God damn, Hells Headbangers has slowly but surely taken over as my favorite metal label. I think it all started a few months ago when I finally realized the label puts out such awesome LPs that they are a collectors dream. Musically, they’ve always been hit or miss for me but lately, the releases on the label have been pretty damn great and the first of four releases in the month of July is certainly one of those great ones.
The Sins of Aquarius is the first LP for this Australian band after releasing a demo, a split and last year, a three song EP called Whoresanna. These days I seem to gravitate towards albums like this one, with strong melodies and a blacked take on another genre, in this case, Death Metal. Over the span of seven tracks and more than 40 minutes, Mongrels Cross simply punish you with blistering riffs, rife with both brutality and melody. The crusty blackened vocals are a perfect mix to combine the genres in perfect fashion.
“Indulge the Temple” is a perfect introduction track to the band if you haven’t heard them. Over the course of six minutes they bring ridiculous riffage, fantastic soloing and both a death and almost thrash element to the table. All of the songs on the disc have a similar feel to them but there are so many different pieces to each tune that it never feels like you’re listening to the same thing over and over. It’s a headbanging tour de force of fierceness, downtempo grooves and epic-ness that’s definitely going on my potential best of 2012 list.
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The final release for July on Hells Headbangers (I’ll get to the middle two in the future) is the second album for New Jersey black metalers, The Royal Arch Blaspheme. We all know how shitty BM is in the US and frankly, I hated the first Royal Arch Blaspheme record. The game has changed with their sophomore record though.
The group is really the project of John Gelso of Profanatica and N. Imperial of Krieg (and about 100 other bands). They expanded their lineup to include two more scary dudes into the group (though I wonder how important that is since they aren’t mentioned by name in anything I’ve found on this album so far) whereas the first record was just the two of them.
They are a black metal band first and foremost but incorporate slower doom elements into the mix as well. The two records aren’t far apart in theory. The blueprint is the same for both but II feels much tighter and even more sinister than the first slab of blasphemic metal two years ago. The overall sound is very raw and crude in nature but the production on the new album is much better. That usually doesn’t fly with raw black metal but on II, it really brings out the devastating riffs throughout the disc. On a track like “Vama-Marga” you also get sucked down into the dirty muck of downtuned sludge.
II is very much a more cohesive record than the self-titled debut and totally vile throughout. It suffers a bit from being too long and overly repetitive but overall it beats the hell out of most USBM albums.
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Enabler is a hardcore crossover band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin that has grown over time as a band to crush skulls with chaos and hooks that are catchy as hell. All Hail the Void is exactly the type of hardcore that I dig – fierce riffs and high energy mixing with well written hooks that shows the band actually has some writing skills rather than just being able to play fast and scream loud.
Enabler have been around for a while now but they really started gaining momentum last year after releasing their Year One album and from an intense touring schedule. Their new album certainly builds on that momentum and opens the band up to an even bigger crowd. The previous record was also a fierce and pounding hardcore record but All Hail the Void really stands out for the superior songwriting this time around. In “False Prophet” they incorporate some crazy hardcore riffs and blend them with a death metal solo, while the title track a bit of a groove element to it.
The key track to the record is “The Heathens,” a melodic yet nonetheless punishing tune that features a riff so catchy that it may not leave your head for weeks. But really what makes the record great is the ability to mix a tune like that with a gut-punch like “Fuck Today” that’s simply relentless in its attack.
All Hail the Void is brutally intense and a pure kick to the skull if there ever was one. They are one of the featured bands on the Southern Lord tour this summer, so be prepared to sweat your ass off in the pit for these guys.
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Desalmado is a five-piece grindcore band from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I normally avoid Grindcore as a whole as the genre kind of plays out like the default style for people that really can’t write a tune to save their life. But I’ve listened to the debut LP from these guys for weeks now because it truly stands out from the piles of shit out there.
The group released a well received EP called Heriditas back in 2008 but since then haven’t released another disc. And since that was only 14 minutes long there certainly wasn’t much of a catalog to go off of as far as a career. But with their self-titled record they rip off the flesh of anyone in their path like they were on bath salts. I don’t know if I’ve ever understood one grindcore lyric in my life and these are in Portuguese too, so the lyrical aspect means nothing to me but vocally Caio Augusttus goes with both heavy growling and a bit of typical incomprehensible shrieking. The reason I like the record is because they mix the grind with some hardcore (“Odio Instintivo Contra a Realidade”) and thrash (“Falso Profeta”) to give the tunes some texture. It’s still grindcore in the end, so detractors of the genre may never even bother with it in the first place but it might be worth your time to be a little adventurous in this case.
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Albums currently on the potential best of 2012 list:
Christian Mistress, Possession
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Jorn, Bring Heavy Rock To the Land
Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light