Fast Rites Vol. 13
Clearing the Decksposted on 1/2017 By:
We’re clearing the decks with looks at releases that languished in our inboxes over the “holiday” season. Record labels don’t completely shut down in December, but it’s very easy to overlook new albums when you’re worried about putting together your personal best-of-the-year list (or, you’re just trying not to drown in the office's holiday party punchbowl).
We outdid ouselves this time around, providing for you eight reviews of solid albums that run the genre gamut. The esteemed Chris Sessions chimes in with no less than three reviews!
I guess he stayed out of the punchbowl.
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MURG – GUDATALL
“Guitar riff centric, rasped black metal that sounds like a collision between Spectral Lore and Kampfar.” That’s my initial read of Gudatall, the second album from Murg. Information about this duo from Sweden is scant, but there’s an epic sweep to the music with lots of mid-paced tempos designed to highlight the loud riffs. There’s an icy beauty despite the roughness; hence, the slight Spectral Lore vibe that I get and the rasped vocals have a sense of grandeur. Comparisons to the vocals delivered by Dolk of Kampfar, and by Ville Sorvali of Moonsorrow are warranted, but Murg is a bit of a rawer beast, firmly straddling the line between straight up second wave black metal and pagan metal. Recommended.
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SENTIENT HORROR – UNGODLY FORMS
Let’s assume that you like death metal the way that it was done in the early 90s in Sweden. Let’s assume that, because YOU FUCKING DO. We all do. If you don’t, I don’t know what you're doing here. But, if you somehow don’t, play along: This record will obliterate you. Fast - but not overly blasty, with slabby guitars and roaring vox – FROM JERSEY?! This is such a high quality album of early Swedeath mixed with modern production values, via Damian Herring and Dan Swanö, that the fact that I only blurbed it is almost a sin. Except, there's nothing to say other than it will obliterate you, which I said, so no sin, except this is the very music of sin… Ah, you can’t win. Unless you grab this album. I heard it too late to add it to my year end list, but it belonged there.
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WARLORD U.K. – MAXIMUM CARNAGE (REISSUE)
Originally released in 1996, Maximum Carnage was a late entry to the early days of British death metal. Nevertheless, with a sound redolent of Benediction’s straightforward death and Bolt Thrower’s relentless(ly awesome) pacing, Warlord U.K. fits with the style, even five years behind. These riffs are simple, sometimes catchy and strong, as in the title track, and other times falling closer to just plain ol’ plain. The rhythms are driven by the double-kick, thrashy and usually in that midtempo groove that Bolt Thrower mined so effectively. About two-thirds of Maximum Carnage falls into the bottom rungs of the “underappreciated and overlooked” category – “Alien Dictator,” “Disintegration,” “Vivisection” – while the other third shows why Warlord U.K. didn’t make a splash. Still, two-thirds is good odds, all told. Of note: This 2017 reissue replaces the earlier version’s bonus tracks (two Amebix covers plus “Raining Blood”) with two live tracks, neither of which is particularly transcendent.
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OvO – CREATURA
Italy's OvO is, by their own admission, a tricky beast to categorize. Without attempting to over-analyze, I would be relatively comfortable placing them within the broad category of noise rock. They are unquestionably veterans of this circuit, with eight full albums under their belt in fifteen years, plus myriad singles, collaborations, and live recordings. I was wholly unaware of OvO when I heard this release, but I can report that my initial impressions were positive. This type of music is undoubtedly niche, but there is something about the pulsating, rhythmic undercurrent of the compositions that can be downright hypnotic in its most intense moments. Creatura is raw, grimy, and direct, and there's something about its primitive, trance-inducing compositions that I find hard to ignore.
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VESEN – RORSCHACH
2016 brought us a massive wave of sci-thrash, almost to the point of numbing us to the other modern thrash genre: blackened thrash. Vesen would like to kick your spleen as a way to remind you that proggy arpeggios and fleet footedness are not all there is to modern thrash, thanks. This brand of blackened thrash is far uglier, but no less compelling. In fact, the riffs are downright axe-heftingly delicious. Just try to make it through “Pray For Fire” without licking someone’s blood from your face. The production is also hefty, giving this album the monster presence for a black metal album. A real palate cleaner after 2016, and a darkly feral end to the year.
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As metalheads, there are some discussions (and often arguments) that we find ourselves repeating. Some are qualitative: Who’s better, Metallica or Slayer? Maiden or Priest? (Thankfully, we answered those queries here and here.) Some questions are more broad: What is “speed metal,” really? The answer to that one is here, in this Ranger album. Leaning back to the blistering velocity of Agent Steel and Exciter, Ranger isn’t thrash metal, although there are brief hints of it. Mostly, this metal is entirely built for velocity, with Dimi Pontiac’s histrionic wails and some serious energy put forth by drummer Miko. Like Ranger’s earlier Where Evil Dwells, Speed & Violence isn’t original – it’s a new band trying to sound like old bands – but it’s enthusiastic enough to transcend its secondhand origins. And let’s be honest with ourselves: “Speed & Violence,” “Lethal Force,” “Satanic Panic" – what is metal if not these things?
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RUDRA – ENEMY OF DUALITY
It’s a bit of a surprise that Rudra has yet to break through to a wider audience, because a decade ago, after Brahmavidya: Primordial I, it felt like it was only a matter of time. That album, Rudra's fourth, did garner a good bit of praise, but they were unable to parlay that into a springboard for further commercial success. It certainly hasn’t slowed it down any, because the eighth offering, Enemy Of Duality is as fresh and fiery as anything I’ve heard from them. Rudra describe their craft as “Vedic Metal,” referring to the Indian culture and spirituality of their ancestors that they weave so heavily into their sound via lyrical content, rhythms and even traditional instrumentation. There are obvious comparisons to Melechesh, as they both layer a strong sense of place over razorwire black thrash, while other architects of the same spirit, if not style, include bands like Orphaned Land, Negura Bunget and Nile. This juxtaposition of ferocity, heady spiritualism, and folk elements gives Rudra a unique signature that many bands lack. Enemy Of Duality is absolutely worth a look.
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FERAL – FROM THE MORTUARY
At this point, if you are a Swedeath band and you can’t make it work, you just never really got it. I say this because I have not heard a bad Swedeath band in several years, so I'm making an assumption, but I'm standing by it. I will beat it into fact. Feral has released an EP of said Swedeath that does exactly what you want it to do: groove, pulverize, and burl. You will often feel reminiscent about early Entombed listening to this, but you will keep listening to this because this is not Entombed and you still crave, deserve, and love this shit. Bonus Cover Song: PENTAGRAM’S RELENTLESS!!!
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