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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Muknal: EP

Although modest in length, clocking in under 20 minutes, this EP released by Muknal in 2012 is a real gem for fans of underground black and death metal. The first track, Cruciation, is chock full of tremolo riffs and wicked pick sliding. These caustic musical elements, juxtaposed over  atmospheric and haunting vocals, results in an expansive and dissonant soundscape. The shifts in tempo and key are natural and flow well, but it makes it difficult to tell when one song ends and the next begins. The musical style is defined by an aura of eerie tension and unease. Although the lyrics are delivered in an indicipherable growl, the songs invoke a sense of awe, wonder, and fear of the unknown. 

The band derives their name from the Actun Tunichil Muknal caves in Belize, an ancient site rich in human remains and artifacts, suggesting a history of ritual sacrifice. The album art is clearly also inspired by these caves. I'm no artist, but I know some bitchin' contrast of positive and negative space when I see it. The soft glowing orbs in and around the cavern resemble stars, superimposing  earthly rock formations with the vastness of the celestial. The cover art reflects the music: A paradox of aesthetic sophistication with raw, primal forces of nature. 

From a technical point of view, the production quality is decent, and the musicianship rivals many other black metal bands. There are no clean vocals or sweeping orchestral arrangements to differentiate them from the rest of the blackened death metal crowd.  Weirdly enough, their lack of novelty actually IS a novelty. If you like your metal TRVE, heavy, and purely dark, this will scratch your itch. Three stars out of five. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Strangled By Strangulation: EP

As you could probably tell from the band name, this is a tongue-in-cheek death metal band. They are very self-aware of the genre and its recurring cliches. Song titles such as "Cupcake Massacre" and "Cut, paste, copy, kill" are a testament to this fact. For better or for worse, if you listened to the music without this context, you would never know it's a parody, because indeed they sound like most death metal bands. Strangled By Strangulation hail from California, which is also home to Ghoul, masters of metal satire. Their musical style suggests influences from bands such as Dying Fetus, Cannibal Corpse, and Deicide.

Their musicianship is spot on, characterized by breakdowns, blast beats, double kick drums, and caustic riffs. The band even acknowledges the utilization of generic gutteral growls, known amongst the metal community as cookie monster vocals.  This is brutal death metal with an influence of grind, perfect for blaring in your eardrums at 70 decibels or more.  They're worth a listen, but admittedly they can get lost in the mix of several other death metal acts.  Three stars out of five.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Carrion Kind: The Collapse Of All To Come

The Collapse Of All To Come is the first album released by Santa Fe death metal band, Carrion Kind.  More rhythmic than melodic, there is an underlying groove to the music, reminiscent of Sepultura and Pantera. Thrashy death metal riffs and raging solos overlap with the thunderous percussion. Morbid lyrics are brought to life with Jayson Grace's gutteral vocals. The subject matter revolves around dark themes such as the self-destructive nature of humanity, and mass corruption on a global scale.

From the remains of old school Santa Fe metal bands such as Fallen Hope, Grinkai, and The Seventh Circle (to name a few), the members of Carrion Kind boast years of experience in the underground music scene. The  style of The Collapse Of All To Come suggests technical proficiency and a familiarity with music theory, yet it is also defined by raw musical talent. This isn't overproduced or overly polished. It is just refined enough to showcase their technical prowess, but make no mistake that this album stems from primal rage and righteous indignation. The music itself is fittingly aggressive and brutal, appealing to the disillusioned and dejected masses.

Everything from the complex yet catchy song structures, to the nihilistic lyrics, and even the sinister album art reflects the militant mindset of Carrion Kind and the music they make. You can check out their music on BandcampReverbnation, or Carrion Kind's own website. The Collapse Of All To Come would be a great addition to any Metalhead's collection, especially fans of old school thrash and death metal. Plus, it's a steal at only $7. What's not to like? Four stars out of five.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Savage Wizdom: A New Beginning

Santa Fe based power-metal champions Savage Wizdom have finally released their highly anticapated album, A New Beginning. Before I even opened the CD case, the bitchin' cover art already had me enraptured with this album. The striking image of a snake devouring its own tail is an ancient emblem with profound symbolism, a perfect image to embody the album,  exemplefying the triumph over adversity and the cyclic nature of good vs evil.

The music opens up with The Sands Of Time, a somber instrumental, then abruptly descends into heavier territory with the title track. A New Beginning is  a favorite anthem amongst local  rockers, who often sing along and headbang in unison. Another well known track is Do Or Die, originally released as a demo, which has been rerecorded and is heavier than ever. This is a lightning-speed, hard-hitting, bombastic account of a man's confrontation with the grim reaper.  Although Savage Wizdom remains true to the archetype of power metal that fans came to know and love from their debut, their  newest album indicates more musical maturity with heavier themes. Fans of the beefy riffs and righteous shredding of No Time For Mercy will not be disappointed, yet the subject matter is no longer fantasy escapism. The lyrics delve into deeper and more human fights against evil.  More pensive than most of the other tracks (excepting the maudlin ballad Far Away), Shattered Lives is my favorite song on the album. This is a song inspired by, and dedicated to, the children who struggled to survive in a Nazi regime. The lyrics are poignant and melancholy, complimented by the sorrowful melody plummeting into furious shredding.  Even a track like The Barbarian, which invokes Manowar with its primitive rhythm and haughty riffs, shows an unpretentious authenticity and raw talent that a more polished piece might conceal.

And did I mention that Blayze freaking Bayley does guest vocals for Let It Go? Goddamn right he does. This latest offering proves that Savage Wizdom has evolved and improved from their memorable debut. Although No Time For Mercy is a great album, A New Beginning is far more refined and focused. Absolutely fantastic. Four stars out of five.