Friday, 27 April 2012

Wizard's Beard - Four Tired Undertakers

Altsphere 2012

1.Subrise El Muerto 2.Abandon The Wolf 3.Daemon
4.Seeth Inside 5.Accursed 6.Harbringer

Dirty buzz heavy guitars open up ‘Subrise El Muerto’ mournfully, sombre and grief stricken in essence. They are joined by some equally tortured drumming and vocals that are etched in grief and despair. There’s a (very) slight hint of groove to the riffs, but only slight. The overall sense of desperation is the predominant feature to the band’s sound. Every riff dragging along at an absolute dirt tinged crawl. The vocals are a highlight and (for me) are what makes the band stand out. The screamed vocals taking the lead, however guttural growled vocals are used to back up the main vocals and when used sound immensely heavy and brutal. ‘Abandon The Wolf’ sees more groove injected into the guitars and dare it be said, a touch more melody. However, the air of desperation is never lost, sludgy filthy riffs creating a real sense of horror. Again, the vocals are a real highlight, once again mixing vocal styles and really giving this track some punch. Pace wise the song slows to an absolute crawl, riffs stripped to an absolute minimum by using only open chords, depressive and almost exhausting. ‘Daemon’ begins the instant the previous track ends and begins in an almost upbeat fashion before the riffing is once again stripped right back, the guitars stretching open chords into oblivion. The band do flirt with ‘pace’ every now and again, but don’t expect any blast beats here, the pace only ever being upped slightly and never for any serious timespan, the band sitting more comfortably in the filthy, wretched sludge induced crawl that they purvey so brilliantly. Its doom, its sludge, it’s filthy and nasty but it’s utterly captivating. Even though the track clocks in at 9:31, it’s not the longest on the disc, that monster is left for later! ‘Seeth Inside’ offers up more of the same, this track taking a more familiar ‘doom’ approach, the sludge element to the band’s sound taking more of a back seat here. Eventully however the groove side the band’s sound gets a relatively heaving outing with the song beginning to almost 'bounce' along. But fear not, it’s short lived, the re-introduction of the sombre, dirty crawling riffs mixed with the dual vocals really brings you back down to earth with a very hefty thump. Reality punching you square in the face and reminding you just how shit life really is!
‘Accursed’ threatens to let the more groovy riffs burst into life, but any pace is held back brilliantly and as ever, kept to a minimum, stopping the listener getting too carried away and thinking ‘happy thoughts’. That’s not what WB want from you, they want to drag you down into the shit, fuck with your head and then kick you in the face before dumping your sorry carcass where they found it. And believe me, that’s just what they do! The click of the drum sticks introduce the longest track on this disc, at 11:20 you just know that ‘Harbringer’ is going to leave you feeling exhausted after listening to it. With drums and guitars that are stripped back to a bare minimum from the offset, the daunting task of listening to such horror filled, depressive extreme metal becomes all too clear. Any sense of groove or pace removed in favour of a sparse and baron sound. Not even a scream or growl to be heard (for the first five minutes of the track) which makes ‘the going’ even heavier and harder. Half way through the track there’s a real change in sound with the guitars dropping out completely and the bass and drums lead the track, a real heavy gravelly tone to the bass which holds the atmosphere already created.  As the track draws to a close the vocals once again prove their worth, the dual vocals sound really sick and twisted and extremely tortured and brutal, the sound once again stripped to the bare minimum ending this marathon of a track! We’re even treated to a ‘hidden track’, slowly coming to life after about two minutes of absolute silence. It’s as you would expect, slow, tortured, dirty, brutal, depressive, exhausting, sick but utterly compelling and a joy to listen to.
Four Tired Undertakers is an excellent follow up to the 2011 epic ‘Pure Filth’. Some of the influences seen on their debut dropped in favour of a more doom/sludge sound but that’s not a criticism by any means, it’s simply an observation and see’s the band stripping their sound down to the absolute minimum but without losing any of their appeal. This release is as extreme as you’re likely to hear from a band that chooses to keep their songs slow, very slow. Each track stands out, never sounding drawn out or monotonous which is an achievement in itself for such long tracks. Want to get down in the dirt and revel in the horror and grime, then get this cd…you will not be disappointed. Comes highly recommended

8 out of 10

Friday, 13 April 2012

Bloodshot Dawn - Bloodshot Dawn

Self Released 2012

1.Beckoning Oblivion 2.Dedication To A Dead Cause 3.Folorn World
4.Godless 5.Vision 6.Sentient Disease 7.The Quantum Apocalypse
8.Sickening Dogma 9.Illusion Aesthetic 10.Prototype 11.Archetype

An air of anticipation is being set with the grandiose beginning to ‘Beckoning Oblivion’ before the band blast in with their brand of thrashy death metal, guitars blazing and drums blasting, oblivion is indeed being beckoned. The musicianship is first rate, dual lead guitars a heavy feature in this opener, melody at the core of every lead, the fret boards are being given a really frantic workout. Vocals are as expected, hateful and spewing venom. What stands out vocally is the use of two styles of guttural vocals which works extremely well, the deeper more death metal style vocals backing the main screamed voice…a great combination. ‘Dedication To A Dead Cause’ is another lightning exercise in precisely executed death tinged thrash metal, melodic guitar solos again very heavily used which actually add a very progressive element to the band’s sound. Short, sharp and straight for the throat! ‘Forlorn World’ begins life as a mid-paced thrash attack before blast beats and heavy death metal style riffing take over and really injects some brutality into proceedings. It’s not long before the now familiar melodic dual guitars solos take over, familiar but absolutely essential to the bands success as each song appears to be structured around these solos and it all gels together brilliantly. There’s a hint of ‘Dew Scented’ to BD’s sound, not quite as brutal but just as precisely played, sounding effortless.
Godless’ is a fucking beast, pummelling blast beats greet you and the heavy death metal riffing is re-introduced, this is fucking brutal, real pit-stirring brutality. The dual growled vocals again used to great effect. The thrashier sound seen in previous tracks has taken a back seat to a more death metal approach, which is never going to be a bad thing, is it? 'Vision' flows perfectly from the previous track and is yet another exercise in flawless extreme metal.  The cover artwork shows almost apocalyptic scenes and the music is beginning to set a similar tone. The production really comes into its own here, especially the bass guitar which thumps through and gives this track an extremely heavy end product. As ever, the melodic guitar solos are used throughout much of the song and as ever, work very well, never taking over but instead leading the song to its conclusion. ‘Sentient Disease’ drops the thrashier approach in favour of the brutal death metal stance, drums being pummelled in an orgy of blast beats, dual vocals again used to great effect, but this time the more genre familiar guttural/screamed combination is used and is a great addition to the band’s sound.
Beginning slightly differently to anything used previously is ‘The Quantum Apocalypse’, have a slight industrial tinge, but that’s mainly to the effect used on the guitars. Normal service is then resumed through the use of thrashier riffs, the song adopting an almost ‘bounce along’ feel, however, the introduction of the heavier riffing and melodic guitars solos prevents the track becoming an all-out thrash attack. The toes are tapping, the head is nodding, the band is doing something right! ‘Sickening Dogma’ is another bass heavy affair, a rage of blast beats and frantic riffing the introduction to this next track. Even when the pace is slowed slightly, the band still sound amazingly brutal….intentional or not, it works. With all the guitar wizardry on display it’s very easy for other instruments to get lost and forgotten about, thankfully the drums in this track start to really show what they are cable of, some great fills being introduced to the fore and taking centre stage. Good stuff! There is a real sense of something ‘epic’ on the ‘Illusion Aesthetic’, the sense of urgency really prevalent here and when the main guitar solo kicks in it is overwhelmingly epic, the guitar solo very reminiscent of something Amon Amarth would conjure up when they’re at their epic best. ‘Prototype’ is the shortest of the tracks, clocking in at just 1:30, but it’s not really a track as such, rather a guitar lead interlude / introduction into final track ‘Archetype’ which as ever, has everything…thrash metal, death metal, progressive metal, melodic guitar solos, intricate rhythm guitars and drums that continue to lay waste.  Anyone that has followed the band’s video diaries on the making of this album will see just how much effort has gone into this album. It’s extremely safe to say the hard work has absolutely paid off; the production is first rate, sharp and packs a real punch. Everything about this album smacks of professionalism (as it is self released) and four musicians who appear to be at the top of their game and are yet another shining example of what the UK underground currently has to offer. Who said our scene lacks quality bands? Because judging by BD’s brand of thrashy death metal, our scene has another band that is setting a very high standard musically and is more than capable of standing tall on the international extreme metal scene. Comes very highly rated!

9 out of 10

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Undead Pandemic - The Rising

Self Released 2012

1.The Rising 2.Scorched Earth 3.The Prophesy 4.Black Lightning Rapture
5.Grim 6.Obscene Deformities 7.Satans Army 8.Unholy Sonata 9.Desolation

Title track and opener ‘The Rising’ begins menacingly, an uneasy atmosphere being stirred before all hell breaks loose. There’s an extremely industrial feel to this (as the band describe) blackened death/grind, the guitars are barely present under a drone like bass and utterly beast like vocals. ‘Scorched Earth’ is similar in approach, the guitars extremely bass heavy and barely even playing riffs from what can be heard. Describing the music as ‘Blackened Death / Grind’ is a fairly inaccurate description. Throw in some drone, some industrial metal and even some dance/techno beats and rhythms and you’re beginning to get the picture. It’s a real mish-mash of influences which all sounds too dis-jointed and unconnected. Everything from the music, to the drum machine to the vocals appears to have had effect after effect layered into their sound with the end result beginning to take on a mix of ‘sounds’ rather than songs and music in the traditional sense of the term. ‘The Prophecy’ shows hints of the black metal side to the band’s sound through the use of eerie keyboards which become the focus of this track, the guitars falling off and again, barely audible. As ever, the vocals give everything that ‘industrial feel’, being heavily over saturated with effects. The track ends by again using the black metal style keyboards, but are really nothing too original, although a fitting end nonthesless. 
‘Black Lightning Rapture’ is probably the most menacing the band have sounded so far, vocals taking on a very demonic sound with the keyboards again keeping an eerie atmosphere to proceedings. ‘Grim’ blasts in annoyingly, the drum machine raging at an inhuman pace. It’s the drum programming which gives these tracks an almost techno feel, even though they are programmed at lightning speeds. ‘Obscene Deformities’ sounds different, the guitars actually well up in the mix and this track does take on a more distinct and traditional feel. 'Satan's Army' is another strange affair, featuring some really unusual and what only can be described as ‘programmed noises’, not even sure which instrument is spewing the said racket. It’s a shame, because those strange noises distract you from listening to the track and its over before you’ve really taken anything else in. As seen earlier, that strange noise begins to take on a drone edge, but it’s too high pitched and ends up becoming over bearing and ultimately annoying.
‘Unholy Sonata’ is an eerie keyboard interlude, fine for what it is and is a melodic break in the unholy racket which is being stirred up. ‘Desolation’ is the last of the tracks (although this version does feature five bonus tracks) and is the longest of the tracks by far, coming in at just over six minutes as opposed to the usual average of two minutes. It’s a real mess, way too much going on, vocally it’s all over the place and really confusing. Well performed but too overpowering. An atmospheric interlude breaks the track up; slow keyboards accompanied by mournful spoken and whispered passages which take over and are a welcome break in proceedings. The track does return to the normal noise before ending abruptly. This really isn’t going to be for everyone and is very hard listening. Within each track there is so much going on that it’s really hard to actually keep up. The drums are programmed at inhuman speeds which (for me) is really hard to listen to, and when mixed with all those vocals which are “all over the place” make for an uncomfortable listening experience (maybe thats the intention though!). Being brutally honest, it’s hard to see how these tracks can be classed as blackened death/grind, the lack of guitars in the mix and the inhuman ‘techno’ feel to the drums makes sure of that. Add in the effect laden vocals and ‘Blackened Industrial Techno’ is probably nearer the mark. Undead Pandemic may be for those searching for something different or a style which moves away from the usual black/death/grind offerings but (for me) it’s nothing more than a confusing mix of influences which just doesn’t work. Original? Maybe, but it’s something a lot will find hard to identify with.

4 out of 10