January 2016 Rapid Fires

Saturday, 6th February 2016

Now fully settled into the year that will be 2016, metal, like it does every year, continues to pump ’em out. It’s an exciting happening, although we reserve the right to maintain a critical eye to the dud releases, which no doubt there will be some. But alas, onward we go into the year’s first installment of Rapid Fires, with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Altarage (pictured above), Blackslash, Blood of the Wolf, Centipede, Chronos Zero, Ecferus, Eternal of Sweden, Ghostlimb, Killing Gandhi, Rhine, Sacrilegium, Shotgun Rodeo, Sleepy Hollow, and Terror (Cleveland) in tow.

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Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Arc (Relapse)
Long-standing grinders Agoraphobic Nosebleed decide to release a series of 4 EPs that focus on the influences of each band member. An interesting concept – that’s for sure. The first of these four focuses on vocalist Katherine Katz, and is a much doomier and sludgy affair than we’ve normally seen from the band. It’s a credit to the band that they more or less abandoned their built-up sound for these EPs, and the musical quality of Arc stands up quite well, especially considering that this isn’t their normal cup of tea. Top notch sludge…from a grindcore band. It’s a promising start for the rest of the EPs to come in this series. – Kyle McGinn (Agoraphobic Nosebleed on Facebook)

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Altarage – Nihl (Iron Bonehead)
A hereby unknown, mysterious outfit from Spain, Altarage initially made a dent via their 2015 MMXV demo. Nearly unclassifiable, Altarage channel the echo-laden, abyssal sounds of warped death metal, and put their own imitable spin on the thing. Nihl happens to be their first full length, expanding upon MMXV with an assortment of whirling, diving, and churning songs, each of which could be tagged as a “maelstrom.” Special nods go to the all-out, balls-out “Vortex Pyramid,” a song that sounds like it was shot from a cannon…in a cave…somewhere dark. But you get the point. The production meets the angle, and the songs meet the purpose; Altarage are a key find for Iron Bonehead, and another band working to make death metal even more obscure than it already is. – David E. Gehlke (Altarage Facebook)

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Blackslash – Sinister Lightning (Iron Shield Records)
Machine gun fire, guitar lines straight from a cultural Maiden perspective – the opening moments of “Empire Rising” leave you pumping fists and grabbing a cold one for the old school vibe of Germany’s Blackslash. Much like the newer brigade of bands like Stallion and Striker, the quintet possesses a powerhouse vocalist, requisite double bass, and catchy guitar harmonies/choruses that make “Lucifer’s Reign” and “Steel Stallions” ear pleasing while respectful of the 70’s and 80’s inspiration. Galloping tempos, topics of war, battle, evil – if names like Omen, Liege Lord, and the multitudes of Iron Maiden offspring mean the world to you Sinister Lightning as the band’s second full-length will fill the air with limitless electricity. – Matt Coe (Blackslash official website)

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Blood of the Wolf – I: The Law of Retaliation (Self-Released)
Somehow this ripper fell through the cracks for a while! Visceral blackened death metal with members from Kommandant, Rellik, and Terminate is what The Law of Retaliation brings about from start to finish. Brutal, blasting-drum speeds, upfront and powerful roars, and sharp as a razor’s edge riffing lead the charge through these 10 tracks. The black metal end keeps the pacing frantic, with some occasional melodic leads to keep the listener’s interest piqued. Expect no let-up from the speed, not unlike Marduk, whom the band covers “With Satan And Victorious Weapons” with aplomb at the end of the disc. Sure, it’s a bit one-note but it’s absolutely snarling while doing it. – Kyle McGinn (Blood of the Wolf on Facebook)

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Centipede – Saranth (Inverse Records)
Churning stoner metal pours from the amplifiers and microphones of Finland’s Centipede on their first full-length Saranth. Releasing a number of demos, EP’s and split efforts in a five-year career, the eight songs contained within emphasize a dark, almost doomy charm as well as equally impassioned vocals courtesy of guitarist Markus Nurminen. Think a faster Crowbar meets classic Ozzy-era Black Sabbath- as numbers like “The Unspoken” and thunderous bass led “Midwinter Wolves” creep into your psyche to warm your dreary thoughts astray. Top it off with the arthropod logo and abstract cover art and the ideal heaviness remains top of mind for this power trio. – Matt Coe (Centipede on Facebook)

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Chronos Zero – Hollowlands: The Tears Path: Chapter One (Scarlet)
Overblown and/or pretentious might not even be the right place to start when discussing Chronos Zero’s second album, Hollowlands: The Tears Path: Chapter One. Clearly, there’s going to be a second chapter to this thing; why else would the band label it as “Chapter One.” Anyway, the Italian troupe plays a fairly modernized brand of progressive metal, stacked with the usual range of low-tuned guitars, complex arrangements, and female vocal swaths. It’s all a bit much, actually. With little filter or idea on how to wrap up their songs, Chronos Zero lets several of these songs get away from them. By the time you’re heading down the album’s homestretch, you’ll start wonder how the band will be able to pop out the second installment of this. Ideas galore. – David E. Gehlke (Chronos Zero Facebook)

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Ecferus – Pangaea (I, Voidhanger)
An ambitious one-man project from Indiana, Ecferus plays atmospheric and progressive black metal. The second album, Pangaea, is conceptual and tells the story of the main character Pangaea being ripped apart into continents by Earth. There’s much more to it, but we’ll keep spoilers to a minimum. Things are one-upped a bit by the use of language substitutions to create a ‘lost, primitive language’ as well. But none of this holds water if the music is low quality, which is fortunately not the case here. Captivating synths, eerie melodies, and plenty of dynamics (even some sludgy/doom dabbling) set the stage for the intriguing concepts to flourish. An album to keep on your radar. – Kyle McGinn (Ecferus on Facebook)

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Eternal of Sweden – Heaven’s Gate (Black Lodge)
Active since 2007 as Eternal (adding of Sweden to separate from the 13 other worldwide acts with a similar namesake), Heaven’s Gate is the band’s second studio album. Melodic power metal best describes these 10 songs – the guitar play, mid-range to slightly higher melodies, and occasional neo-classical flashes bring to mind Memento Mori, Nocturnal Rites and anything related to Ronnie James Dio from Rainbow forward. Christer Gärds has more of a gritty texture to his phrasing and delivery than say Halford or Dio, but brings home his storytelling for the title cut and the mid-tempo anthem “Evil Dance” just fine. A niche audience for sure will treasure Eternal of Sweden and their power wares. – Matt Coe (Eternal of Sweden official website)

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Ghostlimb – Difficult Loves (Vitriol)
Apparently not metal enough for Metal Archives (for whatever reason), but pissed, frothy, and jacked enough for just about anyone else, Ghostlimb are back on the beaten path with their latest album, Difficult Loves. The brainchild of Graf Orlock mainman Justin Smith, Ghostlimb plays a mish-mash of grind and hardcore, spat through the filter of d-beat. In turn, there are some vicious moments here, with Smith shredding his throat across corkers like “Folds in the Sheets” and the drum-heavy “Treason Fluently.” As such, there’s little fooling around here – Ghostlimb grind grab-and-go. The best way to do things. – David E. Gehlke (Vitriol Records Bandcamp)

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Killing Gandhi – Cinematic Parallels (Crime Records)
With a melodic death sound that feels akin to what was going around in the late ’90s/early ’00s, Killing Gandhi seem to have their In Flames and Arch Enemy references in check. There are plenty of killer hooks from track to track, with leads really bringing this writer back to said time with melodic death metal – the energy is all there (as is the musicianship). Not sure the need for so many interludes (there are five “trailers” that break up the tracks), as they don’t seem to go much of anywhere. Outside of that, this is one of those under-rated melodic death metal gems. Had it been released 15 years ago, they’d be sitting towards the top of the pile. – Kyle McGinn (Killing Gandhi on Facebook)

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Rhine – An Outsider (Self-Released)
What a smorgasbord! It seems that around every corner, Rhine has something new and fresh coming to greet you. Everything from black metal to progressive to death metal and beyond, there’s truly a bit of everything on An Outsider. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as good as you might want it to be. The transitions are frequently jarring, and the long songs tend to feel like individual tracks that were simply squeezed together to trim the song count. Some of the clean vocals just seem awkward as well (see “Dreaming of Death”), though they seem fine in others (“Paralyzed”). There really is something here beneath the ‘toss in everything but the kitchen sink’ approach, but Rhine needs to decide the direction they want to go in. – Kyle McGinn (Rhine on Facebook)

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Sacrilegium – Angelus (Pagan Records)
Simply a primer release before the band releases a new album this spring, Angelus is a classic “single” release from Sacrilegium. One of Poland’s forerunning black metal bands, Sacrilegium split up 15 years ago, leaving behind one album (Wicher) to their name. Since then (and this happens to a lot of black metal bands from the mid-90s), their profile has only increased in underground annals, hence, the anticipation for a new album. “Angelus” (the song) proves to be an accessible, symphonic sprawl of a gem, with the Poles weaving melodic riffing and keyboard touches throughout. The rest of the release is comprised of remixes and demo versions. Guess that shows how much black metal has evolved in the last 20 years: There are now people willing to do remixes. Radical concept. – David E. Gehlke (Sacrilegium Facebook)

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Shotgun Rodeo – World Wide Genocide (Self-released)
Four-piece Norwegian unit Shotgun Rodeo prefer the slow and steady progress outlook when it comes to recording: one demo plus two EP releases later from their 2008 inception, we finally get their debut full-length. At 13 songs and an hour play time, their old school heavy metal meets groove/thrash vibe can produce some heads down, energetic moments for “The Silver Tongued Devils” and “Withered Earth” which cross-pollinates the riff punch of 90’s period Anthrax with the angst of Pantera – although vocalist Nino Escopeta comes from more of a clear James Hetfield melodic platform than anything brutal or extreme. Add in a post-apocalyptic album cover that reminds me of Lääz Rockit, and this is serviceable metal for those who desire song-oriented groove/thrash. – Matt Coe (Shotgun Rodeo official website)

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Sleepy Hollow – Tales of Gods and Monsters (Pure Steel)
The third full length from New Jersey’s Sleepy Hollow, Tales of Gods and Monsters contains 11 tracks of traditional US metal with dark power and doom nuances. Tracks like “Black Horse Named Death” and “Baphomet” conjure up Dio-era Sabbath, Candlemass and early Savatage – especially with the low-pitch range of new vocalist Chapel Stormcrow. Guitarist Steve Stegg throws out a bevy of great riffs, but the inconsistency in production song to song plus the repetitive chorus nature keeps this album in the recesses of my mind. A shame too, as their 1991 self-titled effort is killer. – Matt Coe (Sleepy Hollow official website)

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Terror (Cleveland) – Legion of Gore EP (Hell’s Headbangers)
Predating the Scott Voegel-led hardcore outfit of the same name by several years, the Cleveland version of Terror are back with their first output in 19 years with the Legion of Gore EP. With former members of Incantation, Nunslaughter, and Mortician holding down the fort, Terror, as one would expect, plays a raw, raucous blend of death/thrash. In many respects, it allows them to fit nice and snug within today’s landscape; there are countless bands getting down with this style. Nevertheless, the two-song Legion of Gore EP does what it has to, although production in comparison to other like-minded bands is far superior. – David E. Gehlke (Terror Myspace)