December 2013 Rapid Fires

Saturday, 28th December 2013

With plenty of albums still left in the 2013 hangar, the DR staff took to banging out 12 reviews for our monthly Rapid Fires column. While it didn’t totally wipe the year’s releases out of the queue (remarkably, there’s still a bunch left), it put a nice dent in a year that is rapidly coming to a close. Up for debate this month: Alehammer, Ascension, Blackout, Blind to Faith (pictured above), Cop Problem, Horrifying, Indoctrine, Inner Shrine, Meridian, Noothgrush/Coffins, and Psalm Zero. Have at it:

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Alehammer – Barmageddon (Agipunk)
Nice to see a band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously once in a while. Checking out the cover art, as well as song titles like “ABV 666,” “Fermented Death,” and “Cunts to a Man,” gives the impression that these guys like to let loose. However, its one thing to be goofy, but another to back it up with musicianship. Thankfully, Alehammer’s blend of crust/black/grind is as abrasive as it gets, never slowing down sans the groovy standout track “Floormonger.” At a mere twenty minutes, Barmageddon doesn’t overstay its welcome and leaves an impression that hopefully we’ll hear more from these guys. – Kyle McGinn (Alehammer on Facebook)

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Ascension – Far Beyond the Stars (Limb Music)
Another UK power metal band with an affinity for the German scene and domestic superstars Dragonforce, this debut album features Ricki Carnie’s high pitch vocal antics going toe to toe with the speed riffs and dive bomb lead tradeoffs from Stuart Docherty and Fraiser Edwards. Loads of happy harmonies and melodies make “Somewhere Back in Time” and “Heavenly” tolerable, but the formula grows stale at the 45 minute mark… of a 67 minute album. And an abysmal cover of Roxette’s “Listen to Your Heart” as a bonus leaves me thinking Far Beyond the Stars is super cliché, super grade A cheese best left to the youngsters. – Matt Coe (Ascension on Facebook)

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Blackout – We Are Here (Self-Released)
Quite the unimaginative cover, name, ideology (“Let’s get drunk and record!”), etc., etc., New York doom trio Blackout personify the lazy, riff-grab-a-roo-of-Sleep-and-every-other-doom-band that has come to infiltrate American bands of this variety. We Are Here just plods along, eliciting the “I’ve heard this riff before!” exclamations rather frequently. Really, these songs have no climb; they’re just a bunch of loud, banal, and grating excursions through doom terrain that has been done to death. Meh to the max.  – David E. Gehlke (Blackout on Facebook)

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Blind to Faith – Under the Heptagram EP (A389)
Yet another fast-bloomer on the equally-as-fast rising A389 Recordings, Belgium’s Blind to Faith play the brand of brazen, unchained death/thrash that has come to embody a lot of its label’s main constituents. Because this stuff peels past the generic and now-blase d-beat core, the band’s Discharge-on-Celtic Frost-on-punk efforts make matters quick and easy across this 3-song EP. Granted, making due with three songs usually results into something of value, so it’s heads-down, shower off, and roll with “The Gateway,” “Under the Heptagram,” and “Burial of Mankind.” No-frills = no screwing around. – David E. Gehlke (Blind to Faith on Facebook)

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Cop Problem – Buried Beneath White Noise (The Compound)
In a sea of soundalike vocalists, Cop Problem’s Deb Cohen sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb. Raspy, somewhat decipherable, and flush with vitriol, Cohen is by and large, the best thing Cop Problem has going for themselves, and on their 4-song Buried Beneath White Noise EP, the Philly quartet barrel through a punk-metal gauntlet with ample amount of vim and vigor. Further accentuated by the band’s political bent, Buried Beneath White Noise makes quick work, gets its point across, and above all else, creates separation between the rest of the dirty punk/metal mongrels. – David E. Gehlke (Cop Problem on Facebook)

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Drugs of Faith – Architectural Failure (Malokul)
Grind with a socio-political message is nothing new, but the sonic spew that Drugs of Faith puts out is a pretty fresh-sounding. Fronted by Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s Richard Johnson, the band blows the four songs on the Architectural Failure EP without much of an issue, all the while doling out some spacious, angular riffs, and Johnson’s cunning vocals. The dude sounds jacked, and he’s got something to say…just be on the lookout for some grind explosions via “The Incumbent” and “Paper Trails.” Raucous stuff. Quite good. – David E. Gehlke (Drugs of Faith official site)

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Horrifying – Euphoric Existence (Blood Harvest Records)
Take Onward to Golgotha, replace the guttural vocals with some higher, bloodcurdling raspy ones, throw in some older Death and slight black metal influences and you’ve got Horrifying’s 7” debut. Three songs of supremely competent yet wholly unoriginal old school death metal from Chile. “An Agonic Death” is over nearly as soon as it begins but leads into the two lengthier and more enjoyable tracks. “Euphoric Existence” is the stronger of the other two tracks, reveling in its Incantation-isms and pulls off some solid leadwork. With the sheer volume of bands attempting this formula, hopefully Horrifying will expand upon their influences for their full-length if they want to make their mark. – Kyle McGinn (Blood Harvest on Bandcamp)

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Indoctrine – Unto the Fall (Inverse)
The familiar clasp and tackle of Indoctrine’s Unto the Fall debut recalls a time when one couldn’t walk two feet without running into a band using Gothenburg rudiments to make their melodic death metal play. It was at near-epidemic proportions a decade ago, but has since come to settle down, although listening to this Finnish four-piece and one would still At the Gates miming was in en vogue. Even if the album has its teeth bared in the melodic department, nearly all of these riffs have been used at some point in time, so if some wry Callenish Circle-meets-Eucharist combination is your thing, then Indoctrine should get a look. We’ll stick with the originals. – David E. Gehlke (Indoctrine on Facebook)

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Inner Shrine – Pulsar (Bakerteam Records)
In business since 1996, Italy’s Inner Shrine present all sorts of stray, Euro-ready ideas on their third album, Pulsar. At first blush, the combo on hand here is Goth/industrial, peppered with symphonic bits, thus ensuring the album has the necessary dramatic flair. But, there whole thing is so sterile, flat, a tad on the pretentious side, seemingly unaware of where the good ideas fit…and where the bad ones should go to die. While the graceful melodies of “Last Day on Earth” have the right touch, it’s the plodding, futuristic title track and awkward crawl of “Four Steps in Gray” that ultimately does the album in. – David E. Gehlke (Inner Shrine on Facebook)

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Meridian – Metallurgy (Target Music)
Danish heavy metal with occasional leanings to the power and speed/thrash world, this quintet excel at developing their own sound- not an easy feat in today’s scene. Elements of Metal Church, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and 80’s US metal come to mind the most on brilliant tracks like the crunchy/ harmony addictive “Red Horizon,” the rhythmically-charged “Between Love and Hate” and rather intense “Frozen in Time”- the latter featuring killer tradeoffs between guitarists Martin J. Andersen and Steffan Pedersen. Lars Marker’s melodic vocal range which is more AOR/progressive in nature gives Meridian an added distinction that should pay dividends in a hopefully long, prosperous career. – Matt Coe (Meridian on Facebook)

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Noothgrush/Coffins – Split EP (Southern Lord)
Unquestionably one of the most downright heavy splits of the year, sludge masters Noothgrush and death/doomers Coffins have joined forces for an album of monolithic proportions. Noothgrush (yes, the name comes from Dr. Seuss) crawl through three songs of snail-paced sludgy doom with a knack for groove that keeps it from being an unbearable listen. Coffins then lay out their particular brand of crunch-heavy old school death with the Celtic Frost-vibe flowing through “Drown in Revelation” while “The Wretched Path” aims for more mid-tempo headbanging. While Noothgrush’s 9-minute “Troth” lasts a bit too long, fans of either band would do well to snatch this one up. – Kyle McGinn (Noothgrush Facebook/Coffins official site)

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Psalm Zero – Force My Hand (Last Things Records)
Nowhere near the enthusiasm for this as there was for LowCityRain’s self-titled debut, probably the best 80’s-new-wave-reincaranted retro-fitted for the metal scene in recent memory, Psalm Zero is comprised of the duo of Andre Hock and Charlie Looker. Taking ample cues from blackened industrial metal (meh) to Pink Floyd, and even as the pair tries their hand at a cover of Today is the Day’s “Willpower,” you get the sense there’s too many good ideas left on the table, not enough execution, thus making the prospect of a full-length sound not too appetizing. – David E. Gehlke (Psalm Zero on Facebook)