Soilwork – Verkligheten

Swedish Melodeath purveyors Soilwork are a staple of the scene. Despite never having the commercial success of In Flames nor the critical acclaim that At The Gates garnered, the band is a reliable ever-present, delivering solid albums on a regular basis.

With Verkligheten (Nuclear Blast), the band’s eleventh album, Soilwork deliver another exactly what they’re good at; a mix of shredding riffs, machine gun drumming, and a penchant for bombastic clean vocals. Continue reading

Bloodbath – The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn

Despite being established as Death Metal stalwarts, and already perhaps even close to attaining legendary status, the road for Bloodbath has often been seemingly a little bit bumpy. Admittedly a band that wasn’t always the main priority for its various members, over their time Bloodbath has had to lurk in the shadows waiting for busy schedules of to align. With alumni from the likes of Katatonia and Opeth, and more recently Paradise Lost, it has meant live shows are a rarity and album release schedules somewhat inconsistent. However, with Katatonia now on hiatus, it feels like Bloodbath can become a more prominent concern, which certainly seems evident with the fact that The Arrow Of Satan Is Drawn (Peaceville) is quite possibly their most vibrant and strongest effort to date. Continue reading

Lik – Carnage

Take three unashamed Deff Metulz heads from that most renowned city of Stockholm, give them an HM-2 pedal, a huge guitar stack, a heritage that includes Dismember, At The Gates and Entombed and, courtesy of Lawrence Mackrory, a stunning sonic assault that takes all the best aspects of Sunlight Studios merged with today’s production values of volume and clarity, and stand back and wait… for your face to be pinned to the wall behind you as the hurricane of Swedish Death Metallage assaults you with unrestrained glee. Continue reading

Arch Enemy – Will To Power

With former frontwoman Angela Gossow leaving the band in 2014, and uncertainty in the guitarist department since the departure of Christopher Amott, it was almost a foregone conclusion that more changes in the Arch Enemy camp lay ahead. Having already released War Eternal (Century Media) with Gossow’s replacement, former The Agonist singer Alissa White-Gluz, the band’s new album Will To Power (Century Media) marks the full-length début of former Nevermore guitar maestro Jeff Loomis. Although a hugely popular choice among fans, it does seem a little strange that lead guitarist Michael Amott should then come out so publicly, saying on one hand how perfectly Loomis fits in the band, yet on the other stating how their two styles simply don’t mesh. Continue reading

Entrails – World Inferno

I’ve mentioned before (and will again – us writers, like bands, have our favoured phrases we come back to, like the metaphoric pooch returning to its gut-chunks), but predictability is underrated. And a bloody good thing, too, at times, because back for the fifth time of asking, and spilling their fetid guts for the baying hordes in time honoured Sunlight styled fashion, is Sweden’s Entrails with World Inferno (Metal Blade). Continue reading

Entombed A.D. – Dead Dawn

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The seemingly timeless Swedish death metal outfit, Entombed A.D. (yeah we still have to use the A.D. suffix), has returned with Dead Dawn (Century Media). The album has a fair balance of the faster, thrashy kind of death metal but also dabbles in the slower, doomier side as well. While I enjoy both sides of the spectrum, it is almost a best practice to have a variety of tempos across the handful of tracks that make the cut for an album anyways. Obviously there have been exceptions to that rule, but when an album comes out where all tracks are enjoyable and do not follow a single formula, you have a solid release.

At just over forty minutes, Dead Dawn had some fun tracks that I could see myself coming back to. ‘As the World Fell’ is one of the slower, heavy tracks on the album that is one of the standouts. On each repeat of the album, this song became an anticipated track to get to. The slow head bang that ensues as second nature whilst playing is a tell tale sign that I found one of my favorites. ‘Silent Assassin’ is from the other side of Entombed A.D., the fast and technical side. Most of the song has a nice d-beat feel to it that is sure to get your legs moving in a two-step formation, specifically to piss off your elitist friends. The beat does change up a bit and even hits that memorable Slayer-type beat on the bell of the ride cymbal (you know exactly which one I am talking about).

 

Overall I have been fairly happy listening to Dead Dawn. Instrumentally, the album is tight as can be and is for the most part, memorable. There are just times when I expected either a nice growl or maybe even a blood-curling scream, but Lars-Goran Petrov just does not have those dimensions to his vocal capabilities. I just feel there are times where someone with such vocal abilities (even if just a backing track) could really give the sound a bit more backbone. Either way, chalk this one up as another solid metal release for 2016, but nothing revolutionary.

 

6.0/10

TIM LEDIN

 

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Coffins – Craving To Eternal Slumber

Coffins - Craving To Eternal Slumber

Going on 20 years as the colossus of Japan’s extreme metal underground, Tokyo’s Coffins has shown no signs of slowing down. Boasting 4 weighty full lengths and no dearth of EPs and splits, this latest offering from Tartarus, entitled Craving To Eternal Slumber (Hammerheart America), is what we kindly refer to in the biz as “more of the same”. This is no fault however, as their œuvre has suffered from no shortage of death/doom cannonading that borrows from the crush of DM veterans Incantation, sludge impresarios Buzzov*en, and the rolling punk inflected gallop of Ilsa. I could go on, but to over-complicate Coffins’ mephitic, yet basic stew is to ovsrstuff the cauldron.

Being a short and sweet handful of songs, and the second major release featuring the new line-up, opening track ‘Hatred Storm’ charging in like a loose, and rather ticked off pachyderm. Alternating between Swedeath romps and grooving headbang sections, complete with a sweet solo by axe-cutioner and former frontman Bungo, the dynamics are set in place for the rest of the effort. The production, in following with previous LP The Fleshland, is considerably less thick and wet than it was in times past, but their sound is no less suffocating, as evidenced by the title track’s menacing, swampy lurch.

While the EP does hold up to multiple listens (I may be on my 10th now), its strengths lie primarily in the tracks that sound a bit more, for lack of better word, ” written “. The title track, despite its initial plod, picks up your attention with a sample of a man being tortured, adding a whole new dimension to this exploration of misery. Opener ‘Hatred Storm’, with its initial kick to the teeth, and the grand neckbreaker that is closer ‘Decapitated Crawl’ also hold the primary meat of interest, not to say the other tracks are at all gristle. A delectably rotten teaser, as Coffins is nothing if not infinitely industrious with their (a)musical output, and will continue sculpting new visions of horror for what I hope is another 20 years. At least.

7.5/10

SEAN PIERRE-ANTOINE

 

Swedish Intuition – Adam Zaars of Tribulation

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Sweden – one of the strongholds of metal music. Year after year bands from that part of Europe storm the scene, breaking through to the top of the heavy metal charts worldwide. One of the most recent examples is Tribulation. Ten years after their inception, the band takes the global stage with signing a recording deal with Century Media, and the upcoming release of their eagerly anticipated third LP, The Children of the Night. Tribulation have confirmed their aspirations by going on American tour with two of the biggest extreme bands to roam the stages around the world today – Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth in February and March.

It was fantastic tour to be on.” says Adam Zaars, part of the guitar force of Tribulation. “Touring with two of the biggest bands in extreme metal nowadays was a pleasure, and the people showed up early for our performances, which was amazing.”

And there is nothing surprising about fans’ reaction. Tribulation’s reputation as excellent performers is growing.

We started 5.30PM in some days, and they were there to watch our shows! That was also probably the easiest tour we have been on so far. Both headlining bands are huge and extremely professional. But they are also great people, and they took good care of us (laughs). We shared our bus with other Swedish band, Aeon, so we had a really good time.” adds Adam.

The new record of the Swedish quartet is a massive statement and a demonstration of musical and technical abilities. It is also a perfect example how right influences can make your music unique.

So who are “The Children of the Night”?

It describes the band but also everybody who listens to the album. But most of it it’s a description of our personalities that make Tribulation.”

tribulation

The new music is even more melodic and atmospheric than The Formulas of Death. And there is something that bonds Tribulation with other Swedish bands like Dissection, Tiamat, Opeth, Morbus Chron, or Ghost B.C.

I guess what links our music to Dissection and all those bands you’ve mentioned is Swedish folk music. It’s played a big role in our lives. It’s something we grew up with. It’s in our blood.”

One of the highlights of the new album is epic ‘Winds’ – its construction, melodies, Gothic theatrical atmosphere resembles of that of Cradle of Filth from late ’90’s. Are Tribulation secret worshippers of the controversial Suffolk band?

No, you’re not correct (laughs). Actually we’ve never listened to them… But maybe you are right, I don’t really know as I never listened to their music, but this is the first time someone has found this similarity (laughs).”

Cannibal-Behemoth US Tour

The Children of the Night is a logical consequence of Tribulation’s musical development through the years. Some bands want to remain in certain formula, the other want completely new approach every time they enter the studio. Adam is clear on this matter.

We didn’t really sit down and plan anything. I actually thought the album will turn out quite differently – I thought it was going to be a lot longer, more spacey and ambient (laughs) but it turned out to be something else. We try to never think about the end product. We try to rely on our intuition. And this is what we’ve always done, I guess.”

The new album is very well produced, and an ear will catch that a lot more time was given for putting everything the right place. Adam voiced his disappointment with studio time in the past, but this time he is happier about the comfort of putting everything together in the studio.

We spent 4 weeks recording it. We have wanted four more weeks to be honest. But sometimes you can only get limited time. But we feel we managed to do it well anyway. I mean, sometimes you work better when you’re under pressure. But time spent in studio was for us really inspiring. In fact, we moved around. We had three main studios: first one for the drums, second one for guitars, bass and vocals, and the third one for all the other additional instruments. It was very satisfying, actually.”

That may sound like a lot of hassle, and be potentially distracting. But having been on a budget, that was the most optimal decision the band had to make to achieve the best possible sound quality. Mr. Zaars goes into more detail.

It was all pulled together by Ola Ersfjord, our producer. It was purely economic solution. We wanted to record the drums in a proper room, but it turned out our budget was too tight to do the whole work there! So we moved to Nicke Andersson’s new studio, located in his basement. It was like a playground almost for us (laughs). Overall it was a great experience, because every studio was different, and we’re always looking forward to something new”.

ARMEN HACZMERIAN

Demonical – Black Flesh Redemption EP

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Funny old thing, this heavy metal. Back in the day, there was a time when the Swedish Death metal scene could do no wrong – it was the epicentre of some of the most ferocious and infectious records. Perhaps it is the old thing of familiarity breeding contempt rather than content, but not everything of late from the Swedish scene has been dusted in aural gold. Thank heavens (or should I say thank the Satanic depths?) then, for the return of Demonical and this brutal and highly effective four track EP that doesn’t just remind everyone how this sort of thing needs to be done but reaffirms any doubts one might have had that Demonical might have softened in their old age.

Black Flesh Redemption (Agonia) is a death metal EP with a blackened, scabrous heart – filthy, furious and really rather fun.  In much the same way that sometimes only something nasty and dirty will satisfy, so this EP arrives, does its stuff and exits, leaving you wanting more. For a band that specialise in dark brutality the production on this release is surprisingly perky and clean. You can hear the, dare I say it, dextrous musicianship allied to the blood curdling vocals that create the visceral thrill that only death metal can bring.

The delicious irony that death metal can be life-affirming is perhaps best extolled on ‘Throne of Perdition’ which grinds and pounds the listener into metaphoric dust. Similarly, anyone who doesn’t get a vicarious thrill from ‘Cursed Liberation’ is probably reading the wrong website.

Look, I know this and you know this: Demonical were never going to be tearing down the architecture of Swedish death metal and pushing the musical envelope. In fairness, this EP has none of those ambitions. However, as an example in how to do death metal and do it very well indeed, you could do much worse than park your ears here for a while.

 

8.0/10

Demonical on Facebook

 

MAT DAVIES

Bloodbath – Grand Morbid Funeral

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As far as supergroups go, few come more awesome than Stockholm’s Bloodbath. Formed as a hobby by Katatonia members Anders Nystrom and Jonas Renske along with Opeth mainman Mikael Akerfeldt and producer extraordinaire Dan Swano back in 1998 with the simple desire to pump out some filthy old school death metal, it’s unlikely they ever would have expected to become one of the biggest and most well respected bands in the scene, although given their combined status the result was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

After releasing three blood-splattered and evil sounding albums but having to deal with the departure of Akerfeldt and Swano, some might have expected these veterans to stop playing with the corpse and allow it to rot in peace. However the desire to riff fast and ugly is a strong one and a new vocalist has been found in Paradise Lost frontman Nick Holmes whose new role is elementary (I can’t believe you just did that – Ed [and I can’t believe you wrote an ‘Ed insert’ for me – Dep Ed]) given his growling performance on PL’s classic debut record Lost Paradise (Peaceville).

But is Old Nick’s presence behind the mike enough to ensure Bloodbath remain deadly in a scene rife with sharp-eyed competition? One listen to Grand Morbid Funeral (Peaceville) proves the answer is an emphatic, bellowed yes!

As the serrated riffs of opening track ‘Let the Stillborn Come to Me’ tear out of the speakers like an escaped serial killer on his way to a nearby summer camp, the primal fury of Death Metal is fully revealed in full-blooded, hate-filled form and as the track settles into a disgusting Dismember-esque groove, you’re reminded just how much this music kicks ass and lops off heads with abandon. The buzzsaw guitar sound, as much a part of the Swe-death scene as any notable record you could care to mention, is heavily evident in the marching attack of ‘Total Death Exhumed’ which also features some suitably gloomy lead-work, while the ramshackle chugging of ‘Anne’ evokes images of a demented butcher manically hacking apart corpses in some benighted slaughterhouse.

Bloodbath records have always relied on frantic pace and aggression to get their gruesome message across and while they may lack the precision of Cannibal Corpse or the bad-time grooves of latter day Entombed, their modus operandi is built on a basis of seeing how many people they can kill in the room with a rusty chainsaw before the police take them down, rather than methodically picking off victims. It’s a messy approach, aided by a suitably grimy production but which gives proceedings a rabid and unclean feel, and when they do slow things down slightly such as on the gut-wrenching crawl of ‘Church of Vastitas’ and the grotesque melodies of the title track, the atmosphere drops to especially ghastly levels of hopelessness.

Nystrom and fellow axeman Per Eriksson focus more on tearing our minds apart with a seemingly endless selection of slashing riffs, gloomy melodies and frantic solos while drummer Martin Axenrot flays the skins with an unfussy, methodical determination. Holmes may not have the deepest growl and he is buried too deep in the mix to have a massive impact but his sinister tones give the music a depraved grandeur and when all of these elements combine like on the unrestrained ferocity of ‘Famine of God’s World’ and the monstrous ‘Beyond Cremation’ you’ll be wishing that all the members quit their day jobs and focus on pumping out more of this filth every other year.

There’s enough elements of the US death metal scene to ensure that this isn’t just a caricature of the Stockholm sound, but it’s undeniable that Bloodbath are to all intents and purposes a nostalgia act and a way for a bunch of blokes nearing their 40s to act like they were teenagers again. But some of the best death metal albums were made by whippersnappers so as long as this bunch of morbid Swedes and one ghoulish Brit keep failing to act their age, the world of extreme metal will stay suitably macabre.

 

7.5/10

Bloodbath on Facebook

 

JAMES CONWAY