The Body And Full Of Hell – Ascending A Mountain Of Heavy Light

The Body and Full Of Hell are no strangers to collaborations or to each other, as both acts have teamed up in the past together and individually with some of the undergrounds best bands (Thou, Code Orange, Krieg etc). One Day You Will Ache Like I Ache (Neurot) was an assault on the senses, and you’d expect nothing less from both bands, but with Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light (Thrill Seeker) they look to push the boundaries of what qualifies as music even further.Continue reading

Crypt Rot – Embryonic Devils

Barely a year old, Ohio’s Crypt Rot come crawling from their coffin-sized grave with Embryonic Devils (Southern Lord). It’s a fitting name for an album by former members of Ohio’s Homewrecker, as these guys are like little baby demons, with decent potential, who haven’t quite grown out of their flaming, sulfur-stinking diapers just yet. Continue reading

Lubricant – Swallow This

For any fan of old Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, Entombed and the first two Cattle Decapitation albums, this is for you. Originally found on as a demo entitled Swallow The Symmetric Swab and a mini-album Nookleptia (Morbid Records), the songs on the 11 track compilation Swallow This (Svart) are remastered for this release to show the bands fully formed ideas of how the songs were supposed to sound on the original tape and vinyl pressings in 1993. Continue reading

Akercocke – The King Is Blind – Impavidus: Live at Academy 3, Manchester UK

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One of Manchester’s brightest up-and-coming lights opened this autumn evening, the first night of a huge week of metal in the city. Impavidus were as tight as hell, the commonly-used MeloDeath soubriquet seeming very wide of the mark despite Michelle Adamson’s staggering use of harsh and clean vocals and some howling leadplay from Gav Smith.

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Kalloused – Damn You Believer

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The seaside town of Brighton, UK, previously famous for its attractiveness to holidaying Londoners and its apparently sizeable gay population, is at present building a reputation as a haven of devastating Low-end music. Step forward Kalloused whose first foray into recorded output, Damn You Believer (Third I-Rex), begins with the suspense-laden ‘Pt 1’: a weighty tome which possesses a surprising yet subtle line in crunching but emotional guitar.

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Aborted – Termination Redux

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To celebrate 20 years of nastiness, Belgian death metallers Aborted have released a five track EP. Termination Redux (Century Media) features three new songs and a re-recording of the band’s 2001 song ‘The Holocaust Incarnate’ from the band’s Engineering The Dead (Listenable Records) record.

Grinding death metal has always been Aborted’s speciality, and this is a short, sharp, shock of crushingly relentless filth. Technical chainsaw riffs, machine gun drumming and larynx-bleeding vocals fill every track. There’s no signs of slowing down or – god forbid – mellowing out, and the three new tracks promise to make the band’s upcoming album a potential highlight of 2016.

For completest, the rerecording of ‘The Holocaust Incarnate’ retains its original buzzsaw qualities, but is given an added crispness to its sound. The band haven’t changed a whole lot over the years, and the fact that a song over a decade old reinforces the idea that the band have always been about refining, rather than radically changing their sound.

In fifteen minutes, Termination Redux demonstrates pretty perfectly what Aborted are all about; brutal, uncompromising death metal. Happy Anniversary.

8.0/10

DAN SWINHOE

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Gorphanage – May Cause Birth Defects

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Death Metal has found itself in a pretty serious place. Whether it’s the artily-lit tentacles and elaborate hats of Portal and their imitators, Vastum’s multi-syllabic tales of incest and malevolent sodomy or even the maelstrom of black-and-white drawings of goats and skeletons unleashed by the Nuclear War Now! set, any laughter that’s being had by modern DM bands is taking place behind the scenes – but it hasn’t always been that way. Gorphanage’s self-released debut aims very much takes its cues from the days of Impetigo and Repulsion, when being disgusting and being silly were pretty much the same thing.

Musically, this is exactly what you’d expect from those references – thick, dirty riffs and crude, bludgeoning rhythms topped with growled vocals that are comparatively audible by modern standards. The occasional use of sinister melodies adds a touch of variety, and comedy film samples (another old legacy of a simpler time) break things up a little, but this is not music that revels in a range of tones and emotions.

It’s hard to criticise Gorphanage too seriously when their limitations are so clearly the result of deliberate choices. It’s crude, unsophisticated and frequently childish, but it’s hard to imagine that a band who’ve written a song called ‘Choke On Beelzebub’s Fuck Muscle’ would be too upset at having that pointed out. The band are clearly at their most comfortable at slow- or mid-pace, with the faster passages collapsing into a sloppy mess more often than not – but, again, “sloppy mess” is not a major problem given where the band have set their sights. What they do well is to churn out filthy, primitive Death Metal riffs, and they’ve made that the core of their sound.

May Cause Birth Defects is not going to reinvent Death Metal – it’s not trying to – but it achieves precisely what it sets out to. A silly, childish mash of zombies, mass smurf-murder and mindless pummelling that refuses to make any apologies for what it is, and pays sincere, effective tribute to a time when Death Metal was more famed for its sick humour and dirty riffs than its avant-garde headwear.

7.0/10

RICHIE HR

VVovnds – Descending Flesh

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An utterly fearful twenty minutes lies in wait for anyone daring to trip into Descending Flesh (Hypertension), the second full-length from Belgian blusterers VVovnds. That’s right: twenty minutes. So it’s Grind, right? Nope…

It isn’t a million miles away, of course – how could it not be? – but, whilst rampant and occasionally pensive, this vicious brand of Hardcore is infected with a slurring, viperous Sludge which sees ultra-quick tracks given an ever-so-slight dab on the brakes; such as the breakneck ‘A La Lanterne’ whose slashing Punk riffs are touched by a swamp-dipped groove, so minutely slower that it takes a second to register. ‘Golgotha’s horrific, Doom-laden morass is the vantage point of some terrifying roars from vocalist Jenci Vervaeke, aided by a monstrously reverberating production and the alarming, crushing speed of a nevertheless euphoric coda.

Here, despite the oft-derided flashing pace in evidence, is the Thinking Man’s pummel. One of only two tracks to crack the three-minute mark, ‘The Light’s sinister crawl sees that mix really come into its own: drums and cymbals full and brutal yet carrying razors on the back of the fizzing riffs, while Vervaeken’s yelping screams evoke images of Colin van Eeckhout having an even more traumatic day. The unfettered ferocity of ‘Coins’ is reined toward the close by a febrile yet barely-controlled climax, frantically trying to explode yet contained and subsequently pregnant with tension, while the singular screams toward the centrepoint of ‘Equality In Death’ are both nauseous and gripping.

This is, of course, a suitable length for such largely unflinching earache; the third quarter of the album seeming to grow a little uninspired if still excitable. However a quick return to form sees ‘Maleficia’ resemble a particularly unclean Pig Destroyer, while the snaking, squealing closer ‘Peine Forte’ does briefly and periodically have its leash lengthened, being supremely dictated by a lead riff and Pieter Blancke’s resonating drums.

Ultimately, anyone who worships at the altar of hideous, rapid outpourings would get a pleasurable bite from this, a particularly apt expression of the anger, pain and feverish agitation many of us are feeling after this weekend’s events.

 

7.5/10

 

PAUL QUINN

Gold – No Image

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Rotterdam quintet Gold’s pounding yet warmly-produced, Post-heavy bent is faithful to that freedom of expression and unconstrained creativity so expected from Dutch artists. Milena Eva’s androgynous tones assist the Indie feel driving sophomore album, No Image (Ván / Profound Lore): opener ‘Servant’ having a laid-back, Pop vibe coursing through the cocooning weight of the instrumentation. The psychedelic bleeps, whistles and squalling lead spiralling through the ensuing ‘Old Habits’, meanwhile, coupled with the determinedly-intoned yet almost angelic vocal, nearly disguise a fuzzing brute of staccato rhythm.

Extreme Metalheads could find the album falling between two stools: a harsh Rock sound, tempered by the voice and attitude of their guilty ‘chillout’ secrets. Those who stick with this will, however, find unexpected thrills in each track which have you hooked before you realise. There’s no shortage of atmosphere here: shimmering pedal effects complement Eva’s moving delivery in ‘The Controller’, and preface a Blondie-style Punk explosion; whilst the early synth and sample work of ‘D.I.R.’ is the prologue to a thudding New Wave structure. It’s here where the production really emphasises the power and weight underpinning Eva’s soft lilt, reminiscent of a happy Brian Molko.

Bitterness and despair travel freely within these walls despite both emotions being delivered in an energetic and, in the case of ‘The Waves’, febrile manner, with lead and backing vocals seeming to sound simultaneously pained and carefree. The heavy, Joy Division-infused shoegaze of ‘Shapeless’ is driven by a seedy, sexy rhythm section, while the early swerve and bludgeon of ‘Tar And Feather’ threatens a Black / Grind influence, before delicacy briefly tempers an anger conducted by Igor Wouters’ phenomenal stickwork. Only the nevertheless brooding and occasionally sensual closers ‘Don’t’ and ‘Taste Me’ mar things somewhat, having a Saint Etienne-like lethargic drift which allows the interest to wander.

It takes no little courage and confidence to put together such opposing shades of light and dark, and to do so with such youthful vitality is joyfully uplifting. No Image is a “something different” that unifies many styles and, in doing so, proves capable of engaging devotees from across the heavy spectrum.

7.0/10.0

 

PAUL QUINN

Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic

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In their fifteen year existence, Raleigh, North Carolina quintet Between the Buried and Me has resisted all attempts at categorisation largely by the ever-changing nature of their music. Breakthrough record Alaska in 2005 saw them being lumped in with the ascendant metalcore scene largely by virtue of their choice of record label and haircuts, despite that critically acclaimed release being very different in content to anything post-Killswitch.

Further records such as Colors in 2007 and The Great Misdirect two years later (all Victory) saw the band flirting with death metal and grind yet the overarching theme was that of fully-fledged progressive metal, something that has now come to fruition on Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade) a bona-fide rock opera that was always in the works, yet few thought would ever be quite so glorious.

With a concept detailing a coma patient’s self-induced exploration of his past lives, facing the choice to either stay or move on to parts unknown and the strange, arcane machine which enables him to do this, none could accuse Between the Buried and Me of lacking a sense of the grandiose. However it is the music that matters and on this record the band has wandered further into the lands of bewildering, arcane prog than ever before, while thankfully still in touch with their metal safety ground. Bands such as Genesis, Queen and Pink Floyd are notable reference points here, with BTBAM seeking to emulate the sense of wonder and freedom those noted acts managed to achieve with their seminal records back in the 70s.

The guitars on Coma Ecliptic are more interested in swirling leads and deft licks than common-or-garden heads down riffing, with rhythm largely left over to the solid, yet often playful bass guitar. This is apparent from the first time the axes make an appearance; with a brief yet histrionic solo which closes the soulful, piano-led opening track ‘Node’. Of course, this is still a metal album at heart and most tracks feature basic one/two chugs during the verses, although the attention will mostly be focused on the ever-present spiralling leadwork. A prime example of this is ‘The Coma Machine’, which develops the themes of the opening track into a surreal yet wholly engaging journey of bewildering prog rhythms, fluid guitar acrobatics and soaring, mysterious keyboards. It’s one hell of an impressive start to a record and things only get better from there.

Between the Buried and Me, photo by Justin Reich

Between the Buried and Me, photo by Justin Reich

Whether it’s the Zombi style 80s synth of ‘Dim Ignition’ complete with buzzing vocal effects which pitches the listener straight into a John Carpenter action film, the absurdly fun Vaudevillian stomp of ‘The Ectopic Stroll’ which Faith No More would have killed to have included on their recent comeback album or the emotionally devastating ‘King Redeem – Queen Serene’ which flits between soulful acoustic introspection to searing melodic death metal with a few maniacal prog flourishes thrown in for good measure, it’s utterly impossible to get bored. This is a record that you could listen to over twenty times and still find surprises waiting for you at every turn.

Each member of the band has come on leaps and bounds since the early days with Paul Waggoner surely staking a claim for one of the most gifted guitarists of his generation and the man DreamTheater should be keeping a close eye on when they next suffer a crisis in the ranks. But it is mainman Tommy Rogers who deserves most of the plaudits. His soulful croon will tug at your heartstrings on ‘Rapid Calm’ during the wondrous guitar solo-used-as-verse, but will instantly switch to feral death growl without breaking sweat, and crucially without ever sounding contrived.

The record that they were always promising to make but you weren’t sure was possible, on ComaEcliptic Between the Buried and Me have exceeded all expectations and delivered not only the album of their careers but one of the most monumental ambitious rock concept pieces this side of Operation Mindcrime (EMI).

How they will ever top this remains the only sticking point.

9.0/10

JAMES CONWAY