Armored Saint – Symbol Of Salvation Live

Symbol Of Salvation Live Album Cover Art

Armored Saint – Symbol Of Salvation Live
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 22/10/2021
Running Time: 01:08:10
Review by Simon Black
9/10

Armored Saint are ones of those bands who really, really, really ought to be much bigger than they currently are. I first came across them when I was given a DJ promo copy of the studio version of “Symbol Of Salvation” way back when and was blown away by a record that across its thirteen songs did not have a duff one amongst them. What I didn’t know at the time was that this was the fifth record from these boys, so what I had taken as an explosive debut was the result of a decade of hard work. That’s work done mainly upstream at a time when America only seemed to care for Hair Metal or Thrash Metal, whilst they ploughed the Power Metal furrow, arguably ahead of Helloween, settling the point, once and for all, why the USA variant is so different from its ultimately more dominant European counterpart.

This was Power Metal with way more groove and soul. Then there was John Bush’s incredible voice – a voice that Metallica once tried to lure away and which ultimately Anthrax succeeded in doing, killing off Armored Saint for a decade, by which time the world had moved on and not helped the fact that Bush still could not let Anthrax go properly until Joey Belladonna’s return in 2005. They’ve been facing an uphill struggle ever since, which is a shame, because I can’t fault any of their recent studio offerings at all – 2015’s “Win Hands Down” and last year’s “Punching The Sky” are absolute masterworks as far as I am concerned, but they don’t quite hold a candle to the last album of the classic line up, which turned out to be original guitarist Dave Prichard’s obituary before his tragically early death from leukaemia in 1990. So, dusting this album down for its thirtieth anniversary makes perfect sense and the band fortunately laid these live shows down way back in 2018 in readiness. Add to this there’s a filmed version of the show in the works, with both recordings being captured at New York’s Gramercy Theatre.

Bush is one of those singer’s whose power has not been diminished by age, even though the tuning may have dropped the odd semitone to help him along, but that makes the material sound darker and heavier than its original recording. That really helps, as even a riotously up-tempo belter like opener ‘Reign Of Fire’ (still the Saint song as far as I’m concerned) sounds better with this darker underbelly. The original recordings always suffered in my eyes, as my ageing vinyl copy never belted out too loud even when turned up to eleven as a consequence of the physical challenges of squeezing fifty-five minutes’ worth of material onto a single disk, so it wasn’t until the coming of the digital age that I could hear a reasonable remastering of this. This live recording goes way farther – the sound is rich, fat and heavier than a two ton heavy thing. Add to which Bush’s performance is absolutely top notch here, with not a note or syllable dropped and although the audience don’t sound too loud, the atmosphere is positively electric.

This release is pretty good value for money too, as well as all thirteen original songs being given the live treatment, plus a radio edit of the title track, but more interestingly five demo tracks featuring Prichard which never made it to the final album. The contrast in Bush’s voice is really obvious played back to back, but his live delivery has a maturity and richness that he lacked in those younger days. Much as I love the original I suspect I’m probably more likely to re-spin this live version in its entirety, as it’s got that darker edge and timbre that the band’s current incarnation has developed combined with some of their absolute best songs in their thirty-seven year career.

‘Spineless’ (Official Video from “Symbol Of Salvation Live”)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Reign Of Fire
02. Dropping Like Flies
03. Last Train Home
04. Tribal Dance
05. The Truth Always Hurts
06. Half Drawn Bridge
07. Another Day
08. Symbol Of Salvation
09. Hanging Judge
10. Warzone
11. Burning Question
12. Tainted Past
13. Spineless
14. Nothing Between The Ears (1989 4-Track Demo)
15. Get Lost (1989 4-Track Demo)
16. Medieval Nightmares (1989 4-Track Demo)
17. People (1989 4-Track Demo)
18. Pirates (1989 4-Track Demo)
19. Symbol Of Salvation (Live Radio Edit)

LINE-UP:
Joey Vera – Bass
Gonzo Sandoval – Drums
Phil Sandoval – Guitars
John Bush – Vocals
Jeff Duncan – Guitars

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Capra – In Transmission

In Transmission Album Cover Art

Capra – In Transmission
Blacklight Media Records/Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 23/04/2021
Running Time: 32:27
Review by Steven Hooke
8/10

The mixing pot of punk, hardcore and metal will never not be a good time. The ‘fuck you’ energy, the frenetic pace, the almighty riffs, it is a Holy Trinity in alternative music and should be held aloft with pride, alongside spiky belts, black band t-shirts and dodgy haircuts.

Every now and again though, you find a band that *gets* it, and Louisiana-based troupe Capra really, really gets it.

The now-five-piece (hello Trevor!) came together after a mutual desire between guitarist Tyler Harper and drummer Jeremy Randazzo to bring the excitement and nostalgia of 90’s and early 00’s hardcore to the present day, complete with a modern sheen. After solidifying a line-up that would come to include bassist Ben Paramore and vocalist Crow Lotus, the group eventually set to work on their debut album, “In Transmission”.

The one-word summary for this album would definitely be “aggression”. From the intro track that sounds cut from the main menu of a horror game to the assortment of riffs that possess the frenetic energy of Converge – but also the head-rocking groove of Cancer Bats, and the vitriolic fables spewed forth by Lotus, “In Transmission” often feels like a therapeutic outlet for the band in the face of their battles over the past few years.

A blistering start to the album proper in ‘Hollow Doll’ sees the band tread into Svalbard-esque blackened hardcore territory, before a smooth transition into the album’s lead single, ‘The Locust Preacher’. Possessing a mid-song build akin to ‘Beside the Ones We Love’-era Palm Reader and a litany of riffs seemingly inspired by Every Time I Die, the song is an all-too-real account of depression, and the entrapment one feels inside your own mind and body.

And on that point, this album does not let up lyrically. Primary scribe Crow Lotus puts various subjects on blast, including failing governments, oppression, sexism, and toxic relationships. Cries of “Am I a product of my surroundings, or does the nightmare follow mе?”, “For the weaknesses within yourself, that you don’t have the strength to address” and “They’re not in control of their bodies and somehow that’s my fault” reverberate in the mind each and every time, in a delivery that invokes Ren Aldridge of the Petrol Girls at her most furious, the swagger of ETID’s Keith Buckley, and the ferocity of Gouge Away’s Christina Michelle. In the words of the lady herself, Lotus states “I intend to give a voice to the people who are often overlooked”.

On the musical side of things, the guitar work of Harper cannot go without comment. Once the album kicks in, it rarely relents, maintaining that high-adrenaline attack throughout its near-33 minute runtime, but at no point does it feel like the riffs are running out. “In Transmission2 may stay at that intense level, but it never feels repetitive or running dry on ideas. ‘Red Guillotine’ and ‘Deadbeat Assailant’ in particular, showcase an excellent collection of six-stringed slappers.

Capra joins an ever-increasing army of female representation in punk no longer content with simply sitting on the sidelines or even just being happy to take part, they have become the scene. From pop punk, to crust, to hardcore, to powerviolence, to straight-up punk rock, punk music has a plethora of female-perspective bands brewing in the underground, stretching all the way up to ticket-shifters at festivals. On their first outing as a solid unit, they have opted to go straight for being mad as hell and raising a ruckus on what fires them up the most. The addition of a second guitarist will only add depth to their already vicious sound, and the band are already contemplating their next step to make up for the time stolen from them by COVID. If the pandemic has given them another reason to be angry (which it most certainly would have done), then we are in for a hellacious treat.

‘Medusa’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. [Exordium]
02. Hollow Doll
03. The Locust Preacher
04. Medusa
05. Torture Ship
06. Paper Tongues
07. Mutt
08. Transfiguration
09. Red Guillotine
10. Deadbeat Assailant
11. Samuraiah Carey

LINE-UP:
Crow Lotus – Vocals
Tyler Harper – Guitar
Ben Paramore – Bass
Jeremy Randazzo – Drums

LINKS:

Capra Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Steven Hooke and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Anaal Nathrakh – Reissues: The Codex Necro/Total Fucking Necro

Anaal Nathrakh Reissues Advert

Anaal Nathrakh – Reissues
The Codex Necro/Total Fucking Necro
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 11/06/2021
Running Time: 44:45/49:25
Review by Dark Juan
10/10
10/10

Greetings and salutations once again, dear acolytes, followers of the Left-Hand Path and my army of zealots! It is I, Dark Juan, and today I have returned to regale you with information about why you should in fact give your soul to Satan (Hell has the world’s best lounge band, you see) eat all the delicious food and gorge yourself on the finest wines, spirits, meads and beers (fuck it all, you only live once and you give FAR too much of your lives to fucking wankers in suits and ties telling you that you aren’t doing enough to earn the pittance the capitalist scum pay you. Burn down their house) and play with the genitals of whichever sex tickles your fancy as often as humanly possible (just fucking because, OK? Trust me on this…) Also, listen to heavy fucking metal until your eyes bleed.

However, you should not attempt to have sex with Anaal Nathrakh being the soundtrack. There are several VERY SOUND reasons for this. Firstly, if you are a man above the age of forty and you try rattling the bones of your beloved at the insane tempos of an Anaal Nathrakh song then frankly you’re guaranteed a spell in hospital due to exhaustion and also, you’ll put your back out which is not a good thing. Maybe this is what happened to our Glorious Leader, Air Chief Marshal Richard “What I get Up To In My Bedroom Is No Concern Of Yours, You Fucking Northern Ape” Tilley. Secondly, your significant other’s pelvis will be reduced to rubble in short order, unless you are enjoying some oral action in which case there will be an immediate requirement for emergency dentistry and she (or he, or xim, them or any other pronoun that is inclusive. However, I am a heterosexual male so I will write primarily from my point of view) will end up sounding like Phyllis Pearce instead of the winsome, lilting voice she previously stole your heart with…

A lilting, winsome voice is something that V.I.T.R.I.O.L (unsurprisingly his real name is Dave) does not have. He sounds like a demented banshee screaming pure unadulterated hatred at pretty much the entire world and surrounding galactic environs. I am privately convinced that he is solely the reason that extraterrestrials haven’t yet contacted us, because they got wind of “The Codex Necro”, listened to it once and then had to go back to wherever the fuck they came from to repair their ship because V.I.T.R.I.O.L and Irrumator (Mick Kenney) basically fucked it to the point of structural failure with the power of their music. Which is a term I use advisedly.

Yes, I am currently turning my brain to soup with a reissue of Anaal Nathrakh’s utterly classic “The Codex Necro” on Metal Blade and by God it has just reaffirmed just how savage metal can be. This is ultra-primal, martial black metal of the very highest caliber, easily rivalling anything Scandinavia had to offer for sheer sonic violence. You will all no doubt remember that I don’t normally score reissues highly, normally viewing them as a cynical cash grab (hello, Paradise Lost) for bands that were financially not too badly off, but this is going to be disregarded today because of this motherfucking shitty arsed pandemic pushing our music to the brink. Frankly so many of our bands need some form of income to keep going and if you’re going to bang out a reissue during these straitened times, I say have at it. And to be fair to Anaal Nathrakh, reissuing their utterly classic debut album is a smart move. It makes everything released nowadays look wimpy and insipid, and still shows the righteous way for unrelenting brutality in music. I have always regarded them as one of the most sonically dense bands there has ever been, in company with The Berzerker (and now The Machinist).

Everything about “The Codex Necro” is fucking perfect. Unparalleled vocal fury from V.I.T.R.I.O.L is underpinned with nothing less than the aural equivalent of messy and explosive murder by Irrumator (who does everything else apart from the vocals). Rarely does the album’s velocity drop below Warp Factor 9 and the rageometer NEVER drops below a full on ten, and it is a testament to the quality of this album that after 20 years, it is yet to be challenged by any pretender to sonic Armageddon. It is also a testament to just how unrelentingly murderous full on black metal can be when it is underpinned by a proper production job, rather than the production being handled by a corpse painted heroin addict from Oslo who has put all the microphones in fishbowls while stoned out of his gourd and forgotten to turn up the bass on the mixing board. “The Codex Necro” still sounds fresh as fuck, mate. Everything is clearly heard, even though they go that fast there are times when you simply can’t take in the savagery and horror.

Everything about (he gaily repeats himself) “The Codex Necro” is perfect. EVERYTHING. It is a landmark of black metal and the perfect distillation of the rage that fuels heavy metal, stripped back to speed and aggression. If I were scoring this by itself, it would always be full marks, it is that seminal a work.

On to “Total Fucking Necro” then…After you, please.

A rather rawer recording composed of pieces from three demos (“Anaal Nathrakh”, “Total Fucking Necro” and the unreleased “We Will Fucking Kill You”) including two cover tracks from Mayhem (‘Carnage’ and ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’) compared to “The Codex Necro”, this album nevertheless showcases what was going to become the absolute last word in British brutality to devastating effect. With a sound not unlike being on the wrong end of an extensive and long lasting carpet bombing campaign with added incendiaries, Anaal Nathrakh set a fucking marker that the rest of the world could not ignore – here we are, we can play black metal better than you pasty faced, skinny limbed, church burning Scandinavian lightweights and we dare you to fucking come at us with your swords and your Satanism – we will destroy you with merely our teeth, for we are not warriors of Satan, we are fucking feral and we are going to chew our way through your faces.

Where “The Codex Necro” had a superb production that enhanced the power of the music considerably, “Total Fucking Necro” does not. The sound is woolly as fuck and instruments drop in and out of the mix willy nilly and at times curiously poppy sounding cymbals overpower everything – it must be remembered that this record is a collection of demos and they are still absolutely uncompromising in power and savagery. The speed of the playing sometimes impacts negatively on precision and there are a few dropped notes here and there, yet they don’t compromise just how promising the young and thrusting Anaal Nathrakh of 1999 was. V.I.T.R.I.O.L relies more on the classic black metal strangled yowl vocal on the demos before finding that hate fuelled roar that made him one of the finest BM vocalists ever and Irrumator clearly hadn’t learned the finesse he later displayed on AN recordings, appearing to be flailing desperately at every instrument he could lay his hands on, rather than playing them as he struggles to maintain the punishing tempos Anaal Nathrakh became famous for.

That’s not to say it isn’t good though. Raw, untamed Anaal Nathrakh can still kick the arse of pretty much every single modern black metal band with ease. This is absolutely fucking classic black metal from a band that desperately deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Mayhem, Emperor, Burzum (may Varg Vikernes forever rot in some endless fiery hell specifically for right wing murderous fucknuggets) and Darkthrone as black metal luminaries and leading lights. And they did this without recourse to corpse paint and pseudo-Satanic silliness… It also has to be said that Anaal Nathrakh are considerably better when they are ploughing their own massively furious musical furrow than aping their contemporaries, although this reviewer has an incredibly soft spot for the classical and expansive nature of Emperor and Dimmu Borgir, yet AN display touches that move them ahead of the black metal crowd even this early in the development of the band and their sound. Absolutely fucking irreplaceable.

And there we have it. Anaal Nathrakh have reminded me just why they will always be one of my favourite bands. As a retrospective recording of their early days, these two records are an essential purchase if you don’t already have them. If you don’t and you are the kind of masochistic person who will enjoy having your face reduced to its component atoms by concentrated musical hatred, fucking buy these albums. If you’re dipping your toes into the water of black metal and you ignore the fucking idiotic gatekeeper kvltists (who are all frankly boring dickheads) who will inevitably claim that AN aren’t black metal because they weren’t hanging around a certain record shop in Oslo in 1995, you really can’t do much better than Mayhem, Emperor and Anaal Nathrakh as your gateway into a scene that has pretty followed its own path in isolation from mainstream metal for decades. I can’t believe these records are over 20 years old – both still sound as fresh, vibrant and exciting as they did when this (at the time) teenage Hellpriest discovered them and Cradle Of Filth at the same time and made my parents wonder just what the unholy fuck was going on in my bedroom. And that was before I had managed to lure any teenage girls up there…

Absolutely superb. Absolutely fucking superb. I’m blown away as much now as I was then.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System can do nothing but award Anaal Nathrakh 10/10 for both fucking records. Both are absolutely uncompromising slabs of concentrated murderous hatred that get full marks for different reasons – 10/10 for “The Codex Necro” because at the time it was THE gold standard for brutality, and 10/10 for “Total Fucking Necro” for the sheer juggernaut raw power and untrammeled talent it displayed. By golly I’m proud to be British right now!

TRACKLISTINGS:

The Codex Necro:
01. The Supreme Necrotic Audnance
02. When Humanity Is Cancer
03. Submission Is For The Weak
04. Pandemonic Hyperblast
05. Paradigm Shift Annihilation
06. The Technogoat
07. Incipid Flock (sic)
08. Human, All Too Fucking Human
09. The Codex Necro

Total Fucking Necro:
01. Anaal Nathrakh (“Anaal Nathrakh” demo)
02. Necrodeath (“Anaal Nathrakh” demo)
03. Ice Blasting Storm Winds (“Anaal Nathrakh” demo)
04. Carnage (“Anaal Nathrakh” demo; Mayhem cover)
05. The Supreme Necrotic Audnance (“Total Fucking Necro” demo)
06. Satanachrist (“Total Fucking Necro” demo)
07. L.E.T.H.A.L.: Diabolic (“Total Fucking Necro” demo)
08. De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas (“Total Fucking Necro” demo; Mayhem cover)
09. The Technogoat (“Total Fucking Necro” demo)
10. Necrogeddon (“We Will Fucking Kill You” unreleased demo)

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Cannibal Corpse – Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years

Centuries Of Torment - The First 20 Years Cover

Cannibal Corpse
Centuries of Torment: The First 20 Years
Directed: Nic Izzi, Denise Korycki, David Stuart
Produced & Released by: Metal Blade Records
2008
Review by Chris Galea
10/10

If anything, new album “Violence Unimagined” (2021) proves that Cannibal Corpse are as relevant as ever. But who really are Cannibal Corpse? And how did it all come to this?

“Centuries of Torment” provides the answers to those questions and more. It’s a documentary released in 2008 that dissects the Death Metal pioneers, warts, guts and all. (There’s nothing like a few good puns to open a review!) Basically, it’s a DVD package spread over 3 discs:

The first disc is a documentary about the history of the band and the bulk of this review will in fact focus on that disc.

“Centuries of Torment: Performances” is the second disc and contains lots of live footage – mostly with George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher on vocals but there’s also material from the Chris Barnes era – as well as the band’s promotional videos. All very intense stuff.

Finally, the third disc – “Centuries of Torment: Bonus Chunks” – is an extension of the first but goes into greater depth on issues indirectly related to the band and follows no specific chronology. It covers issues such as general attitudes on censorship, bands that the members of Cannibal Corpse dig, and a hilarious segment on the sanitary limitations of touring bands.

Cannibal Corpse Circa 1990v
Cannibal Corpse circa 1990

But now onto the first disc…

At over 3 hours duration, “Cannibal Corpse: History” is one of the most exhaustive band documentaries I’ve ever seen. It chronicles the first 20 years of the band’s existence from every perspective imaginable.

It starts by delving into the band’s formation…when none of the founding members had any idea how to play their instrument…and then traces Cannibal Corpse’s post-natal steps. We are taken to the very place where they did their first gig, opening for Dark Angel (which then had Gene Hoglan on drums…incidentally Hoglan contributes quite a lot to this documentary). Cannibal Corpse drummer and founding member Paul Mazurkiewicz also takes us to see the band’s old rehearsal studio where the band wrote most of their early material and where they started to develop their sound.

The success of Cannibal Corpse put Buffalo (U.S.A.) on the Metal map, something which the city’s Metal fans were proud of and consequentially rallied behind the band. This sense of camaraderie was bolstered after the band opened gigs for the likes of Kreator and Death early in their career and always leaving a very positive impression. As a friend of the band put it, Cannibal Corpse “opened the floodgates for the bands of Buffalo”. Before long, demand for the band enabled its members to  dedicate themselves to the band on a full-time basis.

So immediate was the band’s impact, in fact, that Metal Blade Records signed Cannibal Corpse less than a year after the band had been together, making then the label’s first Death Metal signing.

Cannibal Corpse – First Live Show (1989)

“Centuries of Torment: History” documents the band’s story via interviews interspersed with rare footage, vintage photography, and snippets of live shows. And it’s really everyone who enthusiastically contributes via personal reminiscences and points of view. This includes band members, family members, fans, school friends, neighbours, touring crew, record label executives and band peers such as Sean Reinert, Paul Masvidal, Eric Rutan, Malevolent Creation (also from Buffalo…Death Metal buddies of Cannibal Corpse), Anthrax, Jeff Loomis, Obituary, The Black Dahlia Murder, Kataklysm, Monstrosity, Immolation and many many others.

Amongst other things, there’s a very interesting analysis of the artworks of Vince Locke that adorn the band’s albums, including an interview with Locke himself. It becomes clear that gore was always part of the band’s imagery…probably even before the music itself coalesced. Furthermore, the band does not shy away from addressing the controversies that arose from its imagery and lyrics. After all, controversies have only served to help spur the band’s career further.

Butchered At Birth Album Cover
“Butchered At Birth” – Debut Album Cover

The documentary also analyses each album released by the band up until “Kill” from 2006. With each one, the band members reveal the circumstances that led to its release, its recording and fan reactions while clarifying any related polemics. Musicians from other bands explain the impact that a particular album has had on them.

But before they go into all that, the members of Cannibal Corpse describe their magical journey from the East to the West coast of the U.S.A. to record the band’s debut album at the famed Morrisound studios with Scott Burns, the legendary sound engineer who has produced many classic Death Metal albums such as “Piece of Time” by Atheist, “Spiritual Healing” by Death, “Cause of Death” by Obituary and “Slaughter in the Vatican” by Exhorder. Burns’ wider role in shaping the entire Death Metal subgenre is discussed via interviews with Burns himself and with various bands (including of course Cannibal Corpse). It’s all very fascinating stuff.

“Centuries of Torment” also points the spotlight on the band-members that for some reason or another do not form part of the band any more. Ex-members reminisce on the good times they’ve had with the band but also on the conflict that led to their departure from Cannibal Corpse. This includes, of course, ex-vocalist Chris Barnes, who tells us: ”I’m feeling good where I am [Six Feet Under]. But I like where I came from.” These interviews are quite objective – case in point is when we are told what really happened with the acrimonious firing of founding member guitarist Bob Rusay. Cannibal Corpse drummer/founding member Paul Mazurkiewicz is careful not to place blame for that on just one person. All this enhances the quality of the documentary’s interviews.

Some of the band’s most significant tours are discussed, such as the first European tour in support of the “Butchered at Birth” album. Rarely discussed topics in relation to touring are here openly contemplated, such as the toll that decades of touring have on the physical well-being of Death Metal musicians.

As one might expect, there’s no shortage of trivia and amusing recollections, such as the band’s appearance in Jim Carrey’s Ace Ventura film of 1994. Another one is when band vocalist George ‘Corpsegrinder’ Fisher reminisces on the time the band chilled out at the home of Cher who even cooked for them. All the while, the band members’ jocular personalities ensure the documentary never feels dragging. The irony that Corpsegrinder is fishing while answering several interview questions did not escape me.

‘Devoured By Vermin’ Official Video from the 1996 album “Vile”.

Beside the band being a benchmark of the Death Metal genre, each member of Cannibal Corpse has become a point of reference with regards his instrument of trade. The documentary delves into these traits in context of the Metal scene. For example, there’s a discussion on whether Cannibal Corpse were the progenitors of Death Metal ‘growls’. The styles and approaches of each guitarist are examined, especially for the way they affected the musical direction of the band. Bassist Alex Webster tries to describe his own style of playing but Donald Tardy (Obituary drummer) simply describes him as “a bass player’s bass player” while Eric Rutan regards Webster as the “Steve Harris of Death Metal”.

A crucial element of Cannibal Corpse’s music is of course the drumming of Paul Mazurkiewicz, who highlights some of the techniques he was forced to adopt in order to push the boundaries of the band’s music. Some of those very techniques are today widely adopted by many Death Metal drummers.

Of all Death Metal bands in existence, Cannibal Corpse have one of the most loyal fanbases…as one interviewee says in “Centuries of Torment”, “they make lifers out of their fans”. It transpires that this is partly due to the quality of the music and to the band’s eagerness to evolve. But the band members’ willingness to interact with fans endears them to the same fans and fans the flames of devotion.

Highly regarded guitarist Eric Rutan (Hate Eternal, Morbid Angel, Ripping Corpse) talks about his friendship with the guys of Cannibal Corpse. In the documentary he tells us how his reputation as a producer blossomed after he produced Cannibal Corpse’s “Kill” album of 2006. According to him, a key ingredient of the band’s success was its keenness and ability to always re-invent itself. Unsurprisingly, when I started writing this review it was announced that Eric had joined Cannibal Corpse as their lead guitarist after Pat O’Brien had a run-in with the law.

As I suggested earlier, “Centuries of Torment: History” is impressively exhaustive, especially when taking into consideration the two accompanying discs. And this is definitely its main selling point. Together, the 3 discs are over 7 hours long in total. So, for fans who want to get to know the band better or even anyone simply interested in a great success story…the documentary provides hours of compelling viewing. It could have been better edited but that’s only a minor snag. And keep an eye open for the hilarious bloopers toward the very end.

“Centuries of Torment” was released in 2008 to mark the 20th anniversary of the band’s existence so there are…at the time of writing this…five albums and over a decade of events that aren’t covered. When the “Centuries of Torment” DVD package was released, the band had sold a total of one million albums. Since the documentary’s release they have sold more than two million. Clearly the band’s appeal shows no sign of abating. It would make sense, therefore, to have a second documentary chronicling the last 15 years or so. The blood still flows…

Centuries Of Torment – The First 20 Years Trailer

LINKS:

Cannibal Corpse 2021
Cannibal Corpse 2021

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Galea and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Artillery – X

X Album Cover Art

Artillery – X
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 07/05/2021
Running Time: 45:48
Review by Simon Black
9/10

This album was a delightfully pleasant surprise. When a band has been at it for forty years and its members cracking on a bit, you expect the engine to not be running at the kind of ferocity that it did when they were younger, back when wearing studded leather straps in public was a bit rebellious and dodgy moustaches were the thing. Well, that dodgy look may be long gone, but Artillery have managed to turn out what feels like one of their finest hour’s with this, their tenth record (although I still think the anthemic ‘In Thrash We Trust’ from the second track on the disk would have been a better title).

Back in the day, Artillery were one of those bands that hadn’t quite registered on the radar much here in the UK when Thrash was exploding world-wide. Although I had come across their rather explosive debut “Fear Of Tomorrow”, they didn’t tour enough to push themselves into the consciousness of us Brits in the way other European stalwarts of the scene did and so unless you had seen them on the bill at a festival over there, you were probably blissfully unaware of them. Taking most of the 1990’s and 2000’s off probably did not help with maintaining a profile here though. The band have also endured some recent tragedy with the passing of founding guitarist Morten Stützer, suddenly, in 2019. You would have forgiven his surviving brother Michael for wanting to hang up his axe at this point, given that the brothers were the song-writing engine at the heart of the band, but having on boarded long-time friend Kræn Meier the band have taken that emotion and forged what is head and shoulders the strongest album since their debut in 1985.

This does not sound like a band who have been around for such a long time. It sounds as fresh, focussed and energetic as that crucial first record, with the added benefit of experience and the kind of crisp and modern production values which although more affordable and technically achievable in this day and age, still many bands struggle to find. They’ve been working with Producer Søren Andersen for a while, but this time he really seems to have nailed their sound with a rich and well produced piece of work. Thrash and high production values did not always go together historically, so this is important. In days gone by the best thrash albums were often the ones with the weaker production, given that the speed and urgency borne from necessity of limited budget and studio time often leant the recordings an energy that became conspicuous by its absence when bands got better established and hard more time to polish their chops. Andersen crucially has managed to capture both the immediacy without sacrificing the quality here.

But then when you have song-writing of this calibre to work with, half the work is already done. The eleven songs on here positively fly by in a blur of technically proficient and blisteringly accurate speed. Artillery’s sound is subtly different from many Thrash acts, as Michael Bastholm Dahl’s clean vocal style stands out from the usual guttural delivery of the sub-genre. Personally his wailing tone adds an emotional timbre so often missing from Thrash, and allows the meaning of the words to emerge clearly. This counterpoints superbly with the aggressive and frenetic delivery of the instruments and I am left with an album that I am not done with yet. The band also vary the tone in unexpected ways – ‘The Ghost Of Me’ is the kind of ballad that you would not expect to find in the genre, but it works and really shows just what Dahl’s voice can achieve. Equally the more Traditional Metal sound of ‘Eternal Night’ brings a refreshing change from the all-out speed and illustrates a band with song-writing maturity and confidence that experience naturally brings, but who have not lost their mojo. A resounding hit for me.

‘In Your Mind’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Devil’s Symphony
02. In Thrash We Trust
03. Turn Up The Rage
04. Silver Cross
05. In Your Mind
06. The Ghost Of Me
07. Force Of Indifference
08. Varg I Veum
09. Mors Ontologica
10. Eternal Night
11. Beggars In Black Suits

LINE-UP:
Michael Bastholm Dahl – Vocals
Michael Stützer – Guitars
Kræn Meier – Guitars
Peter Thorslund – Bass
Josua Madsen – Drums

LINKS:

Artillery Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

The Crown – Royal Destroyer

Royal Destroyer Album Cover Art

The Crown – Royal Destroyer
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 12/03/2021
Running Time: 45:45
Review by Victor Augusto
10/10

Ok, before I start my smooth talk, let me travel back in time. The year was 2002 and my older brother appeared at home with two albums from a Swedish Death Metal band. If you have already read my EMQ’s as an Ever Metal team member (if not, you can read it after this review, https://ever-metal.com/2020/07/14/emqs-with-victor-augusto/), you will understand how my brother has a peculiar way of insisting you listen to music. I clearly remember, to this day, when The Crown albums “Hell is Here” (1999) and “Deathrace King” (2000) started to play on our old stereo. After that, I understood how amazing the music from Sweden was. What a brilliant memory.

I really struggled to follow the band’s career, after the year of 2000, because I was living in a very poor neighbourhood, in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), without access to the internet or a computer; even though those two things were becoming popular at that time. Heavy Metal was a very strange kind of music for people who lived in that place too. I had no money to buy magazines either, but the years have passed and after almost two decades, here I am. I could not believe that someday I would be able to review The Crown and it is even better considering “Royal Destroyer” is one of the band’s best albums, maybe ‘the best’, who knows? So, let’s get to the review itself.

“What is happening, Victor?”. Those were my wife’s, scared, words after I screamed a concise and loud “Holy Shit!”. Yes, it happened while I was listening to the pure destruction of the opening track ‘Baptized In Violence‘. What a killer way to open an album with its extreme Hardcore mixed with Death Metal that is The Crown’s trademark. The best thing is that ‘Let the Hammering Begin!’ and ‘Motordeath’ maintain the violence that keeps your level of adrenaline extremely high. This last one has fast guitar picks on the initial riff. Again, I could not believe that I was listening to so many insane tracks. Moreover, it doesn’t stop there.

For sure, I thought that the upcoming songs would be not as strong as the first four. Even classic albums usually have one or two tracks that are just filler to complete the set list, but with “Royal Destoyer”…bloody hell no! The only change here is the speed which becomes more cadenced, but all the tracks are pretty insane. ‘Glorious Hades’ shows the more melodic side of The Crown, without losing the heaviness. ‘Full Metal Justice’ explores their thrash metal elements more and has beautiful double kicks and fast drum fills. I loved how ‘Devoid Of Light’ brings a Morbid Angel spirit to The Crown’s identity. Everything ends with a good atmosphere on ‘Beyond The Frail’ and I could not believe what I had just heard. If my brother were with me, we would probably react like teenagers, exactly how we did 20 years ago.

Founder member Marko Tervonen is an absolute riff machine and his (not so) new partner in crime Robin Sörqvist’s guitar work makes everything more remarkable with all his solos. There is also a great chemistry between drummer Henrik Axelsson and bassist Magnus Olsfelt, another founding member. The versatility of Henrik to play fast styles, that change from Hardcore to the most brutal Death Metal, is very well complemented by the powerful bass of Magnus, as you can hear on ‘Ultra Faust’. Of course, vocalist Johan Lindstrand is also a fundamental member of the band, having been there since the beginning, when they were still called Crown of Thorns, during the nineties.

The Crown are masters of mixing their Death Metal with a lot of Thrash Metal and also a little Punk therefore their fans will know what to expect, however, this time they have utterly stamped their identity and made their music even stronger. I couldn’t imagine being able to review an album so strong that it surpasses their two masterpiece albums “Deathrace King” and “Crowned In Terror”. My first thought after hearing “Royal Destroyer” for the first time was “There is not one, single song that is bad on this album”.

If you are a fan of The Crown, you will probably know that they are one of the biggest names to have made the Swedish Metal scene famous around the world. You will also know all the ups and the few downs that the band have overcome. This line-up has basically stayed the same since “Death Is Not Dead” (2015) and their last album “Cobra Speed Venom” (2018) received a response that a legendary band deserves. As a result of all the touring from the previous album and a stable line-up, we now have “Royal Destroyer”.

It is an album made up of 100% amazing songs! It shows the experienced band we already know, but with an intense energy as if they are young and ready to conquer the world! As a reviewer, it is a pleasure to review such an amazing piece of work. As a fan, I have the same feeling listening to “Royal Destroyer” that I had when I was a young boy, back in 2002, adding in a mix of feelings from everything that I have learnt from that period until today. I am also proud to see such an important band continuing to thrive in the Worldwide Metal scene.

Grattis till Sveriges bästa band!

‘Motordeath’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Baptized In Violence
02. Let The Hammering Begin!
03. Motordeath
04. Ultra Faust
05. Glorious Hades
06. Full Metal Justice
07. Scandinavian Satan
08. Devoid Of Light
09. We Drift On
10. Beyond The Frail

LINE-UP:
Johan Lindstrand – Vocals
Magnus Olsfelt – Bass
Marko Tervonen – Guitar
Robin Sörqvist – Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Henrik Axelsson – Drums

LINKS:

The Crown Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Victor Augusto and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Demon Head – Viscera

Viscera Album Cover Art

Demon Head – Viscera
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 29/01/2021
Running Time: 36:23
Review by Dark Juan
10/10

Good afternoon, you smiling hordes of Satanic satyrs and succubi! It is I, Dark Juan, who is still currently in recovery from what could only be described as a joyfully messy online gathering of the good denizens of Team Ever-Metal. Our Liege Lord Sir Richard “What The Fuck Are You Talking About This Time, Juan” Tilley, Statistician Beth “This Wine Is Rank But I’m Still Drinking It” Jones, Sheri “The Gigglefox” Bicheno, Alun “If It’s Liquid I’ll Drink It” Jones, Simon “Look At My Suggestively Named Beer” Black, Wing Commander James “Tally Ho, Bandits At Four o’ Clock” Mealor, Martin “The Sexual Tyrannosaurus” Bennewith, Arturs “Thank Fuck I’m In Canada, The Brits Are Mental” Feists and our resident luchador and Brazilian contingent, Victor “I’m Not Going To Stop Putting Mango In IPA, Despite What That Wanker Dark Juan Says” Augusto had a bit of a gathering. I assume it was a success because my friend Jim Beam has chosen to block any fucking memory of it after 11pm. I hope there was no undressing. However, the long-suffering current Mrs Dark Juan has gleefully informed me that I was shouting incoherently at my tablet and also that, whilst trying to visit the lavatory, I turned on every light in the upstairs of Dark Juan Terrace, told the door off for being (I quote), “A cunt because I kicked it”, bounced off the wall and then (she was ensconced in her eyrie in the attic) there was a loud banging and crashing from the bathroom.

I discovered the next morning that, unaccountably, the towel rail had detached itself from the wall and was lying next to the lavatory. This was a mystery that has proven insoluble.

Anyhow, this has absolutely fuck all to do with what I am supposed to be doing, which is telling you about the latest musical offering I am currently listening to, in my somewhat fragile state. Demon Head are a Danish “demonic rock” band. Immediately I started thinking, “Please don’t be trying to copy Ghost. Please don’t try and copy Ghost because that would just be fucking lazy and an effort to get on the bandwagon that Papa and the ghouls have made their own.”

Demon Head have NOT copied Ghost, and this is indeed a Very Good Thing because they would have immediately earned a low score and my enduring disapprobation and I would not have been very nice about them either, and Dark Juan is all about peace and love. And mescaline. Lots and lots of mescaline. Anyway, Demon Head employ a sound that it somewhat unique and very pleasing to these slightly malformed ears, seeing as they have chosen to create a sound from a melange of doom metal, trad rock and lots and lots of gothic rock in the classic style – think about Paradise Lost,

Fields Of The Nephilim, The Jesus And Mary Chain, “Phantasmagoria” era The Damned, The Mission and the more metal iterations of Coven having a suitably Satanic and mopey orgy with lots of tears in a dingy basement in front of a cheaply moulded and poorly painted plastic statue of Baphomet and you have an idea of their sound. It is actually quite a refreshing noise and owes as much to post-punk as it does to metal. Opening tune ‘Tooth And Nail’ seduces you with swirling, religious sounding keyboards and a classic rock riff of some splendour, before the impassioned vocal of Marcus Feirrera Larsen kicks in and lends the whole thing the post-punk fuelled emotional depth that so much modern gothic music lacks. It is very good indeed, and the song changes forms like a shadowy predator glimpsed through gaps in the mist in the middle of a forest. Marcus reminds me of the 5’10” of unkempt contempt that is The Cure’s Robert Smith at full chat in parts with his deeply impassioned wail.

It is well known that Dark Juan is a bit of a sad old goff, and this record makes me want to go paint my fingernails black, leather on the eyeliner and stay out of the sun and wear long leather trenchcoats and big brimmed hats everywhere. The production on this record is wonderful with a full on 80’s feel and the keyboards and guitars vying for attention throughout in a glorious wall of sound. It’s all spectacularly overblown and I fucking love it. The more I listen, the more and more I hear a classic goth band and less of a metal band, but this should not be counted as a demerit because these Danish miserablists are plenty heavy enough to please a metal audience. The riffs on ‘The Feline Smile’ are rather splendid, as is the solo on the guitar. There are the odd moments of similarity with Ghost, but this is because they operate from a similar love of classic hard rock and heavy metal and therefore the occasional moment can be forgiven. ‘Arrows’ opens with some lovely 12 string acoustic and has an almost psychedelic vibe, with electric guitar cutting in and out of the gorgeous, almost choral vocal and the 12-string enhanced only with staccato stabs of percussion before segueing into ‘Magical Death’ which has the most Ghost-like riff on the record, but it is carried through by Marcus’ howling and the drumming which borders on the sound of industrial, such is the mélange of influences. The guitars, oh the guitars, one of which goes for the throat with a satisfying meaty sound as the second guitar chimes with phaser wah and the keyboards beguile and seduce you with the sad romanticism that all good goff music employs. However, ‘The Lupine Choir’ is a keyboard segment that sounds like it’s been lifted wholesale from a Cradle Of Filth middle eight. Seeing as I am a massive Cradle fan, I’m letting that slide…

‘In Adamantine Chains’ is by far the best song on the record, and is also the one where the curious conjunction of The Cure and Paradise Lost can be heard to best effect, and the whole thing is a glorious and gothic anthem of significant proportion and fuck it, I’m now beguiled and I think I love Demon Head more than chips.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System (Det patenterede mørke Juan-blodsplatter-klassificeringssystem) has been frantically rooting in the wardrobe for the 80’s “People’s Republic Of West Yorkshire” Sisters Of Mercy t-shirt and the leather trousers and trenchcoat it knows is in there somewhere and awards Demon Head a supremely gothic and black 10/10. Now, where’s those aviator shades with the black lenses?

TRACKLISTING: (There are some amusing titles…)
01. Tooth And Nail
02. The Feline Smile
03. Arrows
04. Magical Death
05. The Lupine Choir (Listen to them, the children of the night. What sweet music they make.)
06. A Long Groaning Descent (Sounds like the last time I got laid.)
07. In Adamantine Chains
08. Black Torches (Light emitters or dark suckers?)
09. Wreath
10. The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony (I am somewhat confused. This chariot would be lethal and any warrior riding it, triumphally or otherwise, would soon be dead of heavy metal poisoning. Well, shit. It literally would be the most heavy metal death ever! Heavy metal charioteer killed by heavy metal chariot by heavy metal poisoning. I’ve changed my mind, that’s fucking genius, gentlemen. Fucking genius.)

LINE-UP:
Mikkel Fuglsang – Bass
Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen – Guitars
Marcus Ferreira Larsen – Vocals
Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen – Guitars
Jeppe Wittus – Drums

LINKS:

Demon Head Promo Pic

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of ‘Dark Juan’ and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Sacred Reich – Re-issues

Sacred Reich – Re-issues
Ignorance/Surf Nicaragua/The American Way

Sacred Reich – Re-issues
Ignorance/Surf Nicaragua/The American Way
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 42:33/26:03/56:00
Review by Simon Black
9/10
10/10
8/10

Sacred Reich are one of those influential second wave Thrash bands who for some reason never become as huge as their initial direction of travel indicated and were buried by the 1990’s. After a twenty-three year gap, 2019 saw the release of the aptly titled ‘The Awakening’ and pretty darn good to hear from them again after all this time it was too. Not to let a little thing like a total stoppage of all things live get in the way of their revival plans, Metal Blade have decided to re-release those seminal first three releases from the late 80’s for a wider audience so people can see what all the fuss was about. I don’t think I ever caught these guys live first time round, but I certainly still have vinyl from back in the day and the chance to hear these beauties cleaned up and remastered for this decade was not one I was going to turn down the opportunity to share my thoughts on with you lovely people.

“Ignorance” is where this all really started as their first full album back in 1987, and is probably just as politically relevant in this post-Trump world as it was when it was originally released. Just to hammer the point home, vocalist Phil Rind recently made it quite clear that supporters of the orange one are not welcome. I don’t think anything summarises this band better than the blistering anger of the title track, the absolute art of blistering shredding that is ‘Rest In Peace’ and the slab-like heaviness of album opener ‘Death Squad’, the first few bars of which probably best define 2nd Wave Thrash for me in those opening two minutes of ruthless technical efficiency. It was brilliant then, and it’s still brilliant and relevant now.

“Surf Nicaragua” from that tongue in cheek whistle of descending bomb madness introduction the title track of this EP, was actually the first song I ever heard from these guys way back when. With its thrash pastiche of the Surfaris ‘Wipe Out’ this is pure late 80’s Thrash irreverence with a loaded political back bite at its best. Anthrax gave us the Bermuda shorts, these guys gave us a song to wear them to. It was a guaranteed mosh pit raiser when I used to DJ and it sounds just as fun then as now and suddenly I feel 18 again. To be fair this EP was all about this song, rather than the covers and live fillers that follow, and it did a huge amount to raise their profile at the time, even if it did convince most people that these guys were from Florida or California instead of Phoenix, Arizona, but then that sort of misdirection is rather the whole point of what they are about politically. It’s worth buying for this track alone, and the remaster cleans it up beautifully whilst losing none of the freshness that made it work so well in 1988.

“The American Way” is politically far more forward and clear in its intent. It’s also a more mature and in many ways richer release than its two predecessors. At the time I was less impressed with its measured delivery, but thirty years later I can appreciate that it was ahead of its time in many ways – although it’s still nowhere near as infectiously catchy as “Ignorance” or balls out (hanging slightly out of the trouser leg of the Bermuda shorts) as “Surf Nicaragua”. The Information Age has come and gone since this was released, and the oft-ridiculed PMRC (the subject of the classic ‘Who’s To Blame’) may be political history now, but the underlying trend of conservatism that these liberal Thrashers loathe makes this just as relevant in the Disinformation Age.

This does not feel like a cash-in situation as more of a pertinent reminder that the more things change, the more they stay the same. These albums strike me as just as relevant and enjoyable as they were originally and it’s been an absolute treat to revisit them again. You know what to do…

TRACKLISTINGS:
Ignorance (1987)
01. Death Squad
02. Victim Of Demise
03. Layed To Rest
04. Ignorance
05. No Believers
06. Violent Solutions
07. Rest In Peace
08. Sacred Reich
09. Administrative Decisions
10. Ignorance (Metal Massacre VIII)

Surf Nicaragua (1988)
01. Surf Nicaragua
02. One Nation
03. War Pigs
04. Draining You Of Life
05. Ignorance (Live)
06. Death Squad (Live)

The American Way (1990)
01. Love…Hate
02. The American Way
03. The Way It Is
04. Crimes Against Humanity
05. State Of Emergency
06. Who’s To Blame
07. I Don’t Know
08. 31 Flavors

LINE-UP:
Phil Rind – Bass/Vocals
Wiley Arnett – Lead Guitar
Jason Rainey – Rhythm Guitar
Greg Hall – Drums

LINKS:

Sacred Reich Re-issues

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Armored Saint – Punching The Sky

Armored Saint – Punching The Sky
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 23/10/2020
Running Time: 53:29
Review by Chris Galea
8/10

There has been a notable consistency in the line-up of Armored Saint and apart from original guitarist Dave Pritchard, who passed away in 1990 (and whose shoes were filled by Jeff Duncan), “Punching The Sky” features the same guys that appeared on the band’s 1984 debut album “March Of The Saint”. This is not merely a bit of trivia but could account for Armored Saint as a songwriting unit and why “Punching The Sky” is one of the strongest releases from the band.

The sound is perfect too…not excessively polished, not too raw…and all tracks have their own temperament. For example, there’s ‘Bark, no Bite’ which has both bark and bite. Or ‘Fly in the Ointment’ with its soulful, Hard Rock moments. Or even ‘Never You Fret’ with its hard-hitting rhythm section and spot-on guitar solos. Or the pensive moments of ‘Unfair’….you get the idea.

Curiously, both album opener ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ and album closer ‘Never You Fret’ start with some sort of hypnotic New Age tunes. Perhaps to foster a sense of structure?

Overall, though, there has been no major departure in music style…despite the band members’ involvement with the Bay Area Thrash scene, Armored Saint still seem to keep a closer affinity with the NWOBHM.

John Bush is at the top of his game and amazingly his singing actually seems to have got better with age. Just check ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’ or my favourite track ‘Missile To Gun’ to see what I’m on about

Compared to other album reviews on Ever Metal, this one has been relatively short. To be honest just 3 words would have been enough: “It kicks ass”. So, if the ongoing pandemic has restricted your mobility, “Punching The Sky” could be a great way to raise your spirits.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants
02. End Of The Attention Span
03. Bubble
04. My Jurisdiction
05. Do Wrong To None
06. Lone Wolf
07. Missile To Gun
08. Fly In The Ointment
09. Bark, No Bite
10. Unfair
11. Never You Fret

LINE-UP:
John Bush – Vocals
Phil Sandoval – Guitars
Jeff Duncan – Guitars
Joey Vera – Bass
Gonzo Sandoval – Drums

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Chris Galea and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Six Feet Under – Nightmares Of The Decomposed

Six Feet Under – Nightmares Of The Decomposed
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: 02/10/2020
Running Time: 43:57
Review by Dark Juan
6/10

Good afternoon, my dear friends and lovers of all things dark and gloomy. The weather at Dark Juan Terrace is inclement to say the least, to the point where the hellhounds are refusing to go for walkies and the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover is wearing a most fetching Halloween jumper, mainly because he’s a spoilt little fucker. Mrs Dark Juan is sitting opposite me as usual, fabricating a Krampus mask (as you do) as I sit in my little darkened corner of West Yorkshire listening to some heavy metal music for your edification and interest. Obviously, the weather has prevented any subverting of God’s word or proselytising, and frankly day time TV is a bit shit unless you want to watch a pity party every commercial break.

Having dragged myself away from the painfully slow fermentation of the IPA I am brewing in my cellar, I instead have decided to utilise my time in a profitable manner and share with you my thoughts (disjointed and perverse as they are) on the latest platter of splatter from death metal legend Chris Barnes and Six Feet Under. This review is fuelled by fried egg sandwiches and copious amounts of coffee.

Album opener ‘Amputator’ kicks things off with a sinuous guitar riff before crashing into a speedy, classic DM song – indeed this could be a product of the Morrisound era of classic death metal, until Chris starts to vocalise. Note I don’t use the word sing. Singing is not what Chris Barnes does. His voice resonates in lower registers and vibrates internal organs to frequencies that turn them to chunky salsa. It’s a worthy, if unimaginative opener, one that’s perfectly listenable but does nothing new for the genre.

The second tune, ‘Zodiac’, is where it falls apart somewhat. Whilst laudable in its effort to do something unusual with the classic DM sound, SFU elect to mix death metal with groove. And while the music is satisfyingly both groovy and chunky and played with vim and vigour, Chris’ vocal talents are sadly lacking. During the points where there is just silence and his voice, it does unfortunately sound like Six Feet Under are fronted by a tone deaf, horrifically stoned and mutilated Muppet.

The third song (entitled ‘The Rotting’) is somewhat better although Barnes appears to be leaking at some points in it, where there are odd little bits of high-pitched squeaking. It’s a shame because it starts and fills the middle eight with a fucking magisterial riff of complexity and splendour and a skin flaying solo that every death metal guitarist would have given several appendages to have written.

The bizarre squeaking continues on track four at the end of several lines. It’s almost as if Chris is trying too hard to vocalise in the register he normally employs. In fact, throughout the whole album, it appears that Chris is struggling with his voice – gone is the sepulchral, deep throated roar that graced the finest of his work with Cannibal Corpse, replaced with a scratchy, painful sounding grunt that detracts mightily from the listening experience. He sounds short of breath as well.

This is a crying shame because Six Feet Under as a band serve up some of the grooviest death metal this hellpriest has ever heard. Dialling down the savage speed a few notches has enabled the music to breathe and allows the tiniest bit of melody to creep in. The production on the album is also bang fucking on. The drums are all perfectly audible, and the bottom end heavier than your sister in plutonium panties, the bass guitar thunderous and the bass drum (which normally sounds like men machine gunning dead rats against taut stretched shrink wrap on death metal) resonant and bowel shakingly present. The cymbals (DM drummers are beloved of the bell on the cymbal – lamentably less so of the cowbell) are arctically clear and pure and cut through the mix perfectly. The guitars are well produced and meaty and the solos effective and deadly.

‘The Noose’ is another song where the musicianship outstrips Chris Barnes’ vocal. His limitations are once again laid bare during quiet moments and the odd strangled squawk he’s employed liberally throughout the record is back. It’s a shame because the music on this tune fucking slams, the band is tighter than a gnat’s chuff and it’s a mightily effective slab of metal goodness.

‘Blood Of The Zombie’ is a fucking mighty tune, bass led and groovy as fuck, with lacerating solos and death march paced chugging from the guitars, and a subtle electronic undertone lending a menacing ambience normally lacking from DM. Thankfully, Chris stops doing mynah bird impersonations on this one and grinds out a meat-mincing growl instead.

By far the weakest song on the record is ‘Dead Girls Don’t Scream’. The band dissolve from inventive, groove metal influenced death metal to simply chugging their way through a number devoid of all inspiration and excitement apart from more ferocious soloing on the guitar. ‘Drink Blood, Get High’ is another weak link in the record – more mid tempo standard chugging along before an interesting middle eight and Chris Barnes just barking “Drink blood, get high”, swapping the lines around and repeating this ad nauseam does not a good song make, no matter how cool the key they are playing in is. And then it peters out before coming to a clattering, unresolved end.

The closer is ‘Without Your Life’ and suddenly SFU remember they are a classic DM band again. The tempo is punishing, the riffs fast and lethal and the vocal much more fitting to the music. Even though it ends abruptly, as if the song was chopped roughly in half.

In conclusion then – A damned fine amalgam of death and groove metal marred by a vocalist who either can’t cut it anymore or was trying far too hard. It leads to some unintentionally humorous moments when the scratchy, unpleasant grunt turns into mental squeaking. When you have the likes of contemporaries like The Black Dahlia Murder taking death metal further into experimentation and exploration, you have to hand it to Six Feet Under for trying to update the blueprint of classic death mental without straying too far away from the purists. My problem is that this record and the quality of the musicianship and the arrangements would benefit mightily from the vocal of someone like Trevor Strnad, who encompasses a vocal range able to convey light and dark, from gut-churning growls through to icy, cold screaming. I hate to say it, but Chris Barnes has become a liability for Six Feet Under. His vocals are tortured, and not for the right reasons. Even legends need to stop sometime. Perhaps it’s Chris’ time, and that’s sad because he was my gateway into death metal.

The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System is very disappointed in Six Feet Under right now. It was expecting magnificence, and all we got were flashes of inspiration. 6/10 for a record that could have been utterly monolithic. But isn’t.

TRACKLISTING:
01. Amputator
02. Zodiac
03. The Rotting
04. Death Will Follow
05. Migraine
06. The Noose
07. Blood Of The Zombie
08. Self Imposed Death Sentence
09. Dead Girls Don’t Scream
10. Drink Blood, Get High (Medical note: Do NOT do this. You won’t get high. You’ll need to visit the lavatory a lot because blood is a diuretic…)
11. Labyrinth Of Insanity
12. Without Your Life

LINE-UP
Chris Barnes – Vocals
Jack Owen – Guitar
Ray Suhy – Guitar
Jeff Hughell – Bass
Marco Pitruzzella – Drums

LINKS:

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