Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Solstice(US) - Solstice


Full-length, Steamhammer

In the genre of Old School Death/Thrash, ever since it's inception in the 80's, the most notoriously famous bands have delivered some promising music which have influenced scores of musicians and bands alike to continue the tradition and keep the flame burning and also fuel it into an inferno of sorts. Florida based four-piece entity Solstice did the same when they released their first full-length self-titled album in 1992. Album opener 'Transmogrified' starts off with a vicious attack and sets the ball rolling for the listener to soak up the madness to follow for the rest of the album. Guitarist/Vocalist Rob Barrett brings in a unique style of vocals employing brutal shouting along with handling lead guitars very well with some sick tremolo picking. Rhythm Guitarist Dennis Munoz joins in with his adroitly executed guitar interplay with solos that have a great 80's Metal vibe to them. The sharp, precise and well-written riffs are sure to linger in one's head for a long time. Bassist Mark Van Erp does his job well with the low-end duties to add some more meat on the bones and stays right on cue. Drummer Alex Marquez propels the intensity to higher levels with his highly intense, machine-gun fast staccato drumming. With copious amounts of double-bass and a few hard-hitting blastbeats thrown in for good measure, the entire listening experience becomes every air drummers' wet dream.

All songs have been written by Rob Barrett and Alex Marquez. The lyrics deal with Death, Suffering, Aberration and are similar in outburst to many other releases by bands of that era. A cover of Crossover Thrash band Carnivore's "S.M.D" includes backing vocals by James Murphy, Scott Burns and Tony Teegarden(ex-Cynic). James Murphy also lends his guitar talents on solos on the tracks "Cleansed of Impurity" and "Survival Reaction". The album's production is excellent owing to the expertise of the masterful Scott Burns (Atheist, Cancer, Cannibal Corpse, Obituary etc). All in all, A fantastic album and highly recommended to fans of Old School Death/Thrash who've missed out on this!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weapon (Can) - From the Devil's Tomb

Full Length, Ajna/Agonia
November Ist, 2010

2010 has been quite a spectacular year for metal so far, albeit it had a pretty quiet start. But it was just a hideous deception. Just like the calm before a ravaging storm!
During early November, I was scrounging forums and other internet sources for some of the best releases, the underground has seen this year and came across the latest Weapon album. For a moment, I was in a state of daze and the first words which came out of my mouth were - HOLY COW! A NEW WEAPON ALBUM! Whilst I was blown away by the new releases of Bloody Sign, Kerasphorus and Grave Miasma, a new offering by Weapon seemed far more enticing than those ones and I had to immediately pounce upon it. My love for this Canadian horde dates back to a recent time when I discovered their EP called as ''Para Bhakti...Salvation'' while digging up some Canadian congregations. That 2 track feature was astoundingly rapturous and I became an instant fan of their abominable executions.

Weapon's history dates back to 2003 when the mysterious Vetis Monarch formed the unholy ensemble to loathe divinity and build an empire of darkness and occult. The band was originally rooted in Calgary but now they are based in Edmonton. An interesting story is that their demo and the first 7'' were recorded in Bangladesh. The EP ''Violated Hejab'' also had Kapalyq from the relatively unknown (But incredible) Bangladeshi band Barzakh (Now Orator) on bass. As intriguing as it sounds, Weapon were nowhere behind weaving an aural web of destructive symphonies with their inceptive releases. The next release ''Para Bhakti... Salvation'', which had introduced me to this band, was the perfect advancement of the band's sound. You could sense the careful craftsmanship in the way these impious artisans drafted their desirable ritual ceremonies. What intrigued me more were the lyrical themes the band had employed. They focus towards satanism but also towards the occult and mysticism. Tracks like ''Archana'' and ''Para Bhakti...Salvation'' are staunch examples of the band's lyrical prowess where they have profoundly incorporated sanskrit verses to depict their faith towards devil worship.

Just a year after ''Para Bhakti'' had ruptured the Canadian/Worldwide underground, Weapon were ready with their first full length album which was entitled as ''Drakonian Paradigm''. This album was released by the Ajna Offensive which was a change from their previous label Full Moon Productions. Actually, they have had 3 different record labels for their first 3 releases but now they hopefully seem stable with Ajna who also released their 2nd full length feature. Drakonian Paradigm clearly unleashed the band's maturity as extremely skillfull musicians, who were profoundly adept in carving a niche in the Canadian bestial black/death legion.
The album featured 7 tracks, which ran through 40 minutes. This was a tad different in terms of production and this change must have been initated to support the more dense atmosphere the songs possess.
Tons of cryptic melodic leads and usage of nefarious chants on certain songs was clearly a top notch move by Weapon. It was an effort to make the sound more darkened and occult than the previous rituals and they nearly succeeded in achieveing this goal.

Now, just a year later, Weapon were ready with yet another full length. Yeah, quite a roll for them as there were 3 releases in subsequent years. I was extremely ecstatic about hearing the album and had my popcorns and nachos ready to await for one hell of a deathly ride. The moment when the first track ''From the Devil's Tomb'' emanated from the speakers, I started popping in the corns in my mouth in a trance like state and had to choke as a subsequent result. I hadn't even got a chance to revive fully, when I was shook with the riff frenzies and blastorocity the song offered next. The eloquent rhythmic carnage continued in such a suave manner that I lost myself completely into the beauty of this sonic frenzy. The elegantly nefarious tremolo picked riff orgies and leads had left me spellbound and I was ready to face the rest of this mayhem. 
The immediate ritual, named as ''Vested in Surplice and Violet Stole'' was increasingly emphatic with its stupendous riff laden destruction. I couldn't believe the amount of eargasmic ecstacy, these two opening tracks had already provided me but the next track made me ejaculate! Furor Divinus was its name and had a splendid chorus where Vetis apparently praised the name of Shiva, (as far as I could decipher) the lord of destruction. The amount of profoundity the album already possessed, left me overjoyed and zealous about the complete venture. Vortex 11724 continued the trademark melodic execution as employed in Bested in Surplice and Violet Stole and the beautiful acoustic interlude ''Left Hand Path Yoga'' acted as a soothing balm amidst the entire fury. 

''The Inner Wolf'' began in a war like demeanor with its opening riff and background chants. The entire track was a captivating combination of abrupt quick paced blast rhythms and mid paced sections. And I only had one word in my mind after each passing song - wow! But the album's grandeur had no boundaries and I got this feeling immediately after the next song ''Sardonyx'' began with an elegant Tabla intro. Those opening riffs blended absolutely majestically with the short yet powerful intro and then the commotion broke through. Riffs, riffs and more riffs - there seemed no end to those and there were still 2 more songs left! 
Trishul was the second last song on the album and it was followed by the concluding track - ''Towards the Uncreated''. Seconds after the song was unleashed to my auditory senses, I got a faint idea that this might be the best on the whole album! 
If I had addressed Weapon as skillfull artisans in my statements above, I had done nothing wrong because this last track exemplifies it by every means possible. They could not have have a better and more hypnotic end to an already spectacular album as it consisted some of the best moments, congregated together as one final ceremonial execution. 

Talk about satisfaction and ''From the Devils Tomb'' would provide you ample of it. Its the musical equivalent of a perfect sexual experience which would give you some of the best orgasms your ears could ever get. 

Enter the Weapon's horde NOW!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gig Review - Immolation North American Tour with Vader, Pathology, Abigail Williams and Lecherous Nocturne

First of all, I have to apologize for delaying this gig review for so long. But exams have meant a shortage of time to dedicate to anything other than education. But anyway, I had to write about this gig, which in my time as a metalhead, has been the best show I have ever attended.

First, I ll start off with an introduction. I moved to San Diego, California from India in august for further education. In june, I got to know of the North American tour headlined by Immolation. A further look at the rest of the lineup had me yelling out in joy. 5 great bands, all under one roof. Fairly well known bands such as Pathology, Abigail Williams and Lecherous Nocturne sharing stage with two legends – Vader and Immolation. I started listening to death metal because of Vader. So, I think its fair to say, I hold that band in the highest possible regard. Immolation are a band that have influenced me a great deal. They are more than just music for me. They have influenced and shaped my thoughts greatly and are quite possibly my favorite band in this form of music. It was a dream of mine to watch Immolation live one day, and I was finally getting my wish.

October 16th was the day I was waiting for. It seemed as if every day from june was excruciatingly long. Saving cash for the gig and merch was my utmost priority and I had to sacrifice going to a Brujeria show on October 13th to save money for this. Finally, the day arrived. I could not sleep at night. The gig was supposed to start by 6:30 or so, but I went off early and was there at the venue by 5. I wanted to buy a pass for the show and just wanted to go early hoping to catch the members from either of the bands. And yes. My perseverance was rewarded and I got to talk to both my idols, Ross Dolan and Bob Vigna of Immolation. I wont talk more about that here, because I could easily fill up 5 pages with it. But I have to say, it has been the best moment of the 22 years of my existence so far. Bought a t-shirt too. Saw a 'Close To the World Below' tee and jumped at it.

The show started with a local band, 'Beheading the king'. A death metal band from San Diego. They were very good. Played a 25 minute set and warmed the crowd up well. They were followed by Aenea, another local melodic death metal band from San Diego. They were releasing anew EP and played all the tracks of it. And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by them. Not being the greatest fan of this genre, I approached it with skepticism, but the band were very tight. I was not very impressed by the vocals, but every other aspect of the band was very impressive. Definitely a band to look forward to. Then came the big guns. Pathology backed out because they had some problems with their guitarist. The details are up on their myspace. That was disappointing. I love that band and they were one of the bands I was looking forward to. Anyway, Lecherous Nocturne were up next; and did they deliver. Most of the people in the crowd did not know that band, but they came and ripped the crowd apart. Good stage presence and they were exceedingly brutal. After one of their songs, the person standing next to me was completely stunned and yelled out - “Man ! These mother fuckers are brutal.” Could not sum it up any better.

Abigail Williams were up next. I never liked this band. I hated their earlier 'symphonic deathcore' crap. But I did hear that they changed their style in their new release and have abandoned their deathcore roots, shifting to a proper black metal approach. I decided to give them another chance, and a good thing I did. You could feel the temperature in the venue drop by a few degrees when they played their first song. This, for me, was a good sign because it means the band is doing its job well. They played some Good atmospheric black metal. I liked their performance a lot. The first couple of songs were very good. But the third one was not of the standards of the previous ones. But again, it was an enjoyable performance. I did not like their full length release too much, but I ll give it another listen. If anything, their performance merited it.

Now was finally the time. The time for Vader. I couldn’t believe I was actually watching one of my idols play live before my very eyes. The band came out for a couple of minutes to complete the final soundcheck and it sent goosebumps down my spine. Suddenly the moment arrived. A keyboard ambient intro blaring from the speakers and up came the band. I have to say, I have never seen a performance so brutal in all these years. They were amazing. An onslaught that could just be felt to be believed. Within minutes, there was mayhem in the moshpit. The pit was full of beer and more alcohol with people moshing and slipping on it. A couple of fights broke out, but nothing too big. The played for 30 minutes or so and left the stage, only to come back again when we called them out for an encore, And duly proceeded to play, 'This Is the War'. This being one of my favorite Vader tracks, was a fitting finale to their amazing performance.

When Vader's performance ended, I remember thinking that nothing could top this. I couldn’t imagine anything would blow me away like a steamroller to the extent of what Vader just did. But, I was wrong. When immolation performed their final soundcheck, I could feel a chill running down down my spine again. This was the moment I had been waiting for 7 years or so. The band I had been waiting to see for so long were finally here. All of a sudden, the lights dimmed off and in front of us were Immolation. They started off with 'The Purge' from their newest release, 'Majesty and Decay.' The setlist was better than what I had imagined. They had tracks from most of their releases. Highlights being 'Close To a World Below' and 'father, You are Not a Father.' Immolation were intense. The true definition of the word. They sounded evil. More evil than what I had ever experienced from any other band. You could feel the 'Anti-God' sentiment showing through when they played their songs. Singing the lyrics to Father, You are Not a Father was one of the most intense experiences of my life. Again, I am not throwing the word around lightly, but you could feel the need to end all religion and slay a god if he ever existed. I could feel a host of images churning through my head and a feeling of complete evil. This, was the most powerful I have ever felt. And I have to say, it was a wonderful change.

Anyway, I probably dragged this on for too long, but I can still write a page more. This was a perfect gig and to be honest, I don't think any other band will even come close to topping this. I will be watching Nile and Watain in november and I really don't think they can beat this. But one thing's for sure, I wont ever forget this.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hail of Bullets - On Divine Winds (2010)

Full Length, Metal Blade Records

Its been around half a century since the cacophonies of the World Wars tormented the earth but those horrific memories can't be ever ceased from the planet. The ones who witnessed those, can hardly ever get over the gruesome nightmares which haunt them every night. The slightest feeling of the carnage which  had raced around the world like wild fire, gives an excruciating feeling of despair and grief. 

The modern day man relived those blacekend memories via the various documentaries, movies and other features made on the wars. Many of them actually resurrected the vile scenarios of the war and personified the doom-stricken chaos lands, quite suavely. 
But history was about to repeat itself in 2006, when 5 men from Holland geared up their armors and artilleries and marched ahead to de-construct brutal ballads of war. They aptly named this congregation as ''Hail of Bullets'', with the solemn aim of portraying the scenes of WWII with their musical spectrum. This bandwagon comprises of many veteran death metal stalwarts who have been highly influential for the genre since many years now. Headed by the charismatic Martin Van Dru
nen (Asphyx, Pestilence, Comecon etc.), they also have Paul, Stephen and Theo from the legendary Thanatos on guitars and bass, respectively. The battery is being manned by Ed Warby of Gorefest fame. Quite a line-up, isn't it? And they don't disappoint in any manner.

Their first release was a self titled demo in 2007 but the stellar highlight was the spectacular ''...Of Frost and War'', released in 2008 which was a masterpiece war themed death metal album. The trademark vocal assaults of Martin and an extremely heavy and crunchy guitar attack made the album an intensely gratifying sonic treat. 2009 was trembled by yet another release called as '' Warsaw Rising''. It was a 6 track EP, featuring a few live songs and a Twisted Sister Cover. 
Enter 2010 and the band unleashed their 4th offering entitled as ''On Divine Winds'', released by Metal Blade Records. This second full length album by Hail of Bullets is yet another militaristic death metal onslaught and it has helped in establishing the band's trademark sound. Lasting around 48 minutes, this venture boasts of 11 well composed and atmospherically adept tracks which keeps the listener driven towards the edge of insanity. 

Kicking off with the symphonic war hymn ''The Eve of Battle'', this mini World War package continues to ravage ahead with bestial tracks like ''Operation  Z'', ''The Mukden Incident'' and the thrashy ''Strategy of Attrition''. On the other side we have some really nicely carved mid paced tracks like ''On Choral Shores'' and the fantastic ''Tokyo Napalm Holocaust''. 
The straight edged guitar attack comprises all the formulas of a perfectly headbangable old school record. But it doesn't really contain the panache and razor sharp, catchy mood of ...Of Frost and War. The drums aren't too heavier and ball-sy like the first full length but overall it doesn't hamper the record for being a great and enjoyable one. The production values are pretty neat and would cater to the needs of the newer era death metal fans too. 

I would sum ''On Divine Winds'' as a conceptual album like its pre-decessor but this was a somewhat different approach than the first album. Its a mixture of mid paced, thrashier and some groovy double bass sections which are enough for a fan of true death metal to enjoy it. What is more important is that we have an ensemble which is able to portray the ravishing atrocities and scenarios of the ghastly World War II with a great musical edge. Fans of War themes and death metal have a reason to cherish since they can enjoy both the entities in a delirious mixture, all thanks to Hail of Bullets!

Check out the band here - 

Final Rating - 7.8/10