March Review Round Up

Happy April, everybody. As you can tell I never got around to writing longer reviews. I do like my blurbs though.

Come March 31, I was prepared to hand over my album of the month gong to Tengger Cavalry and their frankly fantastic Ancient Call. But then Plebeian Grandstand came along and blew away all competition. Tengger Cavalry and, now, fellow runner up El Hambre are both fantastic, but Plebeian Grandstand are something else again.

To make up for the previous two months’ lack of links, I’ll post them now. I try to link to official sites, but sometimes it’s just not an option.

Aleph Null: Bandcamp
AlNamrood: YouTube
Amaranthine Lament: Bandcamp
Amnesian: Bandcamp
Behemoth: Official YouTube
Castration Rite/Nihilistic Holiday: Bandcamp (there’s a link to Nihilistic Holiday’s page there too)
Corpsessed: Bandcamp
Cynic: YouTube
Decades/Failures: Bandcamp
Dragons Bane: Bandcamp
Gilla Bruja: Bandcamp
Grand Magus: YouTube
Jackals: Bandcamp
Kindergarten Hazing Ritual: Bandcamp (the Cedric’s Lettuce part of the split is there too)
巨人大虐殺 [Kyojin Daigyakusatsu]: Bandcamp
Larvae: Bandcamp
Lascaille’s Shroud: Bandcamp
Lazarus Blackstar: Bandcamp (the Black Shape of Nexus part is there too)
Parfumerie: Bandcamp
Perfect Beauty: Bandcamp
The Seaford Monster: Bandcamp
Sun Worship: Bandcamp
Sunn O))) & Ulver: Bandcamp
Thou: Bandcamp
The Vintage Caravan: Bandcamp
Waldgeflüster: Bandcamp

Album of the Month
Plebeian Grandstand – Lowgazers
(Technical black metal – France)
Throatruiner Records – 2014/03/31


I haven’t been this impressed by a black metal album this decade. Demented time signatures are overlaid with uncompromising riffs that border on the mathematical in complexity. It’s a combination of avant-garde darkness and technical fury that creates an atmosphere of relentless misanthropy. This doesn’t simply follow the genre forerunners; it forges a new path. Stunning blackened perfection.
Try before you buy: Flail in the Bliss (Bandcamp)

Honourable Mentions
铁骑 [Tengger Cavalry] – 远古呼唤 / Ancient Call
(Blackened folk metal – China)
Metal Hell Records – 2014/02/01


I cannot sing the praises of this band loudly enough. The combination of black metal fury and traditional Mongolian music works so well; it’s entirely befitting to celebrate a warrior culture of the frozen steppe. Ancient Call is more blackened than their last album, but it is still an utter joy to listen to. Where Black Steed was a homage to high plains riders, Ancient Call takes said riders to dark, supernatural realms.
Try before you buy: Hymn of the Earth (Bandcamp)

El Hambre – El Hambre
(Grindcore – Spain)
Self-released – 2014/01/13


What a shameless tease. Five damn tracks, that’s all they give us. Five. Damn. Tracks. And then it’s gone. This is a short, sharp shock of blistering grind, that roughs you up and is gone before you know what happened. I love grindcore for its absolute immediacy and El Hambre is right there, in your face, not giving you the choice to back down. I just wish it was longer. Five tracks of violence isn’t enough.
Try before you buy: Valkiria (Bandcamp)

The Rest in Alphabetical Order
Amora – Violence is Human
(Thrash – Australia)
Self-released – 2014/03/28


Amora boldly goes where thrash has gone before. I hear the Big Four, the Teutonic three, and all manner of other notable thrashers in their rhythms. It’s essentially a tribute band dedicated to the genre. But, damn it, I just love this e.p. It may be derivative, but it’s put together so well I don’t even care. It’s fast, heavy, and intelligently constructed. It’s a release that celebrates the high energy history of thrash.
Try before you buy: For Those Slain (Bandcamp)

Black i Dekker – Demo
(Powerviolence – Spain)
Self-released – 2014/01/28


Short songs? Check. Abrasive vocals? Sandpapery indeed. Distortion galore? Yep. A non-commital attitude to time signatures? Very non-commital actually. This demo is packed with what I have come to expect from powerviolence. So what does it do to differentiate itself from the rest? The no guitar approach is a nice touch. Bass, drum, and vox is all this band needs. Occasionally samey, but a fine first effort.
Try before you buy: Estilo Reputado De Hoy (Bandcamp)

ExVx – Contra Violence
(Venncore – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/04


Venncore: the crossroads of grindcore, hardcore, and powerviolence. The songs are short, fast, and punk as fuck. They are also backed up with awesome selection of samples, starting the e.p. with a quote from a juggalo documentary and rounding it out with some South Park. It’s a whirlwind of sound that still remains balanced and coherent. That the band can keep the reins on this fury is impressive.
Try before you buy: Parochial (Bandcamp)

Hashe – El Espíritu del Árbol Muerto
(Atmospheric black metal – Chile)
Self-released – 2014/03/06


The trick to good atmospheric black metal is striking the balance between the atmosphere and the fury. Hashe weaves a strong thread of sinister ambience through his songs, demonstrating that it’s actually possible to have keyboard driven black metal that leaves an emotional mark. This isn’t just an album for the frozen heart of winter, but also for the thin air of altitude. This is exposure given a score.
Try before you buy: El Llamado de los Viejos Robles y Alerces (Bandcamp)

Istrulity – Realm of Disturbed Hopes
(Death thrash – Serbia)
Self-released – 2014/03/06


Once again, the difference between critical me and the rest of me rears its head. Only, this time, critical me is reminding the rest of me that just because a band plays a brand of music I’m partial too, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fantastic. That being said, Istrulity do play an entertaining brand of midpaced, heavy-end thrash. It’s just a little bit derivative. Pretty good for a demo though.
Try before you buy: R.I.P (Return is Possible) (Bandcamp)

Licrest – Misery
(Doom death – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/01


I like what this one man band is trying to do. It’s a tad generic, but it’s still likeable. There’s a nice, crisp guitar tone and the drumming lays down a sinister undertone. But those vocals are a real enthusiasm killer. Or at least they are for roughly half the tracks. The problem is the album straddles the line between doom and doom death, and the vocals don’t fit with the songs on the doom side of the fence. Stick to the death.
Try before you buy: I Want to Watch You Die (Bandcamp)

Limbs Bin – Only Toture
(Harsh Noise – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/01/03


How would you review 52 tracks of feedback only distinguishable by the occasional shift in tone and the garble of lyrics? How would you pick just one track out of the maddening clatter of similarities? As luck would have it, a guy drove past me during this period of doubt, listening to skip hop, and I realised that Only Torture was still more listenable than that. It challenged rather than bored me.
Try before you buy: Holy Grove (Bandcamp)

Lurid Reign – Omniscient in the Realm of Despair
(Depressive suicidal black metal – Canada)
SomberLife Productions – 2014/03/21


My experiences with dsbm, while admittedly limited, indicate that a key element to the subgenre is seduction. Not with the swagger of rock or the sleaze of glam; it’s more like the drag of succubi claws across naked flesh. Dark and painful, yet undeniably alluring. With that in mind, this four track homage to Transylvanian Hunger era Darkthrone didn’t tick the boxes. Depressingly unoriginal.
Try before you buy: Awakened From Inside (Bandcamp)

Masses – Horde Mentality
(Post-punk – Australia)
Rust and Machine Records – 2014/01/31


Press play and find yourself transported to the early 80s and soak up the vibes of a band that sounds like it could be on the same bill as Killing Joke. Hard to believe they’re Melbournians. The guitar tone is ethereal, yet jaunty. To me it sounds like the saddest surf rock band ever. And the twin male/female leads ensure the traditionally dissonant post-punk vocals have a depth of tone. A genuinely enjoyable patch of sonic shadow.
Try before you buy: Blind (Bandcamp)

Multinational Corporations – Jamat-al-Maut
(Grindcore – Pakistan)
Self-released – 2014/03/23


Mid-paced grind. It’s a phrase that should be as abhorrent as easy-listening thrash. But these up and comers from Pakistan do it surprisingly well. It’s like they’ve taken Diatribes era Napalm Death and reintroduced the punk to it. It’s a sound that has a lot of potential, but they need to beef it up, as it sounds a little bit too stripped back right now. It’s anticapitalist grind in desperate need of funds for stomp boxes.
Try before you buy: White Collar Communism (Bandcamp)

Nightfell – The Living Ever Mourn
(Frankenmetal – United States of America)
Parasitic Records – 2014/02/03


I think at its core The Living Ever Mourn is a black metal album, but the blending of additional doom, death, crust, and gothic elements make it an experience that goes much deeper than traditional blackened tropes. In lesser hands this genre melding would be a disjointed listening experience but this two piece handles it with aplomb. This is an album that demonstrates the true sophistication that metal can achieve.
Try before you buy: The Hollowing (Bandcamp)

Satvrnia Tellvs – De Constantia Sapientis
(Blackened something something – Italy)
Self-released – 2014/03/10


Ugh. Generic black metal trying to disguise its generic nature by using generic flourishes. Generic. I first thought it was trying to be black ‘n’ roll, then I thought it was blackened power metal. Finally, I came to the realisation that, at its core, De Constantia Sapientis is nothing more than black metal suffering an identity crisis. The synths and the solos can’t truly cover what is essentially very mundane.
Try before you buy: De Ira (Bandcamp)

Storm{O} – Sospesi Nel Vuoto Bruceremo In Un Attimo E Il Cerchio Sarà Chiuso
(Post-hardcore – Italy)
Shove et al – 2014/02/21


A minor critique to start off with: the vocals occasionally sound disconnected from the rest of the music. Once past that I was able to truly appreciate one of the better post-hardcore albums to appear of late. Better because it’s not hung up on ‘feelings’. Better because it’s ‘post’ in the technical sense. Better because these guys play with a grindcore-esque intensity. Best 0.50€ I’ve spent really.
Try before you buy: D’istanti (Bandcamp)

Voidcraeft – Disgust
(Black metal – Germany)
Self-released – 2014/02/18


This German one piece act openly name drops Deathspell Omega and Portal as influences on his work and it shows. This twenty seven and a half minute, two track excursion into madness drips with the avant-garde esotericism that make the French misanthropes and Aussie cultists notorious. Voidcraeft is not a creation of stolen riffs however. It is a creature that embodies the primal chaos that exists beyond.
Try before you buy: Where There is No Image (SoundCloud)

Winterfiend – Forest of the Full Moon
(Raw black metal – United States of America)
Self-released – 2014/03/18


Paleolithic production values, a drum kit consisting of a snare and a cymbal, no bass, vocals that sound like they were recorded at distance, and a one guitar tremolo assault – yep, it’s raw. This necro demo is firmly in the ‘no mosh, no fun’ mould of black metal. Which means that it paints with a very restricted palette. Ensuring suitable levels of cvltness and trveness doesn’t allow for innovation.
Try before you buy: Vomit the Blood of Christ (Bandcamp)

X-Box Murder – In the First Circle
(Death metal – Ukraine)
Self-released – 2014/03/30


In many ways, this Ukrainian band reminds me of Devildriver. Born out of the ashes of a nu metal act, the new band actually puts out pretty solid death metal. But where Devildriver put out Florida-esque death, X-Box Murder sound distinctly Polish. This came as a surprise, as they self-describe as techdeath and deathcore, which this release certainly isn’t. Hardly groundbreaking, but fun nonetheless.
Try before you buy: Kelvin (Bandcamp)

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