CD Reviews: Woe, October Falls, Night Horse, Dimentianon, Agathocles, Firewind and Gravewurm
Woe, Quitely, Undramatically (Candlelight)
I’m a little shocked I’ve never heard of these guys. Woe hails from Philadelphia, PA, my hometown and only a stones throw from where I reside now and yet these dudes have flown under the radar for me. Quietly, Undramatically is the second album from Woe, the first being solely the work of mastermind Chris Grigg with this one featuring a full band with guys that have played in name groups like Woods of Ypres, Absu and Rumplestiltskin Grinder.
It’s kind of hard to predict the future but Woe certianly seems like a band that’s going to take US black metal into new territory. This is a wonderful album that burns the black metal rule book to create something wholly unique and desirable. The overall tone and bleak vocals scream black metal all over but the music ranges from traditional BM to atmosphere, to post-rock and everything in between. The production is great for a black metal album proving of course that you don’t need to sound like you’re in a cave to recreate what’s supposed to be “the sound.” It’s an angry sounding record but an accessible anger — one that has probably been visited by anyone that’s every been in a dark spot in their lives. The USBM scene needs more bands like Woe to take charge and push the genre forward.
October Falls, A Collapse of Faith (Debemur Morti)
Holy balls, October Falls generates a whole slew of emotions with A Collapse of Faith. It’s essentially a solo project of Finnish performer M. Lehto who started out very atmospheric and ambient and has slowly progressed into a much darker and bleaker sound.
One look at the black and white cover of a skyline above tall trees with birds or geese flying in the distant background would lead you to believe this might be a darker ambient record as well but you get a great blend of power, darkness and sounds of nature to give the record an organic black metal feel.
As with many of Lehto’s releases, he doesn’t like song titles as A Collapse of Faith is a 41-minute, three part epic (“I” “II” and “III”) with the first two parts really needing to be a full 37-minute track.
As with Woe above, I love the production on this album. All the instruments are crisp and the vocals are dark without being buried in the mix the entire time. It definitely brings to mind Opeth for the ability to blend the hard hitting electric riffs with the acoustic chords and piano at the drop of a hat. If you dig them or a band like Drudkh, it would be tough to not find this quite refreshing and pretty damn amazing.
Night Horse, Perdition Hymns (Tee Pee)
This is rock and fucking roll at its finest here folks. This Los Angeles band plays a pretty infectious brand of blues rock that doesn’t disguise the fact that they like slick riffs and monster harmonies in their tunes.
I’m having a tough time finding anything unique about the group but that doesn’t bother me here in the least bit. You immediately feel two things — classic rock and vintage Black Crowes. Then the more you listen you get different vibes like the MC5 or the type of music you’d expect Slash to dig a hell of a lot. Singer Sam James Velde has the perfect voice for blues rock and sounds like he’s letting it all go on every track. “Angel Eyes” is all about that Black Crowes feel while a track like “Blizzard of Oblivion” brings the rock ‘n’ roll full force. I love the ZZ Top sensation of “Rollin’ On” as well (with a Doors-ish organ breakdown) which I keep picturing playing in the background through the entire length of the Patrick Swayze classic movie, Road House. If blues rock is your thing, Perdition Hymns has pretty much everything you could want.
Dimentianon, Collapse the Void (Paragon)
It’s kind of difficult to lump Dimentianon into one musical category maybe as difficult as it is to say their name (or is that just me?). Collapse the Void is all over the map from start to finish mixing elements of black, death and doom metal with ease, creating a nice chaotic extreme metal mix.
This is the third record from this New York City band that creates this fiercly unique blackened metal sound that truly capitvates while pummeling your senses. At the same time “The Forgotten” ends with a nice atmospheric passage and “Fragmented Nostalgia” is a piano driven number. “Return…” leads off the disc and is the best track at nearly nine minutes which allows the group to fully explore numerous killer riffs and develop passages to their completion.
My only real complaint about the disc is the length — at only five tracks with the aforementioned piano tune less than three minutes long, Collapse the Void feels very incomplete especially as the final track “All Good Things End” fades out awkwardly in the middle of a riff. All good things may end but this one needed to stay a bit longer.
Agathocles, This Is Not A Threat, It’s A Promise (Selfmadegod)
Okay, I’m noticing trends in this week’s reviews. First, two bleak black metal records and now two in a row with names I can barely say that create some crazy chaotic sounds.
As I’ve mentioned before, I like listening to my music insanely loud and I swear to lucifer that one of my car speakers detached itself and jumped out into traffic to safe itself from this mass of brutality. But that’s okay because I still had five left to listen to what’s called “mince-core.” The music is rooted in grindcore but there are elements of raw punk and d-beat present all over the place as well. Grindcore is probably my least favorite genre of metal, but there’s something remarkably interesting about this album. I don’t know how many groups out there combine grindcore vocals over punk music but it can’t be many because This Is Not A Threat, It’s A Promise captured my ear as pretty damn unique.
“Gaszilla” is a great example of the mix of sounds with the basis of the music falling in the punk vein for most of the three minutes with indecipherable grindcore vocals. And although I have no clue what the lyrics are, titles like “Financial Cris-Ass,” “Motherfucker (Swing That Axe)” and “Stuck @ Dumb.com” are intriguing enough that I have to think they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. There is absolutely no doubt that the 27 tracks these Belgian grinders have created is brutally harsh and not for everyone, but there is a lot of rewarding moments in this one if you hang in there.
Firewind, Days of Defiance (Century Media)
Firewinnnnnnddddddd! Man, I wish I could do a podcast review on this one. I’d put on my spiked armband, throw my fists in the air and sing the last word of every line overextending the last syllable in the highest falsetto I could reach. Fortunately I can’t, otherwise I fear you’d be leary of ever clicking on another one of my posts so instead just picture it in your mind because I swear that’s what I’m doing right now.
Formed in Boston, Mass. but really a Greek band, this is Firewind’s sixth album in nine years and it’s pretty damn good, so it doesn’t seem like this is a group that has problems writing songs. I won’t try to make this anything it’s not though as it’s exactly what you’d expect from Firewind. Catchy, melodic riffs co-mingling with majestic soloing and harmony vocals that soar high in the sky, power oozing from every corner. Gus G’s guitar work on this record is as good as it has ever been and from start to finish this might be the most consistent Firewind album since 2003’s Burning Earth.
The truly interesting thing about Days of Defiance is that it gets better as the album progresses. If radio played power metal I’m certain that the mid-tempo “Broken” would be a #1 rock track. It’s a wonderful mix of acoustic guitar, balladeering and contains an absolutely terrific power chorus and that doesn’t show up until track seven. “Cold As Ice” (not a Foreigner cover) follows that up as a terrific toe-tapper with another sing along chorus and a monsterous riff in the breakdown and buried in the ten spot is an instrumental called “SKG” which is one amazing solo after another peppered with these proggy keys and time changes that baffle the mind. I don’t usually have this much to say about power metal records that go strictly by the rules of the genre so that’s gotta mean something here. It’s certianly well worth your time if you’re a fan of the genre and a good place to start if you are just getting into it.
Gravewurm, Blood of the Pentagram (Hells Headbangers)
Here’s my general rule when reviewing new metal releases these days; If the artist is new or relatively unheard of, if I can’t say anything nice then I just won’t bother with it. Despite enjoying being a douchebag on occassion I see no real reason to rip a new band just trying to give it a fair shake. However, if the band is on a major label or is established, then to me they are fair game if they create something lame. There are always exceptions to the rule though…and with that said, you know where this is going.
I’m not going to break my rule completely though. Gravewurm has been around since 1990 and Blood of the Pentagram is their 7th record after releasing their first full LP in 2000. We’re talking 20 years of playing together which is plenty of time to figure out ways to avoid releasing unlistenable garbage like this.
Gravewurm plays some of the worst blackened death metal you’ve heard in a while. The guitar riffs are so basic that you’d swear they are looking at Metal Guitar for Dummies just to get a chord down. Missed notes and mistakes are everywhere on this disc, fades are at awkward points and songs just stop oddly. But the worst part is the vocals. I got halfway through the disc before I started laughing, I mean literally laughing at the absurd black metal vocals. The black metal growl often is kind of ludicrous for many artists but almost all of them sound way more natural than this. All I keep picturing is that this guy singing has a ham sandwich stuck in his throat and is desperately trying to yell for help to get it out. They are easily the most unnatural vocals I’ve heard on a disc this year and if you give a listen to “Hordes of Hell” (download) you’ll understand what I’m saying. I can’t even find a wikipedia page on them. Twenty years of music and no wiki page? Jesus. I do have one positive thing to say though — this is their final disc! Yeah, I’m a fucker. So be it.