After reuniting in 2007, Earth Crisis has been on a sort of renewed binge. While the band helped create the hardcore metal sound in the 90s that has since been replicated by bands such as Throwdown and Sworn Enemy and used as a foundation for both the metalcore and deathcore movements, their ‘stick to their guns’ attitude has more than certainly paid off in the end. Salvation of Innocents is not only a great hardcore record; it’s easily the best that Earth Crisis has ever released too.
To be upfront I have been listening to Earth Crisis for some time, but have never considered myself a huge fan. Their blend of hardcore riffing and barking vocals with a more metal influenced song writing and guitar approach has always intrigued me. It has never really impressed me beyond being a casual fan though. That is until now. Salvation of Innocents takes that same ideology of approach that they had before (some would refer to it as metalcore, but I wouldn’t quite go that far) and they refined it to an efficient and pummeling art form.
Right from the opening metal-layered riff of “De-Desensitize,” it’s obvious that Earth Crisis is not taking any prisoners. As with Hatebreed or others in a similar style, Salvation of Innocents ably blends the riff-tastic fist pumping anthems of hardcore with a slightly elevated sense of musicianship that lends itself to the metal genre. Songs like “Depraved Indifference” take that punch heavy rhythm work, blend in the slightest bit of melody, and it make for an instantly memorable combination. This happens all the way through out with songs like “The Pallid Surgeon,” the headbanging “My Final Breath” or even the atmospheric and expansive sound on “Shiver” which has a few moments that remind me of Gojira.
Those with a penchant towards the riff focus and barking vocals of hardcore are going to love the refined and driven sound of Salvation of Innocents. This is handedly Earth Crisis at their best with the anthem-esque hardcore foundations and metal deviations. While it’s not necessarily all that original, it is a meticulously crafted record that lives up the reputation of the band.
Suicide Silence are, without doubt, the biggest export the genre has produced.1, 2 They were one of the genre’s earliest flag bearers and over a career spanning three critically acclaimed albums (the highlight being 2009’s No Time To Bleed) have grown and evolved into one of not only deathcore’s best, but a band deservedly at the forefront of modern metal in general. A large3 part of the band’s success and appeal had to do with vocalist Mitch Lucker, for whom Suicide Silence’s indisputable success was cut altogether too short as a result of a fatal motorcycle accident in November of 2012. Ending Is The Beginning is a DVD/CD recording of the tribute show held for Lucker in December of 2012 (the fatal year in question), which featured a host of (predominantly deathcore) assorted metal vocalists fronting the band, from which all proceeds going towards Lucker’s daughter Kenadee’s education.
“A lot of big earrings man…”
With the majority of vocalists understandably being sourced from the deathcore genre, most of Ending Is The Beginning’s tracks sound little distinguished from their Lucker-fronted renditions – the DVD’s title only giving each vocalist’s name and the track they’re performing, neglecting to mention which band(s) they’re from – which is to say it is no surprise that Job For A Cowboy’s Jonny Davy (who opens things up with, usual Suicide Silence closer, “Destruction Of A Statue”) or Phil Bozman of Whitechapelcan slip appropriately into Lucker’s shoes (as it proverbially were), and which, depending on how you look at it, gives credence to the argument either that all death metal/hardcore vocalists are essentially indistinct and (thus) interchangeable or otherwise (or perhaps concurrently) that given vocalists are of such a caliber that they are able to rise comfortably to the occasion and high standard set by Lucker to great result.
Of course, of immediate note and intrigue is that Ending Is The Beginning provides, to this point, the only recording of new/current-Suicide-Silence-now-ex-All Shall Perish singer, Eddie Hermida, with Suicide Silence4 (perhaps the “Beginning” of which the releases title speaks?), following his scandalous recruitment– to which Herminda’s performance of “Slaves To Substance” belongs to the above category; and which category, the unavoidably mustached, Cameron “Big Chocolte” Argon (a.k.a. Disfiguring The Goddess) pushes to the limit with his beyond brutal “Disengage;” and which exercise actually exposes Winds Of Plague front man and certified tool Johnny Plague,5 who gets the honor of performing Suicide Silence’s signature6 song,7 as a far more capable and effective vocalist than his day job suggests.
Eddie Hemida: happiness in slavery.
Of far more curious intrigue and aesthetic result are those performances that don’t at once seem entirely fitting; the most removed of these being the eyebrow-raising appearance of current “malcore” poster-boys Asking Alexandria’s Danny Worsop, who delivers a startlingly competent and altogether savage performance of “The Price Of Beauty” that entertains almost as thoroughly as his Welsh-accented interjections.8 Other (more-)unlikely collaborations include ex-Bury Your Dead front man, and altogether swell dude, Myke Terry, sans dread, breaking his post-BYD (suicide) silence; the tonally distinct performance of Austin Carlisle of Attack Attack-come-Of Mice And Menfame and Chad Gray pleasant retching of “Fuck Everything” – the brutal backdrop sounding altogether more akin to his work with the dissolved Mudvayne than the red-meat-and-no-potatoes fare of his current outfit, Hellyeah
Chad Gray: Getting his “fuck” on.
Beginning Is The End’s most unexpected comes in the form of a cover of the Dio-era Black Sabbath track “Die Young,” fronted by Machine Head’s Robb Flynn (along with Suicide Silence guitarist Mark Heylmun and… a roadie?) which provides Ending Is The Beginning with its most emotionally touching moment and its undeniable best for those, like your reviewer, who never fail to get shivers at the aural ingestion of Flynn’s voice. “Die Young” is followed by two other cover songs: a Max Cavalera-fronted “Roots Bloody Roots,” which, really hammers home just how much Roots and that song in particular has had on modern metal; and, Deftones classic-come-Suicided Silence staple,“Engine #9,”9 bizarrely not sung by Deftones’ Chino Moreno,10 but is instead overdubbed with audio of Lucker himself, which recording’s simulacrum-inducing “live” crowd work create an awkward, experience for the listener, with the DVD’s splicing of video footage faring marginally better while still creating the same existential (and slightly more epileptic) discomfort.
I’m really sorry if that’s like someone really famous and, like, totally not a roadie.
More directly unsettling is After The Burial’s Anthony Notarmaso’s announcing “Smoke” with the call “from one straightedge guy to you… to reach into your pocket and grab that bag of weed and fire up right now… everybody smoke fucking weed” (sic.), which, again, while I’m sure is of innocent sentiment and intention, is beyond unsettling given that Lucker’s death was tied up with/resultant of alcohol abuse, of which Lucker’s widow, Jolie, had this to say:
“He (Lucker) was an alcoholic, and it’s been a big battle. I tried to stop him. I was in front of him begging him not to leave the house. Begging him. Like, ‘Just seriously, for us, don’t leave.’ And he did… and she’s gonna miss out on watching Kenadee grow because he decided to drink and drive. Just don’t, just think before you guys do something stupid, please learn from it. Please.” (sic.)
Add to this the issue of the crowd being more or less entirely made up of sixteen-year-olds (which the DVD’s introduction shows are quite the impressionable sort) and this seems like a very strange position to take indeed given Notarmaso’s personal, and proclaimed, straight edge stance.
Seriously, is anyone at this show over 18??
Likewise is Randy Blythe’s commanding “You only live once, so just go fucking nuts” and encouraged chant of “Live life hard”as the Lamb Of God front man and modern-metal behemoth closes out the show with “You Only Live Once” (Flynn on the electric guitar now), which all seems entirely appropriate on paper – and, again, I’m sure is best-intentioned – but nonetheless is provocative of a dark light given the circumstances of Lucker’s death, which I’ll reiterate involved substance abuse, which left his wife a widow and hisdaughter fatherless. And I’ll preempt responses, “not to politicize a man’s death” (and the subsequent tribute to that man’s life), by reminding the reader that personal actions are necessarily (through self-endorsement) political actions and, as much as it is good to celebrate Lucker’s life and achievements, his tragic11 death should also be heeded and learned from, which your reviewer submits is in fact the greatest celebration of Lucker’s life: to learn from it and take into account its preservation; which sentiment is supported by his wife in the above quote.12
Bringing it on home: Randy Blythe has lived harder than most.
This sour end-note aside, Ending is The Beginning is a marvelous celebration of Lucker’s life and a first-class reminder of why Suicide Silence is at the forefront of their nominal pack. As a catalogue-spanning collection of songs, and thus a showcase of what Suicide Silence are all about, Ending Is The Beginning is unfaultable and undeniable – a sentiment which translates to the rest of the band’s performance and reiterates their own power as a live force (see “No Time To Bleed”). Besides the contentious qualms discussed above, Ending Is The Beginning’s only drawback is its lack of in-between-song interaction, and hence lack of introduction for each vocalist, who (as mentioned) can at times tend to be indistinguishable and/or not immediately recognizable. Regardless of its aesthetic wealth however, Ending Is The Beginning is a (near-)perfect testament to Lucker, a metal legend, who (in a most-sincere form of irony), although gone, is not and will never be silenced.
NOTE ON THE CRITIQUE AND RATING: It does not escape your reviewer that, on top of being a product and an artwork, up for evaluation, Ending Is The Beginning is first and foremost an actual and very personal tribute to Mitch Lucker, and that despite assertions about the nature of personal politics in the body of the review he respects the nature and sentiment of what is actually being reviewed here and only does so out of promotion and reaction to something he has very much connected with and enjoyed. Your reviewer also recognizes that giving the recording a rating is entirely inappropriate in the context of the tribute itself and stresses that such rating and critical analysis he has provided applies only to Ending Is The Beginning the product, not to the (acknowledged) very personal sentiment of everyone involved – to which the application of such qualitative ratings would be highly insensitive, let alone nonsensical. Your Reviewer means no disrespect to Lucker or any of those involved by anything he has said here14 nor does he seek to trivialize the matter with the excessive amounts of (mostly jestful) footnotes he has employed here, which footnotes ontop of being part of own artistic growth and expression he finds rather amusing. Rest in peace Mitch, and thank you for the sweet tunes.
1 As in most popular, not some kind of mass-defined assessment that would favor the likes of Crowbar and Eyehategod should the categorization be applied to the sludge genre,1(a) which if not obvious from the context is at least derivable from the premise that Mitch Lucker, let alone other (questionable; see FN2) deathcore front men, was frequently lampooned for his smaller stature.
1(a) Crowbar being heavily (see above disclaimer) favored in both hypothetical categories.
2 Bring Me The Horizon having been deemed here to have both outgrown/transcended the “deathcore” label.
3 Here the relevant definition refuted in FN1 being entirely, albeit analogously, appropriate and correct.
5 Well not actually certifiably certifiable, but the dude goes by the name “Plague” in a band by the name “Plague,” so there certainly seems to be at least grounds for certification. And then there’s always the backwards fitted cap to go by.
6 And admittedly uncomfortably misogynistic and unsympathetic yet (even more admittedly) undeniably catchy.
8 If you don’t find metal bands talking in Welsh accents to be highly amusing I encourage you to watch any of Bullet For My Valentine’s live banter and strongly reconsider your position.
9 True fact: Not all pedophiles dislike the Deftones, but everyone who doesn’t like the Deftones is a pedophile.
10 One wonders about this for a second and then remembers scheduling and prior commitments and geography are a thing.
11 I tried really hard not to use this word but there it is.
13 Indeed, that’s all that can be done through the band’s official website.
14 Well, except for the whole Johnny Plague is a certifiable tool thing, which (there really is no escaping) is disrespectful to the named party and inappropriate in the context. Your reviewer apologizes for this disrespect (though not the essence of the comment, which your reviewer stands by, on the basis that Winds Of Plague’s last record, Resistance (2013), was so unbearably dumb that he’d feel he was doing himself a disrespect not to say something on the matter).
Featuring what has to be two of the most impressive black metal bands to have come from America in the past five years, this split between Falls of Rauros and Panopticon has been a hotly anticipated release for me ever since it was announced a few months back. Even though I was relishing the prospect of diving headlong into the music I had to temper my expectations somewhat as it was announced that the music on here would not be representative of the bands’ current and, presumably, future output (at least with regards to the Panopticon songs).
Knowing this in advance still didn’t prevent me from experiencing pangs of disappointment as neither band appeared to be playing to their respective strengths. The songs that made up Falls of Rauros’ side of the split were surprisingly mellow, with the occasionally airy atmosphere and plodding pace being more in the vein of the black/folk-lite of bands like Amiensus and Windfaerer as opposed to the ornate Agalloch/Drudkh-like aesthetic of their sophomore album. Panopticon’s side, on the other hand, seemed to pull too much in the opposite direction, with Autin Lunn’s four tracks being arguably some of his rawest compositions yet, devoid of the earthy atmosphere and folksy Americana touches that made Kentucky such a universally praised album. Like I said, I knew they were going to explore different sonic avenues on here so technically anything was fair game, but I still found myself yearning for the windswept majesty of The Light that Dwells in Rotten Wood and Kentucky.
Fast forward a few spins later and my knee-jerk disappointment seems like a distant memory. I still wouldn’t rate these songs as the most impressive work of either band but as far as splits go this is pretty neat stuff. “Unavailing” gets Falls of Rauros’ side off to a stuttering start, the vocals being a touch too high-pitched and the instrumental midsection dragging on mercilessly, but they get their ducks in a row on “The Purity of Isolation,” faithfully invoking a forceful heathen atmosphere but peppering it with enough melancholy to ensure a rewarding, emotive listen. Key to this is the fact that this song is simply better paced than its predecessor, with the pensive melodies and acoustic embellishments given enough time to fully complement the riffs proper.
For his part, Panopticon mainman Austin Lunn saw fit to strip down his style to the absolute bare essentials, pumping out four tracks that hark back to the raw-as-fuck aesthetic of The Cold Earth Slept Below/Thy Dying Light era Judas Iscariot. This is deliberate, of course, as Lunn composed these songs as a homage of sorts to the time he spend studying in the icy and spiritual homeland of all things black – Norway. The dense atmosphere of Collapse and richly textured folk excursions of Kentucky are nowhere to be found, as Lunn’s echo-laden rasps, bog standard tremolo picked riffs and joyless melodies sweep the listener away to the diabolical heyday of the genre. These songs are so singularly raw that none of the riffs or melodies stood out at first, but successive listens allowed them to come into their own.
“Through Mountains I Wander this Evening” is about as speedy and pissed off as I’ve ever heard this band, but as soon as these four minutes of piss ‘n’ vinegar segued into the more steadily paced “Can You Loan Me a Raven?” the Panopticon side begin to blossom into something really great. The aforementioned track as well as “One Cold Night” sees Lunn imbuing the no-nonsense tremolo assault with the kind of stark, desolate melodies that made those early Burzum and Strid releases so magical. Hypnotically repetitive, hostile and yet possessing just the faintest sense of human fragility these songs show yet again what a master of his craft Lunn really is. It’s always pleasant to find beauty in bleak spaces, and these tracks allow one to do just that. It may only be an experiment in old school extremism but this EP was well worth the wait. I, for one, cannot wait to hear what these two bands come up with on their forthcoming albums.
Hi folks, as you have seen, the new TMO is up and running and while we still have some kinks to iron out, isn’t it looking great? And you have seen nothing yet, there is a lot in the works when it comes to great and exciting content, so keep your eyes peeled! \m/
Now that we have things in place, we are running a fundraiser to help us get you even more and better stuff to sink your teeth in!
Fuoco Fatuo is an Italian doom and death metal act hailing form Varese, north Italy. The band formed in 2011 and recently released their first full length album The Viper Slithers in the Ashes of What Remains through Iron Tyrant. The band consists of Fabrizio on drums, Ken on bass (also a member of Into Darkness) and Milo on guitar and vocals (also a member of Funest). The members of Fuoco Fatuo recently sat down and answered some questions for The Metal Observer.
Finnish doom / death metallers Kuolemanlaakso have completed their sophomore album, Tulijoutsen, which is slated to be released on February 28, 2014 through Svart Records. The Metal Observer was given the opportunity to question the band on their recent accomplishments as well as what fans can expect in the future, among other topcis. Usva (bass) and Laakso (guitars and keyboards) were kind enough to provide some insight into their world.
While 2013 seems to a rather scatter-shot kind of year for many genres, thrash metal seems to still be going at full speed when it comes to upcoming new bands and classic bands continuing their relentless existence. With slightly under 180 albums listened to that could be tagged as thrash in some form or another; my queue this year was a mighty one indeed. The following list required much more thought and deliberation then many years previously and it made for a rather unique one to say the least.
The Metal Observer recently spoke with Val Kornev, vocalist and guitarist for the Ukranian psychedelic doom/stoner metal band Ethereal Riffian. In addition to the release of Ethereal Riffian’s remarkable full-length debut, Aeonian, the band, namely Kornev and his brother Alexander, penned an eponymous novella to supplement the music.