Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Narthraal - Blood Citadel


Narthraal is a brand new death metal band from Iceland, and Blood Citadel is their first EP which is a concept release based upon the fictional universe of Narthraal. A quite intriguing idea, at least to me, but how well is it executed?

From the get-go, Blood Citadel is a pretty ambitious. With the description of their music and that it's largely based on biblical hell with a few minor alterations. It builds up a kind of hype and with two tracks with quite some duration and an amazing introduction track, you would like everything to come together in one big picture. The opening track, Blood Citadel is an instrumental with a orchestra. It is actually well composed and it sounds really good, but it leads into Narthraal Tore Shuul, a track lasting almost 9 minutes. The problem with that is that the track never quite takes off, and it never becomes really interesting, which is quite essential for long tracks. However that's the story for most of the tracks, they never really take off, but Carnage and Suffering is kind of set apart from the rest. Those two songs are quite good, and Suffering got some elements to it that I wish was present throughout the entire EP. That element is the orchestra from the introduction track returns. It starts off halfway through the track with just a piano playing in the background of the band, but it sounds total out of place. Of course that's not the element I would like to be present throughout Blood Citadel. Just a bit longer into the track the guitars fade out and the orchestra returns. It's well composed and sounds outstanding, plus the band kicks in an accompanies the orchestra for some time, and the two fit perfect. It builds up an epic atmosphere, and that is the element I would have loved to be present throughout the entire EP.

The production does not quite add anything to the release or help it to stand out. It's quite obvious that the band got a little thing for Swedish death metal and the buzzsaw sound. And it never really comes beyond that point but being a worship of the buzzsaw sound. It sounds good, but it fails to set them apart from all the other bands and make them really intriguing. If I feel like listening to buzzsaw death metal, I'll put on some of the old bands. I would like to point out the bass. It really fails to deliver the punch needed in death metal and comes out as a girly bass. It's really noticeable on Narthraal Tore Shuul, halfway through the track there is a section with only the bass that could have sounded way better with a better sound and production. At the end of Buhrozul - An Ancient Prophecy there is a slow and chugging section that's really headbanging material and it's one of those moments where the bass should kick you in the face and give it that extra punch. That extra punch is missing often and then the bass ends up being almost redundant.

So the execution was not that successful. But does not mean that there's nothing to gain from this release. I definitely do smell potential and I would love to see the band collaborating more with an orchestra like they did on Blood Citadel and Suffering. That could turn out to be an epic full-length album, if that's what is next on the program. If you're a buzzsaw maniac, then you'll love this, and even if you're not, you should still give Narthraal a try. Something on Iceland reeks of potential.

Be sure to check Narthraal out on Facebook and listen to the entire EP on Bandcamp!


Saturday, March 22, 2014

Toxic Waltz - Decades of Pain

"Mid-paced Waltz"

Yet another new thrash metal band pops up in the distance. This time it is Toxic Waltz from Germany, and yes they are named after the legendary Exodus track. The band has been active for quite some time, actually since 2009 but it took them five years to put out their debut material. Will it end up being just another drop in the sea? Let's see.

The album starts out with somewhat of a trend among bands these days - a redundant instrumental intro that doesn't really add anything to the album. The riff in the end carries into the first real track on the album and that is about it. I won't dive into each track that much as it won't really be necessary. Decades of Pain features a modern production, and it doesn't sound that different from other releases coming out at the moment. But I do like the drum production and the overall sound of the drums, except one little strange thing I noticed. Through some passages there's been added some extra reverb to the snare to highlight the drums, and it sounds quite odd to me. Just leave the damn reverb on, let me feel like it's the 80's!

But how well does Toxic Waltz deliver with this debut album? With emphasis on thrash, they barely deliver. In spite of being named after an Exodus song it doesn't feel like they ever listened to Exodus. Decades of Pain is a mid-paced album and after listening to this album I don't feel like I have been thrashed. Not even once. That is my biggest frustration when going through this album; sitting and waiting for the tempo, for the thrashing to begin, but that day never came. Of course, an album doesn't need to be fast to be good, but since there's no tracks that gets stuck and feel memorable it feels more like a decade of boredom. The last song on the album, Obsession to Kill actually builds up to some waltzing, but it does not take long for it to fall back into the mid-pacing and raising my frustration level. Adding the last nail to the coffin, I don't feel like the vocals add anything to the music either. They feel like your average shouting thrash vocalist, even though at the end of a line in the lyrics, the vocals pulls off some awesome shrieks, screams and growling. The vocal style should have leaned more towards those extremes, even though it still doesn't fix the rest of the album.

So where does this leave us? The band has received loads of promotion but I don't see why. There's nothing teutonic about them, nothing bay area, not even new school thrash. The album feels more like a groove/thrash album as it never takes off. When getting a real overlook on this album, the thing I'm left with that I really like is the album cover. To sum that up a bit, if you want a good thrash album added to your collection, find something else. If you want some mid-paced groove/thrash, then this is for you. That brings me back to the question I asked myself in the beginning; will it end up being just another drop in the sea? The answer is yes.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Triumphant - Herald the Unsung

"Herald the Triumphant"

Triumphant is a brand new band (more or less) from Austria. They've been appearing under a couple of monikers over the years but without releasing a full-length album. But 2014 saw the release of Herald the Unsung, which is a fantastic and diverse record, so we got a lot of ground to cover here!

Before digging into the record, I would like to bring up why I simply love this band. They don't restrict themselves to one genre and then stay inside that box, whether it's thrash metal or black metal. The band themselves refer to their genre as evil metal, and that fits the record quite well. You will hear the smashing influences from thrash metal, with the atmosphere and riffing from black metal. If you want a perfect example of that, then listen to the song Devotion. You'll also get a chunk of the 80's thrown into your face, all delivered with a great and diverse vocal. However it's still hard to pin down the overall sound of this record. Triumphant is a versatile band, they explore and mix everything they love about metal. And that's what makes this band so fresh and exciting! It's something you have to hear and explore yourself. Don't judge the record on just one track, but go through the whole thing, as I said, these guys love to mix everything they love about metal.

I guess it won't surprise you when I say the production this album is crisp and it brings forth the best aspects of the record. It fits the atmosphere and the hard hitting moments perfectly, and I really don't have many griefs when it comes to the production. The only thing is the rapid fadeout on the last track, Triumphant. Staying on that subject, it is actually one of the best, if not the best song off the album. The song will take you straight back to the 80's with its out of mind guitar harmonies, which simply sound outstanding. However the band put their own touch onto the 80's style with this song, as lead singer Bekim Leatherdemon's vocals varies from the black/thrash oriented vocal style to a clean vocal. But does it sound good? Yes, it sounds amazing, and I didn't really notice it because it seems so natural and fits the song perfect. And it only adds to the possibilities Triumphant has making music. Returning to the sound, every instrument is moulded well together in an old school way, so it doesn't sound too modern, and yet it doesn't sound too raw and unproduced either. The two introduction tracks, Triumfator and Nightfall are filled with great atmosphere and add a lot of depth to the record, plus they each lead up to a great track. To sum it up a bit, this album has been put together perfectly.

From the beginning and till the harmonic end of this album, it's and amazing experience. The three winners on the album is Life Under the Inverted Cross, Devotion and Triumphant. In a time where you can record a full-length album in your bedroom and countless bands keep popping up, it's hard to set yourself apart. That is something a lot of bands fails to do, but Triumphant is not one of those bands. With their self-proclaimed "evil metal" they set their music apart, and I'm excited to see what the future brings from this band. Herald the Unsung is definitely a strong contender for one of the best albums of 2014. So if you're in for a batch of evil metal, then I suggest you get your hands on this masterpiece!
Follow Triumphant on Facebook and get a taste of this album on their Bandcamp profile.


Friday, March 14, 2014

War Device - Whisper of Souls

"Embrace the War Device"

War Device do not fuck around. In January '13 they released their EP, The Anger and in December they released their debut album, Whisper of Souls. A busy year for the Greek thrashers, and I've been looking forward to this album, so let's have a look, shall we?

The album starts with the fashion that's spreading more and more; an instrumental intro. It's not that different from your average intro track, it is mid paced and slowly building up until the next tracks starts. And it leads into the title track of the album which is really enjoyable. One thing I have to get off my chest is that War Device is no "thrash revival" band. With this album they cement that they got their own style unlike many other new thrash metal bands. I really liked their EP and its production, and the production is even better now, and that is a major plus. A lot of times I've experienced that bands go from releasing an EP to a full length and then screw up the production because it has to be as clean as possible. But not this time! The sound hits a lot harder than on the EP, and the bass really came out as the winner here unlike on The Anger. The drums also sound good, especially the pedals, but I'm not too crazy about the snare which could have been better but it's not awful either.

Greece. I must say I don't know too much about their bands. I also brought up this subject in my review of their EP, and that Suicidal Angels is the only Greek band you really hear about. Or at least the only I really hear about. But my point is... War Device is better that Suicidal Angels. I don't get bored halfway through Whisper of Souls, neither do I get the feeling that I just heard the same song 5 minutes ago with the exact same structure. Anyway, as I mentioned, War Device really cemented their style with this release and building upon what the made with The Anger. They certainly did not disappoint me with this album, but it didn't meet my high expectations either. The album cover is once again photoshopped, but it looks pretty good in spite of that. I would like to have seen Andrei Bouzikov's version of it...

The album's strongest pillar is the production. I had high expectations (maybe too high) for this album as their EP, The Anger, was a blast from start till end. So the consistency the EP had faded a bit on Whisper of Souls. Of course a full-length holds more tracks, so the chance of fillers is a bit higher. In spite of that the albums still comes out as a strong debut with great content and a re-recording from The Anger. The tracks that I think stands out is Whisper of Souls, Shattering My Thoughts, M.I.P. (Mind in Panic), and Rehab Beyond Perfection. And if you like any of those songs, or some of the other tracks from the album then you gotta get their EP as well. It's just badass, and it features a killer Kreator cover! To sum up this album, it's quite good but I got a feeling that it maybe was a bit rushed. 2013 seemed to have been a busy year for War Device with both their EP and debut album. But with those two releases they truly have got a solid foundation for their future, and I'm looking forward to their next material.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Nervosa - Victim of Yourself

"Morbid, Twisted & Nasty"

The wait is over as Nervosa's debut album finally has been released. I have been looking forward to this moment ever since I heard their demo from 2012 with the smashing track Masked Betrayer. Something that impresses me is their fans on Facebook. Almost 90.000 (at the time of this review) and they barely released their first album. Then if you head over to they don't even reach 2.000 listeners. That's quite funny, at least to me, as I can't help but think most of their likes is because a bunch of lads thinks that it's hot that some good looking women is playing thrash metal. Of course I only like them because of their music... not the other stuff... at all. But back to the matter at hand, does the album live up to the expectation? Let us have a look.

You will be greeted with an introduction track named Intro... (can you feel my disappointment over the track's name?) and it leads into the first track Twisted Values quite well. The introduction being a slow paced riff experience leads up to the break of Twisted Values and from that point on and until the ending of the album, it's a non stop assault. In spite of being covered by the thrash metal moniker, you can't avoid hearing the obvious death metal influences in the band. For me that is great and it adds a lot of freshness as there is death metal riffs here and there, and Nervosa really mixed that quite good. The production of the album is nothing special, it's basically just your average sounding modern metal album. However the guitar sounds quite good and adapts to both the thrash and death metal elements of the album. The drums and bass just fits, there's nothing really noticeable besides the snare got a nice hit to hit, but that's about it.

On my first listen the album didn't get to me that much but it definitely did on the second listen and so on. What makes this album really good is the fantastic blend between death and thrash metal, and that is something I expected to be present on the album. Because those influences were pretty clear on their demo, and it keeps the album fresh with the death metal influence so it's not just a non stop thrash metal assault, we got plenty of those. The distinctive and snarling vocals of Fernanda is something that also draws me towards the band as they separate Nervosa from other female bands. And just look at the cover! Andrei Bouzikov once again proves his skills to create an amazing piece of art.

So, out of the 12 tracks what songs would I recommend you checking out first? Go with Twisted Values, Justice Be Done, Nasty Injury and Envious to start with. That's my favourites from the album. If you like what you hear, then you should dig up their 2012 demo, Time of Death and listen to Masked Betrayer, which is my favourite track by Nervosa so far. Don't let your guard down because this three-piece female band will rip you apart at any given chance. I'd recommend getting your hands on this if you would like something different than your average thrash revival band. The vocals are almost biting you, and the mix with death metal and a heavy production really pulls this album up and sets it apart from the rest. Victim of Yourself is a solid debut that has some great songs on it, but also some fillers. It's going to be exciting to see what these Brazilian ladies comes up with next!


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Rider - Streets of Nowhere

"Streets of 1983"

Hey! Do you feel like going back to 1983? Then join the nostalgia with Brazilian heavy metal band, Rider. Streets of Nowhere is the first EP by the band and introduces a new singer, and what a record this is!

Rider's first demo was recorded live with their old singer and Streets of Nowhere seems to be their first experience in a studio and introduces César Caçador on vocals. This EP brings you 4 tracks with a total of 20 minutes, and boy, are you in for a treat! The production and overall sound of this release is so old school, that I just can't stop listening to it. Not only that, but the songs are fantastic, with great solos and what a voice! I haven't heard Rider with their old lead singer but César sounds outstanding and fits the band perfect, so hopefully he'll stay on board. However sometimes it sounds to me that he is out of key, but it is very briefly on a song or two. On a side note the choruses, harmonies and solos will get you humming along, and it won't take long until you're screaming along.

Visiting the band on Facebook and watching some of their photos also gives me the nostalgia feeling, and it seems like Brazil got a thriving underground scene. Rider is just pure old school traditional heavy metal! It is such a pleasant listen and I can't spin it just once. The guitar harmonies is just outstanding and the production of every single aspect of this EP just reminds me of an 80's album and I am crazy about it. I won't pick out any tracks, as every track offers something amazing, so you should check out every single track! All the instruments are knitted well together, and nothing is drowned out. The vocals are nice and clear, the bass is always present and not interfering with the amazing sound of the guitars. Last but not least the dreams also sound terrific. All I can say is that for a first time in the studio, this is a job well done!

So... what's left to say? Not that much, actually. If you like heavy metal, and if you like it old school, I cannot recommend Streets of Nowhere enough. The songs are filled with great choruses, harmonies, solos and that 80's feeling. The only drawback is that lead singer César sometimes is out of key. It is nothing major, at least not to me, so if you can get past that then you're going to have a great time listening to this record. Get your hands on this and keep your eyes on Rider as they're going to release more fantastic music later this year!

Follow this magnificent band on Facebook, and listen to some of their material on YouTube. (Bandcamp coming soon!)


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Steel Inferno - Demo 2014

"Come to the Red Sabbath"

Steel Inferno is a female fronted heavy metal from Denmark but also features members from France, Greece and Poland. And this demo which is unattractively named Demo 2014 is their debut release.

"Congregation of the righteous"

Starting off with the name of the release and the cover, I think that this release should have some kind of name. I don't find it intriguing when a release is just named "Demo" and then just features a black cover. Of course many bands these days want to be old school, so that might be the case. Getting past of the visuals, this release features some very, very promising material. When I first heard this band it was the track Red Sabbath and instantly I thought that vocalist Karen had similarities to Nicole Lee of Znowhite. Bringing up vocal similarities is not something I practice that much, but in this case the thought just stayed with me all the way. So expect a more angry female vocal, and not a standard female vocal or something ranging towards symphonic female vocalists style.

"The cadres summoned"

The production and overall sound of this release does not really scream out demo, as it could very well have been released as an EP. However the music itself is to me a demonstration of what is to come from this band. The tracks is mostly carried on the shoulders of vocalist Karen and the guitars as the bass and drums doesn't really add anything to the picture and can be quite dull. The five tracks on the demo spans for just about 21 minutes, and every track offers a little something, however I must say the star of the demo is Red Sabbath. Tracks like War Anthem and Merciful Slayer are also great, and I can only recommend going through the whole release. Besides just heavy metal, the band is without a doubt inspired by some of the German heavy/speed metal bands from the 80's, so you'll get a little speed here and there. The lyrics is something I have to point out as well, as they are well written, intriguing and fits the music very well.

"...Red sabbath!"

I would like to hear the band playing something faster and more aggressive, as it would really suit the vocals. Merciful Slayer is a great example for just that, and more of it would definitely be welcomed. I must say I look forward to hear what Steel Inferno will come up with next, and I hope that they'll make some tweaks here and there to make their music even better. So if you're looking for a promising female fronted heavy metal, then you should get your hands on this demo and keep your eyes peeled for Steel Inferno in the future!

Support the band on Facebook, and listen to their demo on Bandcamp. You can download it for free by pressing on "Buy Now" and typing 0. Or if you feel like it, support the band with a couple of bucks!