Monday, October 28, 2013

SLAM SHOW REVIEW: 10/27 - Wormed, Condemned, Infernal Revulsion, Cognitive, Parasitic Extirpation

Welcome back to Slam-Minded, kids! I know many have been waiting for a return from us here for many months, so when I heard that this insanely brutal lineup was to make a stop through Cambridge, MA, where I would just so happen to be the night before for a beer-related event, I knew it was destiny that I'd attend, headbang and eventually write up my thoughts. So, here goes... be easy on me, I'm a tad rusty at writing about things that don't begin with 'b' and end with 'r'.

I brought along my buddy Chris, who is rather new to slam and interested in learning more about it, who brought his girlfriend along. Also in attendance was another good friend who left somewhat early during the show in order to get reasonable sleep for the start of his work-week (wimp). Anyway, although Chris is very willing to delve further into slam, his girlfriend was previously unaware of our lovely genre, but I think the show might have been a good conversion for her. The venue was the Cambridge Elks Lodge on Bishop Allen Drive, and we thought it was supposed to open at 5, but it turned out the doors were at 6, and, indeed, when we arrived at 5:05, the bands hadn't even shown up to load in yet. So in true time-wasting fashion, we hit up one of the best local bars (Lord Hobo, of course) in the area and returned to the scene, where a massive crowd of dudes in black shirts was pouring in to the shoddy basement. Oh yeah, awesome setting for a slam event! Extremely ratty and run-down looking, this Elks Lodge has clearly seen better days, but these seedy environs would soon prove themselves worthy of a true beatdown.

Parasitic Extirpation was first up, and I was surprised to see Mallika of Abnormality grab the mic and begin to do her check along with the other members. Didn't know she was doing vocals for them these days but, then again, I don't really pay as much attention as I used to, admittedly. The band only played about 20 minutes (5 or so songs), but they were surprisingly good. I remember I had some criticism about their Knee Deep in Disease EP from way back in the day (2008, for the S-M OGs among you all), but overall, I didn't find the release bad, and tonight they were in rare form with big, pit-opening slams, Mallika tearing through the crowd while vocalizing all manner of ugliness and perversion, and fantastic drumming. The biggest letdown for this band were the absolutely stupid, pointless wanky solos that pervaded every single song with pretentious bullshit shredding. I hate crap like this; one second I'm listening to a great slam, then all the power is just sucked out and wasted on a song-dividing solo that doesn't improve the music in any meaningful way. Definitely looked like he was just playing them cuz they felt "cool", not because they were actually supportive of the songs. Also, the vocal mixing was poor, and could have been tweaked to make Mallika much louder, as she was fairly quiet and, though she looked powerful doing her thing, not much of that power was sonically conveyed. Then again, when I've seen Abnormality before, it's been almost the same kind of deal, so I don't know. Regardless, pretty great slams when they were happening, very varied and interesting drum-work, solid playing in spite of distracting solos, and very heavy, brutal sound. They got me moving several times, so that's cool, as I feel like I'm pretty slam-jaded in some ways.


Cognitive is a band I've never heard of, although they are apparently tech-death and from NJ. Seems like they'd be the odd ones out on this bill, right? Not really, as it happens. They slammed quite a bit, playing some fast, blasty songs with lots of satisfying time changes. Vocally excellent with a commanding and heavy riff presence (despite not having a bassist), this band was fairly good at making brutal music, though not entirely unique or well-thought-out, as a lot of tech-death can happen to be. One thing that was amusing and a bit distracting with them, though, was that both guitarists would at times just kind of randomly seize about and make bizarre movements that seemed very forced and goofy, not matching the precision and exacting nature of the music. Their newest music seemed a lot more slammy, which was cool, but jarred a bit with some of the more spastic stuff they jammed out earlier in the set. Bonus points for interesting lead-work; almost every song had some kind of cool lead that basically involved heavily-effected single note picking, similar to In-Quest, particularly on their album Epileptic. I just realized there's an amusing link between that album's title and the members of the band spazzing about, but I digress. Not bad, but the best was yet to come.

Condemned... this band and I have an interesting past, one that happens to have begun with quarrel, though it led to eventual contentment. As one of those curmudgeonly people who found Desecrate the Vile to be an intensely tiring, one-dimensional release of boring slam-and-blast blur, I recall approaching Realms of the Ungodly with trepidation, both because the art and change in aesthetic direction seemed really cool and I was worried about them screwing it up, and because longer songs in the same style brought on a bit of a bitter taste. Luckily, they switched up their playing style a little bit, injecting some great atmosphere, and a lot of these aspects came together just great live. Angel's vocals were powerful and brutal, though a bit less gurgly/goofy than on albums, which was a disappointment. Forrest was blasting away intensely for the majority of the set, as they tackled most of the songs on Realms... (somehow leaving out "Submerged unto Phlegethon", which was just lame and unfortunate in my opinion... maybe something to do with the fact that another Phlegethon was there; Wormed's vocalist!), with a few from Desecrate... for good measure. Those were fine in the flesh, which I was satisfied with; I had a distinct feeling they would be, as their blurry and straightforward style works a lot better when you're not picking everything apart like with an album review. One of the best things about Condemned is that their slams are very unpredictable and often switch halfway through to a blasting section or similar change-up that can convincingly bewilder many troglodytic spinkickers in the pit, as was observed somewhat often during the entirety of their set. The slightly manipulative nature of their music worked very well in this basement-like atmosphere, and they had really great, heavy sound that filled the whole room. Angel was funny with his overwhelmed, end-of-tour banter between songs (my favorite moments included calling Infernal Revulsion "Infernal Convulsion", laughing and correcting himself, as well as when he couldn't read his own writing on the setlist attached to one of the cabinets and announced the wrong song before catching himself and commenting on it hurriedly), and you could tell he was just trying to bang songs out without much delay. It worked well with the hurried, semi-sloppy way the songs can appear to be constructed, especially apparent when Forrest's kick rolls or gravity blasts would go on just slightly too long or not long enough. Pretty killer set here, though I wish I had been closer for it.

For Infernal Revulsion, I got my wish and moved up closer with Chris; so close, in fact, that if I headbanged any further forward, I would've hit one of the guitarist's headstocks! It was great to be so close to some live Japanese slam, and they really killed it with varied barking/gurgling/yelling vocal approaches, super low-tuned bass (that the dude played like an upright double bass with finger-picking; killer!) and some inventive riffs wrapped around a huge menagerie of beatdown-slams and catchy groove sections. They were absolutely fantastic live; some real slam-worship was going on here and there, and the band was super into it themselves; their lead singer just about cued every impending breakdown or switch-up with some full-body movement; intense! I have always been fond of Infernal Revulsion's way of writing slightly predatory slams; the way they leave notes hanging and how they get you into a big groove only to switch it up with a new rhythm or way of coupling the base notes are very effective ways to keep the crowd going and keep the pit full. I, of course, stay away from the pit because I'm a tiny person (for the record, if you were at the show, I was the short dude with the High & Mighty Beer Co. shirt on; cheers!), but I glanced behind me in between bouts of rhythmic headbanging to find many people stomping to the rhythm, so it must've been appropriately effective, anyway. Alright, now to the big thumbs-down about this set; the motherfucking kick drum. Dear god, why? I know Devastate Under Hallucination featured this too, but it was just wickedly overbearing in a live venue; extremely treble-y and clicky and louder than every other drum on the guy's kit... which was lame because he was a totally showboating, crazy performer and could clearly play well; he spun his sticks at just about every opportunity and engaged with the crowd during the last few songs in a very "80's hair metal" kind of way with the beckoning for applause and whatnot; amusing and a good change from the lack of personality many death metal drummers exhibit. I was glad to have been right up front for these guys; they were quite a bit of fun and their kind of singularly-focused groovy slam with heavy, charging rhythms was the perfect setup to the headliners of the night...

WORMED. Now, if you know me, you know I am an utter devotee of Planisphaerium, an album that changed how I think about metal when I first heard it, one that I know most of the lyrics and vocal phrasings of by heart and one that means quite a bit to me. When I first heard Exodromos, therefore, I was skeptical and a bit disappointed by the change. I know that the Quasineutrality EP represented a fairly significant change for them, but it still had the certain unabashed heaviness and animalistic, extraterrestrial nature of Wormed at their core. Thus, you can see why I may have been a bit disappointed with the new album. Actually, I'll come right out and say that I don't like it very much at all. The change in drummer has hurt them big time, Phlegz' vocals have been extremely neutered I feel, and the music got a lot more sterile and generically "technical" (disjointed is a better, more fitting word) without much reason behind it. Many of the heavy slam riffs from Planisphaerium were replaced by scratchier riffs with vague chugging, and the drumming lacks the intensity of the debut, instead focusing on clinical blasts with a peppering of cool sections, here and there remarkable but never consistently impressive. Anyway, enough about that, how were they live? In a word, disappointing... and it took me some reflection to admit that to myself just now. I didn't want to think it was under-par, but it just was; from the unbearably poorly-mixed vocals (great variation, cool tone obviously, but way too over-loud, and with some goofiness that was a bit out-of-place) to the utter lack of snare drum presence (when all I can hear are your cymbals in slam, there's certainly a problem) to the lack of heaviness coming out of Guillemoth's bass, this was a mixing disaster. All that and Phlegethon's vocal mic cut out several times. I appreciated the intermissions; static and noisy waves played between each song, announcing the title of the next-to-be-played track, but honestly, this time could've been used to tweak the sound so it was, y'know, good. Anyway, they didn't have an overall bad set; highlights included "Geodesic Dome", "Tunnel of Ions" (even though the vocal phrasing was poor), "Ylem" (including an EVEN SLOWER version of that breakdown) and "Tautochrone" (one of the only songs I really dig off the new album), but the taste in my mouth was a bit bitter, I must admit. I'm sure it was impressive to many people, and Wormed are definitely a band to follow due to their unique nature and willingness to experiment with a rather-apparently-stale genre, but I'm not a huge fan of their current direction, and this show was an awkward let-down in weird ways unlike what I expected.

oh yeah I got Condemned's setlist too, fuck yeah
So, how was the show? I haven't been to a nearly-purely-slam show in a good several years (maybe my own damn fault, but whatever), but it was damn good fun, and got me stomping and reconsidering how often I write for this blog... so that's a positive. Almost every band had negatives and slightly-disappointing aspects that drew my attention away here and there, but that's life. Slam is, in a sense, very similar to life in that way. Therefore, I implore all readers of S-M to keep slamming... we will be there for and with you, possibly with somewhat lacking frequency, but always in our brutal, putrid hearts.  Cheers!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Scatorgy - Scatorgy (2013;New Standard Elite)

Scatorgy. Just let that name sink in for a bit. Hell, just look at the cover art. You would probably guess this to be some garbage porngrind or goregrind album. You would also be gravely mistaken. Scatorgy play some of the most demented, vile, and vicious brutal death metal I have ever heard. It's almost as disgusting as the cover art.

This album presents you with approximately 20 minutes of pure insanity. Think Brodequin, if they were getting sodomized by Amputated Genitals, and you've got a good idea of what you're getting here. These guys don't fuck around. Insanely fast blasts are aplenty, complimented by some insane, almost deathgrind riffs. Sprinkle in a bit of technical noodling on the guitar, some massive slams, and what sounds like a bear on the microphone, and you have Scatorgy.

Instrumentally, Scatorgy is pretty much impeccable. Tom Allott, the guitarist, shows some great technical skill, transitioning from some incredibly fast riffs to some heavy as hell slams at the drop of a dime, while throwing in some little technical flourishes that you don't hear too often in brutal death metal. James Shuster does a great job with the vocals, employing a few different styles to keep it from being monotonous. Paul Lead does a good job on bass, but doesn't really stand out. Although I would say that's more of a problem with the mixing than his playing. And then we have the drummer, Tom Walker, who is quite possibly one of the fastest drummers I have ever heard. He blasts like a man possessed, but what's most impressive about his drumming is the subtle little nuances he adds in with his symbol work. That, and the goddamn Short Bus Pile Up styled snare production, which only adds to the sound they're going for.

There are some downsides to this record though. For one, the mixing job, while decent, leaves a little to be desired when it comes to the low end. It's almost impossible to hear the bass, which detracts from the overall heaviness. The biggest problem though is how everything seems to run together. There aren't many memorable moments to be had on this album. Even after listening to it ten, twenty, even thirty times, I'm hard pressed to remember any singular moment. I also would've liked a little bit of breathing room, but seeing how it's only a 20 minute album, it's not that big of an issue.

Overall, this is a pretty damn good record. It's definitely catered towards fans of Brodequin, Liturgy, Orchidectomy, and their ilk. If you're looking for an album to ruthlessly beat you into submission repeatedly, look no further.


 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Goemagot - Eradication Of Insignificant Beings (2013;Sevared Records)

Yes, I know it's been a while. Our last post was on July 8th, 2012, and I feel awful for that. We've all been quite busy, and to be perfectly honest with you, not too impressed with the scene in 2012. Of course there we some great albums released, but overall it wasn't that great a year for our slammy brethren. Within the first month and a half of 2013, we've already seen a larger amount of high quality music released. This is the our year, and what better way to start if off than by reviewing an incredible debut album a relatively unknown band named Goemagot.

For those who don't know, Goemagot is a three piece Brutal Death Metal / Slam act that hail from Rochester, NY. They released a 3 track demo titled Parasitic Incineration to the acclaim of the underground mid 2012. It's quite a well produced demo that showcased a high quality brutal death metal band with songwriting chops far beyond their age. The subtle nuances in their riffs set them apart from their peers. I'm sure everyone was stoked to hear where they went from there, and if they could keep up that level of quality. Not only have they lived up to their demo, I dare say they've surpassed it.

What you get on Eradication of Insignificant Beings is a 11 track crash course in how to perfectly balance technicality and groove. It really sounds like a mixture of old Abominable Putridity, Colonize The Rotting, and Brain Drill channeled through competent songwriters. Hell, some tracks have moments that remind me of Ropreromp. From the opening tracks subtle change ups in the slams, to the insane grooves, blasts, and an intense little guitar solo (!), you'll be hard pressed to stop from banging your head. Everything is on point. Nothing sounds forced, or just tacked on. The most impressive aspect of this album has to be their sense of melody. Not since Saprogenic have I been so enthralled by their use of odd little guitar melodies. You'll be hearing a lot of tremolo picked melodies, like the intro to the track Let Them Become Soil, or the epic, almost Colombian styled riff near the end of Stump.

The drumming is another high point on this album. Daniel Hemmerich is a name you'll be hearing a lot more in the future. He's just beastly on the kit, throwing everything at you up to and including the kitchen sink. The only nitpick I have though would be the vocals. There's plenty of variation on this album vocally, and that's usually a good thing, but it's not all of equal quality. His gutturals are perfectly fine, and so are his more high pitched vocals, but when he tries to go for some of his ultra low gutturals, it just seems a bit monotonous. Overall though, Cody McConnell does a great job.

I could elaborate more on how much I enjoy Matt Murphy's guitar playing on this album, how I love the little bass noodling that pops up here and there, how I absolutely can't get enough of some of the chaotic gravity blasts that happen, but I think I should end it here. Eradication Of Insignificant Beings is the best debut album I have heard in quite some time. I implore you all to scope out this album when it drops. I know that 2013 has already been way too kind to us brutal death metal aficionados, what with Devourment, Guttural Secrete, Defeated Sanity, and Suffocation releasing albums, but it would be a great injustice to let those high profile releases overshadow such an impressive debut.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Lumpur - Skema Pembalasan Sempurna (2012; New Standard Elite Records)

According to Google Analytics, the Indonesian version of google, google.co.id, refers the most traffic of any country's google portal to Slam-Minded. We get more hits from Indonesia than Germany, Canada, or the UK. This tells me that there is a passion for brutal death metal in Indonesia so I thought I'd try to find a deserving Indonesian band to review.

Thanks to some recommendations I found a very deserving candidate in Lumpur, who hail from Bandung on the island of Java. After 9 years of silence (including a 6 year hiatus), Lumpur have released a short, but powerful EP entitled Skema Pembalasan Sempurna. I say powerful because Lumpur jam a lot of metal  into this EP's 14 minutes. I've heard full lengths with less brutal slamming than Skema Pembalasan Sempurna. Lumpur play an absolutely relentless style that, while not particular fast or harsh, continually flows over you and breaks you down (in a good way). The riffing doesn't stop, it just carries you along with it. Lumpur have definitely taken a more holistic approach to songwriting, which I think works exceptionally well for the EP format. Each individual song works together with the other songs on the album to create a complete work. This really speaks to Lumpur's songwriting skill.

The riffing style here definitely borrows from deathgrind, which I like. There's a backbone of chugging that the bass and drums stick to, while the guitar ventures out using tremolo riffs and pinch harmonics. There's definitely a subtlety here that again speaks to the skill of the band. They keep up  a steady beat of destruction  whereas a lot of other bands try too many things at once and thereby create a muddled mess. Skema Pembalasan Sempurna is not simple by any means, but Lumpur stick to a particular style, which makes the album a more unified and memorable experience.

I have still just begun exploring the world of Indonesian brutal death metal, but if there are more albums like this, I am sure that I will like what I find.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Abnormality - Contaminating the Hive Mind (2012; Sevared Records)

Abnormality have been kicking around for what seems like many years at this point, though it's really only been about 5 or 6 years since their first demo. I remember hearing them for the first time as a student interning at the university radio station. Mallika and co. would stop by infrequently, and, whether the occasion was a live show or an interview on radio, generally come off as the definition of "class acts." Hell, it was that radio station's headquarters where I bought a t-shirt directly from the band all those years ago. I think I sported it at MDF this year, too... look, now I'm getting all teary-eyed and nostalgic. Thanks guys...

Also, damn, look at that cover art.


Ahem... right... onto the music? I honestly don't think I can believe my eyes here; I actually have on my desk a copy of the Abnormality FULL-LENGTH ALBUM. This is a time I thought would never come. It's also over 30 minutes long and features 8 brutal as hell, spastic, sometimes-slamming, always-relentless twisters of deathgrind technicality. The CD opens with a blistering drum whirlwind with an equally off-kilter and fucked-up riff grinding away in the background. I particularly like the attention to bass the production has; I can hear a lot of slappy pops and things like that which show me the bassist is doing more than just following everything the guitarists are doing. The middle of the song sees the guitar doing a bit of flourishing lead-work, though it is quickly quelled and flows right back to the rolling, heavy and oppressive sound found earlier in the track, punctuated by staccato snare blasts and a lot of loud-as-hell kick drum.

One thing that is cool here that very rarely gets love in slam or brutal death metal in general would be tight vocal phrasing and great, evocative lyrics. Mallika is, of course, an awesome vocalist, but I never noticed that her lyric writing skills are almost on-par with her expressive growling and screaming. Most of the verse lines actually rhyme or come close (though they do use a lot of similar diction at times; not really a big deal and more of a truism than criticism, honestly), and if they don't, they tend towards similar phrasing so that the vocals actually hit cadence during verses. I just love this kind of shit; it isn't typical "bluuurgh" or pig-squeal stuff, there's thought going into vocal patterns and attention to how they fit into the music.

"A Chaos Reserved" also has a pretty nifty solo, and I like the lurching breakdown right after that incorporates phasing on the rhythm guitar... neat and clean effect that makes the track stick out in my mind. "Fabrication of the Enemy" sounds a little bit Colombian, as the blasting is of the gravitational variety and
 the riffs are bizarre and squeaky-clean. There's an American-ness to the production, but its glossy sheen doesn't really bury anything, instead opting for fairly loud compression that attempts to give head-space to every instrument. There are times when the kick drum is really much too loud, especially when it is overlapping with the snare during blasts, and I miss a lot of what the cymbals are doing, but the suffocating aura exuded by ten tons of gravity blasts every track quickly remind me that I don't particularly care. This track even has a funeral-ish slam that really comes straight out of nowhere and descends to a semi-old-school death metal with way over-the-top kick and a nice solo. Parts of "Taste of Despair" sound a bit like older Despised Icon, though the way vocal patterns and riffs are formulated remind of Malignancy and Suffocation, respectively. "Schismatic" has a great intro, very moody (acoustic guitar), but it drops that aspect like a cheap whore and goes full-blast until finding a comfortable groove at just about 2 minutes in.


 "Shooting the Messenger" has this weird, awesome empty part a little over a minute in which kicks the proceedings up a notch by proceeding to a thrashy riff/drum combo (going double-time compared to normal thrash) before dropping into a nice, thorough slam and back to the previous thrashing. At this point I'm a little tired of the soloing, as it is a bit shreddy, unmemorable and kind of dull, but I really dig the riffs and how they repeat for almost exactly the right amount of time nearly without fail. "Contaminating the Hive Mind" is blustery, a virtual beatdown in audio form... the whole part that ends with the title drop is incredible vocal phrasing and pacing; perfect. A sort-of backwards-sounding breakdown follows that up, and they do repeat the chorus one more time before dropping into an intense slam featuring the indomitable Matti Way doing guest vocals. His performance here does, unfortunately, seem a bit phoned-in, but the music that's backing it up provides the bread-and-butter that I'm looking for in a closing track, so I don't quite mind.

Now, I should definitely get to the critical and possibly scathing segment of my review: part of me finds each of these songs a little too distended; it's almost like they're constantly outliving their given shelf-life, yet at the same time trying to convince you that they're not and that there's more (and interesting) material to come. Only sometimes do they really make good on that promise, though (though the majority of the time, this is quite the brutal, enjoyable romp, don't get me wrong). I found it amusing that it even sounds like the solos are trying to hurry the proceedings up, making everything seem the longer overall. They even show up at essentially the same time during every song in which they appear. I can't really get by that for this album, unfortunately; it is impenetrably, irrevocably brutal but a bit harrowing and haranguing on the whole. It seems weird, then, that I would long for an Abnormality full-length and then trash their desire to write longer (and more) songs, but it really sort of becomes a sticking point when the songs themselves are overbearing to some extent, especially the one-dimensional drum production which goes tickety-tock too much, too often.

This has some awesome chops all over the place, and almost every song is tighter than [insert brutal euphemism for something tight here], Mallika is as usual a wonderful vocalist (and apparently also quite the writer), and everyone in this band clearly knows their way around brutal deathgrind with a keen eye towards lack of relenting, so there sure are a bunch of positives here. But this is a duality, a push-and-pull with the issues that I find so often in debuts, and there are glorious moments when they struggle and succeed to rise above it all. For the next material this band puts out, I hope there will be more than awesome moments, or, hell, even more than awesome songs. I want there to be awesome purpose, an awesome album that defies conventional logic and blows minds, not just eardrums. And if any band can do it, it's our local heroes in brutality, Massachusetts' own Abnormality.

*preferably with a reference to virgins or something... I dunno, whatever you slam kids say these days