Ratings are on a 5 star scale.
Cleanteeth - 'Pushing Rope' (Dullest)
Genre: Doom Metal
Pushing Rope is the debut album from the Brooklyn band Cleanteeth, but the lineup has been around the block a few times. It includes current and former members of Hull, Goes Cube, White Widows Pact and more.
Crushing doom is the rule of the day, with brief respites in the form of interludes and mellower intros. Thick riffs drive the songs, with fierce vocals slicing through the cacophony. They vary the tempos from rollicking stoner metal to glacial doom. There are some great song titles as well, such as "French Kissing Alexander Hamilton" and "Sexual Mustache."
Craven Idol – 'Towards Eschaton' (Dark Descent)
Genre: Blackened Thrash
Attention Skeletonwitch and Goatwhore fans! I may have just found your new favorite band in Craven Idol. Their debut full length Towards Eschaton is 33 minutes of raging blackened thrash with plenty of death metal touches.
With members named Vrath, Scourger, Suspirial and Volgard you know you’re getting darkness personified. Throat searing vocals call forth high-tempo galloping rhythms and an unwavering percussive attack. Craven Idol do slow down at times and add enough atmosphere to give the album depth. But Towards Eschaton is all about the speed. Ripping and shredded, Craven Idol are blasting towards blackened thrash’s upper echelon. Crave these idols.
Domovoyd - 'Oh Sensibility' (Svart)
Genre: Doom/Sludge Metal
The fuzzed out bliss of Domovoyd sounds like it could be from the '70s, but the Finnish band's debut Oh Sensibility is circa 2013.
Thick riffs cut through a cacophony of swirling noise and a muddy low end. Groovy sludge gives way to glacial doom, and the album provides ample doses of both styles. The vocals are buried deep in the mix, and become secondary to the power of the riff. Even on tracks like the 13 minute behemoth "Effluvial Condenser" they manage to hold the listener's interest for most of it. Things do go on a bit too long sometimes, but overall Domovoyd impresses with their first full-length.
Ereb Altor – 'Fire Meets Ice' (Metal Blade)
Genre: Viking Metal
Releasing their fourth album in just six years, Sweden’s Ereb Altor worship at the altar of early Bathory. Their latest release Fire Meets Ice is an epic platter that is equally mature and brutal. Sweeping melodies are supplemented with raspy vocals and furious blast beats. They also incorporate clean vocals that take the listener on a landscape journey of grand proportions.
A side project of the doom metal band Isole, all members are involved in both bands. “Nifelheim” creates a whirlwind of influences from the folk inspired verses, the melodic Paradise Lost chorus and the complex majestic breakdown. The band brings the extreme to the forefront on the bombastic “Post Ragnarok.” Fire Meets Ice creates a nice hybrid of Bathory, Moonsorrow and Primordial.
Exhumer – 'Degraded by Sepsis' (Comatose)
Italy’s Exhumer are back after a five year break between releases. Their sophomore release Degraded by Sepsis is a grindcore bludgeoning that is non-stop brutality. Extreme guttural vocals, blast beats and fast picked tremolo guitar riffs fill up every second of the recording. The vocals are beyond harsh and are indecipherable, as one would expect with brutal death metal.
The songwriting is one-dimensional, as Exhumer plays aggressive while letting no outside influences in. The skill level of the musicians is precise as the technicality is extreme. The song lengths are kept short and it helps digest the assault. For die-hard grindcore fans only, as this is a non stop vicious onslaught.
Genre: Technical Death Metal Cosmic super-science and the opening of portals between dimensions collide front and center within the technical death metal assault of the tongue twisting Multi-Dimensional Fractal Sorcery and Super Science, the third full-length from Tampa’s Gigan. Taking a page from bands such as Gorguts, Mithras, and Ulcerate, Gigan also toss in the overwhelming technicality of other superstars such as Decrepit Birth to produce an album of mind boggling complexity.
Previous releases suffered from poor songwriting in this reviewer’s opinion; a problem that seems to have been rectified with the release of this album. Songs are catchy, dissonant and technical. Muted vocals actually aid the cause, providing an air of cosmic mystery.
Genre: Hard Rock
On their sophomore album, the Illinois trio Icon For Hire continue down the musical trail they blazed on their debut. They combine hard rock with pop, metal and electronic elements to create an appealing concoction.
Vocalist Ariel sings melodically most of the time, but she also uses some screaming vocals and even does some brief rapping on "Sugar and Spice." The mellower songs are pretty generic, but when Icon For Hire crank up the intensity and add the electronic elements that's when they sound much more distinctive, like on the opening track "Cynics and Critics" and "Sorry About Your Parents." The poppy elements may turn off metal fans, but if you like radio friendly rock/hard rock with some unusual twists, you might want to check it out.
Insurrection – 'Prototype' (Self)
Genre: Death Metal
My once rampant Québec death metal fanboyism is receding further and further into the past, what with Cryptopsy only recently finding their feet again, Kataklysm stuck in a creative rut and Quo Vadis on indefinite hold. I decided to give Quebecois outfit Insurrection’s new album Prototype a whirl, though sadly the album does little to assuage my fear that this heretofore hotbed of death metal brilliance isn’t that hot anymore.
There’s certainly no shortage of skill on display here (see the frantic palm-muted madness of “They Rise,” or the interplay between thrash and eerie melodic dynamics on “Bruits Sans Fin”), but the band’s weakness is their inability to write impressive songs, as opposed to mere sequences of impressive melodies or riffs. From a technical point of view this is well done, but on the whole the songwriting needs some cleaning up.
Kill Division – 'Destructive Force' (Metal Blade)
Genre: Thrash/Death Metal
Kill Division are a trio with a twist. Richard Ebisch and Susan Gerl mix thrash and slashing death metal nastiness into reasonably compact tracks. Against Roel Sanders’s relentless runs through every metal drum pattern ever invented, often threatening to overtake the actual song tempo, Ebisch and Gerl keep things honed to a pencil-sharp point.
Flashes of technicality brighten the cannonade of chugging and the four chord down and three chord up melody structures. “Mechanic Domination” is a short bark of a track that gets things going, but “Destructive Force” is the mightiest bit of mischief on the album.
Merciless Terror – 'Vile Extinction' (Devil’s Clause)
Genre: Death/Thrash Metal
Combining elements of Slayer and Malevolent Creation, Merciless Terror create an excellent amalgam of thrash and death metal. Their debut full-length record Vile Extinction finds the band delivering blazing riffs crossed with aggressive guttural vocals. The lyrics are cohesive as they center on the damnation of humanity and its self-destructing prophecy.
The vocals and drumming take their influence directly from death metal where the guitar riffs are more thrash inspired. When the band utilizes its Slayer influence, like on album closer “Existence Denied,” the songwriting seems to flow better. The thrash influence at times breaks up the monotony, but there is still a sense of repetitiveness. The band never lets up and each track bludgeons its listener into submission.