When monsters unite.
The idea that nothing is guaranteed is simply untrue. If you choose to wake up every morning and jog a mile, that’s your call; you can make it a staple of your everyday life. But if you break an ankle on said morning run, well, suddenly your routine is no longer so fixed – unless you’re bad-ass and go for broke with a crutch run.
Still, there are things that you just can’t anticipate, and then there are things that you can. There’s the clichéd death and taxes tandem (always being put to the grindstone by any number of Floridians and Chinese senior citizens), but within the dominion of heavy music, one particular stone-cold safe bet must be the gold-standard assurance of Nick Keller cover art.
Basically: you use his work, your album is either good, great, or on the short-list of the year’s best albums. Unsurprisingly, determining the reason why is highly inconclusive, for whether a band feels the pressure of using a Keller creation as extra motivation or whether the exact opposite is true, it’s really a chicken-and-egg scenario.
So, when it comes to Disentomb’s second full-length release, Misery, could they possibly achieve the impossible by letting Keller down?
If you were paying attention to the above paragraph, you already know the answer. And in this instance, Keller’s artwork has reaped quite the profound effect and influence on this Australian brutal death metal quartet. Not only has Keller produced his most insane cover since, well, his last one (Horn of the Rhino’s incredible Summoning Deliverance), he’s pushed Disentomb to the very brink of their creative brutality…or, you know, vice versa.
Nearly four years since their debut full-length, Sunken Chambers of Nephilim, Disentomb have returned with vastly improved production values and obvious maturation in the song-writing department. Disentomb have not only slowed things down, but they also seem to have embraced a more traditional and genuinely wicked death metal structure that’s not so far removed from bands like Immolation or Gorgasm. But make no mistake, brutality remains the ordre du jour, and Disentomb have compiled a record suffused with all manner of adjunct savagery.
While not as doggedly slammified as their debut, Misery is much more the multi-headed freak, juggling Disentomb’s affinity for fiendish grooves with surging tides of technical dexterity and instances of pronounced deceleration. Disentomb’s novel and welcome exploration of more doom-inflected caverns is a promising detour; the hole they plumb in “Megaliths of Despair” emerges as a sturdy and indefatigably heavy death-doom turn, albeit one that exists more along the lines of a primordial draft than it does as a genuine heart-rending dirge. Still, the rolling kick drums and the song’s closing guitar melody are definite highlights.
And while such a death-doom trial imbues the record with extra malevolence, Disentomb’s bread and butter is their unequivocal capacity to crush. Eager to step up their running game, the quartet have employed a much more refined brutal death metal assault that’s reminiscent of several of the genre’s most distinct and celebrated acts. Additionally, Disentomb don’t pussyfoot about with streams of endless notes; the album’s 10 songs were as tactfully conceived as they were viciously performed.
Following the cool yet inconsequential instrumental album-opener “The Genesis of Misery,” the walloping “An Edifice of Archbestial Impurity” sets the bar with its myriad of bursting riffs and pace shifts, ending with a stunningly dense outro aided by the marching double-bass drums of Henri Sison. “The Promethean Altar” stitches riffs and pummeling percussion in a feverishly unhinged manner that reminds of New York brutes Malignancy and Suffocation, while “Cthonic Gateways,” the album monster, levels with Jordan James’ ursine vocals and a melding of barbarism and catchiness, all the while sounding like a Behemoth-meets-Skinless mutation. The album-concluding “Sentinels of the Bleak” is a fittingly massive send-off. Blending fiery chugging riffs with some erratic and dissonant chord pulses, the track hears Disentomb fade into odd-time signature oblivion.
Eternally adjoined with Keller’s sinister walking monolith cover art, perhaps Misery’s greatest achievement is in its ability to strike awe in both aesthetic and auditory realms. Musically, Disentomb have crafted one of the more imposing and versatile brutal death metal albums of the year, and with Keller on board, one of its most memorable creations.
Coming back after 19 years can put a band in a tricky situation, especially if the album to follow is as iconic as Slaughter of the Soul. Despite having declared in 2007 that they would not release a new album, 2014 sees At War with Reality and the tricky situation is what to expect of an album like that? If they strayed too much from their original sound, fans will complain that it is not At The Gates, while if it sounded too close, they either were too late to release something like that or playing it too safe.
In the case of At War with Reality one can definitely say that they stand closer to Slaughter of the Soul than a reinvention of the band, but a carbon copy this is not. To say that the new album is not the progression some may have hoped for, is not a false statement, but given the fact that most of the bands that had originally made the Göteborg sound so big have since moved on and either added different elements to their original sound or have completely forsaken it, At The Gates sticking closer to their guns actually is more refreshing than one would think.
The differences are subtle, but definitely recognizable, from the added tightness in the guitarwork, the interplay between bass and guitars, Lindberg’s slightly deeper voice, the powerful, modern production, but the essence of At The Gates is still there. First single “Death and the Labyrinth” has everything one would expect from this band, razor sharp riffing, heavy guitars, driving drums, Lindberg’s trademark borderline-hysteric growls, lots of power and subtle melodies, just sounding contemporary. Overall At War with Reality sees the band operate less in up-tempo, but rather bring in some good rhythmic variation, with an increased use of the double bass instead of the straight thrash rhythm, which had been one factor that had set Slaughter of the Soul apart from many of its contemporaries, and also a fair amount of slower sections that add to the album..
“The Circular Ruins” surprises with fairly large slower passages, while “The Conspiracy of the Blind” stands closer to the sound that made At The Gates big, with some irresistible guitar leads and power to boot, standing in contrast to “Order from Chaos”, which sets out surprisingly quietly and stays slow, but powerful, which is not something melodic death metal these days shows a lot of. Another highlight is “Upon Pillars of Dust” with its melancholic leads lending the song a darker aura in certain places.
At The Gates solved the conundrum of potentially either standing too close to Slaughter of the Soul or too far away by creating the logical follow-up to the 1995 classic, instantly recognizable as the Swedes, but with enough progression not to just see At War with Reality as a mindless regurgitation of what once was. Not as groundbreaking as SotS for sure, but a worthy return to potentially reclaim the throne they had vacated. Very good comeback, even if not the highflyer some may have expected (or hoped for)!
Groove. Growl. Stomp. Speed. Repeat.
Having released three well-received albums after a six-year hiatus between 1997 and 2003, the wind seemed to have been taken out of Obituary’s sails when, following the release of 2009’s Darkest Day, the band suddenly found themselves sans record deal and two key members (bassist Frank Watkins, who inexplicably joined black metallers Gorgoroth and guitar wiz Ralph Santolla, whose Midas touch had given the band’s last two albums a lot of zing). Having recruited Massacre bassist Terry Butler and erstwhile live guitarist Kenny Andrews to fill out the vacant spots, the band launched a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign to cover the production costs of the new album, Inked in Blood – their first new release in five years and first to be released by their new label Relapse Records. All’s well that ends well, I suppose.
It should go without saying that in this case one’s conception of ‘well’ is entirely contingent upon one’s capacity to appreciate this band’s unflinching, bog standard brand of death metal. Their creative clock having frozen in 1992, the band’s heart still pumps blood untainted by the whims and wiles of the day and in Inked in Blood they’ve put out yet another tried ‘n’ true Obituary album denuded of everything but the most basic power chords and single note riffs. They do what they do very well even if there’s not so much as a whiff of originality at play on here. Alright, that acoustic break midway through “Visions In My Head” came out of nowhere and the melodic dynamic of this song is quite unlike anything they’ve attempted before, but aside from this brief (but brilliant) flirtation with the epic the album has no real surprises up its sleeve. You get your faster numbers like “Centuries of Lies” and “Minds of the World” (complete with Tom G. Warrior-ish ‘oohs’ and ‘uhs’), a few groove-ridden tracks (of which “Paralyzed with Fear” is the best—very much in the same ass-kicking vein as “Insane”) and of course a healthy dose of those slow ‘n’ sludgy numbers they do so well. It’s a pretty well balanced affair in this regard and the ease and conviction with which they pull it off is nothing if not commendable. John Tardy’s bellows are instantly recognizable, the rhythm section of Donald Tardy and Terry Butler lays down an impenetrable groove and the production job is surprisingly punchy (this may very well be the best drum sound they’ve ever had). Sure, the melodic flair of Santolla’s lead work is missing but prettification was never a major component of the Obituary sound anyway.
All Obituary albums are essentially variations of the same theme, and while Inked in Blood is no different in this regard it has more going for it than their last couple of releases. As of this writing it’s sitting comfortably as the best of their post-reunion output—it packs a bigger quotient as fast-paced numbers than Darkest Day (which leaned a bit too much towards the sludgy and turgid for the most part) and there’s just a smidgeon more intricacy at play here than was the case on Xecutioner’s Return. It’s subtle, but the rollicking groove of a track like “Violent by Nature” is accompanied by more tempo changes than usual and the riffs definitely have more bite than you’d think. The aforementioned “Visions in My Head” is perhaps the single most striking song they’ve penned in ages, the unexpected acoustic break segueing nicely into an extended melodic lead section that actually has a tangible sense of emotion to it. It’s not often that Obituary goes melancholy on our sorry asses, so this track is definitely something to behold. The same could be said of the album as a whole, as it does more things right than wrong and, together with Frozen in Time, easily ranks as the best thing they’ve done since the heady days of The End Complete. Welcome back, boys!
Dubbed by their countrymen “the Japanese Black Sabbath”, Ningen-Isu has been active in their homeland since forming in 1987. Despite the band beginning to gain worldwide acclaim, their name is still not commonly known among metalheads outside of Japan. The Metal Observer was recently granted the opportunity to interview these Japanese legends on the heels of releasing their eighteenth album, Burai Houjouo, in June of 2014, which could very well be one of the band’s only, if not THE only, interview in English.
Metal has had its fair share of oddities and curiosities, and more than once, as it happens, like a two-headed beast fighting over a shared body, we come upon two bands of the very same name, an unusual instance that often spawns tensions and lawsuits. TMO has gathered the 10 most prominent of these cases, looked into how they came to be, and then at whether or not a solution was ultimately found.
It can be bizarre. It can also be off-putting. But it’s an entirely new realm of the sub-genre that can afford some great new bands and masterpieces to listeners. The power metal scene has really blossomed since the arrival of X Japan in the ’80s, and since then it’s been taken to new heights and limits.
Hans gets up close and personal with Swedish melodic death metal band Meadows End and the whole band joins in to give some insight.
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie
The Million Dollar Grunge Album That Never Was
Tons Of Rock Day 3, June 21st 2014
Tons Of Rock Day 2, June 20th 2014