Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Toxic Bonkers—Seeds of Cruelty (2004)

Details

Recorded at P J-Reda Studio in April 2003. Mastered at Kutno in February 2004.

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Band

  • Qboot—Vocals
  • Mumin—Guitars
  • Sme—Guitars
  • Grela—Bass and vocals
  • Klimer—Drums

Tracks

  1. Seeds of cruelty
  2. Homeless
  3. TV god
  4. Wrong way direction
  5. Weep
  6. Poisoned
  7. Can you see
  8. Free world
  9. Liars
  10. Don’t be afraid
  11. Vision

Review

Seeds of Cruelty represents album number three of five for Polish death/grindcore  metallers Toxic Bonkers and it is quite tremendous.

They sound like a perfect fusion of Florida’s Entombed with Brummie grindcore pioneers Napalm Death, certainly from the turn of the millennium.

The production on the album is a little poor, it’s very quiet which I particularly noticed while switching between Obituary, Napalm Death and Toxic Bonkers albums to compare them. The better supported artists certainly enjoy a clearer sound. But it’s nothing that turning up the volume doesn’t fix!

But the playing is fabulous. Not a note out of place. The bass and drums are tight, the guitars produce a wall of sound, which Qboot yells over.

The whole album weighs in at just a little over half an hour and it certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. I would quite happily have listened to an album twice its length.

Conclusion

While I’m not overly fond of the band name, or the album cover, the music is fabulous and that, after all, is what it’s all about. If you like your grindcore to have a socio-political and anti-nazi slant, then I thoroughly recommend Toxic Bonkers.

Other than the production, I really can’t fault this album. It’s going up there with my favourites from this project.

Review score: 100%

Schizma—Hardcore Enemies (2006)

Schizma—Hardcore Enemies (2006)

Schizma—Hardcore Enemies (2006)

Details

Produced, recorded and mixed by Perlazza at Studio Taklamakan, Opalnica, Poland in February 2006. Mastered by Szymon Czech. Released on Madmob Records.

Band

  • Pestka—Vocals
  • Schizmaciek—Guitars and vocals
  • Wania—Guitars
  • Krzyżak—Bass guitar
  • Młody—Drums

Tracks

  1. Hardcore enemies
  2. Fed up
  3. Parasite
  4. Don’t look back
  5. No regrets
  6. Let it burn
  7. Angry god
  8. Pushed around
  9. Nothing’s left
  10. Dead end
  11. Two words down
  12. Great leap
  13. Kings without a land

Review

Another cracking album that has yet again derailed my finely tuned schedule for catching up with reviews. It’s albums like this one that make me thankful for this project and the opportunity to discover artists that I otherwise would likely never encounter, at least not easily.

Schizma, formed in 1990 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, are one of the more enduring and most popular hardcore bands to emerge from Poland, and they certainly do justice to the genre.

The songs are heavy and melodic, they twist and turn, and Pestka’s vocals (a hardcore holler) fit the music perfectly.

It’s albums like this that make me want to go back and listen to everything else that I have that is labelled ‘hardcore’, which thanks to this project is more than I had remembered.

 

Conclusion

I’m going to be lazy and jump straight to the conclusion. I suspect that I do write less about the albums that I really like, selfishly keeping my thoughts to myself when I really should be shouting every detail from the rooftops. If indeed blogs have roofs.

Brilliant album. I loved listening to this again and again. And again. And again.

These guys have just knocked Biohazard off my top spot as favourite hardcore band.

Review score: 100%

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Runemagick—Voyage to Desolation / Dawn of the End (2008)

Details

Recorded at Magick Sound Studio / Los Angered Recording 2006. Mixed and mastered by Ricklas Rudolfsson and Emma Rudolfsson at Los Angered Recording 2007.

Additional recordings for this release made at Magick Sound Studio 2007.

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Band

  • Ricklas Rudolfsson—Vocals and guitar
  • Emma Rudolfsson—Bass guitar
  • Daniel Moilanen—Drums

Tracks

  1. Preludium—enter the circle
  2. Voyage to desolation
  3. Chthonic temple smoke
  4. Retaliation
  5. Volcano throne
  6. Incantation 444
  7. Magus of fire
  8. Dawn of the end

Review

I’ve been trying to play catch-up on my reviews this week, setting myself an ambitious target of four or five releases to review (I’m actually writing this in late April). And then I got to this album and like the music everything slowed down.

Three-piece Runemagick hail from Surte, Sweden (a town of nearly 6,000 residents about 15km north of Gothenburg. Their style is mid-tempo doom-inspired death metal; think Hellhammer, early Celtic Frost or Bathory. Their music is funereal and atmospheric, plodding and crushing, dreary and murky. But it ain’t half good!

That was the problem. When I find an album that I really enjoy listening to, I end up playing it again and again. And the albums queued up behind it get neglected for a bit.

The album opens with an atmospheric track (“Preludium—enter the circle”) featuring sparse drums, a bell and chanting. It leads into “Voyage of desolation”, which has a doomy Candlemass feel.

The rest of the album follows in the same vein: thick doom riffs, heavily carving their way through the songs. There is atmosphere, there is gravitas, there is space. Ricklas Rudlofsson’s vocals have a baritone gruffness like Tom G Warrior (Hellhammer Celtic Frost/Triptykon).

Conclusion

This album conjures images of dark Scandinavian winters. This could be the soundtrack to the apocalypse (had Slayer not got there first).

I’ve been really impressed with this album. This is definitely going to be grouped amongst my favourites from this project.

Review score: 100%

Diabolical Masquerade—Death’s Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007)

Diabolical Masquerade—Death’s Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007)

Diabolical Masquerade—Death’s Design: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2007)

Details

Music score composed and produced by Blakkheim and Dan Swanö. Performed by Diabolical Masquerade, with guest musicians The Maalten Quartet, Estonia. Recorded at The Sanctuary, except orchestrations recorded at Trivial Studios. Re-released on Peaceville Records, 2007.

Band

  • Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström—Vocals, guitars, effects
  • Dan Swanö—Guitars (lead) (track 32), keyboards, keyboard (lead) (track 46), effects

Guest musicians

  • Patrik Selsfors—Jazz Guitar (lead) (on tracks 40, 47)
  • Aag Guitars (lead)—(on tracks 29, 48, 52, 53, 58)
  • Ingmar Döhn—Bass
  • Jaari Fleger—Grand Piano
  • Sean C. Bates Drums,—Percussion
  • Elmo Meltz—Viola
  • Heiki Schmolski—Violin
  • Jaak Gunst—Violin
  • Artieer Garsnek—Violin
  • Konstantin Uweholst—Cello

Tracks

  1. Nerves in rush
  2. Death ascends — the hunt (part I)
  3. You can’t hide forever
  4. Right on time for murder — the hunt (part II)
  5. Conscious in no materia
  6. Different plane
  7. Invisible to us
  8. The one who hides a face inside
  9. ..And don’t ever listen to what it says
  10. Revelation of the puzzle
  11. Human prophecy
  12. Where the suffering leads
  13. The remains of galactic expulsions
  14. With panic in the heart
  15. Out from the dark
  16. Still coming at you
  17. Out from a deeper dark
  18. Spinning back the clocks
  19. Soaring over dead rooms
  20. The enemy is the earth
  21. Recall
  22. All exits blocked
  23. The memory is weak
  24. Struck at random / outermost fear
  25. Sparks of childhood coming back
  26. Old people’s voodoo seance
  27. Mary-lee goes crazy
  28. Something has arrived
  29. Possession of the voodoo party
  30. Not of flesh, not of blood
  31. Intact with a human psyche
  32. Keeping faith
  33. Someone knows what scares you
  34. A bad case of nerves
  35. The inverted dream / no sleep in peace
  36. Information
  37. Setting the course
  38. Ghost inhabitants
  39. Fleeing from town
  40. Overlooked parts
  41. A new spark — victory theme (part I)
  42. Hope — victory theme (part II)
  43. Family portraits — victory theme (part III)
  44. Smokes start to churn
  45. Hesitant behaviour
  46. A hurricane of rotten air
  47. Mastering the clock
  48. They come, you go
  49. Haared el chamon
  50. The egyptian resort
  51. The pyramid
  52. Frenzy moods and other oddities
  53. Still part of the design — the hunt (part iii)
  54. Definite departure
  55. Returning to haared el chamon
  56. Life eater
  57. The pulze
  58. The defiled feeds
  59. The river in space
  60. A soulflight back to life
  61. Instant rebirth — alternate ending

Review

When is a film soundtrack not a film soundtrack? That’s not too daft a question given the number of so-called soundtrack albums that simply feature music that was inspired by the film but was never actually featured on it. Well, this album is kind of the other way around: while the music was inspired by the film (Death’s Design) and it’s true that the music was never featured on the film the simple reason is because the film was never made. It all appears to have been a big joke from Blakkheim (who seems to have upgraded his ‘c’ to a ‘k’ since the release of his last compact disc, or perhaps that should be compact disk).

What we’re left with then is a black metal concept album, where the concept is a film soundtrack. And it’s brilliant. I have loved listening to this album, over and over and over again, this past week. Having loved Ravendusk in my Heart (1996) two weeks ago, and been disappointed with The Phantom Lodge (1997) last week, I’m relieved to find Blakkheim not only back on top form but exceeding himself.

The album lasts only 43 minutes 26 seconds, but it packs in 61 tracks (take that, Slayer—Reign in Blood!).  The shortest track is 6 seconds, the longest 1 minute 26 seconds. This is clearly a black metal album — it has its fair share of pummelling riffs, blast beats and growling vocals — but it’s much more than that too. It’s experimental, it’s avant garde, it’s progressive metal; there are quiet passages, acoustic tracks, and piano-like keyboards; they even have an Estonian string quartet (The Maalten Quartet). This album is quite, quite bonkers. But it’s brilliant! It’s utterly, utterly brilliant!

I really don’t want to have to stop listening to this album every day. I feel a resistance to review the next album that I have stacked up.

It was only this week that I researched Blakkheim and Dan Swanö’s metal pedigree. I wasn’t disappointed. No wonder I like Blakkheim’s stuff. He’s the guitarist in Katatonia (1991–present) and Bloodbath, where he and Swanö performed alongside Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt. (Opeth are one of my favourite bands. Of all time. Ever.)

Have I already said how much I love this album?

Conclusion

What more can I say? If I could give this album more than 100% I would.

I’ve only now just looked up the reviews on Encyclopaedia Metallum: four reviews giving scores of 90% (“masterpiece of an album”), 93% (“amazing piece of soundscape”), 95% (“wild, intense, diverse,…”) and 100% (“A taste of everything”). I can’t argue with that.

One review said “So why not a 100 for this amazing piece of soundscape? It gets tiring after a while — no way you can listen to this one more the once a week without having its quality dropping before your ears.”. I disagree. I’ve listened to it on repeat for most of the week, and it just get better and better with each listen.

I think this is by far my favourite album that I’ve reviewed so far. Maybe I should just give away the remaining albums. Surely there can’t be anything else to top this piece of eccentric musical genius? Can there?

Review score: 100%

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Kyrbgrinder—Defiance (2007)

Details

Track 1 (‘My heart bleeds’) produced by Kyrbgrinder and Richard Spooner. Engineered by Richard Spooner. Recorded at Fast Track Studios, Cambridgeshire, England.

Tracks 2–11 produced by Curtis Lugay and Kyrbgrinder. Engineered by Curtis Lugay. Recorded at Theorem Music Studios, London, England.

Released on Mausoleum Records, 2007.

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Band

  • Johanne James—Lead vocals and drums
  • Ben Glover—Guitars and vocals
  • Dave Lugay—Bass

Tracks

  1. My heart bleeds
  2. Defiance
  3. The guide
  4. What about me
  5. Fall away
  6. Not in my name
  7. Wayside
  8. I wanna kill
  9. Monster
  10. Swallowed my life
  11. Greatest weapon

Review

The name Kyrbgrinder is misleading. It sounds like a gnarly early 90s death metal band from somewhere northern and cold. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Kyrbgrinder are a progressive metal band from London, UK whose sound reminds me of elements of Living Color, Stone Temple Pilots, King’s X, Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Helmet, Sting (yeah, really!), Mordred, and that other band that I kept thinking I should write down before I forgot.

This is another absolute winner this week. After getting over the shock of them not coming from Norway, and not needing to protect my eardrums from an onslaught of angry riffs I’ve loved listening to this album. I may even have unconsciously forgotten to blog about this yesterday just so I could listen to it for another 24 hours.

The album opens with a meaty riff (‘My heart bleeds’) that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Stone Temple Pilots album. Or Freak Kitchen. That’s them! I remember now. The song dances along like a train across a sunny vista. Despite the lyrics, it’s fun.

The title track ‘Defiance’ opens with a Voivod-like discord that builds to another killer riff. Overall the song has a distinctly Living Color feel to it. And that’s not a bad thing. ‘Not in my name’ (track 6) sounds very influenced by Living Color, right down to the spoken elements that litters the early parts of the song.

‘The guide’ (track 3) opens with a Helmet-style riff before sitting back into another Living Color-like groove. Another Helmet-like riff is the one that bores its way through ‘Fall away’ (track 5).

My favourite track is ‘Wayside’ (track 7) which surprisingly has the feel of a Sting track. It’s a really catchy tune that I’ve found myself singing to myself throughout the week.

The rest of the album is interesting and fresh. No two song sounds the same, the album is heavy but not at the expense of melody or musicality. This is a band, a three-piece no less, that have absorbed their influences and made something that is their own. And what they’ve created is quite beautiful. This is an album that I’m going to be playing for a long time to come—an album that I will seek out to listen to, not just let random play discover it from time to time.

Conclusion

I can’t fault this album, to be honest. I’ve listened to it on repeat for most of the week (Last.fm currently reports that I’ve listened to 133 Kyrbgrinder tracks in the last seven days—that’s 12 listens, and doesn’t take into account the times I’ve listened to it in the car or on my phone) and I’ve grown more fond and more familiar with it each listen.

I will definitely be listening out for more Kyrbgrinder in the future. I’m so glad this band is now on my radar. Seriously, check them out.

Review score: 100%

Video

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhQir3lge8o]

Bonus video

Amazing live performance from Kyrbgrinder.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35rV7b2xIrQ]

Russian Circles—Station (2008)

Russian Circles—Stations (2008)

Russian Circles—Stations (2008)

Details

Recorded at Studio Litho in Seattle, Washington in December 2007. Produced, engineered and mixed by Matt Bayles. Mastered by Ed Brooks at RFI. Management: Cathy Pellow and Sargent House. Released on Suicide Squeeze Records.

http://russiancirclesband.com/

Band

  • Mike Sullivan—Guitar
  • Dave Turncrantz—Drums
  • Brian Cook—Bass

Additional musicians

  • Morgan Henderson—Double bass
  • Matt Bayles—Keyboards and organ

Tracks

  1. Campaign
  2. Harper Lewis
  3. Station
  4. Verses
  5. Youngblood
  6. Xavii

Review

Looking at my music collection, in light of listening to this CD, I realise that I have very few instrumental records: the most obvious being Joe Satriani and Steve Vai, Shutter and the occasional track from other albums. Perhaps I ought to make a compilation of all my instrumental tracks and report back with a list, as a comment. My point, though, is that I don’t have too many bands in my collection to compare this to.

I had two immediate thoughts when I first listened to this album. One was that I loved it; the second was that it reminded me of ShutterAmplifier and Jesu. With comparisons like those how can you possibly go wrong?

One of the great things about progressive albums is that the songs are longer than most, so even though there are only six tracks on this LP it still clocks in at a very reasonable 43 minutes 23 seconds.

The album starts quietly, like a single note fluctuating in the darkness, joined by an arpeggio that weaves itself around the tone. It sounds like the dawn, like an album waking up. It’s quite beautiful. And then only two and half minutes after the main song has begun it ends. “Campaign” creeps up on you, wows you, and then disappears again into the darkness.

“Harper Lewis” opens with the kind of drum pattern and tone that makes me long to be a drummer. Joined after forty seconds my the kind of bass ‘bounce’ that takes me back to performing on stage with a few bands and why I loved, loved, loved playing the bass: a simple, understated but highly effective bass line.

The pace quickens on the title track “Station”. The distorted guitar riff about a minute in provides a metronomic wall of sound for the bass guitar to dance in and out of. This is a song that can’t fail to put a smile on my face every time I listen to it. But then just under five minutes into the song it begins to slow to be replaced forty seconds later by another theme. A palm-muted guitar picks out a new rhythm and melody.

If there was one song that most reminded me of Jesu it is the next one, “Verses”. A majestic bass line, legato guitar squeals that I presume have been teased out with an EBow, and then the most exquisite melody picked out on a clean guitar. Check out the unofficial video below, featuring video from NASA and the international space station.

“Youngblood” is a seven and a half minute exercise in arpeggios, chugging distorted guitars and… well, I love it. It has a subtle melody that sounds ‘sour’ in places.

Finally, “Xavii” begins with a picked melody that reminds me of a Steve Lawson track. The song is laid back and melancholic (or maybe I’m just projecting my own mood today) and very reminiscent of Shutter with its crystal clear guitar melody. It’s quite a beautiful song to close the album.

Conclusion

I had never heard of Russian Circles before. I had bumped them to the top of my list because I loved the name and I found the album cover intriguing, and I’m glad I did. This is definitely an album I will be playing again; a lot. And they are definitely a band I will be looking out for in the future. There really isn’t anything I can fault on this album, so I’m going to give them a full 10/10.

Review score: 100%

Video

Apocalyptica—Reflections Revised (2003)

Apocalyptica—Reflections Revised (2003)

Apocalyptica—Reflections Revised (2003)

Details

Produced by Apocalyptica. Recorded and mixed by T-T Oksala. Recorded at Finnvox and Crystal Sound Studios. Mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox. All songs by Eicca Toppinen or Perttu Kivilaakso.

www.apocalyptica.com

Band

  • Eicca Toppinen—Cello
  • Perttu Kivilaakso—Cello
  • Paavo Lötjönen—Cello
  • Guest musicians including:
    • Dave Lombardo (Slayer)—Drums on tracks 1, 2, 4, 8, 10
    • Nina Hagen—Vocals on “Seemann”
    • Linda Sundblad—Vocals on “Faraway”

CD Tracks

  1. Prologue (apprehension)
  2. No education
  3. Faraway
  4. Somewhere around nothing
  5. Drive
  6. Cohkka
  7. Conclusion
  8. Resurrection
  9. Heat
  10. Cortége
  11. Pandemonium
  12. Toreador II
  13. Epilogue (relief)
  14. Seeman (album version, feat. Nina Hagen)
  15. Faraway vol. 2 (extended version) feat. Linda
  16. Delusion
  17. Perdition
  18. Leave me alone

DVD tracks

  1. Faraway (WDR / Rock Am Ring 2003)
  2. Enter sandman (WDR / Rock Am Ring 2003)
  3. Inquisition symphony (WDR / Rock Am Ring 2003)
  4. Nothing else matters (Lahti concert hall 2003)
  5. Somewhere around nothing (Lahti concert hall 2003)
  6. Somewhere around nothing (video clip)
  7. Faraway (with Linda) (video clip)
  8. Seeman (with Nina Hagen) (video clip)
  9. Making of “Faraway” with Linda (special)
  10. Making of “Reflections” (special)
  11. Making of “Seeman” with Nina Hagen (special)

Review

Two years on from Cult and album number four shows an incredible maturity in Apocalyptica’s song writing. Whereas passages from the previous album felt confused and as though they hadn’t quite found their voice, they hadn’t quite found that balance between metal and… well, wood.

This album, however, is tremendous. I have played it almost non-stop all week: in the car, at work, at home, in bed. As soon as it ended I would start it again. There is an integrity to this album that does justice to both cello and heavy music. I’m glad because it seems clear that the band members have drawn on their classical training, and have acknowledged that it’s okay to draw out some of this rich heritage and weave it into these heavier songs. It’s a much richer album for it. There’s a simplicity too to many of these tracks. This is like Apocalyptica’s black album, shorter, more melodic, simpler songs.

Stand out tracks for me include “Faraway” (especially the version with vocals, which I’ve played over and over again), “Somewhere around nothing” (which has a tremendous drive and a catchy melody), “Heat” (which has my head nodding along to the groove every time), and the album closer proper “Epilogue (Relief)” which is lamentful and quite beautiful.

There follows a number of album extras that along with the DVD adds “Revised” to the album title, including the two songs with added vocals: “Seemann (feat. Nina Hagen)” and “Faraway Volume 2 (feat. Linda)”.

Conclusion

I’ve been rather blown away by this album, particularly after the mild disappointment that Cult was last week. The song writing is tremendous, the album is varied enough and the vocalised versions add something extra, that obviously Apocalyptica develop further on their next album… but for that we’ll have to wait until next week!

This has been one of my favourite albums of this project. And I’m not going to quibble over a couple of percentage points here or there. I’m going to be generous and give it a mighty 10/10.

Review score: 100%

Video