Only one (praiseworthy) release to their name, and Richmond's own Conductor have already thrown a bit of a wrench in my typical review-writing process. Generally, when encountering an artist for the first time, inevitable questions arise that then allow for further analysis. Why does this music work (or not work, for that matter) in it's current state? Conductor neatly bypass this part of the process by providing two versions of their debut EP: one with vocals, and one without. Thus, the primary question that arose whilst enjoying Icarus--namely, does this brand of doom afflicted post-metal work best in a purely instrumental form--was answered by default. More on that later, though. Before we get too far into the weeds, let's talk about just how goddamn impressive Conductor are.
Icarus is an effortless journey through genre boundaries. While the majority of the 23 minutes contained herein are of the post-metal variety--expansive, voluminous, and otherwise exploratory--a distinct aggression remains a constant presence, whether lurking on the fringes or launching inward with a blackened bite. The former aspect is comparable to the softer moments of Amenra, Pallbearer, or early Sumac; the latter, perhaps, of Mizmor's abrasive edge. And yet, while they never sound directly comparable or derivative, they are in good company execution-wise. They command a delicate balance between clean and harsh vocals, between melodious exploration and emotive pugilism. And while the blackened bent is used sparingly throughout, it hits hard when called into play.
Conductor demonstrates a keen ability to move between gentle and harsh in a way that reminds me of Omega Massif's dynamism. Look to "Go to the Mast at Dawn" for a prime example of the subtle buildup and sheer cathartic release that these guys are capable of. Genre melding aside, that ability to construct a foundation and then knock it out with one massive blow is central to their songwriting chops. Indeed, this is what gives the opening track such a professional and emotionally satisfying feel. Even given their status as a doom-adjacent band, they aren't entirely focused on the riffs, but yet riffs are central to the buildup and subsequent release. Icarus opens with a nuanced and sophisticated track, and if I wasn't aware, I would have assumed this was the product of a much more mature outfit.
Most notable is the earworm quality Icarus maintains. As those who are forced to live with me may attest, I've been breaking into (horrendously out-of-tune, but heartfelt nonetheless) refrains of O Captain! My Captain! for the better part of a month. "Go to the Mast at Dawn" sticks in my head with a fierce and unpredictable tenacity, and if a track manages to hold on for so long, buffeted about by the current of a thousand promos, it's a great song, plain n' simple. The longing-yet-furious "Catch Me" has a similar effect, with each precious refrain sinking teeth deep. I wish it were a longer track simply so more of those choruses could weasel their way in, and as one who worships brevity in songwriting like no other, that's saying something. Post-metal lives (and dies) by its memorability, and Icarus has memorability in spades.
The aforementioned question regarding the role of vocals--or lack thereof--is raised by the title track itself. Whereas the vocal delivery on the bookends is fairly impeccable, "Icarus" represents a bit of a falter. The pseudo spoken word delivery, while intriguing from a narrative perspective, ultimately doesn't flow with the instrumentation. It's an awkward bump in an otherwise stellar track, and, as a result, this track flows better on the instrumental version of the EP--especially given the brilliant back half, which is a harrowing and emotive journey in its own right. That said, the remaining two tracks are heightened wondrously by their respective vocal accompaniment, and on their respective instrumental tracks, feel otherwise incomplete.
There's room for improvement in Conductor's approach, but it's worth iterating that this improvement need not come across the board. The first track here is a true standout, a prime example of the massive potential they are packing. And, as always, a little more heft in the bass department wouldn't go amiss. But all told, Conductor have a lot on this not-so-Icarian post-metal platter to be proud of. They fly high, but never plummet. Given their penchant for dynamic innovation, I'm very curious to see what they come up with next. Conductor "hopes that anyone who stumbles upon Icarus will feel something from its intense 3-song exhibition." From this particular villager: mission accomplished, and then some.
Conductor's excellent Icarus was released May 2019.
Occasionally, something breaches our slumbering village's humble walls and whips a little life back into the plague-ridden peasantry. Such is the case with the (forthcoming) too-short-but-oh-so-sweet 2-track demo from Warsaw's Sanity Control--the briefest of endeavors, imbued with the best of the respective punk and thrash realms. This bruiser was self-released this past February, but will be receiving a full cassette treatment from the certifiably esteemed Seeing Red Records.
Take the punky slur and aggressive drive of Cryptic Slaughter, Attitude Adjustment's hardcore ‘tude, and a healthy injection of ripping thrashy riffage. And there you have it. Sanity Control's formula isn't new or novel, but yet this is crossover at its most effective, seamlessly integrating the highlights of both respective genres. Notably, the two tracks herein feel quite distinct in character, giving a little hope for Sanity Control's ability to write songs varied enough to prevent the dread crossover fatigue. “Hunt” relies comfortably on a bombastic chanted chorus, while “Swarm” implicates some fierce vitriol and an unexpectedly acidic solo. The result? An invigorating and endlessly repeatable lil’ bundle of grimy joy. What more could you ask for?
Our populace rejoices in the face of a rising force in crossover excellence. If you've got (quite exactly) five minutes of free time, Sanity Control comes highly recommended.
Sanity Control - Demo 2019 will be released June 21st, 2019 from Seeing Red Records.
Sanity Control can be found on ye olde Bandcamp.
Given the convoluted intros that have become a bit of a calling card ‘round these parts, we wizened scribes find ourselves in a bit of a situation here. Here's the rub: Entrenched is an outfit about which I know astonishingly little. No niceties regarding city of origin, or band members, or associated acts. In this sense, unless you’ve seen the gloriously indicative album artwork for their sophomore effort Endless Occupation, the music really must speak for itself.
And to be honest, it doesn't speak so much as roar vivaciously. Entrenched play, for all intents and purposes, a speed and thrash-oriented brand of death a la Demolition Hammer or Morbid Saint. They wear the visceral war-torn trappings of Sodom--take the track titles, which range from the obvious ("Meatshield"), to the goofy ("Goreamedic"), to the exclamatory ("Terrorize the Insurgency")--but yet conduct themselves with the juggernautian bombast of Malevolent Rapture-era Legion of the Damned. Imagine if Merciless or Invasion lost their more overtly frantic edges, and gained instead a Vader-esque sense of (moderate) composure. But yet, these comparisons are imperfect, and despite existing in a fairly well-occupied space, Entrenched are seemingly their own bloody beast, taking the bits that work, but never feeling derivative to a consequential degree. Needless to say, if you want thrashy riffs and endless bullet-belted aggression, Endless Occupation will scratches that itch with...well, take your pick of rusty implement. Rake. Machete. Lawnmower.
At 29 brief minutes, Entrenched present an idyllic neck-whipping package. Vocals bark and growl at a wondrously energetic pace, throwing themselves into the fray with a stoicism that arises from well-conceived confidence. Percussion operates exactly how you might hope: pounding, ceaseless, skull-crushingly relentless. Drummers all-too-oft get the short end of the stake--and particularly so in the case of a genre that is exceedingly riff reliant--but here, the percussion is just too damn integral to not receive a well-deserved spot in the limelight. Entrenched bring solid performances across the board, and that goes a long way to making sure that the more overtly gun-brandishing, bandana-wearing, and otherwise cigar-chomping moments aren’t without an appropriately solid foundation.
Highlight tracks are difficult to determine, as I believe, seemingly paradoxically, that Entrenched operate on their highest level when they slow things down. “Interrogation Chamber,” “Terrorize the Insurgency,” and “Assisted Suicide Enlistment” all demonstrate their keen ability to switch gears, and in a genre based so frequently in balls-to-the-wall wild abandon, this is a prime differentiator. Otherwise, give the title track a listen to see what they accomplish at their most visceral.
Endless Occupation is indeed, as I stated a long while ago, a “wild fuckin’ ride.” This album has occupied my listening rotation...well, endlessly, since it first came to my attention. In a world with a near-endless supply of gore, good riffs, and a delightfully kinetic atmosphere, that's saying something. Highly recommended!
The news-report strains of ‘“From the Graves We March” rise, with staticky dial-up gravitas, above the groans. Without further ado it's officially on: Apocalypse by way of Zombie, the viscerally apropos downfall of humanity as we know it. Is there really any better fodder for a death metal album? I think not, and, evidently, neither does the international two-piece Reign of Terror. Comprised of Jereth Fewings on the instrumentation and Oscar Diaz handling vocal duties, these guys brandish their influences on their sleeves with a forthright pride, citing and recalling their heroes--be it Death, Deicide, or Dethklok, among a host of others--with the glee that one simply can not fake. I mean, just look at the logo. These guys love death metal, and their debut album is a well-conceived expression of said passion.
Decimation of Mankind is defined in many ways by the toilet-gurgle vocal stylings, which will either suck you in or reject you violently, depending entirely on your tolerance for the regurgatorial approach of, say, Aborted, Deicide, or Dying Fetus. In our track premiere for “Sacrificial Slaughter," the expulsive vocal tendencies of Vomitory were brought into play, and that descriptor continues to hold well here. Mr. Diaz displays a balance between gurgles and screams mightily, layering a certain raspy scream that, at it's best, inject a little hardcore ‘tude into the melting pot. While, as a whole, the vocals are improved upon in Reign of Terror’s sophomore release, they are still energetic and remarkably dynamic on Decimation.
Given the prior stage-setting, I hesitate to use the term "clean” in reference to Decimation of Mankind, but no bones about it: this is good clean death metal. Nothing flashy. Nothing heady. Just good ol’ brain-pummeling. As it should be. That said, the majority of the tracks herein are strangely hypnotic--recalling, oddly enough, a darkwave-esque sonic quality. Dance With the Dead comes to mind, in terms of the lurching riffs that ebb and flow, typically muffled and subdued by the sheer force of the vocals, but occasionally forthright in a show of primal ferocity.
This album is stuffed to the brim with fun moments. Take the simple yet invigorating buildup on “Thy Savior is Thy End,” which never fails to elicit an ill-advised neck whipping. The eventual tempo changes on this track do wonders to avoid stagnation, as do the electronic leanings on “The Plague”--one of the albums more intriguing moments. “Machine of Vengeance” is an absolute goddamn barnburner, rivaled only by its immediate follow-up in terms of violent zeal. “Creation Breeds Decimation” is a stellar track, grinding and driving with assertive abandon. Here, the Reign of Terror formula operates at its best, as the vocals, guitar, and percussion mesh together in a relentlessly satisfying sense. Tracks such as this demonstrate that at their best, Reign of Terror are genuinely following--and filling--the footprints of brutal death's giants. Tying things up with an intestinal bow, the album ends off with the purely atmospheric church bell ringing of “...And to the Graves We Return.” While outros are largely unnecessary, it works in Reign in Terror's benefit to bring the overall narrative to a satisfying close.
From a needs-improvement standpoint, there are several aspects of note. The first--as is often the case when this particular villager turns a critical eye--is song length. This particular brand of death benefits from punchy runtimes, and with multiple songs stretching across the 6 and 7 minute marks, a trimmed refrain here or there would serve each track's individual impact. As a result, the album’s back half--home to some of the shorter tracks on display--is the more impressive. The vocal cadence is another sticking point, as a similar chanting rhythm appears enough times across the album to become overly familiar. That said, in both cases Reign of Terror's sophomore effort is a giant step in the right direction. Self correction in practice.
Bottom line? These guys aren't revolutionaries of the death metal scene by any means...but this is death metal, after all, and the vast majority of the time all we're looking for is a neck-snapping good time. To this end, Reign in Terror deliver in spades. And if you’re a fan Decimation, fear not: they release new music on a ridiculously impressive timeline, and, as mentioned, their follow-up, entitled Revolution Through Violence, is already out. Listen to "Thy Savior is Thy End" below:
This review is brought to you courtesy of a good friend of the Sleeping Village--the one 'n' only Brian from Metalhead World. If you aren't familiar, MHW is swiftly becoming a top-notch hub for underground metal reviews, interviews, news, and other assorted miscellany. If you happen to stumble over there after imbibing deep of 1782's doomy offerings, we certainly wouldn't mind. Without further ado:
1782's single "She Was A Witch" caught the attention of a lot of people and swept the doom metal scene like a storm. In the 4 months since, 1782 was quickly signed to Heavy Psych Sounds, released two more singles that introduce their fuzzy riff driven sound and a theme of evil and macabre. It all culminates into the release of 1782's self titled debut.
I awaited this album since it's announced production. I can honestly say that when I first heard the first single, I was so taken aback by it (in a good way), I thought it might be a side project and Scott Ian would have a "gotcha" moment on the album premier. I jokingly expressed this to Marco Nieddu (24moons / Raikinas), the mind behind not only 1782, but also popular doom metal indie label Electric Valley Records, who assured it was the real deal.
The story behind the band name is as follows: In 1782 Anna Goldi was condemned and was subsequently tortured and killed in the process. Anna Goldi's case was the last known Witchcraft trial documented in Europe.
So you know what 1782 is about. How about the album?
As the intro sets the theme of a dark bonfire with church bells (all sounding very authentic), "Night of Draculia" kicks in with a nice fuzzed blend, yet it sounds very crisp. The groove in the breakdown of this and Marcos' distorted vocals set the tone of this album perfectly, but when you hear "The Spell - Maleficium Vitae", you get grabbed and sent strait to hell through the rest of the entire album and you feel it strait to your soul. When the chanting kicks in on The Spell, you realize the energy in this album is effective. And maybe at one point, it might even be a bit much for those that aren't evil purists at heart who might see this as a classy, yet more evil efforts some may have heard in regards to music dealing with the occult.
And that is a bold yet genuine statement from this writer. I personally loved every moment.
We get a cleaner and more polished version of "She Was A Witch" with guest Gabriel Fiori of Black Rainbows which I thought turned out exactly like it should. I was wondering how this would turn out and I was very satisfied with the result.
"Black Sunday" has a riff where the pitch bends, and give a nice demonic sound.
"Oh Mary" is a single many already know. This to me was what set the tone as far as what 1782 is about. With the lyric video you get the idea throughout this album of 1782 doing a show in this very setting. Very classy. Very vintage. Very occult-ic. And the sense of evil is welcoming instead of fearful.
The album closes out with the tracks "1782" and "Celestial Voices," which go out in true fashion for the band. With a hooky and groove driven riff and dark wavering organs straight from Mother Earth herself, this predominant two-song instrumental leaves one last carbon footprint of energy that leaves you wanting more after seeing what this two piece outfit is truly capable of. It just feels good and releasing. These are the type of songs that you would spend alone time with that evil demon of a human in your life.
With the hallmark Sabbath-laden riffs that we have come to know and love, some innovative songwriting (that bass outro in "The Spell"), vocals strait from Satan himself, and percussion beating like a wild heart, 1782 takes it way further than I expected. The songwriting accomplishes everything it was setting out to do as far as the energy involved with an album such as this. Marco did a fabulous job in every step of this masterpiece.
Marco doesn't get all the credit as Gabriele Fancellu played a significant role in providing a wide array of drum work that I would compare to Mark Greening as far as style is concerned. This truly adds the element of magic in this album. Gabriele's efforts on this album is appreciated as it would not be nowhere near the same feel without it.
I thought the self titled Black Sabbath track was one of the creepiest, scariest, dripping with evil, tracks that contained yet a certain type of class and sophistication in the song. I can honestly say 1782 may in the running with this entire album.
The thing about 1782's album, though, is that it's not just an album you play like you would Slipknot or even classics like Pantera. This is an album you listen to at night, preferably early morning, candles lit, lights dimmed or off and just let the energy this half hour album gives take hold and release your inner demon.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry