Abbath – Abbath

27 02 2016

Note: This review was originally written for Exclaim! It was edited down and rearranged there, so I thought I would share my original article here instead. The alternative version can be found here: http://exclaim.ca/music/article/abbath-abbath

With the legal battle over rights to Immortal’s band namabbathabbathe officially in the past, fans – depending of course on which side of the fence they’re on – finally have something to rejoice about. Still donning his signature corpse paint, Abbath has returned from a six year musical drought with an impressive self-titled debut. Expanding on Immortal’s black metal blueprint, his solo material ups the ante with elements of thrash, death metal and classic rock.

The opening track “To War!” sets the tone with a thundering gallop, making it abundantly clear that Abbath means business. Thematically, it almost feels like a call to arms – a battle cry that echoes through the entire album. There are piles of stand-out moments throughout, including a horn section that punctuates brightly through the heavier elements in “Ashes of the Damned” and a foreboding acoustic interjection in the otherwise riff-heavy “Winterbane”. Bassist King (Gorgoroth, Ov Hell) adds some evil personality into the tracks, contributing some truly meaty bass runs while drummer Creature (aka Kevin Foley) thrashes and blasts with technical precision. Even the front man’s recognizable croak sounds more menacing than it does amusing, and while you might expect a certain level of cheesiness, you won’t find much here.

The journey may have been treacherous, but this time Abbath has emerged unscathed. He’s proven that he doesn’t need the Immortal name to expand his black metal legacy – all he needs is a little help from his friends.

Available now on Season of Mist.

Stream the album here: https://abbath.bandcamp.com/

 





Titan’s Eve – The Divine Equal

21 04 2011

With the thrash scene currently bursting at the seams with ’80s nostalgia and born-too-late youngsters, there is something refreshingly genuine about Vancouver’s Titan’s Eve.  It’s something in the way they pay homage to their influences without that quasi-annoying wink and nod employed by too many of their contemporaries, but there’s something else there as well. It’s that undefined thing, that attitude that says “We’re not here to fuck around”. And it’s no wonder when you consider the inspiration for their debut full-length The Divine Equal is drawn from such literary sources as The Book of Genesis and John Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost”. While it’s true that such intellectual subject matter could undoubtedly result in an album that is heavier in thematics than it is in sound, this is thankfully not the case.

The record opens with the slow building instrumental “Mourning Star” before picking up the pace considerably on the track “Judgement”. Energetic and almost anthemic in nature it is precisely here that the album reveals itself, settling into a satisfying string of up-tempo, hook laden tunes. Whether it’s the huge, sing-along chorus of “Becoming the Demon” or the sudden machine gun riffing on “Serpent Rising”, Titan’s Eve does a great job of creating truly memorable moments through out . Even putting aside the solid instrumental skill and song writing, it is really this formula of hooks and choruses that will help cement The Divine Equal as a constant in your regular rotation of music.

Of course this isn’t to say that the record has no flaws, and there are elements, namely the cymbal work, which could definitely benefit from a crisper sound production-wise. There are also times when it seems like the band are restraining themselves a bit emotionally, never fully unveiling the fury they often hint at.  But of course these are not things detrimental to the enjoyment of the album, and there is more offered up in talent and performance than a majority of bands are even capable of at this level. Having already garnered a number one spot on College Radio charts across Canada and currently preparing a cross country tour this summer, Titan’s Eve are a rising star on the horizon of modern thrash.





Various Artists – We Wish you a Metal Xmas (And a Happy New Year)

30 12 2010

In yet another review for Hellbound.ca I bring you my opinion on not just another metal album, but a HOLIDAY metal album. Think of it as my Christmas gift you all, and before you protest just think of how much worse it could be. It could be (yet another) ugly sweater. Count your blessings and enjoy!

Christmas carols, aren’t they swell? Exorbitantly covered, syrupy sweet jingles purposefully used to fuel the fires of holiday commercialism and ignite the jolly old soul in all of us. Usually by this point in the season they have gnawed their merry way into our ear holes enough times to make dousing ones head with kerosene and setting it ablaze seem like a reasonable response. Now I know Christmas and metal have never really been synonymous, but how many mediocre pop renditions of “Santa Baby” does the world honestly need?

Thankfully someone from Armoury Records had the decency to throw us a bone in the form of “We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year”. A compilation of holiday classics tailored to the needs of the neglected metal masses, it boasts an impressive collaboration of artists including Tony Iommi, Lemmy Kilmister, Chuck Billy and Ronnie James Dio to name but a few. One glance through the track listing and my curiosity was officially piqued. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” featuring Devildriver’s Dez Fafara? There was no way I hadn’t already heard worse.

As it turns out, the combination of heavy metal and Christmas songs is as entertaining and hilariously ironic as it seems. It truly is testament to what tempo and style can do to inform the way a listener interprets a song. Here, a piano driven boogie like “Run Rudolph Run” becomes a nicotine-stained party song in the hands of Lemmy and his signature rasp. Girlschool’s cover of “Auld Lang Syne” isn’t much different; a slow and reflective tune turned into something you can’t help but drink to. In terms of authenticity and sincerity however, it is the religious themed “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” that (surprisingly) stands out the most. The opening passage is unmistakably Tony Iommi; a slow and doomy guitar riff that sounds more much more sinister than it does joyful. Coupled with Dio’s powerful vocal performance, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they were singing from Satan’s point of view. It almost makes me wish Heaven and Hell had released a full length Christmas album when they had the chance.

While not every track can boast the same impressive quality, “We Wish you as Merry Xmas…” offers a bit of sonic relief from the repetitive soundtrack that normally accompanies the Christmas season. If you take it with a grain of salt and pinch of irony, you might even find yourself enjoying a carol or two.





Black Anvil – Triumvirate

1 12 2010

Note: This album review was originally written for and posted on Hellbound.ca. You can view the original link here: http://met.al/dtm

How important are geographical surroundings to developing a genre’s sound? When it comes to black metal, I would argue that they are pretty important. Just listen to any of the Norwegian black metal bands that helped pioneer the genre in the early 90’s and try to tell me the opposite. You can almost feel the long, frigid Scandinavian winters in their music; the isolation, the closeness to nature. Combine this with a county’s historical struggles against Christianity and a penchant for rebellion and you’ve pretty much defined the genre. Of course, this is a new decade and the dark underbelly of black metal has spread its influence throughout the world, often to those who merely imitate with insincere, copy-cat theatrics.

I might be forgiven then for being initially sceptical of Black Anvil, a band who calls the bright lights and urban sprawl of New York City home. Fortunately for them, their sophomore album Triumvirate makes a case for itself, offering up a truly authentic yet wholly different approach to black metal. The basic principles are there – tremolo picking, sweeping guitars, puked out vocals – but the way it is presented is what makes it different. The typically low-fi, recorded-inside-a-tin-can production value is replaced by a layer of grit and smog, a coldness that comes from polished concrete rather than ice and snow. The short and atmospheric transition track “Cripple” gives rise to this idea, incorporating what sounds like a police siren faintly in the background.

The album does have a tenancy to blur together at times and while there is nothing overly groundbreaking about the song writing on Triumvirate, there are enough shining moments to garner some repeat listens. The final handful of tracks are especially noteworthy with periods of slow groove (“Dead and Left”) giving way to quick bursts of sonic pummelling (“With Transparent Blood”) and a little bit of everything in between (“Scalping”).

In the end, Black Anvil has given us a decent collection of songs with a genuine spin that can only reflect positively on the new wave of black metal in North America. If you’re a fan of the genre already and are looking for something new and exciting, you could do a lot worse than Triumvirate.

Rating: 7.5/10





Omega Crom – Blood, Steel & Fire

1 10 2010

 Note: This review was originally written for and posted on the website Home Nucleonics. You can view the original article, along with a bunch of other metal reviews, here: http://homenucleonics.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/omega-crom-blood-steel-fire/                           

                                                                             My first encounter with Omega Crom came courtesy of a manila envelope stuffed in my mailbox. It was my first promo CD, and having no preconceived notions of what the band might sound like my first impressions were naturally based entirely on the album art. In this case it was a cover which depicted a loincloth clad cartoon warrior who, with muscles rippling and battle axe poised, was leading a vicious mob of bloodthirsty minions into battle. How much more ridiculously metal can you get?

Combining elements of thrash with melodic interludes, harsh vocals and falsetto wailing, Blood, Fire & Steel can be best described as progressive power metal on speed. It is an album that doesn’t sit still for long, sometimes changing tempo and styles multiple times within a single song. The Passing of Azazel, for example, starts with a brief bass intro and a killer thrash riff that would be right at home on Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All , and somehow evolves into a melodic interlude involving a Spanish sounding guitar and mid-range vocals that references Bruce Dickinson. If Iron Maiden, 3 Inches of Blood and Into Eternity had a lovechild, it would sound something like this. On top of all that, each song is highlighted by at least one absolutely over-the-top guitar solo and in the case of Battlefield and The Prisoner (The Drawing), they throw it in before the song has even had time to gain momentum.

While this all makes for a very fun and technically proficient album, there are some glaringly obvious low points as well. When former vocalist and notorious soprano Stu Block left to join Into Eternity, he left founder/guitarist Johnny Ketlo to tackle the full range of vocal duties himself. While his metal growl is fierce and often blood curdling, his high falsetto notes tend to fall short. Around the 4 minute mark on Battlefield there is a particular moment which sounds more like off-key wailing than it does epic singing. While I commend his ability adapt and try, it all translates into inexperience and perhaps incapability. Keep in mind that this is Omega Crom’s first full length album and there is plenty of room to grow. Luckily it is not a problem which is difficult to solve, and hiring another vocalist to handle the falsetto passages could be just what they need to complement the band’s otherwise excellent sound.

Overall, Omega Crom deliver a high octane, testosterone fuelled charge into the realms of power, thrash and traditional metal territory. While not perfect, Blood, Fire & Steel has a tenancy to remind you of all the things that made you fall in love with metal in the first place. You might not be able to judge a book by its cover, but you can certainly judge an album by one.





Bison B.C. – Dark Ages

16 09 2010

Note: This album review was originally written for and posted on the metal review site Home Nucleonics. You can view the original article here: http://tinyurl.com/2ubgw3w.

It has been predicted that the year 2012 will end in disaster. Land will crumble into sea, flash floods will engulf cities and important buildings will collapse into thick clouds of concrete dust and rubble. Nature will finally wage her war on humanity and people will die. As bleak as it all sounds, I have the sneaking suspicion that if these predictions were to actually come to fruition the boys in Bison B.C. would be the first to crack open a beer and welcome the end of days.

Combining sludgy, down tuned thrash riffs with agonized hardcore barks and guttural growls, Dark Ages gives listeners an idea of what such a party might sound like. Dark and heavy yet surprisingly upbeat, this album takes everything that made its predecessor Quiet Earth so great and amplifies it. If Mastodon were a bunch of punks and Armageddonists instead of stoners, they might have churned out an album similar to Dark Ages.

The record opens with the standout track Stressed Elephant, an appropriately named beast of a song that tops off at just over 8 minutes long. Vocalist James Farwell barks out heartfelt lyrics as if his life depended on it, setting a thematic tone for the album by reminding us that we are all just “marching to our graves”. Highlighted by a forlorn sounding French horn and a rhythm section that trudges along like pounding footsteps, it gives the listener a good idea of what is to come without giving away too many details.

While Stressed Elephant is epic and emotive, songs like Fear Cave and Take the Next Exit probably best showcase Bison B.C.’s ability to thrash. They’re fast and often grungy, but still maintain the sense of weight offered up in the opening track. Fear Cave in particular ends in notable fashion with a fuzzed out repeating riff that is so heavy I actually thought I had blown my speakers the first listen through. Balancing these heavier passages with interesting acoustic interludes on Melody, This Is For You and Wendigo Part 3 (Let Him Burn) is smart, allowing the listener some relief while also lending the album an undercurrent of melancholic emotion.

Dark Ages is a snapshot of Bison B.C. at their most mature, and boy do they age well. While it might not have all hooks of their previous efforts, this album tends to offer a sense of atmosphere that many of their sludge/stoner contemporaries can not. They bring you up but don’t hesitate in letting you fall and you love them all the more for it. Welcome to the Apocalypse, I hope you brought some beer.








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