Top 10 albums of 2013

1. Carcass – ‘Surgical Steel’
2. Coffins – ‘The Fleshland’
3. Rotting Christ – ‘Κατά τον δαίμονα εαυτού’
4. NAILS – ‘Abandon All Life’
5. Autopsy – ‘The Headless Ritual’
6. CROWN – ‘Psychurgy’
7. Portal – ‘Vexovoid’
8. Svart Crown – ‘Profane’
9. Altar of Plagues – ‘Teethed Glory and Injury’
10. Ulcerate – ‘Vermis’

Others worth a mention: Watain, Vreid, Incantation, Exhumed, Necrowretch, Altars, Crypt Lurker, Pestilence

Onslaught – ‘VI’ [6.5]

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After pretty average offerings from across the thrash realm this year from the likes of Annihilator and Sodom, it’s up to our own home-grown veterans to prove its worth. Despite the formula being used so much it’s a surprise it hasn’t faded away, Onslaught have managed to grasp at the remains of the good stuff to create another strong record.

After an eighteen year hiatus, the British legends returned in 2007 with two records full of rage and ‘VI’ follows on without a drop in angst. With new drummer Michael Hourihan in tow and the glossy production of the two former records apparent, Onslaught merge their battering-ram riffs with a few old-school heavy metal licks to create anthem after anthem. ‘Fuelled By Fire’ has the sing-along choruses and the title is apt due to its ferocity, whilst ’66 Fuckin’ 6’ is equally memorable, albeit cliché. The tempo may drop from time to time but the heaviness continues to plough on, as vocalist Sy Keeler grows more reminiscent to an English Angelripper with each album. There are no surprises on this album and this is probably why it sits pretty on top of the other toxic waste the thrash scene has conjured up but whether or not this denim will stay intact for another record is another story.

Reviewed by Lily Randall

‘VI’ is out now on AFM records

You’ll like this if… you believe that ‘Chaos Is King’ and like your beef matured and British.

published on soundshock.com

Nile @ The Garage, London

For once The Garage in London isn’t shoving the death metal devoted into the tiny upstairs area but this doesn’t stop the gig ending in blood, sweat and beers. Opening the night are Belgian deathsters Pestifer, who seem pretty unknown tonight. For those out early, it’s a showcase of tidy yet uninspiring tech death that does little to wake up the crowd and despite groovy breakdowns and vague stage presence, it’s unlikely Pestifer will be a band Googled profusely after the show.

Luckily Svart Crown have far more power behind them, as they blast into their eerie blackened death that may not sit pretty on this bill but is lapped up almost instantly. The four-piece from France feel monolithic from the stage, as they proof they still have it in the form of new tracks ‘In Utero’ and title track ‘Profane’, blasting immaculate yet sinister melodies amongst the chaos. Despite their darker approach to brutality, the band seem to have won over genre elitists tonight and rightly so.

Kataklysm’s “side project” Ex-Deo are certainly starting to make their own name, especially after a strong set at this year’s Bloodstock festival. With themes as strong as Nile’s Egyptian love affair, the death metallers death metal is smothered with Roman mythology and thus has an epic presence live. The guitar is a little low in the mix but with armour intact and heavy melodies galore, the band still prove their worth on this line up.

US veterans Nile have their loyal followers in tow before they’ve even played a note and it isn’t long until temperatures akin to their worshipped desert land are reached. Mosh pits break out for all the classics including ‘Sarcophagus’, Kafir!’ and ‘Lashed To The Slavestick’ and unlike their performing predecessors, the guitar sounds as crunchy and widdly as necessary. ‘The Howling Of The Jinn’ is one of a few songs that are a rarity live but still sound as terrifying as one would hope and although latest offering ‘At The Gates Of Sethu’ was weak in comparison it’s tunes still get some energy from the pit.

As the night draws to a sudden close due to a lack of encore, favourite ‘Black Seeds of Vengeance’ confirms that twenty years in the business has not worn Nile down and the spirit of Ra is still strong across the metal plains.

Reviewed by Lily Randall

published on soundshock.com

ZEMIAL – ‘Nykta’ [4]

To say that Zemial enjoy pushing boundaries is quite the understatement, and whilst every aspect of black metal was explored on 2006’s ‘In Monumentum’, the Greeks break out into every genre they can possibly think of to blend with the dark base.

‘Nykta’ is capable of messing up your head, with bizarre changes kicking in as soon as you’ve settled into that black metal part, or a slow instrumental. Whilst tracks such as ‘Breath of Pestilence’ take on a stable yet exciting twist of black ‘n’ roll, the likes of ‘Pharos’ stutter with schizophrenic tendencies, with this particular track screaming blackened opera, progressive silliness  and ambience all in one.

As mind-bending as it all sounds, their experimentation is commendable and at times makes the likes of Ihsahn look totally sane particularly on opener ‘Ancient Arcane Scrolls’. Beginning with blackened themes, the extremity stays throughout the eight minutes but convulses between melody, brutality and technicality before burning down into something atmospheric. Despite a strong production and aura aplenty, the overall album is a struggle to embrace due to the sporadic flow and overwhelming elements. It’s still dark and will certainly keep you on the edge of your seat but like a bad horror film, the overall conclusion is that it’s not worth your attention.

Reviewed by Lily Randall

‘Nykta’ is out 31st October on Hells Headbangers

You’ll like this if… you fancy something Greek and confusing that isn’t related to economy

published for soundshock.com

Necrowretch feature for Iron Fist

The wretched forms of death metal have been yanked from the ground over the last five years by youngsters desperate for the taste of blood and whilst many drag its name through the mud, others keep the primitive roots alive. French duo Necrowretch are one example of this, with frontman/guitarist Vlad picking up a guitar purely because of hearing Death’s ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ and six months later Necrowretch’s first demo was born.

“It was an amazing part of my life when I discovered so many death metal bands and in a certain way ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ was the highlight of this period and today it remains my major death metal influence”, Vlad reminisces. “The unholy alliance between Schuldiner and Reifert is just perfect and it delivers the true essence of death metal: raw, primitive, evil!”

 

This year’s debut ‘Putrid Death Sorcery’ saw the band beginning to find their own path with a record pummelling you from start to finish through a rabid tempo and savage aggression akin to eighties thrash and death coming to a head with one another. Slowly growing their following after appearances at Copenhagen’s Kill Town Fest in 2010, it was during an album launch for Asphyx that their viscious show caught the attention of Century Media. The record label took the band under their wings like label mates Sonne Adam, another band with a passion for traditional extremity but how does one tell between those who are true and those following the latest trend?

 

“I don’t really know, as I’m young and wasn’t part of the previous decade of death metal. I started playing music to make something similar to ‘Scream Bloody Gore’, and then the music became more personal and Necrowretch became its own”, explains Vlad. “Unlike our first recordings, I feel that we don’t sound like Autopsy or Nihilist anymore but actually came up with an evil and sick sound of our own that is hard to pigeonhole. I’m sure it’s the same way for a lot of metalheads playing in this “real” death metal vein. Of course there are also a lot of posers only using a HM 2 pedal to have a flat sound and to play the same riffs of Dismember, and I don’t like this kind of “copy paste” death metal.”

 

One man that refuses to listen to anything other than real metal is of course, Fenriz of Darkthrone. Linked heavily to Live Evil Festival, which will see its third festival causing havoc in London later on in the year, his Band of the Week choices are a strong focus for the line-up, a list Necrowretch were lucky enough to be a part of. The band’s first attack on our shores will be surrounded by the likes of Satan and Midnight to name a few but Vlad, Amphycion (bass) and new drummer Executor plan to step up to the mark.

 

“Be prepared for something very evil! We’ll play with all our guts and add some bestial touches for this show. The set will include many songs off the album that we never played live before. Be ready for your funeral! It was fucking amazing to be picked as a band of week by Fenriz. It’s a real honour for us to be heard by a metal veteran and to play with the other killer bands.”

 

Despite growing up in an area desolate to the metal realms, the joys of tape trading for the band and close friends helped Necrowretch witness the underground scene within their homeland. He believes there are plenty of killer bands “but sadly there is not enough support as people here are more into shitty core bands.” When asked who he would choose if he had the opportunity to step into Fenriz’s boots only French acts are listed, including Ritulalization, Affliction Gate and Cadaveric Fumes.

 

Sticking with the stereotypes of the underground, Necrowretch’s demos and EPs were only available on tape and quickly sold out, however a compilation is soon to be available on CD. In previous interviews, Vlad shared that he felt the past recordings should be left in the shadows of Necrowretch due to their sound evolving so rapidly, however the change of heart means “that for the first time all the recordings between 2009 and 2012 will feature on one disc, which is a great opportunity for people that have discovered us through the album and want to know more about the band and its filthy roots.”

 

Since ‘Putrid Death Sorcery’ was unleashed at the beginning of this year, Vlad claims the band are more ambitious than ever and that despite it being a huge step, the goal is still the same – “to play our passion for extreme metal.” A year has passed since recording the album for which Vlad, Amphycion and session drummer Mörkk quit their day jobs to concentrate on and Vlad believes they achieved the evil envisaged. “I think some parts could’ve been done better but the goal when we entered the studio was to unleash hell through our music and this was reached as the devil appears in the first seconds of the album.” Despite a clean production, Necrowretch keep the raw formula throughout all their recordings and this could be due to a ridiculously quick turnaround time. The recording process for the EPs took a mere day each whilst the debut was completed in ten days, so how on hell does a band work under such time frames?

 

“Ten days to record the album was a very long time for us and we even finished the instruments two days before the schedule. When entering the studio we are as possessed as when we are playing live. I can feel a certain darkness embracing me as we’re creating an ugly child. I feel comfortable playing eight hours of guitar non-stop. It’s just a very long trip into the dark. Also the studio was in a basement, so we were totally cut from the world; playing, eating, sleeping and living in this rancid lair for almost two weeks. It added a creepy ambiance to the album that you can feel if you listening carefully with headphones.”

 

Quite frankly, residing in a tomb has added the exact ambience Vlad speaks off and we can only hope that their second effort, which he promises will be “more bestial than the beast himself”, alongside the compilation ‘Bestial Rites’ resurrecting  proof of the primitive , will be even more of a terror for the masses. With a tour crushing over Europe planned alongside Swe-death slaughterers Morbus Chron and a hint that the band will rear their ugly heads at next year’s Party.San Festival, we can be left foaming at the mouth in anticipation for their possessed arrival. “London will burn… and you’ll die!”

Lily Randall

 

Published in Iron Fist

Party. San Open Air 2013 Review

Despite clashing with Brutal Assault and Bloodstock, Party.San is far from lacking when it comes to a devastating line up and the German airfield is crammed with punters in agreement.

The likes of Bombs of Hades kick off the proceedings with their crusty death metal from Sweden to an acceptable sized crowd and whilst Farsot’s sound is less ferocious, their harrowing post-black metal fills the stage. As the evening continues, the sunset creates the perfect setting for some French aural beauty a-la Alcest.  Their live show is intimate and hypnotising and a far cry from what’s next.

The crowd is probably at its most eager now as black thrashers Destroyer 666 take to the stage. Thankfully the wind settles and every rapid riff can be heard from favourites like ‘Raped’ and the epic ‘I Am The War God’. A tribute to the late Jeff Hanneman is raised in the form of Slayer’s ‘Black Magic’ along with several horns. The definition of black metal is confirmed as the moon glows and Carpathian Forest explode into the limelight. For many, this is the headline set of the day and Nattefrost and co prove they would have deserved it.

Friday sees an earlier start and a grind coupling of Gutalax and Magrudergrind seems like an obvious alarm clock. Others have saved energy for an onslaught from Coffins and it’s a good job they did, as they’re absolutely crushing live, doing each of their albums considerable justice. Vocalist Ryo communicates with sheer brutal vocals and whiskey swigging that complement their doom-riddled death metal.

Here to dampen the mood in the best possible way is Shining. The Swedes lower the tone from the off with their DSBM proving an ultimate contrast from the energy of earlier. The music is faultless and at times you wish the insanity of Kvarfoth the clown will stop so that the sounds created can be truly embraced.

The second stage sees the tent rammed in anticipation for a German occult ritual from Alchemyst, who leak mystery and atmosphere from the start of the set. Their black/death metal is drenched in reverb and the smoke and red lighting creates an incredibly dark aura with several tracks from ‘Nekromanteion’.

Tonight’s headliners Hypocrisy need no introduction. The Swe-death legends’ recent ‘End Of Disclosure’ album was weak, a couple of tracks slot in at the start without losing any oomph and older, tracks such as ‘Left To Rot’ bring out a balance of brutality.

With the last night finishing with three huge bands we need, Hooded Menace to continue the doom death presence of the weekend, with a sound thick enough to sink into and experience a death as slow as their songs.

After 25 years on the scene, Teutonic tormentors Desaster proved they still had it on record with last year’s ‘The Art of Destruction’and fortunately, they’ve still got it live, with a blackened thrash onslaught as bestial as their predecessors would predict.

After an unexpected silence, it is finally announced that Impaled Nazarene have had some car problems and vocalist Slutti666 runs onto the stage, band in toe. Admittedly, the sound is a little off to start but considering the consequences it’s soon forgotten with an onslaught of blackened thrash.

We try to ignore the fact Korpiklaani are on later than thrash titans Destruction but it’s hard when you see what they can do live. With several years under their bullet belts and a discography longer than most of the crowd’s hair, the band create a sound hard to believe is from a trio.

Carcass take their time but when they arrive, its full steam ahead with favourites including ‘Corporal Jigsaw Quandary’, ‘Heartwork’ and ‘Genital Grinder’. We even get a showcase of what to expect from latest offering ‘Surgical Steel’, which slots in with ease and could’ve easily closed the festival.

Luckily for us it doesn’t end there and Party.San manages to find a band that could top the likes of Carcass – Venom. Frequently coined as the founders of this whole scene, the band take the label with pride and prove it with the majority of the set showcasing the ‘Welcome To Hell’ and ‘Black Metal’ albums. He may be half a century in age but Cronos is unstoppable, his shrill cries still as memorable as they were at the beginning and the band sums up perfectly what Party.San is all about.

Review by Lily Randall

published on soundshock.com

Grave – Morbid Ascent

It’s hard to see a great deal of change in a five track EP from a band that have already cemented themselves as death metal veterans with ten full lengths confirming their legacy. Swedish favourites Grave certainly stick to their ferocious formula and EP ‘Morbid Ascent’ carries on from where last year’s stellar ‘Endless Procession of Souls’ left off. The first three tracks are new tunes that are fuelled by the aggressive speed and Ola’s menacingly familiar growls of the dirty nineties, with opener ‘Venial Sin’ stamping their style from the off. A cover of Satyricon’s ‘Possessed’ is a surprisingly brutal addition and a remix of last year’s ‘Epos’ stripped down and shortened for a heavier, sharper crunch. If this is a taster of things to come from Grave, expect the well done death metal all over again.

Small review published in Iron Fist