Ulcerate – “Stare Into Death And Be Still”
Riffless Death metal outfit Ulcerate have toned their typically dissonant approach in search of something more akin to Post-Rock as seen by many of the modern “black” metal bands. The shapes of the melodies remain virtually identical to their previous works with just the choice of notes changing to reflect this sudden change. Inquisition like tremolo effects form the “tails” of most of the melodies. While such effects have been used in metal to deliver great results (Iron Maiden – “22 Acacia Avenue”), here they just give the illusion that there is more than what is truly happening. In reality this is a compilation of random ideas shoved together that maintain a certain atmosphere without any actual composition.
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – Ascension
The band’s previous offering Exile saw them playing standard wallpaper Black metal but with syncopated chugging passages to break up the monotony. This was under the pretense of incorporating Sludge but felt more akin Metalcore in that short repetitive chugging phrases were interspersed between the droning instead of being built upon. Here the modus operandi is to follow in the footsteps set by Mgla in creating uselessly long melodies that rely on the same few chord progressions. Unlike Mgla, Regarde Les Hommes Tomber do this from basic chord progressions that are stretched to the point where the feeling of a singular melody is replaced with a stream of notes that modulate within the confines of the chord progression without expressing anything. The leads being trapped by the limited melodies, play short recurring themes of no interest. A strong contender for the worst album of the year.
Kardinal X – “Heretic”
Starting off with an early Rainbow like passage that slowly shifts and turns into a crushing mid period Black Sabbath riff that avoids the mindless droning that has sequestrated such an influence in favour of conveying darkness. The band then opt for the grandeur of “Heaven and Hell” with a simple thudding bassline and vocalist Jimi James soaring on top like obvious influence Ronnie James Dio. Though he lacks the commanding presence of the great frontman, he is able to muster the same emotive articulation. An extended solo then follows and though it is based on a set of fast minor pentatonic runs it combines the calculated style of Tony Iommi with the inventive flair of Ritchie Blackmore. The band then return return to that crushing riff and slowly develop it towards its end before ending on the initial calm segment that concludes this song. Kardinal X have incredible potential and can make good music but they need to break from the firm chains of their influences.
Psynthesis – Sign of the Apocalypse
Relying on a combination of Death metal and Speed metal tropes that is akin to Slayer in spirit but with overt influences from bands like Vader and Artillery. Standard Speed metal riffs meet more inspired bursts of melody and Death metal. Songs are arranged in dense riff mazes that often degenerate into riff salads as a large number of riffs forced together into these and while these songs are coherent as each riff transfers fluidly into the next. The Speed metal mentality of having multiple “islands” of interest instead of attributing each passage equal importance creates moments of boredom before waking the listener when something interesting occurs. Each song doesn’t convey any narrative and it’s only during the final parts that do band rush to conclude things. Psynthesis show a lot of promise during their more inspired moments and definitely have potential but are going to have to cull their weaker ideas while putting much more effort towards properly arranging their songs into narratives.
Posehn – “Take on Me”
A cover of A-ha’s most famous song by metal comedian Brian Posehn featuring Chuck Billy, Steve “Zetro” Souza and deceased topless DJ Jill Janus. While this may sound like a joke between friends, the amount of effort put here is worrying. Chugging guitars and gratuitous leads destroy the vibrant sense of melody of the original. Chuck Billy shows that despite his pronounced age and his brush with cancer that he is a still a very capable musician. Zetro despite being a much more limited vocalist still shows his trademark madness with an added versatility that he doesn’t get to explore much. Jill Janus on the other hand is one of the biggest frauds in the history of metal. She has no range beyond three or four notes within her chest voice and her higher register only existing thanks to modern studio engineering as it is stitched together from a hundred or so takes and still has to be heavily processed. Her growls are just her “singing” but with a forced rasp that sounds like a cat pushing out a thick hairball. Her highs are the same but pushed through in head voice which sounds pathetic. While idiotic covers are nothing new to the genre, this song shows how commercial metal took a mentally fragile woman, adulated her for something that she wasn’t and then cried and was shocked when she killed herself.