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Distorted reviews - 1/11/02.

Nile - In their darkened shrines (Relapse)
And there was a terrible rumbling from the bowels of the Earth, and mankind did cower with fright - for the new Nile album crawled out of the putrid catacombs, shaking loose its filthy bandages and rotting skin, and a terrible cry overcame the masses. Rejoice, for it has been a long two years, but finally, the wait is over. Nile, those Egyptologists with guitars, have released their strongest album to date, surpassing even the blistering "Black seeds of vengeance".
Opener 'The Blessed dead' sets the scene epically before launching an all-out war on your senses, bombarding the listener with the finest and creative death metal you will ever hear, period. Karl Sanders, Dallas Toler-Wade and Tony Laureano respectively have harnessed and unleashed a musical monster - how many metal acts out there are attempting anything like the 10-minute-plus 'Unas, Slayer of the Gods'? This incredible track, slow, fast, moody, doomy, gloomy, atmospheric, fast, slow... not since Maiden's 'Powerslave' has a land and people long dead come back to haunt the living from the Underworld so convincingly.
The Cthulhu Mythos writer HP Lovecraft inspires the concept for the four-part epic 'In their darkened shrines'; one can almost taste the mummified flesh of his ancient Egypt tale 'Imprisoned with the Pharaohs' within this rancid, pyramid tomb. Elsewhere you have the blistering 'Wind of Horus' (surely contender for best DM track of all time?), the sheering 'Execration Text', and the incredible, brooding 'I whisper in the ear of the dead', which tells the tale of Nectanabus, the last native Pharaoh of Egypt, who ruled during the 4th Century BCE and was historically rumoured to be a great sorcerer and necromancer. According to early historians, Nectanabus exercised control of many of his enemies by enslaving the souls of the newly dead, commanding them to learn the secrets of his enemies via the spirits of the Underworld, and using this knowledge against them.
Following in the tradition of "Black Seeds...", "ITDS" again contains notes and background history of each track here, which sets apart the individual songs, giving them a distinct characteristic of their own. Which in the generic world of death metal is a rare thing indeed. Inevitably Nile has yet again set the metal standard, raising the bar for all others to aspire to. It's impossible to describe the sheer power, the glorious, bloody history, the Egyptian magik, the rich heritage and culture contained within this monumental album - you'll just have to hear it for yourself.

Ken Blackmore

Bludgeon - Crucify the priest (Metal Blade)
From Chicago comes this intense release that should delight fans of heavy, thrash and death metal, for Bludgeon combine all elements of the metal spectrum into one of the surprise albums of 2002. Produced by the charismatic Joey DeMaio of metal legends Manowar, recorded live in guitarist/vocalist Mark Duca's house, "CTP" will have you slamming around your room in metal heaven. Take 'Tortured through lies', for example, the last time I heard riffing like this was on a Vio-lence album! In fact it's the Bay Area frashers that Bludgeon remind me of, crunchy, catchy riffs, tasty solos, solid song structure, albeit with gruffer vocals. Don't believe me? Check out 'Abandoned', as near perfect to a two-minute metal song you'll hear all year.
Special mention must go to the Ken Kelly cover painting. (I'm pretty sure they'll be posting this around the country of Ireland just to remind the bastards that what they did won't go away.) Alas, Robb Flynn, if only you could turn back time and transform Machine Head into something as worthwhile and ballsy as this, instead of the pop/rap cack you're playing now you've convinced yourself is metal.

Ken Blackmore

King's Evil - Deletion of humanoise (Spinefarm)
Hot on the heels of the Ritual Carnage album comes another slice of thrash in the form of Japanese frashers, King's Evil, and have a care for this is the most blistering attack from Japan since December 1941! Just what is it with the Japs and thrash? Must be something in the Sushi, for this rocks like a drunken kamikaze, and you know how lethal those nutters were when they were sober. Brothers Masamichi and Wataru Yamada respectively, the core of the band, are lovers of old Slayer, Kreator, Sodom and Metallica, and boy does it show. You will be amazed at how vocalist/guitarist Wataru sounds like Mille from Kreator, when opener 'Victim and hate' explodes from your speakers you'll be wondering if you put the wrong disc in. He also appears on the aforementioned Ritual Carnage album; the Japanese Phil Anselmo in the making, anyone?
Elsewhere you have the almost groovy 'Fanatical devotion', the stomp-along 'False pride', guaranteed to get you banging your head, and the thrash 'til death 'Scream', which should have you grinning from ear to ear. The production is excellent, the musicianship tight as my bosses wallet (that's really tight, folks) and the songs damn fine thrash outings. Again, if you love your thrash, you'd be missing out if you didn't add this to your collection.

Ken Blackmore

Sinister - Creative Killings (Hammerheart Records)
Holland's Sinister are, alongside Arch Enemy, Crisis and Otep, continuing the notion that girls can growl as good as, if not better, than their male counterparts. Take lead vocalist Rachel, for example, who grunts, barks, and roars as mean and convincing as any of her peers in the death metal field. Unfortunately, a sexy female vocalist does not a death metal band make.
I don't know what it is with Sinister, whether they try too hard, or whether the lousy production on 'CK' muddies everything here, or perhaps they're just plain crap, I can't put my finger on it. This is DM by the numbers, showing the world that yes, we can play as fast and as brutal as Suffocation, but there's no originality here, nothing that stands out. There is, but it's a Possessed cover (Storm in my Mind.) Go figure. To be fair there are one or two 'not bad' tracks here - 'Judicious Murder' springs to mind - but other than the aforementioned Possessed cover there's not much to recommend here.

Ken Blackmore

Severe Torture - Misanthropic Carnage (Hammerheart)
I've been listening to this lot for the past month and I've been trying to find something worthwhile to say about it, but for the life of me I can't. Everything here, from the bass to the vocals to the guitars to the drum sound to the song titles are ripping off Cannibal Corpse big time, not in a flattering way but in a criminal way. Why? We have the original; we do not need a carbon copy.
Still, Severe Torture is about to tour Europe with their heroes CC, so that must be a dream come true. I can see it now, headliners Cannibal Corpse and support, Torture Spice. Please go die and bury yourselves in somebody's back yard.

Ken Blackmore

Impious - The Killer (Hammerheart)
Like any commodity, a brand new album needs to be advertised and promoted if it is going to sell. Record companies spend a lot of time and money on their product, and, even if that CD turns out to be the biggest load of shite they have ever heard, they will still have a strong sales pitch to get you, the buying public, to purchase the damn thing.
So here is my review of Impious' The Killer, based on the record company's sales pitch: "You're invited to a journey filled with hate and anger, with power and intensity, all together in a bombastic package with an extremely heavy and huge sound. There's no way to escape The Killer expect the ultimate thrash attack!!!" "The ultimate death/thrash bomb for 2002 " it says here. Well, it would, wouldn't it?

Ken Blackmore

Cannibal Corpse - Worm Infested (Metal Blade Records)
Whilst not my favourite death metal band, after reviewing the previous cack that has gone before, it is with a blessed relief than I can present the new Cannibal Corpse release, an EP of new, unreleased and previously unavailable tracks.
Both 'Systematic Elimination' and 'Worm Infested' were recorded during the "Gore Obsessed" album sessions, and it's the latter that is the standout track here. There's an incredible riff that runs throughout this song, it's the catchiest thing they've written since 'Skull full of Maggots' (even if it's one of the sickest!) 'The Undead will feast', recorded in 1996, is a Japanese only release, and a nice track for Corpse collectors.
You also get a couple of rousing covers for your dosh, Accept's 'Demon Night', Possessed's 'Confessions', and Metallica's 'No Remorse', which appeared on the limited version "Gore Obsessed" record. Not a bad little release by any means, and a must have if you are something of a fan of the band.

Ken Blackmore

Napalmed - Never mind the MSBR, here's the Napalmed
Weighing in at almost seventy-two minutes, this 2-track 'album' from Czech noise purveyors Napalmed is a heavy dose. It's not going to be to most people's taste, unless they're into real avant-garde experimental noise shit. If you do decide to take it on though you'll need to come at it with your mind completely open. Track one 'MBR, not MBSR' is awash with distortion and feedback. Track 2, 'Never mind the MSBR, here's the MBFR', on the other hand, is a musical ghost ship, laden with creaks and chimes.
It sounds exactly like a deserted, smashed up ship caught in a raging storm. Really, just close your eyes and it's right there. What's really scary is that, at times among the total randomness, you can almost hear a tune taking shape. Eight minutes into this monster track and the storm threatens to subside before the crashes become more frequent. Then a low, bass like hum and what could be a regular beat fade in slowly to reward the diligent listener. Industrial noise of the most extreme kind created by experts.
To purchase visit: http://www.napalweb.host.sk

Ken McGrath

Zerotonin - Reinvention (Menedo)
How is it that Northern Ireland manages to produce bands that rock, but have a firm grip on the inner workings of the melody and the massive chorus. I mean there's Therapy?, Ash, Throat and now you can add Belfast based rockers Zerotonin to that list as well. This three-track album sampler is more than enough to whet the appetite of any fan of the above named bands.
Opener 'Vice' rides along on a high octane groove and chorus that screams of years spent listening to Therapy?'s outstanding "Troublegum". It's so smooth, it's really just a great rock 'n' roll song with a souped-up chorus. 'The Build' is another kicking track laden with crashing power chords and snarled vocals. The final track, 'Arguments for and against self-control' is more of a slow, brooding, groove monster. Comparisons to a less unhinged Eyehategod apply here, yet there are moments, especially in the chorus, when you can hear an obvious Faith No More influence kicking to be heard. I've got to say, if the rest of the album, whenever it appears, is anything like what's on show here, it is going to be amazing.

Ken McGrath

Bluebird - Hot Blood (Cargo/Sweet Nothing)
Bluebird can be compared to everyone from Foo Fighters and The Rolling Stones, to Wilt and The Wildhearts. On the opening three tracks, 'Falling to earth', 'She's breaking up' and 'Beautiful believer', they show they have got the art of penning a catchy, chorus-led three minute rock song down perfect. 'Falling to earth' is full of flashing chords and wonderful vocal melodies; the sort of song that jumps from your stereo to your ears in seconds.
After that opening gambit, however, the pop-rock sensibilities shift gears and get replaced with a more mid-90s, leftfield indie/grunge sound. 'Underwater fire' is like an unexciting Feeeder outtake. The bass plods, plods, plods along while a piercing guitar lick swamps everything, leaving the vocals lost and absolutely redundant. 'Bang the drum' is Bluebird chancing their arm at distorted rock, but sees them falling very, very flat. Once again the vocals are buried. Please leave this type of thing to The Hives.
Thank Christ then for 'Lies disappear'. Built in the same shape as the three opening tracks, it is a reward enough for wading through the last five songs. A high-speed, rocking track, overloaded with a Nirvana-esque guitar sound and a mighty shout-along chorus. Then it's back to more of the same old, same old. 'Slip inside', despite having great backing vocals in the chorus, is exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to hear being played by a few kids in a pub band on a Saturday night. Sorry guys, but you've proved you can do better than this. While there are a few great songs on here, they're just not worth sitting through the album for - a disappointing effort.

Ken McGrath

The Beautiful Mistake - Light a match, for I deserve to burn (The Militia Group)
Now this I really like. The Beautiful Mistake makes music in the same vein as Throat and Lost Prophets, but with more of an edge. Throughout this full-length debut, melodic vocals are put in stark contrast with gruff bellows thanks to co-vocalists Josh Hagquist and Shawn Grover. This is just one of the California quartet's charms, though. Where The Beautiful Mistake excels is on songs like 'Anonymous vs. California', the outstanding opener 'On building' and the hook-laden 'Light a match'. Here they combine fantastic song-writing with a rich sense of dynamics, all topped off by some of the best production I've heard in a long time, handeled by Ed Rose (The Get Up Kids, The Anniversary, The Casket Lottery, notice how all the bands have 'The' in their names).
Enormous melodies permeate through to modern rock heaviness. Everything is used to its full potential. They often blend the harsh with the pure in the same verse, lending them a unique sound that should win them numerous fans. Plus, any band who sends a box of matches with an album called 'Light a match, for I deserve to burn' deserves a round of applause. I've found my new favourite band. These guys are going to be massive.

Ken McGrath

Corporation 187 - Perfection in pain (Wicked World/Earache)
Swedish metallers Corporation 187, unlike most of their fellow country-men are not a melodic death metal band. Instead they've chosen to plough the (often) musically richer fields of the thrash genre. This isn't just an exercise in mindless aggression however, they've blended a love of break-neck speed drumming and off the chart guitar solos with an unmistakable sense of melody, utilising slower grooves and a keen ear for when to leave open spaces. There's nothing worse than trying to find the core of a song if it's buried under miles of pointless distorted rubble. No such faults on display here thankfully. Check out the title track to see how they blend the two together perfectly. Of course, that's not to say they don't go for all out extreme at times; "2nd pain" is one of the more obvious lessons in high-speed riffing and schizophrenic vocals.
Strangely enough then opening track 'Religious connection' reminds me of Machine Head circa 'Burn my eyes'. It's an uncompromising assault, but I think the comparison comes about from the sliding, razor chords in the chorus and the harmonies used by the dual guitars. This gives way then to the stop/start, palm muted riffing of 'Ghosts of confusion'. A high-speed slab of pure thrash that could sit nicely on Slayer's 'God hates us all' album. It should come as no surprise then to hear that Corporation 187 were once upon a time a Slayer covers band. While they could have easily just taken that knowledge and used it to their advantage, they've developed enough of a sound of their own to survive in this fickle world. Their music, while it does nod heavily in Slayer's direction, is not a rip-off. If you don't believe me, then check out 'Violated relation'. The new leaders of the trash metal renaissance have arrived.

Ken McGrath

Asgaroth - Red Shift (Peaceville)
Asgaroth weave a vicious web. One of the strands comes from the black metal genre, while another stretches out from trash. A third marks the road to atmospheric and cinematic metal. Yet another reaches North to find inspired mythical and philosophical aspects with which to pepper the lyrics. A unique blend indeed, at times you feel like you're listening to Fear Factory, Rotting Christ, Rammstein and Cradle of Filth all at once. It's hard to find a reference point, but who would have thought that sunny Spain could produce a band as atmospherically dark as this.
The blend of metal guitars with gothic, atmospheric keyboard overtones is interesting enough. There's an almost classical touch to the keyboard playing, but by that I don't want you to think of overblown ridiculous progressive rock shit and guys with poddle hair and spandex. I want you to think - dark yet inspired. Dank and dreary, but with the kind of melodic touch that a keyboard can so gracefully give. Deep throat vocals. Growls. Melodies.
There are some stand out tracks here, like the monumental 'Descent to Dion' (although the 'fup, flup, flup' sound near the end is very distracting and really takes away from the song), the female vocal, spacey then heavy 'Lured decay' and the monumental 'Sharpedge solitude' are also well worth listening to. On 'Sharpedge...' Asgaroth display a flowing guitar heavy sound, but blended with the flourishes and electronic keyboard activity we've learned to love because of Fear Factory. The best song on the album though has to be the masterpiece that is 'Naked eye'. Opening with a slight atmospheric sound, you'll be completely unprepared for it when it explodes. The vocals come at you from both sides simultaneously and then, seemingly, from the centre of your head. This is the sound of insanity. The pounding of the drums and the crash of the cymbals lead the keyboard riff perfectly into the first verse. Equipped with the best chorus on the album it's impossible to find fault with this song at all. From changing, fleeting drum patterns to key changes, it's all here. The other ten tracks are good as well, not as good, but still above average. The only thing is that the outstanding 'Naked eye' steals the show from the start. An impossible act to follow, 'Red shift' is worth buying just to hear this song.

Ken McGrath

Hot Water Music - Caution (Epitaph)
It's all here; all the things that make true hardcore and punk great. The motivated songs that may as well be chants, the edgy guitar playing, the powerful drumming and the blistering bass work. Epitaph Records is seen by some as one of the few last bastions of hope where the far too poppy, punk bands can never get a foot in and Hot Water Music are one of the best bands on Epitaph, along with Bad Religion. Opener 'Remedy' is a smooth operator, gliding along so easily, you'd be forgiven for thinking that HWM sweat songs like this.
'I was on a mountain' is another fabulous punk song, riding on a pounding drum pattern that lends an air of uncertainty. The chorus is where it all comes together, though. 'One step to slip' opens with a rumbling bass line that gives way to another driving chorus, albeit this one is laden with poison, "All and all we walk or crawl/ either way still covering ground/in banners and bandages".
'Wayfarer' is armed with a typically raw 'whoah-whoah' chorus and a short, shimmering guitar solo. Fans of Pennywise will love this, while anyone who admires The Offspring and their catchy vocal harmonies will adore 'The sense'. 'It's all related' is subtler in its approach, but that doesn't make it any less lethal. Hot Water Music have an unnerving ability to pen great choruses, "Don't hold your breath/don't lie awake/but don't hesitate/be ready to see". I'd love if some of the kids who think punk rock began with Green Day and ended with Sum 41 could hear this.

Ken McGrath

The Transplants - The Transplants (Hellcat)
I expected this to be a lot better than it is. The unholy union of Tim Armstrong (Rancid), Travis Barker (Blink-182, Boxcar Racer) and Rob Aston has, however, fallen a bit flat, or maybe it's just that I find this type of punk unexciting. Rob Aston has one of the most annoying voices I've ever heard, I've never been a fan of Rancid, but, by fuck, can Travis drum. There are some redeeming qualities here though, and they're mostly found in the middle of a really shit song.
'Sad but true' (not a Metallica cover) starts off with what could easily be Shane McGowan of The Pogues singing and it's got a nice bright chorus, full of 'owwwws' and 'awwwws'. 'Tall cans in the air' is another poor track, its only saving grace again being the chorus, whereas 'Weigh on my mind', with its shite, sore throat singing has nothing going for it at all. If it were a dog, you'd get it put to sleep. Same again for 'One Seventeen'; annoying, annoying, annoying. Stop it; please go back to your respective bands.
Yes, The Transplants may be a lot of things, but subtle isn't one of them (shit is), check out the lyrics on 'Diamonds and guns' for example, "every last soul must pay the last toll/in the dice game of life who gets the last roll/is it the one with the suit/the one with the slag/the one who hides behind his fucking gun and his badge" or the opening line of the terrible 'California Babylon' "Waitresses are dressed like nurses in bondage" or the repeated chant at the start of 'D.R.E.A.M.', "Drugs rule everything around me/finger the powder/drink another beer, y'all". If only they could make the music as interesting as the lyrics.

Ken McGrath

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