Music Review: DEATH THERAPY – The Storm Before The Calm

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death therapy storm before calmDEATH THERAPY
The Storm Before The Calm
Solid State Records

Death Therapy is the solo-ish project of former Becoming The Archetype bassist/vocalist Jason Wisdom. He started writing and recording under Death Therapy in 2015, and released an EP demo that can be found on Bandcamp, and then released this full-length album, The Storm Before The Calm, on Solid State Records earlier this year.

There, now that I have the preliminary stuff out of the way…

Holy expletive of your choice, this album is great. I had first heard of it being a thing due to Jason Wisdom’s interview about the project on the As The Story Grows podcast, where some previews of some of the songs were played. What I had heard blew me away, and I immediately wanted to know when the album was going to be released. It wasn’t until the end of February, but I had done a pre-order (something I rarely do), and when the day it was released came around, I immediately loaded it up into my media player, and had it blaring through the speakers. And believe me when I say, the wait was well worth it.

The best I can describe the music on The Storm Before The Calm is very aggressive industrial hybrid metal. Industrial because of the electronic hooks and sampling; hybrid because the only actual instruments used are a heavily effects distorted bass and a drum set for a thick and insane rhythm base. Mix in vocals that range from intense growl shouts to dark melodic singing, and the result is an incredibly infectious brand of dark and heavy goodness that is different and completely awesome. The diversity of the styles that come together on this, especially with the EBM side of things.

Look, about the only gripe I have with this release is that it ends far too soon, and I find myself wanting more than just what’s on there. Here’s hoping there’s more in the future. For now, do yourselves a favor and grab yourselves a copy of The Storm Before The Calm and enjoy immensely.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – Outlive

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demon hunter outliveDEMON HUNTER
Solid State Records

After fifteen years since their self-titled debut album, it’s no denying that Demon Hunter has evolved and forged ahead with its signature sound, rather than continue on with the same-old and remain stagnant. To put it bluntly, they are a far cry from the Slipknot style of metal, complete with Good Cop/Bad Cop vocals. I joke that they have transformed into more of a HIM-style metal band, but that’s really what has happened, fifteen years later.

Outlive, the band’s newest release as of this writing, showcases the band as getting better with age. While the previous release was rather hit-or-miss for me, I found Outlive to be a more solid listening experience. While the majority of the cuts could be tagged as “radio friendly” and melodic, the songs are heavier and darker than your standard modern pop metal song. Ryan Clark does favor the melodic singing more over the angry growly shouts, and he sounds much more comfortable with that, giving the songs a texture and depth that manage to haunt you while the heaviness sticks in your head.

Make no mistake, though: Outlive is multi-layered and very textured \,,/METAL\,,/, comfortable with treading familiar ground while not being afraid to experiment with touches of death metal, groove metal, dark gothic and straight-ahead rock and a bit of industrial for some texturing. Even then, they still manage to throw in a classic deathcore aggression like “Jesus Wept” and “Cold Blood” to sandblast your face off.

Overall, while I wasn’t sure what I was going to be getting into before listening to Outlive (the pre-release video for the single “Died In My Sleep” didn’t exactly set my world afire), I still purchased the download on Amazon the day of its release. After playing it back-to-front a couple of times, I have to say that it is a very solid release, more so than the previous.

Music Review: ABOVE THE STORM – Eternal Sun

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Eternal Sun
SkyBurnsBlack Records

I’ve been reviewing albums since I was 18, all the way back in 1992, back in a time when I had to journey into the local town to purchase what was available for a simple Eastern Nebraska rural dweller to get his grubby mits on. And since I specialize in the Xian side of the metals, you can imagine how limited my choices were back in the day. That’s why, now in my 40s and still cranking away at this, I prefer this modern era than to the so-called “good old days”, simply because of more places I can get my \,,/METAL\,,/ fix. Like Bandcamp. Where I stumbled upon the SkyBurnsBlack Records page, which is where I discovered this little gem, the three-song EP Eternal Sun by California melodic death metal group Above The Storm.

Hailing from Santa Cruz, so far this appears to be the only release from the group. Rather a pity, as spinning this all-too-short EP shows a lot of promise fo possible future offerings from the band. This is melodic death metal, much in line with the likes of Immortal Souls, Children Of Bodom (without all the gratuitous sweep picking) and At The Gates. There are some great thrashy riffs, with some furious rhythms and blackened vocals and some standard singing mixed in. Really, the entire EP kicks you directly in the face from the first note, and continues to do so right up to the end, where they give you a bit of a respite with a melodic break on the last song on the album, “Underdogs”. The production is top-notch, and the musicianship is tight throughout the paltry not-even-16 minute run time. In fact, that’s about the only whiny complaint I have about Eternal Sun: it’s too brief. I was just getting warmed up, here, and now it’s over. Hate when that happens.

Bottom line: Eternal Sun shows much promise. I hope they have at least a couple of full-lengths in them, as it would be a pity that they would turn out to be a one-and-done type band. Pick this one up on the Bandcamp page, as I deem this Check This One Out quality.

Music Review: ACOUSTIC TORMENT – My Hope Is In You

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music-review_-acoustic-torment-my-hope-is-in-youACOUSTIC TORMENT
My Hope Is In You

Acoustic Torment is (or perhaps “was”; their status is listed as “unknown” at the Metal Archives, and one of the members runs Whirlwind Records, so they may just be on indefinite hiatus for all I know) a death metal band from Germany that released two full-length album thus far. I’ve already reviewed their second album Schwarzwald, and now I’m finally getting around to reviewing their first release, My Hope Is In You. Life is wacky like that.

Anyway, I first discovered the existence of Acoustic Torment by way of one of those compilation CDs that was put out by the late and lamented Blastbeats Records, of which I picked up at their merch table back at Cornerstone 1999. The cut “Environmental Disaster” was one here, and I was…not too overly impressed at the time. It was straight-forward thrashy death metal, in the same vein as early Morbid Angel, with what seemed to be an environmental bent to the song, which was definitely unique, but nothing that really grabbed me by the throat with just that cut.

Flash forward a few years (okay, a bit more than just a “few years”), and I finally get around to snagging a copy of My Hope Is In You. It couldn’t hurt to give the entire thing a spin; the cut on the compilation couldn’t have been the best representation of the band’s output, right? I mean, I did enjoy their second album, so getting this off of their Bandcamp page seemed like the thing to do.

Having finally given My Hope Is In You a thorough spin or three, I can attest that it is a decent enough collection of straight-forward classic death metal, in the vein of the old school masters like the aforementioned Morbid Angel, Obituary and early Mortification. Much of it has a doom flavor to it, with a couple of cuts going for the thrashy death metal style on “Environmental Disaster”, “Indifferent Humanity”, and album ender “Praise The Lord”. The title track is Paramaecium-inspired doom death metal, slow and gut-churning. The band isn’t afraid to incorporate the Grandfather’s Guitars and troubadour style singing on the opening parts of “Sick World” and “Atomic Threat”. The big epic on this one is “Total Global Annihilation And The Return Of Jesus Christ”, a ten-minute-plus death metal track that’s pretty straight-forward in its execution.

I have to say, the production on My Hope Is In You is a bit thin, but it’s nothing that detracts completely from the listening. Some would say it imbues the death metal contained on here with a certain rawness that can’t be achieved with top-notch production. Regardless, My Hope Is In You was a decent listen, and just as I suspected, the one cut I listened to all those years ago wasn’t the best representation of the music. It’s worth a look see, and it’s available on Bandcamp for the purchasable download, after being long out of print in physical form.

Music Review: GRAVE ROBBER – Straight To Hell

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music-review-grave-robber-straight-to-hellGRAVE ROBBER
Straight To Hell
Rottweiler Records

After four years after the release of their last full-length, Grave Robber released a four-song EP in both the CD and 7″ Vinyl formats. Well, also as a downloadable purchase in the MP3 format on Amazon, which is how I got my copy. Again, this is due to lack of physical space to store all of my music hording. I’d rather have the 7″ version, but at the moment that’s not a viable option. Livin’ the life, people.

Straight To Hell is vintage Grave Robber, hard and heavy punk rock with a strong sci-fi horror bent, giving us a short but decidedly sweet shot of much-needed horror punk, Misfits style. The EP opens with the straight forward metal power of the title track, which is guaranteed to get your fist pumping in the air along with the anthemic chorus. “Hunger Haunts” is a classic horror punk rock ditty that was also used in advertisements for Canadian Feed The Children, with its message that the eyes of a hungry child should haunt us more than the made-up monsters we see on the movie and television screens. The final two cuts, “Beast Of Busco” and “Mummator” are fun graveyard rock tunes that close out the EP’s all-too-short 11 minute run time.

While one would argue that having a full-length instead of a four-song 7″ EP would have been preferable, I knew of some of the constraints working against Grave Robber with being able to release new material. I say, I’m happy getting new Grave Robber songs in whatever length and format they choose to give. Also, collectable EPs are cool. They only released a limited number of the vinyl 7-inches, but there’s also the CDs and of course the MP3 downloads you can purchase from Amazon and Bandcamp. Here’s hoping for more in the near future; for now, enjoy a nice shot of quality horror punk rock.

Music Review: TED KIRKPATRICK – The Doom In Us All

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music-review-ted-kirkpatrick-the-doom-in-us-allTED KIRKPATRICK
The Doom In Us All: A Tribute To Black Sabbath
Pathogenic Records

To date, there have been several tributes to the progenitors of Heavy Metal, Black Sabbath. They have influenced many bands and artists from the wide array of music genres, not all of them necessarily in the Metal spectrum. And while Black Sabbath manages to also feature in every anti-rock crusader’s Top Ten list of Wicked Bands that will turn your kids to Satanism, when you actually look at the lyrics of at least the albums done with Ozzy on vocals, they really seem to be more of a warning against messing around with dark forces, rather than an endorsement for, as those wonderful Reasons Why Rock Is Of The Devil articles seem to indicate. Yeah, I’m a professing Christian who is a fan of Black Sabbath. And apparently, so is Ted Kirkpatrick, drummer/founder/sole remaining original member of the band Tourniquet.

The Doom In Us All is an EP tribute of six Black Sabbath covers, mostly gleaned from the Ozzy Osbourne days of the band. Technically, there are five actual songs (“War Pigs”, “Into The Void”, “Lord Of This World”, “Electric Funeral”, and “Children Of The Grave”), plus one less-than-a-minute instrumental (“Embryo”). Ted performs the drums and guitars, with King’s X frontman Dug Pinnick performing all the bass parts. Joining them are a bunch of guest appearances from several singers (Chris Jericho from Fozzy, Corey Glover from Living Colour, Trevor McNevan from Thousand Foot Crutch, Eric Wagner from The Skull, and Tim “Ripper” Owens, formerly “That Guy Who Replaced Rob Halford In Judas Priest”), with some guest guitar work from the likes of Scotti Hill of Skid Row, Bruce Franklin from Trouble, and Karl Sanders from Nile.

On the songs, Ted and company stick close to the original material, hardly deviating from how the songs were made. Not that it’s a bad thing; the songs are HEAVY, imbued with a thick and powerful production set to congeal the insides with a doomy flourish. They’re well done, and if I have any kind of complaint about the album, it’s that it was an EP that clocks in at a half-hour, and not a full-length with more Black Sabbath covers. Maybe get David Benson in on the fun. Regardless, this is a nice bit of unexpected from probably the last source I would expect a Black Sabbath tribute to come from.

Music Review: GALACTIC COWBOYS – At The End Of The Day

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music-review_-galactic-cowboys-at-the-end-of-the-dayGALACTIC COWBOYS
At The End Of The Day
Metal Blade Records

Back in 1998, the greatly underrated Galactic Cowboys released their 5th full length studio album, At The End Of The Day. This was something I passed on initially, as I was rather underwhelmed with the previous The Horse That Bud Bought. Pity that, as having gotten around to sucking it up and giving the disc the listen it deserves, it seems that At The End Of The Day was very much worth my attention back then.

While they’ve been given given the tag of a heavy metal band, I’ve always considered the Galactic Cowboys to be more of a hard modern rock band, kind of what the Beatles would have sounded like if they came about in the Grunge era in the 1990s instead of the 1960s. At The End Of The Day continues on in that grand tradition, with some heavy yet hook-laden guitar-driven hard rock complimented with Beatle-esque vocal harmonies, intermixed with some atmospheric and psychedelic styles for progressive flavor.

The heavier stuff lies with album opener “Nothing To Say”, “Just Like Me”, “Young Man’s Dream”, and “The Shape”; there are some good catchy mid-paced songs they’re really good at, like “Ants”, the jangle-pop flavored “Shine”, a very dirge-like “It’s Not Over”, and a psychedelic ballad with “Through” The big concept here, though, is the multi-part Machine Fish Suite, which consists of tracks four through ten (“Where Do I Sign?”, “Bright Horizons”, “Puppet Show”, “Mr. Magnet”, “Never Understand”, “Ranch On Mars pt. 2 (Set Me Free)” and “How Does It Fell?”), which tells the tale of the band’s struggles up to that point. They’re all individually unique, but all fit together to form a fascinatingly entertaining bit of musical play.

Overall, At The End Of The Day ranks now as my third favorite Galactic Cowboys release of theirs, behind Space In Your Face and Machine Fish, respectively. It’s vintage Galactic Cowboys, from the cover art (which is said to be a parody of the Somewhere In Time album by Iron Maiden) to the catchy guitar hooks and vocal melodies.

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