November 2014 Rapid Fires

Monday, 1st December 2014

Nothing like gearing up for the remainder of the year by filling yourself with food and then passing out on the couch (perhaps some of us watching football). Now that the turkey hangover is gone and done, it’s time to get down to business and check out some of the fall’s final offerings before winter truly kicks in. This month we evaluate Alkoholizer, Arkadia, Divine:Zero, Faithful Darkness, He Whose Ox is Gored, Inter Arma, Kolony (pictured above), Laugh at the Fakes, RAM vs. Portrait, Revel in Flesh, Shiran, Sinners Burn, The Banner, Toothgrinder, and Witchmaster.

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Alkoholizer – Free Beer… Surf’s Up!!! (Punishment 18 Records)
Stepping in terrain that will wedge them between the early Exodus years and much of Tankard’s ‘beer or die’ philosophy, this second album from Italy’s Alkoholizer gives the listener 10 humorous thrash anthems that border on East Coast vs West Coast crossover in terms of energy and gang choruses along with mid-tempo refrains perfect for pit maneuvers. Fabrizio Fele produces tongue twisting word spew on “Faceless” that 90% of the thrash world couldn’t replicate, and guitarists Marco Lai and Lögan Heads are a formidable axe duo that subscribe to stacked riff attacks, gallops, and spot on lead race breaks. You have to love titles like “Breathalize and Destroy” and “Never Come Back Sober!!!” – crack open the six packs, as the beer will flow as Alkoholizer provide your entertainment. – Matt Coe (Alkoholizer on Facebook)

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Arkadia – Unrelenting (Inverse Records)
11 years is a long time slugging it out in the underground before releasing your debut album – but kudos to this Finnish melodic metal band for committing to the cause, 4 demo and 2 EP releases later, on Unrelenting. I’d add the melancholic moniker to this material, as songs such as “Frozen Globe” and “Nothing Lasts Forever” have as much in common musically with the much missed Sentenced and Draconian Times period Paradise Lost as they do Iron Maiden or fellow Finnish act Machine Men. Singer Antti-Jussi Valkama has decent lower and mid-range pop, but struggles in higher reaches – sounding a little monotonous and potentially off key. Could be a sleeper cult favorite if you miss this type of depressing/despair style. –Matt Coe (Arkadia official website)

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Divine:Zero – The Cold Asylum (Quality Steel Records)
A number of the Dead Rhetoric squad admire the melodic death metal genre as a whole – so upon taking in copious playbacks of this German quartet’s second album The Cold Asylum hopes were high for another internet chat session to the good staff-wide. Unfortunately their thrash-oriented tendencies to the style, while admirable, do not deviate much from the conventional acts – and when adding in modern guitar squeals and semi-breakdowns for “Scardust” or predictable chord combinations/ riff transitions for “Awake”, cries of At the Gates/In Flames bastardization come to mind… if stuck in early rehearsals. Suggestion in the future: dig deeper into the well for stronger ideas, as Divine:Zero has signs of hope bass wise and through faster material like “The Final Virus” for better horizons in the scene. –Matt Coe (Divine Zero official website)

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Faithful Darkness – Archgod (Coroner Records)
The Swedish modern melodic death metallers third album doesn’t seem to differentiate much from the rest of the pack. Thrashy At the Gates inspired moments combined with the Soilwork approach of clean vocal choruses doesn’t exactly ooze originality. It’s hard to keep track of the number of bands that are currently cranking out this stuff (there certainly is a market for it), and this falls towards the middle of the spectrum. It’s not blatantly “modern” yet the thrashier moments don’t seem to hit quite as hard as they should (“The Witness” is a notable exception). Perhaps it’s time to drop the cleans and unleash the full fury? – Kyle McGinn (Faithful Darkness on Facebook)

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He Whose Ox is Gored – Rumors (Bleeding Light Records)
“Doomgaze” eh? The band’s self-described terminology for themselves, a mixture of shoegaze, doom, and post-rock seems appropriate when listening to the three song EP Rumors, yet there is also some psychedelia and sludge that’s offered up for the taking as well. An interesting mix to start from, and the short 7” will start racking up the plays before you know it. Lisa Mungo’s vocals give the band a subtle thrust, and are one of the keys that make it work. The title track appears to be the most fleshed out, and is the standout of the three, with some nice progressive rock tendencies. – Kyle McGinn (He Whose Ox is Gored on Facebook)

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Inter Arma – The Cavern EP (Relapse)
Don’t let “EP” scare you off, this is one 45 minute song. There are a few movements along the way so it doesn’t feel quite so daunting though. Opening with some sludgy doom, the track then moves towards more rock-ish atmospheres, somewhat similar to earlier Mastodon. Gears then shift towards some effective violins and the introduction of Dorthia Cottrell’s (Windhand) vocals over some almost Black Sabbath fuzz and guitar heroics. The action then speeds up for a bit, only to slow to a heavy, doomy crawl on its exit. It’s a solid piece of music from a band that has earned some more word of mouth from last year’s Sky Burial, and is sure to progress them further towards the top. – Kyle McGinn (Inter Arma on Facebook)

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Kolony – Sledge (Self Released)
When the first three cited bands are Trivium, Avenged Sevenfold, and Black Tide, there was a feeling of “uggh” as the play button was pressed. But over the course of listening to this one, the frown turned itself upside down. It’s hard not to get caught up in Kolony if you hear them. While the three bands above are definitely audible in their sound, the band’s more “metallic” edge with nods to NWOBHM, Megadeth, and Metallica, alongside some insanely catchy guitar riffing (see “Modern Hero”) is sure to win over fans. It maintains a darker feeling while delivering some real melodic stuff and it’s a killer combination. Lesson learned – don’t judge a book it’s cover. – Kyle McGinn (Kolony on Facebook)

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Laugh at the Fakes – Dethrone the Crown (Self Released)
Laugh at the Fakes (may need to work on the name) play a commercial-friendly brand of heavy rock, with suitable influences coming in from the Maiden, Priest…and Avenged Sevenfold field. But, these guys are far from being woefully bland and/or generic; they’ve got some quality vocal hooks going on down, like on “Death Awaits,” a song that quickly transitions into a thrash number. Of particular note should be “Got No Regrets,” which has the album’s most catchy chorus, perhaps something out of the vintage school of metal (why does this remind DR of UFO-meets-Megadeth?), and should rightfully be the band’s calling-card song. Beyond that, they’re going to have a difficult time convincing folks with their name, but, Dethrone the Crown is pretty strong stuff, actually. – David E. Gehlke (Laugh at the Fakes on Facebook)

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RAM vs. Portrait – Under Command (Metal Blade)
Here’s an intriguing split EP concept: two Swedish heavy metal bands get together and record three songs each: one original, and two covers, with one of the covers being of the other band’s material. “Savage Machine” opens in mid-tempo anthem fashion for RAM, while their cover of “Welcome to My Funeral” out Fate’s Portrait’s love of the band. Portrait takes “Martial Lead” as their newbie for the second half, featuring some fiery leads and a familiar Per Lengstedt howls. “Blessed to be Cursed” reaches back to RAM’s first Sudden Impact EP from 2003, another exciting metal anthem that Portrait handles expertly. Throw in Kiss and Exciter covers, and you have a decent stop-gap release before new studio platters hit the streets. – Matt Coe (RAM Official website) (Portrait official website)

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Revel in Flesh – Death Cult Legions (Cyclone Empire)
You know what these old school death metal bands need to make them stand out a bit? More Hypocrisy influence! It works for Revel in Flesh at least. This is Germany by way of Stockholm death metal, but Death Cult Legions has a clear early Hypocrisy slant that helps keep it above water (not to mention keep things rather brutal). Other than that, you know the drill with this type of thing, but the band’s frequently speedy approach is nothing if it’s not at least engaging. The band’s third full-length output in as many years (not to mention the volume of smaller releases) shows this is a band that is in full steam ahead mode. Retro-good times! – Kyle McGinn (Revel in Flesh on Facebook)

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Shiran – Warm Winter Day (Self-Released)
“Black Winter Day” by Amorphis, now there’s a classic. Warm Winter Day by Israel’s Shiran will certainly not reach such levels, but it presents a unique front: A female-fronted Israeli metal band, something we don’t have much of. The vocals of Shiran Avayou have a noticeable pop flavor to them, which helps in the chorus department on “Remain” and the bouncy “The Child.” Obviously, she’s mixed REALLY HIGH, so there’s not much room for the guitar work to get some face-time, but such things are of the norm with the bands of this setup. Beyond that, Warm Winter Day is a respectable five-song out that while self-released, has a professional flair to it. – David E. Gehlke (Shiran official website)

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Sinners Burn – Disturbing Creatures (Vic Records)
Thought it was “Sinners Bleed” for a brief moment, which would probably be cooler since it’s the name of a ripping Entombed song. Oh well. Sinners Burn are not unexpectedly, a raw, retro Swedish death metal band, patterned largely after Autopsy, who seem to be more popular in Sweden than Kent. Anyway, Disturbing Creatures is the band’s fourth go around the block, channeling all of the necessary death metal variables, like chunky riffing, speedy tremolo action, and the occasional groove. Per the 900th time, this is well overdone and unoriginal stuff, sure to sound pretty same-y to those who have had their ears pounded into dust by this stuff many times before. – David E. Gehlke (Sinners Burn on Facebook)

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The Banner – Greying (Good Fight Music)
A band previously associated with Ferret Records (remember them?), New Jersey’s The Banner have returned after a six-year absence with Greying. In line with their previous album, 2008’s Frailty, Greying finds the NJ metallic hardcore mavens keeping things brutal and angular, and, beatdown-free, which is great. The band’s nasty, not-so-melodic hardcore has some legit weight, particularly and throttling cuts like “Crippling Despair” and “She Upon the Black Wolf,” which actually, does have some melodic tendencies. But overall, Greying is quite pissed stuff, and certainly heavy enough to stretch into some more metal-tinged realms. A nice bounce-back after six years. – David E. Gehlke (The Banner on Facebook)

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Toothgrinder – Schizophrenic Jubilee EP (Spinefarm)
Talk about your appropriately titled albums! Schizophrenic Jubilee is about what you’ll hear when you listen to Toothgrinder. Clearly influenced by bands such as Dillinger Escape Plan, Between the Buried and Me, and Botch, this is a frantic piece of progressive metal(core). Crazed shouted vocals, frenetic guitarwork that also provides some equally feverish solos is what you’ll find here. While personally speaking, it would be great to remove some of the half spoken/shouted vocals that come about here and there, there is some definite promise to this NJ band that is surely procuring a wider audience due to the recent tour outing with Periphery and The Contortionist. – Kyle McGinn (Toothgrinder on Facebook)

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Witchmaster – Antichristus Ex Utero (Osmose Productions)
Surprised this isn’t getting more attention considering Behemoth skin-basher Inferno is manning the drums, but word in the underground sometimes travels slow. Probably the case here. Anyway, Witchmaster are a transplanted Polish outfit now holed up in London, playing – as expected – a frantic and nasty brand of death/thrash. Inferno gets numerous opportunities to blast away, which he does on razor-sharp cuts like “Fire Starts From the North” (love that middle pounding section – very heavy) and the very thrash “When Will It All End.” Pretty much no-frills material, which for many people is perfectly suitable. – David E. Gehlke (Witchmaster official website)