Written by: Beaston Lane
Dear readers, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Avatar Country anymore. As the world grapples with the caustic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and our favorite artists are screwed over by penny-pinching corporations, an island run by fun-loving metal maniacs sure sounds like a great place to be--but that’s not where Avatar takes us on their highly anticipated 8th LP. Hunter Gatherer finds these bombastic Swedish metallers in that bleak headspace so many of us have to confront every morning as we contemplate the increasingly volatile future. Gone are the fables and legends of Avatar’s past, replaced with the nightmares of a planet in crisis. Robust and aggressive, Hunter Gatherer is the sound of one band’s cleansing discharge of years of pent-up anger and anxiety.
Written by: Blackie Skulless
It took me only a couple seconds to realize that the band was not named after the programming tool of the same name, but in relation to Valhalla. Considering the ancient themes and warlike attitude of the music, this would become quite obvious. Condemnation is the forth record by the Italian death metal quartet, dropping loads of life and layers on what is a generally darker sound.
For a good majority of Condemnation, the songs avoid the typical layout, and instead build themselves on unconventional riff patterns and sprinkle in melodeath tactics. Those allow for extra bridges thrown into areas that don’t necessarily lead into a solo, but perhaps an entirely different sequence of sounds. Depending on the transitions, this can help or hurt. Some points feel natural, as if they go above and beyond the norm. “Divination - Marked By The Unknown” is one of the best tracks here, as it blends this with heavy synth presence, ultimately kicking out a longer track. The doomy outro of the title track was also a neat touch.
I’ve spent, in retrospect, perhaps a little bit too much time in my life waxing poetic about Aborted. I’ve rambled about their latest full length, TerrorVision, at pretty much every opportunity afforded. It’s safe to say I have a deep love for this band--but yet, there is no single album in their discography that I consider a god-tier achievement. Rather, each subsequent effort they release stands as an accomplishment as a piece in a larger puzzle: Aborted’s nigh-untouchable legacy. They have, as far as I’m concerned, never released a dud, despite a stupidly complex rotating cast of characters. Marked consistency is the name of the game, and on La Grande Mascarade, their latest three-track EP, these revered pros deliver another satisfying slab of desecrated death metal meat.
Written by: Scorpi
Diving headfirst into Bandcamp’s metal releases often goes one of two ways. You either spend ages looking for something worthy of your undivided attention, a task that feels like crawling through mud to find an elusive treasure, or you absolutely nail the first album you pick.
In Arcaine’s case, they were the immediate jackpot. No spinning reels endlessly losing all your cold, hard cash to find this one.
Arcaine are an emerging deathcore quintet from Chur, Switzerland, founded in 2015. They are made up of vocalist Adrian Gisler, guitarists Brandon Wildhaber (lead) and Renato Herzog (rhythm), bassist Rinaldo Gaudenz, and drummer Reto Camenisch. As Life Decays is their debut album, and they couldn’t have given themselves a much better platform to become one of the best modern metal bands out there.
There were a great deal of albums I should have reviewed last year, but simply never got around to. A significant number of these lost reviews were booted aside in favor of year-end-list festivities, so now that those are largely accounted for and we have a few weeks before the promo pit is overflowing with 2020 releases, it's time to exact a little justice and tell these bands how much I like 'em.
Thus, let's kick off my apology tour with a death metal band that deserves far more accolades than they have received: Mexico's CRS, who hath returned from self-exile to deliver their sophomore album after a Very Long While. Legacy acts are tricky to review, particularly when A. the reviewer has no frame of reference for their previous work, and B. their previous work, such as it is, consists entirely of a debut album released 20 years ago.
Yogyakarta, Indonesia is a long way from the humble halls of the Sleeping Village, but, much like the plague that riddles our haggard inhabitants, proggy melodeath knows no borders. In that spirit, we’re breaking out the latest single from Yogyakarta’s own Goddess of Fate. “The Orchard Gardener” represents a tidy breakdown of composition: in the band’s words, “this single is 50% progressive metal and 50% ‘everything else.’” And I’ll be damned, that somehow isn’t mere hyperbole. While the blend may not appear entirely seamless, Goddess of Fate rip it up with a meaty conglomerate of blastbeats, melodeath riffing, tech shredding, acoustic-backed chanting, harsh screams, and (prerequisite) proggy passages. A distinctly jig-esque riff forms the bookends, lending the 7-and-a-half-minutes an epic quality that stretches across the entirety.
Written by: Loveloth
Sweden's melodic death scene changed a lot since its inception and its titans followed suite, some for the worse (*coughs* In Flames,) and some for the better. Soilwork falls into the latter and for me, their peak was none other than The Ride Majestic, their previous effort and Dirk Verberuen (who I'll call the Dirk from this point on) played a big role in making that ride truly majestic. Ten and a half months later the Dirk leaves the band to join Megadeth (still salty about that) and suddenly, I became a bit nervous for their upcoming record.
Two Night Flight Orchestra records later (read as three and a half years) Soilwork set off 2019 with Verkligheten, their overall eleventh release which also ended their longest gap between said releases, and is the first with Bastian Thusgaard behind the kit. With great expectations and big shoes to fill, the spotlight turns to Soilwork. It's time to see how Verkligheten fares in their discography.
All that we came to love about new Soilwork is still present. Those mighty riffs, huge, catchy choruses, Strid's brilliant vocals, blistering drumming, subtle yet very present keyboard work, it's all here, but things are a bit different. This becomes more apparent the longer we hang out with Verkligheten. After a solid but not that needed intro, Arrival explodes and soars above you and engulfs you with its majesty. The song barrages you with blastbeats, swift yet deadly tremolo picks, and a chorus powerful enough to move a mountain and somehow give Scar Symmetry a run for their money. It all seems standard Soilwork, but then Full Moon Shoals arrives with its cello, ethereal atmosphere, and the most NWOBHM riff I heard since... since The Night Flight Orchestra's latest record. This is where Verkligheten stands out. NFO's classic and hard rock sensibilities crept up into Soilwork's established formula, and the results will make or break the record, depends on your stance. Dynamics (this word again) is the key player, and Full Moon Shoals use them to the absolute limit. Just when you start humming along the chorus, a thrashy break appears but it's not over as the band decides to treat your ear sockets with the heaviest moment on the record.
While all the tracks are enjoyable, some clearly stand out. Personal favourite When The Universe Spoke foregoes the 80's and thrusts us back in familiar, blastbeat-filled waters. Not only is this violent and heavy but it's also uplifting and almost hypnotic with its constant flow of double-bass hits.
Surprises are plentiful here but perhaps the biggest one was the addition of the mighty Toni Joutsen on Needles And Kin . Be warned, it's not what you expect. Just as with Alissa White-Gluz's clean vocals on Stålfågel, Joutsen just uses his growls but these are his most guttural and vile yet. So, both of the guests did the exact opposite of what I expected and things are looking good, right? Well, yes, but some things need to be mentioned.
First off, the production. It's sounds like your run-of-the-mill modern metal record, but the drums are way too overpowering and the keyboards lack true presence. Secondly, Bastian. Filling the Dirk's shoes was impossible considering his age and that's fine, he'll improve. I am slightly annoyed by his one-note approach but have no fear as this doesn't ruin the record, far from it. The Wolves Are Back In Town and Bleeder Despoiler are just some of the bangers you'll come across. Tracks like Witan and The Ageless Whisper, however, feel a bit clumsy.
With Verkligheten, Soilwork started a new exciting chapter of their rich, 24 year long career and I am pleased. While it fails to reach the highs The Ride Majestic, I cannot deny their passion, energy and ability to make brutal yet accessible music. If you're wondering what is the best place to start your Soilwork journey (if you haven't of course), well, you're looking at it. I am already liking 2019, and you will (hopefully) after hearing Verkligheten.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!