It feels rather redundant to preface this year’s celebration of the music that got us through what was annus horribilis maximus unprecedentius with much of a narrative of 2020 because we were all affected. We all lived through it. Some of us in un-splendid isolation. Some of us irreversibly overhauling the way we live, work, and support our dependents. Some of us welcomed changes we had to make while mourning the root cause behind them and that each and every person on this planet we call home was affected, impacted, and touched in a negative way by the events of a global pandemic and high-profile political situations.Continue reading
Heavy Metal and Thrash legends Heathen will release a new album, Empire Of The Blind, later this year via Nuclear Blast Records. A flyer showing the “Empire Of The Blind” artwork can be found at the merchandise table during “The Bay Strikes Back” 2020 European tour featuring Testament, Death Angel, and Exodus, the latter of which includes Heathen guitarist Lee Altus.Continue reading
Purchase And Stream All The New Music Released Today!
Bay Area Thrash and Heavy Metal band Heathen will release the ten year anniversary reissue of The Evolution of Chaos due out 31st January 2020. The album was a comeback album for the band and was a return to form that saw them tour the world on the strength of the album. The new edition of the album, due out via Mascot Records, will be available on CD/DVD, 2LP and digitally with a previously unreleased bonus track ‘Seasons of Purgatory’. The CD/DVD will be accompanied by a 2 hour ‘Making of’ documentary on the album as well as a live performance from 2009s Thrash Domination, Japan. The band has just released a new lyric video for ‘Control By Chaos’.Continue reading
Formed in 1985, Louisiana’s Exhorder left a brief but lasting impression on a dying thrash scene with their controversial 1990 debut Slaughter in the Vatican and its more mature, but equally impressive 1992 follow-up, The Law (both Roadrunner). Just as thrash was making way for the unplugged introspection and tatty woolly jumpers of grunge, Exhorder arrived in an attempt to revitalise the scene. Continue reading
Pre-orders are now live for the Lazarus Cast Album, featuring the cast and band of the original New York production performing their versions of the David Bowie songs from the show, out October 21st on ISO / Columbia Records. The album also includes three final David Bowie studio recordings, two of which are streaming now.Continue reading
Ever since Hammerfall brought Glory To The Brave (via Nuclear Blast) by damn near single-handedly re-establishing traditional metal as a valid concern some 18 years ago, the traditional types of metal have existed in a vacuum. While even the most conservative of genres, thrash, updated itself in several directions via the urbanization and gangsterization of a Machine Head, or branched out into progressive and technical fields of your Voivod’s and Heathen’s, traditional metal (a sub-genre incorporating “HM”, Speed and Power Metal) seems happy to regurgitate the same tropes and styles ad infinitum.
I guess the clue is in the tag “traditional”…
Finland’s Battle Beast on their third album Unholy Saviour (Nuclear Blast) tick many boxes of the Speed Power Metal sub-genre confidently, continuing exactly where their second, self-titled album, finished; post-Stratovarius hard-rocking refrains punctuated with pacy Accept-influenced riffing, and peppered with rapid bursts of Pyry Vikki’s double-bass drum hurtle. Added to those ingredients are Noora Louhimo’s vocals, not a million miles away from Sister Sin’s Liv Jagrell (a band that Battle Beast share several aural similarities with) pitching from punchy mid-range to a powerful throaty higher register that give the band their quasi-distinctiveness and a USP.
As the album unfolds, it’s clear Battle Beast have three song types, the Symphonic Hard Rocker, such as opener ‘Lion Heart’, the ‘Freewheel Burning’ Speed Metal anthem of a ‘Speed And Danger’ and the softer, more delicate power ballad, of which ‘Sea of Dreams’ displays subtlety and grace and a softer tone to Noora’s voice, in a track that, while obvious in its dynamic climb, works despite its’ genericises.
With sprinkles of keyboards and dual guitars driving duelling descants, make no mistake the term derivate isn’t always a negative thing as Battle Beast do exactly what they set out to do, and this is a collection of well-crafted Hard Rocking Power Metal songs. The fact that there is nothing novel or innovative doesn’t have to put you off, it’s just a matter of whether you have room in your collection for an album that does exactly what you expect it to, that will share characteristics with several of its bed-fellows and is, ultimately, the very definition of “if you liked this band before, you’ll like this, if you didn’t there’s nothing on here that’ll change your mind”.
7.0 / 10
To celebrate the upcoming release of dark, progressive thrash opus Dormant Heart(Nuclear Blast) Josh Middleton of Sylosis spoke of his love of Thrash, including his Top 5 (non-Big 4) Thrash albums…
In no particular order (except the first one, apparently):
SEPULTURA ‘Arise’ (Roadrunner)
After upping the ante in a serious way with the seminal Beneath The Remains Max Cavalera and crew cemented their place in the annals with one of the heaviest and one of the best slabs of thrash known to man, beast or beyond. Produced by the legendary Scott Burns at Morrisound, Brazil’s greatest musical export refined their delivery while maintaining the aggression, with an album chock full of anthems from ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ and its neck-snapping groove, to the epic ‘Desperate Cry’ and the crunching pace of closer ‘Infected Voice’, while the opening title track boasts one of the greatest heavy riffs of the last forty years and is a bone-fide extreme anthem. A genuine Death/Thrash classic.
VIO-LENCE ‘Oppressing The Masses’ (Megaforce)
There’s a certain writing team currently topping the metal charts (and coming in third in Ghost Cult‘s Albums of the Year 2014), a writing team that includes Messrs Philip Demmell and Robert Flynn. Back in 1990, Machine Head‘s creative force were cutting not just their teeth, but an album of jagged thrash intent with no lack of cerebral content, from stomping tour-de-force ‘I, Profit’ to closing title-track, more of a traditional thrasher operating in the Overkill ball park, replete with Sean Killian‘s Blitz-deranged vocals.
FORBIDDEN ‘Twisted Into Form’ (Combat/Relativity)
Another band that operated as a stepping stone for some of its’ members, with drummer Paul Bostaph to move on to Slayer and Testament and highly-regarded guitar-wizard Tim Calvert to later join Nevermore for their defining album Dreaming Neon Black (Century Media). Twisted Into Form was the San Franciscan’s second opus, and with Calvert joining (at the expense of Glen Alvelias, who himself was later to also join Testament), saw a more melodic, technical and progressive approach to the debut.
HEATHEN ‘Victim of Deception’ (Roadrunner)
Another early 90’s great, “This is pretty much …And Justice For All Part 2!” states Middleton. Along with the Vio-lence and Forbidden selections, this is another sophomore album that saw a band at the top of its game really define their sound second time around. Widely regarded as one of the most technical thrash albums, Victim… is renowned for its many complex structures, time changes and guitar work, retaining little of the NWOBHM influence exhibited on their debut. Coming in at over an hour, with the majority of its tracks over six minutes in length, Heathen made a statement that thrash could be complicated and could be progressive.
TESTAMENT ‘First Strike Still Deadly’ (Spitfire)
“I haven’t had any Testament yet… and, you know what, I know it’s a cop out, but I really enjoy First Strike Still Deadly. I know it’s effectively a best of, but I like it.”
Featuring guest appearances from original vocalist/Exodus screamer Steve “Zetro” Sousa and Joey Tempesta, who had sat on the drum stool at various points in Testament’s career, as well as Alex Skolnick returning for the first time since 1992’s The Ritual, this compilation of re-recordings was Steve Di Giorgio‘s last with the band. Comprising of tracks from their classic first two albums, The Legacy and The New Order (Atlantic/Megaforce) and old demo track ‘Reign of Terror’, this was the start of the re-recording trend and has been widely panned by critics, which seems harsh as the tracks are, still, incredible. Besides, at least one person (Mr Middleton) likes it… Here at Ghost Cult we support First Strike… but would recommend getting hold of the first two Testament albums, if you don’t already own them. You can pick up pretty much every Testament release while you’re at it, too…
Words by STEVE TOVEY
The countdown to the Official Ghost Cult Magazine Album of the Year for 2014 continues. Please consume and enjoy the results of our 2014 Writers’ Poll. We hope it will introduce you to some of the incredible works of art you may have missed that we have had the immense pleasure of listening to and writing about this year.
In our third installment we bring you albums 30 through to 21
“Casualties of Cool is an intriguing experiment from a man who excels in making left-field music. Go in expecting massive a prog-metal exercise will only lead to disappointment, but having an open mind will result in a rewarding experience” DAN SWINHOE 8/10 Full review here
29. ANATHEMA – Distant Satellites (KScope)
“One of our world’s most understated bands, despite the plaudits they get, Anathema have once again showcased their knack for penning both forward thinking and emotionally driven music which oozes real human character and sentimentality”. CHRIS TIPPELL 9/10 Full review here
“When we look back on this part of their career, we will likely understand that these are less like regular EPs that other bands release, and much more like a mini-opus, in pieces. Down clearly realizes their collective vision, no matter who is in the lineup, every time”. KEITH ‘KEEFY’ CHACHKES 9.5/10 Full review here
“Sadistic and aggressive with endless moments of bleak reflection Splinters is a leviathan unleashed upon unsuspecting listeners and a release surely destined to grace many year end lists” ROSS BAKER 9/10 Full review here
Like a massive-antlered stag glimpsed amidst a wintry landscape, breathtaking, elusive and hard to pin down, The Serpent and the Sphere looks set to continue their elegant and ever-evolving legacy JAMES CONWAY 9/10 Full review here
25. THOU – Heathen (Gilead Media)
“A storm manifest as a piece of music, as devastating as it is awe-inspiring, Heathen is varied and compelling for the entire runtime”. TOM SAUNDERS 9/10 Full review here
“Sharp, buzzing riffs and symphonic keys, strength and brutality amongst moments of pomp and beauty, bloody entertaining and another show of form” PAUL QUINN 8.5/10 Full review here
23. PYRRHON – The Mother of Virtues (Relapse)
“The Mother Of Virtues doesn’t just challenge what is “extreme”, but calls into question whether some of what is produced is actually even music. Completely and utterly impenetrable, and exceptional with it”. STEVE TOVEY 9.5/10 Full review here
“Eyehategod continue to age like a good whiskey, seeming to improve as time goes by, but by no means losing their sting”. CHRIS TIPPELL 9/10 Full review here
21. ALCEST – Shelter (Prophecy)
“Shedding the last vestiges of metal, let-alone any lingering black metal leanings, a captivating and stunning piece of music poured straight from the heart”. JAMES CONWAY 9/10 Full review here
Ghost Cult Magazine Albums of the Year: 50-41
Ghost Cult Magazine Albums of the Year: 40-31
It’s been a long time coming, but Thou have finally seen fit to awaken from their slumber and crush us with a new full-length record. Heathen (Gilead Media) is indeed, crushing. At 74 minutes in length, one might fear that it would get monotonous, or that it might drag. On the contrary, Heathen is varied and compelling for the entire runtime, and arguably the length of the record adds to the overwhelming power of the album.
Album opener, ‘Free Will’ is the longest song on the album, and the best (which is no easy judgement to make on a record of such quality). This might be the quintessential Thou song. A combination of feedback, chunky riffs, pounding drums and tortured vocals create an unnervingly heavy start to the album. But eventually, a melody bursts forth and it’s almost triumphant, accompanied by vocals that sound more empowering than they do tortured. It sounds like one of those moments where, if this were a hardcore show, people would be climbing over each other to grab the mic for themselves. Melody doesn’t mean that Thou have gone soft though, the riffs here are as weighty as ever.
One of the most impressive things about Heathen is that on the whole, the longest songs are the best. The longer song lengths and longer album length mean that Heathen sounds very organic, as Thou move seamlessly from one idea or riff to the next. The progressions all feel very natural, but changes in pace keep the listener guessing. ‘Into the Marshlands’ is a particularly good example of this. The album is also peppered with interludes, such as the wonderfully titled ‘Take Off Your Skin and Dance in Your Bones’, allowing the listener some time to breathe in amongst what is otherwise a fairly relentless album. Whilst it is undeniably dynamic, it isn’t exactly an easy listen, making the interludes very welcome, like shelter from a storm. Another album highlight would be ‘At the Foot of Mount Driskill’, which initially sounds almost like a funeral doom song. Whereas the melody on ‘Free Will’ sounded triumphant, the melody here is absolutely heartbreaking. As the melody gives way to a life-ending chug, accompanied by howls of “WE ARE NOTHING”, it is impossible not to feel an emotional connection to the music. Dauntingly long albums can sometimes lose their impact, alienating the listener (Swans‘ otherwise excellent The Seer comes to mind), but this certainly isn’t a problem with Heathen.
It might be a lot to take in on a first listen, but it is totally worth your time. This is an album that gets more rewarding every time. There is a lot of detail to explore in the music as well as the lyrics, which seem to be philosophically minded. Heathen sounds like a storm manifest as a piece of music, as devastating as it is awe-inspiring. Whatever you do, don’t sleep on this.
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