Beaten To Death – Xes And Strokes

PARAMEDICS!!!!!!!!

Can there ever be a more apt name for a band than for Norwegian grindcore abusers Beaten To Death. From the moment the first blasted note rifles up the artillery to the wasted devastation left by the end of the crushingly intense experience their name is exactly how one feels. Brutal, relentless and completely vindictive Xes And Strokes shows no mercy but and a big but, Beaten To Death offer much more beneath their avalanche of crippling intent to make a debut album that hits that deliciously tender sweet spot, well it is tender after this quintet has finished.

Beaten to Death consisting of vocalist Anders Bakke (She Said Destroy), guitarists Martin Rygge and Tommy Hjelm  (both from Insense), drummer Christian “Bartender” Svendsen (Tsjuder, The Cumshots), and bassist Mika Martinussen, is far removed from the members ‘day jobs’, replacing the mighty technical intensity of Insense and She Said Destroy with no holds grindcore punishment. As mentioned the band does not just numb the senses but they also tease and tantalise them beneath their assault with scorched melodies and distracting grooves. Xes And Strokes is a ferocious maelstrom of venomous aggression, obliterating riffs, and incapacitating intensity, it is chaotic and often seemingly undefined but scrutiny and repeat plays shows it is carefully and wonderfully structured without detriment to its instinctive raw energy. Though merely nineteen minutes long across its nine tracks the release is a stunning violation veined with irresistible hooks and warped riffs.

Pointless Testament’ throws the first kick to the guts with an arsenal of unrepentant cruel riffs, senses battering rhythms and a beckoning groove, its brief stay leading into the brilliant ‘Winston Churchill’. A toxic bassline fuels the track as scorched guitars scythe across the ear and the bile spewing vocals rupture everything in sight. Already one knows what they are going to get but at the same time are thrown plenty of unpredictable elements and surprising moves. Fusing the likes of Brutal Truth, Fuck The Facts, and Down I Go, the sound is wonderfully excruciating at times and in other moments veined with siren like distorted melodies that make the whole experience blissful.

A Rolling Stones like groove that permeates the blistering heaviness of ‘On Running’ and the rebellious spiteful melodies that spike the impressive ‘3-2-1, It´s On!’ give two more diverse and rewarding bittersweet tracks to concrete the growing knowledge of how fine an album Beaten To Death has unleashed. Often with grindcore releases tracks blend into each other, their brief and violent stays indistinguishable due to the unrelenting speed they are thrust forth. With Xes And Strokes that is never a factor, yes most of the songs barely touch two minutes and pummel to equal merciless effect but each offers something varied and clear beneath the sonic war they rage to keep the album intriguing and fresh.

Xes And Strokes is bestial and nasty, malicious in the extreme but the likes of the flesh stripping ‘Cat Olympics’, the excellent ‘Groundhog Day’ with its itchy melodies and scathing bass sound, and the irresistibly acidulous title track just destroy and feed the senses to the equal effect.  The album is painfully raw and viscerally hostile but its corrosive intensity is tempered by those mesmeric, at times mischievous grooves and melodies. This is a must have for all grindcore fans especially if you are looking for a different take on the genre.

RingMaster 30/01/2012

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Blood Ceremony – Blood Ceremony

There has been plenty of re-issues of debuts and albums from bands finding  a resurgence in popularity or simply the re-release of recordings that originally had a limited presence and were lost and out of circulation for many years. A varied collective in sound and quality they have been too but even the best of them will find it hard to match the essential quality and vibrancy of the latest from Metal Blade Records / Rise Above Records in the shape of the self titled debut from the Canadian folk/heavy rock band Blood Ceremony. The release is a gem that pulsates and bewitches with a startling array of elements that sees them as part homage to their influences and distinctly unique in the current metal/rock world.

Originally released in 2008 Blood Ceremony is a wonderfully colourful blend of psychedelic/folk/doom and stoner rock punched through with the audacity and attitude of heavy metal. There is so much going on that it is a mesmeric and beguiling release that is mischievous and also deceiving at the same time. The nine tracks within this psychedelia influenced doom rock beast offer up numerous recognisable elements and sound, riffs and melodies that you may think it is just a band wearing their influences openly on their sleeve, which in many ways they are, but without anything more. A focused listen though and you soon realise there has been and is no one fusing these things into their own unique sound like Blood Ceremony, and whether their sounds take a hold of you or not you will not have heard anyone exactly like them.

How to describe them is not a swift thing to do, imagine a bubbling cauldron of the likes of Electric Wizard, Black Widow and Pentagram spiced up with the psychedelic sounds and freedom of The Doors, the downtuned heaviness of Black Tusk, the meaty riffage of Black Sabbath, and the folk inspiration of a Jethro Tull or a Horslips without the Celtic sound, and you are in the vicinity of what Blood Ceremony weave together. With songs inspired by the heart and soul of witchcraft movies, the occult and magick, and Satanism, the quartet from Toronto conjure up fascinating and unavoidable imagery and emotions with their stirring songs and imaginative themes. As the album plays you can just see them playing to a back drop of a modern day Wicker Man ceremony or numerous covens and satanic festivals, their sounds uniting pagan and witchcraft inspired intent.

Formed in 2006 Blood Ceremony carry a heavy 60’s/70’s rock sound borne of sterner modern intensity and as their second album Living With The Ancients of 2011 confirmed it is a sound that whatever your preference in rock music one will find plenty to feast upon. From the opening concussive intro to opening track ‘Master Of Confusion’ on the debut, the band swoop upon and gather up the senses taking them on a part theatrical and wholly absorbent experience. That is one thing about the album, it has a showman feel in a way, the dark themes and sinister tales lacking venom and fear, but offer up glorious fun. The track provokes the ear with belligerent riffs and attitude as it winds its way through the ear to menace and tease the senses, especially from the lovely grumpy bass and expressive keys.

The album is perfectly varied, from the heavy opener ‘I’m Coming with You’ muscles in with a well crafted blend of militant riffs, throbbing energy, and Lucifer spawned pan pipe like flute from vocalist Alia O’Brien. This is the harshest of the tracks keeping a deliberate muscle throughout despite the wicked ‘pipes’ that whip around the bulky energy. Guitarist Sean Kennedy and bassist Lucas Gadke give real heavy fibrous intent to the sound on the album perfectly supported by drummer Andrew Haust, all allowing O’Brien to light up torches of exquisite melodies and add incisive breaks to the weighty atmospheres.

The album is impressive from start to the last devilish wink of its closing note, with tracks like the shadowed ‘Into The Coven’ , the spirit raising necromantic celebration of ‘The Rare Lord’, and ‘Hop Toad’ with its insatiable preying riff and siren like melodic beckoning, rifling through and engaging the senses completely. If you have not found Blood Ceremony yet then here is your chance to jump in at the beginning, time to immerse into their earthy dark world with more burning flames than you could wish for.

RingMaster 30/01/2012

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