Saturday, November 8, 2008

Marsh - Life's Contradiction...

Marsh is a relatively new black metal project from the Minneapolis, Minnesota. Don't groan just yet though, as Marsh isn't just some plain old bedroom BM band that sticks to one repetitive formula; there's a huge range of variation as far as the individual songs are concerned: music ranges from mellow instrumentals to harsher, rawer BM straight through to industrial ambient music.

Guitars, of course, play the main part of the music. They have a fuzzy, blurred sort of quality, while still managing to convey riffs and intended atmosphere effectively. The riffs have a sort of ambient quality, which works well for the mellow songs and doesn't hinder the faster songs. The production suits the music reasonably well; everything has a muffled, raw sound quality (especially the drums), similar to Blasphemy on 'Fallen Angel of Doom'. While this production works great for the harsh songs, it can detract slightly from the mellower songs. Vocals sound absolutely tormented. There is one main vocal style, a throat tearing shriek that usually turns up for the more aggressive tracks. The drums know their place in the music; there is no attempt at any technical wankery, mainly just rhythmic snare and bass patterns, as well as the odd blast-beat, to give the music a backbone.

Apart from the more conventional black metal styles played here, there are also a few trippy ambient/industrial style tracks that utilize cavernous reverb to great effect. These tracks serve well to break up the black metal songs and to further increase the diversity of the album. The great thing about Life's Contradiction... is that while the music played cover pretty much the whole black metal spectrum (in a generic sense), making this album easily accessible for any BM fan.

If you've become a bit disillusioned with newer BM bands popping up and playing generic garbage, then checking out Marsh might be a good idea. Marsh is definitely worth keeping an eye on, simply for the sheer amount of possibilities that the diversity of Life's Contradiction... presents.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Matt Parsons Band - Alas, Tyranny

One thing that stands out about The Matt Parsons Band, a newly formed death/black metal outfit, is the professionalism displayed in his material; Alas, Tyranny sounds like an EP put out by a long running band, not a newly formed solo project.

The music present on this demo is played with great technical proficiency - the guitar work is extremely tight, production is clear and sharp, and the quality of the drum programming is superb; the flow of the drumming didn't so much as hint that the drums were artificial, and the machine-like precision only added to the intensity of the music. The guitars are clean enough that the riffs can shine through in all their pummeling glory, but distorted enough to give the album a layer of heaviness that combine with the drums to create thoroughly heavy, engaging pieces of music. The semi clean, semi distortedness of the guitars also serves to add plenty of Amon Amarth style melody. As for the vocals, they fit in seamlessly with the music; the range employed here includes a deep throaty, death metal growl and a dessicated black metal shriek. Tracks like "The Dragons" are superb, with it's alternating growl-shriek duo, and "Defiance" for its melodic thrashiness, but the standout would definitely have to be "Prometheus", with its epic, sweeping barrage of riffs and propulsive drumming combined with subtle synths floating in the background.

If Alas, Tyranny is anything to go by, the Matt Parsons Band has a bright future ahead of it. Don't be surprised if you're browsing through the catalogue of Nuclear Blast when you come across this name!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Venomin James - Left Hand Man

Left Hand Man is a great example of Black Sabbath-era metal pulled off roughly 30 years after said era. If the sound quality was taken down a few notches, this album would be mistaken for old-school heavy metal/hard rock from the late 70's.

For starters, the sonic quality of the music is terrific; it has a rich, warm, full sound to it, from the subtle yet enveloping presence of the bass to distorted crunch and squeal of the guitars by virtue of analogue recording. The music is so thickly heavy that it's almost tangible. There are two different guitars tones used here: a thick, distorted guitar playing the groovier foundational riffs and a cleaner guitar complimenting the heavier guitar and bass duo with more complex backround noodling. The drums compliment and augment the thick heaviness of the riffs very well, providing a solid backbone for guitars and bass. The drumming here isn't extremely unique or innovative, but it's pulled of superbly in the old-school metal context of the music; plenty of cymbal tinkling and three-hit tom fills pepper the songs, adding a catchy groove element to the music. Also, the guitarists do a great job of taking one riff and varying it just enough to keep it interesting. 'Downer' and 'Bullet Juice' are great examples of this.

The Southern-sounding vocals both stand out from the music and fit in well with it. There are two main styles of voice employed; a low, deep, almost spoken style of voice that showcases the Southern style of singing, and a higher, faster voice that tends to sing more than the first mentioned vocal style. The vocals, like the drums, add elements of groove and catchiness to the music, strengthening the traditional, southern metal vibe.

With Left Hand Man being just shy of 30 minutes, Venomin James waste no time with any filler. From start to finish, the band does a great job of making a well-presented, catchy piece of Southern/heavy metal that goes to show that old-school metal is still kicking. A great album whether you grew up on metal from the 70-80's or just got into the genre.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Stone Wings - Bird of Stone Wings

Stone Wings play a style of death/doom metal that, at a glance, may look like My Dying Bride-esque romantic death doom, with their romantic, eloquent lyrics and heavy use of keyboard instruments, though this isn't the case. The music present on Bird of Stone Wings has that Winter-style misanthropic edge to it and just enough romanticism to balance it out.

A lot of the aggression in the music is delivered through the vocals; no matter what the pace or mood of the music is throughout the album, the growled vocals have a harsh, bark-like aggressive quality to them that conveys the lyrics in a misanthropic death/doom style. The riffs are made up of a lot of heavy, crunching straight chords, semi-tremolo picked strumming and chugs forming the rhythm with little flurries of double bass and and simple four step snare-and-bass patterns that form the raw yet melodic style of death/doom Stone Wings excel at creating. The melody of the music on Bird of Stone Wings is aided, if not created, by melodic clean guitars lilting over and sometimes augmenting the crunchier, more complex guitar work, as well as pleasingly subtle backing synths, keyboard choirs and murky keyboard tinkling that reminds me of the beautiful bushland of the band's home, the Blue Mountains. The band also manages to incorporate faster, drum driven breaks and neo-traditional metal solos into some of their songs, giving the music a slighlty traditional vibe which sounds great in the death/doom context.

The mood and atmosphere of the music couldn't be described as depressing or sad, apart from the epic, funeral doom title track. There are a fair few mellower, melancholic parts consisting of clean guitars and melodic keyboard instruments throughout the album, but mostly the musical atmosphere is one of hateful aggression, demostrated by the relentless opening of 'Ulcer Man' or dreamy romaticism and fantasy centered around tales of dream and longing, such as the ethereal mellowness of 'By Hell or Highwater' and sometimes even a well-done combination of both, like the agressive synth-choir driven passages of 'The Last Hand'.

Bird of Stone Wings is a quality piece of death/doom metal played by a great Aussie metal band well worth listening to. Whether you like melodic doom metal, aggresive, misanthropic death/doom an atmospheric, romanticized aural journey, or modern doom metal with traditional elements, doom fans will find something to enjoy here.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Seraphim Slaughter - Scum Terror

On Scum Terror, Seraphim Slaughter play a well pulled off combination of raw black and thrash metal with a punk attitude that genuinely sounds as if it's from the late 80's/early 90's era of black/thrash metal; lyrics about sex, alcohol, violence and Satan, fuzzy guitars, tape hiss and raw, trashy-sounding, cymbal-smashing drumming. Just looking at the song titles and album artwork give an accurate picture of the music within: raw, dirty, old-school anarchist punk influenced music.

The sonic delivery of the music is a lot like early Darkthrone: lo-fi drums buried under trebly buzz-saw guitars. The music itself sounds like a tighter collection of the early Brazilian black/thrash acts, as well as a thrashier, more violent modern Darkthrone. The music itself is pretty simple; apart from the slower, atmospheric intro to the title track, guitar work is primarily made up of buzzing tremolo riffs and straight thrash metal power chords played at fast and occasionally mid paced speeds, backed by almost incessant cymbal bashing and blast beats. Vocals are screamed as viciously as possible, sounding like Transilvanian Hunger-era Nocturno Culto, but with more punky aggression. For the most part, the music is extremely dirty blackened thrash metal, though there are occasionally slower, more atmospheric and melodic moments, like guitar noodling scattered throughout 'I'm the Unholy Motherfucking Master' and the intro to the title track.

I can't emphasize enough how much the lyrics mirror the music; throat desecrating screams of 'Die you fucking scum' and 'Cervix ripping sex' and lyrics dealing with AIDS reflect the lo-fi, filthy repetitiveness of the music on Scum Terror. Serpahim Slaughter are great at what they do, which is play raw, thrashy black metal that would fit perfectly into the late 80's; if they were to go back in time and form in 1985 in some proto-black/thrash metal scene or other, they wouldn't seem out of place in the least.

Don't buy Scum Terror with the expectation of really technical or unique inventiveness. If you're wondering what happened to the raw, violent blackened thrash metal from the 1980's, stop wondering and check out Scum Terror.