Coven 13 – Destiny of the Gods

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There is a sense of insanity to Destiny of the Gods, the new album from Detroit metallers Coven 13 (also known as just Coven), an almost schizophrenic intrigue and unpredictability to its invention which is just compelling. It has flaws and is wildly undulating in its persuasion at times but equally there is something which works away with a deceitful seduction that makes you want to return to its manic lair, and often. The band is tagged as doom metal but that is also a falsehood of sorts as though that essence does offer a loud whisper at times it is no more vocal than the gothic rock and certainly classic metal side of things, with post punk and numerous more extreme flavours also making their presence known. The result is a sound and release which at times seems unsure of its direction whilst simultaneously being confident, actually wanton in its intent and journey. It just adds to the magnetism wrapping the release and with several needed encounters Coven 13 ultimately makes a uniquely enterprising persuasion.

Coven formed in 1985, the line-up of bassist Roger Cyrkeil, guitarist Todd Kreda, drummer Brian McGuckin, and vocalist David Landrum coming together over a short time to write and create music with influences from the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden and themes inspired by Celtic and Nordic themes. Their well-received debut album Worship New Gods was self-released on their Crom Records in 1987 as the band built a formidable fan base in Detroit and beyond. A name change followed when approached by the original band Coven (of One Tin Soldier fame) which saw 13 added to the name. 1991 saw the release of Ragnarok again on Crom as a demo cassette and though again well favoured it failed to match the success of its predecessor. The same year saw the departure of Cyrkeil and though the band continued for a short while it came to an end in 1992. In 2005 the band reformed for 4 acclaimed reunion shows which was followed by a hiatus of sorts for Coven 13 until 2011 when the original members came together working on new material. The line-up also saw the addition of Richie Karasinski who had been a long-time friend of the band and who Cyrkeil has tried to enlist in Coven 13 from the start but could not due to the guitarist’s commitments and projects. Entering the studio last year the band have stormed back into action with the Shadow Kingdom Records released Destiny of the Gods, a record which has uncertainties taunting thoughts but still makes for a generally riveting and enjoyable exploration.

A harsh atmospheric climate draws in opening track Thor’s Twins, the song breaking the scenery with an instantly gripping Coven 1500dark bass and guitar beckoning. It is a gentle coaxing which erupts into a charged gait veined with a combination attack of guitar and bass with a prize-fighter hook which seals an immediate submission from imagination and emotions. There is also a punk breath to its lure whilst the entrancing vocals of Landrum add a gothic rock lilt alongside the dark group harmonies. Alongside a dark heavy metal stirring it all makes for something unexpected and enthralling, like a union of Sisters Of Mercy, Danzig, Joy Division, and Venom which excites and awakens a strong appetite.

That anticipation is soon diminished a little by the following Winds of Revelation, a track which is straightforward classic metal for the main with none of the mystique and hypnotic adventure of the first track. Mid paced and certainly well-crafted, guitars and rhythms firmly making it a more than decent proposition, the track lacks the spark to ignite any real passion and a lot is down to the vocals of Landrum. On the first song he was forceful and a perfect fit for the sounds but here stretching whilst his boundaries and tussling with numerous notes it simply deflects form the strong sounds around him. He is certainly a more than decent vocalist in certain scenarios as shown on the album but has obvious limitations which this time around leaves doubts a strong reaction.

Elfstone opens with a pulsating heavy bassline and another irresistible groove which is right out of the eighties gothic rock songbook. Once again a hunger is sparked even with the wandering vocals which at times excel and in others dismay. Like Iron Maiden meets The Mission, the track and album has the listener back in its hands ready for crawling intensive drama of Walpurgisnacht and the brilliance of Isle of Man. Both have a doom presence not always open across the album, especially in the first of the two but also further potent varied spicery to favour the appetite. Isle of Man though stands wide apart from the rest with ease, the track a broody and bustling tempest of dark punk and gothic imagination. It is a masterful beast of sound and predation, at times reminding of Southern Death Cult and Theatre Of Hate and in others Type O Negative and Fields of Nephilim It is virulently contagious with Landrum outstanding and takes top honours with ease, the only complaint being it is less than two and a half minutes long.

The thrash fuelled Frost Giants keeps the album thundering along with skill and intensity whilst Witches Kiss brings a little southern heat into is seventies keys clad presentation, variation upon Destiny of the Gods another certain success. The song like its successor She Rides the Dawn do not reap the same strong responses as others, again a lack of that spark and the vocal discrepancies though the guitar inventive grooves and solos impress.

The album ends on a high through firstly the excellent Cult like Solitary Days and a quite enjoyable and surprising cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees’ Spellbound. The band make a very satisfying fist of the song, yes Landrum is no Siouxsie Sioux but holds his vocals to add expression and flair to the song whilst McGuckin without creating that rolling pulsating hypnotic slavery which Budgie made his own, brings the track into an anthemic and dramatic tempting for the passions. With keys adding a delicious elegance to the stomp the track is an excellent conclusion to an overall enjoyable release. Yes Destiny of the Gods is a bit of mixed bag, falling flat when venturing into the classic/heavy metal stance and excelling when employing a much wider experimental  array of styles and imagination, but one which makes the return of Coven 13 very welcome.

http://www.coventhirteen.com

7/10

RingMaster 19/11/2013

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Nervochaos: To the Death

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    Raw, ravenous, and potently aggressive with a maelstrom of insidious grooves which just tease and coax the passions into their version of an erection, To the Death is an album you just cannot avoid finding strong affection for. The new release from Brazilian metallers Nervochaos is not without flaws or maybe a sense of a lost opportunity but it also leaves one more than satisfied and willing to share precious time with the release on a regular basis.

Formed in 1996, Nervochaos has unleashed their underground acclaimed blend of death and thrash metal consistently through the years and over a series of well received releases. They do not offer the most angry or violent sound around and you will find other more intense and destructive encounters elsewhere for sure but as with this their fifth album, the band has a compelling presence and creativity which ticks enough of the right boxes to be a welcome and pleasing companion. The grooves unleashed within the death metal breath and thrash powered bruises posing as songs are of a devil spawn irresistibility and make the band one you cannot ignore. Released via Cogumelo Records, the new album follows their live album of 2011 and the previous full length release Battalions of Hate of the year before, both Tumba Records released. Gaining a cult status in the underground extreme metal scene the quartet of vocalist /guitarist Guiller, guitarist Quinho, bassist Felipe Freitas, and drummer Eduardo Lane, has equally impressed alongside the likes of Venom, Cannibal Corpse, Agnostic Front, Mayhem, The Exploited, Carcass, Divine Heresy, Ragnarok, and many more, the quartet continually adding to their strong reputation.

The album opens with the high energy Mark of the Beast, a fury of unforgiving rhythms and gnawing riffs shaped around a hungryNervochaos To The Death Cover persistent groove. It does not offer anything new or inventively breath-taking but like a sonic magnet has ears and attention locked into its unfettered energy. Ok it is relatively undemanding but still opens up the album with an accomplished and riveting presence which sets up the rest of the release perfectly.

Sheep Amongst Wolves with its gnarly bass and serpentine sonic flames stands tall next to continue the emerging compelling persuasion of the release. Again there is irresistibility to the flowing craft and intent of the song with another defined groove at mischievous play alongside further inviting melodic fire from the guitars. It does not quite live up to the opener but makes a more than decent bridge to the first of the highlights of the album in Your World’s Trend. This track opens almost identically to how its predecessor ended but soon opens up a variation to the sonic beckoning and pummelling rhythms it unleashes. It is the group vocal shouts alongside the persistently scarring scowls of Guiller which help raise the game further and lies impressively against the excellent erosive grind of the track.

Whilst the following likes of Gospel of Judas, The Exile, and Smoking Mortal Remains ensure one is gripped by a strong need to delve deeper into the album, the release saves its finest moments for a couple of tracks nestled within the trio. The title track opens with the snarling bass opening its deep cavernous throat with tight mesmeric grooves of the guitars soon joining the confrontation. Unrelenting rhythms soon entrap the senses within their merciless tempest whilst now into its stride, the track sets frees a deluge of eager synapse chewing riffs and a sonic whipping which leaves only bliss in its glorious wake. It is two and a half minutes of delicious enterprise and greedy contagion impossible to deny and heartily welcomed. To match the impressive attack of the first the following Hate piles on more infectious riffing and primal chuggery around instinctive rapture sparking twisting grooves.

Arguably the album never reaches the heights of this excellent pair elsewhere but still offers plenty to grab the imagination. To the Death does have a familiar uniformity across a lot of its creativity and sound which holds the release back reaching the depth of acclaim maybe it could have found but is still impressive and enjoyable enough to make the album one easy to recommend. As songs like Mind Under Siege, Destroyer of Worlds, and Warlords Unbound continue to make the encounter a pleasing one this is an album that is easy to continually return to and Nervochaos a band with some of the most agreeable grooves and riffing ability around.

www.facebook.com/NervoChaos.

RingMaster 29/01/2013

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Noctem – Oblivion

Oblivion is the second part of a trilogy from Spanish blackened death metalers Noctem and an album as intense and notable as its intent and theme. Following on from the 2009’s Divinity, the new album is a dramatic and crushing release and an impressive step forward for the band. The band already no stranger to strong praise with Oblivion is set to consolidate and further their status as one of the more exciting creative death metal bands.

From Valencia Noctem took until 2009 to release their debut album Divinity though there were releases from the band which formed in 2001. The demos Unholy Blood in 2002, a live cd live 2004, and the mcd God Among Slave all garnered increasingly strong acclaim but it was with the debut album that they made the deepest mark. 2008 saw founder members vocalist Beleth and guitarist Exo joined by bassist Ul, drummer Darko, and Helion on guitar, and it can be no coincidence it is with this settled line-up that fortunes and levels rose for the quintet.  

Shows and tours too took them further into the awareness and respect of more and more eager fans, sharing stages with the likes of Ragnarok, Gorgoroth, Finntroll and Carach Angren the perfect arena to share their inspired brutality lined with creative and melodic juices with more and more appreciative ears. Oblivion shows the band have now reached new heights and evolved into a beast that knows how to make aggressive and vital sounds delivered with passion and dark intensity.

Opening instrumental ‘Popol Vuh’ sets the scene with atmospheric brief soundscape that leads with increasing tension to the coming of something formidable. ‘The Arrival of the False Gods’ is that impending power, its violent crushing riffs and rhythms going straight for the jugular with only smart and distinctive guitar play giving any sense of a respite. It is a solid and commanding start though it does not give anything to go further than just riling up the senses. It is with its successor ‘Universal Disorder’ that things take off and stretch into loftier levels. Bristling with black attitude and determined destruction the track consumes every pore. Through his bestial growls and taunting delivery Beleth’s vocals are as emotive as the content and sit perfectly upon the driven riffs and the melodically infused insertions from the guitars.

The music throughout the album is forceful though despite its harsh and vehement nature does not unleash an intensity that is as destructive as it could have been, preferring to enforce the energy through striking and incisive melodies alongside precise and explosive blackened grooves under pummelling riffs. Songs like the mighty ‘Invictus’ the first single taken from the album and a track that ripples with oppressive and ominous malevolence reminding of the evil of masses wielding power throughout history, the unrepentant ferocity of ‘Seeking the Ruin Of Souls’ which literally burns flesh within the ear as the cutting guitars and scorching vocals strip the senses, and the amalgam of melodic beauty and knee buckling energy of ‘Unredemption’ satisfy and reveal their quality to deep effect.

Oblivion available worldwide via Rising Records / Metal blade Records is a haunting release full of foreboding within its blend of death metal and technical progressive melodies, though that is simplifying what they create. It is emotive and powerful combining an array of dark spite and malevolent beauty, a release that is at times majestic and always stirring. The sounds recall the likes of Behemoth, Dissection, and Kataklysm to name three, but it is also distinctive to Noctem and with a freshness that is reassuring. Bring on the final part of the trilogy as on this evidence it will be epic.

RingMaster 25/10/2011

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