King – Reclaim The Darkness

King Reclaim The Darkness cover ghostcultmag

 

King are an Australian melodic blackened metal trio consisting of David Hill, Tony Forde and David Haley, with Hill and Forde previously being band mates in goregrind band The Day Everything Became Nothing. Their debut album Reclaim The Darkness (Indie Recordings) was recorded over a two-year span, with a great attention to detail throughout the process. Combine that with the talent involved has resulted in one of the best albums of 2016. Continue reading

Witherscape – The Northern Sanctuary

Witherscape-The-Northern-Santuary-cover ghostcultmag

Witherscape is a Swedish progressive/melodic death metal band formed by Dan Swanö who has quite the pedigree in the metal genre, previously being part of the band Edge of Sanity who alongside Opeth helped pave the way for the blending of progressive rock elements with extreme metal as well as many other projects such as death metal supergroup Bloodbath and progressive rock band Nightingale, as well as fellow multi-instrumentalist Ragnar Widerburg, who is relatively unknown by comparison. Together they have produced one of the finest metal albums of 2016 in The Northern Sanctuary (Century Media Records), which serves as the follow-up to their 2014 EP The New Tomorrow and 2013 debut album The Inheritance.

Witherscape are a band who doesn’t just release albums for the music alone, they are creating a narrative that expands with each release. This is far from a new concept, with bands like Rhapsody on Fire, Coheed and Cambria, and King Diamond being well-known for their ongoing concept albums. This doesn’t make Witherscape any less intriguing though. From what I can tell, the story-line revolves around a haunted house of sorts, with The Northern Sanctuary taking place 50 years after The New Tomorrow EP, with a new person taking over the house. The underlying story is ultimately a bonus for the dedicated fans who will dig into the lyrics and embrace the narrative, but for the average music fan, this album gives more than enough to satisfy musically.

If you aren’t familiar with the work of Dan Swanö, you might be caught off guard with just how talented he is. On this album he handles all vocals as well as drums and keyboards. His ability to shift from melodic progressive rock style vocals to incredibly vicious death growls is truly impressive and keeps the album extremely dynamic. The keyboards add that timeless progressive feel to the album, and the drumming keeps the pace of the album in check. Widerburg handled the guitars and bass work on this album, and the incredibly riffs and solos alone make this an album worth checking out. He might not be as known as Swanö, but he proved to be equal in skill on this release. Tying everything together is a very clean production style that helps make everything sound very crisp and impactful.

Overall, there really isn’t much to not love about The Northern Sanctuary, as it’s simply a progressive metal masterpiece. Being a narrative focused album does make some of the lyrics a bit cheesy at times, and some songs are a can get a bit long-winded, no time feels wasted on this album. It’s another excellent release for the discography of Dan Swanö, and one of the best metal albums of 2016.

9.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD

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Weekend Nachos – Apology

Weekend-Nachos-Apology ep cover ghostcultmag

Weekend Nachos are a band who I hoped I would have more fun with, as their name seemed to promise such a thing. A hardcore punk or power violence band who have had a fairly lengthy career, and Apology (Relapse Records) is set to be their final release as a group. This album is less of a swansong, and more of an all out attack to try to grasp the spotlight one last time for this band. A final spark before their fire is put out for a while.

Honestly, this release is a mixed bag. If you listen to it from start to finish, you aren’t gonna have a great time. It’s a poorly balanced album, starting with an absolute drag of a song. While ‘2015’ displays that this band has some elements of sludge metal in their sound with distorted guitars and attempts to build atmosphere, the almost 6 minute length makes it an absolute chore to listen to. But the song immediately after it; ‘Dust’, is one that shows how good this band can be, a 2 minute burst of pure aggression, that seems like it ends too fast, and then as short song after song comes your way, it all just kind of melds together into a very forgettable experience with no songs that stick out as memorable enough to make the listener want to come back for a second listen.

It’s at this point I need to praise the vocal delivery on this album as it has a nice level of variance and is the best part of this album. While the vocals are never exactly clean, they are fairly understand at times, and full of energy. They are arguably the one redeeming factor of this release because everything else is either a mess or just plain dull. The song writing just feels like a group of people being angry for the sake of being angry, or like they just needed to pad out the albums runtime. No song on the album is more guilty of padding then the final track ‘Apology,’ clocking in at over 9 minutes it was one of the biggest wastes of time I heard in music in a very long time. 

Overall, Weekend Nachos is not a band I’ll miss now that they are finished. I suppose if you are a fan of hardcore punk you might find a couple tracks off this album that’ll appeal to you.

4.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD

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Gruesome – Dimensions of Horror

Gruesome - Dimensions of Horror album cover ghost cultmag

In the world of death metal, there are few bands who are well respected as the band who set the foundations the whole genre, Death. To this day, the death of Chuck Schuldiner remains one of the biggest losses in the metal community, but the spirit of Death never really died. The Death to All tours kept Death a relevant part of the genre even after the death of Chuck, and this is where Gruesome becomes relevant as well.

Anyone listening to this band will instantly connect their sound to Death’s as there is some heavy influence in their sound. Gruesome are a death metal supergroup, with guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey and drummer Gus Rios toured with Death, with both members playing on Death to All tours previously. So if any band is worthy of picking up where Death left off, arguably it’s them. They already showed why they are a force to be reckoned with on their 2015 début album Savage (Relapse Records), but they solidify their excellence on their follow-up EP Dimensions of Horror (Relapse).

Simply put, if you like classic death metal, you will like this EP. It’s a six track onslaught of everything that makes this genre what it is. From the shredding guitars, throat tearing vocals, pounding drums and dark lyrical content; this band does it all so well. But this release does showcase a small issue with the band, that being that they really don’t have their own identity due to how much they rely on trying to bring back the sound of Death for a modern era.

Despite that one minor gripe though, this EP is a total banger. I can’t recommend it enough, and I hope this band grows into the beast they can become, but they will need to form a unique identity first.

8.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD

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Castle Freak – Human Hive

Castle Freak – Human Hive album cover ghostcultmag

Castle Freak are a simple death metal group, but they do a nice job setting themselves apart from the rest of the genre with their Human Hive EP (Self Released). While fun is a word you normally wouldn’t associate with a genre like death metal, this EP has an undeniable sense of enjoyment. From the sampling, which includes horror quotes and scattered Extreme Champion Wrestling commentary, to the breakneck pace of the music, it’s just a great time.

Vocalist Andrew Gigan manages to not sound generic, with a hardcore punk styled delivery spicing up his vocals. Combined with absolutely insane drumming done by former Noisem member Sebastian Phillips and shredding guitars courtesy of both Gigan and Zak Carter, this EP has plenty to appreciate from a technical standpoint.

However, there are sore spots on this EP. The first is the overuse of samples on the release. Every single track uses them, often right at the start of the song. Samples aren’t a bad thing, but some just seemed unnecessary. I can understand them starting the release as it set the chaotic mood, or the use of air raid sirens in the middle of ‘Toxic Winds’ to build atmosphere, but there is just too many samples on this EP and it overall soils the experience. Another gripe about this EP is the lack of much new material. Two tracks are rerecorded versions of songs off the bands previous two releases, and another is a cover of a classic death metal track from Impetigo. This leaves only two new songs on the EP. Admittedly the redone tracks sound miles ahead of the previous versions, but it still is kind of a bummer that only two of the five tracks on this release are new.

Overall, despite my complaints with this release, I can’t help but recommend this band to all death metal fans. The overuse of samples is more than worth sitting through for the insane talent on showcase, as this really is some of the most memorable death metal I’ve heard in a while. If nothing else, everyone should just give ‘Toxic Winds’ a listen as it’s 3 minutes of metal excellence, and the only time on the EP where bassist Ben Anft really gets a chance to shine and isn’t simply lost in the madness. It is the standout track on this release, and shows exactly how good this band can be.

7.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD

Kindler – Cosmic Revelations

Kindler Cosmic Revelations album cover ghostcultmag

Kindler are a three-piece progressive rock band from Asheboro, NC who are certain to make an impact within their genre as they grow. With their début album Cosmic Revelations (Self-Released) the band showcases why they are worth paying attention to.

The main thing that stands out on this album is how talented each of the members are. First and foremost, this album has some of the best bass playing I have heard in ages. The bass guitar and lead vocals are both handled by Cameron Fitzpatrick, who showcases some impressive vocals. He gets a lot of time to show his vocal range and depth on this album, hitting some impressive high notes throughout the track-list. The other two members are brothers (drums) and Stephen Wiley (guitar), both also provide backing vocals, which are used to create strong vocal harmonies at key moments on the album. All instruments are played with a great deal of technical ability, which is important for the prog-rock genre.

Stand out tracks on the album include the space rock styled ‘Morning Ours’, the somber and emotional ‘Iron Heart’ which carries echoes of a softer Opeth track [think their Damnation album], progressive metal track ‘Eden’, and ‘Scars’ which is a personal favourite with focus on strong vocal harmonies, simple percussion, and acoustic guitar. One thing that kept this album from getting stale is the mix of styles on showcase here. Each track brought another aspect of the bands sound to the table, keeping things dynamic and exciting. Tracks that tried to be more progressive in style did drag on a bit, namely ‘Remembrance’ and ‘Morning Ours’; each being 6+ minutes long, felt like they could have been shaved a bit without losing any charm. Overall the song writing is a strong point, whereas nothing really felt that memorable or new, everything was solid and nothing felt like filler.

While this album doesn’t tread any new ground, it succeeds in ways I didn’t initially expect from this band. It managed to be enjoyable from start to finish, and ended up having something for everyone due to its diverse sound. This makes it an easy recommendation for most if not all music fans. This band is worth keeping an eye on, and leaves endless ways to expand their sound. It should be interesting to see where they go next.

7.0/10

MATTHEW BLANCHARD