Friday, October 31, 2014

King Diamond Concert Review

Hail the King...that is King Diamond of course. The lord of high pitched haunting sounding proportions and lyrical conceptual evil came to San Francisco with one main objective... and that was to give the crowd a show they would never forget.
    Scheduled the night before Halloween, the perfect night for a King Diamond concert, I was really looking forward to this show. After being sold out for some months now, I was anticipating a large die hard classic metal loving crowd. I made sure to arrive early and get inside the venue as quick as possible. Of course walking through San Francisco is a horror movie in itself that I do not think King Diamond could even write up. Standing in front of the Warfield Theatre I gazed up at the massive glowing sign that read King Diamond. Already hanging around the venue were patch covered leather jacket and metal t-shirt wearing die hards. I even saw a decent number of people with King Diamond’s make-up on. Since King Diamond has not toured in a very long time, everyone in the crowd was extremely excited.
    Once inside I went right away to the lower level general admission area in front of the stage to see the opener, and of course to establish a good viewing area for when the King would come out to do his set. On this tour King Diamond had Jess and the Ancient Ones as his opener. I liked how the King was taking a band around instead of just adding local acts to the bill. It gave Jess and the Ancient Ones a chance to perform their brand of psychedelic doom rock to various locations.
    Jess and the Ancient Ones came out to a sound clip of an old horror film, something from the old Universal black and white years, my favorite. Jess, dressed in a black gown, reminded me of a mystic Wiccan priest. She always seemed as though she was in a trance. Vocally, she has an amazing voice that is both melodic and doomy. Her voice mesmerizes as she sings over the psychedelic compositions and instantly grabs your attention. The other guys in the band were all solid players, and the three guitar attack created a killer sound. Also, the organ player added so much to the band’s overall sound and ambiance. “Astral Sabbat,” was by far my favorite song during their set. The opening bass line is very vintage Sabbath like and sets up for a spooky grooving jam. I felt that some people in the crowd were hooked by the haunting cosmic sounding music while some stood looking dazed and confused. I think your typical speed metal dudes were not digging the music as much, but I personally thought Jess and the Ancient Ones were a great opener. Their dark psychedelic sounding musical atmospheres definitely fit with the night’s spooky and evil theme.
    After Jess and the Ancient ones finished, the stage crew quickly began setting up for King Diamond. They lowered the curtains too so no one could see them setting up all the elaborate props. Trust me, it helped add to the mystery and eventual amazement of the King’s stage show. After each song from the house music ended the fans got all excited and started shouting, however, they had to wait a little bit. These fans were getting really rambunctious and the whole concert hall was buzzing. Finally, the lights dimmed and the curtains came up. I gazed upon the stage where there was an iron gate, double sided stair case, upside down glowing crosses, skulls on poles and an enormous gigantic pentagram. I nearly fell over from the sheer awesomeness! Then there standing on top of the star case structure was King Diamond. Right away the band began playing some classic King Diamond hits and the place nearly erupted when they played, “Welcome Home.” A person came out dressed as King’s evil Grandma from the “Them” album. As King sang he would humorously interact with the Grandma and his stage presence was brilliant. The theatrics mixed with the ripping heavy metal music was perfect. During the song, “Digging Graves,” King never missed a note while he used a shovel to pretend digging up a grave.
    Now as a guitar player, seeing Andy LaRocque who is one of my favorite metal guitarists, was an unbelievable experience. He cranked out tons of glorious guitar shredding solos. The other guitarist Mike Weed was also an exceptional player and tore through multiple scales to create a face melting sounding. Drummer Matt Thompson and bassist Pontus Egberg provided a solid rhythm section and both added their own passionate energy to the show. Pontus was really rocking out and seemed to be running all around the stage. King too was really enjoying himself and would even use his upside down cross microphone to air guitar. When the band played Mercyful Fate’s, “Come to the Sabbath,” all the old die hard metal fans went crazy. I just could not believe how after each song the band never slowed down. King Diamond sounded great the whole night. After all his medical issues in the past he is such a trooper for still working at keeping his voice in great shape. Towards the end of the show, hearing songs like “Halloween,” “Family Ghost” and “Eye of the Witch,” was a great way to finish the night. Each time the band finished I thought they were done, but the crowd kept yelling for more. The energy from the crowd seemed to keep the musicians on stage and King Diamond graciously played a couple more songs to finish off the night.
    When the show was all over, I think both the musicians and the fans were truly grateful for each other. For a show that you could say was shrouded in darkness and haunting imagery, the overall vibe was pretty positive. I would have to say that was one of the best and most memorable performances I have seen in my life. The whole presentation was professional and the musicianship was just as impressive. King Diamond is one of metal’s greatest theatrical performers and he knows how to put on a fantastic show. I really hope he releases some new music soon, because a world with new King Diamond music, makes for more a better world...Hail to the King, that is King Diamond!!!!(epic scream when saying his name of course)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sempiternal Dusk- "Self-Titled Release"

    Seemingly endless death doom music is what this Portland, OR group has to offer on their self-titled full-length album. Sempiternal Dusk, appropriately named might I point out, blends loud massive sounding doom metal atmospheres with some aggressive death metal cuts.
    This album is one enormous five song blanket of thick guitar distortion and sinister heavy grooving rhythms. Also, the singer uses that monstrous death growl which adds to the album’s overall dark theme. When the guitarist plays a riff, you feel the impact of each chord hitting your eardrum. Drumming, same effect as the guitar, and the drummer’s timing and feel is very powerful. As he pounds out heavy earth shaking rhythms, the sounds of each hit echo through the dark distorted abyss. For only five songs, one might think they are being cheated, but let me tell you that these are no short Grindcore songs. We’re talking 8-14 songs, so short minded music fans beware.
    The album starts out with the longest track, “Moon Beneath Hook Cross.” I personally questioned this move to have the longest song be first, however, I do believe the song best represents this band’s style and approach. The guitar gradually builds like the sound of an angry giant walking towards a town that he plans of destroying with his bare hands. About midway through the song the drums pick up pace and the song takes on a more death metal approach. The guitar playing maintains a loud destructive sound and fuses slower doom like riffs with chainsaw sounding death metal licks. I thought the song carried on a bit too long in certain parts, but I think what made this song not too repetitious was the fact that the band constantly switched between the two styles. 
    Song number two, “Streams of Night,” begins with a more abrasive sounding old school death metal composition. The song explodes instantly into a chaotic heavy riff assault and the drums add to the song’s overall behemoth sounding musical landscape. I especially like when Sempiternal Dusk hits the slow button and constructs those massive sounding ominous doom parts. Now, track three, “Upon the Gallows at Perihelion,” is yet another death doom mixture sure to swallow up all happiness in the universe. The chemistry between the guitar and drums is amazing and every composition flows harmoniously. Vocally, the death growls provide some bone chilling sounds, but the words never really standout and I can't tell what he is saying over the guitar distortion. Towards the end of the song the band uses some lines from Stephen King’s, It. I laughed when I heard the lines because I swear that another band I reviewed used the same lines in one of their songs. Pennywise the Clown sure gets plenty of recognition from metal bands these days.
    The fourth song, “Seclusion of the Bereaved,” sounds like impending doom and features some unapologetic riffs that hit harder than Mike Tyson. “Urn of Dawn,” is the last song and finishes the album off with a haunting vibe. The song is just a short guitar piece that creates sinister sounding riffs while demonic noises are heard in the background.
   For the most part this album maintained a certain distinct sound that I really enjoyed. Of course with most death doom music out there, the formula can become redundant. However, if in the mood for dark slow aggressive sounding music, this album is well worth the listen. Sempiternal Dusk is the theme music for an endless abyss of pure darkness where no light shines and evil clowns lurk in the shadows. Who wouldn't want to listen to that?! Well, maybe someone afraid of the dark and clowns...

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Electric Wizard-“Time to Die”

Horror loving doom metal fanatics, Electric Wizard, are back with a new album titled, “Time to Die.” Their last full-length album, “Black Masses,” was released in 2010, so we have gone four years without a full-length Electric Wizard album. Oh no, what was I to do?!
    Well, in that four year period they did put out an EP that was titled something to the effect of legalizing drugs and murder, not surprising coming from this group. Also, they played a select handful of festival appearances while failing to tour North America. To be honest, they kind of annoyed me in the last four years by showing an apathetic work ethic. In all fairness they did go through a legal battle with their old label. Still, not touring North America! I had not been following the band as much, so this new album kind of snuck up on me. For this new album the band does carry over some qualities of, “Black Masses,” and even taps into their older catalog too. However, this album is a bit different in the way that it is presented, being based around a strong conceptual format. I actually think the band thought about how to incorporate the songs together rather than just get high, jam out some tunes, and then throw them all together on an album. I still think they got high, but the songs seem to have a certain flow.
    The introduction of this album starts with the sounds rushing water and are soon broken up by an audio news piece talking about a satanic cult murder. Those type of news sound bites are played often, solidify the satanic cult theme that this album has going on. That first song, “Incense for the Damned,” is one dark massive sounding track. The beginning organ part adds this old fashion horror vibe. Once the drums start building up the sinister atmosphere the guitars come pounding along cloaked in black robes of blasphemous distortion. Jus Oborn, singer/guitarist who is the main driving force in the band, sounds as though he is in a trance as he sings and hammers away at his guitar. Rhythm guitarist, Liz Buckingham, adds to the thick distortion sound with crushing backbone forming riffs. The band maintains that famous Sabbath like tone and the whirling feedback is unmistakable. On the second song, “Time to Die,” the band perfectly continues to pound out heavy grooving distortion filled jams. The two songs blend perfectly together in an unholy harmonious union. 
    Track three, “I am Nothing,” is the longest track on the album and contains plenty of long slow moving riffs. The beginning drum sound is thunderous and drummer Mark Greening decimates his kit with unbelievable force. There are times when the guitars explode into the soundscape with atomic sounding force. This song is great if you enjoy long heavy noise driven tracks, but I don’t think short minded music fans will be exactly enthusiastic. Track four, “Destroy Those Who Love God,” is a gimmicky instrumental that contains sound bites of more people talking about satanic cults. The band uses the organ again and this composition seems to be very chaotic. I personally like the next track, “Funeral of Your Mind.” Here the band comes up with a really heavy grooving jam that sounds similar to something that Saint Vitus would do. Good use of effect pedals and the guitar tone compliments the vocals well during the song.
    Track six, “We Love the Dead,” is another slow Sabbath like crushing jam and really no different than the first two tracks in style. It sounds a lot like the stuff from their “Come My Fanatics...” album. The next track, “SadioWitch,” is my least favorite track and sounds like a track that did not make it on “Black Masses.” The recording is subpar and the riffs are not as powerful as the other riffs on this album. “Lucifer’s Slaves,” is a return to the more crushing drawn out riffs and dark massive sounding atmospheres. The album ends with an instrumental piece called, “Saturn Dethroned,” and offers a bone chilling farewell to this distortion driven tale of terror.
    For an album that snuck up on me since I had not been expecting the band to do much besides continue to play festivals once in a blue moon, this album was an enjoyable listen. Is this their best album to date? No, but I would say that the way Electric Wizard approached this album was very creative and helps make it standout amongst the other albums in their discography. I think the longer songs over use guitar feedback at times, however, it does help in creating that sinister theme which Electric Wizard was going for. If you are a fan of doom metal and endless heavily distorted jams of satanic proportions, I believe this album will be your cup of tea. Now, hopefully Electric Wizard puts down their cups of tea and other substances, so they can do some touring in support of this album!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Nader Sadek-"The Malefic: Chapter III"

    This four song EP “The Malefic: Chapter III” by Nader Sadek, is one ferocious blend of multiple metal sub-genres. The reason for this EP’s diverse extreme sound is due mainly in part to the fact that their are many great metal musicians making contributions. 
    Nader Sadek is a metal project that yields extreme technical talent. The band features drummer Flo Mounier from CRYPTOPSY, vocalist Travis Ryan from of CATTLE DECAPITATION, Guitarist Rune Eriksen from AURA NOIR and Bobby Koelble, who played on my favorite DEATH album, “Symbolic.” Also, there are three different bass players on this album, all who are well recognized in their craft. The main guy is Martin Wriggle who formerly played with of DECAPITATED. Alex Webster, Cannibal Corpse bass master and songwriter,  offers his brutal talents to the song, "Deformation by Incision." Olivier Pinard, who used to play in NEURAXIS and is now currently the touring bassist for CRYPTOPSY, shows off his bass playing abilities on the track, "Carrion Whispers.” With such accomplished musicians working together, one can only expect blazing technicality, brutal unapologetic vocals and music with plenty of attitude.
    The opening death metal juggernaut piece, “Deformation by Incision,” is a chaotic blitzkrieg of pure insanity. The rhythms are complex and push the music into dark mind bending voids of technical endlessness. Travis Ryan sounds great with his low death growl vocal tone that gives the music a vicious quality. Each guitar riff is fluid and the dynamic technicality just does not disappoint. When listening to this song I can’t believe a human is able to play that many notes and maintain a solid sound the whole way through. Track number two, “Carrion Whispers,” begins with a more black metal sound. The main guitar riff in the beginning of the song conveys an intense dark sound. Throughout the song as the riff changes, the drummer aggressively pounds away at the complex time signatures. The virtuosic lead guitar playing is also quite compelling and adds to the band’s massive in your face brutal technical sound.
    For the third track, “Entropy Eternal,” the band sticks to a more straightforward tech death sound. Solid blast beats, loud bombastic growls and insane guitar parts simply make up the song, well of course the music is not that simple. These guys never stop altering the music and you can never predict the direction in which the instruments will take you. The final song, “Descent,” is actually a deviation from the other more intense technical death metal tracks. I feel this track is a little more atmospheric. The tempo is slowed down to create a very bone chilling atmosphere. About half way through the song a sharp lead guitar piece is thrown in, and it adds some variety to the slower death doom sound. I really like this track’s overall composition and the songwriting reflects Nader Sadek’s diverse creative extreme metal minds.
    If you are a fan of extreme diverse sounding technical metal, this EP is right up your alley. I would say there is definitely an emphasis of tech death on this EP, but there are some black metal moments and atmospheric death doom elements too. With this many great musicians, hell, you are going to be getting something that is pretty damn mind blowing and musically challenging. Prepare yourself...