Thursday, 2 July 2020

Merciless - The Awakening

Discussing the cult and classic status of "The Awakening" has as much sense as deliberating if the earth is a flat disc or a globe. There's just no point, as it's something obvious and undebatable. "The Awakening" belongs to the most legendary thrash / death metal albums and forever will remain such. If you don't have it in your collection then you're a wanker. If you doubt its greatness, you're even bigger ass. 
There are two main reasons why this LP deserves all the status and appreciation. First is the music, obviously. Even if Merciless wasn't the most original band in the world nor the first one to play this style of thrash metal, they definitely were among the best. And still are. Second is the whole history behind the band and the album. All in all, Merciless were one of the first such extreme bands to rise in Sweden and one of the creators of the best scene in the world. And originally this album was released by Deathlike Silence Productions as Anti-Mosh 01 – hopefully I don't even have to remind you who owned this label and how important it was back then and how legendary it is nowadays. Obviously, you don't need to own the original CD or LP pressing from DSP, as they're insanely pricy. There were several re-editions, among which you could skip the early Century Media reissue with that awfully coloured artwork. But later, in 2011, Temple of Darkness Records took care of a fine re-edition, with vinyl artwork almost identical to the original DSP version, but with such extra goodies as huge poster and lyrics sheet. And the killer picture LP, which in my opinion sounds awesome, giving a lie to all opinions that picture discs sound crap. 
But putting packaging aside, I truly love this album. Merciless sounded insanely aggressive and vicious, their music was fast, harsh and the riffs were sharp as the sharpest razor, cutting through flesh with great ease and effect. You could put them aside to the likes of Massacra, Protector, Possessed, Grotesque, Agressor or Messiah - and they all would be equal in this game of band name dropping. I absolutely love the riffage and merciless (yeah!) attitude of this music, that straight forward, highly violent sound. I suppose this was one of the fastest thrash metal albums of that era (recorded in 1989!). Maybe nowadays this speed won't make a big impression on a Krisiun fan (for instance), but back then it sounded savage and sick. Occasionally you will hear a slower riff or even a bit of melody - like in "Denied Birth", one of the best songs here. So, there's enough of great songwriting to appreciate the album fully. And did I mention the screaming vocals of Roger Petersson? Or really great production from Tuna Studio? “The Awakening” sounds great and even nowadays it doesn’t sound archaic to me. 
This LP has also some live tracks from 1990 – I usually don’t like such additions and prefer when the album sticks to the original tracklist only. I don’t need bonus songs. But these live recordings sound not bad at all, it would be a nice idea to release them on a separate 7”, instead of sticking them on the side B. It’s a minor complain though. Enjoy this record as it is. Truly legendary piece of thrash / death metal. 
Standout tracks: “Pure Hate”, “Denied Birth”, “Dreadful Fate” 
Verdict: 95/100 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Throneum - Oh Death... Oh Death... Determinate, Preach and Lead Us Astray...

THRONEUM - Oh Death... Oh Death... Determinate, Preach and Lead Us Astray... (GODZ OV WAR - CD 2020)
I've been following Throneum ever since they started as Throne with "Beyond the Numbers and Creatures" demo. And that was 20 years ago already. For many years I tried to get every piece of vinyl they unleashed - every 12", full length, split... Everything. That was up to "Death Throne Entities" I think, when I started to feel really tired with Throneum music. For me "CACOMethamorphosen" was a nail in the coffin. This EP was horrible. Since then Throneum released three more albums and more splits, but I’ve only heard maybe couple of songs from them, which weren't that interesting, I lost my interest completely. I believed that I buried this band forever, but meanwhile Godz Ov War released another album, called "Oh Death... Oh Death... Determinate, Preach and Lead Us Astray..." and gave me a chance to listen to it. I am happy that I got this opportunity, because this album sounds very, very interesting and intriguing. More so, I like it a lot. 
I have to say that after the first spin of "Oh Death..." I was surprised, almost shocked for what I’ve heard, because Throneum really changed, really developed and nowadays they sound very different when compared to such "Deathcult Conspiracy". It would be hard to even recognize or guess that it's Throneum, such a drastic change and progression (such a hated word haha) happened in their music. But after few spins of this album, I had to say that there’s a method in this madness, oh yeah, and if you know Tom, Throneum’s leader, then all these changes do make sense. 
On one hand, Throneum music is still strongly influenced by the most archaic, savage and primeval extreme metal bands, from 80's and early 90's, when black, death or thrash metal bands were very connected. There's still a lot of that ferocity, insane aggression, chaotic sounds and just obscure, morbid metal of death on "Oh Death...", with all these sick vomits from Tom that characterized this band since forever. Just listen to the opening minutes of "Delta: Self-Appointed-Grandeur". But what's going on later in that song? What the fuck? Some clean guitar tones, female vocals?? So many atmospheric parts that I would never think Throneum would dare to ever use?! You need to understand that this band was always characterized by the most cruel and chaotic sounding death / black metal. I don’t remember if they ever even had an intro! So, I would never expect to hear all these atmospheric parts from them, not to mention female vocals. But here they are! 
On "Oh Death..." you'll find many influences from the old black metal scene, like from the Greek scene for instance, which is why there are also keyboards, different vocals, some epic, more melodic parts, even doomy riffs. This is where the foundation for all that atmospheric music lies. More so, songs are insanely long, they go for ten or even fifteen minutes long (“Alpha: Soulside-Space-Stream") - there are three proper tracks and three shorter instrumental interludes (played on piano for instance), so that can also give you an idea how weirdly and unconventionally composed this album is and how much more progressive and varied it is. Within each of these three proper tracks you’ll find many different “parts” / “layers”, where the band can change from the harshest, barbaric and obscure death / black metal to atmospheric, psychedelic black metal. “Alpha: Soulside-Space-Stream" is the best example, as this song is like a 15 minutes long journey into the darkest and most horrifying abyss. 
It does take time to get used to this black metal style, as well as to the low fi production, where the music, even vocals, sound slightly thin in the beginning. Only later, when you listen to it for a longer while, it starts to make some more sense and personally I really felt like the atmosphere of this album started to devour me. There may be some dull fragments, but they are very few. Most of the music on “Oh Death...” impressed me fully and quickly arose to one of this year’s favourites. I have to write this again – I did not expect to hear such music from Throneum, knowing their early albums or EPs. I would never expect them to get so close to “progressive” black metal, especially when the music keeps that barbaric and primitive feel. But they did it. Even the red colouring of the booklet is something unusual, as before that they mostly had black / white artwork on their albums. So many surprises, but it’s a positive thing and huge refreshment of their style. I am just happy that this band again managed to convince me to their music. 
Standout tracks: “Alpha: Soulside-Space-Stream" 
Verdict: 80/100 

Cryptic Brood - Outcome of Obnoxious Science

CRYPTIC BROOD - Outcome of Obnoxious Science (WAR ANTHEM / TERROR FROM HELL - LP 2019)
I’ve already had in my collection some of the earlier Cryptic Brood recordings and I certainly liked them, but this second full album of theirs, 2018's "Outcome of Obnoxious Science" is definitely their most worthy and interesting slab of filth. While the band stays 100% focused on their rotten and gruesome old school death metal, which is highly influenced by the likes of Autopsy, Repulsion, Pungent Stench, Death, etc (you know them all), they show us that there's still a lot of exciting and fantastic riffs to be played in this style and songs, which would not sound like a dull copy. Here on "Outcome of Obnoxious Science" it is all just close to spotless for me - and I write that as a huge fan of this death metal style. I can even say that this album really sounds better than I expected. I've played it many times in the past few days and it doesn't seem like I will have enough of it soon. 
I've mentioned the influence from Autopsy and that sort of bands... That definitely is the most fundamental element of Cryptic Brood music. Grinding, fast riffs, but then also many doomy parts, all with sick, vomiting vocals (performed by all three members, so they’re quite varied) and horror, horrid atmosphere... But there's more to it all. Often you will hear also almost Swedish DM like riffs, even a bit more melodic patterns like in "Wading Through Remains", which has that Nihilist / Entombed kind of feel that quickly gave me a goose skin. Other time you will be crushed by the heaviness of massive slow riff in the Anatomia / Coffins / Undergang vein. There’s also enough of D-beat and that punkish simplicity to underline that whole old school vibe. And at one point I also had a strong resemblance that I could hear a clear influence from the classic British doom / death metal style with that Paradise Lost-like mournful, doomy pattern. And all that is thrown between vile grinding songs, which will kick you in the guts with no mercy, vomiting some disgusting stuff straight into your head. 
That diversity is something I truly love about this album. This is why the album is so dynamic and never boring or repetitive. And it has that rotten, filthy, disgusting atmosphere – for me it’s a very important thing for old school death metal to have... That's also a perfect reason to tell why I always preferred this style of death metal over all those soulless, modern and technical albums. There's a feeling in it, a passion and obscurity. And I don’t care if "Outcome of Obnoxious Science" will be seen as another “average OSDM album” and that only few will really like it. In my opinion Cryptic Brood did a killer job here, I am more than happy then to recommend this album. 
Standout tracks: "Wading Through Remains", “Slaves of Hypnotic Commands”, "Outcome of Obnoxious Science" 
Verdict: 85/100 

Friday, 19 June 2020

Cleric - Serpent Psalms

CLERIC - Serpent Psalms (RAW SKULL Records / REDEFINING DARKNESS - CD 2019=
Another killer death metal album here, and this time from a band, which was completely unknown to me. They did release one more album back in 2013, but I doubt many people know it. I've never even heard their name before. But this new onslaught called "Serpent Psalms" released under the flag of Raw Skull Records and Redefining Darkness Records will certainly catch more attention. It did catch mine and I have to say that it was a great sadistic pleasure to see the massacre it caused to my ears.  
Of corpse it's again the fuckin old school death metal, where the traditional means are met with more updated, powerful and crushing production. Every sound, every instrument has a great, vicious and neckbreaking strength - that's why the music fills me with such a lethal energy. Guitar have quite similar to HM2 tone, but musically Cleric delivers more diverse and interesting combination of death metal styles, instead of focusing on just one. They throw in your face their fascination with some of the best classic bands - from Bolt Thrower, Asphyx, Grave, Entombed, Incantation, Dismember or whatever else you wish. Just cult, classic stuff exclusively. Riffs are super awesome, like the doom opening part of “All Death Unseeing”, which really gave me a goose-skin. Every song bursts out with some super amazing riffs, great memorable parts and aggression. It's brutal, nasty, dark, cadaverous, savage stuff – just as it should be. Cleric guys have great skill for playing this sort of music and the arrangements they came up with are perfect. Songs sound fresh, energetic and passionate – and never bored me. Tempo wise it also provides everything well balanced, so the music is dynamic and full of adrenaline. It all kicks off with powerful “Maw of Absolution” and doesn’t let go until the very last second. 
I love that style of death metal, you know? I've been a death metal fan for nearly 30 years, I never had enough of it... And I am glad that now I can still find albums, which kick me in the stomach so strongly and deliver the vicious, barbaric feel. "Serpent Psalms" surely belongs to the best discoveries of past months, so I really recommend this album to you all. I’m looking forward for a vinyl version one day, it deserves this format for sure. 
Standout tracks: “All Death Unseeing”, “Destroying Eye of the Self”, “Maw of Absolution” 
Verdict: 85/100 

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Repulsive Feast - Brewing Rancid Stew

Here's "horrifying death metal from Wolfsburg / Germany, featuring members of Demored, Cryptic Brood and Arcane Frost"! All right, bring it on, I say! There are four tracks on this 7" and I can only say that it's a very nice release, definitely it's an interesting piece for the seekers of filthy and obscure, rotten death metal with sick grinding blasts here and there. There's a whole load of influences from old bands like Autopsy, Nihilist, Carcass, Repulsion... Repulsive Feast won't surprise you with anything new and in "Urge of Flesh" you could even get a déjà vu feeling of "Ruptured in Purulence" hahaha. But it's OK, I have nothing against. I've enjoyed these four tracks, their aggressive and nasty sound and that primitive, raw production like from the 90's demo tape. Its sloppiness and mess give a feeling like you were watching the band playing in their rehearsal room, still learning some of their early songs. But it's got its charm and I like the fact that it's a 7", like in the old days. There's more to expect from Repulsive Feast, I'm sure, so keep your graves open on them. 
Verdict: 70/100 

V:XII - Rom, Rune and Ruin: The Odium Disciplina

V:XII - Rom, Rune and Ruin: The Odium Disciplina (AESTHETIC DEATH Productions - CD 2020)
“... Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned...” 
"Rom, Rune and Ruin: The Odium Disciplina" by V:XII is one of those musical journeys that I like to take once in a while, when I want to listen to something very dark, eerie and very disturbing, but away from my usual extreme metal territory. V:XII is a Swedish project of Daniel Jansson, who performs sort of ambient / industrial / noise, which you could compare to MZ412 or other Nordvargr projects, to name just that one project. "Rom, Rune and Ruin: The Odium Disciplina" is very minimalistic in its sound and approach, this is not music, but rather eight tracks of disturbing sounds and noises, without rhythm, melodies or something what would make you feel like they're catchy or memorable. There are echoes like from deep abyss, industrial sounds, different sort of vocals but not singing... Everything that aims to create a specific atmosphere and could be treated maybe as sort of soundtrack to the journey into darkness. It definitely is not an album that would entertain the listener. You listen to such anti-music under specific conditions, you have to set up the mood in order to challenge it. Otherwise it has no sense. It's not an album, which would work as a background to your daily routine. 
Yeah, if you've ever listened to any similar ambient / industrial project, then you may know what I have in my mind and try to describe here. I fail a little as I’m not big expert of it. And I suppose that this sort of "music" is love or hate kind of thing. I don't think it's for everyone and most people will find it as boring and useless noise. But as I mentioned earlier, listen to it under certain conditions and it can take you somewhere where hardly any metal band can. To be honest, I prefer projects, whose musical story is richer and more "musical", like Puissance, Arditi or Blood Axis. But V:XII is not bad also. And the digipak looks fantastic. 
Verdict: 60/100