before Monday’s horrible attack in Boston. I would hate to seem insensitive and be accused of building off tragedy considering some of the material below, and I do not wish to glorify anything that took place. I tried to clean it up a bit. It’s just a really bad coincidence. Godspeed to everyone affected. Meat Mead Metal loves you.)

The end of existence, be it one’s own or the planet’s, is something that has been running through heavy metal lore since the beginning. These are dark arts, after all, and the expression and visualization of dread and destruction runs hand in hand with the genre’s sound. It’s just kind of something we do around here.

But for as many bands that write about such a dark, yet inevitable subjects, how many of them sound like they embody the very destruction on which they’re centered? Not too many, if we’re being honest. That doesn’t mean a band’s message isn’t worth your attention or interest if the band’s doesn’t resemble the four horsemen riding across the Earth, but it sure helps aesthetically if the artists at least sound like they envisioned lands being ripped apart and seas filling with blood during their creative process.

the body coverThat’s why a band like The Body blows me away. It’s two guys — guitarist/vocalist Chip King and drummer Lee Buford — yet they make enough unholy racket to make up for five bands with five members each. They’re loud, explosive, quaking, and that’s just describing their records. Witnessing this machine live could mean the end of decent hearing for you for the rest of your life, and you might find you’re so overwhelmed with sound that you’re ready to unload the contents of your stomach onto the floor. Their power and majesty are humbling before you realize the darkness they’re spreading lyrically. It’s a tunnel to hell or the end or to madness, whatever is your greatest fear, and they never cease to level the shit out of everything in front of them.

The band’s latest effort “Master, We Perish,” is a three-track EP containing some of their headiest work. The duo’s brand of sludging doom remains firmly intact, but this collection also finds them expanding their headspace more than ever, delving deep into atmosphere and space, and while the violence we’ve come to expect from The Body is here, it’s delivered in such a disarming way that you never quite know when the blow is coming. But you know it’s near, and waiting for it is half the fun/dread. Joining the band to add their voices to the fury are Leslie Weitz (Otesanek), Chrissy Wolpert (of the wonderful Assembly of Light Choir), and Reba Mitchell (Whore Paint) to add their heavenly contributions.

“The Ebb and Flow of Tide in a Sea of Ash” opens the record with terrifying war sirens, muddy, chugging guitars, and mobilization forward, giving you almost no time to take cover. King delivers otherworldly growls and shrieks that should shake you to your core, and this abrasive assault ends with what sounds like industrial hammering, soot, and smoke. “The Blessed Lay Down and Writhe in Agony” have some of those choral contributions and make it feel like your soul is escaping from your body, and with samples of people talking about despair and a sense of complete dread rushing through, the feeling of hopelessness is unavoidable. The song seems fit to stay in its middle tempo and build clouds and pockets of fog until a shot is heard and the song opens into full-blown demolition.

Closer “Worship” opens with tribal drumming, chaos, and swirling voices, as the madness encircles and shakes you from the inside out. Buford’s drumming is the main attraction of this song, and he just pulverizes his kit, while King’s guitar work hangs in the air like a menacing atmosphere, humming and buzzing, acting like a poison fog. Everything builds to an eerie finish full of strange effects and static-filled drumming that melts away with the threat to return when you least expect it. Thanks for scaring the shit out of us, the Body.

This band remains one of the darkest, loudest bands on Earth, and even a mini effort from a duo like this one is enough to pack a power punch to your face. These two guys are not capable of delicate and gentle, and if you’re not prepared for outright carnage and unimaginable mental suffering, then you might not be ready for this band. If you are and you can handle it, you’re going to have a fuck load of fun torturing yourself for days on end with noise that knows no mercy.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (out April 30), go here:

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Swedish bulldozer unit Agrimonia crush bodies, psyches on ‘Rites of Separation’

Admitting you don’t know everything is not a sign of weakness. Rather it is an indication that you realize every day is a new learning opportunity and that there is a vast amount of knowledge out there waiting to be explored, even if other people have gotten to it before you. Even if you run a metal site.

I write about hundreds of bands every year, and there are hundreds more I hear that I don’t write about for whatever reason, be that lack of time or lack of interest. But I’m not fooling myself into thinking I have fully experienced every metal band out there and what they have to offer. If I did, doing my site would be incredibly boring because nothing new would ever happen, and I’d never make any discoveries. What’s the point of that? So yeah, sometimes I’m going to encounter a band I probably should have studied up on way sooner than the present time, and I’m just going to have to be OK with that.

agrimonia coverThat brings us to Agrimonia, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based band that employs all kinds of metallic tricks from death metal to crust to hardcore to sludge. They have a whole lot of ways of going about their business, and over the course of three records now, they’ve been sharpening their edges and refining their formula. I had brief overtures with their 2010 album “Host of the Winged,” released by Profane Existence, but didn’t dig deep enough below the surface to really get an appreciation for what was going on. I have since corrected that error. But they weren’t a band screaming on my radar until I got the promo for their latest effort “Rites of Separation,” being released by Southern Lord. Let’s make the “Southern Lord signed a metal band?” joke. OK, let’s move on. This is a heads-up, ears-to-the-ground acquisition for the label, and it paid off in spades because this third record is a total crusher, a realization of potential so volcanic, it’s downright frightening.

If you’re new to the band, let’s get introductions out of the way. On vocals and keyboards is Christina, whose ferocious wail immediately rips you from your comfort zone and makes you go to the ground fighting; guitarists Magnus (also of Atomvinter) and Pontus (Miasmal, Martyrdod), who plays their asses off on this record; bassist Martin (surname: Larsson, who you’ll know from At the Gates); and drummer Bjorn (also of Miasmal), who certainly had to be tired after these recording sessions. He’s all over the place with his brand of violence.

All of the songs on “Rites of Separation” are long. Really long. But none feel like they stay around longer than they should, and they actually give the band a lot of room to flex their muscles. “Talion” is your 11-minute opener that tears a hole right away with a searing guitar line, monstrous vocals from Christina, and eventually some exploratory playing that gives you some breathing room between explosions. The song eventually slows down and grows foggy, clean guitars and blurry keys step in, and then that razor-sharp initial riff comes surging back to help bring the song to an end. “Hunted” is more than 15 minutes long, beginning with gothy, doomy keyboards that sound like something from Katatonia, before the song ignites minutes later with growls and pulverizing melodies. Some sludge and mud strike along the way, and the band then progresses through a bunch of different sections that build on the one before it, eventually allowing some of the murky sounds to return.

“While Life Lies” runs more than 10 minutes and begins with cleaner tones before hitting back into grim doom pockets that also lurch toward death metal. Guitars snake and chug, the vocals teeter on volcanic, and the band eventually settles with down with some acoustic guitars and keyboards that set a calmer mood. But that’s temporary as they ramp up the madness again and renew their commitment to punishment. “The Battle Fought” is the shortest track on the record at 6:46, and there are times when the band channels their inner Bolt Thrower as they sound the horns of war. The song is crunchy, thrashy, and savage, and it’s a song that doesn’t need 10 minutes to whip your ass. Closer “Awaiting” is 15:40 and starts with some introspective wandering and post-metal color before the snarling, vicious growls blast in and disrupt the atmospherics. Once the fervor dies down a bit, more acoustic guitars spill in, the music gets trickly and proggy, and just before the song fades out in relative peace, Christina returns with raspy growls that ensure you don’t forget her messages.

This record isn’t out for a few weeks stateside, but I couldn’t hold in writing about this any longer. Agrimonia should see their profile rise with the mighty Southern Lord behind them, and poor bastards like me now have all the time we need to immerse ourselves in all of their music. This band crushes your body and laughs while you leak marrow, and weirdly enough, you’ll probably find you’re OK with all that suffering. Even if it took me this long to finally get into Agrimonia, I’m pretty psyched I fina      lly know about this five-headed monster.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here (will be available soon):

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