Reino Ermitaño – Veneración del Fuego

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Reino Ermitaño titled Veneración del Fuego , released via I Hate Records.

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Tracklist:
1. Quimera 09:19
2. El Sueño del Condor 04:50
3. Sobre las Ruinas 06:21
4. Desangrándote 06:29
5. Cuando la Luz te Encuentre 09:03
6. Soy el Lobo 06:19
7. El Rito 08:20
8. Vente al Fuego 05:02
9. Sangre India 09:44
10. Cadáver, Semilla, Renacer 01:16

Pre-dating the recent trend of female-fronted doom bands by a decade, Peru’s Reino Ermitano have been flying the flag of fuzzy, riff-driven, mystical doom metal since their formation in 2001. I am not familiar with their back catalogue, having only heard their sophomore release, ‘Brujas del Mar’, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I loaded their new CD into my player.

First of all, there’s the guitar tone – thick, heavy and with a satisfying backwash of fuzz. The bass tone is more glassy than I favour for doom, but blends nicely with the guitar. The drums aren’t a standout element, but they get the job done. The riffing clearly draws from traditional doom motherlodes – some Cathedral, traces of Saint Vitus and Pentagram, a dose of Wino worship, and a general atmosphere of lugubrious, mystical ritual. Need I mention that there’s some Sabbath in the mix? The vocals are sonorous, haunting, somewhat straightforward but very effective. The fact that I don’t understand the language the lyrics are penned in perhaps adds a touch of exotic mystery to the whole production, although it is not too hard to piece together the meanings of things  like the album title or song titles like ‘Quimera’, ‘El Rito’ or ‘Sangre India’. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve watched a lot of horror films from South American countries.

The songs here tend towards the drawn-out, with an average running length of around 7 minutes, but they never feel excessive. While the feel is pretty constant from start to finish, and the band doesn’t indulge in shifts for their own sake, there are enough distinctive and memorable sections sequences into each track to keep it interesting. The band strikes a happy balance between the sense of iterative stasis that is so crucial to true doom music and the dynamism without which that music can become a mere exercise in funereal texture with no real tension or allure. And solos of the quality and length of the one that stabs in around the 7-minute mark in ‘Quimera’ ensure that there is a payoff for the listened who has weathered the tectonic drift of Reino Ermitano’s songs.

Other standout moments are the keening, droning guitar textures on ‘El Sueño del Condor’, reminiscent of the more atmospheric expanses of certain death metal bands, when they slow it down, the swirling, Candlemass-goes-to-NOLA riff that opens ‘Desangrándote’, the elegiac violin solo on ‘Cuando la Luz te Encuentre’, or the epic ‘Sangre India’.

This one deserves to make it to more than a few best doom of the year lists. A strong, dynamic offering from a band that has honed its craft and is sure of the musical statement it is making.

Stream the entire album below:

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Hypnosia – Horror Infernal (Compilation)

This is our first ever compilation review and sometimes compilations are better than single albums. Achintya Venkatesh talks about the latest compilation from Hypnosia titled Horror Infernal, released via I Hate Records.

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   Tracklisting

  1. Crushed Existence 03:22
  2. Threshold of Decay 02:46
  3. Undead 03:49
  4. Paralyzed by Persecution 03:19
  5. The Last Remains 02:49
  6. Operation Clean Sweep 03:57
  7. The Storms of Dead Worlds 03:14
  8. Funeral Cross 00:36
  9. Haunting Death 03:59
  10. Undead 03:40
  11. Perpetual Dormancy 03:45
  12. Mental Terror 02:06
  13. The Storms 03:05
  14. Outbreak of Evil (Sodom cover) 02:34
  15. My Belief (Possessed cover) 03:23
  16. Haunting Death (Live) 03:45

Växjö-based thrash metallers Hypnosia’s career span was indeed very much like the music they presented. With its genuinely no-bullshit approach, like a whirlwind that has hit you and gone you before you even realized what precisely happened, their releases created quite the furore in the underground, especially considering that they played a non-normative style of music at a time when it was considered passé, old-hat and non-trendy in a music industry swamped by the trend known as grunge. Thrash metal had taken a back seat and was merely a shadow of its glory days in the decade that preceded the time, but these Swedish war-mongers released a slew of pulverizing releases amidst an environment that was dominated by in-vogue grunge in the mainstream and extreme metal in the metal underground. Before they could be touted as the next big act, with merely a single studio album to their name, they decided to call it a day in 2002 and disbanded. Horror Infernal is a commemoration and in a sense, a remembrance of these forgotten underground heroes.

The opening track, ‘Crushed Existence’, from their rather successful 1996 demo of the same name is a straight-forward, speed-driven thrash metal number. Vocalist Cab Castervall sounds a great deal like Mille Petrozza of Kreator in its early days, albeit less dramatic in his vocal approach – think more Endless Pain as opposed to Pleasure to Kill. The next few tracks are also from the very same demo. ‘Threshold of Decay’ has a comparatively slower pace, and also features some lower growls as opposed to the regular screechy, raspy screams – much like Tom Angelripper’s effortless alternation between raspy chants and lower growls in a number of Sodom’s releases. ‘Undead’ is a more diverse track alternating between velocity-driven parts and slower, groovier, percussive segments, with ‘Paralyzed by Persecution’ being in a very similar vein. The compilation thereon moves onto The Storms demo, released in 1997. It doesn’t take long to realize the comparatively murkier nature of the production of this release as well as the shift in tuning. The three tracks here – ‘The Last Remains’, ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ and ‘The Storm of Dead Worlds’ are all very brief tracks, but very crushing with their back-to-basics, aggressive and minimalistic approach.

We thereon move onto their 1999 EP, Violent Intensity which begins with an intro titled ‘Funeral Cross’ that directly bleeds into the overwhelmingly fast and pulverizing ‘Haunting Death’. It is rather apparent that Hypnosia have upped the intensity at this point of their career, while at the same time gaining further adeptness in the technicality department, in effect making things more dynamic while retaining their basic thrash-tasting aural onslaught. The next track is a higher-tuned version of ‘Undead’, shifting from the demo’s lower C♯ tuning to a standard tuning and in fact sounds far more wrathful than the demo version that preceded it. ‘Perpetual Dormancy’ showcases some interesting rhythmic interplay between the guitars and the drums – amidst the chaotic speed, the band seems to almost charter into the territory of syncopation at times, and only further reinforces the raging and incensed mood of the song. ‘Mental Terror’ could’ve well been on Terrible Certainty and truly evokes mid/late 80’s Kreator – furious thrash metal embedded with dabbling in more mature, technically-oriented musicianship. ‘The Storms’ further continues this theme – adrenaline-fuelled thrash with a good measure of instrumental complexity and ingenuity, coupled with some well executed tempo changes.

There also two kickass covers on this compilation – ‘Outbreak of Evil’ by Sodom and ‘My Belief’ by Possessed. The first cover truly hits the spot and show-cases where exactly the band is coming from in terms of their sound. It simply rips. The Possessed cover is one of the slower numbers of the seminal death metal forefathers, but is also well executed nevertheless.

If speed-driven death metal tinged thrash metal is your drug, Hypnosia is certainly the to-go dealer. I can only imagine what a great band they must have been in their local scene, and should’ve made for a blistering live act, which the last track, a live rendition of ‘Haunting Death’ perfectly reflects. However, one often approaches bands that hail from an era that post-dates thrash metal’s zenith with a great amount of scepticism, being uncertain as to how successful the band in question is in avoiding the commonplace phenomenon of bands simply being rehash acts indulging heavily in sonic necromania. But the end result is rather positive, and Hypnosia presents a brand of thrash metal which exhibits the characteristics that has come to define the genre, namely velocity-driven, unrelenting ferocity and ruthlessness in the vein of Sadus, early Kreator/Sodom and Morbid Saint, while maintaining a fairly distinctive sound to their name. The production has also been well handled and the quality of the production is fairly congruous across the songs despite having originally been on different demos and EPs. This compilation is a must have for any self respecting thrash metal enthusiast, and should be of special interest to any heavy music enthusiast considering all of the songs precede the incessantly derivative retro-thrash metal movement that post-dates Hypnosia’s dissolution. Hypnosia will certainly be one of the bands in the ages to come that will be referred to in any discussion pertaining to the realm of death/thrash metal.

Stream the entire compilation below:

 

Deathstorm – As Death Awakes

Achintya Venkatesh reviews the debut full length from Deathstorm titled As Death Awakes, released via I Hate Records.

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Tracklist:
01. Awakening Of The Dead
02. Red Blood Spillage
03. Prepare For The Slaughter
04. Await The Edged Blades
05. Nihilistic Delusion
06. Visions Of Death
07. Nebelhexe
08. Rest

As Death Awakens is one of the first physical promotional copies that I’ve gotten the opportunity to review, and was thus obviously looking forward to finally reviewing an album by listening to the actual disc itself, as opposed to promotional mp3 copies of the same, courtesy the organic sound of a CD as opposed to digital copies. The album art-work gives a somewhat misleading impression of what awaits one in the album, essentially evoking an ethereal, otherworldly and surrealistic imagery; much in contrast with the sonic quality that the actual music of the album presents. What one faces upon listening to the album is a barrage of speed and ferocity. The first few riffs of the album capture your attention, and that immediate connect to an album is of prime importance to any listener, whether subconsciously or consciously. Deathstorm are a thrash-metal band from Styria, Austria who’ve been around since 2007 as Damage. They went onto rename themselves in 2011, released and EP and a split before unleashing this deathrashing bombardment upon the various enthusiasts that have taken the calculated risk of getting their ears chopped off.

Kicking off with a recording which speaks of the opening of the gates of hell, ‘Awakening of the Dead’ is an appropriate start to the album and is an ostentatious announcement to the listener that the gates of hell have in fact opened. This opening track exemplifies demented relentlessness – the guitar work evokes a Teutonic thrash metal style with a smattering of Bay-Area influences – in a sense a meeting of early Kreator, Morbid Saint and Slayer circa Show no Mercy-era up a few notches, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. ‘Red Blood Spillage’ is less chaotic in comparison, starting out mid-paced, and thereon losing itself in a frenzied manner, balancing itself out with slower passages, with one of these segments featuring a repeated spiralling riff eerily reminiscent of ‘Satanic Lust’ by Sarcofago. Speed is the primary facet of this album, and ‘Prepare for Slaughter’ is a testament to the same. ‘Await the Edges Blade’ is where things get interesting. While the previous tracks go straight for the kill, this song features a build up which one might find familiar on a subconscious level, but enjoyable nevertheless. This in turn leads onto a mid-tempo prelude with some interesting interplay between the bass guitar and drums. Marco ‘Mac’ Stebich’s bass work does remind one of Anthrax’s Frank Bello circa Fistful of Metal (1984). The rest of the track is standard thrash fare with some interesting, high-intensity guitar work in the vein of Sodom’s Persecution Mania, albeit much faster and fiercer.

Nihilistic Delusions’, with its speed-driven delirium and grinding nature of the guitar work coupled with the tortured, screechy chants truly reminds one of Morbid Saint’s Spectrum of Death in terms of how truly violent the music is sonically. The track balances the crushing, venomous thrash segments with a mid-paced break with some excellent and vaguely melodic leads that help to layer the music as opposed to serving simply as a platform to showcase the members’ technical adeptness, a trap which numerous bands fall into. While the rest of the album’s solos have an dissonant approach that evokes the likes of Kerry King and Mille Petrozza in the early era of Kreator, guitarist Ferl exhibits far more control over the notes he hits on this track, while retaining a degree of atonality to prevent things from cheesing itself up. ‘Visions of Death’ brings further prominence to the said lead work, alongside explosive, percussive rhythm work, and blistering solos to boot. The instrumental ‘Nebelhexe’ is a gratifying listen of sorts amidst the audile pulverization present on the rest of the album, and features some interesting percussive interplay. The closer track, ‘Rest’, appropriately named, alternates between slow segments featuring glum, lugubrious guitar harmonies and regular death/thrash riffs and makes for a more than decent album closer.

This album wholeheartedly bows at the altar of bands that formed the bridging gap between the then in-vogue thrash metal sound of the early 1980’s and the incipient death metal styles that would derive largely from it. An era where the distinction between the two was hazy and poorly defined, added to this the incensed and rabid nature of the music, which didn’t exactly help to provide the slightest of scope for highbrow discussion on the trivialities of stylistic division and distinction. Fans of Sodom, Hypnosia, Sadus, Kreator, Slayer and Morbid Saint will be hooked onto this record in an instant. Moreover, this album is certainly a good break from the typical alcohol, party, zombie, biker and crossover-driven retro-thrash metal style that seems to plague the retro-metal scene, or even the more infernal, blasphemous and violence-driven bands a la Suicidal Angels and Bywar. The guitar work is ferocious, the bass plods along with the guitars and drummer Mani is nothing short of vicious and hostile on the kit. Atop this madness, Stebich’s vocals only serve to intensify this maniacal orchestration, sounding like the gustative bastard child of Mille Petrozza and Patrick Lind. In conclusion, Deathstorm smartly draws its fuel from a variety of influences within the same broader sub-genre as opposed to riding off their love for a specific influence, and thus fall short of becoming entirely derivative. This is an immensely enjoyable album, although there’s certainly room for Deathstorm to undergo further stylistic evolution and truly make their mark in a scene filled to the brim with rehashes and blatant rip-offs.

Jex Thoth – Blood Moon Rise

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Jex Thoth titled Blood Moon Rise, released via I Hate Records.

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TRACKLIST

1. To Bury 02:54
2. The Places You Walk 05:05
3. The Divide 06:38
4. Into A Sleep 04:07
5. And The River Ran Dry 01:13
6. Keep Your Weeds 05:50
7. Ehjä 08:17
8. The Four Of Us Are Dying 03:59
9. Psyar 08:33

In the time since their debut release, Jex Thoth’s entire line-up has changed, save for the eponymous frontwoman. Despite this, there’s a remarkable continuity style in their releases, hinting at Jex’s total dominance over the band’s sound. Lush, mellow and haunting soundscapes, sinuous, melodic guitar lines and a certain folksy, ritualistic vibe – all the same elements are in place, and looming large over all of them is that voice, surely one of the finest in the whole female-fronted doom/occult rock scene.

Personally, I find Jex Thoth’s sound just a bit lacking in edge – I prefer her Sabbath Assembly project – but there’s no denying that this album is a fine collection of songs. To my ears, it lacks something in the quality of the individual songs, with nothing approaching the majesty of ‘Warrior Woman’ or the sprawl of the Equinox Suite, highlights of the debut album. Indeed, the first two tracks seem to flash by before they have time to fully develop, and this seems to be the case again with a later song, ‘The Four Of Us Are Dying’. The ominous strains of ‘The Divide’ are a highlight with its keening organ and ultra-doomy guitars. ‘Keep Your Weeds’ is another stand out, with a mesmerizing vocal and gorgeous interwoven guitar and organ lines. ‘Ehja’ is possibly the centerpiece of the album, an extended, traditional doom-influenced track that provides Jex with ample space to weave her shadowed tales.

‘Psyar’, another epic track, closes out the album. Its overall atmosphere is mysterious, velvety and darkly inviting, with an epic guitar solo, yet somehow the specifics feel a bit too static, a little lacking in granularity, and that’s the charge I’d level against the whole album. It’s superb mood music, great for lulling yourself into a sort of psychedelic-spacey-paganistic trance, but there aren’t enough memorable tunes or stand-out instrumental passages. It’s a fantastic backdrop, but the details often don’t really resolve on close scrutiny. It’s still a fine album for what it is, of course and might even be one of your favorites of the year if you’re not looking for what it doesn’t offer and are into all the many pleasures it does contain.

 

 

Damnations Hammer – Disciples of the Hex

Jayaprakash Satyamuthy reviews the first full length from Damnations Hammer titled Disciples of the Hex, released via I Hate Records.

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Tracklist:

Defiance & Retribution
Throne of Fire
Disciples of the Hex
Serpent’s Wrath
Impaled on the Horns of Betrayal
Harbinger of Darkness
The Hex ii
Gates to the Necronomicon

With a band insignia that bears more than a passing resemblance to the cover of Morbid Tales, lurching riffs in the best ‘Procreation (Of The Wicked)’/’Dethroned Emperor’ manner and vocals that are reminiscent of Thomas Fischer circa ‘Monotheist’, it’s clear what one of Damnations Hammer’s chief influences is (yes, the name is officially ‘Damnations Hammer’ and that missing apostrophe bothers me a fair bit).

Although described as ‘doom/death’, Damnations Hammer’s sound is really more doom/thrash, capturing the chug of the more brooding, dark aspects of the 80s extreme metal – basically a lot of Celtic Frost, maybe a touch of Venom and some Black Sabbath. The subject matter appears to draw largely on hoary sword and sorcery standbys, and I’m not complaining, as songs like ‘Throne of Fire’ pummel out a barbaric narrative with straightforward, menacing riffs and raw, authoritative vocals that everyone’s favourite Cimmerian savage would probably have listened to with a wild delight. It’s not the most polished music around, and you don’t go looking for polish when you’re invoking this kind of mood. The more doomy riffs provide a great offset to the mid-tempo thrashy lurching, sealing the deal with an ominous, almost crude yet totally effective evocation of the uncanny and sinister and one can see why I Hate picked up this originally self-released debut for a 2013 re-release.

The title track, which now has a music video, is another groovy, memorable slab of purposefully primitive metal, all chug-and-release and doomy bridges, together with a chorus that is laughably simple and irresistibly catchy. The lead guitar presence evokes the mad squall of Fischer’s flailing solos, but with perhaps a shade more control over note choice. An atmospheric spoken-word passage takes us deeper into the crypts before the palm muted guitars pick up the thread again. This feels a lot like Morbid Tales meets Monotheist, and the combination works rather well.

The rest of the tracks follow in pretty much the same direction, with the exception of the weird, Gothic atmospherics of ‘The Hex ii’. How much you enjoy this will depend on how open you are to about 41 minutes of chugging, mid-tempo metal music with a lot of ominous atmosphere but not much melodic relief, instrumental virtuosity or compositional variety to inject contrasts or highlights into the journey. I like the style this band has carved out, and they are frequently very successful in conjuring an eldritch atmosphere, but I do hope their future albums see them expanding a little bit, either stylistically or in their arrangements. In the meantime, at the very least, they’re a welcome contrast to the Black Sabbath Mk. I or OSDM cloning that seems to prevail in the retro metal scene.

Stream the entire album below: