There is a fine line between having a recognisable label style and becoming a sausage factory – to put it generously, Unique Leader Records have perhaps… tread a little too close to that line in recent years. They’ve got their stand-out bands like any label, but when an album has the Unique Leader stamp, you can safely expect the same clean production, growled vocals and super-technical Death Metal acrobatics that you heard on the last five.
On first listen, Kronos certainly aren’t out to rock the boat too hard, fitting very comfortably into the more brutal end of UL’s modern-tech-Death monopoly, but with a bit of patience they reveal themselves as not quite the clones you might initially peg them as. Firstly, they keep their technical side considerably more restrained than most of their peers, restraining the usual riff salad to a much tighter and more focussed attack. Secondly, their songs are much tighter than a lot of their contemporaries, sticking around the three-to-four minute mark and a limited set of riffs, which avoids the indulgence and technicality-for-its-own-sake that often spoils this kind of Death Metal.
Ultimately, at the risk of falling into the laziest of journalistic traps, how excited you can be about Arisen New Era will be determined by how much tolerance you have for Unique Leader’s style of brutal, technical Death Metal. There isn’t really anything here that people familiar with the genre haven’t heard before, but they deliver it with enough power and focus to stand out at least a little from the mass of their peers.
Sunday also started out very slowly, people were slow, I was slow, my friends were slow. This was hangover day and we were finding remedies for them. After trying milk, coffee and a good breakfast we were feeling more OK. And then we went up to see Internal Suffering. But once again we notice, this band was a victim of the bad sound. I hope this gets better when the 013 had its renovation. We left soon and spent more time waking up. It was hard to get on track this day and you noticed that the news that this was the last neurotic deathfest slightly put some sadness over some people. Imagine the old-school rockers that have been there all 12 editions. That must be a big loss for them. I have only been there four, and I even felt like I lost something.
All good things come to an end and we are going to listen to the last sounds of battering drums, shreiking guitars and grunts that almost make you sick in your stomach. The last few breaths of utter pain.
We went up to the smallest stage which is going to disappear after the renovation for the last time for Neuroma. These happy British guys know how to add in a good dose of humor. I still need to meet the singer’s grandma, he promised that from the stage. There we stood for a nice piece of brutal death, and we got a little bit of a comedy show too. This made this show even more enjoyable. The music was good! I think without the cunningness of their singer I wouldn’t have enjoyed them this much. It does count if you ask me.
Crowdsurfer at Neurotic Deathfest, by Susanne A. Maathuis
So been there, done that, got a t-shirt. We were really looking forward to seeing Immolation. But that still took a while and because it was such good weather we decided to go away from the festival and search out a nice little terrace. Just 30 meters from the 013 there is a long street with only bars and clubs. People who have been to NDF or Roadburn before must know about this street. In the south of The Netherlands we are used to quite a burgondic life and with that nice food and nice beers and wines go along with it. We don’t deal with shit. That is why you seldom see Heineken in this area. We are keen to Belgian beers and definitely Belgian special beers. Speaking about special beers, on the end of the street where you almost enter the city center you have a café called the “buitenbeentje”, which simply means “outsider”. This is a café with the cheapest beer in whole of Tilburg, and they also have a great variety of special beers and whiskeys. And you can go cheap, or even expensive if you feel like it.
Immolation, by Susanne A. Maathuis
We went back and head for Immolation, this time they were only with 3 members. One guitarist had a family emergency back home and stayed home. It was a little bit empty when Robert Vigna started playing his virtuous solo’s. He is always so much fun to watch, it always looks like he is having a party on his own on the stage with his happy face: “look mom! I make death metal”. I love it. Immolation did show that even when a member short, they can still put up some good old death metal! It was tight, but it sounded different. But that is more than logical if you ask me.
And then we got Obituary. This actually was the first time I’ve seen this band, so I was pretty excited about what to come. These guys are legendary and one of the founders of this genre. I somehow needed to see this band and I don’t get why I haven’t done that before.
Obituary, by Susanne. A. Maathuis
Obituary started to play and it immediately turned into a big pit of epileptic people in the front. It was notable that there were a lot of die-hard fans in the audience. They came with a sound that was unbreakable and the best sound I have heard on Neurotic up untill now! I enjoyed this. One song also got dedicated to the recently passed local “Fozz Bear” which gave me and a lot more Tilburgians quite some goosebumps. Obituary performed a great show with a lot of passion. And for that we thank them.
But now the unthinkable, Neurotic Deathfest was to an end, forever. The screens showed a huge “Thank you for 12 years of Death Metal” and all the posters of past editions. From the editions in the Baroeg in Rotterdam, to the Dynamo in Eindhoven, and the last years in the 013 in Tilburg.
Thank you Neurotic Deathfest for 4 years of death metal.
It was that time of the year! It was time for the annual festival full of Death, Grind and Slam metal. It was time for Neurotic Deathfest again. We were blessed with another year with extremely good weather and after drinking some beers at a local bar we strutted to the 013 venue. We are going to talk about the atmosphere, why do I always want to go to Neurotic Deathfest so bad, and I will highlight some bands.
The reason I love to go to Neurotic Deathfest is at first my love of death metal off course, but what also counts is that the 013 is comfortable. I live in the city of Tilburg, which means that I can sleep in my own bed and my whole group of buddys is headbanging or somewhere else in the city.
But this year was different. This year it was clear the atmosphere was different, ther was a cloud of astonishment hanging in the air. There was something going on, we were soon to find out. We hadn’t gone up to get a festival program, but when we did, we knew what was going on. This will be the last Neurotic Deathfest ever!
Farewell message from the Neurotic Deathfest Program
After hearing this news it kind of hit me like a bomb, Neurotic Deathfest was a statement for the city of Tilburg. Even Non-metalheads knew what was going on when this festival was in town again.
Dutch bands always represent on this festival and Koprse was one of them, the first pit is a fact and this venue was filled up. This was blasting to the max! We still had to warm up but we were ready for a party and Korpse made you feel like you wanted to party. So you got back from the venue with five extra beers in your stomach to go on to the next show.
Morgoth, by Susanne A. Maathuis
Morgoth was a band that had high expectations for us. The big venue was still a bit quiet. It was not crowded enough to get the party going and get the feeling of a crowded place. Morgoth started to play and we noticed that this is a band that means serious shit. Nice piece of death metal with a tight hard and a sound that filled up the whole place with a nagging feeling. This band made me think of Asphyx for a bit, not for all of the music but more about the kick this band gives in your nuts.
Entombed A.D., by Susanne A. Maathuis
Strutting around the venues there was a swirling mass of people, it got more crowded The more we got to the headliner EntombedA.D. the more people got excited.
Entombed A.D. for me the least interesting headliner. So I might have drifted away sometimes in the show. Though this band was dominant over the rest of the bands, they never stood on Neurotic Deathfest before but they rip this place apart. Front man LG Petrov shows that he enjoys doing this and isn’t afraid to show this to the audience. A golden shine rises from the stage and gets thrown upon the audience, they get wild. Entombed is a band from the first hour and the A.D. does add something to the name, but the music still stands tall. Good job guys, they definitely got me more interested into Entombed.
The Afterparty was headlined by the also Swedish band Tribulation. Tribulation and Entombed don’t have much in common though, but both bands do know how to show the audience some enthusiasm about their music.
Day 2 started way more crowded than the Friday. We all had the idea that Friday was very low on visitors. We were still having fun but it did something with the overall atmosphere, the 013 is more built for crowded concerts but not that much for a calm party. Maybe it was time for the last edition, the line up was interesting though even I have seen most of these bands before. If you wanted to explore new bands, you had some chances but most of the bands everybody has seen multiple times. It were good bands, you wont hear me complain about that.
Talking about good bands, let’s start about Disavowed, there is no better wake up call than Disavowed. This dutch band is a band we have to keep in mind, it was amazing and this front man Robbe Kok really shows what enthusiasm is. You could see he was happy to open the Saturday of Neurotic Deathfest for bands as Benighted and Bloodbath. With a swing he drops himself in the audience and climbs in the barriers. This is energetic and a bulk of energy a lot of bands could learn from. This band does not fly on autopilot.
Disavowed almost had a full venue and they opened on the main stage, this was in great contrast with the Friday where the main stage wasn’t filled up until Entombed. This was good for the overall atmosphere and coziness amongst all metalheads. There was enough beer to give a 3rd world country and food your bowels got mad about. Today you knew you were at a festival.
Friday I spoke about looking for new bands, and this was one of the perfect examples of one of these bands that I didn’t know and got completely siked about! PerfeCitizenis the loudest, hardest most brutal stuff I heard in years! This got in my ears that it was pure sweet ear-rapement. Already after hitting the first chord, if it even was one this band shows its hardness, but also their tightness and know how to play. This is one of the bands where the drummer will make it or break it, but he definitely made it. You don’t hear it often that you hear a drummer go this fast and tight like him.Jarda Haž shows what drumming is all about and it gets clear why this is called “Blastcore”. Missed this band? To bad, for me they were one of the best bands of Neurotic Deathfest.
Dead Congregation, by Susanne A. Maathuis
One of my favorite genres is Deathdoom. Imagine a candle dripping slowly and oozing all over your table and drips on your toe to sometimes break open the gloomy feeling that came over you. One of these bands that perfectly know how to do this is Dead Congregation, it was time to throw some good old darkness into the audience. If it wasn’t for the soundguy, this band normally knows how to bring this feeling and make you feel naggy. This was just a shame, they became a victim of their own sound and this is why it didn’t really got to me this time.
Origin, by Susanne A. Maathuis
As we already discussed there is a big amount of old friends we have seen on Neurotic already. Origin is one of these bands. And I understand why they ask them back all the time. This is just an awesome tight Techdeath band brought with a great bunch of humor from the singer. Straight from Origin we started waiting for Bloodbath, we wanted a good spot we were siked for this show. There were a lot of chatter going on: is this a new singer for Bloodbath? Is this going to work? Doesn’t it affect the sound? How will this affect the audience because this Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost) is a completely different kind of person than Mikael Akerfeldt.
Bloodbath, by Susanne A. Maathuis
We were waiting for what was going to come at us. The venue filled up. We had our beers already paid in front of our nose. You could hear the tension in the air. Bloodbath, not on an open-air festival and in such a setting. Then the venue went dark and we knew Bloodbath was gong to enter the stage and we would soon hear the first chords. This band is theatrical and sometimes maybe a bit plastic. It started as a tribute to old school Death Metal. The vocals were good. Actually very good! They went back to a more old-school sound. Though I am a big fan of Opeth and Mikael, and it is hard to admit for me, but I think I like Nick Holmes more in Bloodbath.
The biggest and certainly best indoor death metal extravaganza of the festival season kicks off today as Neurotic Deathfest gets underway at 013 Club in Tilburg, NL. Now in its 12th year and still going strong, the 2015 NDF will feature 42 bands on three stages in total from all manner of death metal, grindcore and black metal greatness. Ghost Cult’s Dutch team will once again be on hand to bring our fans the review.
Friday has the benefit of a top band of the moment and a legendary name as the main headliners. Tribulation and Entombed A.D. will surely have the heads banging and drinks flowing. Tech death grind champs Devourment, the avant-garde minded Nader Sadek, and the back from the dead Morgoth are other can’t miss acts on Day 1. Soulburn and Sinister are two other choice names among others too.
Saturday reigns over nearly every fest in 2015 for the sheer murderers row of death metal royalty in a row with Obituary, Immolation, Broken Hope and Pyrexia. Whoa! Other good choices to get your brutal fix on for Day 2 include Internal Bleeding, Incinerate, Mass Infection and Bleeding Utopia. Stay hydrated my friends, this day will be a bumpy ride for the moshers!
To close the fest on Day 3 we are presented with a bit of old and a bit of new in the form of Bloodbath, Origin, Benighted, Dead Congregation and Gorod. Other worthy acts on this day also included Ingested, Jig-Al, Kronos, Acranius, and Slaughter to Prevail.
The Monolith Deathcult make me despair for the state of modern Metal. Not by the very fact of their existence, Steel Panther-style, but because they’re nowhere near as well-regarded as they should be. With Triumvirate (Twilight Vertrieb) and Tetragrammaton (Season of Mist) they’re responsible for two of the most distinctive, perfectly-formed and blackly comic Death Metal albums of the last decade. Both shocking and funny in a truly unique way, they blend brutal Death Metal, enormous grooves, dance music and Transformers samples into two albums that, in a just world, would be regarded as modern classics, which makes writing this review an unpleasant task, because Bloodcvlts(Season Of Mist), I’m truly sorry to say, is nowhere near that good.
Initially it appears that their sense of irreverence and lack of respect for tradition is right to the front with Bloodcvlts, an 8 track “EP” lasting over forty minutes, but it quickly becomes clear that the designation isn’t just two fingers to the conventions of the music business. Despite its length, Bloodcvlts is emphatically not a new TMDC album, and it proves itself disappointingly lacking in the things that would make that such an exciting prospect, including precisely that irreverence and humour.
There’s little significantly wrong with Bloodcvlts. ‘I Conquistador’ is relatively weak, and the final two tracks are de-Metalled reworkings of previously released songs (and not terrible for it, though perhaps a little pointless), but the rest is perfectly entertaining symphonic/industrialised Death Metal with some catchy moments. Their knack for combining both groove and violence is still there, but divorced from the dark humour, bold experimentation and the sense of whole-album dramatics that make Triumvirate and Tetragrammaton so special, they count for considerably less than they used to.
Bloodcvlts, then, is a perfectly enjoyable release which is nevertheless resoundingly disappointing. It’s like going to Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant and being served steak and chips – there’s nothing wrong with it, but because you were expecting something distinctive and bold you can’t help but be disappointed.
Perhaps it’s the higher quality of home-recording techniques, the greater amount of competition or simply a product of my perception, but there seem to be fewer genuinely terrible bands and albums available now than there were ten or fifteen years ago. This seems like an odd thing to complain about, until you realise that fewer rubbish bands doesn’t mean more good ones, it means more mediocre ones. Average is the new bad, and it’s far, far worse than rubbish ever was.
Annihilated play the kind of groove-driven “brutal” Death Metal that was popular in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, and you can’t point to anything specifically bad about it. The playing is competent, song-writing is effective if unspectacular and the production is as crunchy as one would expect. The band has a decent enough sense of rhythm, with guttural vocals and effectively deployed samples and… you get the idea. Annihilated are the kind of band who seem to be happy making up the numbers, adding one to the tally of identical Death Metal bands that have nothing particular to offer.
Bottom line, there is nothing about this album that hasn’t been done better before over a decade ago. If it were genuinely bad there’d at least be some pleasure to be had in pointing that out, but even that isn’t an option. I can’t in good conscience attack XIII Steps To Ruination(Unique Leader), but nor can I recommend it to anyone who knows the first thing about this style
Confession time. I missed Wretched’s latest release, the charmingly entitled Cannibal (Victory) when it came out back in the summer. I’m not entirely sure how that happened but I should probably put it down to carelessness or middle aged lack of attention to detail on my part. Anyway, I have now rectified this and can report that all is well in the technical death metal world of Wretched. Very well indeed.
Cannibal is the fourth album from the North Carolina outfit and it is as breathless and brutal as you hope. In fact, it might just be the best album to date from a band that don’t seem to have gotten the credit that they are surely due.
Attempting to explain Wretched to the uninitiated isn’t the easiest of tasks. Sure, they cover the technical end of the death metal sub-genre with consummate ease but additionally they have always seemed to be eager to include additional ideas, tones and influences within their extreme musical language. On Cannibal, you can also hear plenty of metalcore, a soupcon of Behemoth and a bucketload of satanic sounding bile and venom. All well and good, then.
At one level, listening through a poor MP3 and terrible laptop speakers can, if you are not a convert to this sort of thing, sound like kicking a bag of kittens down a long, steep metal staircase (not that I have any experience of this but hopefully you can conjure the imagery.) You’d be wrong though.
For all its pulverizing bluster and pile-driving enthusiasm, Cannibal is not as frenzied or out of control as my description might suggest. There is self-evidently a remorselessness in what they do but you do get a sense that the band understand that allowing themselves to take a breath from time to time doesn’t detract from the intensity of the listening experience; more, there is a better sense of controlled aggression that is a sign of a band progressing and advancing their craft.
Given the sonic intensity of the whole record, picking out highlights seems somewhat pointless as it’s all pretty solid stuff from start to finish but in the interests of music journalism, there’s plenty of meat on ‘Cranial Infestation’ and there is nothing like any sort of let up in the power of the thrash inspired collective mugging of ‘Morsel’ but seriously, if you like this sort of thing, you’re going to really like this sort of thing. Wretched are tearing everyone a new one, as you’re supposed to say at this point.
Hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina, Bloodsoaked is the vision of one Peter Hasselbrack, a scene veteran who handles all the instruments and songwriting himself, and as can be expected by his chosen band name, plays brutal death metal. New EP Religious Apocalypse (Comatose Music) is actually lengthier than all three of their previous full length outings, but instead of a whole set of new material, we are instead offered three new tracks, two covers and four live cuts. For an introduction to Bloodsoaked it serves a fine purpose. Unfortunately any new listeners are unlikely to hang around too long for there’s little worth seeing here.
As with most brutal death metal bands, there’s a strong emphasis on gore, trebly, low-end guitars and guttural vocals, although to his credit, Hasselbrack has decided to branch out slightly by attempting to imitate early Deicide in the new tracks on offer, especially on ‘Abomination’ and the title track. Opening number ‘Devouring’ features some hefty chugs and a satisfyingly thick bottom end, although the drumming and songwriting remain strictly average. Far better are the covers of ‘Shake Me’ by Cinderella and ‘You’re in Love’ by Ratt, which are fun in a goofy way, although it may be a case of smearing lipstick on a dead hooker as these songs were terrible to begin with. The live tracks are well recorded, but nothing special with even the cheers at the end sounding half-arsed.
With death metal in rude health, bands like Bloodsoaked really should be trying to raise their game rather than relying on standard formulas and silly covers. Existing fans may lap it up but for the band to rise above their current place in the also-rans, they will need to offer much more in future.
On the same night in Boston when nearly a hundred people were hospitalized due to intoxication and drug overdoses at a trance show, the crowd at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA could only complain of short show. After a trade in bands and another band not appearing at the Cambridge stop, The Conquerors of the World Tour came down to just 4 bands: local opening band Forced Asphyxiation, mid tour replacement, Black Crown Initiate, co-headliner Fleshgod Apocalypse, and the masters of symphonic death metal, Septicflesh. After hearing that Necronomicon would not play on this night in Cambridge, the Middle East staff had the downstairs emptied and an hour was killed off as no replacement bands could be found on short notice. As some fellow metal heads in line were a little disgruntled over this news, the bill tonight would surely make up for this slight inconvenience.
Starting the night off first was local band, Forced Asphyxiation. A “classic” death metal band with lyrics that ranged from smoking some sweet ganja to having an epic fight back in the medieval times. Small pits opened up from time to time to show appreciation for the band’s appearance as the Cambridge crowd was getting into the band more with each song. Unfortunately, Forced Asphyxiation’s set was shorter than most were hoping given the delayed start of the show. However, I am certain that for those locals who had not heard of this band before, became fans after this set. Next up was one of my most eyebrow raising bands of the night, Black Crown Initiate.
Having taken over for Hour of Penance on this tour, Black Crown Initiate had quite the shoes to fill, and personally, I think they overfilled them. For those who may not know of BCI, and I was one of them, let me explain what this band sounds like. A melo-death band that plays with djent beats, a death metal lead vocalist with some of the deepest growls you’ve ever heard, and then topped off with jazzy sections and clean vocals from their bassist. I spent most of BCI’s set trying to come up with that sentence as I would lose myself in each song’s complex structure. It was extremely hard figuring out when one song would end and another would begin as each song would smoothly transition to the next. When done right, in this case it was, it can make for quite an experience both in a studio and, a little more challenging, during a live show. I am making it a personal goal to see BCI the next time they come to the Northeast US area as they had certainly left their mark on this warm June night.
Next up on this great night in the heart of Boston was the six piece from Italy, Fleshgod Apocalypse. After hearing of this band a few years ago, and the hype that followed them, I made it a goal of mine to get around to listening to them. Up until this night, I failed miserably. Having said that, I think it was a good thing as this band literally made my jaw hit my sternum on a multitude of occasions. Coming into this show, I understood they were, as some put it, “a lot like Septicflesh.” The death metal outlook, orchestration, piano, and some operatic vocals immediately came to mind, but still I underestimated Fleshgod Apocalypse. All of the members of the band were dressed in old orchestra clothing that had been ripped and tarnished. Each member came complete with a very tasteful corpse paint, and when I say corpse paint I mean they looked dead with pale faces and dark sunken eyes, not trying to impersonate Kiss. Lastly, the two guitarists and bassist each had designs on the bodies of their instruments that made them appear to look like classical instruments with the wooden color and black clef marks. Each and every song that came out of the amplifiers and entered my ears continuously made me so angry that I never got around to listening to this band prior. Songs like ‘The Hypocrisy’, ‘Elegy’, and ‘Pathfinder’ had me itching for more and more as the set moved along and the crowd grew more and more hostile. The night for Fleshgod Apocalypse ended with the amazingly epic closer, ‘The Forsaking’, which left all wide eyed and mouths wide open in amazement at what they just witnessed. At one point, I turned to a friend of mine and proclaimed that I would go home, destroy my iPod, and start over with this band being the first to be uploaded. Just when I thought this night could not get any better, it was time for the main event.
The foursome from Greece known as Septicflesh was here and ready to destroy what was left of the Middle East. Having just released their newest album, Titan, I was hoping for a few new songs and then a few goodies off of the past two releases. When the orchestration hit marking the beginning of ‘Vampire From Nazareth’, I knew we were in for a good night and so did the rest of the crowd behind me. The symphonic death metal gods played a great selection including: classics from Communion like ‘Anubis’, ‘Lovecraft’s Death’, and ‘Persepolis’ to favorites from Great Mass like ‘Pyramid God’, ‘A Great Mass of Death’, and the closer, ‘Five-Pointed Star’. The Cambridge audience was also blessed to hear two new tracks, ‘Order of Dracul’ and one of my favorites, ‘Prototype’. I was impressed to see how far Septicflesh have come in popularity these past few years as finally at my third show, this being the second headlining spot, the fans in attendance actually knew who they were. This time around, everyone around me knew most if not all of the songs and the accompanying lyrics to said songs. These guys have worked so hard to reshape themselves into the well oiled machine they are now and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Overall, this tour did have its changes and last minute cancellation/delays, but I was more than pleased to have been in attendance. One of my favorite bands today, Septicflesh, has started to receive the attention they deserve, Fleshgod Apocalypse smacked me right in the face for never listened to them prior, and Black Crown Initiate made a stand with their very unique style. I also can’t forget local openers, Forced Asphyxiation, now having seen them a second time since their opening spot with Aborted a few months ago, they have gained a fan in me! If you have yet to get out to this tour and a stop near you is coming up, I highly recommend you get a ticket, bang your head until your neck hurts, buy some merch, and enjoy one of the best shows you will see all year.
Despite being somewhat outflanked in recent years by the operatic bombast of fellow countrymen Fleshgod Apocalypse, who they have previously shared members with, Italian quartet Hour of Penance obviously have no intention of being left behind in the race for the throne of Italian Death Metal as new album Regicide(Prosthetic) emphatically demonstrates, for it is one of the most brutal and vicious releases you are likely to hear all year.
Still mightily pissed off with the Catholic Church, which again provides most of the fuel for the hatred captured on these eleven tracks, Hour of Penance go for the throat from the off with the savage double-whammy of ‘Reforging the Crowns’ and ‘Desecrated Souls’ which fly by in a barrage of blastbeats, gargantuan Hate Eternal –influenced riffs and throaty bellows courtesy of the utterly furious sounding Paolo Pieri. There’s not much in the way of subtlety and you wonder briefly if the intensity will be sustained throughout. But these worries are soon assuaged by the quality of the songwriting that begin to shine through like light through a stain glass window as in the venomous chugging of ‘Spears of Sacred Dogma’ and the more nuanced menace of ‘Sealed Into Ecstasy.’
Although this is a strictly route-one death metal album, Hour of Penance are a well-oiled machine that despite having no original members remaining, have honed their craft to near perfection in recent years. Despite being unlikely to ever headline festival stages they just won’t stop delivering when it comes to gut-wrenchingly heavy and furious sounding compositions that are akin to being throttled by a possessed priest in the midst of a swarm of apocalyptic ruination. Regicidecontinues that trend and offers no hope of salvation.