Yass-Waddah – Cities of the Red Night

yass-waddah-cities_of_the_red_nightRising from Italy, Yass-Waddah play modern black metal in a style well suited for live performance. Simple, straightforward songs with coherent progressions bring about the merging of black metal techniques with heavy metal ethos, similar to Gorgoroth or Marduk.

Production wise, Cities of the Red Night (it’s unclear if this is named after the William S. Burroughs novel of the same title) has quite a clear sound for the genre: all instruments are audible and individually identifiable in the mix. Some may prefer this, as it avoids the “live from the sewer” feel of older black metal records, but others will lament the loss of the cold atmosphere so unique to black metal.

Musically, the band hits all the right steps of a band aiming to be invited to Wacken: Succinct tracks charge forward with a well-coordinated assault of blastbeats, high-pitched vocals, in addition to riffs constructed from melodies created by moving minor chords around the fretboard , which give the songs a focused method of attack.

Unfortunately, all songs on this EP follow the same structure, with only a few arpeggios and a bizarre solo sequence on the final track introducing variation. The consequence of this repetitive method of composition is that each track does tend to meld together, and after listening to this EP, one will be hard pressed to remember anything distinguishing them. Repetition in itself is not a negative (see Ildjarn), but the difference here is that there is little in terms of atmosphere and thus the attention shifts to the riffs – which do little to retain.

Nevertheless, the band avoids many of the pitfalls prevalent among its generation: there is no “glitter”, nor strange concessions to other genres included to entice more fans – just honest metal which has the potential to both drawn in new fans and appeal to long-time listeners of the genre. As this was merely a short demo, the band has potential to build from in future releases.

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Sammath unleashes title track from Godless Arrogance

sammath-godless_arroganceWhat a difference studio recording and mastering can make. Sammath went into the studio with a demo full of their iconic black/death battle metal, but in the studio, something magic happened: it became transformed into a hybrid of early Morbid Angel and early Ancient, being both relentless and hiding melody inside its rigorous riffs.

Godless Arrogance promises to be a relentless war-charge of high speed percussion, fuzzily distorted fast riffing, and demented mocking vocals which sound like a criticism of the mundane world by something beyond it. The band have upgraded their playing to leave fewer spaces in the wall of sound, and have used production to mate their fuzzy guitars and whirlwind drums into a channel of sonic violence.

To be released by Hammerheart Records worldwide, Godless Arrogance shows this Dutch-German band backing off of the technicality of the last album in favor of the relentless riff assault of their most popular middle albums, combined with the sublime sense of melody that made their first album a keeper for so many metalheads.

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Varg Vikernes arrested in France

varg_vikernes-burzumAs related in this news report, Varg Vikernes has been arrested on suspicions of terrorism in France.

The evidence against him appears to be that Anders Breivik wrote to Vikernes some time ago, and while Vikernes then called Breivik a “Christian loser” on his blog (for killing Norwegians), Varg’s wife had recently purchased four rifles legally in France. Somehow these two events add up to a possible massacre.

This is unfortunate because Vikernes has just released the excellent Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which is like a cross between classic Burzumic ambient and the music of William Orbit. We’re hoping he’ll be freed to make more floaty ambient albums.

We also tend to think the whole thing is dumb and overblown. He went to prison; he served his time. Now he’s living a normal life for the first time in two decades. He should be encouraged to do this! Not only for society at large, but for metal, which now permanently has Burzum in its blood.

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Morbid Angel Covenant Tour 2013

morbid_angel-covenantTwenty years ago this year, Morbid Angel released their third album, Covenant, which stepped back from the concept album madness of their second work and seemed to look instead toward the collection of ripping songs and experiments that distinguished their first album.

Working more melody and conventionally-recognizable technicality into the mix, Covenant showed Morbid Angel after most of the initial thrust of ideas from their demos had worn off — leaving them to create anew, from a place where they were at the peak of their musical power. As a result, it is for many people a favorite from this band to this day.

Starting November 7, the re-constituted Morbid Angel of David Vincent, Trey Azagthoth and Pete Sandoval will tour North America playing the songs from Covenant in its entirety. This show be a good chance to introduce your college-aged children, who were conceived to this album, to the magic of Morbid Angel. Tickets go on sale July 19, 2013.

Morbid Angel Covenant Tour 2013:

City Date Venue
Atlanta, GA Nov 7 The Masquerade
Charlotte, NC Nov 8 Tremont Music Hall
Baltimore, MD Nov 9 Baltimore Soundstage
Cambridge, MA Nov 10 Middle East Nightclub
New York, NY Nov 12 Irving Plaza
Philadelphia, PA Nov 13 Theatre of the Living Arts
Cleveland, OH Nov 16 Peabody’s Downunder
Chicago, IL Nov 17 House Of Blues
Minneapolis, MN Nov 18 Mill City Nights
Sauget, IL Nov 19 Pops
Lawrence, KS Nov 20 Granada
Denver, CO Nov 22 Bluebird Theater
Seattle, WA Nov 25 Studio Seven
Portland, OR Nov 26 Hawthorne Theater
San Francisco, CA Nov 27 Slim’s
Los Angeles, CA Nov 29 Henry Fonda Theatre
Phoenix, AZ Nov 30 Joe’s Grotto
Albuquerque, NM Dec 1 Sunshine Theater
El Paso, TX Dec 2 Tricky Falls
Austin, TX Dec 3 Red 7
Houston, TX Dec 4 Warehouse Live
Orlando, FL Dec 6 Beacham Theater
Ft. Lauderdale, FL Dec 7 Culture Room
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Armaroth – False Vision

armaroth-false_visionBands seeking to play death metal in 2013 are faced with a curious conundrum: they grew up with undeniably great records that inform their knowledge of the genre, and yet their potential audience in this current generation clamors for simpler material with more digestible melodies. Bands then have to decide to what extent they will incorporate the “modern metal” influence into the death metal which is their reason for playing in the first place.

Armaroth play a fusion of death metal and speed metal, with some modern melodic metal influences introducing cross-generational appeal. Death metal riffs drive the songs forward, providing the backbone for the other elements to build upon. The riffs in their best moments are darker than the typical modern death metal fare, bringing out a sense of foreboding that has more evocative impact than just pure aggression. Speed metal lends itself to connecting riffs between verse and chorus, providing motion with palm-muted riffs that introduce rhythmic variation.

These sections are solid in themselves, but the band often moves from one to the next without giving sufficient care to set up transitions, leaving songs at times feeling as if they’re collections of riffs thrown together rather than conceived with a purpose. Moments as such are aggravated by the modern metal elements, such as embarrassingly catchy choruses and ambiguous guitar wankery which sharply contrasts with the more polished material.

The band recently released their first EP, False Vision. In their future material, if the band were to focus on and improve what they already do well and abandon the tendency towards including concessions for the newer generation, their material would be well above average in the current milieu.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eF7_crOv3uM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmKdXAZn3m0

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Earthen Grave – Earthen Grave re-issued as double LP/CD

earthen_grave

Former Trouble member Ron Holzner joins celebrated violinist Rachel Barton Pine in Earthen Grave, a doom metal band with heavy metal energy and hard rock groove. It fits in the niche between depressive heavy metal doom like Derketa and stoner doom of the Spirit Caravan variety, but has some of the gravitas and theology of Trouble and other depressive heavy metal doom bands from the 1980s.

Earthen Grave, the band’s debut, has been re-issued as a double-CD or double-LP on the Ripple Music label, appearing in stores and online on July 9, 2013. The completely re-mastered debut release now contains a new song, “death is another word….” with drummer Chris Wozniak (formerly of Lair of the Minotaur).

While Earthen Grave has not gotten the overflowing press attention that has accompanied many other doom metal bands, this band offers more of a pure older-school feel to its doom metal, and does not pander to the me-first mentality that many people want to hear in their music. The result is pure bleakness and self-negation that periodically rocks out and then launches into a series of musically erudite solos. As a result, Earthen Grave may appeal to the musicians among us first, and later spread to the rest of the metal audience.

** – EARTHEN GRAVE featuring Rachael Barton Pine

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Exhumed – Necrocracy

exhumed-necrocracyFounded by a group of career metalheads, Exhumed started with a simple mission: make grind, but make it entertaining and participatory like the better heavy metal of the past few generations. While they were initially known as a Carcass clone, that comparison involves the vocals, while the guitar music is itself quite different.

Necrocracy continues the tradition with some very professional songwriting. The technique is pure death metal, grindcore and smatterings of punk and speed metal; under that surface, what lurks is old school heavy metal combined with Swedish-style melodic songwriting (which interestingly was also discernible on the debut).

As part of that professionalism, Exhumed fit each song into a series of gratifications: a good introduction, pounding verses, surging choruses, fireworks for solos and then a transition through a minor key melody into a triumphant return to the verse, plus an optional outro. This formula — adopted in part from glam ballads — propelled speed metal and heavy metal bands to the stratosphere. It’s doing something similar for Exhumed.

What makes Necrocracy hold together is that each song is composed of only necessary parts toward achieving this goal, which could be roughly described as half wanting to be a fun grindcore band, and half wanting to be a professional metal band with MTV-ready songs. Much like Amebix recently saw the utility of this format for reaching the slumbering masses, Exhumed use it to inject some death metal into the melange of hard rock, punk, speed metal, grind/death and heavy metal that makes up their songs.

It is probably not wise for old school death metal fans to rush to this album. It has more in common with grindcore and album-oriented stadium heavy metal, since it relies on the verse-chorus and derives much of its effect from application of known songwriting technique instead of straying into odd structures, bizarre twists, and experimental riffs. Its choruses are hooky, its verses catchy and chanty, and the heavy production and technique hides a band that could go toe-to-toe with the big heavy metal bands of the 1980s through 2000s. Their audience is its audience, updated a bit.

Carrying on the tradition of making metal music that pushes past what is socially acceptable, Exhumed return with an onslaught of cynicism about humanity that takes joy in its own dire predictions. Energetic and necrotically enthusiastic, Necrocracy pumps out the energy and the engaging heavy metal tropes in a voice that is all its own, and will serve as a great introduction for many to these genres.

Necrocracy will be released on August 6, 2013 via Relapse Records and can be pre-ordered here. Catch Exhumed on tour:

EXHUMED European Takeover 2013 [remaining dates]:

  • 7/17/2013 Vlamrock – As, Belgium
  • 7/23/2013 Metal Days – Tolmin, Slovenia
  • 7/24/2013 Garage – Munich, Germany
  • 7/25/2013 Eisenwahn – Obersinn, Germany

EXHUMED w/ Dying Fetus, Devourment, Waking The Cadaver

  • (10/4 – 10/19), Abiotic,Rivers Of Nihil (10/26 – 11/2):
  • 10/04/2013 Mojo 13 – Wilmington, DE
  • 10/05/2013 The Soapbox – Wilmington, NC
  • 10/06/2013 Back Booth – Orlando, FL
  • 10/07/2013 The Orpheum – Tampa, FL
  • 10/09/2013 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
  • 10/10/2013 Red 7 – Austin, TX
  • 10/11/2013 Trees – Dallas, TX
  • 10/12/2013 Chameleon Room – Oklahoma City, OK
  • 10/13/2013 Warehouse 21 – Santa Fe, NM
  • 10/14/2013 Rocky Point – Tempe, AZ
  • 10/15/2013 Observatory – Santa Ana, CA
  • 10/16/2013 The Whisky – W. Hollywood, CA
  • 10/17/2013 DNA Lounge – San Francisco, CA
  • 10/18/2013 Branx – Portland, OR
  • 10/19/2013 Studio Seven – Seattle, WA
  • 10/20/2013 Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC
  • 10/22/2013 Republik – Calgary, AB
  • 10/23/2013 Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB
  • 10/24/2013 Riddell Centre – Regina, SK
  • 10/25/2013 Park Theater – Winnipeg, MB
  • 10/26/2013 Station-4 – St Paul, MN
  • 10/27/2013 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
  • 10/29/2013 Peabodys – Cleveland, OH
  • 10/30/2013 Chance Theater – Poughkeepsie, NY
  • 10/31/2013 Palladium – Worcester, MA
  • 11/01/2013 Gramercy Theater – New York, NY
  • 11/02/2013 Empire – Springfield, VA

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Thrones of Heresy – Realms of Desecration

thrones_of_heresy-realms_of_desecrationThe existence of modern death metal — the merging of multiple genres together and slapping the veneer of death metal over it should result in a product that does not appeal to any of the fans of the individual genres, as they will always have purer distillations of each type of metal available — fascinates me. Nevertheless, the genre exists and is evidently quite popular with someone, as numerous bands in the genre arise all the time and reach some measure of success.

Throne of Heresy is such a band, and is an able defender of this type of composition: any type of metal that has been popular over the past two decades is thrown into a blender and the result is a competent but stylistically confused product. Each section of the tracks is well-composed and well executed , though what’s lacking is any sense of purpose or meaning. The progenitors of each style of metal represented here had an intention behind their work, a desire to create art that is conspicuously absent on this EP.

Featuring a decidedly verse-chorus structure, the songs consist of tonally ambiguous palm-muted riffs morphing into admittedly catchy choruses that give way to whatever School of Metal technique is the flavor of the day: it could be a “melodic” solo, an awkward semi-clean breakdown, or perhaps even a key change. What makes these sectional divides even more jarring is that there is very little in the song to indicate when they are occurring, or indeed why they are occurring.

This is not to give the impression that there is nothing of merit occurring: the vocals on the whole are solid death metal belts, though on times they do take on the angry for the sake of being angry tinge that is ingrained in modern metal. Each of the instruments is composed and played well, but the lack of intention or drive that so characterizes modern metal creates an obstacle that cannot be overcome.

It seems to me that bands such as this are suffering from an identity crisis: they are trying to appeal to fans of every genre of metal. While this may be a sound financial decision, it is not a good artistic decision, which is a shame as there is definitely a core of talent to be explored here.

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Khand releases new track “The Squire’s Dream” from upcoming full-length

Ambient band Khand overlaps the metal community because its member and its history are intertwined with the history of east coast underground metal. In addition, much like Brian Eno, Jaaportit, Robert Fripp, Lord Wind, Neptune Towers, Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk seem appreciated in some segments of the metal community, hessians appear to enjoy the “metal-like” dark heavy vibe of this ambient band. The following track, “The Squire’s Dream,” is from the upcoming Khand full-length to see the light of day at a time yet unannounced.

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Manowar – Warriors of the World re-issue

manowar-warriors_of_the_world_tenth_anniversary_remasterMost people are ruled by a fear of what other people think. If they don’t end up looking cool to their friend group, they fear they have become invalidated and are worthless. As a result, people have difficulty accepting anything which is not ironic, contrived and vague.

On the other hand, there’s Manowar.

If you need a good dose of healthy fighting spirit, and a sense of both power and beauty in life, and like the thought of of no longer caring what the in-crowd thinks, Manowar can be liberation. There is no doubting that this music is bombastic and emotionally transparent and direct, which some might call “cheesy.”

However, it’s completely ludicrous to assume that this is any more cheesy than your average metal or rock band. What makes it stand out is that it isn’t neurotic. It embraces a pure heavy metal spirit that affirms bravery, strength, power and a desire for life to be more than “practical” and dollars and cents. You might find it awakening the part of you we might even call… a soul.

That being said, Manowar create in the hazy area between classic heavy metal, glam or stadium metal, and speed metal. They use a lot of speed metal technique to give some backbone to songs which are not afraid to explore melody, mood and atmosphere. What seems like a straightforward heavy metal album has a number of surprises.

You think the intellectuals would like it. What other heavy metal album busts out a Puccini aria from Turandot on the third track, complete with cascading power chord riffs backing up vocalist Eric Adams as he entirely competently belts out this song? Further, despite its many side-steps and quirks, this album is a concept work. How many bands dedicate an album not to war, but those who fight? And make it interesting throughout?

True, there’s a ton of balladry here. There’s a reason that glam metal is included in the list of Manowar influences. These guys took the effete ballads to cheesy women that made glam bands both rich and annoying, and have injected them with instead with a sense of masculine power and the satisfaction of putting things to right when they are disordered. How else to explain the relentlessly patriotic “The Fight for Freedom” two songs away from a tribute to Odin that sounds like a more radio-friendly Bathory? Warriors of the World provides metal fans with a way to connect to emotion without giving in to the weakness of self-doubt and displacement.

The reason we listen to Manowar is that it is just solidly great heavy metal. Like a good opera, each song builds up until there’s energy ready to explode and then it unleashes its momentum into a new direction that becomes as anthemic, foot-tapping and lighter-waving as the best from rock ‘n’ roll as a whole. At these moments, the listener feels like a wave of power bursting free from its containment and raging across a world ripe for destruction. It’s hard to deny the essential appeal of “Warriors of the World,” which is both catchy and elegant.

If you liked Def Leppard in high school, or find the more aggressive moments of Led Zeppelin make you want to punch out your boss and ask out your unspoken high school crush even though she lives three states away, you will immediately pick up on the appeal of this record. The additional technique just makes this more powerful. It’s harder to spot the Queen and Jethro Tull influences, but they are as much part of this album as the Metallica-inspired E-chord rhythm noodling.

Warriors of the World now sounds better than ever thanks to a remaster which didn’t just turn up the volume with the help of compression. It is louder, but dynamics are preserved, and some things that were quieter in the mix the first time have come back with strength. This is especially important with the many vocal tracks and complex interweaving of guitars, vocals and chorus on this album. What makes the album appreciated is its timeless heavy metal quality.

This seems to have been the intent all along. Having conquered basic heavy metal moods, Manowar opted for an ambitious offering with their ninth studio album, and time has been kind to it as it rises above the limited imagination of others. Don’t worry about what the people you think are your friends “think.” Enjoy this for the ambitious musical offering of pure heavy metal spirit that it is.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJ0sW7KOFhU

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