Thursday, May 24, 2012

Secreted Entity - Horrifying Hallucinations of Ungodly Activities (2012; New Standard Elite Records)

Slam is not a genre known for subtlety. In fact, the utter lack of subtlety is one of the core ideologies of the genre. Still, sometimes albums can be hard to grasp completely after a first listen. What seems ordinary at first glance is revealed to be a hidden gem after a little more delving. Because of this, I make sure to always give albums I review at least two listens. Horrifying Hallucinations of Ungodly Activities by new Cali slammers Secreted Entity is one those albums that took some time to get into, but once it clicked I found myself listening to some top-notch slam.

In one sentence Horrifying Hallucinations of Ungodly Activities can be summed up as Colombian slam viewed through an American lens. Take the cutting tremolo melodies and crushing grind/slams of bands like Amputated Genitals and Blaze Inside, and replace the brutish coarseness of Colombian slam, and replace it with the more refined Cali sound and you'll have an idea of what this album sounds like. I'm not sure if Secreted Entity were trying to go for a more Colombian sound, or if they merely stripped and bent the normal technicality of the countless CADM Disgorge clones, but they ended up with something unique and really good. I'm a big fan of how dirty and rough a lot of Colombian bands are, but Secreted Entity prove that kind of riffing works well with a good production.

Speaking of production, this album sounds great. Everything is thunderous and loud without the annoying "loudness" that so many "well-produced" albums end up having. The drums especially sound great. Pounding and visceral, but never overpowering. The excellent sound really helps Secreted Entity display their hybrid style to the fullest. In fact, I think Horrifying Hallucinations of Ungodly Activities relies on it. This album is greater than the sum of its parts because of how killer everything sounds.

I do have a few minor criticisms however. The first is how flat the pace is throughout the album. Secreted Entity play at what I would call a "lumbering" speed. This is fine, but I wish they would change it up more. After all, drastic tempo changes are what slam is all about. Secondly, the album/song titles read like brutal death mad-libs. This is a minor thing and I don't expect a lot, but a consistent theme can go a long way in establishing an overall aesthetic for the album.

Definitely give this album a try (or two). Secreted Entity have crafted one of the better and more unique albums to come out this year.

Note: Thanks to the anonymous commentor who recommend this album to me.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Visceral Throne - Omnipotent Asperity (2012; Brutal Bands)

Good ol' American slam death is back, and it's actually blastier than ever with the coming of this new album by fledgling Indiana-based 4-piece Visceral Throne. This band writes modular, compact and tightly played songs which really run the gamut from technical death metal to intense chugging slam, even throwing in a few melodic references at times. Right from the beginning of the album, I'm assaulted by a wash-fade-in that leads to a killer semi-melodic riff with spastic and mindfucking drumming. A half-slam becomes a blast riff and dissolves back into a chugging fury, the band plays around the edges of structure with several repeating riff ideas all referencing something of a core concept in each track. The snare is pingy and bright, which I really like (if you read the last review Logan and I wrote about Chordotomy, you'd know that it's my belief that more slam should have loud, colorful snare that highlights slams), but there are times when it can be overbearing, especially during blasts. 11-note slams punctuate "The Amaranthine" with brutal precision, and the way they tease you with groove is addicting because they regularly discard amazing sections only to lead into even more complex and satisfying deviations. The last half minute even has a funeral slam (god, I'm glad bands are doing this a lot more; it is amazing).

There are parts of this that have this really bizarre, dark and twisted atmosphere, which reminds me a bit of the latest Condemned album, though this is much more all-over-the-place (though it's not like that album was simplistic at all; far from it). This has a far brighter mixing job than that album, but it's still got the same staggering, barely-held-together qualities to it that make this kind of stuff so appealing. Cleverly placed slams are really abundant here, though they tend to be a bit basic in composition. The band seems to spend more time thinking about how to destroy your idea of songwriting than actually writing big slams, but I'm not really of the mind to care about that when all of the individual parts of songs are so massive and skull-beating as they are here. Take about 2:20 of the title track for example; holy hell that's insane. Completely intense yet laid-back drumming (reminds me a lot of Psycroptic at times, actually) underpinning a killer sharp riff. Traditional noodly lead section aside (alright, time to admit it: these actually get on my nerves at this point; write more really epic solos like the one in "Epitaph"!) this song is full of amazing things happening with barely enough time to digest all of them. That means it's absolutely, 100% certifiably awesome to listen to on repeat. You'll be discovering things you didn't even come close to hearing during that first listen; things that make you repeat the last track just to headbang to them, dissect them and worship them, finding out much later that that part was what's been stuck replaying in your head all day (top albums for this kind of thing for me include Bodysnatch - Insights of a Rotten Theatre and Cephalic Impurity - Unique Brute Revival, for the record).

"Transcending Carnality" has this big Meshuggah influenced part with a solo that actually sounds a little bit like something Thordendal would pen, which is kind of a great homage. Very staccato rhythmic section with a beep-y guitar solo over the top, quite cool. The second solo in the song is actually much more epic, perhaps like something Decrepit Birth would write on their last album, Polarity. Another great thing about this album would be its length; it's short (a few minutes shy of a half-hour) and doesn't get exhausting to listen to. One of the hardest things to do in slam death (or brutal death in general, really) is to write appropriately-long albums; a lot of albums either overextend themselves into tired blasturbation and/or focus on way-too-distended slams that start to lose context after a while. Very few bands can do longer slam albums, and there are some who have written albums that are too short (fucking Wormed). This is a nice length, honestly, especially given the blindingly complex nature of the material. "Conceptual Metamorphosis" has the longest straight slow section on the album from what I recall, and even then it doesn't feel too bad because it erupts into a very quick and clever (due to use of stereo panning) next song.

It seems the US breeds a lot of bands sort of like this, to be honest. There are lots of Californian bands who basically spit out extreme-tech-death with nothing to hold on to, no big meaty riffs, no love for the slams. This is sort of a "fuck you" to that idea. If you like dissonant, chuggy brutal death metal that doesn't ever descend into self-indulgent wankery, instead preferring to blast the ever-loving shit out of everything in its vicinity, this is certainly the album for you. Oh, and it's up for pre-order here. Do so now, for the love of the game, and for the love of awesome bands like this. Let us slam together once again, in brutal and destructive perfection.