Venom, Inc., There’s Only Black (Nuclear Blast 2022)

The sophomore full-length album from Venom, Inc. is an unwavering menace: There’s Only Black.

Venom is the iconic band that brought us Welcome To Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982), essentially creating Black Metal from punk and speed metal. Since then, black metal itself has evolved in a particular direction while Venom had other ideas. At War With Satan (1984) was on brand but it was clear that things were changing, and then Possessed (1985) was a noticeable, clear shift. The seas calmed a bit with Prime Evil (1987), but chaos was coming. The band paused, considered reforming, then split in twain.

Venom, Inc. emerged from the schism of the original band. Their debut album was Avé (2017), and I found it enthralling. That one will be hard to follow, but if any band can do it, Venom, Inc. is the one. The musicians are Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan, Jeffrey “Mantas” Dunn, and Jeramie “War Machine” Kling.

You can hear the music coming from far away on the first track, “How Many Can Die.” It is a stylized punk attack with a hardcore head and intermittent hooks. The song works, and still this is a chancy approach for an opener – you have to really depend on the fans being in to what you are putting down. And I was. “Infinitum” is a stone cold killer with a battering mission. The lead guitar break will really wind you up. “Come To Me” is a chopper. I love the straight-forward, no nonsense musical construction. An excellent metal song where the vocals take the forefront while the riff and rhythm provide an indelible platform and the dark lead guitar work intoxicates.

I am having a hard time finding anything to complain about on this record. The title track is a stunningly superbly sinister metal song. “Don’t Feed Me Your Lies” begins on a contemplative foot and then turns into a ravager. “Rampant” is a race straight toward a sharp cliff. Every song has a unique appeal, and they all come together to create a solid set you will want to listen to over and again. Recommended.

There’s Only Black is out now through Nuclear Blast Records. Links below.

Links.

Venom, Inc. website, https://www.venom-inc.co.uk/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/VenomIncOfficial/

Nuclear Blast Records, https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

© Wayne Edwards

Venom, Inc., There’s Only Black (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Buried Under Sky, Darkest Corners (2022)

The debut EP from Buried Under Sky melts the line between melo and harsh: Darkest Corners.

Buried Under Sky is comprised of veteran Connecticut musicians who have been active in well-known bands for many years. This first EP of theirs was conceived during the pandemic, as was nearly all music comping out now, and the realizations brought on by this local/global event are apparent in the included songs. The band is Ian Kauffman (guitar, keys), Kevin Salvatore (guitar), Jay McGuire (bass), Charlie Sad Eyes (vocals), and Mark Castillo (drums).

The set begins earnestly with “Extinguishing The Stars,” a melodious exploration of dark ideas. The rumbling percussion and surgically sharp guitars share time and space with melodic vocals, acoustic guitars, and soft engineering. Occasionally, they are confronted by gruff and ragged singing. The gentled delivery of disconcerting ideas is a recurring theme on the album. You can hear it on “Darkest Corners” as well, although this second track is generally more overtly ominous than the first. Perhaps this is a symptom of contemporary society. Then again, maybe it is the new face of a resurging goth movement, as the two shares many similar characteristics.

Reflect on the title of the third song: “To Walk Upon Disintegration.” You could see the idea as a positive one – the ability to survive and walk along even after the end of something (or of everything). Contrariwise, it could also be seen as an ode to destruction. That is, walking over something and causing its disintegration. Given the merging of opposites this music achieves, listeners get to choose their preferred reality. Tell me that is not a characteristic of contemporary society.

The final two tracks are “Ghosts of May” and “We Eat Our Own.” The former is a complete divergence from the sonic template of the first three, taking a slow walk through the fields of ruin rather than pepping it up. The song is beautifully and eerily rendered, and it is my favorite song on the album. The closer brings the contrast back and produces the most effective example of the style, and perhaps the most gothic-sounding of the batch. It also offers the best guitar work on the EP.

The album is fascinating. It reminds me of many things from the past while simultaneously positioning itself as forward-looking. I expect to hear a lot more music like this in the coming couple of years. Recommended.

Darkest Corners is fully available on August 19th. I recommend Bandcamp for the gathering.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://buriedundersky.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/BuriedUnderSky/

© Wayne Edwards

Buried Under Sky, Darkest Corners (2022)

Blasphemous Creation, Beyond The Grave (HPGD 2022)

Reno’s Blasphemous Creation re-records four classic tracks on Beyond The Grave.

Blasphemous Creation is a death metal / thrash metal quartet centered in Reno, Nevada. Since 2009 they have been handing fans a steady flow of full-length albums jam-packed with searing metal. The new EP is a blast from the past. The band has gone back to the early days from 2006-2009 and cherry picked four of their favorites to re-record and re-celebrate.

“Diabolical Kingdom” is a high-speed invocation. The vocals are grumbled and run so quickly you have to put your ear into it to get it all. The lead guitar is a whirlwind, a bladed assassin’s weapon that has you down before you even know it has hit. “Beyond The Grave” has percussion that seems to be beating directly onto your defleshed skeleton. This song is a ravaging in every sense of the word. The guitar here is speedy and sour, with more than enough bite to make you squeal. There is an extended groove passage in the middle that is completely unexpected, and it rolls back into speeding metal with little concern for your equilibrium.

“Shadows Of Evil” is creepy, as the title implies it should be. Don’t worry, though, because the gleeful pummeling and the hooks are in here as well, along with shocking moments of belligerence. The final track is “Black Winter,” and it is my overall favorite of the four. It contains all the elements I like about the band, and they are executed with insistence. The darkness combined with the groove is a beautiful thing. Recommended.

Beyond The Grave is out now through Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. Bandcamp is the quick place to pick it up.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://hpgd.bandcamp.com/album/beyond-the-grave

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/BlasphemousCreation/

Horror Pain Gore Death, https://www.horrorpaingoredeath.com/

© Wayne Edwards

Blasphemous Creation, Beyond The Grave (HPGD 2022)

Cancer Bats, Psychic Jailbreak (New Damage Records 2022)

Canadian hardcore band Cancer Bats continue a winning streak with their seventh studio album, Psychic Jailbreak.

One of the great things about the Heavy Montreal festival is, coming from the states, you get to see a lot of bands that don’t always play at the US festivals. I saw Cancer Bats there for the first time in 2019 (I put a couple photos from that show at the bottom of the article). They were fantastic, and I have had an eye out for them ever since. As a result, I was pretty excited when I heard they had a new album on the way.

The band had a steady line-up of Jaye Schwarzer, Liam Cormier, Mike Peters, and Scott Middleton for more than a decade. Just last year, Middleton exited the band and the remaining three have continued on. Over the years they have released six previous studio albums, the most recent being 2018’s The Spark That Moves. Cancer Bats’ music is almost always labeled hardcore, and that fits. You will find as you listen all manners and shades – fast, slow, heavy, light, and dark. There is a corridor in their music for all types of heavy music fan.

The new album has eleven churning tracks, cracking the egg on “Radiate.” It is a stomper, driving the idea into your head with delectable repetition and a short pointed lead break toward the end. Do your stretches before this one because it will get you going. “The Hoof” follows and ramps the tempo up even higher. This is an early keeper. I love the driving force of it and the plunging inertia it creates.

“Lonely Bong” has a lot of plays on Spotify, as does the title track. The bong song is a trooper and a metric ton of fun to bounce around with. “Psychic Jailbreak” has a more serious tone to it, and more apparent aggression in the riffs and vocalizations. It is a menacing creeper toward the finish and definitely memorable – just the kind of song you want to go out on.

Other stand-outs for me are “Hammering On,” which is a laid back number with a big pounce to go along with the impressive vocals, and “Shadow Of Mercury” because of its straight-head clobbering approach to musical construction. “Pressure Mind” and “Rolling Threes” is a tasty pairing, too. They are the kind of songs you want to hear in the second half that keep the pace, energy, and inventiveness hitting hard as you roll toward the finish. This new Cancer Bats album delivers the goods. Recommended.

Psychic Jailbreak is out now through New Damage Records. Check out the links below.

Band photo by Sid Tang.

Links.

Website, https://www.cancerbats.com/

Bandcamp, https://cancerbats.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/cancerbats

New Damage Records, http://newdamagerecords.com/

Live photos by Wayne Edwards from Heavy Montreal in 2019.

© Wayne Edwards

Cancer Bats, Psychic Jailbreak (New Damage Records 2022)

Overkill, Prong, and Cultus Black at Piere’s, March 9, 2022

It was a night of thrash in northern Indiana when Overkill stopped by for a little rampage on The Wings Of War tour.

I like the extremes of heavy music – I love doom and I love thrash. New Jersey’s Overkill has always been one of my favorite thrash bands. Starting back in the early 1980s, they have released nineteen (!) studio albums, the most recent being The Wings Of War (Nuclear Blast), which they are supporting with the current tour. My favorite Overkill album is probably The Electric Age, and I have been told many times that it’s a controversial choice. I stand by it, and at the same time, I will listen to any of their albums all the way through any time. The music always cranks the adrenaline up. I was most excited to see Overkill, but two other impressive acts went on ahead of them.

A band that I was seeing for the first time, Cultus Black (or Cvltvs Black), opened the show at Piere’s Entertainment Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. On their Facebook page, they describe themselves as “a dramatic deathcore/Nu-metal crossover.” The photos will give you some idea of what went on. These musicians were fully committed and you have to see them live if you really want to understand the experience.

Like Overkill, Prong, too, have a history that stretches back to the 1980s. They released five albums during their first run, then took a break for a few years. For the past twenty years, they’ve been hitting it hard and putting out new music regularly. The band’s latest full-length album is Zero Days (Steamhammer). The style of heavy metal they play has been described in many ways, ranging from hardcore to punk to industrial to thrash to groove. I am satisfied to call it high energy heavy metal, and they stalked the stage like they owned the place. Great set.

Overkill took the stage and took no prisoners. They opened with “Wrecking Crew” and played one monstrous metal anthem after another, wrapping things up on an tidy encore. Founding members Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth and D. D. Verni led the way and Overkill tore the roof off the place to the delight of screaming fans. I was expecting to see a raucous performance but what the band delivered went above and beyond. Many famous and impressive bands play at Piere’s, and Overkill making the journey there was something extra special; another step up.

The Wings Of War tour continues, with many more dates this month and later in the year. Get out there and see these bands to satisfy your need for speed.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Overkill, http://wreckingcrew.com/Ironbound/

Prong, https://prongmusic.com/

Cultus Black, https://www.cultusblack.com/

Piere’s Entertainment Center, https://pieresentertainment.com/

Nuclear Blast Records, https://label.nuclearblast.com/en/music/band/about/71097.overkill.html

Steamhammer, https://shop.steamhammer.de/artists/prong

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Overkill, Prong, and Cultus Black at Piere’s, March 9, 2022

Great American Ghost, Torture World (MNRK Heavy 2022)

In their tenth year, Great American Ghost offers up a bloody aperitif in the form of Torture World.

Boston hardcore band Great American Ghost has been doing their thing for a while now, and has documented their rage on a number of albums including Everyone Leaves (2015), Hatred Stems From The Seed (2017), and Power Through Terror (2019). The new four-track EP is just as expressive as anything they have done before, and it seems to me that it is meant to charge up their fans for the current tour they are on with Fit For An Autopsy and Enterprise Earth. Mission accomplished. The band is Ethan Harrison (vocals), Niko Gasparrini (guitar), Davier Perez (drums), and Grayson Stewart (guitar).

“Kingmaker” sounds excessively angry and also, inexplicably, holds a kind of groove. In contrast, “Torture World” begins quietly and sweetly for a couple of seconds. The liltyness recurs throughout the song, shining a bright light on the savagery.

“Womb” is unbelievably intense with its off center attack and recursions. It is a horror elemental, inspiring fear and trepidation. The final track is the clangy and gritty “Death Forgives No One” which, despite its title and theme, has a catchy chorus that could be a radio hit in different song.

This music makes me feel punchy, makes me want to crack some heads – makes me remember the taste of blood. I don’t know if Great American Ghost has this effect on everybody, but the adrenaline injection I received is exactly what I wanted, and I am not interested in coming down. Recommended.

MNRK Heavy releases Torture World on Friday, January 20th to the masses, whether they are ready or not. Get your heaping helping at the links below.

Band photo by Chris Klump.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://greatamericanghost.bandcamp.com/album/torture-world

Website, https://tortureworld.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/GreatAmericanGhost

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

Great American Ghost, Torture World (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Slowbleed, A Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn (Creator-Destructor 2022)

The debut long-player from the hardcore hadron collider Slowbleed menaces your senses.

According to documented sources, the band “formed with a goal of achieving unrelenting extremity, bridging brutality and technicality within their blend of hardcore aggression and death metal precision.” That gives you a good idea of what is happening on A Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn – a place to start, at least. The band is Jon Caytion (vocals), Logan Givan (guitar), John Laux (guitar), Ozzy Parilla (bass), and Tyler Castro (drums).

I heard this music in blocks – my brain just organized it that way. “No Shepherd (Of Wolves)” is a blasting, blistering rampage. It is a greasing grind, if that is possible. The raking vocals and mystical guitar flourishes hold their ground amid the earth-turning rhythm section. I wish that song didn’t have to end. Its immediate predecessor, “Hung At Dawn,” casts a long shadow of gloom at the outset then walks right into it with savage chops. To seal it all, “The Law (Atonement Through Blood)” throws in an 80s callback to spice the walloping trounce. These three are a jarring triplet and they clung together in my mind, unbreakable.

A similar coalescence happened with “Driven By Fire” and “Graves (Pours Of The Earth).” Tied together with the transitional element “Diliculum,” a small suite naturally emerges. To me, then, each song has its own identity, and the entire set has a more nuanced self as a whole. The little legions are in there too, fitting in while being their own thing. The rousing aggression of this songs and the clarity of composition pushes the music to a level well above the rabble. There is no pressure valve here, just the steady flow of heavy music presenting itself for the world to see. Recommended.

Digital and vinyl versions are out on Friday, January 14th through Creator-Destructor Records. Links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://slowbleedca.bandcamp.com/

Creator-Destructor Records, http://creator-destructor.com/

Slowbleed, A Blazing Sun, A Fiery Dawn (Creator-Destructor 2022)

Descent, Order Of Chaos (Brilliant Emperor 2022)

The new album from Descent is step forward in their heavy music campaign.

Order Of Chaos is the second full-length album from Brisbane, Queensland death metal band Descent, following 2018’s Towers of Grandiosity and a demo three years before that. The music they play is a brutal mesh of death metal, black metal, and hardcore. According to the Metal Archives, the band is Jim Dandy (bass), Anthony Oliver (vocals), Kingsley Sugden (drums), Brendan Auld (guitar), and Josh Kane (guitar).

I wrote a book (pseudonymously ) a few years back titled The Sequence Of Random Events so I appreciate the concept of Order Of Chaos. You think about it for a while and there is always a pattern in there somewhere and meaning can be ascribed. Alternately, the chaos itself might be the order, eh – that’s a brain-pulsing notion on its own. Of course it could just be that there is never any order and searching for it is a waste of time so you might as well embrace the chaos. Or … we could just listen to the music.

The punishing begins at the jump with “Tempest” and carries through on all eight tracks. The gravely rawness of the vocals is hammered home by the relentless percussion and rhythm. The riffs carry both a violent menace and a patterning groove. The lead guitar is like close-up knife work that makes an art of the carving. Don’t drop the needle on this one if you are not ready for the rumble.

My favorite tracks are “Fester” and “Safe.” The former has a hook with a wicked barbed that attracted my gaze and then would not let go. The latter track is the shortest of the set and it is just a hard straight shot to the face. The album shook the ice out of my beard and got my blood up. Recommended.

Brilliant Emperor Records releases Order Of Chaos on Friday, January 14th. Redefining Darkness has the CD and Caligari Records offers up the cassette.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://descentmetal.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/descentmetalbrisbane

Brilliant Emperor Records, https://brilliantemperor.bigcartel.com/

Descent, Order Of Chaos (Brilliant Emperor 2022)

Fucked Up, Year of the Horse (Tankcrimes 2021)

The new album from storied Canadian hardcore/punk band Fucked Up is a massive treatise of all-encompassing heavy music effluence.

The musicians (from the band’s Bandcamp page) are Damian Abraham, Jonah Falco, Mike Haliechuk, Ben Cook, Sandy Miranda, and Josh Zucker. There is a lot going on here with this band. Twenty years and more than eighty (!) recordings in, they are still innovating and exploring. Let’s stick to the “Year Of” albums from Tankcrimes to maintain a little focus.

Year of the Dragon (2014) and Year of the Snake (2017) both feature an extended primary track along with one or two shorter ancillaries. As the titles indicate, these albums are part of an “ongoing series celebrating the Chinese Zodiac.” The story that rolls through the albums covers a lot of ground and that is perhaps the point. The music also travels quite a winding path. Given the length of these compositions, it is unsurprising that they present multiple musical expressions ranging from hardcore to classical, loud and raging to quiet and lilting.

Year of the Horse is a single track that runs over ninety minutes cut up in four pieces (Acts). The four segments function very much (in my ears) like movements in long pieces of classical music. It is not only that each one of them is different compared to the others, they also have individually different variations in each local environment. There are differences in the differences, you might say.

With such a lengthy musical expression, you have to figure you are going to miss something by sampling here and there because sampling means skipping. Resist the temptation. There are parts of each Act that I like especially but I am unlikely to skip to them when listening again because it would seem truncated to me if I did. Certainly the first time you listen you have to go from beginning to end without a pause. Heavy music fans, harken: set aside an hour and a half to discover where this album finds you. It is worth it. Recommended.

The digital version of Year of the Horse has been out for a while and you can pre-order the CD and vinyl versions now at the Tankcrimes store for anticipated September and December ship dates, respectively.

Band photo by Natalie Wood.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fuckedup.bandcamp.com/album/year-of-the-horse

Fucked Up website, https://www.fuckedup.cc/

Tankcrimes Records, http://www.tankcrimes.com/

Fucked Up, Year of the Horse (Tankcrimes 2021)

Despise You, West Side Horizons (Tankcrimes 2021)

Tankcrimes issues West Side Horizons, a massive compilation from Inglewood power violence band Despise You.

Founded by Phil Vera and Chris Elder in 1994, Despise You had a major impact on the hard music scene. Lasting only a couple of years, the band released a slew of split 7s and compilations featuring their brand of aggression and anger operationalized in musical expression.

This collection is vast, including songs from splits with Crom, Supression, Scapegoat, and Stapled Shut, plus cuts from compilations and sixteen previously unreleased tracks. All of this music was recorded between 1994-1996 and bits and pieces are floating around out there in the ether. Having it all together in one tight package is boon to fans and collectors.

If you haven’t heard Despise You before then get ready for shrieking anger and spinning kicks. Only twelve of the sixty two tracks are over one minute long so listening to all of them in a row is a shock to the system. It is a shock worth taking.

I could do a track-by-track on this but it is better if you just listen to it – it is quicker to listen to some of them than to read a description of them. Hit up the first track, “Culpa Mia,” and see if it is for you. Then go from there. Brutal percussion and rhythm, screaming, shrieking, belligerence, and bad attitudes. That’s what you will find. My favorite song is “Puppet.” So there. Recommended.

The drop date for this big set is Friday, August 6th from Tankcrimes. There are CD and LP versions.

Photo by Anthony Mehlhaff.

Links.

CD, https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/tankcrimes-music/cd/despise-you-west-side-horizons-cd/

Vinyl, https://tankcrimes.merchtable.com/tankcrimes-music/vinyl/despise-you-west-side-horizons-vinyl-lp

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/despiseyoulosangeles/

Despise You shop, https://despiseyou.bigcartel.com/

Tankcrimes Records, http://www.tankcrimes.com/

Despise You, West Side Horizons (Tankcrimes 2021)