Raven Black Night – “Barbarian Winter”

Raven Black Night – “Barbarian Winter” (Metal Blade Records)

Medieval metal from down under! Still wearing denim, these Adelaide veterans play late 70s hard rock metal with strong doom overtones. In many ways they remind of another 80s band – Cirith Ungol – what with their eclectic mix of The White Knight’s insane Ian Gillan-esque wailing vocals, Raven’s far out raw guitar work, The Dark Knight’s strummed fuzzed toned bass and The Godfather’s dull, primitive drumming. It’s not exactly contemporary, but together they produce an epic, heavy and classic sound that is sure to appeal to the heart of every true headbanger on songs like ‘Morbid Gladiator’, ‘Mystery Woman’ and ‘Fallen Angel’ which have an uncontrived and honest feel genuinely played from the heart. Already a success on the true metal scene, Raven Black Night have already hit Europe playing Headbangers Open Air and the Hard n Heavy Fest, so prepare to return to the old ways in the wake of the warrior’s call!

Terminate – “Ascending To Red Heavens”

Terminate – “Ascending To Red Heavens” (Selfmadegod Records)

People who read my reviews know that I’m a sucka for old school Swe-death a la Dismember, Grave and early Entombed. Well clearly I can’t be alone cos Terminate hail from both New York and Chicago and are also purveyors of this fine style! Roaring grizzly bear vocals, filthy distorted guitar blended with insane crusty soloing and rocket barrage rhythms will rattle your goddamn neck on songs like ‘Chainsaw Omega’, ‘The Savage Silence’ and ‘Iron Supremacy’. With scant regard for melody (ha ha) this is the way underground death metal was meant to be played as depicted by Raul Gonzalez’s (Master, Morbus Chron) suitably cataclysmic late 80s cover. A complete face melter.

Alter Self – “Seven Deadly Blessings”

Alter Self – “Seven Deadly Blessings” (Noisehead Records)

Blurring thrash from the blazing streets of Greece! With the country aflame with riots and heaps of social discontent, Alter Self’s angry thrash seems almost the perfect accompaniment. Razor sharp thrash riffola and relentless double bass drumming furiously drive songs like ‘Bleed Through Me’, ‘Flesh Sculpture’ and ‘Separation From God’ which are played as well for their precision as they are for their aggression! Interestingly, the vocals are different being of the Chris Barnes guttural death variety and on occasions the soloing could almost be considered progressive which adds an appealing dimension to this tight band who seem to have their act together – a shining example for their nation!

Cold Feet Control – “Tales Of The Brokenhearted”

Cold Feet Control – “Tales Of The Brokenhearted” EP (Inverse Records)

Flying in the face of classifying metal into categories, Finland’s Cold Feet Control mix it up big time to produce a hard but modern sound on this second EP in their short but eventful career! Based on a metal core sound Cold Feet Control add in some very cool indie guitar breaks to match those harsh rhythms and likewise, soulful pop harmonies to match the trademark gruff vocals. Played with precision tightness, their further use of electronics to either add soft ambiance or increase the tempo into a dance like groove on songs like ‘Imagination’, ‘Bridges Burned’ and ‘Walls Between Us’, certainly shows that Cold Feet Control have plenty of promise in the spice they bring to much of today’s mundane world of music!

Panikk – “Unbearable Conditions”

Panikk – “Unbearable Conditions” (Metal Tank Records)

If you like old school thrash a la early Exodus, Vio-lence or Sacred Reich then look no farther than this Slovenian band, who could cause an avalanche with their shredding brand of thrash! Massive waves of thrash riffola crush into you on songs like ‘Messiah Of Decay’, ‘The Wave Of Death’ and ‘Cruel World’ – all the classic riffs are there but even more there is hunger in the furor of these 4 young guys that is highly reminiscent of those early pioneer bands. Formed only a few years back Panikk have been touring heavily in their home country which has nicely honed their musicianship to match their precision with their brutality. All in all a fine debut for this promising band and their fledgling label!

Fuckshovel – “This Is What We Are”

Fuckshovel – “This Is What We Are” (www.facebook.com/F.Shovel)

‘kin ‘ell, wiv a name like that it’s no surprise they come from Sarf East London and have every desire to follow in the anarchic wake of that gruesome foursome, the Sex Pistols. So much so in fact, that they’ve already supported Glen Matlock and The Germs although this mob are tooled up to the gills mixing high energy rock with punk attitude and cool singalong choruses. Heavy crunching bass, psycho drumming, chainsaw guitar and Jack Death’s vocals will have you headbanging, moshing and pogo-ing in adolescent fits of sweat, puke and ringing ears to songs like ‘Schizophonic’, ‘Skull & Bones’ and ‘All You Got’. Recorded at Assault & Battery off the gangster ridden Old Kent Road in London town, this is a fearsome debut that would make even demon barber Sweeney Todd shit his pants!

Putrid Blood – “Absolute Profit”

Putrid Blood – “Absolute Profit” (Miner Recordings)

Hailing from a little town called Šid comes Serbia’s Putrid Blood, a heavy thrash core band who are fast stamping their name across Eastern Europe! Centered around a dual vocal attack mixing Brujeria like guttural with screaming styles, they also incorporate black metal melodies amidst a furious rhythm on songs like ‘Silovanje’, ‘For God’s Sake’ and ‘Zver’, which are sung in a mixture of Serbian and English. Despite being relatively unknown in international circles Putrid Blood have toured with the likes of D.R.I. and Warbringer as well as playing the Exit and Summer Sarajevo Metal festivals last year, along with winning a number of band competitions like Gitarijada Ratkovo and CMOK in their homeland. “Absolute Profit” was recorded at “Blaze” in Belgrade, one of the best studios in Serbia and it’s definitely worthy of international recognition, both for it’s professional sound as well as the bludgeoning brutality this Serb crew bring!

ABYSME

ABYSME might have a pedigree that dates way back but to me there are totally new. That I like their death metal just proves that there are still bands to be explored by me and you. Anders Ekdahl ©2013

When you are an underground band does your pedigree mean anything? Does your history really mean a thing when you form a new band?
TIM: A band’s pedigree can be helpful for a reference point, context or to open some doors, but hey if some fresh blood is injected into the scene, why not welcome it? Honor your scene elders while raising a new brood of metal maniacs.
BRAD: It kind of depends on the band you were in, honestly. If you were in a well-known, popular band a long time ago, a lot of people will judge you by what you’ve done previously. That can be good and bad.

With what intentions did Abysme come to life?
TIM: I’ve been in bands for 25 years now so my intention is to still enjoy myself making music with people whose company I like. And because I have a day job as music librarian, it gives me the financial freedom to make music that is unpopular and uncompromising. And the positive reception that Abysme has received so far makes it even more enjoyable. Someone is hearing our tree falling in the forest.
BRAD: When Tim and I started playing together, we had been acquainted since the mid-90’s, we wanted to play something metal. At first, it was a little bit of us just trying to find our legs playing together. When Mike came into the fold, he really helped solidify our sound then the death metal began to flow!

When I listen to your music I get thrown back to South America in the 80s and bands like Sarcofago, Sextrash and the likes. Where would you say that you find your greatest inspirations?
BRAD: Wow, I honestly can’t say those bands have been much inspiration, but I do like them. If any South American bands have influenced me at all, it would have to be Sepultura and their Morbid Visions album. That album is their best, by far. I listened to that a lot back in the Funerus demo days! As far as the band now, it’s pretty much the classics. Bands like Autopsy, Grave, Carnage, Incantation, Funebre, Abhorrence/Amorphis, Nihilist/Entombed, Disembowelment, Repulsion, some punk stuff, etc. When I listen to music, though, it’s really varied.

When I got into extreme metal in the 80s there was a difference in how elaborate a release was depending on if it was a major release or an underground. These days you can’t tell the difference. Has that change been for the better or worse? Has the underground suffered from it?
TIM: It’s true that technology has allowed most anyone to have slick-sounding recordings and fancy graphic design rather than 4-track tape recordings and photocopied lyric sheets. So now you have bands intentionally trying to look and sound shitty and low budget in order to identify themselves as underground. It’s funny to me. In the mid to late 80s in the Colorado punk scene, I was on a bunch of 7”s, split 7”s, and comp 7”s that were recorded on 4-track and had photocopied covers and lyric sheets. Very DIY and underground but not so listenable or easy on the eyes. Anybody that had to listen to or look at those surely suffered!
BRAD: Like Tim said, it’s so much easier to have a band and make a recording these days. And you can get it to the masses via the internet. It’s just harder to keep up with all the new stuff and new bands that are actually good. So, I’d say it’s both good and bad!

When I look at the US metal scene I don?t see a comprehensive one. To me it seems more like bands competing for the same spot instead of trying to help each other out. How much of the American mentality can you apply before it starts to bite itself in the butt?
TIM: Death metal is a pretty small scene so the idea of competing for the top of the heap is ridiculous. We can all share the 40 dudes and 4 women that come out to shows.
BRAD: The still scene clique, too-cool-for-school mentality still exists, for sure. I don’t know about what it’s like all over the US, but in Pittsburgh we have a pretty good scene where there’s lots of crossover from hardcore punk and metal genres. I think it’s a good thing. But you’ll always have the wankers who still have the mentality that they want to be the coolest and most well-known.

Speaking of scenes. Where do you see Abysme fit the best? Do you feel that you are a part of a scene? How important is it to be a part of a scene?
BRAD: I’d like to think we’re just part of the international death metal scene and associated with other underground bands like us who have similar goals and attitudes.

Your album cover is in black and white and it is a drawing. How important was it to have it done this way for the feel of authenticity?
BRAD: It was important to us to have our buddy Putrid do our cover. We love that guy, he’s a true maniac! We’re honored that he was able do that for us and it turned out incredibly. The fact that it’s black and white is just how it happened. I don’t think that lends to authenticity or credibility at all.

What kind of topics do your lyrics deal with? Is there a special theme/concept that you feel needs to be followed for it to be real?
TIM: I’m not into murder or rape as lyrical subject matter, for instance. So sometimes when I write lyrics they’re full of despair and disappointment that human beings are capable of such horrific things.
BRAD: I like Tim’s themes of despair and disappointment. When I write, it usually ends up being about human existence and experience, or the passing of time.

Is Abysme a touring/gigging band? What are your feelings on playing live?
BRAD: We play shows and like it a lot. I like to meet and hang with people who like metal. The one thing I don’t like is hauling gear around. My back isn’t as sturdy as it used to be! We haven’t toured, but have played in places like NYC, Buffalo, Chicago and Cleveland. All excellent places we like to play!

What kind of future do you see for the band?
TIM: The cover of the first Die Kreuzen album is a drawing of dinosaur skeletons on tank treads roaming over a rubble-strewn wasteland. That’s how I picture the future and I hope Abysme will be there playing some songs.
BRAD: Tim really knocked that answer out of the park! More Abysme for a death metal hungry world of total maniacs!! Thanks for the interview!!!!

BULLETBELT

BULLETBELT from New Zealand quickly became a fave of mine when I received their EP back in 2011. Now that they have an album out I thought it time to speak to them again. Anders Ekdahl ©2013

It’s been over a years since we last spoke. What have BULLETBELT been up on this time?
We have been very busy. We have completed our first New Zealand tour, played with Goatwhore, Impiety, The Black Dahlia Murder, Blaze Bayley and Paul Dianno. We have filmed a video clip for our song Into Battle and of course recorded our album ‘Down in the cold of the Grave’.

You have an album out now. Let’s talk a bit about that one. How different is this release from you previous?
-The big difference is we have been a band for 3 years now, and we have played a lot of gigs and had a chance to refine the songs and really find the ‘Bulletbelt sound’. When we write the songs, we are still first and foremost a Black Metal band. But at this stage of Bulletbelt’s life we have added other elements of the metal we love. Death metal, Thrash and straight up trad.

How hard is it to find a sound that is truly unique and original today? What is that you are looking for in the sound of BULLETBELT?
-Our sound is the result of many years of drinking beer and listening to many thousand metal Vinyls, CDs and tapes. What comes out is who and what we are.

How would you like to define the sound of this new album? Is it still black metal or has it transcended that genre definition?
-As discussed it has aspects of different metal genres. Ultimately we are simply a metal band. We don’t need walls our fences to confine us or define us. With a name like Bulletbelt we can be whatever the fuck we want!

What is black metal to you today? How has the definition of it changed over the years?
-As it has always been, Black metal is about the feelings you get when you listen. It is pointless to try and define it. It will never be 1991 again, but there are still a lot of amazing bands putting great BM albums out. I get the same feelings inside when I listen to early Burzum as I do listening to the new Weapon album.

How anti-Christian do you have to be to be considered black metal? How has the definition of what is black metal and what is not true changed over the years? If you look at some of the USBM bands they are nowhere near to Marduk or Mayhem.
-If you are 17, then being Satanic is a good way to try to shock people. Our Black metal worships no one but ourselves. Of course fuck Christians, but also fuck try hard wannabe Satanists. Drink beer and listen to Midnight. That’s all the religion we need.

Even back in the 80s when I got into black metal it wasn’t just one style. Where do you see BULLETBELT fit in on the international black metal scene?
-We play our metal and dare I say it…..enjoy it. We have more in common with the first wave of BM. Turn it up, drink some beer and bang your fucking head.

What is the hardest in releasing an album on your own? What are you expecting to get out of it?
We are working hard to get some good overseas Distro. Watch this space…

What kind of black metal/extreme metal scene is there in New Zealand? How many trips around the country does it take before you start playing to the same initiated?
-The scene in NZ is very healthy at the moment. There are many good bands. Witchrist, Diocletion, Heresiarch, Dying of the Light, Exordium Mors, Winter Deluge, Dawn of Azazel, Pervertor, Nullifier, Filthy Lucifer, Boltcutter plus many more. We are currently planning our next NZ tour, and we are planning on taking our Metal Madness to every little shithole town we can find!

Where are you gonna take it now?
-Balls Deep! We have support slots coming up with Tragedy, Rotten Sound and Midnight. Our second NZ tour, then we have some overseas touring in the pipeline. Onwards and upwards!

CORNERS OF SANCTUARY

CORNERS OF SANCTUARY is classic heavy metal the American way. No fluffy hairs or spandex pants. Just metal to the bone. Anders Ekdahl ©2013

In 2012 you had three releases out. Why so many and when does it become overkill to release that many records in one year?
JAMES: The World of Music has changed a ton in the past 10 years. More and more bands have the ability to reach out to the World via the internet. This is both a blessing and a potential curse. From the start, our plan was to put something out every 6 to 8
months. Our feeling was to keep fresh things coming out as the fans of Metal have become fickle. The internet has made it easy to get bored quickly with new bands/material. The fans want more now, and truthfully we love creating/finishing new
stuff as well. We had a ton of material archived; this made it easier to accomplish multiple releases. Keep in mind that we released 2 EP’s and one LP. The “Forgotten Hero” EP was the spring board for “Breakout”. The “December Wind” project was for charity. It contains one new release and one sneak peek into our new project “Harlequin”, which will officially release Jan 22nd. So not really that crazy…
MICK: We had one full length release in 2012 – that was “Breakout. Earlier in the year we released an EP titled “Forgotten Hero”. A few of those tracks ended up on “Breakout”. “December Wind” was designed as a Holiday promotional EP. The disc included the title track as well as serving as a promotional piece for both “Breakout” and our upcoming 2013 release “Harlequin”. Plus we always wanted to do a Holiday song and this was a great opportunity to do it. I don’t think it is overkill – especially how quickly things fade these days. Releasing new material every six months or so was an industry standard back in the old days. Take a look at the early catalogs of the Beatles and Kiss. These guys worked hard to deliver to the fans. We have that same mentality. Hell, we are already working on the follow up CD to “Harlequin”!

What was it that made you want to start CORNERS OF SANCTUARY in the first place?
JAMES: We had just finished up a 25th anniversary release of material from a former band called Seeker. Sean and Mick were inspired and started to lay down some material. I came in about 6 months later. The 25 year itch kicked in and things starting rolling. You never lose the dream.
MICK: We were working on a reunion project for a band we were in called “Seeker”. During that time I was talking with Sean about doing some new stuff but getting back to the basics and to our roots. We wanted to do what was natural to us. So Corners of
Sanctuary was born.

What is the climate for metal like in your home town and state? What kind of scene is there for metal?
JAMES: In our hometown I would say the climate is sluggish. Just north of Philly the scene seems to be picking up some momentum. It is less main stream then it was some time ago.
MICK: It’s not main stream. But there is still a dedicated following. Because of that it will press on and endure to new generations. Regardless of the numbers, the fans will keep metal alive and kicking.

It is often talked about, the American metal sound and the European but what is the difference between the two?
JAMES: Is there a difference, or is it more of a cultural acceptance thing? The European market clearly has more tolerance for heaver music. In my opinion, the style of metal in Europe allows for more fan participation in the live setting ? less separation between
the band and their audience. I imagine this comes through in the creativity process.
MICK: Just from my experience only and from what I have seen, the big difference seems to be that European metal, these days, is more theatrical, dramatic and climatic. But the scenes are also much different which plays a major role in the music creation. The
European scene seems to live, breath and die metal. It is a way of life, a way of living. Not to say that this sentiment does not exist in the American metal scene, because it does. It just seems to be more intense in Europe.

If you had to place the band on the map of metal where would COS end up?
JAMES: New Wave British Metal….Our roots are dug deep into this style.
MICK: If you mean how we would classify C.O.S. genre?based, I would just say Heavy Metal. If I were being pressed, I would have to say Old School Heavy Metal. But really what is important is how the listeners feel about it. If they like it and think it is “such
and such” genre – great! If someone else digs it and believes it to be something else – that’s great too! It really is irrelative. What is relative is whether or not people are listening. If they are listening, they can call it whatever they want.

How tough is it to release records on your own? How tough is the competition to get noticed?
JAMES: Great Question, with today’s technology anyone can, with some effort, release their own records. With the digital media outlets, this process is 100 times easier to do. Digital distribution channels are pretty easy to set up. Your music, in theory, is
accessible to the world. You can cover a ton more ground via the Internet in a fraction of the time that it took 15 years ago. However, it is a double edged sword. Just check out the number of bands you can find on the internet ? so many great bands ? so many choices at the world wide level. Have to keep it fresh: release every 6 to 8 months. It’s like touring was 20 years ago… stay in front of them, keep the material in front of them, in different forms. Build a buzz. To answer your question directly, competition is huge.
MICK: Everything is a process and everything costs. Planning is always required. But there is a freedom in that process. That freedom seems to out?weigh a lot of the course that is involved with releasing a record, especially on your own. There are so many
bands out there these days, so many genres and sub?genres that it is easy to get lost in the crowd. At times you have to pick your battles and do what you can when you can but regardless do it the best you can always.

What can you do to make yourself stand out with selling your soul to the gods of rock?n?roll?
JAMES: First my soul is not for sale. I prefer to keep it and share it with a select few…..LOL If your asking what our hook will be to get to the next level, well I am not sure, but what I can say is that if you are true to yourself and your band mates, stick to a plan and play what comes naturally, in the end all will be ok. Either way works.
MICK: Rather than resort to some cheap parlor tricks or passing fads, I believe staying true to yourself and the music is what counts and it is what will keep you in the game. Things change, and the music and writing will change as a band progresses on. It is
inevitable. Go with the flow, go with what moves you and inspires you. That is being true to yourself – the music will mirror that – it will be sincere and from the heart.

In this day and age of digital downloads how important is the art work for a band’s record to get noticed?
JAMES: Artwork was used to catch the eye of the fan or potential fan while, in some cases it expressed the bands vision of the album ? a type of advertising to inspire someone’s curiosity to want to listen or see more. This concept has not changed.
However, it has grown way past the cover of the record or a few posters. The artwork/marketing of a release is perhaps more important and must be strategic, and in our opinion, gives a peek into the vision of the band. It must be able to separate the
band and make the music standout from the digital clutter. Frequency and creativity of artwork in more than a few mediums is needed.
MICK: It seems not to be as important to the younger listeners. However, that is not necessarily the artists’ point of view. The art is a parallel reflection of the music itself. There is a reason why artwork is still designed for releases. It means something – it
symbolizes something. Think of your favorite album… I am sure you know what was on the cover. It’s part of the experience.

What choices did you do in order to pick the art work that you’ve used for your records?
JAMES: Mick handles most/all of the artwork. He works with a small team to nail down his concepts and then presents to the band for suggestions and or approval.
MICK: Since the band is rooted in what we feel is Old School – we wanted to give the artwork that same feeling. The artwork, the liner notes, the music, is all part of the music listening experience. You can touch it, see it, hear it – you can feel it. It is all part
of the impact, all part of the message. So, just like our music, the artwork is something that we would want to see from our favorite bands.

What is on your agenda for the future?
JAMES: We have a release coming out Jan 22nd, a concept album called “Harlequin”. Great tunes… the songs stand together as a story or on their own as individual tunes. We wanted to make sure the concept was not to over bearing to follow. We also made
sure that each song held its own. Again, with digital downloads, full album downloads are less frequent. Keep climbing the mountain until someone makes us stop……Pay my bills, make a living, and keep the dream alive. Same stuff
MICK: Our new CD, “Harlequin”, releases on January 22, 2013. We hope to have some videos to go along with the disc as well. And we are booking a winter string of live performances to support the new record. We are working on a publishing deal for 2013 as well as working with some independent labels for compilation CDs to continue to promote C.O.S. We have already begun working on our next CD, writing and recording, and hope to have it released sometime during the summer along with some other projects we are
considering at the moment.