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Monday, July 28, 2014

Narjahanam: Wa ma Khhufiya Kana A'atham

Great news! Undead Goathead is so Metal that it has been outlawed by the Saudi Arabian government. To celebrate, I will review Narjahanam, a blackened death metal band from the Middle East whose  name translates to "Hellfire" or "The Fires Of Hell." The musical style is heavily influenced by the traditional Middle Eastern culture, with Arabian instruments played in traditional scales and melodies. The gutteral vocals are also sung in their native tongue. These traditional/folk elements are  juxtaposed over distorted guitars and death metal style drumming, resulting in a striking musical contrast. Their ability to blend such drastically different music theories is truly impressive.

Stylistically speaking, their inspiration from the likes of Nile and Behemoth is apparent. Mardus, the lead singer, has a demanding vocal presence and charisma, emulating  the vocalists for earlier black and death metal bands. The guitars, played by Busac, are defined by dark, brutal riffs which open up into melodic solos. Admittedly, the drum and bass lines often get lost in the mix, but otherwise this is a very high quality, expertly  composed, and well executed album. The tracklisting is as follows:

As implied by song titles such as "Book Of Rituals" and "More Wicked Is That Which Remains Unseen",  the lyricists are simultaneously morbid and poetic. From a technical standpoint, the music is on par with any other blackened death acts, and the unique influence of Arabian instruments and scales actually make Narjahanam surpass some of their Western counterparts. All this, topped with the fact that they are risking their lives for the music they love, and you can't help but appreciate how truly badass Narjahanam  is. Four stars out of five.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Shade Empire: Omega Arcane

Shade Empire, a symphonic black metal band from Finland,  are clearly influenced by  the likes of  Dimmu Borgir. However,  I believe Shade Empire surpasses their role models in technical prowess and emotional impact. Omega Arcane is a complicated yet cohesive album, the kind you can hear a hundred times and notice some new detail with each listen. 

Omega Arcane maintains a  precarious balance between melodic ambiance and raw heaviness. The album is simultaneously atmospheric and grotesque. The sound walls are multi-layered and complex, but the long tracks and slow tempos prevent it from being overwhelming. Intricate piano melodies emulate the baroque masters. The epic grandeur of the orchestral compositions  are complemented by acoustic guitars, bringing it all back down to earth. The drumming is inconspicuous but nevertheless provides a rhythmic backbone to the melodies.

The vocals are predominantly black metal screams, but there are occasional female cleans, notably in my favorite track, Disembodiment. The orchestral elements are at their peak in Disembodiment, which opens with suspenseful yet understated violins. The intro to this song is tantalizingly subtle, slowly blossoming into an intense black metal style. Several other songs feature atmospheric chorals in the background. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the album, although I'm used to faster tempos, faster songs, and shorter records. However, symphonic black metal is a niche  genre for those who can appreciate lengthy, nuanced, and epic music. All things considered, Shade Empire are skilled musicians and Omega Arcane is a testament to their abilities. Four stars out of five.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Upcoming Shows *UPDATED*

Talk about too good to be true! I would burn candles to every God I know just to see Summer Slaughter. That line up is beyond sick.

Meanwhile, Metal U-Night will be presenting East Bound And Death tour at Malarky's in Albuqurque on the 17th, featuring local bands Defleshment and Fallen Prophets. 

Don't miss Four Corners Metal Festival in Farmington, NM. Over 15 bands will be playing all day long, and it's an all ages event. 

 Hating Nate (formerly known as HN-88) are calling it quits after countless years of providing Santa Fe with some much needed Punk. They will be joined by locals Almost A Lie and Rockin' Rascals from Denver. 

Speaking of bands calling it quits, I hope you didn't miss As In We's swan song at the Santa Fe Bandstand on 07/15/14. That was one hell of a show. They are splitting up indefinitely, but who knows? Besides, at least you can check them out on Bandcamp, Reverbnation, or their official website.

Santa Fe Bandstand is an ongoing event, and you can check out the schedule here. This is not necessarily Metal, but a diverse array of genres and plenty of Rock n' Roll. 

Last but not least, The Santa Fe Reporter will be hosting the annual Best Of Santa Fe Block Party at the Railyard this Saturday. The top 3 bands voted by readers will be performing, so there's a pretty good chance that we'll be seeing some heavy fuckin' Metal. Even if not, it's a good excuse to grab a drink at 2nd Street Brewery. See you there, my friends.


This is going to be Oscillation's final show, at least for the time being. In other words, yet another band is breaking up indefinitely. Frankly, I'm starting to lose count.  Let's make this last show a good one, with support from Torn Between Worlds, Carrion Kind, and 3 Weeks Later.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Conquerors Of The World

 Holy shit, just look at that sexy lineup. If you missed the show in Albuqurque on the 11th (or anywhere else they already played), sucks to be you. Here's what happened during their performance at Blackwater Music.

Endless Infection, from Albuqurque,  opened the show with blackened death metal.  The drums and riffs persisted at breakneck speed, accompanied by nasty, heavy growls. Their overall sound was primally aggressive yet complex, setting the standard for the rest of the night. 

Deforme, also from Albuqurque,  was a flashback to old-school death metal like Vital Remains and Suffocation. The ruthless music was a catalyst for rowdy mosh pits. Beastly gutterals and thrashy guitar riffs, layered over heavy percussion, resulted in a truly evil sound.

Necronomicon, a 3 piece  black metal group from Montreal, rivaled the headliners in theatrics and musical prowess. Their performance style was defined by atmospheric yet brutal soundwalls. Mid-paced guitar melodies were juxtaposed over dark growls and, for one especially memorable track, haunting female vocals.

Black Crown Initiate diversified the concert, being the only prog band amongst a plethora of black and death metal groups. The vocals were a combination of maudlin cleans and death growls. The melodies were multilayered and melancholy.  Although they were more ambient and less aggressive than the other acts, the music was heavy and the performers are clearly talented musicians. 

Fleshgod Apocalypse was fucking ace. They were at their peak when playing their magnum opus, The Violation. The astounding range in the clean vocals sounded better in the studio than on the stage. However, the relentless gutteral vocals  sounded excellent, especially when juxtaposed over Francesco Paoli's exquisite drumming, who is not only insane but inhuman playing over 300 BPM. Not to mention the eye candy of a bunch of hot Italian dudes wearing tuxedos and corpse paint.

Septicflesh sounded drastically different from their performance at Hellfest, which I've mentioned was nearly identical to their studio recordings. Conquerors Of The World was more like a live show, with more improvisations and audience interaction. I especially enjoyed when Spiros Antoniou would say: "On the count of three, together we destroy," inciting furious headbanging and lethal mosh pits. Three days later, and I still have whiplash.

 The small venue was somewhat claustrophobic for such elaborate, high octane music, yet that was part of the appeal. It made the music overwhelmingly loud and mosh pits virtually inescapable. Even if you weren't in the heart of the slam dance, you would leave the show with a bruise or two. Overall, the concert was damn near perfect. Five stars out of five.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mechina: Empyrean

This album exemplifies the phrase "Iron Fist in a velvet glove." The music is deceptively ambient, belying the innate heaviness and brutality. The result is an oppressively melancholy soundscape with understated blast beats and sorrowful melodies. The clean vocals are surreal and dreamlike, and some tracks even incorporate the female voice. This is no "Beauty and the beast" nonsense, however. The arrangements are tasteful and demure,  often interrupted by more intense gutteral vocals. The drastic contrast between delicate beauty and brute power is more of a blending of styles, instead of sounding disjointed or scattered. The masculine and feminine qualities of Empyrean are inexorably intertwined, like a yin yang.

 Unlike technical bands who focus on playing fast, difficult pieces, Mechina focuses on milking each note for all its worth.  They are masters of  virtuosity, and the mid-paced progressions convey their melodic prowess. Empyrean is a brilliantly executed pinnacle of ambient metal, and it speaks volumes of Mechina's talent as performers and composers. Four stars out of five.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Dark Angel: Darkness Descends

This is the epitome of thrash. All the power and fury of death metal, plus the fast-paced aggression of punk rock, results in this phenomenal album. Much heavier and faster than their contemporaries, Dark Angel are masters of their craft, and Darkness Descends was a definitive album both for the band and the genre. The bass lines maintain a subtle but pervasive groove.  The drumming, although exemplary, is often overshadowed by furious guitar hooks and Don Doty's outstanding vocals. When the drums are emphasized, however, all hell breaks loose. Gene Hoglan is a beast on the skins, considered by many to be one of the best in thrash.  

 Part of the stylistic appeal of Darkness Descends was its unpredictable nature. Headbang-worthy rhythms would shift into faster mosh riffs, and Don Doty's voice ranges from throaty growls to higher pitched screams.    The most memorable track is The Burning Of Sodom, which has the catchiest melody, most brutal instrumentation, and most subversive lyrics. Throughout the album, the subject matter ranges from religious hypocrisy, to horrors of war, and even the indignity of life-support. Nothing was sacred, and  Dark Angel left no taboo unsung.

Overall, this is an exceptional album, especially considering it was made in the aesthetic no-man's-land known as year 1986. Bands like Poison were considered metal back then. Yuck. Dark Angel broke the mold with meaner, nastier music, longer tracks, and even cooler album art. What's not to love? Five stars out of five.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Infinite Waste: Ghost Town

Featuring members of Burning Monk and Apocryphon, Infinite Waste is an Oakland, CA based Grindcore band. Their new release, Ghost Town, is discordant and vicious, but the vocals stand out as being especially brutal. Matt Eiseman and Jamison Kester are both outrageously aggressive in their approach to singing, and they also play guitar and bass, respectively. Meanwhile, drummer Kevin Swartz maintains a furious pace, emulating the punk rock influences of his previous work in Burning Monk. Although Infinite Waste is more grind than punk, some songs have irresistably moshable riffs. Consumer Suicide is one such auditory assault, and the guitar work is outstanding. The lyrics are also a scathing condemnation of greed and materialism (what did you expect from a song titled "Consumer Suicide?), and indeed the lyrical content throughout the entire album is socio-political critique. The world is a fucked up place, and boy, are they pissed off.

The scope of Infinite Waste's grievances encompass worldwide problems, but also places the onus of responsibility on the individual. Mass corruption occurs when everyday people are indifferent. Although these themes define the album, the more introspective track Swallow The Sun injects some surreal darkness. Strategically placed in the middle of the album, this song introduces a slower, sludgier pace with poetic imagery, and prevents Ghost Town from becoming monotonous. Overall, this is a cohesive album with enough surprises thrown in to keep the listener on his toes, and it offers tantalizing possibilities for Infinite Waste to follow up with new material. Four stars out of five.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Inquisition: Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

Ominous Doctrines Of The Perpetual Macrocosm, the 2010 release by atmospheric black metal titans Inquisition, is a transcendent yet subversive delve into the realms beyond human comprehension. Like Wolves In The Throne Room, their musical style overwhelms the listener with subtlety.  Eerie soundscapes of dissonant guitars and jarring vocals make a sensory experience as intimidating as space itself.  The ambient growls are more fitting for the lyrical content of infinite, eternal  vastness, whereas the leads fall flat and frankly, sound like the work of an ameteur. However, this is only a technical point of view. Personally, I think the album hangs together by virtue of it's own authenticity, including the low-quality sound recording.

 The appeal of Inquisition is the raw nature of the music. This is very ambient, auditory stream-of-consciousness. Even the lead vocals, while unappealing at first, were an aquired taste that ultimately proved to be integral to the whole. This is an album that strives to embody the colossal, the celestial, and the mystical, and succeeds to do so, despite the modest budget. As I've mentioned, they couldn't afford to sell out even if they wanted to. The lack of polished artifice is actually what made the album so inviting to me. Everything from the album art to the production quality is a testament to the band's dedication to keep their integrity to their roots. Admittedly, the occasional sound clips were rather distracting, but otherwise, it was an enjoyably unrefined LP.  Three stars out of five.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Acrassicauda: Gilgamesh *UPDATED*

Exiled from their homeland for playing heavy metal, Iraqi band Acrassicauda are now funding the production of their first full length album. The release will be titled Gilgamesh, named after the eponymous epic and mythological figure. There are only a few days left to make your donation, so show some support for these badasses before it's too late. Although you can give any amount you wish, the minimum contribution is only $1, which costs less than the miniature of whiskey you're drinking right now.

If the name Acrassicauda sounds familiar to you, thank the groundbreaking (and award winning) documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad. This is a film that chronicled the struggles the band faced while playing "The devil's music" in a land torn and tattered by war. Far from being Satanic or evil, Acrassicauda's lyrics are in fact eloquent criticisms of  political and social corruption. Titles such as "Only The Dead See The End Of War" and "Garden Of Stones" evoke images of ruin, decay, and violence. Similarly, the music itself is shaped by righteous indignation and anger, the inevitable result of a lifetime of adversity.

To make a pledge, visit their official Kickstarter Page. For those of you unfamiliar with kickstarter campaigns, you can choose to get a reward, depending on how much you pledge. For example, $10 or more will earn you free download of the complete album, plus artwork and lyrics. A more generous donation of $1,000 or more will earn you an autographed guitar and T-shirt, with physical copies of the album (including a vinyl LP!), plus  your name will be mentioned on the album credits. You can also choose to donate any amount with no reward, just to help out their cause.

Show some support, and let the band know that they have a family as long as they have Metal. Ars longa, vita brevis!

They finally made their goal! Hell yeah! It's about time we got some good news. Horns up! \m/