Angakok – Angakok (Review)

AngakokAngakok are a Sludge band from Belgium, and this is their début album.

Angakok play Sludge/Doom mixed with moments of Drone/Ambient respite.

This is Neurosis-inspired Doom that’s nicely heavy when it needs to be. Mix the Neurosis influence with that of, say, Zatokrev and you have an album that, (slowly), stomps over everything around it.

The Ambient and lighter moments give the album some shading, but the heavier side of the band is the main event; these asides are essentially delaying the heaviness so that when it returns it sounds even more immense.

The music really takes Doom to its black heart; the heavy guitars are slow and crushing, although they do pick up the pace when necessary. There are some good, winding melodies used on these songs and the mood of despondency and bleakness never ends.

The songs are darkly enjoyable, and it’s a collection of tracks that make for a engaging journey with the band.

The vocals are anguished, drawn-out screams, not dissimilar to those used in Neurosis. The style sounds a natural fit with the Sludgy guitars and the performance is not one to find fault with.

The album is well-recorded and seems to be able to be both murky and clear at the same time. It suits the band’s style and the music benefits from it.

I enjoy music like this, especially from a band like Angakok as they clearly know the genre inside out.

Check them out.

Thorns of Sin – Destroy the Light (Review)

Thorns of SinThorns of Sin is a one-man project playing Melodic Black Metal.

This is well-played and well-recorded Melodic Black Metal in the Dissection vein.

The music is very professional and accomplished, with plenty of shine and polish on display. This would be notable for a full band and is even more so as one person played and recorded everything.

Keyboard accompaniment adds highlights and splashes of colour while melodic guitars shine in their time in the light.

This is Extreme Metal easy listening, and that’s a compliment; Thorns of Sin positively flow out of the speakers and are received most gratefully by yours truly.

The vocals remind me of Dimmu Borgir and there’s a little bit of their, (older), style to this release, as well as a touch of Arch Enemy here and there..

The songs are very enjoyable slabs of Metal and make me nostalgic for the late 90s/early 00s too. There’s 6 originals and a faithful cover of Death’s The Philosopher.

A quality release and one that’s easy to enjoy and recommend; make sure you check out Destroy the Light

Mercy Brown – Mercy Brown (Review)

Mercy BrownThis is the début album from US band Mercy Brown. They play Metal.

This is a band that takes Heavy Metal and Death Metal, stitches them together and then sits back with satisfaction as its creation takes on a life of its own.

The music is on the harsher, heavier end of the spectrum and this is frequently augmented by more melodic moments and other Metal accoutrements.

The singer has a diverse voice, varying between deep growls, high screams and cleans. She has a powerful and charismatic voice no matter the style she sings in, and her different vocals work well with the more Death Metal-oriented music.

The band have a heavy sound that makes the most of their crushing delivery. This is Metal through and through. The sometimes-angelic female vocals shouldn’t make you think of bands like Lacuna Coil and Nightwish; this is more akin to Whitechapel mixed with Arch Enemy, only with clean vocals added in.

There’s a decent amount of stuff going on here. Apart from the straight-ahead Death Metal and Heavy Metal there’s plenty of other things happening to add depth and atmosphere. The band take the time to slow down and relax a bit on occasion, increasing the effectiveness of the heavier parts as well as these more reflective sections working well in their own right too.

I like this a lot as it’s a little different from the norm and well-delivered. Check them out.

Tempel – The Moon Lit Our Path (Review)

TempelTempel are from the US and this is their second album. They play Progressive/Post-Black Metal.

Tempel are an Instrumental Black Metal band. Their music is a combination of the Melodic and Progressive styles, giving The Moon Lit Our Path an epic scope and even epic-er, (it’s a word, honest), songs.

Their tracks harbour provocative imagery in the music. Without vocals to hide behind, the music is laid bare for all to see and relishes in the fact. Tempel are as expressive with their music as many singers are with their voices.

This is music that you can get your teeth into; music to get involved with; music to get lost in. Involving, engaging and compelling; Tempel have created a richly textured musical landscape across these 54 minutes.

Tempel are slowly shedding their Black Metal roots. This album still has its fair share of Blackened influences, but less so than their début release. On The Moon Lit Our Path there are more Post-Black Metal and Progressive Metal elements to their sound. It ultimately doesn’t matter, of course, as the important thing is the music itself and the journey it takes you on as you get absorbed by it.

Riffs, solos, leads, atmospheres, moods…Tempel excel at each of these and the songs on this album are filled to the brim with musical content and features.

This album may have a Blackened base but it transcends Black Metal, as Post-Black Metal must, As such, this has a potentially wide-reaching audience and any fan of Progressive Metal can and should enjoy this.

Fragile Existence – Cataclysms and Beginnings (Review)

Fragile ExistenceThis is the second album by Canadian Death Metal band Fragile Existence.

Featuring the extremity of Hate Eternal, the groove of 90s Death Metal and the Progressive tendencies of Death, Fragile Existence’s second album is 48 minutes of timeless Death Metal that pays homage to multiple Death Metal styles yet remains its own beast.

The songs are interesting and varied enough to hold attention while retaining the core heaviness of Death Metal’s angry bite.

Although they can pile on the blast beats when they need to, the songs are more about creating moods and telling musical stories than anything else. Cataclysms and Beginnings is full of mature songwriting in this sense, as these songs are very accomplished.

The vocals are mainly fleshy and deep; growls that are somewhere between a roar and a rasping shout. Staying at the deeper end of the grunting spectrum, the singer has a fluid aspect to his voice that stops him sounding completely guttural.

The guitars on this album are very enjoyable. Tasty riffs and licks abound, and the amount and length of some of the solos make me a happy camper too.

The Progressive elements in the songs work seamlessly with the more brutal aspects to create songs that are satisfying on both levels. The band have taken the time to craft songs that have a purpose and meaning, rather than just stringing riffs together for the sake of it. The rhythm guitars, drums and bass work together to further the needs of the songs and all instruments have their chance to shine, but only when necessary.

This is a very complete album and by that I suppose I mean that it has a lot of different facets to it and enough depth of composition and delivery to make a lasting impression. It reminds me, in some ways, of Helping the World to See by Vehemence. The albums are similar in many ways, and both take the listener on a journey through interesting and thoughtful Death Metal.

Cataclysms and Beginnings is a very thorough, engaging and impressive slab of mature Death Metal. Definitely one for you to investigate further.

Dew-Scented – Intermination (Review)

Dew-ScentedDew-Scented are a German Thrash Metal band and this is their tenth album.

I hadn’t heard anything from Dew-Scented since their 2002 album Inwards, which was a good album to Thrash along to. As such, I was keen to catch up with them 13 years later.

13 years. Blimey.

Anyhoo, in the interim it seems that little has changed in the grand scheme of things. Dew-Scented still offer high-octane, spiky Thrash Metal and once again I’m more than happy to lap it up.

With a crisp, heavy production, the band tear through 55 minutes of chunky, aggressive Thrash, (including covers of Solstice and Repulsion songs).

This is a very riff-centred album. The songs are collections of hungry Thrash riffs, artfully threaded together into paeans to Metal. Ripping Thrash is the bedrock of their sound, but more emotive guitars provide some depth where needed. The band use melodies to their benefit; frequently subtle affairs, they’re used to enhance the feelings of a particular passage or section.

Guitar solos are plentiful on Intermination and I always love a good solo. This is a very guitar-oriented album and the songs just satisfy.

The vocals sound better than ever. The singer’s voice is aggressive and brutal, barking out the lyrics with angry abandon.

It’s good to hear Dew-Scented again. It also reminds me of why I enjoyed Inwards so much. I’d say that on Intermination they have tightened everything up; the added experience they’ve notched up over the years means that this is a highly focused album from a band that know themselves very well.

As heavy, aggressive Thrash Metal goes, this is definitely a winner.

The Juliet Massacre – Human Abuse (Review)

The Juliet MassacreThis is the second album by Italian Death Metal band The Juliet Massacre.

This is modern Brutal Death Metal/Deathcore

The vocals consist of pig squeals, deathgrunts, screaming and even the odd semi-clean.

The songs blend blasting brutality with breakdowns and the odd melodic passage. While it’s modern and energetic, unlike a lot of Deathcore bands The Juliet Massacre remember the Death Metal side of the Deathcore equation.

This will probably be a bit too “-core” for a lot of pure Death Metal fans, which is a shame as there’s a decent amount of brutality to be had here. The songs don’t let up and the album supplies the requisite hit of aggression.

I enjoyed this. With a slightly stronger sound and a little tightening up in the songwriting department The Juliet Massacre could easily ascend to the big leagues. Until then, I’ll still be listening to this again in the future.

For fans of Despised Icon, All Shall Perish, The Black Dahlia Murder and Job for a Cowboy.

Abyssal Ascendant – Chronicles of the Doomed Worlds – Part. I Enlightenment from Beyond (Review)

Abyssal AscendantAbyssal Ascendant are from France and play Death Metal. This is their début album.

This is Lovecraft-inspired Death Metal that starts with ominous noises and otherworldly chants, designed to create an unsettling atmosphere before the Death Metal itself begins.

The band’s music is heavy and brutal, but not without atmosphere or nuance. This is Death Metal that has picked up a few creative flourishes along the way.

Elements of Cannibal Corpse, Nile and Morbid Angel conspire together, resulting in an album that has a lot to offer. Fast and brutal meets atmospheric and evil. The band do both very well. I like a band that can play ferocious brutality on one hand and then create dark, sinister moods with the other.

The singer has a terrifically deep growl that sounds absolutely abyssal. His voice fits the music perfectly and really drives the songs forward with a deathly charisma.

Tight, focused playing is apparent from the off and the drums keep everything in check. The production is very nice on this release; everything coalesces together in an unholy mass and all of the instruments are well-balanced against each other. Everything sounds great, with the drums sounding particularly satisfying and well-rounded.

This is a very impressive album, especially for a début release.

The Impala – Chapter One (Review)

The ImpalaThe Impala are a Russian Post-Rock band. This is their début EP.

The band play Post-Rock that’s reflective and expressive, seemingly mirroring the lives of the band members and wearing their collective experiences openly.

The music has that ephemeral, fragile quality that a lot of Post-Rock has. Seemingly transitory and full of sunshine or some unknown cosmic essence, these tracks sparkle and fade during their brief playing time.

Apart from a brief section of spoken word there are no vocals. Instead, the music is the complete and only focus.

The music builds to crescendos and has many peaks and valleys to get lost in. Driving leads and hopeful melodies abound and the band members all seem proficient in their instruments.

Samples and other electronic accompaniments are used throughout, but these are largely subtle affairs and not overly obvious. They essentially work behind the scenes to add little extras to the songs that may not always be instantly noticeable but would be to the music’s detriment if they were absent.

At only 18 minutes in length this is a short release, but one that captures the imagination.

Check them out.

Interview with Ilsa

Ilsa Logo

Ilsa are one of the best Sludge Metal bands out there. After the electrifying Intoxicantations and now their crushing new album The Felon’s Claw, I’ve been privileged to fire some questions at their drummer, Joshy…

For those who are unfamiliar with your band – introduce yourself!

Ilsa is comprised of five people: Orion is the vocalist, Joshy (me) plays drums, Tim plays guitar, Brendan also plays guitar, and Sharad plays bass guitar.

Give us a bit of history to Ilsa

We formed in early 2008 after the guitar player in our former band tried to punch somebody on the other side of a window that happened to be closed. After that, due to a lack of connected tendons in his arm he couldn’t play guitar, and we started Ilsa as a way to take up time while he recuperated. Obviously Ilsa ended up being the main band for us after that.

What are your influences?

Musically I’d say our influences are Bolt Thrower, Amebix, Asphyx, Townes Van Zandt, Dead Moon, Morbid Angel, Burning Witch, The Plasmatics, Thin Lizzy, a bunch of other stuff.

What are you listening to at the moment that you would like to recommend?

At this very moment I am listening to Pink Floyd, I would recommend them very highly. Other stuff I’ve been into lately would be Alan Parsons project, Primitive Man, Forn, honestly I listen to a bunch of really lame shit like Air Supply and Chicago and things like that. I’ve really been into Eddie Hazel lately, I think he’s a really underrated guitarist. Oh and the Saga demos from Iron Age are amazing!

Ilsa BandWhat did you want to achieve with your new album?

I wanted to make the heaviest most thought provoking yet lunkheaded album ever recorded.

How do you go about writing the songs?

Generally I write songs in my basement and record them on my computer, then bring them to practice and show everybody and we go from there. Or somebody will bring some riffs to practice and we’ll work with them and build them there. I personally write much better when I’m by myself in my little dungeon

What can you tell us about the lyrics?

Well Orion would be the best at explaining the lyrics, but I can say that one goal that he has always had was to think of our songs as spells and our concerts as rituals. I don’t personally believe in mystical or supernatural powers, but I think that if words were capable of any tangible power like you would find in a ritualistic setting then it would be the veracity behind them that produced it. In that sense, I feel like our songs would have more power than you would find at any church.

What is your favourite song on the album and why?

I think my favorite is Buried In the Bedrock and Concrete of Our Cities, because I think it’s the most successful in my attempts to make a song that has memorable, heavy, and simple riffs.

What do you feel the main differences are between Intoxicantations and The Felon’s Claw – how have you changed between the two releases?

I don’t think there’s a ton different between the two, except I think this one is more focused. I think we were able to approach the idea of making music that is as stripped down as we could make it while still retaining a certain amount of brutality and heaviness in a way that we hadn’t been able to before.

Are you happy with how the album turned out?

I’m very happy with it. It’s my favorite album yet. Of course there are always things you wish you could have changed or tweaked in retrospect, but there are way fewer of those things on this album than any before it.

How do you see your songs/direction developing in the future?

Like I mentioned before, the goal for me is to make songs that are as simple and basic as they can be without being boring. I think there are few things that sound as good as a heavy guitar with a solid, driving beat behind it to bang your head to. That’s really all I’m personally trying to do with Ilsa. The other guys may have different goals, but so far whatever our individual ideas are they seem to all be reachable by the same approach, so that’s good.

What’s next for Ilsa?

We’ve got a couple of splits coming out, one with the awesome Japanese death/doom band Coffins, and one with the Hardcore/D-beat band Greta. There’s another split that could possibly happen, but it’s too early to talk about at this point. If it does work out, it could possibly be the heaviest split ever released! We’ve got a few local shows coming up, and we will be playing at Don’t Call it a Fest in Detroit this year with Eyehategod, In Cold Blood, Noisem, and a bunch of others.