15 Sep 2014

Forsaken Legion - Seeds of Black Dawn [Demo] (2012, Self-released)

Once Switzerland was a place where legends formed, with Hellhammer - and subsequently Celtic Frost and Triptykon - being the reigning kings of metal there. Recently the country of Switzerland has begun stirring anew with the miasmic sounds of Bölzer resounding through proverbial catacombs. But enough talk of Switzerland's exports of metal - Everybody knows, or at the very least should know of, bands like Samael and Coroner. Let us instead deal with the Swiss underground, Forsaken Legion in particular.

Forsaken Legion formed in 2012 and released their first album in december that same year. Though their sites and profiles are tagged as black metal, there's a bit more to it than that. Tracks like Crow has a definite thrashy edge, while something like Human Decay - like you may have guessed - has a strong death metal influence. These variations lend great strength to the music found on Seeds of Black Dawn. Forsaken Legion refuse to conform to the standard practices of the genre, and while they may not be wholeheartedly legend-material their debut album makes promises of great things yet to come.

There's no use shoehorning the quintet into genre conventions. It's not that there is anything new and exciting about the way they mix extreme metal genres, but they are entirely their own, doing exactly what they please. The songs are built on a strong foundation of blackened metal, empowered by thrashing riffs, blast beats and death-like growls, a few creeping melodies lurking in the background.

While the drums are executed at profound speeds and with a fair bit of force, they could be utilized better to underline the powerful rhythm section. The title track stands out as the best use of tempo changes and the "classic" black metal sound, bringing to mind bands like Dark Funeral and Marduk. All in all, though, without a more tight rhythm section and more attention to flow of songwriting, Seeds of Black Dawn falls through as a modern classic. It should be enjoyable to most fans of blasting black metal mixed up with a bit of the ol' death n' thrash combo, but apart from a few well-made compositions the album holds little merrit as anything but background noise. 6/10 guitars.

1. Human Decay
2. Mountain's Massacre
3. Seeds of Black Dawn
4. Crow
5. Deserve to Die
6. Azathoth
7. Ambassador of Chaos

Visit Forsaken Legion on Facebook
Visit Forsaken Legion on ReverbNation

3 Sep 2014

Asilo - Comunión [Full length] (2014, Self-released)

Turmoil breeds frustration and anger, which in turn breeds outlets for that frustration. South America has had a rich history dating back to the early 80s of metal bands expressing their anger through their music and lyrics, and like those legendary and trendsetting bands from the days of yore, the four-man group Asilo from Argentina presents a lyrical universe revolving around themes such as politics and the suffering it can bring, set to a soundtrack of furious and often dangerously calm mix of doom-laden drones drenched in grimey sludge.

Pure aggression is one of the mainstays of Asilo's music, of that there can be no doubt. In a hardcoresque style, lead singer Manuel Platino practically screams his lungs out to the sounds of harshly distorted bass and thunderous percussion. Comunión's structure as an album is also one of the strengths that underline the band's style. The way it fluctuates between insane cacophonies and inky pools of fragile pianos - or even saxophone at one point - is what makes listening to Comunión as an album interesting.

However, aggression necessitates some kind of structure and form. Were it not for the disciplined interludes of classical piano set regularly throughout the album to provide some sort of contrast, Comunión would appear to be a harsh collection of discord. There are a multitude of examples of bands that do this unhinged, rambling musical lunacy all too well, but Asilo lack the intensity and groove that those bands utilize.

The vocals, though wholy authentic and honest, come off as a bit too immusical to me. In grindcore, the gratingly raw vocals are an essential part of the whole expression, complete with that intense wall of distortion. But in Asilo, the vocals take up a lot of space in the mix, and needlessly so. Coupled with that is a lifeless overall sound which so lacks that concentrated emission of sound. This isn't the first time I've had the (dis)pleasure of listening to guitarless music, using instead a fairly driven bass. But to be succesful in that endeavour, you better make damn sure the bass has drive and punch enough to take the guitar's place.

The main highpoint of Comunión was, to me, Miedo y Curiosidad from the latter part of the album. This track feels somewhat out of place, although not entirely. It features the same harshness as the rest of the album, but is graciously garnished with the haunting sounds of a well-played saxophone, adding a thick atmosphere of eerieness that the rest of the album sorely needs. Elaborating on what I mentioned earlier, Asilo's first actual album since their spawning in 2010 is an honest affair where they stay true to their own values - Something that many bands could learn a thing or two from. But that particular style does nothing to me, other than fill me with a wish of listening to something else. The saxophone melodies in Miedo y Curiosidad committed that last shred of reason to the insanity that made it a more easily digestible portion, but the rest of the album remains a bothersome clutter of confusion. 4/10 guitars.

1. Geografías
2. Pichiciega Fe
3. (epidemia mundial del desencanto)
4. La Paciencia del Cuchillo
5. Arquitectura del Silencio
6. (anti voz)
7. Dinámica del Cambio
8. Mideo y Curiosidad
9. (no a la vida)
10. La Ultima Voluntad

The music of ASILO is available on Bandcamp
Visit ASILO on Facebook

29 Aug 2014

0 The Experiment - Simplifying A Demon [Full length] (2013, Self-released)

Whenever I see a band or project labeled as drone my warning bells start ringing. Much too often drone has been used as a cloak for lazy songwriting, blaspheming against great acts like Boris or Sunn O))).
Supposedly the idea behind 0 The Experient is seeing how far you can take music with just a bass. Apparently the answer to that conundrum is "not very far", because most of what Simplifying a Demon presents is a mimic of what you might as well do with a guitar in much the same manner. Disguised in a veil of treble distortion, sometimes accompanied by pseudo-jazzy bass fiddling, the bulk of the work presented might as well have been a regular bedroom black metal band. Add to that the weak nature of the vocals, and you've got yourself a long, boring album.

0 The Experiment affiliates itself with tags such as drone, black metal, minimalistic and experimental. Indeed, there are tracks that are veritable feasts of reverb and distortion delivered in an appropriate wall-of-noise manner. And black metal too has an obvious presence among the seven tracks the project's first album. It's all presented in a very minimalistic and simple manner. What I don't see is the experimental part - Experimental for the practitioner perhaps. But there's hardly anything progressive, avant-garde or otherwise experimental in nature about a guy rubbing out some mostly mediocre basslines to unengaging lyrics and unending wads of boring drone. Simplifying a Demon is really basic stuff, and "The Experiment" simply lacks the ritualistic ambience that makes black metal and drone great, without adding anything else to take its place.

Looks like the ol' warning bells were right. But then, in the midst of all this mediocrity comes the two last tracks, Demon and Ritual to Nothingness. The latter portrays a great entrancing feel of cosmic psychedelia while still maintaining an odious core of something a bit more sinister hidden away among the meldoes, while the former feels like a downright study in the bass' capabilities as a more analog counterpart to the synthesizer, bringing to mind some of Burzum's finer works in black metal and ambience in spirit. I don't particularly care for the lifeless black metal aspect of Demon, but there is still a bounty of quality to be found therein. And while the two works show great promise and showcase the diversity of the bass as a versatile instrument, the same cannot be said for the rest of the album. It baffles me that the rest of the album is such a mess of coma-inducing boredom.

Those two tracks that I have praised seem like they should be the main core of 0. With or without the help of computerized effects, the modern electric bass can provide astounding amounts of diversity... Something that is for the most part poorly expressed on Simplifying a Demon. 4/10 guitars.

1. Prophet In Blood
2. Black Elf
3. D.I.E. (Death Is Eclectic)
4. I, The River
5. Waiting for Something to Die to Eat
6. Demon
7. Ritual to Nothingness

Listen for yourself on Bandcamp
Visit 0 on Facebook

24 Aug 2014

Deathlord - Maximum Perversion [Demo] (2013, Self-released)

When you get down to business and back to basics with death metal what you're left with is indisputable. Stomache churning vocals, gut wrenching instrumentals, loathsome melodies and ass kicking drums. It's been like that since day one. There's absolutely nothing abstruse or profoundly intelligent about it, and neither does there need to be. That is indeed the modus operandi of the Dutch band of death metal motherfuckers Deathlord. Even the name in itself seems to be giving the middle finger to overly thought out, image-based hipster metal.

The warm gusts of burly attacks can seem downright primitive, so much so that tracks like the immense opener "War" and "Into the Depths" have incredible impact just from the sheer brutal rhythm that underlines the entire demo. The vocals are nothing if not honest - It's basically just a guy screaming his guts out, spewing all kinds of filth about death, gore and even more obscure subjects. Lastly of course, the demo is garnished with a cover of Nunslaughter's "Burning Away". At this point it seems almost obvious, like we'd all seen it coming miles away. And that's what Maximum Perversion is all about; Deathlord pervert the very notion that you have to be smart about your music and not just play what sounds fucking awesome. Combine Morbid Angel's ominous melodies and Asphyx's sturdy rhythms, add dual vocals, and there you have it. The bastard child is Deathlord.

The unceremonious arrangements found on Maximum Perversion viciously deals with any pretention. Herein lies both the strength and the weakness of Deathlord. For were it not for their twist with two very different vocal styles spewed forth by the lead singer and the bassist - who both remain unnamed - their style in itself would be rather anonymous. The rough screams put forth as vocals serve as a great identifier for the band, but is as Maximum Perversion is presented one of the only elements that set Deathlord apart from similar bands - Their churning rhythms and steady war-machine beats aren't quite enough. The guitar work is quite astounding on tracks like "Cursed to Live", and I only wish that this element would be used to greater effect on the release as a whole.

In the end Deathlord's mix of short and longer songs mix things up at regular intervals, always ready to assault with something new. Be it slow-burning, steady grinders, gloomy doom-laden bursts or explosions of violent death, Maximum Persersion has anything a good death metal album needs. 7/10 guitars.

1. War
2. Maximum Perversion
3. Altars in Flames
4. Lord of Death
5. Into the Depths
6. Cursed to Live
7. Kill is the Command
8. Burning Away (Nunslaughter Cover)

Visit Deathlord on Facebook
Get Maximum Perversion for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp

18 Aug 2014

Licrest - Misery [Full length] (2014, Music for the Dead)

I've had my hands on a good portion of Armon Nicholson's material. For those not initiated in his cult and dogma, Nicholson is an American musician with quite an astounding body of work. In the last few years he's recorded and released six albums, seven EPs and an assortment of other releases under various monickers, exploring virtually every sub-genre in extreme metal, all without any significant lapse in quality. The guitar-wielding metalhead's trademark is immensely powerful compositions and top notch production, usually set to a crisp guitar groan.

Misery is the second album Nicholson has released under the name Licrest. While the first album, Devoid of Meaning from 2013, was pretty straight forward in its execution, the second album is less so, though still keeping close to the almost symbolic and iconic branches of immaculate doom that permeated the debut. Misery is a slow burner, never hurrying anywhere lest you miss the churning rhythms found within. The album in itself is constructed in just the same manner as the songs, with a few intermissions giving room and air around the lengthier main tracks, and it serves as a way of building tension for those songs.

I've found that most bands playing a mix of death and doom metal fall within one of two categories: One is laden with rot, relying heavily on death metal and Autopsy-inspired riffs set at the churning pace of doom metal. The other is the kind where almost gothic melodies and finer tunes play the leading role, with the doom parts resounding more heavily. Armon Nicholson's Licrest project falls outside this sentiment, and belongs to that minuscule quantile that is different from the rest of the bunch. It neatly balances the uncompromising nature of death metal with the sombre essence of doom metal, pertaining to the ominousity of both genres in equal amounts.

On Misery, Nicholson firmly establishes his rightful place among the big shots as an accomplished songwriter with flair for multiple genres. Other than the fact that the lyrics can sometimes come off as a bit whiny, there's really not much to complain about. And this is what makes a great album. 8/10 guitars.

1. Into the Abyss
2. Regret
3. Forever Lost
4. Like a Flood of Anger
5. A Starless Sky
6. I Want to Watch You Die
7. Misery
8. Make Up
9. Fading Away Into Nothing
10. The Heart of Winter
11. Exhale

Visit Licrest on Facebook
Visit Music for the Dead

Get Misery on Bandcamp for Name-Your-Price!