Monday, 28 May 2012

Lykathea Aflame - Elveneferis

This album was something of a revelation, I heard many good things about this Czech technical/progressive death metal outfit; however, certain realms of the internet can be a tad overzealous when it comes to technical and avant-garde metal so i was more than a little sceptical. I was not without my reasons, terms like progressive and avant-garde are hideously abused, both terms would indicate the creation of "new" or cutting edge music. The most common approaches to this end are the use of atypical theory in composition or to combine existing genres of music together. The first option can produce very interesting but often less easily/traditionally digestable music (Gorguts Obscura being a good example), while the second can produce new and interesting sounds by merging qualities of familar genres.

While i dont doubt the intent of many bands toying with such ideas the results are often dissapointing at best,  throwing together diametrically opposed musical ideas or dropping disparate genres into compositions without genuine care doesnt make clever or interesting music, it makes a mess! (see the vast majority of artists who list Mike Patton or The Dillinger Escape Plan as an influence.)

While Lykathea Aflame use both approaches at no point does Elvenefris feel like an ill-concieved excercise in musical smuggery and/or knowing zanniness. Despite the abundance of contrasting ideas. This album is an absolute joy, exotic scales segue into brutal technical death metal through soaring melodies and triumphant power metal-esque bombast, as well as some genuinely oddball moments. The tastefull use of acoustic instrumentation and keyboards adds a further level of depth and colour to the songs. Why Lykathea Aflame succeed where others fail is that for all their skill, decadence and transgression their focus remains on cogent songwriting. The musicianship is excellent (the drumming in paticularly is very impressive) but it never overrides the dynamics of the song, when to shred and when to simplify.

In all honesty every aspect of this album shows a huge amount of imagination, intelligence and skill and at 72 minutes, that this album bears repeated listens is testament to it's quality. Sadly Lykathea Aflame only produced this one album which was released by Obscene Productions back in 2000, the re-issue from 2011 includes additional versions of a couple of these songs as well as original and remastered mixes across two discs. So while this is the original press the re-issue is the superior release, but seriously if you haven't heard this album do so however you can!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Invocator - Excursion Demise

Invocator were a somewhat overlooked Danish act who produced some excellent and diverse sounding thrash metal. Despite producing several demos in the late 80's their debut album Excursion Demise was not released until 1991, a thrash album coming out in 1991 would have had a lot to contend with. Death metal was at the height of its power while the legions of second wave black metal were lurking in the shadows, both of which would make the average thrash album sound quite tame by comparisson.

Excursion Demise was thankfully far from average and sounds in no way tame, while very much thrash metal Invocator's sound has elements that brings them close to death metal. Firstly Invocator are fast, fucking fast and coupled with the twisting riffs and arrangements Excursion Demise is almost bewildering. Combined with a violent delivery typical of the teutonic proto-death/thrashers Kreator and Sodom and the wild Slayer-esque solos makes Excursion Demise a genuinely intense listen; however, the vocals are more reminiscent of Dark Angel and Kreator, while that may represent the rawer more aggressive thrash vocals there are no real growls or gutturals to be found here. 

Despite the speed and technical nature of these songs Invocator were savvy enough to break the blistering pace with a few well placed interludes and some groovier mid-paced passages (though even then it's still pretty fast). My only real gripe is that despite an excellent clear production the guitars actually feel a tad brittle, the preceeding demos were if anything heavier.

This album was released by Black Mark and as with many of their less well known and often better releases this is not easy to get hold of, there has only been one pressing of this album to date and neither cd or vinyl come cheap, so if you see a copy snap it up sharp.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Vibrion - Erradicated Life

Vibrion were among the earliest extreme metal acts to emerge from Argentina and they also happen to have an interesting and distinct sound. Tragic then that for the most part their discography is virtually impossible to obtain in a physical format. What made Vibrion sound so distinct is not any strain of mind-melting originality but more the way in which they synthesise a number of metal genre's into something familiar yet still vaguely alien. The Erradicated Life ep is perhaps the easiest of their releases to find, this 7" repress of their demo tape of the same name was mercifully released by the small Swiss label Witchhunt. While it may not be their best release it is an excellent introduction to a highly underrated act and can be picked up pretty cheap.

Musically Erradicated Life is rooted firmly in grindcore, the lyrics are based mostly around social issues/observations and the guitar playing is highly indebted to the like of Napalm Death. The gruff and urgent vocal delivery is highly reminiscent of the Brazilian thrash/death scene as is the general rawness of the recording.  In contrast there is a degree of technicality to the songwriting beyond that typical of old-school grindcore and more indicative of death metal acts like Morbid Angel, while conversely the more simplistic slow grooves bring to mind the neanderthal Obituary.

However, perhaps Vibrion's most interesting facet is their almost industrial quality, the rapid-fire combination of staccato riffs and mechanistic at times martial-esque drumming create a cold, oppresive machine like atmosphere. It is a quality that would become progressively more pronounced on later records, the closest comparisson i can think of is the earliest Fear Factory material and maybe a less embellished Red Harvest, but Vibrion's combination of influences marks them out.

Overall a massively underrated act, their first lp Diseased is the definition of a forgotten gem. Sadly it was released on a small domestic label and despite having had two tracks from this ep featured on the Grindcore compilation cd on Nuclear Blast it was never picked up by a larger label. Consequently the Diseased cd is a  bugger to find and has the distinction of being my single most wanted item.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Misery - Mystic

Misery is a great name for a metal band it's one of those words that has so many thematic connections to metal, little suprise then that so many bands have chosen the moniker over the years. This paticular Misery hailed from Switzerland and in my opinion among the most deserving of the name. This their one and only album from 1993 is a solid piece of somber doom metal with significant death and black metal influences. The closest reference point is fellow Swissonians Samael (unsuprisingly Misery feature an ex-member of Samael).

Anyone familiar with the earlier Samael material should find many similarities here, the predisposition towards slow to mid-paced tempos, and the use atmospheric arpegiated chords and Hellhammer/Celtic Frost esque grooves; however, Misery's sound has a more traditional feeling to their doom influences and while both bands have qualities of death metal Misery's is most pronounced in the vocal delivery. Despite the proliferation of the more traditional scandinavian style i always really liked this more ponderous style of BM, i find the slower tempo allows the atmospherics and the more moribund qualities of the scales and progressions opportunity to flourish.

On a critical note the production is far from perfect, while the drums sound full and powerful by contrast the guitars sound a bit flat, however the buzzing tone highlights the darker colours of their sound. Ultimately this remains a great piece of obscure and colourful doom metal well deserving of a reissue, the only pressing as of yet being from the tiny (and long dead) Swiss label Blackened. Their releases all being very hard to come by I was lucky to find this for a meagre £8, so good luck.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Divine Eve - The Last of the Sunset Faded (demo)

Once in a while I come across a demo recording that simply blows me away. I shouldnt be as suprised when it happens I have heard many truly excellent demos in my time; however, there are great demos and then there are the HOLYCRAPTHISSHITRULES demos. Divine Eve's Last of the Sunset Faded is one such demo. The fact that The band were subsequently signed to Nuclear Blast and this demo re-released on cd (under the title As the Angels Weep) is a good indicator of the quality herein.

My first reaction upon hearing this was how good it sounds, considering this is a demo it sounds huge and professional while retaining that demo rawness. The second thing, whilst being musically primitive the songwriting across these four songs is exceptionally mature especially for a first effort. Mixing crusty, d-beat inflected Scandinavian death metal (despite hailing from Texas) with the slow and dirge-like riffing of Celtic Frost they create a very dynamic listen; however, they weren't exactly breaking new ground. Acts such as Dream Death, Aspyhx and Sempiternal Deathreign had already defined the Death/Doom style, and it is very likely influenced Divine Eve themselves.

As is the case of Asphyx The Rack, Last of the Sunset Faded triumphs simply for being a brilliantly written and executed slab of crushingly heavy death metal. Sadly internal tensions ripped the band apart after one further demo, Xan Hammack went on to form Crimson Relic essentially the spiritual air to DE and released the excellent Purgatorys Reign for Nuclear Blast subsidiary Radiation.

Pictured is my own copy of the original tape which i picked up on ebay for a staggering £6 earlier this year, having misplaced my copy of the cd i jumped on this, if anything it sounds even better. Both this and the following demo are available on the Upon These Ashes Scorn the World compilation and Divine Eve are back once more and releasing new music, good times.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Pyrexia - Sermon of Mockery

I thought i would begin this blog with one of my favorite Death Metal albums.

Pyrexia alongside Suffocation were among the earliest (and best) exponents of NYDM (New York Death Metal) and progenitors of the Brutal Death Metal genre. Anyone familiar with either of those sub-species will know that means intense percussive DM with deep guttural vocals and massive grooves, to which Sermon of Mockery is absolute testament.

This is the original pressing on Drowned Productions from 1993 which is something of a collectors item. I picked this up after a frustrated day of record hunting in London 2 years ago. At £20 it is one of my most expensive purchases, but still very much a bargain. There was a re-issue from 1998 on Pathos that includes the Liturgy of Impurity demo again very much out of print.

Pyrexia whilst derivative of their peers Suffocation were no mere clone, perhaps the most striking aspect of Sermon of Mockery is its exceptional rhythm section, the bassist and drummer give equally stellar performances laying a solid foundation for the guitars to focus on pummeling riffs based around twisting, syncopated chord progressions. Sermon is not without its faults. While the vocalist possesses a brutal low growl but never really explores beyond that. In comparison to another NYDM classic Effigy of the Forgotten the songwriting of Sermon is less varied, while there aren't exactly any weak tracks being honest the structures and riffs from track to track are very similar.

Despite these flaws and the legion of questionable Brutal/Slam acts that profess its influence Sermon of Mockery is a seminal example of this specific sub-species of DM and well deserving classic across the wider genre.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Welcome to Hell

Partly out of boredom but mostly from my love of music (some may argue the specifics of that point) I have decided to create a blog.

My mission statement:
To review the records that I like, love, hate and amuse me or I feel deserve some attention. Musically my tastes are varied but my true love is extreme metal, punk/hardcore and various other noisy crap. Mainly I plan to review and post records I physically own, but shall also post obscurities not in my collection that are either too awesome/terrible to ignore or that are out of print and virtually impossible to track down.

My Collection:
I have been consciously collecting for a number of years and have acrued a humble collection with a few gems and rareities to be found. Besides the music much of the fun of collecting to me is finding an awesome record/cd/tape among the racks of record stores, fairs and in the depths of the internet. I dont have a lot of disposable income so with a couple of exceptions what I have i have picked up at fair prices with more than a few bargains.

Hopefully fans of extreme music and collectors alike will find something cool amongst the deluge of punctuation errors and strangely named bands.