Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – Hard And Heavy From Down Under

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hard and heavy from down underVARIOUS ARTISTS
Hard And Heavy From Down Under
Rugged Records / Rowe Productions

So, since I finished up the reviews of the remaining Australian Metal Compilation releases, I felt it was appropriate to do a review of the American release that featured cuts from Australian metal bands, Hard And Heavy From Down Under. I’ve only seen this CD once, at a small family owned Christian bookstore tucked away inside one of the malls in Omaha, Nebraska back in the mid-1990s, within their paltry “Rock” section of the music wall. Hardly any information as to the history behind this release can be found, although there are entries on the standard music archive sites that I use for research.

Hard And Heavy From Down Under was essentially a collaboration between Rowe Productions, which released the original Australian Metal Compilations, and Rugged Records, which started up as a label in the early to mid-1990s as a place for old 80s metal bands to retire to, originally. Then it turned into yet another alternative type label, but that’s for a different rant. Anyway, from what I could gather, this was released here in America as an easier way for us Yank metalheads to check out the bands on the Rowe Production label from Australia, without paying exhuberant shipping prices.

The compilation starts with a cut from Mortification, “Peace In The Galaxy”, which first appeared on the EnVision EvAngeline release. Interesting way to kick things off. Next is two cuts from the band Cry Mercy, “Time To Go” and “D. A. M.”, both from their self-titled release. Then, it’s some death metal goodness from Metanoia — “Acute Obliteration” and “Dimensions Of Life” — both from the In Darkness Or In Light release. Then it’s the three-part Plague suite by Screams Of Chaos (“Fighting For Breath”, “The New World” and “Destroy The Plague”), which was lifted from the second Australian Metal Compilation release, Raise The Dead. But, that’s not all this compilation lifted from that release, as there are two cuts from Embodiment that were found only on the Raise The Dead compilation (“Loophole”, “Incorporate Body”). And we’re not done pilfering from the Australian Metal Compilation series, as these are followed by a couple of cuts from the hardcore band Callous that appeared on the third Australian Metal Compilation (“Hate” and “The Mind That Rots”), and then two cuts from Ethereal Scourge that appeared on the second Australian Metal Compilation (“Death Of Hades” and “Tombthroat”).

Back in the day, when I first encountered this CD, I held off purchasing it because, save for the two Cry Mercy cuts, I already had all the songs on here. And even though I didn’t have the two Cry Mercy songs, I did have one, “Shut Up And Listen”, from the first Australian Metal Compilation. I was good. Even now, I just picked it up as a curiosity. To me, this wasn’t that big of a deal, as I mentioned, I already had everything this sampler featured. But, if you’re not really up on the global Metal community, here’s a good crosscut of what used to be on the Rowe Productions label back in the day. Worth a look, if you can find one at a good discounted price somewhere.


Music Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS – The Extreme Truth

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the extreme truthVARIOUS ARTISTS
Australian Metal Compilation III: The Extreme Truth
Rowe Productions

Third entry in the Australian Metal Compilation series from Rowe Productions. When I first picked this one up with the others back in 1997, I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Not as much as the first two, at least. Over time, though, like a lot of other releases that I didn’t like when I was younger and much more stupid, The Extreme Truth‘s roster has grown on me.

The disc starts off with four cuts from hardcore punk band Callous (“Why”, “Hate”, “Stop”, and “The Mind That Rots”, no info on if they came from a specific demo, but the band went on to be called Three Times Fire), moves on to three cuts from the death metal band Sanhedrin (“Not Worth”, “Creation” and “Gates Of Death”, from their self-titled demo from 1994), only one Screams Of Chaos track, which is evidently titled “Screams Of Chaos”, and is nothing like what I expected, three tracks from the doom metal band Desolate Eternity (“Without Time”, “Graveyard In The Snow”, and “Wastelands”), and the entirety of the Karrionic Hacktician album from old school grindcore band Vomitorial Corpulence. I’m not going to type out the entire track list here. You can find it on the Metal Archives site if you’re wondering about that.

Again, like the others in the Australian Metal Compilation releases, The Extreme Truth serves its purpose well by exposing Midwest Americans like myself to various talents that otherwise would have never been heard from before the internet became much more accessible. Even now, it’s hard to get information on some of the bands listed, outside of either the aforementioned Metal Archives site, or the Firestream Music Vault site. Of the bands listed on here, I gravitate more towards the cuts from Sanhedrin, Desolate Eternity and Vomitorial Corpulence (this being my first ever exposure to old-school grindcore, I found myself saying “Wait…that’s it? That’s the entire song?” more often than not). Callous is serviceable, and the Screams Of Chaos track is…well, I tend to skip over that one, mainly because of how it doesn’t seem to fit with their output previous and since then.

Really more of a split CD than a compilation, if you really want to be pedantic about this (and I normally do), The Extreme Truth is worth a look, if you come across this sometime.

Music Review: RACKETS & DRAPES – Candyland

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rackets and drapes - candylandRACKETS & DRAPES

It’s amazing how, all these years now, and I have yet to publish my official review of one of the albums that was kind of a paradigm shift for me back in the day. You would think that would have been one of my first reviews of Rackets & Drapes’ discography. But, for whatever reason that eludes all logic in me, I have held off, put off, and subsequently never gotten around to doing a proper review of their very first full-length release, Candyland.Well, since this year–2018–marks the 20th anniversary since the release of Candyland, I figure better late than never.

Released independently at first, but then re-released through MCM Music after being signed to that label, Candyland was a rather ambitious and curious release at the time. The entire pop culture world was still reeling from the sudden rise of darker, scarier music from the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and the new wave of Goth children. While the Christian music scenes did feature a thriving industrial and Goth rock underground of sorts, there had yet to be a genuine shock rock band to shake things up. Well, outside of Alice Cooper, who just had come out of the confessional closet as a Christian a few years earlier. Enter Colorado band Rackets & Drapes, and the release of Candyland.

While the band described themselves as “shock rock”, the music on Candyland is a dark and thick blend of industrial, punk, death rock and Gothic theatrics, with songs that tackle taboo and controversial topics with unblinking glee that makes normal Shiny Happy Christians (TM) a bit squeamish: abortion, child and domestic abuse, homelessness, child abducitons…yeah, these guys made it clear that they were scary for a purpose. And for me, this was a God-send, as I was exploring the darker expressions of my faith, through the Goth / industrial / black metal subcultures. I embraced Candyland with gusto, and it quickly became one of my soundtracks to my faith.

20 years later, and I still revisit Candyland frequently. It’s still has a raw punk aestetic, and the songs still pack a punch. One thing I never understood was why Rackets & Drapes were immediately slagged with the “Marilyn Manson rip-off” tag; even now I still come across it, which clearly indicates that no one really bothered to listen to the album. Regardless, I still hold the band and Candyland in general in high regard. If you can find a copy, pick it up and give it a listen, or twelve.


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darkfield illuminator glimmerDARKFIELD ILLUMINATOR

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: DROTTNAR – Stratum

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Endtime Productions

I have to give Norwegian act Drottnar their due: They managed to evolve their style and sound over the years from the standard Viking Metal and Black Metal sound to something of a uniquely progressive Black Metal sound on their recent release Stratum. They could have stuck with the tried and true style, but instead they forged ahead, creating something equally magnificent and complex.

Somehow, this second full-length release (not counting Spiritual Battle, which is technically a compilation release) escaped my attention when it was initially released in 2012. Considering what I was going through at the time, I’m not too surprised about that, actually. But again, far besides the point.

Stratum was recorded by the band in 2009, but wasn’t released until 2012 for reasons I am unable to find online. Regardless, despite the six year gap between releases, Drottnar showed that they could very well experiment and forge their own progressive path, rather than remain content with following trends.

The music on Stratum starts with a foundation of Black Metal and Technical Death Metal. But, as immediately evidenced by the opening track “We March”, there’s some well thought-out technical aspects to the music, with odd time signatures and rhythm structures, like this was the logical progression of Believer’s Dimensions release. Yet, none of the raw, brutal intensity is sacrificed whatsoever. You get all the face-blasting and skin-blistering riffs, with a progressive technicality that will give you severe whiplash, along with some industrial elements for some tasty texture throughout.

Overall, Stratum is fantastic. It’s tight, it’s brutal, it’s not your usual Black/Death Metal album. If you’re a fan of the later Extol releases, or certain points of the band Nomicon, or just want something brutal yet not your typical stuff, check this one out.


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APRIL 8, 2017

Not even having a massive head cold will stop Uncle NecRo from dispensing the Brutal Music Therapy!

Featuring cuts from:

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.

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