Light the Torch – Revival

Revival, huh? That seems a bit on the nose, don’t you think, Devil You Know? I mean, Light the Torch. See, it’s a Revival (Nuclear Blast), because it’s the first album since Devil You Know was forced to change their moniker due to legal troubles with a former drummer. Fucking drummers, man. Also, it’s a revival of sorts because Light the Torch is taking their sound to novel and interesting places. Continue reading

Black Tongue – The Unconquerable Dark

Black Tongue- The Unconquerable Dark Album cover 2015

As we hit the end of the summer, I was able to get my hands on the latest album from Black Tongue entitled The Unconquerable Dark (Century Media). Being on quite a doom kick this year, hearing about Black Tongue being considered “doomcore” I had some higher than typical expectations going in. I feel the album as a whole is a solid release, but I think I was let down a little thinking it would sound more like doom than hardcore/deathcore. Sure we get the slow tempo through most of the album aside from a few passages in a few tracks but those are greatly outnumbered by the endless amounts of breakdowns. There were some tracks that did stick out to me though on this release.

The first track, ‘Plague Worship’, is one of the better tracks on the album as it has an evil opening and really sets the bar for what to expect on The Unconquerable Dark. The extremely low tuned guitars and the thunderous drums keeping everything together is sure to kick you right in the face from the start. Eddie Hermida (Suicide Silence/ex-All Shall Perish) adds guest vocals on ‘Vermintide’ and it is pretty obvious for those who know Eddie. Especially when it comes to Black Tongue pushing nothing but disgusting, gutturals and then he jumps in with his high pitched screeches. And for those who like longer tracks to lose yourself in, this one comes in at just over six and a half minutes, longest on the record.

I did have some gripes with The Unconquerable Dark with it not really meeting what I was expecting. However, I do have to say I thought this release, while expecting deathcore, is certainly better than the rest that comes out today in that genre. At the end of the day, I may not listen to this as often as other releases from other artists this year, but if I have “one of those days” then Black Tongue may just get a spin on the ride home.

5.5/10

TIM LEDIN

 

Oceano – Ascendants

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Releasing their fourth album in only six years, all on Earache, Chicago, Illinois’ Oceano don’t do two things – subtlety or surprises. Wading in like a behemoth sumo, with each stab of the guitar representing a tree-trunk leg thudding down and with each pig squeal signifying the friction of flabby thigh slapping flabby thigh, the beatdown-focused Ascendants lumbers into town, modelling deathcore 101 with the open string chug enhanced by some tight and imaginative percussive work.

Taking their cue from Thy Art Is Murder and All Shall Perish’s more staccato moments, Oceano’s is a considered violence, a repetitive ham-hock fist to the head with pendulum regularity and in no particular rush; it’s the troll wading through the sea of bodies that are trying to force it back in an exercise in futility. For those who enjoy their pro-wrestling, they are the Big Show; cumbersome, but effective (and somehow higher-profile than you think they deserve to be, and you prefer the other, more interesting wrestlers anyway….).

Oceano are also beginning to suffer from the inevitable law of diminishing returns. If their debut, Depths, one of the best examples of deathcore to date, showcased diversity in amongst the rhythmic bullying chug and Contagion had a darker, twisted feel, Ascendants is Oceano at their lowest common denominator, most Neanderthal, a notion that is enhanced by ‘Dawn of Descent’ and it’s more atmospheric endeavours, which help it stand out in a sea of proto-human repetitive pounding.

Other acts, in particular Suicide Silence, have shown it’s possible to continue to progress a sound and develop as a band while retaining a deathcore identity (though the further they, and others move from the deathcore “core” the more successful they are and the better they sound), but Ascendants is still a decent, if unspectacular, repetitive brain injury of a deathcore album. With (another) new line up in place, one wonders about the future of Oceano as not even by playing it safe and playing the genre card to the max – for this is dictionary definition beatdown laden deathcore – is enough to bring Ascendants up to the level of their previous outings.

 

6.0/10

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STEVE TOVEY

Suicide Silence – You Can’t Stop Me

 

Suicide Silence - You Cant' Stop Me (Ltd. Digipak-Cover)

In the event of a musician’s death the surviving members have a few options. You can do the Led Zeppelin and call it a career. Or you can turn the page and start fresh like New Order. And there’s always the AC DC method which is to keep plowing forward giving people what they’re familiar with.

Suicide Silence have chosen the AC DC path.

Three years since their last recording, The Black Crown (Century Media), and two since frontman Mitch Lucker’s untimely death, Suicide Silence have returned the appropriately titled You Can’t Stop Me (Nuclear Blast). While there was doubt on the prospect of new music, Suicide Silence took a year off and recruited Hernan “Eddie” Hermida to replace the late Lucker. While he was a magnetic stage performer, Lucker wasn’t the most accomplished growler, which is why Hermida’s entrance to the band should be a welcome one. If you ever got the chance to see Hermida’s former band, the commercially inferior/musically superior All Shall Perish you know he’s got chops and stage presence himself

 

While non-processed vocals and a strong live show is always good news, there are some bad news. The bad news being that they still sound like Suicide Silence. Like this could be the sequel to The Black Crown. It’s a sound that I’d hesitate to call death metal. After enough listens You Can’t Stop Me sounds something more akin to groove metal, metalcore or even nu-metal.

I’m not sure if it’s because of Lucker’s death, but Suicide Silence leave no doubts that this is an album from the folks who gave you ‘Disengage’ and ‘Wake Up.’ All earmarks are present, from the triggered drums, requisite breakdowns and simple song titles (‘Monster Within,’ ‘Warrior,’ ‘Inherit the Crown’). And to really make sure you understand it’s the same band you know and love (or love to hate), they’ve conveniently also included a re-recorded version of ‘Ending is the Beginning’ from their debut EP. Ironically ‘Ending is the Beginning’ may the best song on the album.

They say the more things change the more they stay the same. Suicide Silence believes that and for good reason. They’re on of the few metal acts today that consistently finds themselves debuting with the Billboard Top 100. It’s just disappointing because they had a fantastic opportunity here to reinvent themselves. But they seem to enjoy being the Toyota Camry of extreme metal. Selling well while being perfectly vanilla.

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5/10

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HANSEL LOPEZ

 

Awakenings – Howard Jones of Devil You Know

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When Howard Jones parted ways with Killswitch Engage in 2010, his departure sent waves throughout the music world due to his sudden departure. His absence throughout that time period was kept well hidden over the year.

But when Devolved drummer John Sankey and All Shall Perish guitarist Francesco Artusato started jamming together in 2012, they began seeking out vocalists for their then unnamed project.

 

So how did he find himself involved? “Just through mutual friends. They sent me the demo.”

It was weird. I was definitely hiding for three years. No cell phone…no nothing. For three years I disappeared and it was great!” he said.

 

So he found himself back with a new band and with new bandmates since his departure from Killswitch Engage in The Devil You Know. “It wasn’t like I realized it. I got the music and I met the guys. We made a demo and it kept going from there. All of a sudden ‘holy crap I’m doing this again?’ It just kinda happened. I’m in a much better place now.”

 

The Devil You Know played their debut show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, CA on February 15, 2014 in front of an eager, yet curious crowd of fans who wanted to get their first look at the new band. They debuted songs from the Beauty of Destruction (Nuclear Blast) album, which this was the first time Jones had stepped onto a stage in a few years.

 

I was thinking ‘oh my god…I’m doing this again. This is weird.’ That was pretty much what I was thinking. I had fun. I was trying not to think it. I didn’t think about it too much. It was definitely like ‘holy crap…I can’t believe I’m doing this again after so many years of not doing this.’ I seriously thought I was done.”

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Jones claims towards the end of his time in Killswitch Engage, he was battling depression and signs of bipolar, which stunted his ability to maintain his sanity. But he claims it was an issue he was dealing with and had nothing to do with his former bandmates.

Trust me. There was nothing wrong with the band. It was all me. I was nuts. I was manic depressive and bipolar and everything else. I’m sure I was driving them insane and I was going nuts. So I’m done.”

 

So how close was he from entering the funny farm? “Oh wow. Probably when I went there…and was in one for about a month. I don’t think I ever told anyone that.”

Dude I was gone. I’m on good prescription medication. I was definitely in a place for a month. I went nuts. I’ve never told anybody that!,” he added, laughing at himself.

 

So he explains how bad things got towards the end of his time in Killswitch Engage:

So here’s what happened – we started writing the album that Jesse (Leach) just did. We met at Adam [Dutkiewicz]’s place and we were going over ideas. ‘So let’s meet for two weeks…and let’s come back at noon tomorrow.’ And I just didn’t come back. That’s what happened. I talked to them a week later…’we should move on without you because you hate this.’ No I’ll still do the job. No big deal. ‘You hate this. You don’t wanna do this anymore.’ And I was like…yeah….you’re right. That’s what happened.”

 

It was nothing to do with them. It had everything to do with me. I was severely depressed and very bipolar and everything else. The thought of doing another album and going on tour for another couple years…it drove me insane. I was done.”

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He also dealt with issues with diabetes, which also hindered his health. “That definitely happened. I was dizzy for a week. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was walking up the steps, I passed out and broke a finger as I fell down the steps. I was walking up the steps and passed out and then broke a toe when I fell down the steps. I completely passed out in my bathroom and my friend threw me into his truck and took me to the hospital. I went into a coma for three and a half days. I woke up and didn’t know my name for 48 hours. It was pretty screwed up. My short and long term memory was gone for six months to a year. Basically I watched a lot of TV and read a lot. It came back. I didn’t remember songs I did with Killswitch. It was bad. But now I’m doing very well.”

 

The Beauty of Destruction became an album of songs largely about Jones’ struggles, and easily became a heavy, emotion driven record that is heard immediately. “What I wrote for this album is so personal. I’ve never written anything this deep before. Basically the past five years of my life, that’s what I wrote, especially if you listen to the last song on the album, ‘Surprise In the Darkness’, that was the last three or four years of my life. It’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever written. But it’s the truth. That’s my life. This album was my life.”

 

Producer Logan Mader helped Jones sort out his ideas throughout the record. His guidance helped shape the songs on the record and creating powerful sounding songs that are felt as much as heard.

Logan definitely had great ideas. We really worked well together. He’s awesome. Seriously it was awesome working with the guy and then he became one of my really good friends. He basically saw I was going through and what I was writing, he got it. We would go to lunch and said ‘this is what you’ve been going through, isn’t it?’ Yeah. What was awesome was we finished writing the album and went fishing. It was awesome. Logan definitely helped out. This album is personal.”

 

Yeah it’s basically a diary. It really is. I know it’s goofy to say that, but it really is.”

Musically, between the four other players in the band – Sankey, guitarists Artusato and Roy Lev-Ari, and bassist Ryan Wombacher – they created a diverse record that brought a vast sound to the band.

 

Writing new stuff differently…this band doesn’t sound anything like All Shall Perish or Fear Factory or Devolved or anything like that. Of course I sound like me. Some of it sounds a little like Killswitch or Blood Has Been Shed, but I really did try to do things differently. That’s why more than half of the songs I pretty much sang. It’s a different album. We really wanted to do something different. It wasn’t like ‘we’ve gotta try to not sound like everything else.’ Let’s try to write an album we’re happy with and doesn’t sound what we’ve done before. That’s what happened.”

 

That’s what’s awesome. I’ve been lucky when it comes to that, like playing with the guys in Killswitch which were amazing, and then these guys who are absolutely amazing. We did the whole album ourselves and it’s been awesome. Being on stage with those guys, it was so much fun. I’m a lucky guy. That’s pretty much what I think.”

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So who’s the devil in the Devil You Know? “That’s all me. I came up with that. There’s times when I’m a terrible person, and that’s where it came from. I always try to be a better person but there’s times where I’m awful. So I’m the devil you know. That’s where it came from.”

 

They recently visited the Soundwave Festival in Australia, in which people got their first taste of the band. While most fans had no idea who the band was or had heard any music, they still made a first impression that got attendees figuring out quickly who they were.

Oh they had no idea what was happening. People started recognizing me. ‘Hey I know that guy! I’ve seen that guy before. That black guy looks kinda familiar.’ It was kinda like that. It was fun and weird the position we were in. We played right after Rob Zombie, and right before Avenged Sevenfold. It was very strange. It was like ‘we’re this band you don’t know…so let’s have some fun.’ And buy our record…eventually. It worked out. We had a blast and of course I made fun of people the whole time. That’s what I do. I was going to town on people. It was terrible! I was like ‘I’m the worst human being ever!’”

 

Now it’s the Americans’ turn on the Revolver Golden Gods tour, headlined by Black Label Society. “I cannot wait. Down played Soundwave and I got to hang out with Phil a bit. That dude is amazing. I absolutely love Zakk. That dude is a great guy. And plus both bands are awesome. I can’t wait to hear Zakk do a bunch of guitar squeals. I’m stoked.”

 

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Rei Nishimoto