Slayer – Repentless

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With the possible exception of Iron Maiden and Faith No More, no album has been more debated by fans and the critics before a note had been heard in 2015, than Slayer’s new album Repentless (Nuclear Blast). Their historical position as a leader and a lightning rod for all of heavy music has had varying consequences to their reputation over time. Nearly oblivious to change with the exception of a couple of albums, Slayer does what Slayer wants to do. Similar to AC/DC or Motörhead, if every fan everywhere and every critic bashed this album to death sight unseen, the band might hardly notice anyway.

However, listening to Repentless in full, there is an undeniable void heard on the album, one the band makes no apology or concession to, the loss of Jeff Hanneman, Jeff is not replaceable, nor have they tried to do that honestly. Recall there were entire albums where Jeff barely had any songs or solos, but he is so clearly part of the soul of this band, his licks and style coded into the very DNA of their songcraft. At the same time, this album belongs to Kerry King and Tom Araya to the fullest, and they totally own it like their life depends on it. The future of Slayer’s career surely does.

Opening with the sinister intro track ‘Delusions of Saviour,’ I look forward to hearing many a future concert begin with this gem. The title track comes next and it is fiery in tempo and anger. It is definitely off to an inspiring start. ‘Take Control,’ another recent single is a little more straight-ahead thrash, though it has all the familiar bells and whistles you want from them. Araya sounds as frightening and strong as ever vocally. His delivery makes up a lot of the strength of this album.

Slayer, photo by Andrew Stuart

Slayer, photo by Andrew Stuart

‘Vices’ is a terrific, groovy track and reminds me a lot of Paul Bostaph’s work on Divine Intervention (American). Paul’s return is a solid one. He has a few highlights and the outro of the track is one of them. The dueling harmonized guitars and solo parts bear the proper Slayer mark. ‘Cast the First Stone’ and ‘When The Stillness Comes’ also makes up some of the meat of familiar part of the album. ‘…Stillness’ has the Seasons In The Abyss (Def American) vibe that will drive some purists away, while others will love it. I fall into the latter category.

 

‘Chasing Death’ has them treading on some Exodus or even Pantera territory jamming out on the power grooves they pioneered. Another killer delivery from Tom sells this badass tune. ‘Implode’ was to my ears, the least impressive track and repeat listens didn’t make it grow on me. ‘Implode’ is one of the few tracks where it does seem to lack some of the old (Black) magic of the band. ‘Piano Wire’ is lone Hanneman composition on the album and it is definitely one of the best. I’d like to think Jeff would approve. ‘Atrocity Vendor’, at least in its first few measures sounds like it could have come off of ‘Haunting The Chapel’. That intro is so old-school, it might shock you. Kudos for doing something more akin to something Overkillor Anthrax would try. More great lyrics on this track and some more killer lead work as well.

‘You Against You’ is a nod to more recent albums from the band. The mid-tempo seems to be where this album lives mostly, so when it kicks into overdrive it definitely perks your ears up. It is the most “Jeff” sounding track on the album. ‘Pride And Prejudice’ ends the album on a heavy note with a screed on the current state of the world and a dim view for the future.

Armed with 12 new ditties toasting humanity’s self-destruction, the new Slayer album is a complex one. That they have made a complete album in 2015, should surprise none. Whether it lands in the pantheon of their greatest works, I’m not so sure about that one. Things that hold the album back from greatness are the differing styles of producers Greg Fieldman and Terry Date, the choppy mixing, and perhaps a lack of the uniqueness where a lot of the songs just sound like tributes to their past. Perhaps next time Gary Holt can chime in and co-write some tracks too. Overall Repentless is an enjoyable, fierce album that sounds essentially like a Slayer album should.

8 / 10

KEITH CHACHKES

Jungle Rot – Order Shall Prevail

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Jungle Rothas been one of the most consistent bands in death metal for over two decades. The fact that they are not top of mind when talking about the best American death metal acts is a shame for how hard they have worked. Added to the fact that their thrashy, power-groove flavored style has always harkened back to the earliest death metal years, while current popular tastes favor the more flashy technical bands. All that being equal, Jungle Rot always turns out solid albums, and their new one Order Shall Prevail (Victory) is no different.

The best thing about Jungle Rot is they know where they live and breathe: the grinding, grooving mid-tempo jams that make everyone headbang and mosh. Starting with the Slayer-tastic ‘Doomsday’, they serve notice that yes, the`Rot is back! Vocalist David Matrise’s militaristic howling bark has always stood out to me. The second track ‘Paralyzed Prey’ has an angular riff from guitarist Geoff Bub and some tasty soloing going on as well. ‘Blood Revenge’ is one of the best songs on the album. Just a classic badass cut. It has a maelström of cool parts that get better on every listen. ‘Fight Where You Stand’ is a deathy speed metal jam and features Max Cavalera on guest vocals. The Max connection makes sense since Jungle Rot has clearly been influenced by early Sepultura albums such as Beneath The Remains and Arise (both Roadrunner). Cavalera and Matrise’s two vocal ranges mesh beautifully too, in a too often not heard type of team up for death metal.

As you would imagine, the title track is a claustrophobic feeling affair, warning of a dystopian future not too far off for us. You can almost hear this being a huge sing-a-long song live. Drummer Jesse Beahler, who dominates on this album, is on point here. Other top tracks include ‘The Dread Pestilence’ ‘Cast The First Stone’, and ‘Nuclear Superiority’.

At this point in the game, Jungle Rot is not going to change up the formula too much, yet stay true to themselves. Their straight-ahead approach should help win over fans all summer as they appear on the Victory Records Stage at the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.

7.0/10

KEITH CHACHKES

Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds

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Expectations are the double-edged sword of life. Its fraternal twin disappointment is at the crux of the core experience of anyone that appreciates art, loves music, etc. People often gravitate to artists as they make a splash on the scene. Hype builds and colours our view of that artist, which gives way to disappointment when they change or sport new influences. This is the challenge for every band out there today, and always has been. This has been the case with all the greats from Led Zeppelin, to Judas Priest, DLR-era Van Halen, Metallica, Pantera, Opeth and many more. Fans won’t let you change, but you have to change. This concept has come to mind with regards to the new album from Machine Head, since they are a band that has set the bar very high in the past. It’s hard to always be measured against the “best thing you ever did”. To complicate things, the band has hardly been a critics darling in their career. Instead they have had to prove themselves over and over. For all the shit Robb Flynn likes to talk, he is clearly conscious of this pressure and he and his band tries to answer that bell every time.

On Bloodstone & Diamonds (Nuclear Blast), answer the bell, they have. Like Unto The Locust, the band continues to drift away from the over the top arrangements of 2007s unstoppable The Blackening and focuson writing epic metal songs. All the elements the band has been working with for most of the last ten years, as well as their classic sounds are all intact, with a few new twists and turns. Tons of grooves, chill-inducing dynamic shifts, and of course, those head-nodding riffs galore are heard. ‘Now We Die’ is the only song that sounds like it could have come off of Unto The Locust with its string arrangement, loud-soft vocals and driving beats. It wouldn’t be a Machine Head album if there wasn’t a few grinding, half-time ending riffs with a pinch squeal tossed in. The previously heard single ‘Killers And Kings’ is the most straight ahead, classic hardcore/thrash track the band has done in while. There are actually a few of these on the album. Both Flynn and Phil Demmel continue to mine the catchy Iron Maiden twin-guitar approach on a lot of tracks, and for me, it still works. If ain’t broke..don’t break it, right? But don’t mistake catchy as a pejorative here; the album is heavy with a capital H. Even when not balls out heavy every song, there is all kinds of crushing moments to sink your teeth into. ‘Ghosts Will Haunt My Bones’ will remind you of old songs such as ‘Days Turn Blue To Grey’ and ‘Halo’. The track features a great vocal performance from Flynn and new addition (not that new really) bassist Jared McEachern. Probably my favorite track is the harsh ‘Night of Long Knives’. Insane tribal drumming, a snarly lead vocal, and chugging guitars made me smile. ‘Sail Into The Black’ sounded like a cross between some of the past MH balladry, yet with avant-garde experimenting and Japanese throat singing. Very cool. Few bands can do the slow boil into sheer musical hell like this band does all in one track.

Other cuts toy with you such as ‘Eyes of the Dead’ and ‘Beneath the Silt’, and ‘Game Over’ coming disguised as bruisers, but turning into fist banging anthems. Let’s also not overlook Mr. Flynn’s lyrics either. Lots of bands are singing about wizards, war and delayed teenage angst; and here is this guy in forties is grounded in mad realism. Writing about grown-up inner conflicts, sounding vulnerable and not seeming full of shit is hard to get away with nowadays. They won’t rope in the far-flung kiddie fans with this stuff, but hey; at least the band knows their audience, and most of all where they fit in. Life is hard Beavis…


Harkening back to the political grizzle of previous albums, ‘In Comes The Flood’ is pissed-off and righteous. More great vocals and guitar stuff to fawn over. Late album cuts like ‘Damage Inside’, and ‘Imaginal Cells’ are forays into types song-craft they haven’t done much in the past and pulled them off exceedingly well. You gotta admire the balls of the a Capella vocal line for more than half the song on ‘Damage…’ by Robb. Who does that? The closing track ‘Take Me Through the Fire’ is all rage, shreddy guitars, and a redonkulous kitchen-sink type performance from drummer Dave McClain.

Many bands have started out hot and fizzled out badly or had trouble staying relevant over time. Machine Head is perhaps the greatest American metal band right now, because they have a sense of purpose about their writing that above all makes you care what they are saying lyrically, and where they can take you musically.

 

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9.0/10

Machine Head on Facebook

 

KEITH (KEEFY) CHACHKES

Huntress – Battlecross – Purest of Pain: Live at 013 Tilburg, NL

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Huntress and Battlecross joined forces early this summer for a tour, and we were lucky enough to catch up with them in the 013 venue in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

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The opener of the evening was the local band Purest of Pain, and started with a promising intro. Guitars unwind and state what kind of band Purest of Pain actually is: a no nonsense, modern death metal band that actually slaps you in the face every time a note strikes and reaches your ears. The vocals of this band are strong, it is like the vocalist pushes its emotions trough your skin and bones and throws its dynamic screams all around the place. It is still quite calm in the venue while Purest of Pain is playing, but as the end of the show is near the venue is quite filled to see Battlecross to play.

 

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At first I wasn’t too familiar with Battlecross, but according to the name I thought that this was some kind of power-metal band. But soon I came to realize that I was completely wrong. Battlecross is a band, a band like Devildriver always tried to be, but always failed at. They succeed in this concept of thrash and power grooves, bringing you music that is accessible and commercial, but without coming across as a commercial band. I personally hope they will keep this vibe. Super tight, with strong songs that get you by the throat, Battlecross is a nuclear explosion full of energy. Catchy vocals exchange with constant aggressive screams, and this brings a diversity, and every song starts off like a steamroller. The first pit of the evening is to be written with the name of Battlecross. Although they bring nothing really new to the genre, but still they know how to bring you a good, refreshing sound.

 

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Do you know the musical Wicked? Well, during the intro music for Huntress I was afraid I landed in a performance of Wicked. But their vocalist Jill Janus came on the stage dressed as a wicked witch; crawling, lurking in the audience and then opened her throat and let out a supersonic scream. It was immediately clear that this is a very strong vocalist. Other that I thought before, “oh this is that kind of band with a fucking hot chick in it”. I think 9 of the 10 times I would be right, but this is the first time that I wasn’t. Huntress is a very entertaining and tight band, and Jill is a hell of a frontwoman! Jeez! I enjoyed every minute of it. The music sometimes is a bit simple, but sometimes we get some nice gems from the musicians on stage. In the meantime, Jill was crawling over the stage doing some songs, while I watched the audience mainly consisting of men in their mid-life crisis, which totally gave me the giggles. If you don’t quite know Huntress, they are as theatrical as Ghost B.C., with a little hint of Manowar. They play simple, occult themed, straight to the point metal. They are a good band, but not a magnificent band with sick riffery and huge guitar solo’s etc. However, they are solid, enjoyable, and fun to watch. And for that, we thank you.

 

 

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Huntress Set List:

Senicide

Destroy Your Life

Spell Eater

Starbound Beast

Zenith

Children

I Want to Fuck You to Death

Eight of Swords

 

Huntress on Facebook

Battlecross on Facebook

Purest of Pain on Facebook

 

WORDS BY KAAT VAN DOREMALEN

PHOTOS BY SUSANNE A. MAATHUIS

Ektomorf- Retribution

 

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Ektomorf are one of those bands who stick to what they know. Back in Hungary in the mid-nineties, front man Zoltan Farkas stumbled upon a simple formula; groovy down-tuned riffs, tribal drumming, lashings of guttural aggression and the odd Nu-metal influence. Unfortunately Max Cavalera’s Soulfly got there first.

 

Queue 20-odd years and 9 albums worth of music many deride as some form of Cavalera worship, flattery, or plagiarism. Their latest effort, Retribution (AFM Records), does little to silence the critics, but gives the fans a well-crafted and energetic slab of what they like. Opener ‘ You Can’t Control Me’ is a pummelling slab of aggression, primal but satisfying. ‘Ten Plagues’ and ‘Who The Fuck Are You’ keep up the primal feel, tinges of 90s Machine Head and early Slipknot can be felt in amongst the mix.

 

Yes there’s little here that hasn’t been done already on various Sepultura, Soulfly or even previous Ektomorf albums, but the band keep the music up to a decent quality it’s rare to say that a whole album is basically free of duds. With a 45 minute run time, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Few songs breaking the four-minute mark with every song short and straight to the point. There’s plenty of hooks and shout along moments throughout, whether it’s ‘Mass Ignorance,’ ‘Numb And Sick’ (featuring Ill Niño vocalist Cristian Machado) or the self-explanatory cover of Verbal Abuse’s ‘I Hate You,’ and even a mis-judged acoustic love song in ‘Collapsed Bridge.’

 

With Max taking his Tribe further into Death metal realms, Ektomorf sound more like classic Soulfly than Soulfly themselves do these days. Which is no bad thing. They’re a decent band who know what they do well and do it unapologetically time and time again. Retribution is no exception to that rule, and that’s ok.

 

6.5/10

Ektomorf on Facebook

DAN SWINHOE