Saturday, January 30, 2016

Concert Review: Thought Vomit, Oden Sun, Hellbender, Damascus, Shadow of Eve at Arlene Francis Center 1/29/16

    January 29th was yet another Sonoma County Metal party for all those who showed up to the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, CA. The bill was a local selection featuring Shadow of Eve, Damascus, Hellbender, Oden Sun and Thought Vomit. Also, I do believe the Arlene Francis Center was a great place to host a metal show such this one. 

    Upon arriving at the venue, I noticed that the metal maniacs were already hanging around wearing their metal shirts and looking ready to mosh around. I mean, Thought Vomit was playing, so if there was not a mosh pit people would have been asking for refunds. Of course, they would be the band to turn the place up side down and I shall talk about that later in this article. 

    Starting off the show was the young up and coming act, Shadow of Eve. Unfortunately, due to the crappy parking situation in the area around the Arlene Francis Center, I missed half of Shadow of Eve’s set. Though the portion of the band’s set I did catch was impressive. I remember when I first saw them back in October of last year. They put on a strong show for a young band. Their performance at the Arlene Francis Center was quite enjoyable. The band sounded tighter and the songs are starting to take form. The riffs are straightforward hard hitting in style and they even incorporated some epic dual guitar leads. If they keep working on those type of guitar compositions and coming up with catchy heavy metal songs, I believe they will become another solid act in the area. 

    Second band of the night was Damascus. Their vicious style of death metal is fairly simple, yet soul crushing at times. The band’s vocalist had really good stage presence and his range was massive. Some of his growls were unforgiving in nature and added to the band’s overall sound. I thought the guitar work by both guitarists was solid, however, I felt like the riffs were at times repetitious. Also, some of the leads were getting drowned out by the other instruments. Still, the energy that the band conveyed connected with the audience and people were getting more aggressive in the pit. 

    Before the third act, Hellbender, I decided to check out the outside patio area of the venue and catch up with some friends. I noticed as I was in the patio area that people from other bands in the area were passing out flyers for their upcoming shows and networking with their fellow metal comrades. This is just another reason why the Sonoma County Metal Community is so tight and supportive of the scene. Returning to the venue floor area Hellbender was smashing away at a wicked sounding jam. The brutal quartet threw out intense riffs and bombastic rhythms that got the people banging their heads and spilling their beers on my shoe. The high point of the band’s set in my opinion was when they cranked out a bad ass cover of Mötley Crüe’s, “Live Wire.” People were singing along whether they were young or old and the band did a great job handling such a classic song. 

    Oden Sun came up next and I was glad to see them live again. This was their CD release show for the EP, “Impeding Doom.” The band is composed of veteran musicians who play a killer style of traditional metal. Singer Lance Ozanix always provides an epic touch to the band’s set and was with sword in hand as he took to the stage. The guitar playing of both Julian Kidd and Jason Wright was spot on and the riffs just delivered in relentless fashion. I think the new songs sound really good and the band’s veteran presence is something to take note of if there are any young bands looking to improve their sound and stage presentation for that matter. Watching Lance walk around giving evil facial expressions during guitar solos and waving a sword in the area to the Norse Gods is definitely an exciting live experience. 

   The final band of the night was Thought Vomit, a band who I have seen often in the past year and is never an act to disappoint. I think the only thing disappointing was how some of the fans were hanging back during their set, because Thought Vomit simply destroyed during their performance. The people up front started pushing and moshing right away when the band cranked out, “Wreck Shop.” Singer Spencer Clark took advantage of the wireless mic by running through the crowd in a state of complete euphoria. Guitarist Chris Meyer shredded away and would even walk off stage and into the crowd during songs. Jordie and Clay held down the rhythm section and injected more aggression into the Thought Vomit sound. Some other enjoyable songs of the night were, “Punk’s Brutal Retaliation,” and “This is Your God.” With fans falling over after too much moshing and beer, the band closed the set with a brutal new track that will hopefully get recorded soon so more people can hear it. 

   At the end of the night, I think everyone had an enjoyable time and the scene once again showed support for the talented acts who took to the stage at the Arlene Francis Center. No matter if it was a young band like Shadow of Eve, or a veteran group such as Oden Sun, the music kept the crowd going and always wanting more. Sonoma County Hardcore and Metal alive and kicking with more shows to come, so try to make your way down! 

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Witchcraft "Nucleus"

    After impressing fans with their 2012 Nuclear Blast Records release, “Legend,” Witchcraft continues to find ways to push the boundaries of doom and hard rock. For their fifth studio album titled, “Nucleus,” the band astonishes listeners with musical creativity that derives from a solid doom rock foundation. 

    The Swedish based band led by chief songwriter and singer/guitarist, Magnus Pelander, who has been the main driving force ever since Witchcraft began, really takes the band into a refreshing and strong sounding direction on the new album. The album also features a couple new members with Rage Widerberg on drums and Tobias Anger on bass. I think that Magnus wanted to build off of the last albums powerful momentum that was especially prevalent in the songwriting department, while being constantly creative with the arrangements. Also, the production for “Nucleus” is a bit of a return to the bands early sound that conveys a very vintage seventies hard rock vibe. Fans will be able to discover elements from the past that they might have enjoyed mixed in with some of Magnus’ new ideas. 

    Opening the album is the dynamic guitar driven piece, “Malstroem.” The song begins with the sound of a soothing acoustic arrangement that evolves into a dark ambient distorted riff. Building up the piece to a melancholy drum and guitar attack, Magnus injects his voice into the musical landscape with haunting vocal lines. Track two, “Theory of Consequence,” begins with a vintage Sabbath like tone and is a track that really revisits the band’s early days. Song number three could possibly be the best song on the album and might be one of the best songs I have heard this year. Released as a single, “The Outcast,” is all around brilliant. The flute and guitar beginning riff is an epic sounding match. Magnus creates these solid verse parts that trade off for short lead guitar fills giving the song a diverse musical flavor. Also, I really enjoy the lyrical phrases that he put together for this song. “To save a nation from a bad economy, is like sailing away on an endless sea...” is such a powerful yet simple phrase that adds a solemn moment during the song. Eventually the band transitions into a more aggressive musical finale with more wicked sounding lead guitar licks and Magnus’ bold melodic lyrical statements. 

    Now, an area where Witchcraft really took me by surprise was the longer and very progressive rock type tracks. For song number four, the album’s title track, the band composed a fourteen minute epic of great emotional expression. About halfway through the song there is this cinematic acoustic riff that features some chanting to add to the song’s already epic film score like atmosphere. The creativity and expression is unbelievable and reminds me of music composed by Ennio Morricone. Another long and extremely dynamic song on the album is, “Breakdown.” The fluctuation of sounds and emotional tone really gives listeners a continually exciting listening experience. 

    Other tracks I want to mention are “The Obsessed” and “To Transcend Bitterness.” Lyrically Magnus is a phenomenal lyricist who knows how to create memorable phrases. He is able to demand the listener’s attention by having this melodic yet fierce delivery. It is something you can even hear through the guitar playing. There will be these haunting doom riffs that can suddenly change into a pleasant melodic hard rock piece. I think the song, “The Obsessed,” is an appropriate song title to have on this album, because Witchcraft reminds me of the band The Obsessed, in the sense that there is this musical honesty that is delivered through raw emotional expression. Wino and Magnus are two musicians who I have a lot of respect for and are two people who can write extremely deep and powerful music. 

    Witchcraft’s, “Nucleus,” is an amazing display of songwriting and musicianship. The album is exciting from beginning to end by always searching for ways to add musical diversity to get the listener analyzing the content on a deeper level. One can definitely tell some differences between this album and "Legend, and Witchcraft found a way to standout from the rest of the doom crowd. Arguably one of the most versatile doom albums I have heard in awhile. If you want a solid well crafted doom rock release that will never become boring or repetitious, trust me, you do not need to ask a scientist with a fancy Ph.D to tell you that this album is the right choice. 

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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Exmortus "Ride Forth"

    Exmortus have returned to the battle field with yet another sword swinging and shield clashing epic release of thrash and technical shredding brilliance. Their highly anticipated fourth full-length release, “Ride Forth,” is a combination of this band’s unbelievable instrumental talents and their undying passion for heavy metal music. 

    After the band’s last album, “Slave to the Sword,” one could not even begin to imagine how they could raise the bar and out do the musicianship featured on that amazing release. I think the band is easily one of metal’s most talented groups of musicians who can combine epic sounding thrash with complex technical playing that takes on an Yngwie like neoclassical approach to guitar shredding. The two guitarists David Rivera and Conan Gonzalez are a solid twin guitar attack team that delivers on every song. Also, the bassist they have on this new album, Michael Cosio, really provides an impact on how the release sounds. His bass playing on the instrumental track, “Appassionata,” is equally as mind blowing as that of the technical lead guitar playing. Lastly, drummer Mario Moreno has his hands full behind the kit following along to the demanding compositions. Overall, Exmortus is full of talented guys who know how to play their instruments. 

    Each of the nine tracks on, “Ride Forth,” offer listeners with plenty of tasty lead guitar parts, triumphant sounding riffs and epically written lyrics that are provided by Conan’s growls of fierce war like aggression. The beginning song, “Speed of the Strike,” is what most fans of technical thrash would desire to hear in a piece of music. As the guitar duo glides through melodic sounding scales, the drums and bass hammer away at a bombastic sounding rhythm. Right away Exmortus establishes a recognizable technical thrashing sound that is maintained throughout the release. Track two, “Relentless,” is one of the more catchy sounding songs on the album and offers a solid balance of shred and classic sounding metal. The lyrics are very triumphant and uplifting with lines like, “Brandish your swords up high... Dauntless and bold we face the endless horde.” 

    The third track, “For the Horde,” was released as a single before the entire album came out, so I had heard this track a few times before. I felt like the song was solid piece of metal music and it reminded me of certain songs that were on the previous album. The band definitely puts more emphasis on shredding with this new release and I felt like the album’s production tries to get listeners' to really recognize those lead guitar parts and quick guitar sweeps. “Let Us Roam,” was one song where the band shredded through technical parts, but also made way for slower and heavier verse sections. Probably my favorite song on the album, “Black Sails,” has that dynamic songwriting structure where you are engaged the entire time. The riffs are never one dimensional and the band was very creative with not only the instrumental parts, but also the lyrical imagery that they came up with. 

    The sixth sing on the album, “Hymn of Hate,” throws down more vicious compositions and insane lead guitar playing. Following it up is the instrumental, “Appassionata,” which takes the world Beethoven and heavy metal to forge one amazing piece of instrumental music. Exmortus’ version of, “Moonlight Sonata(Act 3),” I felt was more raw sounding when mixing the classical with metal which I really enjoyed. However, this new instrumental piece is extremely impressive and the musicianship all around is phenomenal. “Death to Tyrants,” and “Fire and Ice,” close the album out by never straying away from that strong thrash and shred mentality. Conan’s devilry on, “Death to Tyrants,” sounds unapologetic and even matches the attitude that can be heard during the snarling lead guitar parts. 

    When all nine tracks are finished, all those Exmortus fan who were looking to hear another smashing release full of wicked sounding technicality and triumphant battle themed lyrics shall be extremely pleased with, “Ride Forth.” I find my only slight critique to be that I preferred the production on, “Slave to the Sword,” which I felt at times conveyed a more raw and aggressive vibe. The production on “Ride Forth,” is by no means disappointing, but I think there is a slight difference in how certain areas were recorded. One example is Conan’s vocals that sounded a bit more extreme on the previous album and on this new album maintain a very consistent tone. 

    In the end, this new Exmortus album is highly worth checking out if you like technical thrash and crazy guitar shredding. The album is an enjoyable bone crushing listening experience that makes me want to grab a battle axe and charge into battle. Hail Exmortus and their glorious shredding talents that are so extreme that Disney wouldn’t let them play at the House of Blues in Anaheim...If Disney does not create an Exmortus themed ride they are seriously missing out on one awesome opportunity! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ironaut "Self-Titled EP"

    Los Angeles doom trio Ironaut hammers out some killer axe wielding jams on their five song self-titled EP. Heavy sounding tunes that display musical brutality and Sabbath like grooves, allow listeners to feverishly bang their heads and have one wild hard rocking time. 

    I think what stood out most vividly on this EP is the tight sound that the band was able to create with each track. The music really flows and for a trio they have an impressive full sound. I am reminded of bands like High on Fire and Orange Goblin, because the band combines these fast paced speed demon riffs with these moments of slow skull crushing terror. 

    The ferocity of the opening track, “Horned Goat,” demands attention by constructing this unforgiving verse riff. Also, the band writes these pissed off sounding lyrics that compliments the instrumental compositions quite well. Ironaut’s guitar, bass and drum structures are very basic doom and hard rock in style, so if you are expecting a progressive and dynamic release, you might be setting the bar a bit too high. Their style definitely puts more emphasis on simple yet brutal sounding riffs, which is why the band does a solid job coming up with these hard hitting doom rock pieces of music. “Yellow King,” is a slamming song and features some bombastic drumming. I think the drumming at times gives the band an extra kick of aggression. 

    Song three on the EP, “Acid Wash,” is one of my favorite tracks from Ironaut on this EP. The intro guitar riff sounds very seventies psychedelic hard rock and even mixes in some quick tempo guitar and bass parts that gives the piece a hardcore punk feel. “Atomic Voyage,” actually changes up the band’s usual songwriting formula with an acoustic intro that paves the way for a haunting doom composition. Finishing off the EP, “The Dead Look in My Eyes,” keeps the reverb dial turned up high and the band’s singer/bassist continues to shout out vicious lyrics with a loud and harsh vocal tone. The song contains so much musical attitude that you just don’t hear very often in the world of music, especially that crap they play on MTV nowadays(if they still play music). 

    Now, I have reviewed a fair amount of bands who play this style, but Ironaut did find a way to throw in their own musical personality and the group sounds really tight. Also, for a three piece they seem to offer a loud seismic ground shaking sound. I think my only suggestion would be to keep experimenting with those slow and evil sounding atmospheres like on “Atomic Voyage,” while consistently throwing down unforgiving riffs like on, “Acid Wash.” Overall, it is doom and it kicks major metal ass...enough said as to why you should check this band out. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ripper "Experiment of Existence"

    The extreme metal music passion that comes from South America is quite amazing. A fair amount of bands I have reviewed for this blog have been from South America and the quality is usually top notch. Ripper, a group of Chilean death thrashers, are yet another band who skillfully blend a variety of extreme metal influences, while demonstrating tremendous talent for an up and coming act. 

    Their new full-length album, “Experiment of Existence,” is an extreme metal fan’s every wicked dream, especially if they happen to enjoy sinister science fiction/space related lyrical themes. I personally notice the death metal qualities in their sound, but I would say that the riffs can convey an old school thrash style at times. One area of the album that gives the band a unique musical flavor is the bass playing. If you enjoy those first couple Atheist albums or the bass sound on Death’s, “Human,” Ripper’s bass player follows in those footsteps. His bass solo which is track number eight, “Chromatic Fantasy,” is a brilliant sounding exploration of technical bass playing. 

    Overall, the band has one solid soul crushing sound and the first couple songs, “Magnetic Solar Storms,” and “Anthropophagic Life,” establish a monstrous sound of technical riffs and furious double bass drum rhythms. Ripper’s singer growls over the musical storm of extreme sounding chaos with a vocal style that reminded me of how Mike Browning sounded on the first Nocturnus album. The instrumental presentation is impressive and I really like how they pieced out the vocal parts.  Also to make note of is the lead guitar playing, which throws in these exciting moments of technicality and note shredding insanity. 

    Now, Ripper is not just another one of your straightforward intense riff pumping bands. They have a progressive rock and metal mind when writing their songs. The album’s title track, “Experiment of Existence,” begins with these calm sounds of nature and then morphs into a brutal old school death metal sounding assault. Their style of songwriting that can be very dynamic at times, definitely gives the album a unique presentation. 

    The band maintains their extreme science fiction themed music as the album reaches the mid point with tracks like, “Stellar Evolution,” and “The Alpha Orionis.” One of my favorite tracks on the album, “Spherical Energy,” contains those powerful bass riffs and those moments really intensify the music. The guitar playing is down right unforgiving as the band gallops through different riffs of pure sounding evil. Finishing off the album, “Humanity Was Wrong,” leaves listeners with an ominous sounding message. Musically the band does not disappoint and the lyrics vividly standout when the singer growls them out. 

    I do not know what it is about those South American metal bands, but they can sure release some amazing sounding albums. Ripper is yet another young band who takes old school death and thrash metal to create high quality extreme recordings. Also, the lyrics deviated from your usual Satanic themes that I find young bands tend to over use. On a final note, I recommend this album to all metal fans who are riff loving enthusiastic headbangers and desire lyrics that don’t just keep on repeating, “Hail Satan,” for about twenty minutes.