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.

Essence – Last Night of Solace

Achintya Venkatesh reviews the new album from Essence titled Last Night of Solace, released via Noiseart records.

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Tracklist:
01. Intro 01:15
02. Final Eclipse 06:00
03. Arachnida 04:16
04. For the Fallen 06:19
05. Children of Rwanda 04:54
06. Gemstones 06:22
07. Dark Matter 06:24
08. Last Night of Solace 07:28
09. Opium 04:49
10. Fractured Dimension (Bonus Track) 05:10

As a person whose tastes lean on the old-school side of things, I can safely say that one is often compelled to immediately take a liking to a band that blatantly takes to a sonic throw-back route, even if that path is an already well treaded one that has virtually attained a point of saturation. In light of the same, I should certainly go on to say that Essence is one of those bands that caught my ear by surprise. Delving into a genre whose only new blood seems to be hordes of shameless 80’s thrash worshippers who seem to think wearing patch jackets, high-top shoes and tight jeans earns one all the credibility they need to garner tenability in the eyes of a somewhat confused and overwhelmed modern heavy music enthusiast, Essence certainly stands out as a band that is at the very least attempting to sound different while maintaining the integrity of the pioneers that came to define the sub-genre they play. Yes, despite their logo being extremely reminiscent of Berkley legends Testament’s logo.

The album starts out with an intro that initially invokes a majestic atmosphere but soon descends into some good ol’ thrashing, which then bleeds into the album opener, Final Eclipse, which is a solid track but is pretty routine in terms of song structure. There are moments where the riff-work shines but these are rather short lived, and the lead playing is rather conventional. The vocals are once again typical for thrash metal, and comprise of shouted, raspy chants in the vein of Miland Petrozza of Kreator and Tom Angelripper of Sodom, but lack the venom and ferocity invoked by the two, and are somewhat stagnant in comparison. Arachnida features some notably catchy leads complemented by foreseeable rhythm guitars backing it, but soon plunges into generic thrashing otherwise. For The Fallen is the first track of the album that, in my opinion, truly captures the attention of the listener and features some very dynamic segments, with some enjoyable percussive interplay between the explosive notes and the drums, and some excellent consonance in the guitar playing in the vein of Testament and (later) At The Gates, in effect making it one of the standouts of the album. Children of Rwanda is an enjoyable track with some incredible dual guitar work with the rest of the track unapologetically indulging in speed-driven thrash frenzy and aggressive tremolo picking. Gemstones in contrast to the preceding two tracks is conventional thrash fare and there’s nothing much to be said about it. Darkmaster initially invokes a black-metal velocity but slows down about a minute into the track and takes quite some time to get interesting, but makes for a good listen nevertheless. Last Night is an excellent track in every aspect, albeit a bit lack-lustre initially, it gets highly dynamic during the latter half, and is another standout in the album. Opium is a rather boring follow-up to it in contrast. The bonus track Fractured balances crunchy rhythms and leads in a fairly good manner.

The problem with some of the filler tracks of the album is that they far exceed their freshness due to their stretched song lengths and in a sense overstay their welcome. In addition to that, some songs have common-place segments that could’ve well been omitted, which could’ve added to the freshness and crispness of the album as a whole, making the album  a wholly enjoyable experience as a monolithic unit as opposed to being tedious in a good number of segments. However, this is certainly a step up from Lost In Violence (2011) and is a breath of fresh air among a slew of half-assed Exodus and/or crossover thrash throw-back acts in the so-called ‘NWOTB’. Denmark should be proud to house a band like this in their local scene, and I hope to hear more of them in the future – while I’m not particularly bewitched by this act, they’ve certainly more than caught my attention. An enjoyable listen all in all, but I fear the redundancy of some portions of the album might spoil what might be otherwise considered a more-than-admirable effort.

 

Flotsam and Jetsam – Ugly Noise

Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviews the new album from Flotsam and Jetsam titled Ugly Noise, released via Metalblade Records.

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Tracklist:
1. Ugly Noise 04:10
2. Gitty Up 03:09
3. Run And Hide 05:28
4. Carry On 04:19
5. Rabbit’s Foot 04:17
6. Play Your Part 05:29
7. Rage 03:25
8. Cross The Sky 04:45
9. Motherfuckery 03:07
10. I Believe 02:53
11. To Be Free 03:08
12. Machine Gun 03:17

I’m only intermittently familiar with Flotsam and Jetsam’s back catalogue, but here are the broad strokes: in their early days they were fierce thrash contenders, by the mid-90s they’d arrived at a more polished sound, with Eric AK’s vocals tempered to a tuneful yawp which, combined with a considerably streamlined riffing style and melodic interludes, made them sound like a heavier Queensryche at times.  A lot of old school thrash fans dismiss material like their 1992 album, ‘Cuatro’ as an attempt to access a mainstream audience, but the music definitely had a drama and intensity of its own. However, it didn’t seem like they could muster up the same level of creativity from album to album and their subsequent albums are pretty inconsistent in quality.

I haven’t heard the previous albums they released after their brief post-2005 hiatus, but ‘Ugly Noise’ sounds like more of the same phenomenon – a middle-of-the-road, middle-aged thrash sound that’ll never recapture the youthful energy of the early speed-maniac days and that has only sporadically benefited from the additional depth and songwriting maturity that this many years in the saddle should confer. The main problem is that everything here has been done before; these songs often sound less like original compositions than collections of tried and tested maneuvers and stratagems. Even the newer elements in the sound are a couple of decades old.

In a way, the mid-paced stomp of ‘Play Your Part’ sums up the juncture the band finds itself in: they haven’t blazed the kind of protean, self-contradicting trail some of the thrash giants have in the past decade, but they haven’t arrived at the hard-won consistency of an Overkill either. They’ve mainly been treading water, playing a part they’re pretty much locked into by now, churning out material that’s just a bit proggy, kinda thrashy and not likely to light a fire under listeners – or to alienate an equally aging thrash audience who are willing to settle for something, anything, with a familiar label on the cover if it doesn’t sound core. There are some out and out clunkers like ‘Rage’ and ‘Motherfuckery’which chug along, some ill-advised electronic layers and never seems to go anywhere, sometimes sounding like a rejected pro wrestling anthem, and no out-and-out classics.

This is competent metal music that sounds like it’s stuck in the mid-90s retrograde action undertaken by metal acts who could have dreamed of mainstream glory a few years back and now had to find ways to evolve without overtly selling out to grunge or nu metal. There are lots of quasi-breakdowns and dissonant bits mixed in with the more melodic segments. The musicianship is effective if rarely stellar, dressing up some very prosaic ideas with facile embellishments. There’s no real reason to slam this album or to offer it anything more than weak praise, just remember not to set your expectations too high when you choose to spin this one.

 

Havok’s Michael Joseph Leon talks about touring and their new album

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Let’s say we have 10 bands being spawned each minute and as per the current fad cycle,  out of these a good 3-4 will be/are throwbacks. Said bands seek to time travel and ride on the novelty value of bands of yesteryear. Some do it with much finesse and put their own spin to it, while some make a mockery of themselves by belting out insipid rehashes. Havok is a band that belongs to the former set. Adding enough doses of technicality, Havok play thrash as it was in its heyday. Today our very own Raj Sharma catches up with the newest bassist to the Havok lineup, Michael Joseph Leon. Micheal is also the bassist for the melodic death metal band The Absence.

Havok is all set to release Unnatural Selection on June 25th, via Candlelight Records.

1. Greetings from Metalspree, how are you doing Michael??

Good dude! Just recovering from the Depise the World European Tour with Suffocation, Cephalic Carnage, and Fallujah! It was an insanely fun trip to say the least!

2. Tell us about your new album, how nasty is it?? In your words, how is it different from all previous Havok releases??

It’s pretty nasty in my opinion! It’s a bit more dynamic than the previous records, in that a few songs are a bit slower than your average Havok fan would be used to! The songs are great though, and each one rocks hard! Also, it is the first record that i’ve recorded with the band, so expect a change in the bass playing, there’s alot of sweet slapping riffs im sure you’ll enjoy!

3. Havok has been often mentioned as a retro-thrash metal outfit by the critics, how much do you agree with that and why so ??

In someways, I do agree with that “title” because let’s face it, the first few releases are really…well, thrashy haha! But I do believe the music does have a certain vibe to it that transcends the “retro-thrash” ideas. When people who are unfamiliar with the band ask me what kind of music we play, I just say “heavy metal”!!

4. Tell us how did the guys get you on the bass duties after jesse’s departure ??

I have known the dudes way back in 2010 when my band The Absence was on tour with Havok, Full Blown Chaos, Beyond Terror Beyond Grace and Malevolent Creation. We grew to be great friends immediately, and since then, we have stayed in very close contact. Pete actually played drums in the Absence for one tour in 2011 with Evergrey, Sabaton, Blackguard and Powerglove! This past winter, I was doing sound and merch for Havok on the Skeletonwitch tour, and the Barge to Hell Cruise, so when I got the call a few weeks later that Jesse wasn’t going to be in the band anymore, we all knew at that point that I was the dude that would replace him. Best wishes to that dude, he’s a very important part of the bands history and i’m lucky to have the same opportunity he did for so long!

5. How’s the tour life  going on with Havok?? As the newest member, tell us your favorite Havok song to play live? Just one though. 😉

Touring with Havok is just as fun as ever! Like I said before, i’ve toured with the dudes quite a few times before, the only difference now is that i’m playing on stage and posing in the pictures haha! Honestly, its a blast to play the songs, but my personal favorite to play live is probably “Fatal Intervention”! It’s a very aggresive song with some fun stuff going on in the bass department!!

6. You guys have been constantly touring right after the release of PONR’, how fun was it supporting Suffocation? Have you heard their latest release yet?

The Suffocation tour was insane! Every person on the tour was cool as fuck, including all the dudes in Cephalic Carnage and Fallujah! We did some things on this tour that would make the dudes in Jackass proud thats for sure haha! I watched a bit of Suffo’s set everynight, all their shit is so brutal! I did enjoy the new songs they played in their set everynight!

7. You guys went out and recorded drums for the new album in a theater for the first time? How was the experience? And was it Pete’s idea of recording it in a theater?

The whole band agreed that recording in the Gothic Theater would be the best option for the new album, and it was pretty damn fun! Well, im not sure how much fun Pete had playing drums from sunrise to midnight 2 days in a row haha! It was a great learning experience, and the drum tracks turned out just as rad as we hoped they would!

Album art for the new ‘Unnatural Selection’

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8.Your song “From The Cradle To The Grave” is about America’s first serial killer H.H Holmes, does the new album have any particular storyline/concept to it?

Unnatural Selection has a few different directions lyrically. There are a few songs with strong political views, a few about human civilization at its worst and finest, and a couple about the stressful process that is touring, writing, recording, and producing a new album! Overall, there are a lot of positive messages for self-realization, and education in worldly events, you’ll see what I mean when you hear the songs!!

9. On a personal note, I think your covers took more of the attention from the crowd than your original songs in the early release of PONR. This time you are just doing a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Children of the grave”? Was it a mutual decision by the band on covering this particular Sabbath song or does the cover somehow fit your new album??

The decision to cover that song in particular was made before I joined the band, but I’m still really stoked about it! It ended up sounding really awesome, and who doesn’t love the shit out of Black Sabbath!! I’d say that the lyrical theme of the song is what ties it into the record the most!

10. Any new bands that you’ve been digging lately, or might have crashed into on tour and also want to give a shout out to??

There are a few rad bands that I’ve met on tour in the past that im totally stoked on right now! Fallujah impressed the shit out of me on the Despise the World tour, and i’m very excited about their new full length release! Those dudes have a bright future ahead, love those guys! Revocation is another one of my favorite bands these days, their new record is sure to be a sick one as well! My brothers and sister in Blackguard have a new release in the works that im very stoked on! So many good bands these days!!

11. Thanks a lot for the interview; we are definitely having beers once you get Havok to India, any last words to the fans??

My pleasure dude, any time!! We would more than love to come play for you in India, let’s make it happen! Thank you for supporting and promoting the band, you are what keeps us alive and kickin’ ass! Make sure you pick up a copy of the new album “Unnatural Selection” and play that shit as loud as you can for all your friends! Let’s bring Havok to India!!!!!  \m/ Rock on! \m/

Watch their brand new video!!