GRUESOME sign to Relapse and prepare debut album

001 001 GRUESOME sign to Relapse and prepare debut album

From the inbox:

Relapse Records is excited to announce the signing of old school death metal supergroup GRUESOME! Featuring guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey (Exhumed, Dekapitator), drummer Gus Rios (ex-Malevolent Creation), guitarist Daniel Gonzalez (Possessed) and bassist Robin Mazen (Derketa), the group formed in April 2014 as a respectful celebration of the sound of the early DEATH records.

001 GRUESOME sign to Relapse and prepare debut album 05

The band was borne out of guitarist/vocalist Matt Harvey and drummer Gus Rios’ mutual involvement with the DEATH TO ALL tours (Harvey serving as frontman for the original nine-member mini-tour and Rios performing “Baptized in Blood” and working with DTA drummer Sean Reinert on the following US tour where EXHUMED filled in as support on a few dates). The pair stayed in touch and discussed their mutual love (obsession?) for the early half of DEATH’s catalog. After discussing and discarding the idea of putting together another incarnation of DTA to focus exclusively on the first two albums, Harvey half-jokingly suggested writing their own songs in that vein. It wasn’t long before the idea gained traction, and the “band” had five songs written. With Harvey writing in California, Rios recruited POSSESSED guitarist Daniel Gonzalez and DERKETA bassist Robin Mazen to record the material in Florida, while Harvey tracked his vocals on the west coast. The result is a truly gruesome slab of late-80s / early 90s “Florida Death Metal” that specifically celebrates the early DEATH records. Tragically, there will never be any truly new DEATH material, but GRUESOME is humbly determined to keeping the band’s classic sound alive as faithfully as possible.

[review] DEATH – leprosy (2014 reissue)

(eng) # DEATH - leprosy [2014]

DEATH – leprosy
(Relapse Records – 2014 reissue)

This has got to be one of the easiest reviews I have ever written so far! Not because it refers to one of the legendary bands that helped shape death metal as we know it, but mainly because this is one of my favorite records of all time! So, if you’re expecting a calm and mild mannered piece of writing I’m sorry to burst your bubble. This is going to be purely fanboy gibberish!

I first got this album on tape, in a time when money was scarce (it still is!) and you can only afford one or two records a month, so the thing was to have someone tape you the records you wanted but couldn’t afford. I got this tape with “Leprosy” on one side and I think it was something from Ratos de Porão on the other. I don’t know how many times I played that tape in my bedroom but I’m sure it survived the wear, because it was also one of the first ones I played when I got my first car with a stereo! The track listing was just awesome and song after song you couldn’t help but think how insanely good those riffs were! The most amazing thing is that even by today’s standards this is death metal at its best!

If you’re a Death fan you don’t need me to tell you that Chuck Shuldiner’s songwriting evolved thru out the years turning the band’s music into a more progressive form of death metal, but you can also tell that some of the songs in “Leprosy” clearly show that Chuck wasn’t an ordinary composer. This record is a step further from the debut, “Scream Bloody Gore”, an album I wasn’t much into and one that still loses in comparison to the onslaught we discovered with “Leprosy”! All these years have passed and Shuldiner is no longer with us but I still get goosebumps when songs like ‘Left to Die’ and ‘Primitive Ways’ hit the speakers! There’s no different way to put this. This is one of the best metal albums ever made!!

I’m glad Relapse Records took upon the task of releasing this remastered reissue with the added bonus of extra discs with live and rehearsal versions of some of the songs in ‘Leprosy’! Not only you get to have a new chance to see an awesome piece of metal ethos being brought to life again but you’re also given the chance to audio peek at the way things were tested and rehearsed with songs like ‘Left to Die’ or ‘Open Casket’! And it’s a wonderful way to give Chuck Schuldiner’s name and spirit the honors it deserves!

[reviewed by: Rui Marujo]

[review] SKINLEPSY – condemning the empty souls (2013)

(pt) # SKINLEPSY – condemning the empty souls [2013]

SKINLEPSY – condemning the empty souls
(Shinigami Records – 2013)

At one given point, SKINLEPSY’s “Condemning the Empty Souls” press release states that ‘although this is a debut, nothing here sounds like it’s just their first record’ and they are absolutely right! You see, all three musicians in this Brazilian band have been making music in the underground for many years and since the mid-80’s their names have been associated with such bands as Siegrid Ingrid, Anthares or Nervochaos! Even SKINLEPSY’s history dates back to more than ten years ago, when they first formed, played live and released a demo called “Reign of Chaos” before the band split up and they focused on other projects.

Released last year, “Condemning the Empty Souls” it’s like a reunion album, if you will, after the band got back together in 2011 to continue the work they started all those years ago, with a more accurate focus on the music they wish to present and which they call brutal thrash metal! Why, do you ask? Well, as you can probably figure out, because it has most of thrash metal’s food groups and can still be a step up the ladder concerning its heaviness and aggression index. Some of you may call this thrash/death or modern thrash, but I think it really doesn’t make any difference, as long as you get the main idea. They sound heavy, they sound pissed and they want you to know about it!

From the opening fast hitting pace of ‘Crucial Words’ we can see that SKINLEPSY are not afraid of going head first into powerful thrash attacks even if they also slow things down here and there and force their several tempo changes on us. You can also be sure to find some death metal breakdowns and some fierce riffing exercises. They really don’t keep themselves inside a single skin and try to showcase different styles within these songs, but always maintaining a strong presence. ‘Perversions of Racial Hatred’ and ‘Pride and Rancour’ are more good examples of this crossed fire between thrash and death metal, but overall it’s a very good first album!

[reviewed by: Rui Marujo]

[review] A HILL TO DIE UPON – holy despair (2014)

(pt+eng) # A HILL TO DIE UPON - holy despair [2014]

A HILL TO DIE UPON – holy despair
(Bombworks Records – 2014)

I’m sitting here at the desk, listening to “Holy Despair” while I’m browsing around the information highways of the world and I’m starting to realize how good this album really is! Why is it, you might ask, and I am honestly without a self-explanatory reason to justify this opinion, which is kind of a contradiction when you’re writing a piece trying to explain how do you feel about a particular work of music. I could tell you about the clear production and the powerful riffs, the vocal delivery and the meaningful lyrics. And I’m sure I will, but I’ll also tell you that you’ve heard similar things in a few other different bands. I mean, A HILL TO DIE UPON are not re-inventing the wheel, but they are very good at making it spin!

This band has a good solid ten years under their belts and this is their third album to date. They also have an unusual name for a black metal band but, then again, they’re not your common group of darkness worshiping folks. Actually, they’re quite the opposite. Not that it matters, once you start your journey through the ten tracks featured in “Holy Despair” the only thing you will have in mind is the great melodies and guitar work, making almost hard to imagine that this is all the work of two brothers, Adam and Michael Cook, who are the core behind this band. They are also responsible for all the vocals and most of all arrangements are also their work. In a couple of songs they had the helpful collaboration of Thor Georg Buer from the Norse band Grave Declaration.

That last piece of trivia can lead you to argue that’s the main reason why A HILL TO DIE UPON sounds so European, but I really don’t think it’s fair to reduce this effort in such a simple manner. From the opening song, ‘Cloven Hoof Hava Nagila’, right to the very last piece of music, ‘Satan Speaks’, an adaptation of a C.S. Lewis poem, there is plenty of great moments for everyone to chew on and I can’t help but to repeat myself here: although they are not re-inventing the genre they sure are making some awesome music with it!

[reviewed by: Rui Marujo]

[review] THE WITCH – Black Flower Field (2014)

(eng) # THE WITCH - Black Flower Field [2014]

THE WITCH – Black Flower Field
(independent – 2014)

This French band came quite as a surprise to me, once the songs from “Black Flower Field” started to get my attention. This is their second EP release and they should definitely build things up to a full-length in the near future. The banner that hangs above their heads, describing their music as progressive stoner, only gives you a small idea on what to find when listening to this EP. Sure, you can easily find similarities with other stoner metal influenced bands around, but that doesn’t takes away the credit from THE WITCH for writing great songs.

These guys don’t shy themselves from tackling a more aggressive take on their sound and if you take a song like ‘Hellride’, for example, you almost have them confused for a thrash band, with its heavy stomping riffs and the speeding drum work. But the genre dwelling doesn’t stops here. With a song called ‘The Wizard is Stoned’ you should be expecting some off track arrangements and even a small eastern melody mixed in with the heavier parts. We even have a couple of blast beats appearances in ‘From Here to Underground’! And people call this a stoner band!

I guess the more I listen to this EP the more I can see how close THE WITCH are from bands like High On Fire or Mastodon, mixing the main foundations of their music (the stoner influences) with the wider range of solutions and ways to increase the body of each song provided by their metal incursions. They do it in a well-balanced manner and support it with good guitar work as well as a solid rhythm section. Keep an eye on these guys.

[reviewed by: Rui Marujo]

[review] DESECRESY – Chasmic Transcendence (2014)

(eng) # DESECRESY - Chasmic Transcendence [2014]

DESECRESY – Chasmic Transcendence
(Xtreem Music – 2014)

After quitting their previous band, Slugathor, Tommi Grönqvist and Jarno Nurmi decided they should start something of their own. Gathering influences from Abhorrence, Bolt Thrower and Immolation and handling all music and vocals themselves, they created DESECRESY back in 2009! The first album came to light the next year and now, we are given the chance to listen to their third opus, “Chasmic Transcendence”, out on Xtreem Records from Spain.

These two Finns crafted a fourteen track death metal album with a steady mid-tempo to slow pace, not venturing that much in high energy speed and devastation. That’s not what this band is about. The main goal is to produce a thick and massive form of vintage death metal with some very rotting vocals thrown in the mix. The fact that this record’s pace is mostly on the slower side of things, with an occasional and short lived burst of energy here and there, is loyal to DESECRESY’s creative vision of building on momentum and relying on pure heaviness rather than speed and technical indulgence.

They target the dark and eerie aspects of death metal and with that piece of knowledge in our hands it’s safe to say they managed to come pretty damn close to that kind of atmosphere. Even if these songs sometimes sound a bit stale and lacking some life in them, something that could make them really stand out, surely “Chasmic Transcendence” will have something to ease the hunger of those into this kind of slower gloomy death metal.

[reviewed by: Rui Marujo]

[review] CROWN OF ASTERIA – cycles (2014)

(eng) # CROWN OF ASTERIA - cycles [2014]

(independent – 2014)

Asteria is known figure in the Greek mythology and a name that can be associated with many different characters in that mythos. It also has a more straightforward meaning as ‘of the stars’ or ‘starry one’! CROWN OF ASTERIA is a solo project from Meghan Wood, active since 2011 and with a few releases credited to its name, “Cycles” being the latest! Meghan is responsible for every piece of music, every played instrument and every arrangement.

“Cycles” consists in two different songs or compositions, if you like, with ‘Cassiopeia: Queen Above the Skyline’ changing its pace and mood throughout the entire twenty five minutes it takes to reach an almost tribal and shamanic ending. The description tagged to this release speaks vaguely of atmospheric folk black metal and that’s ok to give you some kind of musical framing, but I guess Meghan is aiming for a more ethereal content and deeper philosophical relation between the music, the listener and the spiritual entities portrayed under the CROWN OF ASTERIA moniker.

The title track is another instrumental composition, served as an acoustic guitar multi-layer crescendo that fits quite comfortably with the entire ambience we’ve been presented in the previous piece. If you feel the need to listen to a vocal track you need to take your desire elsewhere, because CROWN OF ASTERIA stopped doing that with the demo “Through the Birch and Beyond the Lakes”. Here you’re only bound to find the kind of mysticism and atmospheric symbolism you should feel when immersed in Nature’s womb.

[reviewed by: Rui Marujo]