ZT REVIEWS: SOME HIGHS AND SOME LOWS…

Here’s another chunk of ‘web-only’ reviews that didn’t make it into an issue… For some recent short reviews, follow this link.

VERDICTS
6 Masterpiece
5 Exceptional
4 Commendable
3 Solid
2 Second rate
1 Firing blanks
0 Sitting Duck

christian deathChristian Death
The Root Of All Evilution
Season Of Mist
It’s been eight years since the last Christian Death album and while I am a massive fan of their early output – Only Theatre Of Pain and Catastrophe Ballet remain up there alongside the cream of postpunk and work from the likes of Magazine, Chameleons and Sad Lovers And Giants – it is fair to say from the ‘90s onwards (after Rozz Williams’ acrimonious departure) I’ve been left underwhelmed. So, with little in the way of expectation, I sat down to absorb the rather childishly titled The Root Of All Evilution. Lyricist/songwriter, and guitarist Valor Kan explores his longstanding interest in the origin and progression of humankind’s maladies framed by the strong vocal work of singer and bassist Maitri. The Root Of All Evilution adds a bit more subtlety to the death rock shtick – a big improvement to these ears. There are sing-along moments aplenty, ‘FEMA Coffins’ is particularly catchy and there’s an element of the carnival on show; part playful, part sinister, and it is in these ambiguous shadows that Christian Death find a renewed verve. It’s not perfect by any stretch, but it’s the best Christian Death output since Prophecies.
geoff birchenall 3

deceasedDeceased
Cadaver Traditions
Hells Headbangers
Well this is a monstrous selection of material from the indefatigable Deceased. Cadaver Traditions features no less than 51 cover versions, and tops things off with two Deceased originals. It should be noted though that this is not all new stuff, as it features the entirety of 2002’s Zombie Hymns and 2004’s Rotten To The Core before adding those two originals (‘Luck Of The Corpse’ and ‘Torn Apart By Werewolves’) and a further 15-new cover versions. The point of all this is anyone’s guess really, particularly the re-releasing of so many previously available tracks, but you can’t deny it’s fun. King Fowley and friends demonstrate impeccable taste as well, opting to pay faithful homage to the likes of Venom, Voivod, Iron Maiden, Znowhite, Slayer, Sodom, Raven, Motörhead and Warfare amongst many, many others. This is basically the soundtrack to a great metal party. When you’re too drunk to pick songs to play, just shove Cadaver Traditions in the CD player and let King take care of it for you.
chris kee 3.5

exquisite endingExquisite Ending
The Rite Of Misanthropism: Psalms V To IX
Hibernacula
Part two of the Rite Of Misanthropism EP series picks up more or less where the first left off, but isn’t a repeat of that collection’s mainly depressive black metal sound. This time, the band seems to be pulling in two different directions; a fairly accessible ‘classic BM’ sound, with a slightly Satyricon-ish feel, and something a bit more outré and experimental. Although the latter aspect is more interesting, the strongest moments here are the most undemanding (for the listener). First and possibly best among these is opener, ‘Psalm V: Accursed Be Thy Kingsmen’. Introduced with sampled ‘Hail Satan!’s, it’s mid-paced, atmospheric and tough, a bit Now, Diabolical-like and generally very good. The rest of the EP ebbs and flows, mostly effectively, the most notable factor being the vocals, which are strong throughout, rising to a peculiar sort of gang vocal chorus on ‘Psalm VIII – Unbound Bloodletting Of The Orthodox Order’. Another promising release from Exquisite Ending, hopefully it’s leading up to something big.
will pinfold 3.5

manegarmManegarm
S/T
Napalm
Although not unheard of I always find it a little unimaginative for a band of Manegarm’s standing to resort to the self-titled album some eight records into their career, but thankfully the only real complaint about the album is something that pedantic. If you’re looking for a so-called Viking metal romp to keep you warm as you ready the home brew, then you need look no further as Manegarm has it all. Catchy, fist-pumping epic songs: check! Slower beard-stroking ballads: check! Closing female-sung lullaby: check! In all seriousness, though, the quality of the output renders any accusations of the album’s undeniably formulaic nature rather moot. I would say that musically, Manegarm simultaneously satisfies similar cravings to Sentenced’s Down (the energy and vocal delivery at times) and Einherjer’s Blot (the style), while drawing on the band’s Nordic roots for lyrical inspiration. At times the songwriting is pure classic rock, with ‘Call Of The Runes’ perhaps the best example. This is, of course, no bad thing and Manegarm should, and rightly will, be proud of themselves.
geoff birchenall 4

satans satyrsSatan’s Satyrs
Don’t Deliver Us
Bad Omen
‘70s inspired amped-to-fuck heavy rock has had a bad rep among muso-snobs for being little more than sloppy, meandering jams. And in some cases that’s justified, but if you have the nouse to cut through the scuzz, fuzz, clouds of smoke and forests of purple flares then you’ll find something much tighter. Satan’s Satyrs have always belonged to the latter category, but happy to embrace the raw and unhinged at the same time. Don’t Deliver Us sees the band moving further away from the Venom/Dwarves vibe of before and reaffirming the trash-punk rock and psych-metal. Clayton Burgess’ vocals are a stand out, the aural equivalent of a psychopathic clown running amok with a clawhammer at a small-town funfair: once you get past the goofy veneer what’s left is a delivery which bleeds fucked-up malevolence, albeit with a twinkle in its eye. As for tunes, ‘(Won’t You Be My) Gravedancer’ and ‘Full Moon And Empty Veins’ win the catchiness battle, but closer ‘Round The Bend’ is glorious in its lunacy.
calum harvie 4

serial butcherSerial Butcher
Brute Force Lobotomy
Unique Leader
There are brutal death metal bands that do the whole chug-chug-chugga-chug–chug-chugga-chug-chug thing pretty much all of the time. Usually they’re shit. Then there are the 20-notes-a-riff brigade who blast and widdle pretty much all of the time. Usually they’re shit as well. Serial Butcher use both in an attempt to make their brutal death metal stand apart from the rest, and quite often this second album is an enjoyable listen. You could pick countless bands that Serial Butcher sound like but two that spring to mind first are Necrophagist and Soreption. It’s not equal parts both, but they’re clearly in there. There’s not much else to say about this, really. It’s brutal dm, technical, and as tight as a crab’s… But there’s also a will to write songs here rather than simply offer an overt display of dexterity. The songs are fine as far as the genre goes, but there’s little appeal to the occasional blaster’s sense of ferocious sonic discovery, and unless you’re an avid fan of this stuff, forget about it.
john norby 3

serocsSerocs
And When The Sky Was Opened
Comatose
Unusually for an overtly technical death metal band, Serocs have opted for a rough, chaotic production; no clean, clinical delivery for these guys. Whilst this rough, raw-edged sound prevents them from becoming sterile, when the music heads into dramatically complex and intricate areas things dissolve into a bit of a mess. There’s no definition and just a vague impression of several musicians doing individually clever things, but coalesced into a muddy, confusing whole. Also, despite their avoidance of clinical sterility, Serocs have still put together a collection of songs where individual performance seems more important than engaging songwriting. Combine the two aspects: muddy confused sound and neglected song structures, and you end up with an album which is too often tiring and boring. And When The Sky Was Opened is not a dead loss though, as songs like the nearly brilliant ‘When The Ground Swallows Us’, with its shades of Morbid Angel atmospherics, frustratingly prove. There’s a good band in here and possibly a truly excellent album, trying to get out. They’ve certainly got all the necessary skills, that’s for sure.
chris kee 2.5

stahlsargStahlsarg
Comrades In Death
Mighty Music
I don’t think I’ve ever fallen asleep whilst blasting a black metal album through headphones in the middle of the day before but that’s exactly what happened during a second rattle through Comrades In Death. In the interests of full disclosure, I was knackered at the time, although that still doesn’t bode well for Ipswich’s Stahlsarg. I’ve had a go at this four times over the course of a number of days; every time completely unmoved by anything on offer here. The final two tracks perked me up a little on the first go but by spin three (bearing in mind I slept through the second one) they, too, failed to pull me out of a state of utter indifference. Sometimes you can tell immediately where an album falls; the songs are shit, the execution is shit, the production is shit… something is shit. Nothing seems to be shit here at all though, which makes this album something of an enigma. The word ‘bland’ springs to mind. Maybe Steve ‘Interesting’ Davis would be better reviewing this one.
john norby 1

swallow the sunSwallow The Sun
Songs From The North I, II & III
Century Media
This is an ambitious release for both band and label – their first together and a triple album, no less. It’s all about gloom, beauty and despair, apparently, and that translates into death doom album, acoustic album, funeral doom album. I is undoubtedly the best of the bunch here. Essentially a mix of what you hear on the other two discs – which is what you generally hear from Swallow The Sun – it’s high-profile, polished, melodic death-doom with the odd twist. And yes, it is really good. II is the acoustic interlude, in a way – eight tracks over 42 minutes. Will to live starts to dwindle even before reaching the half-way mark. III begs the question of whether funeral doom has been now around so long that everything new sounds the same. The five tracks – registering at 52 minutes – sound good and all, and there are some truly bludgeoning moments, but why? Despair sets in only five minutes into track one. But maybe that’s mission accomplished for Swallow The Sun, then. Disc one deserves a solid four. As for the whole parcel…
john norby 2.5

trinakriusTrinakrius
Introspectum
Pitch Black
‘I Would Like’ doesn’t make for a particularly auspicious opening track to Trinakrius’ fourth album. It’s a rather monotonous opener which seems to lack the emotional power so essential to classic doom. Luckily salvation isn’t far off as track two, ‘Moments’, delivers everything that ‘I Would Like’ is missing, particularly during its fabulous closing section, complete with a splendid, soulful solo. ‘Moments’ seems to put everything back on track, with the following ‘The Crying Soldier’ keeping standards high with a fine selection of doom-ridden riffs. Vocalist Francesco Chiazzese puts in a sterling performance throughout, his voice being strong, emotive and possessing both range and control. Valerio Frosini provides the other high points with his wailing leads and endless supply of classic doom riffs. So, after a shaky start, Introspectum grows and develops into a very good classic-sounding doom album with plenty to recommend it. Indeed, six out of seven songs here are thoroughly enjoyable and fans of Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass would be well advised to investigate what this Italian institution has to offer.
chris kee 4

viVI
De Praestigiis Angelorum
Agonia
This is predominantly blasting, high-chord black metal that would sit well in between DHG and Deathspell Omega, although it has a slightly more organic feel to it than either. De Praestigiis Angelorum is an album of ups and downs. In amongst the full steam ahead driving force are some stunning displays of off-kilter musicianship, and a variety of remarkable ideas and unexpected twists and turns. On the other side of that coin some of the songs seem to run for a bit longer than they should and that super-fast, piercing guitar sound really starts to grate on the nerves over time. The drum sound could do with a tweak, too. Even though the overall vibe of the album calls for what we hear, they just sound ever so slightly distant and too processed. Despite that the power behind them shines through, hopefully to be fully unleashed next time. With a drummer called Blastum you know what you’re getting and some of his work here is just really cool drumming. Definitely a band with important work ahead of them.
john norby 3.5

wildreness dreamWilderness Dream
S/T
Creator=Destructor
During the feedback and bass drenched fuzz of the opening of ‘Existential Assault’, I’m not really sure what I’m about to get myself into. Could be a fuzz/doom band, could be dudes in short pants playing ‘black’ metal… When Wilderness Dream (yeah, I know, I’m not sure either…) rip into ‘Rebirth’, it’s none of the above, but still hard to wrap my head around. Sounds like dudes into sweatshirt and cargo-shorts hardcore (don’t hate, I like that shit too) got all riffy and started a metal band. Immediately it reminds me of a wholly less obtuse and chaotic Converge, or basically anything with ‘DIS’ in their name. It’s weird hearing stuff like this these days, as it seems like hardcore of this ilk was running rampant 15 years ago. Maybe not quite this frenetic, but Wilderness Dream aren’t really bringing anything new to the table. Each song is a two to three-minute beatdown of crossover riffing and throaty, impassioned yelling. It’s definitely competent but inherently and incessantly repetitive. DRI riff + Metallica harmony + hardcore singer ad infinitum.
justin stubbs 3

More reviews coming soon, so watch this space!

 

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