SPEARHEAD (Eng): “Decrowning the Irenarch” Lp Cd 2007 Invictus

SpearheadBefore I start the whining, let me state that this Cd looks real terrific. The design here is tremendous, woefully elegant and definitely classy. The cover art is not only intricately beautiful, but it also reflects a very strong concept that permeates the whole release. War. Struggle as the means of man to overcome mediocrity and avoid corruption and degrade. Historical references appear as pictures of iconic representations in a sleek sepia packaging that is perfect even in the choice of fonts. This is really beautiful to look at. I was even remotely intrigued by the lyrics and foreword on their take on the irenarchs of the past and present.

I always find it a bit difficult to find parallels between boys that play musical instruments on stage and maybe participate in a few weekend full contact sessions with paint guns and real soldiers that see their friends torn to pieces by shrapnels, that visit places where real people die including your strict relatives. But the philosophical message here is strong and that’s not the weak spot on this album: it’s the music that really fails here. This album is one of the best examples of hideously generic thrash/death metal I have heard this year. Sure ly some riffs are nice, and they even attempt a killer echoing “ugh ugh” during the first fast opening riff in the best Celtic Frost tradition, and the solos are actually thought out and cool – but the scattering of good chords and soporific mid tempos is quite hard to understand and to find any coherence in. It’s like that movie “Memento” where all the scenes are cut and pasted backwards. You hear the same mediocre galloping riff 8 times, and then a completely different one drops in, coming from some third grade band from Melbourne. It’s as if someone cut the film in the cassette master and hastily taped it together randomly. This again doesn’t mean they inherently suck, they’re just totally unbearable because thrashing energy never bursts out, always squeezed in a vaguely Australian styled neo “denim plus million patches” Thrash Metal composition that really tastes like Kosher meat without seasoning. The vocals are terribly banal but for once I won’t twist the knife in the wound. This band is definitely not for me, even if the premises were good it lacks completely of catchiness. If only they could take an inch of old Vader or Sadus they could as well be something. As it is I could barely keep my lids open after 10 minutes of mono-frequency vocals and semi identical riffs. Not as bad as the previous one but still light years from being interesting.

KIJU (Ita): “Demon(n)cracy” Lp Cd 2007 Hardebaran/Twofatmen

KijuHoly christ, I am frozen in indecision. This music is the farthest you could find from the theme of Nuclear Abominations. I really do not have any tools to criticize this stuff, it’s just beyond me. There are traces of late Testament, maybe Pantera (even if I don’t know them well) in the sound with that overuse of aggro riffs and that Meshuggah-like lyric style. I think that if this band was from NY the arists would probably wear bandannas. It’s a cross of modern Metal-core-something, maybe modern Thrash, no clue. Mostly it’s about chugs, choruses, vocals a la Sepultura/Sick of It All. I am so distant from that scene today I don’t even know if they would call this band Hard Core or Metal, maybe it depends on the hairstyle of the one listening ahah. If you have shaved hair and goatee maybe you could like this album. Really, I cannot give an honest opinion, sorry – personally I find it rather uninspiring, but this is a kind of music that does not exist in my life. I’ll file it under Thrash Metal for lack of better terms even if this FAR from Blood Feast or Whiplash (which is the Thrash for me). I am pretty sure no reader of this zine will like it, though – but many that hate it could. Your choice.

GOSPEL OF THE HORNS (Aus): “Realm of the Damned” Lp Cd 2007 Invictus

Gospel of the HornsI am not sure why sometimes my tastes just change from one year to the other. I used to consider Gospel of the Horns a good band, with a retro thrash touch which was simple but honest. The songs on this album however have managed to bore me heavily even before reaching the 20th minute. The sound is deliciously “Celtic Frosted” and just none of the guitar riffs here is a let downer. Yet something is definitely missing, and that’s the total lack of bursting rage… it’s like a perennial intro that never ends, a kind of constant mid tempo that erode me. Surely you can headbang at this stuff, thanks to choruses and epic riffing and all the classic Asutralian stuff. Yet the total lack of bestiality is heavy here.

Once upon a time I used to pass through the whole discography of a band before hearing a new album, and I admit I didn’t do it this time, but I have the strong impression that the previous releases were a bit rawer and heavier than this one. Sometimes this “Realm..” just sounds like plain Metal without the heaviness, and that’s not something I dig much in a band. Thrashing riffs abound, but none of these have the same intensity of the real ones from the good old eighties. If you want good Thrash Metal get “Power and Pain” by Whiplash, not a band from 2008. And too bad the vocals are just plain bad. Raspy but quite weak.
Best thing on the whole release must be the booklet: the cover art is inspiring and the lyrics are just as powerful. Excellent work has been made by the studio who worked on the layout. This looks damn professional. Not my kind of Metal, even if not disastrous. Sufficient to stir some attention here and there if you ask me. Definitely didn’t deserve an Lp version, or such popularity – though.

OBSCURITY (Swe): “Damnations Pride” collection Cd 1998 Scarlet

Obscurity - DamnationsScarlet records is not my favorite label of all time. Well actually I couldn’t tell on top of my head one band one in their roster which I like at all. But the man behind the label deserves some respect for his solid backgroud in extreme metal since at least the late eighties, and part of this background is finally showing on this jewel – an anthology of Obscurity recordings from 85 to 87 – and 1992. Considering the time when these songs were written, it’s quite clear that this was one of the very first Swedish Death Metal bands of all time (as by the way Daniel Ekeroth confirms on his book on the subject). The Cd is however not pure gold from start to finish to be honest. The two tracks recorded in 1992 are among the most boring examples of warped Venom inspired music I can think of, but that is probably Jorgen Lindhe starting to write riffs that whould stem into is subsequent (atrocious) band Flegma. What makes the Cd so impossible to miss, though, are the two demos that To The Death records also released on 7″ slightly before. If you can, you should get those, but if you prefer the Cd format (shame on you), this Cd has it all. The first demo is high quality Speed Core/Thrash-Metal heavily into Celtic Frost/Hellhammer on speed, with patterns that remind me a bit of a slower Suicidal Tendencies/Cryptic Slaughter. The Death Metal seed is not impossibly heavy on these tracks – but some real neat ideas appear here as well. But the real shit is the second demo, which also opens the Cd like a gate to Hela’s domain. Four tracks of blistering killer Death Metal which cannot but remind of early Merciless (which btw came a bit later) in pure ferocity. Also killer acts like Imperator or Sadus can be taken into account, the vocals are twisted, the guitar shords pure Thrash Metal in your face crunch. This shit alone would be worth a full fucking 9-score vote. Great riffing, hammering drum blasting, energy-ripping vocals. I cannot tell how much I love this hybrid form of early Death Metal. The last song “Demented” is a real surge of crushing Metal riffs, with a delightful Slayerish solo in the middle. The whole Cd is worth just for these 4 tracks. Monster band. Not standard Swedish Death with super tuned down guitars, but great headbanging fun! 

While the demos are amazing music to hear, the Cd itself is not done really well (we have high standards today thanks to Nuclear War Now!), there are no liner notes, the pictures are just 3 or 4, and there are no flyers, interviews, whatever. The cover art is too dark and grainy, the logo disappears in the shadow of the statue, and it is just too damn glossy. Only good thing is at least there are all the lyrics inside. Better than nothing. Well better than what Xtreem is doing with anthologies at least.

RELLIK (USA-Ny): “Deceive the Deceiving” MCd 2006 Metal War

I don’t know exactly what a rellik is, but this bands plays for sure among the finest examples of Bay Area Thrash Metal I have heard recently. Nothing that hits me like like it did in the ’80s (honestly speaking, I don’t believe that anything recorded today would have the same feel, it might be I am just a different person now), but there is a lot of grrove and intensity going on here. I admit my first interest in hearing this band came from the fact that Craig Smilowski beats the skins here (he played drums with Immolation and Goreaphobia), but there is definitely more to hear: a really impressive, huge guitar sound (a sound that would fit Sick of It All or Blood for Blood), metallic bass lines, hectic and creative drum tempos, and a lot of metal galloping and sane Thrash Metal headbanging. What saves the band is probably the vocals which are not too clean, not too deep, just the right kind of raspy, impish style which reminds maybe a bit of early Kreatoror Razor (but you could name almost any other band here). Compared to other disastrous attempts such as Soulless or Defaced which I heard since the new Thrash explosion hot the new millenium (thank you, Bewitched), this Ep shines silver (gold might be too much). It has force and not a sign of wimpy gay vocals or boring Metal rides. Old school worship done with cognition.