Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens

You know what the genre of melo death needs right now? What this stale, lifeless, core infected genre that’s been dead since the early 2000s needs? It needs chugging and repetitive melodies. Lots of them. No wait, that’s not enough, we need to go further down the dante’s metal cancer inferno. Let’s add some pointless electronic elements. Just because you know, fuck it, when I woke today, as I got my morning coffee and stared out into the frozen wasted, the sun hidden behind endless fucking amounts of snow. I looked out and said to myself “jesus fuck I hate finland, I’m gonna be cancer today to cope with that fact”. But you know, put just enough creativity in there so that the listener has to think about whether this is good or not. Because if I’m going to be the metal equivalent of raw sewage, I might as well be sewage with boobs on it. Because let’s be real, even gay guys like boobs.


Deiquisitor – Deiquisitor ALBUM REVIEW

Fast, brutal maelstroms of chaos. That’s what you’ll find in Deiquisitor’s debut. The few riffs you’ll find here seem more like a jamble of notes rather than a full riff. Swirling chaos and destruction plague your ear like you’ve been trapped in an alternate dimension where all that is cursed has come to “rest” there for eternity. The vocals further the cause by being this sort of gurgling mess that sounds more like someone clearing their throat over and over again than anything else (I mean that in a good way). This s/t has a fantastic atmosphere that is in the vein of a much more brutal type of caverncore that’s the latest trend in death metal.

The problem is that’s all the album has going for it. Sure there are some really awesome ambient outros that further progress the albums motif, but they’re just outros, never incorporated throughout the rest of the album, other than the final (which is also an outro). So basically you’re going to be hearing the same shit for 34 minutes. Not that that’s totally bad, this is a very enjoyable album if you’re in the right mood for it. But it’s certainly not something I would recommend for everyone. But if you like some really chaotic death metal, this is the stuff for you.


Hag- Fear of Man ALBUM REVIEW

Extremely solid, if a bit ordinary Stoner Sludge, except really damn heavy. Reminds me a lot of if Electric Wizard wasn’t nearly as good at creating riffs. The vocals are absolutely perfect for the music. I feel like there is a medium between harsh, far out, strained, and soaring that you need in order to be great vocalist of a stoner band, and this guy nails it. Good stuff, I’d certainly give it a listen if you want a somewhat lo-fi, “show in a basement on a college campus” kind of music.


Vastum – Hole Below ALBUM REVIEW

A punishing album full of riffs that bring you pain, and growls that bring you doom, Hole Below could very well be that of the hole where a serial killer keeps its victims, which in this case you’re 15 feet down in. It’s almost industrial like sections bring the listener an overwhelming sense of dread, creating a massively unsafe and uneasy environment. The inescapable feel of dread fills the listener at every waking moment, as if every strum of the guitar is a footstep of the killer about to come fetch you and bring you to your demise. All in all, this is an album for those who want to feel as if they are in mortal danger, and for those who wish to have their organs turned to spaghetti sauce…

…Is what I feel like I should feel when listening to this. Alas, I do not. It could just be chalked up to current listening mood, the temperature in the room, how much I shat today, who knows. Even after repeated listens, I’m not feeling this. I recognize that this is a great work, but my feelings aren’t syncing up with that. The album, although executing its desired vibe well, feels hollow. It feels like every song is relatively the same, which isn’t typically a complaint I have with death metal, as that’s sort of a staple with most traditional death metal tracks. But here it’s amplified for some reason. Perhaps just because I was expecting more, as it starts out promising with an industrial/ambient like intro, which I expected to be utilized much more throughout the album. I debated on whether or not I should give the my approval anyway, however I feel like I should stay true to my gut feeling and give this a more modest rank. I still encourage people to check this out, as I’m sure everyone else will feel differently than me.


Putrevore – Tentacles of Horror ALBUM REVIEW

Overall a solid work. Very riff focused, which is a bit refreshing in the world of caverncore and competitions on who can be the most bro0tal. The vocals are a bit reminiscent of Demilich, in that they are very much more gurgles and demonic-like spasms rather than real death vocals. They certainly aren’t exactly to that extreme, but it’s towards that area of the spectrum. However despite having a touch of uniqueness, it’s mostly an album that goes in one ear and out the other. I found myself using it more as background noise than as a real album to focus on. A good work, but not something I would uphold to high acclaim.


Khemmis – Absolution ALBUM REVIEW

Not many bands attempt to describe their sound in four words. Even fewer put those four words up at the front of their bandcamp page. Khemmis is not one of those bands, and boldly attempts to describe what usually takes at least a paragraph in just about as few words as possible: Slow, Loud, Heavy, Denver. The first three are pretty standard for doom metal, so while they’re most likely correct, I don’t think they’re really breaking any barriers with that. Denver’s kind of a weird one, because although they are from Denver, bands don’t typically describe their sound with where they’re from. Though I guess it could be like when a rapper randomly says the name of where they’re from to get cred or something. I guess any city that’s cold as fuck and a mile above the earth has metal cred to it. There’s also legal weed, so that’s a major plus on any doom metal band’s origin cred. But of course, it isn’t just about how the bands describes themselves, I’m reviewing this to describe how I feel about it. And personally, I’m not quite sure they described themselves accurately. And no, I’m not just going to go through each of their self descriptions and analyze if they are indeed that, that’s dumb. I don’t think I can measure “Denver” in any objective sense anyway. Instead I’ll do it the old fashion way; through hard analysis, and lots of metaphors.

First off, before I take a microscope to every fault on Absolution, I do want to point out how great the production job is. It’s not really super unique, or especially fitting to the theme, but it is the quintessential “this is how doom metal should sound” kind of production. It has enough fuzz to make you feel the hammering, bring you down to earth, bone crushing tonics, while being clean enough to where you can actually hear every note. If there is a single kind of production that can go with pretty much any doom metal album, it’s the job that’s done on this album.

Unfortunately, Khemmis doesn’t fully capitalize on that fact. The very first thing I noticed within the first few minute of the first song, is how little of an atmosphere there is. Now, there’s a common misconception in the metal community that there’s a division between atmospheric metal and riff based metal. This is completely false. ALL metal albums have atmosphere. I could even go further and say that all albums in general have atmosphere, but I don’t want to go too far off topic. Even riff based metal albums have an atmosphere to them, because any time you play a note, or hit a drum, or do anything with any sound ever, you’re going to evoke a feeling in whoever is listening. And that’s all atmosphere is, the feeling the music brings. This is true all the way from Hellhammer’s first demos, to Filosofem, to  [INSERT ANY MODERN ATMOSPHERIC BLACK METAL ALBUM HERE]. The point is, all music has atmosphere, even if the main goal of the music is not to be atmospheric. So relating this back to Absolution, even though this is mostly a melody and riff based album, the lack of atmosphere still hurts it. It feels sterile and lifeless. The musicianship and musicality are rather good, but it lacks a certain sense of personality to it. Part of that the fact that this album has the strange and not often found problem of being too melodic.

Typically a strong sense of melody is a good thing in almost any circumstance. A common criticism of metal is how unmemorable the melodies are, especially in genres like power metal, melo death, and other more melodic based metal. Even outside of that, melody is almost universally seen as a good thing. The problem here is two-fold. For one, even though they do focus on the melody often, the actual melodies are a bit too obvious and unexciting, as well as overextending a bit, as to being more a long melodic line than being an actual repeated melody. Not that the songs don’t have repeated themes, but they get lost in slightly long-winded melodic sections, so nothing really sticks in your head. The second problem is that they traded being melodic with what doom metal is best known for: hard hitting, crushing, short, and catchy riffs. This is not a very riff based album, something which shouldn’t normally be a thing you want to say about a doom metal album. Not that the riffs don’t exist, but they often sound like slightly melodic chugging, rather than an actual hard hitting riff. So in the end, they trade riffs for melody, and end up doing neither well.

I mentioned earlier how the production was really quite good on this album, the kind that could sound awesome in just about any doom metal album. While this is still true, I did also mention that they didn’t capitalize on that. I expanded on that with mention of the atmosphere, however i want to further expand on that on a more general level than just notes and melody. Khemmis simultaneously tries to sound both clean and dirty at the same time, and of course, whenever you try to do two things at once, you’re much more likely to do neither well. In a more general sense, they contrast the very sludge influenced doom sections, with these much more melodic and clean sections, that sounds more like melo-death, or even deathcore (more on that shortly) than doom metal. While as a whole, there probably is a bit more focus on the sludgey doom sections (I admit, I wasn’t exactly counting the seconds that each got focus so I don’t know this for sure, shame on me), neither has enough of a focus overall to be done well. An even production job doesn’t necessarily mean even music. Because if you have an even production job, with an even amount of dirt, and an even amount of cleanliness, and neither is executed in a particularly good manner, you end up creating this middle of the pack, and ultimately bland sound that takes advantage of none of the strengths either influences has to offer. The great thing about this particular production job is that it can accent anything, not that you’re supposed to go middle of the road with the middle of the road production. Focus on doing one thing well, not multiple things mediocre.

Moving on from the production job while stilling talking about the overall bland atmosphere, one of the culprits to this is the vocals. Initially, I heard the clean vocals and was quite happy, and even noted that they sounded perfect with the music. I’m a huge fan of trad doom, even though I don’t listen to nearly enough of it. Clean, somewhat relaxed vocals in doom metal will always have a place in my heart, if anything because it reminds me of when I first understood Born too Late. But just as soon as I was writing the praise of this vocal style in my notes, the most awful noise cam about. As if taken right from a generic metalcore album, these uncouth, barbaric, uncultured death barks came in. It took me extremely off guard, and it put me way off on this album. It didn’t help that on the first track it was basically just injected into the music seemingly out of nowhere. It was like decorating a vanilla cake with Tapatio hot sauce. Tapatio is mentioned in particular, because although I love hot sauce, and I’m sure you could make vanilla and hot sauce work, Tapatio is like if hot sauce was twice digested, vomited up, shat on, then mixed with moldy cum rags and sold for people to put on their burritos. Therefore this negates any indication that what I said could be seen as a good thing. Anyway, the combination didn’t work and I initially wrote the death barks off as awful.

But a funny thing happened on the way to The Bereaved. Or rather, two funny things. For one, I noticed the pattern in how they used these vocals, and how it changed throughout the album. Initially, the harsh vocals were used as a change-up during the climax of the song, switching back and forth in a very core-like way, mostly accompanied by a melo-death like background (hence the melodic death metal influence I put at the top). Later in the album, starting towards the end of Serpentine, there was a switch. A slow one, but a switch nonetheless. The death barks became the main vocals, and the clean vocals took a backseat. As a result, you now had as a main focus the harsh vocals accompanied by the sludge/doom sections, and the clean vocals accompanied by the more brief melodic sections. This seemed a lot more natural, and better overall, which in turn leads to the second funny thing. I realized that the harsh vocals were actually better. The album really reaches it’s peak during the 5th track “Burden of Sin”, in which the transition in roles of the two vocal styles finally completes. The large majority of the track has the harsh vocals in it, and in turn, for the first time, there seems to be a focused atmosphere.

But why does any of this matter? I’m sure many (as in 4 out of the 7 total at least) of you reading this are probably thinking that I’ve spent this entire time nitpicking. And by itself, yeah this is mostly nitpicking. However there is a larger point to this, and it’s a great lesson in why reading the lyrics, even to a metal album, is extremely important.

While it’s hard to say exactly what in particular this album is about, the general theme of the album, at least lyrically, is that humanity has done a bunch of awful things, and that now they must pay with the apocalypse. This is especially apparent in the track Antediluvian. For those of you that don’t know (which included me until I looked this up, I’m not THAT smart), the antediluvian refers to the time before the biblical flood. So the obvious implication here is that we’re in the theoretical antediluvian, about to be swept up by the great flood, and the lyrics reflect that. In short, the theme here is the Apocalypse. That’s a pretty large theme to relate to in 41 minutes, or any amount of time for that matter. Which leads me to the ultimate failing of this album. It feels so small in comparison to how large it’s trying to be.

There isn’t just one reason for this, but we’ll start by going back to talking about the vocals. The cleans Khemmis uses here evoke a sense of homeliness, a sense of being down to earth, nostalgia, and relatively speaking are much more relaxed. Whereas the death vocals are urgent, punishing, and unforgiving. It’s sort of like your mom telling you that if you keep making that face it’ll stay that way, compared to gunnery sergeant hartman yelling “YOU HAD BEST UNFUCK YOURSELF OR I WILL UNSCREW YOUR HEAD AND SHIT DOWN YOUR NECK!”. You can ignore your mom saying that. You can’t really ignore the threat of literally eating shit. Considering the main point of this album is that humanity must pay or else, I’d much rather have this message relayed in a way I can’t just tune out. This is what the harsh vocals do. Again, there’s urgency involved, and in a more abstract sense, punishment. There’s a feeling that by listening to these, I’m already being punished, and I mean that in a good way. Sort of like that you know you’ve been a naughty boy, and now master Ben Hutcherson will punish you. Except then you realize you forgot the safeword and now he’s literally going to kill you. That’s how this album should feel. The harshness should be the punishment, the cleans should be the relief, but ultimately you should feel a sense of doom. This doesn’t happen nearly enough. In fact I’d really only say it happens during one part of Antediluvian, and the majority of Burden of Sin. The rest of the time it feels like they’re trying to relay the message of our demise in the meekest, and least pressuring way possible. It feels small… with one exception.

I referenced this earlier, along with a 1960s musical comedy, but the final track is called “The Bereaved”, a track which the label claimed was the “doom metal track of the year”. Seeing as how labels never lie about the quality of their music, I was shocked to find out that this is in fact NOT the doom metal track of the year. In fact, it isn’t even the best track on the album. One thing I will say is that this is the first time the album actually feels large. Unfortunately, sort of like a Dane Cook comedy routine, it’s obvious how hard they’re trying to be that way. Right away with the acoustic guitar intro, and then with the post-metal-like buildup to the main music, Khemmis is pulling in all the stops to make sure the track blows you away. Unfortunately for them, it climaxes at about 1:10 out of the 9:00 length, and then never goes anywhere. It’s loud, it’s slow, it’s heavy, it sounds epic, it’s from Denver, and it doesn’t do shit for the album. It’s sort of like ordering Bob’s Big Ass Burger at your local diner. Sure it’s big, and sure it’s filling, but in the end, you probably would’ve been much happier with a smaller, but much higher quality meal.

Now I just want to make this clear that although I’ve spent this entire review taking a big fat shit on the record, this is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, this is pretty dang good. Even though it has a lot of faults, and even though I said the nitpicking I did was important, it’s still nitpicking, and the point is, aside from taking a magnifying glass to it, this album sounds good. When they do get the right combination of vocals and instrumental influences, and it sounds like it should sound, there’s a lot to like. I’d probably rate this in the mid-high 7 range if the entire album sounded like Burden of Sin. There are also some unbelievably awesome solo work here, especially on The Bereaved, which is easily the best part of that track. These guys know how to play their instruments well, and it shows.

Unfortunately, and I know I’ve been going back and forth on this, even though those are just nitpicks, they’re important nitpicks, and they prevent me from putting Absolution into the official seal of approval. The album sounds good, but ultimately it took on too big of a theme for their sound. If they can get that combination of influences correct for an entire album, watch out. But for now I think I actually prefer the Muse album by the same name.


Nightwish – Endless Forms Most Beautiful ALBUM REVIEW

I’m typically adverse to the whole symphonic metal business. Not because I innately dislike symphonic sounds (I study classical music in college and very much enjoy it), but because it’s usually done very poorly with bad synths and extremely campy and generic “epic” sounds that are supposed to mimic what a classical piece sounds like, but never actually sounds like anything resembling classical music. Fortunately for Nightwish, they’re famous and have money, so they don’t need to worry about crappy synths and can actually hire an orchestra to do their bidding. So props to them for that (I never said I graded fairly). So they avoided the first pitfall of symphonic metal. But what about the generic “epic” sound? Unfortunately, they did not avoid that, though if you’re going to cheese, you could at least do it in style, which there certainly is plenty of in this album. Lush symphonic timbres are abound in this lp, which combines aspects of power metal, symphonic metal, and elements of celtic folk music, and it does it in a way that doesn’t seem like they’re trying too hard, which is a major trap that a lot of symphonic/power metal bands fall into. Part of that is I think, again, that they have money, and can actually create what they are trying to achieve without taking any cheap shortcuts. I also felt the rather subdued, but not exactly bored female vocals added a nice touch, which to me made the celtic influences more authentic (I’ve actually only ever heard celtic style singing preformed by a male once, and that was at a live concert at a church in front of about 20 people. It was great stuff though, they combined celtic, american, and indian folk music into an amazing performance, I really wish I’d remembered the name of the band and I’d link their site). The highlight of the album is easily the 24 minutes track aptly labeled “The Greatest Show on Earth”. And it is a great show. A spoken word tale told with the massive help of a variety of instrumentations, from the obvious (metal and symphonic orchestra) to the less obvious (dark ambient and some electronic tracks), to even quoting a Bach prelude, which I thought was a nice touch.

So then why “only” (as if it’s a bad grade) a 7/10? Well for one, I’ve always had a hard time rating symphonic metal high because I’ve always heard it as a cheap imitation of classical music. That’s not really the genre’s fault, that’s my own interest in classical music’s fault. But above anything else, if there’s one thing that brings down this album, it’s its length. That 24 minute track? That comes after already hearing about 55 minutes worth of music. This is a 79 minute album in all. Usually when an album is that long, it’s a double album, or it has a massive amount of progression and different styles to where it’s almost like you’re listening to multiple short albums. This doesn’t have that. While it’s nice hearing properly implemented symphonic and celtic sounds in metal, and I wouldn’t say that all the tracks “sound the same”, the entire album really only has one atmosphere throughout. That isn’t a bad thing, it’s typically expected, but it’s hard to do that for so long and keep the listener interested. Had they gotten rid of the 4 tracks previous to the last track (or really any 4 tracks previous to that, none of them are indispensable, which is part of the problem), this would’ve been a much easier album to digest. But alas, as it is it’s very difficult to listen to this lp without at least some sort of a break. I didn’t however, and maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could’ve.