Music Review: CRUSHING THE DECEIVER – Crushing The Deceiver

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crushing the deceiverCRUSHING THE DECEIVER
Crushing The Deceiver
Roxx Records
2018

Over the past few months, I’ve known about California outfit Crushing The Deceiver by way of Facebook. I’ve been following the various posts made teasing the songs for the upcoming self-titled debut release. So when it finally was released through Roxx Records, I picked up a digital copy on Amazon and immediately gave it a couple of play-throughs in my ongoing attempt to be more timely with my newer release reviews on here.

Having not knowing anything about the band or their music — I chose not to listen to the pre-releases song samples and just buy sight unseen, in a manner of speaking — beyond seeing their genre listed as “Thrash” and “Death Metal” on the Metal-Archives site, I didn’t entirely know what to expect. The cover art was fairly decent, so what do we have with the music?

The opening track, “An Angel’s Armor”, kicks off with battle sound effects and a guy admonishing the listener to stand for Jesus, so right off the bat there’s no mystery as to where the band is coming from lyrically. That’s always nice. Then there’s a thrashy guitar riff that happens, before it settles to a mid-paced metalcore plod along pace, with the vocals effecting a kind of grunt-shout typical of the hardcore/metalcore genre. But, this was merely the first track, not the best way to judge an entire album. “The Light Inside Of Me” is a bit faster riff, but I couldn’t help but notice that the production seemed a bit thin, with the guitar work being a bit sloppy, kind of a home demo-ish quality going. “Guide The Way To You” incorporates a Djent-style chunk-chunk riff, while “Pushing Back Hell” goes with a slightly different variation of the same kind of basic deathcore riff, while the drum trigger programming is far more pronounced and noticeable here.

So, here we are at the mid-point of the album, and I was beginning to think that the remaining four songs were going to be more of the same kind of mediocre metalcore. But, after the acoustic opening on “Crushing The Deceiver”, the song then surprised me by ripping into a proper thrash metal riff, keeping things fast and furious throughout, and while it seemed to lose cohesion a bit near the end, is actually a good thrash song. Fortunately, this isn’t just one fluke, as “Born Again” and “Forever Free” both keep up the thrashing pace, both decently good cuts, production quality notwithstanding. The final song, “Gabriel’s Song”, is just an acoustic guitar instrumental.

Look, I have to say that I normally go into these reviews wanting to like everything that I put inside my earholes. I’m really less of a critic, and more a metal enthusiast, truth be told. I say this because, overall, I found Crushing The Deceiver as kind of a disappointment. Kind of. I found that, out of the nine songs collected on here, there are maybe three decent cuts on here that actually got my attention. The production, as I’ve mentioned before, is not that great, seemingly missing some dynamic range in the mix, with the music itself needing some tightening up. I do believe that the band works best when playing the thrash metal, and if they focused on that as well as doing a lot of spit and polish on the music and production, they could release something absolutely mind-blowing. As it stands, Crushing The Deceiver shows promise, but isn’t something to rush out for.

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Music Review: BEHOLD THE KINGDOM – The Eyes Of The Wicked Will Fail

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behold the kingdom - the eyes of the wicked will failBEHOLD THE KINGDOM
The Eyes Of The Wicked Will Fail
Rottweiler Records
2011

I’ll start things off by stating that my first impression of Behold the Kingdom’s only full-length release — The Eyes of The Wicked Will Fail — was not too favorable. Or fair, if you want to get right down to it. When I first attempted to listen to this album, I was…in a mood, let’s just say. Thus, when I popped The Eyes Of The Wicked Will Fail into the NEKRON-7’s stereo system, and the opening intro track “We Are Zion (Prayer Of The Messiah)” began, I immediately shut it off, as I was not in the mood for another pretentious cheesy metalcore album. I didn’t get beyond the first track. But, now I have, and now I have to say, whoopee.

After getting past the intro track (still not a fan of that, by the way), the first proper track — “Restoration” — manages to lay one flat with some straight-forward face blasting deathcore. Turns out, the majority of the tracks on The Eyes Of The Wicked Will Fail feature the brutal blastbeats, heavy rhythms and some good riffs with your standard breakdowns, with some Djent influences here and there, and a couple of cuts verging into death metal territory. The standout cuts for me were “El Shaddai”, “Cut You Down” and “Prideful Demise”. “Fall Of The Philistines” is another short, 50-second instrumental with spoken word and an ambient movie soundtrack type music, while “The Valley Of Elah” has a good technical-sounding riff to end the album with.

Overall, I wasn’t expecting much with The Eyes Of The Wicked Will Fail, but I did find it more enjoyable than my low expectations were letting on. It was straight-up deathcore with some texture, rather than your standard paint-by-numbers metalcore I was expecting. Pity Behold The Kingdom has called it a day after releasing this one. Regardless, The Eyes Of The Wicked Will Fail is worth checking out.

Music Review: DARKNESS BEFORE DAWN – Kings To You

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darkness before dawn - kings to youDARKNESS BEFORE DAWN
Kings To You
Bombworks Records
2009

Darkness Before Dawn was a death metal band that existed between 2004 and apparently only split up in 2017. Which is interesting, as I seem to recall them being listed as “split-up” on the Metal Archives site years previous. Maybe I’m remembering wrong. Either way, they only managed to release an EP and this full-length, Kings To You. Obviously, I’ll be reviewing the full-length release. They don’t call me Captain Obvious for nothing. Actually, no one calls me that. *sigh* Anyway…

Kings To You was released in 2009 on the Bombworks Records label. If you would grasp for a good catch-all subgenre label for the band’s sound, you could go with your standard Death metal, but it’s not quite adept a descriptor. I would say that the music on Kings To You leans more toward melodic death metal with some roots in the deathcore style, utilizing both atmospheric keyboards while throwing in a heavy breakdown here and there. The songs vary between mid-paced and furiously heavy, showcasing some very heavy riffs and technical rhythms that will churn your insides while chilling your soul with the keyboards darkening the textures up, with something of a Folk Metal style on “Material Existence”.

Overall, Kings To You is a good, solid collection of melodic death metal hybrid that, for some reason I can’t really put my finger on, comes close to pushing over the edge, but not quite. It is, however, a satisfying bit of death metal brutality that does the trick in a pinch.

Music Review: BECOMING SAINTS – Oh, The Suffering

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becoming saints oh the sufferingBECOMING SAINTS
Oh, The Suffering
Rottweiler Records
2016

So, there I was, December of 2016, getting ready to meet some friends for some Korean barbecue and taking in a showing of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Because it was my annual Lament of my Day of Birth (what you normals refer to as your “birthday”), I thought I’d treat myself to a newer release from the Rottweiler Records family, from a band called Becoming Saints. This was a band that looked promising: They were advertised as featuring a former member of one of my favorite modern death metal bands, Soul Embraced. And Rottweiler has proven themselves to be pretty consistent as far as extreme metal goes, so I bought the album Oh, The Suffering and loaded it up on my media player to give it a listen on the way to meeting the Exalted Geeks at the Korean barbecue place.

Okay, so first of all, I do want to point out that the claim of having a former Soul Embraced member is correct: that would be Jeff Bowe, who played bass on the Dead Alive release. Not exactly a long-time or founding member, but you can’t say they’re lying, either. Also, Oh, The Suffering is their second release, having an EP titled Let This Not Be The End Of Me released independently the year prior. Now, on to the music…

I have to say, right off the bat, that I really wanted to like Oh, The Suffering. I was rather stoked by the description, and the album artwork seemed on target. Also, it was on Rottweiler Records, which has been fairly consistent with putting out the quality good stuff, as I mentioned earlier. But, after a few listens, I still couldn’t really get into the album as much as other reviewers seemed to have.

Mind you, lest you think I’m calling Oh, The Suffering garbage, I am not. I’m going to start with the positives, because I’m the type of guy who actually goes into reviewing albums wanting to like it and find something great about it. And, there are some bright spots on Oh, The Suffering: The production quality is excellent, and the music is pretty tight for what it is. Song-wise, there is a small handful of standout tracks that I liked, such as “Oath”, “Vox Mortem”, and “Unbroken”. The songs are not your typical deathcore type, as they really do try for something different and experimental, for which I give the band props for doing.

Unfortunately, though, I fear that it’s this very thing that makes it hard for me to really get into Oh, The Suffering. It’s kind of like they were going for a mix of Djent metalcore style mixed with the electronic indie rock that’s been prevalent recently with bands like Imagine Dragons. The result is like mixing clay with iron; you get a heavy yet basic variation of the Djent riff with breakdown beats and a shout-style vocals, then it suddenly shifts into the EBM indie rock with a rather mismatched melodic singing. It’s not exactly mixing genres, rather than abruptly shifting between two genres, back and forth. The aforementioned cuts that I did like stuck with a more straight-forward deathcore style.

There’s a couple of more ambient electronic instrumentals included: “Mother Teresa”, which features quotes from the famed nun, and “Deo Paso”. The album then ends with “Time”, more of a guitar-and-singing minimalist indie thing. And, I guess I would be remiss to not mention that Living Sacrifice’s Bruce Fitzbugh guests on the song “Lost”. Had no one told me, I wouldn’t have noticed.

So, overall, I’m afraid that I was rather underwhelmed with Oh, The Suffering. I get what they’re trying to go for, but there’s some work to be done. I actually do like the inclusion of electronics in the deathcore style, as War Of Ages have been employing it on the last couple of albums to good effect. I’m certain I’m in the minority, here, but I’m going to have to give Oh, The Suffering a soft pass for now. Maybe in the future I’ll dust this off and give it another look; but for now, I’mma move on to something else.

Music Review: DEMON HUNTER – Live In Nashville

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demon hunter live in nashvillDEMON HUNTER
Live In Nashville
Solid State Records
2009

Something I’ve always wondered about Demon Hunter is, what are they like live? Mainly because, despite what you think of them, you have to admit that they have a rather layered and complex sound going than your standard metalcore / deathcore / NWOAHM style that you labeled them with. The vocal harmonies and melodies often made me wonder how they pull it off in a live setting. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to hit Omaha very often when they are on tour, and when they did I wasn’t exactly as big of a fan than I am now, so I didn’t go out to see them and discover how they are live for myself.

Fortunately, Solid State Records stopped ignoring my calls and letters, and released Live In Nashville. This is essentially the audio version of the live show filmed for the second DVD on the 45 Days documentary set that was released the year prior to this. This set was recorded at Rockettown in Nashville, during their Stronger Than Hell tour with Living Sacrifice. That sounded like an awesome show, that. I wish they would have recorded Living Sacrifice’s set as well. I also wish to one day ride a unicorn, but that’s probably not going to happen, either.

Here, they play cuts from their 2002 self-titled debut (“Infected”), 2004’s Summer Of Darkness (“My Heartstrings Come Undone” and “Not Ready To Die”), 2005’s The Triptych (“Ribcage”, “The Soldier’s Song”, “Undying”, and “The Flame that Guides Us Home/Not I”), and of course, the album they were touring for, 2007’s Storm The Gates Of Hell (“Storm The Gates Of Hell”, “Lead Us Home”, “I Am You”, “Carry Me Down”, “Fading Away”, “Follow The Wolves”, and “Sixteen”). After a nice atmospheric instrumental leading up to the famous “Dine in Hell!” clip from the movie 300, Demon Hunter rips into their set, sending everyone into a frenzy (I presume…it’s not like I can actually see them like I could on the DVD or anything, but in my head they’re all going berserk).

As far as how they handle playing their songs live…they do so admirably. Obviously, they don’t reproduce everything exactly like they do on the studio albums. Unless they were pulling a Top Of The Pops and “playing along” to a prerecorded track, that is. They sound live and raw, with no discernible overdubbing, keeping things organic with the execution. And that makes this rather fantastic as a live album.

So, there you go. If you love Demon Hunter, or even just like them, and haven’t had the chance to check them out live, Live In Nashville is the next best thing, while waiting for them to show up in your neck of the woods, methinks.

Music Review: ABATED MASS OF FLESH – Moth And Rust In the Temple Of Putridity

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ABATED MASS OF FLESH - Moth And Rust In the Temple Of PutridityABATED MASS OF FLESH
Moth And Rust In the Temple Of Putridity
Martyrdom Records
2011

Abated Mass Of Flesh is one of those bands that I really wanted to like. I kept hearing good things about the band, and the fact that they were signed to Rottweiller Records at the time is what got me to purchase a number of their albums before listening to them. Do I regret doing so? Not really. But, that’s besides the point.

I did purchase Abated Mass Of Flesh’s first release–Moth And Rust In the Temple Of Putridity–in the spirit of continually giving ’em the benefit of the doubt. That, and probably being a bit OCD with the collection. Missing even one of the releases would make me feel…weird. I had to catch ’em all, as the young people are fond of saying. I think that’s what they say. Eh, young people confuse me.

This first release of theirs is an EP, with seven tracks clocking in at a grand total of just-under 22 minutes in length. Which, really, is the perfect running time for the kind of Br00tal Death Metal these guys play. This being their first release, there are some decent ideas here, the songs having more of a mid-paced groove to them than the kind of chaotic deathcore they would settle into. Mind you, there’s bits of that here in the music. As a matter of fact, I would say that the biggest downfall to this album (EP? It does have the general amount of tracks for a full-length, but only clocks in at a bit less than half an hour…gads…) is how the songs all seem to blend together, like the same riffs were being recycled. There are some decent ideas being formed here; the vocals utilized are mostly the ultra-guttorial type, with the insufferable pig squealing that happens on future releases only rearing its ugly head on the final cut “True Vision”. The production seems a bit on the thin side, but not that big of a deal in this case. I have to say, though, that the drums sounded rather thin as well, almost processed sounding on “Undeserved”.

Overall, this first independent release by Abated Mass Of Flesh is listenable, standard grinding deathcore. There are no solos, and the entire things comes off as monotone and, really, kind of forgettable. In other words, this is an Abated Mass Of Flesh album, nothing more, nothing less.

Music Review: ABATED MASS OF FLESH – Brutal Death

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abated mass of flesh - brutal deathABATED MASS OF FLESH
Brutal Death
Rottweiler Records
2013

In 2013, Tennessee-based deathcore outfit Abated Mass Of Flesh released their second EP on the Rottweiler Records label, entitled Brutal Death. Clocking in at 18 minutes, Brutal Death continues on in the “BR00TAL” deathcore style that their first release brought forth, your basic mid-paced chunky death metal riffs, backed-up septic tank style vocals, no solos, , some blastbeats and some movie clips thrown in here and there. In other words, your standard serviceable slab of basic deathcore, with not much deviation therein, which has the effect of things getting rather monotonous and stale mid-way through. And there are only seven tracks on here. The production is good, though, so that’s a plus mark there. Also, at no time do they venture into the whole “pig squeal” vocal territory. They come close on the track “Iniquitous Decimation”, but they don’t, so another plus in their favor.

Really, I can’t find much to talk about Brutal Death, other than it’s a decent bit of grinding deathcore brutality that kind of gets stale after a bit. It’s definitely not bad, as I’ve heard worse from the genre; but my attention began to wander, and for an EP length that isn’t even 20 minutes long, that’s not exactly working in favor of relistenability for me.

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