Arriving Angels, cellist Alison Chesley’s third album under her Helen Money moniker, is a dark, intense headphone record of the highest order that demands its listener’s full attention. Throughout the album’s eight tracks, there are bouts of violent, jazzy dissonance (“Upsetter”) akin to something a serial killer might throw on to wind down after a hard day’s work.
Genre: Death Metal
The French death metal band Necrowretch blast down the doors on their debut Putrid Death Sorcery, as it becomes a lesson in pain quite quickly. The band is reminiscent of Skeletonwitch if they removed the black metal and went with fully fledged death metal. The album is also rife with an old school production job, a major plus for me.
The album features some hamfisted songs like “Goat-Headed” as the overt occult theme is prevalent, albeit not in a Satan’s Wrath or Midnight type of way. If you like modern death metal with an old-school spin, Necrowretch have put together quite the solid debut and should be applauded for doing so.
Primitive Man – 'Scorn' (Throatruiner)
Genre: Doom/Sludge Metal
It could be said that primitive man was a savage, but on debut full length Scorn, Primitive Man take savagery to a whole new level. The band is equally (un)comfortable with outright noise, brutal grind or devastating doom/sludge. Scorn drips with depravity and disgust throughout.
Their strings-falling-off-the-guitar down tuned filth could cause earthquakes or crumble mountains. When in high(er) gear, the punishing riffs pound with the power of a ten ton battering ram, knocking the wind from your lungs. Scorn is no doubt one of the most brutal, unsettling and uncompromising albums you will hear all year.
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal
Shrine Of New Generation Slaves is the latest offering from the Polish prog band Riverside. Their music is mostly rock with quiet moments punctuated by brief flurries of metal intensity. One of the highlights is "Celebrity Touch," an upbeat, organ-infused track dripping with '70s goodness. I'm not a huge fan of the distortion effect used periodically on the vocals, though.
Riverside have elements of everyone from Porcupine Tree to Pink Floyd to Opeth. If you like your prog blended with many different genres and a retro vibe, you'll want to check out Shrine Of New Generation Slaves.
Slough Feg – 'Down Among The Deadmen' (Metal Blade)
Genre: Celtic Folk Metal/Traditional Metal After signing the iconoclastic Slough Feg, Metal Blade also announced they would reissue three of the band's early records. 2000’s Down Among The Deadmen, their third album, has always been an important part of their canon and what many would consider their breakout release.
Slough Feg triumph by being able to take the basic elements if traditional heavy metal and Celtic metal, and defamiliarize them, make them somehow new and alien while still being recognizable. “Walls of Shame” is an excellent example of this and an album highlight, combining folk melodies and impassioned delivery with a rare freshness. Spending time with Down Among the Deadmen and the other two re-released records are an excellent way to get excited for whatever delectable weirdness Slough Feg will write next.
Genre: Traditional Metal
Traveller,2003’s fourth album by The Lord Weird Slough Feg, is a bit different than the previous three. The major difference is the concept of an intergalactic battle. The fully fleshed out near Star Fox-ian lyrics make for an incredible experience. The first full track “High Passage/Low Passage” gallops along and is accompanied by excellent melody and a rash of guitar pyrotechnics.
The band rarely takes their pace above mid-tempo, but a true epic is one that needs to be fully fleshed out and to sacrifice that for pure unadulterated speed would be foolhardy. Fans of Manilla Road and Candlemass would be wise to pick this one up.
Genre: Traditional Metal
Metal Blade Records recently signed heavy metal rebels Slough Feg and are re-releasing early albums from the band. Included in that group is their second album, Twilight of the Idols.
Originally released in 1998, when the band was still going by the wordy The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Twilight of the Idols has the Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy-esque guitar harmonies and folksy melodies that has served the band well all these years. Twilight of the Idols is where the band began to hit their prime, and the album maintains its relevance some 15 years later.
Genre: Black Metal
Seven years after their full-length debut was released, the German black metal duo Sonic Reign return with Monument In Black. Typical trappings of black metal are bolstered on several songs with an excellent groove. It's not quite black 'n roll, but it makes Sonic Reign more accessible.
Another element that makes it more accessible is the vocals. Instead of unholy unintelligible shrieks, they are lower pitched and perfectly understandable. Blastbeats and oppressive atmosphere give way to downright catchy riffs. Monument In Black is a well-rounded black metal album, and may remind some listeners of Satyricon.
Vex - 'Memorious' (Horror Pain Gore Death)
Genre: Death Metal
Are two bands enough to crystallize a regional sound? Perhaps. San Marcos, Texas’ Vex have just released their second album Memorious. It’s a great improvement over their debut with vastly improved songwriting and even better musicianship. What has caught my ear, however, is the subtle melody that marks Vex as a progressive band similar in theme to Minnesota’s Obsequiae.
Vex compose music with an appeal to nature’s primeval forces with melodic, pagan overtones, and a harsh production with a decidedly American sound. Like Obsequiae, Vex are striking out into unknown territory with an original take on pagan/folk-based blackened death metal. Are Vex and Obsequiae heralding a new movement of Plains-based extreme metal?
Genre: Death Metal
The second full-length from Sweden’s Zombified, Carnage Slaughter and Death follows the undead template with bloody resolve. Tracks like “Suffering Ascends” and “Corrosive Spiral” drive ahead ravenously, beckoning thick waves of crunchy death ala Grave and Dismember, and the album’s dirt-covered appearance, mixed with the snarling vocals of Facebreaker’s Roberth Karlsson, imbues the record with an imposing and unholy sound.
However, feeding on the brains of others isn’t always the best idea, and it isn’t long into Carnage Slaughter and Death that a synonymy, not so unlike the predictable patterns of an ambling corpse, drains much of the life and lasting appeal from this aggressive body of work.