PICK OF THE WEEK: Primordial’s ‘Where Greater Men…’ bursts with fire-breathing conviction

PrimordialThere are iconic voices that have made their mark throughout heavy metal history and that can be name-dropped easily when rattling them off the top of one’s head. Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, and Geoff Tate are some of those who drove metal to where it is today and are instantly recognizable when you hear them.

We don’t have a whole lot of those voices today, as sounds have homogenized, the amount of artists has grown out of control, and the art of actual signing in metal has gone by the wayside. But one singer stands out among today’s sea of voices, that being Alan “A.A. Nemtheanga” Averill, frontman for Primordial. Maybe I’m going to sound over the top here, but he is one of the greatest voices of our time, a man who injects power, anger, tenacity, rebellion, and sorrow into every one of his lines, and he’s never uttered a word that wasn’t packed to the gills with meaning. Yes, he’s also lent his voice to other bands such as Blood Revolt, Twilight of the Gods, and Dread Sovereign, but in Primordial is where he sounds most at home. The band is back with their excellent new record “Where Greater Men Have Fallen,” another collection that unearths violent history, casts arrows at the forces of society that hold us back and persecute us, and leads the way with raised swords and torches ablaze. They are Ireland’s greatest musical import. And they would never force their way onto your iPhones.

Inlaysheet.epsThe new record, their eighth and first since 2011′s wrenching “Redemption at the Puritan’s Hands,” is awash in both Primordial’s most recent sounds but also reaches back to their earlier days, when they were more of a black metal band. A lot of that thorniness lies in Averill’s vocals that show harshness on a couple of songs he hasn’t displayed here in a while. The rest of the band–guitarists Ciaran MacUiliam and Michael O’Floinn, bassist Pol MacAmlaigh, and drummer Simon O’ Laoghaire–also are at their best, providing color, texture, animosity, and metallic glory to supplement Averill’s heritage-laden, war-torn tales that make you realize that while others often forget their history, these guys never do and never will. It’s in their blood.

The title track is the opening opus, and what a rousing welcome it is. The music gets warmed up, like a fire catching wind, and once Averill howls, “Go!” it’s off with hammers away. The singing and lyrics grip, especially when Averill demands, “Pray for mercy for release,” as the rest of the band drums up a backing as boisterous as the words. The band does an expert job building toward the finale, and Averill delivers a time-wearied message of, “You will always bury your sons,” digging back into that adage of never learning from history. The next two cuts offer a bit of a pullback, though they’re both intense in their own ways. “Babel’s Tower” is a calculated, cold-blooded cut, with the guitars churning, sorrowful vocals soaring, and the whole thing dripping in black drama. “Come the Flood” has guitars raining down like needles, with Averill taking on the role of storyteller, recounting “1,000 years of rain” while he stalks and unleashes foreboding messages. “Wash the blood from these lands,” he urges, as acoustics guitars rise up and add a rustic feel to what’s otherwise a gory tale. “The Seed of Tyrants” is one of those aforementioned callbacks to their earlier days, as you’re jarred awake by the shouted accusation of, “Traitor!” as the band delves into black metal stylings and some of the grislier music they’ve offered up in years. The music is hammering and vicious, the vocals flood with violent intent, and just when you’re in the midst of chaos, the track releases suddenly.

“Ghosts of Charnel House” is kicked open with punishing drums and a devious groove that thrashes away and lets the guys get loose. The riffs are spacious and atmospheric, a nice touch from the band, and there is melody just flooding everywhere. Averill sings heartily with a touch of gruffness to his voice, though he bellows mightily in spots, and for the most part this is a more reflective track. “The Alchemist’s Head” has a clean, cold open before vicious growls and waves of menace take over. Things feel ominous, with a touch of storminess dressing the music, and the bulk of this thing is like being trapped on a boat out at sea, with gusty winds and rains threatening your very survival. The abrupt end is the only thing that makes you feel remotely safe. “Born to Night” continues that sense of danger on the waters, with thunder and waves crashing, and the long, involved intro sets the scene. Of course, the things bursts open, with tremendous, meaty riffs leading the way, and Averill spitting, “You gaze into the abyss, and it gazes back at you.” Once again, he’s luring you into his bleak tales, with the band creating a backing that is just as compelling as the words coming from our minstrel. Closer “Wield Lightning to Split the Sun” has a lush acoustic intro, with the drums joining to kick up dust and the melodies sounding downright kingly. As expected, the emotion is gushing from the guys, as Averill pokes tradition and pays homage to his surroundings, wailing, “Who would pray to anything but the mountains?” The guitars weep in spots, glow over the din in other places, and the song winds to a deliberate end, letting the music and the words geminate and hopefully take root in your mind and heart.

Primordial remain one of the most important bands in all of metal, and they also are one of the most battle tested and honest. These guys will never mail one in, because it’s just not in their DNA. As a result, “Where Greater Men Have Fallen” is another record bursting with passion, emotion, and conviction, and if you wanted to argue it’s one of the best of their entire run, you won’t get an argument out of me. We need more bands like this, more singers like Averill. If we got them, the metal world would be a much better place.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.primordialweb.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.indiemerch.com/metalbladerecords

For more on the label, go here: http://www.metalblade.com/us/

The Flight of Sleipnir’s ‘V.’ is a cosmic, psychedelic explosion that’s their best album to date

SleipnirHearing a band you’ve long followed make leaps-and-bounds progressions on a record is one of the most exciting experiences in all of music consumption. We had a case earlier this year with the great Morbus Chron, whose second record “Sweven” was a game changer not just for them but for all of death metal. There’s a reason that’s still played regularly in my house nearly a year after its release.

Now comes “V.” the new full-length from the Flight of Sleipnir, the unclassifiable Colorado-based duo who have been making compelling records since their 2009 debut “Algin + Berkanan.” They flew relatively low under the radar on the small yet steady Eyes Like Snow label, putting out some of the most mesmerizing arrays of black metal, doom, and folk anywhere. The fact that Napalm Records swooped in and grabbed these guys for their epic fifth record is proof that hard work and great craftsmanship indeed still pay off, and they responded to what would be their newfound expanded audience with a record that redefines what these guys can do and ups the ante for every band going in metal. They retain their heaviness and savagery, but on “V.,” they inject more vocal melodies and an enhanced psychedelic experimentation to make their sound more full bodied and dynamic.

Sleipnir coverThe Flight of Sleipnir, who take their name from Odin’s great eight-legged steed, are but two men. Clayton Cushman handles guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals, while David Csicsely contributes drums, guitars, and vocals. These guys have played together in other bands including Archeronian Dirge and Throcult, and it’s clear their union in this band is growing stronger and more imaginative by the day. This is another record that, sadly, isn’t getting the adulation it deserves because of its late-year release. But make no mistake, any writer worth his or her salt will have this album at least in consideration for best-of-2014 honors, if they don’t have it affixed high atop their list. It’s that good, that mind-altering, and you’ll be making a massive mistake ignoring this incredible epic.

“Headwinds” is the first gush of air that greets you, floating in on clean, spacious melodies that are delicate and folk-led, making you feel like you’re traveling on foot in the middle of a forest somewhere. Lush vocal harmonies seep in, and then the power ignites, with shrieks spreading over the cascading instrumentation, and the drama thickening and enthralling. The guitars get gazey, the energy crushes like a tidal wave, and the harshness mixes with beauty to make for a heavily textured package. “Sidereal Course” has a great psychedelic opening, one that’ll get inside you and make your blood rush to your head. There is breezy singing that matches the ambiance nicely, with atmospheric guitar lines leading the way. Naturally, the song explodes, heads into the cosmos for inspiration, and has a pummeling ending that spills right into “The Casting” that clobbers right away. There are amazing, enthralling progressions during this one, with the vocals sounding both grisly and majestic. There are warm folk underpinnings that add deeper colors and a conclusion that is flushed with cold oxygen. “Nothing Stands Obscured” is utterly gorgeous at the start, with the spacey melodies and soft vocals making it perfect fodder for night sky staring and dreamy exploration. Eventually the bottom drops out, as destructive riffs and fierce growls blast into the scene and ignite great fires. The tempo keeps switching back and forth, leading you through tumult and calm, and once it ends on a blazing note, you’ll have no doubt you’ve been on an exhausting journey.

“Gullveig” has a super tripped-out start that’s like nothing else in their arsenal and might make you wonder if you weren’t slipped some mysterious medication. Along with mid-tempo guitars strumming come these lava-bubbling lines that are absolutely infectious. Yeah, it gets gritty eventually, as you know it will, giving you as chance to thrash about, but it always goes back into those intense, bubbling early sections that make this track stand out from the rest. Great imagination, and a track that gets better every time I hear it. “Archaic Rites” is a haunting one, with slow drumming leading into the body of the cut and lush female vocals sitting behind the smoke to add a different element of beauty. Raw and grimy guitar work darkens the scene for a while, though you eventually get back into fresh air with flutes lending a gentle hand and keyboards wooshing in to thicken the fog. Sure, that calm eventually disintegrates, and the climax is built with battle horns that sound like they’re signaling the beginning of a climactic battle. That leads to album finale “Beacon of Black Horizon,” a cut that is blistering beyond belief in its opening minutes, stomping and kicking up dirt like the beginning of that intense war. The vocals are thorny and fearsome, with both dealing penetrating blows, but that’s all before pulling back and letting slower, soaring melodies take shape. This is quite a trip, this 11:26-long epic, twisting and turning, churning and burning, and letting intense colors bleed out and stain the ground. The howl of, “Return to the hall of your fathers!” is dressed in both triumph and tragedy, as you’re not sure if that arrival is on this plane or the next, and the cut has a rustic, yet noisy finish that slams an exclamation point at the end of this album like a battle axe being sunk into the earth. Just breath-taking and exciting stuff here.

The Flight of Sleipnir’s incredible progression from their meek beginnings to where they are now has been a pleasure to experience. “V.” is their ultimate statement so far, the best and most realized work of their careers, a document that deserves to be fully absorbed and praised on high. Hopefully the record doesn’t trickle away with 2014, a lost gem that had an unfortunate release date. This is one of the most creative, infectious records of the year, and you’ll be committing a sin against metal if you don’t seek out “V.” and explore every crevice.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.theflightofsleipnir.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://shop.napalmrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.napalmrecords.com/

Unsacred, Vorde deliver their opposing perspectives on black metal with late-year releases

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Unsacred

I know I’ve whined relentlessly about this, but man alive, there has been a ton of really good music released late in 2014. Maybe it’s a rib on all of us writers who love to be the first ones to register our best-of lists in like, you know, late October. Even I find that annoying, which is why I don’t publish mine until late December. I don’t care if you’re first.

Waiting to consume everything means you give every record and every band an equal chance, and there are two damn good black metal records coming out late in the year that I wonder if they’ll get a proper shake from national magazines and bloggers. I’m not saying they’re certain to make the list here at Meat Mead Metal, but at least everyone involved with these two blistering records will know they got a fair chance. These albums also should please black metal fans with expanded palates for the genre, as the two bands we’ll discuss today could not be more different from each other sonically. Both deliver the fire, and they should heat you up as the nights grow cold and you need something to thaw your heathen heart.

Unsacred coverUp first are Richmond, Va., pounders Unsacred, whose new release “False Light” comes your way via the always reliable Forcefield Records. Their sound is raw and vicious, with their mission being igniting the coals, pouring an unnecessary amount of lighter fluid on it, and daring any moron with no sense to get near it. There’s some crust and doom in their sound as well, but for the most part, it’s straight-ahead, rip-through-your-body violence that flat out demolishes. The band—bassist/vocalist Hunter McCarthy, guitarist Miguel Falcon, drummer Scott Bartly—considers this seven-track, 22-minute mauler a full-length, but if you want to consider it an EP, then who cares? They’ll be too busy stomping your guts in to mind for even a second.

The title track kicks off this crazed piece of chaos, ripping open with noise and harsh vocals, complete musical detonation, and a dizzying groove that could leave you maimed. Pretty damn good start to this thing, but there’s no time to breathe as they blast into “Idle,” a song with great riffs, strong melodies lurking behind the blaze, and growls that sound like they’re out for your blood. The band stomps forward with an unforgiving pace, continuing the beating right up to the bitter end of the track. “Plague” changes things up a bit, with a thick drone setting the stage and some doomy moments rising like a fog. But raw growls explode, with the band hitting on a pitch-black groove, and even some spacious guitar work adds oxygen to what’s otherwise a total demolition. “Erode” lives up to its name right away, with feedback eating away and the band launching into a raw, charging tempo treated with demonic-style shrieking vocals. The guitars take on a punk feel, and the drums burst, with the tortured wail of, “Why won’t this just end?” indicating its creators could use some mercy too.

“Void II” unleashes more inventive riffs before they slip into a thrashy section that’s violent and disruptive. The song blasts open, with a fluid black metal-fed melody leading the charge, tricky guitar parts keeping things confusing, and the track hitting on mind-altering tempo shifts that should jar your body around. “Sun” lets the drums spiral and confound, with noise leading toward chunky riffs, and even some sludgy terrain encountered, with McCarthy’s shouts of, “I woke up to a fire burning,” that are sobering in their delivery. Closer “Cage” warns, “Give up! The end is near!” as the band pours on apocalyptic madness, relentless speed, and a vicious sense of hopelessness that brings this smasher to a close. This is volatile, crushing black metal that’s played with no frills and no concern given over who they hurt along the way.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/unsacredva?ref=br_tf

To buy the album (out Dec. 9), go here: http://shop.forcefieldrecords.org/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/site/

Vorde coverOn the other end of the spectrum come NYC beasts Vorde, one of the strangest sounding, psychologically messed up bands in all of black metal. There’s nothing expected about this band, certainly nothing predictable in their DNA, and when they stretch their mangy black wings, there’s nothing but fright to behold. These mysterious, faceless ghouls (made up of members of Fell Voices, Ruin Lust, and Anchorites) make dizzying, ferocious sounds, and the vocals really stand out as the strangest element on their self-titled first release (a joint release by Psychic Violence and Fallen Empire). They sound like they’re emanating from the throat of an alien priest hosting a séance, and if you’re looking for sing-along lines and things to yell back live, you’ll be searching for a long time. Meanwhile, the band will be lurking behind you to capture you and force feed you their occult messages.

The oddness begins with the “Intro,” a brief, chilling track that leads into “Hatewave,” a song that begins on an aggressive, bloody note, with the voice wailing as if in the midst of a trance and the band sitting in the background building a wall of fury. The vocals remain creaky and blood-curdling, and the destruction keeps piling up until the song finally comes to its finish. “Transformation of the Vessel” is the shortest full track at 4:20, with weird vocal transmissions again taking the spotlight and the music absolutely blaring in the most oppressive manner possible. There are dark, sinister melodies that snake into the track, the guitars get tangled and hypnotic, and the warbled final words leave you with a sense of mystery and fear. “Blood Moon” runs 9:06 and begins on a trickling deathrock note. Moaned howls lead into the music opening up and eventually lurching growls make this song feel inhuman and unsettling. The composition sounds like it is trying to raise long-dead spirits, and once those ghouls return, the band finishes you off with carefully meted-out horror.

“Crown of Black Flame” is a 10:33-long behemoth, the lengthiest track on the album and in many ways, the most deadly. The dreary guitars that adorn the first part remind a bit of Xasthur’s deeper cuts, the ones where you feel like your own demise might be welcome. The music is snarled and strange, and mysterious vocals arrive just before the thing blows open and gets both powerful and heavy. The vocals turn to desperate, almost like pained cries that will not be soothed, the guitars make ghostly, charnel winds, and a cosmic frigidity ends this one and leads directly into 8:50 closer “Funeral Vortex.” That track is forceful, melodic, and deadly, with an alien temperament to the vocals, of course, and lots of tempo changeups to keep you alert. About halfway through, things get really ugly and vicious, and even the vocals take on more of a deathy feel, with the music starting to cascade like dying stars meeting Earth. Things even reach into gothic, New Wave territories before sinking into the darkest, dampest reaches of land. This is a scary, disarming experience like no other metal band can provide. Approach with caution, because once you submit, you’re never coming back.

For more on the band, go here: https://soundcloud.com/vorde

To buy the album, go here: http://psychicviolence.bigcartel.com/

Or here: http://bandcamp.fallenempirerecords.com/album/vorde

For more on the label, go here: http://psychicviolencerecords.blogspot.com/

And here: http://www.fallenempirerecords.com

These are two tremendous late-year additions to the black metal canon, with the only crime either committed is putting music out there beyond the point when many people are still paying attention. Both Unsacred and Vorde are the real deal, each working on building scary altars on their respective ends of black metal’s killing floors and standing as two of the genre’s most promising newer acts.

Fortress bring depressive doom, dark, creative riffs on lurching debut album ‘Unto the Nothing’

Tip-on Gatefold OUTSIDE - left pocket glued shutFrustration is welling up here like rushing water jamming into a stubborn dam of mud, sticks, and leaves, with that only being able to hold for so long. Look, lots of people have it was way worse, and most of my issue is made of daily annoyances that are doing an awesome job stock-piling. That said, I’m not in King Happiness mode at the present time.

I was sitting down over the weekend to give a final critical listen to Fortress’ debut long player “Unto the Nothing,” a misery-inducing, depressing, dark collection of slowly meted-out doom that felt just how my brain was functioning. Wallowing in the muck, letting negativity have its way (which I argue can be a good, productive thing), and mentally lashing out at things that bother me only seemed to go better when taking on these seven tracks. The Hagerstown, MD., band piles sludge, funeral doom, and any element of sorrow and anger into their music. It certainly won’t pick you up when you’re feeling down. It’ll kick you and scrape at your cuts and bruises, especially the mental ones. It’ll drag you on a long, brutal journey that, if you can’t ride the bumps and use the music as a form of catharsis, you’re going to wind up a shaking, heaving mess.

Fortress is the work of three individuals, that being guitarist/vocalist Chaz Campbell, bassist/vocalist NAM, and drummer Andy Myers. There are so many riffs here, and not just ones that bring skullduggery. There is dark, thorny melody beneath much of what’s going on here, and a death blues pulse also beats relentlessly. If you’re a fan of doom bands as diverse as Aldebaran, St. Vitus, Mournful Congregation, Eyehategod, and, of course, the mighty Sabbath, you’ll find plenty of meaty bits here to devour while you’re being reminded over and over again the pressure pushing down on your psyche as you endure everyday existence. But it’s all done so damn creatively, you might not even mind you’re being reminded of all of this. The band’s just that damn good.

“Cost of Freedom,” the shortest song on the record, gets things started with clean guitars that work their way into heavy buzzing and drawn-out passages designed to evoke the dreariest of emotions. The growls are harsh and unfriendly, oppressive noise hangs in the air, and the track bleeds out into the night. “Fight the Son” is a crusher, with the opening strains rumbling and crumbling hard, and a grisly melody swimming beneath the mud. The song pounds slowly and heavily, like they’re making you wait and anticipate the blows you know are coming, with howls of, “The son will fall!” lying alongside the deliberate, killer riffs and devastating power. “Lies and Fears” is the longest song at 11:11, and it starts in a haze of drone that smothers and boils until some Sabbath-style riffs break down the wall. The growls are hissed and deadly, with lines such as, “Stand up to meet your maker,” coming across like a threat and not an invitation. There are clean and ominous moments, making your bloodstream slow down due to ice floe, but eventually filthy melodies return and dress the back end of the track in evil intent.

“Fortress of Gods” is built on chunky riffs and punchy playing, with a nice, slow groove setting up shop and pushing the track forward. The passage feels deadly and foreboding, with warnings of, “This is your new church, worship,” and the infrastructure of this thing feels like it’s closing in on you, with the only end result being your guts splattered everywhere. “The Nothing” has piercing guitar shrieks, a drubbing tempo, and slowly delivered growls that are making certain you receive the message of, “You’ve been broken, this is your fate,” so that there is no misunderstanding. A female voice sits behind the mire, offering a brief sense of beauty to what’s otherwise horrific, and a grumbling monologue walks hand in hand with wailing noise as the cut fades away. “Stolen Graves” trickles cleanly like a muddy stream at first before there’s a vicious power surge and monstrous growls that break through the surface. The arrival of “a new level of hatred” is announced, as elegant melodies similar to what Pallbearer do so well bleed forth, showing different colors and sides of the band. The whole thing glimmers and glows with energy, giving you a serious jolt unlike anything else on this album. “Dead Alone” is a bonus cut available via download for those who buy the vinyl. As you might guess, it’s totally worth it, bristling with power and fury, dressed in noisy chaos, and again inviting melodies that can haunt and cause your imagination to burst with life. Not a bad thing considering most of this record is dour and sans hope.

This is a perfect complement to seasonal depression. It could be the soundtrack, come to think of it. Fortress is a lumbering beast of a machine, and “Unto the Nothing” is an awesome late-year addition to 2014′s bubbling doom pool, and it’s one you should go out of your way to hear, especially as the annoyances of the final weeks of the year come to roost. It’s OK to be miserable, and Fortress will help you get the best out of the muck.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fortress.of.gods

To buy the album, go here: http://www.store.unholyanarchy.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.unholyanarchy.com/

Dallas death trio Baring Teeth sharpen their blades on killer ‘Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins’

Baring TeethI have trouble waking up in the mornings sometimes. I just can’t be motivated to move by the annoying alarm I set on my phone, and I need something more forceful and shocking to jar me awake and get me moving on my day.

Perhaps setting my alarm to play something from Baring Teeth would do the trick. This Dallas-based death metal trio creates music that isn’t shocking for any of the normal death metal standards but instead for how they deliver the goods. The music is choppy but atmospheric, violent yet thought-provoking, and it’s impossible to sit still during their records because so damn much is going on. That’s again the case with their second album “Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins,” a platter that’s sure to rip you right out of your bed, leaving you wondering what’s going on and how you should react to such tremendous racket. Their style is mathy, bewildering, intellectually aggressive, and heavy as hell, making them one of the most interesting bands in the sometimes heartless world of technical death.

Baring Teeth coverThe band used to go by the name Soviet, but they changed their moniker to the more fitting Baring Teeth and delivered their debut record “Atrophy” in 2011 on Willowtip Records. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Andrew Hawkins, bassist/vocalist Scott Addison, and drummer Jason Roe, these guys make a special kind of noise. It should satisfy those who want things brutal and guttural, as Baring Teeth deliver that in large doses. But it also should find favor with listeners who want something a little more challenging for their brain and ears, similar to what groups such as Gorguts, Gigan, Krallice, and Artificial Brain have to offer. Trust me, these cuts will get your head spinning, and at eight tracks and a slim, trim 38 minutes, it is perfectly paced and just the right serving amount.

“An Illusion of Multiple Voices” would be a weird way to begin a record for any band other than Baring Teeth. The sounds bleed in, making it feel like something out of a fever dream, before machine-like chugging enters the picture and sends everything into disarray for most of its two minutes. “Mountain” spews guitar work all over the place, sending you into a state of controlled madness. The melodies buzz hard, and there’s a futuristic, scientific feel to it all, while the vocals are grisly and forceful. It’s both mind altering and chest bruising. “Visitant” wastes no time blowing down the doors, with thick guitars chugging before everything is sent on a rocket to outer space. This is some strange, compelling fun, with the song taking its time and the sounds boiling in a soup of its own filth, allowing the flavors to intersperse perfectly. Mmm, gross. “The Great Unwashed” has a titanic entrance, with the band going for broke and unloading thick, burly melodies that sound as scary as they do creative. The back end of the song has the band delving into speed and playing that could eat away at the psyches of anyone who regularly falls prey to panic.

“Terra Nullius” unfurls slowly, dripping and lurching, covering the whole thing in a thick, cold fog. This instrumental cut feels formless and scary during most of its run, with guitars stabbing where they must, and the rest of the elements soaking and bubbling. Finally, everything comes together, and the band hits on a loopy assault designed to maim. “Dripping Sun” bounces all over the place from the start, with everything stretching to far-off boundaries and the vocals coming at you as if they’re being transmitted by razor blades. The drums absolutely explode on this one, providing the lion’s share of the punishment, while the dizzying fury that results subsides just in time for the guys to treat you to a precision-emblazoned finale. “The Unwilling” feels chilly and drizzling at first, like being soaked in a dusk rain shower. The band enters into doom’s realm for a moment, passing through dark caverns and spider webs before dusting themselves off and spreading terrifying pain. The vocals again sound traumatic, with the band playing some of the ugliest, darkest bits on the entire record. The closing title track gets off to an explosive start with everything hitting you from all corners. The pace is mauling and relentless, with crunchy riffs prevailing and even some sludgy terrain stomped over. The final moments are awash with grinding guitars that meet up with a pool of corrosion that brings the record to a crushing end.

Baring Teeth’s run so far has been impressive and uplifting, and this second record appears to be evidence that their might is growing by the day. “Ghost Chorus Among Old Ruins” manages to surpass their stellar debut record and offers the death metal congregation something fresh and exciting for their ravenous consumption. These guys keep things technically sound but never fall victim to their creative whims, and this ideally portioned record is one that stays fresh and fiery from the opening moment to the acidic end. Great work by one of modern death’s most impressive young bands.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.baringteethmetal.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.willowtip.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.willowtip.com/home.aspx

PICK OF THE WEEK: Foreseen HKI’s debut ‘Helsinki Savagery’ packed with fire, crossover brutality

ForeseenThere’s nothing better than ending the week on a loud, destructive note, especially if the four days that preceded your Friday have been busy, aggravating, and annoying. It’s time to blow off steam, get the negative energies out of your body, and indulge in something that offers a positive outlet for your chaos. Well, at least it’s more positive than burning down a house.

The whole crossover thrash thing somehow hasn’t been pulverized the death the last few years. At least not in the same way thrash and death have been beaten to a pulp. You have bands such as Iron Reagan, Power Trip, and Noisem (who hover a little closer to death, to be honest) picking up the trail first blazed by bands including D.R.I., Cryptic Slaughter, Cro-Mags, and many others. We haven’t been inundated with the sound, and therefore, it’s still a pretty fresh, fertile place in which to create. But now comes a band that will give the other new crossover maulers a real run for their money, and when all is said and done, might rule the entire place.

Foreseen coverArriving via Finland, where we usually get our fair share of death and black metal, come Foreseen HKI. Together since 2010, and with a few smaller releases under their belt, this Helsinki band of marauders has risen up with their smashing, awesome debut full-length record “Helsinki Savagery.” From the word go, this thing is like a bomb tearing a hole in the wall of even the most sound fortress, with these guys raging through like a bunch of barbarians. Frontman Mirko Nummelin definitely stands out for his scathing, raspy, in-your-face delivery and wicked charisma, and clearly he has a grasp of how the right singer can make a huge difference for a band, Making the hell fire along with him are guitarists Erkka Korpi and Lauri Martiskainen, bassist Tatu Kuisma, and drummer Marten Gustafsson, and they’re a killing machine that’ll overwhelm you and drag you off into the battle.

A lot of these songs seem to mash into each other and congeal, but that’s part of the fun. “Slam Savagery” kicks the record off hard following what sounds like engines revving up, which makes total sense for this assault. The band starts thrashing heavily, with killer lead lines blazing over top, and it’s a meaty, ideal stage setter. “Death Injection” is hammering and savage, with nasty vocals letting the attitude overflow, gang vocals making the track feel like a team effort of brutality, and a nice thrust toward hardcore to make this more violent. “The Prowler” has rapidly spat-out vocals, a tempo that races forward with reckless abandon, and the lead work just going off. The song is short and to the point, which is just as it should be. “Market Target” brings more fury into the picture, with some delayed vocals at the start that eventually turn into venomous howls. This song is heavy and fun and has the worst of intentions in mind. “Bonded By United Blood” is a spirited one, with a nice bit of crunch and some calculated playing initially before the track explodes and emits sparks. Gnarly yelling, more gang shouts, and another dose of speed also are packed into this one.

“Interlude” is what its title says it is, a short bridge built with noise, drums filling the room with dust, and guitars cutting through it all. “Structural Oppression” gets off to a raucous start, with punchy, catchy riffs, vocals delivered with attitude, spite, and creativity, as well as more hardcore-laced mashing. The last part of the song throws a changeup as the music gets more spacious and the guitar work gets damn near classic metal on us. “Delusion of No Consequence” is heavily mashing, with the lead growls mixing in with some gurgly backing vocals that sound like blood is being gargled. The song is a blistering one that leaves an indelible mark. “Both Sides Lose” is fast and furious, with energized riffs, raspy shouts, and guitars that go off the rails, squealing and shredding your senses. Closer “Paving the Way” is a great, clobbering finale, with the song bursting open and a massive pocket of thrashing pulling you in like a sarlac pit. The guys crush hard, as aggressively as they do anywhere else on this record, with the tempo growing more menacing and the song closing on a really catchy high, leaving your adrenaline surging as the album releases its hold. Seriously, what an awesome record.

Definitely, if you’re a fan of thrash or crossover, you must get up to speed with Foreseen HKI immediately. This is one of the best debut records of the year so far, which is a weighty statement to make in November, and “Helsinki Savagery” will keep you bloodied and battered for hours on end as they beat your daylights out. This is a killer record, bottom line. Nothing else needs to be said. So I’ll shut up.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/Foreseen

To buy the album, go here: http://www.20buckspinshop.com/

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Progressive black metal band Fen roar back with full-bodied, gripping triumph ‘Carrion Skies’

FenWhen the digital promo for “Carrion Skies,” the latest album from British progressive black metal band Fen, arrived in my inbox, I had a pretty strange reaction to it once I downloaded and absorbed it the first time. I thought the music would sound ideal traveling on Thanksgiving Day visiting family and friends.

That doesn’t sound very cult (or kvlt), but I had the same reaction to Agalloch’s “Marrow of the Spirit” a few years back, and sure enough, that was the holiday’s soundtrack. The tracks don’t sound like something that would fit behind a warm family gathering or anything, but the music feels like what I’d want to experience doing a load of driving, gazing at leafless trees, and getting beaten by the cold. Yes, Fen, a band named after a territory in England called the Fens, a relatively marshy region near where the band members grew up and took their inspiration, is going to be playing in the car that day while I try to figure out a way to battle my annoyance. The music on the band’s previous three full-lengths all feel like something borne out of nature and are ideal for enjoying during the late fall. We’ve had a lot of that music on these pages the past couple weeks. I guess we’re just getting a great deal of art that works well in the current season.

Fen cover“Carrion Skies” is a natural progression for Fen from last year’s “Dustwalker.” The melodies are bigger, the black stuff is grislier and has sharper teeth, and the progressive elements are far more realized and dominant. Fen—guitarist/vocalist The Watcher, bassist/vocalist Grungyn, and drummer Derwydd—are developing much in the same way Opeth did before them, but with these guys maintaining and even sharpening their metallic edge. As for their storytelling, both musically and lyrically, the guys are branching out and unafraid to embrace myriad emotions, sounds, and shades, and that daring mission has made the band even more interesting than they already were.

“Our Name Written in Embers Pt. 1” is the opening epic on an album full of lengthy compositions, and it immediately carries you under the roaring waves, with charged-up playing that should get your adrenaline racing, harsh growls that blister the skin, and great melodies roiling with the thunder. We noted Opeth earlier, and there are times when the band feels like they’re walking the same path as those Swedish prog warriors, injecting color, mood, and texture to the piece. There are jazzier parts, where the song seems to be trickling like water, and the track finishes with an aggressive pace, growls that ignite, and a blistering final few moments that take this song into the mist. “Our Name Written in Embers Pt. 2” follows right out of the end of the first piece, with guitars bending, melodies breezing along like a draft in the woods, and things eventually breaking out into fire. The guitars chug heavily, with the vocals sounding menacing, and the end is colored with cascading playing, gorgeous compositions, and wild cries that feel animalistic. “The Dying Stars” steps out of the cold with an adventurous start that toughens up with muscular guitars. There is a woodsy feel to the carnage, and that eventually meets up with calm passages that provide a chance for a deep breath and reflection. The leads guitar work gets dark again as the track winds down, and the growls devastate everything.

“Sentinels” changes things up a bit, diving into the deeper end of the progressive pool and delving into psyche rock territory that could help you see the stars. Naturally, the song tears open, with creaky growls telling the tale, powerful melodies bursting everywhere, and some playing that reminds of Rush at their most propulsive. Some alien-like clean vocals slip in, giving the song a cosmic feel, but eventually it’s back to abject heaviness, growls that sound like they scar the throat, and wrenching passion that is undeniable. “Menhir – Supplicant” is the second-longest cut at 11:51, and it bathes in spacey ambiance while the band takes its time setting the scene. Savagery and madness arrive, with monstrous growls tangling with creative guitar playing, making the track one hell of an interesting struggle. A dialog kicks in at one point, seeming like a message being delivered by the gods, and from there the cut gets into dreamy gaze and a final assault of breath-taking tempo changes. The 12:54-long finale “Gathering the Stones” is the lengthiest song on the record, and its bones rip out of a comfortable ambiance that you know just cannot last. Emotional singing balances the monstrous growls on the song, giving it dual personalities, while psychedelic effects ensure your mind goes swimming in fog. There is a last push, as the guitars rage heavily and the vocals deliver menace along with them, but the last few minutes are bathed in calm, as the listener gets set down easily on the damp leaves after one hell of a journey.

Fen’s music just gushes with emotional and soul, and the further these guys advance in their career, the better they get as a band. “Carrion Skies” is their most ambitious, full-bodied record to date, and it’s one that reveals new sides to it each time you take a journey with the music. If you’re into bands such as Winterfylleth, Falls of Rauros, and aforementioned Agalloch and haven’t yet discovered this band, get ready to have the rest of your year fully occupied by this great new record.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/fenofficial

To buy the record, go here: http://www.auralwebstore.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.code666.net/