Rotten Sound – 'Species At War' EP (Relapse)
Finland's legendary grindcore outfit Rotten Sound have been releasing sweet, hot blasts of unmitigated violence since 1993. Comprised of six tracks delivered in a scourging eight minutes, their latest EP Species at War is nonetheless a surprisingly substantial. The guitar tones are thick and mean, conjuring the smouldering energy of early Entombed, especially “Salvation” and “The Solution.”
While the pace is suitably punishing, they don't sacrifice power for speed, and a lot of the riffs have a fat, doomy heaviness to them. Hostile and ravenous, a ravenous appetite tightly curbed and leashed, Species at War is a fine way for Rotten Sound to celebrate their 20th anniversary.
Royal Hunt – '20th Anniversary' (Frontiers)
Genre: Melodic Progressive Metal
When your resume includes American hard rock vocalists John West, Mark Boals and D.C. Cooper it is safe to say you have released some amazing material over the years. 20th Anniversary is a three CD/one DVD retrospective celebrating their storied career. All 11 albums are represented and we are treated to a brand new track and acoustic versions of some classic songs.
Neo-classical shredding is mixed with heartfelt melodies and hard rock sensibilities. Royal Hunt do an excellent job combining guitars and keyboards to show off their musicianship, bith the talent they have had on vocals over the years one would think the choruses would be stronger than what they are. This is an amazing package for the low price.
Saille - 'Ritu' (Code666)
Genre: Black Metal
Saille's second full-length, Ritu, is a symphonic black metal album that even the thorniest traditionalist can get behind. Unlike Dimmu Borgir, this Belgian six-piece tastefully incorporates symphonic elements into their take on the second wave of black metal, and does so without ever overshadowing the impressive instrumentation; best heard on the Rotting Christ-worthy highlights, "Fhtagn" and "Haunter of the Dark."
Saille's forward-thinking black metal without the "post" prefix refuses to release its grip on the grim roots of the genre, and because of the band's amalgam of stern orthodoxy, modernity and wicked experimentation, Ritu makes for an early 2013 standout.
Sammal – 'Sammal' (Svart Records)
Genre: Prog Rock/Blues Metal/Classic Rock
Deep in a Finnish forest enveloped by a haze of swirling guitars and organ grooves comes this self-titled debut from Sammal, a band that straddles the line between jam and metal. This thing is so saturated with tube-driven vintage ‘70s sound, you’ll feel a little warm and fuzzy as soon as you strap on your ear goggles.
I just wish I knew what the singer was going on about since the vocals are entirely in Finnish. Instrumentals like “Näennäiskäännännäinen” will keep you coming back for more, however—say it three times fast and maybe they’ll grant us an album in English.
Genre: Death Metal
Originally released in 1994, Mystic Places Of Dawn was Septicflesh's full-length debut. It has been remastered and reissued. In addition to the original album, the four songs from the Greek band's 1991 EP Temple Of The Lost Race are also included.
It's a doomy and melancholic effort, soaked with atmosphere. Slower melodic sections are punctuated by pummeling blast beats. The songs are diverse, and for a debut album are surprisingly cohesive. Fans of the band will definitely want to pick up this reissue, and if you're not familiar with Septicflesh it's a good place to start.
Snakecharmer – 'Snakecharmer' (Frontiers)
Genre: Hard Rock
When your resume includes working with Whitesnake, Black Sabbath, Wishbone Ash and Ozzy Osbourne, it doesn’t get much better. With the release of their self-titled debut, Snakecharmer treat us to some tasty guitar playing driven by a classic hard rock sound sprinkled with some bluesy vocal melody lines.
They do their best impression of trying to channel ‘70s era Whitesnake. Chris Ousey is a gritty, raspy soulful hard rock singer and really shines on “Accident Prone,” “Falling Leaves” and “Stand Up.” Unfortunately he has huge shoes to fill with a certain Mr. Coverdale. Would love to see them utilize Adam Wakeman’s keyboard work, as it is mostly non-existent. With this pedigree of musicians I would have thought the material would be a little more memorable.
Thy Art Is Murder – 'Hate' (Distort)
Genre: Death Metal/Deathcore
Kings of the new Australian brutal music scene, Thy Art Is Murder’s sophomore release Hate is another slab of skull crushing death metal. Still packing enormous amounts of blastbeats and hammering breakdowns, the addition of blackened passages on tracks like “Shadow of Eternal Sin” and “Doomed From Birth” shows off a new, fresh side to the band.
Topped off with an amazing Will Putney production job, Hate is a total world beater, and an album that all deathcore albums should be judged against.
Unburied - 'Murder 101' (Selfmadegod)
Genre: Death Metal
The Virginia based brutal death metal band Unburied return with their sophomore effort Murder 101. There's not much new here, just gory, blood-soaked lyrics and mid-paced death metal. In addition to their own material, the band covers GG Allin’s “Witchburner” and Integrity’s “Abraxas Annihilation.”
There are some tempo shifts, and the vocals have a decent amount of diversity. TV/movie samples are used, to mixed effect. There are some memorable songs, and the brutality is tempered by some downright catchy guitar riffs.
Genre: Progressive Metal
With a powerful vocal performance and immediate hooks, Norway’s Tellus Requiem comes out firing with their second record Invictus (The 11th Hour). A sharp display of craft and cunning led by grandiose songs, this record is a solid must own for fans of progressive metal.
While at times a bit pedantic, the record holds up through every listening allowing the listener to discover even more surprises with each listen.
Void of Sleep – 'Tales Between Reality and Madness' (Aural)
Genre: Stoner/Doom Metal
In a genre bloated to the point of smoke-induced asphyxiation, Italy’s Void of Sleep have managed to sideswipe the revolving stoner door by creating an album as high on craft as it is dread-soaked melody. Their debut album Tales Between Reality and Madness is an amalgam of all the right influences – the tribal psychedelia of Tool, the lively riffwork of Mastodon, the hard-edged smoke of Down, and the melancholic wizardry of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
With engrossing songs like “Wisdom of Doom” and “Ghost of Me,” a stalwart bass tone and an over-achieving lead singer, Void of Sleep bridge the drowsy gap of doom and stoner metal with the precision of civil engineers.
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