Reviews: overspill part I

Bestial Mockery
Christcrushing Hammerchainsaw
Hell’s Headbangers

Wretched, blasphemic speed metal of death! Bestial Mockery unfurls their furious, savior-raping rage in this heralded slab of razor-wire riffs and rusty-throated vocals with chainsaws revved to 666 rpm. Long out of print and now seeing a proper re-release, Christcrushing Hammerchainsaw is unrelenting in its proper defeat of trends, employing raucous deathrash-isms alongside potent black riffery and a steady D-beat pummel (see ‘Bestial Satanic Sacrifice’). The guitars are buzzy and thin, as they should be given this band’s predilection towards punk / thrash choruses and satanic sing-alongs.  There is no shortage of vicious blackened attack, as songs like ‘Crucified In Dirt’ and ‘Morbid Invertation’ spiral into Nifelheim-y madness. The upbeat punk passages lend to the monotony breakup and lend to Bestial Mockery as a great listen.  Even hints of Scandinavian contemporaries Turbonegro can be found in the leads and attitude, Bestial Mockery favouring Satan over penis. Ultimately, Christcrushing Hammerchainsaw is a vicious sing-along of hellish choruses and satanic commotion. Seemingly unparalleled in its stance then (2002) and now as a Christ-mocking stand-up routine of blasting blackthrash.
Justin Stubbs 4.5

Child Abuse
Cut And Run
Lovepump United
Calling your band Child Abuse is no way to make friends, but then nor is the unholy racket that this New York trio make on their second full-length. Fusing death metal, free jazz and grind, you can see them as a sort of update on John Zorn’s ‘80s/’90s avant-metal bands like Naked City or Painkiller or, more recently, the postmodern hyper-spazz of acts like The Locust. If quirky stop-start rhythms have you grinding your teeth in annoyance, you’re probably off this bus already, but it’s worth adding that Child Abuse aren’t as zany as that. Drummer Oran Canfield locks full-kit rolls into tight, circular patterns, a solid sort of backbone for bassist Tim Dahl and keyboardist Luke Calzonetti to deploy all manner of chundering low-end and submerged screams. ‘Cut And Run’ imagines Italian synth legends Goblin gone grindcore, deranged metal thrash underlaid by eerie keyboard melodies, while ‘Froze Toes’ combines slamming blastbeats and hoarse spazz vocals thrown through echo boxes. It’s all over in just shy of 30 minutes, but mind you, that’s probably enough.
Louis Pattison 3.5

Concrete Lung
Waste Of Flesh
Armalyte Records
Frontloading this EP with ‘Breathe In The Monochrome’ was both a good and a bad move for this UK duo. Bloodied with static and with rhythms like a repeated booting, this slab of martial and severely damaged electronic industrial music is this record’s finest moment. An incredibly ragged beast, the song is a reminder of just how effective the nailing-together of metal and electronics can actually be. Unfortunately, the rest of the EP just doesn’t deliver, relying on musical palettes and formulas that are well worn and tired. With more upfront electronics and dips into downtempo territories, it’s all very reminiscent of the less important players in the electronic industrial scene of the ‘90s. Where a few of that stampede of sound-a-likes either pushed the music beyond its signifiers or invested themselves heavily within it, many others just played with the sound, making little of any consequence. With its bouncy bass lines, pseudo-hard synth stomping and very obvious sampling, it’s like time has stood still for six of the seven tracks here. Beyond that opening surge, Waste Of Flesh is an unsatisfying and predictable trip.
Scott McKeating 1.5

Decrepid
Live At The Purple Turtle
Death Toll Records
London death metallers Decrepid are essentially half of Necrosadistic Goat Torture and half of Repugnant Inebriation. They sound more like the latter, but with some of the good thrash riffing that NGT are known for thrown in. The main problem here is that the sound, although not bad, just doesn’t allow the band to shine. There are moments that I am sure will sound great when given the studio treatment, but everything is fighting a losing battle to be heard here. Given a little more time to develop as a band, they could soon be making a name for themselves on the London death metal scene.
Sam Crowley 2

Gris / Sombre
Forêts Miserere Luminis

Sepulchral Productions
Montreal-based Sepulchral Productions is the label of choice for the Metal Noir Québécois (Québéc black metal) elite. After two excellent albums a piece, this rare and refreshing twist sees Gris and Sombres Forêts merge for a collaborative album. This union sees the tempo drop and the music adopt an atmosphere more brooding and melancholic than the epic, nostalgic, frozen feel traditional to the scene. Subtly and intelligently added cello, violin and (more prominently) piano elements lend the sound on Miserere a delightful texture and poignancy. Repeated listens are rewarded with new revelations, and the fruits of perseverance represent an intricate design of carefully honed, sorrowful blackened metal. Interestingly, the artwork and atmosphere strike similar (blacker) chords to 2008’s splendid Mar De Grises album Draining The Waterheart. Indeed, it would be surprising if Messrs. Annatar, Neptune and Icare have not been treating their respective ears to healthy doses of doom as well as their daily black metal bread. It is this added variety along with superb musicianship that makes Miserere a rare ‘depressive’ black metal treat.
Geoff Birchenall 4.5

Human Cadaver
Academy
Dead Guy Entertainment
Having been on the go since 1992, one would hope to be offered something super-special with Human’s Cadaver Academy. Alas, this isn’t really the case. Sure, it’s an enjoyable-enough death metal album that offers enough in the way of simplistic brutality, but it just doesn’t excite in the way it has the potential to. The somewhat-muffled production affords the music an old-school grind quality, and it’s hard to gauge if a better studio job would have lifted this in any way or simply highlighted more shortcomings in the creation. Either way, this is decent, but hardly worth writing home about.
John Norby 2.5

I Am Colossus
S/T
Casket Records
Unnecessary Gregorian intro aside, I Am Colossus (as their name would suggest) are unabashed merchants of mountain-sized doom. This Birmingham quartet have more of a focus on pace and rhythm than their genre peers, the music seeming more about the churn of the change in notes rather than the riff as the be-all-and-end-all. Taking the tempo down further than expected, the band has shoved the drums up in the mix to further emphasise their slowness. The overall sound is pretty spare in comparison to other doom crews, the space in the music making the whole record seem that bit bigger – as in ruined Priory size. On the downside of I Am Colossus, the production is fairly flat; rarely does anything feel like it’s rising or ebbing in the mix. It’s only the midway point acoustic number ‘In Ruins…(Vobis Daniel)’ that shows any real texture or movement of levels. As evidence in the case that slow can be as heavy as fast, the album is convincing but not necessarily something that needed further proving. I Am Colossus do slow doom – they do it well – but at the end of the day, it’s still very definitely sitting comfortable within the acceptable borders of that strand of metal.
Scott McKeating 3



Inhume
Moulding The Deformed
War Anthem Records
There’s something about the Dutch that makes no sense. They seem, on the surface, to be some of the most laid back people in Europe. Whether that has anything to do with a pleasant climate, the relaxing view of windmills, or what is on sale at many of their cafes, I couldn’t say for sure. But, this laidback country consistently churns out some of the best and most aggressive grinding metal anywhere on the planet. So, perhaps Inhume don’t live close enough to these windmills to be permanently chilled out, but they have, as with fellow countrymen Disavowed, Brutus, Arsebreed et al, found their outlet in extreme metal. Inhume have been consistently excellent since their debut album, Decomposing From Inside, spewed forth back in 2000, and although they have never really strayed from their death-grind blueprint, each album since has held a sense of individualism encoded into its extremity. This is punchy, catchy and insane in its brutality. This is everything I would expect from Inhume, as once again they prove that they are at the sharp end of grinding death metal.
Sam Crowley 4

Monarque
Ad Nauseum

Sepulchral Productions
The Quebec black metal scene represents one of the most fertile hotbeds of talent in the genre. With the re-working of their 2005 demo Ad Nauseam, incorporating some new material, Monarque show us all that is special about ‘metal noir Quebecois’. The man responsible also goes under the name Monarque and runs the Les Productions Hérétiques label. However, it is Sepulchral Productions, another predominantly Quebec-focussed label, who do the honours – the result a misanthropic, emotionally charged homage to sorrow and desolate, hopeless longing. The dynamic, weeping guitars are allowed to rule the battle of the instruments, with bass and drums restricted to a background role. Throughout the album, Monarque conjure a real mix of nostalgia and fury, reflecting the gradual Americanisation of the once-proud French region and the fight to halt it. The strength of Ad Nauseam is in weaving hypnotic riffs and building immense atmosphere from repetition, rendering the listener powerless in the face of growing storm. That one of the newer songs, ‘Je Ne Suis Pas’, is perhaps the most powerful example of this bodes well for the future of the band.
Geoff Birchenall 4.5

Murkrat
S/T

Aesthetic Death Records
Hey, let’s have a listen to some female-fronted doom metal. No! Wait! Come back, come back…Murkrat, as you may’ve gathered from the name itself, are as far from much-maligned gothic melodrama as it’s possible to be. Coming from the sun-lashed shores of New South Wales, Murkrat work in the same psychedelic realms as Esoteric and use slow layers of guitars to create a threatening fog of sound over simplistic drumming. The most striking element, however, and one that pervades the release are Mandy VKS Cattleprod’s soaring, clean vocals. Yep, I said ‘soaring’. I could also probably say ‘operatic’, ‘ethereal’ and ‘mystical’ – yet fear ye not! Think Lisa Gerrard more than Nightwish. Perversely, it’s the very quality of these vocals that highlights shortcomings elsewhere: the guitars don’t have the thickness that doom demands, and the programmed drums of the first tracks sound weak (a failing that’s not so evident on tracks taken from the Murky Ratmass demo recording). Murkrat feel like a band still finding their feet, and they need to decide whether to follow a heavier doom approach or drop down into extreme minimalism. Until then, promising.
Dan Hunt 2.5

Raven
Walk Through Fire
SPV
While NWOBHM heroes Venom are now widely credited with launching thrash, BM et al, the contribution of fellow Geordie contemporaries Raven – far more respected back in the day – has been somewhat underplayed of late. We may be a long way from ‘81’s insanely energetic debut, Rock Until You Drop, but the Gallagher brothers have lost none of their energy or way with a good tune. Okay, this isn’t quite as raw as their early material, but on the other hand, the fact that the band has never remotely changed its style and yet sounds relevant (rather than nostalgic) in 2010 speaks volumes about their skill as musicians and songwriters. What we have here is supercharged heavy metal, with the energy and aggression of speed/thrash but infused with the song-centric approach of classic ‘80s metal. A song like ‘Under Your Radar’ (one example of many) has something for metal fans of all persuasions – superb fast riffing, aggression, plus a catchy and memorable tune, a pinch of tongue-in-cheek humour and the trademark Raven lunacy.
Will Pinfold 4.5




Rotten Sound
Napalm
Relapse Records
Possibly a risky business for many other acts, this six-track EP from the Finnish grindcore quartet pits three Napalm Death classics against three new original tracks. Luckily, Rotten Sound are a bunch of fearsome bastards with a long-held and very healthy respect for the genre’s originators. Their own songs are classic grind, tempos like the flight path of killer bees and guitars like tinnitus, Rotten Sound growling/screaming at the garbage-tip state of Western society. For all the amusement, wordplay and thrills to be gained from grind’s muckier subgenres, it always feels like the politically minded stuff is somehow that bit uglier and angrier. The covers, one taken from each of Napalm’s first three albums, are as furious as you’d expect from a band as forceful as Rotten Sound. Their ‘Suffer The Children’ has them ramping up the treble and cutting out a minute, though truth be told, it’s unlikely even Rotten Sound would consider these versions superior to the originals. Still, it’s entertaining to hear Rotten Sound kidnap and knock them about for a bit.
Scott Mckeating 4

Simulacra
There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood

Consouling Sounds / No Angels Productions
Simulacra’s intention seems to be to create atmospheres, dark ambient canvases that can either open spaces or swallow up the listener’s reality. The aim falls short of the mark, though: these five pieces of softly colliding tones don’t crash or clash – they float by rootlessly. If there’s an attempt to nudge these tracks into some kind of focus through the anchor of their song titles, that’s not working, either. There’s little to zero context brought in from that angle, the song titles being little more than the standard ‘dark stuff’. Simulacra’s moods are too vague; the aura the music seems to be reaching for just isn’t in its grasp. The moody electrical cloud might be going for the ominous, a foreshadowing of doom/evil that’s the sound before the tsunami, but it doesn’t get there. The only thing that There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood really generates is a faux-cold – a benign and bland chill. Even when Simulacra release the reins, offering a remix spot to soundscaper Mystified, it’s a dud – simply sounding like any of the album’s tracks, just doubled up out of sync. This is music that moves around the edges of a void, but is so dull that the void seems more appealing.
Scott McKeating 1

Skullflower
Strange Keys To Untune Gods’ Firmament
Neurot Recordings
Interesting to see a release from one of the elder statesmen of noise on Neurot Recordings. Thankfully, potential exposure to Neurot’s captive audience comes on the back of an album that doesn’t disappoint. With a project such as Skullflower, there’s often the risk of ‘preaching to the converted’, each consecutive release soon becoming the haunt of collectors and completists, with the rest left scrabbling in the dust, not a clue where to begin.
For the unconverted, the main thing that separates this is the fact that mainman Bower primarily utilises guitars and amps, as opposed to the array of unusual weaponry generally wielded by his peers. Waves of feedback drenched in reverb wash from the speakers whilst fleeting hallucinatory melodies clash and flow, shifting as soon as becoming recognisable – a massive furnace of hissing, subterranean industry, a cacophony of delicious overload, an overture of shrieking hell. Yet, though the horrific atmospheres built are alluring and focussed, one could concede that it’s slightly overdone, meaning that after the first half of the album, there’s a lack of impact to the progressions. Perhaps this is the reason for its release as a double-album, with the first CD by far the harsher of the two. Amidst its cacophonous drone, there’s a plethora of barbed, jagged spikes, leading to more combative state of mind. Meanwhile, a shroud of by-turns-soothing / -distressing aural static rips, tears and rends in a grinding, glacial iceberg of crushing force. On the second CD, a softer, out-of-focus aura comes to the foreground, shedding the more hostile moments to bathe the listener in a wending, vaporous static.
Every listen leaves a different impression; an antagonistic mood may be tempered to a calm acceptance. A calm relaxation fades to a restless provocative hunger. Densely layered, euphoric pulsing abandon. Skullflower represent purity in noise, without resort to coarse nihilism, cheap shock tactics or pseudo-artistic student nonsense.
Cormac O’Síocháin 4

Stairway
Interregnum
TSM/Stairway
Stairway were unlucky in that they began their career in traditional heavy metal just as it became passé, which, in conjunction with their Christian lyrics, makes them about the least fashionable band ever. The band’s fifth album offers little in the way of novelty, but it’s a solid, classy album, influenced by bands like Dio, Saxon and Maiden; and the material is strong throughout, though the production could be better. Most importantly, the band are blessed with the excellent vocals of Graeme Leslie, a powerful singer in the mould of the great Tony Martin.
Will Pinfold 3.5

Syn:drom
With Flesh Unbound
Vicisolum
Swedish death metal in a geographical sense only, SYN:DROM construct their sound based on an obsession with the American school and notably the likes of Hate Eternal, Nile and Morbid Angel. Added to this, they display an appreciation of the sort of technical death metal pioneered by Meshuggah, although SYN:DROM’s unusual drum patterns lack the organic feel of those of their countrymen. These ingredients might leave some salivating, but With Flesh Unbound rarely exceeds the sum of its parts and has the feel of an album created by a computer program after being fed a list of requisite ingredients for a technical death metal album. Ignoring the riff-carving mastery of Swedish bands such as Entombed and Dismember, SYN:DROM instead try to fit as many short-lived riffs into a song as is humanly possible. Blastbeat fiends will probably be satiated and mathematically minded technique geeks, too, but ignoring their wonderful Swedish death metal heritage in favour of a bland, technical and decidedly generic stylised work devoid of that special death metal feeling will prohibit this from being enjoyed by many an ardent death-head.
Geoff Birchenall 2

The Truth About Frank
Neon

Fractured Light
Experimental and confusingly chaotic, the truth about The Truth About Frank is that they’re lobbing too few ideas into the pot and stirring them till the spoon snaps. Concentrating on post-industrial rough-ambient moods, this Leeds duo aren’t really getting across anything new or interesting to those who’ve dabbled here before. Too much of the sound here is massively dense and repetitive, and this leaves few ideas – aside from the ones repeated ad infinitum – getting any real exposure. On the whole, Neon Fractured Light feels poorly composed and could do with a real stern edit of the more monotonous loops.
Scott McKeating
1.5


Virulence
If This Isn’t A Dream… 1985-1989
Southern Lord
Rescued from the archives, this disc is a reworking of pre-Fu Manchu band Virulence’s 1989 album If This Isn’t A Dream to include some of their earlier recordings. This represents a comprehensive documenting of the band’s material up until vocalist Ken Pucci’s departure. Musically influenced by late ‘70s punk, Sabbath and early hardcore, when not emulating Black Flag’s intensity, Virulence down-tune and turn up the sludge factor, resulting in some rather sloppy stoner-doom fillers. Pucci’s on-the-edge yelled vocal delivery owes immensely in style to Dez Cadena, yet adds the hardcore intensity that at times elevates the songs from turgid to patchily invigorating. The undoubted highlight of the album material is the well-constructed ‘Kindergarten’, and the live material carries that authentic punk essence. However, the fact that the live and unreleased early tracks are far more exciting is perhaps indicative of the band’s direction towards boring ‘SoCal’ skater territory in the later Fu Manchu incarnation. So, although the pre-’89 stuff could pique the interest of punk collectors, if the album’s title were a question, the answer would probably be, “It’s a nightmare.”
Geoff Birchenall 2

Various Artists
Eleven Notes In Black
Mask Of The Slave Records
Subtitled Various Houston Artists Noise Compilation, these 11 tracks of harsh Houston noise are probably as extreme as anything else this issue has to offer. Compiled by noise musician Richard Ramirez, it’s obviously heavy going – and taken in a single sitting, it’s tantamount to a self-inflicted dose of the bends. As with any genre, though, and especially with exceedingly harsh noise like this, there are the plodders, the followers and the front line – even if they are all dealing in the same extremities in sound. Even though noise often deals in (and with) abstraction, it’s still pretty clear that some of the work here isn’t as interesting as others. Among the better tracks here are a couple by a few of more recognisable names, including Ramirez and the also sadly controversially / idiotically monikered Last Rape. Much of the material here is of the same ol’ effects-pedals-overdrive variety, heavy static noise that’s still wallpaper despite its excess. Houston might well be keeping it absolutely ultra-fucking-harsh, but they might’ve wanted to display a bit more variety at the same time.
Scott McKeating 2.5

Zebadiah Crowe
‘Grawle ’ – The Many Deaths Of The Great Beast
Apocrypha Records
As openers on Marduk’s recent UK tour, I was eager to check out these British black metallers. This is by no means an easy bill to get on, and the Marduk stamp of approval has certainly never disappointed this writer. Sadly, Zebediah Crowe’s excellently titled first full-length album is not what I’d hoped it to be, however. The band’s sound is certainly grim and is fantastically necro and savage at times, particularly towards the beginning of the album. Conversely, what I find very obstructive is the constant use of eerie non-musical passages of sinister background noise that are employed to join most of the tracks together. These parts seem to go on forever, and rather than add to the atmosphere of the album, they just irritate and distract me from the fairly compelling music that keeps getting interrupted. If you listen to the music alone, then there is a lot to enjoy and get stuck into, but as a complete album, I can’t help feeling frustrated as I try to work my way through it.
Paul Floyer 2

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