Anaal Nathrakh - The Codex Necro (Grimm)
Slayer; Akercocke; Dark Throne; Deicide; Emperor; Mayhem - all have released pseudo-heavy albums, stamping their hooves into the maelstrom that is metal, pleasing some, delighting others with their noisy wares. This has been a great year for extreme music.
And then, before you know it, an album comes along out of the blue and wipes the floor clean with the aforementioned acts, an album of such vicious insanity that one play alone is all that's needed to leave you sitting there feeling you've just been interfered with in an obscene and nasty way.
Two gentlemen from the UK are responsible for this soundtrack for Armageddon, Mr VITRIOL and the curiously named Mr Irrumator. Theirs is a vile, blasphemous talent, dissatisfied with the more 'diluted' black metal spectrum, they have taken the very essence of brutal, violent black metal and dragged it kicking and screaming back to the early days of Bathory and Venom, when it was despised, feared, and spat upon by the great unwashed. Where Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir have made pains to express their creativity and insist that black metal can be more than just 'noise', AN have abducted and murdered their vision, dismembering the 'progressiveness' to it's basic, primitive form.
Take this quote from vocalist VITRIOL, "There is filthy black shit in our hearts, and as long as it is there we will continue to pump it out to the detriment of the outside world."
Opener 'The supreme necrotic audnance' slowly slithers out of your speaker before THIS NOISE blasts forth, as if some foul devil sees a gap and bursts out of hell, growling unrecognisable incantations with high-pitch screams of demonic desperation. It just doesn't let up, from the deceivingly broody 'When humanity is cancer' to the scream-sampled 'The technogoat' to the truly horrendous closer of the title track itself, this, if you'll excuse my French, is... just... so... fucked... up.
Pig Destroyer - Prowler In The Park (Relapse)
"Stitched together into this beautiful monster animated by starlight pose like a fashion corpse and shed your denim skin, my love it is just a skull full of chlorine in the septic tank" - 'Heart and Crossbones'
Welcome to the weird and sickly world of Pig Destroyer, an ugly Grindcore trio from the US. Theirs is a sound devoid of bass, the main bulk of the tracks on offer here just loud, ugly guitars courtesy of Scott Hull, the pounding, awesome drumming of Brian Harvey and the ghastly vocal style of the twisted individual JR Hayes. No bassist, and, listening to this immense racket, you wouldn't miss it, believe me.
The album opens with the strange spoken word piece 'Jennifer', beginning a weird tale of licking eyeballs and masturbating voyeurs then charges into 'Cheerleader corpses', and for the next 35 minutes or so your sense will be barraged with blast beats, unnatural catchy riffs and the horrid black poetry of said vocalist. Some tracks are two minutes long, coming across as the younger brother of Cannibal Corpse, others last twenty seconds, (thank you Napalm Death) such is the way with Grindcore.
It's difficult to recommend this; you'll either like it or you won't, for unlike black metal, Grindcore never really 'got hip'. Still, if the voices in your head were telling you to stab to death then dismember and eat your neighbour, this would be the perfect musical companion.
Sodom - M-16 (SPV)
Veteran German thrashers Sodom again churn out another album of war-obsessed tunes, and where once this was a time for rejoicing, it's now become embarrassing.
It's really hard to imagine that this is the same band (rather, original vocalist/bassist Tom Angelripper, they've gone through so many band changes it's difficult to keep a count) that released the brilliant "Persecution Mania" and it's hugely successful successor "Agent Orange". And perhaps there lies the problem. Dunno what ole Tom is like to work for, but he just can't keep a stable line-up, and where other long-time bands (e.g. Slayer) can read each other like a book and know just what makes each other tick, here Tom must have a pain in his arse breaking yet another new guitarist in. Oh shit, the drummer just quit. Best get a new one, so.
And sadly, the song writing suffers because of it. I mean, 'Napalm in the morning' (complete with Robert Duval sample), 'Marines' (They're fighting for YOU!"), 'I am the war'? This is second-rate Sodom, laughable piss-poor thrash, and it's a damn shame. It's also frustrating, as their last release 'Code red' was the best Sodom album in years. Again they promised so much, again they disappoint.
And surely Tom must realise that using producer Harris Johns is a hit-and-miss affair? He can do a great job, but then, as with this release he can make a mess of things also. Here's a thought - wouldn't it be cool if a Rick Rubin or a Ross Robinson produced the next Sodom album?
One final thing - Germans singing about all things war and 'Genocide', (yes, an actual song title) one wonders what they make of the US TV series 'Band of Brothers'?
Black Widows - Dark Side Of An Angel (Recital)
Best way to tell you about this is that when listening to it one evening my wife, who's no stranger to all things metal, suddenly turned round to me and snarled rather nastily "Will you please turn that OFF!"
So much for Black Widows, then, four Gothic chicks from Portugal who, judging from their press release photo, wear corpse paint and black frilly dresses. Oh wait, that's NOT corpse paint? Oh. Ah. Dear oh dear.
Well, they try hard, bless.
Crackout - This Is Really Neat (Hut)
And believe me when I say this really is, this has got to be one of the more inspiring record releases this year.
Three young lads from Buckingham, England, Stephen Eagles guitar & vocals, Jack Dunkley bass and Nicholas Millard drums have released an album that, if you enjoy any of the following genres - punk, hardcore and emo - will literally blow you away.
What's remarkable about this album is how un-English it sounds, it's perhaps the most Americanised UK record I've ever heard, and if I didn't have their press release in front of me I'd swear they were from California. Perhaps because this was recorded in Austin, Texas with producer David Eaton, chosen by the band 'cos they so loved an album he recorded with obscure Austin emocore outfit Dynamite Hack.
Whether they deliberately set out to capture this US sound or not, 'tis your songs that are gonna sell your album, and judging with what's on offer here this should sell by the bucketfuls.
Tracks like the sing-a-long 'I am the one', or album highlight 'Joey lost his mind' (complete with Sepultura-style tribal drumming intro!), the buzz-punk of 'Breakout', or the slow, claustrophobic build-up to the raucous 'Empty Head', this hasn't left my stereo since I got it last week. Trust me, if you're a fan of the likes of Far, Weezer, Quicksand and the hugely underrated Sense Field then you're gonna go nuts for this.
Crackout will be HUGE. Just watch this space.
Slayer - God Hates Us All (Mercury Records)
Almost twenty years after their formation the Gods of metallic noise, Slayer, return with their not-too-subtly-titled "God Hates Us All" opus. The great thing about Slayer is that over all the years nothing has changed. You can always be guaranteed anger, ferocious blast-beats and military-esque guitar attacks.
It's all still here.
Lyrically Slayer, especially King who wrote most of the lyrics here, are returning to familiar ground namely, the Bible. Subtle is one thing you could never call these guys and, with lyrics like "I keep the Bible in a pool of blood/so that none of its lies can affect me" and "I won't be force-fed prophecies/from a book of untruths" ('New Faith'), you can't really accuse them of beating around the bush. We are also given Slayer's take on the seven deadly sins in 'Seven Faces', "I've seen all seven faces/each one looks a lot like me".
Other stand-out tracks are 'Disciple', 'Bloodline' and the aptly-titled
'War Zone', in that it is delivered with attack style military precision and razor-sharp guitars. The twin guitar blast on 'Threshold' backs up the aggressive vocals, while the drums pound you into the dirt and smash your face.
Powerful stuff. Slayer have returned.
Agnostic Front - Dead Yuppies (Epitaph)
No matter how the face of music may change or has changed since, well, forever, one band you can always count on being the same are Agnostic Front. After nearly two decades of playing together, the Godfathers of Hardcore's tenth album may not show any great leaps forward musically, but it sure as hell doesn't show them backing down any either.
The formula is still the same old tried and tested anger-anthem played loud and fast ('I wanna know', 'Love to be hated'), always best accompanied by the waving of fists and the chanting of youths tired of being put down by the System. Nothing that can be written about Agnostic Front can capture their spirit and determination in terms that someone who is unfamiliar with the band can understand. Go and buy the album.