May 2017 Rapid Fires

Sunday, 11th June 2017

A wide array of bands greets us for this month’s installment of Rapid Fires, including riff-rock, ultra-sloppy death metal, brutal death metal, and of course, everything else in between. All in a month’s work, eh? Up for review this month are Ascended Dead, Black Hawk, Chaos, Chaos Trigger, Dirt Forge (pictured), Fatal Step, Gathering Darkness, Hidden Lapse, Obsidium, Panikk, Pounder, Scumripper, Secret Sphere, Sinister, and Woodhawk.

Ascended Dead – Abhorrent Manifestation (Dark Descent Records)
Sometimes there’s so much to like about a band, but it never really seems to resonate with you. It seems like it should hit all the marks, yet somehow it comes up a little short. That’s the feeling after a few listens to Abhorrent Manifestation. Some massive death metal bite, owing much to the usual “I” masters of late (Incantation with traces of Immolation), but hardly a reason to look down upon it. There’s lots of tempo variation, it doesn’t go too cavernous, and the riffs have a primal flair to them. It feels more problematic due to the ole death metal blur. Despite the variance, nothing ever really stands out and it feels like 10 squeezed together tracks with no real “take home” song or riff. – Kyle McGinn (Ascended Dead on Facebook)

Black Hawk – The End of the World (Pure Underground Records)
The sixth album from German quintet Black Hawk, The End of the World lives and breathes classic heavy metal the Teutonic way, dancing between Saxon/Judas Priest and Accept/Grave Digger for riffing, hooks, harmony tricks, and repetitive chorus parts. Synchronized axe moves could be obvious in the riff choices for “Killing for Religion”, while fists fly high to the guitar hooks and simpler tempo ethics on “Legacy of Rock”. The deal breaker for most lies in the banshee-like wail of vocalist Udo Bethke, as his occasional off-key antics sound like a poor man’s Biff Byford/J.D. Kimball montage. Spirited cultural and melodic lead breaks aside, Black Hawk aren’t really stepping up their game so much as relegating themselves to at best a cult-like appeal. – Matt Coe (Black Hawk on Facebook)

Chaos – All Against All (Transcending Obscurity)
Nothing wrong with following the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality to thrash, as far as Chaos goes that is. Shouted vocals, aggressive riffs, and not more than a moment to breathe characterize their approach, and while it may seem simplistic, it really does the trick. Nothing out of the ordinary but the level of chaos (no pun intended) is impressive, as is their ability to keep the listener hooked with their short but sweet method of songwriting. They have burned off the excesses to the core and All Against All is a sleek, invigorating piece of thrash. – Kyle McGinn (Chaos on Facebook)

Chaos Trigger – Degenerate Matter (Self-Released)
Without question, Meshuggah has been one of this generation of metal’s biggest influences. Quite apparent from that of Chaos Trigger’s Degenerate Matter, whose very downtuned guitars almost instantly call back to the (in)famous Swedes. In some ways, consider Chaos Trigger to be a more surface level version of the act, with the djent-y riffs relegated to a more straight-forward path and overall shorter run-times. All of which do work to the band’s advantage, and they toss in some death/thrash influences as well. Not enough to really ever make the listener forget about large number of Meshuggah-isms, but hopefully as the band expands their palette it will become less noticeable. – Kyle McGinn (Chaos Trigger on Facebook)

Dirt Forge – Soothsayer (Self-Released)
Sometimes a power chord is all you need. Often the first type of riff beginner guitar players learn due to its relative simplicity and effectiveness, the power chord has brought us many a great moment in metal. Copenhagen’s Dirt Forge are clear devotees of said chord on their crushing Soothsayer outing, an album that benefits greatly from an otherworldly guitar tone, hence, the need for really basic riffs to drive home their point. Perhaps best described as a Danish Crowbar without the sludge factor, Dirt Forge also gets bonus points for the song title “Bring Me Good Noose.” That would have been an even better album title, gents. – David E. Gehlke (Dirt Forge Facebook)

Fatal Step – Procession of Souls (Self-Released)
A quick hitting two song effort, Fatal Step push out 13 minutes of power metal with epic, thrash, and melodic death twists for Procession of Souls. Versatility and variety being the key, between the 3 Inches of Blood-oriented vocals from Mike Barnes and the tandem harmonization and rhythm riff skills from guitarists Chris Leffler and Todd Hawkins leading the charge. The title cut has melodic death runs, loads of double bass, and occasional extreme nuances to take a traditional heavy Metal Church-oriented template and added Emperor/Death inflections, while “The Witness” offers some lower register vocals and a longer instrumental section that reflects Metallica’s brilliance when leading the charge through introspective/reflective hooks and echoing musical themes. Hoists horns high to this one – another brilliant example of US traditional power metal never dying. – Matt Coe (Fatal Step on Facebook)

Gathering Darkness – The Heat of a Dying Sun (Necromance Records)
Brutal, albeit a hair overproduced death metal from Spain, Gathering Darkness run neither in technical or melodic circles, coming across like a mixture of mid-era Hypocrisy and number of ample-minded American bands. On The Heat of a Dying Sun, the Spaniards manage to whip up a frenzy with momentous, unrelenting tremolo picking as well as the inhuman roar of José Lavín Cabello, who turns out to be a real force. Being a death metal band from Spain certainly stacks the deck against Gathering Darkness. The Heat of a Dying Sun is perhaps too good to be pushed aside, though. – David E. Gehlke (Gathering Darkness Bandcamp)

Hidden Lapse – Redemption (Rock Shots Records)
A progressive metal band also influenced by modern and alternative metal is how Hidden Lapse is described. For once, it’s a dead-ringer. What it actually means is that the band can lump in a number of intricate and complex riffs into their sound without it feeling completely processed and mechanized. There’s a more melodic side that Hidden Lapse plays into equally, and the story-driven narrative helps keep everything reined in. A good combination of thought-based riffing and catchy melodies, which get an additional boost from some strong vocals from Alessia Marchigiani. A band to watch. – Kyle McGinn (Hidden Lapse official website)

Obsidium – Lesson of Hatred (Self-Released)
French act Obsidium plays modern death metal that feels equally rooted in melodeath and technical death metal. One of the first things that pops out is the use of bass – heavily presence and recalls Beyond Creation in it’s usage. Always a plus, but the band’s penchant for technical fireworks is equally worthy across the board. Well-written stuff that still carries an aggressive feel to it, giving it a spark of life that sometimes lacks in these types of bands. The only thing keeping it back is it doesn’t really go outside the norm, but tech fans will still no doubt get plenty of enjoyment out of what they’ve done with Lesson of Hatred. – Kyle McGinn (Obsidium on Facebook)

Panikk – Discarded Existence (Xtreem Music)
A Slovenian thrash quartet who prefer to dig into the late 80’s Bay Area wave for creative fuel on this second album Discarded Existence. Stunted melodic vocals, a thick rhythm attack that’s slightly more advanced than your average newcomer, plus gang chorus/background action makes “Sedated in Utopia”, the outer worldly “Individual Right”, and charging “Reconstruction” delightful for those who remember Forbidden, Forced Entry, and Vio-lence. Add in guitarist Gasper Fiere’s Russ Anderson-ish vocal affinities and lyrical content questioning social/political issues and you have the makings of a solid 40 minutes of prime-time thrash. Launch into the pit, stage-dive – Panikk provide the twisted, eternal nightmares in an uncertain future. – Matt Coe (Panikk on Facebook)

Pounder – Heavy Metal Disaster (Self-Released)
Featuring current and ex-members involved with Angel Witch, Nausea, and Exhumed, Pounder from California live for the NWOBHM/traditional values on their four song Heavy Metal Disaster debut EP. No-nonsense twin guitar action, rough and ready melodies that parlay into mighty hooks, and songwriting that encourages beer swilling good times. It’s not hard to imagine Pounder opening for Iron Maiden circa 1981 with “Web of Fear” and the burning “Hot and Runnin’” blitzing the speaker cones or shaking the foundations from the stage. Between Matt Harvey’s smooth vocal delivery, plus his killer rhythms along with Tom Draper lighting his fretboard through magnetic leads, the denim and leather brigade will champion this easily – and hopefully educate more youngster into the fold. – Matt Coe (Pounder on Facebook)

Scumripper – Scumripper EP (Hells Headbangers)
Really, the type of band Hells Headbangers have become quite adept at scrubbing up, Finland’s Scumripper, as their name indicates, play a sloppy, not-so-varied brand of death/thrash metal. With a production job seemingly ripped right from the producer chair notes of Autopsy, early Death and Sepultura, the band’s six-song self-titled EP teems with froth and punchiness. Surly, otherwise mashing and gnashing cuts like “Shit Needle Crown” and in particular, “Cum Killa” more than fit the bill. – David E. Gehlke (Scumripper Bandcamp)

Secret Sphere – The Nature of Time (Frontiers Records)
Evolving as people and musicians, Italian act Secret Sphere could throw long-time fans for a loop on their ninth studio album The Nature of Time. These 11 tracks explore more of a straightforward, heavy rock meets orchestrated expansive sheen – bristling with majestic vocal harmonies from the premiere voice of Michele Luppi. The subject matter discusses feelings and positive elements, as songs like “Courage”, “Reliance”, and “Commitment” are uplifting, the music still standing on established progressive metal principles (intricacies in drums and fluid guitar play most notable). Michele’s tender touch comes through on the commercially-viable “Kindness”, a dead ringer for Whitesnake circa “Is This Love” days. 20 years going strong, Secret Sphere earn the right to go where the muse follows. – Matt Coe (Secret Sphere official website)

Sinister – Gods of the Abyss (Vic Records)
Gods of the Abyss contains for demos songs culled from the brief moment in time in which Sinister was dissolved, which would be the years 2004 and 2005. Recorded under the name “No Face Slave” (Sinister is much better), the songs were deemed too similar for the band to be called something else, so wisely, main dude Aad Kloosterwaard reformed Sinister and off they went. Gods of Abyss captures all of the Sinister hallmarks, including primal, near-technical riffing, manic drumming and relative catchy arrangements. For completists only. – David E. Gehlke (Sinister Facebook)

Woodhawk – Beyond the Sun (Self-Released)
Right in the riff-rock, sometimes-sludgy, sometimes-not realm of Clutch, Mastodon and The Sword, Calgary power trio Woodhawk demonstrate an almost loose, relaxed spell across their Beyond the Sun self-released effort. It comes down to the free-riding vocals of Turner Midzain, who, in addition to doubling up on guitars, has a smooth, congealing voice, fully capable of gliding over the band’s compact songs, or even the melodic, atmospheric runnings of “A New Hope,” which may or may not be the band’s Star Wars reference. Nevertheless, strong stuff all around. Woodhawk sure can bang out the jams. – David E. Gehlke (Woodhawk Bandcamp)

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