VORE – Gravehammer

US death metal veterans VORE have returned with a muscular beast of an album in Gravehammer, a release that uses an arsenal of thunderous carnivorous riffs in league with soul tapping grooves and satanic borne melodic guitars. This combination ensures complete submission to its devilish intent and mesmeric deathly charms, Gravehammer an album that throws out its addictive grinds and hooks to lure, capture and manipulate eager senses completely.

Gravehammer is the fourth self financed release from the band and the long awaited and anticipated follow up to 2005 album Maleficus.  Through the previous album and Dead Kings Eyes (1997) and Lord of Storms (2001) before it VORE has gathered strong acclaim from media and fans alike. Now with the new album the band are set to ignite metal once more with a release that sees the band with even more formidable aggression and intensity. The Arkansas-based trio of guitarist and vocalist Page Townsley, bass and vocals Jeremy Partin, and drummer Remy Cameron have a deserved reputation for creating some of the most crushing doom soaked death metal to crawl into the ear since their beginning in 1994 but with Gravehammer they have lifted it up many levels and though the album maybe not be the most unique it is one of the more creatively and aurally addictive releases within the genre for a long time.

The album consists of nine pulsating doom laden marches upon the ear veined with challenging unrelenting riffs and melodically toned grooves that scythe their way to the heart whilst lighting up every sense with irresistible lures. The tracks fuse thrash and metal flavours into a death metal base to create soundscapes that are varied and inviting whilst still consuming with deep punished energy and incisive attention grabbing guitars fuelled by scorching melodic invention.  Opening track ‘The Cruelest Construct’ instantly demands attention with a heavy waspish grind over thumping chunky riffs. Intimidating vocals from the deepest pit bring forth the vengeance themed track, Townsley’s deep gutturals a natural companion to the hammering rhythms and unrelenting groove. 

Every track within Gravehammer is compulsive and satisfying, each a thrusting abundance of brutal yet captivating chugging riffs and mesmeric invention. From the sinister stalking ‘The Unseen Hand’ to the wicked fascination of ‘Sacerdotum Tyrannis’ and its aural manipulations, via ‘Doomwhore’ with its stunning hostile expanse and a resonating bass to lose control over and ‘The Claw Is The Law’, its intrusive tight caustic riffs lined with a Lovecraftian type horrific atmosphere, the album is a maelstrom of nasty but irresistible pleasures. The track lastly mentioned features Steve Allington (Apea), Mike Rodgers (Nailed To Eternity/Epitaph), Jason Lowery (Antarctichrist), and former band member John Volker in a group vocal chorus as forceful and threatening as the chugging riffs driving the song.

It may have felt a lifetime between albums but Gravehammer wonderfully shows the return of VORE was worth waiting for. The album might not be driving death metal in new directions or creating deeply unique new experiences but its parade of the blackest and most deeply rewarding slabs of slow punishing and welcomingly penetrating sounds is one of the most honest and satisfying releases heard these past months and there have been quite a few fine contenders.

http://www.vore.org/

RingMaster 15/12/2011

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Ritual – The Resurrection

After a twelve year wait US black metalers Ritual has returned with a new impressive album in The Resurrection, a release that despite a long hiatus shows the band has moved with the times and changes within the genre to bring something that though not necessarily innovative is fresh and more absorbing than the majority of black metal offerings this year. Though not flawless and from early reviews elsewhere fostering a mixed reaction, The Resurrection for us is an impressive and thoroughly engaging album that offers a less intense but more incisive and warm melodic flow of sounds. To some it might seem lightweight but without the venom and spite that most genre releases still feel obliged to carry and its clear openness allowing guitars and bass to express with a defined clarity the release is a vibrant and intriguing pleasure.

Formed in 1993 Ritual was one of the prominent and more influential purveyors of early US black metal, their three albums The Summoning (1995), Demonic Winter Metal (1997), and Soldiers Under Satan’s Command (1998), all making a distinct mark in the ears and upcoming band’s creative thinking, though it is fair to say without making a ripple in the immense wave of European black metal.  Then the band split and the years passed until Ian Fleming resurrected the band as a one man project, writing songs that would become The Resurrection.

Released via Funeral Rain Records, it is easy to see why some find the album underwhelming as it has very little malevolence, bitter nastiness and evil intent that is expected with black metal. The melodies and creative play is warm against cold themes within the songs and at no point even in the great closing instrumental of ‘March Of The Damned’ with its almost celebratory parade of the aftermath of life and lost souls, does the album step beyond the melancholic into total despair or hopelessness. Personally this brings a fresh and engaging element that is pleasing and a welcome change at not having to fight various aspects of a song and its creativity to find its heart and soul.

Just as it ends the album starts with an instrumental in ‘A Funeral For My Heart’, a piece that is poetically emotive from touching expressive guitars that with a slow dawning open up the senses to its well written passage. As it emerges throughout the album on most songs, nothing is complicated or overdone, its simplistic creativeness allowing the emotion to flow easily. This opens the way for the title track with similarly flowing guitars leading in the rasping caustic vocals. The malice within the album primarily comes from Fleming’s delivery and intent allowing the music to bring the light and uplifting elements that win out on all tracks. This is not to say The Resurrection is an ‘indie’ version of black metal but it is wonderfully accessible and more eager to share then to consume and violate like most equivalent albums.

Each track offers something different with a varied creativity and delivery. ‘Executioner Of The Elder Gods’ is an excellent excited stomp with scything guitars and rampant basslines and the best track on the release, closely followed by the chest beating declarations of ‘This Means War’, its anthemic shouting and powerful energy the hardest and unleashing the most anger to burst forth from within The Resurrection. The threatening ‘Nightmare’ and ‘Temples Of Baphomet’s Sons’ also whittle away at the senses with some display of vehemence especially vocally but again musically and especially from the bouncy basslines there is always that rope of hope and safety to cling to.

As mentioned earlier the album is not without a few ‘negatives’ as in the vocals of Fleming lacking real diversity across the release and though he is strong enough it leaves the music the task to ensure ones focus. Also there were moments calling out for more progressive guitars sounds and intricacies to send some surprising tingles through the ear. Saying that though The Resurrection is a great album and one of the most pleasing and appetising black metal releases this year with its turn towards the light rather than joining the rest in the black shadows and should be given full attention.

RingMaster 14/12/2011

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Take The Seven – Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious

From their debut mini-album alone one can tell that UK alternative rock band Take The Seven have all the ingredients to make more than a big impression on rock music. From robust rhythms and riffs, scorching melodies, and smooth harmonies that engage and induce full attention the Chesterfield quintet eagerly show on Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious why they have garnered a strong and enthused support though only being a band for twelve months.

There has been an impressive array of great debut releases and bands appearing this past year, the months blessed with some inspiring and exciting sounds but there has not been many as rounded and virtually complete as Take The Seven. In their few months together the band has toured the UK extensively and played shows with the likes of Senses Fail, Glamour Of The Kill, Failsafe, and My Passion to great acclaim and success. Their sound is big, expansive, and refreshingly contagious, even in their quieter moments and an easy fit within the ear. The songs invite and entertain like old friends, their creativity and melodies a warm and stirring caress, which leads to the only criticism one can place upon the band. They bring songs that sound close to other bands of the same intent only these five accomplished musicians do it better. Criticism is maybe too strong a word as it is more a case of the band yet to find their own truly unique and distinct sound but with an album that is this enjoyable and music that is mesmeric and exciting even if familiar, Take The Seven are not only ones to watch but to put a wager on to find big success. 

From opener track ‘Welcome to My Town’ and its deliberate thumping riff over an inviting melodic guitar hook you know you are in for something powerful even with the subtle intro. The firmly guiding drums of Gaz Oldale frame a blaze of galloping guitar riffs from Si Redfern and James Hall that offer glowing meandering almost classic rock like asides. The bass of Joe Kitson prowls with an almost menacing surety and uniting all is the excellent clean vocals of Dan Molloy. This guy can sing, not once here or on the rest of the album is there a hint of him straining or struggling to make the emotive tones and clear melodic notes he produces, and backed by Hall and Kitson the harmonies are spot on. This is just the start and more and better is to come.

Through The Crossfire’ is a gem and arguably the best track, its slower pace and incisive melodies keeping heavier tendencies in check though they are always seemingly there waiting to break free. As with all the songs you find yourselves singing along quite early even upon the first listen, that familiarity again but to be honest it makes each track more of an event and an instant connection. ‘Duchess’ drops the pace even further though still its heartfelt emotion comes with a good vitality and ability to get the senses involved and Molloy gives more keen evidence of his talent to touch more than a few hearts ones suspects.

Throughout Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious everyone is on their game from the creative and infectious melodies and inventiveness of the guitars to the pulsating basslines and powerful and controlled drums. ‘Ships And Sails’ is semi anthemic and you can visualise live the crowd moving as one to this and ‘Burnout’ another slower paced but emotionally powerful song, both adding quality to a thrilling release. Completed by the epic sounding ‘History Is Written By The Victors’ and the acoustic ‘The Artist’ the album is immense and for a debut gives a flowing anticipation for what is ahead for Take The Seven, watch out 2012.

If you are looking for quality melodic rock to start your New Year than Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious is a must upon its release on January 9th. It carries touches of the likes of We Are the Ocean, Funeral For A Friend, Sick Puppies and Three Days Grace even a little Lost Prophets and it is a gem. Pass Take The Seven by and it is your loss, this is a wonderful album and any band that cites Reuben as a like has to be checked out, it the law.

http://www.taketheseven.com/

RingMaster 14/12/2011

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Degradation – Juggernaut

It may have taken many years, a tank full of dedication and obvious hard work for Chicago thrash metalers Degradation to get to the point of releasing their debut album but for us destined to eagerly devour its thrilling aggressive sounds that faith and determination has paid off wonderfully. Juggernaut is not necessarily the beast in its title but it is one impressively consuming stirring ride of runaway metal.  A release that lights up every sense and comes armed with all the essences that make metal an undeniable addiction.

Formed in 2001 by guitarist and vocalist Alex Manske, guitarist Mike Hartman, and drummer Joe Manske, Degradation has strived and fought tirelessly to get their sounds out there in. The music worlds at times an ungrateful beast has made their journey long but for us on this evidence worthwhile. 2007 saw the band’s debut EP Unleashed released, its four tracks gaining them some good media acclaim and response. Bassist Steve Holy joined the band in 2009 with the following year seeing the band entering the studio to create Juggernaut. Consisting of eight vibrant and constant blood pumping energy, the album gets its release via the bands own means and is destined to grab them world attention for its fine thrash/metal sounds. 

Juggernaut is certainly not the most original thrash album made in that it does not have any break through or distinctly new things to bring to the ear but it is so wonderfully full on with prime thrash metal aggression that ignites the senses it is easily one of the most rewarding releases this year. It is dynamic, mischievous and a deeply appetising powerful explosion of fluid and invigorating aggressive riffs and magnetic cutting steely melodies that go deep far beyond the ear. There is no pretence from Degradation on their release; it is simply a nonstop giving of proud and honest rock ‘n’ roll.

Sound wise the band’s music has very visible influences from and touches of the likes of Testament, Exodus and of course Metallica, but they also explode with the violence of a Slayer to create their own maybe not unique but distinct sound. Opening track ‘A Necessary Evil’ slams right into the ear from its opening riffs. Forceful with high energy and eagerness it rumbles and grumbles pleasingly. The guitars are fluid and undemanding whilst the bass of Holy is a deep and satisfying tease. Vocally Manske recalls James Hetfield without truly sounding like him which is a bit of a puzzle but adds to a strong song.

From here on in things really pick up. The title track packs in incessant pummelling riffs and a cascade of tumbling rhythms to inflame the heart. The track is a pulsating intense continual stomp upon the ear spiced with great creative guitar from Manske and Hartman countered by the unforgiving drums of J. Manske. This leads into a trio of excellent tracks that really show Degradation are a fine and formidable band.

The Reckoning’ is playful yet direct and hard and shows the bands excellent individual skills off clearly and that they as a band are extremely tight and accomplished. ‘Rise To Fall’ and ‘Trail of Sin’ carry on the quality and energetic high paced attack. Never taking a step back the band thrust and thrash into the ear and beyond to feed and pleasure all the senses. The first song is a no frills but all thrills meaty shredding feast whilst the latter of the two attaches itself with a raw hardcore punk tone to sound like a mix between Testament and Biohazard.

There is simply no weakness across the album though their cover of The Crown’s ‘Executioner… Slayer of the Light’, great though it is does not have the vibrancy and undeniable fresh eagerness heard elsewhere on Juggernaut.  The album though is a nonstop trash/metal slab of deep pleasure.  Degradation may not be bringing something to leave your jaw on the floor but with Juggernaut they have gifted the year with a release that ticks all the boxes and treats the heart.

RingMaster 13/12/2011

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Legions of Crows – Stab Me

The debut album Stab Me from UK blackened doomsters Legions of Crows is a gnarly vindictive release that walks the fine line between appalling the senses and lighting them up with unconventional and deliberately challenging intrusions. Even after numerous listens one does not know whether to consign it to the moving on or the lay back and let it violate again and again folder. For all the release’s disjointed caustically seemingly nonviable sounds and ideas it is deeply mesmeric though not always with a clear distinction why.

Coming from Salisbury Legions of Crows consists of Attila (vocals, keyboards, programming), joined on the CD by Herod (guitars, bass) and Jon “The Revelator” Maple (spoken word, vocals). Despite the demo in 2009 Cacophonous Aural Wickedness the band is still relatively unknown though it grabbed enough attention to fuel a link up with Funeral Rain Records for their debut album’s release.

      Legions of Crows is a venomous release, the band’s uncompromising hatred, disgust, and nihilistic opinion on everything from religion and politics to conforming to an oppressive life and its directors, dripping with caustic intensity throughout. The intent and vehemence disruptively provocative from the band and as challenging and consuming as their crushing black sounds. As the eight tracks do their worst one feels like they are being judged and punished whilst at the same time having every sense fed with unexpected but addictive creativity, like the worst hypnotic horror no matter how you try you cannot turn away or really want to. 

The album is book ended by two tracks that evolve from church like ‘innocence’ into blackened malevolence. The opener ‘Provident Hymn-Malediction’ starts with church bells and a chilly atmosphere to bring forth a hymn which is soon consumed by a heavy ominous doom fuelled sound and threatening riffs. When the two merge further along it is a disconcerting but hypnotic effect. Alongside the clean choir vocals the wizened crone like vocals of Atilla spit venom and despise to ensure no moral comfort will be freely given. Closing track ‘Coventry Carol’ has a similar start, a church organ announcing and accompanying the blackened aural monstrosity devouring all senses. The track then turns into another hymn like doom dirge with the guest vocals of Paul Di’Anno (Iron Maiden, Battlezone) leading the way with the venomous tones of Attila in the background alongside a wonderful choir like backing from Tracey Benecke, the contrast between all and the punishing sounds extremely agreeable.

In between the other tracks are threatening, distorted and doom metal at its more ingenious. Though the sounds on the surface do not immediately stand out from those found elsewhere it is with the delving into a tracks depth and focusing on the creative use and placing of unexpected and unpredictable elements that make the release a more eager proposition. At times tracks such as ‘Legions Of Crows’ with its electronic taunts , ‘Carrion Pond Drove’ and its disturbed filthy beauty and carnal like bestiality, and ‘Bullshit Acres’ intrigue and experiment with the senses as they twist them inside out with slowly crushing riffs and melodies from the blackest abyss. The latter is a formidable march of deliberate antagonistic intensity and probing brutality and easily the best track on the album.

Whether Stab Me will bring Legions of Crows to a much wider recognition it is hard to tell as the album will certainly put off as many as it draws into its black tapestries. It needs work to listen to and many are never prepared to go deeper to explore and welcome the expressions and borderline indulgences bands like Legions Of Crows bring forth. Stab Me is far from being an album of the year choice and still leaves one undecided but it does invite regular continued assessment.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Legions-of-crows-Attila/149292095099071

RingMaster 13/12/2011

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Lifescreen – The Lock Up Sessions

Fancy some good enthused melodic rock with big sounds and eager riffs then look no further than the new EP from UK rockers Lifescreen. Returning with their second EP The Lock Up Sessions, the Leeds trio give proof that rock music in the UK is vibrant, thrilling, and more than able to match their counterparts anywhere in the world.

Since forming in 2007 the Yorkshire trio of vocalist and guitarist Mark Burrows, bassist and backing vocalist Chris Unwin, and drummer Andy Richards have not only been one of the leading forces in their local scene but also gradually made waves further afar with their compulsive sounds, something which the new EP should energise decidedly. Formed from the ashes of Nerve Engine the band has gigged extensively over the years and through this and their releases in the debut EP Extended Play in 2007 and their two albums Deprogramming and Connexions in 2008 and 2010 respectively, have garnered strong praise in the media and a determined following from an ever growing swarm of fans to their sounds. The bands heady mix of melodic grunge tinged rock and heavier thumping riffs and rhythms demand attention without forcing it down the throat, their easily accessible and addictive tones hard to deny. April of this year saw the release of the single ‘Opting Out’ which saw another step in the bands development and a more rounded sound which the new release takes even further to unveil a fuller and inexcusably eager and impressive quartet of songs. 

Lifescreen list their prime influences as the likes of Alice In Chains, King’s X, Helmet, and Deftones and especially with the first of those four it is apparent on many of their songs quite clearly but the band uses these to foster their own sound rather than simply borrowing elements. Opening song ‘Sparks’ is a perfect example. It carries a defined Alice In Chains feel but is given a more vibrant and uplifting energy, as strong riffs from guitar and bass alike sway in front of the ear driven by the controlled drums of Richards. Though there is a strong grunge tone it gives a QOTSA feel as well especially with the dual vocal harmonies and as a personal preference the band really feels complete when they use that rather than a single voice, no disrespect to the fine tones of Burrows but he and Unwin together feel like they are closes of the circle of the band, making the sound complete.

Second song ‘Better’ comes in a similar in style to the opener but has a darker feel recalling the band Gruntruck to mind. The chunky controlled riffs against caressing melodies and smooth harmonies is a treat and though subdued in pace compared to the first track its intensity is higher and deeper.  These two songs immediately prove to any newcomers that this band can write engaging but instinctively powerful songs, and deliver them with the acutest skill.

The second half of the EP gets its heavier and more forceful boots on to show the other more aggressive side of Lifescreen, though they can never be accused of being light at any point. ‘Cyclic’ pulsates with choppy and incisive riffs and seams of mesmeric melodies. As the song progressives the riffs turn more waspish to infiltrate even deeper and hook the senses fully. This is the best track so far though soon to be shaded by the brilliant ‘PRNTRPNK’. This song whips up a frenzy with mischievous intent and devilish riffs to excite and thrill. The incessant grind is hypnotic, clasping tightly as the guitar of Burrows lights up the ear whilst the bass of Unwin throbs belligerently.

The Lock Up Sessions is an excellent release to not only ignite the senses and quicken up the pulse rate but also to firmly put a band already noted for being an extremely fine rock band up amongst the big boys, and a place well deserved. Lifescreen might still be an unknown to you but do yourselves a favour and go check out this impressive and wonderful EP, and it is a free download so no excuses.

http://lifescreen.bandcamp.com/album/the-lockup-sessions-2011

RingMaster 12/12/2011

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Rough Angel – Hear The Angels Rock

 

 

US heavy metal band Rough Angel has been hitting hard with heavyweight riffs and red hot melodic metal sounds for over two decades building a strong and ardent fan base across Nevada and beyond. Formed by Jimmy Z. and Johnny G. in Hollywood, Los Angeles the band were soon ‘owning’ the sunset strip up as they played up and down its length and eventually moved to Las Vegas. The departure of Johnny G. led to the arrival of vocalist Csaba Zvekan and another move for the band this time to Hawaii. Then in 1993 the quintet of Zvekan, guitarists Jimmy Z. and Marc Mougavero, bassist Ross Manzo, and drummer Dave Kappos (later replaced for live shows by Mike Rangel) set about recording four tracks for an EP.

Recorded at Paramount Recording Studios, Hollywood and engineered by Csaba Zvekan himself the recordings were intended for promoters and the industry and until now were never available to the public. Now through Rock N Growl Records and remastered by Zvekan these four prime cuts of heavy metal released as the Hear The Angels Rock EP have finally seen the light of day and it is the only release by the band over their long existence. One wonders why this is the sum of their recorded output as the four tracks though from almost 20 years back still sound strong today and certainly give proof that the band were right up there with the better quality metal bands at the time.

It has to be said there was an element of surprise at how well the tracks have stood the test of time, even if a mere twenty years, and how they fit easily with current heavy metal sounds and bands. Zvekan himself has said “It’s unbelievable how these recordings are almost two decades old and still have the power to convince the listener. The music and lyrics are still current especially these days. I got goose bumps remastering this piece of music. It definitely is a gift for all the friends and fans that are out there.”

Production wise there is the sense of limitation from back then compared to now but it does not take away from the quartet of good impressive tracks. The songs are agreeably large with powerful chunky riffs and pure metal energy infused with smartly formed melodies and striking guitars. The tracks ooze essences of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Dio as expected from late 80’s/90’s metal placed within Rough Angel’s own engaging sound. Vocally Zvekan is aggressive with the genre trade mark high pitched screams and squeals though he never does it to excess and he is a good rounded vocalist in tone and delivery. Opener ‘Standing by Mirrors’ and the closing title track give an excellent if not surprising top and tail to the release, the first coming in off a grunge like lick to employ addictive riffs that chug along and grab attention neatly. The grunge tones appear often and are especially open on the first of the two tracks sandwiched in the middle, ‘Defiance’. The song pumps out eager hard heavy hitting and higher toned scorching riffs to please all tastes and as on most songs is deliberate in its attack in not choosing out and out aggression. ‘Let it Burn’ is equally styled, slow in pace but quick to engage the senses in good heavy metal energy and enterprising intent.

Hear the Angels Rock is understandably not going to leave you open mouthed or in shock by offering something devastatingly new but it will definitely feed your metal tendencies perfectly and make you wonder why it has taken so long for sounds from this rather good band to appear.

RingMaster 12/12/2011

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