SHORT REVIEWS Our seventh edition of Short Reviews for 2023 finds us digging into the last two weeks of February’s new releases and touching upon some death metal alongside some interesting outliers. I’ve done my best to showcase the most interesting works that I come across while still presenting some decent variety here but choices boil down to what sticks, what inspires or what is worth writing about. These are more easygoing than longform reviews, so relax and think for yourself — If you find something you dig go tell the band on social media and support them with a purchase! If you’d like your music reviewed, read the FAQ and send promos to: firstname.lastname@example.org
The first of a couple records included this week which touch upon a (sonically speaking) Bloodbath-esque take on classic Scandinavian death metal Tramalizer’s debut full-length finds these folks from well-loved underground Finnish black metal groups (Mimorium, Förgjord, Marras) grinding away at ‘old school’ death metal. They’ve some unique melodic ideas, death/thrash influence leads, and vocals which are easily intelligible if you’re used to shoutin’ and whatnot. They’ve even thrown in an interesting curveball of including a cover of virtually unknown demo only thrash group Ferox‘ “Looking For Reality” a catchy-ass heavy metal piece which serves as a sort of deeper-than-thou cut to pique my interest late in the album. So, I guess the big whinge on my part is my usual shit, I don’t care for the mushy, digital HM-2 sized rhythm guitar tone, it acts to homogenize a band who seem pretty damned unique otherwise.
Sitting down with the anthemic title track/opener for this Swedish death/thrash metal band’s debut album one can’t help but be on board with the sort of Bolt Thrower-ized stomp of it and the riffs link together in a mid-paced black/thrashing step where easy fealty is earned up front. My interest just kinda dropped from that point, “Dödens Falang” has a few similarly sharp ideas and I like when the band lean thrash (“122”) as opposed to sleepy death/groove metallic riffing which recalls the odd mid-to-late 90’s era of Sodom. It isn’t that I found this record detestable, not at all, but it is just fine average stuff. Otherwise it loses some marks for the album cover, the constant use of samples/atmospheric spacing between tracks which occasionally go on too long. A keener eye and another pass over the details might’ve managed something rad.
Glasgow, Scotland-based crew Man Must Die are best known for their string of mid-to-late 2000’s string of releases via Relapse, an interesting prospect that’d landed somewhere between the hardcorish attack of Dying Fetus, the cold technical death/groove of Decapitated and their interest in popular metal affect at the time, which touched upon brutal deathgrind, mosh metal riffing, and even a bit of melodic death metal. While many will point to ‘No Tolerance for Imperfection‘ as their sort of bigger break into notice I best remember enjoying ‘The Human Condition‘ back in 2007. They’ve been less frequently active since 2010 but most of their material seems increasingly conscious of deathcore, some Meshuggah-esque chunking and a new revision upon their sound (a la Psycroptic) where they’ve retained core traits folks always knew ’em for while leaning somewhat more accessible where they can on this latest record. This is the sort of record where I’m rallying for ’em on one song (“In the Hour Before Your Death”) but kinda ready to leave the pub the next (“The Pain Behind it All”) but the ratio eventually leans in their favor. If you’re looking for a pretty equal ratio of moshable stabbin’ riffs and melodic tangents, which often intertwine there are some choice moments here and there to pick up on. I dunno if the title track speaks for the album well enough. Go make sure you check out “In the Hour Before Your Death” for the full spread when possible and give it a chance.
A garaged-out metal band making a progressive doom/rock n’ roll record without any major pretense beyond a bit o’ psychedelic fun ends up being a great idea here on Jackson, California-based band of brothers Owl‘s debut full-length. I can’t say I was hanging on every note of this hour-thick jam of a record but when they get around to bustling British rock/NWOBHM influenced hikes and steadier psych’d jams the juxtaposition is charming in its erratic, almost joyous exploration of dark and light moods beneath a variously driven sense of movement. In simpler terms ‘Geomancy‘ is a ride, a righteous interpretation of the greater 70’s progressive rock opera by way of stoney desert metal and this much’ll be obvious within just a couple of pieces. Humble production values and spirited, appropriately fiddly arrangements should speak to King Gizzard heads as well as folks interested in a shaken loose proto-metal feeling.
Hungarian death metal trio Coffinborn return after nine years with their debut full-length and this one had me stoked due to several excellent projects cropping up (Rothadás, Ahriman, Cryptworm, et al.) from these folks in the interim. ‘Cadaveric Retribution‘ is not a record of the moment, not a trendy piece of atmospheric exploration, nor is there any gimmick deployed and instead these folks focus intently upon extremely straightforward ‘old school’ death metal with moderate thrash metal influences a la Master, Grave and Asphyx. This whole thing kicks straight through, keeps its head down and doesn’t dare interrupt the momentum of its very simple deployment, which only occasionally hits a solo or plays around with harmony in the slightest. You’ll know if you’re into the full ride within two songs as Coffinborn are all about hitting a riff and cutting through a few variations and alternating ’em in a simple yet effective pattern. When a band gets the feeling right I’m all for this type of unflinching death metal focus and take no real issue with what these guys are up to. It doesn’t necessarily stand out as exceptional but it is heavy, is proper death metal and I’ll always show up for that.
Wretched Fate are a completely solid Swedish death metal band in the style of Bloodbath with some of the more imaginative melodic nods of (checks list of five hundred bands that sound like this) Revel in Flesh. They’ve got mega junk in the trunk when it comes to the guitar tone, a bossy HM-2 scuzz which is prominent but not entirely obscurant, wherein most of the actual riffs are fairly easy to parse and for this second album they’ve brought in much better lead guitar work to flesh out the full listen. While I found ‘Carnal Heresy‘ easy to sit with and enjoy despite the crispy critter rhythm guitar tone there wasn’t anything truly pulling be back in for another round beyond a cool album cover and some inspired brutality to parse within. For general audiences this is probably a major highlight for the month, they’ve put all kinds of energy in this record and songs like “Utterance From the Inhuman Tongue” sell this thing quick but I’d just not been able to find a riff or a melody that stuck.
What with Pharmacist popping off a bit in the underground we’ve got the true late 80’s/early 90’s goregrind sound buzzing around waiting to find an angle up nearby and this means a lot of wilding, spirited gunk takes from bands who’ve been at it for a while a la Fukuoka, Japan-based quartet FesterDecay. Pitch-shifted vocals, groovy riffs, plenty of kinda doomed late 80’s death metal swagger and a mushy cacophony of intentionally noxious noise make this one for the traditionalist who wants the remnants of ‘Symphonies of Sickness‘ but not without the weird fucking around of Autopsy at their most unhinged. Otherwise Japan have their own amazing set of classic goregrind lineage to consider, here it all lands ‘old school’ by my measure. I generally hope they lean into more of the death/doom feeling riffs in the future, their more involved riffing (“Stench of Decay”) is solid but the slower pieces create their own vibe at times which pushes beyond the Carcass and Blood side of this stuff. Album art is particularly great here, it is gore but by way of a fine illustration.
Stockholm, Sweden-based heavy psychedelic rock quartet made this immediate, ear-perking first impression as they struck into “Coincidence and Fate” with organs buzzing out a bit of fanfare before a bassline, a beat and a soulful bluesy vocal style from lead vocalist Zubaida Solid settled in. I wasn’t sure how interested I’d bee without Lisa Lystrom (who has since moved on to Heavy Feather) up front but that first song shook it off well enough. This is one of the sleepier, steadier records from the band who’ve been around since the mid-90’s having long specialized in their version of late 60’s/early 70’s woodsy psych rock, folkish blues rock and some heavier nods here and there. Expect plenty of flutes in the middle, some chunkier Deep Purple-isms in the periphery, but a generally chill listen beyond a few heavier kicks (“No Peace”) early on.
Catalan quartet Icestorm return for a fourth full-length album where they’ve once again tweaked the ratio of melodic death metal, heavy/power metal melody, and some modern groove influences in their favor. ‘The Northern Crusades‘ is of course going to demand comparisons to the best of Amon Amarth and King of Asgard by first impressions alone but of course a band like Wolfchant is a likewise ‘close enough’ comparison for the feeling of the music, this is a bit more intentionally steeped in the atmosphere of melodic death metal overall. Though I didn’t find the songwriting or, well, primarily the riffcraft all that memorable due to the groove metal influences the overall effect of the full listen was grand enough. The historic theme is brilliant here and I think the strongest choice they’ve made between the evocative album cover and the lyrics which focus on the crusades as they rallied through the north. The Battle of Lake Peipus is probably the most interesting bit of history here among plenty of other references which kept me listening to the album even when I’d not been fully into their style, though I did enjoy the additional keyboard work on “Clash of Titans” and “Novgorod Arise [Defeat Of The Teutonic Knights]” later on. Could do without the simpler groove/mosh riffs overall personally, but can’t necessarily pick away at such a complete and refined vision which manages to tell an excellent story.
Hot off completing a pretty big deal four album gig with Music For Nations at the end of the 90’s and just past their initial leap from gothic metal unto gothic rock (‘One Second‘, 1997) Paradise Lost put out an excellent Depeche Mode-esque record in ‘Host‘ and for their metal fans it was basically their untimely ‘death’ until 2007. For anyone who’d kept paying attention they’d moved on quickly, finding an alternative rock angle in the early 2000’s unto what appears to have been diminishing returns. ‘Host‘ was just fine, plenty of great songs on it even if a bit overlong, and I suppose I could say similar things of ‘IX‘, the debut album from Host a resuscitation of that style by way of Greg Mackintosh and Nick Holmes. I perceived this record as more of a continuation of a feeling more than it is a direct follow-up to what Paradise Lost were doing back in 1999, though as we hit songs like “Divine Emotion” there is no question Holmes‘ cadence and his general muse for this type of vocal arrangement hasn’t changed so drastically, where we do feel a bit of old and plenty new is in the electronic accoutrement beyond the steady, unflinchingly serious beats.
Apart from a hint of rock on “Hiding From Tomorrow” Host aren’t quite hitting the club on Side A, we do get a bit of bass on “Troubled Mind” but the general affect is slow, steady and sombre in aiming for emotional resonance. This lands overstated, overwrought to start but with some patience the first three tracks on the album prove themselves memorable. Beyond that point “My Only Escape” gives us a bit more buzz, something tracer-worthy without breaking out of their central mode and “Years of Suspicion” finally cracks into something three dimensional with its violin riff, fits of guitar and general rock song structure. It’d taken some considerable patience to get the thrills available here, even as a fan of ‘Host‘, but I’d found this a fitting enough return to the unique feeling of that record. The Flock of Seagulls cover that closes the record is a complete bore, though.
<strong>Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:</strong>
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.