Music Review: FLESHKILLER – Awaken

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fleshkiller - awakenFLESHKILLER
Awaken
Indie Recordings
2017

Fleshkiller is the side project of Extol’s guitarist/vocalist Ole Børud, which he formed initially with Vardøger vocalist Peter Dalbakk. Those two had previously collaborated in the Death/Doom metal band Schaliach, so…that’s a thing you know about now. If you hadn’t previously. Anyway, since Extol is on something of an indefinite hiatus, it’s a relief to know that the guy behind Extol’s signature guitar sound is carrying on with Fleshkiller. Add to the mix former members of In Vain and A Hill To Die Upon, the band released a handful of singles before finally releasing this, their full-length debut album, Awaken.

Awaken was an album that I was anxiously awaiting the release of. I had pre-ordered it on Amazon, but due to pre-release reviews being overwhelmingly positive, I was chomping at the proverbial bit for the official day I could download the sucker. And then the day came, and I stuck it on repeat on my media player. And I’m glad to report that was not disappointed.

On the offset, you could be forgiven if you would think that Fleshkiller is merely a continuation of Extol, only without the rest of Extol. Kinda sorta. See, while Awaken features the familiar guitar riffing and clean style vocals (I call ’em “Yes Vocals”, very prog-tastic) that was part of Extol’s signature Metal sound, the songs here are much more technical and aggressive, sounding more like if Believer went down a more Melodic Death Metal path than the one they did after Dimensions.

Regardless of the connections, as an album in and of itself, Awaken is bloody fantastic. From the opening track “Parallel Kingdom” through to the spellbinding album ender “Window Of Time”, the entirety of this album is one solid front-to-back listening experience that doesn’t waste any time with fillers. The mix between the deep death metal vocals and Børud’s Yes vocals used here and there combine to good effect. The result is a prog tech death album that is just about the best debut album I’ve heard so far this past year. This is highly recommended to be a part of your collection.

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Music Review: GRIM – Vespers

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grim - vespersGRIM
Vespers
Black Metal Underground
2013

I don’t know if anyone of you reading this have ever experienced a good old-fashioned Midwest winter. Or any season in the Midwest. Right now, here in my dwelling place of Nebraska as I write this, it’s a balmy -6 degrees Fahrenheit on this sunny Sunday morning. It’s full-on frozen tundra weather here in Nebraska, and the only thing that makes this more Black Metal than its Scandinavian birth place is the fact that we lack the mountain ranges to block the skin-stripping wind chills that can freeze you instantly. None more bvtal.

Which brings me to GRIM. This was the name of a one-man Black Metal project by one Thomas Eversole, who released one album previous back in 1999, entitled Scepter Of Blood, which was re-released again in 2013. Around this same time, one other album was recorded and released, Vespers.

Musically speaking, Vespers is not your typical Black Metal album. It does feature a blistering second-wave style of face-melting guitar riffs, blastbeats and rhythms with focus on the ambient feel of the music; the vocals, however, is a Gregorian Chant choir. You see, as it turns out, Vespers is essentially a performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, with ambient Black Metal used to great effect. The combination of Black Metal and Gregorian Chant is inspired and unique, giving an ambient feel of, say, the wind of a dark midwinter blizzard blowing through wind chimes. It works.

Now, the way the first paragraph ties into th review is, I was listening to this album while driving through the bleak and cold Sunday morning to church. It was overcast, gray, and all around me the barren frozen farmland stretched out, giving a strong feeling of isolated beauty. Playing Vespers just enhanced the scene wonderfully. I got my copy from Bandcamp, and I would recommend checking this out.

Music Review: HOLY BLOOD – Day Of Vengeance

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holy blood day of vengeanceHOLY BLOOD
Day Of Vengeance
Bombworks Records
2015

For quite some time, my Holy Blood collection was incomplete. For, while all the other Holy Blood releases have been made available as a purchasable download — including the recent Glory To The Heroes EP — for whatever reason, their 2015 release, Day Of Vengeance, never was made available in that format. And there isn’t any information I can find to explain why, either. Not that the band owes me or anyone else an explanation, mind you. They can do whatever they want; release an 8-Track only, if they want. Actually, that does sound kind of cool. Maybe a reel-to-reel release. But, I digress. Point is, I finally broke down and purchased the physical CD through Amazon. My Holy Blood collection is now complete.

So, anyway, what’s the METAL like on Day Of Vengeance? Glad you asked.

Upon initial listening, I can understand why many were taken aback a bit with the style it went with. While early records had a more Black Metal-leaning style, and subsequent releases went with Folk Metal stylings, Day Of Vengeance is mainly a straight forward Melodic Death metal release, with a couple of flashes of the Folk Metal of past releases, mostly by way of the two instrumentals, the opener “Dawn Before Battle” and “In Paradise”. The overall quality of the album’s music is very good, featuring some good n’ heavy riffs and hooks, with most of the songs affecting a mid-paced yet brutal heaviness. The song “Holy Blood” also has a touch of the ol’ Folk Metal, and is a bit doomier in execution, and “Powerless Darkness” utilizes choral vocals for texture, but for the most part this is an album of heavy riffs, blastbeats and hooky rhythms with growl vocals. It’s not bad by any stretch, really.

So, overall, I found Day Of Vengeance to be a satisfying Death Metal release. It’s not a Folk Metal album, to be sure. But, if we can’t allow bands to deviate from the norm, they won’t be able to grow, right? Guys? Fellas? Eh, worth checking out.

Music Review: X-SINNER – Loud And Proud

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x-sinner - loud and proudX-SINNER
Loud And Proud
M8 Distribution
2001

X-Sinner has always struck me as a band that really should have been bigger than what they were. They had a more gritty hard rock sound than the standard hair metal bands back then, having something akin to Krokus or early Def Leppard. I guess one of the bigger complaints from the fans was that the two studio albums released on the Pakaderm Records label were given too much of an homogenized production by the Elefante Brothers, draining the music of the raw live energy and leaving a slick yet underwhelming sound. Kind of what they did with Petra in those years. But I digress.

Anyway, long story short, there was an attempt to remaster and re-release the two albums, but because there was so much red tape tying everything up, the band decided it would be better to release a collection of original demos, and then re-record the second album entirely.

Loud And Proud was the collection of original demos. Originally released on the Magdalan/M8 label in 2001, it was then re-released on the Retroactive Records with two extra tracks in 2007. The edition I have is the M8 version, and this is what this review is based on.

The music contained on Loud And Proud is what you would come to expect from X-Sinner — loud, heavy three chord hard rock in the vein of Krokus, Helix, early Def Leppard and yes, AC/DC. The production is raw on the songs, as these are demos; there are three songs that I could recognize as having been included in the first two releases later: an early, raw version of “Medicine” that, while rather good, I think I prefer the 1989 studio version better; “No Where To Run”, which is an early version of what would become “Walking Evil”, the production on this rather sub-par quality, muffled and such; and “Got To Let Go”, which became “Gotta Let Go” on the Peace Treaty release, this one having good quality and a good early 80s AC/DC style with vocals that go between Bon Scott and Billy Squire in the execution. There’s only one other song on this collection that is of such bad quality — “A Cut Above” — that it’s pretty much unlistenable. Otherwise, the majority of the demos included in here have some good production, and feature some catchy guitar hooks and riffs. “No Way Back”, “Turn It Up”, “X-Sinner”, “Reap What You Sow”, “Shame”, and “Last Call” are some pretty good heavy rockers. “Eyes Of Fire” didn’t really do much for me, but it’s not bad. There is an instrumental version of “Last Call” that’s not too bad. I do need to point out that the full version of “Last Call” skips slightly 2/3rds of the way through the song. It’s a bit distracting.

Overall, for what is essentially a compilation of demo songs, Loud And Proud is a pretty good collection of raw yet very good hard rock that’s more than your standard look back at early versions of song favorites. Recommended for the X-Sinner fans, worth a look for fans of no frills hard rock.

Music Review: NECROBLATION – Stab Your Self

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necroblation - stab your selfNECROBLATION
Stab Your Self
Independent
2015

The second full-length release from Swiss death metal group Necroblation continues on in the thick, crunchy old-school style of Death Metal that made their debut album such a joy to listen to.

Beginning with the acoustic guitar instrumental “Prelude In D Minor”, the album really kicks in with “Cut My Foreskin”, a brutal furious Death Metal cut with a good groove hook and a face-melting solo riff. The following cuts — “Materialistic Plague” and “Invocation — continue in the same vein of Death Metal goodness; “Child Of Illusion”, the full-non-acoustic version here, is a dark, doomy cut, very good one. “Uncontrolled Rate” is a brief 30-second grindcore bit with a belch at the end, which leads into the grinding “Gehenna”; “Self-Elevation & Chaos” has a good technical riff, essentially an instrumental with a jazzy structure; this is followed by another instrumental — “The Standing Nature” — that is dark with a clean guitar riff; ending the album is a remix of “Rotten To The Core”, a song from the previous album.

Overall, the production and writing are steps above the previous release, resulting in a good, solid and multi-textured Death Metal release that has stayed in my player for quite some time. As a follow-up to their debut, Stab Your Self is heads and tails a much better effort, the only real complaint I would have that there could have been a couple more full-length songs added in, instead of the two consecutive instrumentals and the remix of a song from the previous album. Otherwise, this is highly recommended Death Metal, here.

Music Review: DARKFIELD ILLUMINATOR – Glimmer

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darkfield illuminator glimmerDARKFIELD ILLUMINATOR
Glimmer
Independent
2008

Back in 2006, I briefly wrote wrote reviews for an online industrial music magazine that was published by Flamming Fish Music. One of the reviews I was assigned was for the debut release of the band called Darkfield Illuminator. That album review was for Glimmer, the unedited review of which I published on one of the previous blogs I maintained after my tenure at the magazine was over. The thing is, during the consolidation into this one blog here, somehow that original review was lost. So, now I’m writing this review to replace that review. Because I can.

If I remember correctly, Darkfield Illuminator was primarily a husband/wife team, at least studio-wise. They play (or plays…I can’t seem to find any indication that they’re still active as a unit) a kind of industrial style that mixes that along with metal and Gothic styles into a blend that’s harsh yet atmospheric and dark. Their listing on the Firestream Music Vault lists their influences as Circle Of Dust, Bauhaus, The Violet Burning, and Living Sacrifice. That’s quite the eclectic list, there; which lends to the interesting type of sound on Glimmer.

The album starts with the track “Eyes”, which is a mid-paced, dark industrial tune that has clean guitars that kick into a fuzzed guitar tone later into the song, with some distorted female vocals. Throughout the album, the songs alternate between more aggressive industrial, with heavy distortion on the guitars and vocals, like on “Aversion”, “Kiss”, “Silent Whisper” and “Dust”, and a darker, mid-paced almost Gothic tinged texture, like on “Gleam”, “Crush”, and the album closer “Mystery”, whereas the track “Damaged” is more experimental electronic. The vocals alternate between distorted and clean, male and female sometimes respectively. The production is a bit on the raw side, but given this was an independent release–no doubt probably done on a home studio setup, wild speculation on my part mind you–it sounds very good, though it tends to get a bit on the harsh side of things once in a while.

Overall, Glimmer is a pretty good release of multi-textured hybrid industrial. The CD and album download are still available on CD Baby, where I got my copy back in the day. I would recommend giving this one a look.

Music Review: NECROBLATION – Ablation Of Death

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NECROBLATION - Ablation Of DeathNECROBLATION
Ablation Of Death
Suisa
2013

Ladies and gentlemen (and all points in-between), let me introduce you to my new favorite death metal find: Necroblation. Yeah, I was once again surfing about on the fetid waters of the interwebs one evening, and happened upon the Bandcamp page for these guys. I don’t even recall the path I took that had me end up on there, but lo and behold I found myself marveling at the audio clips and immediately keyed into information to purchase the downloads of their two release from the site. Sweet, sweet death metal goodness was mine.

Hailing from Switzerland and forming in 2010, Ablation Of Death is the band’s first full-length release, on the now-defunct Suisa label. The metal on this album leans toward the Euro-Melodo-Death style, keeping things heavy and brutal while incorporating elements of technical death and some black metal bits, without being afraid to let the thrash side of things happen when it needs to. The album opens with the title track, “Ablation Of Death”, which immediately goes for the jugular with its fast and furious death metal assault, complete with the standard death growls and lower registering shrieks, and on interesting jazzy riff; “Mind Mutilation” continues with the brutal goodness, with blast beats that will melt your face off and some nice technical riffing; “Prisoner Of The Past” has kind of a melododeath, mid-paced blackened pace going on. Good riff on that one; “Human Slave” is also mid-paced, heavy with a good crunchy groove going; “Rotten To The Core” is a good, thrashy death metal cut, with a fast and furious riff; “Struggle” starts off dark and doomy, then progresses into a faster thrashy bit; Sublime Cadaveric’s Resurrection” settles into a heavy groove after a blastbeat assault that will leave you with the warm tinglies; “Path Of Daggers” has a good, heavy and straight-forward thrashy death metal riff going; “Devil Slayer” has a friggin’ amazing METAL riff, melodic and thrashy; the album ender, “Child Of Illusion (Acoustic Version)” is essentially an instrumental version of a song that would end up on the following release, ths one done with acoustic guitars and bongos. Kind of a mellow way to end such an otherwise solid album of death metal goodness, but eh, whatever.

Overall, Ablation Of Death was a much-needed infusion of Death Metal goodness that came after a bit of a dry period. The production is a bit on the raw side, but that in no way distracts from the whiplash you’re going to gladly receive after popping this thing in. Highly recommended.

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