Gama Bomb – Untouchable Glory (2015)

Review by Corey M

Having never heard of Gama Bomb before this album, after the first few moments of music I was afraid that I had gotten ahold of some sort of the modern-faux-thrash-revival that is somehow cool to people who don’t listen to thrash bands. But I was wrong; Untouchable Glory is not a forced revival or a rip-off; it’s just dumb music. This not to say that the guys in the band are dumb, because they clearly have practiced their musicianship and are attentive to the dynamics and compositional symmetry in their songs. But the result of what they do is still dumb, and apparently they want it that way.

The basis of Gama Bomb’s style is made up of high-speed two- or three-chord minor riffs over which a vocalist rants and chants cleverly cadenced lyrics with just enough emphasis that his voice never becomes a full-on yell but keeps up (barely) enough energy to avoid sounding bored. A typical Untouchable Glory song starts up at full-speed right out of the gate and rushes through a verse, then hits you with slightly bouncier, chunkier variation of the same riff you just heard (but transposed a few steps up or down) as the drums switch from dense d-beats to a sort of swaggering rock rhythm. After that comes the chorus, which is usually not made up of a more interesting riff but does have some very catchy vocal pattern that, coupled with the rapid-fire lyrics, creates a hook powerful enough to snag a whale. Some songs have guitar leads and these are mostly made of 16th-note blather with no discernible direction other than back and forth because that’s the extent of the movement of the chords. There are a couple of times where the chords underneath the lead shift unexpectedly and the lead follows (which undermines the purpose of a lead! Maybe I shouldn’t be calling the guitar antics “leads”…) and resolves the progression in a viscerally satisfying way. However this satisfying resolution is all too rare and the guitar leads rather serve as marks of distinction among the generally formulaic songs.

So far, I’ve only pointed out common failings of metal albums – probably more than 95% of all metal commits the transgressions that I’ve detailed above. So what makes Untouchable Glory worse than a mediocre album is the purpose mentioned in the first paragraph? Gama Bomb is made up of competent musicians, but they have no ambition. Every song sticks to the same method of structure and dynamic manipulation. Every lead begins and ends in the same way. The band must rely on their vocalist and his method of delivery, which does a great job to augment the repetitious rhythm of the guitars, but this only exposes the weakness in the guitar and drum composition, because the vocals never let up or give the music a chance to expand beyond its immediate template. Typically I’d refer to chord progressions when describing song structure but the chord patterns that make up the songs on Untouchable Glory don’t progress, they just recycle. This tendency in the composition reflects the band’s attitude toward metal (and presumably music) as a whole.

The ultimate failure of this album is not in its compositional shortcomings but in its intentional stupidity. Song subjects cover kitsch and cliche topics such as getting high, getting drunk, hating authority, burning witches, being a ninja, and being undead. That these topics are dealt with is not enough to warrant criticism, but the self-consciously ironic attitude that Gama Bomb takes towards the topics is what separates them from quality acts that they are aping. Metal and punk bands have been covering these topics for decades but they didn’t have their tongues in their cheeks while doing so. Since those topics were taboo, metal bands explored new methods of song construction to fit with such uncomfortable or repulsive themes and great music was created as a result (and I always refer the uninitiated to Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast” or Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” for an example of how musicality and lyrics support one another to establish and expand on a theme). Meanwhile, Gama Bomb have nothing new to say about any of these topics and so it would logically follow that they needn’t invent any new music to support their take on the topics. Thus all we get to hear is basically a parody of speed metal and thrash. If you think that type of music deserves to be joked about, then Gama Bomb might be right for you. If, however, you appreciate and honor the innovators who brought extreme subjects into popular music and brainstormed methods of expressing them musically and lyrically, then you’d best move along, because Untouchable Glory is an affront to honesty.

Borknagar sets release date for Winter Thrice

borknagar winter thrice
The bastard sons of Molested are back. Borknagar started their career as a melodic ‘viking’ themed black metal band, but gradually (under the influence of its revolving door of vocalists) evolved towards the sort of melodramatic, pseudo-progressive heavy rock music of their post-black companions like Arcturus and Solefald. Winter Thrice is allegedly going to hearken back to the band’s earlier days in some ways, but judging from the sample track released, this is going to be the same sort of musically proficient but sterile product so many other bands are releasing. It comes out on January 22nd, 2016, further adding to the barrage of upcoming releases in that month and on that day in particular.

Policeman fired after singing with Vital Remains

police song
A constantly evolving story we have here, folks. Last Wednesday, parts of the internet caught fire after Andrew Ricks, a police officer from Sanford, Florida, was fired for participating in a Vital Remains concert while on duty. The last bit seems to be what sealed his fate – in an interview with the Daily Beast, Ricks’ supervisor (Chief Cecil E. Smith) claims that prior to this incident, Ricks had previously violated police policies – for instance, not keeping a body camera active during ‘community contacts’. It’s also worth noting that Ricks had already given notice of impending resignation and would have performed his last day of policework yesterday had he not been fired. Whether or not Chief Smith’s actions were justified, it does make a potent case for keeping an eye on a news story and paying special attention to any new information that comes up as it evolves.

There’s also arguably the issue of Vital Remains. Although their musical abilities aren’t likely to play a role in upcoming elements, it’s not our style to let them go unmentioned. Unfortunately, this is one of the bands I haven’t exactly given more than the most cursory of examinations (and even that was several years ago) but I seem to remember them falling into the common trap of having disorganized songwriting; an especially great problem as they also tend to favor extended songs. Is this accurate? I’d like to read about your opinions.

My Dying Bride – Feel The Misery (2015)

Regardless of how you might feel about My Dying Bride as a whole, you could make the point that their earlier, more death metal oriented works gave them more musical breadth to work with. Feel The Misery mostly tosses the ‘death’ part of the band’s legacy and doesn’t replace the holes with anything. To be honest, I found it quite depressing, but I don’t think it was really for the reasons that the band intended. By trying to stretch out a minimum of musical ideas to just over an hour, My Dying Bride has turned their latest studio album into an exercise in tedium and predictability.

Like many a doom band before them, MDB takes a style of metal (on this album, really basic traditional Black Sabbath type stuff) and plays it especially slowly. The emphasis is generally on the vocal performance of Aaron Stainthorpe, who on this album seems shackled by the sluggish pace and constant atmosphere of the recording. His combination of both proficient growls and a clean baritone register give him some versatility that would certainly come in handy on an album with enough diversity of musical language to accommodate his talents. The emphasis on the traditional, mainstream sorts of metal, though, come with a troublesome burden – permanent consonance and conventional pop music language mean that anything the band introduces often lasts for a very long time or is callously discarded without much in the way of elaboration. The songwriting here isn’t completely stagnant, but it certainly meanders, and the inability to properly develop on anything makes an already lengthy album feel even more drawn out than it already is.

The obvious point of comparison is not necessarily to death-doom or even more mainstream forms of doom metal as a whole, but to other drawn out, minimalist/ambient works. The best works of that sort (sparse as their construction often is) tend to trace out a sort of musical “journey” by building up a logical connection between every aspect of the music. Compared to more conventionally structured music, it’s simultaneously easier and harder – the former because there’s less elements to work with, and the latter because listeners would therefore have more opportunity to inspect and scrutinize what actually is there. It seems, however, that My Dying Bride doesn’t even attempt this on Feel the Misery, which is content to wallow in its own sorrow. If you want a miserable navel gazing experience, it would fit just fine, but as a work of metal, it is a dismal failure.


Dave Lombardo starts new hardcore punk band – Dead Cross

dead cross
In other news that beats trying to explain why My Dying Bride’s latest LP is a borehole and a psychic drain (more on that later today if all goes well), Dave Lombardo of Slayer fame has started a hardcore punk band, adding to his already substantial roster of projects. Besides Lombardo, Dead Cross also features Justin Pearson from The Locust and Retox. If the band’s lineup and announcement on Vice are any indication, Dead Cross may take more after modern hardcore punk and metalcore than older substyles of the genre. If you particularly need to hear members of Slayer performing classic hardcore punk, there’s always Slayer’s Undisputed Attitude, although Lombardo was out of the band when it came out in 1996.

Chthe’ilist to release Le dernier crépuscule

You don’t get a great deal of straight up Demilich worship, but Chthe’ilist got some buzz a few years ago for having some clear similarities in their aesthetics and writing style. This presumably continues on the band’s upcoming full length debut – Le Dernier Crépuscule will come out in January 2016. Several record labels have claimed the rights to various formats, but Profound Lore is responsible for the CD pressing and digital releases, so that’s probably who you should go unless you’re a major collector. Profound Lore has already released a preview track from this album – “Voidspawn” bears some surface similarities to the works of Demilich, but otherwise sounds a bit smoothed out and obviously streamlined to meet the requirements of a larger audience.

Listenable Records reissues Immolation – Dawn of Possession

immolation dop

Article by Daniel Maarat

Immolation’s debut has recently been reissued with the original CD mastering intact for the first time since 1995. Closer to conventional speed metal and lacking the complex polyrhythms and syncopation of their prime material (including the masterful Close to a World Below), the album nevertheless remains an accessible must-listen. That this classic was out of print for over twenty years with even the Polish mafia, probably bootleg slammed remaster going for inflated prices on the secondary market shows just how much the Warner Music Group owned, formerly independent Roadrunner Records has been neglecting their back catalog in favor of pushing nu-metal and Nickelback to a lowest common denominator audience. Hopefully more licensed-out, quality digital reissues will follow as Metal Blade was permitted to handle the recent Mercyful Fate and Sepultura vinyl pressings.

Black Vul Destruktor – Beyond Time and Portals of Death (2013)

black vul destruktor
The Argentinian (Patagonian) city of Neuquén is an important regional industrial and agricultural center, but it’s still in a relatively remote part of the world and probably analogous in some ways to living in the Great Plains of the United States and Canada. If this compilation by Black Vul Destruktor is to be believed, knowledge of extreme metal has made its way to the region. The material on Beyond Time and Portals of Death seemingly takes more after the proto-underground; its mixture of stereotypical black and death metal technique marks it as a descendant of the Bestial Devastation school of metal, but more often not trading pure chaos and insanity for some level of refinement.

Since Beyond Time and Portals of Death compiles both the band’s Bestial Obscure Metal Kaos demo (from 2012) and an older demo from 2008, there’s a clear split in sound, but not necessarily in composition. The old material is understandably much rougher in production and mixing (although it’s still intelligible), but it shares much of its DNA with the new material. Both recordings showcase Black Vul Destruktor writing loosely structured and performed songs composed of fluent chromatic tremolo riffs over initially sloppy and later more coherent drumming. Everything’s a bit amorphous at the best of times, but this extremely stripped down method leaves enough wiggle room for the band to experiment with structure a bit. The material seems to generally work better on the more primitive demo, although Bestial Obscure Metal Kaos does achieve a higher level of satisfying rhythmic prowess. Everything feels a bit more charismatic on the earlier material, at least in that ineffable early Blasphemy/Beherit/Sarcofago/good “war metal” way; especially in its vocals, which have little regard for meter or prosody. It’s nearly the exact antithesis of how I compose, but the style admittedly has its value.

The end product is far from original, but it showcases some careful study of what made the simpler, more hardcore-inflected black metal work, and it occasionally throws in some threshold-expanding ideas of its own (see the goofy melodic outro of “Slaves”, or the constant variety of tempo and texture on the later material). It is very much of its scene, showcasing a great deal of techniques and stereotypes I’d associate with the South American underground, but what it does, it does well, even seemingly responding to the common criticism of underground metal (that it’s limited to mere worship and aping of the great classics) by pushing for some innovation within its adopted framework.

This album can be streamed and purchased from Bandcamp thanks to the services of Blood Harvest Records.

Rhapsody of Fire unveils new album – Into The Legend

into the legend
The consistently bombastic and melodramatic (except when splitting into two bands) Rhapsody of Fire has revealed the cover art and tracklisting for Into The Legend. Intended for release on January 15th, 2016, Into the Legend will likely continue the band’s signature style, although word on the street is that its predecessor (Dark Wings of Steel) was a partial departure from such. Without a promotional single, there’s not a great deal of information we can work with. On the other hand, expect the media to compare this to Luca Turilli’s competing and recent Prometheus, Symphonia Ignis Divinus, and perhaps for the bigger symphonic power metal fans to insist that it either does or does not live up to whatever standard some of the other bands in the genre have set with their recent material.

At The Gates releases music video for “The Night Eternal”

Someone’s brain at Century Media wasn’t firing on all of its cylinders, because this music video didn’t quite make it out in time for the 20th anniversary of Slaughter of the Soul. “The Night Eternal” is the final track of At the Gates’ 2014 comeback, At War With Reality. We didn’t give the album a great deal of consideration when it released, except to say that it wasn’t quite as offensive and simplistic as the band had been in 1995. Instead, it took after the band’s mid-period for whatever reason, showcasing some efforts towards musical depth without really reaching the career and genre peak of The Red In The Sky Is Ours. The video showcases little to dispel that belief and is likely only really worth your time if you’re into the 2D graphics manipulation visuals it showcases… and if you are into that sort of thing, you should really learn 68000 assembly and write a scenedemo for the Commodore Amiga.