I Am, Eternal Steel (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Texas death metal band I Am bring the heat on their new album, Eternal Steel.

I Am is a deathcore / death metal band from Texas that came to be around 2011. After the Momento Mori EP in 2015, I Am released two killer full-length albums, Life Through Torment (2017) and Hard 2 Kill (2018). Their music is notable not just for its power but also for speed. They have combined thrash and death metal elements with enough of a hook and a groove shining through to make the sound unique. The band is Andrew Hileman (vocals), Tom Reyes (guitar), Chris Burgess (guitar), Erik Rodriguez (bass), and Ian Scott (drums).

I Am gets their point across on the new album through eleven electrifying tracks. “The Primal Wave” poses the first question and introduces the heavy sound punctuated by rapid ripples and brought forth fully by Andrew Hileman’s menacing singing. “Surrender to the Blade” continues the campaign with a steady, driving riff that morphs into a dervish at exactly the right moment. The lead break is eerie and enticing and two thirds of the way through there is another shift. It is impressive how the initiated theme remains in place as it is put through its paces in such variety. “The Iron Gate” follows, a sorrowful, dooming affair, setting up the title track. “Eternal Steel” races through the open field, bewildering all who give it a glance. This song gives you a savage battering you won’t soon forget.

Other stand-out tracks include “Infernal Panther,” again along a doom lane with homage to early heavy metal icons you will recognize right away, and “Heaven On Earth,” a song that pushes on with unswerving confidence – it also has a fantastic lead guitar break. “Manic Cure” is the final statement, and here we go out on a bang when the speed, power, and groove all come together in a signature piece of work. This new album is exceptional, even better than Hard 2 Kill, I think. Go get yours. Recommended.

Eternal Steel is out through MNRK Heavy on Friday, September 9th in digital and an array of physicals.

Photos by Wayne Edwards, taken at Piere’s Entertainment Center, 2022.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://iamtxmusic.bandcamp.com/album/eternal-steel

I Am website, https://iam-eternalsteel.com/

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

© Wayne Edwards

I Am, Eternal Steel (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The Callous Daoboys, Celebrity Therapist (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Atlanta noise rock band The Callous Daoboys launch their third album into the zeitgeist, Celebrity Therapist.

The Callous Daoboys create music that is rather hard to define, despite the labels of metalcore and mathcore often applied to their output. It is unpredictable one song to the next, and also one bar to the next in any given song. There are sometimes long melodic passages – entire songs, even – and along the way there is prominent disruption. They have released two previous full-length albums so far, Animal Tetris (2017) and Die on Mars (2019), plus an EP right before the inaugural debut. The musicians are Carson Pace (vocals), Maddie Caffrey (guitar), Dan Hodsdon (guitar), Jack Buckalew (bass), Amber Christman (violin), and Sam Williamson (drums).

“Violent Astrology” wakes you up and directs your attention to what is about to happen. Noise, chaos, screaming, music. It might not seem like it at first, but there is a lot here that owes a debt to Zappa, and that is where the biggest appeal lies for me. There is a great deal of unexpectedness throughout, not the least of which is the melodic passage that coalesces from the midst of the violent careening. You have some thinking to do if you want to gather your thoughts on this song, or any of the others in the set.

Reviewing this music is a rather fruitless endeavor, in the end. What shall I do? Try to describe the weirdness? My mission here is merely to make you aware of the album’s existence. Across the eight tracks on the album, there are a multitude of samples and grabs, arranged in an aggressively artful way among the vocals and instrumentations. The work is frenzied and appears on the surface to be disordered, but it isn’t. I am not sure it makes much sense to look for patterns, exactly, but there certainly is an extraordinary amount of expression going on. If you like this sort of sound in the first place, and/or you are up for a challenge, then go ahead and press play.

Celebrity Therapist is out on September 2nd through MNRK Heavy, in cooperation with Modern Static Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://thecallousdaoboys.bandcamp.com/album/celebrity-therapist-2

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

Modern Static Records, https://www.modernstaticrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards

The Callous Daoboys, Celebrity Therapist (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Bodysnatcher, Bleed-Abide (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The third album from Florida deathcore band Bodysnatcher is out this week, Bleed-Abide.

Bodysnatcher came together in 2014. They put an EP out in 2015, and their first long-player, Death Of Me, followed in 2017. It was probably their second album, This Heavy Void, that brought them the most attention, and their fan base has been on the uptick all along. The band is Kyle Medina (vocals), Kyle Carter (guitar), Kyle Shope (bass), and Chris Whited (drums).

Talking about the album, Kyle Medina tells us, “Bleed-Abide is the ultimate culmination of what the band has been building for years, and I believe the best material to date. The instrumentals have matured and become heavier hitting and the lyrics dig deeper personally and more relatable than even This Heavy Void. There is something for everyone in this album: slam riffs, breakdowns, two steps, choruses that stick…”

There are thirteen mostly short, hard-hitting tracks on the new album. After the intro piece “Bleed,” the clubbing begins with “Abide.” Savage aggression ensues. Growling, bristling vocals descend to croaks now and then, and the percussion beats your senses senseless. The intentionality is ever-present, pushing the musical ideas forward.

There is plentiful speed here, but acceleration is not the whole story. “Smashed Perceptions” disturbs perceptions of pace, and you hear this on many tracks. “Flatline,” for example, does it in a different way. Instead of relying entirely on speed and volume, the change ups and hanging moments add tension and drama, maybe also anxiety, to the music.

The last four songs taken together are a menace to reason and sanity. “Wired For Destruction,” “Hollow Shell,” “Behind The Crowd,” and “The Question” work together in my head even if they weren’t meant to – they are a suite of destruction at the end that brings it all together. Recommended.

Bleed-Abide is out on Friday, April 22nd through MNRK Heavy. There are lots of formats to choose from at the links below.

Links.

Website, https://bodysnatcherofficial.com/

Bandcamp, https://bodysnatcherfl.bandcamp.com/album/bleed-abide

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/bodysnatcher

© Wayne Edwards.

Bodysnatcher, Bleed-Abide (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Misfire, Sympathy For The Ignorant (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Chicago thrash trio Misfire let loose their debut MNRK Heavy long-player on April Fools’ Day, Sympathy For The Ignorant.

Misfire is Jay Johnson (vocals, guitar), Sean Coogan (vocals, bass), and James Nicademus (drums). The band came together just a few years ago, and the musicians have been plying their trade for some time, despite their youth. Two earlier EPs provided source material for the full-length at hand, and signaled concretely the direction the music was going. This is thrash metal infused with rare spices. The compositions have a bald familiarity but when you listen to Misfire’s music you are immediately aware that you’ve never really heard anything much like this before, taken all together.

“Fractured” is the first song, and it has some of the most creative rhythm and guitar work I’ve heard in a long time featured at the beginning. It is enthralling. After the first vocal passages, a cracking bass line sets up a ripping lead guitar break. It is a combination of mysticism, shallowly buried homage, and cutthroat thuggery. Fantastic.

Every song is a battering, one way or another, for your complicit brain pan. I love the aggression in the vocals on “Red Flag” especially, but of course it is always there, track by track. “War Of Mine” steps out on a doom cadence but breaks that rank almost immediate for full-scale charge, lapsing now and then into groove. And those sudden, exposed bass lines are incredible. A punch and a lurch and a steady trajectory all in the same vicinity.

Whether it is the slow burn of “No Offense” or the pulsing haze of the title track, this album holds nothing back. Recommended.

Sympathy For The Ignorant is on the shelf Friday, April 1st through MNRK Heavy.

Band photo by Wombat Fire.

Link.

Bandcamp, https://misfireofficial.bandcamp.com/releases

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

MNRK Heavy Records, https://mnrkheavy.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Misfire, Sympathy For The Ignorant (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Nile ~ Incantation ~ Sanguisugabogg ~ I Am at Piere’s, March 1, 2022

It was a night of death metal devastation at Piere’s in Fort Wayne, Indiana when Nile, Incantation, Sanguisugabogg, and I Am rattled the rigging of reality for fans from far and wide.

It was my first time at Piere’s Entertainment Center. I think I am going to be there a lot during my residency in the Midwest because so many heavy music acts make this stop in Northern Indiana. It is an excellent venue with plenty of room for fans and it offers an intimate proximity to the stage.

First up was I Am, a band from Texas. They have an EP and a couple albums out, the latest being Hard 2 Kill. They hit several songs from that recent record and it sounded like there were a couple of new ones in there, too. They got the night off to a great start with some heavy-hitting death metal.

Sanguisugabogg comes from Columbus, Ohio. They are currently touring in support of their latest album, Tortured Whole. I had never seen them live before, and I still don’t think I am pronouncing their name right. I can tell you this: they are formidable. Their songs are filled with savagery and the delivery is razor-sharp. Take the chance to see them whenever you get it, even if you don’t know how to say their name.

I have followed Incantation for many years. I can’t even remember the number of times I have seen them play, and I always come back for more. Their newest album is Sect Of Vile Divinities, which we reviewed very positively here at FFMB (link below). Thirty years in and their music and performance is stronger than ever – my favorite set of the evening.

I think we can all agree that Nile has forged an unforgettable place for themselves in the annals of heavy music. There is not a ton of music out there themed around Egyptian mythology at the jump – it might just be Nile. They have honed their presentation to an unswervingly precise delivery, and the music seeps into you like an ancient curse. The band’s most recent album is Vile Nilotic Rites, and in the live show at Piere’s they didn’t miss a beat.

At first pass you might not have thought to put these four bands together on the same ticket, but their music, in fact, worked exceptionally well together. The tour continues through for a few more stops so if you are in their path make sure you catch this show.

All photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Nile, https://www.nile-official.com/

Incantation, https://www.incantation.com/

Review of Sect of Vile Divinities, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/08/18/incantation-sect-of-vile-divinities-review-relapse-records-2020/

Sanguisugabogg, https://sanguisugabogg.com/

I Am, https://iamtxmusic.bandcamp.com/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Nile ~ Incantation ~ Sanguisugabogg ~ I Am at Piere’s, March 1, 2022

Crowbar, Zero and Below (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The twelfth studio album from Crowbar is yet another monumental earth-shaker: Zero and Below.

One of the biggest sounds to emerge from the New Orleans heavy music scene, Crowbar are pioneers of sludge metal. Kirk Windstein (vocals, guitar), Matt Brunson (guitar), Shane Wesley (bass), and Tommy Buckley (drums) deliver not merely a new album, but a vitally important one. There is no half in their game – it is a full-on assault from beginning to end.

Sludge metal is a lethal amalgam for doom and aggression. Windstein’s vocals blast power and energy that combine with the titanic riffs and percussion to forge an instantly recognizable and unforgettable sound. While Crowbar has been a clear influence on many successful bands, they have never rested on their success and, for more than thirty years, they have held the throttle wide open.

There are ten killer songs on Zero And Below. The opening track hits you at speed, “The Fear That Binds You,” and turns you right around. The guitar riff is like an advancing legion. “Her Evil Is Sacred” animates the wicked into a reckoning. “Confess To Nothing” leans into the doom realm heavily to great effect, then the pace pounds on with “Chemical Godz.” The music keeps you moving this way and that.

There is all manner of pace and shift in this set. “Denial of the Truth” imbibes a kind of “Planet Caravan” vibe, but it is much heavier than that classic. “Crush Negativity” pushes steamroller weight while “Reanimating A Lie” is more nimble in the clip and every bit as heavy in the narrative. “Bleeding From Every Hole” is a show-stopper, and I would put the title track high up on the list, too, with its surrounding, melancholy ever-presence. This record wreaks havoc from every angle. Highly recommended.

Zero and Below is out now through MNRK Heavy – vinyl, cassette, longbox, digital … whatever you want. Grab them while you can. And see Crowbar on the road – they are out now with Sepultura and Sacred Reich on tour, and they will be doing dates with Gwar, Nekrogoblikon, and The Native Howl later in the spring and summer.

Band photo by Justin Reich.

Links.

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

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

MNRK Heavy Records, https://mnrkheavy.com/

Crowbar, Zero and Below (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Matt Pike, Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The newest music from Matt Pike takes the form of Pike Vs. The Automaton.

Matt Pike is an icon of heavy music. I we are all familiar with his work in High On Fire – one of my all-time favorite bands – and Sleep. I saw him perform with Sleep at Heavy Montreal in 2018 and with High On Fire at Psycho Las Vegas a couple years ago. Damn. He is an amazing talent. Now, in addition to Sleep and High On Fire, Matt Pike has a new project, Pike Vs. The Automaton. The reference in the title is to Talos, a giant bronze robot of Greek mythology that was established as a protector of Crete, patrolling the island and chucking enormous boulders at any invaders. This music fights against the protectors of the establishment, then? Sounds right.

The new album is a little more on the psychedelic side, according to Pike, than his other work. It does sound a bit different, but in the best possible way. There are all manner of divergent moments sprinkled throughout, including the thoughtful and quiet “Land.” This is a heavy album, though, and make no mistake. The vocals are forceful overall, and the unforgettable guitar work goes straight for your spine and sets it alight.

There are ten songs on the album running over an hour altogether. My favorite tracks are the longest ones, but that is a peccadillo of mine that runs deep. Still, “Trapped In A Midcave,” “Apollyon,” and “Leaving The Wars Of Woe” are all truly inspired compositions that clock over eight, nine, and ten minutes, respectively. Look, I know what I am doing, here – when I hear these long songs, I imagine seeing the live performance, and longer pieces where Matt Pike is leaning into it and wailing on the guitar are my favorite concert memories.

To be clear, you don’t want sleep on the short ones. “Acid Test Zone” is a savage little rager, and the opening song, “Abusive,” is a mood-setter if there ever was one. So, yeah, this album does sound a little different from the others we’ve heard so far yet still it fits right in. Fans of High On Fire and Sleep are going to love it. Highly recommended.

Pike Vs. The Automaton is out now and available everywhere. Check out a stream then pick up a physical product from MNRK Heavy while they are still available.

Links.

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

MNRK Heavy Records, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/pike-vs-the-automaton

Matt Pike, Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy 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)

Enterprise Earth, The Chosen (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The new Enterprise Earth album is big enough to swallow a battleship whole and fierce enough to spit out razor blades.

Enterprise Earth has only been around since 2015. That doesn’t seem possible – feels like they have always been here. The band’s long-player entry into the heavy music scene was the rule bending Patient Ø, and since then they have proven time again to be a fundamentally important inventive force in the genre. They play a technical death metal style that faces few rivals. Their most recent album was the 2020 EP Foundation Of Bones, and now we have The Chosen. The musicians are Dan Watson (vocals), Gabe Mangold (guitar), Brandon Zackey (drums), and Rob Saireh (bass).

The new album is a big one, with fourteen tracks and a running time of over an hour. The opening song is “Where Dreams Are Broken.” How about that for a thematic kickoff? There is a short ramp and then no fucking around with killer bass lines and battering percussion. The guitars slash through the jungle of complacency while the vocals present no alternative to complete attention. A pseudo-melodic chorus does not slow the momentum of the construction. Instead it focuses the grievous message and serves to amplify the awe as the song continues.

The technical precision of the band’s guitar work is well known and amply in evidence here. “Unleash Hell” is the perfect example, and there are many more. Most of the songs have moments and movements that peer into different perspectives, altering tempo and plight, style and substance. The pace is savage and relentless overall, save the two short transition pieces and the closing gambit. The title track is an epic that places the situation of the theme at the center of the fray and explores its many refractions. As an Enterprise Earth fan, I couldn’t have asked for more. Recommended.

The Chosen drops on Friday, January 14th through MNRK Heavy. Investigate the choices at the links below.

Band photo by Chris Klump.

Links.

Band website, https://enterpriseearthband.com/

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

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/

Enterprise Earth, The Chosen (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Black Label Society, Doom Crew, Inc. (MNRK Heavy, 2021)

The eleventh studio album from metal enterprise Black Label Society shakes all the bolts loose and ravages your brain with some of the best heavy music around.

I first heard Zakk Wylde when he was playing guitar for Ozzy Osbourne in the late 1980s. I couldn’t believe my ears. He was incredible. And he still is today. I have seen him perform many times since over the years, at Clutch’s Earth Rocker festival with Black Label Society to Rock on the Range in Zakk Sabbath to this year’s Blue Ridge Rock Festival heading BLS, and every time his precision and energy are overwhelming.

Black Label Society came together in the late 1990s, releasing their first album, Sonic Brew, at the close of the century. An astonishing number of albums followed: live recordings, compilations, EPs, and ten more long-players, including the latest, Doom Crew, Inc. The driving force behind it all is guitarist and vocalist (and pianist) Zakk Wylde. The work he has done is even more impressive when you realize he also played for Ozzy on and off during this time, released solo albums under his own name, played guitar for Generation Axe, and fronted his Black Sabbath cover band, Zack Sabbath, which released an album in 2020. It is hard to simply document all he has done. Zakk is amazing.

The new album has twelve tracks and runs just over an hour. The first song is “Set You Free,” and it has a determined mid-tempo riff to go along with Wylde’s distinctive vocals and welcome us all back into the fold. “Destroy & Conquer” picks up the pace a notch and keeps all the other elements firmly in place, including the roaring lead breaks. “You Made Me Want To Live” rounds out the first triplet. It is a song soaking with emotion and dark in its ambience, like a white cloak at a funeral.

As we have come to expect, there is variety and depth on this album. “Forever And A Day” is a heavy ballad, told in a way that only Black Label Society does. “End Of Days” is very serious in its lyrics and music. To wit: Blind your eyes / One’s chosen fate / Wander in the desert / You’ll find your end of days. When you watch the video the band made, the song sinks in with a different tint. That happens on Black Label Society music a lot. I hear it differently when I re-listen to it over and over. It is not that I heard it wrong the first time. It is more like I didn’t get it all on the first and second passes.

There are so many great songs on Doom Crew, Inc. “Gospel Of Lies” is delightfully doomy while “Gather All My Sins” is a tooth-rattling headbanger. Around every corner is a new wonder so there is no way to announce a favorite. Hear it all. I think Black Label Society is getting better with each new album. I do truly like each and every one of them, and the newest is at the top of the stack. Highly recommended.

Doom Crew, Inc. is out now through MNRK Heavy in many different forms. If you like the special editions and variants, snap them up while you can.

Band photo by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Website, http://blacklabelsociety.net/

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

MNRK Heavy, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/black-label-society

Black Label Society, Doom Crew, Inc. (MNRK Heavy, 2021)