Friday, October 30, 2015

Death Karma - The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I

Death Karma
The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I
2015 Iron Bonehead Productions / Necroshrine Records
As if Cult of Fire wasn't an interesting enough band (and if you're not aware of them, you need to rectify that right now), leave it to two of the three members to go off and do a potentially even more interesting side project.  Tom Coroner and Infernal Vlad put together Death Karma and have to date released both an ep and this full length.  As the title indicates, this is a concept album.  But rather than telling a tightly knit story or having some songs loosely written around a central theme, "The History of Death & Burial Rituals Part I" instead is six vignettes about different burial ceremonies from different parts of the world in ancient times.  A morbid anthropology lesson, if you will.  The places visited are Slovakia, Madagascar, Mexico, the Czech Republic, India and China.  Unfortunately, the lyrics and information are all printed in red on black in a small font that's just about impossible to read.  But, having done some research, I can say that the overall subject does make for some fascinating reading, and the reasons behind each ceremony even moreso.  In the case of India, ("India - Towers of Silence" on the album), a certain sect practices a form of "sky burial," where the bodies of the deceased are placed on a tower (called a "dakhma") and left for birds to consume.  The belief is that dead bodies are unclean, and should not be put in the ground or burned.  This practice ensures the body does not decay.  Eventually, the bones become bleached by the sun and are placed in an ossuary within the tower where they disintegrate.  For the record, this song is an instrumental.  The towers are silent.  But what does Death Karma sound like, you ask?  I'd have to say they're like a more death metal-oriented Master's Hammer, with maybe a little of the old Greek black metal sound included for good measure.  At the very least, much of the same vibe, majesty and spirit are present.  According to the liner notes, this truly is going to be just the first part in this series.  I look forward to hearing about other obscure rituals in the future.

Ares Kingdom - The Unburiable Dead

Ares Kingdom
The Unburiable Dead
2015 Nuclear War Now! Productions
For those wondering if the departure of guitarist Doug Overbay would cause any major changes in the sound of Ares Kingdom, the answer is that it has not.  At least as far as recorded music goes.  Live, I don't know if there will be a blatant hole, but it is possible.  I once had the misfortune to witness Sepultura shortly after Max Cavalera had departed and Derrick Greene joined, and it was painfully obvious that a second guitar was not present and should have been.  But AK live is another story for another day.  Right now, we have "The Unburiable Dead," and again the chaosmongers do not disappoint.  They have their sound and production dialed in, so the quality on that front is as impeccable as before.  How it is that other bands manage to fuck up this fundamental part of their recorded output is beyond me.  In this day and age, there's really no valid excuse unless it's done on purpose.  As you'd expect, Mike Miller attacks his drumkit without mercy, Chuck Keller cranks out riffs and solos as only he can, and Alex Blume... well, let's come out and say it...  Alex is a rabid beast behind the microphone.  None of this is pretty, and none of it is meant to be.  Ares Kingdom are unmistakeably metal, unapologetically metal, and unabashedly metal, with a sound and style that refuses to be categorized into anything as simplistic as black, death, blackened death, speed or thrash.  Lyrically, Ares Kingdom again go for something far more poignant than "Blargghh!  I am evil and I eat your face!" or "Satan! Satan!! Satan!!!!"  No Kansas weather reports either.  The title track especially is an excellent example, as it's not that the dead from huge battles such as those seen in World War I and II are unburiable, it's that they are in nameless graves.  Truly a failure on our part, not being able to properly honor them for their sacrifice.  Although that does sound a bit too noble.  War may have acts of courage and bravery, but noble?  I think not.  War is many things, but noble is not one of them, despite our tendency to romanticize the hell out of it rather than recognize the hell in it.

Shit - Scavengers of a Dying Sun

Scavengers of a Dying Sun
2015 Chaos Records
Given the name, I fully expected Shit to be a full-on grindcore band.  I was wrong.  Right from the opening track, "On the Winds of Extermination," I discovered that Shit are instead a crust-influenced death/black metal act.  That's actually not all that surprising, considering that the members have done time in other bands such as Man Destroys Himself, Infinitum Obscure and Mortuus Terror.  While Shit is very potent, they are the opposite of their namesake.  They don't promote growth.  They promote destruction.  The members aren't full of shit either.  When it comes to their music, they really know their... no.  I can't do that.  I can't write this review based around all kinds of uses of the word "shit."  That's going for a cheap laugh, and this is deadly serious shi... I mean stuff.  The more grindcore-type elements of their sound is mostly heard in some of the d-beat like drum patterns.  These however, end up giving way to more of a black metal sound, combined with guitar riffs that at times are similar to Marduk's more melodic passages, but without giving up any of the heaviness.  The vocals though, are definitely not from within the realm of "orthodox" black metal, and are actually very interesting to listen to.  Shit opted to go for the "layered" sound like on old Deicide records, where the vocals were recorded twice.  Once gutteral, and once in a higher range.  Then the two were combined.  The really cool thing I like here is that at times the gutteral side dominates, and other times the higher range dominates.  As I mentioned before, the band members have also done time in bands that are from different genres and styles of heavy music.  They've managed to pull elements from all of those styles and use them here to create one sound.  It's not like there's a grindcore part that's followed by a black/death part, and then a pure death metal part.  The elements work with each other, not against each other.  They work so well in fact, that it's not like you can say that Shit sound like Terrorizer meets Dissection.  Because they don't.  Shit sound like Shit, and Shit alone.  Which is to say, they don't sound like shit.

Ruin - Spread Plague Hell

Spread Plague Hell
2015 Nero One Records
Somewhere, deep down within the sewer system of Los Angeles, past the strung-out druggies, past the alligators (yes, NYC... we have them too), past where your shit goes to die, lies the rehearsal room and home of Ruin.  This mysterious three piece has unleashed a demo tape (because only analog is real!) of four tracks of the most down-tuned, sludge-filled, heavy metal of doom-filled death that you're likely to hear this year.  For reasons known only to themselves, Ruin have decided to not only keep their true identities somewhat of a secret, but to also forego any kind of social media presence, save for any that their label may use.  In fact, it's surprising they're even on a label.  Whoever set them up with a contract is probably lucky to not have been cooked over an open pit and devoured.  Musically, Ruin lies somewhere at the intersection of Incantation and early Mortician, where the Happy Toyz truck has gone into maximum overdrive and mowed down innocent pedestrians.  Indeed, vocalist Mihail Jason Satan comes across as a less gutteral version of Craig Pillard.  Just to prove the band doesn't play slow all the time, the last of the four tracks is a cover of Discharge's "The Final Bloodbath."  Listening back to the previous three tracks, one then realizes that Discharge and d-Beat in general have as much of an influence on Ruin as the aforementioned bands.  Hoping to hear more from this sonic crime against humanity soon.

Archgoat - The Apocalyptic Triumphator

The Apocalyptic Triumphator
2015 Debemur Morti Productions
One has to wonder what might have been if Archgoat had not lain dormant for ten or so years.  As it stands, they are making up for lost time in some regards, with this new full length after several splits and eps.  I guess this was released all the way back in January, but as it is on a very small but strong label, not many are aware of its existence.  Plus, their last album was in 2009, so they may have been off the radar for many.  Archgoat are still doing black metal in their own distinct way.  Generally mid-paced with occasional bursts of speed, downtuned, and no shrieking vocals.  At times, such as on "Grand Luciferian Theophany," you could even consider them death metal.  This track in particular has almost a Bolt Thrower kind of feel to it, with its slow and heavy drone.  Bottom line here is that they were around before any "rules" of black metal were written, and any such rules do not apply to them.  Yes, one does have to wonder what might have been.  But I think that even if they had never broken up, Archgoat would have never become the flavor of the week like so many others have been... whether by accident or design.

Bonehunter - Evil Triumphs Again

Evil Triumphs Again
2015 Hells Headbangers
It's a rare thing these days for me to see a band before having heard their album.  This was the case with Bonehunter.  I attended the 2015 edition of Hell's Headbash, and had the extremely good fortune to enter the venue just as these crazy Finns were starting their set.  Despite being a young band (having formed in 2011), they didn't just play on that stage, they owned it.  So does their album live up to their live show?  Hard to say, but it's a damn good time regardless.  The production is pretty fuzzy, so those expecting a clean and polished sound should look elsewhere immediately.  This is not the kind of music that was meant to be recorded on a multitude of tracks with a shiny and chrome sound.  No, this was dragged through the dirt and was banged up by rocks along the way.  A little muck and grease never hurt anyone, and that's the case here.  All three of these guys (guitarist Witch Rider in particular) push their instruments as far as they will go and then push a little further.  This is death thrash played loud and ugly like it's supposed to be, always on the verge of going completely off the rails and falling apart.  They also know enough to keep things short and to the point.  Most tracks run between three and four minutes.  Bonehunter come in, do their thing, and then get out.  Leaving you wanting more of course, but that's the nature of the beast.

Power From Hell - Devil's Whorehouse

Power From Hell
Devil's Whorehouse
2015 Hells Headbangers
Brazil's Power From Hell has been kicking around for a while now, and "Devil's Whorehouse" is their fifth album.  Much like the USA's Midnight and Norway's Nocturnal Breed, Power From Hell have a sound built around dirty rock and roll and heavy metal with a strong punk feel and attitude.  Also, all three bands have a penchant for including images of topless women in their albums.  I keep using "they," but in reality Power From Hell is the devilspawn of a warped individual named Sodomic.  He's aligned himself with various likeminded people over the years, who either came in as session members or joined for a while and then left.  Not surprisingly, Power From Hell focus on such time-honored subjects as booze, metal music and horny sluts.  That list is in no particular order, and a given track may include one or more of them.  In all cases though, the shadowy spectre of Satan looms above.  I think the production has gotten better over time, as "Devil's Whorehouse" has a sound that is at least somewhat slicker than that of "Sadismo."  You'll have to decide if that's a good or a bad thing, as the older releases have a more unbridled sound.  But really, it's not like Sodomic has strayed far from the formula of the previous albums.  Power From Hell is still raunchy raucous rockin' metal in all its ugly glory, the same as it ever was.