Trap Them, Darker Handcraft (Prosthetic)
U.S. Release Date: March 15th (CD)

Listening to Darker Handcraft makes me want to punch someone. Not a bad punch. A good punch in a violent and angry way. Okay, so maybe that’s a bad punch after all or maybe there is no such thing as a good punch if it has violent intentions behind it. Of course I’m this huge dude that has never thrown a punch in his life, so thinking about it is a close as I’m going to get.

Over the course of the last year that I’ve been reviewing metal albums for Popdose, I swear to God that every third album that was put in my queue said “sounds like Trap Them.” A little bit much for a group with just two full length albums under their belt, but after album #3 gets released there’s going to be 10,000 more artists trying to copy this album so I should prepare myself for more.

If you aren’t familiar with Ryan McKenney and Trap Them, hop on the bandwagon, quickly. They are without a shred of doubt the future of American extreme metal. They get a death metal label due to the use of the Swedish buzzsaw riffs pioneered by Entombed. They get a grindcore label because they play at breakneck speed which makes the guitars sound like they are cutting through bone. Push the hardcore label on them as well with Darker Handcraft as the screaming vocals and absolute brutality of songs from start to finish feels more like someone needs to be throwin’ fists in a pit somewhere.

I’ve listened to this at work, in the car and mistakenly as I was trying to go to bed and I’ve learned that if I ever sit still while listening to this record, that I’m dead. “Slumcult & Gather” is one of the most vicious songs I’ve heard in ages and “The Facts” state something in the chorus that fits me perfectly, “You cannot deny / I am a Goddamn son-of-a-bitch.” Whether I truly am a son-of-a-bitch or not doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that Darker Handcraft is a masterpiece of extreme metal.

Rotten Sound, Cursed (Relapse)
U.S. Release Date: March 15th

Two truly extreme discs back to back is a rarity for me, especially when both of them can be considered grindcore, my least favorite extreme genre. But as I’ve said before, when a group does grindcore correctly it can be great. Rotten Sound is one of those bands that does it right.

You can see it right away just by looking at the song titles. Every track is one word. Why does that matter? Most grindcore bands seem to want to use 20-word titles for tracks that are 12 seconds long and the titles end up either being ludicrous or better than the actual song. By using just one word (which they do for the most part throughout all of their albums) it says to me that the content of the song is more important than the title.

Cursed is 16 songs, 28 minutes and not unlike the Trap Them record to be honest (see, even I’mcomparing┬ásomeone to┬áTrap Them now). Although you could add a crusty hardcore feel to this as well, the guttural sound of the vocals screams way more grindcore than Trap Them put forth. It’s no less brtual and no less angry and since these guys have been around since 1997, maybe the comparison should be the other way around. Whatever way you look at it, put these two together on tour and watch the venue crumble to the ground.

Ravencult, Morbid Blood (Hells Headbangers)
U.S. Release Date: April 12th

What’s that? You want more extreme metal? Well, you got it motherfuckers, right here in the form of the sophomore release from Greece’s Ravencult.

Morbid Blood marks a significant leap forward from their 2007 debut, Temples of Torment which was very repetitive and quite average black metal. While not all that unique in their sound they do play my current favorite style of music, blackened thrash. The breakdown and chorus of “Hail Revenge” sound uncannily like something Toxic Holocaust has done before. Trust me, there’s nothing wrong with that at all for me but it certainly does make one wonder if there’s some originality in the group. But for what they lack in original ideas they bring ten-fold in power, speed and sheer brutality.

There’s passion in this record and I don’t mean that you’re going to want to do the nasty to it (though hey, if that’s your thing…). You can simply tell these guys want Morbid Bloodto be your soundtrack on the long train ride to hell. The energy level is high, the production is pretty great for the genre and Linos’s vocals are fierce. The speed of the dark riffs on the title track are awesome as is the high thrash quotient on “With Hunger In Eyes.” If black thrash metal is your thing, like it is mine, then this will fit perfectly in your collection.

Check out a live performance of “Possessed On Burial Ground”. Sorry, no embedding on this one.

Symfonia, In Paradisum (Armoury/Eagle Rock)
U.S. Release Date: April 19th

I know a ways back I said that I wasn’t going to touch I wasn’t going to touch power, symphonic or epic metal if the band didn’t have at least eight albums under its belt. That seemed to be the benchmark for when a band really started doing something unique to make it stand out from generic junk in these genres and yet here I am giving my opinion on the debut record from Symfonia, a group that you gives away their style in the name. Though I think I have found a loophole in that promise to myself. The band consists of Timo Tolkki and Jari Kainulainen formerly of Stratovarius, Uli Kusch of Helloween, Mikko Harkin of Sonata Artica and Andre Matos from Angra on vocals. Combined, they’ve had way more than eight albums!

Timo Tolkki got these guys together, so the basis of the group is more Stratovarius than Helloween but with a ton more power. There’s no doubt this is grand, melodic metal and maybe it’s simply because of the experience brought to the table but there’s something that makes this album stand out from the crowd. These guys sound like they’ve been together for ages or at least like they’ve been working towards this point their entire career. Ballads like “Alayna” are performed beautifully with a stunning chorus of voices while a track like “Forevermore” shows off Tolkki’s shredding skills. None of the songs on this 9-track disc are so grand in scope that they turn downright tedious in the end and really, the guitar work on it is spectacular. Stick with the veterans, they clearly know what they are doing here!