Satan’s Almighty Penis – Into The Cunt Of Chaos

•September 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This is almost unbelievably good along with being musically very unique, and I recommend it to any and all black metal fans who would like to hear what real talent in the genre sounds like.  Satan’s Almighty Penis is without a doubt stronger than 95% of modern black metal bands by virtue of this album alone.  It’s not only remarkably varied, but the band is immensely talented at composing all those variations, and, more importantly, bringing them together into a cohesive and majestic whole.  In short, ‘Into The Cunt Of Chaos’ is a mandatory purchase for really any black metal fan whose tastes have evolved beyond the most simple incarnations of the genre.

The music on this album is many things.  It’s chaotic, owing to both the strangely composed music as well as the just-above-demo level production.  It’s extremely melodic at times with collections of melancholic yet uplifting tremolo riffs.  It’s extremely aggressive and brutal, with some fierce blast beats and one of the most intense vocal performances I’ve ever heard in black metal.  The music is unique without really being ‘strange’; there’s nothing openly weird about anything going on here, but everything seems a half-step off kilter with the rest of the black metal scene, yet feels completely coherent on its own terms.  They’re one of those bands who you know are among the best because they don’t feel the need to be musically outrageous to be noticed and appreciated.  There’s some restraint.

Much in the same way that Goatwhore goes about things, Satan’s Almighty Penis is a band that feels no need to obey any particular musical rules.  Like many great bands, the music on ‘Into The Cunt Of Chaos’ sounds like it was composed and simply happened to be black metal, rather than written with the idea of being black metal in mind.  This gives the band much more freedom and depth.  I love how rounded everything on this release is; it’s emotionally compelling and quickly changeable, with a wonderful example being ‘Befouling The Heart Of Deities’, which abruptly yet deftly moves from technical, thrashy sections into glorious melodic black metal without missing a beat.  Among less talented bands, changing styles so abruptly would result in a totally ruined musical flow, but Satan’s Almighty Penis manages to do it without any such difficulty.

The (real) first and last tracks are by far the most melodic and epic; the middle tracks are substantially more Norwegian in nature and raw.  They’re no less compelling, though; Satan’s Almighty Penis consistently avoids the same stale riffs that have been cycling in black metal for years, opting for a greater sense of dark melody instead.  On the other hand, rarely do I hear music where vocals are such a crucial element, and the vocal performance on this release is fantastic, coming in the form of a vomiting, tortured screech that projects a real aura of intensity.  It’s rare, given the standard style of performance, that I notice the intensity of a black metal vocalist, but in this case it seems like the (surprisingly well written) lyrics are being projected at an enormous volume with genuine emotion backing them.

I guess the reason I love this so much is that it feels real and organic.  Much in the way that very early Cradle Of Filth songs felt genuinely epic due to the radically different moods and music that could be found in any one track, Satan’s Almighty Penis feels similarly epic in scope, even on the shorter tracks.  The songs are very true sounding and never feel like an array of riffs laid end to end; they move and progress in a way that’s more subtle and authentic than that.  Maybe it’s just how the band is willing to stretch the confines of black metal; since the band doesn’t adhere to convention at all, the music feels more genuine and less pat as a result.

Whatever it is that makes this album so special and great, it’s a worthwhile purchase by any metal fan.  I can listen to it numerous times without getting bored, as the music has enough complexity and creativity to sustain itself even after multiple listens.  If people were more willing to get past the curious choice of moniker and album title, I think that many would discover a great, tragically unknown black metal album that demands much more attention than it’s gotten so far.

Neural Implosion – Southern Gore Grind

•September 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

Production is terrible but music is decent, the classic tale of just about every demo-level band in the world.  Neural Implosion plays modern, somewhat melodic death metal in the vein of several artists who play modern, somewhat melodic death metal whose names slip my mind at the moment.

‘Cold Blooded’ somewhat fools the listener, since it’s easily the most brutal track on this demo, sounding greatly like mid-era Cannibal Corpse with its emphasis on plucking bass guitar.  The other three tracks are rather different, with US-style melodeath riffs kicking in during breaks from the blasting and double bass.  The riffing is generally dominated by your basic array of tremolo and held chords, while drumming is somewhat rickety and based around conventional metal tropes.  Vocals are high/low shrieks/growls, nothing too exciting but they get the job done.

It’s pretty professionally composed; the songs don’t drag and new riffs and breaks pop in at the appropriate moment to keep the listener interested.  The production probably robs the music of more power than it should; it’s totally rehearsal room, which isn’t befitting of music that’s attempting to be a tad more erudite than Devourment.

Neural Implosion is nothing that greatly excites me, but based on this demo I see no reason why they couldn’t be quite good in the future.  As it stands, it’s rather standard, if promising, melodic death metal, but I’d imagine that with a bit more time they’ll be able to put out something pretty cool.

Impaled Nazarene – All That You Fear

•September 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This is one of latter-era Impaled Nazarene’s better works.  Impaled Nazarene went through something of a transformation around halfway through their career (so far, anyway) from black/thrash/grind to melodic yet still brutal black metal.  Impaled Nazarene never really shook off the black/thrash/grind entirely, and it still pops up from time to time on newer releases.  That’s all well and good, but Impaled Nazarene’s ability to pull those sections off has diminished at the same time their ability to compose engaging and epic melodies has increased.

For that reason, ‘All That You Fear’ is a very good album because it’s dominated by melody and what more primitive parts occur seem to be pulled off better than usual.  Granted, it’s can only be so different; it’s an Impaled Nazarene album after all, and the changes from album to album are rarely sweeping in nature.  The array of thrashy and melodic black metal riffs are still present with sawing guitar tone, drums are intense and well played, and vocals are a demented, throat-shredding scream that tears through the music like a chainsaw through a pig.  The songs are conventionally verse-chorus in nature, and it fits the punky nature of the music in general.  If you’ve heard Impaled Nazarene, you know what this sounds like, plus more melodic riffing.

‘Armageddon Death Squad’ might be the best track on the album due to having the catchiest chorus in the band’s history.  Then again, ‘Curse Of The Dead Medusa’ is similarly excellent, with an array of fantastic riffs and rhythms.  But then there’s the fantastic title track… really, there’s no weak points to be found on this album.  Even the most mediocre tracks are still firmly within the realm of quality music, and at its best, the music is some of the best modern black metal out there.  I can listen to it repeatedly without a hint of boredom.

It’s doubtful that anything on this album will change the minds of non-black metal fans, but for those who enjoy the genre and the band, it’s a no-brainer to pick this one up.  I listen to it a lot.

It (Canada) – Wolves Of Winter

•September 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

This is the first demo of It, the Canadian master of black metal that makes no fucking sense in any way yet manages to be amazing anyway.  I’m not sure how he manages to pull it off, but ‘Wolves Of Winter’ is a fantastic first demo for all the wrong reasons and most people are guaranteed to hate it tremendously.

The ingredients are few but effective.  Sparse, goblinlike vocals and pop in periodically to chatter some demented phrase before disappearing again.  Drums that sound programmed but are actually played with a very awkward sense of timing, and seemingly without any relation to the rest of the music.  The primary focus of the music, though, is on the guitars, which play a very, VERY strange mixture of suicidal black metal and medieval folk, with each side perverting the other into something that’s melancholy, sinister, and seemingly fueled by heroin and sleepless nights.  I have no idea how I’m supposed to describe this music.

It’s barely even music, none of the instruments are in time with each other, the vocals are applied randomly, and the drums don’t play rhythms that could in any sense be described as conventional.  It almost sounds entirely improvised; the riffs don’t really repeat, they just shamble about aimlessly, sometimes melodic, sometimes not.  The second half is less shambling and has blast beats and double bass (constantly speeding up and slowing down) instead of the array of off-time rhythms that define the first half, but the riffing and vocals are just as demented as before.  The first half of this demo is the one I prefer.

This is the sort of music that could only be produced at a very specific time by very specific people.  It couldn’t be reproduced under any circumstances; it’s just too demented to believe.  If you like weird and uncomfortable black metal that leaves you with a sort of sick and tense feeling after listening, this is pretty perfect.

Iuvenes – Riddle Of Steel

•September 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I like the middle track of this album a lot.  ‘Ubi Sunt…” makes me think of a very (very, very) simplified form of Hellveto.  It has cool keyboard lines and nicely tribal drum programming.  The chanted vocals don’t even sound silly.  It’s more uptempo than the rest of the material here, which probably helps it substantially to maintain my interest.

The rest of the album, though… eh.  It’s just sort of there.  It’s passable Graveland worship and that’s really all it is.  Sparse vocals snarl, everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) is based off some sort of martial rhythm, and keyboard orchestra dominates the sound with choir or trumpet effects.  Every moment of this album is a struggle to be as epic as possible.  It kind of reminds me of a marginally more exciting Dagorlad at times, with a similarly barely metal feel a lot of the time.  The riffs are so Graveland it’s not even funny, all palm-muted strumming leading into melodic chords over the always rolling, thundering programmed drums.  I’m forced to describe it as epic because I don’t want to hurt the band’s feelings.

Half the problem with this album is the production, which is almost impossibly flat for the sort of emotions the band clearly wants to convey.  It’s hard for any real musical climaxes to occur when everything seems to be played on around two and a half on the amps, and how everything seems to be mixed together at exactly the same volume.  I can’t let all the blame fall on the production though, because the music doesn’t do itself a whole lot of favors.  For every moment like midway through the title track with some cool Slavic clean vocals, there’s a whole lot of guitar shuffling in the same martial patterns which have been heard eight other times on the album.  I understand that doing epic, medieval viking metal doesn’t lend itself to a whole lot of variation, but even in this case I have to wonder if Iuvenes are incredibly dedicated to this specific sound or just unwilling to try making something interesting.

I don’t have any particular malice towards this album and it has its nice moments, but the CD really seems to do all it possibly can to avoid connecting with the listener in any significant way, as though finding it interesting instead of just relegating it firmly to the background would piss off the thunder god or something.  As it stands, this ends up being just very nice background music, no matter how many martial rhythms and dramatic synthlines there are.  It’s nice if you like the aesthetic but my god does it repeat itself a lot.

Six Feet Under – Maximum Violence

•September 28, 2008 • Leave a Comment

‘Haunted’ was a charmingly shitty album.  This is simply a shitty album minus the charm.  ‘Haunted’ had some endearing incompetence to it and a collection of neanderthal riffs that actually made it sort of a worthwhile listen, but this… this is just bad with zero justification.  It’s still very stupid, but not stupid in a way I can get behind, like Jungle Rot stupid or Lowbrow stupid.  This is just dumb like Bobby Hill, disappointing everyone at every time.

There’s nothing objectively different about this compared to ‘Haunted’, apart from, of course, Chris Barnes sounding worse than ever, but that doesn’t stop ‘Maximum Violence’ from being several times more terrible than the band’s first album.  Really, it sucks simply because it lacks ideas.  The ideas on ‘Haunted’ were idiotic and pointless, but somehow they got the job done.  On ‘Maximum Violence’, there ARE no ideas, simply a constant rehashing of the same few riffs over and over again.  Occasionally a faint glimmer of hope will appear in the form of a catchy vocal line, but the release is predominantly composed of bland midpaced riffs that shuffle in place like a guilty six year old.  Imagine it now:

“Chris Barnes, where did you put the good Six Feet Under album?”

*lazily kicking at dirt* “I don’t knoooooooooooooow…”

I’m not sure how Six Feet Under manages to maintain their popularity with albums like these.  It would make sense if they could compose a groove, no matter how simple, but most of this album is dominated by riffs and rhythms that are so awkward that I’d think it’s almost progressive if Chris Barnes wasn’t heading the endeavor.  Very little on the album makes sense; it just wanders around in musical circles with lazy drumming, tuneless riffs, and Barnes’ marijuana-strained barking congealing into something that doesn’t really go anywhere, but instead just sinks in place, getting slower, slower, slower…

You get the picture.

Phobia (United States Of America) – Grind Your Fucking Head In

•September 27, 2008 • Leave a Comment

Yes, I understand that they need to throw off the shackles of conformity and music industry standards, but could the band really not have added another ten minutes of running time?  I enjoy this album a lot but I can walk across my house to grab a drink and it’s already over.

Other than the short running time, this is quite nice.  It’s modern grindcore with a pinch of crust and death metal; the songs are short and violent and rhythm and speed rather than riff-oriented.  If you look up ‘grindcore’ in the dictionary, this album would be one of the first examples to pop up.  Guitars are atonal buzzsaws that play riffs of a handful of chords but a fuck of a lot of notes each, drums blast and go into flying fills at the end of phrases, and vocals scream until vocal cords are shredded (quite literally; after a Phobia live set I saw, the singer was barely able to speak).  It makes for an intense listening experience.

Music like this is really makes or breaks by its aesthetic and not much else, and Phobia has the aesthetic pretty much perfected.  The music is awesomely brutal and extremely fast, though not really going into absurdist noisecore territory.  The riffs are always discernible and usually quite catchy, and the instrumental performances are all very tight, or as tight as they can be while playing this sort of music.  To call this definitive grindcore would not be a misnomer, as it fulfills really all of the genre’s descriptive elements but never feels particularly trite.  Maybe it’s the apocalyptic atmosphere, or perhaps they’re MORE brutal and faster than other grindcore bands.  It could also be because I enjoy the grindcore aesthetic.  Who knows.

If you’ve heard Nasum’s ‘Inhale/Exhale’, that’s really the litmus test of whether you’ll enjoy Phobia.  It is a grindcore album and possesses no qualities to make a non-grind fan enjoy it above any other band in the style, but those who enjoy it at all would probably be advised to look here, since Phobia is in the upper echelon as far as execution if not originality.  It’s quite a nice little ‘album’, but you could have guessed that from the band releasing it.