Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ancient Ascendant – Into The Dark

Forepoint Records 2012
1.The Veil 2.Blood Calls 3.Driven By The Dark
4.Casting The Shroud Aside 5.Under Ancient Stone
As ‘The Veil’ slowly comes to life, you feel a real atmosphere beginning to stir, melodic acoustic guitars building the tension well before ‘Blood Calls’ bursts out of the speakers, heavy blackened death metal in essence, scathing screamed vocals backed up by guttural growled vocals. The atmosphere created in the short intro track is carried through well into this first full track. There’s a ‘doom’ feel apparent, the band keeping their foot off the pedal in terms of pace, preferring to keep the track slow to mid paced. It’s all very well crafted and shows a real maturity to the bands song writing style – no need for hyper speeds here, the intelligence of the song  is more than enough to keep you entertained. ‘Driven By The Dark’ continues in a similar fashion, but with the inclusion of acoustic melodic interludes which take on an almost progressive feel and sit comfortably amongst the heavier death metal style guitar work. Spiced up with some clever tremolo picked, black metal style riffing and all the elements are there for another outstanding song. As the track draws to an end, there’s real emotion being stirred through the riffs being used and once again being at the slower end of the speed range but it’s the catchiness of the tune that is more than enough anyway. ‘Casting The Shroud Aside’ is another prime example of a band on top of their game and see’s the band adding new elements to their sound, faster blasting sections incorporated in amongst the slower more melodic sections which work well. Blast beats are always going to get the thumbs up! A change in direction vocally as well, the guttural growled vocals taking the lead through this track, but as before, mixed well with the higher screamed style. Alex’s vocal style reminiscent of Johan Hegg of Amon Amarth fame.
Ending this e.p is ‘Under Ancient Stone’ which blasts open furiously, blast beats used plentifully and the general pace of the song a lot faster than seen in the previous tracks. Ancient Ascendant are very good at writing memorable, catchy and likable death metal songs, this final track being a prime example of how to do just that. There’s a slightly more black metal feel to this track, mainly due to the faster riffing and blast beats, which could almost be likened to a lot of the black/death metal that was being spawned from many a Swedish band in the early nineties. One point to note is the first rate production the band have achieved, clear and with a crunch and a heaviness which is a pleasure to listen to. Proving themselves to be one of the better bands in the UK extreme metal underground at the moment, Ancient Ascendant have produced an extremely well written e.p, packed full of intelligent song writing, catchy atmospheres which all smacks of a band who  have found their style and are at ease writing songs which will instantly appeal to a lot of extreme metal fans. Limited to 300 copies, it is probably a good idea that you get yourself a copy of this, as they probably wont be available for very long. Highly recommended
8 out of 10

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Seracrusis - The Downfall

Self Released 2012
1.Pride 2.Flght 11 3.Requiem Pt.1 4.Black Honour
5.Downfall 6.Under The Guillotine 7.Requiem Pt.2 (Sonata in BM)
Describing themselves as Melodic Death/Thrash/Core/Black Progressive Metal Manchester’s Seracrusis promised to be an intriguing listen indeed. Opening up with a melodic acoustic guitar as an intro, quite standard in metal terms, before ‘Pride’ opens up and yes, there are a hell of a lot of influences on display here, from melodic death metal through to Hardcore and even some maiden-esque riffing. One thing that jumps right out at you (or not as the case may be) is the production. It has been mastered so quietly that’s its actually quite hard to listen to and the production on the drums is virtually non-existent (where are the kick drums?). Vocally it’s clean sung all the way through this opening track, not the best in the world, but doing just enough to stop them from being totally shit. ‘Flight 11’ begins in similar fashion, alot more maiden style dual guitar lead sections on offer which really stand out, but sadly highlight the horrendous production unfortunately. The bass guitar jumps through these riffs, bobbling around in its own little world with the non-existent drums barely in the background. The production appears to get even worse the longer the song goes on…this is becoming hard listening indeed. There are one or two ‘screams’ thrown in to add an extreme edge, but to be frank, they barely register. It is at this point that I’ve just checked the track listing in my media player and the songs have been burnt to disc in the wrong order – poor show guys (this review will be based on the order they have been presented on this disc). ‘Requiem Pt.1’ is again based around maiden style riffing. The track then breaks into an acoustic interlude, which by the sounds of things is where the band is trying to incorporate the ‘progressive’ element to their sound. It sadly lacks the musicianship to truly grab your attention though.
‘Black Honour’ begins life in a relatively brutal fashion compared to what we have witnessed previously, screamed scathing vocals preferred to the (almost emo) cleanly sung style. Obligatory breakdowns are introduced and this is where the track begins its downhill slide, never really deciding what to do with itself and ending up a mix of generic styles which don’t impress. ‘Downfall’ sounds promising as the melodic guitar work is backed up by some simple, but atmospheric keyboards. It’s only when the song bursts into life that you realise the production is ruining what might be some okay sounding songs. Ending on some decent sounding piano work, but yet again, failing to impress. ‘Under The Guillotine’ shows promise as the band have upped the pace and are using the screamed vocals to good effect. What tends to let the song writing down is when these guys try to incorporate the more progressive style riffing into their songs; it somehow just doesn’t cut it. Mixing styles is all well and good, when done properly, but sadly these guys are some way off doing that. When the heavier, death metal style riffing is used, you can’t help but feel that with a killer production, this band might be capable of producing something pleasing to listen to. ‘Requiem PtII (Sonata in BM) suffers the same fate as every track before it… absolutely horrible production. Not sure who was in charge of production duties, but whoever it was needs shooting (or at least some lessons in how to use a studio). Note: Listening to the bands tracks on their bandcamp page, the production sounds totally different, the mix being slightly better, so whatever the lads have sent me to review is another let down and not really how to showcase your bands release. Summing up, the band are full of bright ideas and as mentioned, given a half decent production, will probably be more than capable of releasing a decent e.p., but based on what’s been sent for review, there’s some way to go yet with improvement definitely needed on the organisational front (i.e. send the tracks in the right order). A big let-down, but does show potential.
4.5 Out of 10

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Depraved Plague - Systemic

Self Released 2012
1.Chokehold 2.Asphyxiate 3.Endless Torment 4.Degradation
5.Your Final Execution 6.Human Revulsion 7.Decayed From Birth
8.Carnal Rage 9.Rapture In Death
Cambridge based Depraved Plague offer up their debut album, Systemic, which in essence offers us old school death metal with a modern edge. Opener ‘Chokehold’ certainly provides both ends of the spectrum, the groove tinged death metal riffing leading proceedings and very reminiscent of early 90’s era DM mixed with faster blast sections. When the band slows the pace, there are hints of ‘Fleshcrawl’ to their sound, another band whose influences lay firmly in the early 90’s era but with a modern element mixed in to the fray. ‘Asphyxiate’ blasts forth in a barrage of furious blast beats and frantic guitar work, the mix of old and new death metal influences working extremely well. There’s a real groove on display again which is simple, but very effective. As the songs draws to a close, a really dark and sinister guitar riff takes over with the double kicks accompanying the riff well, a sonic barrage which creates a really menacing atmosphere that ends the track perfectly. As ‘Endless Torment’ begins you are led to believe that the band have opted for a change in direction, a change in atmosphere due to the very melodic riff which introduces the track. However, the direction of the song is changed completely with pace injected into the track, taking the listener by surprise, but its definitely a welcome surprise. During the middle section the track loses its sense of purpose somewhat, not really sounding as if it knows what direction to take. Having said that, as things end the sense of urgency returns, as do the blast beats and frantic guitar work and a great way to rescue the track and end on a high.
This sense of purpose is carried through into ‘Degradation’ which is a short sharp lesson in death metal ferocity. Faster blasting sections once again mixed well with slower, groove orientated riffing and yet again (if any reference points are needed) sounding like those German veterans Fleshcrawl, especially through Mark’s gruff and guttural vocal delivery. ‘Your Final Execution’ doesn’t change the well worked formula either, the bands practiced mix of old school Death Metal with the modern edge providing a crushing soundtrack and really sounding a lot more ‘Swedish’ than seen in previous tracks. Similarly, ‘Human Revulsion’ has that hint of old school Swedish death metal to it, which let’s face it, is never going to be a bad thing! Song lengths are probably about right for this style of death metal, averaging about three minutes, get in there – pummel the listener, leave....just as death metal should be! ‘Decayed From Birth’ offers up another brutal death metal beast, a frenzy of blast beats over some really brooding  guitar work, easily the best track so far, the band beginning to sound really dangerous.
For all the bands brutality, DP aren’t afraid to mix things up, by adding some very atmospheric sections which may sound like they won’t fit alongside the brutal parts comfortably, but it actually works really well. As if to prove the point, ‘Carnal Rage’ follows on in a such fashion. The band slowing the track right down after an initial brutal and blasting introduction. And as before they're proving to be a great mix of styles. ‘Rapture In Death’ ends this bruiser of a debut album and yet again mixes all of the bands tempos, atmospheres and influences, from the all-out crazed blasts, to the mid paced groove drenched death metal mayhem down to the sinister, menacing and atmospheric slower sections; all presented in an old school theme. For a debut album, it’s a bloody good effort, nine tracks of crushing, old school death metal but with enough variety to get nods of approval from fans of extreme metal in general. Good effort guys, I have a feeling the follow up will kick us even harder in the teeth than this well presented debut offering. Comes well recommended
7 out of 10

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Eye Of Solitude - Sui Caedere

Kaotoxin Records 2012
1.Awoken By Crows 2.The Haunting 3.Strigoi 4.A Note To Say Farewell
5.Depths Of A Sick Mind 6.Those Who Don't Return
7.Performed In Graphic Pain 8.Totem Of A Pagan Thought
9.Yet I Breathe 10.Departure
Having reviewed the bands ‘Eye of Solitude’ release and given it a score of 9 out of 10, expectations were extremely high and from the instant the CD started whirling around in the player and the eerie intro of crows ‘cawing’ it became obvious the band were not about to disappoint. ‘Awoken By Crows’ spews forth monstrously, yet again Daniels vocals delivered with what are some of the best death metal vocals ever heard, ultra guttural in delivery and reeking of morbidity. Musically, the band have kept to the same formula seen in previous releases, the passion, the mournful atmosphere all captured brilliantly. ‘The Haunting’ is just that, the atmosphere being created utterly desperate, bleak and with little hope in sight. Desperation etched into every single second of the track, this is funeral doom and its most devastating and once again, pain and sorrow etched into every note, every grief ridden vocal line. The keyboards add such tension and are the perfect back up to the heavy, punishing guitars. The song breaks in a melodic, acoustic guitar lead passage, giving the listener brief respite before the melancholy once again consumes all in its path and again, utterly devastating. What sets the bands apart from a lot of similar bands in the genre is the use of lead guitars, not so much used as solos, more harmonies over the heavy guitars which works beautifully, grotesquely so. 
‘Strigoi’ opens up with slight pace added to the riffs, only slight however, as the opening passage doesn’t last long. Every instrument drops out to let the synths take over, allowing the atmosphere of the song expand out into the eternity. What also makes E.O.S stand out from bands playing a similar style is their willingness to inject some more familair sounding swedish death metal sections into their tracks and allowing the pace to increase. This allows the drums to open up, which quite often break out in a punishing barrage of double kicks that really thump at the chest, such is the power of the production. There’s also an almost progressive edge to the band at times, as heard in ‘A Note To Say Farewell’. Beginning with the bands now familiar devastating sound, the track then takes on a whole new feel as the heavy distorted guitars are replaced by a melodic solo, accompanied by soft, atmospheric synths and simple, but very effective drum work. This theme is then continued throughout the remainder of the song, utterly compelling with sadness and grief etched into every note once again. It’s very hard to describe just how good this is! If you have lost someone very close to you, listening to this, your thoughts will begin to turn to them. A sadness at the loss captured perfectly in music form. ‘Depths Of A Sick Mind’ is slightly different in composition, samples and effects used heavily giving the track a different feel to those witnessed previously. These sampled sections are prevalent throughout, making this song not really a song, more a series of interludes, a brief rest from the relentless barrage of misery and despair. Vocally very sparse, the track ends with synths and a guitar solo leading the way. At 13:12 ‘Those Who Don’t Return’ is an absolute beast of a song and the longest on the album. Best prepare yourself before setting off on this specific journey, it’s going to be fucking heavy going! Half way through, the track breaks from the overwhelming heaviness and another melodic guitar interlude used alongside samples. It doesn’t last long however, the band returning the track to the over-powering heaviness, continuing the haunting and morbid soundtrack and torturing the listener once more. Once again Daniel is drawing every ounce of pain and despair from every single word. In a previous review I commented that his vocals were some of the best death metal vocals I had heard in a long time…I absolutely stick by my words once again, his ultra-guttural, gravelly voice the perfect way to express pain, grief and despair. For such a long track, it doesn’t feel that long at all, being drawn into the music, you begin to lose yourself, time becomes un-important, a mere number and nothing more. ‘Performed In Graphic Pain’ see’s the re-introduction of a more death metal approach, the pace upped ever so slightly before the whole track changes direction completely, synths used separately to break the track up in another melodic, but haunting  interlude. As the heaviness is re-introduced the track then once again takes on a more death metal sound with the pace being upped again and guitar harmonies that are so catchy your mood is almost lifted by the turn in proceedings. However, E.O.S do not want to be ones to lift moods, they want you to remain in the grief stricken mire that they are surrounding you in.
‘Totum Of A Pagan Thought’ is testament to that, dropping the atmosphere to one of grief, sadness and despair, all common feelings, thoughts and atmospheres in the bands world. As catchy guitar harmonies are re-introduced, the realisation that funeral doom can be catchy washes over you. And then in a brilliant change of pace altogether, the song erupts in a barrage of blast beats, absolutely outstanding and proof (if any were needed) that E.O.S can mix things up and are not a one trick (funeral doom) pony. ‘Yet I Breath’ returns to the more familiar slow, chilling atmospheres that the band are best known for. It’s fair to say that I’ve never heard a band able to craft and create such filth ridden atmospheres so easily! The fittingly titled ‘Departure’ ends this album. It feels like the band have taken you on a journey, delving deep into your psyche and taking you on a haunting, grief stricken ride which you’re really never going to forget. The soft acoustic guitars are the perfect way to finish the journey. The quality on show throughout all ten songs is nothing short of perfect. Words are hard to describe the chilling atmospheres, the devastating melancholy and depressive sounds being created. It’s another master-class in how funeral doom should be delivered to the listener, and a sound I certainly never tire of.  Never have a band impressed me quite so much as E.O.S. Their sound so unique in what is an exceptionally hard musical genre to “get right”, but get right they do. There’s no faulting this release at all. Impressed when I first heard the band, they have not let my expectations down. The album of 2012 so far, it will take something very special from another band to top the quality on show here. In fact I’m pretty safe in saying, I don’t think anyone will. Utterly devastating, punishing and compelling funeral doom/death, you really need to get hold of this release, turn the lights off and bask in the utter melancholy. As highly rated as it gets
9.5 out of 10

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Fog - The Promise Of Suicide

Self Released 2012
1.The Promise Of Suicide 2.Buried Beneath The Winter Sun
One man black metal/doom outfit Fog offer up (as Greg, the man behind Fog says himself) ‘depressing drones of self-misery’ and when ‘The Promise Of Suicide’ begins it is instantly obvious that his description isn’t that far off the mark. Buzz heavy, droning guitars and bass set a depressing and hideous atmosphere. Repetitive, and at a snail’s pace, the riffing is bleak, depressive and exhausting. Pace is kept to an absolute minimum, the drums taking a back seat, there to merely maintain the pace (or lack of) and nothing else, their simplicity all that is needed. Vocally, it’s tortured, its haunting whilst remaining absolutely scathing as black metal vocals should be, screamed with absolute vitriol, hatred, anger and aggression.
‘Buried Beneath The Winter Sun’ begins in similar fashion, albeit in a more drone like state, the buzz heavy bass guitar pummelling through the mix, distorted to hell as is fitting with this style of music. The track is broken up half way through when the bass and guitars drop out and the vocals and drums are left to ‘do their thing’, accompanied by a tolling church bell. It provides an utterly haunting atmosphere, taking the listener on a very depressing journey, with no ending in sight – this may just be the soundtrack to commit suicide to. There are only two tracks on offer, but for those unaccustomed to this genre, it’s probably going to be enough of an introduction. For those already indoctrinated into the gloom of this style of black metal/doom (or suicidal black metal, depressive black metal etc.etc.) it’s a great introduction to this relatively new one man project from South Wales. Full of bleak atmosphere, it’s haunting and chilling with an over-riding sense of punishing and depressing tones, probably as Greg intended it to be. If that’s the case, job done, and job done well.
7 out of 10