ISSUE 1/SEP 2011
TOMBS - INEVITABLE END - EARTH CRISIS - NOVEMBERS DOOM
D I G G I N G
T H E
U N D E R G R O U N D
KVELERTAK Norwegian party-crashers
S I N C E
2 0 0 7
F E ARS
3 EARTH CRISIS
5 NOVEMBERS DOOM
11 INEVITABLE END
7 GHOST BRIGADE
CREW Editor: David Alexandre Contributors: Luca Niero, Byrant Thomas, Devin Walsh, Alex Grimm, James Merrett, Ann Sulaiman, Ross Gnarly, Gilberto Rui www.scratchthesurface-webzine.com | email@example.com
EARTH CRISIS VIGILANT CITIZENS Words: David Alexandre
Earth Crisis has always been known for their politically-charged message, which promotes veganism, human and animal rights, and the straightedge philosophy. Yet, the Syracuse NY-based quintet is more than just a voice against negative or dangerous behaviours. They're also one of most influential bands in hardcore and metal delivering albums throughout their 20-plus year career that has been raised to cultlike status. Guitarist Scott Crouse took a few moments to talk about the bandâ€™s longevity and their new record â€œNeutralize the Threadâ€?. You guys started the band when you were just in your teens. How have your relationships changed over the years, and what have been the high and low points for you in your time in Earth Crisis? We are one of the lucky few bands that are able to maintain friendships and work together musically for all these years. We have had a few member changes, but the core of this band has been intact since day one, and we all get along really well to this day. That's not to say we haven't had our share of disagreements and tense moments, but in the end we all understand each other very well and know the difference between frustration and anger. When the band reunited in 2008, did it take long for you guys to re-establish your chemistry? Not really. The first practice truly felt like we never stopped. I think Earth Crisis is part of our DNA at this point! The band's comeback record, 'To the Death' clearly showed Earth Crisis on top form, following a nine-year hiatus from recordings, and is with no doubt one of your heaviest albums to date.
Were you satisfied with the response to your comeback and release of "To the Death"? I think we all are pleased with how it came out, and those songs were some of the most well received new material we've ever had. It usually takes people some time to get into new songs live, but those seemed to click immediately. On new record "Neutralize the Threat", you demonstrate yet again your proclivity for exploring the most aggressive and unrelenting side of your music. Why do you think it turned out like that? We always try and push ourselves to not make the same record twice. So many bands in this genre don't push themselves, or take enough chances in my opinion. We always strive for originality on progress on every recording. For this new record the band decided to work again with a renowned producer, after handling the production duties on previous work "To the Death". What made you choose to work again with a producer and why did you decided on Chris "Zeuss" Harris from Hatebreed, Shadows Fall and Chimaira fame? Zeuss is an old metal/hardcore guy like us. He knows the music, he understands it, and he respects it. We knew he'd get where we were coming from, and help us get the sounds we were envisioning. We did handle some of the production and tracking on our own, but he was pivotal to this record sonically. Was there anything the band and Zeuss attempted to do differently from previous records?
Scratch the Surface | 3
We wanted a tighter, more bass driven sound than To The Death. Again, striving to not repeat the previous record. You mentioned that the new album is lyrically inspired by real-life vigilante actions that have taken place all over the world, with topics that cover episodes like The Black Panther Party and Bernhard Goetz also known as Subway Vigilante. What made you decide to write about such matters which somehow sparked some vigilante movements against crime? We were discussing how the media glorifies violent criminals like gang members and serial killers, and why this happens. We concluded it was because of the drama and intrigue that surrounds their actions, and realized there were people out there who were just as interesting, but were fighting against this negative behaviour. These people and their stories go unnoticed most of the time, so we thought we'd shed some light on them. And what other real-life episodes do you talk about in the lyrics? Is "Black Talons Tear" about the Ferri murders? I'm not 100% sure, but I believe Black Talons is about RAAD in Ireland. They basically would warn drug dealers to leave certain neighbourhoods, or face extreme consequences. They are Firestorm come to life. You're about to embark on a European tour in support of the new album. Knowing how big your back catalogue is, how do you decide which songs to play? We try to represent every album in the set. At least two songs from each. Are there any songs from the past you wish the band played more live?
We usually try and throw a more obscure track into every set. I'd like to play something like Fortress off Destroy The Machines. It's been a while since we played that one. Besides the imminent European tour, what's next for Earth Crisis? Some U.S. dates this fall, then off to Japan, Australia, South America and hopefully SE Asia off this record.
Earth Crisis - Neutralize the Threat Armed with crushing riffs, explosive beats and a ranging voice protesting against the injustices of the world, “Neutralize the Threat” features Earth Crisis’ signature sound. It’s business as usual for these hardcore veterans, though that was never a terrible thing when it comes to Earth Crisis. Tracks like "Raise”, “Counterstrike” and “Black Tallons Tear” show the five-piece at their rampaging best, the destructive riffs of Scott Crouse crush everything in their path like a massive pile-driver, while vocalist Karl Buechner spews out all his anger and frustration. (7.5/10) “Neutralize the Threat” is out now on Century Media. www.myspace.com/earthcrisis
“We were discussing how the media glorifies violent criminals like gang members and serial killers, and why this happens. We concluded it was because of the drama and intrigue that surrounds their actions, and realized there were people out there who were just as interesting, but were fighting against this negative behaviour...”
Scratch the Surface | 4
NOVEMBERS DOOM Despite a frequently changing line-up, Chicago’s Novembers Doom has evolved into one of the most interesting and impressive doom outfits of today during the last two decades. Boasting guest appearances from Anneke Van Giersbergen (AGUA DE ANNIQUE, THE GATHERING), violinist Rachel Barton Pine (EARTHEN GRAVE) and the omnipresent Dan Swanö (NIGHTINGALE, EDGE OF SANITY, BLOODBATH), the new album “Aphotic”, which was released on May 10 via The End Records, features the band’s most refined and varied songwriting yet over eight outstanding tracks. Vocalist and lyricist Paul Kuhr, took some time to discuss the falling outs, their career and the laudable new record.
“I don't think you can ever put the demons away. Some things need to live inside you, to remind you of things, and keep you strong...”
Scratch the Surface | 5
fter more than 20 years as a band you’ve always managed to progress and stay relevant in such demanding musical scene, despite all the line-reshuffles and record label instability. What’s the secret?
“The secret is I've always managed to surround myself with musicians who share and understand the overall vision of what Novembers Doom is. It's not been easy by any means, and when bringing in new people, there's always a transition period. It's never smooth, but the potential can be seen, and it's worth the long road, because you know the final outcome will be something better then the previous. It actually helps keep us fresh, and keeps the fire lit under us after twenty-plus years.” Yet the band’s line up has changed again for the new record “Apothic”. With the recent entrance of bassist Mike Feldman to replace their long-time member and producer Chris Wisco, do you view the current Novembers Doom line-up as one of your strongest and most talented formations to date? “Since day one, there has been no better line-up in Novembers Doom then right now at this moment. Many bands say that, to drown any negativity they might get from fans, or to just kid themselves, but I can honestly, with 100% sincerity and honesty, say we have never been better. This is the line-up I wish we had all along. As far as Chris Wisco, he's a great bassist. It wasn't a talent based decision. Chris is the 6th member of this band. He records every album with us, helps produce, adds input, and in a live situation, he makes us sound as good as we do. Just because he's not on stage, he's very much in the band, and immensely important.” Musically, their new record “Apothic” sees the band adhere to their melancholic and poignant death-doom style, yet I’ve also noticed that there’s a presence of more melody, progressive overtones and acoustic guitars in the new songs. The track “What Could Have Been” for instance, incorporates guitars, piano and violins in an entirely acoustic structure. For this new record, did you felt a need to push Novembers Doom in new directions or it was something that just happened naturally? “We push ourselves to do something new with every single release we've recorded, so if you listen, no two releases are exactly alike. It's something we really push for. For ‘Aphotic’, I think we were able to remove some of the filter we put on ourselves over the years. Any changes we want to make, it's gradual over time, so the change isn't drastic to the listener. This time, we weren't as conscience of that, and just wrote in a natural progression. When the music would come in from Larry and Vito for the rest of the band to work on, so much more made it through out "filter" this time, and we achieved what I believe to be our best offering so far. The current line-up also has made all the difference in this as well. Many times throughout the years, the "filter" was there because we may have had people in the band that couldn't bring to the table what was needed, so we had to filter the music to the abilities of the line-up. Now, there are no more limitations, and we now have full ability
This time, all five members contributed to the songs, lending ideas to arranging, adding sections, or small tweaks to make something more interesting, that maybe the other four guys didn't think of. Working with all five guys in the same room, putting these songs together the way we did, is a large reason for the outcome.” Can you tell me more about the significance of the album title? I’ve read that its main theme is about darkness. “Aphotic is basically the absence of light. When writing the lyrics to this CD, the music was dark, and moody, so the lyrics needed to represent that as well, so I wanted a title that was simple, interesting, and summed up the feeling of the CD in as few words as possible. ‘Aphotic’ was the perfect title for this release.” I’ve also read that your lyrics deal mostly with personal issues and internal conflicts and they’re almost cathartic to yourself. So I have to ask you if you were able to put rest to some of your personal demons through the words written for “Aphotic”? “I don't think you can ever put the demons away. Some things need to live inside you, to remind you of things, and keep you strong. The catharsis for me is the process. I'm not one to sit down, and talk about these things, so for me, the ability to get it out in the form of a lyric is very therapeutic and does help me come to terms with issues, but they are always there. Some songs are more difficult for me to listen to then others for this reason, but in the end, I’m usually 99% glad I wrote what I did.” Do you find it difficult to get your feelings poured out with just a few lines? “No, not at all! Sometimes, my feelings are completely summed up in only ONE line of the song. I will either write with a clear vision, and a story to tell, or I just have a specific emotion poured into a line, and write an entire song around it. It all depends on the process at the moment. I've never finished a song where I've felt I needed more space to finish my thoughts. It's actually the opposite. Sometimes you'll hear me repeat lines. This is because I've said what I needed to say, and adding more words would be forcing something into the lyrics that don't belong there. I just use what's necessary and try to leave out the filler.”
Words: David Alexandre
to make anything work the way we want. ‘Aphotic’ is a very natural place for us, and I'm happy to be there right now.” There’s clearly a surprising amount of variety on the new album, so I was wondering how was the songs written and arranged. Was it a group effort or did someone take the leading role? “All of the riffs are written by Larry and Vito, and they will bring in skeletons of the songs. Some are more complete then others.
“Apothic” out now on The End Records www.novembersdoom.com
Scratch the Surface | 6
GHOST BRIGADE Since the release of the 2009’s album “Isolation Songs”, Finland’s Ghost Brigade has solidified as one of the most engaging and inventive acts within the metal scene. Their break-through record was elected album of the month in both Metal Hammer and Inferno magazines and now three years the Finnish group returns with another mesmerizing release that proves that “Isolation Songs” was no fluke. Scratch the Surface questioned bassist Janne Julin to find out more about the newest album “Until Fear No Longer Define Us”, which was released this past September.
...there’s plenty of fears to choose from and humans seem to be very capable to pick them and letting them dictate their lives... Do you think you were subconsciously pressured to write songs that would equal or surpass your most successful album when you first started approaching the writing for this new record? I think everybody wants to and is pressured subconsciously or not to make better record than the previous one, otherwise no reason to continue. Where this pressure comes from or what are the reasons for it is another thing then, in our case it is because we wanted to come up with songs that we are satisfied with, songs that we enjoy and pass through self-criticism, time will tell how we succeeded. There was no pressure to gain maximum attention from the media, to reach mass sales, to please our record label, to make any
sort of break through etc., that was not on our mind. We simply wanted to push ourselves forward to please ourselves and to fulfil our demands, and if more and more people enjoy it as well, we don’t mind it. The process of making records can take a considerable amount of time and can be a daunting challenge for musicians. In your case, did you immediately figured what you wanted to do and soon struck the right songwriting mode? We started to write the songs pretty much immediately after “Isolation Songs” was released. We didn’t have any strict guidelines, a detailed master-plan or concept for the record, although we do know what we want from our songs,
Scratch the Surface | 7
we kept writing songs until we had enough material that works together on a record. Sometimes it takes more time to complete a song, others are easier to complete, but the whole writing process for a record takes around a year/a year and a half. This record didn’t differ that much from the two first ones, you just have to be patient and take your time and the songs will come up, no need to hurry, better to make sure you’re not forcing it and end up with some useless half-assed crap. So what inspired you when it came to writing “Until Fear No Longer Defines Us”? Broadly speaking, things you do and experience in daily life on this planet earth, feelings and situations you go through, what goes around in your head, our surroundings, then of course music we listen to, movies, books and so on. There’s not any specific influence that you could point out, more like a picture painted from all of those influences but trying to keep it coherent and not wandering off to too many directions and of course adding your own touch to it all. Musically those influences mainly come from metal, rock, pop, electronic direction, with some underlying connection between them all being some sort of dark or atmospheric general feature. How do you feel about the record now that it’s coming out? Now that it’s finished, can you give us your thoughts on it? I feel good about it, it’s strong and tight, the whole works well together with good continuation from song to song bringing all the atmospheres and emotions to fullest and all in all it’s very good picture of this band, what it’s made of and what it’s about. But it takes time to make up your mind about your own record, we finished this record in the end of April so it’s way too early to say what is my complete opinion about this album, I’ll have better idea of that in a year or two, that’s how it seems to go. And we haven’t played these songs live yet and that’s also one thing that might affect your opinion of the record. But as of now I have to say I’m satisfied with our latest grand opus. Based on the reviews you’ve read of Ghost Brigade albums what bands do you see mentioned most frequently when trying to draw points of comparison to your style? Have you read any that just had you roll over the eyes and shrug in confusion? I’ve seen some pretty puzzling associations with bands like God Forbid. Katatonia, Opeth, Paradise Lost and maybe Amorphis, those are the ones that usually get mentioned, all these bands have their own unique sound just as I think we have carved out our own direction as well. Paradise Lost and Amorphis are definitely bands that have influenced us, I wouldn’t say the same thing about Katatonia although their are very familiar to us of course, Opeth is probably the most far-fetched out of these bands, they’re straight up prog compared to us. I haven’t bumped into any odd comparisons yet, at least don’t remember any and unfortunately I’m not familiar with God Forbid so can’t say a thing about that. In general I don’t mind comparisons to other bands, actually I find them interesting, weird or just funny, which is fine. When I first listened to the new record I noticed some songs were extremely heavy and perhaps more direct like for instance “Clawmaster”, “Traces of Liberty” and “Torn”. Not that this record is simpler and fiercer than previous work “Isolation Songs”, there’s still some intriguing and dark melodies that beckons the audience to sing along, but it seems that some of these new songs were tailored for a live environment, do you agree? I do have to disagree simply because none of the songs on the new record are tailored or pushed into any certain direction and the same goes for all songs we’ve done as Ghost Brigade. Only thing we’re conscious of or paying attention to when writing
songs for a new record is that all the songs have to work as a unit, to create a full and complete package so to say. If there is a song that doesn’t fit with the rest of the songs then we’ll skip it. There’s no intention to do any certain kind of songs, to make them suitable for live situation and banging your head off or for smooching on a couch, the songs will slowly take their own direction and little by little you’ll have some kind of picture about the whole but you never know exactly what you will come up with, more or less depends on your mood and how your sorry brains are positioned inside your skull at the time, I guess. How was recording “Until Fear No Longer Defines Us” different from recording the previous albums? How did it feel working with Antti Malinen again? Not much really, we’ve got to know Antti quite well and we’re pretty much on a same level with sound matters, he knows what we’re doing and what we’re looking for and he’s perfectly capable to deliver those things so it’s very easy to work with him. All in all, the whole thing was fairly smooth process, there’s always some minor difficulties popping up to tease your nerves while recording but we didn’t really have to face any bigger obstacles this time. We’re very pleased with the sound and for that all the credit to Antti. With lyrics like, “I will break my leash”, “Cut off the ropes” and “Bars made of memories and walls made of cries”, it seems that this new record deals with themes of freedom and to live your life the way you want and to make your own decisions. Tell us more about the lyrics of this new album. You’re right about that, those topics are part of the more personal side of the lyrics, dealing with obstacles of your mind, facing your own restrictions, fears and weaknesses and eventually somehow overcome them, finding a way for things that are important and meaningful in your life. The other main topic is much broader, human existence basically and especially the dark, not so merry side of our actions and behaviour that you have to face day by day, getting sickened by the so called sane and reasonable part of the human population. All in all, I guess we try to come up with lyrics that express with immediacy the raw and true feelings we go through in our daily life, no bigger than life meanings, hidden messages nor profound subjects, more about accepting your place on this planet and the fleeting time we happen to spend here. I think they’re also quite easy to relate to which supports the music very well. What exactly is, that fear that define us? Rejection? Failure? Well you name it, there’s plenty of fears to choose from and humans seem to be very capable to pick them and letting them dictate their lives and usually the outcome aint that good. So, not any exact fear and actually the title is more like a play with the saying "what we fear is what we are", it’s more or less connected to the lyrical themes I talked earlier. Come October, Ghost Brigade is going to headline their first tour with A Storm of Light and Intronaut as supportive acts. It’s a very diverse package, what are you looking for the most on this upcoming tour? Of course we’re very eager to see what kind of crowds we’re able to get now that we’re doing our first headline tour, in other words if can pull it through on our own and why not if you ask me. Otherwise I’m looking for the usual things, good gigs, getting to know the guys from the other two bands, good times in good company etc. As for the diverse package, I don’t mind if the other bands are not exactly in the same subgenre or whatever scene, I think it’s nice to have a good mixture between the bands, each band bringing their own approach and different angle and it seems to be the case with these three bands. Words: Luca Niero
Scratch the Surface | 8
TOMBS Since 2007 Tombs has putting out innovative tunes that fall somewhere between the coldness and abrasiveness of Scandinavian black-metal and the ferociousness and dissonance of U.S. hardcore, really making a difference on a often uninspired scene, This year, the Brooklyn-based trio is issuing their sophomore record entitled “Paths of Totality”, which is quickly garnering rave reviews from all over the world. Scratch the Surface caught up with Tombs guitarist and vocalist, Mike Hill, to find out more about their new record and their predilection for gothic music. Alternately engaging and dissonant, "Path of Totality" straddles the line between nihilism and gloominess, incorporating traits of such disparate acts as Neurosis, Pink Floyd, Swans, Darkthrone, Fields of the Nephilim and Celtic Frost. Can you tell me a little bit about the writing process for this new record? Did you want to include more dynamism and new nuances on this album? Some of the material was written immediately after we recorded
“Winter Hours”, it’s been about a two year period of writing. It was good not being under the gun to squeeze out a new record, so we were able to really get deep into the writing process. In between tours, we wrote and, at least to me, there appeared to be different eras of material. For example, “Angel of Destruction” and “Passageways” were written around the same time. “Black Hole of Summer” and “Cold Dark Eyes” were written right before we left for the Wolves in the Throne Room/ Pelican tour. Once we started thinking about recording a new record, we started producing demo recordings of the material, so we can refine the writing and begin pre-production. This period lasted for several months. I think, it’s an essential component for us because we like to get all of the experimentation done before we get into the studio. Songs like "Vermillion", "Passageways", "Silent World" and "Black Heaven" exude a similar sinister and gloomy vibe to 80's gothic acts like Fields of the Nephilim and Bauhaus. Were you influenced at all by gothic music when putting this album together? I’m into “gothic” music in general. I would also add Joy Division and Sisters of Mercy to that list. I love the atmosphere of those bands; so dark. It fits so well with more extreme styles. I actually find more in common with bands like that as opposed to more “rock”-oriented bands. While clearly more dynamic than previous record "Winter Hours", the new music is still dark and suffocating as usual.
...we’d have to time travel back to 1985 and tour with Black Flag. They invented most of the ideas about touring that everyone takes for granted these days...
"Path to Totality" is garnering great reviews from the press, have the fans been responding to it as well?
I ended up staying with him and his wife for the last few days of the session.
We just wrapped up a short US tour. So far everyone has been extremely kind to us with respect to responses to the new material. We’ve been playing a lot of the material on tour for quite a while so not all of it is “new” to some people, nonetheless, we feel very fortunate that the reactions have been favorable.
Is there a lyrical theme or concept to the album? What does the album title signify?
For this new album, which was released in June 9 by Relapse Records, the band chose to work with producer John Congleton, who was at the helm for the most recent work of Baroness, the excellent "The Blue Record". How did you decide on John Congleton, whose resume includes everyone from Explosions in the Sky to David Byrne to produce the CD? We met John when we played in Dallas, TX on the Isis/Pelican tour a couple of years ago. Baroness were in the studio working on the sessions for “The Blue Record”. John Baizley contacted me and asked if I could put him and a few other guys on the guest list for the show. Later that night, Congleton showed up and we met. Risking hubris, I’m going to venture out and say that he was impressed by our set because shortly afterward, Gordon Conrad, our contact at Relapse, told me that Congleton was interested in working with us on our new record. Over the course of the next 16 months, we started trading emails and ideas about the direction we wanted to go in with the production. I sent him the demo’s and I feel like he had a really good idea of where we wanted to go.
Path of totality is the shadow of the moon cast onto the earth during a lunar eclipse. The underlying lyrical theme on the record is fear, darkness and chaos.I read a novel called “The Strain” a while ago and one of the main plot points occurs during an eclipse, or more accurately an occultation. The concept of eclipses and occultations intrigued me so I started researching it and read accounts from people that had first hand experiences with the darkness cast by the path of totality. Most people described intense, primal fear, an instinctual reaction. It made me think about the primitive side of humanity that lives in our DNA. I just sort of meditated on that concept. The band is scheduled to tour Europe with another act that I really admire, Italians The Secret. Are you looking forward to that tour? We’re very much looking forward to the tour. We met The Secret on our last European tour so it’s going to be a blast hitting the road for a full-on tour together. If you could tour with one band, who would it be and why? For me, we’d have to time travel back to 1985 and tour with Black Flag. They invented most of the ideas about touring that everyone takes for granted these days.
And how was he to work with? Words: David Alexandre It was great. He’s the most professional engineer we’ve ever worked with. He’s also a really cool guy and a gracious host.
“Paths of Totality” out now on Relapse Records
Guess we got a bit tired about the competition on who’s the fastest and tightest band with the lowest guttural vocals that can hit as many weird words as possible in the shortest possible time. We wanted to go further and make an album that is more or less just a punch in the face.”
When I first listened to Inevitable End’s new album “The Oculus” I immediately noticed how relentless and technical some of the new songs are. While the band’s first album “The Severed Inception” represented a true gem of death and grind music, this new album seems a lot more adventurous in style. The differences between the two records are immeasurable, so much that I could have easily mistake the new Inevitable End for someone else. We’ve asked guitarist Marcus Bertilsson to point them out. Was this type of reinvention something you planned on, or did it just happened naturally? “It was planned because it felt naturally one could say. We have evolved as a band from our death metal roots more and more towards punk and crust. Guess we got a bit tired about the competition on who’s the fastest and tightest band with the lowest guttural vocals that can hit as many weird words as possible in the shortest possible time. We wanted to go further and make an album that is more or less just a punch in the face.” It’s also hard not to notice a more prominent influence from hardcore and its subgenres, were you aiming to take this new album somewhere into that direction or it was just the way the music evolved? “I can only speak for myself here but I love the raw energy of the hardcore and punk scene much more then the sheer brutality of present day death metal scene. And we all felt that we wanted to progress both as musicians and as a band. We talked for two years about what sort of sound we wanted for the next album and then when we had pretty much agreed we started writing and this is what came out.
Not all natural though because we like to push ourselves as far as we can.” I’ve seen critics throwing some Dillinger Escape Plan analogies at the new songs, is that something that you feel comfortable with? “DEP is a good band and they have played an important role in my life but that was like seven years ago or something like that. I think that for people that hear our album and finds it chaotic and intense and technical as hell, DEP becomes a natural reference point. I would say though that we took a lot of inspiration from Crust and Punk and just pushed it through some kind of death metal filter and it became what it is. Sure people can find similarities with DEP and I’m quite aware there are some but there is other stuff in there as well!” With regards to creating music, how do the songs start to take shape? Do you usually approach the writing of the songs as a team effort or does any member take the lead role? “Definitely as a team effort! We hook up at the rehearsal place and start to improvise until we have a structure of a song and then I go home and try to figure out some riffs in the styles that the song is supposed to have. So at the first state of a song like ‘Tell us, Parasites’ there was just some weird impro style parts that we put together with each one of us playing random stuff to Joakim’s drums and Andreas screaming random stuff just to get a vibe. Afterward is the actual writing of the riffs.” As mentioned before, “The Oculus” evolved towards a more technical direction, some songs are extremely complex and full of rabid riffs. Was it an easy record to piece together?
Scratch the Surface | 11
“No, it was not easy. Easy has never been the road to walk for this band. We want to push ourselves forward at all time. This means lots of pers o n a l practise, searching for new interesting gear to create all the noises in our heads and just keep the inspiration going.” Let me ask you about the significance of the title “The Oculus”, it seems a pretty ambiguous title that could have various interpretations right? “Yes, it can have different interpretations. But the main thought behind it is that we are trapped in the “real world” and that’s not a very pleasant place to be. It’s full of shit actually. So ‘The Oculus’ stands for the search out of it unto something beautiful.” Are there certain lyrical themes on which you tend to focus? “On this album it is freedom from “reality” you could say. But the approach differs from song to song. A song like ‘Cadaver Inc’ is about the meat industry while ‘Chamber of Apathy’ is about the social welfare versus the state of being unemployed.
‘The Supreme Treachery’ and ‘Dogmaties Paralies’ are about brain washing through religion. And there are some very personal songs like ‘Escaping the Black Hole’ and ‘Zen’ which basically works as an open window into parts of Andreas philosophical reflections. “The Oculus” out now on Relapse Records www.inevitable-end.com Words: David Alexandre
KVELERTAK Seemingly from out of nowhere, well Stavanger-Norway actually, Kvelertak literarily took the world by storm with their incredibly infectious self-titled debut album which was already elected as one of the best works released in 2010. That’s no mean feat for a band that emerged only three years ago, when a bunch of friends decided to create a group just to overbear the tranquil and monotonous lifestyle of their hometown. Yet not much is known from Kvelertak except for that, so I suppose the most obvious thing to enquire about right now is exactly who is Kvelertak? Some garage-rock musicians with a fixation towards black-metal, punk-rockers twisting around Satyricon tunes or just a bunch of individuals with a wide array of musical tastes and a desire shove them over your face, as violently and energetically as humanly possible?
How would you describe the overall mood of the album?
“Definitely the last one!” Says guitarist Bjarte Lund Rolland. “We are six very different people with different music tastes. We don't really subscribe to any sub-culture or scene, we just really like catchy rock music.”
“I'm not a jam-guy really. I like a good jam, but I'm not sure if it's a very effective way of writing songs. You can't just expect people to listen to something you came up with randomly. I record parts when I feel confident they are good enough, compile them in Cubase, play around with them for a while, re-record and mix, throw some midi drums and dummy vocals on top, pitch a guitar down an octave for bass, then send the mix down to the other guys, and hope that they like it. Sometimes, if there is a part I feel like I'm missing, we'll try it out in the practice area first, just to see if something comes up, then I will make the demo. ‘Nekroskop’ was the last song on the record to be written, and some of the stuff there we came up with together in the practice area, and that's one of my favourites on the record. But usually I will try to make a demo that expresses the idea as well as possible. Sometimes it's hard to get a certain riff or part across if it's not in the right context. It has happened that a riff that I've tried was rejected at practice, but when one was able to hear it with drums and vocals and all the parts combined, it made sense. But it's not a point for me to be the sole songwriter. We used to be several people writing songs, but it just kinda ended up like this. As long as the songs are good, doesn't really matter who writes them. It's not like it's going to get you laid anyway.”
Definitely “Kvelertak” is one of the most interesting albums to come out last year, merging genres as diverse as black metal, punk and garage-rock and into a potent and infectious amalgamation that defies conventional labels. Do you guys ever pay attention to what people are saying about your music? Critics seem to throw a lot of different labels to describe your music. “Of course we do! All bands that say they don't are liars. But it's not like we rushed out to pick up the reviews. We did not expect this massive acclaim obviously, so it's a flying start to a career, and we're very grateful for that.”
We wanted to make a party-album that you could listen to sober! It starts off right in your face, and then throughout the record the songs get longer and less single-y and more epic. I hope it makes for a good dynamic when listening through the whole thing. I like it when an album sounds like an album, and not just a bunch of songs.” I’m told that you write all the music, while vocalist Erlend Hjelvik crafts all the lyrics. Do you have a particular process that you go about when you’re writing music, or it’s just a matter of sitting down and jam whatever comes to you and then build from that?
Scratch the Surface | 13
All the lyrics were written in Norwegian and I’ve read somewhere that they deal with Norse Mythology and Viking Folklore, can you shed some light on what vocalist Erlend manifests through his words on the album? “I guess it just makes sense thematically, since we're Norwegian and all. It would be really dumb not to utilize such an amazing source of material. Some of the lyrics are actually pretty clever too, in that they reflect stuff that happens to Erlend, but are disguised as your typical metallyric. ‘Liktorn’ may seem like a song about that whole thing with Balder, but it's really about this one time when I didn't pick Erlend up from band practice, or something (even I don't know half the lyrics). Balder is also the Norse origin of my name, pretty clever?? Too bad no-one will ever get to read that. Other lyrics are just very stupid. Let's just say they were written WAY before we even dreamed of releasing a record, hehe!” There’s a long tradition of Norwegian bands that chosen to sing in their native tongue. In your case, it was just a natural choice, or it kind of happened by accident so to say? “In the beginning we were playing around with the idea of mixing English and Norwegian, and so we had some really silly songs that would switch between the languages. We quickly realized it was a pretty stupid idea, and at that time it was not even a question, the lyrics had to be Norwegian. I guess the attitude was, no-one really care about lyrics because you can't hear them anyway, might as well be Norwegian. Unless you read them in the booklet, which we would DEFINITELY have none of. And we stuck with that. Turns out people DO care about lyrics! People are asking us all the time to release them. We have been on two European tours by now, and we see people all the time singing along to lyrics they couldn't POSSIBLY know! But they still have to sing along! That's pretty funny. And we love watching people post their own ridiculous transcripts. So we wouldn't want to kill all the fun by releasing them!” One of the most interesting things about this new record is the production work. Sonically “Kvelertak” strikes a perfect balance between being engagingly melodic and rhythmically powerful. I take it the band is quite pleased with the work of Kurt Ballou at his GodCity Studios right? “Hell yes! That was the best thing that could have happened to the record. I was kinda worried that my lack of studio experience wouldn't do justice to the song material that we had accumulated, unless we had a really kick-ass producer. So we set up a strictly hypothetical wish-list of producers, starting with Kurt. We didn't expect anyone would actually say yes. I assumed we would have to do it ourselves, so I was listening around to find references to music that I would use to describe the sound to a technician. When I started doing some research I realised Kurt's name was showing up on all my favourite references. I said “what the hell”, and sent him a bunch of demos on Myspace, and on account of that (he had obviously never heard of us before) he said yes the day after! I remember a huge sense of relief when I read that, the fact that he said yes based on that was really a testament to the material and his ability to hear it in a crappy demo. At that point I knew the record was going to be bad-ass, which it was, thanks to Kurt. Not to mention that Converge booked us for their tour without even seeing us, and way before anyone outside Norway knew about us. We really owe a lot to those guys!” Are there any plans for a follow-up to “Kvelertak” yet? “Of course! It will obviously be shitty, but at least there will be more songs to choose from live.” Words: David Alexandre
Scratch the Surface | 14
ALBUM OF THE MONTH
EVILE - FIVE SERPENT’S TEETH (Earache Records)
ATRIARCH - FOREVER THE END (Seventh Rule Recordings) Featuring members from Graves At Sea, Trees, Final Conflict, and Get Hustle, Atriarch’s “Forever the End” dwells in the same slow-dragging and monolithic doom of Graves At Sea. The textures are pretty identical, slow-dragging rhythms with riffs crawling at a snail’s pace, ominous bass lines and drum beats, daunting harmonies and wailing, tortured vocals. The four-piece manages to blend all these elements to recreate an eerie and desolate ambient that genuinely sounds like it’s their last day on earth, and an album that most likely will appeal to those suicidal fans of groups like Sunn 0))) and Burning Witch. While Atriarch never really strays too far from the Graves at Sea mould, they’ve added a few diverse twists into their songs, building some obscure and haunting moments that verge on the ambient goth of acts like Bauhaus and Cinema Strange. The fourth and final song of the album, “Downfall” starts with one of these moments, spooky and lethargic harmonies creep in along with ghostly howls to create an ambient that could perfectly soundtrack one of those black and white horror movies from the early 60’s. While not quite there yet, in terms of leaving a lasting impression, Portland’s Atriarch do reveal a great understanding of how to recreate a desolate and hopeless ambience that will surely attract and bewitch those of you revelling in all matters suicidal and apocalyptic. (6.8/10) Luca Niero BRAINOIL - DEATH OF THIS DRY SEASON (20 Buck Spin) Drenched in vicious, raw crust-sludge riffs and anguished yowls, it’s clear that Oakland’s Brainoil aren’t in the subtlety game on their
Evile started out as one of those bands that were caught up in that whole “thrash revival” movement that was going on a few years back. With this, their 3rd effort, I believe that they have finally shed away any forms of “thrash revival” and become a pure metal band. Five Serpent’s Teeth is an absolute ball’s to the wall metal album, which will definitely stand up there with their contemporaries and cement their place into metals history. There is a fair amount of variety in the album with the melancholic song In Memoriam, which is a tribute to their late bassist Mike Alexander, to the complete and utter insanity of Descent into Madness. There isn’t a bad track on here and its one album I could keep on repeat constantly and not get bored of it. There is the mix of the complete thrash assault of songs such as the first single Eternal Empire, and the tracks Xarya and Origin of Oblivion and then moving to some good old school Metallica styling’s of Cult to the previously mentioned slower In Memoriam. I can’t recommend this album enough and I reckon this will be classed as Eviles Master of Puppets of Raining Blood. (10/10) James Merrett
second full-length “Death Of This Dry Season”. Made up of current and former members of Laudanum, Stormcrow, Watch Them Die, Destroy!, Dead Language, Grimple, Pig Heart Transplant, their sound is a mixture of groovy-influenced sludge with a dash of crust nihilism that has no qualms about sucking you in for a ugly and unpleasant ride throughout 25 minutes. The title theme opens the album with some modestly bluesy sludge riffs, some rumbling bass lines and violently retched vocals, and the band maintains the same groovy and bare-bones attitude throughout the likes of “Gravity is a Relic” and “To Bury the Pages of Existence”, while tunes like “Opaque Reflections” and “Feet Cling To The Rotting Soil” shows the more raucous and vile side of Brainoil. The trio comprised of Greg on bass and vocals, Ira on drums and Nathan on guitar and vocals have certainly offered up a gritty and kick-ass release that lies somewhere between the realms of Weedeater and Buzzov*en. Great stuff. (7.2/10) David Alexandre CIANIDE - GODS OF DEATH (Hells Headbangers) Although I never have heard of this Chicago trio before, Cianide exists since 1988 and already recorded six full-lengths including this new one “Gods of Death”. I may not know their previous works, but my guess is that the band haven’t strayed a millimetre from their initial path, which is grounded in old-school death-metal. With a gritty and corrosive sound that falls somewhere between Obituary and Celtic Frost, “Gods of Death” sounds pretty much like an underground tape from the early 90’s. And that is precisely the coolest aspect of this record, its old school vibe that favours a straightforward and crusty riffing that reeks of the low-
Scratch the Surface | 15
-end groove of early Obituary and the crusty aggression of Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. In fact, “Death and Rotting” could easily be mistaken for an Obituary tune as Cianide embraces a highly similar ethos, bringing forth some straightforward guitar chops that plod along at a moribund crawl. Nearly every song on “Gods of Death” follows the same formula, there’s an occasional cryptic solo here and there and a few miserable and doomy riffs, but on the whole the songs blend together without many surprises, which can be a bit tiresome following a couple of listens. Still, if you're feeling nostalgic for old-school death metal in the vein of Obituary and Celtic Frost, you'll surely enjoy Cianide. (6.6/10) David Alexandre DEATH VALLEY DRIVER - CHOKE THE RIVER (Diminished Fifth Records) Fans of that sludgy musical style otherwise known as swamp metal will probably want to check out Death Valley Driver’s first full-length record “Choke the River” as the Canadians engage in some grandiosely groovy and punchy riffs that reminds me of Down, Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity. They kick things off with the title track, a bouncy and groovy tune that's sees vocalist Dan Hodgson spiting out his whiskey-soaked and gravel vocals over some crunchy and head-bagging riffs. Following tracks kind of stick to the same formula, occasionally the band ventures into harsher and thrashier territories as evidenced in “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “Sleeping all December”, yet essentially “Choke River” is filled with groovy and sludgy guitar riffs, boogie rhythms and beer-fuelled vocals. However, to be fair not all eight tracks prove to be exciting and engaging as the opening song, there are a couple moments where the five-piece sounds a bit redundant and generic, plus the lacklustre production hinders some of the impact of these songs and might be a throwback for pickier listeners. All things considered, the fair way to sum up this release is that “Choke the River” will probably be appreciated by fans of groovy and sludgy metal in the vein of Down and COC, everyone else will certainly find it forgettable after the first spin. (6.4/10) David Alexandre GROG - SCOOPING THE CRANIAL INSIDES (Murder Records) With 20 years of existence, Portuguese Grog are like a long-standing institution in the worldwide gore scene. This new work marks the return of these veterans to recordings following a prolonged absence that lasted nearly 9 years and shows a reinvigorated band with a fierce hunger to recover all the lost time. The current line-up, with vocalist Pedro Pedra as the only founding member left, enlists the impeccably talented drummer Rolando Barros, former Painstruck guitarist Ivo Martins and ex-Bleeding Display bassist Alexandre Ribeiro, and let me reassure that these guys are capable of crafting some disgustingly brutal music just as we’ve grown to expect from this band. The album starts with “Toa Mai (Haka Powhiri)” a Maori chant used to welcome sailors to a safe shore, which is a bit deceptive because safe is something that you won’t be feeling while listening to “Scooping the Cranial Insides” as this third full-length from the band is brutal and punishing throughout its 13 unrelentingly violent tracks. Throughout 37 minutes, Grog teeters between the vicious brutality of bands like Cannibal Corpse and Cattle Decapitation and the deranged savagery of classic acts like Pathologist and Xysma, unleashing furious blast beats, intense and fast guitar riffs and the usual growling/screaming vocals from the beginning to end, without ever losing steam.
GHOST BRIGADE - UNTIL FEAR NO LONGER DEFINE US (Season of Mist) “Until Fear No Longer Define Us” is the highly anticipated follow-up to 2009's stellar “Isolation Songs”, and despite starting off with a breathtakingly beautiful and entirely acoustic song “In the Woods”, the rest of the album falls in line with the band's previous output. The Finns sound has always been about contrasts, especially the one between light and darkness, and each song on this record sees soothing and beautiful melodies contrasting against bursts of rampant energy, constantly creating an emotional tension that never erupts. In one minute, they sound really mournful and introspective, and in the next one they offer some raging and intense moments, all this with a swaggering level of confidence. First single “Clawmaster”, really emphasizes the remarkable dichotomy that characterizes most of the album. It starts with an edgy, heavy riffing and some emotional turbulent growls and then switches to more a serene and smooth approach during bridge and chorus, where vocalist Manne Ikonen adopts his clean and soulful tone and guitarists Tommi Kiviniemi and Wille Naukkarinen present us with a couple of those mesmerizing and soaring guitar leads. The mellow “Chamber” recalls the sublime melancholy of Katatonia post-Tonight’s Decision, while “Traces of Liberty” is definitely one of the most powerful tracks the Finns have ever penned. "Grain” boasts instantly memorable refrains, not to mention a guitar melody that will linger in your head for weeks. Put simply, this is another wonderful release from a brilliant band, and anyone who has any interest in well-written heavy music, full of heart, emotion, and soul should definitely check it out. (8/10) Luca Niero All this makes of “Scooping the Cranial Insides” a disgusting and vicious record, in a good way that is. (7.2/10) David Alexandre INEVITABLE END - THE OCULUS (Relapse Records) The first time I heard this new record from Swedes Inevitable End I confess that I had to double-check if I placed the right album on rotation. The transformation between “The Oculus” and previous record “The Severed Inception” is so huge that it’s hard to believe that we’re talking about the same band. I personally think this album is a major step forward for the band, because
Scratch the Surface | 16
not only the Swedes have evolved towards a more intense, mature and technical sound, but the new songs also reveal a greater personality. The first couple of themes, namely “Tell Us, Parasites”, “Escaping the Black Hole” and “Zen” transports us into a Dillinger Escape Plan universe, an absolutely decimating and complex sound with lots of technical details, which works actually. Over the course of 35 minutes, you’re inundated with a dizzying and insane riffs played at a head-spinning speed, relentless and spastic drum beats and the fervent voice of Andres Gerdén. The guitar noodling provided by guitarist Marcus Bertilsson is really impressive, it’s chaotic but has a strong sense of focus as well and the same goes for Joakim Malmborg, who batters his drum kit with such intensity that sounds like he is having an epileptic seizure. Inevitable End have taken a big step in the right direction as this new record presents us an ear-splitting, mind-boggling combination of metal, mathcore and grindcore that will surely garner some enthusiastic reactions from fans of DEP, Converge and Botch. (7.6/10) David Alexandre IN FLAMES - SOUNDS OF A PLAYGROUND FADING (Century Media Records) Pioneers of the Gothenburg Death Metal scene In Flames have done it again with their 10th studio effort. Aside from the slightly creepy album name, this is an effort that stands right up there with their widely considered masterpiece Come Clarity. This is also the first album the band has released without any of the founding members as Jesper Strombald left in February 2010. Even without Jesper, the band has proved that they can still write some brilliant Melodic death Metal and the band aren’t resting on their well-earned laurels, with them still experimenting and trying to push themselves further with some electronic sections with tracks such as The Jester’s Door and the opening of Deliver Us. There are some tracks that are slightly different from what fans are originally used to, such as the mid-paced All For Me and the after-mentioned Jester’s Door, but overall the band retain their early sound which has made them this popular. Their original sound is most prominent in the opening track Sound of a Playground Fading and The Puzzle which both feature some insane riffing and Anders Frieden’s vocals are getting better with every single release Lyric’s wise, I believe that these are the darkest Anders has ever written with the track Fear Is The Weakness featuring lyrics such as You take everything inside/Place in me now/You are leaving me with scars and the track Darker Times with the lyrics Every insecurity reminds you/ Who’s at the Helm?/ Darker Times/ With fear in the eyes/ Who’s the man in charge? This is a brilliant effort by In Flames and while there are a couple of stumbling blocks, this is an extremely good album which can stand next to their previous efforts with its head held high. Definitely worth checking out if you need some Melodic Death Metal in your life. (8/10) James Merrett
IWRESTLEDABEARONCE - RUINING IT FOR EVERYBODY (Century Media Records) Although I’m not a fan of Rap or Hip-Hop I’m aware that there’s this thing called MC battles, where MCs rap against each other to find out who’s the best at improvising some rhymes. So what’s that got to do with Iwrestledabearonce I hear you say. Well, “Ruining it for Everybody”, the band’s newest record really sounds like a ongoing battle between someone like All Shall Perish and Evanescence. Take the funnily-titled “Deodorant Can’t Fix Ugly” for example, it starts with some really punishing breakdowns and fierce riffs, complemented with some bestial growls and then all of the sudden, mellows down to give us a gentle chorus that borders on Evanescence pop-sweetness. This type of weird dichotomy is present all over the record and even though some songs like “This Head Music Makes My Eyes Rain” and “Stay to the Right” shows some musical development from the band towards a catchier and more structured songwriting as opposed to reverting to an all-out wackiness, I’d say it’s all bit too eccentric and ends up being a tad irritating. Even for a self-confessed of Mr. Bungle like I am. (6.8/10) Luca Niero JASTA - JASTA (Century Media Records) Jamey Jasta, the charismatic leader of Hatebreed must be a highly organized fellow to manage all his time and focus on his own band, his musical projects Kingdom of Sorrow and Icepick, his own label Stillborn Records and his clothing line Hatewear. Surprisingly, Jasta even found some time to write and record his first solo record, which was recently issued by Century Media. Everyone acquainted with Jasta’s past will certainly know what they’re getting into with this record. The self-titled release is a pounding and enraged slab of hardcore rhythms sprinkled with groove and harmony, even if tracks like “Screams from the Sanctuary” and “Something You Should Know” demonstrate a catchier, hook-filled and rocky vibe that even fans of Kingdom of Sorrow’s mellower moments like “Screaming into the Sky” may be surprised to hear. Still, “Jasta” have plenty of bruisers, like the crushing opener “Walk That Path Alone” and the Entombed-influenced “With a Resounding Voice”, and even though it doesn’t outdo Jamey’s previous work either in Hatebreed or Kingdom of Sorrow, it’s still a strong and diverse record that deserves a couple of listens. (6.8/10) David Alexandre NIGHTRAGE - INSIDIOUS (Lifeforce Records) European Death Metallers Nightrage have friends in very high places as they are getting some very big names in metal right now to guest on their latest effort Insidious. Although this isn’t to surprising as this is one of the many bands that now Ozzy/Firewind guitarist Gus G has played in. With members of Firewind (including the legendary Gus G himself), At the Gates, Evergray and Deceptor, this is a star studded affair, but it is still a brilliant album. Listening through, this album reminds me a lot of Arch Enemy but featuring a more melodic flair. This is a band who don’t tend to stick with just one genre within just one track, let alone a full album, with the title track Insidious and the track Wrapped in Deceitful Dreams featuring some nice acoustic playing right up next to some brilliant Melodic Death Metal. Also George Baharidis of Deceptor and Breaking Silence
Scratch the Surface | 17
fame provides some beautifully well thought out string arrangements on the tracks So Far Away and Solar Corona. When there are no guest appearances from other artists though, that is where Nightrage really come into their own, with the tracks Hate Turns Black and Cloaked in Wolf Skin being stand up examples of how Melodic Death Metal really should be done. This is definitely a record to pick up if you’re a fan of some Melodic Death Metal when it is released on the 26th September. (9/10) James Merrett Novembers Doom - Aphotic (The End Records) When listening to 'Aphotic', the latest offering from American romantic death/doom outfit Novembers Doom, it is evidence enough that the band don't expect to break any new ground with the eighth album into their career. At the same time, it can also be heard that the entire record does show some, if only slight changes in the group's style by means of a meatier sound production, weightier melodic riffs and a step up in tempo. While not major changes in themselves, it does mean that 'Aphotic' is a record which again shows that Novembers Doom are so confident in their own comfort zone that they know well enough how to manipulate it. 'Harvest Scythe' and 'Shadow Play' are fitting examples of such manipulation, in that without sacrificing the brooding yet epic atmosphere that the band have established as part of their sound, the songwriting allows space for the guitar rhythms to gallop across the tracks' running length. At the same time, staying too close to one's comfort zone can result in a lack of musical exploration as to what else one can do. Though 'Aphotic' doesn't set out to bring across something new to the American circuit of romantic death/doom, the record just as well does little to add fresh air to Novembers Doom's repertoire. Not one of the songs present here necessarily stand out, even with a change of pace in instrumentation. (6.5/10) Ann Sulaiman Panzerchrist - Regiment Ragnarok (Listenable Records) For years the cold and harsh reality of war has been the elected subject matter for a wide number of metal bands, from Slayer to Bolt Thrower, from Megadeth to Marduk, they all opted to write about actual events that actually shed more blood than all the serial killers, demons, witches, vampires and other occult characters of this and the other world combined. For Denmark’s veterans Panzerchrist, war is their raison d'être and on their sixth album “Regiment Ragnarok” they prove that they still possess enough firepower to provoke some serious aural wreckage. The five-piece have created a raging new album that adheres to their classic death metal style, yet it also sees them incorporate some new features that lean towards the black-metal genre. Those features are clearly noticeable right on opening theme “Prevail”, which starts with the sound of a war tank marching into a battlefield, aim at the target and fire way as the band engages in some relentless death-metal attack with double-kick drums blasting at light speed. There’s a definite black-metal influence in the riffing of guitarists Rasmus Henriksen and Lasse Bak here, with some malevolent and slightly dissonant melodies intertwined with some thick and brutal riffs. Then there’s the dual vocal performance of Magnus Jørgensen, who moves from a deep sewer gurgle style to some raspy black-metal screaming throughout the whole record. “Prevail” sets the tone for the remaining 11 songs, an incessantly furious and commandingly brutal sound that crushes all opposition like a gigantic and terrifying panzer. That said, “Regiment Ragnarok” will surely satisfy even the most voracious death metal appetite. (7/10) David Alexandre
Stonelake- Marching on Timeless Tales (Massacre Records) StoneLake are a band that although having only formed in 2002, have been around in one form or another on and off since 1984. This 27 year partnership is extremely apparent on this effort, with the guitars and the vocals complementing each other very well. Marching on Timeless Tales is their 5th effort, and the title does seem to suit this band perfectly. With lyrics touching on fantastical battles and daemons the band very much go into Power Metal territory, with tracks such as Red Canyon and Sound of a Whisper. Whilst listening through I got a sense that this band haven’t particularly left the 80’s in a musical sense with the music hitting a rather nostalgic spot of a poor man’s Seventh son of a Seventh Son or Painkiller. Whilst not a bad thing, Stonelake seem more like a nostalgic act than an act ready to take on the 21st century. Now as I mentioned, this is not necessarily a bad thing, as I did find myself enjoying the music, I just felt that there was that little something missing, and that was the spark that seems to drive a lot of the bands around today, both old and new. Whilst this is not a bad album, it isn’t a great album either, it was merely good and in today’s metal world, good isn’t good enough, an album has to be great. All the tracks followed the same formula, and at the end I couldn’t particularly remember any stand out tracks. For this style of music, I’d recommend another listen through Seventh son or Painkiller then buying, unless your already a fan, then it might pique your interest. (6/10) James Merrett Switchtense - Switchtense (Rastilho Records) In a time where it is increasingly common to listen to completely sterile metal records, devoid of any soul and personality, which were written with musicians trading files over the internet without being together in the same room for a single rehearsal, and were registered with the most sophisticated recording software available like Pro-Tools or something, it’s always comforting to still come across bands that still resort to old methods and are really committed to carry all the energy and emotions of their live performances and rehearsals into the studio. While listening to the new record of Switchtense is easily perceptible that this Portuguese quintet belongs to this fraction, dedicated to refine and razor-sharp their aggressive thrash-metal by hitting the stage as many times as humanely possible and not by sitting in front of a computer experimenting with every feature available on Pro-Tools. That said, “Switchtense” is great record that faithfully recreates all the intensity and aggressiveness of the band’s live performance. The 12-track record features the band sounding heavier, with the riffs and beats sounding more destructive and intense than anything from their past work “Confrontation of Souls”. Indeed, songs like “Face Off”, “Living a Lie”, “In Front of Your Eyes” and “Unbreakable” rage harder than anything offered on their laudable debut work and are also some of the fastest songs recorded by the group to date. Even though, “Switchtense” is for the most part an incredible fast, pummelling and combative record, it also sees the band focusing on slower and mosh-inspiring tunes like the opening song “Concrete Falls” or “Head of State” for instance, which offers some well-placed breakdowns and plenty of infectious and chugging riffs that will incite a lot of activity in the mosh-pit. Bottom line, this new record reflects a band that’s older, wiser, but
Scratch the Surface | 18
still more feral and committed to inflict some serious aural damage in their listeners. (7.8/10) David Alexandre The Cleansing - Feeding the Inevitable (Deepsend Records) Denmark’s The Cleansing return with a new record that even though it doesn’t deviate from their standard and brutal tech-death style, it really shows the band steeping up the game to deliver another crushing slab of death-metal that will surely enthral everyone from the novice to the seasoned listener of the style. Much like their debut “Poisoned Legacy”, “Feeding the Inevitable” is further demonstration of the band’s remarkable ability to pen some truly brutal tunes that could rival with the best moments of Hate Eternal, Origin and Decapitated. The blistering opener “The Promethean Promise” sets things in motion with ultra-heavy riffs, hyperactive blast beats and vocalist Toke Eld punishing guttural growls. Following track “Third Eye Staring” is equally brutal, raging with blasting drums and chopping riffs, while “Your Flesh, Your Curse” shows a more dynamic approach with the band going from a vicious onslaught to a more technical and controlled aggression, rounded with some stellar guitar leads. In fact, the amount of variation the group exhibit throughout the whole record is impressive, from a full-on death-metal brutality to a more harmonized and slow-paced sound as exhibited in “Processed for Contamination”. Once again, The Cleansing has delivered a brutal and vicious record that will surely satiate even the most voracious of death metal appetites. (8/10) David Alexandre The Konsortium - The Konsortium (Agonia Records) Even though Norway has produced enough rudimentary and cult black metal bands to congest a wide Norse forest, it also has given birth to some of the most compelling and innovative music crafted over the last two decades. This year, The Konsortium are one of the most exciting outfits to fall under this bizarre pedigree of vanguard acts that goes from In the Woods to Kvelertak. While they do indulge in some fierce and devilish black-metal, they have also been able to incorporate some progressive and psychedelic aspects into their sound, coming off like later Satyricon mixed with King Crimson. Calling this “avant-garde” however would probably be far too stretched, because even though the songs possess a bizarre and sinister vibe to them, The Konsortium aren’t really as out-there and cryptic as Arcturus or Dodsmeigard as some press have led you to believe. Still, this album flows incredibly well with the Norse act tossing out plenty of dynamics and layers to surprise and engage the listener from beginning to end. “Gasmask Prince” starts things off with a fierce and relentless trashy-black metal assault not too far removed from what guitarist Teloch have concocted in his own Nidingr project, while following track “Liv Ulken” shows a more varied approach, with the guitars divided between frantic, malevolent riffs and dissonant, compelling melodies. Blackened vocals are interspersed with clean vocals that possess a prog-inflicted wail similar to one Simen Hestnæs. There is certainly a lot of hype surrounding this Norwegian group and I believe it’s justified because the band delivered a stunning first release, not to mention they’ve found a sonority that is entirely
their own. (7.4/10) Alex Grimm Weekend Nachos - Worthless (Relapse Records) Despite their poor choice of moniker (sounds like a drive in restaurant doesn’t it?), Weekend Nachos do an impressive job on ‘Worthless’ of proving their, err worth. This is a filthy, ugly and abrasive blend of grind, doom and punk fury that sits perfectly at home in the Relapse stables alongside the similarly violent and chaotic sounds of Mammoth Grinder, Disfear and Phobia. Throughout fourteen tracks, the four-piece pick up pieces of the most frantic and relentless grind out there, the most anguished and hopeless doom concocted by Khanate and most Neanderthal crust made in Swedish suburbs and tie it all together in a very impressive and hazardous way. “Worthless” begins with “Hometown Hero”, a crushing tune that starts with some dirty and sleazy guitar riffs ala Zeke before bursting into explosions of speed and aggression and maniacal screams. Following song “Obituary” shows a similar approach, but towards its end, Weekend Nachos switch to a slow-driven and punishing riffing that verge on doom territory. The rest of the album is similar fare, so prepare yourself for a bumpy, chaotic and unpredictable ride through the unpleasant world of Weekend Nachos. (7/10) Byrant Thomas Warbringer- Worlds Torn Asunder (Century Media) Everyone knows the lyric’s to Edwin Star’s classic War (What Is It Good For) War/ Huh/ Yeah/ What is it good for/ Absolutely Nothing. This may not be strictly true as Warbringer have taken their musical and lyrical influence from wartime and have done now for 3 full albums. The main focus here is on the brutal assault of the ears with their violent brand of thrash metal. Most songs on the album are blisteringly heavy and fast, but with no two songs ever sounding exactly the same, there is enough variety here to keep the fans banging their heads well after the first play. With tracks such as Living Weapon and Wake Up… Destroy being two good example of the more heavy side, they literally pour energy into the listener’s ears. Whilst melody may not be Warbringers strong point, there are a couple of tracks on here such as the instrumental Behind the Veils of Night and the intro to Echo’s From the Void that just well with emotion. It is a pleasant break from the sonic assault of the other tracks. This is another band that has grown up around the whole “thrash revival” scene and this is another band that seem set to outgrow that label as whilst they do undeniably do thrash metal extremely well, they are more than that, they are becoming their own entity. This is an extremely good album, which whilst having a few flaws, does its job extremely well and will satisfy any hungry thrash fan. (8/10) James Merrett
Scratch the Surface | 19