Sunday, December 22, 2013

Death Toll Rising - Infection Legacy

Infection Legacy is the sophomore album by Edmonton's Death Toll Rising. Thankfully the new album doesn't have any references to death by feces in the title like the last one. The death (metal) on hand here is more of the apocalyptic variety.
For nine tracks over 47 minutes the Albertans go for broke with hard-hitting and edgy death metal. DTR blend a mix of chug and speed with subtle technicality. Two-toned death vokills (low/high) tear through chords as well as anyone else, and the drummer is pretty outstanding.
One can hear the uh, legacy of classic DM bands in their sound but overall DTR sound fresh and modern. Ripping solos and scorching runs balanced by burliness and grit. It's a formula bound to ensnare plenty of death metal fans. But death metal is a tough genre. True innovators are hard to find. There are plenty of horrible DM bands though. But a good majority simply do death metal very well. DTR is one of those bands. Not much really stands out but as far as death metal goes, there's really nothing to complain about. Lots of aggression, tight musicianship, good vocals, and infectiously catchy riffs.
Well, I will complain about the overly dramatic spoken/sampled intro and outro. I understand their aim to tie together the concept but they sound really cheesy. If only they were separate tracks...
Infection Legacy is worth checking out. You might even want to "Crack Open a Cold One" to go along with it. I mean beer, but that's not what the song is about.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Until Dawn - Horizon

I don't know much about Fort McMurray, AB but I know that's where Until Dawn are from and that there isn't much other that going on there. I mean, my stepdad considered a job out there and my mom said she wouldn't go with him because it was too boring. And she's the biggest homebody I know. (Love ya, Ma!) But without big city distractions these guys had plenty of time to hone their chops for debut album Horizon.
These lads can play. Riffs abound and dexterity is there in spades, but the issue at hand is stylistic. Until Dawn dig deep beneath the mines already picked clean by metalcore/melodic metal heavyweights like Killswitch Engage and Soilwork. I might even hear some Darkest Hour and The Haunted in there too. Given the base they're working from you can bet Horizon is packed with riffs that will get buried deep in your skull even if they aren't the most original. Some parts seem directly lifted from KsE. However, Until Dawn don't follow that good cop/bad cop vocal style to the same extent as KsE. There is varying degrees of intensity but even the cleaner side has some grit.
By and large most of the tracks on Horizon are virtually interchangable. Which makes the fact there are 13 (including bonus tracks) seem a bit of overkill. Spicing things up a bit is “This Fallen Fortress” which starts almost Panterish before devolving into stock metalcore. “DNR” stands in as the ballad. “The Trial” has a bit of a different energy and feels a little nu-metallic. But as stated, Horizon is basically a well-executed and produced melodic metal album.
No doubt there's a wide porton of metal fans who will eat this right up and know every word and sing along with just as much conviction to those big hooky choruses. These same fans will do their best to break their own necks to the syncopated rhythms slicing up the melodies.
But when you break it right down, Until Dawn aren't breaking any new ground and will be hard pressed to draw in listeners that aren't already diehard fans of this niche genre. I have to give them credit for sticking to what they want to play, and doing it well for what it is. And at least they've got something to do.

Until Dawn bandcamp

Monday, November 4, 2013

KEN Mode and Full of Hell @ The Mansion, Oct. 22, 2013

Oh Tuesday night shows. Your case of the Mondays hasn't worn off yet and Friday is still so far off. Do you really want to be out late? Fuckin right you do! Even when you've just worked 4 straight 12 hour days and you're staring in the face of 4 straight 12 hour night shifts, you grab your concert buddy, lace up your shitkickers and get your ass to the show because it's KEN Mode and Full of Hell! But apparently Kingston did get the memo about dedication because turnout was weak. Ah well, more room for me to throw my body around like a Queen's University Engineering jacket at Homecoming.
Local openers In Your House warmed up the uh, crowd with some pretty groovy tunes. They had some more agressive leanings but for the most part they entertained us with some slick riffs and a passion for their music. While their banter was mostly awkward, they did hit the nail on the head when they asked "Is there anyone here NOT in a band? Me, my friend and the one and only Kevin Stewart-Panko raised our hands. That might have been it. Show up early kids.
Vera Pearl took to The Mansion's tiny stage next. Last time I saw VP play they were missing some members due to illness and had ex-I Hate Sally/The Chariot bassist Dan Vokey helping out. This time, the band was all there and they were on fire. Kingston's mathmetal mongers had no trouble bending time signatures to their will despite their sparse live performance record. Their guitarist downplayed their performance but from this side of the monitors, shit was tight. Also on this side of the monitors was their vocalist. Barking with hardcore might, he climbed couches and chairs and even got a piggy back. Somebody buy that man some Old Style Pilsner!
The lone (all) American band on the bill was Full of Hell. Their latest album, Rudiments of Mutilation, puts hardcore on the rack and stretches its limbs into a distorted nightmare. Their set took the more extreme elements of their sound and thrust them full force into the room. Their set was over far too quickly but when caught in the moment of it, time became irrelevant. The band flayed the skin from our flesh as vocalist Dylan Walker stalked the floor in front of the stage, screaming his challenging and thought-provoking lyrics like his life depended on it. Physically engaged or not, the noise breaks were almost a welcome respite in which to catch a quick breath. And no one needed that more than their drummer. Full of Hell don't play fun music. And Full of Hell don't play with big smile on their faces either. But don't mistake their stoic expressions for disinterest. Rather, their furrowed brows and tight lips are the faces of total immersion and commitment to their art. No doubt the unititiated were left stunned by their dark and twisted hardcore noise. Simply put; they killed it.
Headliners. Juno winners. Advocates of Kill Everything Now. Really nice goofballs. KEN Mode. The Winnipeg noisecore giants capped off an evening already worth the $15 admission. It was like overtime. Or rather injury time, as the double-digit assemblage had free reign of the floor for all manner of shenanigans. Leaning heavily on material from their latest masterpiece, Entrench, the brothers Matthewson (Jesse and Shane) and Andrew Lacour shook The Mansion to its foundations with a seriously intense set. The crowd was fully into it as they crashed through frantic highs and crushing lows. Knowing looks passed between concert goers saying "Yeah man. This is awesome." Because it was. Really, it's probably impossible for KEN Mode to put on a bad show. The material is rock solid and these are professionally trained musicians. Crowd pleasers (why does that sound dirty?) like "No; I'm in Control", in which Jesse plays bass as well (two basses!! Ooooooh yeah baby! That's why it sounds dirty), and "Figure Your Life Out" brought things to a fever pitch. But none more so than "Your Heart Warming Story Makes Me Sick". Someone probably pulled some back muscles during the tension and release leading up to the chorus on that one. (ie. Me.)
The concentrated energy of KEN Mode being filtered into a small crowd like that breathes with a different kind of intensity. From the strangers, arms draped across each others shoulders, locked in a chain head bang, to the guy who was just way too into it and you know is gonna have a week-long bangover (me, again), everyone in that room was engaged. Small shows in intimate venues can lead to unforgettable experiences.
If Full of Hell killed it, KEN Mode ground it to dust and put it in the ground. Kingston is getting less and less metal shows and it's a bloody shame. So when you get shows like this one you really appreciate it. In Your House, Vera Pearl, Full of Hell and KEN Mode put on a monster of a show. You shoulda been there, man.
Oh, and Shane will not rest until the entire nation refers to Tim Horton's as "T-Whores". So get on it. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cloud Rat - Moksha

You can read all the magazines and websites you want searching for new music to satiate that burning desire but often it’s the bands suggested by friends that make the biggest impression. Such was the case with Cloud Rat. They’re the kind of band that makes your jaw drop and eyes bug out, and then keep them that way for the whole album. The album being referenced is Moksha and it is 30 minutes of mind-blowing grind. Well, not all grind. When Cloud Rat are going all out, the results are absolutely flattening.

This Michigan trio (from Mount Pleasant to be exact but this is anything but pleasant music) packs as much as they can into every song. Cloud Rat augment their furious grind attack by working doom tempos, sludge ridden passages, tremolo picking and d-beat groove into their retinue. Often all within the same song. The tracks twist and turn on a dime with concussive inertia.

Drummer Adrien abuses his kit as if it’s some foul beast that just won’t die, blasting away or laying down that d-beat with equal abandon. Guitarist Rorik follows suit with seriously crunchy tone, sick riffs and even some industrial flavour (“Aroma”). But Hell hath no fury like a Cloud Rat (vocalist) scorned. Vocalist Madison is seriously pissed off. Her spitting nails delivery leaves no room for argument. Her screams are manic and vitriolic, teetering on the brink of madness. While her lyrics deal with very serious topics such as abuse, neglect and drugs, they are presented in abstract and metaphorical ways. As angry as she sounds there is an underlying sadness to it. As if a deep emotional hurt is expressed by lashing out. It’s made for one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in a while.

But Moksha is not all slash and burn, and violent rage. “Infinity Chasm” sounds like Veruca Salt dropped acid and left the recorder on in the rehearsal space. That is until the track builds in intensity until it explodes for the last 30 seconds reminding us that this is still Cloud Rat. They even cover Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” transforming the song into a much more sonically formidable beast.

“Vigil” may be the most powerful track on the album. Two minutes of demented rage directed at the lack of concern and compassion in today’s world. I must admit, I get shivers at the end as Madison screams, with the utmost conviction, “Simply love/We shouldn’t survive/We shouldn’t exist/All of a sudden, Earth/My chest feels heaven”.

Breaking the mold of the hedonistically violent grind found on most of the album is the closer “Moksha”. Whispers and drone blow across melancholic piano. The listener is overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and defeat. Its placement at the end of the album is like a quiet sob when you’re finally alone; the sweet release of a held breath or the dead-eyed shock in the aftermath of catastrophe, and it’s liable to bring you to tears every time you hear it.

Moksha is a stunning album in every sense of the word. Brilliant performances from all involved create a multifaceted grinding blast encompassing a vast range of emotions. Its unpredictable nature and stellar execution produce enough “Holy fuck!” moments to make the Pope resign. Moksha is visceral and transformative and human. For fans of highly destructive grind with meaning, I cannot recommend this enough.

And as if this album didn’t capture my heart enough, the vinyl jacket is printed on old recycled jackets turned inside out. The beautiful artwork printed in an enviro-friendly way? It’s all just too much.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thanks for the crazy year: Looking back

If you had told me 13-14 months ago I'd be in the position I am now I would have snickered and said "Yeah. OK. Whatever." I mean, who was I? I was just some 33 year old guy with this little blog that nobody read, on which I'd throw a few words together about what I had been listening too. I'd give a rundown of my favourite albums of the year. Talk about shows I'd been to. I never thought it would amount to anything. (And it likely never will.) I mainly started it as a way to generate discussion about the music I love so much. It was 2008, 7 years after moving home from university and life was getting in the way of the connections I'd made with my friends who share my passion for metal. (Spencer, Todd, Kopko; man hugs bros.) Kids, jobs, distance. You know the drill. Kingdom of Noise (taken from the C.S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters) started as a way for me to let those friends, and anyone else who cared to listen, know what was turning my crank. I don't think that plan ever really worked but I kept going anyway.
Fast forward to 2012. Readership was up a bit. (Some reviews were getting like 20 hits!!) But I still felt like it was just for my own personal enjoyment. Athough, I had started making connections with like minded individuals all over the world (*tips hat to Twitter and all my tweeps* You know who you are.). When Gigantour was in town, I had coffee with a certain Adam Sewell. He of Monster Voodoo Machine/Damn 13/Bastard Child Deathcult etc fame. Adam was VERY encouraging. I felt really good to be receiving praise from someone who has totally been there and done that. However, I was still very naive to how the whole music journalism thing worked but I felt like people were starting to take notice. In particular my good friend and amazing writer, Mr. Craig Hayes. Craig had a confidence in me that I hever had in myself. Through reading his work, and that of the Canadian writers at, in particular Kyle Harcott, Laura Weibe, Gruesome Greg, Natalie Zed, Adrien Begrand and Rob Hughes, I strove to become a better writer. Through their example and encouragement, especially from Craig and Kyle, I was taking my work more seriously.
Then Craig started showing me the ropes. Took me under his wing so to speak. I had no idea how things worked. PR people? Album promos? Servicing lists? I had no idea. I don't know how I thought things worked but clearly I was more naive than I thought. Craig explained things to me and pointed me in the right direction. Apparently I'd been offered a spot on one of the biggest metal-based servicing lists in North America months prior and didn't even realize it. Again, terribly naive. Mr. Hayes' next move was to encourage me to contact Hellbound editor Sean Palmerston about contributing to the site. At this point my confidence level still needed some work but I straightened my back and sent him a couple samples. Sean said he was familiar with my work and offered me a spot with the team! I'm sure partly based on my review of Titan's Burn. The first promo I received! Thanks Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle!! It took a good few days to wipe the shit-eatin' grin off my face. It was about this time I was approached by Jon Asher of Asher Music PR about covering a band called Titan's Eve. He'd obviously found me through my blog as he called me Marcus. (My email is shogunnamedmarcus@... in reference to the Clutch song of the same name. A forgivable mistake that's been made a few times since.) This was to be my first review for Hellbound. It was published on July 16, 2012 and so everything began in earnest. I've written a good number of pieces for Hellbound in the last year. Reviews, interviews, show recaps. Hellbound is where I got my start. Hellbound is my home.
It was also about this time that Craig chose to interview ME (shoulda been the other way 'round, mate!) for his blog And, the lovely Lav Nandlall asked me to write a special piece about how metal has affected my life for her Air Guitar Blog. To quote one of my favourite films, Almost Famous, "It's all happening." Those two articles gave my words a face. (Seriously, they both had a picture of me. Both taken by my wonderful, beautiful, and talented photographer of a wife, Becky. shameless plug!) The ball was rolling.
After I had a few reviews for Hellbound under my belt I was approached by former Hellbound (among others) writer Raymond Westland about writing for his start up online magazine called Ghost Cult. An exciting prospect indeed so I jumped onboard. I believe he said he was given my name by Craig and that my involvement with Hellbound was a major factor in contacting me. Thanks again Craig and Sean! Getting in on the ground floor of a publication that sees around 20,000 reads every month is pretty cool if you ask me. Thanks Raymond! Especially for when you said I was one of your most reliable and solid writers. There's some great people to be in company with so that really means a lot.
For the remainder of 2012 I contributed regularly to both Hellbound and Ghost Cult. I reviewed some great bands that I might never have covered were it not for being assigned them. I also interview a slew of bands both over email and over the phone. The interview list includes, but is not limited to, Titan, Vilipend, Amenra, Planks and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity. (This year I've done Andrew Fiddler of Black Tusk, JP Gaster of Clutch (!!!), Norska, Demon Lung and The Monolith Deathcult) Perhaps the highlight of the year though was being included in Hellbound's year end lists. I had completed my Canadian list in advance of the submission call, then contributed the blurb for Vilipend's Inamorata. For the overall list, I pretty much used the same list I had submitted for Ghost Cult, then was given the honour of writing the blurb for Album of the Year: Pallbearer - Sorrow & Extinction. Awesome. And to see my name on the same post as writers like Sean Palmerston himself, Craig and Kyle, Natalie, Raymond, Adrien, Laina Dawes and Kevin Stewart-Panko was pretty darn cool. Yes, I'm a nerd. 
The new year brought a new opportunity. Craig, (yet again) tipped me off to a new opening at a very respected site. Heavy Metal was making some changes and needed to recruit writers. Guide Chad Bowar's aim was to cover as many releases as possible with 100 word write ups in addition to a few full length reviews. To do that he needed people. I had sent Chad some of my work previously but at the time he wasn't looking. This time I got the job. A few other notables from across the globe joined the team as well, including Leticia Mooney and my pal Dean Brown. Both writers I looked up too. Joining a team like this was pretty great too as Natalie and Dan Marsicano were already there as well as Craig to some degree. Not only did this allow me to cover more and more material but I could do it in a short amount of time. Win-win. Plus, I met some great people such as Tom Campagna, Edward Banchs and Jason Statts! I kept up with Hellbound and Ghost Cult, and even wrote some full reviews for including Batillus, VHOL and most recently Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals and Jucifer. Thanks Chad! It's been a blast.
OK, so I'm trying to keep content on my own blog, sending reviews to Sean at Hellbound, and taking assignments from Raymond and Chad. All while working up to 50 hours a week and raising 3 kids. How do I have the time? Sadly, it's come at the expense of my reading time. But I enjoy writing just as much. If only I could tear myself away from the tv/couch. I'm just so tired though! What else do expect from a shift working parent?
Since I'm seemingly a sucker for punishment, I recently accepted ANOTHER writing spot. This time it was David Teixeira of Scratch the Surface webzine that came knocking at the door. I'm pretty sure it was my Adoran review for that really sent him in my direction. I'd worked with David at Ghost Cult too so I'm sure that helped. Anyway, I'm stoked to join the StS team and write alongside Dean and Cheryl Carter, among others. I've already reviewed the latest Armed for Apocalypse album and a couple days ago my Mouth of the Architect review went up. And my next assignment has me feeling all funny down there. I like where this is heading. 
So, one year down and I've gone from pissing around on blogspot to writing with amazing people on four websites, in four countries on both sides of the Atlantic. It's been wicked fun so far and I can't see it going south any time soon. Although, I think this is just about all I can handle. I'm writing at a consistent pace that I never attempted when I was all on my own. So any other zines out there who may be looking for new writers, keep moving. HAHAHA! 
For as much writing as I do I still don't consider myself a writer. And I certainly wouldn't dare to call myself a journalist. As I've said before, I'm not a writer, I write. But I've had people tell me I'm good at it. I didn't enjoy English class in high school and despised essays. So what do I do with all my spare time now? Basically write essays. If you see spelling mistakes, grammar snafus and facepalm worthy misuse of punctuation, that's because I just don't know. That's the editor's job. Just kidding fellas. 
If you've made it this far, you must have been really bored. But I thank you. I'm gonna keep going at this writing thing until I'm just plain out of hyperbole and nonsense metaphors. You've been warned.
Thanks to all those people who have made this guy who felt isolated feel like part of a community. It's truly been one of the best years of my life and it feels so good!
Listen to me. Up with people! I feel so alive! Wooo!!

Thanks Team Hellbound: Sean, Kyle, Rob, Natalie, Renee Trotier, Jason Wellwood, Greg, Laura, Adam Wills, Bill Adams, Laina, Ola Mazzuca, Adrien, Jonathan Smith, Albert Mansour, Steve Earles, Jay Gorania and anyone I may have missed. 

Thanks Ghost Cultists: Raymond, Keith Chachkes, Jon Keane, Chris Tippell and Sarah Worsley, Christine Hagar, Angela Davey, Matt Spall and the rest of the Matt's (what is there, like 6 of us?), Pete Ringmaster,  Dean, Curtis Dewar, Chris Ward, Ross Baker, Tom Saunders, Sander van den Driesche, the list goes on and on.
Thanks to the About Heavy Metal crew: Chad, Eddie, Jason, Tom, Dean, Dan Drago, Dan Marsicano, Natalie, Kevin Sirois, Leticia, Evan Mugford and the handful I can never remember.
I don't know everybody yet but thanks to David, Dean and Cheryl at Scratch the Surface!
And special thanks to all the people who put the music in my ears: Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle, Jon at Asher Media, Dave and Liz at Earsplit, Scott and Ryan at Clawhammer, Bariann at Black Birch, Jon at Freeman Promo, Nathan at Svart and Napalm, Kelly at Prosthetic, Kim at Catharsis, Bob at Relapse, Enrique at Season of Mist, Adam at Gilead Media, John at Granite House, Carl at Action!, Lisa at Hold Tight!, David at Viral Propaganda, and probably more I can't recall and I can't access Haulix from this computer to double check, and of course my editors, Sean, Raymond, Chad and David, for hooking me up with many of the lists above and music outside those avenues as well.
And thanks to my wife and daughters, and to some degree the dogs and cat, for putting up with all the screaming and screeching, loud guitars and pounding drums, droning and moaning, and general noise I subject you to on a daily basis.
So thanks to everyone I listed, all the people that read my work and everyone I forgot for making the last year one of the most exciting, fun, challenging and rewarding years of my life in every aspect. My grey hair might be accelerating but I guess getting old isn't so bad.
Thanks Craig. I owe you big time, brother.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chosen - Resolution

From the Emerald Isle come Chosen and their album, Resolution. This prog-minded extreme metal duo is comprised of percussionist David McCann and guitarist/vocalist Paul Shields. For nearly an hour Chosen hash out an intsense blend of heaviness and melody with complex song writing and flawless musicianship.
With no song less than five minutes these Irish lads take ample time letting their ideas flow forth. When dropping the heavy, it gets really heavy. Chunky riffs force the need for movement, whether just headbanging or full-on mosh destruction. Those churning and heaving riffs are countered by plenty of syncopation, with the duo locked in with each other, pounding your ears into submision. The effect is close to maybe deathcore or metalcore but never feels as played out as those genres.
Let's not forget the melodies. As deft as Chosen are at the ground and pound, they are equally adept at laying up and letting prog elements filter through. The effect of such diversity is that you can never really pin Resolution into one genre. The cruch and pace likens to death metal, as does Shields's scratchy rasp but at times one can feel classic metal influences or even a touch of industrial. Track such as "The Narcissism Epidemic" and "Metalphysical Contradiction" -- the two longest -- also see Shields utilizing clean vocals to emphasize the softer side of the band.
While the band do play with mostly culture-neutral tendencies, their Irish roots are displayed in places via acoustic guitars and other strings, but only briefly. It's something this writer wouldn't mind Chosen exploring more in the future.
Resolution is an enigmatic and agressive album from a band with a clear vision of their direction. Chugging staccato rhythms and sweet melodic prog blend seamlessly to form tracks that will bubble to the surface of your mind when you least expect it. Ride the waves crashing into the rocky shores. With further development Chosen is a name we could be hearing more of.

Resolution is available for free at

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Clutch! with Orange Goblin, Lionize and Scorpion Child, April 18, 2013 at Sound Academy, Toronto

I'd been looking forward to this show for a LONG time. For a number of reasons. First, Clutch is my favourite band, DURR. And it had been over three and a half YEARS since I'd seen them. An event now known as "The Incident". But that's a blog post for another time. On top of that, Orange Goblin had never played Toronto before. Therefore, I'd never seen them play. I've been a fan for over a decade so I was stoked. I'd caught the tail end of Lionize when they toured with Clutch a few years ago but I remembered almost nothing. And lastly, I saw a Scorpion Child video on youtube and was looking forward to hearing more.
In my excitement (and anticipating heavy traffic) I left my house way too early and showed up at the venue over two hours before doors. I doubled back to an Asian market and bought some food. I wasn't eating no bar food, I can tell you that. But I should have checked the ingredients on the (super-calorific) Vietnamese red bean pastries. Lard. Fucking lard! Read beans, I'm thinking all vegetarian and stuff but no. Wasted a buck fifty. Almost sat down on the curb to eat right by a discarded condom. Listened to the new Black Sabbath track (meh). Exciting stuff, I know! So with like an hour before doors I headed over to the venue and sat in the parking lot watching the weirdos roll in.
Once inside, and thankfully with no guest list issues, I chatted it up with fellow writer Gruesome Greg. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to see the show! Almost. It was really cool to finally put a face to the name. As well as spend some time with a handful of other friends I don't see nearly enough. Alright, alright. Enough preamble.
First band to hit the stage was Scorpion Child. As I said, I'd watched a video for "Polygon of Eyes" on youtube and liked what I saw. To my delight, they did not disappoint. Heavy on the Zeppelin and other 70s rock acts influence, their style fit perfectly with the other bands on the bill. Despite the crowd being comparatively sparse, they played like the house was packed already and the crowd responded. Their enthusiasm was unflappable. Hair flying, guitars raised, drums being handily abused, and vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black slinking around the stage belting out the tunes with dynamic range. His passion, as was the rest of the band's, was never in question as he engaged the crowd and even sang much from his knees, compelled by the power of music. And yes, they did play "Polygon" after which Black quipped, "Now that that's out of the way.." They knew what people wanted to hear. Their album comes out June 25th on Nuclear Blast and you can bet they made some fans who'll be checking it out. Myself included.
I'd been looking forward to seeing Lionize again. From what little I could remember (Re: "The Incident") I dug their vibe but for some reason I never took the time to check them out between then and now. Well, because I can never get enough Clutch, I won't be over-looking Lionize anymore. It's obvious they hold Clutch in high regard as, to the unseasoned listener, you could be forgiven for mistaking the two bands. The most glaring differences being the vocals and their use of keys (although Clutch did for a time). Their laid-back, grooved out rock with bluesy influence gave the crowd a taste of what was to come yet allowed the gathering to hold some energy in reserve. Especially when they pull a little Sublime out of their sleeve and add some reggae flavour to the recipe. While I found nothing to complain about, the highlight of their set was the jam session. I couldn't see the stage well, but I heard something change. A shift in position revealed Clutch's Tim Sult up on the stage with them! There's no mistaking his sound. A few minutes into the jam Orange Goblin's Joe Hoare also grabbed a guitar and joined in. At the end of it, Lionize guitarist/vocalist Nate Bergman sort of, apologized, for it. Hey man, no apology necessary! That's what live music is all about!
By the time Orange Goblin took the stage for their first ever Toronto show, the Sound Academy was about as packed as it was going to get on this evening. And the assembled mass was ready. When the OG boys walked out on stage they received a welcome a headliner would be proud of. And for the love of Sabbath, Ben Ward is a beast. I had heard he was a large man but until you see him in person, you never really know. Never mind his well-seasoned vocal attributes, his mere presence demands your attention. And what a frontman he is. Stalking around that stage with his fist(s) raised and pumping, he makes it his mission to ensure the crowd is amped. How could you not get behind a band who's singer air guitars just as hard as anyone else there? Any Goblin fan worth their weight in salt was sure to be pleased with their set. Not surprisingly leaning on tracks from 2012's Eulogy for the Damned, they played a selection from across their career. Orange Goblin's high-octane, blooze-fueled stoner metal ran the gamut with cuts from the more psychedelic Frequencies From Planet Ten and The Big Black through to the newer stuff and even included a number of songs I was shamefully unfamiliar with. (Which will be rectified, whether you like it or not.) Ward's between song banter showed how appreciative the band was of the reception they received and the crowd responded in kind, pumping their fists and banging their heads ever harder through set closer "Scorpionica".
At this point one could be fully satisfied that they'd received their money's worth on any given night but there was still possibly the greatest touring band on the planet yet to come. Clutch. I'm not just saying that because I think they're the best. Their reputation as world class performers should be well known to anyone reading this.
By this point there was a healthy percentage of the patronage well acquainted with the bar staff and as such the buzz of anticipation was almost a physical thing. Any flicker of movement from the area of the stage lead to a chorus of hollers from the uninhibited. The glowing Clutch logo of the backdrop cast an eerie light over what was soon to become the highlight of any given attendee's week/month/year. When the fantastic foursome of Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines and JP Gaster took the stage they received no less than a hero's welcome before launching into the set with a trio of tracks from the recently released Earth Rocker in "Crucial Velocity", "Book, Saddle and Go" and "Cyborg Betty". The band's motive towards Earth Rocker was to create an album with good energy from front to back and lend itself to being played well live. Starting the show with those three only proves that their mission was accomplished. Here Fallon states "We're only three songs in and you're already the best crowd we've had all tour!" I like to think he wasn't just saying that. What followed was a set heavy on Earth Rocker cuts but featuring a splendid selection of tracks from Elephant Riders on. What Clutch show in Canada would be complete without "The Mob Goes Wild" and the lines "Everybody move to Canada. Smoke lotsa pot. Everybody move to Canada, right now."? It's a given. It's expected. And it's probably the only time EVERYONE sings along. (I suspect "The Yeti" is a must when they play in Winnipeg as well.)
Part of what makes Clutch such an amazing live act, in addition to their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their own material and subsequent varying set list, is the jams. On this night, not one, but two songs were extended by the magnificent jams of these four individuals that just know each other so well. "D.C. Sound Attack" and "The Soapmakers" got the extra time as well as a sweet drum solo from Gaster. He's just such a unique talent. He thinks drums differently while not thinking about them at all (at least while on stage). Sult and Maines were in their familiar places to the left and right of Gaster, respectively, as Fallon stalked the stage in his usual animated fashion. He's almost like the director of a travelling sideshow, waving his hands around with sweeping gestures and finger pointing. His captivating stage presence enthralls the onlookers and innocent bystanders, demanding their attention. (Which baffled me all the more that there were people NOT paying attention. For shame!)
The low-key "Gone Cold" gave the crowd some time to recharge before finishing the set with "The Face" and  "Oh, Isabella" and closing with a crunchy version of "Dragonfly". But the closing number is never the closing number with Clutch. Returning to another raucous reception, the Maryland quartet wowed the crowd with an encore of "Cypress Grove", "Electric Worry" and "One Eyed Dollar". The closing words being "Today's our day!" a fitting end to what was unquestionably Clutch's day indeed. Clutch never fails to deliver and this night was no different. While I personally would like to have heard at least one song from their self-titled, I was by no means disappointed. In fact, it was quite possibly their best performance I've been witness to. Start to finish, every band put on an excellent show, complimenting each other in one way or another. The lesser known Scorpion Child and Lionize no doubt won over some new fans. Orange Goblin as well, while reaffirming their might to the previously converted. And Clutch? Well, Clutch proved yet again that they are an untouchable live act, thrilling fans young. old, drunk, stoned, sober and of almost every conceivable hard rock/metal subculture. Because hey, that's the name of the game.
Full Set List:
Crucial Velocity
Book, Saddle and Go
Cyborg Betty
The Mob Goes Wild
DC Sound Attack
The Soapmakers
Burning Beard
Earth Rocker
Unto The Breach
Subtle Hustle
Gone Cold
The Face
Open Up The Border
Oh, Isabella
Cypress Grove
Electric Worry
One Eyed Dollar

Monday, March 25, 2013

96 - Caught in the Grips

After spending most days listening to sludge, doom, black metal and variations thereof, the exuberance of a band like 96 is a welcome kick in the pants. With their album Caught in The Grips, these Jersey boys inject a high octane shot of adrenaline to get your ass moving.
Slinging 13 tracks in 22 minutes, 96 employ the smash-and-grab technique; maximizing effectiveness and minimizing waste. It’s best to describe 96 as hardcore punk. They bring a harder edge to straight up punk as with hardcore, but lack the kind of anger found in today’s hardcore bands (not a bad thing). Their mosh-ready tunes are littered with killer riffs played with a controlled looseness. Tight performance with great feel. Whether full-speed ahead or bouncing in mid-pace, Caught in the Grips will keep you on the go.
96 manage to take a template rooted in the old school and keep it fresh. One can hear sounds that remind of Biohazard, Sick of it All, Madball and DRI without sounding like ripoffs. The result is an album that has a classic familiarity without sounding dated.
Gang shouts are sparse but well timed while Corey Donohue’s vocals have a very crossover feel infused with snarl and even some tongue-in-cheek lyrics (as referenced by a song about iced tea).96 are packed with enthusiasm, tearing through Caught in the Grips barely leaving room to catch a breath. Infectious energy, outstanding riffs and some fuck-yeah solos come together to make 96 a mosh pit wrecking crew. Go ahead, get Caught in the Grips.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Xul - Malignance

It never ceases to amaze me how much metal talent there is between these Canadian borders. From the Diminished Fifth roster in the East straight through to Vancouver’s Anciients in the West, top quality metal litters the map at all points in between. A heavyweight representing the left coast is Vernon, BC’s XUL. Their album Malignance dropped last year and it’s a shame I’m only hearing it now.

Malignance is a fitting title for the eight tracks of death metal madness within, because this is anything but benign. Xul’s articulate and speedball riffs leave a trail of black smoke in their wake, darkening the skies in a carcinogenic pall. Absolute demoncy befits the scowling vocals of Levi Meyers plastering bile over the frenetic guitar work of Wallace Hoffman and Bill Ferguson (also contributing vocals). The rhythm section of Lowell Winters (drums) and Marlow Dieter (bass) spur the beast forward with nimble fingers and supernatural speed. These entities coalesce to embody the darkened horde of blackened death metal of tracks such as “Mastication of Putrescent Empyrean Remains” and “Incinerate the Earth”. Fusing the malevolence and grime of death metal with the flair and urgency of thrash and the scorching hate of black metal, Malignance beats with a heart as cold as night.

Malignance features a stunning display of musicianship with its ultra-slick leads, hyperspeed percussion and incredible bass tone. Meyers’s fetid vocals salivating on the album’s rotting body ties the whole gruesome scene together. Xul wreak “Vengeance” on the ears of death metal fans, forcing their way in the cortex to fester and boil. This is one Malignance you’ll be dying to have.

Pay What You Want download at


From the first time I heard BURN from Toronto's Titan I knew it was going to be my Album of the Year. Sometimes when you hear an album the connection is instantaneous. It becomes part of you. That's what happened here. Titan's blend of hardcore, doom, sludge and black metal is the very definition of powerful. Intense performances, interesting lyrics, impeccable musicianship and top notch production combine in sonic glory on BURN. The clear choice of 2012 Album of the Year.

For more thoughts on why.....
Have a look at my (rather extensive) review of BURN here.
I interviewed vocalist James M. and guitarist Chris W. here.

AOTY #2: Pallbearer - Sorrow & Extinction

No album had the kind of widespread impact on the metal community as Pallbearer's Sorrow & Extinction. Fawned over by critics across the board, S&E found it's way onto just about every end of year list. And it's certainly deserving of the praise. One could even go so far as to call it an instant doom classic. Cleanliness is next to godliness they say, making Pallbearer worthy of worship with clean vocals evoking the deepest of sorrow from the listener. Cleanly picked guitar compliments the deep doom dirges as well with such clarity of vision and execution as to make one wonder how the band could possibly follow up this incredible full length debut. Sorrow & Extinction is a monumentally powerful album sure to stand the test of time and stand as a benchmark for the doom genre as a whole.

AOTY #3: Woods of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

The circustances regarding the release of Woods 5 are most tragic. Mastermind and frontman David Gold was killed in a traffic accident mere weeks before the album's release, leaving the metal community (especially the Canadian one) in shock. Woods 4 could be considered WoY's breakout album and landed them a deal with Earache. Yet just as Gold's songwriting skill was finally getting the recognition it deserved, fate intervened. Such a cruel twist.
What was to become Woods of Ypres's swansong was, in my opinion, the most emotionally charged album released all year regardless of the posthumous situation. GS&EL's heavily gothic tinged black metal is beautifully crafted for maximum emotional impact; its hooks pulling the listener in close. Gold's lyrics centered around mortality and death are quite gripping and thought provoking yet made all the more real (and at times prophetic) by Gold's early departure from this cruel world. I am not ashamed to admit that Woods 5 brought tears to my eyes almost every single time I listened to it. Woods 5 would most definitely sit at the same position on this list were Gold still with us, but his legacy strengthens the album to legendary proportions. One can only hope David has found the peace in death he never found in life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

AOTY #4: Krallice - Years Past Matter

In 2011, Krallice took home top honours of my AOTY list with their album Diotima. Krallice came right back with their self-released Years Past Matter. The new release is no less deserving of the highest honour I can bestow upon an album but the top 3 are also very very deserving. I listened to YPM a couple weeks ago in bed. As captivating as it is in any circumstance, enjoying the album in a completely distraction-free environment is a totally different experience. With undivided attention and relinquished of other stimuli, the myriad textures, shades and intricacies dissolve within each other in perfect solution. A homogeneous mixture of the brilliant musician ship found in the band. Krallice is modern black metal at its very finest.

Monday, March 11, 2013

AOTY #5: Bison B.C. - Lovelessness

One of my biggest regrets in life was not going to see Bison BC play a living room show on my 30th birthday. Okay, maybe not but that would have been the best birthday party ever!! Well, the semi-surprise party I had instead was pretty frickin' rad too. Riding an electric Vespa around the streets drunk in the middle of the night? Ya that was cool. Anyway, I wrote about Lovelessness for

Sunday, March 10, 2013

AOTY #6: Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

Whenever I listen to Ash Borer there is only one thing I want to do, and that is nothing. I just want to be. And let the sound wash over me, lift me. Raise this crude form beyond the earthly realm. Lift me to a place where all that exists is sound, colour and feeling. Fear, anguish, desperation, anger, melancholy. Beauty, hope, determination. Ash Borer's brilliant use of texture, layers and atmospherics on Cold of Ages is stratospheric. Haunting vocals low in the mix howl like spectres reaching out from beyond the grave.
Ash Borer are reaching for the top of the US Black Metal pile. If they continue to progress at the rate they have been and release material with such quality on a torrid pace (a split, EP and two LPs in less than two years) there's no telling what kind of legend they will bring upon themselves, whether they want it or not.

AOTY #7: High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis

It's fucking High On Fire. Theses guys could put out an album of themselves chewing their Corn Flakes and it would be awesome. It's a shame Matt Pike had to go into rehab, preventing the band from properly hitting the road to promote the album but in the long run, it's what is best for all concerned. Especially Pike. De Vermis Mysteriis, a concept album about Jesus's evil twin, is HoF doing what HoF do best. Des Kensel's abusive percussion, Jeff Matz's thick, rumbling bass and Pike's incomparable riffing and gravel-throated holler is a recipe that turns out perfect every time.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

AOTY #8: Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity

I really should not have to explain why Cattle Decapitation's Monolith of Inhumanity is worthy of making #8 on this list. Monolith is an incredibly brutal display of top flight musicianship packaged as an absolutely vicious goregrind/death metal epitaph to all that makes this such a fucked up world. Especially people. Not to overshadow the contributions of the other members  but Travis Ryan is one monster of a vocalist. His howls and growls, shrieks and indescribable utterances go from one to the other in the blink of an eye. And it's not studio magic. I've seen him do it. Legendary. Monolith sees Cattle Decap at their most volatile and shocking yet. (Have you seen the video for "Forced Gender Reassignment?) It's kind of ironic for vegetarians but most animals are better than most people.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

AOTY #9: Bosse-De-Nage - III

This San Francisco group came out of virtually nowhere to captivate me almost beyond words. I tried to put my thoughts about Bosse-De-Nage's III into words for months but every time I listened to it I became overwhelmed by the raw emotion pouring from the album. I kept getting this vision of the band in a coffee house performing with all their heart as the seated assembly merely soaked in the experience like a piece of art. Or a poetry reading. I supposed the fact the lyrics read more like an essay than black metal lyrics aids that visual. I even referred to the sound as Coffee House Black Metal. III is such an emotionally charged album but in a very nontraditional way. I just wish it hadn't taken me this long to discover them.

AOTY #10: Vilipend - Inamorata

I'm not sure what more I can say about Vilipend's full length debut, Inamorata.
I reviewed the album here. (Probably my best written review of the year.)
I interviewed guitarist Derek Del Vecchio here.
And I wrote the blurb for their inclusion on Hellbound's Top 10 Canadian releases here.
It's fuckin' great.

Friday, March 1, 2013

EP of the Year: Wilt - Wilt EP

At first I thought Winnipeg was an unlikely place to find an atmospheric black metal band. But upon further reflection it actually couldn't be a more perfect place. Where the wild forests of Northern Ontario meet the frigid and bleak expanse of the Prairies, seems like a fitting inspiration for bands such as this. Wilt's self-titled EP comes drenched in a fog of grimness over an overflowing river of despair. While the vocals sound underworldly, melodies cascade across icy soundscapes and the organic drums beat with the lifeforce emanating from the natural world. A distinct aura of reverence and respect for nature envelopes the listener in a wash of warm tones and lilting rhythms.
That is not to say the EP feels like a celebration. It feels more like a funeral. A reflection on what once was. Anguish apparent in the black metal rasps. Wilt peel back the layers of the subconscious with hypnotic repetition, suffusing the mind with dark and ancient energies. Their bleak vision reeks of hopelessness yet captures the soul of the listener. Wilt is a stunning debut offering from this Canadian duo. This EP is essential listening; a jewel hidden beneath the frigid Manitoban snows.
Vinyl available from War on Music

AOTY #11: OM - Advaitic Songs

There's just something about OM that appeals to me on a deep level. Since their debut, Variations on a Theme they've kept me entranced with swirling hypnotic rhythms  that circle back and reappear throughout the album. Their simplistic bass/drum/voice approach resonates on a different level. Advaitic Songs sees Cisternos and Amos bring in even more Eastern flavour to an already highly meditative formula. Even at their loudest and most punishing OM still exudes a sense of calm and reflection. Listening to Advaitic Songs is like riding the whorls of smoke drifting from a stick of incense. It chases away negative energies leaving the listener feeling cleansed, centered and peaceful. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Interesting story: Back in the early 2000s (2002-2003 specifically) original OM drummer Chris Hakius was in a band called The Sabians with his wife, Rachel Fisher, Patrick Huerta and Justin Marler (ex-Sleep) and I fucking LOVED them. I was in regular contact via email with Huerta and to some degree with the rest of the members as well. I had mentioned the idea of starting a band with just bass and drums. No guitar. Huerta thought it was pretty cool and heavy, ya know. I can't recall if I heard from any of the others about it though. Well, the Sabians didn't make it to 2004 (much to my chagrin) yet in 2005 what should appear? OM, a 2 piece bass/drum/voice with Hakius behind the kit. Did I play a part in the formation of the band? I highly doubt it but it's a pretty fucking cool coincidence!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

'Dead Weight' A film review from Kingdom of Noise

Adam Bartlett and his company, Gilead Media have been unearthing some of underground metal's best bands and bringing them to the masses in splendid vinyl glory for a while now. As if we weren't blessed enough by the fruits of his labour, 2012 saw the release of the movie Dead Weight. Bartlett and Gilead teamed up with John Pata and Head Trauma Productions for this atypical take on both the love story and horror genres.
The story begins with the main character, Charlie (Joe Belknap) being separated from his beautiful and charming girlfriend Samantha (Mary Lindberg) during an apocalyptic outbreak. The film follows Charlie as he struggles to find her again at any cost. He does not partake in his journey alone. He is joined by other survivors in the quest for survival. But Charlie has more than survival on his mind. Survival is merely a means to an end. His goal is singular. Find Samantha. No matter what.
What makes the film atypical from the horror stand point is that while there is a "virus" and "infected", we don't see them but for the briefest of moments. No, the horror depicted in Dead Weight is humanity on both the micro- and macrocosmic scale. (Not to say there isn't a fair share of blood.) Self-preservation and self-satisfaction dominate the individual and collective psyche. In either case, sacrifice may be necessary for the attainment of the ultimate goal. Despite being apart the majority of the the film, flashbacks provide insight into Charlie and Samantha's somewhat tumultuous relationship. Through this the viewer can connect with Charlie, admire his determination, root for him. Knowing that although they didn't have the perfect relationship, he would do anything and everything to get back to her. Love is a powerful driver.
Without giving too much away, Dead Weight is a starkly character driven film with an anything but straightforward plot. The bleak atmosphere created in the post-apocalyptic landscape mirrors the emptiness of a lonely heart. Dead Weight is a heartbreaking story compelling the viewer towards introspection. How far would you go if faced with a similar fate? Would you be the one carrying dead weight?

Monday, February 11, 2013

AOTY #13: Black Sheep Wall - No Matter Where It Ends

Few albums released in 2012 were as sonically crushing as Black Sheep Wall's No Matter Where It Ends. Downright filthy tone and vocalist Trae Malone's earth shaking roar define the meaning of heavy. But to get a deeper understanding of the album, you can read the review I wrote earlier last year.

AOTY #12: Paroxsihzem - Paroxsihzem

Paroxsihzem's self-titled debut tops the list of Grade "A" releases from Dark Descent in 2012. This heavily blackened death metal beauty is caked in all the grime and filth one could scrape from the underbelly of their home in The Big Smoke. The album is viciously misanthropic and cavernously produced, as if recorded in the den of some foul beast buried untold layers beneath the city. A number of samples compliment the subterranean vocalisations as bleak riffs circle like flies around a rotting carcass, yet not without a sense of groove and militant forcefulness. Paroxsihzem is disgustingly dark and densely atmospheric without resorting to varied instrumentation. The album is intense and visceral, dragging the listener to a shallow grave with lo-fi, no-frills putridity. Paroxsihzem is a frighteningly impressive and oppressive debut which will be difficult to top. However, I have a feeling we've only heard the crust topping the depths of malevolence Paroxsihzem have to offer. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

AOTY #14: Gaza - No Absolutes in Human Suffering

Gaza's No Absolutes in Human Suffering is like a two-fisted slam to the sternum. It will take your breath away by force and bring you to your knees. Expanding on a hardcore template, Gaza brings "post" elements and angularity to their in-your-face aural assault. Vocalist Jon Parkin is a towering presence. His bellows leave the souls of lesser man trembling in his wake. No Absolutes is a thoroughly physical album yet there is beauty to be found amidst the burl. The title track is particularly monumental. It's lyrically sparse, with only the title repeated over and over, backed by a crushing and hypnotic riff. It may be minimalist yet it incites a deep emotional attachment. It compels the listener to join the chorus and scream beyond the limits of their untested vocal chords while contemplating the deeper meaning of the statement. No Absolutes in Human Suffering is an exhausting listen yet one that begs for the process to begin anew.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

AOTY #15: Pilgrim - Misery Wizard

I don't expect to take any heat for putting Pilgrim's Misery Wizard so high on my list but, I don't recall seeing it on any other lists. But that's okay. It's my own little gem. A little gem that holds down the #2 Most Played position for 2012. The album moves as fast as an amputee in 3 feet of snow which makes it feel as heavy as a lead tunic. The clean vocals beg to be sung at absurd levels with arms stretched wide, palms turned upward in praise. The album's six tracks crawl by in a sub-Sabbathian manner over the course of nearly an hour. However, "The Adventurer" provides a boost of energy before the monumental closer "Forsaken Man". Monolithic riffs, mountains of feedback (feedback makes me giddy), and powerful sing-along vocals adorn this massive slab of soaring doom. Slow and hypnotic, it entranced this listener over and over, ad infinitum.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

AOTY #16: Municipal Waste - The Fatal Feast

Everyone's favourite party thrashers Municipal Waste brought the fun to 2012 with The Fatal Feast. A (loose) concept album about a space mission gone cannibalistically wrong? Fuck yeah bro! Sign me up! The energy and intensity level of this album is through the roof. One of the albums I played the most this year, it was perfect for any mood or occasion. Feeling down? MuniWaste will turn that frown upside down! Bored? Problem solved! Listen to The Fatal Feast! Feelin' good? Crack a beer and spin this shit! It's fuckin' party time! The Fatal Feast will help you cut the grass in half the time! Give you the extra energy to split wood with ease! Entertain the kids by moshing around the living room! Put it on while enjoying a nice plate of spaghetti and...well maybe not while eating. Anyway, my point is, this album is (pay)loads of fun without being stupid and still being technically and vocally fantastic.

(Nuclear Blast)

Monday, January 28, 2013

AOTY #17: Mutilation Rites - Empyrean

Yet another debut full length makes the list in the form of Empyrean from Mutilation Rites. This is one seriously vicious album of depraved American black metal. Yeah, it's depraved. It's American. And it sounds like it was made by depraved Americans. The album is relentless. Blistering speed is paramount yet the band can pull back when need be. But even at the tempered speeds, Empyrean is still punishing. Maniacal screeching vocals, filthy tone and killer riffs, and sickening drum work bring Mutilation Rites to the forefront of the blackened metal scene on this side of the pond. It's disgusting, it's grimy, it's sinister in every way and it gets better every time I hear it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

AOTY #18: Amenra - Mass V

Amenra's Mass V is a dark and atmospheric piece of music. The haunting vocals will rip your heart out of your chest. To really understand how I feel about this deeply emotional album, you should read the review I wrote for Ghost Cult Magazine.

Friday, January 25, 2013

AOTY #19: Ufomammut - ORO: Opus Primum and Opus Alter

 2012 saw not one, but two releases from Italy's psychedelic doomsters Ufomammut. Opus Primum and Opus Alter make up ORO, a sprawling two part concept album exploring the alchemical process of making gold from baser metals. The massive soundscapes and psychedelics touches make the world seen alien.  I suppose the world would seen that way as ORO takes you deep down to the molecular level. Your sense of perspective gets skewed as Ufomammut transport you beyond this realm of perception. I don't use the word transcendental very much but I will here. Many times I completely lost myself amidst the layered vocals, the drone, the repetition, and the crushing low frequency walls of sound. The scale of vision that Ufomammut has in putting together this awe inspiring package is unfathomable to my feeble mind. I've been a fan since their debut (Godlike Snake) and I feel ORO may be their best yet.

I had to retire my beloved Ufomammut shirt recently as well. I put my finger right through it putting it on. Sad day indeed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

AOTY #20: Royal Thunder - CVI

Like Horisont, this was another one of those releases in which I had heard some trusted sources raving about it and gave it a shot. I heard the stream of "Whispering World" and fell in love. Not to take away from the rest of the band but bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz is the real star here. She has such an incredibly powerful and dynamic voice. It can be soft and sweet, or raspy and edgy. I could definitely see her becoming a role model for a new generation of young girls who want to rock hard (My girls like Royal Thunder anyway. And Witch Mountain. Uta Plotkin has some stellar pipes too.). Royal Thunder isn't just about that voice though. CVI is loaded with instantly memorable songs with massive hooks, southern groove and a whole lotta soul. Royal Thunder have something special going on here. Let's hope they get even better. Man, I really should have gone out to see them when they rolled through Ontario with CoC.

2012 was too short.

I listen to a lot of music. Not enough, but a lot. But inevitably there is going to be a huge number of albums that for one reason or another (mostly time) failed to make it past my ears at all, or I only heard them once or twice. The following is a list of such albums that I think I would have really liked but never got around to. Or at least wanted to hear.
Bell Witch - Longing (Profound Lore)
Dysrythmia - Test of Submission (Profound Lore)
Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker (Prosthetic)
Bastard Sapling - Dragged From Our Restless Trance (Forcefield Records)
The Great Sabbatini - Matterhorn (No List)
Early Graves - Red Horse (No Sleep)
Satan's Wrath - Galloping Blasphemy (Metal Blade)
The Sword - Apocryphon (Razor & Tie)
Winterfyleth - The Threnody of Triumph (Candlelight)
The Shrine - Primitive Blast (Tee Pee)
Sons of Otis - Seismic (Small Stone)
Afgrund - The Age of Dumb (Willowtip)
Tribune - Elder Lore/The Dark Arts (Corpse Corrosion)
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Blood Lust (Rise Above/Metal Blade)

And probably a dozen more I just can't remember. Some I have and just haven't heard, some I have yet to acquire. Hook a (broke ass) brother up labels!!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

AOTY #21: Cannibal Corpse - Torture

It's Cannibal fucking Corpse. Justification done. Fine, I'll write more. No one reading this can deny that Cannibal Corpse are the undisputed Kings of Death Metal. For 25 years now Corpse has been soaking the death metal landscape in blood, guts and gore. Torture is no different. George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's hyperspeed growls, guttural bellows and shrieks front unfuckwithable musicianship. (Kneels at the feet of Alex Webster.)  For the most part, CC don't change up the formula on this release maybe other than "Scourge of Iron". It's pace is dropped back to a relative crawl. A comparative zombie in lead boots. But I can almost guarantee that lurching rhythm will be the riff stuck in your head. To reiterate. Cannibal.fuckin.Corpse. Torture. Don't make me (insert paraphrased Cannibal Corpse album title) you.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

AOTY #22: Horisont - Second Assault

I told you Witchcraft weren't my highest ranking Swedish retro-rockers this year! Horisont are a band I was unaware of prior to this year. I had heard some valued colleagues talking the band up so I gave in and checked them out. Am I ever glad I did. Second Assault sounds quite genuinely '70s retro. From the tones, to the riff style, to the slightly higher pitched and somewhat strained vocals. The riffs and vocal lines are catchy as they come and production is great. They don't sound like a band trying to be retro. They sound that a band that just IS retro. Most of the time I listened to this in the car (highly effective driving music and inoffensive to the family!), or on the kitchen stereo (any meal tastes better if prepared with Horisont playing), but on the headphones it just sounds sooooo good. That bass tone is dead sexy. The whole album is sexy! I'm a big hippie at heart so that fact that I love this is really no surprise. Just do yourself a favour and check it out. I don't think enough people have. It's criminal, man.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

AOTY #23: Meshuggah - Koloss

My relationship with Meshuggah is on again, off again.  I loved Chaosphere, but couldn't even make it through obZen. Other albums were hit and miss. So with Koloss we can declare the relationship on again. I'm no expert but I understand Koloss is a return to a more groove oriented approach for the band. Perhaps it's that underlying fluidity complementing the signature Meshuggah "djent" time signature mindfuckery that won me over this time. Not to mention the absolutely phenomenal drumming of Tomas Haake and the intensely unique vocalist, Jens Kidman. I can hear his facial expressions. I went to bed listening to Koloss a few times after some "herbal" medicine and I'm really surprised I didn't wake up completely insane.

Friday, January 18, 2013

AOTY #24: Eluveitie - Helvetios

I don't think anyone was more surprised that I liked Helvetios more than me. Let alone that it would end up in my Top 25. In general I'm not a fan of folk metal. I can't think of a folk metal band other than Eluveitie that doesn't make me gag. (Primordial is not considered folk metal, correct?) What it is about Helvetios that has captured my heart is hard to say. There must be some intangible that has connected with me. The hurdy-gurdy, the flute, the story telling, the uplifting melodies, the way it makes me want to dance a jig and headbang at the same time? Who's to say? All that needs to be said is that this enjoyed HEAVY rotation all year long.  I vaguely recall not being stoked on previous releases from this Swiss collective but I love love love Helvetios. But don't think this will be some kind of folk metal gateway drug. I've taken a stand and I...will not...BOW!!!!!!