Horrendous – The Chills

The title of the new album from US death metalers Horrendous perfectly sums up the dark sinister content within. The Chills is a lingering invoking essence of blistering dark menace and pit sourced intent that devours and punctures the senses with venom and malice. Most of all it is a rampaging thrill of commanding riffs, insurgent blistering grooves and spiteful intensity to engage and excite any black heart.

Skewered with striking veins of Swedish and US death metal alongside doom essences the release delivers pretty much what you expect from an old school influenced band but Horrendous fuel it with essential rampant grooves and incisive razor sharp guitars. Formed in 2009 the band’s demo was recorded and sold on CD-R through the band’s Myspace page in the same year leading the band to the attention of Dark Descent Records who co-released the demo Sweet Blasphemies with Skeleton Plague Records the following year. With the initial limited amount of 200 copies sold out within a couple of months they made a second pressing, released early 2011 as acclaim and fans grew in a rapid rate. Anticipation for The Chill again released via Dark Descent Records has risen equally and with the constant assault of uncompromising riffs, pummelling rhythms, and darkly coated melodies all appetites will be surely sated. 

Opening track ‘The Womb’ slowly creeps in on a dark ominous trail of guitars and sinister chime like sounds to alert the senses before the track erupts into an onslaught of impetuous galloping riffs and piercing grooves. Spined by a strong deep bassline and ear slicing guitars the guttural spewing of guitarist Damian Herring drip through them with menace and venom from every growled word. Throughout the album the vocals are harsh and at times contrary to the music whilst in others the force thrusting the aural intensity deeper but always they effectively add to the intensity and grab attention.

Each track blisters the ear with intense aggression and caustic energy from the scorching acid of ‘Ripped to Shreds’ through to the ambient heat and malevolent instrumental ‘Sleep Sickness’. The album is solidly varied beneath the aural assault with tracks like the inspired out of control and desperate feeling ‘The Somber (Desolate Winds)’ with its colossal consumption of the senses and the corrosive guitar soaked ‘Fleshrot’ where Herring brings up his bile seeping innards vocally, just two examples of on the surface  similar violations brought forth by diverse creativity.

Two songs stand out to make sure the album is an essential visit, ‘Altars’ and closing track ‘The Eye Of Madness’. The first is an unrelenting determined buffeting of riffs and red hot guitars that incite and ignite limbs and senses alike.  The latter a wonderfully meandering almost experimental track from the band. A nightmarish bedlam of sounds and screams wrapped in hypnotic bass riffs and rhythms the song disturbs and invites in equal measure showing the band have much more to offer than straight forward old school death metal.

The Chills may not be groundbreaking or an album to inspire new directions within others but it and Horrendous certainly brings a raw freshness to the genre and give nine tracks of aural intense pleasure.

http://www.facebook.com/HorrendousDeathMetal

RingMaster 18/12/2011

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Ani DiFranco – ¿Which Side are You On?

Twenty years since her debut album and across as many releases Ani DiFranco hits as powerfully and as accurately with her new album ¿Which Side are You On? as at any time in her long impressive career. Within it political and personal issues and subjects are addressed as always from DiFranco, her incisive vision and views veining what are fine and engaging songs that inspire and provoke without ever preaching. Released once more via her own Righteous Babe Records on January 17th the album is a vibrant thoughtful kaleidoscope of wonderfully crafted and thought out emotive expressions and music.

It has been over three years since previous album Red Letter Year of 2008 graced the world and in the time since DiFranco has found an even more direct and deliberate intent with her music that drives even deeper with a stronger openness though there has never been a moment she has been lacking in that area. A comment about the album from DiFranco herself neatly sums up the feel of the album. “I’m testing deeper waters with the political songs on this album,” she says. “I feel a little bit frustrated, politically desperate. After having written hundreds of songs over decades, I think, ‘Now what? How far can I go with this? Can you sing the word ‘abortion,’ can you sing the word ‘patriarchy’ – what can you sing and get away with? I guess I’ve been pushing my own boundaries of politics and art. Seeing what people have the ears to listen to. How big is my mouth? What can I get out of it successfully?”

The title track seems to be the initial talking point about the album for most though there are many impressive and striking songs and elements within it elsewhere. ‘¿Which Side Are You On?’ is a stunning reworking of a song written in 1931 by Florence Reece, the wife of Harlan County, Kentucky union organizer Sam Reece. It has been covered many times most notably by Pete Seeger in 1967 and here has been revitalised and invigorated by DiFranco’s warm yet challenging interpretation. It is a song that will always be relevant in this world no matter the decade it seems and the rousing call to arms feel here provokes and inspires impressively. The track features Seeger on banjo and additional vocals and is as important now as it was in the times of its origin and around Seeger’s version.

The other eleven songs that make up the album are just as refreshing and successfully emotive and expressive. Opening track ‘Life Boat’ gives a wonderfully open and bare view and awareness from a period of life where innocence, naivety and discomfort go hand in hand. The song is visual inspiring images and evoking memories for all in some degree. Another personal stirring song is ‘If Yr Not’, its reflections and acceptance of the ageing process and the choice to embrace it without fear and negativity relevant again to all.

Political and social issues are treated to and given equal intensity and impactful power. Alongside the title track DiFranco hits deeply with the likes of the arresting ‘Promiscuity’ with its whimsical styled tune countering the non preachy ‘lesson’ of the lyrics, the mesmeric potent poking of government inaction within ‘J’, and in the album’s best track ‘Amendment’. This exceptional song is a slow burner that enters on a beckoning riff as DiFranco unveils her ‘announcement’, a deceptively crunching challenging track it wraps its encouraging arms around to inspire and guides to a confidence in the use of standing up with a voice and body, represented by the bold and sure stomp the track evolves into.

¿Which Side Are You On? is a stunning album that informs and reveals without ever demanding or imposing. Most of all though Ana DiFranco has released an album that musically is graceful and animated, a hypnotic pleasure whichever attack or approach she engages. The year is off to a real potent flyer.

RingMaster 28/12/2011

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Decaying – Encirclement

As warlike and aggressive as its theme Encirclement from Finnish metalers Decaying is a beast of a release stomping all over the senses with its shells of death/doom metal. Uncompromising and completely intent on pummelling the senses the album from the Helsinki trio is a brutal slab of simple but punishing death metal sounds.

Encirclement is a follow up to the band’s Devastate release which was made up of their two previous demos New Order and The Annihilator. Formed in the summer of 2010 by Matias Nastolin (guitars, bass, and vocals) and Olli Suurmunne (guitar) the bands previous album grabbed some eager critical acclaim, their old school styled death sounds and ferocity fuelling strongly positive responses. New line-up of Nastolin, guitarist Henri Hirvonen, and drummer Benjam Lahdenpää have unleashed an even mightier brute in Encirclement to surely ensure equal and greater enthusiasm and interest.

The album is themed by and influenced by war and battle, each track antagonistic and powerful as they bombard the ear with explosive and devastating riffs and intensity. The release opens with the ominous imposing instrumental ‘Initiation’, its muscular riffs and mid paced energy softening up the senses for the immense intrusions to follow. ‘Operation Citadel’ takes over to immediately consume beyond the ear with fearsome power and blistering guitars intrusions. The deep guttural vocals and delivery of Nastolin churn and twist with as much black intensity as the sounds, the combination bringing the essence of militant like combativeness forcibly forth.

Each track is a powerhouse that demands attention with over whelming malicious riffs, truculent rhythms, and pugnacious melodies from the guitars but the defiant display of ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’, the impressive and oppressive doom feel of ‘On the Path of Subjugation’, and ‘Public Enlightenment’ with its predatory opening and incessant rampage throughout, all stand out above what is a collection of pleasing heavy artillery from the band.

It is fair to say Decaying do not offer anything particularly new happily staying firmly within the realms of old school death metal but it comes with a freshness and subtle catchiness that lurks and teases behind the wall of noise and power. One could also suggest some of the tracks are a touch over long leading to an eagerness of what is next rather than wanting to hear out the song but that too shows that the band raise an eager appetite with each song so not really a flaw.

Encirclement will find an enthused audience without doubt and its content will feed and satisfy their hungry demands easily. The album is an uncomplicated and honest storm of sounds without pretension or claims of being anything more than it is. The songs are to some extent similar to themselves but more so mighty and nasty with intensity that is direct and voracious and that can never be a bad thing from any release. 2012 is starting with a strong and potent release and Decaying giving firm indication they are a force to keep a close watch on.

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RingMaster 27/12/2011

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