March 2014 Rapid Fires

Saturday, 29th March 2014

Fifteen bands up for discussion in this month’s Rapid Fires, which per the usual, traverses the good, the bad, and the mediocre somewhere in between. More importantly, what’s up with that Kirk cover? Creepy to the max! On the docket for this month: Armageddon Rev 16:16, Assassins, Barren Womb (pictured), Blood Label, Ceremonial, Endless Chaos, Ever Since, Frail Grounds, Gholas, Kirk, Ogre, Our Last Enemy, Pus Vomit, Temperance, and Thoughts Factory. Read on…

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Armageddon Rev 16:16 – Sundown on Humanity (Pitch Black Records)
Reportedly the longest-running band from the country that is Cyprus, Armageddon Rev 16:16 is the band’s first-ever full-length, this, after forming in 1985. Granted, there are probably numerous roadblocks to recording an album in Cyprus, so even getting to this point is a success onto itself. Sundown on Humanity translates to a sort of sub-power metal album, with mid-tempo meddle, and emotive clean vocals. The orchestral flourishes that flank “Human Sundown” and “New Day Will Come” are a welcome addition, while the vocals of Jimmy Mayromatis can generally be found floating above the mix. Thankfully, he’s devoid of the dreaded thick Euro-enunciation that brings down lesser vocalists. – David E. Gehlke (Armageddon Rev 16:16 Facebook)

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Assassins – War of Aggression (eOne/Good Fight)
Some of these new bands…they don’t stand a chance, don’t they? When thinking in terms of having an actual career, starting from the halfway point of a trend doesn’t bode well, something that is apparently obvious throughout War of Aggression, the debut album for Sumarian-core wannabes Assassins. Actually, placing the Sumerian tag on this quintet might be generous – they don’t have the technical means as the bands they’re so inclined to emulate, but, they sure have enough photographed breakdowns, pre-pubescent clean vocals, and bland ideas to go around. Therefore, Assassins is on whatever the tier below the worst of the Sumerian bands would be, and maybe a few more pegs down. Poor kids. – David E. Gehlke (Assassins Facebook)

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Barren Womb – The Sun’s Not Yellow, It’s Chicken (Spartan Records)
Surely the lads that comprise Norway’s Barren Womb have a better idea as to what the album title, The Sun’s Not Yellow, It’s Chicken entails, so we’ll let that one go. However, their own description of themselves as a blend of hardcore punk, rock ‘n’ roll, black metal, and country doesn’t quite fit the bill (we searched for those BM undertones – not happening). Nevertheless, the band’s rocked-out, post-hardcore sound proceeds with no abandon, like most bands riding this tide. And while the instant Kverletak comparisons might come up almost immediately, Barren Womb doesn’t ride that train – they’re far more messy, unorganized, and disjointed, something they might be better for in the long run. – David E. Gehlke (Barren Womb Facebook)

Blood Label – Skeletons






Blood Label – Skeletons (Mighty Music)
Changing names in 2009 from the tough sell Afskum to their currently much more impressive Blood Label, this Danish quintet cross over an extreme death/ thrash musical foundation with vocal nuances and twists that could be classified as alternative rock. The thick, signature Tue Madsen production makes “Shotgun-Blown in Your Face” and caustic speed thrash number “Explode” immediate winners. Elements of a darker Machine Head, Slayer and Trivium come to the forefront on this 12 song record, as Kenneth Klitte Jensen’s multi-faceted eerie clean to roaring scream delivery certainly commands the lion’s share of attention here. Decent but not mind-blowing. – Matt Coe (Blood Label Facebook)

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Ceremonial (Chile) Ars Magicka (Blood Harvest)
The Chilean Ceremonial, not to be confused with the Canadian Ceremonial. (Twenty years from now, bands searching for a good name are going to be screwed, royally.) Formed in 2010, the band’s raw, and rambunctious death/thrash takes flight via the normal forerunner grounds of early Morbid Angel, Sarcofogo, Venom, and Bathory. Basically the Kvlt Extreme Metal Starter Kit. Anyway, Ars Magicka is the band’s first official release, a four-song EP that has a clank-y production, venomous (yup, going there) riffs, and lively drumming, which, a lot of the time doesn’t seem to concerned with staying on the meter. Neither did Venom. The best band for the buck comes with opener “The Cloud Upon This Sanctuary” or the stifling “Tribulations,” which mows it down ala Rotting Christ in the early 90s. Typical of bands on the other side of the Equator, Ceremonial lean a bit too much on their influences to make an impact, but, would we expect anything else? – David E. Gehlke (Blood Harvest official site)

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Endless Chaos – Rejected Atrocity (Self-Released)
Winnipeg’s Endless Chaos strikes up an excellent mash up of death/thrash that’s sure to appeal to fans of Skeletonwitch and Revocation. There is a vintage thrash feel to the band but they do a nice job of blending in the modern elements to avoid sounding dated. Chockfull to the brim with headbang-friendly riffs, screaming vocals, and full throttle pacing, the three songs provided lay the groundwork for a band that has the potential to be as big as the two afore-mentioned bands, given the chance. The only problem with Rejected Atrocity is that three songs merely wet the appetite and a leave a longing for more material! – Kyle McGinn (Endless Chaos Facebook)

Ever Since – Bring Out the Gimp






Ever Since – Bring Out the Gimp (Mighty Music)
Modern metal with plenty of energy and some more mainstream elements, the amusingly titled Bring Out the Gimp is the first offering of Ever Since following a six-year hiatus. Their absence might explain a number of mid-2000s metalcore and electronic influences that run rampant through the disc. On the positive end, the clean/harsh vocal patterns are given some strength due to the more unique stylings of the cleans. Never going the “commercial” nor the power metal route, falling somewhere in the gray area in between keeps things more interesting on tracks like “Circles” than the usual genre tropes. One hopes that in the future the band leads more towards the more epic sounding “Wrong Way” and further away from the more electronically driven “Wake Up.” – Kyle McGinn (Ever Since Facebook)

Frail Grounds – The Fields of Trauma






Frail Grounds – The Fields of Trauma (Hostile Media)
Nestling in comfortably at the heavier end of the progressive/power metal spectrum, The Fields of Trauma was originally issued independently in 2012 and is seeing a current re-issue via Hostile Media. Some occasional thundering drums (“The Sinister Road”) and growls here and there assure that things never veer too far into the usual territory and complements the acoustic and “proggy” sections well. Let’s face it, progressive material generally sounds better when it’s got some punch to it and Frail Grounds seem to know exactly when and where the music needs a little kick. – Kyle McGinn (Frail Grounds official site)

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Gholas – Litanies (Dullest Records)
Unmistakably generic and devoid of dynamics, Gholas’s Litanies is an album that showcases the very obvious flaws that exist within the doom/sludge sound. This Philadelphia quartet may call upon the writings of Frank Herbert, Philip K. Dick, and Arthur C. Clarke as conceptual inspiration, but, monosyllable grunts and feedback lavishes essentially render Litanies as a fruitless listen, where the seemingly endless supply of easy, bottom-of-the-barrel, garden-variety sludge/doom riffs cast a pall on the album’s six songs. Awful analogy, but this is about as exciting as watching grass grow…in mid-March. – David E. Gehlke (Gholas Facebook)

Kirk – Masquerade






Kirk – Masquerade (Mausoleum)
A Swiss melodic metal band returning to the studio scene after a decade plus layoff, their second album Masquerade is a heads down recording featuring 11 songs that gravitate between a Rainbow-like template and add in Queensryche/ Stratovarius-like progressive-power riffing and vocal melodies. Sammi Lasagni and Bruno Berger perform dash and cut away maneuvers throughout as complementary guitar/ keyboard artistes on the title cut and up-tempo energy lifter “Face in the Crowd.” Arena-rock like chorus harmonies make this very Euro-centric. Delightful and brings me back 20 years, the off putting moniker Kirk could be a tough sell in this consciousness, fleeting attention span modern world. –Matt Coe (Kirk Facebook)

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Ogre – The Last Neanderthal (Minotauro)
Right up proto-metal-ville we go with Ogre’s The Last Neanderthal. This Maine-based trio has enjoyed some serious cult success since their 1999 formation, as in, they’re well-liked among the non-glacial, non-sorrowful doom spawn, the type of folks who lunge for late 70s/early 80s acts like Manilla Road, Budgie, and Sabbath in their various formations. With that, the band creates a heavier rock, slathered up in the Ozzy-like vocals of bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, who has his fair share of standout moments on record, such as the lurking “Bad Trip” and “White Plume Mountain,” which oddly enough, is something our Canadian pal Neil Young wouldn’t be afraid to take a stab at. Moreover, The Last Neanderthal should endure through whatever mutation doom is going through. This is just tried-and-true classic metal at its most engaging. – David E. Gehlke (Ogre Facebook)

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Our Last Enemy – Pariah (Eclipse)
Recorded under the supervision of former Fear Factory bassist/guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers, Our Last Enemy’s Pariah bears the unmistakable mark of mid-00’s FF, when as most will attest, the band weren’t exactly in top form. Knocks on Archetype and Transgression aside, Our Last Enemy relocated all the way from Australia to Los Angeles to record with Olde Wolbers, demonstrating the kind of commitment most bands wouldn’t even ponder, so hats off to them in the motivation department. Their Pariah sophomore effort has the obvious industrial swagger to it, merged with bruising riffs and some mildly enjoyable grooves, like on “Carrion” and “What You Say.” Granted, there’s 16 tunes total to consume (including three remixes), so take what you will if relatively solid industrial metal is your gig. – David E. Gehlke (Our Last Enemy Facebook)

Pus Vomit – Stoned to Death






Pus Vomit – Stoned to Death (Berdugo Records)
Brutal death metal is not exactly a rocket science and Stoned to Death is nothing that you haven’t heard many times before. Uber-low monotonous gurgles, occasionally slamming riffs and breakdowns, all following the book laid down by bands like Disgorge, Ingested, and Devourment. As with many of this variety coming out of the Philippines, done with the excruciating level of brutality and gore required. That being said, anyone into this sort of material will be quick to latch on to Pus Vomit, even if it may seem quite familiar. – Kyle McGinn (Pus Vomit Facebook)

Temperance - Temperance






Temperance – Temperance (Scarlet)
When the surge of sugar-coated, female-fronted acts of the light variety will end…no one knows. It’s up to the labels, or rather, the consumer to decide. So as long as there’s consumption of a good-looking, peppy-voiced gal out front, some brooding dudes in the back, then the formula Italy’s Temperance are purveying will continue. The band’s self-titled debut flogs the symphonic/melodic metal horse as expected, with lead singer Chiara (ah, a one-name singer ala Tarja!) belting out some rather poppy and perky melodies on “Tell Me” and “To Be With You.” Yet, there’s not much muscle or orchestral wherewithal to give this thing any wings. It’s like Paramore-metal, Italian style. – David E. Gehlke (Temperance Facebook)

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Thoughts Factory – Lost (Melodic Revolution Records)
Prime influence-on-sleeve-wearing progressive metal from Germany, Thoughts Factory are a relatively fresh-faced outfit, with Lost being their first official release. The progressive spectrum – Dream Theater here; Symphony X over there – would be the common denominator across the album’s eight mostly buoyant cuts. However, don’t sleep on the effortless clean vocals of Marcus Becker, who has a shapely tone ala Stefan Zell of Sweden’s Wolverine. Perfunctory cuts include the nimble, keyboard-dominated “Desperation,” as well as the bright, Yes-speckled “Voices From Heaven,” which effectively strikes the balance between brooding prog, and the 70s. Not too shabby for a bunch of young-ins. – David E. Gehlke (Thoughts Factory Facebook)