Thursday, 28 July 2011

Asphyx - The Rack

Asphyx - The Rack (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1992)
First time I've ever heard about Asphyx was in 1992, when I found an article about them in Polish Metal Hammer (the same issue presented also such bands as Grave, Comecon, Autopsy... That was a real death metal feast to read for me). I loved band's logo and photo and discovered they just released an album titled "The Rack". Man, I can't believe it was already 20 years ago! Anyway, I got the album soon after and I must say I haven't enjoyed it as much as I liked Pestilence or Death then he, he. I think it seemed too obscure to me at the time. But now it's all different, the album got better with the passing years and nowadays I consider it to be one of the best and immortal death metal classics of the European scene of early 90's.
The intro that opens the album creates the horror atmosphere immediately and here we are. "Vermin" blasts in with enormous power, at the same time surprising me, as this probably is one of the fastest songs the band has ever composed. Of course it's not as fast as say Morbid Angel, but surely faster and different to the slow and epic "Embrace the Death" LP. And from the first second, I enjoy this song totally. And this is not the only faster tune on the album, as there's also "Wasteland of Terror" and the fast ending in "Pages In Blood".
Yeah, "The Rack" really concentrates on the mid paced or even fast riffing slightly more than its predecessor, "Embrace the Death". But of course here also you'll get hit by massively slow and heavy doom / death riffage, "Diabolical Existence" being the most obvious example, but no wonder, as this song appeared on the previous album under the title "Denying the Goat". It's slow, but how brutal and vulgar, with amazing, harsh vocals of Martin van Drunen. Cult. The same I can say about "The Sickening Dwell", another crushing song that also has been recorded on "Embrace the Death" album first.
Then there's the title song, "The Rack", which starts with riff slowly crawling, like something horrid was coming out of the dark... and man, this is one of the best riffs of the millennium to me!! So simple, but so effective and dark! It's so great that it sticks in the head immediately and won't leave it until I die. And what about the cult of "Pages In Blood"(new version of "Embrace the Death" song from previous LP)? The melodic line in the beginning, combined with crushingly slow, monumental riff, also belongs to the masterpieces in the asphyxiated discography. I like also the fact that it fits so well with "Ode to a Nameless Grave", brilliant doom metal instrumental song, heavy, mournful and dark as hell (oh, listen to that great guitar solo by Eric, what a genius). Side B of the vinyl also contains another old anthem, "The Sickening Dwell". Is there anything more I can ask for?
Martin van Drunen... Well, let's be honest; Theo Loomans did amazing job on "Embrace the Death", vomiting his lyrics in furious way, but Martin is much better. He's got very specific voice, no other growler sounds like he does and that's something I find as incredible. His growls are very raspy and savage, he must have spitted out his lungs while recording the album and what can I say... This may be the best vocal performance he's ever done, although the brilliant comeback album "Death the Brutal Way" is not far behind. His voice completes the morbid atmosphere of the music perfectly.
What else can I write about "The Rack"? It probably isn't the best Asphyx album, but still one that I think is killer and absolutely necessary for every old school collection. Not many LPs will have so many memorable tracks, so amazing and catchy riffs like "The Rack" does. There's only one thing that I don't really like here... It's the front cover. Man, I have the original pressing of the vinyl on the gatefold, but it doesn't matter how many times I was looking at it, I just couldn't get what the hell is that on this picture? Is it some kind of alien creature or what? How should I look at it, from which side...? Fuck knows. I don't like it at all, which is weird, as I like the graphics on all other Asphyx albums. Anyway, don't judge the book by its cover. Everything else about "The Rack" is simply great and the album deserves its cult status like not many others.
Best songs: "The Rack", "Pages In Blood", "The Sickening Dwell"
Final rate: 92 / 100


And here’s great, little known Polish band from the prehistoric times of 80's / 90's that I think is worth checking...
They’ve been called MANSLAUGHTER! This death metal horde started quite early, already in January 1988, in Staszów – first under the name EXHUMATOR and then SACRATHOR. Most likely the first line up was Szczur - Guitars, Vocals, Balon – Guitars, The Bill – Bass and Adam – Drums (who was soon replaced by Hajduk). This line up recorded "Exhumator" demo in 1989, but to be honest I don’t know anything about this material and this period. I guess this demo tape wasn’t really released in the underground (due to poor quality?) and MANSLAUGHTER’s real debut was demo 1990 titled “Zombie's Night”. These five tracks were more into thrash / death metal direction, with some unconventional ideas and rather bad production. Anyway this demo (as well as few gigs that were played in Poland, in such cities as Staszów, Tarnobrzeg, Sandomierz) gave the band some recognition and soon MANSLAUGHTER continued their crusade, recording third demo – “Infernal Madness”. This tape was recorded in October 1991 in local ZDK WSK Studio in Rzeszów and contained three killer death metal songs plus intro. Demo was self released first, but soon CARNAGE Records spotted a good band on a horizon and – just like they did with many other bands (like ARMAGEDON, BETRAYER, GHOST, VIOLENT DIRGE etc) this great label decided to release the demo on professional tape, giving it new layout, although leaving the music untouched (I mean the label / band didn’t re-master it or whatever). It was great decision as the demo was really promising and honestly it is one of the best materials recorded in Poland at that time, in my opinion. I’ve got no clue what happened then, but suddenly the band disappeared and never recorded anything else… A shame as “Infernal Madness” demo is absolutely wonderful piece of death metal and surely the band deserved more.
Zombie’s Night (demo 1990)Recorded: Unknown
Recording line up: Szczur - Guitars, Vocals, Balon – Guitars, The Bill – Bass and Hajduk - Drums
There isn’t really much to say about this demo, to be honest. Not that it’s such a crap that I don’t wanna waste my time and even write about it, not at all… Actually I have to say I quite like it, as it’s got its charm and character, something very typical for those early times. But at the same time it’s so typical and unoriginal that it takes really only few words to describe it. “Zombie’s Night” contains five tracks and all together it’s about 15 minutes of music. The production of the demo is very primitive, raw as hell, but I don’t know if that’s because it’s a rehearsal recording or just a badly equipped studio… Probably the latter, as it’s not as chaotic as many rehearsal tapes from that time. Anyway, MANSLAUGHTER performs really cool thrash / death metal and I have to say that nowadays this music sounds so archaic, so outdated that I just love it ha, ha! You won’t find any young bands nowadays that would play like that, with similar sound and style. This music reminds me very much many other Polish bands, VADER’s “Necrolust”, for instance, or THANATOS (pre-TRAUMA)… Razor blade sharp guitars, mutilating with cool speed, shrieking vocals and thundering bass… and musically something between old school German thrash and death metal. This is fuckin’ cool demo. So what that it sounds bloody primitive and unoriginal? Who gives a damn, as long as it kicks ass and has such cool songs as “Count of the Dark”? By the way, despite having English titles I have an impression that all the lyrics are in Polish!
Best song: “Count of the Dark”
Final rate: 60/100

Infernal Madness (demo 1992 – CARNAGE Records)Recorded: Recorded in October 1991 in ZDK WSK Studio in Rzeszów
Recording line up: Szczur - Guitars, Vocals, Balon – Guitars, The Bill – Bass and Hajduk - Drums
I can easily understand why CARNAGE Records did go for MANSLAUGHER and decided to re-release their demo on professional tape. This is more than just a decent material and the only thing I can see as disadvantage in it is that there just four tracks here. Hmm, actually one can say three, as the opening song, “In Waiting For”, is kind of introduction; it is slow, atmospheric track, which is about to put you in correct mood and it does work well (it also has half spoken / half growled vocals). Then we’ve got the title track, which is rather mid paced death metal song based on massive, heavy riffs, but their arrangements and style are really simple. This band doesn’t go into complex structures and technical playing; rather concentrate on straight forward, but not too fast death metal heaviness. To some point they remind me BOLT THROWER, as well as few Polish bands, such as early BETRAYER, ARMAGEDON or GHOST. But none of these comparisons should be seen as weakness of MANSLAUGHTER. This band really knew well how to compose great, catchy death metal tracks. Sure, one may see this opening song for instance as little monotonous, as during these five minutes not much happens, but I can assure you this is really cool, crushing track, with very grim feeling. And then “The Fighting For Life” starts in similar tempos, so it doesn’t differ much from the previous song. But it is OK. “Religious Slaves” is probably the most energetic track; the tempos are little bit faster, bit more lively. And it is the best fragment of the demo. It also has some surprises – like an intro (with kind of religious choir) and short acoustic passage. Also I have to underline the fact that the production of “Infernal Madness” is very good; fat and brutal, little bit raw, but all instruments – including the drums and bass – sound absolutely well and give MANSLAUGHTER music an extra point. With all that “Infernal Madness” is one of my favourite Polish demo tapes from the early 90’s.
Best song: “Religious Slaves”
Final rate: 70/100

Asphyx - Crush the Cenotaph (EP 1992 - CENTURY MEDIA)
After few demo tapes and an album, which at the time (1992) wasn't released and even finished, Asphyx came to the point in their career, when they either split up (especially as Theo Loomans, vocalist / bassist, has left the band) or survive the hard times with a raised head. And so they added a dude named Martin Van Drunen for vocals / bass duties, a person known well from his works with another Dutch legend Pestilence and carried on with new release, which they decided to be a five-track 12" EP (titled the same as their demo from 1989), for new label, Century Media.
I must honestly say don't like the production of "Crush the Cenotaph" as much as I like the one on "Embrace the Death" LP. It's more polished and not as obscure, which is probably a shame, but still this is probably one of my favorite recordings from Woodhouse Studio, as I don't like the production of many albums that have been recorded there. Also luckily Asphyx hasn't changed their attitude towards writing simple, pure death metal songs, with the special care on the dark atmosphere and with splendid mixture of mid paced and heavy slow riffing. And so all three songs on side A of the vinyl are standard Asphyx songs. "Crush the Cenotaph" is the fatest one, I guess, and I love this track. It doesn't take much time before I find myself banging my skull in the rhythm of the furious section and morbid riffs. Its version on "Embrace the Death" was great and so is this one. "Rites of Shades" is bit slower, but probably also slightly catchier, as the main riffs are really possessing. And then "The Krusher", which will shred you to pieces easily. Adding Martin to the band definitely gave Asphyx an extra amount of ferocity, he surely did amazing job here, screaming and vomiting his lines like a maniac with an enormous energy.
Side B has two songs only and what's more, they've been recorded live, in Stockholm, November the 30th of 1991. Both "Evocation" and "Wasteland of Terror" sound rather rough, but good enough to be on this release. I guess you all know them from "The Rack" album, but I must say they're two great tracks, especially "Wasteland of Terror" must have slaughtered the fans gathered in Stockholm. It sounds like there was one pure death metal insanity, well documented on this live recording.
When I listen to this EP, I always have early Morgoth recordings in my mind. I always loved both bands equally and can say that for many years I've been missing new bands, which would play something in similar vein to these two legendary acts. Luckily we've been blessed by those from below with new old school death metal acts, many of which, take the influence from early Asphyx (and Morgoth)... But it's always amazing to come back to those old, classic recordings. They simply don't get old that easily and even if I might have got bit older since the first time I've listened to them (and in "Crush the Cenotaph" that would be about 15 years now), the feeling of morbid joy and chills going through my body are still there. This is what I call classic band.
Best song: "Crush the Cenotaph"
Final rate: 85 / 100

Asphyx - Embrace the Death

Asphyx - Embrace the Death (CENTURY MEDIA - CD 1996)
I think that everybody knows the weird story behind "Embrace the Death" album, if not let me remind you it. Initially recorded in 1990, it wasn't released on CD until 1996 (LP in 2009!), because the guy (from CMFT Records), who was about to release it originally, has disappeared with all the studio money, before the band even finished the recordings. As Bob Bagchus wrote in the booklet for the vinyl: "we found out about it when we were still in the studio (1990) a few days before mixing! We just recorded the album and only did a rough mix on "Streams of Ancient Wisdom"... we were in the studio and without a label to pay for all! So we took off with only a cassette tape with an intro, outro, a rough mix of "Streams of..." and with some movie samples in "Denying the Goat" and choir in "Vault of the vailing Souls" and that was it!". Sounds weird, but the most important thing is that this album hasn't vanished and Asphyx managed to release it finally, even if it took them few years to do so.
Another important thing about "Embrace the Death" is that major part of it was later re-recorded and re-arranged on future Asphyx albums, like the title song, which appeared on "The Rack" LP as "Pages In Blood", "Denying the Goat" as "Diabolical Existence", etc., while "Streams of Ancient Wisdom" was recorded for "Last One On Earth" LP. As far as I know some of the old lyrics of these songs have been rewritten for "The Rack" album, as new vocalist Martin van Drunen didn't like their occult matters and decided to write his own texts. Some of these original, old lyrics that Theo wrote for "Embrace the Death" album have been lost.
I must say "Embrace the Death" is the most evil and obscure sounding Asphyx album. It sounds almost like a demo, with this awfully unpolished and rough production, but that only gives and extra feeling to already damn dark and heavy album. Skipping the intro, it begins with "Embrace the Death", one of the best songs Asphyx ever written, it just blows my mind and that mournful melody in the opening part is one of the best ever to come up in death metal history. When listening to this song and also those, which follow, like "The Sickened Dwell" or "Streams of Ancient Wisdom" it surprises me how brutal and extreme you could sound, without playing mercifully fast. Much of the Asphyx music is slow, in the vein of death / doom metal, but notice how heavy and obscure it is... Like "The Sickened Dwell"; it's opened by mid paced riff, but then there's this sloooow part, which just kills and it still amazes me how well it all sounds. Or "Denying the Goat", which is all about the slowly crawling riffage (from hell).

Bur for instance, "Thoughts of an Atheist" is slightly faster, although it also starts with doomy part, but then it develops into one of the fastest songs on the album. Or "To Succubus a Whore" - fuckin fast song (in the archaic death metal standards of corpse)... So, as a whole "Embrace the Death" is much more varied than you may imagine and that's another great thing about that album, as thanks to it the atmosphere, even if sometimes the production fails, is truly one of the darkest and most morbid you'll witness on death metal album and there's no doubt about that.
Sadly "Embrace the Death" is along with "God Cries" the only album that features Theo Loomans on vocals. The guy did fantastic job here, his voice is vomited in furious way, impressively brutal and rough, and so is his bass. Sometimes his vocal arrangements are bit doggy, like in "Thoughts of an Atheist", which is a bit faster song and maybe that faster tempo is the reason why his vocal parts seem not be perfected in this particular song. I think he felt better, more comfortable in these slower tracks like "Crush the Cenotaph". I also love the leads that Eric Daniels plays. They're all fantastic, but especially the ones in "Streams of Ancient Wisdom" and "Circle of the Secluded" are emotional and memorable. The guy rips!
Summing it up, "Embrace the Death" is amazing album. Despite its troubles and even some weaknesses, I can only be grateful to Century Media for exhuming it in 1996 and recently also From Beyond Productions for releasing this ultra limited vinyl. It was worth doing so. I realise it isn't the most technical or perfectly recorded album, but that's not the point here. Asphyx delivered some great, memorable songs here, some classic and cult riffs and for all that "Embrace the Death" deserves its place in the history of death metal. Yeah, classic it is.
Best songs: "Embrace the Death", "The Sickened Dwell", "Crush the Cenotaph"
Final rate: 89 / 100

Lubricant - Nookleptia

Lubricant - Nookleptia (EP 1993 - MORBID Records)
I think that Lubricant belongs to the least remembered Finnish death metal bands. Even though they've released several demo tapes, followed by this EP, tell me, how many of you actually know "Nookleptia" at all? Or even better, how many of you have a copy of either CD or vinyl??? Not many I think, which is understandable, as Morbid Records never paid much attention to promote their bands sufficiently, besides Lubricant wasn't your typical fast and brutal death metal band and so their music might have putted off some maniacs.
If you think of Finnish death metal, I guess you'll have bands like Demigod, Demilich, Purtenance, Disgrace or Abhorrence in your mind, right? All pretty aggressive and obviously killer... Some more or less technical, some had traces of melody in their style, but mostly they were fucking brutal. And then there's Lubricant. If you think of Lubricant's demos, the great "Swallow the Symmetric Swab" specially, well, then you might be right saying they were similar to Xysma or whatever. But "Nookleptia" is something different and unique. To me this is like psychedelic rock / death metal. Sounds crazy, I know, but man, I really think that some of these riffs have old school doom feeling to it. And it sounds even more crazy if they're mixed with the grinding parts the band retained from their demos.
But this is why "Nookleptia" sounds so damn cool and weird. "Monohemerous Joy" is one brilliant opener, with some killer fast grinding parts that all of a sudden are followed by more melodic riffing - all pretty cool and infectious. This is fine song, but even though "Declaration Of Gallopping Consumption" follows it in similar way, I have no idea what to think about those twisted, psychorocking parts with some silly clean vocals that appear there? They're ridiculous and sound more like a joke than anything else. The problem is not only that those vocals sound awful and destroy the whole rotten atmosphere of the Lubricant music, but also that they appear in some other songs on "Nookleptia" and personally I can't stand this. "Laceration Of Vasoconstrictive Emotion" (fuckin titles!) for instance might have some cool Carcass worshipping riffs, but then there's this calm guitar with weird spoken voice interrupting it. Why, man?! I just want to hear some fuckin death / grind! It all sounds almost surreal, especially if you have this totally fast fragment in the middle of the song and then there're again those awful clean vocals with rock riffing next to it. Maybe it sounds OK when it's used as a finishing part for the song, but anywhere else it's hardly tolerable for me. For that one thing, I don't really know what to think of "Nookleptia". Shit or good EP?
There are songs like "Expulsive Gastroscopia" and "Monohemerous Joy" on the EP, which are just damn great slabs of grinding death metal in pure Finnish style, similar to Disgrace or Xysma. But I don't think the experiment in using clean vocals and different type of playing really worked here. When it's pure death / grind it's fine; very classic, with cool production and the death metal growls also don't bring any shame to Lubricant. Why changing it, just for the sake of sounding different? I don't know. Anyway, Lubricant never released anything after this EP and maybe that's good, as I fear their next effort would rival Wombbath's "Lavatory" or Xysma and Disgrace full lengths in the ranking of the biggest shit to come out from the ex death metal band ha, ha. Oh, and don't get me wrong, "Nookleptia" is still worth listening to, it's very decent piece of music, it just has this one thing that annoys me so much.
Best song: "Monohemerous Joy"
Final rate: 73 / 100

Adversary - forgotten death metal jewel from Sweden

Of many death metal Swedish bands that were spawned in the beginning of the 90’s there are some that remained hardly remembered. These bands never managed to record an album and get more attention, but their demo tapes remained in few collections and so were saved from being completely forgotten. With the passing time these recordings could even be considered as cult and it’s a shame that some of the bands didn’t manage to come out of the abyss of death metal underground. Such band is ADVERSARY. Nowadays it’s hardly known. It’s a challenge to find any information on this group, not to mention to put the hands on one of their very few recordings. But ADVERSARY, formed in Sandviken, in about 1990 or 1991, is still in hearts of small group of dedicated diehards. There are few reasons. One is the musicians that played in this band. And the other one is the demo they recorded, which is one of the best Sweden has produced in that time, despite the enormous competition. As far as I know the band was formed in Sandviken by Henrik Ohlsson (drums) and David Larsson (bass), who were good schoolmates at the time. They soon added Joachim Claesson (gtr) and Jorgen Palmeby (vocals) to the line up. Niklas Rehn (gtr) joined the band as well, but didn’t stay in the line up for long. He was replaced by another friend of the band, Per Nilsson, with whom Henrik already tried to play before. Another Swedish lad, who’s been in ADVERSARY was Tor Adolfsson, who replaced Joachim after the second demo – and who played before in a band called ENCINED. Anyway, ADVERSARY debuted in 1990 with a demo called “The Blood of Those Who Failed”. Consisting four tracks (“The Blood Of Those Who Failed”, “Torn To Shreds”, “Dying Again”, “Outro: After The Rain”) it was typical debut of a band, who didn’t have much of an idea what the hell they’re doing. These guys were still learning how to play their instruments and definitely still looked for a sound. Also the soundguy in the studio didn’t know how to record a death metal demo at all, what resulted in putting a left bassdrum in a left speaker and a right one in the left speaker, unusual. The same line up – David, Jorgen, Joachim and Henrik – recorded also the second demo “Beyond Death” (two songs: “Twice Dead” and “Grim Vision”) in 1991. It was bit better produced, but still didn’t equal the best demos of the time. But the best of all what ADVERSARY did was the third and final demo, called “Remains of an Art Forgotten”. It was recorded already with Per in the line up and with Matti Karki from CARNAGE / DISMEMBER on second vocals. The band finally improved with the production, which was more than just decent as the demo was recorded at the famous SUNLIGHT Studio. And also the music started to evolve, became better composed and played and with consisted much more interesting riffs and structures. And Matti’s vocals were just brilliant. He was only a session vocalist, contacted by David Larsson. Funny thing is that it happened unplanned. DISMEMBER were shooting a video for “Soon to be Dead” and popped in to SUNLIGHT. He agreed to sing and did the vocals without any rehearsals or anything, simply screaming where he was told to. Unfortunately ADVERSARY didn’t catch the chance to do something more. After the third demo they started to record some rehearsals and constantly change the line ups, up to the point where only Henrik was left from the old line up, but soon also he decided to quit and joined band called LEGIA in 1993… And so ADVERSARY died, without motivation to carry on. Sad, but what a joy is to have a “Remains of an Art Forgotten” demo. Interestingly, many think that the band released also a demo called “Human Reality” in 1992, but that demo was recorded by different Swedish called ADVERSARY.

ADVERSARY members played in few well known Swedish bands later on:
Hendrik "Henka" Ohlsson was most productive as he recorded several albums: 1994 - LEGIA - Legia (album), 1996 - THEORY IN PRACTICE - Submissive (demo), 1996 - HAGEN CROWS - Hagen Crows (demo), 1997 - THEORY IN PRACTICE - Third Eye Function (album), 1998 - THEORY IN PRACTICE - The Armageddon Theories (album), 1998 - MUTANT - Eden Burnt To Ashes (demo), 1999 - MUTANT - The Aeonic Majesty (album), 2001 - THEORY IN PRACTICE - Colonizing The Sun (album), 2002 - PORRKESTERN - 100 Ggr. Bättre Live (album), 2003 - PORRKESTERN - Bara Sa Där Ända (demo), 2003 - ALTERED AEON - Light Creates Shadows (demo), 2004 - ALTERED AEON - Dispiritism (album), 2004 - SCAR SYMMETRY - Seeds Of Rebellion (demo), 2005 - SCAR SYMMETRY - Symmetric In Design (album), 2006 - SCAR SYMMETRY - Pitch Black Progress (album), 2007 - ALTERED AEON - Reborn As Gods (demo).
SCAR SYMMETRY is the most successful of all these bands. Per Nilsson also played in this band, as well as in ALTERED AEON, CATACOMB, THRAWN, WORLD BELOW.
David Larsson formed brilliant cult act called IN AETERNUM and till the present day records great death metal records. Henka Ohlsson also played in SCAR SYMMETRY, THEORY IN PRACTICE, MUTANT, DIABOLICAL, ALTERED AEON and THRAWN.
The fact that three ADVERSARY members played together in few other bands through the years only confirms how weird is that they couldn’t decide at the time whether to carry on with ADVERSARY or not. Shame!

Remains of an Art Forgotten (demo 1991)
Recorded: Recorded in Sunlight Studio December 07-08 of 1991
Recording line up: Jorgen Palmeby – Vocals, Per Nilsson - Lead and Acoustic Guitars, keyboards, Jocke Claessom – Guitar, David Larsson – Bass, Henka Ohlsson – Drums, Matti Karki (guest vocals)
To me this demo is a cult. Simply as that. Only 13 minutes long, four tracks, but they do kick ass and they are stunning. “Succumb to Putrefaction” opens with a wonderful melodic riff, which transforms into more thrashy pattern, quickly rising up the tempo. This song reminds me CEMETARY a bit, especially with the keyboards in one motif, but also DISMEMBER could be mentioned as one of influences. Anyway, this is wonderful song, with many great riffs, as well as killer solo. Sure, ADVERSARY has that typical Swedish sound and patterns for melodies, but who cares, I can listen to it for ages. It’s not original much, but fuckin wonderful. The title track is like EPITAPH – heavy as fuck, fast and unmerciful, but with sharp melody and again killer guitar solo. I don’t know if there were any solos on previous demos, but the guitarists do brilliant job on this third demo. “Beyond All Blessings” opens with great slow riff, which soon changes into some faster tunes. It’s basically one riff played in few different ways, but it works well. The best part of the song (and the entire demo, by the way!!) is definitely the one when the acoustic guitar comes in. I can give my life for such motives and this is one of the reasons why I always appreciated Swedish scene much more than American one. It was the ability to create wonderful atmosphere and melodic background, which didn’t take anything of the aggressive side of their death metal. These Swedish lads had many great ideas and were much more productive and talented than most of their American friends. “Serpent Twilight” closes the demo and it’s simply another classic Swedish death metal song, in the vein of EPITAPH, CEMETARY, or DESULTORY. Two things must be said at the end – first, I absolutely love the production of the demo. It has the Swedish “thick” sound, but at the same time is quite raw and aggressive, which gives great result! I would love to have sound like that on my demo, if I ever was about to record one. The other thing is, if someone asks me about Matti Karki’s vocals... I don’t think he did many vocal parts on the demo, probably just few screams, especially in the chorus of “Succumb to Putrefaction”, where he cooperates with the main vocalist Jorgen. And Jorgen has great voice himself, so the effect is killer. But let’s be honest then – the entire demo kills. This is truly one of my favourite Swedish demo tapes of all times, I could easily put it together with the demos of NIHILIST, ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, CREMATORY or NECROPHOBIC. Absolutely a must to listen to!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What a shame then that ADVERSARY didn’t take it further and never managed to record anything afterwards. A truly shame, because I’m sure that a full length would be a shredding piece of traditional Swedish death metal.
Best song: “Succumb to Putrefaction”
Final rate: 95/100

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Wombbath - criminally underrated Swedish legend

Following the tracks of old Swedish death metal, one shouldn't miss band called Wombbath. They have an album from 1993 released, which together with EP and demo tape, is some of the best sounds this country has spawned at the glorious times. I recommend getting the Necroharmonic re-release CD, definitely! Myself I have the bootleged vinyl version of the album (See photo), but I just read on band's facebook ( that they work on official vinyl re-release of Wombbath full length. Great news!!! Meanwhile, read this article I putted together about the band and my opinions concerning each of Wombbath's recordings. Hail!

WOMBBATH is definitely one of those unlucky Swedish bands that never got much attention of the scene, despite the quality of the music. Sure, unlike acts like ABHOTH, MASTICATE, DARKIFIED or even NIRVANA 2002, they did manage to put on a couple of CDs, as well as an EP, but these were already the times when death metal popularity was going downhill quickly and the metal scene was concentrating more on what’s coming out of the Norwegian mists than on the good old Swedish sound. And this is why so many fantastic debut albums that were released in 1992-93 remained criminally underestimated – albums like “The Winterlong”, “Passage of Life”, “Prodigal Sun”, “Seeming Salvation” and “Internal Caustic Torments”. The last one was recorded by WOMBBATH. This Swedish band was formed in Sala, 1990 under the name SEIZURE. As they heard that this moniker was already taken they changed it to the more original and creative one, WOMBBATH. The band members were: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Rickard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums) – and this line up remained unchanged on all the official recordings. In two days of January 1992 WOMBBATH has recorded a debut demo “Brutal Mights”. It contained four tracks and musically wasn’t so typical Swedish death metal as it had many influences taken from bands like BENEDICTION for instance. The demo was great anyway. Then WOMBBATH didn’t come up with news songs until in June 1992, when the band has entered the SKY LINE Studios and recorded two new songs plus an intro which luckily later were released as a 7”EP by two French labels, INFEST / THRASH Records.
Musically the band developed into more tight death metal, but not so obscure anymore. The same labels offered WOMBBATH a contract for the debut full length and so “Internal Caustic Torments” was released in 1993. Surely it was the best material WOMBBATH recorded, but unfortunately these were no longer prolific times for death metal bands. Old crews were slowly developing their styles with different influences (ENTOMBED, GRAVE, MORGOTH, TIAMAT and many more) and not many were able to record really groundbreaking albums at that time. And labels weren’t as much interested in signing “fresh blood”, so there was no chance for underground bands like WOMBBATH to really get wide attention. Luckily such albums like “Internal Caustic Torments” remained classics nowadays - underrated but they managed to survive the test of time and that’s why today they get a second chance. “Internal Caustic Torments” was even re-released (bootlegged??) in 2008 on vinyl, and also NECROHARMONIC has unleashed in 2010 a CD with band’s all early recordings on it! But back to the past, after the debut full length WOMBBATH recorded a couple of new songs and send the promo to few labels, hoping to get a better deal. But none of the major labels – NUCLEAR BLAST, CENTURY MEDIA, EARACHE, etc – were interested in the band. So WOMBBATH decided to cooperate with a small (at the time) Austrian NAPALM Records. “Lavatory” MCD was released in 1994 and showed completely different band. The music became much less brutal and deathly, using surprising softer elements. To some point it must have been influenced by death’n’roll of FURBOWL and ENTOMBED, but musically WOMBBATH wasn’t even close to get such a brilliant songwriting as these two bands did. The mini album was done directly from their demo recording which NAPALM thought was good enough to release. Later on WOMBBATH recorded and sent new material for the full-length album NAPALM boss Max never got back to them and was completely unreachable. The band sent some of the new songs to the bigger labels but without any result. After these unfortunate events the band lost their enthusiasm and after another demo they soon broke up in 1995. I think it could have been good decision, considering how shitty “Lavatory” was.

Brutal Mights (demo 1992)
Recorded: Recorded in 25-26 January 1992 at Gamble Studio Broddbo. Produced and mixed by WOMBBATH and Jesper Gamble.
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Rickard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums)
Don’t know how many of you enjoy listening to the old demo recordings, but personally I love to. The most fascinating thing about it is that these demos have been recorded by some young lads who would never think back then (in the 80’s / 90’s) that their demo will still be able to catch someone’s attention almost 20 years later. And often maniacs will consider it as cult stuff. Probably they just though that they’re one of the many bands that either will success and get as much attention as GRAVE or DISMEMBER or will remain in the deep underground, soon to perish in the bunch of hundreds of similar acts that nobody remembers. Meanwhile here is such demo as “Brutal Mights”, which - although doesn’t bring anything to get over-excited about and extraordinary - still is good enough that some maniacs hold it as another piece of death metal history and give it a frequent listen enjoying these deadly tunes. Good death metal simply doesn’t get old that easily he, he. And it is great death metal effort in my opinion! Surprisingly “Brutal Mights” isn’t so close to the standard Swedish death metal as you would think. Actually it has been influenced much more by the band from the other side of Europe, from misty England – BENEDICTION. Really the vibe, the riffing style, mid paced rhythms, even the guttural vocals… Almost everything on the demo reminds me of the creators of “Grand Leveller” LP (especially the groovy “Tales From the Darkside”). And to be honest these songs of WOMBBATH aren’t that bad at all. In my opinion they would easily replace any song from the BENEDICTION album. Sure, the production may not be as aggressive and professional – although it’s very much OK – but the song writing is great. WOMBBATH brings some catchy riffs, great to mosh with… There are even some of these so typical melodic riffs that the English band comes with on their most memorable songs. “Beyond the Gloomy” is probably the best example for that – great song, which has some smashing riffs and a wonderful, melodic solo – little bit in the Swedish vein to be different he he. The guitar solos WOMBBATH plays in every song are actually one of the strongest points of the demo. I love for instance the fragment from the title track, when we get this calm motif with wonderful, melodic solo and the a doomy riff with a keyboard to deepen the atmosphere. Great shit, I’m telling you! I’m especially fascinated by these two songs I mentioned, but the remaining two – “Tales From the Darkside” and “Unholy Madness” – are also cool, so basically the entire demo is an absolute pleasure to listen to. Don't hesitate then to get it if you ever have a chance!
Best song: “Beyond the Gloomy”, “Brutal Mights”
Final rate: 85/100
Several Shapes (EP 1992, THRASH / INFEST Records)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed at SKY LINE Studio on 12 - 14 of June, 1992
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Richard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums)
Wombbath, one of the least Swedish sounding death metal bands in Sweden?? He, there's some truth in this statement, as the band played more brutal kind of death metal than many of their countrymen. The debut demo, "Brutal Mights" was, in my opinion, a great slab of British and American influenced death metal, one, which I really liked, so when I started to dig through Wombbath's history I was really curious about the EP the band released in 1992. It was quite hard to get this EP, even mp3 wasn't that easy to find, but finally it became possible with Necroharmonic's re-release of the "Internal Caustic Torments", which luckily contained also the legendary EP. First, I love the front cover of this EP - zombies crawling out of the graves to bring terror and feast on the flesh of the living?? Man, what other artwork would I expect from brutal death metal band? Intro, that opens this single, is rather uninteresting, so I'll proceed to song titled "Several Shapes" immediately. First riffs of this track catch my attention straight away. Man, this mid paced, classic style death metal simply crushes! Vocals of Tomas Lindfors developed into much more guttural, what I like a lot. Also the production is much thicker and brutal, simply way better than on the already cool demo tape. This title song surely is one of the best ones Wombbath has composed in their short career, I must say! Then there's "Corporal Punishment"... The song begins with slightly more melodic riff, but soon it thrashes again with pure moshable riffage, in classic death metal way. Man, if you're into bands like Gutted or early Monstrosity (but of course in their slower parts, as these American band played much faster tunes on most of their "Imperial Doom" LP), also early Gorefest or Benediction, you may consider getting Wombbath's EP, I'm sure you'll love it also!
Best song: “Corporal Punishment”
Final rate: 89/100

Internal Caustic Torments (CD 1993, THRASH / INFEST Records)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed at SKY LINE Studio on 12 - 14 of June, 1992
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Richard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums); Keyboard by Boppe Andersson on “Abandon”
When it comes to re-releasing the old albums I'm always sceptical a little. Sure, many of them are needed as hell as the chance to get the original pressing may be very minimal - and the price ridiculous. But often I have an impression that re-releases are done with too small effort and doesn't give the justice to the original recording. I just like if the label when decides to re-release something remembers about adding some demo tracks, a nice booklet and such stuff. Meanwhile I got this LP version of “Internal Caustic Torments” re-released in 2009 and what I see is just a plain vinyl, without any extras, there are no lyrics, band's history and such stuff. Shame really. Seems that only CRYPT Records knows how to do it properly (as spoils me with their many re-releases ha, ha!). Anyway, it's always great to get such albums on LP. This WOMBBATH debut full length is simply an astonishing, classic death metal record – despite the origin it’s not totally in the Swedish style, but again in the most groovy and strong BENEDICTION vein. WOMBBATH managed to put out an album, which fulfils all the expectations in my opinion. First of all, the production is really good. It’s hasn’t got the typical Swedish sound – which is fine, because it wouldn’t fit the songs. The sound is damn more aggressive and heavy than your average Swedish recording. It gives the songs a feeling and vitality, makes them even stronger and tighter. Surely they did great job when producing “Internal Caustic Torments”. But the songs also don’t disappoint. We’ve got here one real oldie – “Beyond the Gloomy” from the “Brutal Mights” demo. This was my favourite track on the demo, so it’s cool to listen to it again, with better production and slightly re-arranged. Strong shit, I’m telling you. But the new songs are much better. The opener “Prevent Anemia” is just fantastic, with the groovy mid paced riffing, which is easily memorable and catchy, has some cool melodies, amazing vocal parts, but as overall is still damn brutal. As death metal should be. From this very first song I knew that “Internal Caustic Torments” is an album, which is even stronger than any LP that BENEDICTION has ever recorded!!!!!! Yeah, this isn't a joke, I like WOMBBATH more! Great achievement, dare I to say. But let's get back to the music. Songs that follow "Prevent Anemia" don’t disappoint. Each has something to offer – brutality, catchy riffs, groovy parts, mid paced headbangers’ friendly riffage, as well as some occasional grinding fast moments, huge voice of Tomas, some great melodies – which aren’t present in every song, but only here and there… “Abandon” comes out of these songs as the most original one, having more epic mood, underlined by the keyboard parts. Cool song, really, which gives some diversity to the death metal aura of the album. Keyboards are also present in another epic track, “Conceal Interior Torments”, which is almost like early HYPOCRISY – to my opinion another band we can compare WOMBBATH to. Slow in some parts, with the keyboards – this song is really dark and heavy. But the more I listen to “Internal Caustic Torments” I start to realize that this album hasn’t really got anything I wouldn’t like. To my taste this is a complete death metal album, which is almost perfect in every detail. A real shame that it never has been well received and through the years became almost forgotten as it doesn’t deserve to rot in the underground. To me it's a classic.
Best song: “Prevent Anemia”, “Abandon”, “Beyond the Gloomy”
Final rate: 90/100
Lavatory (MCD 1994 – NAPALM Productions)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed at SKY LINE Studios, engineered by Markus Riedler
Recording line up: Tomas Lindfors (voc), Hakan Stuvemark (gtr), Tobbe Holmgren (gtr), Richard Lagberg (bass) and Roger Enstedt (drums); guest vocals - Dalle Samuelsson
The Swedish WOMBBATH so far has unleashed truly great recordings - one demo, an EP and finally that absolutely brilliant album called “Internal Caustic Torments”. All these three efforts are classics I worship, so you shouldn't be surprised that I was impatiently looking for this final WOMBBATH release for few months until I finally got it! But somehow I knew this CD won't be even half as good as the previous stuff. I've heard that the band was so annoyed by their shitty situation with the label and the fact that nobody really was giving a crap for "another Swedish death metal band" that it led to some unexpected decisions. And unfortunately "Lavatory" disappoints. A lot! Already the front cover comes as a surprise - come on! Romantic dinner with the candles, red roses and champagne on a toilet? Musically WOMBBATH has changed a lot since the debut full length and to be honest I don’t like their new style at all. It’s simply not the same band anymore. It’s not even death metal band. Sure, maybe WOMBBATH tried to take the path created by FURBOWL and ENTOMBED of the so called death’n’roll, but their music isn’t even half as good, groovy or deathly! I was very disappointed not to get any real death metal riffs on this MCD, nor even death metal vocals. Actually the vocals are the worst part of that recording. I can even tolerate the music and forget its undeath metal style – it is OK, maybe not my cup of beer, but decent. It has some heavy metal influences, even some punk rock in it, as well as the mentioned death’n’roll thing. I can hardly call it aggressive or extreme, but I guess an average pop fan will still consider it as damn noise ha, ha. But whatever WOMBBATH tried to achieve here was destroyed by the vocals. The singing style of Tomas Lindfors is really bad! He tries to do clean vocals in a hard core style a bit or maybe do some weird vocals like CARBONIZED tried on their second album. I don’t know what his aim was, but the result sucks. This guy - although he had a great death metal growling in the past – cannot sing! To be honest with you all I cannot find anything exciting or interesting in this recording and I’m not surprised WOMBBATH didn’t manage to get a major metal label to sign a contract with. I wouldn’t be myself interested in it at all – both as a fan and as a label boss. It almost comes as a shock that the band can change their sound so much within a year of time. Unbelievable, I just wonder what the reason for that change was. Was there a point keeping the name WOMBBATH then, if musically it’s not the same band at all? I guess it doesn’t matter anymore as it's an old story now. WOMBBATH remains in my memory as a great death metal band, which did a cult LP, while “Lavatory” MCD can be easily forgotten. I don’t like this MCD and don’t recommend it to anyone!
PS. Ain't that also one damn shitty front cover????????????????
Best song: Fuck - none????
Final rate: 30/100

Mastication - Swedish killer!!

This is very special band. MASTICATION didn’t last long, but it was long enough to produce two killer demos and put their name on the Swedish death metal movement. And the guys who’s been involved in MASTICATION also participated in other great bands, so in result MASTICATION is a must for every fan of Swedish death metal. It all really started in 1988 / 89, when Lars Levin and Hempa Brynolfsson had a band called NECROLOGY. This project ceased to exist, when Hempa started to focus on a more successful and promising EXCRUCIATE. So Lars started to play with another good friend of his, Daniel Lofthagen. As far as I’ve heard they first called themselves LACERATION, but soon the named was changed for MASTICATION. The line up was Lars Levin (vocals), Daniel Lofhagen (guitar) and Per Ekegren on drums. Soon they added also Janne Rudberg on bass who just left EXHUMED / MORPHEUS. For a short time Mats Nordrup from CREMATORY was playing the second guitar and MASTICATION was a five piece at that time, With such line up MASTICATION didn’t waste the time and started intense works on their first tracks. They managed to enter SUNLIGHT Studio twice within two months (!!!) to record two demo tapes. The first one was titled “Mastication” and was recorded on 29th-30th of April and contained three killer tracks. The second demo simply titled “Demo #2” was recorded on 23rd of June with another two new songs. Both demos gave MASTICATION a lot of respect in the underground, the band even had some offers for an album, but suddenly everything stopped. Janne wanted to try something different, while Lars was asked by EXCRUCIATE to join them and do the vocals on their “Passage of Life” record, as they weren’t happy about Christian Carlsson vocals. And so Lars Levin joined one of the best Swedish bands. Meanwhile Janne formed power metal project called AVOIDNESS. He also joined EXCRUCIATE for a while, but quit that band soon. Pelle Ekegren later played in CAUTERIZER for some time. He also joined COERCION and recorded “Delete” and “Lifework” CDs (1999 and 2003). After COERCION split up he joined the mighty GRAVE and recorded two full lengths with them: “Fiendish Regression” (2004) and “As Rapture Comes” (2006). Daniel Lofthaged played in UNANIMATED for a year and recorded “In the Forest of the Dreaming Dead” CD. Meanwhile Lars Levin, after EXCRUCIATE split up joined the new Hempa Brynolfsson’s band MYKORRHIZA, which did two albums. Nowadays he’s a member of reformed EXCRUCIATE. There were also plans to reform MASTICATION! Time will tell if something’s going to come out of that. In the meanwhile, in 2010, NECROHARMONIC Records from USA has released both MASTICATION demo tapes on CD titled “Wicked Material Sanity”, as a split with another Swedish cult acts: EXHUMED and EGYPT (which is a side project of Janne Rudberg and David Brink from EXHUMED / MORPHEUS and which only recorded two songs in 1992 in SUNLIGHT!!!). The material was re-mastered and sounds totally killer, making this CD one of the greatest releases!

Mastication (Demo 1991)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed in 29-30 of April 1991 at SUNLIGHT Studio by Thomas Skogsberg.
Recording line up: Lars Levin (voc), Janne Rudberg (gtr/bass), Daniel Lofthagen (gtr), Per Ekegren (drums)
MASTICATION is yet another great band from the good, early Swedish death metal movement. The history of MASTICATION is unfortunately quite short as the band managed to get just two demos released and then split up; although all band members went to play in some other cult bands like EXCRUCIATE, COERCION and UNANIMATED. “Mastication” was recorded in two days of April 1991 at SUNLIGHT Studio. It is quite weird, knowing now that Lars Levin became EXCRUCIATE vocalist after the decease of MASTICATION, but really I find the music of both bands as very similar. I mean the sound both bands had on their recordings was very alike – blame Skogsberg for that… But musically also both MASTICATION and EXCRUCIATE played in similar style, maybe the latter was bit more melodic, while the first seemed to be bit faster and more brutal, but as overall you may have a feeling of “déjà-vu” here and there. All that doesn’t really disturb me and honestly I like both bands much. This first MASTICATION demo is an example for well played, classic Swedish death metal and surely every maniac, who likes such stuff, must get these songs and give them a listen. This material starts with a mournful intro, which lead us to song called “Freedom’s Death”. If there’s anything to say about it is that it’s so damn aggressive, sometimes really fast and energetic track that it makes all my guts to roll over, but it also contains plenty of slower parts, as well as few catchy melodies. It’s nothing outstanding, but very good as always. “Unholy Wickedness” again is very dynamic and speedy; I’m almost surprised that MASTICATION music is so fast. It’s probably one of the most aggressive bands of that time from Sverige! It seems like these guys couldn’t stop themselves when they got the speed they have to carry on and blast their shit more and more, until they make sure everybody around is slaughtered. Sure, they always find time to put a nice, hooky melody or mid paced fragment, but so far both songs were speeding like a damn chainsaw in a hands of Leatherface… And “Material Massacre” is no different ha, ha! Again really strong track, with very good riffs and Lars Levin growling like a beast – I really love his voice! But sadly the demo has just these three anthems, so the only thing left to do is put your guts back and play it again! What else do I need? Probably more songs and to see this demo released on vinyl ha, ha!
Best song: “Unholy Wickedness”
Final rate: 85/100

Demo #2 (Demo 1991)
Recorded: Recorded and mixed on 23 of June 1991 at Sunlight studio by Thomas Skogsberg.
Recording line up: Lars Levin (voc), Janne Rudberg (gtr/bass), Daniel Lofthagen (gtr), Per Ekegren (drums)
MASTICATION, after the splendid debut demo, didn’t let their fans wait long for another attack and already two months since the recording of “Demo 1” they unleashed “Demo 2”. This material comes with two tracks only… If I have to be honest, MASTICATION already with their first demo got a status of unforgettable, great Swedish death metal band. This second effort only proves the potential this band had. But I have to say one thing first – I liked “demo 1” bit more. It was classic to the bone in every aspect – the sound, style, vocals… To put it simply, it was absolutely wonderful stuff. “Demo 2” is still great and exciting material, although maybe slightly less than “Demo 1”! First thing you must notice is much fatter and more brutal production this demo got. If you listen to the guitar especially you may spot their much more dense, thicker sound, which surely gave more guts to MASTICATION. But generally it still sounds quite raw.
Music wise both demos don’t really differ much… It’s basically the same style, so there are well structured tracks, with plenty of tempo and mood changes… There’re many fast tempos, some melodies, some slower parts. Simply there’s everything that good Swedish death metal song needs. The first track, “Satanized”, is the shortest MASTICATION song ever, it’s only 3 minutes long, but it’s very straight forward, fast, uncompromising and damn aggressive. But I like the second song,“Shreds of Sanity”, more as this track has fantastic feeling, some great, catchy riffs… Also the song is much slower, based on mid paced tempo mostly, so it’s very different to the chaotic “Satanized”. Unfortunately these two tracks / 8 minutes all together / end up too quickly, so there’s no other choice than press repeat and listen to it all over again. Sadly it’s also the final MASTICATION recording, as soon after the band split up. Sure, Lars Levin ended up in EXCRUCIATE and I can listen to his fantastic voice of cult LP “Passage of Life’, but it’s really sad that MASTICATION never recorded anything else. Hopefully their two cult demos will end up on vinyl one day, they surely deserve that.
Best song: “Shreds of Sanity”
Final rate: 80/100

Bastard Priest - Under the Hammer of Destruction

Bastard Priest - Under the Hammer of Destruction (BLOOD HARVEST - LP 2010
The currently raging new wave of (Swedish but not only) old school death metal surely belongs to the most exiting things that metal underground have spawned in recent years. One may moan on the lack of originality or whatever else, but in my opinion this new trend (or how you call it?) brought us some absolutely killer bands and albums and only deaf will deny the excellence of Miasmal, Maim, Necrovorous, Tribulation, Encoffination, Morbus Chron, Stench of Decay and the likes. I could probably mention many more bands, but I guess you get my point. Bastard Priest belongs to this group of bands definitely also, as they simply shred with pure and relentless death metal and so you shouldn't hesitate giving a spin to their album.

I must say that it passed few months since I've heard the moniker Bastard Priest first and finally listened to some music by them. Somehow I missed the demo "Merciless Insane Death", which is a shame, but luckily I was able to listen to some appetising album songs on myspace. I liked them a lot and of course decided to buy "Under the Hammer of Destruction" vinyl soon afterwards. I couldn't resist as the rotten sound of Bastard Priest music infected my mind totally.

And here it is. Wonderfully packed 12" album, with one of the coolest front covers I've seen recently (I love the logo!) and great old school layout. The band picture with Matt Mendoza and Inventor is also great, even if they look more punk than metal, it surely fits the whole image the band has.

Punk is of course an important influence for Bastard Priest. I guess it plays as important role in the band's sound as does Nihilist, early Bathory, Venom, Autopsy, 1st Death or Master. Put together all these things and you may imagine how Bastard Priest sounds like. There's a stench of rotten dead floating over these sounds, everything is as obscure and raw as you may imagine and as furious as the beast. Of course the main base for the band's style lays in Stockholm and early death metal demos. But Bastard Priest goes back to the roots of this style, when Nihilist was shredding with simple and aggressive death metal. You won't find here the Swedish melody or Swedish guitar sound. Hmm, maybe the instru(mental) "Chock" has a bit of that mentioned melodic riffing, there's also melodic guitar lead in the title track, but that would be everything about that. Most of this record is pure, aggressive and straight forward punked (!!!) death metal. It is very simple in its structure, very raw and obscure and totally crazy. Think of Autopsy and Master (ha, is the riff from "Blasphemy from Hell" from Sarcofago's "Rotting", by the way??!!), add some extra dose of punk and this is Bastard Priest. Myself I'm not into punk much, but somehow I enjoy this album a lot, maybe due to harsh vocals and also those possessing choruses in songs like "Total Mutilation", "Visions of Doom", “Under the Hammer of Destruction” or "From Beyond". Or maybe it's just that putrid smell accompanying the music? Whatever that is, I like it a lot.

If you liked Death Breath album - and who didn't?? - then check Bastard Priest also!
Best songs: "Total Mutilation", “Under the Hammer of Destruction”
Final note: 80 / 100

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Desultory - Counting Our Scars

Desultory - Counting Our Scars (PULVERISED Records - CD 2010)
I guess the subject of comebacks from the netherworld of all those long time buried bands is as controversial as annoying and gathers as many opinions as there are people who are telling them. But it is equally frustrating and surprising to hear another news about band X coming back - either with just some gigs (my beloved mighty Morgoth is next in line, damn it! What for I wonder?!) or with new recordings. I have no idea if it's middle age crisis why all of a sudden these guys decided to remind us about what they've been doing 10-15 years ago or just a fashion / trend / call it whatever you want... Again, opinions may differ, but I have to say it's sad to see band like Gorefest coming back, doing two decent albums and then splitting up again, because the profits were not what they've expected to be. What the hell...? Did they think death metal is commercial pop music that can give them millions? Or another example - Nirvana 2002; as much as I love their music, I can't understand why someone, who lost interest in death metal 20 years ago now wants to play it again?

Where do I go with all this? Well, a whole book may be written about these reunions, but I want to say that some of these resurrections have resulted in some cool or even great albums I'm thankful for. Let's see - Pestilence, Asphyx, Seance, Interment, Autopsy... I love their last works. And now the main reason I write this review - Desultory! Geeeeee - do you remember them?! I must be honest with you; I love their music. I know Desultory from my teenage times, when I was 13-14 and that was 17 years ago, when I was listening to two great albums from this Swedish band and I also loved their video for the song "Winter" (one of my favourite videos along with those for "Lake of Tears", "Dark Age", „Where The Rivers Of Madness Stream” and the clips by Dismember and Morgoth). For the music they did on these first two albums I'll worship Desultory forever. But then the band did a mistake and recorded something called "Swallow the Snake"... and just like some other bands I liked, especially Morgoth, Carcass, Cemetary and Gorefest, they brought shame on their name. A real fucking disgrace. But now Desultory comes back with a new album, 15 years since the split up.

Is it good to see Desultory exhumed and brought back to life? Well, now when I listen to their new work I can definitely say YES! First of all because it may give them a chance to erase „Swallow the Snake” and secondly because it will remind us - all their old fans - what was Desultory style like and why did we liked it so much. Two things are absolutely obvious to me and don't need any discussion: Desultory had their own, original style and „Counting Our Scars” is just as good as "Bitterness" and only some of the production values reminds me it's an album recorded in XXI century. I'm happy already when I hear that amazing voice from Klas Morberg, who's one of the best death metal growlers ever, in my opinion. No one else has voice like him - quite understandable and melodic, but still so damn rough and aggressive! Great voice, really!

I've mentioned the production values... It's one of the best things about „Counting Our Scars”, in my opinion. The sound is selective and clear, very professional but aggressive, just as the modern metal album should sound like, but at the same time it also connects us with the past of the band, as the guitar sound and drums are classic to the bone. It's like Desultory tried to get the production of "Bitterness" (which is very classic Swedish sound) but update it with XXI century feeling. They've managed to get it perfectly and the result is stunning. I love the way „Counting Our Scars” sounds.

Another thing is the music. The drums work is perfect, just like in the old days of Desultory, when they had this unique cooperation of drums with the melody of guitars. I don't know why, but I always felt that the way Thomas Johnson plays is very original and when I listen to this new album this feeling comes back immediately. Just listen to the title track and see what I mean; by the way, this song could easily be from "Bitterness" LP!

But „Counting My Scars” is not the only great song here as the entire album is totally worth and with no fillers here, just killers! It's amazing; it's heavy and soooo damn melodic (with great guitar leads) and almost catchy, at least catchy in death metal standards. I know that it may mislead many of you: words: Swedish, melodic, catchy could bring bands like In Flames to your mind, but remember then that Desultory is DEATH METAL, not ONCE DEATH METAL, BUT NOW HARDLY EVEN METAL style of music, ok? While listening to „Counting My Scars” you may find out what memorable, powerful riff is, as it will crush you, hit your head with incredible force and so will stick in your mind for quite a while.

And finally someone got the meaning of melodic death metal right! „The Moment Is Gone” with its amazing opening theme is one of the best moments. Uff, what an incredible song; definitely it's one of the highlights here. But is there even one song that I don't like? No, there isn't, doesn't matter if we listen to "Uneven Numbers", „The Moment Is Gone”, "Counting the Scars", "Ready to Bleed" or "In a Cage"... They're all great tunes by one and only Desultory! When I listen to them I do have a feeling that I missed this band much and another listen to this album proves that. Welcome back!

I can only be thankful to DEATH METAL GODS (as Johnny from Unleashed would say he, he) for bringing Desultory back to my life and drink another pint of my fave lager to honour them. "Counting Our Scars" is an album I'd like to recommend to everyone; doesn’t matter if you're an old Desultory fan or someone, who only just discovered this name... that doesn't matter, just get this new album and listen to it. For me it's one of the top 10 as for the best albums in 2010... No more no less.
Best songs:  "Uneven Numbers", „The Moment Is Gone”, "Counting the Scars", "In a Cage"
Final rate: 99 / 100

Demonical - Death Infernal

Demonical - Death Infernal (CYCLONE EMPIRE - LP 2011)
I've honestly been waiting for this album more than for anything else, as two previous Demonical LPs, "Servants of the Unlight" and "Hellsworn" were absoFUCKINlutely killer. Already since my first listening session with Demonical (few years ago when I got their demo), they became one of my favourite death metal bands of nowadays and so there was no hesitation whether I should or should not buy their third LP, "Death Infernal", again released on vinyl by Cyclone Empire. And here it is... Packed in cool artwork with the crucified one, hanging on the cross on the hill of skulls, from the start it looks grim and promising.

Music wise I didn't expect anything more than I already know from the previous albums. Let's be honest, once the band finds their formula and myself, as a listener, I like it a lot, I don't expect the band to take too extreme steps into other directions. Of course it's also bad if the band cannot find anything more in their style and explored it to death, starting to repeat themselves, but I wasn't worried about that happening to "Death Infernal". There are still many killer riffs and songs to be composed in the Swedish death metal style and Demonical surely is one of those bands that are able do that in the best possible way.

Definitely there are songs on "Death Infernal", which are played in classic Demonical way - straight forward, aggressive as hell, relentless and killer, heavily influenced by the cult Swedish albums, like "Left Hand Path", only played in much more furious way. Such anthems as "The Arrival of Armageddon", "Ravenous", "Through Hellfire" are exactly like that and well, if you think that your death metal should be pure fast riff slaughter, these songs are for you. I think each of them could easily have been taken from "Hellsworn" LP, as they're played in the recognisable Demonical style totally. But they're great, I think "Ravenous" especially is one of the best songs this band has recorded so far, so respect!

Meanwhile "Death Infernal" offers also songs, which are slightly different to the previous albums. Oh, don't think the band started to wimp out, no way! All songs are Swedish death metal, although few of them bring some new kind of riffing for the band. Three tracks on "Death Infernal" are so melodic and catchy that one may think they've been played by Amon Amarth, really, and honestly, at the first listen I was very surprised by that, but also not totally convinced and sure if I like it or not. I rather prefer Demonical playing more aggressive and fast tunes, but with every next listen of "Death Infernal" I started to find songs like "All Shall Perish (The Final Liberation)" more and more enjoyable. Man, they're really catchy and infectious, with the scream-with-me kind of choruses, etc... I think the coolest song is the so called bonus track (which I have no idea why is it called like that, as it's normal part of the album), titled "From Northern Shores". Epic Amon Amarth-esque melodic riffing is brilliant here and even the lyrics I think are about the vikings: "...From Northern shores, fearless soldiers breathing war. From Northern shores mercy shown nevermore...". Cool!

I must also say a word about song titled "Darkness Awaits", which reminds me Dismember a lot and its final melodic instrumental fragment is I think one of the best minutes of the entire album, I really love it and such melodic riffing on the Swedish death metal albums are always highlights and special. From the other hand "Slain Warriors" seems to be rather mediocre song, it's definitely the weakest part of the LP and it's the first time I have a feeling of listening to filler instead of a killer.

Even though I have "Death Infernal" on LP, I also had to download the mp3 version of it, as I was really intrigued by how did Demonical play the cult Emperor song, "Night of the Graveless Souls", which unfortunately didn't end up on the vinyl. I must say I'm not totally convinced if it was good choice for the cover, as the raw black metal differs too much to Swedish death metal, above all in the production standards. Raw and filthy black metal sounds primitive and obscure, but thanks to that it has the charm and special feeling. And then if you take song like "Night of the Graveless Souls" and give it polished death metal production, I think it loses all the magic. And that's the case here... Even though it's OK and Demonical tried to play it their own way, I can't say I really like that cover. Definitely it doesn't have the atmosphere of the original and that's the main reason why I don't think it was good choice. Try Sodom or whatever else next time, but leave raw black metal.

Uffff... And here it is. "Death Infernal", great album, one on which I couldn't complain much. I love it: the production, razor sharp riffs, which are cutting without remorse, fantastic vocals from Sverker... It was worth waiting for this album and surely Demonical didn't disappoint.
Best songs: "Ravenous", "From Northern Shores", "The Arrival of Armageddon", "Darkness Awaits"
Final rate: 90 / 100

Monday, 18 July 2011

Heiden - black metal revelation from Czech Republic

At the time of making PANZERFAUST #6(66), I discovered this Czech black metal band called HEIDEN. I was really impressed by their first two albums, "Tinne" and "Era 2". Also the third CD, "Obsidian", was even better than the two previous ones and it trully kills. Musically the band developed into very original and atmospheric black metal, one which you shouldn't miss, especially at the time when post black metal is getting so popular. Here's this old interview with HEIDEN then... Man, I definitely recommend them to you... Soon I'll publish some reviews of HEIDEN music!
Hellooo HEIDEN! Nice to see all of you answering this interview! OK., let’s start with a question about the band’s name, which intrigued me a little to be honest. HEIDEN – hmm, I’ve found out that Erhard Heiden was a name of SS Reichsführer, who died in 1933. Tell me, is there any connection to this person, speaking of your bandname? To be honest I really hope there isn’t ha, ha... What did you have in your mind while taking such?
Kverd: Hi, hehehe no there is not any connection between our band name and SS Reichsführer. We chose this name because it was very good word to reflect our musical impression in our beginnings, not more not less.

But I think it has a German origin? I had a pleasure to listen to two of your albums. And I have to admit that there’s great progression between "Tinne" and “Era 2”. The arrangements are much better, songs’ structures much improved and basically the music is more interesting. Tell me, how do you see the differences between both albums? Did they happen because of line up changes or maybe it was just a matter of taking different influences what caused a slight change of your style and its general improvement? You also clearly divide your discography / band’s history on two eras, the new, second era starting with the new album. So, should we call “Era 2” as a new beginning for HEIDEN then?
Kverd: Yes, totally. We have recorded two Pagan/black metal albums and now we don’t feel any motivation to continue in this musical impression. “Era 2” is more close and decent without typical pagan cliché. Now we feel ourselves more inspired by our own feelings and we are going to reflect this fact into our music as best as we can. We are in whirls of understanding.

In that case, would you call your music black metal? Personally I can find – along with the influences from Norwegian scene – also some almost rock riffs in the album (in its calmer parts), similar even to the bands like KATATONIA, while in other parts I can hear similarities to the recent works of ENSLAVED. What do you think of these comparisons? Is BATHORY also one of your influences?
Varnag: Heh, it‘s very difficult to call or to describe our style. We are listening to many and many music without barriers and when we compose new song everybody add some his own idea, then look like as we want. But some influences from KATATONIA and ENSLAVED .. hmm hmm .. Yes, we hear it too!
Kverd: We call our music style „Blackened metal“.

One of the best things about “Era 2” is its catchiness. This music really sticks in listener’s mind, makes me bang my head but is also quite melodic, but without use of keyboards, etc. “Tinne” had loads of keyboard / acoustic / folk parts, so tell me when did you feel tired of these instruments?
Kverd: I think that we wanted to create different atmosphere. On older albums there was typical pagan feeling and for „Era 2“ we wanted something different, more closed and maybe little bit psychedelic. „Era 2“ isn´t album about ancient times, it is about our actual feelings.

Could you give me a quick overview of “Era 2” lyrics? I know there are translations of them in the booklet, but I always like to know the idea author had when creating the lyrics…
Kverd: I really don´t like exact  explanation of my lyrics, because the words can create many pictures. For me it´s stupid to give „the only one picture“ to our listeners, but I will write down some short associations:
„Ledarium“: This song is about something that we left behind.
„Blame“: As the title says, it´s about feelings of person who suffer under the pressure of her own conscience.
„People of north“: My vision of end of a nation from the north,
„Proxima Centauri“: Very personal lyric about craving for something unattainable, craving for „my star“.
„Under the iron wings of stars“: It´s about fear of destiny.
„Everyone´s fate“: Einsk´s lyric about „journey to the second riverbank“.
„Night wandering“: It´s something like prayer for uderstanding. It´s about flying through silence of night as something ethereal.
„Land of tears“: It´s a story telling by a land (of tears). Story about person who found a destiny on the bottom of cold, dark water.

Thankx! I find the front cover for “Era 2” as quite interesting. It shows a burning symbol, which in the end doesn’t turn into ash, but actually survives the fire and becomes more visible. What’s the meaning of it? Is there any connection of it to the strength and ability to self-rebuild of the nature?
Kverd: The meanings of the cover is “rebirth” in flames of fire. Now we are different, but we don’t negate our roots. Connection to self-rebuilt of the nature is very good idea, it really makes me glad that you are so attentive!

Tell me something about SVARDENVYRD, your previous band. What was its history, is this band still active? Band’s name sounds strangely… Scandinavian I dare to say, so I guess musically your were into Norwegian black metal a lot, am I right? Why did you decide to leave this band and form HEIDEN?
Einsk: SVARDENVYRD was found in 2003 and it was our first band. We have recorded demo “Zmrzle plameny nenavisti” – it was primitive undergound black metal with keyboards. After this act Kverd and Varnag left the band and founded HEIDEN. They wanted to play different music so this is the reason for their departure. For some years had SVARDENVYRD only two members – me and Typhon. We have recorded debut album “Obycej slunovratu” in 2005 – it was pagan black metal with acoustic guitars in eastern vein. This was my last stuff with SVARDENVYRD. Now I am HEIDEN member only. SVARDENVYRD is still active but I don’t know more information.

HEIDEN’s first album was titled "Potomkům pozemského soumraku", released for ECLIPSE Rec. Tell me something more about this CD and also about those beginnings of the band. I remember ECLIPSE was also releasing quite interesting black metal magazine, but do they still exist?
Kverd: This CD is our first long-playing album. It was recorded in a Forest studio in Brno in the vein of straight-lined melodic pagan black metal. Album contains vast bulk of typical natural atmosphere or “pagan feeling”, songs are fast and raw. Lyrics are based on fascination of natural laws. ECLIPSE prod. still exists, but they changed a name, actual name is LONG AGO RECORDS.

What does the sentence from this CD’s booklet mean: “HEIDEN jest ideove spriznen s myslenkovou podstatou Noveho Usvitu”? I heard it’s kind of brotherhood or something between few Czech bands?
Einsk: “Nový Úsvit” means “New Dawn”...It was some kind of brotherhood. Founding bands were HEIDEN, HYPERBOREAN DESIRE, KORIUM, STVOR, SVARDENVYRD. These bands were formed in same year. We have decided to contact another young bands and try to join. The goal was support and friendship. Now it’s broken and every band goes on its own way. Nový Úsvit doesn’t exist anymore.

OK., let’s change the subject now… How would you estimate the Czech scene, especially black metal bands from your country (Czech Rep is rather known thanks to many death / grind acts!)? I personally like MASTER’S HAMMER and AGMEN, but except of these two acts, rest is just a crap, like INFERNO, MANIAC BUTCHER, TROLLECH… Have you seen TROLLECH’s pathetic and unbelievably funny videoclip?? Where’s the point in making something like that? How can anyone treat them seriously after watching such a crap? How was it received in Czech scene, do you know? I know you were about to release a split CD with TROLLECH?
Einsk: Czech black metal scene is not rich, you’re right. There are lot of grind and death metal bands and only few black metal bands. It’s hard to find really good black metal band here. As you said MASTER’S HAMMER – its worldwide known band. But it’s not my taste… But I respect their work. AGMEN, MANIAC BUTCHER, INFERNO – I don’t listen  their music. But these bands are popular in foreign countries, especially INFERNO. TROLLECH isn’t crap in my opinion. Yes videoclip was funny you right, but music is happy, catching and heartful. TROLLECH are neither evil nor “true”. It’s like pagan metal bands. They have their own image and I must say you that TROLLECH is cult in Czech republic. Its most popular BM band here. For me is their work more sympathic than all these evil poses and “grim” suicide guys. TROLLECH are our friends and when we were younger, they were our favourite band, so for us is satisfaction to release split CD with them.

Oh yeah, this split CD is reallt great, I know that now! I always wanted to ask someone from Czech Republic about that chapel made of human bones in Kutna Hora… Have you ever been there? I never had any opportunity to visit it, but I guess it is quite outstanding experience to be in such place. Do you know anything about the history of this chapel, why did they decorate it using bones, skulls, etc?
dalias qelhma: Yes, I have been there two times. It’s really fascinating place if you don’t meet here hundreds of Russian or Japanese tourists, hehe. It’s much-frequented relic. For information about this place you can visit

Czech and Poles are rather similar countries, speaking of history and culture. Definitely both nations like beer a lot ha ha. But what I like in Czech Republic is the fact, that your country wasn’t enslaved by any religions, especially christianity and nowadays remains atheistic. Every metalhead in Poland is jealous because of that ha, ha. How does it really look like from inside, are there any influences from Church on the politics, etc? Which point in the history of your country was most important for stopping the domination of the Church and religion?
Einsk: Yes you’re right absolutely. Our country and government is mostly atheistic, thanks GOD, hehe! Yes, there is Church faction in government, but it is weakest faction in government. Sometimes they have stupid ideas about abortion prohibition, but that’s all. We don’t have problems with satanic gigs and anything similar. I am very glad that Church doesn’t have huge might here. It is horrible to watch TV and listen to news from Poland where Church rules, and prohibited abortion etc.. (Oh, I wish abortion was the only problem we have with fuckin church… but it’s not! – P666) Maybe will be more useful to concern political extremism. I am not historian, but in my opinion this atheistic sentiment came from Socialistic age of Czechoslovakia. Hard to say...

I’m curious does black metal music – its lyrics, hateful message – have any controversial feedback among the Czech society? I mean here in Poland every year we have some catholic politicians who want to “free the enslaved youth from this satanic music” (quote), they try to forbid this music from selling it… and if there’s black metal gig in of the cities, they write to city’s mayor to cancel the show… Ha, everyone has heard about GORGOROTH’s gig in Krakow from few years ago. How does it look like in Czech Rep then?
Einsk: In Czech Republic politics don’t know what black metal is, hehe. As your politics would like to fight against black metal, here is the same situation with nazi gigs and shows. This guys (nazis) are very hated by majority society, so politics cant risk to neglect anything. In Czech Rep. nobody cares about black metal gigs and bands here.

Tell me what do you listen to nowadays, what recent albums did you like most? Also I would like to know your opinion about the popularity of new wave of black metal bands, playing either so called religious BM (bands like WATAIN, DEATHSPELL OMEGA, KRIEGSMASCHINE, ONDSKAPT) or suicidal / funeral doom BM (SHINING, XASTHUR, etc). These genres are really popular now, even if sometimes one may have hard time to understand what are these bands really about seeing this rat race for “which band is most hateful of all” ha!
Einsk: At this time I listen to: ENSLAVED their last albums are amazing! SATYRICON, ARCTURUS, SOLEFALD, MAYHEM, LOITS, EMPEROR, KATATONIA, TAAKE, DHG, KEEP OF KALESSIN, last CELTIC FROST, NEGURA BUNGET... and many many more. Few years ago was popular folk and pagan BM, now its suicide BM and religious... I think that most important is fact that this stream brings band like SHINING, I think that next (for example) “cyber” stream brings another great bands.
WATAIN – last album isn’t bad, but boring for me. DEATHSPELL OMEGA – interesting band with nontraditional work. KRIEGSMACHINE – I never heard CD but I saw them live in Katovice as support on NOKTURNAL MORTUM gig – they are not bad. ONDSKAPT – sorry, I have never heard about that. SHINING last album is for me absolutely brilliant, music is great! Respect! XASTHUR etc. Its not for me :-)

Member’s profile on your website says that one of your main interests is Celtic mythology. Tell me, what does intrigues you in it especially? Is it its close relationship with nature or something more? Did you study any books about it recently? How about the Czech’s pagan culture / Slavs?
Kverd: I thing that most important for me is close relationship with our own land and spirituality. I feel an old Boiohaemum under my steps, I feel it in the air, water, fire, earth. It doesn’t matter if we play pagan metal or death metal or pop. I feel this spirituality inside me and I´m so pride for this. Yes I have read historical studies and facts about Celtic civilisation, about old Boiohaemum, but most important is a finding a personal connection with history.

How often does HEIDEN play live? Did you manage to play memorable gigs, maybe opening to some well known bands? Everyone knows that Czech have got some of best summer festivals, tell me do you visit them as a fan or maybe sometimes also with the band to play?
Varnag:We have about 10 live shows per year and it’s enough. It’s hard divide our spare time between live shows, play in rehearsal room, because we don’t earn money by music … It’s beautiful dream for us, hehe. For next year we hope to manage our mini-tour across nearly foreign countries, but for now it’s only idea.
Kverd: It would be also very nice to visit Poland for performance and come to know some information about you and your metal background. Maybe this idea comes true.

If HEIDEN was a great historic figure, what figure would you be and why?
Kverd: We are that we are. I really don’t want to be a great historic figure. I think that rest of the band approve of me.

Don’t want to play?? Tell me at the end what are HEIDEN’s plans for the nearest future! Did you start working on the new album? How do you imagine the future development of your music?
Varnag: Yeah, now we’re thinking and working about new material for new long-play CD and we’ll want bring to listeners new and fresh energy, which is inside HEIDEN now!
Kverd: We are going to concentrate our minds of creating a new album. We also going to realize some merchandise and live shows. For actual informations check

OK., that’s it man! Thanks a lot for this interview, hope to see some more killer tunes from HEIDEN soon!
Kverd: Many thanks to you for your interest, time, support, observation. Hope to meet you sometimes. SALUTE to all metal fans in Poland. Keep your hearts open, when your eyes are closed.
News from HEIDEN camp are:
"We are going to visit Shaark recording studio to create our new album. After successful OBSIDIAN we are preparing new stuff with mysterious name DOLORES, which will contain eight new songs. Release date hasn't been set yet, but just now you can see front cover artwork created by talented painter Luděk Řezáč. We also prepared short preproduction video to show you a background of our new stuff. More informations, photos and videos will follow soon, stay tuned."
Preproduction video link :