Mini-Reviews From Around the Bowl (6/25/20)

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A smorgasbord of low-calorie reviews


Panzer Squads/t
Lycanthropic Chants | June 5th, 2020

Two years after their sophomore album, the German thrashers are back with a quick little EP. I attested some influence from their legendary countrymen on the last effort, and this one stays firmly in the realm of 80s thrash, but if I didn’t know better, I’d say the band is from South America. Faster, more vicious, a little more primitive, and with a lot more reverb, Panzer Squad merrily murder their way through four tracks, none of which live to see the three-minute mark. The sound could do with a bit more of a distinctive, personal note, but there’s plenty of fun to be had here, and I’m curious where they’ll take it next. — Hans


SchizophreniaVoices
Independent | January 31st, 2020

Three blessings to fellow Toileteer Endrot for posting this in the comments a while ago, mercifully helping to scratch an itch that plagues anyone waiting for new material from Besieged. Both acts like to recall Sepultura‘s golden era in some of their riffs, but manage to sound like an update rather than a rehash, taking things several steps further in terms of brutality and mixing the influence with a strong individual note. The result is some of my absolute favourite death thrash that, despite it’s unrelenting aggression, doesn’t neglect finesse. If you dig any of the thrash releases from Unspeakable Axe, you should check this out asap. — Hans


Beyond DethAccept Your Fate
Vargheist Records | June 14th, 2020

Look, I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but can you blame me for not being super keen to check this one out? The art isn’t exactly great, and the logo somehow had me convinced that a bad drum machine would be involved. However, “Live Again” quickly convinced me to give this a chance as it kicked down the door with an infectious riff and proceeded to nestle itself comfortably somewhere between thrash, death, and black metal. Throughout the album, the mix of these three (and some of their respective subgenres) is pulled off with admirable ease and always with the goal of producing catchy material instead of trying to boggle the mind with complexity and dissonance. This largely produces great results, but they play it a little too safe now and then, and the middle of the album relies too much on a groovy, mid-tempo approach. Nonetheless, I recommend not being a biased dingus like me and give this a shot, particularly if you’re into thrash in the vein of Skeletonwitch and/or any non-Swedish melodeath. — Hans


At the Altar of the Horned GodThrough Doors of Moonlight
I, Voidhanger | April 17th, 2020

Chants. Choirs. Electronica. Tribal drumming. Meditative Repetition. The word “ritualistic.” Given all these elements, you’d expect this to be goofy at best and utterly pretentious at worst. I’ll admit that the level of devotion to the ol’ downstairs neighbour feels a bit over the top, but musically, everything works out surprisingly well. The vocal arrangements of the oddly beautiful cleans are very entertaining. Psychedelic elements, largely achieved through nicely placed reverb and the aforementioned repetition, lend the whole thing a trippy feel. The album doesn’t set out to create solely sinister vibes, which adds to the versatility. Actually, if anything can be called boring, it’s the straightforward black metal parts, but they’re the exception. It’s more of a satanic folk krautrock album, really, and you have to admit that sounds at least alluring. — Hans


Lament CityscapeThe Pulsing Wet
Independent | June 19th, 2020

Here we have the second installment of an EP triptych by industrial-sludge-noise-etc. outfit Lament Cityscape. I have no good idea so far how the concept of “wetness” connects to the sounds LC has been conjuring of late. Is it philosophical wetness we’re dealing with? Political wetness we’re invoking?? Or possibly ontological wetness??? Is it sexual???? (Pause to re-center.) This time around, LC drifts away from the blunt, crushing heaviness of The New Wet to explore new possibilities in post-punk, ambiance, and the least abrasive thing you could be referring to when you refer to “noise”. The guitars eschew riffing in favor of creating texture and hazy discordance, leaving the bass to carry the tunes. The samples and electronic flourishes range from gritty NIN-esque subtleties to apocalyptic choirs. The vocals remain buried in the mix and blown out of all decipherability. Ideas are allowed to sit, and to grow very slowly toward climaxes that never quite arrive (now I’m thinking of dryness). The Pulsing Wet is not (mostly) about a bludgeoning. Not a reckoning. It is a (furtive) exploration of new possibilities. A toe in the water. And, one hopes, a taste of bold genre-bending to come. Stay tuned for Part Three… — Richter


Re-Armed Ignis Aeternum
Black Lion Records | June 5th, 2020

Once a fairly good death/thrash band, Re-Armed has come a long way since. Now the basis is more firmly in melodic death metal, but the band keeps reaching for different influences from here and there. The front half of Ignis Aeternum features considerably heavier material, modern metal still occasionally flirting with thrash influences, while also introducing a symphonic edge big enough to question the lack of keyboardist in the band, even if the arrangements would be made by someone outside. As the album progresses, the older influences are left behind, replaced by bits and bots from power- to black metal, and while the symphonic arrangements don’t overtake the songs, or become more prevalent in the mix, the compositional focus shifts towards them. Likewise, vocalist Jouni Matilainen’s includes more harsher tones in his voice earlier on, and towards the end of the record, relies almost completely on semi-clean singing. It’s almost as if Re-Armed reinvented themselves in the shadows, but by the time they got a studio, they’d already grown half-bored by their new direction, and were already reaching something altogether different. And the results are unsurprisingly a mixed bag. — KARHU


AhabLive Prey
Napalm Records | June 26th, 2020

It’s been five long years since The Boats of Glen Carrig passed into the reed, but Ahab isn’t quite ready to make another offering for the aquatic gods. Instead, they’re soothing the slimy masses with what conceptually seems like a pretty throwaway live album. An abridged live re-telling of their classic debut. Lacking the short “Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales” and “The Sermon”, Live Prey makes a fine case for the futility of live albums. Though I would by no means rank myself among the numerous haters of live albums, the chosen concept of Live Prey is so narrow, I can hardly see the point. The sound at least is good, with a heavy, separating mix to boot, but the original isn’t known for issues regarding sound quality either. The difference is a greater imbalance here, putting the lead guitars more strictly on top of everything else, and highlighting Daniel Droste’s deep vocals. The change of bassist between the two records might be the most tangible difference here, but it’s not much felt. With a more diverse setlist, Live Prey could have been an eagerly awaited interlude, but ends up a mere reminder of Ahab’s mighty existence. — KARHU


SchizogenSpawn of Almighty Essence
Willowtip | February 21st, 2020

A brutal death metal band on Willowtip is almost guaranteed to be better than the rank and file of the genre, and sure enough, Schizogen deliver. It certainly helps that they skew towards tech death quite a bit, bordering on Spawn of Possession territory between all the meaty slams and degenerate pinch harmonics. The bass in particular has Erlend Caspersen written all over it, and the spidery low-end riffing kind of reminds me of Abhorrent in all its chaotic glory. There are some sweet proggy section that pop up from time to time as well, serving to break up the mayhem with smarter, more directed songwriting. I don’t think this quite reaches the lofty heights of Disentomb or Unfathomable Ruination, but it comes damn close, and it’s well worth your time and attention. — Spear

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