Short Reviews | March 12th, 2022

SHORT REVIEWS Our second chunk of March 2022 releases finds us hitting upon some solid-ish thrash metal, underground black metal mutations and a few unexpected -core and death metal outliers otherwise. I’ve done my best to grab ahold of the most interesting stuff I come across while still presenting some decent variety here. These particular selections will cover stuff released between March 1st and 18th, the next column will feature releases from beyond that time period through the end of the month. If you find something you dig in the lot of ’em, go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase. The arts require your support and/or own contributions. If you’d like your music reviewed send promos to: grizzlybutts@hotmail.com


Info:
ARTIST:CHEMICIDE
TITLE:Common Sense
LABEL(S):RipRide Records
RELEASE DATE:March 15th, 2022

Socio-politically charged thrash metal quartet Chemicide hail from San José, Costa Rica and play a classic late 80’s influenced style which focuses on hyper aggressive riffing as its major feature. Fans of early Havok, Violator and the blend of Teutonic and Bay Area classics that’d inspired them will understand where this fourth album is coming from as they cut song after song here with full energy blazing. There’ll be no denying their attack is spirited no-nonsense brutality, a sort of brisk and ripping form of grooved-out thrash that leans into gang-shouted force and menacing speed. Over the years they’ve tightened their songwriting in general, cutting to a sort of ‘Persecution Mania‘ sized blaze (see: “Disposable”) and sticking to it on their last two records but this approach becomes a sort of blunt, undynamic grinder of skulls when used for the duration of a ~40 minute thrash metal album… you’ll have to be on board for the slapping brutality of it and I generally am. A couple nods to ‘Arise‘-era Sepultura on opener “Self-Destruct” won me over immediately but as I worked my way towards the opening kicks of “Strike as One” my mind began to wander away further with each listen. This is largely due to owning hundreds of similar records from the post-2003 thrash boon and not finding a remarkable signature here on their fourth album beyond the graphic novel style cover art which frames Chemicide‘s entire discography, though this may be their worst cover to date for my tastes. Dig the sound and think these guys rip but it just didn’t land any major punches beyond the thrill of their speed, loudness and energy. I’d sure as hell go see ’em live, though.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:ARCHAIC
TITLE:The Endgame Protocol
LABEL(S):H-Music
RELEASE DATE:March 1st, 2022

Hungarian thrash metal quartet Archaic have been around in some form since 2001, pivoting from their early material as Braindeath in 2004 and releasing their debut in 2006 before falling silent for a decade beyond. Having essentially reformed in 2017 with a new vocalist and releasing a second album (‘How Much Blood Would You Shed to Stay Alive?“, 2017) they’ve shown some great resilience in combatting the global hurdles proposed by pandemia and some big line-up changes that’d left them without a vocalist during the process of this third album being created. Anyhow, for such a bleak outlook presented on such a classic-yet-modernized take on thrash metal album it does appear they’ve brought this band back with a strong will to make it happen.

As for style and substance here, this is surely the best sounding record they’ve put out and no doubt this album cover is even more evocative than their impressive prior showing. The style of thrash they play is heavily influenced by later Bay Area thrash to some degree but is perhaps generationally spawned from the melodic death metal infused ‘return’ of thrash in the early 2000’s, a modernization spurned on by albums like Kreator‘s ‘Violent Revolution‘ and the popularity of The Haunted (alongside fellow Swedeath-thrashers abounding) while still obviously owing some debts to the more melodic/groove-riffed side of Testament. Of course this isn’t really my favorite style of thrash metal, it being more rooted in the less traditional and gentrified slickening of the sub-genre in the post-millennium era, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a solid listen for any fan of popular late 80’s thrash metal songwriting and the aforementioned upscaling of it for newer generations; The arrangements and overall tunefulness of Archaic‘s work is hard to deny and I’ve found myself picking ‘The Endgame Protocol‘ up for a spin or two every couple of weeks. Not an obsession on my part but quality thrash worth recognizing.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:HYPERIA
TITLE:Silhouettes of Horror
LABEL(S):Self-Released
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

There wasn’t anything particularly special, or sincere, about Hyperia‘s 2020 debut ‘Insanitorium‘ and they’re still kinda that sort of “this is my metal face” *mouth open, teeth out* thrash I tend to avoid but this independent second full-length is an marked improvement in terms of their musical core. The riffs aren’t quite there yet, a blend of basic hammered triplet-thickened progressions and some neoclassic suggestions written for two guitars, but the tracklist is sensibly arranged in feature of eleven pieces — Though it is a way too huge 50+ minute trip they manage some solid improvement over their debut on all fronts within. There is a sort of plain faux power metallic groove achieved here which never feels like a total rut, sort of like the couple of Annihilator records after the first wherein the whole event is fairly tuneless but their exploration is still entertaining once it locks in.

Around the second half of the album vocalist Marlee Ryley has expressed much of their range between doubled power metal-esque harmonies, flat shouted barks, and a fairly dry set of growls but none of this hits a point of yeeesh until “Whitecoat” starts off with a shout that basically sounds like she’s inadvisably karate-kicked through a wall, shouting “Hi-yaah!-uhhhhh…” and I can’t begin to understand this choice. The song itself isn’t bad otherwise, I’d particularly liked the mix of shouted vocals in a sort of call-and-response with snarled lines as the piece reaches its peak intensity unto shred. I get a sort of ‘Being and Nothingness‘-era Hexen touch when they lean into certain flourishes throughout the album and I’d say it is most intense right there. By the time we’ve hit upon “Pleonexia” I see what Hyperia are getting at but I don’t feel the quality control is there, or, they’ve not honed in on what their sweet spot/pocket is which is actually power metal and this should be obvious once the Abba cover at the end fills the room back up with air.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:SLAVE AGENT
TITLE:Alternate Histories
LABEL(S):Mythic Ironworks
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

Niagara Falls, Ontario-based crew Slave Agent have an actual knack for thrash metal, they aren’t forcing shit and this debut full-length gives us a solid forty minute hammer of the right stuff (programmed drums aside) because of it. Coolguy fresh riff action delivered without frozen-shouldered anxiety on rhythm, plenty of “Nyeah!” in the vocals and big songwriting brings arena sized ideas to a seedy cyber-pub scene as these six elaborate works plug us into their sci-fi/fantasy vessel of lost souls. As ‘Alternate Histories‘ explores dystopic far-flung future realms and the follies of future times I get the sense they’re deeper into it than the usual Vektor and Power Trip rubbed idealists, bearing some serious appreciation for the action of ’84-’86 classic thrash or, I guess naturally having some serious charisma to throw around. An experience like this definitely needed to pick up the pace towards the end to drive it home and man “Parasite, the Bitter End” definitely does so in grand fashion but I will say I ultimately like the greater chill available here overall. This record was self-released digitally late last year and they put out their own CD in January so, this is largely referring to the cassette edition coming up shortly.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

https://www.mythicironworks.com/product/slave-agent-alternate-histories-cassette


Info:
ARTIST:EXTINCTION A.D.
TITLE:Culture of Violence
LABEL(S):Unique Leader Records
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

It’d be fair enough to consider Long Island, New York-based quartet Extinction A.D. an inspired evolution beyond the now relatively dormant ground covered by popular melodic hardcore group This Is Hell, wherein they’d debuted as a nails-heavy Trustkill staple in the mid-2000’s and incorporated heavier thrash, groove and metalcore interest over time. This side of the beast, assumedly driven by guitarist/vocalist Rick Jiminez and drummer Mike Sciulara, began to catch on with bills needing a band who could hang with the popular alt-metal, metalcore, and big-name modern thrash metal acts of the last ten years. You couldn’t have missed these guys on tour but at the same time you won’t hear about ’em from the snobbier side of 80’s thrash obsession due to their decidedly early-to-mid 90’s influenced attack wherein ‘Low‘ and ‘Demonic‘-era Testament, Machine Head‘s first couple records, and a pretty tough hit of Bay Area thrash bombast lands them in an accessible, professional above-ground kinda realm.

So, this band kinda smokes. I mean Sciulara is one of the more on-point drummers for this style live and this catches on record too, in fact the whole band are tightly wound to a T on ‘Culture of Violence‘ and the aggro-groove metal meets alt-metal touch to early 90’s post-nuclear thrash angst is both nostalgic and (mostly) revised of that era’s cornball antics. They’ve got riffs, hooks, can shred, and well I guess I couldn’t necessarily figure why it doesn’t stick for me beyond sounding like the stuff I grew up listening to in high school before it hit me: Dad thrash? I’m mostly kidding, anyhow, I had a great time with this record even if the melodic side of their sound doesn’t entirely land for my taste today. Only real criticism I have here that’ll be rough is that album cover. No idea what they were thinking but this album deserves a ‘Chaos A.D.‘ level visual pull-in and not the “this is our first CD-r, check our MySpace” touch.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:SLOB
TITLE:Deepwoods Shack of Sodomy
LABEL(S):Comatose Music
RELEASE DATE:March 4th, 2022

With no offense intended towards the dwindling artesian brutal death focused bloggery out there today I can’t think of a time where the niche so sorely needed more over the top idiots (a la Teufel’s Tomb) to cringe all over bands like Slob, a U.K. based brutal death metal act, and work us back to the point where brutal death was solid dumbass fun on the outside and featured some appreciation for a real work ethic on the inside. ‘Deepwoods Shack of Sodomy‘ obviously arrives with a sense of humor between the prime Zig-drawn cover art and a couple of minute sample from Deliverance (1972) kicking off the album as an intro (“Squeal Like a Pig”) and it isn’t the only redneck rape scene available to the listener on the track list. Shits pretty stupid and listening to the album on repeat means fairly long interruptions between riffs become kinda miserable — The exact right state of mind while enjoying these ‘Path of the Weakening‘ and ‘Masticate to Dominate‘ influenced chunkers, solid brutal death metal done with the same slamming rhythms and trailing-off skulled riffs brutal death was rife with circa ~1999-2005. Despite a strong walk towards the title track this album really hits its groove somewhere in the middle, picking up their biggest riffs in approach of the second half. Exemplar style without usurping any well-staked thrones.

Rating: 6 out of 10.
Info:
ARTIST:KOSTNATENI
TITLE:Ohen horí tam, kde padl
LABEL(S):Mystískaos,
Pest,
Dissociative Visions
RELEASE DATE:March 4th, 2022

Kostnatění is an experimental (read: plainly dissonant) black metal project from musician D.L. in rare form here on this EP as they interpret Turkish folk standards into rousing, prideful yet tumultuously delivered epics. Most interpretations of these songs are primarily driven by impressive voice modulation or Turkish tambur such as that of “Çay Benim Çeşme Benim” piece which is often a mandatory choice for showcase of Turkish traditional phrasing for its incredible lilting movement, in this case ever upwards in celebration of tea. The tambur is well emulated by a squirrely distorted guitar and here D.L.‘s version approaches its voicing much like a Bølzer piece pre-‘Hero‘ where dissonance is light enough that the melodies find only their most key bursting points for phrase, giving the rendition an almost heroic turn. “Plevne Marşı” a marching piece written in prideful reflection of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat of the Russians within the seeming endless Russo-Turkish Wars of the 16th-20th centuries takes on a sort of personal intimacy by comparison as a black/folk metal piece almost sounding a bit like Mystras as it lands the extensive build to kick off the song. This piece was obviously selected more for its triumphal melody than any particular theme and perhaps the other two pieces where adapted to fit that tone without losing their easier movement, “Şu Dalma’dan geçtin mi” being one of the more captivating renditions of the three provided here.

Sound quality is strong enough, clean vocals are resonant if not a bit reserved, and the drum performances from Jack Blackburn (Chaos Moon, Skáphe) fit the bill even with a bit of extra showmanship thrown in to match the heroism available here. For the dissonant black metal fan I think it’ll be refreshing enough in the sense that Kostnatění have mixed notably ornate melody, delivered in meaningful stages of narrative per their traditional folk register, with the clattering and noisome edges of black metal. It all feels and sounds entirely novel as an inspired set of covers but I’m not sure these renditions top the bevvy of treatments they’ve received as standards elsewhere. What interests me is whether or not this suggests future releases from the artist will incorporate melodic statements from their own voice on such a resonant level, that’d be truly exciting and perhaps more than a notable curio.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:ILLUMINATION
TITLE:Worship Death More Than Life
LABEL(S):Personal Records
RELEASE DATE:March 4th, 2022

Illumination are an atmospheric black metal project from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil whom are perhaps mislabeled as depressive black metal beyond their melodic style and intended emotional conveyance. Their whole gig is delivered with the scrawling guitar effects-soaked drawl of Suffering Hour and Sinmara albeit subdued to lo-fi fuzz and rock beats (see: “Lux Ferre Gnosis”) which generally incorporates elements of late 90’s melodic death/doom metal’s gothic melodicism and the truly blurring studio-hewn atmosphere. For the sake of presenting a true chasm of despair this sound design makes sense but it obscures a bit too much of the nuance available here rather than highlights it, aiming for a depressive black metal bleakness despite so much inventive movement being put into these songs. This isn’t a complaint, mind you I’d say the same of ‘Dance of December Souls‘ on some level, and this EP is enjoyably set in its certain underground feeling but there are so many ideas bustling beneath the hood here I’d just as well see them wheel out of the cave and into the open air with this sound. Major highlights include: “Occult Science”, “Venus Shukra”.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:PERSECUTORY
TITLE:Summoning the Lawless Legions
LABEL(S):Godz ov War Productions
RELEASE DATE:March 11th, 2022

Persecutory are a blackened death metal quartet out of Kadıköy, Turkey featuring members of elite groups Horrocious, Sarinvomit, and Nihil Kaos. Hints of thrash metal, early melodic black metal, and shades of bestial black/death warrior puke contribute to the austere-yet-rabid pulse of ‘Summoning the Lawless Legions‘ offering a big step up in bombast and pace compared to their first album back in 2017. But sure, that enormous sound and the loud-clapping thunder of each drum hit makes a solid first impression ’til the realization sets in that they’ve set it to ten throughout the ~38 minute album and this ends up droning on a bit as similar feats highlight each song thereafter. With the drum levels set so high in the mix the experience becomes more about stately brutality rather than the trip through many realms promised by opener “As the Serpents Descend”. Each of these five pieces blend together in motion but there are a few big highlights for my taste, namely “Adorned In Primeval Seas” which especially recalls Sarinvomit‘s riffing in its thrashier aspects and the later Necrophobic-esque “The Blazing Spheres” which closes the album.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:BLAZEMTH
TITLE:The Return of Lucifer
LABEL(S):Xtreem Music
RELEASE DATE:March 15th, 2022

Active for just a handful of years in the early 90’s, just as the second wave left its most memorable mark, Barcelona’s re-arisen black metal fellowes Blazemth aren’t necessarily well known for their two EPs released in 1995 and 1996 respectively but they do still represent that peak Scandinavia-dominated arena of black metal quite well in hindsight, fumbling through the use of keyboard melody on ‘For Centuries Left Behind‘ and making their sort of generic yet inspired major statement with the notable ‘Fatherland‘ EP — a collectors item for its album artwork alone. They’d had a solid knack for the riffs back then, and the potential was there gauging by their first 4-5 years in action, but they’d surely got lost in the crowd before quitting in 1997. Twenty years later guitarist/vocalist and co-founder Volkhaar still has a well-shaped, fairly straightforward ideal in mind when writing riff-first black metal, wherein simple progressions and menacing phrases are presented with atmospheric flair speaking to the more ornate bluntness of old. I wasn’t on board with this record until “Inferno” hit, giving a certain Satanic warmth to a piece heavily inspired by the cold Scandinavian melodicism of Necrophobic and thrall to the first Emperor album’s spirit, dialed into the mood and taking me for a ride. Beyond that point “Visions of My Dark Soul” additionally emphasizes the sense that the artist has purposefully picked up where they’d left off in 1996 and rebuilt it with that most-classic technique in hand. I could say as much about any other song on the tracklist. Black metal was/is truly at its best with an intense neoclassic dramatic bent to it to some degree and this is really all that ‘The Return of Lucifer‘ needs to hold up to several listens. There isn’t a bad song on here and I suppose it is because they keep it simple throughout.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:HELLBORE
TITLE:Panopticon
LABEL(S):Self-Released
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

Modern progressive death metal duo Hellbore incorporate elements of technical deathcore into their sound on this well curated debut full-length yet they never fully lean into their technical side, instead opting for bigger grooves and dramatic presentation for effect. While this style of prog-death isn’t my preference I can appreciate the ride that ‘Panopticon‘ presents and the professional sound recording they’ve managed, which sets the keyboards in the armpit of the recording so that they can be subtly directive when called for. The riffs kinda run dry for me between “Angel Slayer” and “Panopticon II” but the full listen nonetheless narrates itself with some sense. A fine first listen but my interest tended to wane beyond the first few songs with successive listens.

Rating: 6 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:NEQUIENT
TITLE:Darker than Death or Night
LABEL(S):Nefarious Industries
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

Chicago-based death-metallic hardcore quartet have come back bigger and better on this second full-length, keeping their molten death-crusted sound and spastic-core rhythm driven sound while working in some noise rock influenced swagger for a few slower, edgier pieces. “Minotaur” hit especially hard for its crust punk jogged intro, metalcore guts, and a breakdown finale into a death/doom spiked tail. They’ve hit upon a sound that rocks out kinda weird, never looping back into more than the general punk-rocking forth of it, moreso than the usual Converge-core, neocrust and Child Bite-level mash-up that occasionally dusts up here and there. I’m up for the frayed nerves and especially the noise rock side of things (see: “Wrongs”). Sub-genre qualifiers start to feel irrelevant as the record hauls on but most all of ‘Darker than Death or Night‘ manages a mood, a riff, and it never feels like they’re crutching up on a lack of ideas or falling back on any boundaries between a crust-sped push in whatever direction intended.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.

Info:
ARTIST:WRACK
TITLE:Repulsive Gravity
LABEL(S):King of Sticks Records
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

Repulsive Gravity‘ finds this solo project from Oakland-area musician Tyler Cox (Thought Leaders, The Mass) pushing his post-hardcore/metalcore influenced post-metal sound further into proggy yet aggressive post-doom metal territory. The eleven and a half minute opener/title track is the dominant force of the listen, compelling for its patient reveal and well-stated main riff, deconstructed in a few ways as the song reels into the sludgecore action in its last third. The transitions between each song are generally a trip, each sinking into the next track in a memorable way without jarring the momentum of the listen. A much stronger point of view and a more detailed, grittier sound from Wrack speaks to broad interests in tone and texture, serving its dread in an eclectic blur over various sub-genre lines.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10.

https://wrack.bandcamp.com/album/repulsive-gravity


Info:
ARTIST:BLACK FUCKING CANCER
TITLE:Procreate Inverse
LABEL(S):Sentient Ruin
RELEASE DATE:March 18th, 2022

I don’t think a band like San Jose, California-based trio Black Fucking Cancer necessarily warrant a long-winded review for the sake of how unpretentious and directly threatening their approach to black metal is — A napalm whipping riff-obsessed bolt of black electricity, honorably compared to groups like Katharsis (see: their cover of “Krossfyre”), presents a worthy successor to their self-titled Osmose debut eight years ago. The grand spectacle of eruptive, expositional martial riffing they’ve managed here spans the entirety of this album in great chunks, crippling the senses without more than a few breaks. By treading deeper waters within longform pieces, which range from about eight to fifteen minutes, this bestial form of black metal has to work hard to hold my attention but wins by attrition as they force the issue and go straight for war. I figure most listeners will kind of either be in or out by the second song and I was convinced long before the full ~12 minutes of “Obscene Lusting Dagger” had played.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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