Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 03/07/2019
It is now March. This is my fourth March as a part of this blog. Life is meaningless in the vastness of time and space. ANYWAY, get high inside your ears with Sworn Enemy, Misery Index, Black Anvil, Ungraven, Soilwork, Khors, Carol and Beak>.
Sorry, it’s a little difficult for me to type this. See, my knuckles are all scraped up from dragging on the ground while listening to one New York hardcore’s finest.The band recently toured in celebration of the 15th anniversary of their debut As Real As It Gets and it shows with this album. It’s back to basics in the best way possible. They even include a new version of their old school crowd favorite “Integrity Defines Strength”. Every song is unrelentingly aggressive and punchy (as in, it feels like you’re constantly getting punched in the face). Sworn Enemy have always been straight-forward with their sound and their massage: They will fight you. They don’t give a fuck. All of that continues with Gamechanger. – 365
I’m going to be honest: I think Misery Index are the most underrated bands in extreme metal. They’ve been pushing out absolutely punishing riffs, grooves and breakdowns for the better part of 20 years, and going by Rituals of Power, they don’t intend to put the brakes on any time soon. What the years may have (slightly) slowed them down in average tempo, they have made up for with experience and renewed aggression: the revolutionary-minded and socially conscious lyrics are decidedly more critical of system of power and oppression than they were on records like Retaliate and Discordia; the sharp, penetrating riffs are familiar, yet show the band’s progression towards longer, more diverse and complex songs; and the world-class, awe-inspiring Adam Jarvis-branded drumming either drives the grooves forward or blasts your face clean off, depending on the occasion. Rituals of Power is a very strong album and a must listen for any death-metal inclined individual. – Moshito
Two years after the acclaimed As Was, Black Anvil strikes with an EP of varying results. I’m not familiar with their earlier steps but at least on As Was they mixed atmospheric black metal with thrash and progressive rock to an interesting concoction. The opener “Iron Sharpens Iron” would have me believe this was exactly what Miles had in store as well. Though on the short and most blackened side of things, it would not be the worst of entries into Black Anvil’s world. The following title track lies rather heavily on the rock half of things, rather lighthearted, catchy and upbeat song written in the wake of Selim Lemouchi’s untimely passing in 2014. To round out the tribute, it’s followed up with a cover of The Devil’s Blood’s “Everlasting Saturnalia”, only slightly heavier, in tone, than the original. As wide as the band’s palette is, the cover sits poorly on it, and as each of the three tracks differ greatly in style from each other, Miles is a rather incoherent and disconnected EP. To make matters worse, it’s closed with a completely unrelated, practically note-for-note cover of “A Corpse Without A Soul” complete with attempts at King Diamond-esque wailing. Despite genuinely good moments, Miles plays out like a various Artists -compilation of some indie label trying to promote it’s roster, rather than a work of any singular band, and as such, hard to enjoy several songs at a time. 2/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell. – Karhu
A side project of Conan‘s Jon Davis, Ungraven seeks to unearth the sound of 90s industrial metal, taking influence from acts like Fudge Tunnel, Godflesh, and Nailbomb. I never got into any of those, so I can’t tell if he’s successful, but the monolithic, monotonous compositions do exude a kind of industrial flair, particularly the 11-minute closer “Targetted” (sic). Guitar and drums plod along as unwaveringly as the machines that inspired the genre, all the while clad in the fuzzy heaviness we know from Davis’ main band. Vocals on the four other songs (absent in the demo version of the EP linked here) are similarly unmistakeable, if delivered differently; instead of drawn-out wails that seem to come from a great distance, the approach here creates a feeling of immediacy that fits well with the atmosphere. Fans of Conan will likely check this out anyway, but I’d be curious to hear what fans of the referenced bands think. – Hans
For my money, Soilwork’s latest works have been their best. Never having been a fan of their earliest output, and finding the middle-years inconsistent to say the least, I’ve gravitated towards the bright, chorus-heavy and mildly prog-interested melodeath of The Ride Majestic and The Living Infinite, despite their apparent flaws like extensive, self-indulgent length and bountiful gym-chud riffs. Verkiligheten mostly continues this trajectory, and offers a handful of hits – “The Ageless Whisper”, “The Nurturing Glance” & “Needles and Kin” – to the bands cavalcade, and “Full Moon Shoals” features their heaviest riffs this side Sworn to a Great Divide. On the other hand, the aforementioned “The Nurturing Glance” blurs the lines between Soilwork and Strid/Anderson-duo’s other band The Night Flight Orchestra while “Stålfågel’s” intro sounded like Disturbed gone full radio rock to my ears, first I heard it. With likely the most brickwalled production the band has ever employed, Verkligheten is no pleasure to ears, and a little too obviously planned to highlight the banging party choruses. Unfortunately, there’s just a few less of them here than there used to be. While I can’t say that I would have actually enjoyed Verkligheten any less than it’s most immediate predecessor, I don’t see this racking up the same mileage. – Karhu
Khors has been developing their black metal over the course of fifteen years and six full-lengths, though personally I didn’t become aware of them until 2015’s Night Falls onto the Fronts of Ours and guitarist/vocalist Jurgis’ Nokturnal Mortum vacancy the year before. Beyond The Bestial further follows the band’s development towards melodic and atmospheric prospects. Friends of latter day Nokturnal Mortum should find plenty to dig in Khors’ mellow but resolute black metal, though they don’t traverse the path filled with dulcimers, flutes an dzitra, exhibiting little to no folk influence. Though not a lot of blast beat, or in fact, fast tempos are exhibited on Beyond The Bestial – the instrumental “Frigid Obscurity of Soul” and acoustic, clean-sung closer “Red Mirrors” are both full-fledged ballads even – drummer Khaoth gives a lively, nuanced performance on the kit, which plays a large part on how enjoyable the record is. 4/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell. – Karhu
Ebenezer Chettle awoke to the striking of the clock at one am. Uneasily he sat up and saw a slim figure clad in a threadbare Threadbare T-shirt and cargo shorts.
“Are you the Spirit, dude, whose coming was foretold to me?” asked Chettle.
“Who, and what are you?” Chettle demanded.
“I am the Ghost of Metallized Hardcore Past. Rise, and walk with me.“
As the words were spoken and Chettle got up, the bedroom disappeared and they were standing in a derelict Youth Centre.
“Unholy Hell!” exclaimed Chettle. “I was HC-socialized in this place. I watched dozens of bands here!”
While Chettle was joyfully looking around, a band set up to play.
“Why”, sputtered Chettle, “it must be one of those Bremen bands, their sound is nigh unmistakable! Who’re they? Age? Abyss? Acme? Pray tell, ghost, which of those mighty giants are they?”
“Do listen, yes they are from that Nineties capital of German HC, and they are none other than the wonder of frantic brutality and noise, CAROL, some of whom went on to play in proud Systral and Mörser!”
The band launched into the crushing “Pandemonium” from the split with Stack. Chettle looked on with deep content as the band laid waste to the place, continuing with the Prefabricated 7” and then: a host of tracks Chettle had never heard.
After the show he realized that he now only had the memory of these un-released songs. Yet upon sharing his dejection, the ghost led him to a table designated The Merchtable Yet To Come. And lo and behold, there was a 12” called “1996 reconstructed”, a welcome work of love by the staunchly DIY Per Koro Records. Lacking none of the quality of the classic 7”, these mostly unreleased tracks complete the picture of a band whose massive sound has proven influential, avowedly so in the case of chaos HC-doyens Orchid, making it possible to draw a line from Carol to Screamo-rejuvenators Portrayal of Guilt or to Bremen-originating duo Mantar.
Eyes full of wonder and ears ringing, Ebenezer felt himself a changed man and thanked the ghost for giving him a very extreme music Christmas Carol.
– Heavy Chettle
Beak>‘s sound mostly consists of kraut- and other peculiar 70s rock mixed with synthpop and a bit of ambient. This is delivered with a surprisingly desolate and eerie twist. “Allé Sauvage” is a hell of a jam that sounds like Jean Michelle Jarre, John Carpenter and Hot Butter getting it on in space, while “Abbots Leigh”, one of the other instrumentals, seems to go for a more direct horror effect. Songs like “Brean Down” and “Harvester” feature vocals that often sound slightly muffled and always fraught with despair, yet even in the frequent dark moments, they almost never lose a hypnotic, trippy aspect. It’s a powerful mix that left me in a bit of a funk after the first listen, but even as it pulls you downward, the experience is very enjoyable. – Hans
Hey you. Yeah YOU. Want to contribute to mini-reviews? Find an album you’ve dug (or not) that preferably hasn’t been reviewed on the blog yet and has been released recently (within the last few months, or year if you’re so inclined), write around 100-120 coherent words about it and send it to toiletminis[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Please include the album’s release date, title, label, a link to the band’s facebook (if they have one), another one to their bandcamp (or any other place to listen to/buy the album if they don’t have one) and any other information/links that you think are relevant and want to include.
Don’t do it for me. Do it for the ghost of the MasterLord.