Posts Tagged “Mid Tempo”

Like football fans have certain dates marked on their calendars for potentially colossal matches, death metal fans have September 17th swirled within a blood red circle, heralding the new album from British grind-gore lords, CARCASS. As we can never have Chuck Schuldiner and DEATH back, then let chaos reign upon the formidable shoulders of CARCASS. Their new album “Surgical Steel” is what death metal pundits have been chalking their hopes on. Fret not, pundits. Only bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker and guitarist Bill Steer remain from the original lineup, but “Surgical Steel” is all that and a gleaming rachiotome ready to pare.

While Michael Amott and Daniel Erlandsson hung around for a five year interim when CARCASS officially reunited in 2007, they’ve made ARCH ENEMY their priority. TRIGGER THE BLOODSHED‘s Daniel Wilding and PIG IRON/DESOLATION/LIQUEFIED SKELTON guitarist Ben Ash have since stepped in their place, and their additions compensate huge.

For the band’s first recorded output in 17 years since 1996’s “Swansong”, CARCASS makes no pretentions about where their future lies. “Surgical Steel” logically sits next to “Swansong” and 1993’s celebrated “Heartwork”. Likewise, everything on the new album is traded between grinding force and mid-tempo stomp, all delivered with dominant craftsmanship and a premeditated link to CARCASS‘ past.

The shivery cover art alone is reminiscent of their ’92 EP “Tools of the Trade”, while the lush opening instrumental “1985” is not just a nod back to the year of CARCASS‘ birth, it’s so eloquent and unearthly you’ll feel not so much graced by its presence as propelled somewhere out of this existence.

Immediately thereafter comes the letter-perfect “Thrasher’s Abattoir”, a blistering rework of a vault track from “A Bomb Drops”, a demo when the core elements of CARCASS (Bill Steer, Paul and former drummer Ken Owen) were known as DISATTACK. The drums lance and gallop in varying sets of thrash and grind patterns while Steer and Ash‘s riffing is so precise they amaze beyond expectation. A whirlwind guitar solo touches in the eye of the storm, providing elegance to the manic brutality. What CARCASS had done prior to their split in 1996 was to refine death metal and grind to nearly the same effects as DEATH. “Thrasher’s Abattoir” 2013 is so flawless one can hardly imagine anything getting within its league, no matter the level of experience.

Consider the same retracting excellence applied to the next song, “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System”. You can literally feel the layers being peeled by Jeff Walker‘s prolonged ralphs and yelps while the band slices away with thrashing evisceration. Only slowing things down enough to deliver a punctuated breakdown and solo sequence (metalcore holdouts, take note), the vigor of “Thrasher’s Abattoir” and “Cadaver Pouch Conveyor System” will beat you blind, stand by.

CARCASS allows their listeners to catch their breaths with “A Congealed Clot of Blood”, which might be as apropos a title as one can come up with to describe a song that marches then crawls through its coagulating solo segment. Nevertheless, expect some nifty back beats and rumbling bass drum kicks along with defined chugs to keep the song moving lithely. Next, “The Master Butcher’s Apron” is one of the most hectic songs of the album, always threatening to jettison but skidding each time on the fourth mark of the successive grind rips. The blitzed-out payoff comes later after a wallowing solo section and yet CARCASS continues to employ a brilliant halting scheme every time they hit the gas on this track. By the time they’re done teasing, you’re in full headbang mode with a glorious solo swirling overtop the crunching pace.

Prepare to be amazed once again by the exquisite guitar flushes on the opening of “Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard” and the spiraling fastidiousness of “Captive Bolt Pistol”. If you want to simply cut to the chase, “Surgical Steel” is master’s degree material all the way through.

Bill Steer has not just found a new supplement with Ben Ash, he has full extension of his abilities since Ash is equally dexterous. Daniel Wielding gives a technical clinic in all modes of blast and grind. With Jeff Walker‘s veteran shrieks and yowls and bottom-end tornados, CARCASS are as fearsome as ever. Better yet, they remain at the height of their talents, as if it’s 1997 instead of 2013. Endpoint, “Surgical Steel” will be a lock for many metalheads’ year-end best lists.

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Now comes a time in a premiere metal act’s career when certain paths have reached their end and new ones open up. Dez Fafara is, of course, no stranger to new paths. His transition from nu-metal era favorites COAL CHAMBER to the more ferocious DEVILDRIVER has proven to be a successful gambit. Even doing what was previously unthinkable by fielding a few months of recent COAL CHAMBER reunion gigs, Fafara calls his California Groove Machine back into action for a rowdy sixth ride. This time, they not only make Chris Towning a permanent bassist, they find themselves at the end of a fruitful association with Roadrunner Records, now aligned with the indie-oriented Napalm Records.

In one of the more unorthodox moves by a well-known metal act (as FEAR FACTORY did likewise by drifting from Roadrunner to Candlelight Records), DEVILDRIVER dials way in on their latest album, “Winter Kills”. While not quite as fast as its predecessors, “Winter Kills” nonetheless pounds and minces with one of the tightest performances in their catalog. Still hardly a thrash or metalcore act by either definition, DEVILDRIVER is simply modern metal in its tautest form. “Winter Kills” will hence go down as a defining moment for Fafara and his well-armed ballistics team.

Each song on “Winter Kills” has so much detail and time signature rollovers, even primarily at mid-tempo, they almost defy analysis. One thing that can be said, “Winter Kills” is the kind of album that pays out more than face value. John Boecklin continues to impress with hundreds of bpms delivered per tune and seldom does DEVILDRIVER opt for straight velocity on this album. Boecklin‘s rolling double kicks amidst the strutting power pump of “Ruthless” is nifty stuff, and he fills the tar out of “Desperate Times” with multiple patterns, rolls and barreling floor bass while Dez Fafara half-ralphs and half-raps along. Expect more of the same throughout the entire album. John Boecklin is an unsung drumming hero of this scene and this album displays his full dexterity and potency.

As striking as Boecklin‘s work is throughout “Winter Kills”, Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer are equally spectacular. Shredding is one of their fortes (most especially on “Gutted”, where every ripping strike across their strings sounds cut from static knives), but their ever-trusty solos hit new levels of grandeur on “The Appetite”, “Curses and Epitaphs”, “Carings Overkill” and “Haunting Refrain”.

Though Dez Fafara recorded his vocal tracks primarily at home in a newly-installed sound booth, the mix into his band’s fluctuating dynamics allows his woofs to sound even more energized than ever. It’s fortunate he’s such an on-the-tick growler since his band would dust nearly anyone else with their constantly veering calculations.

Even more exciting on this album than the electrifying rigidity, pervasive groove and endless variations are the wicked cool intros. “Haunting Refrain” opens with a few bars of lucid ostinato followed by echoing chugs before ripping into the song’s mid-tempo march. The tribal clomps and meaty riffs leading off “Ruthless” are a bitchin’ modicum, while a resonating sluice trickles into some inspired power metal crunches on the album’s finale, “Sail”.

While the overall tone of DEVILDRIVER‘s music remains the same, there is much digging to be done by the listener on “Winter Kills”. It’s evident Dez and the boys are staking their reps with their new recording alliance. Napalm Records is a label with a history for showcasing some of the best Euro and Scandinavian metal in the form of TYR, LEAVES’ EYES, MIDNATTSOL, KORPIKLAANI, ELIS and ATROCITY. Not quite the same household name company DEVILDRIVER is accustomed to, but “Winter Kills” sounds like it belongs here, in title and best of all, in delivery.

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Alison Hell has apparently been thrust into the fashionable zombie age, judging by the gory chick clawing and gnawing on a heart in 3-D fashion for ANNIHILATOR‘s fourteenth album, “Feast”. At least Jeff Waters and company make the most of the moment, delivering a largely fast, well-entertaining ride.

Moving on past the ooh and ahh hologram cover spiffing up the ECO-book version to “Feast”, this album is by-and-large a serious ass-kicker. Stacked with heaps of thrash, killer shredding, smelted solos and superb drumming, “Feast” throws a few monkey wrenches into the scheme using the same exploratory spirit of “All For You” without dramatically altering the crunchy-yet-crisp feel of this record.

Kudos to Jeff Waters for keeping the criminally-overlooked Dave Padden on board all this time, especially now that his singer has of late been picking up rhythm guitar duties on the road. “Feast” was laid out with Waters fielding guitars and bass (Alberto Campuzano handles the latter outside of the studio), but it still feels more of a collaborative effort with Padden‘s trusty dynamics and fluid pounding from drummer Mike Harshaw.

Harshaw is terrific all over this album, as sharp as anyone Waters has corralled into the ANNIHILATOR compound. Harshaw has proven himself worthy of stepping onto Mike Mangini‘s pedals, laying down steady mosh and thrash pulses throughout “Demon Code” and “No Way Out”. He’s especially huge with his snub-nosed snare rolls on the shifty genre-collision of “No Surrender”.

“Feast” gets rowdy in a hurry with the thrashy “Deadlock” and “No Way Out”, while “Smear Campaign” alternates between mid-tempo power lines and stepped-up thrusts. “No Surrender” then presents one of the album’s curveballs, mingling some funky licks all over the verses ala LIVING COLOUR before walloping the song with massive metallic rivets on the choruses and bridges. Lifting “No Surrender” through a mosh-driven middle section and an out-of-nowhere gloom arc filled with the sounds of a presumed zombie attack, then a scorching solo from Waters, the left-of-center tinkering throughout “No Surrender” is flat-out weird. Yet it’s also a welcome sojourn back to the thrash-prog motifs of ANNIHILATOR‘s early years. Waters also loads “One Falls, Two Rise” at the end of the album with one of the busiest rounds of progression he’s ever attempted.

“Wrapped” struts out with dukes up on a mostly straightforward rawk jive that gets the benefit of some wicked top riffs and a fret-scratched solo. Then the murky anti-ballad “Perfect Angel Eyes” interrupts the headstrong chaos of “Feast”, keeping a strong slow pulse with a nifty bass loft and a subliminal static hiss lurking overtop the acoustic spiral of the song. After this point, “Feast” gets back on the gas with only a few noodlings scattered throughout “Demon Code” and the uppity “Fight the World” (which has a nifty slow fakeout intro before rumbling into speed mode) before the decorative signature swaps come all over “One Falls, Two Rise”. Padden‘s soaring vocals on “One Falls, Two Rise” hit new timbres on the opening verses than we normally hear out of him and they’re wonderful, even more so once the song blasts into a thrash arc and Padden dips into his trademark blend of clean-growl. The song takes a hundred directions from that point and Padden adjusts himself flawlessly as if by instinct.

The ECO-book version of “Feast” comes with the bonus disc “Re-Kill”, fifteen re-recordings from the back catalog, half culminated from ANNIHILATOR‘s celebrated couplet “Alison Hell” and “Never Neverland” and the rest spread throughout the non-Padden years. While the entire notion of heritage acts releasing bonus discs with redos has become passé, “Re-Kill” is harmless if perhaps a little insulting to Coburn Pharr and Randy Rampage. As much as it’s a joy listening to Dave Padden through ANNIHILATOR‘s last handful of studio albums, it’s more than enough for us to hear him take down “Alison Hell”, “Fun Palace” and “Word Salad” onstage. The man’s created his own legacy, modest though it may be, just like his benefactor, Jeff Waters.

That aside, “Feast” is still a hell of an enjoyable trip and Jeff Waters‘ enduring faith in Padden has paid off. From “Metal” to “Annihilator” and now “Feast”, Padden has forced Waters to raise his game, even if Padden sowed the seeds on “All for You” and “Schizo Deluxe”, two ANNIHILATOR albums that deserve more respect. “Feast” is a culmination of both of those albums while hearkening back to the early days in spots. All delivered with excellent production and a tasteful sense of style. The repeat and tweaked guitar intros to many of the cuts on the album reveals a return to songwriting fortitude in Waters‘ always-changing mindset. No need to gush about Waters‘ fret prowess on “Feast”. That comes as an automatic selling point. With much congratulations due, “Feast” is an album destined to keep a-rolling more than a few times simultaneously in your player.

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Pennsylvanian classic metal troopers INFERNAL OPERA are a work-in-progress. Their debut album “Emissary of Steel” rings like a weekend warrior project for a while before it becomes stacked with a bottom end of solid tracks. For certain, INFERNAL OPERA will take many people home to the days of BITCH, HALLOW’S EVE and even early SLAYER, which speaks well enough of them.

The band is founded by drummer/vocalist Michael Alberque, but really, INFERNAL OPERA is led by the dynamic vocals of metal newcomer Volpe Vetrano. Vetrano‘s frequently engaging ranges are plenty for the band to ride on, albeit they frequently dub layers of vocal tracks in the hopes of broadening their punchy songwriting schemes mixed between American and Euro power metal and in spots, mid-Eighties thrash. While the vocal heaping strategy works better in the second half of “Emissary of Steel”, it nearly crashes the album in the beginning despite getting on the right foot with the banging title track.

Similar to EPICA pushing Simone Simons to the front with frequent death growling at her side, Volpe Vetrano‘s up and down pitches on “Infernal Human” are raped by demonic male rumbles. Worse is a rough collision with an aloof-sounding background vocal track in the later parts. They’re designed to provide extra harmony, but unfortunately, they don’t jive at all; they sound too alienated. At least the main chug of “Inhuman Being” will keep trad headbangers slamming along.

Vetrano‘s operatic training provides radiance on the mid-tempo pump of “Betrothed to Darkness”, “Eden” and the closing number, “The Word”. On the flipside, she carries much fang like she’s delivering an estrogen-touched interpretation of Tom Araya on the speedy and sprawled “It”. The would-be ploy to mimic King Diamond‘s high altos and plowing snarls on “Succubus” is a bit corny (as is the goofy mythological wallowing on “13th Sign”) despite some cool thrash interjections. Volpe Vetrano may be a bit overplayed in the early going of this album, but later on is a different matter.

The 1:43 instrumental “The Garden’s Gate” is the separation point where “Emissary of Steel” begins to gel. Randy “C.R”. Gonce (ex-PURGATORY) and Aaron Celsus‘ wayfaring guitar lines meld with an overdubbed chorus that manifests once the composition amps up in the second section. It leads straight into the CANDLEMASS-esque doom stomp of “Eden”. Together, a well-executed coupling with Volpe Vetrano sticking to mid-level pitch and fielding peppered background vocals that gel nicely this time.

As it takes a few hiccups before INFERNAL OPERA has their act together, it’s the latter half of “Emissary of Steel” that shines and ushers a woebegone feeling of old-school Metal Blade and New Renaissance albums. The demonic shredding and razor-sharp guitar solos between Gonce and Celsus are a huge plus (they’re freaking hellhounds on “It”) and they hoist INFERNAL OPERA past their initial gimping. The stronger material of the second half allows their sparkling solos to sound as pro as anyone out there.

In all, there’s a homebrewed, nostalgic charm to “Emissary of Steel” that’s worth getting behind and rallying these diehards on. Their hearts are well in the right place and that’s where it counts the most.

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French death/black metallers TEMPLE OF BAAL will release their fourth full-length album, “Verses Of Fire”, on October 22 in Europe and November 12 in North America via Agonia Records.

According to a press release, “Verses Of Fire”‘s “sound has been carefully manufactured by Andrew Guillotin in Hybreed Studios. Focusing on a more organic side thanks to the use of tube amps and natural drums, the production allows the natural old-school feeling of the band to shine through the whole album. Through ten tracks — lasting about an hour — TEMPLE OF BAAL explores a wide spectre of extreme metal: from the raging blast beats or the furious ‘Bloodangel’, to the thrashing mayhem of ‘Golden Wings Of Azazel’ or the double-bass-drum mid-tempo of ‘Lord Of The Raging Seas’. Eerie, haunting black metal vibes are never neglected, though: ‘The Tenth Aethyr’ or the conclusive, nine-minute epic ‘Walls Of Fire’ bring the band back to their primal influence — the sinister sounds of early ’90s black/death metal.”

This new album will be available as digipack CD, limited double LP and extra-limited gold LP (66 copies only).

The band comments: “We’ve always seen black metal as the sacred music of the ‘other side,’ and this album is sacred to its very core. All its music and lyrics have been created after long hours of meditation and spiritual works. We are a temple, a place of worship, and this aspect drips through each and every minute of those ‘Verses Of Fire’.”


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“Electronicore” is the latest hipster tag to emerge in the metal world and one of its face bands is Osaka’s CROSSFAITH. Essentially what you’re getting with this digi-bang tribe is a rave-minded interpretation of BLEEDING THROUGH and AUGUST BURNS RED. Formed as a protest against a pop-saturated Japanese music market, CROSSFAITH‘s use of romping synths and grinding electronic filaments amidst hardcore and metalcore methods is not for everyone. However, it’s easy to appreciate the band’s inherent thumb bite despite frequently ringing like a Tekken soundtrack gone metal-mental.

On their third full-length, “Apocalyze”, CROSSFAITH continues to employ the party-down metal tears of their well-received singles “Jagerbomb” and “Monolith” from their 2012 EP, “Zion”. “We Are the Future” bursts as a roaring manifesto about bands trying to break molds, thus allowing “Apocalyze” to bop between mid-tempo hook jams and rhythmic metalcore schemes.

“Hounds of the Apocalypse”, one of the heaviest tracks of the album, alternates between blast beats and varied hardcore stamps with Tamano Terufumi‘s smothering of the final section with IMMORTALS-esque synth frolics. The party-flavored “Eclipse” next comes with a crazily-constructed succession of punishing strikes and pulsing pumps that gives woofing vocalist Koie Kenta a moment to throw out some rare cleans. The proto-punched theme continues into “The Evolution”, a song with the obvious intent of getting CROSSFAITH‘s audience pogoing on the floor.

In direct counter to each other, the groove-oriented “Gala Hala (Burn Down the Floor)” at the midpoint of the album is instantly squashed by the abrasive and noisome “Countdown to Hell”. The latter’s theme about bullying takes a darker path on the following track, “Deathwish”, a slinking bopper that pits a vengeance-minded protagonist on the search for his loved one’s killers. Ikegawa Hiroki‘s bass licks on “Deathwish” are menacing despite the awkwardly up-tempo feel of the track

A brief string intro to the anthemic banger “Counting Stars” makes for a tasteful lead into Tamano Terufumi‘s astral electro fills on the verses and bridges while the song lofts on its choruses. Here, Terufumi‘s synthetic textures serve the song’s drive, along with supplemental vocals from Bianca Roman and mounting guitar fills from Takemura Kuzuki. “Burning White” might’ve become “Apocalyze”‘s hardest hour, but the spanking double hammer from Amano Tatsuya is quickly morphed into a melodic bangfest that’s lavished by a gorgeous guitar solo from Kuzuki.

CROSSFAITH saves their most potent venom for “Only the Wise Can Control Our Eyes”, a song spotlighting the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The moshing verses are brutal, the wrecking breakdowns are smartly executed and still CROSSFAITH engineers a tuneful chorus amidst all of the mayhem. It becomes “Apocalyze”‘s moment of grace as the band seeks to give voice to the citizens impacted by the Level 7 fallout and to hint at a believed governmental cover-up.

While CROSSFAITH may take some listener acclimation with all of their tenacious electronic rakes, “Apocalyze” is nevertheless a creative and energetic album that grows strength with repeated listens. This album will excite metalcore freaks like it’s the dawn of a new era. Like their contemporaries MUCC and DIR EN GREY, this band isn’t afraid to dabble, tinker and stretch boundaries largely borrowed from the western sanction. While BORIS continues to reign over the Japanese metal scene in their own modest way, CROSSFAITH will appeal to a broader audience. For certain, expect to hear these guys jacking up a video game or two in the near future.

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Malaysian death crawlers HUMILIATION are releasing their fourth album in as many years, “Turbulence From the Deep”. Taking their oppressive cues from BOLT THROWER and ASPHYX, the quintet gets all the credit in the world for their dedication, even if they should be structurally far more along the curve at this point.

What HUMILIATION does is minimalist to begin with. Simplistic chugs with only a handful of chord variations within each song, unfortunately, the whole scheme becomes more of a detriment than an attribute. While there’s implied menace by focusing on slow, metrical strokes, the rugged picking and haphazard note swerves becomes redundant by the third track, “Phosphorous Shell”. When you’re dishing out fifty-plus minutes of the stuff, only those with shaded constitution can grow addicted to it.

Regrettably for HUMILIATION‘s purposes, their mission to convey the haplessness of war becomes more of a shot in the foot instead of a blare of vengeance. Their scuttling chuffs seem to go on forever, even when they toss in a speed whip now and then. On “Bachok’s Invasion”, the velocity is peddled as an intro before skidding back into a lasting succession of slow and mid-tempo marches.

The transitions on “Bachok’s Invasion” are a bit sloppy, here and all throughout the album. Despite a good, emotional solo section between guitarists Shah and Asraf (they also shine on “Sea Denial” and “The Deadly Double”) the messy songwriting becomes a chore to hang with. “Home Front” at least elevates the note pitches to prick the ears awake long to enjoy the brief grinds and moshes that open and wrap “Total War”. If there’s a bona fide skullcrushing moment on this album, it’s the steady, PRO-PAIN-esque pounding stationed on “Order of Battle”. Alas, the song was needed much earlier in the album to break up “Turbulence From the Deep”‘s monotony.

Particularly exasperating Mudon‘s drumming. He plays decent in acceleration mode, but trips all over the place on his slow double hammers. When the songs call for heavy, panting tempos at nominal bpms, the bass drums frequently sound like wobbly cat patters. “Phosphorous Shell” and “Operation Obeo One” are glaring examples. It takes jagged thrash spikes (found only in increments) before there’s full congruence between drums and strums.

Bear Bee pukes, pukes and pukes some more all over the album, yet his mindfulness for rhythm makes his one-trick-pony ralphs forgivable. Bassist Afe hangs in the pocket while everything rolls across his sturdy pulses. It’s just a shame there’s little else to brag about overtop him. “Turbulence From the Deep” needed a lot more attention to arrangement, execution and inventiveness, albeit kudos to the poignant acoustic outro, “Submerged at the Seabed”.

War is an ugly thing for sure, but the winding point is enforced within two songs of “Turbulence From the Deep”. Everything afterwards becomes tiresome reiteration.

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Download FTW!

Blowing away every memory of that performance back in 2006, the multicultural power metal machine known as Dragonforce prove today that they are as impressive as ever with a pleasingly diverse set over on the Zippo Encore stage. Under stormy skies (boo) the guys change things up by playing a mix of their fast and furious hits like Fury of the Storm and Through the Fire and Flames interspersed with newer, mid-tempo tracks such as Cry Thunder from 2012′s The Power Within, which is already a live favourite. With the baby-faced Marc Hudson on lead vocal duties the band have had something of a second wind, their sound fresher than before thanks to his talents. Blistering twin-guitar solos abound courtesey of Sam Totman and Herman Li and the whole band show today that, despite all the silliness, they are an unstoppably tight unit.

Time to slow things down a bit over on the Main stage now, and if there’s any band guaranteed to go down a storm (oh, did you think these reviews would be pun-free?!) mid-afternoon at a festival, it’s stoner kings Down. The Southern rockers somehow manage to bring the sun out, lending their set a fittingly hazy atmosphere. And it’s not just the sun that’s blazing, judging by the smell of the dense weed smoke weaving its way through the crowd. A somewhat mellowed-out but still formidable Phil Anselmo leads the Download punters along in singing sludgy classics like Ghosts Along the Mississippi and Witchtripper. They’re as tight as ever and storm through a set filled with fan favourites and make a brief but heartfelt tribute to the late great Jeff Hannemann, to rapturous cheers, ending on a slightly bittersweet, but down-tuned note.

Catherine Morris

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Today the metal miscreants at Decibel offer up an exclusive premiere of “Naraka” from German death metal moguls Defeated Sanity. The tune comes by way of the band’s forthcoming slab of iniquity – “Passages Into Deformity.” Check out “Naraka” right here.

Says bassist Jacob Schmidt of the track: “Here we have the first mid-tempo-only song we’ve written in years! It’s probably the slowest and grooviest on Passages. Enjoy!”

Scheduled for release on February 5th, 2013 through Willowtip Records, “Passages Into Deformity” was recorded at Soundlodge Studios in Germany and includes guest vocal appearances by Frank Rini (Internal Bleeding), AJ Magana (ex-Defeated Sanity, Disgorge US), and Brian Forgue (Syphilic, Gutrot) as well as sound effects by Jon Engman (ex-Brodequin).

And if you missed it the first time, be sure to check out the sonic sickness of the previously posted track “Verblendung” at this location.

The follow-up to 2010’s “Chapters of Repugnance” will be paired with a bonus DVD featuring making-of clips, interviews, and performance videos. Additionally, Defeated Sanity will take the band’s face-raping brutality to Russia and Belarus this Spring in support of the new album. Dates are:

4/12/2013 Fatality Fest 5 – St. Petersburg, RU
4/12/2013 Sick Fest 11 – Arkhangelsk, RU
4/14/2013 Not Quiet Extreme Fest 2 – Syktyvkar, RU
4/15/2013 Grim Sound Fest – Izhevsk, RU
4/17/2013 Ural Death Fest 2 – Ekaterinburg, RU
4/20/2013 Extreme Condition Fest – UFA, RU
4/24/2013 Day Of Dust Fest – Minsk, BY

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Pagan Altar – The Time Lord EP reissue
2012 Shadow Kingdom Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Doom metal has been so strangely vogue in the metal underground these days credit of its popularity can be shared amongst high profile resurrectionists Down, a rekindled interest in Black Sabbath and the advent of seventies-based sludge courtesy of Clutch, Fu Manchu, Crowbar and Kyuss. 

Fortunately, this spike of hype towards doom metal has found listeners, new and old.  They’re scampering towards the works of Witchfinder General, Pentagram, Cathedral, Candlemass and Saint Vitus, the most recognizable proponents of seventies and eighties doom.  The more young blood out there tackling doom modes in their work these days, the better chance we have of seeing more obscure artists such as Pagan Altar receive their due. 

Though they were mostly active from the mid-seventies through the early eighties, this British occult band has been sought out by genre freaks over the years and they have been cropping up intermittently through the 2000s.  There’s even a new Pagan Altar album in progress, Never Quite Dead, ringled by Alan and Terry Jones.

At the height of their activity, it might be said Pagan Altar trailblazed paths of funereal visual presentation later adopted by Candlemass, Sunn O))) and Ghost, even Martin Ain of Celtic Frost.  Pagan Altar came out onstage in monks’ robes to a whirl of faux fog and a mock high-rise black altar transformed overtop their Marshalls.  Skulls, inverted crosses, black candles, all which have become common props of dank theatricality found in future doom and black metal acts.  Perhaps they owe as much to Pagan Altar as they do Sabbath.

While Pagan Altar was far rawer than Sabbath and even their later contemporaries, there’s undeniable grit and subliminal harmony to their largely mid-tempo thrust which can be savored on their reissue of The Time Lord EP. 

This stuff is for purists, because some of the material is choppy and undercooked, but most of The Time Lord is really damned good.  The intricate intro to “Reincarnation” with its Gothic guitar lines from Alan Jones and the Ozzy-esque dirge swoon from Terry Jones serves up a depressing through articulate timbre leading into the extensive, banging rhythm the remainder of the way. 

The lengthy title track is the highlight of the EP as Pagan Altar weaves fuzz-drenched ostinato that must’ve been some kind of recording session back in 1978.  There’s a wicked magic pervading “The Time Lord” that supersedes the blunt , Sabbath-heavy satanic overtures of “Judgment of the Dead” and “The Black Mass.”  Whereas the latter two songs are dirty and crunchy (sounding even more so due to the age of the original tapes), “The Time Lord,” like “Reincarnation,” is far more disciplined and epic-spirited. 

“Highway Cavalier” might or might not be considered the archangel cousin of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” but they’re kindred in theme, which champions dropping out and dropkicking all that which binds one down.  Pagan Altar rides a few clicks slower than Deep Purple, but the gnarly grind and globbing bass hum from Glen Robinson gives “Highway Cavalier” a shoot-to-thrill vibe without being too slick. 

This is the insiders-only music you could’ve (or should’ve) been hiding from your parents and peers back in the day because none of them would’ve understood it.  Maybe that’s why Pagan Altar never received their fullest accolades once the NWOBHM put heavy metal on the map.  They were right there in the thick of things, but were mostly missed alongside Witchfinder General in the doom uprising that was likewise missed for at least a couple of decades.  Cathartic may not be an applicable term to this rediscovery of Pagan Altar.  Still, no doubt the Joneses, Ivor Harper, Glen Robinson, Les Moody and those who filled the spaces thereafter are feeling something along the lines of catharsis right about now.

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