Ripper – Experiment of Existence (2016)

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The Americans invented speed metal with Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All, which came out the same year as Slayer’s Show No Mercy and early European projects like Bathory, Sodom and Hellhammer. The European scene fused these together into a speed metal that used proto-death riffing as exemplified by Destruction, Kreator and Merciless.

Ripper picks up in the Merciless vein and keeps that Swedish landmark as its guiding force. This band keeps the attention of listeners however through its spirit and its refusal to adopt clichés. It uses riff forms found before, but keeps them specific to the song so that they relate to the other parts, preventing songs from being “grab-bags” of former ideas.

Its weakness comes in one of the hardest tasks for any metal band: distinguishing songs from one another when they have a similar approach to tempo and vocal patterns. Here, Ripper lag behind their mentors. This is the only flaw. The Instrumentation is top-notch and creative: the riffing reflects the theme of each song and displays competence and wrestling complexity from simple power chord clusters while vocals are both harsh and complement the music.

Incorporating melodic and instrumental elements, Ripper keeps the intensity high. This creates the type of listening environment that bands like Angelcorpse perfected: both intense like aerobic activity in the presence of terror, and somewhat monolithic because so much of it hits the same sweet spot of rhythm and motion. But its spirit never flags and the resulting enjoyment of the music, for listener and musician, forms a bond that far surpasses what most of the underground has been doing for the past 20 years.

Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations (1980)

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Diamond Head were who Metallica and Megadeth desperately wanted to be. A seventeen-year-old Lars Urlich famously flew to London to see them play after buying their debut from a magazine ad. Celtic Frost owed their career to the Holst-opened classic “Am I Evil?” Lightning to the Nations, is the “the missing link” between the early New Wave of British Heavy Metal and later speed metal.

The guitarwork and songwriting are excellent throughout. Driving Motorhead-style rhythm riffs served by pounding pickup beats and groovy bass lines progress power chords into solos that Blackmore and Tipton wish they had written. These extended leads serve not only as climaxes but continue building tension, alleviated only when the original verse riff (or a variation thereof) returns. Clever variations in the extended riff phrasing enable verses to wind and flow freely around catchy choruses, continuing effectively long after lesser groups would have ran them their course.

Yes, Lightning to the Nations is bluesy with many influences from the riff-based hard rock of the seventies. The vocalist even multi-tracked himself on “Sucking My Love” in imitation of Robert Plant. None of these rock roots serve to lessen the force and creativity present in the music. The atrocious keyboards and reverb mixed into the 1993 Metal Blade reissue do. Stick with the original LP and the 2011 “Deluxe Edition” CD remaster from the original tapes.

Good Friday Crucifixion Playlist

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Billions celebrate Constantine’s syncretic solar deity’s crucifixion by eating fish today. Here’s a playlist of seven classic speed and death metal songs to contemplate this excruciating Roman suffocation method:

Demolition Hammer reunites

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Demolition Hammer have apparently reunited according to the group’s Facebook page. The brutal New York speed metal band last released notable material almost a quarter century ago with the hammering death/speed hybrid Epidemic of ViolenceAlex Marquez of fellow death speedsters Solstice (and Malevolent Creation’s Retribution) is taking over the drum stool from the deceased Vinny DazeWhether any touring or quality material rises from this reunion remains to be seen.

Sadistic Metal Reviews mini-feature: Deathraid – Submit to the Will of Chaos (2016)

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Article by David Rosales

It is always amusing to watch one of these clueless bands take a stab at making an album that falls into the mythical yet non-existent genre of black speed metal. It does not exist for a good reason: it is only a creature in the imagination of those who cannot tell the two genres apart. It is probably also what Venom fans consider to be “first wave black metal”. You gotta have some compassion for these nitwits. Or not.

The music on Deathraid Submit to the Will of Chaos (originally released in extremely limited quantities in 2001) is typically messy, grindy and when it comes around to its most clear-minded, it sounds like a try-hard Hellhammer, without the ability to maintain atmosphere and therefore devolving into boring streamlined noise. From the modern perspective, it is just another variation of war metal stupidity or modern “atmospheric” black metal. Irrelevant as it is lame, this may just be what some of us were looking for – it’s the perfect music for goat love-making.

Triguna Releases New EP

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Last year we covered Triguna‘s debut (Embryonic Forms) with some enthusiasm, placing hopes on their amateur form of discernment and enthusiasm in the writing of progressive speed metal. The first album shows a band that is still a little awkward around expression but displays a latent vision for natural development and a holistic consideration of affairs. Their following EP, released officially on February 11, shows work in the same direction with a little more confidence. The evolution of Triguna’s style has not yet reached a stable point, and may still seem a little rushed or incoherent to the average listener, since they still need more practice in inserting their songs’ “progressive” sections. But these interruptions and twists don’t rob the songs of a coherent narrative, and the upcoming content seems worthy of further study and attention.

Embryonic Forms can be purchased at Triguna’s Bandcamp.

Destruction to release Under Attack

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Destruction plans to release their next studio album, Under Attack, on May 13th, 2016; amusingly enough this’ll be their 13th album as well; at least if you count the especially disastrous mid-’90s lineup’s material. “Neo-Destruction”, as they call it these days, is especially important to understanding this band. Its studio work blew up so violently in their faces that it locked the band into the self-referential and especially formulaic route they tread today. Under Attack is unlikely to end that, and the trailer showcases little of the inventive riffcraft and melodic development that made the band influential and interesting in the ’80s, even though the rest of their songwriting eventually fell behind more advanced underground acts.

Artillery to release Penalty by Perception

Back in the late ’80s, Artillery was (to my understanding) one of the more musically literate speed metal bands out there, arguably peaking in commercial success on By Inheritance, which like many late ’80s and early ’90s releases in the genre reflected a more polished, assimilated, and mainstream take on the various ideas present in the genre. Artillery reformed in 2007 and has attempted to capture something of that era with their albums since; Penalty by Perception will release on March 25th and bears at least a superficial resemblance to the band’s previous material on first inspection. For the band’s sake, let’s hope it doesn’t fall victim to the lack of animating spirit that some other revivals from Denmark (like Denner/Sherman) have suffered.

Voivod releases title track from Post Society EP

Voivod recently released the title track from the upcoming Post Society EP. Its overall Voivodness (in the French-Canadian metal sense, as opposed to the Polish administrative one) supports my previous theory that the band is continuing with the approach that they outlined on Target Earth; in my own previous words, “…an accessible mixture of of their signature late ’80s sound with more modern alternative and progressive rock influences.” The EP is still scheduled for February 26th, and Voivod is still going on tour next month. The good track record so far bodes well for the quality of the involved content, although the fact so much of it having already been released piecemeal may cut into its overall sales.

Megadeth – Dystopia (2016)

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Megadeth has cycled between obvious mainstream rock pandering and careful imitation of their best appreciated works at an ever accelerating rate since their reformation in 2004. If this trend keeps up, they’ll be changing styles with every strum of their guitars in a few years. Dystopia isn’t quite as quick to alter its own sounds as that rather implausible hypothetical peak, but it’s still obviously colored by two colliding trends; Dave Mustaine’s desire to outsell Metallica, and the fact that even relatively extreme metal can sell enormous volumes in 2016. This makes what would be yet another comeback album into a surprisingly disjointed experience at times.

In general, Dystopia provides its potential listeners with several varieties of vintage Megadeth to peruse at their leisure, ranging from the technical wizardry of the ’80s and Rust in Peace (arguably the musical peak of this band) to the streamlined pop metal that immediately followed such, and even hints of recent albums through conceptual and musical continuity. Beyond the vocals of Dave Mustaine and the frequent guitar leads, though, there’s little that distinguishes this from other poppy speed metal of the mid 2010s, especially since this is one of those dime-a-dozen studio perfect recordings with perfectly appropriate production and instrumentation. One definite problem, however is that Dave Mustaine’s vocal and lyrical contributions have decayed in quality in recent years. Megadeth’s always been political at the best of times, but more often than not the lyrics devolve into political sloganeering that might be appropriate if he actually ran for president of the USA. In song format, though, all they do is annoy, irritate, and pander. Mustaine also relies increasingly on digital processing to mask the age-related decay of his voice, most notably on “Fatal Illusion“. This isn’t an innately bad thing, and you could theoretically make a case for the chorusing and harmonies opening new ideas for Megadeth to explore, but it pushes unneeded emphasis on the vocals, so even the average listener that decides that the technique sounds kind of cool might find it grating regardless. Perhaps I shouldn’t be focusing on the vox too much, but when the rest of the album is competent and yet unremarkable, it’s sometimes the only option.

In short, Dystopia is kind of disposable; most metal albums that try to approximate known classics are. It’s still better than Repentless, but the “Big Four” have all since run out of momentum, which makes Dystopia‘s slick technical competence marred by excessive streamlining even more unremarkable than it would otherwise be. The last time Megadeth tried their hands at this, they cranked out Endgame, which was well received at the time of its release and generally similar in approach, but has since faded from the public eye. Do you still have space in your listening rotation for Endgame? If you don’t, you won’t have time for Dystopia either.