SOS Metal Reviews: Austrian Death Machine "Double Brutal," Whiplash, Evile, and more…

AUSTRIAN DEATH MACHINE: DOUBLE BRUTAL

When will it end? Tim Lambesis returns with his brand of Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation metal with Austrian Death Machine’s double album aptly titled Double Brutal. The first disc contains 13 new metal jams served with a wink and a nod thanks to the subject matter and the rapidly getting stale Ahhnold vocalizations while the second disc tackles a slew of material from bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, and The Misfits. Supercharged with a slew of guest guitarists whose spicy solos downright save this beaten to death formula of dreadful skits in between songs with paint yourself in a corner topics, the time is ticking on the relevance and overall funniness of this project, yet it does manage to illicit a couple of chuckles in between flashes of crossover metal durability (“Who Told You You Could Eat My Cookies?”). Despite exhibiting twice the muscle and might as the last disc, Austrian Death Machine’s tired act is growing staler by the minute and losing steam just as fast. amazon.com — www.metalblade.com –Mike SOS

DIE HARD: NIHILSITIC VISION

From the opening “Hail Satan” invocation heard on “Into the Desolate Halls of Death,” Swedish trio Die Hard showcases that they don’t mess around while maintaining a solid old school death metal vibe which effortlessly revisits mantras and tones from the left hand path’s most incendiary offerings. Channeling the likes of Celtic Frost to Entombed on the 10-track Nihilistic Vision, this disc strikes with straightforward battering ram percussion (“Fed to the Lions”), crushing guitar riffs and a gruff vocal evilness, shaping this excursion’s descent into the abyss to be palatable for those who choose darkness. Yielding a raucous array of metallic fury that gets the blood pumping and the axes swinging (“Bloody War,” “Death Chasing the Flock of Mortals”), Die Hard follows the glory days of death metal template to perfection to create an unholy direct line from old to new. www.agoniarecords.com –Mike SOS

IMPOSTER SYNDROME: ROSE COLORED SABOTAGE

Resilient NYC rockers Imposter Syndrome continue the daunting mission of churning out edgy tunes brimming with grace on Rose Colored Sabotage. This five-track presentation illuminates this quirky quartet’s superb command of the signature jagged melody over sinewy groove concoction while Kristen Persinos’ silky smooth vocal style alluringly delivers intricate interpersonal lyrical content with arresting conviction (“Rose Colored Sabotage”). Possessing the comfort zone to crank guitars up and dig into a grunge groove (“Plastic Wrap”) as easily as slip back into an alt-rock meets Pink Floyd smorgasbord (“Black, One Sugar”), Imposter Syndrome’s shadowy aura and impressive musical dexterity fosters the lost art of organic composition that sets them apart from the pack, as this release aptly displays the tools necessary to build sturdy songs that progress to satisfying ends. www.impostorsyndrome.net –Mike SOS

KIRBY KRACKLE: KIRBY KRACKLE

Kirby Krackle is a niche band of the highest order, sitting on the tip-top of the pop culture bubble with their knack for developing songs custom made for geeks of the globe to break hearts and save damsels in distress to. This self-professed delicious nerd rock duo joins forces to rid the world of evil with a top-secret blend of acoustically driven adult alternative rock for the sci-fi sect. Fueled by an unbridled passion for the worlds of both comic books (“Marvelous Girls”, “One of the Guys”) and video games (“Naked Wii”, “Up, Up, Down, Down”), this Pacific Northwestern tandem’s whimsical delivery and comical tones assists the good time feel to sustain through this entire 10-track affair. While this eponymous offering is sure to go over the heads of those not in the know (the lyrics are teeming with insider references galore), Kirby Krackle have put together a smart and fun album meshing the wares of Barenaked Ladies, Bowling for Soup, Weezer, and Sugar Ray for fanboys and industry folk alike to sink their teeth into. www.kirbykracklemusic.com –Mike SOS

WHIPLASH: UNBORN AGAIN

The best thrash didn’t always come from the Bay Area, as cities both home and abroad also had a stake in the white high top and bullet belt game as well. Count New Jersey metal trio Whiplash in as one of the acts that walked amongst regional heavyweights like Overkill and Anthrax back in the day who have returned after a long hiatus armed with a 10-track release that makes references but doesn’t relive their salad days. While Unborn Again doesn’t aim to replicate the golden era, it does contain a solid array of catchy tracks that fall in line with the output of similar bands from the old school who’ve returned after a considerable length of time. Trading in trademarked white-knuckle velocity for newfound groove-laden crunch on cuts like “Swallow the Slaughter” and “Firewater,” Whiplash takes it down a notch with a simplistic and direct approach packed with an organic feel and a genuine snarl that many modern bands have a tough time establishing. Coming back to the scene with some alterations to their sound yet still able to summon the chops to throw a breakneck tempo down when necessary (“Pitbulls in the Playground,” “Feeding Frenzy”), the latest release by Whiplash may not be your older brother’s thrash metal, but it will do the trick for diehards who remember the band from their early days.  www.pulverised.net –Mike SOS

TEMPLE OF BAAL: LIGHTSLAYING RITUALS

Nine blasphemous blasts of charred metal arrive via French veteran troupe Temple of Baal on the unit’s latest offering Lightslaying Rituals. Exhibiting a primitive and punishing aggressiveness necessary to be considered lethal (“Vectors to the Void”) and a dastardly demonic wrath that effortlessly emits an authentically heartfelt sense of hatred (“Death Cult”), this disc dexterously melds black metal atmosphere and death metal brutality with flashes of thrash metal tumult to create a contemptuous sonic whirlwind glacially steeped in ‘90s extreme metal notoriety (“Black Sun of the Damned”). While those who’ve been around the block have heard the likes of this before from everyone from At the Gates and Entombed to Absu and Celtic Frost, the expert production, contagious songwriting (“Hate is My Name”) and overall disdain carried across the album captures a modern misanthropist vibe for the new age of underground to feast upon. www.agoniarecords.com –Mike SOS

LYE BY MISTAKE: FEA JUR

Ironic how an album that virtually transcends metal’s hardline traditional nuances in nearly every capacity winds up on one of the globe’s premier metal labels, yet such is the case with the latest offering by St. Louis outfit Lye By Mistake, the unit’s first without a singer. By opting to go the instrumental route, this technically proficient trio’s sophomore effort channels expected progressive metal with shards of Dream Theater, Rush, King Crimson, and Death amongst others fingered and deciphered from chaotic cacophonies like “Stag”. Yet this band is not in the least bit content with merely replicating glories of their peers, as the jaw dropping prowess, surprising sense of malleability and blistering playing ability showcased throughout the course of its eight-track duration veers into uncharted areas on numerous occasions without trepidation, pulling hunks of heavy higher minded goodness out along their free form fusion discovery mission (“Vanguard to Nowhere”). While the unconditioned may receive an instant migraine upon impact, Fea Jur is an album custom built for the listener prepared to explore and be taken aback with the virtuosity of three musicians at the top of their creative and performance peaks. www.metalblade.com –Mike SOS

FURIA: GRUDZIEN ZA GRUDNIEM

Polish black metal troupe Furia unleash a sinister seven-track affair whose blistering black metal assault is peppered with elements of forward-thinking metal to create a subversive musical entity whose merit lies far beyond their demonic inclinations. Equipped with rounds of angst-stricken vocals (with lyrics strictly in Polish) reminiscent of fellow purveyors of expansion Shining over atmospheric interludes, glacial guitars directly stripped from the works of the masters of the genre, foreboding militaristic marching rhythms, and an overpowering sense of bleakness oppressing the entire collection, Furia’s genuine disdain for mankind ascends from the catacombs long enough to obtain the required amounts of fresh blood to carry out evil’s bastardized biddings. www.lettheworldburn.org –Mike SOS

EVILE: INFECTED NATION

UK thrash metal upstarts Evile’s sophomore effort Infected Nations is an undeniable nine-track homage to the Golden Age of thrash that digs deep to excavate inspiration from some lesser known acts besides the Rushmore-esque Big Four. There’s a hearty smattering of Annihilator, Kreator, and Bay Area bashing that you can almost swore you heard from the likes of Vio-lence or Forbidden before pervading through the brazen Megadeth-like twin guitar explorations (“Now Demolition”, “Devoid of Thought”) as well as a discernibly thicker sound and slower pace than previously employed by the band (“Metamorphosis”) that manages to keep the head banging and the attitude intense while the band forges into a different subset of thrash metal waters. Rendering a mixed bag of B-list influences and lengthy tracks whose running times lend to spells of atmospheric meandering, this disc is a far cry from their debut yet definitely puts the band into a whole new light, fortifying their latest metallic mission with ambition that helps to fuse the elements together as well as help their thrash under the microscope approach escape full collapse. amazon.com — www.earache.com –Mike SOS

THE GATES OF SLUMBER: HYMNS OF BLOOD AND THUNDER

The Gates of Slumber’s spot on presentation of the NWOBHM and doom style shines on their fourth release Hymns of Blood and Thunder. This Indiana trio skillfully channels the creeping vibes of Candlemass, early Trouble, and St. Vitus to create a viscous wall of sound complete with brooding guitar solos (“The Doom of Aceldama”), thunderous drums (“Beneath the Eyes of Mars”), and a vocal warble that trembles with an authentic dollop of old school grit. Showcasing a dastardly sense of dynamics, this unit convincingly pours out hypnotically thick riffs and calculated rhythms a la Cathedral (“Descent into Madness”) yet can still break into a balls out heavy dirge a la anything Wino (“The Bringer of War”) a Dio-era Sabbathian double time chugger (“Chaos Calling”) and veer into ‘70s classic heavy metal territory without losing an ounce of gloom (“Age of Sorrow”). If you have a hankering for a solid slab of despair, this monolithic 10-track cornucopia of calamity may sound at times like a repeat but ultimately is a hard album to beat.  www.metalblade.com –Mike SOS

A STORM OF LIGHT: FORGIVE US OUR TRESPASSES

Bombastic and brainy, A Storm of Light’s sophomore effort Forgive Us Our Trespasses yields an intriguing potpourri of dynamic post metal nuances for those who enjoy latter day Isis or the galactic side of Mastodon. This Brooklyn unit’s sci-fi heavy headphone friendly 10-track offering supplies a wealth of epic and ethereal vibes thanks to a masterful balance of bold instrumentation and spoken word interludes a la Today is the Day, adding rich keyboard overlays and female vocals into their stoned and sprawling monolithic compositions, allowing them to unravel in the name of righteous exploration, not self-centered exploitation. Painting a picturesque model of an apocalyptic future while a host of special guests from the avant-garde metal sect make their impact via cameos (Jarboe, Lydia Lunch), ASOL’s unorthodox sense of ambiance could benefit from some self-editing down the road, but it does develop an advanced approach to gloom and doom metal that is downtrodden enough to fit in yet distinct enough to branch past the norm. www.neurotrecordings.com –Mike SOS

SHRINEBUILDER: SHRINEBUILDER

The term supergroup is tossed around these days like a football during a tailgate party but if there’s one band that deserves the moniker, it has to be the fearsome foursome known as Shrinebuilder. This top-secret quartet comes into the light and features the talents of Wino, Scott Kelly, Dale Crover, and Al Cisneros. If you are unfamiliar with any of these guys and their pedigree, please stop reading this now and bone up on your history. For those who vigilantly follow metal’s underground scene, this is your go-to mini-album of the year, an eponymous five-track offering reportedly recorded in three days whose imminent strike and psychedelic overtones take on a life of its own without abandoning the roots from which it came, sounding as if four admirals have taken equal charge on one massive battleship’s course through the seas of an alternative world. Chock full of doom metal lethargy, swirls of stoner rock goodness, and oodles of avant-garde metal ambiance, this unit has made an album that transcends the usual bullet points and can be summed up in one word: awesome. Get this now and become enchanted with your new favorite band. www.neurotrecordings.com –Mike SOS

HELLBASTARD: THE NEED TO KILL

Unapologetic crust punk attitude colliding with raging old school thrash metal is what rejuvenated UK troupe Hellbastard bring to the table on their latest release The Need To Kill. Throw an unorthodox sense of whimsy and a steadfast metallic assault into the picture and watch the cacophony of crossover chaos commence, complete with the occasional oddball banjo interlude trapped inside a tumultuous Exodus-esque groove dripping with plundered punk charm just for the hell of it. Keeping the listener on their toes with flurries of rapid-fire riffs and blasting rhythms channeling the vibes of Entombed, Suicidal Tendencies, Sacred Reich, Discharge and The Haunted, this disc provides a shining example of unsanitized underground metal at its most boisterous and visceral. amazon.com — www.selfmadegod.com –Mike SOS

JOHN WILLIAM GORDON: TECHNOT

Calling his modern blend of music “mutant jazz”, acclaimed San Francisco guitarist John William Gordon contrives a fiery fusion that deftly combines jazz and rock auras on latest release Technot. This 10-track eclectic exhibition throws down a dazzling and dizzying instrumental smorgasbord showcasing both Gordon’s smoking six-string benedictions with the rest of his trio’s solid chops propelling a smoldering experimental take on traditional standards and practices. Imparting a world music exercise for outer space, Gordon and crew consistently display a vigilant virtuosity that commands attention while their free-form jams like “GVOL” and “Back Room Flow” convey the proper atmosphere needed which increases the headspace in order to wander.  www.johnwilliamgordon.com –Mike SOS

EASTER MONKEYS: SPLENDOR OF SORROW

A reissue of Cleveland cult post punk unit Easter Monkeys and their seminal album Splendor of Sorrow comes courtesy of Smog Veil, whose 15-track release digs deep to unearth as much of this revered squad’s recorded history as possible. Featuring a host of bonus tracks and a DVD of a performance taken from a 1982 show at the Agora, this band’s unique darkened no frills punk rock approach and pomp-less and meandering yet hard hitting psychedelic fits featured a pre-Pere Ubu Jim Jones (who really stands out here) and truly showcased a band whose imbued underground status and trailblazing scope definitely deserves a spin or two for the subversive rock lover in us all. www.smogveil.com –Mike SOS

MOJO RISING: FEEL WHAT YOU FEEL

Aussie dance-rock team Mojo Rising meld the best elements from both the excessive ‘80s commercial front a la INXS and Duran Duran and the manufactured funk-driven thump of bands like Maroon 5 and the cheeky balladeering of acts like Hootie and the Blowfish together to form this duo’s five-track offering Feel What You Feel. Decorated with a dash of blue-eyed soul worthy of more than a good night out on the town that helps an overall sense of authenticity to peak out from the Pro Tools sanitizer, this slickly produced effort makes up for its near deal-breaking lack of lyrical depth with a slew of dynamically charged grooves inside of well-arranged compositions bound to make a dance floor hopping. Mojo Rising’s blend of middle of the road rock and pop goes down smooth and keep spirits high for certain, but for those who keep a keen interest in the mainstream music machine, this disc is bound to sound all too familiar to make it worthy of spins beyond a random good night out on the town. www.myspace.com/mojorisingband.com –Mike SOS

ELDER: REFLECT

Post-hardcore trio Elder makes a passionate return with their latest six-track endeavor Reflect. This Philadelphia-based troupe once again provide the proper balance of lush loud-soft dynamic shifts and old school DIY hardcore awareness on songs like “Friendly Fire” yet demonstrate an abrasive edge in 1:27 with the scalding tune “Vultures”. Throw a pinch of posi-core posturing, a dash of cosmic math-rock riffage and a hearty hunk of purposeful yet slightly grating screamo vocals into the mix and this squad’s boisterous bevy of fluid fluctuations are bound to score big with both the disaffected youth of today who happily lap up third-hand experience along side disillusioned adults who never let go of the underlying principles. amazon.com — www.forgeagainrecords.com –Mike SOS

MONGREL: REVENGE

Mongrel reveals a no nonsense raucous punk/metal dimension on their five-track excursion Revenge. Brimming with street punk savvy and dripping with inner city contempt, this Massachusetts quartet’s aggressive attitude is reminiscent of a hybrid of Circus of Power, Scatterbrain, and Black Flag, as they maintain a melodic side while spewing venom with reverence to the early days of the punk and hardcore scene on cuts like “Butterknife Suicide” and  “Catharsis.” Direct and to the point, Mongrel’s frantic pace with attention to hooks projects a rowdy and rebellious aura perfect when elevating the level of madness is at the top of the to-do list. www.mongrelband.com –Mike SOS

GAZA: HE IS NEVER COMING BACK

Utah noise metal mavens Gaza return with a crushing 14-track sophomore effort entitled He Is Never Coming Back. Scouring the bottom of the metal barrel, this sludge-infused squad lay down a relentless barrage of disfigured rhythms, heaving vocals, and viscous dissonant riffs that protrude from the speakers like molten lava from a volcanic eruption. Unsettling and downright ugly at times, this disc melds the abrasiveness of Unsane with the technical prowess of Today is the Day to comprise a caustic metal cacophony armed with an authentic sense of anger and dread that will leave even the most hardened metal listener a bit shaken up. www.blackmarketactivities.com –Mike SOS

THREAT SIGNAL: VIGILANCE

Even though Canadian modern metal crew Threat Signal have undergone a significant amount of lineup changes within their relatively short life span, it has served as merely a minor deterrent from releasing their self-produced sophomore effort Vigilance. This 13-track juggernaut endorses the piledriving and ultra-pasturized processed sound of bands like Fear Factory (whose Christain Wolbe Olders produced their first album) and Soilwork with loads of Swedish death metal elements a la In Flames and American metalcore structures from the likes of Shadows Fall (“Another Source of Light”) and Killswitch Engage (”Through My Eyes”) strewn in the mix with a smidgen of melodic nu-metal providing the arena-filling sing-along choruses that assists this band’s crossover appeal (it doesn’t hurt that lead singer Jon Howard bares an uncanny vocal similarity to Chester from Linkin Park either, depending on who you ask). There’s no question that Threat Signal is a talented band with a penchant for writing a catchy song that packs a damaging heft behind it (“In Repair”), but attentive metal fans have repeatedly heard much of the excellently executed brazen attack heard on Vigilance before from numerous other acts in not so different forms, rendering this disc as a solid yet non-essential album.www.nuclearblastusa.com –Mike SOS

LACUNA COIL: SHALLOW LIFE

Italian Goth-metal troupe Lacuna Coil scoops the remaining portion of their original sound out of their repertoire and inserts a streamlined pop-metal sheen a la Evanescence in its place on the squad’s latest album Shallow Life. Produced and co-wrote by song doctor extraordinaire Don Gilmore (Linkin Park, Good Charlotte), this collaboration results in decisively less metal with an upgraded electronica-like façade firmly in place where vocals (mainly Cristina’s) are the order of the day. As for the rest of the music, it may as well be damned, as the overall sanitized presentation sans an incessant use of keyboard and space filling synth elements used for Hollywood movie soundtrack atmosphere barely allows guitars enough room to flesh out colossal choruses heard on cuts like “Not Enough.” Championing a subdued and simplified form of songwriting to appeal to a broader audience, Lacuna Coil’s latest endeavor is far from a departure for the band and actually can be argued as a logical step in the band’s sound, but buyer beware; it abandons the band’s intrinsic sense of darkness in favor for a glossy and overpowering beam of bright light, leaving the unit to merely mingle in the shadows when they formerly ruled the roost. amazon.com — www.centurymedia.com –Mike SOS

BLACK SKIES: HEXAGON

North Carolina’s Black Skies summon the might of Southern sludge metal on the trio’s aptly titled six-track sojourn Hexagon. This squad’s undeniable admiration for Black Sabbath also weighs heavy on their multi-influenced yet easily pegged mix of steamroller swing, as gloomy guitar crunch a la Trouble, filling-rattling bass explosions, tasty yet durable percussion, and a grizzled vocal delivery not unlike High on Fire round out this outfit’s stoner rock on steroids aura. Supplying a cavalcade of gigantic grooves and lumbering rhythms oozing with the kind of hypnotic riffs that sound so familiar yet still warrant multiple hits of the repeat button, Hexagon is a perfect addition to your collection of molasses-infused metal, best propped alongside the likes of Alabama Thunderpussy, labelmates Eyehategod and Weedeater for logistical reasons. www.imbetterthaneveryonerecords.com –Mike SOS

PERE UBU: LONG LIVE PERE UBU

Cleveland, OH avant-garde garage punk pioneers Pere Ubu made the type of music that bucked trends, shunned spotlights, and kept the mainstream as far away as possible throughout their career of cult status and latest offering Long Live Pere Ebu is no different. This unit, formed back in 1975, is an acquired taste for certain, as the music of Pere Ubu is an ever evolving medium that consistently presents a challenge to the ears, exploring art punk’s outer most reaches with innovative arrangements, quirky vocals, oddball instrumentation and an absurdist’s viewpoint at the forefront, This time around, the band comes full circle, interpreting the much-maligned Alfred Jarry surrealist play they take their name from into a working musical form, a task which renders an off-kilter old time serial radio version of the production (which Pere Ubu brought to life in a UK theater) chock full of David Thomas and company’s trademark protean fractured musical detachments and provocative audio juxtapositions. Best experienced uninterrupted in its entirety and definitely not for the easily offended, Pere Ubu’s tackles this ambitious and somewhat nostalgic endeavor with an ambient panache as only a band of their caliber can muster. www.smogveilrecords.com –Mike SOS

3: REVISIONS

Cleaning out closets and revamping older works, the Woodstock-based prog rock troupe 3 trudge their poppier side through modern sensibilities and the outcome is Revisions. While this band is usually known to champion a hybrid style that works from a progressive rock foundation and branches beyond usual limits, this release relies on a laid back borderline coffee house aura throughout its duration, definitively applying a contemporary stamp on these 11 tracks, some of which date as far back as 1998. Acting more to tie loose ends together to help early works sound more relevant, while 3’s musicianship (especially Joey Eppard’s breathtaking fretwork) is unquestionably masterful, this offering of alterations seems as more of a contractual obligation than a proper disc, making this incongruous step for the band a treat to appease longtime fans as well as a chance to reel in those who prefer the unit’s softer side. www.metalblade.com –Mike SOS

THE NETWORK: BISHOP KENT MANNING

Produced by Kurt Ballou, the sophomore effort by New Hampshire’s The Network meld noise metal and mathcore mayhem on the 10-track Bishop Kent Manning. This coarse and caustic collection of tracks string together a tale of a televangelist on his death knell, yet the suffocated and strained screams and strangled vocals barely reveal anything but utter chaos, further backed by a dastardly attack of thunderous percussion, granite smashing bass, and abrasively angular guitar work. Channeling unbridled rage like many of the bands who have graced the God City complex before them, The Network’s furious and ferocious assault does let up in spots to issue a quick breather (“Corpse Paint”), but overall bestows an oppressive sonic crush where barrages of brutal and belligerent modern hardcore converge. amazon.com — www.blackmarketactivities.com –Mike SOS

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Mike SOS is a frequent contributor and great friend to the Gears of Rock. Be sure to check out Mike SOS’ bands Seizure Crypt and SOS. They will rock your balls off!

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