Is post-Death Metal a thing? I’m sure there’s some Metal forum that can vindicate that subgenre, but who’s got the time for that. On second thought Gorguts’ Colored Sands probably has already nabbed the coveted best post-Death album title, but I digress. Fallujah’s latest LP Undying Light (Nuclear Blast) certainly seems to fit the post-Extreme label as well, seeing that it’s an album equal parts Death and Deftones. Continue reading
Sad news to report as former Malevolent Creation vocalist and death metal legend Bret Hoffmann has passed away after a battle with colon cancer. He was 51. The news was revealed by his wife in a Facebook post. Hoffmann was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer last spring. Hoffmann was the co-founder of Malevolent Creation who got their start in Buffalo, NY before Relocating down to Florida to take part in that scene. Continue reading
Droves of fans flocked to the annual host of all things rock, metal and horror as Rock And Shock 2016 invaded Worcester, Massachusetts last month. The annual event at The Palladium and the DCU Center for the convention is hosted annually by Massconcerts, and the entire weekend is wall to wall scary good fun! Continue reading
Long running Heavy Music and Horror event Rock And Shock takes over Worcester MA once again this month. The annual event see fans of rock and metal and horror movies and pop culture flock to both the Worceter Palladium for the show and the DCU Center for the convention. Organized annually by Massconcerts, scores of musical acts, personalities, costume contests, discounted tickets for Servicement and Women, tattoing, and vendors make for an unforgettable experience. Continue reading
As we dash towards the holidays and the end of the year Ghost Cult is feeling good about this season of giving. So we are giving our fans a chance to get to know our partners, peers, and friends from bands in the world of music. They will chime in with some guest blogs, end of year lists, and whatever else is on their minds as we pull the plug on 2015. Today we have Atli Jarl Martin, promoter and digital go to guy for Eistnaflug Festival, who happily lives with his 19 computers and has a huge affection for his ThinkPads, shared his list of favorite releases of this year with us.
It’s been a strange year for me personally and a bit hard to keep up with as many releases I’ve done in recent years, Nevertheless I managed to build a list of some 70 releases which I have now filtered down to my final Top 10, whereas the top 5 releases could have all ended up in my top slot. I guess that most releases that made the cut won’t come as a surprise to anyone that knows me, but I hope that there are at least a couple that you haven’t listened to yet, and might give it a spin. 2016 is looking tremendously exciting already, first and foremost with the release of Rotting Christ’s new album Rituals early in the year. But for 2015, here goes…
1. Thy Catafalque – Sgúrr (Season Of Mist)
Definitely the most delightful surprise of 2015. Following the incredible 2011 album Rengeteg, I became a huge fan of the talent and musicianship of Tamás Kátai, as this is a one-man project, and his vast and diverse musical wizardry is way above and beyond what most other musicians present. The musical direction Tamás takes on Sgúrr is hugely different than what is presented on Rengeteg and the earlier albums, one might say colder, bleaker and harsher, where ‘f.e. Jura’, a straight forward blisteringly fast black metal track made my jaw drop, as it was wholly unexpected. I can really say the same about pretty much every track on the album, which is a phenomenal roller coaster ride through amazing variety of styles and sounds. Just listen to ‘Oldódó Formák a Halál Titokzatos Birodalmáb’, a 15:21 minute ride through a sublime variety of styles and a showcase track on just how multi-talented Tamás Kátai is. A beautiful work of art.
2. Lost Soul – Atlantis: The New Beginning (Apostasy Records)
Yes, they fucking did it again. These Polish wizards, led by mainman Jacek Grecki, pretty much blew everyone’s mind back in 2009 with their absolutely phenomenal Immerse In Infinity album, which shared the top-slot on my list back then with my favorite, and ever so lovable Finns in Amorphis (more on them later). Lost Soul are finally back after 6 long years, but the wait was so worth it. Atlantis is every bit as fast and brutal, yet Grecki and his merry men have managed to push their music further into the technical and progressive realms, bringing you one, if not THE pinnacle of technical death metal offerings of all-times. Listening to this album leaves me dumb-struck with awe, every-single-time, such is the wizardry performed here. Perfection!
3. Melechesh – Enki (Nuclear Blast)
5 years after the release of the fantastic The Epigenesis album, and after a plethora of lineup changes, Melechesh return with Enki, yet another masterpiece of an album. Uncompromising as always, adhering to their sublime Middle Eastern music influenced extreme metal concoction, Melechesh apparently can do no wrong. While The Epigenesis took a tad more progressive turn, with sublimely heavy and thundering songs, Enki returns back to the faster, more intense songwriting as presented on their earlier albums, such as Emissaries and Sphynx. I was fortunate enough to finally see the band on stage last May, and the experience was mind-blowing. Among the best musical entities on the planet. Period.
4. Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud (Nuclear Blast)
As a very, very long time fan of the band, their current lineup, starting with their absolute best album, Eclipse (2006), almost every album since has been a tour-de-force, showcasing the enormous capacity of the bands collective skills in songwriting and musicianship, as well as being one of the hardest working bands out there, as this is their 6th full-length album in only 9 years. Under the Red Cloud very much takes up the thread from the stellar 2013 album, Circle, but the band is in absolute top-form here, as every song on the album is outstanding. Songs like ‘The Four Wise Ones’, ‘Bad Blood’, ‘Dark Path’, and the phenomenal ‘Tree of Ages’, have made the album my most heavily rotated album from the band since 2006, and there is no letting up on how often I spin it. Masterpiece.
5. Clutch – Psychic Warfare (Weathermaker Music)
Yes indeed, here‘s another super-hard working band which has been dishing out release after release of superior quality since, well, forever. Their 2004 album Blast Tyrant is perhaps my favorite rock album of all-time, and their subsequent albums, albeit all having different qualities, none really came close to it in overall groove and fierceness, until now. Psychic Warfare absolutely hits every mark of excellence that Blast Tyrant presented. Every song is superb, the lyrics are fantastic, and the whole album pops and clicks on every beat, every groove, and infuses that good old feeling of strapping on an air-guitar and do a bit of headbanging while singing along to Neil Fallon’s often hysterically funny rants and phrases. As I write this, there are only 2 days until I see the band onstage for the first time, and the anticipation for seeing the tracks from this album presented is making me all giddy. Woohoo!
6. Keep of Kalessin – Epistemology (Indie Recordings)
This is an album I actually had high expectations for, specially after hearing the 2013 EP Introspection, which was the first release from the band following Arnt “Obsidian C.” Grønbech taking over the vocal duties after Thebon‘s departure earlier that year. Their first full-length album in 5 years, I was supremely happy to hear that Keep of Kalessin is very much up to the task as a three-piece outfit, and musically, the album is a healthy blend of the more commercial aspect of 2009‘s Reptilian and the earlier fierce and blazingly fast Armada (2006) and Kolossus (2008). Stand-out tracks and passages on the album are many, but the pinnacle is most certainly ‘The Grand Design’, a track that easily rivals the best of their earlier works, and was absolutely amazing to witness on stage. The band is in top-form at the moment and I can‘t wait for the successor, just hope that I won‘t have to wait 5 years for it.
7. George Kollias – Invictus (Season of Mist)
This master of extreme metal drumming certainly has had a busy schedule in recent years, touring and playing with Nile, as well as releasing drum lesson videos and attending drum clinics, but there were a couple of his own songs available on YouTube, rough mixed and non-vocal demos. Very cool stuff, but nothing that really prepared me for the delicious death metal assault he put together on this first solo album of his. It is a showcase of enormous death metal talent, as Kollias plays every instrument on the album, as well as performing vocals, but the album also features guest performances from many prominent musicians, such as Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade (Nile), George Emmanuel (Rotting Christ) and Efthimis Karadimas (Nightfall), to name but a few. Overall a fantastic death metal trip, modern in technicality, speed, sound and feel, blended with a healthy dose of some old school riffing, but what really amazed me the most is Kollias‘ vocal performance, which ranks among the best I‘ve heard in a long time. Highly recommended.
8. Hate – Crvsade: Zero (Napalm Records)
Being a very early release this year, as it came out in late January, this album has had way more spins than many other albums on my list, but it is definitely to its credit that it ends up on my Top 10 list, as the re-playability of the album is phenomenal. Mainman Adam “ATF Sinner” Buszko and his band mates strengthen the already very impressive legacy of the band and their highly energetic style of death metal getting stronger with each subsequent album. One of my favorite bands for sure.
9. Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed (Nuclear Blast)
Another album I had really high expectations for in 2015, and they were not betrayed. Nile have been on a remarkably consistent roll since the release of Those Whom The Gods Detest in 2009, followed by At the Gate of Sethu (2012) which has since then bulldozed its way to being my second all-time favorite album by the band. The band pulls no left hooks here, plowing onwards and upwards with their instantly recognizable brand of death metal mastery. Super-heavy, blazing fast and tremendously well executed, track after track just thunders through and the confidence and coherence displayed by the band is absolutely why they are one of the biggest extreme metal acts in the world today.
10. Malevolent Creation – Dead Man‘s Path (Century Media)
Aaaah, like a warm blanket, listening to a new Malevolent Creation, one of my all-time favorite bands, is always a very pleasant experience. I’ve been following these old masters almost since the beginning of their career, and despite the very turbulent history of band members, they always manage to land on their feet, providing me with that deliciously violent old-school death metal that I love so much. Dead Man‘s Path is pure Malevolence, and the band and the music sound better than they have done since the magnificent Envenomed came out in 2000. No-one can destroy this Malevolent Creation.
Paying tribute to the almighty Death and their founder Chuck Schuldiner has come in many forms in recent years, as their music has helped shape an extreme form of heavy metal that new generations of fans have grown to love to perform and worship the lifestyle that was created.
For the members of Gruesome, they rediscovered their love of the band and wrote music that paid homage to one of the originators of the genre. Band drummer Gus Rios talked about what Schuldiner’s music meant to him growing up.
“Dude it would so fun if we fucking wrote songs that sounded like Death. I remember getting the first demo going ‘is this dude like totally doing séances with Chuck or what? What’s going on?’ The riffage is really authentic sounding, which made me wanna play drums in that span and falling for it. I even tuned my drums different. It brought out this old style of playing drums and it sounded better. He had no idea that it would turn into something as big as it has.”
He explained how he and vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey (also of Exhumed) originally began this project around a demo of ideas and spawned from there. Those tunes are now featured on their debut album Savage Land.
“Matt did the first DTA (Death To All) and I was a guest drummer on the second DTA. Exhumed played one of those shows and I was playing ‘Baptized in Blood’ every night and he liked the way I played that old school style song.”
“So me and him got hammered that night and just kind of chatted about how much we loved old school music. He’s my same exact age. We literally grew up listening to all of the same exact stuff and obviously we really loved Death’s first three records…Human too. It was one of those drunk, ‘it would be awesome if…’ “
Before Gruesome, a few different ideas were attempted and did not come together due to various factors. So instead Gruesome was born.
“So I tried putting together a Leprosy DTA with Rick Rozz and Terry Butler with me and Matt. That fell through and Matt kind of jokingly said ‘dude let’s write our own songs.’ “
“The ideas sat around for a while. I quit Malevolent [Creation] in February of . I actually thought about it and I sent him a message on Facebook and went ‘remember that crazy idea…?’ I guess a week or two later maybe he sent me the first demo and I went ‘damn…this motherfucker’s got some really good ideas.’ So I recorded drums for it because I have a studio. I sent it back to him and he went ‘this might actually be good.’ “
The next person to come into the fold was Daniel Gonzalez (Possessed), who instantly became the guy to handle the lead guitars on their newly crafted music.
“Then he wrote another song and then we were like ok. I called Dan Gonzalez and I said ‘hey I think we might do something with this. We need a guy that can clone Chuck and James [Murphy], which is a tall order. Dan’s a really good guitar player. So he’s like ‘yeah I’m down.’ Then we immediately contacted Eric Greif, longtime Death manager and asked for his blessing. ‘This is what we want to do because we love Death. It’s sounding pretty cool.’ He was super cool about it. He totally gave us his blessing and he’s like ‘let’r rip. Hail Chuck.’ “
Once they got music completed, they pitched the idea to Relapse Records. While they were into the idea of releasing the album, there was briefly some hesitation over whether fans would accept such a record to be released.
“Relapse loved it, and still even then we recorded the album and still we were like…’what if people hate us?’ You know what I mean? This is some hollow ground we’re treading on. Are people going to understand that we’re really not cashing in on someone. I mean its death metal – nobody’s cashing in.”
“The short version of it is apparently people understand that we’re coming from a genuine place and this is just…Matt said it once [that] this is our nerdy love letter to Death. If Chuck could hear us from beyond the grave this is our way of saying ‘dude your music changed our lives.’ “
“For me it’s the funnest band I’ve ever been in, as far as loving the style. Leprosy is my favorite death metal album. If there ever was a band that I wish I could be in was Death, then now is as close as I could ever get.”
Rios elaborated on Gonzalez’s role within Gruesome and how his guitar playing became a staple part of their sound.
“Dan plays in Possessed. He lives and works in Miami where I work. He’s also an engineer so it was like Dan is a good enough guitar player where he didn’t need Matt to show him the riffs. He just learned the riffs and he recorded all of the guitars and he made demos. Actually it’s funny that in the emails with the songs, it was like solo one Murphy, solo two Schuldiner. Matt knew what kind of style he wanted Dan to emulate for whatever part he was trying. That was Dan’s job was to get inside the head of these dudes. We’re kind of like method acting a little bit. Like me on the drums – I’m thinking ‘what would Bill Andrews do here?’ You know what I mean – which is a very simplistic way of doing it, and which is not exactly the way how I naturally play I guess. It was fun – super cool and something that was out of my normal world. I remember recording the album with a smile on my face going ‘this is awesome!’ It’s fun death metal.”
The final piece was bassist Robin Mazen, a veteran of the Tampa death metal scene and someone who came up within the classic scene. She instantly became interested in taking part and became a vital part of the band.
“[With] Robin I played in a band with when I was 15 years old. That’s how far back I go with her. Not to get into that kind of politics but I know what it’s like to tour in a van with dudes that I maybe don’t get along with so well. I just wanted to surround myself, if it was a touring situation, with people who were genuinely friends. Robin’s the coolest chick in metal. Anybody who knows her would tell you. She’s fucking awesome. That was a no brainer.”
“Robin knew Chuck, lives in Tampa. She is as old school as any of us. She goes way back and I knew she would immediately get it. When she heard the demo, she’s like ‘this fucking rules!’ Actually it was her that said ‘watch this is going to be huge.’ We’re the guys making it. She had an outsider’s perspective on it. She was the one going ‘watch this thing is going to take off!’ I’m like ‘uhhh…it’s not really original.’ Nobody’s going to ever say Gruesome is an original band. We’re literally just reading Death’s playbook and trying to do what we think he would have done and in between the years of ’88 and ’89 really. Chuck would have never written songs like this, had he still remained alive – probably not.”
While Gruesome was originally unintended on becoming a full time touring band, due to Harvey’s commitments with Exhumed, Rios admits they did a lot more than they anticipated. Their recent brief US tour this past summer crossed paths with a lot of new fans along the way.
“Not really I don’t think. We figured maybe we’d do a festival here and there. Nobody anticipated the demand. I mean when the record came out, I remember Relapse was like with the presales ‘we sold out of the white vinyl in six hours.’ We went ‘really? People are gonna dig this.’ We had no idea. We’re just doing what we do. Obviously I’m super happy and obviously now we’re probably going to do another record next month and next year we’re probably going to see a bunch of more shows. He’s still got Exhumed so it’s never going to be a band that tours nonstop kind of a thing. It will be probably like select one offs, maybe one full US run, one full European run and festivals kind of a thing.”
“I think that will be cool because it will always keep the demand there. When Gruesome comes to town, it won’t be like every other day or every other month, or even three times a year. Plus me and Dan have real jobs and we can’t bail out whenever we want. Again we’re not really cashing in. I can’t quit my day job.”
Lastly, he shared some of the interesting moments they experienced on their recently tour and talked about some of the interesting people they crossed paths with along the way.
“I’ve gotta say playing ‘Born Dead’ with Terry Butler. I actually got goose bumps. I remember as a kid watching the Ultimate Revenge video…rewind – play – rewind – play. Death, for me…Slayer got me into this but when I heard Death, I was like – I found where I wanted to go in life. To be able to play a song from that era with the dude who was in it. He’s the legend.“
“I remember the whole song. If someone told the 14 year old me that this was going to happen one day, I would be like shut the fuck up. So that was a super highlight.”
“And today I got to meet Mike McGill. He’s an old skateboard legend. He skated in the Tony Hawk team in the late 80s called the Bones Brigade. I went to his skate shop today. It’s a Sunday and I don’t expect him to be there. I just wanted to buy some McGill Skate Shop t-shirts and the kid behind the counter was like ‘you want him to sign the shirts?’ I was like ‘the fuck? Is he here?’ I actually bought a deck! Sign a deck! I don’t care what it costs to take it home. I met Mike McGill. So that was pretty cool.”
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Death metal supergroup Gruesome will be releasing their debut album Savage Land in North America via Relapse Records on April 21st, 2015, April 17th in Germany, Benelux and Finland and April 20th in the UK, rest of the world on CD and digitally. Featuring within their bestial ranks members of Exhumed, Possessed, Malevolent Creation and Derketa, they are a supergroup of sorts paying homage to the game-changing sounds of Death’s early recordings.
Gruesome was born out of guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey (Exhumed) and drummer Gus Rios‘ (Malevolent Creation) mutual involvement with the Death To All tours – Harvey serving as frontman for the original nine-member mini-tour and Rios performing “Baptized In Blood” and working with DTA drummer Sean Reinert on the following US tour where Exhumed filled in as support on a several dates. After discarding the idea of putting together another incarnation of DTA to focus exclusively on Death’s first two albums, Harvey half-jokingly suggested writing their own songs in that vein. It wasn’t long before the idea gained traction, and the “band” had five songs written. Rios later recruited Possessed guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and Derketa bassist Robin Mazen to record the material in Florida.
The result is the eight scathing tracks contained on Savage Land. Recorded by Rios and Gonzalez at Riversound Studios in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, mixed by Jarrett Pritchard at Mana Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida and including a guest guitar solo on “Closed Casket” by James Murphy as well as cover art by legendary illustrator Ed Repka (Death, Megadeth, Massacre, Athiest et el), Savage Land is a truly gruesome slab of late-’80s/early-’90s Florida-styled death metal.
Stream “Hideous” here or here.
Whisper it softly around these parts so as not inflate the head of one of our sterling writers, Richie HR, but he is right. In his recent review of Annihilated’s XIII Steps To Ruination (Unique Leader) here he commented about how “Average is the new bad, and it’s far, far worse than rubbish ever was”, casting light on the fact that we are inundated with decent, OK, average, not bad, it’s alright metal (especially Death Metal) these days. Passing muster isn’t the same as it was, and if you were ranking on a Bell Curve (curb your tittering at the back), what would have passed for decent would now be at the bottom, as the overall level has come up.
There are also way more Death Metal bands per head of metal fan than any other genre, and far too many average, going nowhere bands. Labels used to be a filter for this sort of stuff, but it now seems even those labels that should know better have gotten into the conveyor belt mentality of it all (and Relapse really should know better, having gestated some of the cream of the DM crop). We have a sea of the unimaginatively named Wretched, Annihilated et al producing the unimaginative; the differences between them each are minimal, very few of them have any identity or any chance of releasing anything essential. Good Death Metal is great, and there still is good new Death Metal out there. Average Death Metal is mediocre and uninspiring.
So, it’ll probably come as no surprise to hear, Abysmal Dawn, Obsolescence (Relapse), sound a lot like a lot of other bands. It’s a bit technical, predominantly chuggy, Death Metal, with vocals more bark than growl. It’s inoffensive (which is another problem… ) and has good cover art. Their version of Dissection’s ‘Night’s Blood’ is several shades shitter than the original (aren’t they always). They aren’t as good as, let alone better than, the bands they were influenced by, which probably includes Malevolent Creation, Pestilence and The Black Dahlia Murder.
Other than that, it’s not shit. It’s not brilliant, either. It’s dictionary definition meat and potatoes meh Death Metal. And one thing Death Metal should never be is staid enough to be ‘meh’.