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Dave's Underground Laboratory: April 9, 2012

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After gorging himself on Peeps and chocolate bunnies, our educator of the extreme is raring to go with another session of the underground lab. Dave has carefully selected a handful of specimens to put under the microscope, and following a moment of silence to honor Jim Marshall (inventor of the Marshall amp who passed away this week), he cranks the volume up to 11, and the lab is in session.

Exumer - Fire & Damnation (Metal Blade)

Exumer - Fire & Damnation
Metal Blade Records

Classic thrash bands looked upon with fond remembrance by my demographic (educated males in their 40s going through a mid-life crisis) continue to crawl back out of the woodwork to give it another go. This time around, semi-legendary first wave German thrash band Exumer reunite with two founding members to release Fire & Damnation, the band’s first album since breaking up in 1990, and their third album overall.

Exumer are mostly known for their first album, 1986’s Possessed By Fire, afforded legendary status as a landmark of early German thrash. Mostly treading in the territory of early Destruction and related bands, I mainly remember Possessed By Fire due to the thoroughly cheesy cover art. A follow-up, Rising From The Sea, was released the next year; a few attempts were made at new material, and then, Exumer disappeared.

However, an appreciation for the band’s enthusiastic Teutonic thrash never really faded, prompting a reformation. The result is Fire & Damnation, a good album of thrash metal that obviously harkens back to the era. Rather simple, yet very catchy, riffing, a mid-paced gallop, some nice bass work, etc., all are dutifully included. However, although rather simple and retro, Exumer know what works and are able to deliver an enjoyable album.

Not as slick as, say, recent albums from Onslaught, but much better than some of the other recent second tier bands’ attempts at a comeback, Fire & Damnation is a very catchy album that will be appreciated by old hands and the young alike.

Dave’s Grade: B+

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Acephalix - Deathless Master (Southern Lord)

Acephalix - Deathless Master
Southern Lord Records

Acephalix, the best pure death metal band on Southern Lord Records’ roster, returns with their second full-length album in Deathless Master. Last year’s compilation Interminable Night immediately led me to label Acephalix as the best new band in last year’s “best of the year” list, as well as honor the album in the best of Dave’s Underground Laboratory.

Needless to say, I was very much looking forward to Deathless Master. As expected, it is a semi-crust version of old Swedish death metal with huge riffs, a galloping pace, and deeply heavy growled vocals. The band’s crust influences, however, are more much muted from that of past material, as the band’s embrace of death metal with a very heavy sound is complete.

Acephalix also slow down their assault a bit with heavy dirges and lumbering riffs, allowing the music to approach an almost doom metal vibe. Backing up the heaviness is good songwriting, and I’ve no doubt that the new material will flatten an audience in a live setting as Acephalix are already an excellent live band.

Acephalix continue to show why they’re one of the best bands on Southern Lord with a crushingly heavy release in Deathless Master.

Dave’s Grade: A

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Malasangre - Lux Deerit Soli (I, Voidhanger)

Malasangre - Lux Deerit Soli
I, Voidhanger Records

Don’t let the emo haircuts fool you. Italy’s Malasangre play funeral doom with a soft atmospheric edge. That type of musical approach is about as far as one can get from emo nonsense, and Malasangre’s approach to the genre is pretty well done on Lux Deerit Soli, their second full-length.

Very heavy guitar work with a very hazy production, a glacial pace, and rough vocals are periodically broken up with long, drawn out passages of atmospheric harmonics. An album only consisting of two very long tracks of over a half hour apiece, Malasangre wisely break up their songs into noticeably separate movements that ebb and flow, resulting in a rather dreamy auditory experience.

I, Voidhanger Records is rather well known for digging up strange acts skirting the edges of some of metal’s extreme subgenres, but I do find myself somewhat disappointed in this album’s presentation. Bland cover art adorns Lux Deerit Soli, something that I, Voidhanger always manage to avoid.

Dave’s Grade: B

Fisthammer - Devour All You See (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions)

Fisthammer - Devour All You See
Horror Pain Gore Death Productions

I really don’t want to know the story behind Fisthammer’s choice of band name. Regardless, their appearance on Horror Pain Gore Death Productions indicates that death metal is going to be the name of the game. Sure enough, Fisthammer play death metal with frenetic riffs, lots of blasts, and guttural vocals.

However, rather than playing with a deep, bottom heavy sound, Fisthammer flirt with the more technical aspects of the genre with arpeggios, lightning fast riffing, and a production towards the lighter end of the spectrum. Think Dying Fetus playing technical thrash, and you’ve got the gist of it.

Although playing in the more technical aspects of the genre, Fisthammer, like all good bands in this subgenre, wisely avoid descending into musical self indulgence. Songs are well written and engaging, and the musicianship is crisp and precise. A good release, Devour All You See is well worth checking out.

Dave’s Grade: B

Perdition Winds – Perdition Winds EP (Darker Than Black)

Perdition Winds – Perdition Winds
Darker Than Black Records

You don’t hear about the much maligned “basement” black metal subgenre these days, but Perdition Winds, a Finnish project consisting of Neutron Hammer and a handful of others from the country’s very underground black metal scene, is a good example of what the genre may still have to offer. Although not the project of a sole individual, Perdition Winds has that combination of simplified music descended from Burzum and/or early Darkthrone, a murky production, and atmospherics galore that suggests that the music may have been recorded in a cellar just about anywhere in the world.

The music is well done with simple, yet catchy, riffs, rolls and fills to the drums to go along with a steady cadence and a few time changes, an audible bass, and deep vocals to produce a pleasing example of straightforward black metal.

You’ve heard all of this a million times before, of course, but Perdition Winds know their way around the genre and are able to somewhat stand out, nonetheless.

Dave’s Grade: B

Fistula – Loser (Patac)

Fistula – Loser
Patac Records

Here’s a quick look at a re-issue of an EP from sludge/doom/grindcore act Fistula. Loser was originally released on CD back in 2010 on Hydro-Phonic Records, but was only limited to literally a couple of dozen copies. Patac Records’ vinyl re-issue is only limited itself to a few hundred pressings, but is pressed in multiple colors and is issued with multiple artworks. Vinyl collectors of doom, this one is definitely for you!

Fistula play a hybrid of sludge and doom with a very heavy sound, but also, somewhat strangely, toss in some all out blasts and periodically segue into grindcore territory. In short, Fistula end up a weird combination of Eyehategod and Napalm Death. The approach has a degree of originality, but works best when slowed down to a heavy dirge with crushing riffs.

However, the attention to detail in the vinyl presentation is probably going to excite most collectors of such relics, as this release is obviously geared towards.

Dave’s Grade: B

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