October 2014 Rapid Fires

Saturday, 1st November 2014

Halloween is over and the clocks are going back tomorrow (how’s that for a public service announcement). The last of the leaves are hitting the ground outside in preparation for the winter to come. Seems as good a time as any to announce this month’s diverse Rapid Fire column, which goes from noise rock to death metal, and from power metal to doom (and just about everything in between). This month we tackle As Blood Runs Black, Black Therapy, Born of Fire, Divider, Engraved Disillusion, Harvest Gulgaltha, In Search of Sun, Ladder Devils, Laika, Mastercastle, Nitrogods, Nucleus Torn, Pig Destroyer (pictured above), Sahhr, and Wormwood.

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As Blood Runs Black – Ground Zero (Standby Records)
Snarling, derivative metalcore that blurs the line between Black Dahlia Murder (“City Limits”) and All That Remains (“Vision”), it’s hard to find anything to root for on the band’s third album. Full of “insert breakdown here” formulaic songwriting and complete with a weak recording quality (particularly the vocals), it only sends the album further down the drain. There’s not really a moment that begs for further interpretation, as the band seemingly scrambles to decide whether they want to follow the Killswitch template or the heavier deathcore one, only to miss the mark with both. An album to avoid, but you already knew that anyways, right? – Kyle McGinn (As Blood Runs Black on Facebook)

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Black Therapy – The Final Outcome (Revalve Records)
Five years into existence, this Italian quintet embody the classic melodic death metal template on this 4 song EP The Final Outcome. The follow up to their debut album Symptoms of a Common Sickness from last year, we get 15 minutes of no nonsense twin guitar harmonies, larynx ripping vocals out of Giuseppe Massimiliano Di Giorgio, and steady mid-tempo to slightly faster rhythms that make you reminisce about early Dark Tranquility, Insomnium, and fellow countrymen Novembre. The title cut and moodier cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” are tight exercises in the staying power of this style – vicious and beautiful in their heaviness. Sign me up for multiple, ongoing sessions please. – Matt Coe (Black Therapy on Facebook)

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Born Of Fire- Dead Winter Sun (Pure Steel)
After a decade long break from their initial go-around, Arizona’s Born Of Fire appear ready to enjoy today’s preferable power metal landscape on their second studio album Dead Winter Sun. Soaring vocals, old school crunch, and occasional symphonic keyboards for texture will make “Cast the Last Stone”, the heavier “Spiritual Warfare”, and reflective “Echoes of the Lost” favorable to Dio, Destiny’s End, and early Ray Alder/ Fates Warning followers. Gordon Tittsworth occasionally wears out his higher register welcome, but you can’t dispute his Alder meets Tate pipes. Nice to see them back in the game as their self-titled EP in 2001 showed massive potential, which is realized here. A certain favorite in mainland Europe and other favored progressive-oriented power metal territories. – Matt Coe (Born Of Fire official website)

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Divider – All Barren (Glory Kid Ltd)
A nice little pool of influences for Divider: Isis, At the Gates, and Tombs, three bands with little in common (perhaps Isis and Tombs, though), save for an ample melancholic thread, something that flows throughout All Barren. The band’s core is noisy hardcore with the spare metallic rumblings, yet there’s some quite heavy and loaded jams here, most notably opener “Crow Eater” (dig the intro) and “Requisite,” which serves as the album’s strongest moment. Perhaps most refreshing here is the band’s total dismissal of d-beat happenings, something most of their contemporaries lunge at without second thought. Divider doesn’t play that game. It serves them well on All Barren. – David E. Gehlke (Divider on Facebook)

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Engraved Disillusion – The Eternal Rest (Self-Released)
A bunch of young UK blokes with a firm grasp on melodic, somewhat modern, somewhat thrashy metal would be Engraved Disillusion. The band (who formed in 2008) are on their second platter with the ultra-slick The Eternal Rest, an album aided by the production skills of Karl Groom (Dragonforce, Threshold). Sonically, the band spares no opportunity to dole out twin-guitar harmonies (see: “Embrace the Flames”), and harmonious leads (“Lost,” “Into Oblivion”), thus displaying their rather superlative musical skills that hover between reference points Sylosis and Trivium. As good as Engraved Disillusion are on their instruments, they may overburden folks with melodic overload, a common trait that eventually wears down The Eternal Rest. Then again, there are far worse options. – David E. Gehlke (Engraved Disillusion on Facebook)

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Harvest Gulgaltha – I (Nuclear War Now! Productions)
Somewhere in the desolate landscape of death metal and black metal lies Harvest Gulgaltha. This vinyl version of the band’s demo serves to lessen the wait before their forthcoming Nuclear War Now debut. Primative blasting, a wall of cavernous riffing, and darkened screams (which aren’t too upfront) blur themselves together here on I. The wall of guitars comes across as the band’s strongest aspect, making sure they don’t come across as yet another retro act, yet not pushing them entirely towards that bellowing, subterranean death metal feel either. Rather the blackened approach provides some additional atmosphere that drips from each track. Some solid black/death here. – Kyle McGinn (Nuclear War Now! Productions on Facebook)

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In Search of Sun – The World Is Yours (Raging Demon Entertainment)
Bands originating from metalcore rarely find means to evolve. It’s just not in their DNA. It’s such a played-out and tired form of metal that it’s still a wonder that bands find suit in basing their sound around it, but certainly the proverbial “to each his own” applies. For the UK’s In Search of Sun, their evolution from their previous moniker Driven signals noticeable development – and a step away from their former sound, which as one could surmise, was metalcore. On The World is Yours, the Brits combine fluent, oftentimes engaging melodic guitar work with the commercially-inclined vocals of Adam Leader. Lest we forget about the band’s penchant for softer dynamics, something that comes to the fore on “51 56,” thus pushing a path In Search of Sun may want to explore further should they want to continue their development. – David E. Gehlke (In Search of the Sun on Facebook)

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Ladder Devils – Clean Hands (Brutal Panda Records)
PA noise rockers Ladder Devils are justifiably described as a “straddling the line between Unsane and hardcore-isms” on their first full-length, Clean Hands. There are also some grunge influences (on the heavier end of that spectrum of course) that blend together with some more post-hardcore feeling to create an album that is equal parts noisey, fuzzy, and actually pretty catchy. Some may draw ire from the “are they clean or screamed” vocals but they fit the band well (this isn’t the type of stuff you lay down growls on). All in all, not something I’d listen to everyday, but there’s a fuzzy good time to be had with this one. – Kyle McGinn (Ladder Devils on Facebook)

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Laika – Somnia (Filth Regime Records)
Named after the Soviet dog who was one of the first animals/humans in outer space, Manitoba’s Laika were formed in 2009, released an album shortly thereafter, then took some time off. Somnia is the result of the band’s latest efforts, a throwback to Gothenburg melodic death metal progressive-style, meaning, pre-Slaughter of the Soul At the Gates, and Skydancer-era Dark Tranquillity, a point in time that is often overlooked for the Swedes. Never the matter, for there’s an abundance of whirling melodies to be found on jams such as “The Immortal,” “Fidelity” and the onward-and-upward “Predictions (The Bearer).” Still, the band is raw and ragged in parts and could use some refining, which is always a positive when playing pristine melodic death metal. For now, Somnia gets the job done. – David E. Gehlke (Laika on Facebook)

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Mastercastle – Enfer [De La Biblotheque Nationale] (Scarlet Records)
Pumping out a melodic form of guitar hero oriented power metal on a consistent basis, Enfer from Italy’s Mastercastle is their fifth studio album in a scant six years. The main riffing comes from a Rainbow/Accept framework, while guitarist Pier Gonella injects neo-classical arpeggio textures and occasional clean layers of deeper musicality. Vocalist Giorgia Gueglio has a clear, commanding range, not as operatic as other female sirens and still can reach the top of her register without straining. The electronic/dance-oriented instrumental break for “Pirates” added a Labyrinth touch to the proceedings. Highlights include the down and dirty anthem “Naked” as well as the muscular and rhythmic “Throne of Time”. Another Euro metal act producing good material to watch for. – Matt Coe (Mastercastle official website)

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Nitrogods – Rats and Rumours (SPV)
Ever wonder where ex-Primal Fear guitarist Henny Walter and drummer Klaus Sperling drifted off to? Well, they decided to develop their own stripped down power trio called Nitrogods, and they blister through 13 dirty street anthems that prime time Motörhead or Rose Tattoo maniacs will love. Occasionally adding punk tinges on The Clash like “Irish Honey” or 50’s rockabilly on “Automobile”, this is raw, in your face songwriting that wastes no time getting to the hooks and choruses. Bassist Oimel Larcher provides the main whiskey soaked melodies, and highlights include the bar boogie meets culturally swinger “Back Home” and highway ready “Lite Bite”. Sometimes less is more, and Rats and Rumours works because it’s all about bare bones ethics here. – Matt Coe (Nitrogods official website)

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Nucleus Torn – Street Lights Fail (Prophecy Productions)
Drawn to this one due to the involvement of Eluveitie’s Anna Murphy, Street Lights Fail is an album that will grow on you. With three songs in 38-minutes, it’s an album that methodically plods through a number of dark atmospheres and some occasionally heavy ones. The entire first track keeps to the quieter spectrum, with Murphy’s vocals being a highlight. “Worms” opens abrasively heavy compared to the opener, but ultimately provides a nice balance of heavy and haunting moments over the course of its twenty minute runtime. The final song, “The Promise of Night,” is the true standout with the incorporation of softer piano with Murphy’s vocals, creating a desolate and lonely feeling. If you are in the mood for something a bit avart-garde and progressive, this will suit you just fine. – Kyle McGinn (Nucleus Torn on Facebook)

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Pig Destroyer – Mass & Volume (Relapse)
A band on the forefront of the grindcore movement, Mass & Volume is an experimental release from the band for sure. The two tracks were recorded for the Phantom Limb sessions and then shelved, only to be released digitally in late 2013 in memorial to a deceased friend (the band donated the proceeds to his family). This is the album’s “official” release, and grind fans beware, this album is slow. The monstrous title track goes at a doomy crawl, with borderline indecipherable vocals, for almost twenty minutes. “Red Tar” sees the speed pick up a bit and feels more sludge than doom. It’s not bad for an occasional listen, as the band finds themselves quite adept at this particular style, but long-time fans may want to check this one out first before throwing down their money if they are looking for blistering grind. – Kyle McGinn (Pig Destroyer on Facebook)

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Sahhr – Sahhr (Domestic Genocide)
A mix of black, death, and metalcore, California’s Sahhr do keep things on the melodic side of the extreme. “Altar of Maggots” has some slightly ominous leads and even some fist-pumping shouts. The metalcore influences do bring out the more uninteresting moments of the EP, and truthfully the band would do well to diminish some of them on a full-length record. “Slay the Savior” opens with some nice leads and atmosphere as well, but the more bland metalcore-ish riffs almost feel like they are holding the band back (it almost sounds like Unearth run through a death/black vibe at points). The final track, “Miscreant,” again starts with a cool lead (are we noticing a trend here?) only to fall victim to more core-ish leads. Truthfully they aren’t terrible, but with the leadwork, it seems like the riffs are playing second fiddle. There’s potential here; lets hope the band can tap further into it next time. – Kyle McGinn (Sahhr on Facebook)

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Wormwood – Wormwood (Magic Bullet)
Perhaps the primary selling point here is that Chris Pupecki of Doomriders handles the guitar spot, thus making oh-so-crucial connection for folks in need of a big/respectable name (like this writer, apparently). Wormwood happen to be a Boston-based sludge/doom outfit, not to be confused with the three other bands using the moniker, or the Marduk album of the same name. As typical with the style, guitars are fuzzy and un-clear, preventing any real dynamic scope, even if the forceful attack of “Indoctrination” is relatively rad. But for the most part, it’s big ‘ole doomy sludge, writhing around in massive walls of sound and low BPMs. Just five songs here, so this self-titled debut is short and only partially ineffective. – David E. Gehlke (Wormwood on Facebook)