Friday, June 20, 2014
When Broadrick announced that he was reassembling the mighty Godflesh I could never have imagined that he would come back in such devastating fashion! I mean, don't get me wrong, I figured that it would be good but this... this goes WAY beyond my realm of expectations.
This basically hearkens back to the early quarter of Godflesh's career but the heaviness is jacked up through the roof. I mean, I just can't get over how god damned fucking heavy this little -ep- is! And I'm not talking about a song or two here folks. Each and every track is a veritable colossus to behold! It's crazy to me how good this is. This straight up prison-punks 'Hymns' and 'Songs of Love and Hate'. That version of Godflesh doesn't have a prayer against this behemoth of a warmachine! If 'Decline & Fall' is a glimpse into the future of this resurrected entity, I shall embrace my destruction with a smile upon my face!
Thursday, June 19, 2014
The Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish (1997)
From the ending of 'Lusting Congregation of Perpetual Damnation (Eternal Eden)' through the brief interlude of 'Triumph of Blasphemy' and then the beginning of title track 'Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish', I do believe that that is Incantation's most brilliant showcase throughout their entire career. For that section alone 'The Forsaken...' is by FAR my favorite Incantation release. Forget the fact that Craig Pillard is hardly "on top of his game". Forget the fact that I could have done without the "ok" cover of Death's 'Scream Bloody Gore. Forget the fact that this is merely an -ep-. The aforementioned musical passage is perhaps the most evil thing I've yet to hear from a death metal band. Shit, metal band period.
Onward to Golgotha (1992)
Along with Immolation's debut 'Dawn of Possession', this put 'evil' death metal on the map. Forget all of the black metal bitches standing in front of the mirror trying to make sure they got their corpsepaint right. Though to be fair, 'Golgotha' sounds more like a boat-ride across the River Styx en route to Medusa's Isle more than it does a straight-up "satanic" album. Sure, all of the tell-tale signs of blasphemy and sacrilege are in order but there has always been that oppressive gloom hovering over Incantation's earlier work that the homo's in Norway could not even begin to fathom nor penetrate.
Mortal Throne of Nazarene (1994)
Perhaps having an even more oppressive and dark atmosphere than 'Golgotha', 'Nazarene' is the epitome of doom and gloom. Craig Pillard's vocals here sound like an angry storm cloud emitting catastrophic woe upon the human masses gathered before him. All of the bizarre eccentricities introduced earlier by guitarist John McEntee are further explored and perverted this time 'round and the results are downright horrific. Trust me, choosing between this and 'Golgotha' is no easy task and I suppose that 'Golgotha' stole the number two spot merely for nostalgia's sake but make no mistake, this is every bit as frightening and grotesque as that album and perhaps it makes sense that it is hardly mentioned in conversations debating the band's classic albums as its darkness may be a bit to overwhelming for most to endure.
Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies (1991)
This was my first taste of the band's bitter fruits and it will always have a special place in my black heart. Worth hearing for the different ending in the title track. Tasty and rotten little morsel of old.
This is perhaps the band's final excursion into the labyrinthine confines of their earlier wave. After the frightfully bland 'The Infernal Storm' (not quite. More like a few rain drops) Incantation seemingly regrouped in order to reestablish the style and approach most dear to their hearts. While Mike Saez is no Craig Pillard by any stretch he does not offend either. I very much preferred him over Daniel Corchado whose blackened rasp I feared would be the end of Incantation. Thankfully and for whatever reason he was ousted and the next two albums would be fronted by Mike whose Pillard-"lite" vocal renditions fit in much better.
Some of the riffs and patterns on this album I rank among the band's best. The tortured harmonics are here in force as are some of the band's more colossal and depressing slabs of doom. Unfortunately, Saez' run with the band would come to an end shortly after thus ushering fourth the era of the John McEntee fronted Incantation. Gnarly and blasphemous album cover art (by former Incantation member and co-founder himself, Paul Ledney) and a much appreciated detour from Incantation's then go-to gal, Miran Kim.
Diabolical Conquest (1998)
Musically, this is on the same page as the first two albums. Vocally, however, this is a fucking abomination. How Incantation thought it was a good idea to replace Craig Pillard with Daniel Corchado is beyond me. Sure, Corchado used to sound good during his tenure with Cenotaph but the Corchado of '98 sounded like a haggard and used up whore whose throat had been irreparably banged up from years of gagging on cock for rocks. 'Diabolical Conquest', to me, is a lot like Entombed's 'Clandestine'. Great album marred by shitty vocals. This was also, in my opinion, the beginning of mediocre album covers painted by Miran Kim. Granted, it's still pretty sick (though I've never been a big fan of the cover's bird-faced cherub in the center of it all) but there's that gnawing feeling of 'been there, done that' every time I look at it.
Dirges of Elysium (2014)
Probably the best McEntee fronted Incant album, though really, at this point the band is WAY past their prime and really only circling the drain. McEntee sounds his most convincing here but unfortunately that's not sayin' much. There are a few moments, riff-wise, that I was genuinely surprised by in terms of, dare-I-say... "moving forward"? No, I doubt Incantation's been listening to Astra or The Dillenger Escape Plan, but they've gone so far down their own beaten path that even the most minute of changes seems otherwordly at this point. Minus the soul-stripping mix of Dan Swano and of course McEntee's vocals, this could've been a pretty damn good album. I do have to say, though... 'Dirges of Elysium' boasts one of my favorite Incantation album covers second only to 'Mortal Throne...' itself. That's one thing the band has, for the most part, consistently gotten right (with the exception of 'Primordial Domination').
Vanquish in Vengeance (2012)
In truth, this and the band's latest (Dirges of Elysium) are about even as far as quality goes. It's hard to pick one above the other. This one only scores less due to (surprise) McEntee's weaker vocal performance. Sure, it's not the catastrophic laugh-fest of previous albums, but I'm always going to long for the days of Craig Pillard. It's kinda sad considering that musically this aint bad at all. Nope. Not by a stretch. Also of note is the gnarly album cover courtesy of Worthless (ex-Deteriorot, Famine) which, to me, sort of hearkens back to 'The Forsaken Mourning of Angelic Anguish'.
The Infernal Storm (2000)
Where Diabolical Conquest had good music and shitty vocals, The Infernal Storm was a reverse scenario. The Infernal Storm is by fucking FAR the most anemic of Incantation's sonic output. The guitars have a really wimpy sound to them, like they were tuned up by some technical/jazz faggot and the bass sound is very sterile and jacked up in the mix. Awful. The songs too are just unbelievably lame. There is ZERO of the storming evil of old here. The only thing good about this album are the vocals of Mike Saez who sounds like a slightly less menacing Craig Pillard which is STILL fucking better than the homo from the last album! Unfortunately, Saez input is not enough to save this sinking ship. Frankly, I figured it was all over for Incantation at this point and was pleasantly surprised with how good their next album, 'Blasphemy' turned out to be.
Decimate Christendom (2004)
This is the album where Lucky the Leprechaun himself decided to finally take control of mic duties. It seemed like the logical thing to do, sure, considering the revolving door of frontmen the band had gone through up until that point. Unfortunately, John McEntee possesses ZERO percentage of the power or menace required to be 'The Voice' of Incantation. Even the music here is merely a tired retread of the glories of old. Granted, there a a few moments of the genius of McEntee's riff-writing found here and there but I'm led to believe that the dual endeavor of singing and playing guitar forced John to write around his newfound responsibility as frontman therefore playing it safe. Another one of those Incantation albums that probably would've sounded better had they procured the services of a more fitting vocalist.
As if it were a sign of things to come, 'Decimate...' boasts what is easily the most bland and bloodless of Miran Kim's album covers.
Primordial Decimation (2006)
Small wonder that this would be the last Incantation album for five years. You could tell that they needed a break. The creative well had just about run dry and John's comical death metal "vocals" just really made a mockery of an already bad situation. Shit, even the shamefully generic album cover seems to serve as an omen of sorts. The beginning riff to the first song is about as good as it gets. After that, sayonara suckers.
It's really hard for me to join in the festivities that praise this band for "remaining true" and "never changing" blah, blah, blah... because the truth is, they did change. They went from godly to mediocre.
The pinnacle (although that distinction may vary depending on who you talk with). This album has it all. Low tuned guitars. A grotesque vocal onslaught featuring a variety of groovy ghoulies. Expert songwriting and downright creepy riffage and pretty much everything else that a classick death metal album should have. Suffice to say that I was "not amused" by Carcass' technical advancements come album numero tres. Though I would eventually come around, this will forever be the defining moment for me when it comes to Liverpool's finest.
Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious (1991)
As much as it pained me at the time, this was where Carcass "matured" as a musical force. Gone are the cavernous rumblings of their previous albums as well as the smorgasbord of vocal oddities as Jeff Walker was warming up to become the primary vocalist for the band. Whatever my initial thoughts were of this album, one thing was for sure, the songwriting had went up a full ten notches!
This is where Carcass entered into the realm of and stood alongside the "prestigious". Personally, I'll always prefer the frightening atmosphere and slobbering slime of their earlier works, but, the mastery and professionalism of this album is absolutely undeniable. I mean, there are riffs on this album that not only stand with the best artists in the history of musical accomplishment, but quite frankly blow them away. Sure, this might not be on the same ghoulish level as my beloved 'Symphonies...', but this is no less astonishing to behold.
Reek of Putrefaction (1988)
This album would be higher on the list if it weren't for the absolutely shitty production. Sure, there's a certain "grimy" charm about it and it is the album that introduced me to Carcass but I can only imagine how many avenues there are hidden by the murk and lack of production values. All that aside, 'Reek...' is still a bonafide classick just for the insanity of the vocals alone!
Surgical Steel (2013)
Not that this is a bad album but Carcass can do and has done so much fucking better.
While they lean towards their more melodic selves ala 'Heartwork' there are faint traces of the more boppin' grooves of 'Swansong' found here and there. The problem with 'Surgical Steel' is that a lot of it sounds crammed together. Unlike 'Heartwork' which truly sounded "surgical", this album sounds like a victim of one of the lyrical onslaughts on 'Symphonies of Sickness' with whole sections torn into and haphazardly strewn about. Although the boys never go off the deep end into the realm of mindless technicality, much of this album lacks cohesion. It's as if they were out of it for so long that sort of lost their songwriting chops.
Really, the worst thing I can say about this is that the songs are boring. It sounds as if the participants were really not interested in recording another Carcass album and just kinda shuffled into the studio in order to pump out the obligatory last album. The fact that this album is more "rockin' than previous entries hardly bothers me if at all. I mean, hell, I was totally on board with Entombed when they released 'Hollowman' and was quite eager to see what else they had in store. No, the 'death -n- roll' aspect of this album is not what killed it for me. It's just the fact that none of the riffs have any sort of "life" to them. They're just kinda "there".
Monday, June 16, 2014
Altars of Madness (1989) vs Deicide (1990)
Deicide. Easily. Sure, Morbid's debut may have that extra bit of hype surrounding it but Deicide's first album came violently crashing through the doors and gunned down everybody in sight. Sure, people may try and downplay their impact a bit these days due to the fact that Deicide hasn't released anything of worth in almost two decades, but the fact remains... Deicide, for me, was the first album that truly shook the almighty 'Church of Slayer' to its core in terms of blasphemous content and pure savagery. Deicide weren't "toying" with notions of "the ancient ones". No. They were throatfucking everybody with a crucifix and pissing into the exit wound.
Blessed are the Sick (1991) vs Legion (1992)
Honestly, I've always had mixed feelings about 'Legion'. Then again, I had mixed feelings about 'Blessed...' as well, though I could tell upon my first listen to that album that something greater was brewing. 'Blessed...' was the skin shedding process.
One thing I always loved about 'Blessed...' were the slower, modernized Sabbathian riff dirges that permeated the atmosphere. Perhaps that is the reason I was never too keen on 'Legion' as I felt it was a step backwards what with the "thrashier" riffing. Sure, not all of the songs were like that and yea, I "get" that death metal was derived from thrash but at that time I was more interested in where it was all going, not its initial manifestation. Also, Glen's vocals on 'Legion' were showing signs of battle fatigue whilst David Vincent's were coming into their own.
Winner: Blessed are the Sick
Covenant (1993) vs Once Upon the Cross (1995)
Covenant was not only a reaffirmation of Morbid's mighty grasp upon the death metal scene, it was also a reinvigorated approach to the band's strategy for world domination. I was honestly taken back with how barbaric this album was. I actually had the pleasure of driving down to Manhattan with Paul (Profanatica) Ledney and a few friends and seeing MA's first show for their 'Covenant' tour back in '93.
Once Upon the Cross was the first time that I truly felt that Deicide may have reached the far end of the slope. Granted, upon further examination, OUtC turned out to be a rather enjoyable affair but the fact that doubt had entered my mind, even for a second, was telling indeed.
Domination (1995) vs Serpents of the Light (1997)
Domination is a classic example of a seemingly shitty album that turns out to be a classic. An artistic statement, if you will. Serpents of the Light, however, is sound of a dying band in it's death throes. Actually, it doesn't even sound that intense. SotL was a pathetically anemic affair that had pretty much convinced me that Glen Benton & The Boys had blown their creative load early in their career and were pretty much coughing up dust at this point. Sadly, it would get a whole lot worse.
Winner overall: Morbid Angel
Yep, forget all of the homo's up in Norway standing in front of the mirror, slathering their faces with make-up. Truppensturm is where it's at.
Obviously Truppensturm are merely one of dozens upon dozens of many copycat versions of Blasphemy yet there's something particularly brutal about these guys and dare I say more convincing than your average worshiper of the unholy trinity (Sarcafago/Blasphemy/Beherit). When these fuckers hit go, I can guarantee you that there will be no survivors when the beating finally stops.
In many ways Truppensturm is the German counterpart to El Paso's Nyogthaeblisz what with their unrelenting savagery and perversion of all things "blackened" that almost seems to come from a place of disdain rather than mindless adoration. Aye, these are the wolves among sheep. With the Tsar Bomb on the horizon, the future looks bright indeed!
Tuesday, June 10, 2014
Now, anyone familiar with my previous reviews for Incantation are undoubtedly privy to my dissatisfaction with John McEntee's work on the mic. I've always felt that he possessed no real vocal power and at times sounded catastrophically goofy. I cannot say that he has fully transcended these criticisms but I was definitely surprised to hear him cough up his strongest performance to date. It sounds as if he finally gave up on attempting to match the low-end of former Incant vocalist Craig Pillard and decided to concentrate more on 'power'. I have to say that I am fairly impressed by this. However, John has continued to embellish each song with his now familiar and highly annoying rasp and as long as he does that no Incantation album will come close to the dizzying heights of 'Golgotha' or 'Nazarene'.
The other downer that has plagued Incant since 'The Infernal Storm' is the neutered guitar sound they've been working with. Yeah, yeah, everyone from here to Timbuk 2 will be singing praises about how accurate this album is to Incantation's long and glorious career and sure, everybody's entitled to their opinion but the fact of the matter is that Incant hasn't truly sounded gloomy in quite some time.
I do have to give the band a mighty grip of props for yet again blowing my mind in the album cover department. Holy shit!!! I am simultaneously reminded of former Incantation go-to gal Miran Kim as well as Larry Carrol's work with Slayer. Absolutely stunning! The band really cracked it outta the park with this one.
'Dirges of Elysium' is not a bad album and I'm glad to see these guys back so quickly after their previous full-length but unfortunately this is just not the type of shit I want to hear from them. The album (along with everything Incant's released since '04) would not sound so bad with a better, more convincing vocalist but once McEntee emits one of his shrieks I am bummed beyond belief. From Pillard to this. Oddly enough, I find at least a few of the bands that have steadfastly emulated (robbed) Incantation's sound to be infinitely more compelling at this point. Oh well, there's always vanilla.
Saturday, June 7, 2014
Now let's get this straight... Deicide have NEVER fagged out. It's not like they ever released an alternative -ep- filled with techno remixes of beloved chestnuts. No, but the quality of each album since 'Once Upon the Cross' has been on a consistent spiral downward. Sure, I know that many people believe that 'The Stench of Redemption' was some sort of second coming but I for one have never seen it as anything but yet another lackluster outing amidst a sea of the same ol', same ol'.
The first thing that bummed me out about 'Serpents...' was that they went back to the higher pitch of the first two albums. Sure, it worked for those albums but when you're essentially playing in the same simplistic manner as the previous album (OUTC) I would suggest sticking with the same sludgy sound in order to give each riff that added impact. Here, everything just sounds ultra-faggy and tinny to the max.
Glen sounds 'ok'. In fact, there are moments here and there where he sounds his most hateful (choking the life from you with my bare hands). The biggest gripe I have with his performance on this album is the predictability of his lyrical arrangements. Where his technique worked for the three albums leading up to 'Serpents...', it all just sounds mechanical and uninspired this time around. Unfortunately this has been Glenny's way of doing things ever since (though things have gotten worse due to his need to overwhelm each riff with incessant "portions" of his ultra-juvenile brand of lyricism).
There are a few 'ok' tracks on this album but the remainder is quite worrying and looking back in hindsight it's really no surprise to see how things fell apart shortly thereafter.
Thursday, June 5, 2014
Sure, there are great songs scattered throughout and hell, some of them I count among my favorites of the band, but there are also things that drive me fucking batty, like the happy-go-lucky thrash riffs found in songs like 'Behead the Prophet' and 'Holy Deception. In fact, most of the lamer songs are found on the album's second half. It's almost like the first four songs were so taxing in their manifestation of evil that the band were reduced to some faggy version of themselves by the time 'Behead the Prophet' came prancing out of the gates.
The production on this album is also very aggravating as, despite its inherent "tinnyness", the bass is just overwhelming. Oddly enough, the actual bass guitar is jangled and high tuned. Musically, it doesn't even sound like Glen showed up other than to record himself haphazardly punching the fretboard of his bass. I mean, nothing makes sense in that department. Now don't get me wrong. I'm not the grammar Nazi equivalent of precision and technicality but god damn, at least do what David Vincent does and "pretend" to know how to play. Worked for Martin Van Drunen.
My last gripe is that Benton ditched the gnarly vocal effects slathered over the first album because some whiny faggots complained about him using "vocal harmonizers" (?) Fuck 'em. Personally, I liked hearing the vocals spiced up such as they were on the band's debut. I've NEEEEEVER complained about a band's decision to sound nastier and more monstrous via technological gadgetry and studio trickery. So be it. If that's what it takes to conjure fourth the ancient ones than I'm game.
As I said earlier, the first four songs are on point. The band basically took the formula that made the first album successful and warped it up a bit this time around with peculiar results, most notably in the album's opener 'Satan Spawn the Cocky Demon'. The dissonance found on this track can be a bit dizzying, but I mean that in a stupendously good way. Also of "note", 'Repent to Die' may be Deicide's most technologically "notey" song to date. Not a surprise at all to see that Glen was in no hurry to play that song live every night. Small wonder why the band opted for hooks next time around.
While there's nothing terribly offensive going on within the confines of 'Legion', I certainly do not share everyone's slobbering approval of this album. It's cool and it certainly carries with it many memories from my youth but overall I'll always consider the band's self-titled to be their "pinnacle moment".
Dawn of Possession (1991)
The best. I mean, the absolute fucking best! This is by far the greatest achievement of New York's finest. Between the band's bizarre riffs and pattern arrangements and Harris Johns' flawlessly haunted production, 'Dawn of Possession' is a masterpiece and the penultimate display of evil death metal wrought from the Northeast. The perfect companion-piece for a hike through Untermyer Park in Yonkers (where Immolation is from) as that was the hangout for occultists in the '70's and '80's, not to mention the Son of Sam himself, David Berkowitz. Prepare to be blown away as you listen to 'Those Left Behind' whilst staring at the Jersey Palisades overlooking the Hudson. Theme music for your ass, mofo!
Failures for Gods (1999)
Not as densely technical as 'Here in After', 'Failures...' can be perceived as the band's first step towards catchier songwriting. That's not to say that this is some sort of journey into the realms of soft rock and easy listening, but it was rather obvious that the band were going more for feeling and vibe on this one than it's almost jazzier predecessor. As far as songwriting goes, I place this alongside the band's flawless debut but the one thing that fucks it up a bit is the production. I could only imagine this with a Harris Johns sheen. Aside from that one flaw these songs are among their best and this is perhaps the second most played Immolation album in my domain. Also of note is the performance of then new drummer Alex Hernandez, who not only fit the band's style like a glove but managed to add more "kook" to Immolation's style.
Close to a World Below (2000)
The production here is a slight step up from the band's last album but can at times be a bit on the muddy side. I'm not sure what the deal is with Immolation's long-standing battle with production standards but...
Musically, the evil is still here in all it's glory along with the band's knack for bizarro riff intricacies. Unfortunately, Immolation would lose one of their founding members (guitarist Tom Wilkinson) after this album's release and despite all of the praise that other guitarist Bob Vigna gets to this day, I strongly feel that an important piece of the band's sound left with Wilkinson. Nevertheless, 'Close...' is a highly enjoyable record and in many ways I view it as the end of the truly essential Immolation albums. After that it's been a creative minefield of hits and misses. Nothing terribly offensive (ie: Cold Lake, Illud Insanum Divinus), but nothing terribly inspired, either.
Here in After (1996)
After a lengthy hiatus, Immolation returned with their sophomore album and I had slightly mixed feelings about it. Now don't get me wrong, I don't think this album sucks by ANY means, but topping 'Dawn...' is a fucking TALL order. For me, at any rate.
Some of the band's best and most memorable material is found on this album as is their most technically challenging. Despite this, I was actually glad to hear the band return to a more eerie approach to riff-writing with the follow-up, 'Failures for Gods'.
Majesty and Decay (2010)
After what I consider to be Immolation's "dark age" the band came back with a fucking vengeance in 2010 with this monster of an album. The band had finally achieved that "perfect" production and overall this is the album that I feel should have come out after 2000's 'Close to a World Below'.
Kingdom of Conspiracy (2013)
KoC finds Immolation back in the throes of production woes. Instead of an undercooked and dry sounding album (ie: Failures for Gods, Unholy Cult, Harnessing Ruin) KoC is WAY overproduced. Fortunately this takes absolutely nothing away from the songs themselves as 'Kingdom...' finds Immolation continuing on the path blazed by their previous album, 'Majesty and Decay'.
Tasty little treat that manages to score lower than 'Kingdom...' and 'Majesty...' only for its shorter running-time. Really this release is about equal to the aforementioned duo in terms of quality and likeability. There are moments of pure evil on here that remind me of the band's earlier works.
Unholy Cult (2002)
Now we get to that part of the list where things get a bit hazy.
I'm not sure what it is about this album that I find fault with as many of the songs are damn good but it exists nonetheless. Maybe it was my inherent prejudice against the band replacing Tom Wilkinson or maybe it was the fact that 'Unholy Cult' broke the cycle of stupendous album covers that adorned each Immolation release up until this point. I don't know. The fact is, 'Unholy Cult' is not a bad album by any means but it would seem that my agitation by the band's simple changes would be a sign of things to come.
Shadows in the Light (2007)
Easily the band's worst production (and that's no small feat). The drum sound on this album is absolutely fucking awful. Just awful. The songwriting isn't the worst but it's far from the best. Though there are some genuinely aggressive moments on this album, the weirdo-ism's of days past are just that... long fucking gone. Thankfully the band snapped to their senses and released a smashing follow-up worthy of the early half of their catalog.
Harnessing Ruin (2005)
By far the lamest album the band has released. I don't know WHAT the fuck was going on in their personal lives, but whatever it was it obviously stunted the creative flow of the band. Nothing evil. Nothing interesting. Just lame. Lame. Lame. Lame. Lame.
Hope and Horror (2007)
The only reason this scores lower than 'Harnessing...' is that it's an -ep- and the songs here are just NOT interesting whatsoever. Obviously the writer's block that plagued the band during the writing process for 'Harnessing...' had not quite worn off during this time.
What we have here is the perfect companion piece to the band's last album, 2011's 'To Hell With God'. A thoroughly dry and mummified version of the band that manages to sound nothing like the once frightening musical force that released 1990's 'Deicide' and '92's 'Legion'. Whoever tells you that this album sounds like 'Legion' should be kicked in their nut-sack and slapped in the face. Repeatedly.