PICK OF THE WEEK: Immortal Bird unleash anger, resentment into tumultuous ‘Thrive on Neglect’

Photo by Andrew Rothmund

It’s rare when anger in music is nearly palpable, like you can feel the emotion, the pain, the hurt, and the fire. Even without understanding what went into said music and what colored the words with blood, you feel like you experienced a piece of it, simply through the power of the expression. It’s hard to shake, and it gives the music more depth than your garden-variety rage.

It took one visit with Immortal Bird’s rampaging new record “Thrive on Neglect” to at least partially understand the gut-wrenching resentment that informs these seven songs. The band never has been one to simply coast by on their heaviness, as there always has been a lot to parse through when it comes to the lyrics. This record however, their second full-length, requires you to sit with the words, not because they can’t be understood (the enunciation is rock solid) but because the total picture becomes clearer, and the piss and venom turn richer. Vocalist Rae Amitay already was one of metal’s more evocative lyricists, but this time around, her daggers are fully showing, and they are doused with blood. Along with her are guitarist Nate Madden, bassist John Picillo, and drummer Matt Korajczyk, the same unit that’s been touring together for several years now on their first collaborative album together. That cohesiveness is apparent, as the band sounds deadlier than ever.

“Anger Breeds Contempt” kicks off the record and drills you intensely, with the bass thickening, and Amitay’s vocals scraping old wounds. “I, I am, I am not, lost, I am, not a lost, cause,” she phrases deliberately and ferociously. Guitars stream clean for a stretch, even getting jazzy, before the blows land again, the power bursts, and Amitay wails, “It was you who made me feel dull, I can’t forgive that, I can’t forgive you,” as the ending goes for the throat. “House of Anhedonia” begins with Amitay declaring, “We are cursed!” before guitars loop around and bring disorientation, the band pushes back with gale force, and the drums splatter the senses. Atmosphere situates behind the song before we’re back to bludgeoning force, then a slow-driving push, then a speedy burst into hell. “Vestigial Warnings” has the drums killing, guitars sweeping, and dizziness rising amid disorienting growls. “Centipede crawl to the shadows, lose all your legs and learn the processes,” Amitay howls as the music grows tornadic, tossing around debris, while the track chugs and slips into sludgy stepping. The bass drives the front end, noise settles, and the drums beats everything into oblivion.

“Avolition” is a firestarter that gets off to a calculated start before it begins tearing down walls. The playing is both sinewy and jerky, with Amitay snarling, “Sting me into silence, I need this to end at any cost.” Riffs pile on as the intensity builds, with the vocals absolutely crushing bodies, the music cutting you down, as Amitay calling, “You will assume I let you go, but I jumped right after you fell.” “Solace in Dead Structures”  is numbing, with the music sprawling before the guitars begin to cut tunnels. Gritty vocals slice through, as the track opens up and punishes, the playing mashes, and driving hell burns into ash. “Quisquilian Company” has guitars melting down, growls crushing, and black metal-style melodies riding on top of the rough waves. “I can replace you will a lesser evil I’ll choose to abandon,” Amitay growls, following up with, “When you are alone, you can learn something, but I know you won’t,” as clean guitars take over and the track vibrates out. “Stumbling Toward Catharsis” finishes the album by fading in before the savagery erupts and mixes with ethereal dreams. The track begins to thrash you alive, with Amitay admitting, “I saw my years without you as ruined hollow shells,” before the track kicks speed into high gear. The playing gets impossibly heavy, destroying what’s in front of it, as Amitay jolts, “There is only so much I can take, there is only so much left to say, maybe nothing is a waste, or it all is,” as the track ends violently, abruptly.

Immortal Bird’s ascent to “Thrive on Neglect” came from years of being road warriors, experiencing pains and triumphs, and cutting their teeth on steel as they adhered to their wishes alone. This band has grown from one that showed promise of being one of metal’s sharpest voices to fully achieving that on their smothering second album. This is a record that proves not only have Immortal Bird taken a prime spot on the battlefield, they’re already standing there with swords tested, shields dented by shots reflected and defeated.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/immortalbirdband

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/immortalbird

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

Metal Immortal Festival makes debut in Pittsburgh with strong evening of classic heavy metal

Pittsburgh has had a lot of luck recently when it comes to riches of metal shows, especially festivals. Last year alone we have Migration Fest and the second annual Descendants of Crom, and this year we have three big metal-friendly fests that are all spaced out in enough time to hit them all. Saturday will be the first ever Metal Immortal Festival, a day-long event at Mr. Smalls that serves true, classic metal.

Pittsburgh’s own Lady Beast are at the heart of this event, and if you follow their powerhouse singer Deborah Levine on social media, you know she’s been working hard to gear up for this show that starts at 5 pm., with doors opening an hour earlier. Anyone who was at Migration known Smalls is the ideal space for an event such as this one, and with two stages and only 10 minutes between sets, this thing will be furiously moving, serving up metal from bands hailing from the U.S. and Canada who are all here to pay homage to classic metal. There won’t be much sub-genre hopping, but that’s not a negative at all. This will be a time to celebrate the riffs, thrashing your head, and getting lost in a sound that used to just be heavy metal before all the sound splintering. It’s an awesome lineup, it’s not an expensive ticket at all, so let’s look at each band you’ll get to see Saturday night.



OUTLINE (5-5:25): Cleveland-based speed metal duo Outline released their debut record “Fire Whiplash” last year, a 22-minute mauler that celebrates everything purely metal and devilishly evil. The duo of vocalist/guitarist Tanza Speed and multi-instrumentalist J. Hammer should be a rousing, filthy way to get the fest kicked off.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/outlinemetal/


LEGENDRY (6:15-6:45): Pittsburgh-borne epic heavy metal band Lengendry find themselves recording for the esteemed High Roller Records, and they have two records—2016’s “Mists of Time” and 2017’s “Dungeon Crawler” under their belts. Expect heavy fantasy elements and straight-up homage to Conan the Barbarian, which is bound to go over well with any metal audience.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/legendryband/

Fatal Curse (Photo by fursy.photos)

FATAL CURSE (7:40-8:20): New York heavy metal squad Fatal Curse just released their debut record “Breaking the Trance” in April on the well-respected Shadow Kingdom Records, and their fiery, fun sound will leave people with blackened eyes. Their sound is riff heavy with vocals that sound like they were drawn up in 1982, which might not seem like a compliment, but it totally is.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/Fatalcurse/

IRONFLAME (9:15-9:45): Right down south of Pittsburgh in Martins Ferry, Ohio, comes Funhouse Stage headliner Ironflame, whose striking power metal has given us two albums—2017’s “Lightning Strikes the Crown” and 2018’s “Takes of Splendor and Sorrow.” Andrew D’Cagna (Nechochwen, Icarus Witch) is the brains behind this whole thing that stomps around like it’s trying to wrest the crown from Queensryche, Manilla Road, and Maiden. This should rule.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/IronflameUSA/


Lady Beast

LADY BEAST (5:35-6:05): Lady Beast claimed two major accomplishments the past few years. First, they signed with Cruz del Sur, who released their awesome 2017 record (their third overall) “Vicious Breed.” And they were featured on Anthony Bourdain’s episode of “Parts Unknown” about Pittsburgh. They’re also a powerhouse traditional metal force led by the enigmatic Levine, whose stage presence could connect with people in the back of a stadium.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/ladybeastofficial/


DESTRUCTOR (6:55-7:30): Long-running power/thrash band Destructor was a nice get for this show, and they bring more than 35 years’ experience along with them. Ever since their 1985 debut “Maximum Destruction” they’ve gone through periods of hiatus and member changes (vocalist/guitarist Dave Overkill and drummer Matt Flammable remain from the early days), and since 2007, they’re offered up three more records, their latest being 2017’s “Decibel Casualties.”

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/DestructorMetal

Savage Master (Photo by Rachel Autumn Deering)

SAVAGE MASTER (8:30-9:05): Kentucky’s Savage Master combines whips, chains, leather, and spiked collar-wrapped heavy metal that’s punishing and fun as fuck. Over the course of two full-lengths “Mask of the Devil” and “With Whips and Chains,” the band has stuffed their records with devilish fury and a display that’ll make you think you’re strapped to a Medieval torture device. Also, singer Stacey Savage is an utter force to behold, and if you don’t bow to her wishes, she’ll bloody for face.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/savagemasterofficial/

Night Demon

NIGHT DEMON (9:50-10:30): California’s Night Demon opened a lot of eyes with their Century Media/Steamhammer-released debut record “Curse of the Damned,” one of the best metal records in any sub-genre in 2015. They offered their second effort “Darkness Remains” two years later, proving their ridiculously heavy traditional metal not only is utterly solid but also made for a larger stage. If only they’d been born 30 years sooner. Nonetheless, we have them now, and their music should sound ideal on the larger Chapel Stage as they capture the night.

For more on the band go here: https://www.facebook.com/nightdemonband


RAZOR (10:45-CLOSE): Legendary Canadian speed thrashers Razor finish off the fest with music from their more than 35-year-old career, one that spawned eight albums, though their last one was 1997’s “Decibels,” which was released by Chaotic Records. Having recorded for labels such as Viper and Steamhammer, with their music later released by labels such as Roadracer and Relapse, Razor is a band that brings chaos, devastation, and muscular riffs, and they’ve been long respected and worshipped by musicians who played along with them and followed them for an awfully good reason.

For more on the band go here: https://razorband.bandcamp.com/

Along with all of this, there will be a generous slew of vendors that’ll be there to help you get your fill of records and other good shit, and the folks from George Romero’s film school will be there shooting a documentary about the event and metal fans in general. So, if someone asks you what you think of anything but metal, make sure you answer that it belongs “on fucking Mars, man.”

For more on the event, go here: https://www.facebook.com/events/mr-smalls-theatre/metal-immortal-festival/1422126664589493/

For tickets to the event, go here: https://mrsmalls.com/events/metal-immortal-festival/

Ashbringer’s storm of emotion, laying hearts on line help make ‘Absolution’ a complete triumph

Emotion is a major part of any type of artistic expression, and without it you’d have noise without substance. Funny though, a lot of tough guys on the internet seem to bristle at the idea of an artist showing vulnerability or sensitivity, like it eats away at true metal ethos. Which is ridiculous. I wonder what those people do all day long when they’re trying to look tough and evil.

One of the things that drew me to Ashbringer’s music several years ago is their unabashed willingness to show their bleeding hearts, no matter what people may think of them. Taking on an Ashbringer record means you are in it for every twist and turn, every wave of feeling they put into their records. Their amazing third album “Absolution” is another step forward for the band musically, and it is being released by Prosthetic Records, which should put them in front of more people than ever before. Over eight tracks and nearly 70 immersive minutes, the band unloads their inner selves, examining where their souls have been shredded, basking in the majesty of nature, and giving listeners every ounce of who they are. This band—guitarist/vocalist Nick Stanger, bassist Nathan Wallestead, keyboard player Cormac Piper, drummer Ian Sutherland—has grown in leaps and bounds ever since their 2015 debut “Vacant” and into their 2016 sophomore record “Yugen” and demonstrated a potential to be a true force in metal that combines heaviness with human heart. That’s paying off.

The title track kicks things off situated in a bed of acoustics before the thing bursts open. The mix goes back and forth between black metal and folk, with Stanger howling, “I won’t watch you die again,” in defiance. The guitars swim back and forth between calm and rough as warm leads flow, the pace has raucous spots, and Stanger vows, “Every sacrifice was not in vain,” as soloing lights up a fiery end. “Wilderness Walk” jars out of the gates, with admiration for nature and its gift of solace hammered by Stanger’s howls. “Once I had lost my way, now I have found a new beginning,” he calls as the guitars light up and bring serious heat, while emotions caterwaul with power. “I am lost in you,” Stanger wails, as he finds his escape from torment and revels in his true calling. “Dreamscape” has a flurry of chirps as the song slowly comes to life in a psychedelic haze. The song takes some time to build and finally gushes open at about the four-minute mark, with a proggy essence flowing, and Stanger wailing, “Living a life only bound by imagination and freewill,” which is an amazing thought. Synth swells as he declares, “No deities! No masters!” as static and melody collide, and the track tries to think of a world where scarcity and suffering are no more. “Shrine of Loss” sits in a Western-style noir, feeling moody and spacious, with Stanger observing the shrine is the place “where happiness goes to die.” Soloing bursts from calm, as anguished cries and a deluge of sound bring this to a devastating finish.

“Eternal Separation Pt. 1” is cosmic when it starts as keys plink, proggy guitars begin to sprawl, and then things begin to sweep. The track begins delivering punches as Stanger cries passionately, “You are everything I hate about myself and you’re always with me,” a thought that can be applied to so many things. The track heads back into outer space as the room fills with stars, then Stanger delivers a line that hits a little close to home with, “I want to be healed, but these wounds are sentimental,” and a jazzy stream then heads into “Pt. II” where synth rises like a fog and spreads. The ferocious storm gets angrier and blacker, as Stanger admits, “I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders,” as the track blasts forward and crushes walls. Acoustic dashes enter, the leads quiver, and things burn, leaving thick smoke. “Spiritual Architecture” is an instrumental cut that comes at the right time, especially after experiencing such tumult. There’s some strangeness here, which is nice, along with breezy floods of sound that immerse the brain, setting up an elegant finish that leads to finale “Threshold of Existence.” Guitars poke into the room, and again we have a jazz-infused sound taking form before the ignition is switched on. The vocals rage, gazey power washes over the song, and even the cleaner portions that push in feel corroded and dark. The playing stages its last stand as it collides with noise erosion and spits its final bits of energy.

There is genuine humanity in Ashbringer’s music that cannot be faked, and that emotional bursts at the seams of every corner of “Absolution.” Yeah, there are a lot of bands making atmospheric black metal right now, but not all of them can climb into your chest and make you feel every pump of blood like these guys do. This is another strong building block for this band’s foundation that gets stronger and sturdier with every record they create.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/ashbringermusic/

To buy the album, go here: https://store.prostheticrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/prostheticrecords/

Spanish death metal destroyers Hex unleash furious, infernally bloody attack ‘God Has No Name’

Utter morbidity is not something to be taken lightly, and it’s a state of mind that can be kind of terrifying when you think about it. But you know when you hear it, and typically that should make your skin crawl and your bloodstream turn freezing cold. It’s ugly and painful, a thick journey into the darkest areas of the mind where most people try to avoid.

A lot of that describes hulking Spanish death metal band Hex, whose second album “God Has No Name” should be arriving right after our country celebrates Independence Day. It’ll be wise to get all of those misguided, drunken festivities out of the way before you tackle this beast anyway, because it’s a doom-splattered affair that isn’t going to give way to bright rays of sunshine or happiness. These seven songs that travel an economical 37:27 are heavy and covered with ill intent, which makes for a good experience for anyone hungry for bloody death metal. Anyone else? Not sure what to tell you. How’d you even find your way here? The band—vocalist Jonathan, guitarists Adolfo WB and Jon, bassist Endika, and drummer Asier—lay waste early and often, leaving you in mental distress and physical disarray by the find you find your way to the end of the album.

“Thy Kingdom Gone” begins the record with chugs, strange chants, and then growls tearing everything apart. The track drives hard as the guitars heat up, feeling mean and punishing, while a melodic charge strikes toward the end before things end crushingly. “Soundsculpter” has menacing growls, the bass trudging, and utter fury exploding. The drums turn teeth to powder, carnage explodes, and the band ups the ante, making the final moments as fiery as humanly possible. “Worshipping Falsehood” has a bluesy open as the track sludges, and growls enter and create panic. Guitars swagger while weird whispering emerges, and the track comes to a slowly delivered, doom-encrusted end. “Daevangelism – The Dark Sunset” begins with the sounds of a preacher railing about Jerusalem before the track fires up, and everything is torn apart. The low end tears out guts as the track comes to a mean, massive shift, and then the growls go off. The track thrashes while everything speeds toward a wall, and the last thing you hear are splattering growls and an evil cackle.

“Where Gods Shall Not Reign” is smudgy with vicious growls and a female voice calling in the midst (giving it a bit of a Celtic Frost essence). The track revels in doom, while the ghostly singing mixes into the void, the band begins to mash digits, and things come to an infernal close. “Apocryphal” has crunchy riffs and cavernous growls as the gas pedal is struck, and strong riffs rain down. Soloing smears and makes things feel nasty, as the track grinds away and even has a rock n roll flare before things come to an end. “All Those Lies That Dwells…” ends the album on a rotting note, with riffs pounding away and the growls crushing. Sections of the track lurch, and the bulk of this is heavy as fuck, as the playing rounds up and increases the intensity, noise hangs overhead, and everything is swallowed into a void of weirdness that makes your guts go cold.

If one is to question Hex’s morbidity, it won’t take long with “God Has No Name” to find the answer you’re seeking. This band hacks away and leaves no flesh unbruised by the time they unfurl their entire misery-inducing display. This is death metal for bad moods and hopelessness when only another entity immersed in the same darkness as you makes any sense.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/hexandhell/

To buy the album, go here: https://tometal.com/store/

Or here (U.S. store): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://tometal.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Yellow Eyes’ psychic chaos bleeds into panic on hypnotic ‘Rare Field Ceiling’

It’s late at night, and you’re wandering. Red stains the horizon as the sun finishes its slow descent, and while you’re sure you’re situated somewhere in the warmer months, there still is a chill in the air that causes you to wonder and take inventory of your surroundings. You walk and walk, and as homes come into focus, you feel a comfort and an ease. At the same time, you’re wary because while this might look like a village in which you’ve lived and breathed before, something is amiss.

That same experience is how it feels traveling through “Rare Field Ceiling,” the fifth full-length record from Yellow Eyes, one of the most perplexing, alluring, and truly unique entities in the entire sub-genre. No one sounds like Yellow Eyes, and they sound like no one else, even if you can touch upon some influences, and buried in this six-track album is a journey that feels like one you’ve had before. But when you look closer, this is altogether new to you. Yes, much of what makes Yellow Eyes so perplexing is here from the brain-tunneling melodies to the inhuman barks to the strange chimes that fill the air (some of their Siberian-informed “Immersion Trench Reverie” spirits remain, but only as fading souls), but this one has new arcs, different twists, and a darker personality created by the band—guitarists/vocalists Will Skarstad, guitarist, Sam Skarstad, bassist Alexander DeMaria, and drummer Mike Rekevics. You’ll recognize some of the colors, but they’re distributed far differently than before.

“Warmth Trance Revival” starts with the windy chimes slowly bleeding in, synth rising, and a piercing shriek breaking into the night sky with sounds swirling and the elements forming a tornado. Guitars cut down into a proggy burst, wild cries erupt, and melodies roll into DeMaria’s powerful bassline. Leads sting, the song powers out, and acoustic strings are plucked as a choir calls, leading into “No Dust” that has riffs climbing the walls. Slow, anguished cries sink teeth into guts, while a dizzying pace is achieved before a delirious burst attacks. Things get disorienting as guitars return and cut through steel, while things keep tumbling, and the chimes come back and push into “Light Delusion Curtain” and its swelling riffs. The guitars release random colors as shrieks scrape skin, and a volcanic explosion spits out the earth. The assault is punishing and compelling, the bass bends around corners, and gazey guitars form a cloud and hang in the air.

“Nutrient Painting” is a total swarm before the song erupts, and tricky guitars twist the brain wiring before echoed screaming bounces off cave walls. Fierce chaos strips away flesh, while disorienting guitars play tricks with your mind, and the track keeps driving downward with emotional waves before ringing out into a thick haze. The title cut has drums unloading, Will screaming the song’s title, and then a strange calm washing in and stretching out. Riffs that sound like canon Yellow Eyes strike as speedy guitars hit the gas pedal, causing confusion and then outright destruction. The punishment continues to flow before noise begins barreling down the hill, and the heavy strangeness flows into final cut “Maritime Flame” that has the choral section returning and haunting, with shrieks and drone stepping in and overwhelming, and bizarre ambiance flooding the senses. Feral howls combine with cleanly dripping guitars, disarming solemnity floats like a ghost, and static chews as the song trails away.

The season and setting are important, but ultimately, what truly matters here are the psychological tunnels Yellow Eyes dig on “Rare Field Ceiling.” The power and imagination remain their own, and they insist on guiding this vessel themselves and, as a result, continue to get sharpened edges that pierce the flesh over and over again. They’re a rarity in black metal and in the entire genre itself of artists who don’t repeat themselves, carved their own voices, and are hellbent to ever do anything anyone else’s way.

For more on the band, go here: https://yelloweyes.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album or for more on the label, go here: https://gileadmedia.net/

Cleveland bruisers Axioma burn societal decay, oppression with earth-decimating debut ‘Crown’

Imagine how much better Earth likely would be without people. First, we’re awful stewards to this planet, you know, if science is to be believed, and we don’t even treat each other all that well, resulting in poor relations among so many people, especially if you happen not to be in a ruling class. Or at least look like you are.

Cleveland’s Axioma had some of those ideas rolling around in their heads when it came time to write their first record “Crown.” They looked at the ways humankind has tried to exert control over people over many systems (religion, you def can put your fucking hand down) and how that’s resulted in others being beaten down and essentially enslaved. Many of those systems also have led to the destruction we’re done/are doing/won’t stop doing to a planet that just might murder us in a few decades, and who could possibly blame it? Axioma bring a wealth of experience from other band such as Keelhaul, Brain Tentacles, Forged in Flame, Jesus Egg and plenty others as its members—bassist/vocalist Aaron Dallison, guitarists J. Meyers and Cyril Blandino, and drummer Jon Vinson—forge black metal, doom, some crust, and other destructive elements that make up this nine track, 45-minute record that also includes a really interesting cover track that we’ll get to later.

“Sacred Killing Machine” opens the record with filthy exchanges, raspy growls and screams mixing together, and the track going cold right as its hits molten levels. “Holy genocide, hell upon barren earth,” Dallison howls as savagery runs amok, and the track ends in a pile of molten ash. “Roots” bleeds in, coming in clean at first as the music streams, and guitars begin extending their reach. Vicious vocals push as the playing stymies before it opens its jaws and begins devouring earth whole. That leads to devastating menace as the riffs bring the track to a killer end. “Harvest of Tongues” is a quick instrumental piece that has guitars hovering in the air, bringing an atmospheric charge that shoves into “Cult of Moloch” and its fire-breathing opening. “Bring the child forth, giveth the seed as offering, the deity shall be appeased,” Dallison rages as guitars charge up, and corrosive playing chews away at flesh and muscle. The track charges hard, leaving a sooty residue, with everything melting into chaos.

“Ascending the Mountain of Divinities” folds in with quiet, reflective guitar work, giving off a sense of calm as cymbals lightly crash, and then the tranquility changes over to hell. “The chosen few, called from above, claw your way to the altar,” Dallison wails as riffs crush and meaty thrashing ensures those bruises won’t go away any time soon. The guitars truck later as the growls scrape, and everything ends in a fiery mess. “Vessels for Migration” is an instrumental piece that’s spacey and bubbly, making your brain feel weird, and that leads into that cover we spoke of, their take on Massive Attack’s “Angel.” I wasn’t paying attention to track listing first time I heard this, so their reading took me by surprise, but when Dallison shouts, “You are my angel, I love you love you love you love you,” it sets right in. It’s everything most covers are not, in that they don’t just puke back the song; they figure out a way to put their own mark on it. “Feral Deities” is strange, with synth blips and a bizarre ambiance that leads to the song crashing through the cloud cover and powdering bones. The storm swirls as the assault gets more vicious, the growls destroy wills, and everything comes to an apocalyptic end. “Auto Da Fe” ends the album as drums pace the movement, and a slow ride picks up, complete with gazey wonder. “Dogma unleashed, civility questioned, heretical plague, threatens the crown,” Dallison shouts as the song leaves scars and tortured wounds before everything is sucked into spacey weirdness and trickles away.

Axioma’s take and views of the state of mankind are sadly right on the nose, and the music on “Crown” is a sobering and violent wake-up call to heed before things get to be too late. Though, who are we kidding? Change is as likely to happen as this site making me wealthy. But we can’t say we haven’t been warned, as the slap in the face we need is delivered over the course of 45 minutes of raw power.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/AxiomaOfficialUs

To buy the album, go here: http://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/

Or here (cassette): https://hibernationrelease.bigcartel.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.translationloss.com/

And here: https://www.facebook.com/hibernationrelease/

Superstition deliver guttural death metal savagery on vicious debut ‘… Unholy Transformation’

Horror and devastation should be a given when digging into most death metal records. They are the initial ingredients that baked up this horrible stuff some three decades ago, and they remain vital components that keeps this creative havoc in the underground to this day.

Rumbling out of Santa Fe, NM, come Superstition, a band hellbent on keeping the basic tenets of death metal vital and killing, and the display they put on with debut record “The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation” is one that helps strengthen the line from Morbid Angel, Death, and Autopsy to the current and keeps that foundation as putrid and bloody as humanly possible. Bringing with them hellish experience in other bands including Predatory Light, Vanum, and Ash Borer, this unit—guitarist/vocalist L.S., guitarist/keyboard player K.M., bassist D.J., and drummer D.M.—grab handfuls of your brain matter and just twist and chew on them. Over nine tracks that run an ideal 34:20 in length, the band keeps traditional death violent and hammering, which should please any fan of the genre whether they caught on in the 1990s or just came along recently.

“Unholy Transformation Pt. 1” opens the record, a quick instrumental starter built by eerie synth, lurching growls, and monstrous weirdness that pulls right into “Highly Attuned Beasts of the Dark,” where things get off to a fiery beginning. The band lands multiple punches, with LS howling, “Under death’s standards march the rotten hordes, unrepentant.” Leads swim through the crazed pace with the sounds bending and the track spitting broken teeth. “Spiritual Sunderance” has leads fluttering before a nasty neck-jerking pace arrive, and the vocals are utterly savage as LS wails, “The banal pleasures of decay enraptured, pierced by manifold eyes, succor the afflicted with ample rot, like grief suspended in spheres of agony.” The pace gets slurry and disorienting in spots, but everything hits full throttle again, with the song ending in a power blast. “Unholy Transformation Pt. II” is a quick interlude that feels icy and strange, making your flesh crawl as it works its way into your mind.

“Passage of Nullification” has distorted leads, ample crunch, and the growls cutting through flesh and bone, leaving blood spatter. The playing is smothering in spots, with the leads exploding, the pace stomping, and the track fading out. “Torn in the Outer Lands” has riffs attacking and aggravate growls, as LS cries, “Fast in the fire, torn in the outer lands, glutted on gods, extinguished.” The playing causes disorientation and dizziness, while the soloing blares and switches off, letting its assault makes its way into and through your chest cavity. “Unreclaimed Blood (Phantom Swan)” bursts open with the guitars going for broke, mangling growls adding to the blood spill, and relentless chugging crushing you and leaving you gasping for air. Soloing screams out, the band fires up, and the track comes to a blistering end. “Unholy Transformation Pt. III” is the final interlude, a spooky synthscape that brings cosmic terror, setting the stage for closer “Charnel Pleasures” that’s the longest song of the bunch at 7:21. The track is a smasher from the start, an ideal album ender where the band goes for broke. Growls echo in the madness while the thrashing devastates, doomy gusts block out the sun, and insane soloing rips through sanity and time, as the band fires up for a big finish before a sound funeral washes over the end.

Superstition’s to-the-grindstone brand of death metal is traditional and exciting, a crushing experience from front to back when you take on “The Anatomy of Unholy Transformation.” Even though they remain true to the roots, this band also isn’t regurgitating anyone else’s vibe or sound. They have their very own that’s overwhelming and punishing, and each second of this record is here to bring annihilation and waves of panic.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Superstition.Death

To buy the album, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/superstition

For more on the label, go here: https://www.20buckspin.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Memoriam fire up torches, blast societal ills on burly ‘Requiem for Mankind’

Every time we visit some of the legends of our world, we try to remind that these people won’t be here forever, and one day, their incredible work will be in the past and removed from the present. People are going to see a goddamn Dio hologram, which just goes to show you how much fans miss the past once it’s relegated to history.

To be totally honest, I was worried the members of Memoriam might have met their match when they released their second record “The Silent Vigil” last year, an album that paled in comparison to their thunderous 2017 debut “For the Fallen.” Karl Willetts, longtime frontman for death metal stallions Bolt Thrower, sounded weathered for the first time in his career, and it was tough to give that album a lot of visits because it was tough to hear. His mates Scott Fairfax (guitars), Frank Healy (bass), and Andrew Whale (drums) also didn’t sound quite as inspired, and maybe they had just come back too soon after their first one. When the band’s third record “Requiem for Mankind” showed up in the inbox several weeks ago, mixed feelings washed over me, but I knew I’d dig in right away, hoping the disappointment from “Vigil” could be buried. Luckily, that’s just what happened, as Memoriam sound like a band revived, and Willetts is the goddamn force we’ve always know, barking with authority as his bandmates thrash away with hunger and savagery, like they have something to prove.

“Shell Shock” gets the record off to a savage start as the mashing begins and Willetts howls, “There is no escape, you scream, nobody hears!” Killer riffs whip into a storm with the band thrashing hard, as Willetts’ howls of awaiting execution crush, bringing things to a humid, punchy end. “Undefeated” is fiery and crunchy as the double-kick drums do their part, and over the chorus Willetts demands, “No retreat, no respite,” as the band shows utter defiance. “Never the Victim” has a sorrowful start amid abject heaviness, though the song is a reminder not to take time for granted, as one day it will pass you by. “Live for today, nothing lasts,” Willetts calls while the band backs him with melodic assaults and pummeling power. “Austerity Kills” is a blast back against authority trying to keep people down, and it surges hard with mean growls as Willetts smashes those who oppress the poor as well as greedy corporations, with the track seeking to mangle those very targets. “In the Midst of Desolation” blows in with a purpose, dealing heavy blows, with Willett’s crying, “With life now gone, there’s nothing left.” Guitars spiral as the heat builds, while the song imagines drifting off among the stars to float forever.

“Refuse to Be Led” is more atmospherically melodic than most Memoriam songs, with Willetts declaring, “Time has come to make a stand,” before the chains are torn off and the beatings begin. The song remains defiant but approachable, with the call of, “Refuse to obey, refuse to comply,” delivered as a battle cry. “The Veteran” has swaggering riffs and a slugier feel, feeling like it crawled out of New Orleans. “None can see the horror I’ve done,” Willetts admits, while the band delivers heavy metal fire that feels hot and sticky. The title track delivers a heaping dose of doom, pushing its way in and refusing to relent. The chorus is a simple call-back of the title, which is effective, while the rest is cement heavy and lethal. “Fixed Bayonets” has a chunky beginning with a tempo that crushes and Willetts relaying tales of fighting in close quarters, cheek to cheek, battling back to “destroy the enemy.” The band does a fine job conveying the panic and violence, as the song ends in pulverizing manner. “Interment” is an instrumental closer that’s moody and humid, casting a pall over the horrors and bloodshed of war, letting the heart and mind reflect on the price that has been paid.

It’s awesome to hear Memoriam crushing on all cylinders, making strong, relevant death metal that is plastered all over “Requiem for Mankind.” In fact, this record could tangle with their debut in the battlefield any day of the week, and it’s anyone’s guess which would come out on top. This is massive artillery fire from a group of savvy veterans who remain masters of their craft, small speed bump aside.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Memoriam2016/

To buy the album, go here: https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

For more on the label, go here: https://www.nuclearblast.com/en/label/

The Lord Weird Slough Feg mix classic metal with philosophy on mind-tangling ‘New Organon’

The reasons for a band making new record can be a million-fold from a natural process the players have set out, to wanting to have a reason to go tour, to wanting to make some extra money. Totally kidding about that last part. Pretty sure no one’s doing it for that reason anymore. But other artists need very specific needs met before they unleash new music on the public.

Long-running classic heavy metal band The Lord Weird Slough Feg (they’re added the “Lord Weird” back to their name after many years) never have been your ordinary group, and their motivations are not the same as everyone else. So, when it came time to create the music that would make up their 10th album “New Organon,” they didn’t just want to crank out two handfuls of songs and just go with it. Vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi, himself busy enough at his job as a professor of Philosophy at a California college, discusses in the bio materials accompanying the music the process of creating and working and destroying songs that they just didn’t feel and only choosing to present the songs that made them feel excited and want to commit the tracks to permanence. Add to that, Scalzi dug into his own class notes for lyrical inspiration, and the album title itself is a reference to English philosopher Francis Bacon’s 1620 book of the same name calling for a revolution in scientific method, as he felt work had grown stagnant. It’s heady stuff presented by the band—rounded out by guitarist Angelo Tringali, bassist Adrian Maestas, and new drummer Jeff Griffin (he shared studio duties with John Dust)—on this riff-driven, story-filled 10-track, 37-minute record that’s brimming with majesty and power.

“Headhunter” gets the record off to a big start with strong riffs and Scalzi’s gravelly vocals noting, “Sunken heads piled to the sky.” As the track moves on, he wails, “Whispered prayers forgotten as they fall,” as the chorus launches, and the track is off to a steady gallop that reprises the first verses before blistering out. “Discourse of Equality” has pummeling riffs as Scalzi scolds, singing about the “chains of misery” as the pace stomps along. The leads charge as wild howls enter the mix, all ending in fire. “The Apology” has a driving bassline and is the first of a few with a nice folkish backbone, even though its heavy as hell. Scalzi sings of imprisoned philosopher Socrates waiting as execution nears, with a strong chorus sending power. The Romans make Socrates drink hemlock, wailing, “Off with his head,” as the track comes to a wiry finish. “Being & Nothingness” is super charged out of the gates, with cool dual guitar melodies and Scalzi opining, “Existence is my crime.” The guitars band together, and killer soloing lights up and heads into the night. The title cut is a stomping fury from the start, digging into Bacon’s text, with Scalzi calling, “The sum of my knowledge will conquer the earth.” Soloing erupts and bleeds over the track, with things seemingly coming to an end, only to ramp up again for another charge.

“Sword of Machiavelli” has a start-stop beginning, weirder vocals, and a folkish punch right in the gut. “One victim of Mephistopheles, one victim to die by the sword,” Scalzi howls amid guitars sprawling, the low-end chewing, and a mad cackle to take things out. “Uncanny” lands punches with some nice double-kick drum action, and the singing is uncharacteristically higher than usual. There also are heavy waves of nostalgia simply from them stoking fires from the ’70s, soloing aggravated the senses, and the guitars rise and leave together. “Coming of Age in the Milky Way” has a warm, psychedelic haze washing over, a playful vibe, and Scalzi wailing, “Survival’s my only crime,” calling back to a similar line from “Being & Nothingness,” though I’m not sure that’s intended. Soloing slices in and glows, while the path is ground beneath them. “Exegesis – Tragic Hooligan” has a spirited opening, classic guitar work, and Scalzi poking, “You painted the scene when you were so green, now the colors you chose seem so obscene,” amid melodies that feel a little sad, even despite moments of glory. Closer “The Cynic” is a total curveball, as the band sinks into a 1960s-style melody, and a poppy one, that they work into their metallics. The track feels like a proper show ender, with Scalzi calling, “I tried to imitate myself causing pain,” as the emotion builds, and the track breezes away.

The Lord Weird Slough Feg have made some of the most honest, traditional heavy metal over their nearly 30 years together, and “New Organon” is another strong blast from a band that seemingly is immune to trends. Remaining true to their artistic senses paid off for them again, and this record is punchy and a blast to visit repeatedly as these stories work their way into your head. No one sounds quite like them, and that’s for the best as it would be foolish to try to top them at their game.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/sloughfegofficial/

To buy the album, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

Harsh thrashers Sadistic Ritual put fury and chaos into world with killer ‘Visionaire of Death’

My first true pathway into extreme forms of metal was through thrash, a sub-genre on which I overly indulged when I was growing up. It was the form of music that made me see some of the glam stuff I was into as a little silly (I’ve opened my mind back up a little bit to that in recent years because Dokken is fucking fun) and made that slide into death and black metal that much easier. It also makes me hesitant to embrace newer bands that try their hands at the sound.

I’ve not been overwhelmed with the most recent waves of thrash metal because I’m old and tired and set in my ways and mostly miserable. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to let myself be surprised now and again, and Unspeakable Axe has done a nice job finding these bands, their latest being Atlanta’s Sadistic Ritual, one of the gnarlier groups playing this sound. Their first full-length is “Visionaire of Death,” and it’s a nasty animal that slides a little bit into death metal and leaves you with a bloodied mouth (it’s being released in conjunction with Boris Records). The band—guitarist/vocalist Charlie Southern, guitarist Alex Parra, bassist Shawn Staszko, drummer Joe Sweat—has been together since 2009 and released a series of smaller things before they got here, and that time together sharpening their teeth results in a punchy, brutal 10 tracks in a trim, nicely paced 37:40 that doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves you wanting more.

The title track opens things up with warbled backwards messaging before the track breaks open and fries faces. The pace is fiery as hell, while Southern’s screams shred, the guitars go off, and things end in a crazed haze. “…In Cold Blood” is speedy as hell with raspy howls riffs pummeling, and a simple, but effective chorus giving you more than you can handle. This song just crushes. “Double Crossed” has a fiery start as the riffs go for broke, the drums punch you open, and the bass hunts you like prey. The track delivers relentless shots, wailing you over and over before ending in madness. “Executioner” also brings the speed as gritty growls lead the way, and the pace chugs and chews. The track is vicious as hell, fast and violent, with cool fluid soloing working its way in before the song comes to a bludgeoning end. “Mutually Assured Destruction” charges out of the gates and, in almost no time at all, is in a vicious sprint. Throaty vocals add to the fury, while the track maintains dangerous intensity and ends abruptly.

“Civil Unrest” jars and crushes as the vocals are spat out, and Southern wails about being “anarchy obsessed.” The guitars churn while the chorus brings things to the ground, and a splattering soloing caps off this short but deadly track. “Malicious Misanthrope” has mangling vocals, a pace that destroys worlds, and a burst of speed that can darken a city. Strong soloing opens and swells, while the track is left to bleed out on its own. “Death Shriek” is over before you know it, a 1:15-long monster that mixes more punk into its thrash DNA, has clobbering shrieks, and even delves into proggy soloing before barreling its way toward “Merciless Retribution” and its ground-and-pound assault. Gang shouts erupt while meaty riffs add to the attack, the growls drip with menace, and everything comes to a smashing end. Closer “Cerebral Sacrifice” is the longest song here, running a healthy eight minutes, of which the band makes good use. The playing pounds away with relentless intensity, throat-mangling howls charge, and the intensity is turned up even higher as the band sharpens their teeth. Later on, the terror mixes into cold, chilled playing, and out of that the chaos rises again, muscle is torn from bone, and the final moments revel in a violent haze that ends your experience in hypnosis.

Sadistic Ritual restore hope that perhaps thrash can be something inventive, dangerous, and fun again, and it doesn’t have to be about repeating tropes. “Visionaire of Death” is meaty and bloody, a good beating that you don’t mind sustaining because you’re enjoying yourself along the way even as open wounds begin to scream with pain. This band is here to beat the hell out of you, and they never fail to carry out that deadly mission.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SadRitATL/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.unspeakableaxerecords.com/purchase/

Or here: https://boris-records.com/

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

And here: https://borisrecords.bandcamp.com/