Brotthogg, The Die Is Cast review (2020)

With an EP in 2017, The Last Traveler, and a succinct full-length album in 2019, Echoes of the Past, Brotthogg was poised to make a leap forward with their new release, The Die Is Cast.

Brotthogg is from Norway. The musicians are Kristian Larsen Moen, who is credited with playing all the instruments as well as writing the music and lyrics (clearly the creative force behind the production), Jonas Moen and Craig Furunes who both contribute vocals, and Stephen Carlson handling all guitar solos. It is an unusual arrangement compared to other bands, but you cannot argue with the outcome. The music is basically a melodic death metal casting with a strong vein of thrash running through it.

Are you wondering what the name of the band means? According to the band (via the press release), “The name Brotthogg is derived from an old forgotten Norwegian word in dialect meaning ‘The one who has to take care of the job, the unpleasant one.’” Interesting. The music does not have any sense of hesitance or slog to it, and is in fact powerful and robust. You often feel heroic elements in the narrative impulse of the songs, but the most memorable parts of the delivered music are the rapid staccato rhythms, the drumming, and the confident vocals. The sweltering impertinence of the speed and unbalancing progressions of songs like “Resurrection” complement well more straight-forward death/thrash enterprises like “Behind the Gateways” – but even in the more familiar framings, there is always some twist, epic or subtle, that marks the music as plainly Brotthogg. The resilience of the climbing scales and the technical risks of the lead breaks add even more depth the set. I am definitely on board. Recommended.

You can listen to two tracks now on Bandcamp, and the full album drops August 1. Bandcamp also has the back-catalogue (as does Spotify) if you find you like what you hear.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/Brotthogg/

https://brotthogg.bandcamp.com/

Brotthogg, The Die Is Cast review (2020)

Resin Tomb, Resin Tomb review (Brilliant Emperor Records 2020)

Loud, fast, and terrifying, the debut effort from Resin Tomb marks the earth with blood and bile.

Resin Tomb is an Australian Death/Grind Metal trio. You might think you have an idea of what you are going to hear just from that one-line description, but you have to put it in your ears to really know. That fact is truer with this band than most. They describe their own music as dissonant, and there are no clean vocals (of course). The music might seem at first simply to be howls of rage, but there is more going on than that. Let’s take a quick shuffle through the five songs on the EP.

“Abrogate” is about two minutes of emotional musical projectile spewing, and that’s how the set opens. In “Penance,” the confession is the penance – at least that’s what seems to be going on. The song has a very dungeon feel to it. Imagine a dreary cave-like space with a mad person running around screaming and clearly trying to get something across to you, but you don’t really understand. “Surfacing” has a structural awareness. It sets a scene and you are poised to see it play out. It turns out to be a scene of violence, and toward the end there is a commentary that functions as an explanation but definitely not an apology. “Prostrated” has a straightforward, open kind of construction. Face-up, not face-down. It is the shortest song and leads into the epic-scale “Bestial,” the anchor to the exposition/exhibition. In your face up front, plodding and Germanic in the middle, the song is fierce and spiritually crippling. The experience of listening to this music pins you down in a rare crescendo of realization. Recommended.

Resin Tomb is out July 31 from Brilliant Emperor Records. You can get two tracks digitally from Bandcamp right now, and the rest on Friday. It will shake your teeth loose.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/resintombdeath

https://brilliantemperor.bigcartel.com

https://www.facebook.com/BrilliantEmperorRecords

https://resintomb.bandcamp.com/releases

Resin Tomb, Resin Tomb review (Brilliant Emperor Records 2020)

Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted review (Copper Feast Records 2020)

Foot conjures a tsunami of sound with The Balance of Nature Shifted.

The Melbourne band Foot released its first EP (self-titled) in 2016, and its first full-length, Buffalo, in 2018. Sticking to the two-year cycle, more of their unique brand of introspective desert music has solidified from the mirage that is 2020. The main creative engine in Foot is Paul Holden, who writes the music and sings and plays guitar on the albums. On the band’s Facebook and Bandcamp pages, Holden has commented on this new collection of songs at some length, suggesting that their composition was influenced by the astonishing flux we all find ourselves in right now. It is not just the new catastrophes we have to deal with, but ones that have been building. Check the title of the album and interpret it in the broadest possible terms.

The music is a heavy desert sound, stonerish and reminiscent of grunge in many ways (although there might be more motivation today for the despondency that permeates the music than there was in the grunge era). The first song, “Despair On Hope Street,” starts off with a faraway tinny cracking for a few seconds before the avalanche of guitars lands directly on your head. It sounds like 20 guitars, that rumbling riff does. Heavy fuzz, and lingering vocals combined toward the end with a Tim Sult-style directness in the lead work puts you right in the middle of the situation Foot is going to deal with over the course of the album. The deep, cooking desert vibe emerges slowly over the next few songs and a straight-up doom hammer is there too from time to time (e.g, “Green Embers”). This album coalesced for me as an ethereal enterprise that sounded great the first time through and even better the more I listened to it. Foot is absolutely on my radar from now on. It would be great to see them at the next Psycho Las Vegas – they would fit right in. Recommended.

Streaming and digital downloads are available now at Bandcamp and the usual elsewheres. The physicals are out this Friday, July 31, from Copper Feast Records (links below). Foot will get you rolling, and that is a fact.

Links.

https://footmelb.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/footmelbourne

https://copperfeastrecords.bandcamp.com

https://copperfeastrecords.bigcartel.com

https://www.facebook.com/CopperFeastRecords

Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted review (Copper Feast Records 2020)

The Naked High, Tap Into The Evil review (2020)

Montreal stoner/groove band The Naked High set the bar at a new level with their second album, Tap Into The Evil.

The foursome is Phil Rod (bass), Simon Ouellet (vocals), Hugo L-C (guitar), and Charlie Cayouette (drums). Their first album (self-titled) came out in 2017 and established the basis for their style and symptoms. The songs are dark and stalwart, and lay more on the doom line than the new one does. Their sound has evolved and is a little like a metal/doom version of Dangerous Toys, if that band had been a metal band (instead of a hair band), as they have a very bluesy persuasion to their compositions folded into a combination of squealing lead lines and heavy doom riffs. It is quite unusual and it is extremely compelling. Indeed, this band would fit right in on a label like Ripple.

The six songs on the new album all have a crisp sound and crack with a sustained energy. “Jewel of the Crowd” starts it all off, and the rhythm riff is a plundering thump with an infectious vocal and probing, muscular lead break to round it all out. This structure remains on display throughout but there is also something different that stands out on every song – “Rebirth” has, for example, that amazing bass line you can hear prominently under the wizened lead work. And there is “Pull of the Void” which has many Black Sabbath homages and propels its story of struggle and uncertainty through carefully selected musical elements. Every song is its own creation and they all stand together. I listened to both of The Naked High’s releases back to back and still wanted to hear more. I like this kind of music and I specifically really like the way this band does it. Recommended.

Tap Into The Evil is out now. You can get the download or vinyl at Bandcamp, and you can stream both their albums on Spotify, Apple Music, and so on.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/tnh.stonerrock/

https://thenakedhigh.bandcamp.com/

The Naked High, Tap Into The Evil review (2020)

Bedsore, Hypnagogic Hallucinations review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

The debut album from Bedsore, Hypnagogic Hallucinations, will warp your ideas about reality and Death Metal predispositions.

The start with, the band explains its name on Facebook by giving a definition of the word and indicating that choosing it follows in the tradition of bands like Autopsy and Carcass. More interestingly, the explanation goes on … “At the same time, ‘Bedsore’, read as ‘suffering of the bed’ also has a more veiled meaning. In this sense, the crib is the gate that ferry the human being into a universe dominated by its unconscious fears, dream-like visions, aberrant figures and grotesque manifestations, which are capable to leading the individual to total destruction, rotting the flesh and eroding the mind.” That last part gives you the best idea of where the band is coming from.

And to make sure I knew what “hypnagogic” meant, I looked it up – relating to the state immediately before falling asleep. We all know what that space is like, don’t we; that crazy half asleep / half wake world and the mad images that live there. If you combine the explanation of the name of the band with the meaning of the name of the album, you will be in the right frame of mind to experience the first full-length release from the Rome-based Death Metal band Bedsore.

The musicians are Jacopo Gianmaria Pepe (vocals, guitars, synthesizers), Stefano Allegretti (vocals, guitars, organ, other keyboards), Giulio Rimoli (bass), and Davide Itri (drums). They published a demo only two years ago, so they are just getting going as a band. The new release sounds like the work of seasoned veterans with its solid musical structure and it also has the creativity and spark of fresh minds at work on new ideas.

There are seven songs. Three fairly short pieces start the set, followed by four longer compositions. The first thing you hear is an eerie keyboard spell that rises for a second into a jazzy layer before the guitars begin push through and the power gets cranked up. The opener, “The Gate,” is presented in two parts, and it is a reconnoitering of the landscape. The first long song takes its title from H. P. Lovecraft, “At The Mountains of Madness.” Apropos. This track can be seen as an embodiment of the entire set in that it has all the elements that are so important to the whole: sorrowful, mournful keyboard passages, avalanche guitar riffs, vocals that convey an entombed mental torture, and lead guitar work that lays bare the toll of the life and time. “Cauliflower Growth” is next and has a more urgent and aggressive overall tone to it (and a guest appearance by Giorgio Trombino). “Disembowelment of the Souls” begins with an epic scale and ultimately transforms into a dirge in the final moments while the closer, “Brains On The Tarmac” is a lilting hallucination at the front and ultimately ends symphonically. If you listen to the entire program in order (turn the shuffle OFF), the effect is mesmerizing. This album is definitely one of the most memorable of the year so far. Highly recommended.

Hypnagogic Hallucinations drops in July 24. You can get it in many different forms from 20 Buck Spin and through Bandcamp.

Band photo by Void Revelations.

Links.

https://bedsoredeath.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/bedsoredeath

http://www.20buckspin.com

http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Bedsore, Hypnagogic Hallucinations review (20 Buck Spin 2020)

Ruin, Plague Transmissions: Vol. 2 review (Blood Harvest/Horror Pain Gore Death Productions 2020)

The second compilation of recent Ruin music has hit the streets: Plague Transmissions: Vol. 2.

There are a lot of bands who have used the name Ruin over the years. You probably know which one we are talking about here, but just to be sure we are all on the same page, I looked up some information on Ruin at Encyclopaedia Metllaum (https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/Ruin/3540401007). This Ruin is the Death Metal band from California (not Massachusetts or Maine or Florida or New York or …) that was formed in 1990 and made a short but prominent fireburst at the time, breaking apart the next year. Founding member Mihail Jason Satan gathered up forces in 2015 to rustle the fire back to life. Since then, the band has been releasing a ton of EPs and splits, and a couple of full-length albums, including Drown In Blood (2017) and Human Annihilation (2018).

Volume 2 of Plague Transmissions collects material from Into Endless Chasms (2018), Infested Death (2020), Death Tomb (2019), and the Ruin / Anthropic (2018) split (according to the Metal Archives). This is the way to go if you missed out on any of these earlier releases or you just want to grab them all at once.

What does the music sound like? Savage, brutal Death Metal. There is a no nonsense approach to song writing here that yields growling aggressive vocals, fierce guitars, and pummeling percussion. Ruin exhibits a high level of production quality and inserts narrative samples and juxtaposed musical elements to enhance and deepen the impact of the pieces. The songs display a greater variety than you sometimes hear in such hard music, but they never compromise their edge. From the fade in of the first track, “Into Endless Chasms,” and the somber chants therein to the final screeches and growls of the last song, “Eternal Curse of Rotten Beings,” there is no filler, no place holder, no pointlessness – this compilation is rock solid and comes highly recommended. If you are a fan you know you want it, and if you have never heard of Ruin this is a good place to get acquainted.

You can imbibe in the digital from Bandcamp now, with CDs shipping out soon.

Links.

https://bloodharvestrecords.bandcamp.com/album/plague-transmissions-vol-2

https://thedeathmetalcult.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BloodHarvestRecords/

Ruin, Plague Transmissions: Vol. 2 review (Blood Harvest/Horror Pain Gore Death Productions 2020)

Chaos Over Cosmos, The Ultimate Multiverse review (Narcoleptica Productions 2020)

High concept Prog Metal duo Chaos Over Cosmos release their second album, The Ultimate Multiverse.

I wrote “duo,” and it is true, but the driving force behind the project is Rafal Bowman who started Chaos Over Cosmos with Javier Calderón in 2017. The two musicians, Rafal in Poland and Javier in Spain, never met in person and collaborated at this great remove to create The Unknown Voyage in 2018. There is a message here and an example for us all in the current state of world affairs, isn’t there. Javier moved on to other things after that first album, and Rafal worked with Joshua Ratcliff (Australia) on the new set in the same remote way. Rafal is credited with guitars, synths, drum programming, songwriting, and Joshua with vocals, lyrics, songwriting. The collaboration has produced an expansive soundscape that reaches across genres of contemporary music.

If you wanted to land this album in one category, it would be Prog, and you might refine it to Prog Metal. “Cascading Darkness” plants a flag in the land of Prog at the jump, with a swirling opening that puts you immediately in mind of bands like Saga. The guitars kick in soon, though, and they are bigger and heavier than you hear in most Prog acts. And then there is the vocalizations – the first ones we hear are very much Death Metal, morphing into a kind of sinister screaming whisper, and alternating (occasionally overlaid) with clean vocals. The percussion holds a driving tempo throughout, shifting up and down as the terrain changes. The keyboards are technically astute and creatively exploratory. All of this on the first song. As you progress through the set, you get alternate takes and new musical vistas, things completely different and some familiar homages as well. Most of the songs are on the long side, except the closer, “Asimov,” which is radio length and kind of a curtain call for the overall performance.

The Ultimate Multiverse is available for download now at Bandcamp. In the Prog Metal lane, Chaos Over Cosmos is creating a solid place in the world for its music.

Links.

https://chaosovercosmos.bandcamp.com/album/the-ultimate-multiverse

https://www.facebook.com/chaosovercosmos/

Chaos Over Cosmos, The Ultimate Multiverse review (Narcoleptica Productions 2020)

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Ensiferum celebrates 25 years of music with a new album, Thalassic – a Folk Metal epic tale told in heavy sea shanties.

I read that “Ensiferum” is Latin for something like “sword-bearing,” and that “Thalassic” is Greek for “relating to the seas,” so I do now definitely understand why the band’s music has often been called Viking Metal. Still, the broader Folk Metal label usually gets applied to them, placing the band among the storied list of famous acts like Korpiklaani, Finntroll, Amon Amarth, and stands with recent releases like this year’s Falconer album. It is a big tent, and this manner of metal music has legions of fans. Ensiferum brings out the heavy from every angle in Thalassic, the band’s first actual themed album.

The Helsinki band has been making music for two and a half decades, and has gone through many line-up changes and rearrangements throughout their journey. The current band is Sami Hinkka (bass and vocals), Markus Toivonen (guitar and vocals), Petri Lindroos (guitar and vocals), and Janne Parviainen (drums), with Pekka Montin (clean vocals and keyboards) contributing to the studio recording.

The maritime musical gets started with a sweeping orchestral opener, then dives straight into seafaring metal. “Rum, Women, Victory” is an anthem style radio song that alternates between gruff and clean vocals that ride along the waves of roiling guitars and peppering drums. The pace is fast and urgent, and, you can tell from the title, light hearted. This one is going to be a singalong at live shows for sure. The Greek mythology themes start to emerge with “Andromeda,” which takes a more serious and somber tone, opening the way for the full tale to be told. The production is front stage in this album, with a big full sound, a generous use of keyboards, and many moments of relief that keep the music and story moving along. It is designed to be theatrical and they pull it off well. The concept is fully realized and fans of the band and fantasy metal music are going to love this album.

Thalassic is available now from Metal Bade Records in many forms and functionalities. If you are looking for a big sound and a maritime mythology story to go along with it, Ensiferum has your number.

Links.

http://www.facebook.com/Ensiferum

http://www.ensiferum.com

http://www.metalblade.com/ensiferum

Ensiferum, Thalassic review (Metal Blade Records 2020)

Bulletbelt, Warlords review (Impaler Records 2020)

Roaring out of the South Pacific, New Zealand’s Bulletbelt unleash their biggest sound yet with Warlords, an absolute monster of a metal album.

The fourth album from the Wellington-based metal band, Warlords features drummer Steve Francis (the only remaining founding member) with a new singer, Paul Roberts, a relatively new guitarist, Josh O’Brien, and long-time bandmate Tim Mekalick on bass. They are leaving nothing on the stage this time around, that’s for sure. The album is an all-out attack. All of the elements fall into place and these guys sound like they have been playing together forever. I don’t want to lean to heavily on comparisons to other bands, but I will say I got a Black Dahlia Murder feel from elements in this album, and that not a bad headspace to start listening in.

The album is like a slumbering beast you accidentally kicked while stumbling along, and it wakes up in a rage. The quiet intro piece gives way to “Impaler,” a full-on spike in your midsection. Fast, hard metal, heavy on the riffs and hooks, and presenting the commanding vocals at the center of the swirling musical assault is what you get throughout the set. Every song has its own measure and unique aspect – from the killer bass lines in “Blade On The Fire” to the cascading lead work in “Mutilate and Destroy” to the final ferocious notes of the closer, “Warlord,” this album is the standard the band should be measured against. It is an achievement the metal community should recognize, and it is music I will listen to again and again. Recommended.

You can pick up Warlords right now at Bandcamp. Support Bulletbelt and get your dose. It is the remedy you want.

Links.

https://www.facebook.com/Bulletbelt

https://www.bulletbelt-official.com

https://bulletbeltnz.bandcamp.com

Bulletbelt, Warlords review (Impaler Records 2020)

Merlock, that which speaks … review (2020)

Merlock unleashes an intense labyrinth of ruin and decay with the epic EP that which speaks…

This Spokane, Washington foursome released a three-song demo in 2018 that had great, traditional sounding metal reminiscent of Ritchie Blackmore in a dark mood. This new one is different, more straight ahead doom and sludge, and with even grimmer themes than the 2018 songs. The press photos of the band are tongue-in-cheek and light hearted, but the lyrics sure aren’t. How about this stanza from the leadoff song, “spit out your purple lung/they will drown you/as you learn to swim/so claw your way to the surface,” and then this, “your reality devoured/in this realm of hopelessness/disgorge your viscera/abandon your human form.” Not exactly a traditional letter home, eh?

A lonely hum and a faraway bass line eases you into “Idolon,” the first song on the album. The build is steady then steep, with heavy a bass presence throughout and hammer drop cliffs in a couple places. The vocals alternate between hoarse shrieks and melodic incantations. A wailing guitar solo closes the door near the end. “Prolapse” is next, and is more up-tempo and has a death metal tone to start, before turning Opethish then clamping down on the doom artery at the halfway point. “[vessel]” is a song where the music is the absolute perfect match to the narrative of the lyrics, “wandering through this world barren of true light/the moon eats shadows on a sun it swallows whole.” Hopelessness objectified. The last word is “Condemnation,” which seems fitting. Don’t let the peppy opening vamp fool you – the path ahead is dour in the extreme. The vocals at the beginning are a hissing reptile, and at the end, a disembodied tortured spirit. This album is an experience, and it will put you in a very particular place. I really got into this music and I can’t wait to hear what Merlock does next. Recommended.

Out now and available at Bandcamp, that which speaks… is ready for the taking. It is labeled as an EP, but with a running time of just over thirty minutes, it is as long as a lot of “full-length” albums I have bought in my day.

Links.

https://merlock.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/MerlockSpokane/

Merlock, that which speaks … review (2020)