There’s a line in 1982 science fiction movie Blade Runner which goes: “The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”. While this might be true, every rule has its exception and Bay Area thrashers Exodus are exactly that. Since dishing out their first full-length lesson in violence way back in 1985, the San Franciscan legends have seen off opposition from virtually everywhere. Even with an extended hiatus during the nineties the band’s absence never felt terminal, more like they were simply lying in wait to strike again.
Replacing axe-wielding lions and scantily clad, big-haired warrior maidens with vivid, futuristic imagery, it only takes a quick glance at the cover art of Dark Connection (Nuclear Blast), the new album by multinational power metal act Beast in Black, to see that science fiction and anime have played an integral role in its, er… inception.
With the world lurching from one crisis to another on an almost hourly basis, it’s a relief to know that music can still offer some form of escapism. If you’re exhausted by politics or worried about global pandemics, then you could do a lot worse than embarking on a magical quest with symphonic metal act Dark Sarah.Continue reading
Many times in music journalism, we writers are given to hyperbole, often because it is the low hanging fruit of the field to gush about the classics with a torrent of compliments. You often read words like genre-defying, and frankly, a lot of the time they don’t land as they are meant to. However, in the case of the entire career of Fear Factory and certainty of the album Demanufacture (Roadrunner Records), the words can never do proper justice to the music. Simply stated, Deamnfacture is one of the most important, unique, and unapologetically brutal albums in heavy metal history. Continue reading
Swedish theatrical metallers Avatar has set Hunter Gatherer as the title of their new album, due on August 7th via eOne Music. The band revealed the name of the new disc in a one-and-a-half-minute video teaser, inspired by The Matrix films and Blade Runner, which was uploaded to their official YouTube channel. Songs set to appear on the LP include ‘Colossus’, ‘Child’, ‘Scream Into The Void’, ‘Silence In The Age Of Apes’, and ‘Secret Door’, the latter of which featuring a whistling spot by Slipknot and Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor.Continue reading
For many, the nineties would prove to be the end of heavy metal as we knew it. Bands who rose to greatness in the preceding decade suddenly found themselves either retreading old ground, out of their depth trying to explore new territories, or simply grinding to an unceremonious halt. Within just a couple of years, denim, leather and even the term “heavy metal” itself, were out.Continue reading
Black Orchid Empire’s Yugen (Long Branch/SVT) is a slick new spin on the sounds Heavy Metal people love. The opening song, ‘My Favorite Stranger’ is a headbanging gem, evokes shades of NIN, Tool, and Primal Rock Rebellion. The guitars have a heavy soulful tone to them one moment and a classic rock sound to them the next, all of this is accentuated by clean vocals. The trio is Paul Visser on vocals and guitars, Dave Ferguson on bass and vocals, and Billy Freedom on drums, bringing the thunder.
When a band that formed in 2006 have already recorded ten full-length albums and so many EPs and splits that I can’t be bothered counting them, it’s fair to assume that they’ve (I know, it’s only one person, but you use a band-name you get called by a plural – science) nailed their sound down by now. With Metal/Noise pioneers Gnaw Their Tongues, however, it’s a bit more complicated than that – they’ve somehow managed to develop a style that is instantly recognisable but changes subtly across each album, to the extent that you’re never sure exactly what you’re going to get when a new one is announced, and how heavily it will lean towards their disparate sides.Continue reading
Reviewing a new Fear Factory album in 2015 is like purchasing the Blu-Ray edition of a film you already own on DVD. It’s a good movie and it’s all shiny and high-definition like, but overall there’s no substantial surprises. A new commentary track and special features (or in this analogy, lyrics) are nice perks.
Long story short, there’s not a whole lot of deviation. In that regard Fear Factory’s Genexus (Nuclear Blast) is similar enough to the last review I penned, Kataklysm’s Of Ghosts and Gods. Sure, they’re both new albums, but do you really expect (or want) a dramatic stylistic change from these extreme metal institutions?
All the core Fear Factory components that made 2010s Mechanize and 2012s The Industrialist memorable are back. Vocalist Burton C. Bell and guitarist/bassist Dino Cazares are still playing nice while under the guidance of longtime collaborator and producer Rhys Fulber. Two of the songs feature Blade Runner samples so yeah, the man grappling against artificial intelligence theme is present again. Really, the biggest or only variations to be found here are a return to live drumming (a strong performance from Mike Heller) and the record label.
If you’ve had the pleasure of listening to Demanufacture or Obsolete you’re gonna hit the ground running on this outing. Seriously, like those two landmarks we open with some industrial samples/noises that lead into a jack hammer of a song and 40 minutes or so later the album is bookended by a sweeping and melodic closer (this time in the form of the excellent ‘Expiration Date’).
And that’s a good thing. Very good if you’re into this sort of metallic business. But wait, there’s more. In between the covers you also get slabs of brutal groove like ‘Anodized’ and ‘Soul Hacker.’ It’s all the downtuned 7-string chug coupled with machine-gun fire kick drums your little mechanical heart desires. And despite being in this racket for 25+ years, Bell still can do the bark and croon thing better than most.
Although if they’re going to keep moving forward with the “cybermetal” sound (or whatever Fear Factory refer to themselves these days) I’d like to see it with the full classic lineup. That means bringing bassist Christian Olde Wolbers and skinsman Raymond Herrera out of exile. They were there for the Demanufacture and Obsolete days, they should be here for the resurgence.
This month’s Under the Surface has us traveling from the familiar trappings of Manchester, New Hampshire all the way to London, Scandinavia and the heart of Southeast Asia. The mission as always is the pursuit of the latest and greatest in unsigned or undiscovered heavy music.
I start not too far from home, with New Hampshire’s At the Heart of It. The challenge, particularly in the New England area, is finding a way to stand out in a crowded hardcore scene. You can’t swing a dead cat in Boston without hitting 14 bands cannibalizing each other’s sound. With their self-titled EP, At the Heart of It found a way to stand out. And the here’s the catch what helps separate them is not their aggression, but the more quiet moments like in ‘Create/Sustain’ and ‘This World Has Teeth.’ The vocals are so pained that I just want to buy the band a cup of coffee and tell them that things will get better soon. But not too soon, I’m really digging this sound. 8.0/10
Next is Abodean Skye and their new LP Echoes of an Astral Empire. This UK trio are the type of band that gladly remind you that it’s hip to be square as proven by singing that would make Geoff Tate, soaring melodies and keyboard runs that wouldn’t feel out of place in a vintage Final Fantasy game. Then you have song titles like ‘Battle of Tears’ and ‘Return of the Fleet.” And that kind of nerd cred isn’t a knock, either. Echoes is a very fun album, particularly if you have a sweet tooth for histrionics and bands like the underrated Cellador.
Sure at 55 minutes it can feel a bit lengthy, but it seems like epic was the MO here. And while on the subject of epic, I would’ve liked the production to have a little more pop to it. The mix here is serviceable, but the compositions could’ve used a little more energy to them. It’s a quest worth venturing. 7.0/10
Keeping with that same nerd enthusiasm is Helsinki, Finland’s Tulitera. Seriously, that cover art is probably the geekiest thing I’ve ever seen and I collect Batman comics. But this instrumental collective is so much more than their art suggests. Move past Tulikaste’s crude sword illustrations and you will find a very sophisticated and ambitious sound. Fans of Tesseract will feel right at home with songs like ‘Voidborn’ and ‘Firedew’ has sweeping synths that sound like something that Vangelis forgot to use in Blade Runner. And while ‘Firedew’ is one the album’s highlights it illustrates that much like Abodean Skye, Tulitera let the songs run for a little longer than expected. Case in point, ‘Percolator’ feels less like an introduction and more like 3 minutes of nothing.
And I can already hear you shouting “but Hans, this progressive metal, it’s supposed to have longer songs.” Yes and no. If the riffs are there then go for that 14 minute Between the Buried and Me musical freakout. If not, then trim it and get your point across a lot faster. But given that this is a debut LP it’s a flaw that can be overlooked. 8.0/10
And since we’re on the subject of longer songs why not talk about the Burning Water split EP between Philipino sludge acts Death After Birth and Surrogate Prey. How do I put this? One of these bands has a promising future and other does not. I take it they haven’t been around long, but Death After Birth really shit the bed with their half of the recording. They slog by checking off all the traditional doom and sludge checkboxes with a sound that only can be described as basement quality. It’s like Crowbar, but without the riffs or Kirk Windstein or the great guitar tone. However, Surrogate Prey sound like they know a thing or two about playing low and slow. ‘Crevianitus’ is soul crushingly heavy and memorable and ‘Banquet of the Beasts’ has a breakdown the size of Alaska. Surrogate Prey save the day here. 6.0/10
And to wrap things up we have another split EP, Irk | Wren, featuring the British talents of Irk and Wren respectively. Irk storms out of the gate with a brand of noise highly reminiscent of fellow Brits, Fudge Tunnel and a vocal delivery that sounds like Jonathan Davis on Quaaludes. And tracks like ‘You Sound Like my Ex-Wife’ and ‘Cibo Per Gattini’ are some of the rare and very awesome instances where the bass is more prominent than the guitar. As good as Irk is, Wren steal the show with some of the heaviest post-metal goodness since Isis. If you’re still heartbroken over their breakup then Wren are more than willing to fill in that blank space in your life. Forget an EP, after listening to the atom smashing closer that is ‘An Approach’ I need a double LP. 9.0/10