Sunday, January 20, 2008

Update - 1/20/08

I have been extremely busy with many things over the last couple of months, which has prevented me from adding new content on a regular basis. Back on track now, though. In light of the lapse of updates, I wanted to thank Chris at Profound Lore Records for being kind enough to send me a few record to review and Dave at Earsplit PR for always keeping new records coming my way.

More reviews to be posted over this next week including some more recent releases from Southern Lord Records, Crucial Blast, Hydrahead, and At a Loss.

Also in the works is a post-studio interview with Karl Simon of The Gates of Slumber, who recently completed work on their upcoming full-length 'Conqueror', set to be released in North America by Profound Lore Records. Look for that to post in the next month or so.

Portal - Outre

Portal – Outre
Profound Lore Records

Strange personalities and extreme ideas are not in any shortage from within portions of the metal community. However, it in the case of Brisbane, Australia’s death metal unit Portal, mystery and weirdness are taken to another level.

Upon hearing their previous full-length, 2003’s Seepia, I was floored. Portal has managed to capture concentrated ugliness and coupled it with brute force, forging their sound into a very original style of death metal. Trying to find out any information about the band in particular is just as mysterious…nothing seems to be revealed, which makes their music all the more intriguing. The imagery used both for their records and live performances play out in a cinematic fashion, exposing horrific visions in black and white and emphasizing the feel of the music quite effectively.

Portal’s latest release, entitled Outre, takes all the horror-like feel of their previous releases and concentrates on a more focused version of itself. The swirling, manic guitar lines are still present and the drumming is still just as incredible, but the arrangements hold a bit more clarity and repetition. This approach works well, as Outre sounds darker and more fucked up than Seepia and gives more of a platform for vocalist The Curator’s growls and raspy lines. The effect sounds like a series of invocations given over a death march. While the production is maybe even less crisp than Seepia, I can’t say this is a bad thing. Overall, I’d say this is Portal’s best effort to date and by far worthy of picking up (as well as the re-issue of Seepia, also on Profound Lore Records). Those with adventurous tastes or a need for real brutality will not be disappointed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Atavist - II: Ruined

Atavist – II: Ruined
Profound Lore Records

The sludge and doom genres hold a slippery slope in the realm of talent and personal style. Any asshole can write slow riffs or stand in front of a full stack, shoving a guitar into the speakers and ‘utilizing’ feedback. With the increase in popularity of slow arts (just like with any sub-genre or musical faction), every now and then there’s an equalizer that sets the bar. Crushes the bullshit. Pulls all the punches there are to pull. Ave Manchester, England’s Atavist.

II: Ruined boasts some of the most fucking painful sounding guitar that it’s hard to imagine what it’s like to stand in front of these guys in a live setting. Each note might as well be like having rocks thrown into your face, over and over again. The bass drives the lows so heavy that the mix seems to clip at times. The vocals are a throaty scream that don’t sound contrived, nor do they provide a huge contrast with the sounds of the instruments – all of the elements utilized are very well placed and effective. Within II: Ruined’s duration the band also incorporates acoustic guitar passages accompanied by piano, crawling tempos, effective use of feedback, and plenty of space to let atmosphere build before incorporating vocals. By far, my favorite track is
'V.' (total running time of 16:53), which begins with a short build that sounds like a His Hero Is Gone riff before suddenly crawling through a long dirge and continuing to evolve through mid-tempo grooves and haunting passages, all before crushing your ass and ending with a staccato guitar piece.

The North American version released via Profound Lore Records boasts six original compositions, simply titled in roman numerals, of depressive and extremely slow sludge/doom metal. Also included is a bonus track, a cover of Grief’s ‘I Hate The Human Race’. This record is solid from start to finish and if it sits filed away after a few listens that’s your own goddamn fault. Atavist has conjured up something worthy of continued listening without having to rely on antics, the ex-members/former bands ‘thing’, or incorporating anything unnecessary into this slab of heaviness. Hails!

The Howling Wind - Pestilence & Peril

The Howling Wind – Pestilence & Peril
Profound Lore Records

This is the first release for this post-Thralldom project from guitarist/vokillist Killusion and drummer Parasitic Nex. My expectations prior to receiving this disc for review were shattered upon first listen, as this effort is much more raw than I had expected!

Pestilence & Peril begins with Projections, a darkened and gloomy track of churning noise, cavernous whispers, and massive atmosphere before you’re hit with the first riffs of Sin Continuum. The guitars kick out a very old school, straightforward fast progression with Parasitic Nex furiously bashing away behind the drum kit. Killusion has definitely carried over much of the Thralldom atmosphere/vibe to this new project, however the music is far more to the point and less experimental. The riffs are very focused and generally-speaking the arrangements are more of a traditional approach, but the execution seems much more venomous than Thralldom to me. The sound is pure hate distilled and laid to tape! Virulence 33 continues the journey with a more doom-influenced main riff before suddenly switching the tempo up with a battery of blast beats. There is no shortage of dynamics within the album, yet each scream, riff, and beat are focused and voracious.

Pestilence & Peril contains much to be desired and doesn’t seem to limit itself to one particular persuasion. The music is blackened, yet not strictly or necessarily black metal. It’s doomy, yet not necessarily doom or sludge metal. In that respect, Killusion and Parasitic Nex have succeeded in not only creating a potent collection of aural violence, but kept from limiting The Howling Wind to falling in line within trends or genres. Fans of Killusion’s work in Unearthly Trance and Thralldom will find just as much delight in The Howling Wind as newcomers searching for a new and original slab of darkness. Kudos, gentlemen, and please keep it up.

Every track upon this album is a highlight. To give more than a small taste of what you would hear when listening to this record would be to spoil it. Get it immediately and listen to it in its entirety under the influence of your choice. Darkness only improves the experience.