Gamma Ray – Empire of the Undead (Review)

Gamma RayGermany’s Gamma Ray are somewhat of a Power Metal institution. This is the band’s 11th album and I must confess I’ve been looking forward to it.

As soon as I noticed that the first track Avalon was the rather epic length of 9:22 I was excited, and the song is exactly what I was hoping it would be. Epic, stirring and memorable in all of the right ways.

After more than two decades of creating quality Metal, it’s great to see that Gamma Ray are not wanting for ideas or passion. They still have the hunger and devotion to Metal that is not commonly present in bands who have been around for half this amount of time.

So what do we get then? State-of-the-art sound? Yes. Rousing anthems? Yes. Guitar wizardry and fretmanship? Yes. Catchy and memorable hooks and melodies? Yes. Sing-along choruses? Yes. Riffs to pound chests to? Yes. Keyboards that enhance but don’t overpower? Yes.

The band spend time emphasising their Speed Metal aspect on some of the tracks, with Hellbent in particular showing a Judas Priest influence. The next song Pale Rider has an almost AC/DC feel to it, albeit heavier and with a distinctly non-AC/DC chorus. Time for Deliverance is more in the power ballad territory, with even somewhat of a revival feeling to it in places.

These are good demonstrations of the fact that Gamma Ray may have a distinct style but within this they vary things and keep things interesting so that they’re not simply playing what is effectively the same song over and over again.

The best songs are the bookends of the album – Avalon and I Will Return. This doesn’t invalidate anything in the middle of course, as taken holistically this is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of Heavy Metal.

How many other bands are on their 11th album and still capable of shredding with the best of them? Not many.

Gamma Ray still have a lot to offer the world. Empire of the Undead is the latest, and a top listen at that.

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Interview with Dead Earth Politics

Dead Earth Politics Logo

Dead Earth Politics have recently released their extremely sexy EP The Queen of Steel. They’re rightly receiving rave reviews about this collection of tracks, so it seemed like a good idea to dig in deep and get some more information on this red hot little band…

Introduce yourself!

Horns and Hails! This is Ven – lead vocals for Dead Earth politics!

How did the band form?

Will and Mason have actually known each other for years. They met our former guitarist Ernie in the earlier part of this century. They jammed in various roles under the monikers “Grunt” and “Dirtbox”. I joined up in 2005 and shortly thereafter we became “Dead Earth Politics”!

What are your influences?

Huuuuuuge range. Mine personally are Matt Barlow, Peter Steel, Elton John (1970’s preferably), David Vincent, Brian Howe, Bruce Dickinson and just too many others really to name. It would be a boring read.

DEP Queen of SteelWhat are you listening to right now that you want to recommend?

I have been jamming The Animals, Huntress, Loreena McKennitt, Nekrogoblikon and Kobra and the Lotus as of late. I recommend them all – more than that, I recommend listening to anything you can wrap your ears around. Pay attention to locals! In my player now there are local (Austin) favorites like Death Will Tremble, Headcrusher and Critical Assembly.

Give us some background to your latest EP.

Having inducted Tim Driscoll into this thing we do we finally began amassing a decent amount of new tunes. We are, however, meticulous and picky. Rather than waiting four MORE years for a third release we decided to hammer out the three tracks that we felt best defined our direction. Whether these define a “Dead Earth Politics” sound or just the sound of this EP, we aren’t sure. Now that we also have Aaron Canady on second axe, his influence, I expect, will be quite heavy in the writing process as well.

Talk to us about the artwork.

I thought of the concept as a means to visually transition our audience into where we are. I love “The Weight of Poseidon” and will always. However, I think our take on our art has matured and grown more intricate. Having “The Queen” straddling Poseidon and skewering him with his own trident seemed to be the least subtle way we could get idea across that things were changing. Subtlety is our enemy.

What’s your writing process for the songs?

Usually, someone will bring in a song and show us the pieces. We then hack that composition into a thousand, unrecognizable pieces and use spit and glue to put them together in a seemingly random order. Then, we argue about it. Then we record. Then we argue more. And forever.

Are you pleased with how the EP turned out?

I AM TOTALLY STOKED ABOUT THIS FRIGGIN EP. Way beyond my expectations.

On your Bandcamp page you’re offering this EP as a Buy Now Pay What You Want download – why did you decide to go this route instead of charging a minimum price?

Dead Earth Politics BandWe kind of feel like we, in some ways, are hitting a ‘reset’ button. We want people interested in our tunes to have unimpeded access to the album. If someone digs us enough and is hellbent on not paying they will download the album anyways – might as well be able to track the downloads so we can monitor our numbers and keep in touch with ’em!

Your combination of modern Metal with classic Metal influences works really well for these three songs. How are you going to develop this for your next release?

We aren’t going to develop that specifically. I think this came to be in the first place because we don’t discriminate riffs. Meaning, in previous bands I or someone else might bring in a kick ass tune. Everyone else could be like, “That kicks ass, but it doesn’t sound like us.” We don’t do that. If it rocks, it rocks. If that mode lends the continued Maiden/Lamb of God-type sound for future release then cool. My thoughts are that it will likely change in some aspects.

What’s next for Dead Earth Politics? What does the future hold?

We have a show at the Dirty Dog with Anvil on April 14 and May 24 with Down at Emo’s East – Both in Austin! We also have a show at The Rail May 16 in Fort Worth. As for the grander scale, we are furiously writing and we hope to be recording yet another EP before or by the year’s end!

Thanks!

Nihil – Nights of Silence (Review)

NihilNihil are from Spain and play Technical Progressive Death Metal.

The band give us a collection of relatively long tracks with a good sound and some twisting riffs to help propel the songs along.

Although undeniably heavy, brutality is not the main focus of Nihil’s assault. Instead they attack a bit slower, and from unexpected directions. Some of the riffs betray a slight Black Metal influence, while others are just nicely restrained, content to let the melodies do the talking.

It’s an approach that is freshly creative and frees the band up from a lot of standard genre restrictions that they might otherwise be plagued by.

Frozen Hope, the second longest song on the album, is a good example of this. It starts out quite brutal with a sound not unlike Behemoth but progresses into other heavy soundscapes, including parts that remind of Gorguts and Opeth on occasion.

Good musicianship helps the songs live up to their potential, and all of the various parts deliver as they should.

A quality release from a talented band that need support.  Add them to your playlists today.

Invertia – Another Scheme of the Wicked (Review)

InvertiaInvertia are from the US and play Industrial Black Metal.

This is a release of two halves – the first five tracks are the album songs, and then the second five tracks are the album songs remixed. Side A and a Side B if you like, with Side B being longer than the first.

This is inventive and oppressive as only the best of Black Metal can be.

As extreme as this is they still know how to write songs. As warped and twisted as they are, and also know a good hook when they hear one.

The heavy effects, samples and noise conspire with the Black Metal core to create a claustrophobic and dense listening experience that coils around your brain and won’t let go until you have sworn blind fealty and obedience.

The tracks offer a bruising Industrial pounding with their blackened atmosphere, and there is a fair amount of variety on these tracks that it almost seems like different bands playing sometimes. It certainly seems like they have about five vocalists. Don’t mistake this as criticism though, this is a top release.

And all this is even before we get to Side B; the remixes.

I’m not normally a fan of remixes, as they are rarely done well, (in my experience). Here is an exception though as these reinterpretations of the originals feel like a continuance of the album and a further exploration into the dark psyche of the band, rather than being some novelty just tacked onto the end of a release, as is so often the case.

Intriguing, harsh and exciting; this is an album to keep returning to.

Banisher – Scarcity (Review)

BanisherBanisher are from Poland and play Death Metal with a good deal of variety and interest.

This is Progressive/Technical/Experimental Death Metal.

I have enjoyed their previous full length, (Slaughterhouse), and was looking forward to hearing what the band have got up to on this, their second album.

They don’t disappoint. Death Metal played fast and hard but with some nice experimentation and technical flourishes thrown in for good measure. The band can certainly play and they know their way around the instruments. Crucially though they can also do simplicity very well and sometimes the riffs just crush!

The band may be heavy and brutal but they also incorporate some melody and atmosphere into the songs to keep things interesting. There are plenty of these moments scattered around the songs and mean that Banisher have a good amount of variety and longevity baked into these tracks.

A strong, clear sound means you can hear everything that the instruments are doing, (even the bass), and allows you to fully appreciate the various things that the band are putting into their songs.

This is catchy, extreme, brutal, technical, atmospheric and engaging in all of the right places. A lot of other death metal bands sound one-dimensional in comparison to this.

And the Benny Hill cover at the end of the album? Pure genius.

Twitch of the Death Nerve – A New Code of Morality (Review)

Twitch of the Death Nerve

This is the debut album from UK Death Metallers Twitch of the Death Nerve.

As a calling card the album cover doesn’t let the side down and makes me immediately excited to hear what kind of racket they make.

The band play the kind of ultra-brutal pig-noise Death Metal that can frighten off pseudo-Metal fans at a thousand paces. This is the real deal when it comes to extremity and absolute wanton slaughter.

The drums have a slightly tinny sound but after the first couple of blasts all is forgotten as you’re beaten and battered into a semi-coherent stupor by the combination of ultra-blast and chugathon that the band effortlessly juggle.

The vocals are guttural pig-noise emanations that steer just the right side of ridiculous and instead sound demented. They match the barbarous music to a tee and together Brutal Death Metal magic is made.

The songs fly by, each one as heavy and as demolishing as the last. Each track contains excitable riffs that want to crush and destroy everything, and whether they’re playing fast and sharp or slow and blunt they seek to inflict maximum damage.

If you’re wondering how you’re going to muster up the energy to destroy entire continents today, then wonder no longer! Twitch of the Death Nerve are here to empower you with callous misanthropy and effortless barbarity.

Embalmed – Brutal Delivery of Vengeance (Review)

EmbalmedThis is Brutal Death Metal from this US veteran band, although after all their years this is actually their début album.

Embalmed are a riff-heavy, song-focused band, which immediately means that this album has the potential to be very good indeed. It all depends if the songwriting is up to par of course. Thankfully the band have had plenty of time to refine their songcraft and the results are satisfying to say the least.

This is classic Death Metal. I hesitate to label this Old-School, as although it is, (if only by virtue of not belonging to the New-School), the Old-School label can imply to some people a dredging up of past glories, etc., whereas this is more resolutely timeless and still very relevant. Think Cannibal Corpse USDM.

The songs rampage along with the right amount of belligerence and restraint, content to smash enemies apart but then moving on to the next with brutal efficiency.

Embalmed have a selection of good riffs in every song, and know how to lock into a good groove when the need arises. In addition to the standard blast beats and the more mid-paced sections, they can also be quite dynamic and inventive with the drum beats; they have the same kind of infectious hooks to some of the songs that bands such as Konkhra and Avulsed do so well.

This is a quality USDM album that any Death Metal fan should be able to get on board with.

Beyond Grace – Monstrous (Review)

Beyond GraceComing from the UK Beyond Grace are a Death Metal band.

This is a short EP at only 13 minutes, but the 3 tracks it contains act as a good showcase for the band.

The band boast a solid sound that’s warm, fleshy and organic. The songs seem to drip with biological waste and an unnerving feeling of unnatural life. It’s a very satisfying sound which hopefully they’ll replicate for future releases rather than it just being a happy accident.

The songs are well composed and far more interesting than just straight blast-fests. The band show a good understanding of rhythm and dynamics which makes the songs a pleasure to listen to.

The band feature brutality heavily on the agenda, but also find time to be on speaking terms with restraint and nuance. Solos make a welcome appearance and like everything else they’re played well.

The vocals are guttural grunts and high screams, both done well and work in tandem to fulfil the mission statement of the songs. The deeper vocals in particular are worthy of note, especially when they lock into a grinding groove with the guitars and almost seem to play off each other.

A highly recommended release from an extremely promising band that will probably release a blinder of a first album if they keep this up.

Prospekt – The Colourless Sunrise (Review)

ProspektProspekt play Progressive Metal from the UK and this is their début album.

The band are heavier than most of this ilk, and it serves them well. A tight, modern production brings out the shine in them and they play with skill and precision. All of the instruments are punchy and crisp.

I think I detect a bit of a Djent influence in some of the guitar riffs as well. Not overly so, but it’s there nonetheless, adding a certain something extra without becoming overpowering and generic, as Djent so easily can.

The musicianship is exemplary throughout and there are some blinding solos flying around.

These are enjoyable songs that have a glut of ideas and flourishes across the 9 tracks. Most of the songs are on the longer side, as befits a Progressive band, but they never lose their way or become meandering or dull.

The singer has a fluid, melodic voice that can compete with the best that Power Metal has to offer. His vocals slide across the Metallic riffs and keyboard embellishments like liquid light.

This is an album to encapsulate the listener; one you can quite easily sit back, listen to and enjoy the meaty riffs, melodic vocals and crisp atmospheres that the band produce.

Top work, especially for a first album. A bright future dawns.

Júlio Stotz – Suspended in Reverie (Review)

Julio StotzJúlio Stotz is from Brazil and plays piano-heavy instrumental Progressive Metal.

I’m not a massive fan of Djent, as I find most Djent bands become really generic really quickly; however the Djent influence on this EP is more of a side-dish than the main meal and as such it works for this release instead of against it.

These tracks are largely relaxed and laid back; they know exactly what they want to achieve and know there is no point in rushing things. Even when the larger than life guitars and double bass are blaring out the songs retain a serene atmosphere.

The compositions are clearly from a musically mature mind and the juxtaposition of the ambient and classical sounds with the Djent influence works well.

This EP is four songs in 17 minutes and is a worthwhile listen for anyone looking for some atmospheric mood Metal.

Give it a try.