Distorted reviews - 14/09/02.
Vader - Revelations (Metal Blade Records)
One of the downsides to writing music reviews is that occasionally someone will come long and collar you regarding something you wrote that they didn't approve of. "How can you say that about them?" they'd rage, upset that a total stranger wrote something they didn't agree with about their favourite band. End of the day, all I can say is that it's only my opinion, folks. Doesn't make me right, nor does it make me wrong.
But it's my opinion that Poland's Vader has released the most devastating death metal album of 2002, if not metal per see. "Revelations" just storms, it's an incredible album. It's their 'Reign in Blood', that rare frantic rush you get from your first listen of a classic record in the making. In fact, I would dare say that Vader are now playing Slayer the way Slayer used to play, with hunger, aggression, conviction.
Take opener 'Epitaph', for example, a slow, groovy intro builds into a rapid death-fest that rips from your speakers, with cutting guitar leads from vocalist/guitarist Peter all over the place, before suddenly taking off, hurdling at you this glorious noise, the lyrics 'How do you define the mob? KILL THEM ALL!' spat forward.
'The Nomad' bounces along, the famous Vader machinegun rhythm stomping its mark all over this, and then 'Wolftribe' kicks in, pure metal-excellence, the band showing their second-to-none musician skills, proving just why they are a force to be contended with. 'Whisper' will have you gasping for air; the sheer speed of this is breathtaking. 'When darkness calls' reminds this listener of '80's Kreator/Destruction, two huge influences on an early Vader. And album closer, the doom-laden 'Revelation of Black Moses', proves Vader isn't all about heads down break for the border. This brooding, 7-minute epic twists and coils, and is a welcome, blessed (death) relief to the madness that has gone before.
There's not one poor track on this album, and the production, handled by regular Vader knob twiddler Piotr Wiwczarck (not an Irishman) is stunning to say the least. Sodom, are you paying attention? If you are one of the unfortunate souls who have yet to hear Vader and are looking for something that will sear your face off yet have you grinning like the Cheshire cat, I can't recommend this enough. In my opinion, of course.
Raging Speedhorn - We Will Be Dead Tomorrow (ZTT)
Those noisy gits from the UK return with their second full-length album and what an 'orrible racket it is too. As soon as opener 'The hate song' blasts froth you know what you're in for, a right ole jolly rockin' time.
Raging Speedhorn is a fun, fun band. Loud, ugly bastards they may be, they aren't however as straight-faced as their fellow countrymen Napalm Death. With a black comic streak running through them that makes 'Fuck the voodooman' and 'Welcome to shitsville' so appealing, who else could have a chorus like "Fuck the evil inside" ('Chronic youth') and make it sound convincing?
And while not as face-blistering as their seminal debut, WWBDT still packs enough firepower to have the Iraqis quivering in their boots, especially if they bombard them with 'Scrapin' the resin' and 'Me and you man' back to back. So kids, feel an urge to smoke crack and worship Satan? Wanna get fucked up on cheap cider and knock the shit out of each other? Do it to Raging Speedhorn! The band that cares! This should rightly sell by the truckload.
Diabolic - Vengeance Ascending (Olympic Recordings)
Though Obituary may be gone and Deicide is floundering Satan-knows-where, the Florida scene is alive and well in the shape of Diabolic, a gruesome four piece playing old school Satanic Death Metal.
And what an unholy racket it is too, the likes of which hasn't been heard since the early '90's. 'Darken the imagination' kicks us off typical style, all grunts and screams and blastbeats and frantic leads and hyper-rhythms, the way vintage satanic death metal should be played. From 'All evils inside' to 'The Shallowed' to 'Celestial pleasures' (a homage to that most misunderstood of careers, porno) to closer 'Majestic Satanic', Diabolic play a primitive form of death metal that hardcore fans of the genre will lap up.
The musicianship is excellent, especially the drumming of Aantar "Blastmaster" Coates (it says here), and the leads from Brian Malone and Jerry Mortellaro are tuneful and memorable, which is more than can be said about the majority of DM bands out there. As for vocalist/bassist Paul Quellette, let's just say he does an adequate job of frightening little children with bedtime stories of demons and devils.
This has been out for a while now, but I thought I'd include it here, as, if you missed it first time round and you're a fan of old Morbid Angel and the late Angel Corpse, you could do a lot worse than add this to your collection.
Abscess - Through The Cracks Of Death (Peaceville)
Those of you who get teary eyes while reminiscing on those days when Autopsy stalked the earth will undoubtedly raise a gauntleted fist to heaven at the return of Chris Reifert and Danny Coralles with Abcess. Everyone else should run in fear. Things are about to get nasty.
As you would expect, this is fast, hard, lethal and about as heavy as a lead statue of a sumo. Solos are sharp and well executed within the songs and the bass sound is simply an unassailable wall. Drumming is precise and oddly subdued for such a gory death metal band. Musically there is just enough invention to keep things interesting and the guys strangle all sorts of weird sounds from their tortured instruments.
As on most death metal albums, individual tracks don't really stand out, the effect being an overall feeling of worm-ridden hell. Not exactly reinventing the wheel, but certainly painting it black and adding a few spikes here and there, Abcess play consummate heavy metal for those with a more unshakeable nature.
Everyone should own at least one death metal album, if not for the sake of open-mindedness then for the sake of terrifying old women. With that in mind, we could do a lot worse than Abcess. For even more hilarious results try playing it at your next garden party. It can't fail.
Thine - In Therapy (Peaceville)
It's hard to know what to make of Thine. They present a truly fascinating musical experience, blending progressive expansiveness and warm emotive vocals, to unusual effect. "In Therapy" is like a more forceful New Order playing abridged Dream Theatre songs. If that isn't intriguing enough, then perhaps Alan Gaunt's wistful singing or Paul Groundnell's striking lead guitar will convince you. This is a paranoidly atmospheric, with 'Homewrecker extraordinaire' being a particularly skin shrivelling delight.
Having said that, it would be nice to hear the band really let loose with their talent. Too many of the songs are mid-tempo chorus driven affairs to sustain the listener's interest through to the end and I would love to have them open up with some real metal as it sometimes seems they are threatening to.
Ultimately, Thine display their talent for disturbingly compelling tunes in what appears to be another triumph for the Peaceville label, not to mention the band themselves. From reflective ballad type numbers such as 'Last better day' to the silken Goth tendencies of 'The Bar', they have proven their mastery of several genres. Hopefully now it is time for them to be blown apart.
Pentagram - Turn To Stone (Peaceville)
Unsurprisingly, considering their name, Pentagram have been in the doom metal game for a long time, since the early seventies in fact. All those years of experience have stood them in good stead and, as such, this is a satisfyingly bowel-churning effort in the image of Black Sabbath.
It does sound a little old, but then most of these songs were recorded back in the mid-eighties. Trick is, bands such as Down have since blown this doomy groove genre wide open. There are no real surprises here.
Not to say that this is a bad collection - just that its age and bloody-minded focus mean that Pentagram have been superseded by some of the bands they may have inspired. It's all very solid though and anyone who can remember when Black Sabbath first rocked their world will be very comfortable with this. Whether you want comfort from your doom metal is another thing altogether.
If this album were a colour it would be dark brown. If it were a car it would be a hearse. If it were a texture it would be sludgy. All these things have one thing in common - there's only so many times you can stand to see or feel them. "All Your Sins" will always be a classic though, no matter how sludgy and brown it gets.
Guttermouth - Gusto (Epitaph)
I feel kind of sorry for Guttermouth. They bring nothing new to a genre that is hardly known for its breadth of experimentation. To be a second division player in a league made up of Blinks and Sums must be somewhat frustrating. Not that they let it get in their way.
What we have here is a stultifying, predictable album of by the numbers pop punk. There are dozens of bands that sound exactly like this and the chances are you already own one or two of their albums, so why would you need this? Sure it rolls along at a fair pace and deals in a puerile manner with life and relationships, but haven't we had enough of that yet? The answer, hopefully, is yes.
Maybe I'm wrong but I think there is more to music than slavish devotion to a sound popularised by Green Day over a decade ago. At least they have the good grace to move on now and then. Frankly I'm surprised that Guttermouth haven't followed them.
There's only so much of this kind of thing that anyone can take and they can only take it for so long. If you like every identikit punk band thrown at you, the chances are you need to read a few more books. It is the most exhausted of genres in which the exponents are so interchangeable that their efforts are consistently robbed of almost all their value.
I cannot stress this enough, if you own more than three pop-punk albums already, you most certainly don't need this. Broaden your horizons, as my father said. However, as an entry point it does just fine. Just don't expect to be bowled over by Guttermouth's brilliance - a little smile will be more than sufficient.
Roger Miret and the Disasters - Roger Miret and the Disasters (Epitaph)
Roger Miret is a legend. His work with Agnostic Front put him at the forefront of the hardcore movement. With this new band is he simply cashing in on his celebrity status? The jury is out?
On the one hand this is a particularly wild and reckless spitting punk monster. It's raw and savage and most assuredly packed with shoutalong hardcore moments. Riffs are like serrated saws and drums are like jackhammers. This album is built for destruction - a true wrecking machine.
On the other hand, people have been making almost exactly this kind of music for years. You may be a little jaded by now. It seems that Roger likes the wheel the way it is. He's at home with the wheel. It doesn't need reinvention.
I think it's fair to say that Epitaph release music for fairly single-minded people. They like their punk and they know it inside out. I think this will find plenty of homes on that basis. I don't think it will win over man new fans. 'Boys Will Be Boys' has an Ole! Ole! Ole! chant, for God's sake!
On the whole though, The Disasters produce high-octane punk with a commendable "stand your ground and be who you are" message. That's just about enough for me. Not guilty.
Hot Water Music - Caution (Epitaph)
This is punk. It's strained and vehement; it's vicious and strangled. It has all the trademarks of lesser punk bands - the catchiness, the spikiness and the choruses - with none of the two-dimensional problems they suffer from. It's just better.
With the burning guitars and crackling drums of tunes such as 'I was on a mountain', Hot Water Music deserve some recognition. With the sly groove of 'One step to slip', they deserve some kind of punk award - a golden Mohican or something. For once on a punk record, there is more to this than meets the ear. This is music you can really listen to. It doesn't just float around your head - it actually gets into your mind and sets up revolutionary headquarters there. Dare I compare it to Fugazi? Yeah, why not? Let's just hope they don't now merchandise themselves to death. Wouldn't I look stupid then?
My search for an interesting modern punk album ends here. That's all I have to say. Let Hot Water Music do their own talking. Let you do the listening.
Hate Eternal - King of all Kings (Earache)
Hate Eternal have music on the ground and they are beating the absolute shit out of him. They leave him a bloody, pulpy mess for Shakira to clean up. What exactly, we wonder, did he do to deserve this?
Nothing. Hate Eternal are savage. They will destroy anything in their paths to musical blackness with their barbaric riffing and preposterously fast drumming. Truly, Derek Roddy must be laying about his kit with Mjolnir, Thor's great hammer. Iared Anderson's bass sounds like the growl of the Fenris wolf, while Erik Rutan's lead winds around them like the tail of Jormungand, the world worm. All of which means Ragnarok, both for the ears and the bowels, not to mention for the extreme metal scene. Really, this is barely listenable, except for a certain type of individual who will lap it up as the golden fruits of the gods of heaviness.
'Beyond redemption' is like a flash fire across the fields of your mind. 'Rising legions of black' equates to an avalanche of charred rock and filth. 'In spirit (the power of mana)' is about as poundingly unholy as music should be. We can only hope that Hate Eternal listen to Elvis Costello every so often just to balance things out.
This is quite obviously not for the faint of heart. Unless you enjoy dark sonics pushed to their most negative of inevitable conclusions then give it a wide berth. If, however, you enjoy watching music dragged kicking and screaming into the eerie night and forced, through relentless physical torture, to the very limits of sanity, then this is for you and I hope you don't know where I live.
Lunaris - ...the infinite (Earache)
For your amusement, Lunaris present an intriguing journey through debased space. At times comfortingly crooned, at others ragingly alien, it's a trip like no other. The listener is pushed towards an unknown destination by spectral hands, now and then glimpsing something familiar. Will it be enough to get him through the terror ahead?
Considering this band is made up of members of Borknagar and Satyricon, it will be no surprise to fans of the genre that "?the infinite" is musically surgically precise. The band function as a concise whole and their work here almost bleeds paranoid atmosphere. Keyboards are particularly well integrated considering the focus of the album on the fear of the unknown lurking both beyond and within. This is the musical equivalent of psychological horror, although not without it's distinct rays of hope and defiance, such as the cosmic solo on '?of the one'.
'Mother of storms' is an especially claustrophobic delight, with all the tidal fury of an Atlantic storm. 'Growth denied' is the quizzical sound of madness encroaching and eventually triumphing. All the many faces of fear are well represented here in what is without doubt a multi-faceted gem of a dark metal album.
This will be a favourite for those who are fascinated by the psychology of fear of the dark and the unknown. It will present a valuable pilgrimage for those who want to delve into the dark recesses of the mind assaulted with all the horror of the infinitely large and the infinitely small. This is, after all, the sound of a mind that can barely cope. Is that what you want to hear? Then look no further. Come on in - Lunaris will hang up your skin.