Jonestown – Aokigahara


Beauty and paradise can turn to pain and hell with seeming ease within the hands of mankind; the utopian vision of the charismatic and disturbed central figure in the inspiration to the band’s name a prime example. UK metallers Jonestown seed their sound and lyrical confrontations in such personal and worldly tempests; to borrow words from their bio, “The name Jonestown encapsulates the fragility of our state in nature and in society. We’re oblivious to how fragile we are and how quickly life can turn to death.” Musically, the Brighton band starts in hellish landscapes of sound and emotion too which, as shown by new album, Aokigahara, is then taken to fiercer debilitating states whilst subjecting the listener to one seriously thrilling incitement.

Formed March 2014, Jonestown took little time to impress and lure thick attention. They won the Metal 2 The Masses competition that same year with their first ever gig together being the initial round of the event which they also won. From there they have played with the likes of Soulfly, Monuments, No Consequence, and Black Dahlia Murder , toured with Prolong the Agony, and drew acclaim with performances at festivals such as Bloodstock Open Air in 2014 and in 2015, both Leofest  and Mammothfest. 2016 is going the same successful way as its recent predecessors for the band, starting with the recent release of their stunning debut album Aokighara. Named after the forest at the base of Mount Fuji known as ‘the Suicide Forest’, the release is cauldron of raw and varied metal ferociousness fuelled with a hardcore laced antipathy in sound and tone. It is a creative animus, a web of inventive rabidity and ravenous imagination, and quite irresistible.

Jonestown Artwork_RingMasterReviewIt opens up with Deliverance, a track taking its time to come into view from within a haunting cold ambience. Chilling winds wash provocatively over the senses as a melancholic melody sighs in the background. Soon an imposing wall of intimidating chords and raw intensity looms up though, it in turn erupting into an onslaught of corrosive sonic and rhythmic animosity led by the vocals squalls of Harley Anderson. It takes little time for the technical prowess and unpredictable enterprise of the band to show its impressing nature with guitarist Craig Radford spinning a web of grooves and melodic temptation as a suggestive wrap to his and bassist’s Tony Hardwick predatory riffs and lines, this all without defusing the unbridled rancor of tone and touch of the song.

It is a striking start to the album quickly matched by Cenodoxus and Borderline. The first of the pair is equally as bitter and uncompromising as its predecessor, the senses bruising swings of drummer Rich Owen as virulent as they are punishing. It also pushes the imagination further with a great Korn-esque twist within its Black Dahlia Murder meets Meshuggah meets Murdock like ravishing of ears and emotions. Its successor has its own creative vendetta to share; grooves an infestation as toxic as they are seductive, simultaneously tempering and accentuating the impressive and varied strains of Anderson’s vocal enmity and the carnivorous voice and exploit of the bass.

Mass Extinction Six is a merciless knot of emotional tension and sonic jaundice next, again an assault brought and veined with some richly flavoursome and appetite inciting invention, whilst the album’s title track breeds an emotionally corrupted atmosphere around a whirlpool of virulent riffs and grooves. Without quite matching the earlier pinnacles of Aokigahara, both leave ears resonating and pleasure thick before Aprés Moi shares its own caustic drama. As with all tracks, it is an unrelenting predator, never giving ears a moment’s breath or the imagination time to settle before another raging and contagious outburst of invention and breath-taking hostility erupts to steal attention.

With the mouth-watering emotional discord and physical bedlam of The 33rd Parallel and the sonic terrorism and mesmeric beauty of the equally outstanding Deadweight bringing Aokigahara to a riveting and ferocious close, the album stands as one of the best metal debuts this year and back. At times it almost proves too brutal and invasive to take in one go, but every track brings such a fresh adventure of conflict and emotional friction that tearing away from the album’s grudge proves impossible. Bottom-line is that this is a treat no one should ignore.

Aokigahara is out now @

Pete RingMaster 28/04/2016

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Morta Skuld – Through the Eyes of Death: The Early Demos

Wisconsin Death metalers Morta Skuld has since their beginnings in 1989 made a deep mark on the genre without always being given that credit when more other prominent bands are mentioned, not unknown but rarely one of the first names mentioned when death metal is analysed over the past twenty years. Formed by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Dave Gregor with the simple aim of making music that was brutal and honest the band steadily and firmly grew as formidable as the following that built up for them. A subsequent career that included an array of shows with the likes of Slayer, Obituary, Death, Morbid Angel, Napalm Death, and Carcass, four albums and a compilation release as well as inclusions on tribute albums to Ozzy Osbourne and Mercyful Fate has come up to date with the signing with Relapse Records and the recent re-release of early demos in the form of Through The Eyes Of Death. That is obviously a quick tour through the years of Morta Skuld to allow concentration on this new release and the treasures within.

Through the Eyes of Death combines the band’s first two demos from 1990, Gory Departure and Prolong The Agony, remastered by Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound for this release. Though raw and basic compared to today’s technology enhanced clean cut noises from bands the tracks all show the sonically coarse searing power of Morta Skuld that rivals any one then or since.  

The first demo here, Gory Departure was recorded in April 1990, the band consisting of alongside Gregor, guitarist Keven Zeitler, bassist Jason Hellman, and drummer Jesse Rofritz. Produced by Eric ‘Griffy’ Greif, manager of DEATH it consists of four tracks ‘Sacrificial Rite’, ‘Gory Departure’, ‘Preacher of Lies’, and ‘Senseless Killing’. In preparation for this recording the band had help and support from fellow Milwaukee metal act Viogression who they were great friends with. The name Morta Skuld actually came from Viogression vocalist Brian DeNeffe, who also assisted in some of the songwriting, whilst Viogression bassist Bryan Jaeger assisted in the reaction of the band’s logo, picture, and title graphics for the cassette cover.

The songs themselves are impressive and leap into the ear menacingly and eagerly. Of the two demos this collection of songs are more vibrant and notable though on neither is there a track that does anything less than show Morta Skuld as a strong and immense band even back then. After a brief hellish intro ‘Sacrificial Rite’ unleashes its mayhem complete with a teasing groove that lures one in before taking over with all consuming riffs and overwhelming intensity. Dark and coated with an ominous atmosphere the track is undeniable and it can be argued whether the band have produced a song since as powerful and satisfying within their catalogue of fine tunes. ‘Gory Departure ‘continues with equal measured assault before handing over to the release’s other slice of glory ‘Preacher Of Lies’. With a galloping riff it tramples the senses under foot leaving the listener as debris under its death metal monstrosity. Closed by ‘Senseless Killing’ again a song that does no less than crush with uncompromising intent, the demo despite as mentioned the raw and its of the time production, brings an immense selection of songs  making the release worth a look alone.

Musically one can hear obvious limitations within the band at the time but the song’s quality and energy make up for it, and continues into the second demo Prolong the Agony recorded August 1990 and with Jef Jaeger now on drums and Jason O’Connell on guitar. An intro and three songs made it up with ‘Feast From Within’, containing lyrics originally written by Jef Jaeger and Bryan Jaeger for Viogression for a song that was retired without ever being recorded, the strongest, though to be fair all tracks are of equal standard if a little lacking against Gory Departure. The tracks here are darker with predatory riffs and black intent especially on Feast From Within’ and the bestial ‘ProlongThe Agony’.

Through The Eyes Of Death also contains a great cover of the Metal Church song of the same name and ‘Eternal Suffering’ a song hosen as a single for Earache Records but never seeing a release. This album has that has something for everyone, existing fans and those new to Morta Skuld and the proof that re-releases can be worthwhile every now and then.

RingMaster 14/10/2011 Registered & Protected


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