THE GRAVIATORS “MOTHERLOAD”

THE GRAVIATORS “MOTHERLOAD”

We see a ton of bands paying homage to the forefathers of metal and late-’60, early-’70s rock these days.  Some can pull it off, some sound like a rip off, and there’s a fine line in between.

Sweden’s The Graviators are one of those bands that can pull it off, and they do in spades.  Their earthy tones, rolling bass, piercing vocals, and extended instrumental breaks lend credibility to a bygone era.  They sound more like Black Sabbath today than the legendary Black Sabbath does!  You can also hear a huge influence from Deep Purple and a bit of The Doors over the 75 minutes of pure stoner/doom epicness contained on Motherload, and there isn’t one track that sounds filler.  They take what The Sword have done and multiply it by 10.

“Leif’s Least Breath – Dance Of The Valkyrie” opens up with a massive wall of riffage that sounds like it may have come straight from Sabotage-era Sabbath.  Yes, it’s that good!  “Narrow Minded Bastards” rolls through with reckless abandon.  The bass line is mountainous and rumbles like a freight train.  “Bed of Bitches” is pure old school and heavy, and clocking in at just over five minutes, it’s also the shortest song on this album.  The guitar solo is crushing and in your face.

“Tigress of Siberia” brings things back to a classic metal intertwined with a psychedelic feel, like you are watching a kaleidoscope on steroids.  “Lost Lord” is a slower monster, but no less epic.  This 10-plus minute opus contains every element in metal with a slow, building crescendo leading into a brilliant bridge and chorus that really showcase the talent and songwriting ability The Graviators possess.  “Druid’s Ritual,” my personal favorite, is an adventure, including everything from the most fragile guitar tones to a mind-bending wall of  riffs that will beat you senseless.  Clocking in at over 13 minutes, it highlights the ability of the band to be tight and brutal.

Motherload is the most appropriate title I can think for this album.  It contains every ounce of metal you could want!

Motherload is out now on Napalm Records.

Rating: 5/5 Stars

PYRRHON “THE MOTHER OF VIRTUES”

PYRRHON “THE MOTHER OF VIRTUES”

Back in 2011, I reviewed the debut album, An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master, from NYC prog/insanity metalers Pyrrhon. I described their music more or less as “avant-garde,” but not to the extent that it would descend into the noise category for the average listener. On that first album, they created a unique blend of technical metal styles that left no doubt about their musical abilities, but was also something you could still enjoy if you happen to prefer the more straight-forward genres.

On their new release, The Mother of Virtues, Pyrrhon have once again brought forth the chaos. However, I’m afraid they may have tipped the scales more toward that noise category with this one, and I’m having trouble deciding if that’s a good thing or not.

I would normally sum up Pyrrhon’s sound as being in the same vein as The Dillinger Escape Plan, but with a more technical death influence … at least when I think of the first album. With The Mother of Virtues, something has changed. The manic desperation and bleak darkness from the first album is still expressed here, perhaps even to too great an extent. The biggest difference I can discern is that there seems to be a lack of focus and articulation in the musical arrangement that was so prominent on the first. An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master definitely had it’s chaotic noise moments, but they were always very well balanced with clearly distinguishable (if unconventional) rhythmic and melodic phrasing.

That is where The Mother of Virtues is wanting. They don’t give you as much to hold on to throughout a given song. There aren’t nearly enough moments where you can just bang your head along (and yes, I can bang my head to 5/8. It looks ridiculous, but I can do it). My issue is really that there isn’t as much to distinguish each track from the next, and they start to run together a bit.

The other major issue is that the mix is noticeably different. There were definitely some new choices made in the studio this time around, and perhaps that was the intention. Listening to the two albums side-by-side, my personal feelings are that the first album has a lot more clarity and (again) articulation. On The Mother of Virtues, the guitars and vocals seem to step on each other a bit to much, not so much in volume as in shared frequencies. The vocals frequently seem washed out. The low end was also a lot tighter on the first album, whereas it tends to muddy the overall mix on the new one.

It’s obvious that my subjective opinion is that Pyrrhon’s sophomore release doesn’t quite live up to the first one on a few fronts. However, I would still maintain that it’s a very worthy endeavor in terms of artistic integrity and originality. I constantly hear from fans of extreme music that they hate it when their favorite bands start “selling out” and becoming more mainstream. Well, Pyrrhon have essentially done the exact opposite of that on their new record. And while it’s eons away from ever getting play on free radio, I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if they got nominated for some sort of award for musical innovation.

The Mother of Virtues is out now on Relapse Records.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

EARTH CRISIS “SALVATION OF INNOCENTS”

EARTH CRISIS “SALVATION OF INNOCENTS”

Imitation is the purest form of flattery, or so they say. If that’s true, judging by the contents of Earth Crisis’ new album, Salvation of Innocents, then the only people who might be flattered are now-defunct Seattle metalheads Himsa, though they definitely shouldn’t be.

The only real difference between the two bands is that Karl Buechner sings at various times during Salvation of Innocents. That’s it. Every single one of these songs could be a Himsa outtake, some (“Out of the Cages”) more than others.

What happened? Earth Crisis used to be innovative, leaders of the more-hardcore-than-metalcore pack. After listening to this record, which is a chore, it seems that they have been writing hardcore songs for the radio. We already have bands that do this … and do it better, as a matter of fact. The first name that comes to mind is Hatebreed, and they at least have interesting arrangements some of the time.

I get that there’s a legacy type mindset here and that Earth Crisis may yet still have something to say after all this time. I would rather have a new Freya record than this. Hell, give us some more Path of Resistance jams so we can wash this record from our memory.

 Salvation of Innocents is out now on Candlelight Records.

Rating: 1.5/5

DARKENTRIES “THE MAKE BELIEVE”

DARKENTRIES “THE MAKE BELIEVE”

The latest addition to Kylesa’s label, Retro Futurist Records, is South Carolina’s doom/sludge/fuzz band Darkentries. There seems to be a lot of experimentation in the doom/sludge arena lately, and they seek to blur the lines between genres even further with The Make Believe.  Their genre jumping abilities will keep listeners interested and amazed!

“TV Fuzz “opens with a dainty, mysterious guitar intro that lurches into a wall of monster guitars just over a minute in.  It’s slow, heavy, fuzzy and crunchy.  Hampton Dodd‘s vocals are absolutely brutal, and the song is haunting, from beginning to end. “Honey Eater” is loud and in your face with chugging guitar tones that cut to the bone. Slow and building, it highlights what Darkentries can do.  “I’m Tired of Being Awake” is more straightforward; it’s a bit faster, but no less haunting.  Josh Gilley shines on the drums on this number.  “1200-S” is an adventure in song structure and writing. Grinding and brutal, the variation Dodd delivers with his vocals truly shines. “Feedback Funeral” is defined by of heavy. It is trudging, yet laced with intricate guitar breaks, making it a fitting finale for the EP.

If you are a fan of Eyehategod and Neurosis, Darkentries is made just for you!  Mark this one down folks, you will be hearing more about these guys in the near future!

The Make Believe is out now on Retro Futurist Records.

Rating: 4/5 stars

KUOLEMANLAAKSO “TULIJOUTSEN”

KUOLEMANLAAKSO “TULIJOUTSEN”

In my mind, a good album is one that seems to fly by, and you enjoy what you’re listening to so much you’re surprised when it ends. What makes it more enjoyable is when you don’t know the band that created the album in question, and they make you an instant fan.

It has happened many times over the years, and it’s happening with Kuolemanlaakso this year. The album in question, Tulijoutsen, which translates to “The Fire Swan,” is an hour of doom/death dirges that are both bleak and beautiful. Vocalist Kotamäki (Swallow The Sun) can sound absolutely possessed one moment, soothing the next, and then somehow combine them directly afterward. The band brings to mind a version of Opeth that is less concerned with guitar wizardry and is instead focused on creating soundscapes, like the seven-and-a-half-minute “Arpeni,” with cathedral bells accentuating the spots where bent strings and palm-muted chugs go silent and a two-minute minor key octave theme carries most of the rest of the song. Guitarists Laakso and Kouta rarely stray outside the rhythm, with the former also providing moody keyboards accents.

Tulijoutsen is a long listen. None of the songs are under five minutes long; however, the its pace is extremely brisk, and the record ends leaving you wanting more. That’s definitely a good thing, and Kuolemanlaakso will definitely be a band to remember when putting together any best of the year list.

 Tulijoutsen is out now on Svart Records.

Rating: 5/5

The following video is from the band’s debut album, also on Svart Records.

MASSACRE “BACK FROM BEYOND”

MASSACRE “BACK FROM BEYOND”

Massacre hold a sacred place in annals of American and Floridian, death metal.  The founding  members are among the originators of this genre, more specifically in the bands Death and Obituary.

Massacre is one of those bands that just missed the heyday of death metal back in the late ’80s,  somehow.  Their 1991 debut full-length album, From Beyond, is a lesson in brutality, and there is no mistaking the riffs of Rick Rozz and the rhythm of Terry Butler.  Although they released a second album in 1996, Promise, it was not up to the standards set before them.  Fast forward to 2014, and they return with Back From Beyond, which boasts new vocalist Ed Webb, who replaces Kam Lee.  While Lee is a pioneer in the death metal growl, Ed does a good job of filling his shoes.

Like the comeback of other legendary bands like Carcass, Massacre are poised to reign in brutality like the golden days!  “The Ancient Ones” opens up with a dismal thunderstorm that is straight from hell.  “As We Wait To Die” is old school death metal the way it is supposed to be.  Although the simple riffs offer nothing new to the genre, they have the feeling of familiarity, like meeting an old friend at the bar and having a shot of Jack.  What shines on this entire album is the production and mix.  So often the bass gets buried, but not here!  Butler’s sound is killer.  “Ascension of the Deceased” is  faster and thrashier, with a heavy chorus.  “Succumb To Rapture” is a straight-for-the-jugular, blistering song.  But it is “Shield of the Sun” that is the highlight of the album. Webb’s vocals here are just brutal.

The simplicity of the riffs on this album lends to it’s grace.  Although it blend together a bit, the true feel is there.  For the younger crowd who haven’t graced their ears with Death’s Leprosy or Obituary’s Slowly We Rot, Massacre will sound very similar to Cannibal Corpse, Six Feet Under, Jungle Rot and Deicide.  It is great company to be in!

Back From Beyond is out 4/1 on Century Media Records.

Rating: 4/5 stars