January 2015 Rapid Fires

Monday, 2nd February 2015

Another fresh start to the year, as we emerge from the quiet December there are already plenty of new music to hear with the 2015 stamp on it. Back to the daily grind right (that’s really what January usually signals)? Allow us to get some of the legwork out of the way as more and more albums make their appearance and separate the good, bad, and the ugly for you. January’s offerings include 6:33 (pictured above), A Swarm of the Sun, Astral Blood, Conquer, Dystopia, Dwell, Evil Spirit, Ingurgitating Oblivion, Leah, Midnight Bullet, Perdition Temple, Shadowbane, Stormwitch, The Body/Thou, Winds of Genocide, and Xibalba.

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6:33 – Deadly Scenes (Kaotoxin Records)
On the lookout for something off the beaten path? Deadly Scenes is sure to find some good company among Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, and Devin Townsend fans. Embracing the eclectic and strange (and not often the heaviest), there is an abundance of progressive twists and turns and stop on a dime change-ups that will throw you for a loop. From the dark, Tim Burton-inspired carnival sounds of “Modus Operandi” to the spastic, pounding heaviness/serenity of “I’m a Nerd,” there seems to be a bit of something for everybody. While the lyrics are a bit odd (and goofy), those looking for a genre-bending listen should turn their ears towards this one. – Kyle McGinn (6:33 on Facebook)

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A Swarm of the Sun – The Rifts (Version Studio Records)
Guided by the always-captivating vocals of Erik Nilsson (he of up-and-coming atmospheric metallers Aoria, Sweden’s A Swarm of the Sun happens to be the man’s primary act. Albeit less on the metal side and more on the spacy, minimal end of things, the band’s The Rifts album is flush with quietly-moving moments that are striking and ethereal, such as the fantastic build-up found on opener “There’s Blood On Your Hands,” or the driving “The Warden,” which is perhaps the heaviest song on the album. Nilsson’s vocals aren’t exactly front-and-center; they’re pretty spaced out, but when they’re in use, they’re sublime. – David E. Gehlke (A Swarm of the Sun official site)

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Astral Blood – Astral Blood (Tridroid Records)
Call it the “Amiensus effect.” Whether its members of Amiensus directly in a band or just helping to contribute, the result is usually stunning (see Adora Vivos, Nuklear Frost). Such is again the case here with Astral Blood, as Amiensus’ Joe Waller contributes some keys to the debut EP of Minnesota’s newest atmospheric black metal offering. Capturing a solid and gripping take on black metal that owes equally to the Scandinavian scene as it does the North American scene, the two songs (with a spoken word interlude sandwiched in) are full of cold, blast-ridden black metal with subtle melody and majestic atmosphere. As just a teaser, let’s hope it doesn’t take the band too long to whip out a full-length as their formula is onto something that could be pretty special. – Kyle McGinn (Astral Blood on Facebook)

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Conquer – A Worm’s Demise (Self-Released)
Newly-minted, as in, only a few months old-minted, Conquer are a self-described blackened death metal band from Ontario, Canada. Naturally, one sees the word “worm” in the title and thoughts go immediately to Cryptospy (i.e. Lord Worm), however, the band puts on a meaty, challenging, but uncomplicated showing on their excellent three-song A Worm’s Demise EP. Lovely (in a good way), jarring production job; totally naturally, with plenty of snap in the snare, so when things get-a-moving on the opening title track, Conquer thrust themselves immediately into the throes of no-longer-to-be-unsigned-ville. An ideal debut with ample extremity and dynamics (the opening of “Hell’s First Born” is marvelous), Conquer are without question a band to watch. – David E. Gehlke (Conquer Bandcamp)

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Dwell – Vermin and Ashes (Hell’s Headbangers)
Danish doom, which there isn’t much to speak of, but Dwell should fit the bill accordingly. Vermin and Ashes is the band’s first proper release, combining their first demo, and two new songs, and serves as left-turn for the normally cult-beyond-cult Hell’s Headbangers, although there is some legitimate creed to the band’s molten, immovable doom. Riffs aren’t as monolithic as they are taut, as in, a few power chords will do, drop in some melodies and somewhat flashy leads, and there you go. Outside of the unnecessary “Pathless and Dormant” (unwisely placed at second in the running order) Vermin and Ashes is a convincing, especially with “Plunging into Ash Tombs,” a song of harmonic glory, where a lead melody guides the tune right into the beyond…and back. Excellent stuff, and a band to watch. – David E. Gehlke (Dwell Facebook)

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Dystopia – Human = Garbage (Tankcrimes)
One of the supposed forerunners of sludgy hardcore back in the 90s, Dystopia released Human = Garbage back in ’94 to a small, but devoted audience, and now are getting the same action with a reissue via Tankcrimes. Sonically, the album is covered soot and natural grime, the sort of thing that can’t be replicated today, so when paired with the vocals of Dino (who also mans the drums), the results are usually pretty throttling. Also, big ups to the band for having the balls to start their songs with simple bass lines…sets a bit of an omninous tone, don’t you think? But as a whole, one could see why this is getting another go ‘round – Dystopia oozed desperation. – David E. Gehlke (Tankcrimes Facebook)

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Evil Spirit – Cauldron Messiah (Horror Records)
Not exactly persuaded by the relatively generic and played-out presentation of Germany’s Evil Spirit, who fashion themselves as a throwback to metal’s cult years (i.e. the 80s). So in a way, they’re a typically mish-mash band of classic death and occult metal, neither of which are the overriding sentiment across Cauldron Messiah. A go at several longer compositions (i.e. “Let the Dragon Be My Guide”) finds the band going the ‘ole mystical build-up route, with toms thumping gently and Sabbath-esque triads weaving their way through. Vintage sounding indeed, yet nothing worth discarding those worn-out copies of Melissa for either. – David E. Gehlke (Evil Spirit Facebook)

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Ingurgitating Oblivion – Continuum of Absence (Willowtip Records)
Odd to choose the lengthiest track as your first track, but that’s Ingurgitating Oblivion’s opening to Continuum of Absence. Taking the dissonant approach to death metal, their sound feels like a cross between Gorguts, Morbid Angel, and Wormed. Add that to a sound that appears to be equally rooted as much in doom as it is death metal, and you’ve pretty much nailed their act. It is an intriguing mix for the most part, offering lumbering heaviness a la Ulcerate at times with the slower segments and the faster sections offer a frenetic rush. Sadly, almost every track begins with some sort of ambience, which doesn’t really go anywhere and thus needlessly prolonging each song – keeping the album from peak performance. -Kyle McGinn (Ingurgitating Oblivion on Facebook)

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Leah – Kings & Queens (Inner Wound Recordings)
Canadian singer/songwriter Leah McHenry releases a second full-length album of symphonic metal with Celtic/folk touches on Kings & Queens. Her backing band includes members of Delain, Vengeance, and Blind Guardian – plus expert orchestration/keyboard help from Oliver Philipps and Brent McHenry. Those who love Leaves’ Eyes, Lana Lane and others in that ilk with more exotic Celtic/Folk touches will find “Save the World”, the thunderous double bass fueled “Enter the Highlands” plus serene/haunting epic duality of the 7:45 “Palace of Dreams” enticing to cinematic proportions. 78 minutes over 14 songs can be a touch exhaustive, when 11 songs would do – but add this to your list if all sides of the genre tickle your aural needs. – Matt Coe (Leah official website)

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Midnight Bullet – Lose My Face (Inverse Records)
Finnish heavy metal act Midnight Bullet have been firing on all cylinders since 2009, as Lose My Face is their second full length. These 10 songs are steeped in European heritage – particular Teutonic, as the steadfast guitar rhythms and four on the floor tempo mechanics scream Accept or classic Rage on “Memories Are Gone” or standout “Six Feet Under”. The good cop vocal smoothness of bassist Timo Nokelainen acts as a buffer from the whiskey soaked delivery guitarist Tuomas Lahti employs – which could impact the overall appeal. Plenty of people love their 3-4 chord, shout-a-long heavy metal, so here’s another possible wild card to add to your list. – Matt Coe (Midnight Bullet on Facebook)

Perdition Temple – Sovereign of the Desolate EP






Perdition Temple – Sovereign of the Desolate EP (Hell’s Headbangers)
Designed as sort of a run-up to their The Tempter’s Victorious full-length which is due in a few months, Tampa death metal up-and-comers Perdition Temple saw fit to pop out the two-song Sovereign of the Desolate EP in the meantime. Considering the band consists of former members of Angelcorpse and Immolation, the approach shifts to the blackened side at times, where brazen riffing and unrelenting blast beats become the foundation for a sound that should take proper shape across a full album. In the meantime, the title track and their cover of Blasphemy’s “Weltering in Blood” more than gets the job done. – David E. Gehlke (Perdition Temple Facebook)

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Shadowbane – Facing the Fallout (Pure Steel Records)
German power metal has distinct factions – happier or meatier depending upon the harmonies, melodies, and general riffing at hand. Self-proclaimed post-apocalyptic power quintet Shadowbane fall into more of the heavier, Brainstorm meets US category on their debut album Facing the Fallout. Expect more thrash-oriented riffing and melodic but rough around the edge vocals, plus mesmerizing lead breaks from the Lukas/Markus axe tandem which make “Traitor” and the dynamic “Last Division” very appealing for their hook and headbanging qualities. Gaining Wacken Foundation support plus mastering expertise from Gamma Ray’s Dirk Schlächter, this is a 46 minute treasure for those who love the late 80’s/early 90’s US power sound intertwined with Teutonic finesse. – Matt Coe (Shadowbane official website)

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Stormwitch – Season of the Witch (Massacre Records)
These Germans originally made an impact in the heavy/power metal scene of the 1980’s – reforming in 2002 to take a second shot at stardom. Season of the Witch is their first studio album in 11 years, and despite a decent vocal performance from Andy Aldrian (part epic, part progressive), the barely above demo level production values and almost computerized oriented drumming renders “Evil Spirit”, the uplifting “True Until the End” and Rainbow-laden “The Trail of Tears” interchangeable and indistinguishable. Methinks the quintet must elevate their craft or be left in their nostalgic shadows. – Matt Coe (Stormwitch official website)

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The Body/Thou – Released From Love/You, Whom I Have Always Hated (Thrill Jockey)
Both The Body and Thou are bands that never seem to get any rest away from the scene and are equally found of sharing their work (see the combined number of splits both bands have done). It seems like a perfect match to get the two bands to collaborate together (they have toured together as well). The result is, of course, massively heavy and brutal. 50-minutes of rumbling guitars and anguished screams will give anyone the sludge fix that they desire. There’s even a particularly filthy and masterful cover of NIN’s “Terrible Lie” and Vic Chestnutt’s “Coward” that will make most grin with delight. Set to work together again later this year, one can only imagine the level of brutality heading in our direction with a second helping. – Kyle McGinn (Thou official website) (The Body on Facebook)

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Winds of Genocide – Usurping the Throne of Genocide (Pulverised Records)
Equally rooted in old school death/black metal and crust, Winds of Genocide have devised a rather effectively brutal mix that gives a wink and a nod to the past without feeling totally stuck there. Vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham provides some gripping roars on top of raw and energetic d-beat pounding and breakneck riffing. A frantic rush of viciousness and power, variety isn’t exactly what you will find here, but nor should it be. Full of rage and the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, this is an album you crank when you are in need of an adrenaline rush. – Kyle McGinn (Winds of Genocide on Facebook)

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Xibalba – Tierra Y Libertad (Southern Lord)
Sludgy, chuggy riffs are what Xibalba churn out with glee on Tierra Y Libertad. It’s a rather in your face and bludgeoningly heavy approach that does go above and beyond what many of their compatriots of the death/hardcore scene are capable of and effectively compliments the usual breakdown-ridden approach with some death metal anchorage and occasionally Crowbar-levels of sludge. However, the vocals still reek of the ordinary, reveling in monotony and cliché call to arms hardcore-esque lyrics (and of course, plenty of “fuck you’s” to go around). It’s a step in the right direction, but not quite enough of one. – Kyle McGinn (Xibalba on Facebook)