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Carcass – Surgical Steel

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , , , on 6th October 2013 by Contra Mundi

Carcass
Surgical Steel
Released 16 September 2013
Death Metal/Grindcore
Released via Nuclear Blast

I have been a fan of Carcass for quite some time. I inherited a copy of Heartwork on cassette from my sister and I never gave her it back despite her ardent requests. I now have at least 3 different copies of that album and even though it seems ridiculous, such is my obsession. Carcass have always been a band unlike any other. They share influences with other bands and are a product of what was a very exciting time for metal music in the early 90’s, but they have always held their own quietly and without a hint of pretence despite them being one of the most iconic bands in recent history that fans love returning to again and again.

Carcass as far as I’m concerned are on a pedestal and I was quite apprehensive as well as overwhelmingly excited when they revealed they would be making a return with a new album and accompanying live dates. My fear was that they would just regurgitate all that had come before, or that they would have forgotten about the essence of Carcass and their accessible grandeur. Another fear was that they would fall into the ‘faster than thou’ mentality that occupies the death metal genre nowadays; not that it is a problem, it just wouldn’t be Carcass. Everyone I spoke to wanted the new album to remind them why they still maintained their affection for Carcass. They didn’t want that affection to become shameful if the band released something half arsed and conformist; although we need never have been afraid of that.

As soon as the artwork for the new album was released, I knew that Carcass were going to deliver the goods with Surgical Steel. The perfect circle of surgical instruments on the cover was both subtle and shocking; something that Carcass are masters at and it is with that mentality that I approached my listening.

The album begins with the trademark Carcass guitar harmonies and a ringing solo over the top that draws you slowly in only to be thrown back by the aggressive and impressive Thrashers Abbatoir. This song is pure Carcass, but not only that, it is Carcass grown up and this impression shapes the feel of the whole album. It is surgical in its precision and beautifully crafted with all the necessary elements of a Carcass formula, that is enticing vocal hooks, full bodied guitar harmonies and just the right amount of technicality without being silly.

Any self-respecting guitarist would be impressed by the solos in Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System and frankly, they’re enough to make you sick with jealousy. It reminded me a lot in its technicality and youth of Children of Bodom’s Something Wild where the guitars are used as more than accompanying instruments. They are pushed to the foreground and speak as frequently and in the same tone as the growled, hoarse vocals of Jeff Walker. Incidentally, Jeffs vocals have not altered at all over the years and therein lies another boon for the album. It is as if he has stepped out of a time machine, and his growl is one of the most recognised in death metal. He is both perfectly articulated and full of malice and his great appeal for a lot of people is that you can actually follow what he is saying very easily.

The Master Butcher’s Apron with its ringing guitar harmonies, impeccable drumming and thick chugging riffs is one of my favourite on the album and is a display again of Carcass’s maturity, musical ability and incredible talent for song writing. There is variety without being random and a real sense that Carcass as a collective enjoyed making the album and that they don’t need to prove anything to anyone.

The track Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard stampedes away and shows odd extremely impressive guitar work even further and expresses musical prowess that imitators can only dream of. Carcass are undoubtedly a set of formidable musicians and the originality of their music and song writing as progressed as much as they have, although it still retains that remarkable and age defying feel they exposed us all to during the early 90’s and their subsequent releases.

A surprising track on the album and very revealing of Carcass’s talents is the ultimate track on the album: Mount of Execution that makes use of acoustic guitars in its introduction and offers something of a remarkable contrast and display of musical ability. The latter half of the song is intense and full of menace. Jeff’s vocals really add a sense of terror that when coupled with the chugging guitars and ridiculously articulate guitar solos form a sound that we die-hard Carcass fans have been longing for over the years.

Overall, Surgical Steel is extremely impressive and worthy of all the hype it has been given. It is something of a legend and Carcass are a remarkable band for delivering so completely to a legion of fans with such high expectations. It is enjoyable, accessible and doesn’t saddle itself with a crippling narrative or unnecessary embellishment. It is just a representation of all that Carcass are and it displays all of the band’s best qualities in the best possible way. They could have easily taken the formulas of their previous releases and rehashed them, but they didn’t. They improved themselves and injected maturity as well as a compassion for their fan base into their work in order to deliver something that is true to the heart of Carcass and cannot be imitated; no matter how hard we try.

If you haven’t already got yourself a ticket for the Damnation festival in Leeds, I strongly suggest that you do so, or face missing out on an event that all of your friends will be talking about for years to come. Carcass leave a distinct impression when they play live as they articulate their albums perfectly and show off their talents almost to the point of obscenity and only a fool would willingly miss such a display of power. If in doubt, pick up a copy of Surgical Steel and have a taste of what can only be described as a monumental album.

5/5

Alex Cook

Carcass online:

http://facebook.com/officialcarcass

 

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Fleshgod Apocalypse – Labyrinth

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , , on 5th October 2013 by Contra Mundi

Fleshgod Apocalypse
Labyrinth
Released 16th August 2013
Symphonic Death Metal
Release via Nuclear Blast

Labyrinth is an album of epic proportions that seems out of place in everyday life. It belongs to a more grandiose era that would suit its enormous and complicated depictions of the ancient Greek mythology, but I am grateful that it exists to prove that this brand of death metal mixed with classical elements that they have executed so beautifully does not have to be filled with cliché. It can be a weapon in its own right, and when used correctly and in keeping with the rest of the music, classical embellishments can add great depth and contrast to a musical genre that was all too quickly growing stale.

The first track Kingborn serves to set the scene of Theseus’s descent into the labyrinth. Away from the sea, chirping insects and sunlight, he descends into the bowels of the earth where the thundering riffs and astonishing blast beats knock the breath out of you. Complete with a choir and a flurry of keyboard parts, the musical image is unleashed and you are transported into the myth and all of its mysteries. As an album opener, it is a very strong showcase of the band’s collective and individual talents but you also get the impression that they have found their feet and now have the confidence to do as they please. The problem with mixing elements of musical genres is that it always attracts comparisons to other bands that got there first, but Fleshgod Apocalypse have carved a niche for themselves. The classical elements are not there to disguise something that may be lacking in the band’s sound or ability, as they are a foreboding musical force on their own, so they extend the reach of the death metal beyond what is expected of it and aid in the storytelling of what is one of the most widely known myths in world history.

Minotaur (The Wrath of Poseidon) starts with a piano solo, accompanied later by a chanting choir. Then comes the eternally impressive death metal. The drumming especially is of an extremely high standard. Vocals are now added into the mix and blend seamlessly with the chugging guitar riffs and chanting of the choir to create a musical cacophony that attacks you on all levels.

Elegy again incorporates more classical elements, this time with the guitars and bass imitating the actions of violins; paving the way again for the choir to burst forth. Death metal elements are more obvious this time around complete again with blast beats, rasped vocals and technical breakdowns with the choir labouring away in the background, adding a sinister edge to the music as the song progresses to its climax and leads into Towards The Sun. The choir carry it through and trumpets and blast beats maintain the sordid and claustrophobic atmosphere the album is developing. Guitar solos add another stunning depth, complete with some female operatic vocals that sing out over the dark song scape beneath them.

The real surprise however from this album aside from its sheer scale and audacity is the use of not one, but two solely classical instrument tracks. Prologue and Labyrinth; the former a classical guitar duet and the latter a piano solo are a startling contrast, but in some ways a welcome reprieve. Prologue explodes into Epilogue and the change makes you jump as it is a death metal stampede with female operatic vocals flowing out over the top. The instrumental tracks add something different to the formula of the album, as otherwise Labyrinth as impressive as it is, would become its own worst enemy for using the same aspects of its formula over and over again in very similar ways.

Ultimately the album is something of a soundscape that flows seamlessly. You would be forgiven for thinking it was just one illustrious track that tells an epic legend in a fashion that it deserves; that is as relentlessly and innovatively as possible. The best way to appreciate this album is to look at it not as a sum of its separate parts, but as a whole piece of art that incorporates contrasting music styles in order to do justice to a famous legend.

Due to their recent UK tour being cancelled, we will have to wait a little longer to see this epic performance played out upon the stage and I will be curious to see how they recreate some of the more technical classical elements live, but nevertheless, I’m sure it will be something to behold.

4/5

Alex Cook

Fleshgod Apocalypse online:

http://facebook.com/fleshgodapocalypse

Interview with Autopsy

Posted in Interview with tags , , , , , , , , on 4th September 2013 by Contra Mundi

Autopsy have been the Godfathers of Gore since their formation in 1987, and despite a lengthy reprieve from the extreme metal scene that lasted fifteen years, have continually inspired generation after generation with their visceral and chilling mash of death and doom metal. With the release of the tremendous Macabre Eternal in 2011 and the imminent release of The Headless Ritual this year, I was given the privilege to do an e-mail interview with the band to see what lurks beyond Autopsy’s legendary status and what goes on in the minds of such sadistic geniuses.

Alex: There was a considerable length of time between recording Shitfun and Macabre Eternal, and now you’re planning to release The Headless Ritual. How does it feel to be back recording Autopsy material after such a long period of time?

Autopsy: It’s all a big blur to me, like much of my life… We’re fired up, freaked out and juiced… Just the way it should be… Brace yourself, because we’re going to assault the holes in your head mercilessly!

Alex: What is the feel of the new album? Is it picking up from where Macabre Eternal left off, or are you looking to achieve something different?

Autopsy: It’s an Autopsy record so you may know what to expect to some extent… It’s noise, filth, brutality, etc… A bit of mindfuckery at play… Just crank it up and take the ride, that’s what I say… Uunghh!

Alex: How would you describe your song writing process and has it changed over the years?

Autopsy:  We write, therefore we bleed.

Alex: What inspires your subject matter and how do you keep it fresh and unique when so many other bands use similar ideas?

Autopsy: The Bay City Rollers are our chief source of inspiration, obviously! No, you don’t buy that? Maybe there’s just something wrong with us… Well, that’s certainly true, but otherwise we know how to tap into the bubbling mass of weirdness that lies inside our minds and souls… That’s it… No secret formula, just embracing the ever present sickness… Don’t try this at home, kiddies! Oops, I mean do!

Alex: There are a lot of bands in the British metal scene that list bands such as Entombed, Possessed and Autopsy as their main influences. Why do you think that is?

Autopsy: Good taste, perhaps? Haha! Fuck, I dunno… Good metal is good metal no matter where you’re from… There are tons of British bands who have influenced bands from other places as well… It all goes in circles ultimately… Jump in and take a spin!

Alex: How do you feel about the extreme metal scene today?

Autopsy: I’m on top of the moon shitting rainbows of course!

Alex: There will be fans still following Autopsy from when you first formed, but since the release of Macabre Eternal, there will be a younger generation that are maybe hearing you for the first time. Have you noticed a change in your fan base?

Autopsy: I have noticed the younger generation rearing their ugly little heads indeed and I think that’s fucking great… It would suck if all the old farts died off and there was no one left to enjoy this stuff, ya know? Plenty of these young crazies are right up front at our gigs going apeshit, which rules… It’s great because they seem to know all the lyrics and everything, so I can look at them if I get lost and get a cue… Convenient, huh?

Alex: Are you planning on doing a UK tour or playing any of the UK metal festivals in the near future?

Autopsy: No touring as usual… Haven’t done that since ’93, although we’ve haunted places all over the world with select events that left destruction and insanity in their wake… At this point we’re not booked for any overseas gigs, but keep your eyes, ears and skin peeled because you never know what’s going to happen.

Alex: What bands do you enjoy listening to at the moment, and are there any that you would particularly like to perform with?

Autopsy: I listen to way too much stuff to list here… It’s crazy… I will say the bands we’ve played with this year so far have all been fucking bat shit amazing… That means Bolt Thrower, Benediction, Noothgrush, Black Breath, Bone Sickness, and Scolex… All total winners, heavy hitters and all around cool people… I consider us lucky to have shared the stage with these nut cases.

Alex: Is there a song of yours that you think defines Autopsy completely?

Autopsy: The one in the middle of course!

Alex: What are your all-time favourite albums?

AutopsySevered Survival, Mental Funeral, Acts of the Unspeakable, Shitfun, Macabre Eternal, All Tomorrow’s Funerals and The Headless Ritual… Shameless self plugging, anyone?

Alex: If you could replace the soundtrack to any film, which one would it be and why?

Autopsy: How about Fantasia. Can you imagine Mickey Mouse conjuring magical madness to any of our tunes? Haha! Waiting on that call from Disney any minute now.

Alex: Is there any advice that you would give to a band just starting out?

Autopsy: Turn back before it’s too late! Still here? Good, you’ve passed the first test… Now, just keep showing up… That’s the main thing… Show up and let the chaos fly… Oh yeah, don’t listen to the likes of me or anyone else… Carve your own path and stick to it… Put your heart, soul, blood, guts and nightmares into it… And stay away from those goddamn drum triggers or anything else that makes your music sound like plastic.

The Headless Ritual is now available for purchase. You can read my review of it at this location.

Autopsy online:

http://autposydeathmetal.com

Autopsy – The Headless Ritual

Posted in CD, Metal with tags , , , , on 4th September 2013 by Contra Mundi

Autopsy
The Headless Ritual
Released 28th June 2013
Death Metal
Released via Peaceville

Autopsy have always been a band that have been held in high regard by metal fans. Even when they had their ten year hiatus from extreme music, they left a gap hardly anyone felt comfortable filling, so when they returned with the triumphant Macabre Eternal; an album that was filled with malice, hate and quiet confidence, I was uncertain if Autopsy would be able to delve even deeper into their bloodthirsty souls and emerge triumphant once more.

 The Headless Ritual is something of a treasure. It is far more of a slow burner than Macabre Eternal which was filled with sludgy, punishing riffs and songs such as ‘Sadistic Gratification’ that you endure rather than listen to as you feel dirty and violated to hear a woman pleading for her life to manic screeches of laughter. The Headless Ritual is, as one of my friends put it, essentially an alternate soundtrack to a 70’s Zombies B movie. It reeks of horror, disgust and filth and though you should walk away, you are seduced by the grimy guitar tones and the rasping vocals of Chris Reifert. He sounds like he has the flu, but that only adds to the terror of the album and the entire impression that it is wholeheartedly unclean.

The first track ‘Slaughter at beast house’ is like being out through a meat grinder. It churns away in true Autopsy style with odd, but solid guitar harmonies, thrash drums and sickening vocal lines. It has a number of breakdowns that add to the malice of the track and hint more at funeral doom than visceral carnage, but it all works. It is exactly what you expect from a band as seasoned as Autopsy, but their trick is that they haven’t stopped trying to find new ways to ravage their listeners. They never re-tread old ground, much like Deicide, who have addressed the same topics throughout their career, but never repeated themselves.

Another stand out track that effectively makes the skin crawl is ‘Coffin Crawlers’. It sent chills through me when I first listened to it. The riff is the image of panic in a horror movie and as the solitary guitar is joined by other guitars in the perplexing harmonies that Autopsy are notorious for, the tension rises until you can’t bear it any longer and the rest of the track trundles along further into jeopardy and satisfaction.  Chris Reifert outdoes himself in terms of vocal performances and is startling with his screams and choked groans. The beauty of this song and overall the album is that there is so much going on. Aside from those lurching guitar harmonies and jarring solos, there is a solid base of chuggy riffs, impressive drum patterns and enthusiasm which carries the songs forward. It is far more sinister, and sounds like Macabre Eternal’s older, more dangerous sibling.

When Hammer meets bone’ is another fine example of the Autopsy formula with thrashy, technical drums, gasping, choked vocals and guitar harmonies that sing out over the rest of the deluge. The single ringing guitar notes just halfway through the track sound bizarre, but they work, which I think is a big contributor to Autopsy’s enduring status. Chris growls and hisses throughout the track and it makes your hair stand up on end as the guitars descend once again into the domain of horror-soaked sludgy doom and make the listening experience a harrowing one.

The concluding album track ‘The Headless Ritual’ is an instrumental and displays the individual musicians in Autopsy as artists within their own rights. They function exceedingly well as a unit and that is why they can get away with grating harmonies and odd time signatures because they function together so well and this great album is a tribute to that discipline.

Ultimately, the album is a solid creation of sickness and sinister goings on and excels in everything that Autopsy have brought to the genre of death metal. The technicality of their work is as always brilliant, as is their ingenuity at experimenting with guitar harmonies, vocal patterns and drum accents to create something that should give you a headache with its surrealism, but beneath all the madness is something of an enduring classic. It is an album which will satisfy the most loyal of Autopsy fans, as well as appealing to fans perhaps only just discovering the genre with its raw subject matter, technical musicianship and variety of genre.

5/5

Alex Cook

Autopsy online:

http://autopsydeathmetal.com

Huddersfield Heavy Metal Festival completes line-up

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , , on 8th August 2013 by Contra Mundi

The Huddersfield Heavy Metal festival now boasts a wholesome and intimidating line-up, headlined by symphonic death metal legends Fleshgod Apocalypse and Polish extreme death metal icons Hate. Within the diseased ranks as support acts are a selection of bands that are a true showcase of talent. First of all Scottish Death Metallers Scordatura, whose bludgeoning sound showcase all of death metal’s finer qualities and creates a symphony of madness. Joining them are Southerners Bound By Evile who will unleash their destructive brand of death metal upon the already tainted public and make them run for cover.  Grieve, with their groovy and heavy riffs encourage headbanging in the most seasoned of metal fans and hearken back to the likes of Black Sabbath.  Londoners Hades Lab offer blackened Grind and a suffocating cacophony of impressive technicality . Also featured are Yorkshire Old school Death metal plague Narcotic Death whose embodiment of possession and misery will make fans wish they’d never graced the good earth. Scouse Black Metal artists Ninkharsag also grace the line-up and offer the early 90’s Black metal scene nostalgia with a modern twist in their unique brand of frozen metal. As an ode to Thrash Yorkshire-men Redmist Destruction will bring down the walls with their furious music and fellow Grim Northerners Wort will serve to provide a melancholy and sludgy form of doom for the audience to be slowly murdered by. Huddersfield Heavy metal Festival, although still in its infancy, is already a pioneering festival and will undoubtedly attract a legion of a crowd to Huddersfield’s most impressive venue; The Parish.

The festival organiser Luke Diesektor, had this to say:

We only wish we could make this bigger, were looking at possibly taking this outside next year, if not, well be having it at another location. Works are already underway in terms of getting licensing and looking at sites but if we don’t have enough PR time well be doing another indoor event next year but at a much bigger venue and the open air in 2015. We’re hopeful to make this one of the premier metal festivals in Yorkshire and the quality of bands we have on is fantastic. Tickets are selling really well so folk need to get in quick to avoid disappointment. Everyone including the bands has been working really hard to make this a success so we predict it’s going to be a great day. People can check us out and the bands via our Facebook, Twitter and the usual places.

The festival takes place on sat 12th October at the Parish Huddersfield and is £20 advance or £25 OTD.  For any enquiries or more information please email: huddersfieldheavymetalfest@gmail.co.uk

Huddersfield Heavy Metal Festival online:

http://www.facebook.com/huddersfieldheavymetalfest2013
http://www.facebook.com/HuddersfieldHeavymetalfest
http://twitter.com/HH6662013

 

Italian metallers Death Of All Gods sign to Wormholedeath; Debut album to be released August 2013

Posted in News with tags , , , , , , on 12th July 2013 by Contra Mundi

Wormholedeath will release Death Of All Gods’ impressive debut album titled Different Ways Of feeling Pain world-wide through The Orchard via Digital Download. The album is due for release on the 7th of August via digital download and promises a showcase of accessible metal and impressive musical ability.

It is unusual for a band not to release a physical copy of their album, nevertheless in an ever increasing digital age; more labels may be heading down such an avenue.

Death Of All Gods had this to say:

We are so proud of being part of the WormHole Death roster! Those guys are extremely professional and they really trust in our work and in our potential; we’re sure it’ll be a great collaboration, which starts with Different Ways Of Feeling Pain.

A&R “Worm” stated:

Yes, it’s true! I was so excited when Luigi from DOAG contacted me in search of a digital release. It is somehow something new for Wormholedeath to release an album via digital download only since I’ve always seen this idea like a great idea! It is not better or worse than a “normal” cd release … It’s just different. I see a different potential in a digital release since everything is going to be faster. Of course many bands asked us to get this kind of deal but we were waiting for the right album to make this new idea like real. In fact Death Of All Gods are signed to our label under all effects, like all the other bands, they just decided that they didn’t care about having the hard copy cd on the market and as long as they were the right band to work with we said yes. Preview their song and you will understand why!

Death Of All Gods online:

http:// www.deathofallgods.com
http://www.facebook.com/deathofallgods
http://www.youtube.com/DeathofallGods
http://www.twitter.com/DeathOfAllGods
http://www.myspace.com/Deathofallgods

Barren Earth announce vocalist’s departure from band

Posted in News with tags , , , , , on 12th July 2013 by Contra Mundi

The Finnish death, prog. and folk metal masters, Barren Earth, have issued a statement regarding the departure of their vocalist Mikko Kotamäki from the band’s ranks. Mikko has been in the band since its inception and has performed on all of their releases: Our Twilight, Curse of the Red River and The Devil’s Resolve. The band issued the following statement:

Dear friends. We regret to announce the departure of Mikko Kotamäki from Barren Earth.

Due to conflicting schedules, Mikko cannot contribute to Barren Earth’s activities any longer. The decision was made by mutual agreement with absolutely no drama involved.

We will keep working on new material, and will launch search for a new vocalist shortly.

Barren Earth wants to thank Mikko for his crucial input for Barren Earth’s works and wishes him all the best in the future.

Barren Earth online:

http://www.barrenearth.com
http://www.myspace.com/officialbarrenearth
http://www.youtube.com/officialbarrenearth
http://www.last.fm/music/Barren+Earth