February 2014 Rapid Fires

Thursday, 27th February 2014

Usually the time of year when it dawns on DR’s editor that “Wow, there sure are a lot of releases out there!” the month of February 2014 sees the staff tackle 15 reviews in our Rapid Fires column. Granted, we could have tacked another dozen onto this column, but that’s what March is for. Up for debate this month: Adamus Exul, Agael, Ass to Mouth, Chapel, Communion of Theives/Dendritic Arbor, Crystal Viper, Halahkah, James LaBrie (pictured), Macbeth, Mesetiah, Midnite Hellion, Ribspreader, Suffering in Solitude, and Valdrin…

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Adamus Exul – Arsonic Idols (Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum)
After spinning Arsonic Idols repeatedly, it’s hard to get the drum sound out of my head. Not that it’s terrible, but there is just so much blasting so high in the mix that it begins to grate the brain. Sure, there are some moments of slow down and an occult-ish presence, but the constant drum barrage keeps the album from shining it’s brightest (or grimmest, this is black metal after all). If you can look past the drums, Adamus Exul hits everything else out of the park: tortured screams, occasionally subtle melodies, and blackened atmosphere all standout when the blasting steps aside. – Kyle McGinn (Adamus Exul official site)

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Agael – Trost (Naturmacht Productions)
Chalk another one up in the solitary black metal department with Germany’s Agael. On the band’s second album, Trost,  main (and lone) dude Agael melds grim, occasionally frost-bitten terrain with spacy atmospheres, the type that when stumbled upon, are worth savoring. They don’t come out in full-force across the album’s eight jams, but we’ll point to the bleak “Stemenklang” and all-instrumental “Nichtkonstanten” as being two cuts that resonated. Nevertheless, the album manages to remain rather steady in these troubled waters; Agael should have no trouble finding suitors in the mid-90’s and/or wintry BM landscape. (Agael official site)

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Ass to Mouth – Degenerate (Selfmadegod)
The squirmy name should help in the promo department – how will ever forget a band called “Ass to Mouth?” And per the norm, it opens up discussion on how the band explains their name to their respective elders. Probably awkwardly. Anyway, Ass to Mouth are a Polish grind outfit, totally emboldened by a non-grind production job, one that recalls the recent works of Antigama, who might be a tad more metallic than these gents. Nevertheless, all sorts of zippy, break-neck cuts run under the board, some with memorable vocal jousts (“Drunk & Stoned”), others with a dirty, punk-like feel (“Here Comes Mr. Pig”). Quality grind this is. And that name…someone pass the sanitizer. – David E. Gehlke (Ass to Mouth Facebook) 

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Chapel (Canada) – Satan’s Rock ‘n’ Roll (Invictus)
Pimping the three B’s (beer, bulletbelts, and Beelzebub), Canada’s Chapel (or is it “Chapel Canada?”) play a predictably raunchy, thrash-infused style that couldn’t fool anyone if it tried…not like it was trying to. This sort of punk, PBR-infused thrash has been run into the ground, obviously, so the battalion surge of “Nocturnal Blasphemy,” Motorhead run on the title track, and “Satanist” will no doubt thrust itself into familiar territory for the Skeletonwitch or biker BM crowd across the pond in Scandinavia. But really, for its relative shortcomings, the 30 minutes that comprise of Satan’s Rock ‘n’ Roll go quick, hard, and painless; enjoyable to a degree, particularly when brain cells are short on demand. – David E. Gehlke (Chapel Facebook)

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Communion of Theives/Dendritic Arbor – Split (Unholy Anarchy Records)
Communion of Theives opens the split with a sampling-heavy track that is full of political propaganda. CoT’s remaining two tracks of crust/noise feature some pretty intense screams along with some speed-intensive riffing. Dendritic Arbor close things out by providing two tracks in the form of elements from the periodic table (iridium and calcium). A mix of black, crust, and grind, both tracks are equally full of vitriol yet leave nothing memorable in their wake. High on aggression but low on substance, neither band really succeeds in much besides providing a splitting headache. – Kyle McGinn (Communion of Thieves/Dendritic Arbor Facebook)

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Crystal Viper – Possession (AFM)
A concept album about a girl named Julia being…possessed (the title might be a bit of a giveaway), Crystal Viper’s fifth effort, Possession, keeps the Polish quartet firmly rooted in mid-level pacings. Some might find this stuff to be a little too far on the trite side of things, especially the animated vocals of Marta Gabriel, which are hit-or-miss. When the concept isn’t getting in the way of things, there’s some choice moments, like lead single “Prophet of the End,” which is sort of rousing in a Powerwolf sort of way. Yet, the trad-all-the-way happenings of “Voices in My Head,” “You Will Die, You Will Burn” and “We Are Many” are just simple reproductions of the classic Euro metal front. – David E. Gehlke (Crystal Viper official site)

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Halahkah – Desecration (Self-Released)
India’s Halahkah play a modern take on melodic death/thrash metal. Opening with a mood-setting instrumental, “Possessed Strangulated and Enslaved” and “In Extremis” offer up some galloping melodic metal that have some catchy leads and moments of groove. The vocals are the standard screams but adequately get the job done. Unfortunately, they seem to have a bit of an identity crisis with “Sacrilege,” moving almost into deathcore territory, breakdowns included. As a whole, everything is high quality for a demo, but Halahkah will need to establish the direction they want to head in to secure a larger fan base. – Kyle McGinn (Halahkah Facebook)

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James LaBrie – I Will Not Break EP (InsideOut)
Strictly a digital release (‘cause who buys physical product anymore?), James LaBrie’s I Will Not Break EP is comprised of leftovers from the man’s 2013 Impermanent Resonance album. LaBrie, now firmly rooted in heavier/partially extreme metal, has proven to be rather adept at handling this style, particularly on the lead track, which was one of the better jams on the main album. The ballad “Unraveling” is a throwaway (as is the other ballad, “Coming Home”), while demo versions of “Jekyll and Hyde” and “I Tried” are passable. We won’t get into the three dub remixes that round out the EP. They probably won’t reach the intended audience, and rightfully so. – David E. Gehlke (James LaBrie official site)

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Macbeth – Neo-Gothic Propoganda (Dragonheart Records)
While others in the gothic metal realm soften their sound to appeal to the Lacuna Coil/ Nightwish template, Italy’s Macbeth decide to infuse their style with some heavier death guitar tones and growls on this fifth studio album (their first since 2007). The multi-faceted style should have broader appeal to fans of In Flames, Evergrey, and Epica, evident early on through the higher guitar harmonies and pounding rhythms within “Slow Motion Tragedy” and “Empire’s Fall.” Dual female clean vocals and male death growls support their stake to not merely be ‘gothic-light’. Shakespeare would approve as dramatic dynamics deliver memorable music. – Matt Coe (Macbeth Facebook)

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Mesetiah – Tesis (3rd Track Productions)
Old-school death metal meets thrash with Tesis. With an emphasis on groove and somewhat catchy melodies, Mesetiah manage to keep things interesting even if it’s not entirely original. The Finnish band feels quite at home with an old school production quality that keeps the decipherable barks and heavy riffs that extra bite they need. “Legacy of the Damned” is the pick of the bunch, with its mid-tempo swagger and focus on melody, though the aggression of closer “Mother of All Executions” makes it a close second. It will be interesting to see where they head for a full-length. – Kyle McGinn (Mesetiah Facebook)

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Midnite Hellion – Hour of the Wolf (Witches Brew)
Just two cuts here (you should see the vinyl version – ‘tis a nice package), but lots of NWOBHM-vintage metal a-happenings. Midnite Hellion are a New Jersey bunch fronted by Pamela Berlinghof, but she’s got a lot of Halford in her, as opposed to the dirty rasp of Leather Leone or even Doro. The two jams (“Hour of the Wolf” and “The Morrigan”) plow ahead with Killers-like surge (the Maiden album, not the band), which means the bass is loud in the mix, there are some gallops hanging out, and guitar solos are well-placed. Nothing earth-splitting here, but Berlinghof has some personality and the band seems to have their hearts in the right place, thus a full-length should be something worth diving into. – David E. Gehlke (Midnite Hellion Facebook)

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Ribspreader – Meathymns (Vic Records)
The sixth album from Swedish trio Ribspreader is another molten slab of mid-tempo to slightly faster death metal with a bevy of old school roots. The band certainly pays homage to the ‘big 4’ of their homeland: Grave, Entombed, Dismember, and Unleashed are easy reference points in terms of the chugging riff nature and deep, low tones. Vocalist/ guitarist/ bassist Rogga Johansson has a deep Barney Greenway-like delivery, making “Dragged Below” and the stair step monster “Worm Infested” surefire pleasers. Not too technical, Meathymns has that gritty street level appeal to keep fervent believers coming back for more.  – Matt Coe (Ribspreader Facebook)

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Suffering in Solitude – A Place Apart (Domestic Genocide)
Definitely the right idea in terms of depressive black metal, the American trio that is Suffering in Solitude can’t quite hit the target on their A Place Apart debut. Being that in order for a BM album of this type to fly one has to handle somber turns and melodic twists, the band doesn’t quite take the baton and run with it. Some of these cuts feel half-baked and out of sorts, like, “Entrance,” which should be the album’s tornado opener, while instrumental pieces “Inside Out” and “Distance” sound better served to be placed in the context of regular songs. Only until album closer “A Place Apart” do matters start to take hold. You can feel those good ideas shuffling around; they just need to be let out. – David E. Gehlke (Suffering in Solitude Facebook)

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Valdrin – Beyond the Forest (Self-Released)
Valdrin came as a recommendation from Eternium, due to similarities in sound. Valdrin play melodic black metal that takes early ‘90s bands like Sacramentum as their biggest influence. Some symphonic elements are added in on tracks like “Rusalka Succubus” and “Darkness As Black As Evil” that provide some added depth to the band’s scathing yet melodic assault that never overpower the rest of the band. At 66 minutes, there’s plenty of material here, yet it never feels like it’s too much. Certainly a band that black metal fans should keep an eye out for in the future. – Kyle McGinn (Valdrin Facebook)