Inquisition-Obscure verses for the multiverse

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American black metal bands tend not to reach mainstream levels or indeed focus on cashing in via carbon copies of their Scandinavian peers, but one thing that is hard to ignore is the somewhat unique take on the traditional sub-genre. From a background which introduced to us the likes of Absu, Nachtmystium and to a considerably lesser extent, Inquisition comes a more or less structurally straightforward attempt at recreating the sort of bleak atmosphere and hellish blastbeats which have plagued the sub-genre ever since its foundation, and Inquisition, since their formation a quarter of a century ago, have progressed within this style.

However, new album “Obscure verses for the multiverse” seems to take on an ambitious approach, utilizing such a thought-provoking concept to control and manipulate which direction the band’s core sound will weave. Essentially what we have here for the most part is cold, wicked blasts of raw, intoxicating black metal, but with an experimental edge and to a greater degree the sort of progressive sensibilities which are nowadays used by Nachtmystium, Enslaved and others in the same circle. That said, half of the album naturally takes influence from Immortal and Immolation, whereby the cold-hearted, miserable vocals of the former flow perfectly well with the insane albeit catchy riffing of the latter. Songs such as the impressively furious opener ‘Force of the floating tomb’ and ‘Spiritual plasma evocation’ give way to the more adventurous likes of the near progressive title track and maniacal ‘Arrival of eons after’. Throughout, you can feel the bitter cold coming out of the stereo yet at the same time the warmth of a more sentimental, thoughtful approach to near flawless songwriting.

Although the album takes its pride in producing simple black metal of the highest quality, there are various moments where odd instrumentation or awkwardly placed sounds appear, which all at first appear confusing to the casual listener. It’s the last minute or so of ‘Infinite interstellar genocide’, the somewhat psychadelic rhythm section of ‘Darkness flows towards unseen horizons’ and certainly the mesmerizing intro to ‘Inversion of ethereal white stars’. All these contribute to a consistent and fluent atmosphere which very rarely fails to impress, and even the most close-minded of extreme metal fans will be able to appreciate what is mostly a display of stellar musicianship.

There are times when a couple of songs do stagnate however, though the likes of the almost completely monotonous ‘Joined by dark matter and repelled by dark energy’ are more than made up for by the excellence of the first half of the album. Yet these few minor flaws never seem to hinder the album’s general progress or direction, and there is indeed a sense of power and ambition growing deep within Inquisition’s soul. Thus the band’s latest album, “Obscure verses for the multiverse”, is certainly their career-defining moment, if only because their musicianship has improved substantially from the last record.

3.9/5

1. Force of the floating tomb

2. Darkness flows towards unseen horizons

3. Obscure verses for the multiverse

4. Spiritual plasma evocation

5. Master of the cosmological black cauldron

6. Joined by dark matter, repelled by dark energy

7. Arrival of eons after

8. Inversion of ethereal white stars

9. Infinite interstellar genocide

Bandpage: http://www.last.fm/music/Inquisition

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/inquisition.official

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Deicide-In the minds of evil

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Since Deicide released arguably their best album since the mid 90s, “The stench of redemption”, the band have been more or less in a stagnating state of plodding death metal and as a result, many long-time fans have chosen to “move on”, as it were.. In the band’s favour however, they did make a half-hearted attempt at regaining what made them such a dominant force in the first place with “To hell with God” after the frankly lackluster “Till death do us part”, and so it’s up to Deicide’s latest album, “In the minds of evil” to continue this return to former glories.

“In the minds of evil” however, does little to change anyone’s minds of the band. Yes, there is a fair amount of solid instrumentation on display, more so in the album’s first half than the second, yet one can’t help but think if the band were even trying here. They don’t need to try, in all fairness. The band have arguably two of the most proficient guitarists of death metal in Jack Owen and Kevin Quirion, making the likes of the title track and ‘Between the flesh and the void’ all the more consistent as they go on, and the eccentric drum work within the heart and soul of ‘Misery of one’ is very well executed.

Yet it’s a lot of things that stop “In the minds of evil” from becoming the truly great work the band wanted it to be originally. Benton’s vocals aren’t exactly a highpoint of the band’s core sound, and even though they more or less do the job of perpetrating the extremity of every song, there is little variety to be found and by the end, you’re wondering whether the vocalist himself has more than one vocal range. Even the bass work is lacking often. It is audible enough to be called decent, but with such excellent guitar and drum work it seems too much to be pushed into the background of the recording and thus deemed unimportant to the casual listener.

Another thing to note here is the fact that more or less every song is a carbon copy of each other. Yes, that has worked for Deicide in the past, but the fact that by the time ‘Even the gods can bleed’ come onto the stereo musicianship sounds tiresome and weary proves the band are simply going through the motions. Whilst the first half has instant classics which work in the band’s favour and could even hold a significant role in creating the perfect set list, the second half merely comes across as a jumbled collection of boring B-sides, as if the band had fished out recycled riffs and plodding drum rhythms. It’s not exactly terrible, but neither is it good enough to match the intensity of the band’s better albums.

So here we have yet another Deicide album which often leaves the listener wanting so much more. The first half of the album is essentially their best work, leaving the second half to rot in hell (no pun intended) simply because it sounds like every instrument’s performance is decaying and growing weary. Whether you are a big fan of the band or not, this album won’t be changing minds any time soon.

2.7/5

1. In the minds of evil

2. Thou begone

3. Godkill

4. Beyond salvation

5. Misery of one

6. Between the flesh and the void

7. Even the gods can bleed

8. Trample the cross

9. Fallen to silence

10. Kill the light of Christ

11. End the wrath of God

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/OfficialDeicide/info

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tohellwithgod

Sepultura-The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart

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Another Sepultura album with Derrick Green, another worldwide bundle of screams from unimpressed die-hard fans wishing that Max Cavalera would just hurry up and rejoin the band together as if 1996 never ended. Well, while this may in part be true due to circulating rumours that Cavalera had even considered rejoining the band for a touring cycle, the band’s latest album, the conceptually titled “The mediator between the head and hands must be the heart” basically does exactly what “A-Lex” or “Dante XXI” did, and nothing more. Sepultura’s thirteenth studio album focuses on the concept of Metropolis, a world which would soon become one controlled by robots and heartless machines.

However, as interesting or indeed thought-provoking as this concept may appear, the end product does not prove worthwhile. The solid instrumentation is there in spades on ‘Manipulation of tragedy’, ‘Tsunami’ and ‘Obsessed’, and few would argue that the tribally influenced ‘The bliss of ignorants’ is anything but a noteworthy return to the “Roots”-era of the mid 90s. Yet there are unfortunately a multitude of flaws, perhaps overlooked by the band in their growing ambition to make the concept album of their career, which hinder the album’s overall quality from becoming greater than it actually is. The production is often clouded, making the instrumentation sound unclear and often shrouded in fuzzy, distorted background noise, and Derrick Green’s vocals simply don’t reach the same heights as they did on earlier albums with the same vocalist.

It really is a shame, because without these two problems, songs such as otherwise furious and eccentric opener ‘Trauma of war’ would be pretty much flawless. Even the best songs can’t hide the fact that Green’s voice needs to be more suitable to this style of music. That said, his voice shines through the mellow and laid-back nature of ‘Grief’, a song which shows the band’s often uncovered melodic side, also proving their musical variety to the many naysayers who believe they are a band still living in the past. Again though, these few glorious moments are sadly deterred by songs such as the horribly messy ‘Impending doom’ and unnecessary ‘The Vatican’, the latter of which introduced by an unnecessary two minutes of classical or industrial sounds.

Therefore “The mediator…” is simply another Sepultura album, and however hard the band have tried to make this the best of their career, there’s just too many flaws to stop that. The concept is believable and is strongly brought across in pretty much every song, and solid instrumentation is what Sepultura have naturally always succeeded at, but with an unbalanced and inconsistent side to this album that simply takes half of the album up, the band’s thirteenth album often leaves the listener wanting much more.

2.7/5

1. Trauma of war

2. The Vatican

3. Impending doom

4. Manipulation of tragedy

5. Tsunami

6. The bliss of ignorants

7. Grief

8. The age of atheists

9. Obsessed

10. Da lama o caos

Bandpage: http://sepultura.uol.com.br/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sepultura

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sepularmy

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/sepulturacombr

Earthless-From the ages

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“You can get really high on one of our albums for $15 and you don’t have to feel paranoid carrying it around either. You don’t need to take drugs-our music is drugs.” And so says Isaiah Mitchell, guitarist and one of the driving forces of San Diego psychadelic/stoner/trip rock group Earthless, of the band’s latest album, From the ages. You can scoff at that aforementioned quote all you like, but just take in a slice of the hour-long journey and you’ll soon be converted to the band’s everlong, far-reaching musical frontiers made up of adrenaline-fuelled grooves, out-of-control solos and an atmosphere which takes you out of this world and spits you into a completely different universe.

Yes, it’s that good. Whilst each of the four songs on From the ages aren’t necessarily “songs” in the conventional form (As a matter of fact, they’re more closely linked in terms of structure to jam sessions), they certainly never seem to end. Fourteen-minute opener “Violence of the red sea” hits hard from the get-go, a head-spinning whirlwind consisting of as many solos as some two-decade old bands would have struggled to produce in their entire career. Here there are drums that thunder great aggression and excellent double-bass into the listener’s ears. There are bass-lines which, if played at the highest volume, give the impression they’re actually making the earth’s crust crumble to mere molecules. There are no vocals, but who the hell needs them with instrumentation like this? The two songs which succeed “Violence of the red sea”, “Uluru rock” and the shortest song of the album by far, “Equus october”, both have a more gradual, tenser style throughout, but still keep hammering loudness and heaviness out of the stereo. The constant transitions between slow-burning, relaxing groove-based rhythms and distorted, almost wailing guitar riffs never manage to fail the songs’ overall quality, and for that reason also, it adds to an already mammoth-sized atmosphere. The drum work seems to get better and stronger with every growing minute, becoming faster and more violent as Mitchell twists and turns from one crunching riff to the next.

The obvious opus of From the ages is, however, the half ‘n’ hour long title track. Clocking in at no more than a gargantuan thirty-one minutes, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is going to drone on and on to fill the time. Yet from the moment that Mitchell begins to strum an instantly memorable and driving riff, those negative thoughts can safely be quashed. The title track, like the three songs that precede it, varies throughout both in terms of style and pace. Each and every band member (and let’s face it, there are only three) manages to show off their talented chops, attempting to and succeeding at eviscerating the excellence of the album’s first three tracks by taking you on a journey, which, by the end of the song, you hope will never ends. Guitars are heavier than ever before, drums batter with the power and strength of a mechanical bull, bass-lines rumble to a startlingly epic finish. And when all three instruments come together towards the end to make for a slightly more atmospheric albeit no less raw sound, it all begins to make sense and you’ll perhaps be wondering why you ever questioned any aspect of the band’s sound.

Put simply, From the ages is an exercise in taking the listener on a universal, musical journey, which is done in such a way as to make you hope that it will never end. It lacks vocals, of course, and some will be put off by the fact that these four songs are merely more of a jam session. But that can easily be ignored when instrumentation is done as spot on as this. If you choose to embark on Earthless’ latest trip around the universe, hold on to your heads, because it’s going to be a rather wild one.

4.4/5

1. Violence of the red sea

2. Uluru rock

3. Equus October

4. From the ages

Bandpage/Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Earthless/117307888322324

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Earthless

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/artist/earthless

Onslaught-VI

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It’s heavy. It’s fast. It’s furious. Yes, it’s most definitely a thrash metal album. And although it’s never going to change anyone’s mind about the band or indeed the genre, Onslaught’s latest, well, “onslaught” is just as solid as “Power from hell” was almost three decades ago. If you’re going into this album wanting innovation, technical musicianship or indeed a progressive approach to songwriting, you may as well back out straight away, because “VI” is essentially as simple and unoriginal as a standard thrash metal album gets.

That’s not to say “VI” isn’t a good album. Rather, it’s a statement of intent which quite confidently proves that Onslaught still have plenty of life in them yet. Discounting the fact that it may or may not be as good as some of the more well-received extreme metal releases this year, Onslaught’s latest album is simply for those who love a bit of thrash to go with their copious amounts of alcohol and frantic bouts of headbanging, day in, day out. Plenty of songs from “VI” could fit the needs of those particular metalheads: ‘Chaos is king’ and ’66 fucking 6′ are perfect examples. The former races against time to produce some of the heaviest, most gnarly sounds of 2013 and the latter stamps its menacing, slow-burning grooves onto the listener’s eardrum, all the while vocalist Sy keeler force-feeding satanic lyrical imagery straight down everyone’s throats. Both ‘Slaughterize’ and ‘Cruci-fiction’ display the most furious drum rhythms and heaviest bass lines, at times managing to emulate the chaotic nature of some of Onslaught’s more well known 80s peers, and few would argue that the reboot of long-time fan favourite ‘Shellshock’ is anything but a refreshing take on the band’s earlier years.

It’s not all as good as it gets however. Both ‘Fuel for my fire’ and ‘Children of the sand’ begin very promisingly, but the moment the rhythm section kicks in, it all sounds too weak and far too overshadowed by the greatness of “VI”‘s best songs. Sure, it’s appropriately solid and intense, but even then those aforementioned songs suffer from an increasing lack of originality or musical strength. Sure, the likes of ‘Chaos is king’ and ’66 fucking 6′ are pretty much the same, but at least they have a way of making sure the instrumentation stays prominent and intense throughout. That said, “VI” is thrash, done the easy way. If you love thrash, and don’t mind a lack of originality, then this is for you. If you don’t like thrash, and prefer more forward-thinking musicianship, then reading this review was probably a waste of your time.

3.3/5

1. A new world order

2. Chaos is king

3. Fuel for my fire

4. Children of the sand

5. Slaughterize

6. 66 fucking 6

7. Cruci-fiction

8. Dead man walking

9. Enemy of my enemy

10. Shell shock (Bonus)

Bandpage: http://www.onslaughtuk.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/onslaughtuk?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ONSLAUGHTUK

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/onslaughtofficial

Ihsahn-Das Seelenbrechen

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Despite the fact that Emperor have been announced as Bloodstock headliner for next year, Ihsahn’s solo career pushes ever further into the unknown world of extreme progressive music. Surprisingly enough, it has only been little over a year since the release of his last album, “Eremita”, proving to be arguably the most experimental work of the man’s entire career yet. “Eremita” was said to be part of a new trilogy of albums which follows swiftly on from Ihsahn’s first three solo efforts, and so “Das Seelenbrechen” (German for “The soul breaking”) continues this new, perhaps conceptual, path.

Naturally, “Das Seelenbrechen” is a completely different beast to any of Ihsahn’s previous four albums. What is most notable is the fact that Ihsahn’s harsher vocal style isn’t that prominent in his music anymore, and the majority of the tracks on this album largely reflect that. However, whenever they are sung with harsh delivery, as on the heavier, more distorted and disturbing likes of ‘Tacit’ or mind-numbing closer ‘See’, you can finally discover those more extreme roots left behind by the Emperor of yesterday within Ihsahn’s deep soul. However, these are simply three songs out of a possible ten, and the remaining seven are driven by a more harmonic, brooding vocal delivery which, although sometimes becomes slightly monotonous, never quite takes away from the overall atmosphere provided by the music.

Musically, everything seems either completely atmospheric or disturbingly ambient. Songs which fit the former, such as the effervescent opener ‘Hilber’ or perhaps the maniacal ‘NaCl’, are perhaps the best examples of what Ihsahn has been trying to achieve ever since he delved into the world of progressive metal, whereas the latter, driven by an experimental ambition which very rarely uses guitars, drum or bass work, particularly makes the intense likes of ‘Tacit 2’ or ‘Sub alter’ all the more enjoyable to listen to. The rhythm section isn’t a particular highlight, but there are moments where it truly shines through, as on the magnificent ‘Tacit’ (A song which overshadows its predecessor, ‘Tacit 2’) and equally as mesmerizing ‘M’, and you can safely ignore the sometimes boring mid-sections of those songs when still trying to figure out how complex those drum rhythms can get.

“Das Seelenbrechen” isn’t entirely flawless, and the repetitive, overused ambiance of ‘Pulse’ and ‘Sub alter’ are enough to make you want to to return to the louder, more aggressive nature of albums such as “After” or indeed “Angl”. Yet this isn’t merely a revaluation of Ihsahn’s ambitious musical surge, so much as a powerful and experimental approach to the ever burgeoning progressive metal sound which is perhaps what Ihsahn has been attempting to achieve throughout the past eight years or so. Maybe the next album will finally be the masterpiece everyone-Ihsahn himself included-wanted to hear.

3.9/5

1. Hilber

2. Regen

3. NaCl

4. Pulse

5. Tacit 2

6. Tacit

7. Rec

8. M

9. Sub Alter

10. See

Bandpage: http://www.ihsahn.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ihsahnmusic?fref=ts

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Ihsahn_official

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXa4vo4XUuPXA6YxSxC6_5Q