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

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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

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

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

CARCASS- ‘Surgical Steel’ [10]

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Seventeen years is a bloody long time to wait for a comeback but Carcass make it all worthwhile with an album that not only dusts the dried blood off of the amplifiers but matches in superiority to their previous masterpieces. Their last offering ‘Swansong’ was a poor way to duck out of the limelight but ‘Surgical Steel’ takes the best bits of pioneering favourites ‘Necroticism’ and ‘Heartwork’ and mould them into a perfect blend of melody and madness.

Since their hiatus began in 1996, bands from all over have taken the styles of both these albums, desperate to the reignite the flame of Carcass but regardless of which tools of the trade they chose, it hasn’t quite reached legendary. As soon as intro ‘1985’ fades out  and short but seriously heavy ‘Thrasher’s Abbatoir’ kicks in it is crystal clear this is Carcass and not one of their imposters. As the band slay through grind infused sections of ‘Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System’, the old-school angst remains despite a production so sharp it could slice you up. Former drummer Ken Owen shall forever remain a legend behind the kit, however latest recruit Daniel Wilding has a slight technical edge to his stick work that gives tracks including single ‘Captive Bolt Pistol’ a modern edge that pisses all over newer bands.

While the force of ‘Necroticism’’s blood flows strongly throughout the album, one cannot avoid the melodically genius guitar work that juxtaposes it. Bill Steer may be without Michael Amott but if anything, his solitary position allows him to swoop and solo a la ‘Heartwork’ at his own demise proving, and at times topping, the claim that Carcass invented the melodic death metal sound. Everything about ‘Surgical Steel’ proves that not only is this a magnificent comeback, but it could also be one of the greatest things Carcass have stitched together in terms of song-writing, musical prowess and production.

Reviewed by Lily Randall

‘Surgical Steel’ is out September 16th on Nuclear Blast

You’ll like this if…the thought of ‘Necroticisim being transplanted into the body of ‘Heartwork’ gets you grabbing for your apron

published on soundshock.com

ULCERATE – ‘Vermis’ [8]

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It’s been a brilliantly bleak year for death metal; with the likes of Coffins, Gorguts and Altars all bringing truly crushing albums into the world and Ulcerate are looking to join the elite. Fourth album ‘Vermis’ takes the ferocity of previous album ‘Everything Is Fire’ and the brutality of 2010’s ‘Destroyers Of All’ to concoct something that stamps the New Zealanders’ as inventors of pure evil.

Avoiding the standard formulas of death metal, Ulcerate replace speed and chugging with droning riffs and a post-metal vibe that makes any other album described as “crushing” resemble a musical mouse. The fact this album acts like a tidal wave of desolation makes it hard to accept that it was created by three human beings, with tracks such as ‘Weight Of Emptiness’ being lengthy and the guitar parts build up with a serious amount of dread, so you ‘re kept in suspense in the best possible way. With remnants of Demilich and Incantation spattered amongst ‘Vermis’, the album has no sporadic changes in speed or style and it’s this planned order that makes it feel even more terrifying. For those who don’t know ‘Vermis’ is Latin for “worm”, making the title name incredibly apt, as you feel like you are pinned down under a slithering weight, just waiting with no hope for an innovative yet imminent end.

Reviewed by Lily Randall

‘Vermis’ is out now on Sept 17th on Relapse

You’ll like this if… you often see the word “brutal” and feel it’s used wrongly

published on soundshock.com

GORGUTS – ‘Coloured Sands’ [7]

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A death metal comeback is always going to be strongly anticipated but when two pioneering bands of different styles emerge from their studio graves, its mayhem waiting to happen. It’s been 12 years since Gorguts’ last release and although only the founder remains from the original line up, Luc Lemay has kept his roots well and truly grounded in their sound.

Their 1998 record ‘Obscura’ was a game changer on the scene, and though ‘Coloured Sands’ isn’t quite so avant-garde, it certainly confirms Gorguts are back and ready to slaughter. Their technicality is apparent without being arrogant like many younger bands and creates a haunting atmosphere rather than an epic one. The murky sludge of ‘Obscura’ oozes on certain tracks including opener ‘Le Toit Du Monde’ and in true Gorguts fashion, the bass is extremely prevalent causing additional density. The technical bruising and uneasy vocals help ‘Coloured Sands’ fit comfortably in today’s ocean of extremity and the chunky riffs and scatty drumming is bound to appeal, whilst the incredibly claustrophobic aura on tracks such as ‘Forgotten Arrows’ and ‘Absconders’ create a more underground stench. It’s a slow and suffocating experience but you’ll be glad you suffered brutality 12 years in the making. ‘The Battle Of Chamdo’ breaks things up as an orchestral instrumental and despite its softer sounds, it’s still capable of causing dramatic unease like a movie soundtrack and works as a breather before you are truly sucked into the ‘Coloured Sands’.

Reviewed by Lily Randall

‘Coloured Sands’ is out now on Season of Mist

You’ll like this if…asphyxiation via music sounds like the perfect foreplay

published on soundshock.com