Today has found me pondering on many things. But more importantly than why it is that my neighbor likes to mow his lawn, naked, at two in the morning is the fact that this year is transpiring into an amazing year for metal. Anticipated releases from Iced Earth, Lock Up, Benighted, Immolation, Kreator, Pallbearer and a litany of others have the metal hordes foaming at the mouth and chomping at the proverbial bit. So where to turn, what to look for? Fear not my head banging friends for I am here to help make sense of it all, well not all for I am the laziest of lazy bastards, and weed (see what I did there?) through the hype.
First up, from the Century Media stable:
Any guesses as to whom goes first?
Vallenfyre – Fear Those Who Fear Him (UK)
Vallenfyre on facebook
Release – June/2/2017
Century Media Records
on Vinyl and CD
Originally formed in 2010, by Paradise Lost founding member Gregor Mackintosh, Vallenfyre have since grown into a veritable beast. With two full lengths behind them, an outstanding live performance bolstering their output and already impressive fanbase theirs is a sound that encompasses a handful of styles ranging from the Gothic groove of Paradise Lost, the plodding melancholic emotion associated with My Dying Bride to the ferociousness raw power of grindcore stalwarts Napalm Death, Discharge and Nihilist.
With this, Fear Those Who Fear Him, their third full length Vallenfyre have adapted to a three piece, expanding to a quintet for live performances to attain what clamoring fans demand, an unforgettable feast of metal brutality.
Born to Decay opens the album. Rising as if from the abyss itself a chant of sorts contorts itself into a hefty riff, reminiscent of genre gods Grave. The Swedish feel continues as the second track caresses the senses while bludgeoning the physical shell. Fans of vintage Entombed (fitting that their earliest moniker Nihilist is a track listed here) rejoice, only minutes in this release promises a raw, primitive, unapologetic and abrasive tenderness akin to a drunken, naked (why naked? It’s more effective that way) tumble from a monster truck careening down a terrifying mountainous gradient.
Old school groove makes itself a priority in Degeneration, an honest to God (whichever incarnation you may worship) tip of the hat to a style that has been somewhat lacking in the scene as of late, a throwback to the fledgling age of extreme values in metal where production values were unheard of, chaos was abundant and an exciting new genre, a seething cesspool of wickedness, was about to be spat forth onto the unsuspecting masses.
The album jumps onto another track with An Apathetic Grave. Tendrils of Paradise Lost riff laden passages are unmistakable (Shades of God and Icon are still amongst my favorite albums) and run alongside, within and around a My Dying Bride theme drenched in a tempo that’s a tad faster than is normally associated with the band. An amazing track to break up the album’s brutality some.
Amongst the Filth is another groove laden treat, and unadulterated Celtic Frost worship, not a bad thing in my book. An instantly recognizable (Return to the Eve) riff powers the track prompting the listener’s limbs to jerk of their own accord.
Following tracks deliver crust, brutality and sludge in varying degrees. Dead World Breathes assaults the ears for a stunning forty seconds suggesting a vintage Napalm Death type attack but with more depth. Whereas, The Merciless Tide suggests Paradise Lost roots, a foundation built upon by a Gothenburg influence draped in distortion and spite. Cursed from the Womb bears an industrial motif, of sorts, a slower tempo polished with a suffocating lacquer of melody, atmosphere and despair. Both are standouts in my opinion showcasing varied influences within the band and exquisite knowledge of what works through many years of blood sweat and tears, wisdom and experience within the scene.
In Greg Mackintosh’s own words Fear Those Who Fear Him provides (the listener with) … “Raw honest brutality. No conformity. No compromise.” After several listens, I couldn’t agree more with this assessment. ‘Fear Those’ delivers crushing riffs, a varied stylistic approach encased in old school values and a stunning collection of tunes which will gleefully toss fans new and old alike back a few decades whilst still maintaining a style that will appeal to the thirsty demands of the amassed hordes located in the extreme arena of the metal spectrum.
Hmmm…I wonder who’s up next?
Iced Earth – Incorruptible (USA)
Release – June/16/2017
Century Media Records
I bet these things will fly like the Dickens!
Let me first impart a little back history and my thoughts on the act known as Iced Earth then I’ll gladly scribble my honest opinions on their newest album, up for my scrutiny.
Iced Earth have been on the scene for over thirty years (under the Purgatory moniker from 85’ to 88’) and have at times enjoyed mind-boggling success. Their album’s bear images that are fantastical, eye-catching and have been sported by many a teen wondering the mall in search of a Hot Topic. With an antagonist (?) somewhere between Iron Maiden’s ‘Eddy’ and Megadeth’s ‘Vic Rattlehead’ so utterly recognizable, drawn by Eliran Kantor elirankantor.com there’s no wonder why the appeal is as huge as it has become.
For starters, I will openly admit to not having immersed myself in the band’s back catalogue as much as perhaps I should have prior to this. The experience I have had lead me to the understanding that a slew of their releases sound like numerous outings from Iron Maiden and later Judas Priest material for obvious (“Ripper” Owens) reasons. Another excuse lays in the fact that my interests developed elsewhere in time, deep into the brutal, dark and death realms to be more specific, though that isn’t to say that I don’t still dip my toes into heavy metal waters from time to time. I find that it pays to be open minded especially when you take to reviewing releases in the vast landscape that is the diverse universe that encompasses everything that is metal. Of course, there is also the fact that the vocal range prevalent within this arena of metal is rarely to my liking. Admittedly I can appreciate the music and the huge influence Merciful Fate has had on the metal scene but cannot for the life of me listen to more than a few tracks in succession. The vocal style make me want to scream, those high-pitched screams do naught for my listening pleasure levels. The same can be said for specific Helloween albums. The music is fantastic but then there’s the cavalcade of falsetto notes again. Strange that I enjoy Halford and Judas Priest so much then (quite odd that!)
A huge talent and influence, of that there’s no doubt, but where are my earplugs?
Onwards to the task at hand. Upon hitting PLAY an immediate factor that makes an impact is the excellent production, crisp and clear, and the amazing chock full of atmosphere introduction to the album and the opening track, Great Heathen Army (perhaps a nod to their fanbase?). A similarity to Owens helmed Judas Priest material jumps out only to dissipate (albeit gradually) around the two-minute mark. A swift paced track to get the listener into the mood complete with twangs of Megadeth riffs (3:45 as an example), aplomb speed metal intricacies and commendable screeching fret work solos. A great start to perk up the attention of a casual fan of the genre that’s for sure! I’m excited for the reminder of what’s in store.
Black Flag, the next track not the Henry Rollins fronted act, continues the albums galloping pace. Twin guitar attacks, pirate based lyrics, swash buckling swords and god-damning queens makes for a surprisingly enjoyable track complete with sing along choruses and passages where I can imagine an arena’s audience going quite literally bat-shit crazy.
The Veil boasts somewhat of an early Queensreich vibe, that’s going back a few years, based in part because of its varied vocal stylings, a slower track that I’d really have to be in the mood for in direct contrast to the next track Seven Headed Whore which is swift enough to get the blood pumping, the limbs a-twitching and my digit away from the STOP button.
Seven Headed Whore, try to keep still to this galloping riff fest!
Against my better judgement and initial apprehension, I’m finding I’m liking this album more than I think I should, though thankfully it’s not as far afield from the rock arena to warrant the revocation of my metal card.
Progressive elements sneak into the album as it progresses, in Ghost Dance (Awaken the Ancestors) helping with the utilization of ceremonial drums and ancestral chants to set an effective tone, a backdrop, to a native soundscape which becomes more apparent as the track draws to a climax. A stunning instrumental.
Defiance is another interesting track, not my favorite on the album but it’s worth mentioning as in instances it bears a hardcore lyrical assault while in others it reverts to a screaming Ripper Owens range, testimony to the talents of Stu Block, which based on my earlier rant is quite tolerable. Perhaps I’m mellowing to this style as I age, the verdict is out.
Heavy, speed and folk metal collide on the albums final track. Clear the Way boasts an epic theme, effective atmospheric breaks and an uncanny resemblance, at times, to vintage DiAnno fronted Iron Maiden. Regardless, an inventive way to finish an album that had me tapping more than merely my foot most if not for the majority of its duration.
A fantastic introduction to Iced Earth if you might at times be tempted to wade into more melodic waters within docking range of the heavy metal shoreline.
And From the Metal Blade Label…
Goatwhore – Vengeful Ascension (USA)
Goatwhore on Facebook
Goatwhore on bandcamp
As is always the case please utilize this as merely a teaser so talent can continue to produce without suffering the curse of ‘poverty popularity’ by way of illegal downloads
Release – June/23/2017
Metal Blade Records
Time to get me some merch
Like a great many fans out there I found myself submerged and trampled by the Goatwhore path of destruction by way of closely following (not stalking I want to make that clear) the musical antics of Sammy Duet, post Acid Bath. For those not familiar jot the name down and be sure to delve into their painfully short but utterly remarkable discography in the very near future (you can thank me later!).
Of course, Goatwhore were somewhat of a kick in the face for those expecting material cut from the same cloth as Sammy’s previous band. However, to be brutally honest it was a swift foot in the chops courtesy of a person of dominatrix like ilk for although the music was so very different (than what most might have expected) it was unfathomably impressive, a coalesce of many genres with a definite diabolical, ancient underworld type vibe. A style which has only become more sharpened, honed to a ceremonial crimson thirsty edge, as the band has matured over the span of six full length releases, since 2000, with Vengeful Ascension being their seventh.
My personal favorite thus far
L. Ben Falgoust II manipulates vocal duties, as he has since day one, with an occasional unholy rasp from Sammy (boasting the same style that many fans familiar with Acid Baths more brutal audio will recognize – using New Corpse on Paegan Terrorism Tactics as the example – and will no doubt greedily devour) to help keep the audio at an infernal plateau. Falgoust’s throaty vocal attack cadence, accent and style (also heard within numerous Soilent Green releases) has become a trademark of Goatwhore’s sound as too has the depth of the music itself boasting elements of punk, death and black arenas with definite influence from the very roots of both the black and death metal scene. Another facet of the band aura that is going from strength to strength is the artwork associated with the album covers. This their seventh release doesn’t disappoint in that department either and sports a titan-like monolith cradling a burning orb as numerous demonic figures and their victims, howling in torment, meander their way through the twisted flesh maze that comprises its innards. Truly intricate and fascinating art that brings to mind medieval depictions of chaos and unfathomable profane creations, plucked from quasi-biblical nightmarish secreted texts.
Vengeful Ascension launches from smoldering starting blocks with the mid paced opener Forsaken. A track typical of their back catalogue, albeit with several breaks in the mayhem for effective triumphant passages, boasting unholy themes and wicked lyrical content, oddly darkly poetic in nature, stricken with mentions of Lucifer and suffering.
Under the Flesh, Into the Soul is Goatwhore in all of their unbridled glory. Foot stompin’ groove complemented by riffs plucked from an unblessed union betwixt vintage Venom and Celtic Frost with a touch of punk attitude make this an instant favorite.
The album’s title track (above) is tainted by progressive elements, not normally what one might expect but surprisingly it plays out very well supported by a slower than normal rhythm to prove that Goatwhore aren’t at all an act one could deem a ‘one trick pony’ and are still full of surprises to keep the music fresh, while still blanketed in diabolical essence, and fans on their toes.
As the album continues it’s obvious that Goatwhore still have a few tricks left up their (ceremonial robes’) sleeves to keep detractors (haters) at bay. Where the Sun Is Silent perks up the attention, it isn’t fast but does have a galloping rhythm and a touch of something akin to blues all combining effectively with a production slightly subterranean in texture. A track that to be honest only grows on me as I continue to submerge myself in its allure.
Abandon Indoctrination is another notable track that nudges at traditional blistering paced black metal territory albeit with delicious smatterings of Goatwhore majesty and depth.
Those Who Denied Gods Will places the stopper on the wickedness of a damn good album. Bearing a traditional melodic black metal approach that’s extremely hard to keep still to, at the very least it proves that although Goatwhore like to experiment they still haven’t forsaken their original fanbase and roots. Melody entwined with chaos, brutality sans blast beats and a stellar production, as heard throughout the album, make this another favorite and yet another track I could spin till my bones turn to dust. Falgousts’ lyrics and vocal virtuosity is the icing on the cake, a remarkable ability and uniqueness that shines throughout every Goatwhore release, a black cherry if you will to top off this their newest ungodly musical creation.
Although slightly experimental in nature Goatwhore (with this album) have proven that they are still in top form, that their creative genius hasn’t dissipated and that worshipping the Dark Lord does in fact show dividends, but only if you have talent to spare.
In all honesty Carving Out the eyes of God remains my go-to album (primarily because I’m a speed freak moreso than a lover of experimental output) however, Vengeful Ascension is an album I will recommend to further illustrate the depth, scope and excellent output of an act who are at the leading edge of the scene and have yet, in my opinion, to disappoint.
Finally, a Blast from the Past…
Enfold Darkness – Our Cursed Rapture (USA)
Feast your fleshy auditory nubs around this
Release – November/24/2009
An album that’s close to ten years old. Why does it deserve revisiting one might ask? Admittedly, and as I’m fond of saying, I’m more than just a little fashionably late to this party, in other words this was to be my first experience with an act about whom I’ve only heard good things and the occasional mention of their newest being album of the year without even a listen or leaked track. Naturally I felt Enfold Darkness deserved a little research and a little of my attention.
Ironically, as of late my inbox has been flooded with mention of Enfold Darkness’ newest, fresh material after an extended hiatus of eight years. Finally, the promo arrived, but before I dove in blindly I thought it proper to see what all the hubbub was about and whether the praise was in fact warranted. Will their first full length be any indication of what’s to follow? Or after eight years have they lost their edge, do they even have an edge? Only one way to find out, I dove in.
Fuck! If I uttered a solitary word during my virgin listen it must have been this. I said it many times. Over and over again. Then, I became silent so that I might fully comprehend the music and its impact on my shocked senses. Imagine if you will a style that’s part Spawn of Possession – technical, fast and tight but not silly fast or offputtingly technical (as found in Rings of Saturn albums), part Cradle of Filth (to be more specific vintage material ala Cruelty and the Beast) intricate structures complemented by a tapestry like weaving of melodies and diverse vocals. Add to this technical guitar complexities featured in stunning Necrophagist albums and a twin vocal attack much like what Trevor Strnad (Black Dahlia Murder) boasts and you have a concoction that is mesmerizing, captivating and in this case executed so precisely that I am literally tongue tied, at a loss for words (ha, as if right?). If you need proof give the title track a spin or better yet immerse your senses in the outstanding Dead in the Brine. The drumming is tight, the guitars offer rhythms that would please even the most stubborn of genre fan and Justin Corser’s vocals are top notch regardless of the fact that they are heavily influenced by several renowned titans of the genre.
Sadly, an awesome track with a generic lyric video
All that’s left to say is believe the hype! If Adversary Omnipotent is anything as impressive as Our Cursed Rapture then I foresee an avalanche of emergency room visits due to discombobulation, dizziness and sore vertebra.
Keep an ear to the ground and a few pennies in your wallet, Our Cursed Rapture is in my opinion a must buy. I have my fingers crossed that they can work past cumbersome line up changes, conflicting schedules and deliver again.
Well, that’s about it for now. When I can find a moment in between chores, kids and work I’ll attack the scene once again with my musings. Until then. Stay metal and keep those minds open lest you miss something truly remarkable.
-Cult You can find Cult on twitter breaking off the awesome knob on his stereo listening to metal.