Goya—Kathmandu EP (2017)

Goya—Kathmandu (2017)

Goya—Kathmandu (2017)

Details

Written and performed by Goya. Recorded at Tremolo Recording Studio, Staffordshire, England, UK. Mixed by Dan Rowley and Goya. Mastered by Sam Taylor. Artwork by Sam Taylor. Released 8 December 2017.

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Band

  • Jason Kester—Guitar
  • Sam Taylor—Bass
  • Mark Connolly—Drums

Tracks

  1. Collider (4:02)
  2. Venenatus (13:05)
  3. Ashoka (7:39)
  4. Kathmandu (7:35)

Review

I’ve been sitting on a number of releases for the last few months while the craziness of my personal life gently explodes around me. In a moment of relative calm I decided to take a listen to this EP, released by Goya a couple of months ago.

Flippin’ ‘eck it’s good! So good, in fact, that I’ve listened to it at least eight times in the last few weeks.

Goya are a three-piece instrumental group from Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands (England, UK) and Kathmandu is their first EP. It’s what guitarist Jase Kester describes as the band’s “initial musical statement”. And what a statement! Not least that the whole EP was recorded live, with all three musicians interacting with one another in the same room. There is no substitute for such chemistry.

goya-portrait

Photograph: Marie Korner Photography

“We’ve tried to take all the things that we love about rock—the riffs, rhythms and sounds, the building blocks and devices—strip away some things that we feel have become clichés of the genre, in an attempt to create ‘absolute music’,” he said in an interview.

The idea of absolute music—or abstract music—developed at the end of the the 18th century. It’s the idea that music is not explicitly about anything, and that “instrumental music transcends other arts and languages to become the discourse of a ‘higher realm'”. It was the belief that music could be more emotionally powerful and stimulating without words.

Collider” (track 1) is built around two riffs that seem to call and answer one another. It’s a bouncy, upbeat song that you can’t but nod along to. It’s a simple post-rock track that kicks things off nicely but it doesn’t give too much away of what is to come.

Venenatus” (track 2) which is Latin for venomous is a 13-minute epic. It may not be poisonous but it’s definitely infectious. The track opens with a delicate guitar piece that playfully rises and falls like a children’s piano piece. Then about a minute in (see the video below) it changes direction completely into a crushingly heavy, doom-laden riff that slices its way through the next few minutes before returning to its delicate roots.

The track seemingly has a life of its own. From its fragile, pseudo-classical intro, through the Sabbath-like darkness, the stark bass and drums-only section, to a decidedly up-tempo movement, a section of feedback, and an acoustic outro that was entirely improvised during the recording session. It’s a prog-lover’s dream.

Ashoka” (track 3) is built around a simple three-note riff that evolves and revolves around a bass heartbeat. The track has both a sense of urgency and mournfulness. Around six and a half minutes in, the music gradually slows and dissolves into distortion and white noise.

The final and title track “Kathmandu” (track 4) brings the EP to a beautiful conclusion. It begins in a quiet, contemplative way; it sounds how I imagine it would be to hear the sun rising in the morning. A few minutes in a bass line drives the song through a few twists and turns until the rather distinctive outro in 6/4 time.

Conclusion

This is a really beautifully crafted EP. It has something for everyone: fragile and delicate guitar, thundering bass lines, crushing doom-filled riffs. This is absolute music—bring your own meaning—and it is absolutely gorgeous. The music speaks to me regardless of my mood: at times invigorating, at times mournful.

In places it reminds me of early Amplifier (a very good thing), and Shutter (a former prog/post rock style band from Inverness); but it always sounds vibrant and… well, without trying to be too pretentious, human. There is an honesty about this music that somehow makes it feel like it’s been the soundtrack to my life that I’ve not heard until now.

If this is Goya’s “initial musical statement”, I am all ears for whatever comes next.

Review score: 98%

Video

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Thuum—Through Smoke, Comes Fire EP (2018) PREVIEW

Thuum—Through Smoke, Comes Fire EP (2018)

Thuum—Through Smoke, Comes Fire EP (2018)

Details

Self-released. Release date Monday 19 February 2018

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Band

  • Bear—Guitars and vocals
  • Andy—Guitar
  • Luke—Bass
  • Joe—Drums

Tracks

  1. Intro (instrumental)
  2. Worthless
  3. Hafgufa
  4. Through smoke, comes fire

Review

Hailing from Bournemouth, at the south end of the island, crawls Thuum with their debut EP Through Smoke, Comes Fire and it is colossal. This is already promising to be the heaviest release of 2018.

Black and white photo of the band standing in front of a stage

Thuum—They’re heavier than they look

Thuum are firmly lodged in the doom, sludge, southern-groove genre and they own it. Within four tracks Thuum manage to say more and generate more excitement than many bands with two or three times as many tracks.

Intro (instrumental)” (track 1) opens gradually, a fade up from silence. A quiet drone and a primitive-sounding chant, overplayed by a bell-like, heavily-reverbed guitar punching out a melody. And then the granite-crushing power of the track truly unleashes. It is slow and grinding but damn is it heavy and beautiful.

Worthless” (track 2) is a powerhouse of southern-infused sludge metal. Slowly meandering, bass-heavy riffs and sorrowful guitar solos provide a perfect background to Bear’s growling vocals. If you’re a fan of Down and Corrosion of Conformity you will not be disappointed. They’re like a fusion of Down and Mastodon—Mastodown, if you will.

Hafgufa” (track 3) begins with a blast of drums. then the pace is quickened for a song that winds itself around a simple, bouncing riff, that starts and stops, but never stops its unrelenting pace and heaviness. The song is cut in two with another lamenting guitar solo. “Can you hear me shouting out his name?” Bear yells—it’s reminiscent of Mastodon’s Troy Sanders. It may be the shortest song on the EP but it sure as hell packs a punch.

Through smoke, comes fire” (track 4). The title track. Another drums opening, which feels like a gentle nod of the head to Bonham’s drum sound in Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”. A ponderous, bass-heavy riff builds and layers for a minute until it breaks down into an ascending, walking riff. This is truly majestic. A fusion of influences, progressive and doom, always heavy but never indulgent or aggressive. Then vocals, both growling and howling. It reminded me a lot of Mastodon’s album Leviathan. The tracks meanders through a melodic, harmonic progression to a gentle conclusion.

Conclusion

Wow! This is a near-perfect debut EP. I truly hope Thuum get the attention they deserve. This is precision crafted doom/sludge metal from the deep south (of England). I want to hear more. If through smoke, comes fire, I want to see what truly happens when the fire takes hold. Definitely a band to take notice of and follow over the next few years.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to give this 24 minutes 39 seconds offering another spin.

Review score: 98%

Disclaimer

Stampede Press UK contacted me a few weeks back, inviting me to preview this EP.

I have no connections to either Stampede Press UK or Thuum. I’m not being paid to review this. But I did get a free digital copy of the album to review—which is pretty cool.

Many thanks to Rob from Stampede Press UK, and Thuum.

PREVIEW: GraViL—No More Forgiveness (2017)

Gravil—No More Forgiveness (2017)

GraViL—No More Forgiveness (2017)

Details

Produced by Dan Abela (Voices, Sarah Jezebel Deva). Self-released on Friday 5 May 2017.

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Band

  • Grant Stacey—Vocals
  • Tony Dando—Lead and rhythm guitars
  • Charlie Webster—Rhythm guitars
  • Sparx—Bass and backing vocals
  • Perrin—Drums

Tracks

  1. Detonate
  2. Are we alive
  3. I am the blood
  4. Plagues, thieves and murderers *
  5. Locate the traitor
  6. Choke in silence
  7. Fractured, divided
  8. Decommissioned
  9. Forever is a prison
  10.  One eyed king

Review

Until this album dropped into my email inbox, I’d never heard of London melodic death metallers GraViL. But they’ve been around for a few years. Their debut album Thoughts of a Rising Sun landed in 2013, the same year they headlined the Takeover Stage at the Download Festival, and a year before they played at Hammerfest and then supported HellYeah on their UK tour.

That experience shows in this their second full-length album. I’m told that this is a far heavier album than their debut. I can’t comment on the comparison, but it’s certainly a relentless barrage of first class British death metal.

According to Grant Stacey, vocalist and primary lyricist, the album has, woven through it, an underlying theme of loss in 2016: the personal loss of a baby a few years ago, the deaths of close friends, the loss of the EU through Brexit, and the loss of America to Trump.

The album kicks off to a majestic start with “Detonate” (track 1). A pounding wall of guitars and bass, drums kicked and beaten to within an inch of their life, and Stacey’s vocals passionately screamed. There are some lovely, classic metal guitar patterns towards the beginning of this track: guitar one plays a riff, guitar two joins in for the reply. The more I listen to this one track the more I connect with it. “I can’t let you go… can’t let you go!” Stacey screams. This could easily be talking about my experience of 2016, too.

“Are we alive” (track 2) opens with a galloping riff and soaring guitar solo before the lyrics explore the feeling of losing control in the face of change. Again, another theme that resonates with me these past two years. This track has more of a metalcore feel than the opener.

“I am the blood” (track 3) feels like the second part of “Are we alive”. It features a melodic, multi-voice chorus that gives it a bit of a nu-metal feel (but not in a pejorative sense). About two-thirds of the way through it heads for a fairly inevitable solo and middle eight but the predictability doesn’t detract from the excellence of its execution. It’s a welcome and carefully penned hiatus from the onslaught.

“Plagues, thieves and murderers” (track 4) is one of my favourite tracks on the album. In parts it has an almost ethereal feel, a haunting wave played over a deep, pounding beat that stops and starts, and twists its way through the track. Towards the end they do that thing with the recorded voices from a TV show over the top of the music. I like that thing. It’s a steady, stomping track. “Slow burn” indeed.

“Choke in silence” (track 5) ends the first half of the album with a very Lamb of God-style riff that they take and twist into their own shape and run with it. This song features the best solo of the album so far—more solos like this please. Such is the strength of this album that we have another very strong song buried in the middle of the album.

“Locate the traitor” (track 6) sounds like how I imagine an underground train that had to bore its own way through an erupting volcano might sound if it hit a particularly gnarly piece of rock. It has an unusually melodic chorus and a rather more delicate middle eight, but it all works together beautifully.

“Fractured, divided” (track 7) has an almost folk-metal feel in its opening riff. It features guest vocals from Theresa Smith (Metaprism). Grant Stacey: “This is again, a tale of me dealing with loss. It tackles the feeling I had that I was solely to blame for the  baby’s loss and that it was my fault that I couldn’t give my partner the one thing she wanted so much. I felt like my heart and soul was being pulled apart.” It’s a powerfully emotional song, a fine balance between light and dark, between melody and noise. Theresa Smith’s vocals take this song to another level. Beautiful stuff.

“Decommissioned” (track 8) will be GraViL’s first single from the album (see their lyric video below). It’s a terrifically punchy track that talks—screams—about friendship betrayal. As with a few of their songs, I love the tranquil melody that glides effortlessly above the pummelling machine beneath.

“Forever is a prison” (track 9) has a really interesting starting-stopping riff that feels like it’s changing direction or pace every few bars. This gives the song quite an unsettling feeling, which is fitting given that the theme of the lyrics includes domestic abuse. About halfway through the song morphs into a beating, primal bass and drum rhythm, over which sings a melodic guitar solo.  The guitar solos are few and far between on this album, which is a real shame as when they do come they are really great, and add something special to each track.

The first time I listened to the final track “One eyed king” (track 10) I couldn’t believe they kept this track till last. It’s so different to the rest of the album. It’s brilliant! It opens with a grinding bass riff through which weaves a staccato guitar riff that builds and pummels into a full-on guitar-led assault. About a minute in the vocals bounce and build into a full-on rant. Each time I listen to this song I can’t help but smile: this song is perfect.

And then silence.

Conclusion

It’s often in the silence after an album has burned itself out that you really begin to appreciate its greatness. And this is a great album.

This is an album that was written largely online using home recording equipment, and over the phone. The lyrics were written within a week.

People often talk about the “difficult second album”. Well, GraViL have certainly made it sound easy—though, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t. They have poured out and honed their creativity into a solid body of music that feels both raw yet honed.

This is an exciting, fresh album from an up-and-coming British band. I just hope that the disappointments about the state of the music industry that are reflected in track 4 “Plagues, thieves and murderers” doesn’t destroy their passion before it flourishes more.

This is certainly a band to keep an eye and an ear out for. If this album is in any way indicative of the health of British metal just now then we are in a really great place right now. Thank you GraViL, 2017 is looking up already.

Check it out on Friday 5 May 2017.

Review score: 98%

Bonus video

Solanaceae—Solanaceae (2008)

Solanaceae—Solanaceae (2008)

Solanaceae—Solanaceae (2008)

Details

Descended and handed down in Copenhagen around 1997 and consecrated in Bornholm in 2007-2008. Recorded at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen, as well as Texas, Washington and Berlin between 2007 and 2008. Mixed and mastered at Soundscape Studio, Copenhagen in June 2008. Engineered by Louise Nipper.

Band

  • Kim Larsen—Vocals, guitars, keyboards, organ, glockenspiel, percussion
  • Michael Laird—Appalachian dulcimer, recorder and glockenspiel, backing vocals
  • Fenella Overgaard—Whispers in the apple grove
  • Anne Eltard—Violin and backing vocals
  • Louise Nipper—Backing vocals
  • Pythagamus Marshall—Singing bowls, recorder, bodhran, and percussion
  • Chelsea Robb—Vocals
  • William Wiegard—French horn
  • Jonathan van der Lieth—Vocals
  • Vincent Farrow—Accordion

Tracks

  1. I saw them through the pines / they only walk on moss
  2. Through the trees spears the sun
  3. Fenella
  4. The blood of my lady
  5. O deep woods
  6. Nakkiel II
  7. Midnight garden
  8. Samorost
  9. The blood of my lady II
  10. Hemlock and mandrake fields
  11. The swallows spirals through them
  12. Nihil sum
  13. I saw her through the trees

Review

With an album cover that looks like it has been taken from a medieval edition of Where’s Wally (that’s Where’s Waldo for our North American viewers) I perhaps should have anticipated this being a folk album (neo-folk or dark folk, for those into more defined sub-genres), but having listened to this album on and off for the last three weeks I’m now up to speed.

Of all the other albums I’ve reviewed to date, this can be most compared to Splinterskin—Wayward Souls (2009). But it’s much, much less spooky. This album I wouldn’t think twice about playing in the dark.

The whole album is very acoustic (as opposed to electric) in nature. The songs are formed around acoustic guitars with accompanying flourishes played on violin, glockenspiel, Appalachian dulcimer, recorder (but more Stairway to Heaven than primary school music class), accordion, and bodhran. It’s a very gentle album but mildly dark in places… just like human nature, I guess.

The opening track “I saw them through the pines / they only walk on moss” (track 1) is built around a repeating, descending chord progression with gentle vocals that at times whisper “I saw them through the pines”… which I’m hoping is some kind of happen-chance romantic encounter and not a medieval-sounding ballad to stalking.

“Through the trees spears the sun” (track 2) is a beautiful song, in a similar nature to the previous. Instrumental “Fenella” (track 3) opens with a very pretty high, picked arpeggio that makes it sound like a harp, over which are blown recorders.

“The blood of my lady” (track 4) is a song that makes a reappearance later in the album (track 9). I still haven’t worked out what it means. Has she been injured? Or put to death? Or is it some kind  of medieval homage to menstruation? Whatever it is, it’s still pretty dark.

“O deep woods” (track 5) features a reverb-heavy female vocalist that gives the song an other-worldly feel. It’s here that we venture more closely towards Splinterskin. It’s a beautiful song, though.

“Nakkiel II” (track 6) has some pace and a bit of life. Like sunshine filling an otherwise shaded forest. This song should have been called “Through the trees spears the sun”! French horn, glockenspiel. This instrumental song has it all.

“Midnight garden” (track 7) is one of the most stereotypical medieval songs on the album. You can imagine the court at dance to this one. Instrumental “Samorost” (track 8) follows suit: more dancing please. Samorost, seemingly is a Czech word used to describe objects that have been sculpted from discarded wood..

“Hemlock and mandrake fields” (track 10) features an accordion. Now, I usually can’t stand the sound of accordions (ever since one chased me down the road when I was a little child!) but it works here, although it does little more than pad out chords.

“The swallows spirals through them” (track 11) is another beautiful track. The melody played on violin spirals like smoke into the sky. And the lyrics haunt:

There’s a vault in the woods
And a throne of moss
A crown of black caress
And a spell of emptiness
They all have black hole eyes
Their voice between the mist and the moor
The swallows spirals through them
The swallows spirals through them

“Now that the blackbird took my eyes” sings the opening line of “Nihil sum” (track 12). Things are getting weird now. This is the song that jars most on the album, and feels a little out of place.

The album closes with a redux of the opening track, this time “I saw her through the pines” (track 13). A gentle end to a gentle album.

Conclusion

This has been quite a lovely album to live with over the last few months. It is gentle but in places dark. I’m not sure we can truly claim that it is metal but it does have some of the attitude of metal, and there are elements that wouldn’t go amiss on an Opeth album, so we’ll let it pass this once.

I’ve really enjoyed this album. It has emotional depth. It is interesting. And quite, quite beautiful.

Review score: 98%

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Small—No Power Without Control EP (2006)

Details

Produced by SMALL. Engineered and mixed by Francis Caste. Mastered by Allan Douches at West West Side Studio, New York City.

Encyclopedia Metallum

Band

  • Tersim Backle—Vocals
  • Wanted—Guitars
  • Psychiatric Ward—Bass
  • Unknown—Drums

Tracks

  1. Forlorn
  2. Few drops
  3. Stray highway
  4. Wild child
  5. Influence(s)
  6. Entwined mind

Review

It’s funny how an album cover can influence your expectations of what it might sound like. This cover is white, simple, sparse with what looks like a few droplets of water on the front, and now with added fractals on the back cover. I wasn’t expecting much from the EP, to be honest.

No power without control, the only release from French metallers Small, is very much in the ballpark of Philip H Anselmo-fronted groove metal bands Pantera and Superjoint (formerly Superjoint Ritual) and I daresay is a little more consistent than the latter. Guitars and drums are tight, the bass skips along distinctively behind, and Tersim Backle’s vocals are voiced gruffly but there is depth and character to them. It all comes together very nicely.

The EP opens powerfully (and, I guess, if the title is to be believed, then also controllably) with “Forlorn” (track 1) that features a bouncing, tick-tocking riff that recurs throughout the song. The riff morphs and adapts throughout the track adding interest and variety. It’s an impressive opening.

“Few drops” (track 2) kicks off with bass and drums before a flurry of ranting vocals powers the song forward. Behind it the guitars start and stop creating space. Things slow down for a very latter-day Pantera-style riff. This is good stuff.

“Stray highway” (track 3) opens with white noise, and a slightly distorted, picked six-note riff. The song doesn’t have the same strong hooks as the first two, and is quite progressive in its rambling journey but it’s still a good track.

“Wild child” (track 4) features an interesting bendy riff that gives way to a ‘machine-gun’ riff that then morphs into a kind of metal-ska bouncing riff that powers you through the song.

“Influence(s)” (track 5) dances about for a bit with a call and answer-style riff. Then power. Barking vocals. And a twisting and turning riff that goes in stops and starts.

The final song, “Entwined mind” (track 6) has perhaps the most melodic vocals of any of the tracks on this EP, and again uses a very bouncy, almost ska-style riff that slows down and digs in every now and then into a ticking riff.

Conclusion

I’m impressed. This is one of those releases that I wish that I’d discovered months ago, simply so that I could choose to listen to it more.

It is undoubtedly influenced by Pantera and Superjoint but it is certainly not the poorer for that. In the absence of any new releases from either this is a welcome addition to my collection.

Review score: 98%

Moonsorrow—Voimasta ja Kunniasta (2001)

Moonsorrow—Voimasta ja Kunniasta (2001)

Moonsorrow—Voimasta ja Kunniasta (2001)

Details

Recorded and mixed at Tico Tico Studio. Mastered at Finnvox Studios. Released on Spikefarm Records, 2001.

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Band

  • Ville Sorvali—Vocals (lead, choirs), bass, handclaps, lyrics
  • Mitja Harvilahti—Guitars (lead, rhythm), vocals (choirs), handclaps
  • Henri Sorvali—Vocals (clean, backing), guitars (rhythm, acoustic), keyboards, accordion, mouth harp, handclaps
  • Marko Tarvonen—Drums, timpani, guitars (acoustic 12-string), vocals (backing, choirs), handclaps

Tracks

  1. Tyven (Serene)
  2. Sankarihauta (Warrior’s grave)
  3. Kylän päässä (A village away)
  4. Hiidenpelto including Häpeän hiljaiset vedet (Field of the devil including Shame quiet waters)
  5. Aurinko ja kuu (The sun and the moon)
  6. Sankaritarina (Warrior’s tale)

Review

I’m going to be honest, I enjoyed this album a lot more than I expected to. Besides Skyclad there isn’t a great deal of folk metal that has interested me. I’ve found a lot of it to be too folk and not enough metal.

Moonsorrow, however, seem to have got the balance just right. Seemingly Moonsorrow, whose name was inspired by the Celtic Frost song “Sorrows of the Moon”, started out as a black metal band that slowly introduced folk elements.

The album opens with “Tyven” which is a pretty and gentle instrumental track with a mediaeval feel to it.

“Sankarihauta” has a bit more of a kick to it, right from the start. The same rhythm drives the song right through to the end, with keyboards dancing around the main riff. About two thirds of the way through it morphs into a galloping break with choral shouts before it breaks down again and returns to the original pattern.

“Kylän päässä” opens with a heavy grinding riff that reminded me of Iron Maiden’s “The Flight of Icarus”. What I do like about this track, as well as many of the others, are the little incidentals: the clashing swords, the boing-boing-boing of a mouth harp. And, of course, the handclaps. Everyone in the band gets a credit for handclaps. Let’s give them all a round of applause.

“Hiidenpelto including Häpeän hiljaiset vedet” and the songs are slowly growing in length and complexity. This is a slower, more ponderous number with mutteringly shouted vocals.

“Aurinko ja kuu” is started by an acoustic guitar and mouth harp. Soon the keyboards comes in, sounding like a flute, the rest of the band follows quickly after. This track has a bouncy folk feel.

“Sankaritarina” has a quiet beginning: just the sound of waves crashing on rocks. Like a dawn it quietly and slowly comes to life to the hiss and pop of vinyl. This song sounds triumphant and noble. The vocals are semi-spoken just beneath the music, until halfway when a chorus takes up the cause. And then it fades out, as slowly and as steadily as it arrived.

Conclusion

All in all, a very pleasant discovery. I’ll definitely be choosing to listen to this again.

Review score: 98%

FESTIVE BONUS: JJ Hrubovcak—Death Metal Christmas (2013)

Death Metal Christmas—Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics

Death Metal Christmas—Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics

Details

“Composed and produced by J.J. with vocals and artwork, by brother/Monstrosity throat Mike Hrubovcak, Death Metal Christmas – Hellish Renditions of Christmas Classics was engineered by Hate Eternal mastermind Erik Rutan and J.J., mixed and mastered by Brian Elliott all at Mana Recording Studios in St Petersburg, Florida and boasts five deformed Christmas classics.”

J.J. Hrubovcak is the current bass player for Hate Eternal.

Band

  • J.J. Hrubovcak—Guitars, bass, drums
  • Mike Hrubovcak—Vocals and artwork

Tracks

  1. Unrest for melancholy men (God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen)
  2. Earthen kings (We Three Kings)
  3. Nutcracker: dance of the sugar plum fairy
  4. Greensleeves
  5. O come, O come, Azrael (O come, O come, Emmanuel)

Review

I had planned on taking a short break from reviewing my 195 metal CDs collection for Christmas until I received an email from my good friend, and solo bass player Steve Lawson with a downloadable gift from Bandcamp. It was this album…

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
Probably because they were shit-scared by this god-forsaken noise, if the truth be told.

It would be easy to simply dismiss Death Metal Christmas as yet another Christmas-themed money-spinner. I mean, aren’t there enough Christmas albums?! But the thing is this has been done really very well.

This isn’t just a cheap attempt at playing a handful of Christmas tunes in a metal style. There is an integrity to the songs here. These are true death metal songs, that just happen to draw inspiration from more popular and well-known Christmas-ish songs. (More about that in a moment.)

The lyrics have been reworked and reshaped into true death metal style. Take for example:

Unrest for melancholy men
Who wallow in dismay
For Azrael, the lone Butcher
Was born upon this day
To steer us all toward Satan’s ends
And lead us all astray
There’ll be absence of comfort and joy
Comfort and joy
There’ll be no more comfort or joy

Azrael, the archangel of death—he of folklore legend, rather than Christian tradition—will, of course, be familiar to many who partake of the death metal genre and entirely unfamiliar to those who know Carols for Choirs from cover to cover.

The music is bona fide death metal complete with blast beats, glorious double kick drums, wailing death metal guitar solos, dis-chords aplenty, and the goriest, throatiest vocals spitting out the darkest, bleakest lyrics you could hope for. If indeed you were left with any hope by the end of the 19 minutes and 23 seconds. It’s really clever stuff.

My only real criticism of this album are tracks three and four which are not strictly Christmas tunes.

Track 3, “Nutcracker: dance of the sugar plum fairy” comes from the Tchaikovsky scored ballet The Nutcracker which is about as Christmas-y as Morbid Angel. In just happens to be a ballet that since the 1960s has been performed primarily during the Christmas holidays. However, Hrubovcak addresses this on his website:

I debated on whether to include this song because it so ubiquitous during the season and almost played out, but I thought it needed to be heard in a death metal context. Much of the music produced by the late 19th/early 20th century Russian composers was basically the death metal of its time. It was passionate, aggressive, bleak, dark, unconventional and open-minded, reviled and revered at the same time, disturbing and shocking to convention.

Again, “Greensleeves” (track 4) is an English folk song, and not strictly Christmas-y, even though a number of carols have been put to the tune, most ending with “On Christmas day in the morning”.

My only criticism: there are so many other obviously and overtly Christmas tunes that could have been given the death metal treatment.

Conclusion

This is clearly a death metal album first and foremost, and a Christmas-themed one second. It is beautifully played, produced, and mixed. If you like death metal then you will love this and will have something to put on over the Christmas break to counter the endless repeats of Slade, Jona Lewie and Cliff Richard.

Oh, I realise that I do have another minor criticism: this album is clearly not long enough. More of this please.

Review score: 98%

Listen to the album on Bandcamp, then do yourself a favour and buy it! It’s only US $5.98. Thanks, Steve! This has been one of my best presents this Christmas.

And if you’re in the mood for buying new music, do also check out Steve Lawson’s Bandcamp page.