Bonus: Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Not Above Evil—Always Darkest Before (2016)

Details

Written by Not Above Evil with Damien Levette (tracks 4, 5 and 9). Mixed and mastered by Daniel Mucs. Drum recording at Big City Jacks Studio. Engineered by Martin Corral.

Bandcamp | Facebook | Encyclopaedia Metallum

Band

  • Sideeq Mohammed—Vocals and bass
  • David Gwynn—Guitar and vocals
  • Daniel Mucs—Percussion

Tracks

  1. When the day comes
  2. Adrenaline
  3. Unleashed
  4. Fibre and sinew
  5. Elevation of the form
  6. The close
  7. Doors and desolation
  8. Compression
  9. Turning over
  10. And the skies return

Review

About a year ago I reviewed Not Above Evil’s second album  The Transcendental Signified (2011). I was impressed

“This is definitely a keeper for me. […] This is an album that I would seek out to listen to, not just not-skip-over if it came on random play. Good work Manchester metallers! ” (85%)

I kind of got that right. Three-piece melodic death metal outfit Not Above Evil hail from both Manchester, UK and Stockholm, Sweden.

In October, drummer Daniel Mucs messaged me on Twitter asking if I’d like to hear the new album. A few weeks later a CD metaphorically dropped through my letterbox. (It actually arrived at reception and I picked it up from my in-tray.)

Thanks to the madness that is wardennial work in a university hall of residence, the CD has been sitting on my desk teasing me for the last six weeks or so. What was I thinking?! I should have stuck it on straight away, because it’s brilliant!

“When the day comes” (track 1) begins quietly . I forget this every time and end up turning up the volume and getting a fright when the drums kick in about 20 seconds in. After that it’s a stately plod to the end. There is a slightly ‘doom’ feel to the song as it trundles along at around 76 bpm, but that gives it weight and it’s by far the heaviest thing that I’ve listened to all day.

“Adrenaline” (track 2) speeds things up a bit, with a straight forward, barked vocal and thundering tempo. The song breaks down about half way before building from a terrific riff that you can’t help but bang your head to.

“Unleashed” (track 3) has a horror feel from the start. Like the souls of a thousand death metal vocalists are trying to communicate something. This track lasts until about three-quarters of the way through before shaking things up a little. Then it’s back to the original riffs until it’s over the finishing line.

“Fibre and sinew” (track 4) begins with a delicate and harmonised guitar lick that sounds very old school Testament – someone has been listening to their copy of The New Order (1988) – before punishing the listener with another slice of modern, hi-gain over-driven death metal.

“Elevation of the form” (track 5) sees Mucs pounding about every drum on his kit as the song builds up to a no-holds-barred rich-sounding riff. It’s by far one of my favourite tracks on the album and they kept it for half-way through.

After such a huge song, it seems quite natural that the next track, “The close”, should be short, instrumental and contemplative. There is no indication on the sleeve notes, however, who the keyboardists/pianist is.

“Doors and desolation” (track 7) resets the proceedings to the to the original programme and we’re back into a fairly standard death metal offering.

Then just as you suspect the album may just see itself out with a few album fillers, the stop-start magnificence of “Compression” (track 8) begins. It has a slower, looser feel, but like the opening track it’s really heavy. It’s definitely one of my favourite tracks on the album.

“Turning over” (track 9) opens with a tremendous bouncing riff and drums that could summon an army of the dead. Not Above Evil demonstrate  yet again that they are not a one-trick pony when it comes to song writing. They introduce new elements and riff after riff that twists the song in different directions. It does follow a bit of a pattern though with the song quietening in the middle, heading off on an interesting meander before returning to a pounding riff.

Finally, “And the skies return” (track 10) closes out the album in style. Like the opening track this has a feeling of grandeur, but it soon steps aside to let out the churning, maniac of a riff that it has clearly been trying to control. Towards the end of the song, the guitars slow down and wail, and the song walks over the finishing line at a steady pace. Like that scene of the soldiers entering the sports arena towards the end of Black Hawk Down (2001).

Conclusion

Not Above Evil certainly seem to be finding their voice but it is in the slower, more progressive numbers like “When the day comes”, “Elevation of the form”, “Compression” and “Turning over” that I feel they have most to say. The song writing is layered and complex and, essentially, very interesting. More like this please.

If you are into heavy music, definitely check out Not Above Evil. Definitely another keeper for me.

Review score: 90%

Bonus: Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Virvum—Illuminance (2016)

Details

Mixed and mastered by C. Brandes at Iguana Studios. Drums recorded at S. Egli and Hardbeat Studios. Vocals recorded at R. Beier and Ashburn Productions. Released on 16 September 2016 as an independent release on Bandcamp.

Bandcamp | Facebook

Band

  • Vocals—Bryan Berger
  • Guitars—Nic Gruhn
  • Guitars—Toby Koelman
  • Bass—Arran McSporran (session musician)
  • Drums—Diego Morenzoni

Tracks

  1. The cypher supreme
  2. Earthwork
  3. Illuminance
  4. Ad rigorem
  5. Tentacles of the sun
  6. Elemental shift
  7. I: A new journey awaits
  8. II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing

Review

Illuminance is the debut album from Swiss progressive death metal band Virvum, who hail from Zurich and it’s really rather good.

The album opens with instrumental The cypher supreme (track 1) which initially doesn’t seem to promise anything new. It begins with an intricate, chopping riff but then opens up into a harmonised passage that reminded me of something from early 90s Steve Vai or latter-day Devin Townsend. The instruments dance around one another, they swoop and vie for attention. The track ends with a chugging, proper old school death metal riff that wouldn’t seem out of place on an Obituary album.

Earthwork (track 2) introduces us to Berger’s vocals, which are – as you might expect – deep, and gruff, so-called ‘Cookie Monster’ vocals. But in places they are double-tracked with a more metalcore, shouty vocal. The song showcases their progressive leanings with avant garde solos, and a song structure that twists and turns. Curiously, it stops suddenly around four minutes in and plays out as an ambient introduction to the title track Illuminance (track 3).

Tentacles of the sun (track 5) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It beings at breakneck speed and promises to be a fairly standard death metal track, with an interesting preces and response-style vocal. But around a minute in to the 4:54 song, things slow down. A fabulous bass run weaves around clean arpeggios, until even that slows to a trickle, before exploding to a luscious chord sequence. It sounds like how dawn should sound every morning.

The album closes with a pair of songs, I: A new journey awaits (track 7) and II: A final warming shine: ascension and trespassing (track 8). The new journey begins instrumentally. It is peaceful and regal, it is grand and pompous.

(Oddly, MusicBee reports that the song is 3:10 but it ends at 1:42 then leaps to 3:10 before moving to the next song.)

The final track is more of the same but draws on elements from track 7. Around three minutes in things slow down again, for what is quite a recognisable pattern. And then the build… Around 7 minutes in the song takes another meandering twist which plays itself out, but for a brief thematic return to the death metal vocals and thrashing of earlier.

Conclusion

I’ve listened to this album quite a bit over the last few months. So I’ve come to appreciate it rather well. While it’s not my favourite album of the year, it is rather good. It has a few really beautiful moments suspended in an opus of fairly stock progressive death metal. But it’s those beautiful moments that transform this album from being just another death metal album.

It’s hard when listening to the album that this is just Virvum’s debut offering. This is a band, I suspect, who are still finding their voice. I’m excited to see where they go next, because as a start this is a fabulous place from which to begin.

Review score: 85%

Epilogue

And that… is that. 195 CDs and 195 reviews over 52 months.

Here they all are, in one place. Plus a few other bits and pieces: bonus albums and album previews that I kindly received because of this project, plus a few photos of all the CDs together.

195 metal CDs (and more)

195 metal CDs (and more)

Just looking at some of those album covers takes me back to when I listened to them, or struggled to find the words to describe them.

It’s been a journey. It has been a welcome focus, particularly during the last year as my marriage has come to an end, and I have moved out of home and into my new flat and new responsibilities as a University halls of residence warden, alongside my daytime responsibilities as the web architect at the University of St Andrews.

One of the joys of this project has been discovering new music, bands and albums that I had never heard of.

A friend of mine, Ava, asked me this evening online which albums have been my favourites, the one that I play again and again. Looking at the list of scores, I gave 17 albums full marks: 100%.

Of those a few stand out most:

Diabolical Masquerade—Death’s Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007) is perhaps the overall winner of this project. It’s the go-to album when I need to listen to something heavy, but epic. It’s the movie soundtrack that never was.

Godflesh—Streetcleaner (1989) is an album that I owned already (and I even bought the t-shirt!). This is one of the best albums ever for coding to.

Krysthla—A War Of Souls And Desires (2015) is an album that I was sent to review because of my favourable review of their previous band Gutworm. If this had been part of the original 195 (though some kind of freak time-travel glitch, I guess, what with it being released three years after I started the project) then I expect this would by my ultimate number one album.

Lair of the Minotaur—War Metal Battle Master (2008) is an album that I have a fondness for. It’s the first album I listened to, on my drive back from Cupar with my treasure trove of compact discs. It’s a brutal album, though, relentless and grand.

Russian Circles—Station (2008) is another album that I return to again and again. It reminds me of Shutter (Scotland), an amazing instrumental Inverness band that had a friend of mine on guitar.

What next?

And so… on with the rest of my life, I guess. Or maybe not. This review site has led to a number of bands sending me forthcoming albums to review.

Up next we have VirvumIlluminance (2016) and Not Above EvilAlways darkest before (2016) to review. And after that eleven CDs that I acquired from a friend of mine, William, in Glasgow: albums by At the Gates, Battle of Mice, Dark Tranquillity, Diamond Head, Fields of the Nephilim, Isis, Jesu, and Obituary.

I’d like to review your album

If you fancy sending me an album to review I would be more than happy to prioritise your album over my busy schedule.

If you want to contact me I’m on Twitter @garethjms or email me gareth@garethjmsaunders.co.uk,

Twin Obscenity—For Blood, Honour and Soil (1998)

Twin Obscenity—For Blood, Honour and Soil (1998)

Twin Obscenity—For Blood, Honour and Soil (1998)

Details

Recorded and mixed at Sound Suite Studio from May to June 1998. Produced by Atle Wiig, Knut Naesje and Jo Arlid Toennessen. Engineered by Terje Refsnes. Mixed by Terje Refsnes and Twin Obsenity. Mastered at DMS, Marl, Germany.

Encyclopedia Metallum

Band

  • Atle Wiig—Vocals and guitars
  • Jo Arlid Toennessen—Bass
  • Knut Naesje—Drums

Guest musicians

  • Mona Undheim Skottene—Keyboards and vocals
  • Alexander Twiss—Guitars

Tracks

  1. In glorious strife
  2. The usurper’s throne
  3. For blood, honour and soil
  4. Upon the morning field
  5. The wanderer
  6. Riders of the Imperial guard
  7. The thrice-damned legions
  8. The 11th hour
  9. Lain to rest by the sword

Review

Well, here it is… four and a quarter years after I began this project I’m staring at the cover of the final CD: For Blood, Honour and Soil the second of three albums by Norwegian black/pagan/death metallers Twin Obscenity.

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but this album isn’t your usual black metal release. It’s strangely melodic, and has echoes of Celtic Frost’s early work, with avante garde flourishes and female vocals weaving in and out of the riffs and solos. The guitars are strummed quickly, the drums beat and crash at a m, and the bass rumbles beneath it all. The album is dark but grand, melodic but atonal in places (there are a few solos like this), and keyboards gentle tinkle a haunting melody.

Melodic black metal isn’t really my thing, so to me this isn’t a great album, but it is played with passion and conviction. I can see why someone might really enjoy this.

Conclusion

I had hoped for an outstanding album to be my last review of this collection of CDs. But I guess you can’t have everything (I mean, where would you put it!—Steven Wright). If I was played my albums on random and this one came on then I certainly wouldn’t skip it, I’m just not certain that I’d go hunt it out.

Review score: 70%

Twelve Tribes—The Rebirth of Tragedy (2004)

Twelve Tribes—The Rebirth of Tragedy (2004)

Twelve Tribes—The Rebirth of Tragedy (2004)

Details

Recorded in January 2004 at Trax East. Engineered and mixed by Eric Rachel. Produced by Eric Rachel and Twelve Tribes. Additional engineering by Eric Kvortek. Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music.

Wikipedia

Band

  • Adam Jackson—Vocals
  • Kevin Schindel—Guitar and vocals
  • Andrew Corpus—Guitar
  • Matt Tackett—Bass
  • Shane Shook—Drums

Tracks

  1. Post replica
  2. Baboon music
  3. Translation of fixes
  4. Venus complex
  5. Backburner
  6. Chroma
  7. The train bridge
  8. Godshaped war
  9. Luma
  10. Flight of the pathogen

Review

Twelve Tribes were a metalcore band from Dayton, Ohio. The Rebirth of Tragedy (2004) was their second album, and third release after 2000’s Instruments EP.

Their sound is very much metalcore (metal fused with hardcore punk) with more than a handful of other influences thrown in for good measure, not least of all Rage Against  the Machine.

The album opens with “Post repulica” (track 1) a twisting riff that soon opens up to a metalcore shout-fest. This is the thing that I really can’t connect with easily in metalcore: the incessant shouting. But it’s not that I can’t stand shouting in music, it’s this particular style of shouting.

But the riffs are good. “Baboon music” (track 2) has a storming riff: fat and bouncing. But by track 3, “Translation of fixes”, I’m beginning to wonder if Twelve Tribes are simply recycling the same riff again and again.

Track 4, “Venus complex”. Nope: different riff. Plus some exotic scales.

The rest of the album is in a similar vein. Fairly generic metalcore riffs with the kind of screamed vocals that I just don’t connect with. “Godshaped war” (track 8) feels like the mirror reflection of “Venus complex”; Penultimate track “Luma” (track 9) is perhaps the most melodic on the album, and turns out to be my favourite.

Conclusion

With my appreciation of good ole new wave of American  heavy metal and hardcore, you would think that metalcore would be right up my street. So would I, but oddly it’s not.

Sadly, then, this album didn’t really resonate with me. Sorry guys, I tried and wanted to enjoy it more than I did.

Review score: 60%

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Turrigenous—A Slight Amplification EP (2008)

Details

Produced by Chris Fasulo and Greg Giordano. Mastered by Will Quinnell at Sterling Sound.

Encyclopedia Metallum | WebsiteBandcamp | Twitter

Band

  • Greg Giordano—Vocals and guitars
  • John Vullo—Guitars
  • Mike Murray—Bass
  • Mark “The Sorcerer” Dara—Drums

Other musicians

  • (Ch)arles Midwinter—Spoken word on “A slight amplification” (track 1)

Tracks

  1. A slight amplification
  2. Emptiness, darkness, acceptance
  3. War inside

Review

Turrigenous are a progressive thrash band from Long Island, New York: think Annihilator meets Dream Theater. A Slight Amplification is their fourth release, their first EP (18 minutes long) following three full-length albums.

The song writing and arrangements are good, the playing is flawless, and the production is clear.

The title track “A slight amplification” (track 1) opens with a bit of widdliness but soon develops into mature thrash song, with more than a few nods of the hat to Megadeth, not least the spoken part about four minutes in.

“Emptiness, darkness, acceptance” (track 2), the longest of the three tracks on the disc, begins quietly and ponderously. It bubbles and bounces before bursting into life. It stops and starts, it soars and dips. In the words of my son Joshua (7) it is “good”.

The EP closes with “War inside” (track 3) which opens with a very spacious and uncharacteristic ‘chug-chug’ riff. It is the only song of the three that introduces any growling death vocals; this track in particular could have benefited from more of them. The solo about halfway through breaks up the song nicely and takes the listener on a bit of a progressive jaunt, even if it is a bit too formulaic.

Conclusion

All in all, this is decent release. I didn’t end with a burning desire to listen to the rest of their back catalogue, but I would probably listen to this again, and may grow to like it more. It didn’t set my ears on fire, but it didn’t offend them, either.

Review score: 70%

Transistor Transistor—Ruined Lives (2008)

Transistor Transistor—Ruined Lives (2008)

Transistor Transistor—Ruined Lives (2008)

Details

Recorded and mixed by Kurt Ballow at Godcity Studios, Witchcity from 2 to 12 January 2008. Mastered by Alan Douches at Westwestside in New Windsor, NY on 22 January 2008. Released by Level-Plane Records on 15 April 2008.

Bandcamp

Band

  • Nat Coghlan—Vocals and guitar
  • Garrison Nein—Vocals and bass
  • Brad Wallace—Guitar
  • James Moller—Drums

Tracks

  1. Morning sickness
  2. The price of gasoline
  3. Brass bones
  4. Diet of worms
  5. Pillar of salt
  6. The ghost hand
  7. Harvest
  8. Letter of resignation
  9. Celluloid rats
  10. Irreversible
  11. Teratogen

Review

This appears to be the one and only release from New Hampshire hardcore/grunge band Transistor Transistor.

New Hampshire, New Hampshire, so good they named it twice.

Having been mostly reviewing symphonic and avant-garde  black metal bands for the last few weeks this requires a little change of gear. But having established quite firmly a few months back that it no longer takes me by surprise every time I listen to a hardcore album and discover that I like it, it shouldn’t take a detective to hear that this album gets the thumbs up from me, too.

As well as the usual hardcore elements, there is more than a dollop of Bob Mould-inspired alternative/post-punk rock infused in this particular recipe of high energy, shouty-vocaled hard rock.

A few highlights: The cheeky riff in “Brass bones” (track 3).

  • The opening riff from “Diet of worms” (track 4) with its slightly acidic phrasing and the full-on chorus. I could probably listen to that all day, to be honest.
  • “Pillar of salt” (track 5) is a pounding, plodding behemoth – like the hardcore equivalent of Metallica’s “Sad but true”.
  • The complete change of pace in the dirgeful “The ghost hand” (track 6).
  • “Harvest” (track 7). All of it. It is epic, uncomfortable, melancholic, angry, relentless and strangely beautiful.
  • “Tertogen” (track 11) is a wonderful closer that draws this collection to a fine conclusion.

Conclusion

There are not many albums that make me smile involuntarily while listening to them on first listen, but this was definitely one. This is inventive, creative, exploratory and downright exciting. It’s not perfect but I fully expect it to grow on me and with me.

Review score: 96%