ZT REVIEWS: 30 RELEASES UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT, FROM MAIDEN TO RIPPING DEATH…

ZERO TOLERANCE MAGAZINE | EXCLUSIVE ONLINE REVIEWS

It’s 2016 and we’re clearing the decks for the next 8 issues of Zero Tolerance Magazine. It’d be blasphemous to leave the reviews in this post unpublished, so here they are for you to tuck into exclusively online as we carry on putting together issue 071 (onsale 12 February 2016). Feel free to share this post! 

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

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LEAD REVIEWS

iron maidenIron Maiden
The Book Of Souls
Parlophone
Even after all these years there is something that still resonates with my inner child about buying a new Maiden album and something altogether curious, joyful and yet conflicting about sitting here reviewing The Book Of Souls. You need to take a long deep breath and step outside yourself and be objective, this is Iron Maiden for fuck’s sake. The face that launched a thousand ships so to speak. Bruce’s battle with cancer has shined a more introspective light on what might very well be the final album of the bands’ career; mortality is not something my younger self even associated with Maiden, and it’s obviously the same for so many people over the band’s rehabilitation and rise to bona fide religious status since Brave New World that contemplating a world without Bruce and without Maiden seemed unbelievable. Surely it was?

Anyway look, if you are expecting the blitzkrieg bop of Flight Of Icarus or Wrathchild then you are really at the wrong show and might as well skip the page. Iron Maiden 2015 is age appropriate and these are epic, sprawling semi-prog statements of intent that take time to reach a conclusion. Opener ‘If Eternity Should Fail’ is strong and confident but immediately casts a long shadow of introspection over the whole album; Bruce is very much in the driving seat thematically and he has mortality on his mind. Some of the album smacks of his dark night of the soul in a bare way that perhaps a band reaching their endgame can only have. Musically, the last couple of albums are generally somewhat interchangeable – and on occasion, like on ‘Death Or Glory’, you get a glimpse of the old powerslaving Maiden that galloped to the field of battle with swords drawn. With an album of such weighty intent of course some of it is ponderous, and the likes of ‘Tears Of A Clown’ labour the point. You might wish for a little more daring and bite in Kevin Shirley’s production, but Maiden don’t give a fuck. In fact, writing a review itself seems kinda pointless; this is a band on a different journey, writing a last chapter in bold strides. If you want to join and take the time this album needs it will reward you, if you can’t it won’t affect the trajectory of this album one bit. This is a band writing purely for themselves.
alan averill 4.5

sarcofagoSarcófago
Die… Hard
Greyhaze
Bucketful’s of bootlegged Sarcófago demo collections with varying sound quality have been in circulation for decades, so it was about time that Cogumelo joined forces with Greyhaze Record to release an official compilation (15 years after the band’s last official release; the Crust E.P). And hence let us delve into 20 tracks of pure filth. The major talking point here will be the unreleased first demo (consisting of the same tracks as the infamous 1986 Satanic Lust tape) with two alternate rehearsal/live recordings of ‘Intro Da Satanas’, ‘Satanas’, ’Nightmare’, and ’The Third Slaughter’. Nothing brings a fanatical fan quite as close to orgasmic pleasure – or indeed the band – as an early days’ rehearsal. The energy is incomparable, the raw (lack of) skills makes way for sheer rage and frustration to penetrate the unsuspecting tape recorder (audibly struggling to capture the extent of evil it’s been exposed to). D.D. Crazy forgets his parts and misses fills, guitars drift from one speed to another, Wagner is going fucking mental… It’s perfect imperfection and way rawer than the first official cassette. Sounding fairly similar to Franta Štorm on the earth shattering Master’s Hammer demos, as well as early Mercyful Fate releases (on the falsetto front) the vocals are at their most infuriated. A big shout therefore goes out to the label for uncovering this essential piece of history.

On top of to the wildly spread Satanic Lust, The Black Vomit (1986), Christ’s Death (1987) demos, we are served rehearsal takes of ’I.N.R.I.’, ’Alcoholic Coma’, ’Secrets Of A Window’, and an heavily rejigged instrumental, sing-along version of ’Satanic Lust’ (at least you can now bring your own karaoke song to your company’s dumbass social event).

No matter how you like your Sarcófago, you can probably find something you haven’t heard before on this compilation. Die… Hard is a definite must for any serious fan of these legendary Brazilian maniacs.
miika virtanen 5

saxonSaxon
Battering Ram
UDR
Let’s face it, Saxon have been around for a good wee while now – since 1978 to be precise. They are elderly men with grandchildren; but is this a scene for old men? As youngsters their excitement and hubris skyrocketed them into the rock star zenith. From Yorkshire they appeared, yielding cups of tea and bikecurious spirit to explore. They have gone from a relentless pub fixture to all-time Wacken favourites. From poverty stricken zeroes to heavy metal heroes. Throughout this time it seems very little has changed musically, which is something metal fans adore. But after almost forty is there really still fuel to burn?

With 2013’s Sacrifice well received amongst fan and the London show earlier this year having been such a blast (with newer tracks fitting right into an old school set, along with showcasing new ‘hit’ and title track ’Battering Ram’, any Saxon fan would find themselves rubbing them leather gloves together in eager anticipation.

Having spoken with Biff [Byford, vocals] in the studio for ZT #65, he was difficult to read, almost on auto-pilot, no doubt distracted by the ongoing process. Has routine kicked in to such a degree that every album is just an inevitable job-related matter… a case of ticking some boxes and covering your ass for a paycheck? Does the flame still burn? End of the day, it’s a yes and a no. The production may be clean as a whistle, but the songs have got some major balls to them. Yes, there’s plenty of that chorus-driven Open Air stuff (just take the closer ’Three Sheets To The Wind (The Drinking Song)’) and the severe lack of pacier songs, but that original Saxon spirit has never left the band. The absolute highlight on the record is the unusual but powerful, WW1 tribute ’Kingdom Of The Cross’. It’s a solid album and worth a listen, but were Saxon to go one for another 10 years it’s doubtful that any of these numbers would keep their place in the live setlist.
miika virtanen 3

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MAIN REVIEWS

corrections houseCorrections House
Know How To Carry A Whip
Neurot
WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALMIGHTY FUCK? When Corrections House first starting making noise a couple years back I was immediately paying attention. Comprised of Neurosis’ Scott Kelly and Eyehategod’s Mike Williams, two men’s work which has represented some of the most crucial contributions to progressive extreme music from the ‘80s onwards, the initial emanations were curious oddities. With the group completed by Sanford Parker, Seward Fairbury and Bruce Lamont, 2013’s debut Last City Zero was…just alright. In comparison, Know How To Carry A Whip makes that album seem like an inchoate dictaphone recording of semi-formed ideas. This is an astonishingly complete statement of pure bile, bringing to mind mid-period Neurosis (Souls… up to Through…) and mid-period Swans together with the most confident of Ministry, Godflesh and even Depeche Mode. The beats and intent are reminiscent of contemporary backwards-glancing techno minions Vatican Shadow and Ancient Methods, while the vocals are 100% Kelly and Williams. The production is concise and exciting, both roomy and claustrophobic. The titles and lyrics are serpentine and elusively alluring. Everything here is gold and the album’s 45 minutes simply fly past…consider me blown away.
cormac o’síocháin 5

denner - shermannDenner / Shermann
Satan’s Tomb
Metal Blade
Yours truly has been closely following the emergence of the Denner / Shermann project since its first surfacing. Quite obviously featuring the two Mercyful Fate guitarists responsible for the bliss that is Don’t Break The Oath and Melissa: Hank Shermann and Michael Denner. The pair is joined by former King Diamond drummer Snowy Shaw, and together the trio deliver an absolute firework of riffing and songwriting mastery. Seriously, it feels like a lost Mercy album. Vocals are handled by the fairly unknown Sean Peck – frontman of US bands Cage and Death Dealer. Unfortunately, it is the newcomer who lets the team down. Whilst there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with the vocals, there just isn’t much to them full stop. Consisting of try-hard Bruce Dickinson-esque belting mixed with Agent Steel’s Cyriis’ style lows (without the falsetto), the constant power-metal-driven patterns overcrowd and ruin these songs, at times rendering them unlistenable. From time to time, Peck reaches towards the heights of the King, reminding us repeatedly how badly the old master is missed. One can only hope this leads to further collaboration of the two axemen – they certainly haven’t lost it!
suburban genocider 3

grave ritualGrave Ritual
Morbid Throne
Dark Descent
One of Dark Descent’s original bands from the birth-year 2010, Alabama’s Grave Ritual (ex- Meathole Infection) hereby present their second full-length offering Morbid Throne; five years in the making. Alas, their blend of occult doom/death metal has come in abundance in recent years, transforming from Incantation-worship to a whole new blend of aping. The poor guitar’s four bottom threads and two thickest strings are played come hell and high water, void of a single moment of personal touch. Boxes are carefully ticked throughout, be it the cover, the titles, that infuriatingly ‘catchy’ mundane repetition of ’Masters And Slaves’  (sounds like Excoriate in a bad way) or the clichéd (but actually quite badass) lead in ’Lewd Perversities’; highlights such as ’Tyrant’s Hammer’ are few and far between. Fuck the kvlt brotherhood – the bar has been lowered to a record depth and this needs to stop. Metal has become a cheap hobby like Zumba with old school DM now the hip cool thing. Sure wish it was still just home taping that was killing music.
suburban genocider 2

himinbjorgHiminbjorg
Wyrd
Osmose
French horde Himinbjorg have treated us to their unique homage to Scandinavian Viking history since their 1998 inception and Wyrd marks the band’s first release in five years. I’ll admit to having been particularly underwhelmed by much of their post-millennial material, but as the sampled stream, wistful bagpipes and battle cries of the intro are brought to a close by Zahaah’s Misanthrope-esque anguished screams and the powerful ‘The Sword Of Dignity’ kicks in, Wyrd proves an altogether more intoxicating proposition. Our Gallic friends seem to have taken a bit of a leaf out of Falkenbach’s prodigious book in recapturing the essence of what makes them an endearing and powerful proposition and the blend of dynamic, captivating mid-paced black metal, epic chants and spiteful snarls is far more heady than anything they’ve come up with in many a year. I’m not about to declare that Wyrd is destined to carry Himinbjorg to the top of what is a veritable mountain of Viking-worshipping blackened metal bands, but if the endless grey of November and December have ushered the black dog in, Wyrd certainly has a chance of getting the blood pumping once more.
geoff birchenall 4

mirrorMirror
Mirror
Metal Blade
OK, so let’s form a band. Let’s involve members from three countries, and let’s have them come from blackened thrash, grind and doom backgrounds. Now, just for a laugh, let’s have them play heavy metal/hard rock in the classic style. Won’t that be the bitch’s tits? Well, only if it works. With the band, album and title track sharing the same name, the trifecta has been achieved, and we eagerly hope the band realises that this song will be the one by which they are judged. On that front,  ‘Mirror’ succeeds admirably, early Maiden energy and vocals reminiscent of Mathias Blad from labelmates Falconer planting Mirror’s foot firmly in the trad metal arena. Stumbles along the way include the Slough Feg-on-estrogen ‘Curse Of The Gypsy’ and utterly laborious ‘Year Of The Red Moon’, the latter being slapped together as if swept from Uriah Heep’s cutting floor. ‘Heavy King’, however pushes the redline, an ideal freeway driving anthem if ever there was.  ‘Cloak Of A Thousand Swords’ keeps the pace, and Mirror reveals itself to be at its best when letting its uptempo material carry the weight. This Mirror deserves its place on the wall, but is, at this point, not the fairest of them all.
lord randall  2.5

monolitheMonolithe
Epsilon Aurigae
Debemur Morti
In all honesty, I was fairly happy when Monolithe drew their four-album cycle to an end with 2013’s Monolithe IV. Great though it was (and I seem to be one of the few who prefer it to Monolithe III) there was a nagging feeling that everything had been said and done. Time to move on. And so they have, and then some. Gone are the single-track releases – instead Epsilon Aurigae is neatly split into three tracks, each clocking in at exactly 15 minutes. Synths, which have played a role in earlier Monolithe records, are given a more promintent role, which allows the band to venture into in-depth melodic explorations. Heaviness abounds, of course – check out the crushing mid-section of opener ‘Synoecist’ – and reminds us that doom still lies at Monolithe’s heart, albeit with a distinctly cosmic aura. But in Epsilon Aurigae, Monolithe also embrace the bombast – final track ‘Everlasting Sentry’ being a case in point – which, almost perversely, renders the oppressive uplifting.
calum harvie 4

nachtliederNachtlieder
The Female Of The Species
I, Voidhanger
Despite the naff cover what’s contained within this second album by Swede Dagny Susanne is pretty good in places. Its main area of success is in its ability to create a dark and foreboding atmosphere in the places where discordance is allowed to reign. On the other hand, there’s not really that much to write home about in the songwriting department. It never strays far from the ‘average’ line, and while there are occasional moments that could give top-level black metal a run for its money there are too many others that fall short of a pass. Sometimes this just sounds too busy, too bombastic, and that’s as much down to the layers in the compositions themselves as it is to the fact that the production often fails to find their sweet spots in the mix. There are enough ups and downs here to keep it all from sounding the same but the bottom line is that by the time ‘Eve’ has even heralded the album’s mid-point interest wanes considerably and there’s little that the remaining four tunes can do to reignite it.
john norby 3

procreationProcreation
Incantations Of Demonic Lust For Corpses Of The Fallen
NWN!
Hailed by the press-sheet as a long forgotten gem of the Ross Bay Cult (made infamous by the war beasts of Blasphemy), Vancouver’s Procreation were active from 1989 to 1993, releasing two demos. Consisting of 25 minutes of music, Rebirth Into Evil (1990) and Coming Of Hate (1991) now make up this excellent comp. Also related to North Delta thrashers Witches Hammer via the drummer John E. Prizmic (who died of a drug overdose in 1997), Incantations Of Demonic Lust For Corpses Of The Fallen is more sonically allied with the likes of Morbid Angel, Death, and Sepultura. The nine tracks here are raw old school extreme metal, performed with honest passion and genuine aggression. Sure, the songwriting ain’t particularly defined and the bass on the second demo feeds back heavily making it sound like Seth Putnam – but ultimately, the pure metal spirit prevails! Despite some pointless reissues in the past, Nuclear War Now! has truly uncovered a lost gem here.
suburban genocider 4

raventaleRaventale    
Dark Substance Of Dharma    
Badmoodmanmusic
It’s been a number of years since I last caught up with Raventale (think it was the unfortunately titled Bringer Of Heartsore, but fuck if I know), and little to nothing has changed for this one-man Ukrainian band. And that, if you’re hearing Raventale for the first time, is a good thing: this is that woozy, gooey type of black metal where you can throw around words like ‘mystical’ and ‘pagan’  and ‘woodland glory’ with equal measure and arrive at pretty much the same place, all the while avoiding the most mawkish, nerdish excesses of the middle-named. As such, it’s a by-now-standard template set in this post-Nokturnal Mortum/Drudkh landscape, but what gets this over are the synths, ever so delicately mixed and simply doing their thing, un-ornately played but ornately effective. But, all that said, Dark Substance Of Dharma is a lush place to reside in while it’s on but not one to return to with much frequency, and I say that as someone with a half-embarrassed bias for such. The ticket’s there, at least.
nathan t. birk 3.5

spectral loreSpectral Lore
Gnosis
I, Voidhanger
I like Spectral Lore’s idea of using the EP format as a vehicle whereby an artist can indulge in something which deviates from the conventions of their cannon. Mind you, it’s arguably stretching the definition of ‘EP’ a little when a recording lasts for nearly 50 minutes, as Gnosis does. No matter: here Ayloss’ takes on the task of interpreting aspects of Greek folk music, specifically those elements influenced by music of the near and middle east. This is black metal, but it’s of a slowly evolving variety where themes, both musical and conceptual, are explored from a number of angles. There are vocals, but they are subsumed into the fabric of the songs, either ‘just there’ or hinted at. Elsewhere, light and shade proliferate, their contrast starkest in the contemplative calm of the acoustic ‘For Aleppo’ in which an angular melody weaves its way in and out of a gentle but persistent drone. Stand out track, however, it the lengthier ‘A God Made Of Flesh And Consciousness’ which is constructed around an almost (western) neo-classical structure, encapsulating the harmonic narrative of the whole EP in one composition.
calum harvie 4

various artistsVarious Artists
4 Doors To Death
Unspeakable Axe
A 4-way split featuring death metal from the US and Canada: Cemetery Filth; Ectovoid; Sabbatory; and Trenchrot. Cemetery Filth hail from Tennessee and Georgia, but their music is very much rooted in ’80s Florida. Think Obituary, think Death – ‘Cosmic Wraiths’ has more than a few unadulterated Schuldiner moments – and you get the idea. They play solid, unreconstructed death metal – what’s not to like? Alabama’s Ectovoid slow matters dones a little, the emphasis more on feel and atmosphere. Kinda like Incantation in places, particularly in the vocals, but a little more loose. Sabbatory remind me a lot of early Morgoth – frenetic and rasping – and their debut album last year (Endless Asphyxiating Gloom) was a decent nostalgia trip. It’s more of the same here: the unholy skullduggery of ‘Ascension To My Holy Tomb’ sounds like it could sit quite happily within Cursed. TrenchRot owe a lot to their European progenitors, too. They contribute three tracks of war themed death metal which harks back to the gnarlier moments of Benediction, Bolt Thrower and Asphyx – the slower ‘Hell Pilot’s Call’ being their strongest offering.
calum harvie 3

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SHORT REVIEWS

apparatusApparatus
Apparatus
Lavadome
An ambitious debut, this, from Copenhagen’s Apparatus which flirts at once with the esoteric end of the death metal spectrum and also black metal with avant garde aspirations. Dissonant and discordant, Apparatus clearly owe a debt of gratitude to Portal – they even go for that anonymous face thing on stage – and sometimes it’s a little too stark. But their swirling, miasmic death metal is bold and fascinating, occasionally hypnotic, bolstered by adventurous and unexpected musical segues such as the jarring piano passages in ‘Spheres’ or the fractured guitar of ‘R’lyeh’.
ch 3

akraikArkaik
Lucid Dawn
Unique Leader
Southern California was a hive for death metal around the turn of the millennium, pumping out release after release of top-quality brutality, with Unique Leader providing a home for many including Deeds Of Flesh, Severed Savior, Decrepit Birth and Odious Mortem. The bands mentioned here all became predisposed with getting ‘tech’, began sharing members and essentially all became the same band, putting out releases that all sounded the same, effectively turning what may have been a good idea into a horrible one that got old extremely quickly. Arkaik are a product of their environment, simply following suit in this manner. Top marks for musicianship, zero for originality. Boring.
tb 2

carved upCarved Up
Matador
Crowquill
Had made my mind up that I was going to like this before even pressing play when I had a glance at the track list. ‘We Built Riff City’? ‘Riffer Phoenix’? Guys? Anyway, Carved Up sound like they started life as a These Arms Are Snakes covers band, who took a break from rehearsal to saunter down to see the Failure reunion tour and came away with a plan for world domination. It’s not as polished a product as either of the aforementioned bands yet, but the constituent parts are there in abundance. A solid debut.
mi 3.5

conflictedConflicted
Under Bio-Lence
Sick Bangers
There seems to be an endless supply of savage thrash metal outfits around at the moment, breathing life – yet again – into the genre that refuses to die. Some of the most convincing examples of this current violent breed hail from South America and Chile in particular. We recently had the explosive Formula For Anarchy from the rejuvenated Nuclear and now this speedball of riff excess from their countrymen Conflicted. While not quite as devastating as Nuclear, Conflicted still bristle with violent energy and are relentless in their drive and attack. Under Bio-lence features nine pit-ready anthems – and an obligatory interlude – that will snap necks at 50 paces.
ck 3

corrosive carcassCorrosive Carcass
Forsaken Lands
Xtreem Music
This is the second album from Corrosive Carcass and will appeal to anyone who’s ever invested any time in the likes of Carnage and Nihilist. While the opening broken glass frenzy of ‘Blood Ritual’ is entirely predictable the Swedes have other cards to play and are just as impressive when the tempo winds its neck in on the grinding ‘Prosecuted At Birth’. There’s no attempt to smooth edges through the production, and on songs such as ‘Of The Flesh’ it’s sandpaper rough. At times the buzzsaw guitar, such as on the eight-minute ‘Memories’, threatens to slice your hand off.
pcas 3

ctuluCtulu
Sarkomand
Static Tension
Originally released in 2011 but now being reissued, and all I can ask is: why? Not that the music’s shite. It just sounds like a thousand other black metal records from the early 2000s: speedy but not concertedly aggressive, like they’re trying to gut you or anything; kinda rowdy when it downshifts, but I sorta think they were going for something ‘triumphant’; quite melodic on the whole, but most likely down to the nature of tremolo BM riffing; and the kick-drums have a big, plastic sound which paradoxically I find kinda cool. Otherwise, go listen to early Azaghal if you want this sort of thing but far better.
ntb 2

evil driveEvil Drive
The Land Of The Dead
Mighty Music
Christ, this is tough going. The label likes to call it melodic metal and that’s accurate enough in simple terms. What they fail to point out is that it’s also utterly unoriginal and sub-standard when it comes to everything that makes a band interesting: the riffs and arrangements have been done (much better) countless times by numerous acts over the years, the execution is at times only passable and the production is decidedly limp. No amount of repeat plays is going to let this – a throwback to the cheapo melodic death/thrash deluge of the early-2000s – sink in and endear the average listener.
jn 0.5

hellishHellish
Theurgist’s Spell
Blood Harvest
More madness from Chile, this time in the form of a 7” vinyl release for Hellish’s Theurgist’s Spell, which appeared on CD and cassette back in the summer. Vinyl is definitely the most appropriate format for these four tracks of wild, blackened thrash, spawned in the same infernal cauldron that gave birth to Kreator and Sodom many decades ago. The production is raw and bloody, the riffs dirty and vicious, the vocals bestial, the songwriting a carnage strewn head-on collision between Pleasure To Kill and Outbreak Of Evil. Nothing new or groundbreaking, but a pretty faultless display of wanton violence nonetheless.
ck 4

maledictvsMaledictvs
In Rebellion With Him By Nature
Inhuman Assault
The production on a lot of this is really fucked: either drum-programming gone a bit too awry (note that I said “too”) or recorded in some really weird, at-home manner where beat-replacement also goes awry (but not too here, because beat-replacement by virtue’s a kinda-crappy thing) and the kick-drums thusly blow the speakers in a manner most speedcore. Which is really odd, because Maledictvs feature Thornspawn drummer Blackthorn, and I’ve seen the dude play drums. Anyway, it doesn’t detract too much (note that I said “too”) from the scrappy, kinda-triumphant black metal on hand – not unlike earliest Varathron and Rotting Christ, but simultaneously and rendered in demo form – but methinks better is still to come.
ntb 2.5

nadraNaðra
Allir Vegir Til Glotunar
Signal Rex
Icelandic black metal band Naðra’s debut album gets off to a storming start with ‘Fjallið’, a song which has some of the dynamic fury of early Gorgoroth, but with a more epic, heroic (almost uplifting) feel and less of the chilling solemnity that made Infernus’ riffs so iconic. The other four songs are not too dissimilar, though ‘Sál’ benefits from a superbly ragged, bellowing vocal. An impressively tight and tuneful debut, if not a varied one; definitely very much worth checking out, but there are probably better things to come from Naðra.
wp 3

ripping deathRipping Death
Tales Of The Ripper
Iron Bonehead
There may only be four tracks on this limited edition cassette EP from Ripping Death, but each one is an absolute beast. When that bass kicks in at the beginning of ‘Night Ripper’ I’m sold. I need this. You need this too if you can’t get enough Master or play Terrorizer’s World Downfall at regular intervals. The production here is perfection, couldn’t be better for this filthy, catchy, unstoppable punk tinged death metal and the inclusion of a Cianide cover (‘Rage War’) is a masterstroke. Even the cover art is spot on! Bloody brilliant.
ck 4.5

venefixionVenefixion
Defixio
Iron Bonehead
It is a common misconception that the members of Venefixion are anything but French. But then it is a mostly accurate misconception that all France can conjure these days is boring as fuck overproduced black/death. Well, I’m happy to report the Defixio is the exception that proves the rule. This blistering four-track debut demo takes no prisoners, playing intense old school extreme metal, bringing to mind early Autopsy and Morbid Angel. The production is spot on and filthy, perfectly conveying the intensity of the music. A great find by Iron Bonehead – more please!
sg 4

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SELF-RELEASES

re-armedRe-Armed
Total Lack Of Communication
Being completely unaware of this band until now, it’s a bit worrying to read in their press release that they formed to play music in the Gothenburg style. Thankfully that was 14 years ago and regardless of how they might sound on their previous demos and albums, this EP bears only minor (and fixable) scars of the genre, mainly in the odd guitar part and the – it must be said – awful generic in-unison vocal parts. Some nice cues from Carcass’ Heartwork are to be had here, making this death/thrash three-tracker a bit more interesting than it might otherwise have been.
jn 3

murashitaMurashita
Inescapable Damnation
Masaki Murashita is without doubt an extremely talented guy; I love his harsh, clear, insanely OTT vocal style, his songwriting skills are solid and his guitar playing is beyond reproach. Somehow, though, this EP didn’t really do it for me, despite the presence of David Ellefson and Kevin Talley. The title song is great, exuberant, uplifting metal, but supercharged modern thrash is best in small doses, and after five tracks of big, shiny, uptempo shredding and riffing something with more depth was required. Definitely good for what it is, but maybe one for the kids?
wp 3

grey skies fallenGrey Skies Fallen
Earthwalker
NYC five-piece Grey Skies Fallen occupy that tenuously monikered terrain: ‘dark metal’. As the band ready themselves for a full-length, they’ve whet our appetites by releasing this two track taster of an EP for free on their Bandcamp page – a move that is likely to become increasingly popular. Perhaps it is the potent blend of choral, growled and epic metal vocals that grabs the limelight, at once recalling Ulver, Candlemass and Amorphis. Musically, the band has most in common with the latter, although ‘Safe Passage’ especially, shows a strong appreciation for doom. The 12 minutes fly pleasantly by without being particularly spectacular, but GSF are a band to watch for.
gb 3

Them
Forever Burns
Lead single from the forthcoming debut album by Them, featuring Kevin Taalley [Suffocation] and Mike Lepond [Symphony X]. As the band’s name unsubtly suggests, this project is pure King Diamond worship and ‘Forever Burns’ is no exception. It’s OK, but not entirely satisfying. The band have captured the melodic spirit of King’s early solo material, and arguably have upped the stakes as far as proficiency and virtuosity go – but the vocals leave me a little cold: they soar and swoop as you would expect but the falsettos sound too processed, and as a result are missing the blood-chilling fear factor of KD.
ch 2.5

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