April 2014 Rapid Fires

Tuesday, 29th April 2014

Fifteen albums made the cut for the April installment of Rapid Fires, with the usual array of styles and names to demonstrate just how varied our nice little scene is. Dead by April’s absolute bomb of an album notwithstanding, the month produced a relatively sturdy supply of bands, including Albinö Rhino, Astra, the just-referenced Dead by April, Exorcism, Graves at Sea, Hidden Intent, Jupiter Zeus, Lethal Dosage, Morbid Flesh, Primitive Man/Hexis, SadDolls, Scars Divide, Septuagint, Stoneburner (pictured), and Tiger Flowers. Read on and absorb…

Albinö Rhino – Albinö Rhino

Albinö Rhino – Albinö Rhino (Inverse)
Quick turnarounds between albums can often lead to uneven results and in part that’s kinda the case with here with Finland’s awesomely named and super thick Albinö Rhino. Featuring doom with stoner tendencies not unlike 5ive’s original album, this self-titled release is built around themes that expand and contract with groove. On this four track and 40-minute indulgence it’s more hit than it is miss, it just chose the wrong place to miss in its opening track. The nine-minute “The Forest Prevails” repeats just a bit too much before it truly tries to overwhelm the listener with groove and thickness, perhaps in part representing a forest reaching up to swallow its many inhabitants. There’s just considerable pain in getting to that awesome few minutes. Things pick up from there and maintain through the middle two tracks before getting fantastic with the longest-piece and the most exploratory piece in 14 minute closer “Uphold The Light (Part I).” In the super-crowded doom world this release is certainly a grower and worth indulgence if you take it out of order. – Matthew Bowling (Albino Rhino on Facebook)

Astra – Broken Balance

Astra – Broken Balance (Scarlet Records)
Italian progressive metal act Astra return for their third full length album Broken Balance, and it appears to be their most aggressive/modern leaning to date. Shedding some of their Dream Theater roots for current Symphony X/Royal Hunt pastures, the silky smooth delivery from vocalist Andrea Casali along with the symphonic/pomp keyboard leanings out of multi-instrumentalist Emanuele Casali give songs such as the vibrant, commercial-oriented “Sunrise to Sunset” and jackhammer precise “Faithless” separation from their brethren. Controlled, focused, and should gain appeal through the ProgPower community at large. – Matt Coe (Astra on Facebook)

Dead By April-Let The World Know

Dead By April – Let the World Know (Spinefarm/Universal)
Like Five Finger Death Punch, who are often positioned as a quasi-boy band playing metal, Sweden’s Dead By April are of equal suckage. Now, we tend to throw around such strong and/or juvenile verbiage in or reviews (for such things are left to more infantile sites), but faux beatdowns, whiny EMO vocals, auto-tuned vocals, and questionable lyrical content makes Let the World Know an album of utter worthlessness. The market for these gents is the Lincoln Park crowd; mall-rats, radio-bopping teens, and chicks, therefore, the constant churn of weak vocals, half-hearted growls, and Euro-pop keyboards should have little or no appeal to anyone who fancies real metal, for this is far from it. – David E. Gehlke (Dead by April on Facebook)

Exorcism – I Am God

Exorcism – I Am God (GoldenCore Records/ZXY Music)
All sorts of vets tossed together here in Exorcism, probably the most being Boston shred-master Joe Stump. Even with Stump’s inclusion, the band (who also features members of Raven Lord) toe the doom/pure metal line on their I Am God debut. The smoky vocals of Csaba Zvekan are mostly effective, even if he has a commercial persuasion about him during “I Am God” and “Stay in Hell.” Stump, for the matter, is in full Zakk Wylde mode, emulating the bearded gents guitar tones and patented pinch harmonics ad infinitum, particularly on “Voodoo Jesus,” which is full-on BLS action. Nevertheless, I Am God isn’t the perfunctory release it claims to be, but holds up in sturdy, old-dude metalville. – David E. Gehlke (Exorcism official site)

Graves At Sea – This Place Is Poison

Graves At Sea – This Place Is Poison (Eolian Empire)
Surly doom in the vein of last year’s stellar Primitive Man, Graves At Sea is in the league of unpleasant gentlemen doing what they can to make doom sound as filthy as possible. This two track EP, released only on vinyl, features a new song and a pair of Black Sabbath covers meshed together. The lack of material is the only real fault this release has as both tracks are fantastic in their execution. Like the floors of a place where all things are given to rot, there’s nothing pretty or fancy here. Subtle use of melody creeps in at points between the oppressive walls of distortion but it’s sparse in its application. If nothing else this is a shimmering bit of promise for a band that ideally will keep it together this time around, this is some killer stuff. – Matthew Bowling (Graves at Sea on Facebook)

Hidden Intent – Walking Through Hell

Hidden Intent – Walking Through Hell (Punishment 18 Records)
Aussie thrash from a trio of musicians, Hidden Intent’s debut album Walking Through Hell has a boatload of influence on all sides of North America. Bass parts straight out of D.D. Verdi school, vocally living for a clearer Phil Rind, and a load of riffs that would make Metallica, Artillery, and Annihilator thrilled to influence these lads, bassist Chris McEwen’s weak falsetto screams on “Through Your Eyes” and a ton of basic one-two-three-four style riff execution maneuvers leave me bored a la third tier acts of 1989-1992. Starting together in 2011, maybe a second album will correct these obvious basic and immature creative ideas, as blatant hero worship doesn’t elevate your status, it merely buries it. – Matt Coe  Hidden Intent on Facebook

Jupiter Zeus – On Earth

Jupiter Zeus – On Earth (Magnetic Eye)
On Earth is the debut album from Australian psych/stoner rock band Jupiter Zeus, a band that is a bit of Kyuss, a touch of Monster Magnet, and a dash of mid 90’s alternative rock blended into a modern sound, with some potent hooks, solid grooves and good songwriting. Everyone represents in this band, as good bands should, meaty and ethereal guitar work combines with vocals, that when the backing harmonies arise (semi-frequently) they really shine, and a good rhythm section that keeps this collection of rock songs working hard. Not every song is as stellar as opener “Waves” but, On Earth impresses overall. – Daniel Keating (Jupiter Zeus official site)

Lethal Dosage - Consume

Lethal Dosage – Consume (Battleground Records)
Lots of angry-dude screaming, reverb-a-thons here…and not in a good way. Lethal Dosage are an Arizona-based five-piece playing an all-American metal blend that extends its reach to Pantera and Lamb of God, and probably some nu metal bands when it was en vogue. Problem is, the regular onslaught of barked, wife-beater-wearing vocals is ripe for the breaking, rendering a lot of the band’s tunes on the elementary side. Such garage-level metal like Lethal Dosage can typically be found in bands opening for much larger bands, who somehow find the means to sell 75 tickets to their friends for a simple opening slot, thus validating their existence. While such things are commendable, recording a full album of such mindlessness is not. – David E. Gehlke (Lethal Dosage on Facebook)

Morbid Flesh – Embedded In the Ossuary

Morbid Flesh – Embedded In the Ossuary (Unholy Prophecies)
Holy cow, an introduction track that actually works! “Entrance to the Ossuary” sets a dreary mood and features a snazzy solo that leads into the ever-present Stockholm crunch of guitars and growled vocals. What separates Morbid Flesh from the rest of Swe-clones is their ability to really swoop in with melodies and solos that provide some needed character to counteract that same ole buzzsaw, go for the jugular attitude these types of albums flourish with. “Summoning the Sorcery of Death” nicely begins with a doomy passage before heading into familiar territory but it’s these little things that make Embedded In the Ossuary a tad more expressive than their many, many counterparts. Solid stuff for those old school death metal fans. – Kyle McGinn (Morbid Flesh on Facebook)

Primitive ManHexis – Split

Primitive Man/Hexis – Split (Halo of Flies)
Splits are a fantastic way for bands to toss out a song that, for one reason or another, wasn’t around during the band’s last album cycle. Maybe it came afterward, maybe it didn’t fit the mood, maybe they created it solely for the split. Regardless of the circumstances the instances of WIN in splits over the past few years have been enormous and it is here we can count up another between two of the gnarliest bands going currently. Primitive Man is here brandishing their well documented brand of of hate and scorn poured into an eight-minute sweep of doom in “When Getting High Is not Enough.” Likewise the blackened (now death metal, not hardcore) stylings of Hexis match the tension and fury and despite how good their debut was, this song is a colossal step up. A split that’s worth every indulgence, especially if you’re a fan of either band, this one really shouldn’t be missed.  – Matthew Bowling (Primitive Man/Hexis Facebook)

SadDolls – Grave Party

SadDolls – Grave Party (Inverse)
Gothic metal that’s worth more than a listen is a rare commodity nowadays. Type O Negative has been gone for several years now, Johan just left Tiamat, and all that remains are smaller known (but spectacular) acts like The Foreshadowing (seriously). Enter Greece’s SadDolls and their potent take on the style. All the hallmarks are here, pop-structures, a deep male vocalist, synths galore and hooks everywhere. The initial track I heard had me concerned as it was very Velvet Acid Christ in its beginnings (“Dancing Shadows”) but the introduction of guitars and the like eventually smoothed the proceedings over. Though the band places the style exceedingly well there’s nothing game-changing here and a few of the songs come up on the dud side but for a genre that exists almost entirely as a memory now, it makes for a pleasant guilty pleasure, especially something as laced with hooks as “Angels Making Love.” – Matthew Bowling (SadDolls on Facebook)

Scars Divide – Scars Divide

Scars Divide – Scars Divide (Tenacity Music)
I didn’t know this sort of metalcore was still a thing in 2014, but chalk it up to my own abandonment of the genre a decade prior rather than any fault of the genre itself. To that end, Scars Divide play it in an extremely solid form here on their self-titled debut, this EP hampered perhaps only by the at times length of the songs (most push past the five minute mark). That being said, it’s nice to again hear this sort of style when it isn’t a perpetual sea of breakdowns and posturing (in fact, there’s rarely ever a breakdown on display). The production is thick, especially in the wall o’drums that underlie the whole thing and, with some time to refine (the band formed only last year) this group will likely be capable of some legitimate awesomeness. Worth a checkout. – Matthew Bowling (Scars Divide on Facebook)

Septuagint – Negative Void Trinity

Septuagint – Negative Void Trinity (Forever Plagued)
Debut EP from Greek black metallers Septuagint demonstrates that the band potentially has the stuff it takes to create a great debut album, next time around. Playing a (very generally speaking) genericized Behemoth-esque style of stuff, Septuagint play with plenty of blast, lots of religious references / symbolism, reasonably interesting angular riffs and melodies, and vocals which are fairly clear, for the genre (read: no clean vocals here, yet semi-intelligible). While Negative Void Trinity is pretty standard stuff that won’t stay with you much past its run-time, it’s certainly decent and merits the band another listen when the full length arrives. – Daniel Keating (Forever Plagued Records official site)

Stoneburner – Life Drawing

Stoneburner – Life Drawing (Neurot Recordings)
Burly and often aggressive doom is all the rage nowadays so it’s nice to come across examples in which add something to the mix to tamper the otherwise onslaught-of-perpetual-crush. In the case of Oregon’s Stoneburner it’s the mixing in of psychedelic asides/buildups and great use of space. Life Drawing, like any release in this style and of this length is not an easy listen but it is a rewarding one, especially in 18 minute mammoth closer “The Phoenix.” There are moments when the songs tend to drag, especially in the album’s first half, but it’s in the more experimental second half that the album really opens up and shows its best colors in variation and execution. Still a band growing and finding their particular place in the wide paradigm of modern-doom, Stoneburner still has a great deal to offer for the curious listener or genre fan. A quality indulgence. – Matthew Bowling (Stoneburner on Facebook)

Tiger Flowers – Dead Hymns

Tiger Flowers – Dead Hymns (Melotov Records)
Brooklyn’s Tiger Flowers is a band that has been picking up steam recently, with their unique brand of spazzy, murky, metallic hardcore. They also use some post-rock atmosphere in a few places to keep things interesting (see “The Road,” “The Rider”). Compared to most hardcore, this has much more depth and varied influences (Coalesce, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Neurosis) to pack a multitude of visceral punches in tracks like “Cruisin’ til the Wheels Fall Off” and “Tectonics of Teeth.” There are also some subtle melodies and groove in “Midnightmares” and “Suicide Giants” to change things up. Overall, a solid debut from a real up-and-comer. – Kyle McGinn (Tiger Flowers on Facebook)

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