Because you demanded it!
Well, not really. But, we had to do something. You know the routine: writers are deluged with albums, most of which we can barely even listen to, let alone write a review for. A simple solution to this dilemma is to put together a cadre of writers to tackle a bunch of albums in short, quickly written reviews of albums that we feel are, at least, worth a listen. You’ll even find a major release or two fall between the cracks, and then subsequently be given new life in our first installment (probably monthly) of Fast Rites.
GOUGE – BEYOND DEATH
You record an album that’s released on Hells Headbangers Records, call yourselves Gouge, and you use samples from Evil Dead to open your album? Yep, “regular ass death metal”, as one of our scribes so eloquently put it a few weeks ago, is what you get. Beyond Death sounds as if it was recorded in a basement in Ohio or somewhere amidst a pile of beer cans, spikes, bullet belts, and a stack of old VHS tapes. I’m probably not that far off the mark here, except that Gouge hail from Norway. A bastardized mix of bands such as Blood Feast, Die Hard, old Mr Death, and old Sodom probably makes up a great deal of Gouge’s upbringing.
MOONSPELL – EXTINCT
Moonspell’s eleventh album finds the veteran Portuguese goths basically doing what they’ve always done: sounding a lot like someone else while still sounding a lot like themselves. Here, they accentuate their later Sentenced / rockier Paradise Lost vibes, while Fernando Ribeiro adds some Tomi Joutsen to his “extreme Peter Steele” vocals. It’s cheap fun, to be sure – like later Woods Of Ypres if you stripped away much of the artistry – but fun nonetheless, and tracks like “Malignia” still show some depth. Mostly, it’s further proof that the European brand of butt rock is far better than its American equivalent.
GOAT SEMEN – EGO SVM SATANA
A while ago, I was driving in my car with my wife when some jackass cut me off on a lane change. “Fucking… goat semen!” I shouted. “What the Hell?” my wife asked. I didn’t really have a good reason for that particular choice of profanity: “It’s probably a band name, I guess.” Turns out I was right. And when you see a band with a name like this, you pretty much know that the contents will match the label on the tin. This is war metal, and it’s raw and it’s blasphemous, and it has lots of goats. It’s also surprisingly good, in small doses at least. Goat Semen is from Peru, and their lyrics are mostly in Spanish. The music calls back the good old days of Sarcofago when metal was young and Satanism wasn’t played out. Songs like “Holocausto” and “Warfare Noise” are highlights, but you can definitely skip the ten minute “Hambre, Peste, Guerra Y Muerte.” There’s not a lot of originality here, but there is passion galore. Give it a spin when you’re feeling the need to dirty things up.
AHAMKARA – THE EMBERS OF THE STARS
The Embers Of The Stars has actually been around for a while. UK duo Steve Black (vocals) and Michael Blenkarn (everything else) released their debut album in March of 2014, but it’s recently been granted new life by Bindrune Recordings, who have given it a physical release. And if you’re a fan of the modern trend that I refer to as “green metal,” you cannot miss Ahamkara. In the same vein as Saor, Altar Of Plagues, and Wolves In the Throne Room, Ahamkara puts a spin on black metal that’s more influenced by Gaia than by Lucifer. They do it magnificently, too, spinning out beautiful melodies that are intricately worked out through all the instruments. Perhaps it’s because one man plays them all, but the sound of The Embers Of The Stars is just so full; everything is necessary, everything is in its place. The bass playing in particular stands out for commendation, since bass can often suffer in black metal. All four songs are beautiful, but “To Invoke The Stars Themselves” contains one of the most meditative passages since the outro solos to Pantera’s “Floods.” Don’t let this album pass you by again.
MARDUK – FRONTSCHWEIN
Marduk has been on a predictable trajectory for the past ten years. If you’ve enjoyed Marduk’s last few, you’ll dig this one too. The butter is spread over too much bread, though, as for every “Between The Wolf-Packs” you have at least two dull tracks like “Wartheland” or the title track. “Nebelwerfer” and “Doomsday Elite” try injecting the slow, seething formula, but they just go on too long and fall short. Far be it from me to ask for more Satan, but Serpent Sermon was simply better. Marduk’s WWII worship works far better in EP doses; I still enjoy the Iron Dawn EP four years later. Mortuus remains one of the most virile vocalist in black metal, but I can’t help but wish he’d put out another Funeral Mist album.
ABYSS – HERETICAL ANATOMY
Heretical Anatomy is death metal played with grindcore economy. With eight songs in twenty one minutes, the album necessarily lacks some of the luxury accessories, but the standard equipment is more than serviceable. With a handful of riffs or less, Abyss delivers rabid and raw death metal tunes reminiscent of Chicago acts like Master and Cianide, with just a hint of Terrorizer. Sub-two minute tracks such as “Chained To Extinction” and “Flesh Cult” are most effective, but the five-plus minute “Thrall Of The Elder Gods” gets lost in its own doom/death delirium. Hail brevity!
MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS – JAMAT-AL-MAUT
Named after a Napalm Death tune from the seminal Scum, Pakistan’s Multinational Corporations is a two-piece grind unit from a country that isn’t exactly fond of political dissent. And yet, it’s exactly that that fuels Jamat-Al-Maut – the title track opens with the couplet “Assassins In The Name Of God / Killing For Sharia Law.” Half of Jamat-Al-Maut is in Hindi, although the band’s Bandcamp site conveniently translates, so that all points are thoroughly made. Musically, this is pretty straightforward punk-ish grindcore. Of the duo, Hassan’s lyrics and vocals are the focal point, and Sheraz handles all the instrumentation. A live drummer would really help matters – the drum machine beats leave things sterile, processed. It’s not the best grindcore album of late, by a wide margin, but it has moments of greatness, and there’s promise herein, especially because this is angry music performed by angry people with countless reasons for justifiable politically-charged anger. Technically, Jamat-Al-Maut came out a year ago, almost exactly – but it’s getting a re-issue on India’s Transcending Obscurity, so it’s current again. Give these guys a full band for the next one, and there’s a chance Pakistan may find itself on the grind map.