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AGHAST "HEXERI IM ZWIELICHT DER FISTERNIS"
Cold Meat Industry
The first time time I popped this CD into my stereo was about 3 a.m. and maybe because of that its haunting, ambient, depressive mood captivated me right from the start and kept me in its clutches long enough to force me to listen to it three times that night. A collection of ultra dark droning monotonous synths and disembodied female voices lost in an ocean of reverb, Aghast makes the sort of music greatly suited to listening 5 minutes prior to your own suicide. At times it reminds me of some of the more creepy work that Jarboe did with World Of Skin nearly 10 years ago, but even more stripped down and primal in its nature. One of the best things I've heard from CMI in a long time.
ANATHEMA "PENTECOST III" Peaceville/Music
This 35-minute EP is of good value to any fan of depressive, melodic doom in the tradition of bands such as My Dying Bride or Celestial Season. Anathema have expanded their sound from their debut CD by utilizing more keyboards and adopting a more mellowed-out, spacious style. Dreamy, yet heavy guitars, vocals changing from clean to brutal death growls (courtesy of Darren White, who unfortunately has since left the band) and some strong songwriting plus good production make this a pretty worthy addition to my doom collection.
ANATHEMA "THE SILENT ENIGMA" Peaceville
/ Music For Nations
To be brutally honest, I've always seen this band as a bit overrated and unfortunately their new album proves me right. The new vocalist has none of the power of Darren (the old one), thus immediately bringing the whole energy level of the album down. On top of that, there are hardly any outstanding tunes - 2-3 good hooks for a full length album just simply isn't enough. Great doom metal is amazing, mediocre doom metal is boring, tedious and a pain to listen to. Forgettable.
BRUJERIA "RAZA ODIADA" Roadrunner
A noticeable departure's from their brutal grindcore beginnings Brujeria's second albums offers us a reasonably well done portion of Pantera-ish hardcore/thrash with Mexican vocals. Well known as a side project of members of Faith No More, Sepultura & Fear Factory, Brujeria offers us some standard chunky guitars, pulling off at times some pretty good moshing tunes. Overall though this is a pretty decent release of standard underground hardcore/ thrash and probably if not the connections with all the well known bands mentioned above probably hardly anyone would have ever heard about these guys. Nevertheless, it's cool to listen to the Spanish singing (always nice to take a break from English from time to time).
CEMETARY OF SCREAM "MELANCHOLY" Croon
After Neolithic, Cemetary Of Scream is the second doom/death band to come out of Poland in the recent years or so. Main influence here is obviously My Dying Bride, as evident in the heavy usage of keyboards and even occasional female vocals (although death growls rule in this band). The musicanship on this always is overall pretty impressive, especially the keyboardist comes up with some really memorable & comples melodies. Howevr, this band has a bit of a serious songwriting probelm: most of the guitar hooks here at best average and there is only at most 2 memorable songs. The rest plods along at typical doom pace.There a lot of promising elements here, but I suggest the bad gets a bit more focused for the next CD and starts paying more attention to songwriting (most of the seni-symphonic intros to the songs are more enjoyable than the actual song itself). A name to remember, but maybe not to buy yet.
CRAWL "EARTH" Pavement
Those of you that picked up the debut EP by Bleed called "Womb" 2 years ago will surely get your hands on this one. Crawl is basically Bleed after a name change, with the same members and also most of the songs from "Womb" being presented on this album in re-recorded, re-worked versions. It could be basically described as early Godflesh-style industrial death metal, although most of the industrial elements are represented by the usage of a drum machine, horror movie samples and some occasional weird sounds in the background. There is so much more that can be done with a sampler and it's a pity these guys didn't have the courage to be a bit more experimental. Overall, this a pretty good album, with some really nice brutal guitar hooks, heavy death vocals and good production. Promising young band that definitely should be watched in the future.
EDGE OF SANITY "CRIMSON"
At one time one of my favourite death metal bands, Edge Of Sanity have been going into more & more unusual directions in the last couple of years. This new CD is probably the first death metal concept album: 1 song, 40 minutes long. Basically, this is pretty much in style of this band's previous release "Purgatory Afterglow", although more aggressive. We get a lot of the usual melodic guitarwork that this outfit is known for, plus of course Dan Swano's legendary growls and soothing clean vocals. Although I am impressed by the fact that this band is talented enough to pull off such a concept, I must admit that after listening to the whole CD I felt as if there was something missing. There is no real culmination here, no grand finale - this is really just like a normal 4-minute song, but with so many different riffs, rhythm & mood changes that it is able to go on for 40 minutes. Also, although the songwriting is good there seems to be a lack of the ultra-killer guitar hooks that made their previous releases (mainly "Unorthodox" & "Spectral Sorrows") so memorable. Also, to be honest, I don't think that death metal is the best genre to be dragged into this sort of progressive experimentation. Anyway, an impressive CD from a musicianship point of view, but I think Edge Of Sanity is a lot of better when they just write normal 3-5 minute songs.
Amazing tribal/percussive oriented industrial. Two drummers backed up by some pretty bass-heavy analogue keyboards and occasional eerie guitar, mixing the intensity of live playing with the cold perfection of dark electronics. These guys get a lot of comparisons to old Test Dept., but I tend to disagree: instead of creating abrasive noise by banging on sheets of metal, Ichor are more interested in creating an ominous, tribal mood unlike any band I've hear before. This would fit right into the next edition of the "Arrhythmia" compliation and would be one if its highlights. I've had a chance to see them live and they were even more impressive than on the CD. It's pretty disturbing that a great band like this can't get any label support and has to release the CD by itself, while any crappy NIN clone gets a 3-record deal in no time. Great new Canadian band!
INNER THOUGHT "PERSPECTIVES"
Witchhunt / Dwell
Being an instant fan of Inner Thought after hearing their debut "Wordly Separation" released 2 years ago I was impatiently awaiting a new release from these Toronto-based masters of industrialized death and they did not disappoint me. This CD contains predominantly mid-tempo death metal with brutal vocals and a strong industrial backbone due to the utilization of a heavy drum machine and samples. The band is also very skillful at utilizing gothic /atmospheric keyboards and female vocals, reminiscent of some of the more progressive European metal acts. What makes this band really stand out is their attention to songwriting - each of the songs has a good groove/hook that inhibits all of the songs from sounding the same, thus making a very memorable listening experience. My preferred songs are those where Inner Thought goes for all-out experimentation such as the raggamuffin section in "Autodogmatic" or the heavy techno elements of "Rack Of Lethargy". Probably the best metal band Canada has to offer. Hope this albums really makes a name for them in the industrial/death metal scene.
NIGHTFALL "ATHENIAN ECHOES" Holy
Probably the best band Greece has to offer is back with an album that by far surpasses their earlier efforts: an impressive mixture of fast melodic black metal with a lot of symphonic gothic keyboards, giving this band a monumental yet still brutal edge. There are also some more experimental parts, which show off the band's open-mindedness and creativity in using the technology at their disposal. Just like bands such as Moonspell or Septic Flesh, Nightfall cleverly incorporates a lot of gothic rock influences - I would have never s uspected a couple of years ago that a band such as Sisters Of Mercy could have such an impact on the underground metal scene. On the downside, 1-2 songs do not quite follow the high standard of the rest of the album, but don't let that deter you from checking out this very promising piece of work.
ORDO EQUILIBRIO "REAPING THE FALLEN...THE FIRST
HARVEST" Cold Meat Industry
One of the darkest things to come out of CMI, Ordo Equilibrio overpowers your will to live with 53 minutes of total depression. Most of it generated by drones, ominous keyboards, eerie looped samples in the background, heavy reverb and an occasional folky acoustic guitar, giving 2-3 songs on this CD an almost Death In June sort of feel. There are many bands trying to play this sort of music right now, but few can match Ordo Equilibrio's astounding ability to create a really down mood with just a few simple sounds or notes. Most of the vocals are female here, and they work incredibly well, especially in songs like "Reaping The Fallen. The First Harvest..." and my favourite "This Is Darkness. There will be Light.". Something to listen to during the cold months of arctic night and only if you're truly doom at heart. Defintely recommended.
SCORN "ELLIPSIS" Earache
One of the best Earache bands is back, this time with a remix album containing different versions of older songs, predominantly from their previous CD "Evanescence". Some of the artists doing the remixes are of course Scorn themselves plus also Coil, PCM, Germ, Scanner, Autechre and Bill Laswell. Most of this falls into the dark ambient industrial dub category that Scorn is well known for by now, but the inclusion of other artists' input has breathed some new life into these songs making this one great release (especially check out the PCM "Nightmare" mix of "The End" and Bill Laswell's "Slow Black Underground River" Mix of "Night Ash Black" - insane stuff!). Unfortunately I've heard that Nicholas Bullen has since left the band, thus stripping Scorn down to Mick Harris only. We'll have to wait and see what sort of impact this will have on this band's output in the future.
SCORN "GYRAL" Earache
Looks like the departure of N. Bullen has had quite an impact on Scorn's style. This new CD is totally vocal-less, guitar-less and a lot more repetitive and minimal than previous recordings from this bands. Most of the music evolves around heavy industrialized hip-hop/dub beats, backed by drones, sound effects and pianos, etc. It has a certain hypnotic charm that is hard to ignore and I noticed myself getting lost more and more in the ambient soundscapes of Nick Harris, who once again eradicates most of his musical past as the one-time drummer of Napalm Death (hard to believe it's the same guy). To be honest, I prefer this band's previous releases ("Gyral" gets a bit too minimal even for me at times), but nevertheless this is a fine, fine release.
Crushingly monumental doom/death metal. About as slow as Thergothon and Esoteric, but with a more spacious sound (great usage of organs), very reverb-heavy production and on overwheling feeling of sadness. The traditional death metal growling of the vocalist gives the album the much needed power it requires to maintain a listener's attention for the full 50 minutes or so (not to mention the heavy guitarwork). Very ascetic, stripped down to bare essentials, stalking those low frequencies that we all fans of doom love so much. Too slow to appeal to anyone else but the doom fanatics among us.
SINISTER "HATE" Nuclear Blast/Relapse
A prime example of what good death metal should be like: brutal vocals, tight musicianship, lots of rhythm changes, grinding riffs and an ability to keep the listener's attention throughout the whole duration of the album. Nothing new here, nothing that we haven't heard before but albums like these are a slap in the face of anyone who is naive enough to say that death metal is dead. With once-flagship bands such as Carcass or Entombed on the defence, it us up to Sinister and others like them to keep this genre alive and well.
SWEAT ENGINE "MULTIPLE INSERTIONS" Pan Handler
I've heard about this abnd quite a while ago due to a great demo they put out around 2 years back. Their debut CD is released in CD-ROM format, containign over 30 minutes of Sweat Engine's music + 320 MB of various artistic output in CD-ROM format as track 1. We, however shall be concentrting on the musical part of the CD here, since it is what is most noteworthy here. Sweat Engine deliver a nice slab of raw techno industrial, based around pumping rhythms & bass lines. Everything is nicely pushed over the edge by the often insanely processed vocals and some noisy guitarwork. On top of that we also get some good ole' metal bashing in best Test Dept. tradition, what is always a big plus as far as I'm concerned. Overall, a pretty good CD from a very promising band who with some more songwriting experience could definitely become a major force in this genre.
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