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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Salt For Knives: Conglomerate Of Misery

Salt For Knives was recently formed from the remains of legendary old-school NM death metal bands. Their debut, Conglomerate Of Misery, is a fine specimen of unrefined, raw, brutal death metal (And,  being available on Bandcamp, is yours for the ludicrous price of only $5). The music is extremely cacophonous, especially for those not acquainted with the genre. Dissonance and chaos define the band. One is bombarded by a fussilade of percussion, violent guitar riffs, and low pitched growls and screams. The lyrics are the typical death metal canon of mortality, destruction, hatred, and emnity. Certain elements of frontman Frank Green's previous work in Grinkai are carried over into this new project, notably the funky guitar riffs in the closing track,  Break. However,  this album is exemplary in its own right. Some bands are doomed to be cast in the shadows of their predecessors, but Salt For Knives definitely hold their ground.

The music itself is outstanding, but I was also drawn to the creepy cool album art, which is a macabre reminder of the fleeting, ephemeral nature of life, and the looming imminence of death. Impactful and fairly straightforward, the artwork also has some subtle nuances. For example, the clashing colors are indicative of the jarring, discordant music. Those familiar with Wiccan lore may also  recognize that all five elements (earth, air, fire, water, and spirit) are represented.

This is what you listen to when you're simply pissed off at the world, or if you naturally have a fixation on the darkness. This is pure death metal undiluted by any qualifiers or subgenres. The way I usually judge a studio album is by asking myself the question: "Does it make me want to see them in concert?" In this instance, my answer is an emphatic "Fuck yeah."  Four stars out of five.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Yar: Yar

Yar is a Santa Fe based thrash metal band characterized by wicked intricate guitar licks , harsh vocals, and lightning speed drumming. The result is a tortured, angry, and cathartic flashback to the death/thrash metal of the late 80's. I do not invoke the name "Death" in vain, and I can honestly say that  Yar emulates their seminal album, Scream Bloody Gore. Obviously, Yar has an updated sound that will appeal to modern metalheads, but their musical inspiration from the likes of Chuck Shuldiner is apparent.  The sound quality of this self-titled demo is impressive.  Although distorted and caustic, the music is delivered with  crispness and  clarity. With only three tracks, each of which is superb, it's hard to play favorites. In fact, no particular song outshines the others, but each brings something different to the table while being cohesive with the rest of the album.

I can't help but assume that Urge To Brew has something to do with beer. It has a straightforward yet intoxicating rhythm, juxtaposed with low growls delivering indecipherable lyrics. If you needed an excuse to wear acid washed jeans and high  top Adidas, this is it. The instrumentation has a dark depth to it, and although Urge To Brew is brilliant in its simplicity, it also features some memorable moments of epic shredding.

Emerald Cave is an intriguing track, with it's cryptic title, rowdy guitar riffs, and frantic tempo. Personally, I have a need for speed and this song satisfies. If you ever get the pleasure of seeing Yar live, this will be the song that make you bang your head so hard that you will bruise your sternum from repeated impact with your chin. I'm speaking from experience, and I am not fucking kidding. Again, the vocals sound awesome but are nearly impossible to understand (the only words I could make out were "entrance" and "darkness"), but that does nothing to diminish the impact of this magnificently brutal track.

System Suicide, like early speed and thrash,  is clearly inspired by the aggression of punk rock but unmistakably metal in essence. Those damn catchy guitar riffs will get stuck in your head, and it's easy to lose yourself in the machine-gun style  percussion. Also, that's one hell of a solo. This is a well executed yet organic song, full of pure rage and energy.

All things considered, this release hangs together well, but each song still retains its own unique depth and texture. Most demos don't sound half this good. Feel free to give Yar some love on Bandcamp and Facebook   Four stars out of five.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Fallen Hope / Cassovita Split

Fallen Hope was the original incarnation of the band that is known today as Cassovita. For those who missed out on golden years of Santa Fe metal, imagine the technical, intricate instrumental compositions that characterize the modern Cassovita, overlapped with deep, guttural growls. I know, it's just as delicious as I remember.

This EP includes remastered classics as well as more contemporary material. As a whole, the music is deviant and unusual. You won't hear anything like this on the radio waves. Soaring consonant soundscapes plummet into abysmal, agitated guitars and  furious percussion.   Rhythm guitars chug confidently while the leads are defined by beautiful, complex melodies. There is also ample and interesting experimentation with rhythmic patterns and tempo changes. Unlike the balls-to-the-wall aggression  into which most metal is unfortunately typecast, these lyrics are pensive and introspective.

The instruments, especially the drums,  can be somewhat choppy, but that has more to do with the production quality than the musicianship of the band. In fact, they play with surgical precision. The anatomy (or should I say architecture) It is extremely structured and technical, but also anchored by a primal, raw, emotive quality. This music reminds me of how the rigid logic of the conscious mind is ultimately guided by the id. Or, to quote Nietzsche: "The will to overcome an emotion is ultimately only the will of another emotion or several others."

The music, is in fact, a tangled matrix of conflicted feelings. Sorrow, anger, and even euphoria are all exemplefied, but the underlying cornerstone seems to be one of sadness. These songs are not the stuff of mosh pits, but they will keep you headbanging like a windmill all night long, baby.

This split, as well as other releases, are available on  Bandcamp. My verdict? Fallen Hope and Cassovita are heavy enough to satisfy purists, but beautiful enough to differentiate themselves from the crowd.  Four stars out of five.