Category Archives: Album Reviews

REVIEW: High on Fire – De Vermis Mysteriis

“What if Jesus had a twin who died at birth to give Jesus his life? And then what if the twin became a time traveler right then? He lives his life only going forward until he finds this scroll from an ancient Chinese alchemist who derived a serum out of the black lotus—which is actually in Robert E. Howard’s ‘Conan’ stories—and then he starts traveling back in time. He can see the past through his ancestors’ eyes, but his enemies can kill him if they kill the ancestor that he’s seeing through at the time. Basically, he keeps waking up in other people’s bodies at bad times. It’s kinda like that old TV show Quantum Leap. Kurt actually pointed that out to me after I told him the idea. But whatever—time travel is a killer concept.” – Matt Pike (vox & guitar, High on Fire)

That’s Pike’s laid-back, California biker style explanation of the concept behind High on Fire‘s latest head-removal tool, De Vermis Mysteriis. It’s an aptly metal theme for an album of such infinite grit. And seriously, if Matt Pike gets any grizzlier, someone’s gonna have to set some traps. Listen to his vocals on the final track, “Warhorn”, where they’re spotlighted to stunning effect. All the gnarls, barbs, and bristles in his voice are in your face, naked, calling to mind a wounded Kodiak; a battle-hardened beast bleeding out but fighting mad. Matt’s big, filthy guitar–and those RIFFS–along with Jeff Matz’s dexterous, elephantine bass, and Des Kensel’s muscular drumming bear up (sorry) that crusty howl with the force of a natural disaster.

In other words, this is a High on Fire record. Really, I’ve come to expect nothing less from these three guys, and they deliver yet again with this one. As appears their custom, they chose a new producer, going this time with Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou. After the clarity and polish of 2010’s Snakes For The Divine (produced by Greg Fidelman), Ballou takes it back the other direction, roughing it up and making it more monolithic. This one is road-dog dirty, and that with the progression and growing sophistication on display here makes for an undeniably powerful combination. For my money, De Vermis Mysteriis is a strong, early contender for album of the year.

Listen:  Warhorn

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal

REVIEW: Meshuggah – Koloss

I am the great leviathan…The insatiable colossus…I am life and death…You empower me…I’m a mammoth king evolved…Conjured by your dreams…Summoned by your fears…I’m the imposing giant…Infallible dictator…My rules apply to all…You remain before me…I am life and death
I decide your fate…

The above is a sampling of the lyrical introduction to Koloss, and it definitely sets the tone. You are about to be mauled by a force much bigger than you. Stronger. Meaner. It will be surgically brutal in its dispatch of you, a puny admirer who fawns over their executioner even in the midst of the deed. You will kiss the feet of the mighty Meshuggah, and your neck will be severed before you even notice the taste of Holy Fuck on your tongue.

Here, the band has harnessed their H.R. Giger-as-proggy-death-metal-band aesthetic, condensed and disguised the skull-fuckery, and molded it into semi-familiar shapes. Still odd, alien shapes to be sure, but finessed to resemble something vaguely human. It’s brilliant. Koloss has made me a much bigger Meshuggah fan.

Listen: I Am Colossus


Leave a comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal

REVIEW: Venenum – Venenum E.P.

Oh man, this is really doing it for me. Hell yes. Old-school death of the most excellent, authentic sort. And it’s a cassette release, so it sounds all raw and extra evil, and completely amazing. A genuine, underground metal treasure. I wish I’d discovered this E.P. before posting my 2011 year-end list. It deserves a top spot. This thing has so much personality and character, it truly feels like you’re listening to some shit your big brother had his mind blown by but forgot to tell you about when you were kids. And now you’ve popped the cassette in and immediately know what he means when he says it’ll “fuck you sideways.” When Venenum gets around to putting out a full-length, I hope it sounds just like this:  primitive and masterful all at once. Like a god damned classic.

Listen: Bewitched Craft

Leave a comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal

REVIEW: Mastodon – The Hunter

Mastodon began with scruffy, bludgeoning, caveman metal. A very, very good caveman metal, mind you, with an ear for hooks and intricacies that trancended stone-age thumping, but now they make cinematic metal. It’s music still befitting the band’s namesake (burly and virtually unstoppable), but refined; festooned in royal jewels as it crushes lives underfoot. A majestic and psychedelicized fury that will no doubt crush you, but has you too transfixed to even attempt to get out of the way. Here they’ve made their White Album in that there’s no unifying theme and a great diversity of mood and stylistic choices. Yet, unlike the Beatles’ sprawling opus, The Hunter was edited down perfectly. It’s highly focused and sounds very much like every song belongs exactly where it is. All killer, no filler as they say. Only two songs break the five minute barrier (barely), so every song is lean and mean, lasting only as long as it takes to drop your jaw and satisfy. Pure ear candy.

Listen: Thickening

1 Comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal

REVIEW: Sonne Adam – Transformation

Sonne Adam is from Israel. Israelis know evil. The Third Reich practically seared intimate knowledge of it into Jewish DNA, and for decades the Israeli/Palestinian conflict has seen both sides engage in horrifying examples of it on a daily basis. Israel’s also the birthplace of the desert myths of Yahweh and Allah, and Transformation oozes biblical evil. This is low-slung death metal, grinding and churning patiently, cleverly, and conjuring Satan in the ancient desert sand; a burly beast of an album that whips up one hell of a left-hand noise. Your rabbi would not approve.

Listen: I Sing His Words

1 Comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal

REVIEW: Vastum – Carnal Law

I know it’s an odd thing to say of a death metal album, but after listening to it several times I actually find this one cozy. Like a winter afternoon nap or a bowl of mac & cheese on a cold, rainy evening. I know, I’m reaching, right? But I’m not. The production is warm and clear, the riffs sturdy and satisfying, the tempos mid-paced. The dual vocals—male and female—compliment each other unusually well, and both have a sort of languid, natural quality that tempers their harshness. That’s not to say Carnal Law is sans brutality. It’s unquestionably pummeling, but somehow your ears don’t feel mauled when it’s over. It’s a heavy-as-all-fuck record with a deep, chunky sound, but instead of being suffocating, it’s a comfortable heft. A doom-y quilt for your deathbed as you slip away painlessly, contented, without regrets.

 
Listen: Re-Member

1 Comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal

REVIEW: Aosoth – III: Violence & Variations

French black metalers Aosoth have conjured up quite the tasty platter of fire and brimstone here. III:  Violence & Variations strikes a perfect balance between atmospherics and hellish intensity, and the songwriting is just stunning. There are six songs, each one a malignant little symphony. It’s dense with textures and dissonance, reinforced with a weighty, smothering production. This fucker is HEAVY. Keyboards, Latin choirs, and countless little demonic details round the whole thing out, and the result is both chilling and breathtaking. Very highly recommended.

Listen: III-1

Leave a comment

Filed under Album Reviews, Metal