French trio Necrowretch unleash horror, torture on debut ‘Putrid Death Sorcery’

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It’s become a theme here and most other places that embrace true, ugly death metal, in that the sub-genre is packed with way too many slickly produced, Hot Topic-pushed, mundane, garbage bands calling themselves death metal when, in reality, nothing about them rots except their reputations. But the real stuff is out there, and one must just find it.

Luckily, Century Media is making your quest a little easier. OK, yes, I know that they also have championed some of the fakey death stuff that’s blotted national tours and probably brought in a lot of money to keep the label going as strong as it is. Whether you or I like it, that’s economics, especially in an era when record sales aren’t exactly at an all-time high. So to CM’s credit, they also brought in a nice new crop of true death metal bands lately, including Sonne Adam and Morbis Chron, maintained ties with great artists such as Asphyx and Grave, and have a stellar history of bringing you some of the best metal there is to offer from groups including Bloodbath, Celtic Frost, Immolation, Tiamat, Emperor, and so many more.

634939365176629922So in the spirit of keeping their death reputation strong, they also recently inked French trio Necrowretch, a true throwback-style death-and-doom-laced band that only had a few smaller releases–two EPs, two demos– to their name before they got signed. Small resume aside, whoever went out and pursued this band and got their debut full-length “Putrid Death Sorcery” under the CM banner really did his or her homework. This is a great sounding, worm-infested, true death metal band that brings back the haunted spirit of the sub-genre and easily could help revive what this style of music was about when it started and is desperately trying to get back to again. Oh, by the way, Vlad points out in the group’s bio that the band doesn’t give a shit about following idols or trying to revive a sound. They’re playing what they feel, so the old-school tag just comes naturally. It’s not contrived.

Necrowretch are comprised of Vlad, who handles vocals and guitars, and Amphycion, who plays bass. There also is quite skillful drumming on their debut performed in studio by Morkk, though live the kit will be inhabited by Desecrator. The record is retching (fitting, eh?) and horror-filled, and at times when I’m not thinking about classic death metal with these guys, my mind wanders to Finnish beasts Hooded Menace and their tapestries of horror. Either way, you’re in perfectly good, albeit calloused and wart-filled, hands with Necrowretch if you like your metal ugly and scuffed up. Also, if you like skillful playing and classic metal chops, you’ll also have plenty to love about these guys, because they’re really skillful at what they do and obviously have the spirit and energy to get across their message effectively and violently. It’s one hell of a great listen.

While “Putrid Death Sorcery” is not a concept record, the songs do involve a character known as the necrowretch, or priest of doom, going around and infecting, not saving, souls. Actually, we get right to that on nasty, guttural opener “Ripping Souls Out of Sinners,” where the damned face what they have coming to them and the nasty riffs and growls set the stage for what follows. “Purifying Torment” has tortured vocals, a flurry of lead lines, and some piercing noise to hammer-smash home the point. “Goat-Headed” is a speed demon, with a thrashy, blinding pace, throaty vocals, and heavy and thunderous death sequences. The title cut is more calculated and creepy, but it has its fiery, gory moments as well. “Impious Plague in Catacombs” begins with creaking and monstrous yelps for help before a cascade of ugly doom and death bleeds out, including some truly scintillating leads and soloing.

“Spewed From Hell” should be fairly self-explanatory from its title, and it mostly is as menacing as you’d think. The vocals sound yacked up, the screams are menacing, and the drumming is outright brutal. “Defiled of Sacrality” has doomy leads and really strong guitar work that pays homage to thrash and death, and it’s one of the tracks that really shows how talented these guys are as musicians. “The Anthropomancer” has a flurried opening and dips into some classic metal terrain, then into a killer thrash metal storm. “Soiled Into a Crypt,” aside from being an awesome song title, is fast, blistering, and takes no prisoners, while “Necrollections” has dizzying, swirling melodies and a tricky composition that makes you feel trapped in a vortex. Closer “Repugnizer” closes the record with more bone-crushing drumming, mind-blowing speed, and a monstrous classic death display that ends everything on a proper, blood-soaked note.

Thumbs up to Century Media for plucking Necrowretch from the underground graveyard and giving them the wide release they deserve for “Putrid Death Sorcery.” Hopefully they give this album a nice push. As for Necrowretch, they’re another example of a new death metal band that has its sights toward devastation and horror and not getting glossy photos into magazines. They are another band reviving what true death metal is about, and their debut is providing plenty of grisly fun to get us through these winter months.

For more on the band, go here: http://necrowretch.net/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/Item/Necrowretch_-_Putrid_Death_Sorcery_-PRE-ORDER-/44365

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

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Helen Money will change the way you think of cello, metal on ‘Arriving Angels’

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This is one of those refreshing days writing stuff here at Meat Mead Metal. Refreshing because I get to dig into something different, out of the ordinary, challenging, and weird. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing about copious amounts of new metal records because it’s what I do and what excites me. But it can get mundane. Today is not one of those days.

When Profound Lore announced the release of “Arriving Angels,” the new album from Helen Money, the stage name of cellist and composer Alison Chesley, one of the more unique musicians of this day and age, it both was surprising and totally logical. She was a member of Verbow in the 1990s along with Jason Narducy, was a member of Poi Dog Pondering for a while, worked with Bob Mould, and added her work as a contributor to bands such as Anthrax, Broken Social Scene, MONO, Russian Circles, Plaguebringer, and many others. She was one hell of a hired gun when it came to cello work, but her most fascinating creations came along with her Helen Money project, which highlighted her aggressive, amplified, fucked up string work that was scarier and more riveting than what a lot of people dream up with multiple guitars.

cover-arrivingangels-lg“Arriving Angels” is the third album from Chesley’s Helen Money, and she’s joined by drummer Jason Roeder (Neurosis, Sleep) on what’s already one of the most unique records in January, but one that’s likely still going to hold that distinction when we’re putting up Christmas trees in December (or October, if you’re an asshole). If you’re new to Chesley’s work, then chances are you never heard anyone use the cello in quite this way before. You’re going to think you’re listening to a damn suffocating and dark doom metal record created by a roomful of people working to dump as much fog and chaos as possible from walls of amps. But you’ll be wrong. All of the fire and brimstone on here is Chesley and her cello, sometimes played classically, sometimes offering comfort, but often distorted and mangled like a never-ending nightmare.

There are many moods and atmospheres created on this eight-cut record (recorded and mixed by Steve Albini), and the music here can be absorbed in a number of different settings, from meditation, to studying, to confronting and battling your demons, to simply watching nature outside your window. This mix of classical, ambient, drone, and doom may not, on the surface, seem like something we’d traditionally call metal, but again, I invite the more closed minded out there to expand your thinking. This record very well could be your gateway to stretching out your boundaries and discovering new and exciting things.

Opener “Rift” doesn’t grab you and yank you to the floor. It seeps into the room like a ghost, makes some initial sounds so you know something might be there, before it rises up and takes you. The doomy melodies, dark, chunky playing, and ominous tones make for a provoking, chilling open. “Upsetter” has sweltering, strong work and piercing sounds, and a strange melody loops behind everything else, making this feel like the score to a real-life horror story. Not a slasher film or the likes, but something where a human being melts down from the inside and faces himself or herself as a villain. “Beautiful Friends” is mournful and baroque, with distortion and drone pouring in and filling the room to your knees, and percussion kicking in, adding more drama to the story. “Radio Recorders” opens with a panic of echoes, sort of like an old Voivod song, and despite the muck and grime of the track, there’s a gorgeous light that breaks through the clouds and chaos, offering a glimmer of hope.

“Midwestern Night’s Dream” allows you something of a downhome breather, as Chesley delicately plucks her cello, and the song maintains a simple, quiet aura. The title track then lets the noise rip you apart again, with a breath-taking build, windswept passages, fucked up riffs, and a boiling pot that, just when you think it’s going to burn you, it settles back down. Then it rises back up again just as violently. “Shrapnel” has some more traditional cello playing, deliberate, calculated drumming, and a cool pace that gets you ready for the finisher “Runout,” where melodies bend like rubber, eerie echoes allow your mind to wander through the song, drums kick in to keep your lungs blowing, and eventually cool piano drops tap like an easy rainfall.

This record isn’t going to strike everyone the same, and I’m sure some listeners will be too confused or bewildered to accept it. But “Arriving Angels,” as far as I’m concerned, is an intoxicating, fascinating listen that proves not only is Chesley a disarming force in the metal and extreme music world, but is one of the most inventive and creative in all of music. This is a landmark release for Helen Money and should get her the recognition she deserves not only for what she’s contributed in the past but mostly for what she’s still offering us today. She’s a killer.

For more on Helen Money, go here: http://helenmoney.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/plr-items/helen-money-arriving-angels/

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

Bloody Hammers debut may help occult rock, metal poison mainstream culture

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We’ve covered/complained about certain sub-genres of metal swelling up to the point of gruesomeness and having to search extra hard to find the good bands because there are so effing many of them. We kind of said that last week when discussing grindcore and the millions of bands doing that these days.

It’s getting close to the point of adding occult rock and metal bands into the saturation category, because every time you turn your head these days, new ones are popping up. There have been some exceptionally good ones such as JexThoth/Totem, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and The Devil’s Blood, who just announced their dissolution, and some that haven’t been all that wonderful. Needless to say, you didn’t read about any of those bands on this site because we try to champion the good stuff and shove mediocrity to the side.

bloody hammers coverBloody Hammers is the latest addition to the occult rock category, and perhaps their name is a little misleading. Before I heard a note of music and read a word of their bio, I assumed we were talking heavy, death-oriented, muddy madness, something that could please your need for violence and fury. But this band is anything but that. They’re more of a rock band than a metal outfit, and while they have some bluesy, gooey riffs similar to classic Black Sabbath, they don’t really exude heaviness. And that’s OK. There still is going to be plenty of crossover appeal for listeners who are more metal-entrenched but like bands with a knack for darkness, and Bloody Hammers deliver on that end of it. There are traits of classic horror, stories from the coven, and chilling evil that should do the trick, and on top of that, this band writes some really strong songs.

Going back to assuming, I initially thought Bloody Hammers could hail from somewhere in Europe, but instead they call Charlotte, N.C., home. So that was a weird, unexpected discovery, but again, it’s why you should not assume. Their self-titled debut is finally available physically now, via Dutch label Soulseller. The group is a four-piece with weird, yet fitting stage names, with Anders Manga (OK, that might be his real name) on bass and vocals, Zoltan handling guitars, Devallia on organs and keys, and Curse on drums. They just formed in 2012, so they’ve gotten a lot done in a short amount of time. Despite their very short existence, they already play with a polish and cohesion many bands far more experienced fail to muster.

The record establishes its identity quickly, with the buzzing guitar lines that are a trademark, and a catchy melody and chorus that makes opener “Witches of Endor” perfect for sucking you into the album. “Fear No Evil,” that begins with haunting organs, quickly kicks things into high gear, revealing a really enthralling dark rock song with ritualistic imagery. It’s this type of thing, helping the listener create an image in his/her mind of the ceremonies and horrors going on, at which that they prove quite effective. “The Last Legion of Sorrow” has slinky, fuzzed-out guitar work that reminds me a bit of Clutch and some ominous words such as, “The vengeful blade is coming down.” “Say Goodbye to the Sun” keeps thing mid-tempo and captivating, appealing to the vampire quotient and poking, “How’s it feel to know you’re going to live forever?” It’s a curse, not a blessing. “The Witching Hour” is calculated and effective, a nice bridge to the record’s second half.

“Black Magic” hits on a bluesy guitar groove that’s very vintage Sabbath and would be an excellent set-opener live. It would get your juices flowing in a hurry. “Trisect” is grinding and a bit sludgy, proving their metal chops are not to be questioned, and eventually the song thrashes out and leaves you devastated. It’s one of my favorite cuts on here. “Beyond the Door” hints at danger lurking where you cannot see, and after a somewhat mystical opening, it rocks out pretty good, serving up a nice start-stop approach to its chorus. “Souls on Fire” opens with a 1950s doo wop-style guitar line that sounds like it’s going to be a haunting torch bearer, but instead it gets grungy and abrasive, leaving behind any ideas that it was going to soothe. Closer “Don’t Breathe a Word” is a dark ballad with clean guitars that remind me of when 1980s thrash bands tried to do slower songs, and it’s a really great way to end the album on a high note.

Bloody Hammers may be new to the game, but they certainly have the ability to become one of the finer bands in the occult sub-category. They’re strong songwriters, the vocals can appeal to many audiences, and their material is just foreboding enough to keep a metalhead happy. This is a band to watch, one that seems primed to not only make an impact with metal listeners but maybe with those who wish mainstream rock was better and a little more dangerous.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://www.soulsellerrecords.com/index.php?choice=mailorder

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

Rotten Sound, Blockheads offer year’s first grindcore blasts with new records

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Although the sub-genre has its tentacles all over the place now, when I think of grindcore, I always think of Relapse Records. It’s just where I expect all the stuff to be, never mind that labels such as Earache, Willowtip, and Hydra Head all have had their hands in the game for years now.

I just always lean back into bands such as Brutal Truth, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Pig Destroyer, Fuck the Facts, and so many others that Relapse have helped champion that I designate them the home for quality grindcore. And it’s not like this is some great revelation of mine, and many other metal listeners surely feel the same way. So when Relapse sends me e-mails containing promos with new grindcore goodness inside, I’m usually pretty excited to hear what they drummed up this time.

It’s only fitting then that Relapse have kicked off 2013 with, you guessed it, two grindcore albums that offer quality and relentless punishment for your listening needs. One comes from a  socially conscious French band that hasn’t had a new full-length in seven years, while the other is a Finnish act (apparently it’s Finnish metal week at MMM) that’s tiding us over until their new album arrives with a stop-gap EP. If you decide to invest your time and money in either (or both) of these, you’re bound to have a violent good time and maybe need some pain relievers when you’re done taking on all this grinding madness.

Rotten Sound coverWe’ll start with the shorter one first, that being the new six-track, eight-minute EP “Species at War” from Rotten Sound, their first new music since their crushing 2011 album “Cursed.” These Fins have been making chaotic, unforgiving noise since their formation in 1993, and with six full-lengths and countless mini releases under their belts, they’ve made plenty of quality noise over their two decades together. And apparently aware their audience was hungry for some new stuff, they answered the bell with this EP that’s blink-and-it’s-over short but satisfying.

The band’s remained half in tact over their years together, with vocalist G and guitarist Q members of the fold from the start, being joined by drummer Sami Latva in 2006 and bassist Kristian Toivainen in 2010. The unit sounds well-oiled and ferocious as the EP opens on “Cause,” a blast-filled mangler that’s made even crustier with G’s horrifying growls. That blends into “The Game,” which has elements of groove and thrash and gives you some swagger in which to sink your teeth. “War” follows, and it blows shrapnel everywhere, leaving you with a bruised body and psyche, while “The Solution” is grisly and grinding, standing as an example of what Rotten Sound do best. “Peace” sounds nothing like its title, with fast, violent, and sludgy emissions taking over, and speedy screams delivering their diatribes. Closer “Salvation” is like a lightning bolt of sound, striking before you have a chance to catch a breath.

An eight-minute EP might sound like a weird buy for those not accustomed to grind, but that shouldn’t deter Rotten Sound fans or grindcore enthusiasts as a whole. We’re used to short, direct assaults from our grind acts, so an eight-minute EP will be just up most of our alleys. Plus it’s only two minutes shorter than the last Nails full-length.

Blockheads

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French death/grindcore manglers Blockheads have been making noise even longer than Rotten Sound, having formed in the late 1980s and who put out their debut full-length in 1995. They haven’t exactly been the most prolific band of all time since their first album, only releasing four more since that time, their latest being the new “This World Is Dead,” a 25-track, 40-minute effort that is grind through and through but also spills in some death metal melodies and powerviolence explosions. They’re more than just a mowing-ahead band and keep things interesting and fresh, splattering one song after another at you. It’s pretty damn explosively fun, and I found it’s quite useful for getting your ass moving when you’re on the treadmill running.

4pnl_folderIt’s hard to go blow by blow through the entire record like we generally like to do, because it’ll take all day and we’ll be up to 1,000 words just discussing this album. So let’s hit the highlights. Xav handles lead vocals for the band, though his bandmates Fred (guitars), Erik (bass), and Niko (drums) also pitch in. They’re a punishing unit, with their years of experience behind them, and they launch into this thing on “Already Slaves,” a bone-crushing, brief number. “Deindividualized” is one of the longer songs on the disc at 2:09, and then it’s kind of off to the races with lightning-fast “Born Among Bastards”; the insane cloud of dust kicked up on “Final Arise”; the thrashy groove of “To the Dogs”; the drum blast madness of “Crisis Is Killing the Weak”; the 16-second explosion of “Sell Your Flesh”;  the precision assault of “Look Down,” where the vocals are menacing and, at times, deranged; meaty, sludgy “Pro-Lifers,” that should get things whirling out of control live; and the epic of the set, the seven-minute-plus closer “Trail of the Dead,” that’s both ultra-heavy and bathed in slow-driving doom metal. It’s an impressive display that drags your mangled body across the finish line.

That’s a really quick summary of a very involved album, and it’s hard to sum up the whole thing in just a paragraph or so. Blockheads are a group of experienced veterans who have been going at it longer than some of today’s younger grindcore bands have even been alive, and these guys are deadlier and more dangerous. Relapse scored again bringing this band back into wider focus, and they remain one of, if not the, bastion of grindcore. These records makes great investments for longtime grind fans burned out by the tidal wave of similar-sounding younger acts and even would be great source material for kids hoping to blaze the trail for the sub-genre but need a reliable place to start.

For more on Rotten Sound, go here: http://www.rottensound.com/

For more on Blockheads, go here: https://www.facebook.com/blockheadsgrind

To buy either album, go here: http://www.relapse.com/store.html

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

Swedish dreamers Cult of Luna finally come back with incredible new ‘Vertikal’

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The era of the epic-length, post-metal bands is more than at its apex. It’s gotten a little out of control. Where before you had a few bands doing this kind of thing, leaving you plenty of breathing room, the scene is now flooded with groups trying the same thing. Not every band can do this right. In fact, the ones that do are few and far between.

In times like these, when the saturation level is out of control, it’s nice to get a visit from one of the bands that paved the way for these groups so they could show everyone how it’s done—all over again. We’re not going to hear from ISIS any time soon, but we did get a hulking new record from Neurosis last year that put everything in perspective and the pretenders back in their places. Now, several months later, Swedish titans Cult of Luna finally have returned with “Vertikal,” their first release since 2008’s “Eternal Kingdom” and a much welcomed return from this thought-provoking, adventurous act that are one of the finest post-metal acts going. Sorry again for the annoying, lazy sub-genre name drop. It makes things easier.

Anyway, “Vertikal” is the band’s first non-Earache Records effort since their 2001 self-titled debut (originally released by Rage of Achilles but later put out by Earache), as this 65-minute monster is out courtesy of Indie Recordings in Europe and Density Records in the United States. If you’re wondering if the band has changed a lot in the past five years since their last record, they really haven’t. You’ll certainly recognize them when you hear them, and their musical ambition is as active as it ever was. Yet there’s now a really interesting cosmic layer that’s been folded into the band’s music, mostly courtesy of the wooshing, dreamy keyboard work, so it adds a new intergalactic element. It’s really intoxicating and welcoming.

cult of luna coverThe band, personnel-wise, also hasn’t changed very much the last 10 years, so you’ll know the cast of characters. Johannes Persson is on guitars and vocals; Magnus Lindberg, Fredrik Kihlburg (also vocals), and Erik Olofsson handle guitars; Andreas Johansson is on bass; Thomas Hedlund plays drums; and Anders Teglund takes care of synthesizer and samples. On this record, they’ve got a pretty focused subject matter, that being the 1927 German sci-fi expressionist film “Metropolis” that’s set in a futuristic society and examines class division and struggle. That might explain why the synth work is so spacey and dark, because they were channeling both the dark personal nature of the film as well as the fantastical plotline that’s surprisingly applicable today. All of this combined makes for one of Cult of Luna’s best records to date.

“The One” is the perfect introduction to this record, with moody, cloudy keys setting up a soundscape and getting you in the proper frame of mind. “I: The Weapon” blows open and sounds like classic Cult of Luna, with deeply barked growls, imaginative guitar work, a later more of those icy keys that made me think of frigidity both from a weather standpoint and what was going on thematically in the film. “Vicarious Redemption” is an epic at 18:44, but it’s constructed in such way, and is so good, that it never feels half as long. Keys woosh in, dark spirits canopy the land, and the first eight minutes lean on instrumental storytelling before the vocals come in crushing. There’s a deep helping of shoegazey wonder and poetic playing that keep this song interesting and convulsive. It’s an incredible piece. “The Sweep” is an interlude, and it serves as both a breather and pace changer. It makes me think of red, cold skies and nighttime anxiety and panic.

“Synchronicity” has a watery base but also a sludgy foundation, and its mid-tempo keeps things stomping in place and bashing holes into the crust of the earth. “Mute Departure” has some clean vocals and is a strange but exhilarating transformation. There’s feedback and drone included and eventually some satisfying crunch, and it’s the second best song on here after the epic “Vicarious.” “Disharmonia” is another scene-setting instrumental that leads into “In Awe Of,” that’s built on top of vicious, throaty growls, star-bound key zaps, and a renewed sense of heaviness that brings grit and destruction back to the forefront. “Passing Through” closes things out with more hypnotic melodies, clean vocals returning, and a returning refrain of, “Time’s passing me by.” It’s both a lovely passage and one that can either fill you with hope or despair, depending on where you choose to go.

Cult of Luna are one of the finest bands in the world at what they do, and they’ve certainly spawned their share of disciples. This record proves why this band is so heavily respected and admired, and why having their music back in the metal conversation is a good thing for the genre as a whole. It’s only January, but chances are “Vertikal” is going to be remembered as one of the better metal releases of 2013.

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

To buy the album, go here: http://omerch.theomegaorder.com/Artists_Omerch/CULT-OF-LUNA_2

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

Vorum unleash latest blast of Finnish death metal with debut ‘Poisoned Void’

vorum band

Finnish death metal is in a state of complete conflagration. By that, I don’t mean it’s burning to the ground and turning to hellish dust. Instead, that country’s output is getting hotter and more volatile, giving the world hope that maybe one day when people mention the metal that comes out of Finland, Children of Bodom won’t be the first name off everyone’s tongues. We can dream.

Dark Descent has had a gigantic hand the last couple of months in exposing the best of what the Fins have to offer the death metal world. They unleashed crushing new records from Maveth and Desolation Shrine, two albums that were released so late in the year, they likely never even made it to consideration for most people’s year-end, best-of lists (when are those compiled? October?). But both gave a taste of the scorched, destructive sounds that were brewing in Finland, and now the label’s latest release is getting in on the fun of making Finland seem like the home of outright brutality (Woodcut Records is handling the Euro version, by the way).

vorum coverVorum’s debut album “Poisoned Void” has a very fitting title, because that’s where you feel like you’re headed listening to this eight-headed monster. With only an EP and a split effort to their name before this thunderous release, it’s surprising how sharp this band’s teeth are already. They sound properly channeled, polished from a performance aspect, and completely bloodthirsty and hungry for devastation. They’re not exactly reinventing the wheel, but they sure are finding a way to make today’s death metal machine run bloodier and uglier and are righteously trying to wrest the genre away from melodic, overproduced bands that get passed off on listeners. This is the real shit right here.

Vorum grew out of the band Haudankaivaja, as three of its members are present here, including guitarist/vocalist Jonatan Johansson, guitarist Mati Jalava, and drummer Mikko Josefsson. They are joined by bassist John Finne, and they hit the ground roaring on this album. They wisely keep this album on the shorter side, with eight songs that generally blast you in the face and get out in a hurry, with only its closing title track running longer than 5 minutes (it’s 7:09). That makes for a leaner, meaner record that has a better chance of sticking with you. And trust me, it does.

“Impetuous Fires” is your introduction to Vorum’s tumultuous world, as churning riffs and fiery playing, combined with Johansson’s vicious growls, set the pace for the record. “Death’s Stains” gets started with dizzying guitar work and then shifts towards thrash metal a bit, though it remains grounded in death through and through. “Rabid Blood” pretty much tells you what you know from its title. You don’t need to do much imagining, yet you’ll still be overtaken by charnel guitar work and the raspy growls that are Johansson’s trademark. “Thriving Darkness” keeps the bloody whirlpool going, as melodies flutter, and the guitar lines hit the gas pedal and burst into speed.

“Evil Seed” is one of the gnarliest songs on here, as it grinds when it opens, it has a simple, memorable chorus you can growl back with ease (of course your throat will hurt later if you’re untrained), and Johansson brings down the coffin lid with a thud when he howls, “In chaos, we are dead.” “Obscurity Revealed” seems to pay homage to classic Slayer at times, and it also shakes your bones with a great vigor. It makes a penetrating path through your mind and is awash in heaviness. “Dance of Heresy” hits some trance moments and eventually blows up into a death spiral. The 7-minute title track is a blistering finish, with a crusty open, some classic metal threads, and an earthquaking double-bass drum assault that sounds like marching into war. In sections underneath the song, there is something that emerges that reminds me of very early Metallica at their hungriest and most determined, and the song crashes out wonderfully at the end, leaving a trail of smoking ash.

So Vorum’s the latest in our line of Finnish death metal bands, and they show that this country has real promise in helping revitalize a genre that’s gotten way too glossy and friendly. I love their passion and their anger and their willingness to get as ugly and gut-busting as possible, and I dig their penchant to blend in other elements into what they do. These guys have a ton of potential, and I’m really interested in hearing album two.

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

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

Or here: http://www.woodcutrecords.com/main.html

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

Canadian thrash legends Voivod return with space-age, energized ‘Target Earth’

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In everyone’s life, there are mountains we must climb. It’s up to us to decide if those major obstacles and crushing roadblocks will stop us in our tracks or if we will endure, fight on, conquer what’s ahead of us, and live to dominate another day. A lot of times, people just give up and refuse to carry on, potential glory be damned.

Canadian thrash legends Voivod could have folded camp once their longtime guitar player and overall awesome force Denis “Piggy” D’Amour passed away in 2005 after a battle with cancer. He was practically the heart and soul of the band, one of the most unique players in the genre, and a completely unsung hero whose inspiration you can hear–many times uncredited or unacknowledged–in so much prog metal and death metal. Even a huge mainstream band such as Tool owes a gigantic debt of gratitude to Piggy, and Voivod as a whole, for paving the way for their sprawling, spiraling epics that so many see as the height of genius. Um, they got those ideas from somewhere else.

634895447129779679There was new music after D’Amour passed away because he had some guitar parts recorded and demoed for upcoming Voivod releases, but nothing was in a state of completion. Amazingly by culling what D’Amour had created, the band was able to cobble together two records–2006’s “Katorz” and 2009’s “Infini”–with the rest of the band playing around Piggy’s parts. As expected, the results were just OK, and much of it did feel kind of thrown together. Before that, their 2003 self-titled comeback record was the most recent example of Piggy’s fully realized playing, and he was the bonafide star of that album. It seemed with “Infini” we had heard the last from Voivod as far as records go. But that’s where Daniel Mongrain comes in.

The band decided to do some live shows, with Mongrain (Martyr, Gorguts) on guitar, and it just so happened he was the perfect choice since he patterned much of his playing after D’Amour’s. Original bassist Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault returned to the fold (along with vocalist Denis “Snake” Belanger and drummer Michel “Away” Langevin), Mongrain was given the name “Chewy,” and Voivod were a full-on beast again. Word surfaced a new record was in the works,  and while these boys sounded great recreating their old songs live, a new platter was a different story. Could the band find the magic they hadn’t shown since the early 1990s? Could Mongrain step in for the legendary guitarist on which he patterned his style? The answer to both is an overwhelming yes.

In fact, it doesn’t take long at all to get an idea for just how great Voivod sounds on this 13th album, as they blast off with the awesome title cut, an energetic cut that bubbles with life, imaginative guitar work, and some of Snake’s most spirited vocals since their 2003 return. “Kluskap O’Kom” follows, and it’s more punchy, sci-fi goodness, with a weird, animalistic chant to start, a killer melody, and some gang vocals that make the band sound decades younger. “Empathy for the Enemy” follows in the same path, showing a revived, energized Voivod, and that spills into “Mechanical Mind,” a song that debuted on the Internet before the holidays in 2012 and is full of alien weirdness, punk and thrash magic, and it’s one of the best songs they’ve released in years. “Warchaic,” despite its name, is pulled back and isn’t the full-out assault one might think from the title. During the song, Snake howls about seeking “a brand new world,” and the song is atmospheric and thought provoking.

“Resistance” is a really fun song with loopy guitar work, some sections that are even a little poppy, and eventually a sludgy section that adds some muscle to the track. “Kaleidos” is a real throwback-style song, with guitar work that sometimes reminds of “Tribal Convictions” from 1988’s “Dimension Hatross” and the band reminding you of what made them so special in the first place. “Corps Etranger” is thorny, thrashy, and proggy, and Snake even pulls out some lyrics he sings in French for good measure. “Artefact” has a nice, thick bassline from Blacky, and this is one of the great examples of why he was missed so badly. The song sounds like a bizarre cosmic transmission, but it’s also solidly based in rock and roll. Closer “Defiance” is a little odd. There’s a flurry of guitar work and some speedy bass, but just as the song seems to gain its ground, it fades out and the record is over. Less than two minutes. So the record kind of falls flat at the end, but what comes before it is so damn good, it’s a very small complaint.

Voivod are one of the most important bands in metal, and to have them back and performing at such a high level is a great treat, especially for those of us who have been around since the band’s early days. Piggy always will be missed, and the metal world owes him a huge debt of gratitude, but Chewy proved he’s capable of taking over and driving the band admirably into the future. Just when we all thought it was over, Voivod go and do this. Turns out, they were just beginning all over again.

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

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

For more on the album, go here: http://www.centurymedia.com/