Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Pentacle - ...Rides of the Moonstorm

Pentacle - ...Rides of the Moonstorm (DAMNATION - LP 1998)
I must say I have a lot of respect for Pentacle. They've always been totally devoted to the old school values and from the beginning they've been shredding with pure and massacring metal. Mind that at the time of releasing their first recordings - demos and "The Fifth Moon" MLP - there was no hype for traditional metal that much. Of course nowadays it's cool to sound and speak like in the old times, the old sounds of death or thrash metal have came back from the tomb, maniacs returned to their old demo tapes and albums and started new bands, which bring the classic styles to life. But back in the 1998, when "...Rides of the Moonstorm" was recorded, the traditional death metal was convulsing in agony. It was cool to play black metal only - and hardly many bands were daring to resurrect a spirit of the 80's metal (except maybe few like Aura Noir, but even they mixed it with black metal, so it wasn't the same really)... And there was Pentacle, with their wonderful blend of Celtic Frost and old Death, filled with the Asphyx riffs and some thrash metal razor sharp parts.
"...Rides of the Moonstorm" is one damn brilliant album. It includes songs, which I find 100% metal and killer and dare to say, it was one of the best death metal albums from that period of late 90's. The recipe is very simple here... The Dutch crew brought a lot of Celtic Frost feeling to their music (the LP even starts with an intro, with Tom Warrior's screams recorded live in 1985!!!!). There are many riffs that will remind you "Emperor's Return" or whatever and trust me, they sound great. They're heavy, brutal and will force you to bang the skull without any mercy. And at the same time I feel that Pentacle had a lot in common with their legendary countrymen Asphyx. If you listen to such tracks as "Yielding to the Scepter of Flesh" for instance, then the similarity is pretty obvious, especially with the slow beginning in this song, but not only, as also the faster playing here reminds me the greatest Dutch band ever. Of course Wannes Gubbels (whose vocals really may remind you Martin van Drunen's!) has joined Asphyx / Soulburn at the same time... So both bands started to play very similar music, but I have no problems with that, as long as it sounds killer, it's fine. And here the songwriting is not worse than on the Asphyx records. "...Rides of the Moonstorm" has also a strong thrash metal influence, one which sometimes reminds me the German satanic troops of Desaster!!!! Listen to "Raised By Night's Chaos" and make your own opinion, but doesn't this song match the brilliance of "Tyrants of the Netherworld"?? Anyway, putting all these three main ingredients together, you'll get what I find as crushing and totally memorable old school death metal. It may seem as so obvious and simple, but trust me, not many bands were able to capture this old school feeling so perfectly. The songs are full of blasting energy, the riffs are killer, the production raw, but deadly as hell... And even the fact that the songs are quite lengthy doesn't disturb, they're just well composed and diverse. I think that the songwriting here is one of the best ever, if we speak about such music.
The motto of the album is "Don't forget the ancient feeling... it still rules!". Well, I must say that such albums as "...Rides of the Moonstorm" definitely helped keeping this spirit of classic death / thrash metal metal alive. It truly makes sense here and not even for one second I felt like listening to the over-used ideas or riffs. No, Pentacle did everything right and it's a shame that the album is quite forgotten nowadays...In my opinion it is 666% worth recommending. Get the vinyl especially, if you ever have a chance to buy it. It may be difficult, as there were 500 copies only, but trust me, it looks killer. I hate, when the LP is very simply released, with just the cover and without the lyric inlay or whatever. Here, it just looks fantastic. A lovely gatefold, with lots of band pictures, plus two inner sleeves, each including one vinyl (as the album has been split on four sides), and again, each sleeve has lots of pictures, plus the lyrics and recording info... I can definitely say that Damnation Rex did amazing job when releasing this LP. Cult!
Best tracks: "Raised By Night's Chaos", "...Rides of the Moonstorm", "Deepness Of The Depths", "Yielding to the Scepter of Flesh"
Final rate: 90 / 100

THE GROTESQUERY - Tales of the Coffin Born

THE GROTESQUERY - Tales of the Coffin Born (CYCLONE EMPIRE - LP 2010)
When in 2009 Kam Lee returned to the scene recording an album with Rogga Johansson under the logo of BONE GNAWER it was like a blessing to me. Leader of MASSACRE, one of my old time favourites is back! And there’s also that Swedish bloke in the line up, who keeps recording albums under dozens of names and whose CDs I keep buying, loving his style and undisputed death metal dedication. To me Rogga fuckin’ rules! These two did one good album and all of a sudden I found out that they also plan to put out CD of another project, called THE GROTESQUERY. First reviews I’ve read already were very weird… People only complained, talked about the uselessness of having two bands, which play similar style of music. But similar doesn’t mean it’s the same! You must be one lazy bastard, if you think that both BONE GNAWER and THE GROTESQUERY are too alike. Obviously you didn’t bother to go deep within the music, its structures and something called concept.
The opening song just shreds. It’s called “Coffin Birth” and brings catchy mid paced riffing in total old school style, similar to such bands as SIX FEET UNDER and BLOODBATH for instance, but with the exception of some industrialized sound effects threw within one of the motives, what underlines its might and energy to great effect. “This Morbid Child” is even slower and it’s maybe not so good as I expected, luckily the next track “That Thing which Lurks In the Shadows” is much better, as it’s very heavy and massive, the riffs weight a tone here – and what’s intriguing, this song really reminds me some good old tunes from ACHERON.
And when I mentioned this American legend of Mr. Crowley I really started to have a feeling that THE GROTESQUERY is similar to it more than just often. Many of the riffs have similar vibe and the vocals… well, they just have the same sound and powerful energy, they're also sang in very specific, almost narrative manner. But of course THE GROTESQUERY throws in many other things than just mid paced or slow riffage – there’s quite a bit of melodies on here, like in “The Terrible Old Man”, actually one of my favourite tracks on the album. A real masterpiece is the final song though, “Fall Of The House Of Grotesque”. Its opening, melodic riff is just epic, definitely one of the best on entire album.
But I can honestly admit though that most of the songs THE GROTESQUERY offer stands on equally high level. There are two or three exceptions, like “Spirits of the Dead” (it just doesn’t feel like so killer and sounds again very much like SIX FEET UNDER), but really most of the stuff is great. My one minor complain would come to the fact that THE GROTESQUERY sticks to one tempo throughout the album too much, so that it may seem monotonous a bit. I guess few faster nails to this coffin would do it well, but really it is a small imperfection on otherwise killer old school death metal masterpiece.
From all the aspects of THE GROTESQUERY debut album I have to underline few more things. First being all those intros thrown between each song, in order to keep the concept of the album and maybe also introduce you more into it. They may sound bit cheesy sometimes and may even annoy, but who cares… Everyone who’s into KING DIAMOND-esque concepts of (gothic) horrors will love it - I do, the story is awesome and do equals some of the best metal concept horror stories. Then, the production of “Tales of the Coffin Born” is just superb – so thick and brutal that it’s able to crush the buildings around you! The bass guitar sounds like a hammer beating your bones and drums are fuckin’ powerful. Kam Lee’s vocals kill – I absolutely love them, they’re really mighty and give an extra feeling to THE GROTESQUERY music. Finally, I think all the performances in here are top class, the front cover of the album also is one of the best I’ve seen recently (maybe together with latest HIDDEN MENACE’s album!) and so fuck those, who only moan on the imagined similarities of THE GROTESQUERY to BONE GNAWER. To me, “Tales of the Coffin Born” is great, devastating death metal album, definitely one worth getting.
Final rate: 80 / 100

Tiamat - The Astral Sleep

TIAMAT - The Astral Sleep (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1991)
There're quite a lot of memories I have about this album. For sure "The Astral Sleep" was one of the first Swedish death metal albums that I listened to, at probably the age of 12... and man, that was almost 20 years ago. I totally loved the album, because just like "Testimony of the Ancients", for instance, it offered a slightly different, more atmospheric sound. And as much as I liked such LPs as "Cross the Styx" or "Left Hand Path", I also admired those brave and unconventional, inventive albums. And what's even more fantastic is that 20 years later all that still sounds fuckin great.And the album is brave, believe me. In the world of relentless brutality, shredding riffs and vomiting vocals, it offers atmospheric calm passages, beautiful acoustics, ever present keyboards and whispering kind of vocals / shrieks. Nowadays such attributes may be normal, as heavy metal music in general has developed a lot in the past 20 years and went through many, sometimes very weird, paths of influence, but in 1991, when Tiamat recorded "The Astral Sleep" I think it must have been very shocking to the fans and challenging to the listeners. Some bands were already breaking the rules, like Paradise Lost, even Bathory with such albums like "Twilight of the Gods", but death metal was focused on breaking the limits of brutality and riff shredding. Tiamat has an enormous gothic influence on "The Astral Sleep" and I must say it works absolutely great. Normally I would puke to death when hearing this damned word "gothic", but the truth is Tiamat had an enormous influence from that genre, but was able to translate it into death metal language perfectly. The ideas they had on "The Astral Sleep" were breaking many rules. There are of course songs, which are very classic death metal tracks and as such are a continuation of what we know from the "Sumerian Cry" debut full length and songs like "In the Sign of the Pentagram". Among these songs are "Lady Temptress" and "Sumerian Cry Part III" - especially the second track is great, one of the most aggressive ones, but with an excellent middle fragment. In other songs the hell breaks loose. The use of acoustic guitars is very frequent. Starting with epic "Mountain of Doom" and slow, melodic melancholy of "Dead Boy's Choir" we're under the strong spell of darkened death metal. One of the best songs is definitely "On Golden Wings" - a brilliant cooperation of angry, sometimes doomy riffs and atmosphere created by the acoustics and keyboards. "The Ancient Entity" is another epic tune on the album and probably the most known song from it. Everybody knows it, I guess, as Tiamat played it live many times and personally I must say I love this song. It has everything - aggressive riffs, some fast parts and melodic passages, like that catchy breaking melody that appears twice in it. Fantastic, really.If someone thought it's not possible to diversify the album even more, then "The Southernmost Voyage" appears - a beautiful, dark acoustic song, with great vocals from Johan Edlund. This is one of the best fragments of the album, even if we can't say it's metal song, but so damn good, you know... "I am the King (...of Dreams)" is probably my least favourable song, but on the album with such high standards, it's still very strong and in the end many bands would kill for such riffing.Johan Edlund is great on "The Astral Sleep". His lyrics and vocals are some of the best in the history of Swedish death metal! Especially the vocals are excellent as they're very original, something between the whispers and scream and add an extra dark feeling to the atmosphere of the album. The lyrics are just excellent... Very dark, satanic... "...Knights of Satan, dead boys choir. Ten more around a fire invoking dragons and demons this event. They are not the ones that God has sent..."The production is probably the only thing that I don't really like about "The Astral Sleep", to be honest. Tiamat went to Woodhouse Studios, instead of Sunlight, and I don't know if that was wise decision. I mean I like the production of Unleashed albums from that period, but on "The Astral Sleep" it just doesn't click. The guitars sounds awful! They were not supposed to sound brutal, I guess, but they have kind of mechanical sound, or whatever you can call it, and it is weird. What rescues the album from disaster are keyboards and acoustics, which fill up that void of shitty guitar sound, and all together make it listenable.Who cares anyway... Of course I wish "The Astral Sleep" had different production, but even as it is, it's damn brilliant and in my opinion this is one of top five of Swedish death metal records. Cult I call it.
Best songs: "Mountain of Doom", "The Ancient Entity", "On Golden Wings"
Final rate: 95 / 100

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Gospel of the Horns - Realm of the Damned

Gospel of the Horns - Realm of the Damned (INVICTUS Productions - LP 2007)
I don't know if you realize what potential lies within the Australian death / black / necro fuckin thrash scene, if you don't then please check such bands as Destroyer 666, Gospel of the Horns, Abominator, Vomitor, Razor of Occam... The scene "down below" has developed truly killer, individual sound, one which takes a lot of influence from the old, pioneering bands - Venom, Sodom, Kreator, Bathory, Blasphemy, Possessed, etc., even Motorhead - and creates the obscure metal of the best quality. If you like "Satan" in your music and the sound raw and uncompromising, then they're for you.
Gospel of the Horns, as I already wrote, belongs in my opinion to the best Aussie bands. I don't really like their first recordings, like "The Satanist's Dream", much, but from the "Eve of the Conqueror" MLP through the "A Call to Arms" LP from 2002, they did fuckin shred. And here's the second album from the Aussie commando, "Realm of the Damned", released in 2007, as limited to 725 copies red gatefold vinyl, with cool poster and with great layout. Try to get this vinyl, as such music sounds best on this format!
Music wise Gospel of the Horns delivers a thundering old school blasphemous metal. I prefer to call it simply "metal", for two reasons. First, this is pure metal, not infected by any strange influences, it's based on classic instrumentation, played with the passion and understanding of the metal principles. And two, the band takes the equal measures of death, black, thrash and even more extreme heavy metal and melts it into their own music. They play it with savage energy, straightforward attitude and take no prisoners. They do play relatively fast, but don't think they use blast beats or whatever. It is fast in rather hmm... old thrash metal way. Gospel of the Horns doesn't waste their time and just shreds through the entire album, whipping and slashing with more and more razor sharp killer old school riffs. Meanwhile Mark Howitzer screams like possessed and Chris Masochist and Hexx play some noisy, Slayer-esque solos. Some of these leads really sound like good old heavy metal, like the one in the title track, especially if the riff and the overall tempo of the song the vibe of dirty rock'n'roll of Venom. There's cool dark atmosphere on the album and with the cool production, the final effect is truly "pleasant" he, he.
Yeah, Gospel of the Horns does deliver a good listening experience. Personally I do enjoy the album a lot, but have just two minor complains. First, the songs tend to repeat themselves a little, sometimes the riffs and the ideas sound quite similar and one may almost dare and ask the band whether they still have something new to offer in the future or did they already used all the best ideas? I don't want to say that "Realm of the Damned" is boring at some fragments, but definitely not every riff or song is that killer. There're some fillers, I'm afraid also. But I grab a beer, bang my head and don't even notice this really. And also, my other complain would be that I think I prefer the previous album, "A Call to Arms", slightly more. But that's just my opinion. All in all, Gospel of the Horns is good band and this is yet another solid effort from them. I highly recommend it to all old school orthodox maniacs.
Final rate: 70/ 100

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Gutted - total death metal crusher!!

And here’s another American death metal corpse; not as known and big as the first league bands, but surely not much less deadly and effective in their musical killing. GUTTED was formed in 1990 in Toledo, Ohio by three Ditch brothers: Mark (bass, vocals), Mike (guitar) and Scott (drums). At some point the band was called DEMIGOD and had also some members of DESCENDENT in the line up in 1991, but finally the brothers settled with GUTTED moniker. And as such they recorded a debut demo “Into The Gates Of Insanity” in 1992 – which wasn’t anything special really - and “Disease” demo in 1993. The latter was recorded at RT Audio in Detroit, Michigan (with that demo they had many problems with the manufacturer making the tapes) and contained a massive piece of music, with quality that easily could have matched the recordings of the best bands of the genre and was more than just yet another demo. Guttural vocals, accompanied by relentless blasting drums and vomiting riffing resulted in death metal that could match the best bands like CANNIBAL CORPSE, MONSTROSITY and MALEVOLENT CREATION. Simply great stuff. The attention of the maniacs and live shows the band played, gave GUTTED an occasion to send their stuff to record labels – the feedback from small RED LIGHT Records (previously known as GRINDCORE; this label also released CIANIDE, OPPRESSOR, etc) gave GUTTED a contract for releasing the debut CD. The band was joined at the time by the second guitarist Billy Mills and with him they entered RT Audio again to record 10 tracks for “Bleed for Us to Live” CD – released in April 1994. The album contained all four songs from “Disease” demo re-recorded and six brand new anthems; in total it’s about 45 minutes of pure US death metal! The band nailed it perfectly and in my opinion this is one of the best American death metal albums of the time. After the CD release GUTTED did the usual interviews and gigs (with INCANTATION, MORPHEUS DESCENDS, AFTERLIFE for instance), which made their name more recognizable in the underground. In 1994 GUTTED enters the studio once more, this time to record five new songs and VENOM’s “Manitou” cover. During the recording session Billy Mills – who only played on first three songs – was replaced by Tony Moreno, who recorded the remaining tracks. Entire recording was released on CD by LOUD N’ LOCAL Music Group – but that happened only in 1997. As bonus all songs from “Disease” demo were added, what in the end gave another astonishing 45 minutes of death metal feast in its best and purest, classic form. But then, something happened and GUTTED split up. What truly intrigues me is why such a stunning band remained unnoticed by most of the magazines or labels, and also maniacs, if their music easily can be placed in the same league with the most popular bands of the time? I’ve got no idea, but it was the end of band’s existence. For unknown reasons GUTTED split up and none of its members, including the Ditch brothers, have played in death metal band I would hear of. Truly a shame and lost to death metal underworld.

 Into the Gates of Insanity (demo 1992)
Recorded: unknown
Recording line up: Mark Ditch (voc/bass), Mike Ditch (gtr), Scott Ditch (drums)
Everything must start somewhere… But not always these beginnings are really that great. GUTTED debuted with this tape, but to be honest there’s not much good to say about it. “Into the Gates of Insanity” is just so far behind the quality and style of the music GUTTED started to present later that it’s almost not worth to mention. Really, “Into the Gates of Insanity” sounds almost like a demo recorded by different band. First of all the production is rather flat and uninspiring… I mean, it’s OK, but at the production doesn’t help the songs to get energy and power. Everything just sounds lifeless ha, ha. But to give the band justice, there were maaaaaany worse sounding demos, so I can easily handle it if only the songs are OK. But they’re not really that good either. I’m afraid all the tracks from “Into the Gates of Insanity” are mediocre and uninteresting. GUTTED didn’t impress with any ideas or riffs they putted on that demo. First of all, every song is ridiculously long – up to 8 minutes even – so they just bored me to death. I can’t really catch what the band wanted to achieve with these over-lengthy song structures. I can hardly remember any cool riffs or ideas from it anyway, which is bad. But the other problem is also that it only seems to be brutal, while in reality the entire demo is just lifeless and also the tempos don’t change almost at all. It’s very monotonous, only occasionally, like in the beginning of “Comatosed” the band came up with some decent, even slightly melodic riffs, which I liked. GUTTED obviously was taking a lot of influences from Dutch bands (GOREFEST), as well as such acts as CANNIBAL CORPSE and MONSTROSITY, the vocals really reminds me Martin van Drunen’s style, which is probably the best aspect of this debut demo. But in the end I can’t find it as entertaining as I wish it could be. But try to get it anyway, as it may be a cool and very rare addition to your demo tape collection.
Best song: “Communion”
Final rate: 45 / 100
Disease (demo 1993)
Recorded: Demo recorded at RT Audio, Detroit Michigan, January 1993
Recording line up: Mark Ditch (voc/bass), Mike Ditch (gtr), Scott Ditch (drums)
Arrghhhh!!!!!!!!!! This is where all the slaughter with GUTTED really began! As much as I didn’t feel impressed by “Into the Gates of Insanity”, “Disease” demo only makes me happy and headbaning!!!! This is truly fuckin’ great shit and maybe even one of my favourite US death metal demos of all time. The production of “Disease” is simply killer. It’s ultimately brutal, energetic and fresh, giving the desired (hellish) fuel to every sound / riff / drumming / vocal part. With such sound GUTTED could easily record a full length – no wonder then that all these demo recordings were later re-released on “Gutted” CD from 1997. And the songs… Yeah, GUTTED developed a lot since the debut. The songs are shorter – two are 3,5 minutes long, other two are slightly over five minutes, but luckily each is full of ideas, tempo changes, great and memorable riffs and catchy, brutal parts that they create a perfect demo. Stylistically it’s typical American death metal I guess – if you’re into bands like BAPHOMET / BANISHED, DEATH from “Leprosy” LP, SUFFOCATION from “Human Waste”, MALEVOLENT CREATION, this is an offer for you. Although I have an impression that GUTTED really paid a lot of attention into catchiness of their songs – sure, they’re damn brutal and pure mosh-friendly shit, but the riffs easily stick into the mind, as well as the vocal parts and even choruses – the one for “Death Before Dismember” is the best example. Most of the demo is also played in mid paced tempo, hardly ever in really fast blasts. But I love it – songs like “Bleed”, which starts with totally brilliant, very slow and heavy motif  – probably my favourite riff from the demo – which easily develops into yet another groovy riff slaughter. And there’s catchiness all the time – it’s really infecting; here’s another track, “Chopped Up At the Altar” – you’ll get hooked by its opening riff straight away. But my favourite song definitely is “Death Before Dismember”. It’s got everything and is just damn good piece of groovy death metal – massive, slow opener, great chorus and little faster parts. So yeah, “Disease” is just wonderful demo. To be totally honest, I think it hasn’t got any faults – this is pretty much perfect piece of death metal and one of the very best (!!!) demos I’ve ever heard.
Best song: “Death Before Dismember”, “Bleed”
Final rate: 95 / 100
Bleed For Us To Live (CD 1994 – RED LIGHT Records / GUTTED Music 2007)
Recorded: Recorded & mixed at RT Audio. Produced by Rob Tylak & GUTTED. Engineered and mixed by Rob Tylak. 2007 version remastered by Mark Ditch at COLLABORATORY Studios.
Recording line up: Mark Ditch (voc/bass/keyboards), Mike Ditch (gtr), Scott Ditch (drums), Billy Mills (Lead & Rhythm gtr)
Shit, it's really hard to believe that such a devastating album remained so unnoticed and I myself haven't even heard of GUTTED until 2008! The only explanation I can find is that I'm not the only one, as this album must have had really shitty promotion at the time of its release. Real shame, as nowadays I can say it's one of the best (!!!!) death metal albums that came from the American scene at the time; it even equals such masterpieces as "Leprosy" or "Human Waste". From my first listen of "Bleed For us to Live" I was hooked, these claws from the cover caught my guts and ripped them unmercifully. Absolutely killer stuff. Before this CD, GUTTED has released two demo tapes - first one "Into the Gates of Insanity" was pretty much weak and dull, but the second demo called "Disease" was a sign that this is a band to watch. The music was truly phenomenal and this debut album is just same, only with better production and even more killer songs. GUTTED hasn’t changed their style at all since that demo – actually “Bleed For Us To Live” is a natural successor of “Disease” and simply develops the style from it. Here’s the same catchiness, the same fantastic groove, massively brutal parts, mostly mid or slow paced, hardly ever really fast – but they did play some blasts, which just massacre like in “Chock Full of Guts”… Really lovely stuff. GUTTED used the same RT Audio studio and they knew what they’re doing. This place gave them fantastic production and this album has even more brutal sound. You can hear it especially with the vocals, which seem to be bit more guttural. “Bleed For Us To Live” contains ten tracks in total – only few of them are really new, as there are basically all the hits from “Disease” demo. I must admit it was wise decision to put them here also, as these songs simply deserve to have place on a full length. New compositions aren’t any worse and kill with equal strength. Pure relentless force, with such amazing and memorable tunes as “Death Before Dismember”, “Skeletonized”. Any surprises? Not really (hmm, maybe an acoustic fragments in “Flood of Blood”?). I love the way GUTTED composed their songs, with so many great ideas, many hooks, quality stuff and no fillers. All that created an amazing album, which I would never consider as boring. I could listen to it and listen forever, without any signs of boredom. I also like the titles of these tracks – truly classic for death metal like “Chock Full of Guts” or “Kickin’ the Corpse”, not to mention “Death Before Dismember”. Well, I guess I like everything about GUTTED. It is just a fuckin’ must to have. Hmm, the only complain I can think of is the way this album is released. I have a feeling that somehow the version of CD I have is a re-release done by the band, but it's done so poorly that it disappoints. No lyrics, no booklet, nothing what normally should come with such an album.
By the way, the CD I have seems to be a re-release, from 2007 I think, which would be OK, if it wasn't the fact that the lack of usual booklet - with lyrics, photos, etc - really dissapoints. It's just one page basically, very simple and poorly looking.
Best song: “Death Before Dismember”, “Skeletonized”
Final rate: 95 / 100

Asphyx - Death... the Brutal Way

Asphyx - Death... the Brutal Way (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 2009)
Fucking hell, finally!!!!!!
Few years ago I've never even dreamed about Asphyx coming back to the scene, but here it is - their first album since 1999's awesome „In the Wings of Inferno”. Of course one could be slightly sceptical about all these reunions and shit, but personally I had a lot of faith in the band. Their other new project, called Hail of Bullets, which features Martin van Drunen and new guitarist Paul Baayens, proved the guys to be in good form and the 7"EP "Death... the Brutal Way" also has been a pleasant addition to my death metal collection. And now, when I've listened to the album several times, I must be honest, I think this album is much beyond my imagination, it truly is the BEST (!!!) offering this band has ever recorded and I'm so amazed by its awesomeness that I can listen to it all the time. It was worth exhuming the band and smell the putrid stench again!
Of course the main question was how the band will sound without Eric Daniels, who unfortunately didn't participate in the reforming of Asphyx. Hell, I must really admit that Paul Baayens has done the best possible effort in resurrecting the classic asphyxiating spirit. His way of playing reminds the Daniels' one very much, he composed songs, which truly fit the band's style and could easily be taken from the cult albums like "The Rack" and "Last One On Earth", with the brilliant mixture of ravage, aggressive playing and slow, doomy parts; he even played many of these incredibly sorrowful guitar melodic leads, that Daniels was so famous for and man, they do fuckin shred! And the best thing about Baayens' participation in reformation of Asphyx is that he actually managed to compose the strongest material the band has ever recorded. It is truly incredible, but there's no single riff or song that I wouldn't like and I think this actually is the PERFECT album!!!
I don't know how that's possible, ask the band how they've managed to do it, but just listen to the songs and if you won't get killed instantly with the opening slaughter of "Scorbutics", then you must be either deaf or be Lady Gaga's fan. "Death... the Brutal Way" is a collection of amazing songs, death metal hymns that have incredible dark and rotten feeling, are catchy, energetic, but brutal as fuck and it doesn't matter if it's slower part or mid paced riff, it all just fuckin shreds. And remember also that the album welcomes Martin van Drunen back in the band. I wouldn't mind Wannes Gubbels singing on it, as he has similar voice, but it's so good to see Martin back on the scene and with one of the best bands ever. He already did fantastic job on the first Hail of Bullets album, but here he probably has done some of his best vocals in his career.
And the songs... As I said, they're all totally great and offer something killer, without any filler. If you're into more aggressive and faster or mid paced playing, then you'll love "Scorbutics" (with pirate themed lyrics, is it Running Wild worship or what??) - totally killer song, then there’s "The Herald" (with very slow mid part, where Baayens plays his first of many fantastic mournful solos on the album), "Eisenbahnmörser" (another great world war II piece), total headbanger of "Bloodswamp", with which your skull will fall off such intense will the headbanging be... Or the title song, which is a new Asphyx official anthem, with great lyrics about the band's comeback and their old school attitude of playing brutal death metal. Wonderful. And if you're into more atmospheric, slower and massive doomy songs, that are as heavy as fuckin' moon and are able to crush the Chinese wall, then you'll like "Asphyx II" (again, amazing solo and definitely one of the best songs on the album!), which is definitely the slowest track here or the shuttering "Black Hole Storm".
The production on "Death... the Brutal Way" is very crispy, very aggressive and brutal, I love the way the guitars sound, and the drums are like thunders. Very classic production, with the old school rawness, but at the same time it's clean and full of energy.
In the end I must not only recommend this album, I belief it has to be in the collection of every die hard death metal maniac or old school freak, but I also must recommend getting the vinyl edition of "Death... the Brutal Way". I do know it may be quite difficult now, as it's been sold out quite fast, as the limited edition of 666 isn't much, but the vinyl do fuckin looks great. It's wonderful gatefold, with huge band poster, nicely looking layout with the band photos and the inner sleeve with the lyrics... Well, it is definitely one of the favourite jewels in my vinyl collection. Absolutely perfect and much welcome comeback!
PS. Limited CD version comes with bonus DVD featuring the band's entire reunion show from 2007's Party San festival in Bad Berka. Well, having vinyl is enough for me, but I've downloaded the DVD and must say it was one hellishly good show. If you can't get the LP, buy this limited CD then!
Best songs: ALL OF THEM!!!
Final score: 100 / 100

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Decomposed interview from Crucifixion zine 1992

Here's quite interesting and rare interview with Decomposed, great British doom / death metal band that I wrote an article about earlier. I though it might be cool to put this interview also.... Thanks to Matt, who ran Crucifixion zine back in early 90's and gave me his permission to use it now. By the way, please check Matt's videos on you tube http://www.youtube.com/user/Deejaymbass he talks there about his collection of LP/CD/MC and presents some of the albums or demos from his collection. Really cool and interesting, I must say, I had a lot of fun watching all the videos he did and can't wait to see some more in the future. I must say I do envy the guy having some of the titles I've been looking for, but well... my collection ain't that bad either. So, please do check the website as well as Matt's black metal band Witchclan. And here's that Decomposed interview.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hail of Bullets - Warsaw Rising

Hail of Bullets - Warsaw Rising (METAL BLADE - MLP 2009)
I have to say that as a Pole I feel absolutely honoured that this wonderful band dedicated their newest MLP to the Polish heroes that fought for Warsaw and Poland in August / September 1944. This is very tragic and terrifying but amazing event in the history of my country, so it's great that also people from abroad see its importance and dedicate their music to it.
Just imagine people - hardly any of them were soldiers - who fought with the Germans to get back their land, freedom and humanity, without much guns and equipment, without much hope... It is unthinkable! They were abandoned by the Allies (although the British pilots tried to drop them some ammunition and food, but most of that landed on the German side). Also the Stalin troops (who were waiting just on the other side of the river!) didn't help at all, so it was said that the Warsaw Rising will last for a week or few days and fail. Meanwhile these amazing people crawled in the canals and fought in the ruins of their beloved city for over two months. The German troops were ordered by Himmler and Hitler to kill everybody they'll see and burn the city to the ground as an example. An example for such "useless resistance". They executed thousands of men, women and children... In the first days of the August especially they showed an inhuman behaviour and unmercifully killed Warsaw citizens, even if many of them didn't take any part in the fights and were just hiding in the basements. The order of Himmler was simple - kill everyone. Corpses were burning on the stakes for days. Women were holding their children and Germans were shooting these innocent people in the back of their heads! Only few days later one of the German generals decided to give a different order and against the Himmler's will he ordered not to shoot the innocent citizens but put them (what a mercy!) into the trains and send to Germany so they can work for the Third Reich. All these murderers, like gruppenfuhrer SS Heinz Reienfarth and SS-Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski never were sentenced for their participation in the killing of Warsaw citizens. And lived freely for many years in West Germany.
So, the main concept of "Warsaw Rising" - just like on the debut album - is all about the IIWW and I am not surprised that HAIL OF BULLETS used it, because it is amazing story. Myself I am very interested in history, so I can only be happy about that. Musically "Warsaw Rising" is of course a wonderful old schooled death metal. The first two tracks are very typical for HAIL OF BULLETS... great, mid paced riffage, very brutal and heavy, but catchy and totally into head banging... these two tracks crawl slowly ready to crush the listener. It is amazing how easily these old folks managed to find the energy and aggression to compose such brilliant death metal songs. Hmm, I guess such things you have in blood and you never forget them! And Martin van Drunen again proves to be my favourite death metal singer and his raspy growlings are timeless!!! I loved it since the early 90's and ASPHYX and PESTILENCE recordings and his come back to the scene was more than welcome. With time passing by his voice didn't lose anything and so I hope he's gonna record another hundred killer records!
But these two tracks are not everything that you can find on side A. There's also a cover of TWISTED SISTER and surprisingly it sounds also great as it is much heavier and riff-oriented as I expected, especially with the great chorus ("Destroyer"!!!!!!!). Side B of the "Warsaw Rising" MLP brings three live tracks recorded at the Party Sun Open air. The sound quality is very good and gives the justice to these great songs. It must have been killer performance, probably as great as ASPHYX's gig on that same Open Air, which was released as DVD. A shame we've got just three tracks, as I would love to hear / see all set.
All together these six tracks make a brilliant miniLP. I loved it and hold it as another jewel in my collection. I can only recommend it to everybody else, but especially those, who're into these Dutch death metal bands since the early days. These guys just don't get older!
Final score: 95 / 100

Hail of Bullets - ...Of Frost and War

Hail of Bullets - ...Of Frost and War (METAL BLADE - LP 2008)
If there’s anything I hate most when it comes to the music it is the waiting for the new album from one of my favourite bands. I am not patient, so sometimes I swear a lot if the band let us wait too long for their recordings. Luckily for me HAIL OF BULLETS carried on their bloody crusade in cold Eastern Front soon after the release of their mighty debut MLP. METAL BLADE has taken the band under their carrying wings and released this wonderfully looking digipack in 2008.
The booklet looks totally awesome and all those who’re into the history – World War II especially – will love it. Old photos taken from some archives – of the soldiers dying in the freezing Soviet winter, ruined cities, tanks – give an extra feeling. And the lyrics – based on the German / Soviet war and the most important events of it like the battle of Stalingrad and the fall of Berlin or about the so called Nachthexen (Russian women-only Bomber combat regiment) are absolutely fantastic. They’re very detailed, showing great knowledge and interest of its author and be awared you’ll lose much if you skip digging into them. What about the music then…
Shit, don’t even dare to think that it may be a weak album. No doubt HAIL OF BULLETS managed to put out one of the greatest materials in the recent years and only ASPHYX and BOLT THROWER (hopefully they’ll do new album soon, remember I’m very inpatient!) can rival it. Look at it as a concept album, starting with the sound of the engines of squadron of tanks (and finishing with “…the war is over / Germany cries…”)… These are the German troops heading towards the Soviet territory, ready to start the war with Stalin’s wolves. With every next track you’ll participate in this war and end up in Berlin, crushing the Nazi’s seed. The music is very old school based, composed by rather simple, mostly mid paced riffing, which is very groovy and totally heavy and aggressive, but which at the same time is damn catchy and invites to the maniacal headbanging. Occasionally you’ll hear more melodic parts (like in “The Crucial Offensive” or the wonderful melodic part in the middle of “Inferno at the Carpathian Mountains”, not to mention a solo in “Berlin”, which is a great anthem to those who died in a war), but mostly the songs are massively heavy and monumental, almost barbaric, like “General Winter” for example.
It is quite hard to pick up one single song as a favourite one, as most of the album is equally great, but surely “Ordered Eastward” and epic “Stalingrad” are those, which stuck in my mind more than anything else. And again I have to underline my great sympathy for Martin van Drunen. This man is just god for me, I’m serious. I know that there are many great growlers, like David Vincent, Mike van Mastrigt, Karl Willets, Matti Karki, LG Petrov or Jeff Walker. I love them all. But van Drunen was always my favourite guy. He participated in recording of “The Rack”, which is one of my top three of favourite LPs of all times! He did also “Consuming Impulse”, which isn’t far behind. His rough, crispy voice gives the music a special feeling and I think no one growls like him (although Wannes Gubbels is quite close).
So, with such a line up of well experienced and brilliant musicians “…Of Frost and War” just couldn’t fail. It must be a victory of old school death metal, an album, which is almost complete, as I can find anything I wouldn’t like in it. Perfect, fantastic and totally interesting, ticking all the boxes of what I like in this music. Classic. Give me more HAIL OF BULLETS!
Best tracks: “Ordered Eastward”, “Stalingrad”
Final score: 95 / 100

Soulburn - Feeding On Angels

Soulburn - Feeding On Angels (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1998)
Here's a band, which is called Soulburn, but should really be called Asphyx. When the original Asphyx members did their own albums separately, but under this original moniker - Eric Daniels did his "Asphyx" LP and Bob Bagchus and Theo Loomans did "God Cries" and all three couldn't put something together as Asphyx, they decided to split up... And what have they done afterwards? Well, all three formed Soulburn and did demo in 1996. This demo is so rare that I would sell my kidney to get it... Then Theo died unfortunately and was replaced by Pentacle mainman, Wannes Gubbels, but again Bagchus and Daniels didn't decide to call the band Asphyx and kept playing as Soulburn. To me it just doesn't make sense - "Feeding On Angels", Soulburn's only full length album, has more in common with classic Asphyx sound than "God Cries" for instance. And nowadays I consider this album to be an important part of Asphyx legacy, even if it's called different.
Let's be honest - "Feeding On Angels" sounds very much like Asphyx, despite not being as doomy as the old Asphyx albums were, it's more of a mid paced playing, focused really on aggression and feeling, but some accents of this very classic asphyxiating slow and monumental playing remained in few tracks. As I said, the entire album is rather more mid paced, maybe with a slightly more death / thrashing feeling, similar to Pentacle also, as Wannes Gubbels' definitely brought something from his band. But even the production really reminds me of Asphyx's "Last One On Earth" LP for instance (they even used the same Harrows Studios in Holland) and also Wannes Gubbels' vocals are very, very similar to Martin van Drunen's shrieking voice. It's almost a deja-vu sense, when Wannes vomits the first lines of "Hellish Entrapment" and you just think it's the good old Martin's throat. But it's not and what's more - Wannes is that good, I don't even miss Martin.
And speaking of "Hellish Entrapment", this is great opener. The song is aggressive as hell and the riffs cut through the skin like razors (I love especially that more melodic riff in the instrumental part of the song at the end). Pure headbanger's holocaust. "Crypts of the Black" is also faster song (when listening to it I know now, where does Desaster takes most of their influences, as it sounds very similar to the Germans!). "Hymn of the Forsaken" is a hymn that could easily be from one of the early Asphyx albums, it's fairly slow, rhythmical... Really, it’s one of my favourites on the LP.
When side B of the vinyl starts, I'm a little surprised by the title track. It's slightly thrashing, again reminding me Desaster and Pentacle, but it's also quite melodic in some parts and the riffing is a bit different at one fragment. But it's cool anyway. Finally also Eric Daniels delivers some of his stunning mournful melodies in few songs, like "Storming Hordes" and "Throne of Hatred". And the album is closed by fantastic "Behold the Funeral Candle", one of the best songs on the album, again slightly slower (but it speeds up at the end) and played in classic Asphyx style, with Daniels' wonderful melodic guitar solo and really cool riffing.
So, as you can see there's plenty of good listening on "Feeing On Angels". I can't imagine someone, who's Asphyx fan, won't like the album. And in fact, I think it is better album than two previous Asphyx full lengths, so definitely one to recommend to every death metal maniac. I think the best proof for the quality of this album and strength of this line up is the fact that Bagchus / Daniels / Gubbels reformed Asphyx right after releasing this LP and recorded even better onslaught, "At the Wings of Inferno". Pure death metal slaughter. I recommend getting picture LP of "Feeding On Angels" especially, quite rare item nowadays. I'm happy to have one, which I show on the picture above and I must say it does sound really well. I also used to have a CD version few years ago, but sold it, when I bought the vinyl... The only shame is that there are no lyrics on any versions of the album... But well, you can't have everything.
Best tracks: "Hellish Entrapment", "Behold the Funeral Candle"
Final score: 80 / 100

Thursday, 4 August 2011


UTUMNO is a Swedish death metal band I easily put in the same category of bands with MACABRE END (GOD MACABRE), NIRVANA 2002, DESULTORY, GOREMENT… All fantastic bands, but somehow they didn’t get the attention I would expect them to get. Anyway, UTUMNO may be seem to some as just another Swedish band, but the real maniacs of the old Svensk Dod Metal will agree that this short-living band rules. UTUMNO (a name taken from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” – and it was an old fortress, built by Melkor) was formed in 1990 in Vasteras –pretty late, as at the time the scene in Sweden already has been very active – under the name CARNAL REDEMPTION. The first line up had just three members - Staffan Johansson – guitars (who played in ABHOTH before that, but left the band before ABHOTH recorded their first demo “A Matter of Splatter”), Dan Oberg - bass and Pontus Jansson – drums. Sometime later, it was shortly after MACABRE END did their demo titled “Consumed by Darkness”, Jonas Stålhammar – who was a vocalist in MACABRE END and before that in ABHOTH – was asked by UTUMNO to do some guitar solos, but because UTUMNO didn’t have a vocalist, he (Jonas) offered a help to do them. As so he did. The first demo 1990 – recorded under the name CARNAL REDEMPTION – was titled "Desolation Domain", but it wasn’t much successful recording – years later Jonas admits that the songs were good, but the production was absolutely awful, so the demo have never even been released with the cover, etc. Soon after that the band changed the moniker to UTUMNO and quickly recorded another demo material, three tracks, all released under the title “Twisted Emptiness”. It was 1990 still, so the band’s been very active then. First local shows were played also, but Jonas started to feel uncomfortable doing both jobs – vocals and playing guitar (which wasn’t a problem in GOD MACABRE as this band didn’t rehearse too often), so the guys got Dennis Lindahl to play guitar. Playing live shows and having two demos UTUMNO started to get more and more followers. One of the gigs they played was recorded on a soundboard and this recording Ola Sjöberg from GOD MACABRE sent to the owner of CENOTAPH Records. This was the label UTUMNO signed a contract with and recorded a debut EP for. After the intensive rehearsing the band chosen three tracks for the EP, which eventually were about to be recorded. Then all of a sudden, Pontus decided to leave UTUMNO. The band quickly found replacement though; they auditioned just one drummer, Johan Halberg, who eventually got the job. But when UTUMNO entered SUNLIGH T Studio (between 7th and 8th of September 1991) it turned out that Johan was so nervous he couldn’t play, so the guys called up Pontus to record drums’ track, which he did. Johan was later auditioned once more and this time he didn’t fail; actually he impressed everybody a lot. Meanwhile EP had just two songs in the end:  “Saviour Reborn” and “In Misery I Dwell”; the third one wasn’t quite finished, so UTUMNO decided to drop it, instead taking its title for the EP – which was “The Light of Day”. EP got great feedback and sold well... There were two version of it – first 1000 copies had really awful cover drew by Danny v/d Dungen (funny, but UTUMNO guys really liked this cover as the band tried to avoid the typical gory and dark death metal style… which also could be noticed on band’s photos), and then the second pressing had more professional artwork by Paw Nielsen. The line up change didn’t have any impact on the tempo UTUMNO worked as the band played more gigs (with bands like AFFLICTED and AT THE GATES) and also already had SUNLIGHT Studio booked for another recording, as CENOTAPH wanted them to record miniCD. The band spent all the summer of 1992 rehearsing new material and went back to SUNLIGHT. Six tracks (two of which were from the EP) were recorded and UTUMNO really got great material again; it was titled “Across the Horizon”! The production, although typical for SUNLIGHT, was killer (even if the mixing took just two days) and the songs were absolutely fabulous. CENOTAPH released this stuff on CD – and this pressing is really rare nowadays! The artwork was done by brilliant Kristian Wahlin – and he did fantastic job; also band got new logo, drew by Calle Johansson, drummer of a band called MSA, which was pre-ABHOTH. But then the problems with CENOTAPH started. Adwin, owner of this label, didn’t answer the phone calls or anything. He did release CD, but never even sent copies to the band. UTUMNO started to compose new songs, but at some point Dennis stopped showing up on the rehearsals. Because at that time GOD MACABRE already split up, Jonas decided to play guitar again. The band managed to play one gig as a 4-piece, but didn’t survive long. Soon after – with all the problems they had with CENOTAPH and also with Dennis leaving – the band split up. Unfortunately I have to say record label should be blamed for it!!! How unfair CENOTAPH was for UTUMNO proves also the fact that the band members didn’t have an idea that “Across the Horizon” was released until few years later, when Jonas, who was running a record store at the time, found few copies of the CD around and gave one to every band member.
Of all UTUMNO members only Jonas had played in various bands afterwards. He played in few rock and metal bands like DARKCREED, SPACE PROBE TAURUS, THE COLOMBOS; his new band is called BOMBS OF HADES and plays great old school death / thrash metal. In 2010 he also joined the reformed THE CROWN and did vocals on the excellent “Doomsday King” album! Also Johan Halberg played in another metal band, called CRANIUM. Unfortunately he committed suicide in 2001. None of the other guys played metal again.
Finally in 2009 THE CRYPT Records decided to re-release “Across the Horizon” on LP, with “The Light of Day” EP as a bonus. This vinyl looks very impressive (as always when we’re talking about THE CRYPT releases) – has huge poster, inlay with lyrics and liner notes written by Jonas, as well as a patch. It was limited to 500 copies and sold pretty quickly. Also a CD version came out through Cyanide Syndicate / VIC Records in 2010 as well as tape on Dark Descent Records in 2011 (with bonus tracks).
Twisted Emptiness (demo 1990)
Recorded: unknown
Recording line up: Staffan Johansson – Guitars, Dan Oberg – Bass, Jonas Stalhammar – Vocals, Pontus Jansson – Drums
Here is one of the rarest and hard to find recordings from the early Swedish death metal scene. The second UTUMNO demo, which was actually recorded under the name CARNAL REDEMPTION, was really hard to find and I can only imagine how much one has to pay to buy an original tape version of it – if any still exist. I was lucky to find out that finally someone has decided to publish mp3 version of this demo (with a bonus rehearsal song what makes it even more delightful and rare piece of music!). Anyway it was 1990, so very early stage of the death metal movement in Sverige, when “Twisted Emptiness” was recorded. But many bands from this great scene already had their sound and style and I think that includes UTUMNO as well. I mean I can easily recognise many elements of “Twisted Emptiness” that have been carried on with the latter band’s recordings, “The Light of Day” 7”EP especially. The production is very raw and rather primitive, but definitely has that fat sound on the guitars. Jonas Stalhhammer’s growlings are recognisable easily as well as his vocal arrangements, which to my point of view are one of the highlights of UTUMNO music. And it is a music, which is very original; even here on the demo these Swedes play quite uncommon and diversified sounds. Sure, UTUMNO style is based on death metal, but just like AFFLICTED or AGROTH, they put in many technical parts, with some weird, almost jazzy arrangements, so the music has completely different feeling than ENTOMBED or DISMEMBER did have. You may be able to spot that in “Insane Incantation” especially… There are some really twisted and uncommon for death metal parts with strange rhythms, sudden tempo changes, sickening guitar solos and other such things, which make UTUMNO music quite difficult to classify. Sure, many of these parts still seem to need some work, they’re not totally perfected, but as a demo band UTUMNO already presented an interesting style and quality. Luckily these Swedes remembered also about the aggressive and brutal part of death metal, so their music has a bit of that as well, especially in “Desolation Domain”, which I think is the most brutal and exciting part of “Twisted Emptiness” demo in my opinion. I just love that fragment with bass in the front followed by a short, but fast grinding riffage… But this song has even more to present, so give it a listen and see yourself. I can guarantee some great tunes. And finally, as for that one rehearsal track, it is a rare, amateurish recording of “The Light of Day” song… It was probably recorded in April 1991 and as you may guess it doesn’t sound as good as the MCD version, but it surely is great addition to demo collection. All in all, I think the entire “Twisted Emptiness” demo sis worth checking out and looking for.
Best song: “Desolation Domain”
Final rate: 60/100
The Light of Day (CENOTAPH Records – 7”EP 1991)
Recorded: Recorded in SUNLIGHT Studio, between the 7-8 of September; Produced, Mixing and Engineered by Tomas Skogsberg
Recording line up: Staffan Johansson – Guitars, Dennis Lindahl – Guitars, Dan Oberg – Bass, Jonas Stalhammar – Vocals, Pontus Jansson – Drums (session)
This EP surely is a fine piece of Swedish death metal. The production is little bit rough, but I like the songs quite much. To be honest UTUMNO doesn’t differ much at this point from many other bands, like AFFLICTED for instance. They also played quite technical and well structured music, with many layers of melodic riffs, as well as those more aggressive ones here and there. The band changes the tempo often and rapidly, so everything is very dynamic and energetic, but the music doesn’t feel too complex, which is good. It’s still easily listenable, probably thanks to the melodic riffs and some catchy tunes. Especially “In Misery I Dwell” sounds great, has many hooks, even kind of chorus and great Swedish guitar solos, where you can feel from the spot where this band is from (and what studio did they record the music, as the sound of the guitar is very typical for SUNLIGHT). UTUMNO definitely had a great idea and talent for composing interesting and original death metal. Both songs are fulfilled with many, many ideas, surely the technical skills of these young guys were very impressive. So definitely musically there’s absolutely nothing wrong in this EP. Only the production could have been little bit better; it‘s just too rough, would be better to get cleaner, but more powerful sound. Anyway, this is really good EP!
Also, the first edition of EP has one of the worst front covers I’ve seen ha, ha! It shows a sun, but really weird one, with crazy eyes and lunatic smile and sharp teethes… Under it there are some people, probably kind of the tribe of sun worshippers. Eh… bleeeh he, he. The second edition of the EP has completely different layout, the front cover is much more death metal like and almost blasphemous. There are two large figures of evil looking priests who are praying in hell, where the devils torment the sinners. This cover looks much better. The second edition of an EP have the band photo on the back cover; and another shock comes! It is the famous picture of very un-death metal looking chaps, of which one is wearing MADONNA t-shirt!
Best song: “In Misery I Dwell”
Final rate: 70/100

Across the Horizon (CENOTAPH Records – MCD 1992)
Recorded: Recorded in SUNLIGHT Studio, October 1992 by Tomas Skogsberg. Produced by UTUMNO.
Recording line up: Staffan Johansson – Guitars, Dennis Lindahl – Guitars, Dan Oberg – Bass, Jonas Stalhammar – Vocals, Johan Halberg - Drums
Totally obligatory piece of Swedish death metal!! Although the band took the name from Tolkien's books, I can assure you they haven't got anything in common with the symphonic black metal a'la SUMMONING. It's totally the opposite! This mini album from the Swedish UTUMNO is a real killer and surely belongs to the best death metal stuffs recorded in Sweden at the time of early 90's. “Across the Horizon”, surprisingly (he he) recorded at famous Sunlight, contains six tracks – two of which are new versions of songs from old EP from 1991. There’s also a song called “The Light of Day”, which was also planned for the debut EP, but didn’t make it in the end. So, we have two old and well known tracks and four brand new ones. I must be honest and say that I've been trying to get this CD for years, but it's so rare that I couldn't make it (or afford it). So I've been just listening to it on tape, as someone recorded it for me. Finally in 2010 this wonderful label called THE CRYPT Productions released UTUMNO on VINYL (!!!), adding "The Light of Day" EP as a bonus. Shit! Already looking at the impressive front cover by Mr. Wahlin is something astonishing - especially in such a big format as 12"LP. Ha, this record includes also a giant poster of the same picture. Also to read a history of UTUMNO written by the vocalist, Mr. Stahlhammar, is awesome. Definitely this is another great LP in the collection of mine. Musically it just couldn't disappoint any fan of Swedish old school. Comparing "Across the Horizon" with "The Light of Day" EP I can say that the sound has changed a bit... UTUMNO has tuned down their guitars a bit I think, so the sound is definitely heavier. Also the production by Mr. Skogsberg is fabulous… So what if it's so typical for his studio and so many other Swedish death metal bands? Truth is I love this sound and “Across the Horizon” sounds also wonderful. Right from the first sounds of the opening song “The Light of Day” I feel like nothing else really matters but good Swedish death metal. This is very classic track, more in the atmospheric style rather than the NIHILIST-esque viciousness. Of course UTUMNO can be aggressive as hell when needed; they just have this ability to shuffle it with plenty of melodic, moody parts. That opening track is a fine example for it as it has some very headbanger’s friendly parts, quite fast and crushing, while it remains melodic all the way through, even has very catchy chorus. I can easily compare it to such AFFLICTED and their “Ivory Towers” anthem for instance. Both are great songs. “I Cross the Horizon” is pretty much similar, again I can compare it to AFFLICTED or GOREMENT, even ENTOMBED from their "Clandestine" LP… This track also has some splendid, more aggressive parts and I think this song is even more straight forward that the one before. After that there are two tracks from the old EP. I love “In Misery I Dwell” especially; it’s fantastic track, very energetic with blast beats in one fragment (!!!) and Jonas Stahlhammer’s vocals are again harsh and good as ever. “Sunrise”, another new track, is again very typical; but some of its parts are really complicated. Johan Halberg plays some truly incredible parts on his drums and the guitarists play some wonderful melodies. Last track, “Emotions Run Cold” is probably the weakest link of this miniCD. Well, it isn’t bad, because of its very aggressive and fast beginning, which actually sounds great – but I really don’t like these annoying clean vocal parts in the middle fragment. As much as I like Jonas’ harsh vocals, he cannot sing ha, ha! Anyway, this short fragment is maybe 10 seconds long only, so it doesn’t damage “Across the Horizon” that much. I think this recording is one of the brightest stars on the Swedish death metal sky! Probably there are just two things that I think could have been done better - one is the mentioned clean vocal parts, while the other thing I think are those fragments when UTUMNO rapidly changes the rhythms and riffing. Not always they do this perfectly, seems like the guitarists just couldn't come with the idea how to get things right. And then it just sounds weird and unobtained. Other than that, this is awesome and obligatory release.
Best song: “The Light of Day”, “In Misery I Dwell”
Final rate: 85/100

Asphyx - God Cries

Asphyx - God Cries (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1996)
"God Cries"... the fifth Asphyx LP and one, which I think brings much more controversy than all the previous recordings putted together. Why is that?
This album brings such changes in the line up, that it's unbelievable. Imagine that none of the guys who did the previous album, "Asphyx", recorded "God Cries"! The most noticeable departure was Eric Daniel's of course, who couldn't participate in recording of this LP due to some personal problems. It's a shame, truly, as he had such a unique style of playing guitar and his melodic leads are one of the kind... But from the other hand "God Cries" welcomes Theo Loomans back in the band. And man, his vocals are so vicious and morbid that it feels like a much welcome return. I really like his voice on this album a lot and think he's 666% better than this guy, Ron, who did "Asphyx" LP, although sometimes I have a feeling he tries to sound like Martin van Drunen too much. But I also really like his lyrics on the LP. They're very personal ("It Awaits" and "Cut-throat Urges" especially), many of which are also deeply antireligious.
The album surprises with its amount of brutality and fast / mid paced playing. Probably due to the lack of Daniels' personal style and his doomy riffs or leads, the album has completely different character and is almost totally deprived of the classic Asphyx slow parts. If its good or bad, it all depends on you. I've been hearing quite a lot of complains on "God Cries" and opinions that it's the weakest album in the entire band's discography. Well, I must say I agree to that, but I don't think the album is that bad at all. Sure, it's not as great as some of the earlier or future recordings, but I like it anyway as it is. With Theo on vocals, the album is fuckin aggressive as hell and there are some damn brilliant tracks also, which makes it more than just decent effort.
It's actually quite difficult to describe the album's style. It is straight forward basically and ravage, but the riffs are not in the vein of many death metal groups and definitely also not in Asphyx style... It is mainly old school shit and I think it probably takes a lot from thrash metal, just listen to "Frozen Soul", great mid paced and quite slow, for this album, song with cool headbanging riffing ("I got no feelings at all..." - yeah, just scream with Theo, dude). The same is with "The Blood I Spilled" or relentless riffing of "Slaughtered In Sodom". There are quite a lot of thrashing elements in these tracks, only played in death metal vein, don't know if you agree with me about that...?
And as I said, most of the music is very relentless and aggressive, songs like "God Cries", definitely the best track on the LP with its massive, slower chorus part, when you just must scream "GOD CRIEEEESSS!!!!!" together with Theo, or "It Awaits"... Some tracks are really fast for Asphyx standards and doesn't slow down even for the second, like "Died Yesterday", "Cut-throat Urges" or "Slaughtered In Sodom". They're pure rage coming out of the speakers. From the other hand "My Beloved Enemy" is slightly slower, but actually this is one of two of my favourite tracks from the album, I really like it a lot, its mood and Theo's depressive vocals, as well as quite melodic guitar solo in the end, even though while hearing it you definitely start to miss Daniels.
I must say I'm torn apart a little bit when listening to "God Cries". From one hand I enjoy it and think it is good album and worthy being in Asphyx discography, but from the other hand I think I miss the asphyxiated spirit too much in it. It does sound quite like different band and I wonder if it wasn't a mistake calling it Asphyx? Anyway, even if it is the weakest of all Asphyx albums, I still like it and think it's an important part of band's history.
Die hard fans may have been lucky and got the vinyl pressing of "God Cries", released by Joe Black Records, in limited 666 copies pressing. It does look fuckin' brilliant and contains two bonus tracks (demo versions of "Died Yesterday" and "The Blood I Spilled")... others might have bought the re-release CD under the title "Depths of Eternity"... Whatever you got, make your own opinion on the album. Personally, as I said, I like it, but miss the classic asphyxiated feeling in it.
Best songs: "God Cries", "My Beloved Enemy", "Frozen Soul", "The Blood I Spilled"
Final rate: 67 / 100

Asphyx - Asphyx

Asphyx - Asphyx (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1994)
This fourth Asphyx album brought so many changes that it's unbelievable it all happened so quickly, only within a year since the previous album. Martin van Drunen was no more in the band; that happened already when the band recorded "Last One On Earth" (he managed to finish his vocal parts, but bass was recorded by Ron van Pol). But to hear that Bob Bagchus left the Asphyx camp also, was a shock. The man formed this band and been its most important member! In that case, Eric Daniels was the last original musician left, which is weird. Of course he's the guy, who's responsible for so many great riffs on the previous albums, that the characteristic band's style should be present on "Asphyx", but anyway it is not true Asphyx without Bagchus. The line up for this LP was completed by Ron van Pol, from band called Malignant, on vocals and bass and Sander van Hoof on drums, who I think lasted just for the recording session. This new line up did one album, 1994's "Asphyx".
First thing a fan may notice is the dark front cover, with golden angelic figure descending into (from?) the black abyss. Man, I really like it, this artwork surely belongs to my favourite ones.
And what is this album like? Well, it is only slightly different to the previous recordings. It doesn't seem so rough and obscure and also it is more doom metal oriented in most of its time, while the occasional faster parts don't sound as brutal as the band used to play. But what I really like about "Asphyx" are the classic asphyxiated songs or certain parts, some of which easily could have been taken from any of the band's earlier recordings and would fit there perfectly - they're so great. For instance there's this opening song "Prelude of the Unhonoured Funeral", which is more of an intro or instrumental, but sounds so fuckin' brilliant. It is basically one slow, mournful riff, with some spoken words and wonderful, absolutely fantastic melodic lead on Eric's guitar... The atmosphere on it is truly creepy and dark and I love it. Similar thrills I get while listening to "Initiation Into the Ossuary". What a fantastic song!!!! It is again slower (but with some more mid paced riffing also), but when it starts and I hear the bells, choral chants and those doomy riffs, the atmosphere just freezes me and makes it the best song of the whole album. "'Til Death Do Us Apart" is also fine and it's another slow doom metal anthem, very depressing and sad, but with faster chorus part.
Songs like "Depths of Eternity" from the other hand are more varied - this one starts with mid paced, more aggressive part, which all of a sudden evolves into slow, depressive riff in classic doom metal vein and then again everything speeds up and the mood changes rapidly. "Emperors of Salvation" is also worth mentioning, it's mostly pretty fast, but the doom part of this track is just fuckin' killer, especially when Daniels plays his solo and the church bell tolls. It creates stunning atmosphere and for sure this is one of my favourite fragments of the entire album. Finally another instrumental, "Abomination Echoes", fuckin' headbanger, with very classic (almost thrash metal) riffs, really cool song.
To be honest, most of the musical content of "Asphyx" is fine, with so many fragments, where I think it's absolutely brilliant and killer. But some of these songs don't necessarily keep the Asphyx spirit and are a bit different to what we've heard on the previous albums and some of them are rather mediocre, like "Incarcerated Chimaeras" or "Valleys In Oblivion". My main complain would come on the fact that not always it all sounds as rough and brutal as it did on the old recordings. Maybe it's due to the more polished production or maybe the reason is different, I don't know, but sometimes this material doesn't have enough rotten energy to fully crush the maniac's head. Also, I think that Ron van Pol on vocals didn't sound as impressive and brutal as Martin or Theo did. Those other guys were growling like beasts, while Ron is somehow more soothe. But as I said, "Asphyx" is fine, very strong album, good listening, only not quite as killer as I would expect it to be. There are better Asphyx albums and this one probably is one of their more mediocre works. (Ha, I wish every band would be able to release such "mediocre" albums ha, ha as "Asphyx" is better than 90% of other death metal releases anyway).
I must say that finally, after years of having "Asphyx" on CD, someone released this album on vinyl. Night of the Vinyl Dead unleashed it in limited 500 copies pressing and I got it immediately before it's been sold out. Unfortunately the vinyl doesn't include "Thoughts of an Atheist", old song from "Embrace the Death" LP, re-recorded for "Asphyx", but still it is great addition to my collection.
Best songs: "Initiation Into the Ossuary", "'Til Death Do Us Apart", "Abomination Echoes"
Final rate: 73 / 100