Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Cellgraft - Cellgraft LP (2012)

EP, Self-released / Independent
July 29th, 2012

Genre: Grindcore
Region: USA

This my friends is the final record from the Insect Warfare-influenced, vicious Florida grindcore outfit Cellgraft. After their final show on September 1st at the Brass Mug in Tampa, Florida they're calling it quits. They've generously left this unrelenting jagged shard of grindcore as their final word, and they've done so for free or pay-what-you-can via their bandcamp page.

Their records have been tremendous, truly doing the grind scene proud, and it's really a shame that they've split — especially considering they deserve a ton of attention for their hard work and dedication to face shredding grindcore over their short 3 year existence.

Self-titled and raw as you could ask for, this record is as short as any GridLink release and approaching their level of might and ferocity, while sidestepping technicality and barreling head-long into darkened, brutal speed. Outside of the opening track "False Sequence of Value" there is only one other track of the 17 here that approaches one minute in length. The opener is also the slowest you'll ingest too, at least for the first minute as it clobbers you with a maniacal set of distorted groves.

The rest are refined sparks of grindcore in its purest form, tracks that will flatten you like a runaway nuclear freight train. It's a record that demands you spin it at least 5 or more times before you realize the excellence you've just encountered in the 12 minutes of sonic ear rape they've recorded. You'll be sheared apart by razor sharp and dirty riffs, an endless heap of blasting snares and kickers, devastating snarling bass licks, and some truly wicked growls and screams puked forth with disgust and contempt. They haven't released the lyrics for this one but I can only assume (from the titles) they're as cold and calculated as the music — dealing with dystopian cybernetic ruin, synthetic monstrosities, and network corruption with a definite political cloak. All undeniably appropriate.

It's all over too quickly for one to be able to properly process this hectic tangle of shrapnel. What I can tell you before you dive into it is that the energy level is cranked passed 10. It's powerful. Each tasty riff is tailored specifically for raw, bestial fury and in that sense the writing is excellent. There isn't eye-opening innovation but that's not the point here (as if that needs stating). The velocity of each track is breathtaking and you'll be compelled to put this on repeat.

Once again and for one final time Cellgraft have shown they've earned the right to use one of the legendary Insect Warfare's track titles with an unstoppable, light-speed assault. Any grindcore fan should not think twice about spinning this beast and, if you're feeling nice, chipping in whatever you can when you download this LP; I doubt there will be a physical release. They were nice enough to let you guys have this final offering for free so you would only be doing good things for such excellent musicians.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Hell - Hell II (2010)

Full Length, Eternal Warfare / Pesanta Urfolk
April, 2010

Genre: Sludge/Doom Metal
Region: USA

Oregon's Hell brings you something dark and towering with their second record. A layering of bleak sounds that evolves slowly with great care. It took me a while to get to this one and it's clear to me I've been missing out once again.

For me this feels like a big step up from their debut. It's far more refined without losing the raw, hideous textures and atmosphere they so easily manifest and yet moves into other territory too. A tragic and violently crushing tome which withers all it comes in contact with like acoustic gravity waves emitted from the core of Earth.

They come at you with four fierce and intimidating tracks, the shortest of which is just shy of 8 minutes and the longest is the opener clocking in at 20. This track "Gog" takes on a more drone-like form, slithering from trudging doom chords and feedback which barely move at all to ebbing noise and soundscapes that leave the listener feeling touched as if by some spectral molester.

It spreads out meticulously often with gaps of silence, rumbling distorted bass and sustained notes. Subtle dissonance is tasted from the down-tuned madness, and vocals range from a vile gurgle to unholy growls while the drums are paced so slow with some nice cymbal work. There's also some very haunting clean sections especially in the middle of "Gog" that are very reminiscent of Thou's sludgery in some ways, echoing and shining as the only light in their cavernous atmosphere; it's no wonder why they collaborated on their recent split. This is the most straight forward song on the record if you can believe it, breathing its hot and sour breath like a fallen titan that has collapsed on top of you — drawing it's final gasps as it drags you into it's crater-sized grave.

However if you're wondering this album is just nothing but plodding doom you'll be pleasantly surprised by the three tracks that follow. If it was, I would certainly have no problem with that; who doesn't like a good slow battering from that genre? What first seems like a simple formula slowly grows, crawls from it's hellish sludge shell and carefully pulls in with it's huge gravity elements of black metal and a slight folk tinge. By the end of the record you've almost completely parted ways with undulating sludge but have been so easily, comfortably pulled away that it feels natural.

You hear a little of the blackened influence near the 6 minute mark in "Gog", but if you made it out of that sludge slide alive you find that it's in "Ublilicus" and "Metnal" where we first get a more definite hint that all is not what meets the eye here. "Metnal" opens with a powerfull groove (seriously addicting) and is quickly accompanied by a nice slice of blackened tremolos, nodding towards the growth I mentioned before the vocals enter.

They do not rely on this brief injection and continue to crush with riff after riff of clawing doom before letting the melodic black influence creep back in. This gradual introduction of change is both very tasty and intriguing. When things become silent we hear subtle use of cold synths and cycling feedback, awash with sorrow when suddenly (near the two-thirds mark) we get a depressive acoustic melody which builds with intensity. A striking set of black metal riffs are pushed forward, and acoustic chords infect the doom again, accompanied by wavering synths. The distorted melancholic tones build and fall away until the black metal (akin to atmospheric bands such as Fell Voices or Ash Borer) forces its way into the fray; dismal and dark.

The bassy doom comes back momentarily, as do the frightening acrid rasps, feedback and eerie synths — and this process is continued before the jump is made to"Ubilicus": a track which takes those previous evolutionary steps and sets them aside momentarily (and only slightly) before the final throes of the album. At this point the record is starting to feel extremely cohesive, all elements coming forward to a stunning high. This is just fantastic writing  Yes, the creaking sludge makes a return with whirring noise behind it — the sound of souls being sucked down the cosmic drain. Punishing riffs abound here, straining bends and then the tremolo buzz reveals itself once again as war-like drumming emerges behind it. And in the final grasps of this track, a solitary bass riff leads us to a clean melodic doom section and opens up into the writhing blackened pits to close

The final song "Trucid" where it seems the blackened plague has swept their writing almost completely, the growth and blend of genres all comes to ahead here. Clean and mournful is the atmosphere that is quietly fomented, again rolling drums stay subdued for a time beneath this dark melody. Some time later the climb is beset with rising bass groans as we feel the song reaching a summit, and the clean section is smashed by a foul black metal riff from both bass and guitars; an air of triumph is met. And suddenly a bouncing doom section surfaces only to fade to a clean and acoustic journey.

How this album twists in and out of these moments never feels forced. It's quite an accomplishment, never over-dramatic or boring. We can get this sense once more at around the 8 minute mark a droning, depressive blackened riff cuts through alongside the harsh screams which evoke torturous pain — and again the switch is flipped to a stomping pace, doom slabs dive and feedback washes over everything. The final moments of "Trucid" bring back the cold, clean melody as the light sweeps and fades from the tomb of sludgy hate they've carved here in vinyl.

What a dark and epic trek through Hell this is. A surprisingly deep tunnel of sounds. This is definitely an overlooked doom gem well worth your support, especially if you love monstrosities like Thou. I bought this beast at the Gilead Media fest and it quickly sold out there. You fine readers can buy a copy in vinyl form from Pesanta Urfolk which comes with a download code and a spiral etching on the final side — it's limited so work fast if you want one. It was originally offered in cassette form but that has long since sold out.

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Grave Upheaval / Manticore - Split (2012)

Split, Nuclear War Now! Productions
July 9th, 2012

Genre: Death Metal
Region: Australia / USA

Once again the twisted minds behind Impetuous Ritual and Portal, through their heinous Death/Doom Metal project Grave Upheaval, unleash more crawling chaos in this split with Manticore; who also contribute to their own seasoned catalogue of filthy death metal.

Probably the only thing that bothers me about Grave Upheaval (other than not having recorded a full length yet) is the fact that all their tracks are "untitled" which can make things a little confusing. A minor and insignificant complaint considering whenever they raise from their earthen tomb to project cold doom-infused death metal upon the underground community it is uncompromisingly destructive.

They contribute two tracks to this record, both of which I saw performed at Rites of Darkness III not long ago and both are suffocating, crushing and dirty as a smoker's lungs. The production is slightly clearer on this compared to their split with Encoffination which to some might take away from their murky atmosphere but to me the riffs and groaning vocals are no less oppressive and lurching with a little more clarity in the mix.

The first track is a little shorter but the severely low tuning and creeping pace is such that it feels just as torturous as any ten minute doom track, hammering the listener with drawn out tremolo riffs as the moans crawl forward — drums flickering ominously with the sudden appearance of a gong. The pacing is set slightly faster by the drums as the riffs continue to weigh down with a single set of notes which continues right to the finish, so low and dirty.

This tone is only altered slightly once you hit the second track which pulses with crunchy, slow doom powerchords punctuated by an occasional hammer-on. It's pure darkness as the track somehow hits an even lower pitch when the rasping growls enter. They hold this nice groove with very slight changes in the dismal sway, drums only picking up a touch in the final moments of the track. Every chord struck is a granite slab in the face to be savored on their side. Their material is growing stronger with each short step and I long for a full release even more at this point.

Honestly I'm not all too familiar with Manticore's releases prior to this but their side is great regardless. Manticore definitely take a more traditional approach compared to their partners here, though they remain filthy and evil in their own right. "Unleashing Unholy Temptations" opens slowly, demonic rasps uttered with palpable hate as the chunky riffs plow for a short time. The pace is decided more thrashy and oldschool immediately after this short intro: a choppy onslaught of death metal with some nice hooks near the end before an abrupt close.

"Insemination of the Sycophant" is just as vicious. Powerful percussive blasts pummel you the entire way through — the pace only slows in the middle where a crushing section briefly interrupts the thrashing before tossing you back into the blackened fury. It all ends so quickly you'll definitely need to run through both tracks a few times to get a proper dose of the whirlwind chaos, something that shouldn't be any trouble at all.

If you're aching for another taste of what Grave Upheaval are conjuring in their dark pit in Australia, or what Manticore have been working on since their 2006 full length and last years split then jump on this one. Buy this shit from the Nuclear War Now! Productions store, the diehard version comes with two patches. You can also stream this in full on their bandcamp page.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Corpsessed - Corpsessed (2012)

EP, Dark Descent Records
May 25th, 2012

Genre: Death Metal
Region: Finland

Following their 2011 EP "The Dagger & the Chalice" (which was one of my favorites last year) this is Corpsessed's self-titled second EP.

Two tracks in total: "Demoniacal Subjugation" and "Of Desolation". Both are heaping servings of ripping death metal that doesn't stray to far away from their last offering, each containing some pretty simple but sweet sharpened, dirty riffs strewn amongst the deep growls and mid-paced chest-crushing drumming.

There's not much to say here honestly: the slow crunchy moments destroy, the faster ones tear with purpose. Powerful tremolo sections run all through this with an evil taint while the crawling powerchord parts will hypnotize.

It's a short but a completely enjoyable ride that keeps you plenty interested. If you liked last year's effort there's no reason you wouldn't like this. The guitar tone is a thick tasty buzz and the material hasn't backed off in terms of quality — I just really want a full album from these guys.

Just a taste of what they're working on and it's quite sick, so get on it. You can buy this in 7" form from both Dark Descent Records and Parasitic Records, and follow them on facebook.

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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Antediluvian / Adversarial - Initiated in Impiety as Mysteries (2012)

Split. Nuclear War Now! Productions
June 28th, 2012

Genre: Death Metal
Region: Canada

This is a split I've been hearing about while it was being formed since late last year from a few friends "in the know", and I've been quite excited to hear how it turned out. Needless to say it's phenomenal.

Initiated in Impiety As Mysteries is an essential split record of churning chaos containing two of Canada's most talented, ferocious and hard working death metal acts couldn't be anything less than utterly destructive. Antediluvian and Adversarial on their own have both made big impacts in the last few years so I guess it was only natural they would combine their efforts. While both bands play distinctly different styles of death metal their pairing feels natural. And because essentially each release they've worked on independently has been gold (with growth in each careful step) you shouldn't be surprised once you unleash this to find it is no different in that regard.

Adversarial commits three wicked songs to their side. Two of the songs here ("Swirling Chaos that Swallows Horizons" and "Spiraling Towards the Ultimate End") they've been playing live since ROD III, and I've heard them each time they've played a set since. Hearing them live in their more raw form it was undeniable that they were no less crushing than their work on All Idols Fall Before The Hammer, but now having the chance to listen to them full worked through and a little cleaned up their impact has risen greatly.

For those of you who were bitching about the snare on All Idols Fall Before The Hammer there's good news: the snare is far more tame here. Every other aspect of the percussion remains the same: intense, blazing fast and intimidating. It really does the job of amping up the guitar in the faster sections very well, trampling like a stampede of elephants. Adversarial continues to hone their unique style of awe-inspiring and tasteful technicality with restraint allowing it to feel far more orthodox than you would expect. Carlos is still a fucking beast: his ability to craft high velocity, smart and dissonant riffs that remain catchy and memorable is something more musicians in the modern death metal arena should take note of.

The way he shreds on the opener (following a short ambient intro) shows that he's still full of creative riff ideas, as he snakes his way from technical sections into more dirty, mid paced tremolo sections and then into a slow dissonance which eventually ramps up as some of those crooked notes float in the background is quite satisfying. "Swirling Chaos that Swallows Horizons" has too many excellent moments: from the first riff (which repeats multiple times in the song) to the one that directly follows it at 1:45 which slams you with a combination of choppy fast powerchords and thick palm-muted tremolo shreds to the apocalyptic section emerging from a brief silence — it's all top notch and catchy as hell.

"Into the Waning of Twilight's Death Ocean" is the only track here I'm pretty sure I haven't heard previously but it's no less excellent then the others: cutting technicality and sparks discordance placed between shorter slow chords. The last riff in this song is beastly as it changes it's structures gradually, serpentine and then galloping, will put you on your ass.

"Spiraling Towards the Ultimate End" mirrors the feeling of the first track with one difference: the final haunting section filled with delay which is spellbinding, meandering slightly but circling a familiar theme as the drumming shifts from slow to blazing several times. I remember it clearly from the times I've seen it live but it's even more tremendous here. There's a really technical chunky moment which is just awesome, and the whining riff that's unleashed at 1:15 (and appears again later) is unforgettable.

Antediluvian's side is just as vicious as Adversarial's. I've heard one of these tracks live as well though I did not know the official title at the time.Their sound from Through The Cervix of Hawaah has carried over on these three tracks but the production feels far more raw (as it was on their earlier releases) and to me it seems the atmosphere and structures sound far closer to those heard on Under Wing of Asael.

Even with this being said you can hear growth in their compositions. While there are no behemoth length tracks what Antediluvian are doing on this release is truly magnificent — it's still a swirling catastrophe of jagged darkness but more warped than anything they've done. Crushing waves of sustained bends clash with dirty and tangled tremolo riffs over a storm of furious drumming (which is fairly overwhelmed by the other players and a little "cardboard" sounding), while the bass is so clear it's actually surprising; it's right up front with the guitar.

The most chaotic track is their opener "Force of Suns of Adversary" which is a writhing pile of blackened riffs for the first minute but halts for a wicked slow section reminiscent of the title track from their Asael demo: its a breathing archaic atmosphere in these moments, before moving into more thrashing chaos and again — only to be interrupted by a clean hammer on section which is a little bizarre, and once the distortion is cranked again the sharp scream that echos above turns this into a frightening experience. The vocals remain undeniably inhuman.

"Dissolution Spires" is a little different, slower paced for the most part after a writhing intro section — again the huge, rusted bends  with the thick bass line beneath reminds me of their demo, it's a hypnotic set of sounds that no other death metal group is messing with at this point. These sections make up the bulk of the track and it's entirely engrossing, and even when the pacing speeds up later in the track these grotesque warps remain largely. Near the end there's a truly evil "solo"(it's barely a solo in the traditional sense) which howls and groans in an unearthly manner, it's just great.

"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (I Am That I Am)" I saw performed live last year and it slays. It closes this split and much like the previous track it's slower, opening with a cold melody before speeding up briefly and then slamming back to a trudge with an avalanche of dissonant sustained dirges bringing oppressive atmosphere with them; and this pattern repeats in slight variations for the rest of the track. Those slow sections are eerie and otherworldly, a sharp contrast to the ferocity of the moments that come immediately after but no less intense. Near the very end there's a set of riffs that are some of the strangest they've crafted: the pace is quick but the guitar is slow, creeping, warped while the bass lines are quick and filthy. Antediluvian's contribution is just as consistent and strong as their previous work if not more so, their writing continues to impress and tighten.

Absolutely fantastic. This might be one of best splits in a while and there have been some excellent ones in the past two years. Both of these bands a morphing their styles ever so slightly and yet still keep them solid, making for some killer material that rivals their full length works. Don't bother hesitating on snatching a copy from Nuclear War Now! Productions, this is something that deserves your cash.

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