Sloppy Seconds Volume 4: The Scarborough Affair

This installment’s assortment of second hand finds has a couple of bands I’m less familiar with than what I usually pick up. I know my Testament pretty well, but I didn’t really know much about other two bands other than their names and a vague sense of their genre. So without further ado, let’s get right to it and see what the cat dragged in.

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Testament – Return to the Apocalyptic City (Atlantic, 1993)

While Testament’s mostly live EP may be less explosive than its violently iconic cover artwork (its level of gore is unprecedented in their discography), it delivers some good renditions of a few classics. Graced by ‘Over the Wall’ and ‘The Haunting’ from their mighty debut “The Legacy,” they are played with satisfying energy. ‘Disciples of the Watch,’ from sophomore album “The New Order” is a raging thrasher with the best vocal performance here. ‘So Many Lies’ from “The Ritual” sees Chuck Billy put on his best black album James Hetfield voice and while it’s still a solid song, the other live tracks truly are from Testament’s golden age and are simply superior, both musically and vocally. ‘Reign of Terror’ is an old song that had been kicking around since Testament’s demo under the Legacy moniker, and it’s found here as a studio recording from the 1987-1988 sessions that produced “The New Order” and previously appeared on the “Trial by Fire” single. A powerful and savage track, it’s definitely one of the highlights of the EP. Unfortunately, the “Return to the Apocalyptic City” closes out on a dull note with a radio edit of ‘Return to Serenity,’ which was never one of Testament’s finer tracks, and the shortened version presented here is pretty much useless. All in all a mixed bag of Testament odds and ends, it would have been better if more live tracks had been included, but the good outweighs the bad and the live tracks from the first two albums and “Reign of Terror” are quality examples of classic American thrash.

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Mysteriarch – Mournful Embrace of Aeons (Razed Soul Productions, 2012)

Holy synth, Batman. American black metal band Mysteriarch wasn’t afraid to drench its sophomore album in a solid layer of synth, opting them out of usual razor-sharp, icy knife to the throat and instead going for a softer, warmer sound. Melodic and dramatic with dominant, fast drumming, Mysteriarch tend to follow the same path through most of the seven tracks and barely a second passes without the keys being touched. The seven songs are bookended by an intro and outro that are basically the same as the rest of the album at half-speed without guitars and vocals, so you wouldn’t really blame someone from calling this a little repetitive. Nevertheless, “Mournful Embrace of Aeons” is competently performed with some cool solos and even some standout tracks (like ‘Labyrinth of Gnosis’). So while it’s enjoyable, its overall lack of variety will probably have you reaching for some of the more creative symphonic black metal bands out there before this one.

Yaotl Mictlan – Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac (Candlelight USA, 2010)

Well, what we have here is generally mid-to-fast-paced black metal where Yaotl Mictlan make excellent use of pre-Hispanic folk instruments, treading a roughly similar path that Xibalba’s monumental “Ah Dzam Poop Ek” did. The folk instruments are used subtly to supplement the guitars and drumming and are never brought to the forefront; they emphasize rather than take over, which I find admirable, because it would’ve been all too easy to turn this into folk metal circus. Instead, Yaotl Mictlan remain focused on playing solid, riff-oriented black metal and allow the flair of their ancestral instruments to add just enough flavour. Although there are a few parts that drag a bit, they’re few and far between, and “Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac” has more than enough life in its riffs and ancestral zeal to keep you interested.

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