Thursday, February 25, 2016

Necroskin "Before Chaos Takes You"

    I don’t know what it is about the Palermo extreme music scene, but there have been some solid acts to come out in the last few years. Adding to the list is Necroskin, a brutal death metal band with an unapologetic musical attitude. Taking from old school influences and just unleashing devastation upon the world of metal, the group has put together an appropriately titled release, “Before Chaos Takes You.” 

     The group formed around March of last year and this release is the first official offering that can be heard by the metal listeners from across the globe. Consisting of Gabriele Mazzola (vocalist), Diego Gore Zimmardi (guitarist), Andrea Conti (bassist), Valerio Sandman (drummer), the group uses their musical talents and enjoyment of death metal to create some vicious sounding recordings. Necroskin all around is able to capture the brutality of bands such as Hate Eternal and Suffocation, while incorporating some extreme technicality. You truly get this solid balance of heaviness and technique, which is important for them to continue as they write more music. 

    The demo starts out with the guitarist skillfully picking through different guitar chords. This very soothing piece is shortly annihilated by a sinister growl to begin the next track, “Universal Implosion.” The guitars come in and lay down a mean sounding riff that has a wicked groove and develops into a blitzkrieg of trem picking. The drumming adds extra force to the bombastic musical landscape with a raw recording quality. I felt like the guitar solo could have been captured a bit better, or the guitarist could have experimented more with different effects pedals. However, the solo itself definitely added something extra to the song and played an important part in the overall piece. 

    Necroskin cleverly incorporated a variety of tempos and riff structures into their songs on this release. I was really taken back by the slow sludgy riff on “Three is the Perfect Death.” The bass and guitar were unfathomably brutal. Track 4, “Family Remains,” in my opinion took on some more grindcore elements and the vocal style Gabriele used had a black metal quality to it at times which I felt complimented the intense instrumental compositions. The following song, “Open Yourself for Chaos,” turned out to be the band’s vicious musical statement and showed their potential as creators of unforgiving extreme music. Next song, “237 (redrum)," starts out with an audio clip from the movie, “The Shining.” After the audio clip, the band hammers out a gory sounding riff that is more extreme than that scene from “The Shining” where the blood is flowing down the hotel halls. 

     For the band’s first release that they self-recorded, I was quite impressed with what Necroskin had to offer up. Their passion for extreme music can be heard on each song and hopefully they keep moving forward by writing more gruesome pieces of death metal music. From the unholy sounding riffs, the rapid drumming and then of course the earsplitting growls, open yourself to chaos and check out Necroskin! 

Necroskin Facebook Page: 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Concert Review: Phoenix Theater Metal Show 2/20/16


    Sometimes I wonder if I keep writing the same concert review every time I attend the Phoenix Theater. However, I am being one-hundred percent honest when I say that Saturday’s show was one of the most solid events put on by Sonoma County Metal and Hardcore. All six bands really delivered during their sets and even when conditions did not go exactly their way, I felt the musicians did their best to push on and keep the crowd hysterically shouting for more. With a line-up featuring Scrape the Earth, Water Into Blood, Cyborg Octopus, Trecelence, WRVTH and Aberration, you knew the audience was going to be headbanging and moshing until the very end.

    Now, I want to begin by saying thanks to the promoter of the show for allowing me to sell some vinyls to help raise money for Ksun Radio. I have been involved with Ksun for the last four years of my college life and really appreciated the opportunity to help raise money for it. This show was the perfect place to sell those vinyls, because all six bands were able to draw out a decently sized crowd who seemed to feverishly enjoy metal music. I was stationed in the back of the venue with my vinyls at a table overlooking the floor in an area that at one time was an old piano lounge. Although I did not have the chance to be right up in front of the stage, I did have a great view of the whole venue. 

    Even before Scrape the Earth began their set I was having numerous people coming up to the table looking to obtain some of the vinyls I had out. I thank the members of Trecelence for being some of the first buyers and for giving me a shootout during their set. The looks on their faces when they found certain vinyls reminded me of my four year old nephew opening presents on Christmas morning. Once the vinyl buyers found their choices I turned my attention to the first band, Scrape the Earth. This would be my third time seeing the band and I must say they have come along in their songwriting and onstage performance. The drumming especially held down a solid rhythmic backbone the entire set and drummer Nick Pater was locked in behind the kit hitting each cymbal and snare with precision. Guitarist/singer Forrest Dang along with bassist Matt Lasserre were pounding away at some heavy sounding riffs while displaying tremendous enthusiasm. Scrape the Earth did their job as the opener and kicked the show off with a nuclear bang. 

    Second up was Water Into Blood, another band who I would be seeing for my third time. Unlike the last time when I saw them playing on the Phoenix side stage, the band looked more comfortable on the main stage and sounded really tight. The passion that comes from lead singer Michael McCubbin is astounding. The riffs were crushing and the heads in front of the stage were constantly banging along to the distorted rhythms. Again, the whole group sounded tight with each member hammering away on the same page. I still would like to see some more lead guitar playing, because the solo in the first song should be thrown in more often to add that element of excitement. Just my opinion though and overall they put on a strong set. 

    As Cyborg Octopus began setting up to go on third, I was given plenty of time to sell some vinyl and converse with the fellow metal maniacs. Eventually I started to wonder if the band was taking a bit too long to set up. Here is where I am going to say that the show did not go down south by any means, but compared to the other bands I felt the time it took them to set up could have been shortened. Upon finally getting all the members ready to go I was interested to hear how they would sound. Out of San Ramon, CA, the group is known to play "progressive metal" and let me say they are definitely progressive musical thinkers. They had a saxophone player who also played a keyboard guitar. Musically, they incorporated a lot of different time signatures while throwing in some funky jazz music to add a unique contrast. Personally, not my type of metal, but I do respect the musicianship and thought the two guitar players were quite talented. I would say they were the most experimental band who took to the stage. 

    Fourth up was no other than the vinyl fanatics and local die hard speed thrashers, Trecelence. After winning the Sonoma County Battle of the Bands I have found them to be at level that you do not hear to often from young up and coming acts. Their mix of technicality and old school  sounding thrash is solid and their dedication to the scene is without question. Tonight though would test Trecelence’s ability to soldier on through a shortened set time and a guitar string snapping during the first song. Yes, as the band began tearing away at a vicious thrash riff guitarist Donnie Small happened to have the misfortune of having a guitar string snapping. Luckily one of his roadies ran to the stage and handed him another guitar to use, but in the mean time guitarist Chris Olney Burnett was left to handle the riffs by himself. Bassist Zane Covington and drummer Ilan Cabrera kept the rhythm going and I think they were able to manage and not let it affect them. As the band’s set progressed and no other strings snapped, they looked extremely conformable on stage playing their songs that always received a big pop from the audience. By the time they reached their final song, the venue was buzzing and I could feel the positive metal energy from where I stood in the back. 

    After Trecelence finished the fifth act WRVTH took to the stage. These guys had a very unique lighting set up that in a way complimented their style of metal that had some atmospheric touches. I personally found the dynamic sound and emotional vibe from their music to be very impressive. Every second of their set had me paying attention and focusing my ears to the massive sound that would come from their compositions. Also, they too had a solid singer who pierced the musical landscape with some fierce growls. People wanted another song from them, but unfortunately they were having to adhere to the shortened time limit just like Trecelence. 

    Well, after WRVTH walked off the stage the final act began to set up for their face smashing set. Aberration, who I have seen a few times before, sure knows how to get a place going unbelievably crazy. They were also filming a music video, so the band kept telling the fans to not hold back and let out their extreme inner souls. Watching all this from where I was definitely made me appreciate the hard work that goes into getting a crowd excited and moving around. Singer James Owen unleashed some wicked vocals while revving up the crowd. Aberration never showed signs of slowing down and kept the intense atmosphere going until the last note was struck. 

    I think after the show most fans were dog tired, with a few still able to run up to the vinyl table when I had the prices go down to one dollar per vinyl. Sonoma Metal and Hardcore did it once again with an enjoyable all out metal show at the Phoenix Theater. I think all the bands gave people their metal fix and hopefully we see more shows with some of these bands in the future. Keep coming out and keep supporting the scene. There is a reason heavy metal is still alive and kicking while disco is buried six feet under. I just hope metal bands don’t get too experimental and start mixing metal with disco...That would sound scary...please, do not attempt if you are a band. 


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Atrament "Eternal Downfall"

    Out of the extreme darkness that lurks in the shadows of Oakland, CA comes a crusty blackened group with plenty of unforgiving music to offer listeners. Atrament is a band that may at first present a very straightforward extreme sound on their debut album, “Eternal Downfall,” but if you listen long enough you can hear some diverse sounding agony and aggression. 

    With a d-beat combine harvester like style that grinds feverishly away at thunderous compositions and vocals that unleash growls of blackened death terror, the band takes listeners into a world of endless chaos. From the album’s open song, “No Beyond,” I felt consumed by an unforgiving presence that was perfectly captured in the album’s recording quality. Atrament digs deep in the extreme earth to exhume a vicious style of music and the songs on this album maintain a consistent mentality. Once you start, there is no stop to the instrumental onslaught. 

    Following the opening song, I really became interested in the group’s mix of crust and blackened death. Their vocalist is unbelievable with his growls and the recording of his vocals allows listeners to vividly hear his talents. Also, the guitar riffs are simply brutal... Just imagine an axe wielding demon hacking away at corpses and that is how I would describe the guitar sound on this album. Each distorted riff compliments the band’s overall aggressive nature and the attitude that comes from the guitar playing makes the music demand attention. Tracks such as “Aberration” and “Consumed” display a tight sounding band that is almost trying to narrate the end of the world by writing this type of sinister sounding music. 

    Another area of the album that in a way solidifies the overall sound is the rhythm section. For a band that is trying to convey such an extreme sounding message, they need that solid backbone from their drummer and bass player. I would say that Atrament’s drummer and bass player perform at a top notch level and do their best to keep that hellish adrenaline pumping style moving ahead. “Hericide” is one track that I think captures the solid sound that originates from the band’s rhythmic backbone. 

    Overall, the band just pounds away with no regret and no remorse to really break the silence by offering such extreme sounding tracks. I will be honest, some tracks start to sound a bit repetitive and that happens with a group that is writing music in a style that has countless other types who write in a similar vein. However, there are tracks on this album that in my opinion are at the top level of crust and blackened extreme music. Following the track, “Rotting Twilight,” I felt the band closed out the album with some brilliant ideas that if you listened to carefully, contained a vast amount of unique creativity. The last song, “Dusk Abuse,” is a cinematic mind altering guitar driven piece that wraps up the whole intense musical journey in a way that words can not describe and can only be felt when listening. 

    I think it is great to see another Bay Area extreme band put out a powerful release that hits at the core of extreme musical expression. Atrament joins the ranks with their debut album, “Eternal Downfall,” alongside many other top acts from the region. Hope to hear more from these dudes in the future! Hopefully mankind is still around...

Band Facebook Page: 

Atrament Live: 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Interview with Wraith from Ethos

   Not too often do you discover a solid up and coming Black Metal outfit that is not from Europe and does not write gimmicky lyrics about their admiration for Satan. Ethos from Livermore, CA is definitely a band to be on the look out for as they continue to release new material. After hearing their EP, “Empty Path”, I decided to reach out and send some interview questions to the band member who is know as “Wraith.” Here are his responses to my questions...

Q1: Hi Wraith, thanks for taking the time to answer these questions about Ethos. After listening to your EP on youtube I really wanted to discuss your music and give the people who read this blog a chance to learn more about the band. To begin, when did the group form and start writing music? Also, what instrument do you play in the band? 

Wraith: The group formed in November of 2014. From the start I already had one song written which was empty path. After I was positive that this band was going to be a serious project for me, I got in contact with the person who is currently doing Bass/Vocals and he laid down the vocals on the very first recording of the song that we attempted. I recorded the drums and guitar for the first few recordings.

Q2: Your EP “Empty Path” is a really solid sounding release that reminds me of a variety of different Scandinavian Black Metal bands to the point where I don’t think it would be right to compare you to just a few names. Although, I was wondering if there are any bands who have influenced you as a musician and might have helped shaped your musical identity? 

Wraith: At the time I really was into old school Swedish death metal and the second wave of black metal that had hit Norway and Poland (Graveland,early Behemoth,early Immortal, Darkthrone) Although not Scandinavian Inquisition was one of my main interests in the black metal genre. I also believe that Finnish death metal is extremely well composed, I’m not sure what it is about bands from that country but they rarely have generic boring sounding music. Purtenance and Krypts are good examples of the Finnish death metal sound. And last of all, I take a lot of interest in Ambient music, such as the album Zeit by Tangerine Dream, or Sol austan mani vestan by Burzum.

Q3: I wanted to now talk about the overall recording experience of “Empty Path.” When was it recorded? Also, where did you record the EP? Were there are struggles when recording the EP? Lastly, how pleased are you with the final product? 

Wraith: There were many struggles with trying to get the right sound because that was the first legit recording that the four of us ever attempted. For the Ep's recording we had a drummer and a separate bassist (although now the vocalist plays the bass). At first I was very pleased with the final production, but looking back at it now, I think it could've been executed better.

Q4: Talking about the music making process, what do you think makes a strong black metal song? Sometimes bands just sound gimmicky by trem picking randomly and coming up with repetitive compositions. Do you try to push the boundaries of black metal by offering a more dynamic sound? 

Wraith: Of course I do, the last thing I want to do musically is be a generic gimmicky tremolo picking no feel band. The problem with a lot of bands nowadays is that they rush the music writing process just to be able to get the material done and perform on stage. I think anybody can make a black metal band and get big locally just by playing boring black metal, but that type of stuff only goes so far, in the end its not really original nor does it stand out. I would rather have 5 well composed songs on my Cd than 15 boring songs on it. In all honesty I think the songs " Empty Path and Myriad Visions " were the only good songs on the Ep. Im pretty sure that I can do a lot better than those last two songs on the recording, which I have done, there are quite a few new ethos songs that I have been working on and recording that i think completely top anything on the Ep.

Q5: Now it can hard to pick one song, but if you were to pick your favorite track on the EP, which one would it be? I personally enjoy, “Myriad Visions,” because the intro riff to that song literally tears away at the soul in an unapologetic nature. 

Wraith: Myriad Visions is definitely my track of choice of the Ep, the song would be a lot more heavier if it was re-recorded with more accuracy. That is something I am actually working on right now.

Q6: Looking at your Facebook Page I was surprised to see that you guys are from Livermore, CA. I grew up most of my life in San Ramon, CA which is not too far from Livermore, so I was surprised to see a Black Metal band from the area. Honestly, I thought you guys might have been from Europe when listening to the EP. I was wondering if you could describe the metal scene out there in Livermore? Is there any scene? Do you get the chance to play live often? 

Wraith: There is not really a black metal scene out here from what I know. If there was I’m pretty sure I would've known by now or at least I would have run into somebody who listens to black metal since its a really small town. I actually get a whole lot of offers to play shows, some that might pay and some that are just for the local California scene, but unfortunately Ethos cannot play any shows right now because we don’t have a drummer. I could play the drums live without a problem but it wouldn't feel right for me to have someone else play my riffs on stage since I’m mainly a guitarist.

Q7: Lastly, I wanted to maybe get a glimpse of the future for Ethos. Is there any plans to record another EP or maybe a full-length album? 

Wraith: I recently got a studio to record, so maybe by spring time or early summer there should be some much better material finalized.The next release will without a doubt be a full length album, possibly followed by some shows if everything works out. I'm just waiting until the right time to release this material. 

Listen to Ethos Here: 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Concert Review: Valley Fire Benefit Show at the Phoenix 2/6/16


    Heavy Metal and a good cause, that is what went down at the Phoenix Theater this past Saturday night. The night featured six bands looking to appease the local metal scene with extreme riffs and mosh pit forming tunes of unapologetic brutality. 

    A good amount of metal maniacs and enthusiastic headbangers showed up to support the bands. Also, the proceeds from this event went to help those affected by the Valley Fire, so major respect for the people who put this whole show together. With a line-up featuring Predation, Gangrene, Shadow of Eve, The King Must Die, Water Into Blood and Hatriot, this was a solid bill for a good cause. 

    Opening the show on the Phoenix’s side stage was up and coming locals Predation. Their slamming style of metal definitely offered people a pissed off sounding performance to start off the show. I was really impressed by the singer’s aggression and stage presence. He did not waste time in walking into the crowd to growl his heart out over heavily distorted crushing riffs. Unfortunately, there were some strange feedback issues going in between songs with one of the mics, but the band soldiered on and inished a fairly strong opening set. 

    Second up was Gangrene, who I had seen twice before and was at their first show. This time would be different, because the band has added a second guitarist. Yes, Gangrene is stepping up their game and adding to their already unforgiving distorted mountain troll sized sound. The band mixes slow death doom with these unique timings that give them a distinct sound. Also, I have noticed the band getting some more grindcore like elements in their sound which I would like to see them pursue. Overall, I hear some improvements and they really delivered on the venue’s main stage. 

    Switching back to the side stage, everyone was getting ready for Shadow of Eve to  begin their set. I saw them the week before and I do believe that they are one of the scene’s young bands on the rise. Before their set began, the band and the Phoenix’s sound engineers were trying to sort out some speaker problems that caused a few fans to take a step back from the stage since they were worried that something might explode. After the sound issues were resolved and nothing exploded, the band cranked up the distortion and hit away at a wicked piece of music. They are really focusing on developing a tight sound and the riffs are solid. In time I am sure the band will continue to develop more musical complexity and technicality, but each member is making sure they have down their parts. 

Shadow of Eve

    Fourth up was The King Must Die, a group of veterans who have plenty of experience and passion for metal music. Their set was full of high energy, which all originated from the band’s singer who was running all over the stage. I liked the mix of thrash and punk that at times could turn on the brutality button and get the heads banging in front of the stage. Dashiel McKenzie the singer from another veteran local band, Trial by Combat, joined The King Must Die on stage for one song that sounded extreme to the bone. The dual vocal style worked well and the fans were definitely responding positively once they finished with a thunderous applause. 

    As The King Must Die wrapped up, Water Into Blood quickly began setting up on the side stage. I have to be honest, that side stage can be tough for a band due to the small amount of space. With a drummer, two guitar players, a bass player and a singer, Water into Blood looked as if they had little room to move around. No surprise when the singer decided to follow in the footsteps of Predation’s vocalist and just sing right in the crowd. They put on a solid sounding performance and one could tell they have been playing for some time now. I just felt like they could have added some more variety to their songs. Towards the end though I really dug the chord progressions and the one lead guitar part is something I want to hear more from them. 

    Closing the night was Hatriot, the one band who was not from the Sonoma County area. This East Bay group is highly talked about in the Bay Area metal community, and the bass player/singer and drummer are the sons of Exodus frontman Steve Zetro Souza. Steve actually was in the band at one time before rejoining Exodus. Hatriot right now though sounds unbelievably good and their set was hands down the most exciting. Not saying that the other bands did not sound good, but Hatriot simply killed during their set. The lead guitar playing from Justin Sakogawa and Kosta V. was at a level that I do not hear that often from up and coming players. Both of them shredded and traded-off solos with ease while rocking out in full force. Cody Souza is an impressive frontman just like his father and a talented bass player too. Nick Souza did well behind the kit and knows a thing or two about thrash style drumming. I think the band was having a great time since they decided to do an encore and right before the last song Cody expressed a desire to return to the Sonoma County. I really hope they do! 

    There you have it folks, another awesome and well put together metal show that went towards a great cause. Yet another example of why our scene is thriving and getting bands from out of the area interested in visiting. Let’s keep the metal passion going and try to make our way out to the next headbanging event!