Music Review: DANIEL AMOS – Vox Humana

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daniel amos vox humanaDANIEL AMOS
Vox Humana
Refuge Records
1984

It’s funny what you tend to run into at local small town thrift stores. For instance, I was looking around a small second-hand thrift store in a town called Oakland here in Nebraska, and among the odds and ends and various other nick-knacks abounding, I spotted in a box of stuff a CD copy of Daniel Amos’ sixth release, Vox Humana, which I purchased for a mere $.50. For those curious, this was the 1992 CD release from Refuge Records, as previously the album was only released on LP and cassette formats. Pretty good condition, nary a scratch on it. The cover booklet was what you would call bare bones, but I really couldn’t complain.

Anyway, Vox Humana, compared to the preceding two releases, is more of an electronic synthesizer-driven New Wave album, with flourishes of the kind of musical creativity that you would come to expect from Daniel Amos. I wonder if they chose the more synthetic style of instrumentation here as a kind of commentary on the plastic-ness of the culture at the time of the early-to-mid 1980s. Or, maybe I’m just reading too much into something that wasn’t the intention. I tend to do that sometimes. As such, though, this results in Vox Humana not exactly being a frequent player in my album list.

Don’t get me wrong, as a New Wave album, Vox Humana is a good, solid release. Things kick off with “Travelog”, a bit of a dark, mid-paced tune with a driving beat and a spacey feel to it. This is followed by “(It’s The Eighties, So Where’s Our) Rocket Packs”, the structure of which reminds me strongly of The Buggle’s song “Video Killed The Radio Star”. One thing I’ll give this album, the songs at least maintain the varying structures and craft that Daniel Amos excels at, like with the plastic calypso of “Home Permanent”, the quirky rockabilly of “It’s Sick”, and the driving punkish “Dance Stop”, which is a popular crowd participation song when played live, I’m told. “Live And Let Live” has great Beatles-esque melodies and a psychedelic vibe, whereas the followup to that is the skipable ballad “When Worlds Collide”. “As the World Turns”, “She’s All Heart” and “The Incredible Shrinking Man” all maintain the catchy pop hooks. The album ends with one of my all-time favorite songs, “Sanctuary”, kind of a dark, almost 80s Gothic style song that always gets me in the feels.

As I mentioned, Vox Humana is a good, solid release from Daniel Amos; it’s just that I’m not necessarily in the mood for New Wave as much to listen to this one too frequently. There are some cuts on here that I do enjoy more than others. The production of my copy, which I presume was from the original mix that Refuge put out, is decent, if a bit thin at times. In 2016, Stunt Records released a remastered two-disc special edition, so if you’re wanting to check this out, I would try and get that one.

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Music Review: ADVOCATE – Exigency

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ADVOCATE - ExigencyADVOCATE
Exigency
Pentecost Records
1992

Advocate was a band from Denver, Colorado. They formed in 1990 and released a demo called Exigency in 1992, then apparently split up in 1995. And that is the extent of the information that I was able to glean from the internet about this particular group. Oh, and their style is listed as “thrash metal”, though I may have a bit to say about that. But, I’ve done reviews on less information before, so let’s get to this, shall we?

First, that cover art. I’ve seen worse, really. But, the album art for this release does rank up there as far as not being representative of the music itself. It’s no pink unicorn on a white backdrop, mind you, but still it has more of an “illustration for vacation bible school” vibe going on. But anyway, the music. Remember in the previous paragraph where I mentioned that Advocate was listed as “thrash”? I disagree. The music is really more heavy metal that leans towards thrash at times, much like Metal Church. There’s some really good riffs and solos going on here, as well as some good solid musicianship with the crafting of the songs, showing a kind of talent that keeps things from getting stale. The big issue I have with the music, though, are the vocals. They’re…passable. Kind of in need of more polish in several instances, and for whatever reason the vocals are way up in the mix, dominating the other instruments into a slightly muffled background position. That’s rather distracting.

Overall, Exigency is a six-song demo that has some rather good ideas going with the music, but it’s hampered by a sub-par vocal mix. Regardless, had they kept at it, they could have really had something going. I have no idea what caused them to break up, but this one evidence of their existence is still out there. Worth a bit of a look if you happen to run into it.

Music Review: AZBUK – Compilation For Eternity

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AZBUK - 2008 - Compilation For EternityAZBUK
Compilation For Eternity
Open Grave Records
2008

For a brief moment in time, the criminally short-lived Open Grave / Sullen Records managed to release an array of choice \,,/METAL\,,/, both from the mainline and Christian sides of the underground scenes. For those of us with a taste for Black Metal, that meant easier access to bands like Azbuk, with the release of Compilation For Eternity in 2008.

As the title implies, this is a compilation of tracks gleaned from the three demos Azbuk released: 1997’s Divine Force (“Supplication”, “Majesty”, “The Loyal Witness”, and “Abyss Eternal”); 2001’s Nosferatus Darkness Earl (“Nosferatus Darkness Earl”, “Reflections Of A Damned Mirror”, “Fallen Angel”, and “Constitution”), and 2004’s Ancient Secrets Of The Bible (“Ancient Secrets Of The Bible”, “The Kingdom”, “Return”, and “Symphony Of Death”). It’s an interesting look into the evolution of this South American band, going from standard black metal on their first demo, and transitioning to a more progressive blackened sound, figuring in elements of death metal and doom in the mix on their other two demo releases. The production is raw, as I don’t think there was much as far as remixing or remastering when this compilation was put together. It preserves the original dynamic, methinks. As with other releases like this, Compilation For Eternity works as a good introduction to one of the more woefully overlooked black metal bands. The only criticism I would have being not just releasing a two-disc or so collection with the entirety of all three demos included. But, at least we have this one in existence.

Music Review: CRIMSON THORN – Plagued

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crimson thorn - plaguedCRIMSON THORN
Plagued
Independent
1993

Once upon a time, two lads from Minnesota met at a Barren Cross concert, became friends, and formed a band called Obidiah. From there, they created the legendary Crimson Thorn, and recorded the cassette-only demo Plagued in 1992, and released it in 1993. Obviously, since then it’s gone out of print and hard to find, until it was included on the Morphine Records re-release of Unearthed as bonus material.

The reason why I’m writing about this now is because, as of this writing, Bombworks Records has recently released the official 3-CD boxed set featuring all of their releases, which includes this demo, with all of the material given a well-needed remastering that the originals were sorely lacking, including this and the aforementioned Unearthed. I wanted to discuss the music itself separately, so I can focus on the quality of the remastering when I get around to reviewing the boxed set collection here soon.

It’s rather fascinating to learn that, given the kind of death metal the band is famous for playing and releasing, that the music on the Plagued demo is thrash metal. Not thrash metal with death vocals, like on Mortification’s self-titled album, actual thrash metal with standard thrash metal vocals. Mind you, this is some very good thrash metal, so there’s no complaint about that. I just wonder what prompted the change from the Exodus style thrash sound to the Cannibal Corpse inspired death metal goodness that appeared a year later on their debut full-length release.

Anyway, despite the less-than-stellar production on the demo itself (it’s to be expected, really, and the Morphine Records release didn’t do any remastering), the metal here rips with some fantastic thrash riffs and thick rhythms anchoring things down. The vocals, like I said, are of the deeper thrash shout vocals, the likes of which bands like Scourged Flesh and Sacrament have employed, among several others. I think that, had they stuck with the thrash metal direction, they would have been just as fantastic at that as they were with the eventual death metal direction they eventually went with. Regardless, the Plagued demo is very much worth checking out, and since this is included in the boxed set, it’ll be easier to do so, rather than trying to track down an affordable copy of the cassette-only demo itself, or even the Morphine Records re-release of Unearthed on which it is included (with a mixed-up track listing, I might add). Recommended.

Music Review: IMMORTAL SOULS – Once Upon A Time In The North

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immortal souls once upon a time in the north

IMMORTAL SOULS
Once Upon A Time In The North
Fear Dark Records
2005

The melodic death metal outfit Immortal Souls got its start in 1991, forming in Finland. They recorded and released a couple of demos, released a split CD with Mordecai and their debut album Under The Northern Sky as well as The Cleansing EP as a sort of teaser for the album at the same time. Then, the label that released the split and debut album (Little Rose) went under, and so the band signed with Fear Dark Records, who released this 2-disc retrospective of their music up to that point.

Disc One starts off with a couple of never-before released songs–“Painweighted” and “Down In My Grave”–which, this is just rampant speculation on my part, might have been two of the songs on their never-been-released Vision Of Hell demo (it’s nigh-impossible finding information on that thing). If anyone knows for certain, let me know. Anyway, after that is the entire The Cleansing EP, the entire Divine Wintertime EP that was released with the split with Mordecai, three songs from the Reflections Of Doom demo (“Hate Sender”, “I Am Me”, “Realm Of Hatred”) and one song from the Immortal Souls demo (“Immortal”). Disc Two is the entire Under The norther Sky album.

I acquired a copy of Once Upon A Time In The North mainly because of the two unreleased songs and the songs from the two cassette demos. Otherwise, I already owned copies of the two EPs and Under The Northern Sky. Although I’m not what you would call a “completest” collector, I didn’t mind double-dipping for this. It’s a good package, a great retrospective of earlier Immortal Souls music, and it has a write up from founder/bassist/vocalist Aki Särkioja in the CD booklet. Mind you, Immortal Souls is one of my favorite bands in existence. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of checking them out, this is a good retrospective of their earlier work for an introduction to these guys. Recommended.

Music Review: CONSECRATOR – Image Of Deception

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consecrator - image of deceptionCONSECRATOR
Image Of Deception
Bombworks Records
2004

Consecrator is (was?) a thrash metal band that was formed in Texas in 1989, released a couple of demos, then broke up in 1993. Then, if the Metal Archives site is to be believed, the group reformed in 2004, which coincided with the release of this particular compilation collecting their two demos on one CD on the Bombworks Records label.

I’m going to take a moment, here, and make mention that, at the time of this writing, Roxx Records is getting set to release a remaster version of this compilation, with new artwork, a never before released song from 2004, and a bonus DVD featuring a live show from the band back in the day. I do this because I want to urge you all to get in on the re-release from Roxx of this album. Not only because this Bombworks edition was only limited to 300 copies, but Roxx has been fantastic with the remastering and re=releasing of several long out of print classics. And no, I’m not on their payroll. I’m just a satisfied customer, is all. Anyway…

Concerning the music that Consecrator put out, after the initial listen to this collection, I stand in awe at the fact that these guys never managed to get signed to any of the labels back in the day. I mean, this is some rather great thrash metal, here, worthy of inclusion on R. E. X. Records roster of thrash metal bands at least. This is some blistering thrash metal, here, chock full of hooky riffs and finger-melting solos and solid rhythms to give you the biggest bangover of your life. Of the two demos that are included on this release, Image Of Deception is the better quality over Demo from 1990, from a production quality perspective. I don’t know if they only had a worn cassette copy of the first demo, but there were some parts that were almost unlistenable. Which is the pity, because the metal on both is epic thrash and metal played very well, very tight and very, very ferocious. This is the primary reason I mentioned the Roxx Records re-release. Because I am of the opinion that everyone should check out Consecrator’s work, and in the best possible quality available.

Will I be purchasing the re-release when it comes out? Boy howdy. In the meantime, though, this copy of of the Image Of Deception compilation will get further plays until then.

Music Review: SPLIT – 100 Philistine Foreskins / Preacher

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split cd - 100 philistine foreskins-preacherSPLIT
100 Philistine Foreskins / Preacher
Handmade Overkill
2009

Some time ago–I don’t recall exactly how long ago it was–I was half-heartily surfing around the interwebs, and came across a band listed on the earlier iteration of the Firestream Music Vault as “100 Philistine Foreskins”. It took maybe a nanosecond for me to then vow to track down any existing music from this band, regardless of the style or even if they were any good. The name alone dictated I search high and low for anything from this band. And finally, several years later, I did come across something: This split with German hardcore band Preacher.

Released in 2009 on the Handmade Overkill label, I ran across this release as a download on Bandcamp. I don’t know what the availability of the physical media version of this album is, but since I don’t mind purchasing the MP3 downloads of album (doesn’t take up as much room in my very limited living space), I got the download. And while I don’t really know if 100PF recorded any more songs beyond the four included on this split, at least there are these rather brief snippets into the general insanity of this particular punk band.

After listening to the entire split, I have to say that, of the two bands on here, I did enjoy the four cuts from 100 Philistine Foreskins over the cuts from Preacher. Mainly because 100PF has a very…shall we say, quirky and unique kind of punk rock style that can only be described as Oi! punk for the ADHD crowd. This is awesome stuff, and a pity there’s only four cuts available from this Scottish group. The cuts from Preacher are your more standard straight-forward hardcore style, heavy and basic, with a bit lower production, and the songs seeming to almost blend together from track to track. I’m afraid I didn’t find them remarkable. Passable, maybe.

So, overall, I do recommend checking out this particular split album, if only to get a brief taste of 100 Philistine Foreskins. Still an awesome name, pity there’s no shirt to buy to wear to church. Otherwise, giving a pass on the Preacher material.

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