VESEN “This Time It Is Personal”

VESEN
“This Time It is Personal”
(Soul Seller)
I wonder how many Norwegian black metal band you can fit into one Volkswagen. They seem to be everywhere and there’s no escaping them either. Vesen made me think of Dödheimsgard just by looking at the cover. That was before I got to hear the music. That made me thing of Vondur. I honestly don’t know what to think of this. I get Necropolis Records vibes when I listen to this. This could very well have been released by that label in the 90s. I also get Mysticum/Implaed Nazarene vibes when I listen to this. For some strange (well not so strange really) reason I like this. There is a vibe to the music that makes it hard not to like it. In all its simplicity this is brilliant. I’m glad that I got to hear this. Anders Ekdahl

Grave Digger – “Clash Of The Gods”

Grave Digger – “Clash Of The Gods” (Napalm Records)

Grave Digger are one of Germany’s earliest metal bands, beginning in the early 80s and still going strong largely thanks to the dedication of frontman vocalist Chris Boltendahl. With a strong following in their home market “Clash Of The Gods” is their 16th album no less, and with the classical theme still strongly part of their ethos, they’ve chosen to turn back the clock right to the ages of Greek mythology! Grave Digger’s music is equally classical, being essentially 80s Euro metal although Chris’s gruff voice definitely stands out as being exceptional to that era. Whilst not being as eccentrically serious as Manowar, Grave Digger nevertheless do justice in their own right to songs like ‘God Of Terror’, ‘Warriors Revenge’ and ‘Medusa’ which are played at varying tempos, some heavy, some melodic, some epic and others more singalong – especially to their own name lol – essentially covering the full heavy metal spectrum both in fine style and as one of the original purveyors of it!

Knight Fury – “Time To Rock”

Knight Fury – “Time To Rock” (Pure Steel Records)

The latest supergroup from the US, Knight Fury brings together founder guitarist Chris Sanders (ex-LIZZY BORDEN), drummer Ken Mary (ex-TKO, ex-Accept, ex-Chastain, ex-Alice Cooper etc etc) and none other than Megadeth’s bassist Dave Ellefson in a traditional heavy / power metal band with symphonic and epic elements. It’s certainly a departure from the individuals’ own bands and quite refreshing not to hear any obvious elements of them in the Knight Fury sound – and arguably why would they need to, given it is a brilliant power package featuring crunching rock riffs, power rhythms and beautiful melodies on cool songs like ‘Battle For The Castle’, ‘Awaken’ and ‘Believe’. Newcomer vocalist William King fits in effortlessly with his clean, high end vocals which complete this circle of upliftingly powerful yet passionate music that used to be fashionable in the 80s, yet never had a market of its own – why I do not know – so “Time To Rock” is a timely welcome indeed!

All Hail The Yeti – “All Hail The Yeti”

All Hail The Yeti – “All Hail The Yeti” (AFM Records)

In an almost impossible possibility, AHTY are a heavy stoner band hailing from LA – West Hollywood to be specific! Complete with lumberjack shirts, I guess what sets these hill billys apart is Canadian vocalist and tattoo artist Connor Garritty’s ugly aggro core ‘vocals’ and moreover, some serious melodies and hippy choruses amidst the sludge of ‘I Am Wendigod’, ‘Judas Cradle’ and ‘When The Sky Falls’. Additionally, the band don’t rely just on one tempo but in many cases, have an upbeat groove to their sound. So while being heavy, AHTY are very accessible to the masses – hence being a fave at the Whisky-A-Go-Go – unlike the dope hazed smog of EyeHateGod or Buzzoven, whose inspiration can be heard there throughout, albeit without the extreme, uncompromising and drug fueled nihilistic rage that spawned those bands.

Cultfinder – “Black Thrashing Terror”

Cultfinder – “Black Thrashing Terror” EP (Eldritch Lunar Miasma)

Every now and then a band comes along that pulls out the stops and brings the shit. England’s Cultfinder have done just that with only 3 songs. Going back to the days of old black thrash when the two comfortably swirled around the same foul smelling trough, “Black Thrashing Terror” reminds me of similar obscene beasts like early Napalm Death, Onslaught and Iron Monkey where the music owed itself as much to the heaviest of metal as it did to the crustiest punk. And so it is too with Cultfinder, although the well executed musicianship of this trio should not be overlooked in bringing to life the true evil of songs like ‘Archangel Burial’ and ‘Witching Curse’. Nasty stuff indeed with no hint whatsoever of compromise – you can either like it or fuck off.

Shades Of Dusk – “Squalor”

Shades Of Dusk – “Squalor” (PRC Music)

These guys are apparently one of the top underground bands from Montreal, QC – and I believe them! This is quite astonishing melodic death metal which is easily up there with the top ranked purveyors of this style i.e. Dark Tranquility or The Black Dahlia Murder. Listening to the likes of ‘Morning Qualm’, ‘Priapism’ and ‘The Satyr’ its clear that Shades Of Dusk are a grade A complete package ranging from superb delivery to some of the best song writing I’ve heard in this genre – implying some serious brainpower as well as musical dexterity! But what I really like best is how they incorporate hints of other styles from technical death metal riffs to emo core harmonies to neo gothic licks to bring both a dark and yet also illuminating atmosphere that pervades the entirety of “Squalor”. As I said, quite superb for an unknown band. Considering their talent and potential I really hope they don’t get passed over simply for being Canadian because they deserve so much better.

Xander Demos – “Guitarcadia”

Xander Demos – “Guitarcadia” (Rock N Growl Records)

Behold the next guitar god! With a breathtaking range of endorsements, awards and recording collaborations with artists from all over the world, it’s no surprise that Xander Demos is one of those ‘in demand’ high-energy rock and metal guitar players who performs in excess of 100 times a year! Xander is an avid animal lover and given that ‘arcadia’, the name from which he has chosen to derive his album title, means a place of beauty or serenity, then it comes as no surprise that this album is filled with some of the most beautiful guitar driven rock and metal melodies – although by no means lacking in power! It’s interesting that while being influenced by the likes of Boston, Rush, Van Halen and Journey, Demo’s own inspirations come from other virtuoso guitarists like Shawn Lane and Guthrie Govan. Saying that, it’s particularly pleasing that songs like ‘Right Angles’, ‘Chase The Sun’ and ‘Metagalactic’ aren’t just brilliant examples of instrumental dexterity played to orgasmic levels, but are power rock / metal songs in their own right, albeit featuring the outstanding fluid guitar work of Xander Demos. Breathtakingly stupendous, and yet unbelievably humble, the talent just oozes on “Guitarcadia”!!!

Malefice – “Entities – Anniversary Edition”

Malefice – “Entities – Anniversary Edition” (Transcend Music)

This is the 5th year anniversary since the issue of this debut, and to commemorate it, this Brit metalcore crew have decided to re-master it as well as add in a bonus track ‘Reasons Lost’. To be frank, I’d question the sense in re-issuing an album so soon but the re-master is to be commended, adding clarity and a bigger sound (as if the band needed one) to songs like ‘As Skies Turn Black’ and ‘Horizon Burns’. Dale Butler’s voice sounds even more hoarser than before and Craig Thomas’s drums sound like he’s really hitting them in front of you! Best of all though, are those strong Gothenburg influenced guitar melodies, which really resonate atmospherically to bring a ‘live’ feel to this album. If you are new to Malefice then deffo check this out. Fans need no prompting!

Stealing Axion – “Moments”

Stealing Axion – “Moments” (InsideOut Music/Century Media Records)

These guys are the latest prog metal band hailing outta Seattle that mix traditional prog melodies with grunge harmonies and a very heavy bottom end (so much so that they’ve been labelled ‘djent’ in some circles). Blending in alternating clean with hoarse death like vocals and chopping Meshuggah riffs, Stealing Axion have successfully fused a variety of styles into an identifiable sound on songs like ‘Solar’, ‘The Unwanted Gift’ and ‘It’s Too Late Now’ to create a resulting effect that is both diverse and captivating enough to hold my attention – and I’m not exactly a big proggie lol! All in all, there are some very impressive aspects to “Moments”, but most of all, it’s definitely one of the heaviest prog releases around, from its pounding drum work to that unbelievable grunting bass twanging almost relentlessly, resonating in your ears long after the last track has played!

BODYFARM

I will always have a place in my metal heart for a band from Holland. BODYFARM is just my latest Dutch band to fill that heart with totally great death metal. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

Is Bodyfarm a good name for a death metal band? Given its more scientifical use in reality?
-Yes, we think it is. It’s short and catchy, and it doesn’t represents something deep or pretentious. We play death metal and our lyrical themes may vary, so we like a bandname that doesn’t say what you can expect.

Would you say that you are part of a healthy Dutch death metal scene? What kind of death metal scene is there today?
-Without being cocky I think we can say that yes. There are so many bands over here. The best known bands are o fcourse Hail Of Bullets, Asphyx, Legion Of The Damned, Severe Torture, and some others. That’s the upperground. I think Bodyfarm worked itself to the upper-underground if you know what I mean. We’ve played some shows outside of the country and we allways had great support from the critics and the media. The death metal scene today in Holland is very big. If you want, you can go to death metal gig in The Netherlands every single day. There’s always some band playing somewhere, and every big tour visits the country multiple times. Because of that, it’s pretty hard to be seen in the enormous amount of bands.

Does it add pressure to you knowing that people expect every band to come from Holland to be good? I can’t remember having heard a single bad Dutch metal band.
-Ehr… do they expect that? Haha. I know we have a rich history and present of death metal quality but no, it doesn’t add pressure. We make music because we love to do it. It’s our lives. We are very happy to know that a lot of people like what we do, but if they don’t: no problem. We enjoy every aspect of making death metal and for us it’s all about having fun, playing gigs and meet people.

Death metal today is divided into so many sub-genres that it is close to impossible to keep track of it. What is death metal in its most basic form to you?
-Do you want names? I’d say Vader, Grave, Vomitory, Unleashed, Deicide, Asphyx and some others. Bands like these have been around for twenty to thirty years and still haven’t changed a bit about their musical style. It’s so pure and honest! Those bands are the godfathers of death metal, and without them there would never have been genres like ‘technical vegetarian djentcore’ or whatever these genres are called. It’s a very natural thing for musical styles to evolve, but I’m very glad that there’s still a great scene for primitive, pounding death metal.

When you have an album out what kind of feelings does that bring with it?
-I can only speak for our latest release ‘Malevolence’ since that is our first full-length album. The whole recording process took a while and I’ve been very busy with it. It took a lot of my energy and at one point I seriously doubted the quality of the songs on it. But since its release the positive reactions have just been overwhelming, so now I’m very proud of it. The other guys too. We never expected that the critics and media would love it this much.

How easy is it to let go of something that is done but you’ll have to live with for the rest of your life like an album recorded and released?
-You can work on something for ages and try to improve it until you don’t even know what you’re doing anymore. At some point the material is just ready for the studio, and you’ll just have to wait and hear how it’s turning out. Letting go is sometimes scary because there’s no way back indeed. We had a lot of trust in Harry van Breda who recorded, mixed and mastered the album. And in our opinion it turned out into something we can be proud of. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do better. We’ve learned a lot from this recording process.

How important is the right kind of art work? What wouldn’t have worked on the cover
-Very important! When I walk into a record store, the artwork of an album is the first thing I see. It has to draw your attention. I also think that it has to represent the content of the album. A death metal album with a Nightwish-like cover would be weird. When we were working on the album cover we took a close look at the lyrics. Then Erik Visser made some sketches and we picked one of them for him to work on.

What kind of importance do you place on lyrics? Do they have to fit the music or are they just a necessary evil?
-From every song we write I get a certain ‘vibe’. Then I start writing about whatever comes to my mind. Lyrics turn out violently most of the time, but when you listen to ‘Heartraped’ on our 2010 EP it’s more of a love song, haha! Basically I write about whatever I want. Personal stuff, war, gore, death (and its beauty) and anti-religious extremity… It’s all there. Chuck Schuldiner wrote a lot about issues in life, love, inner conflicts and stuff. It fit in perfectly, so in my opinion it doesn’t have to be about death and gore all the time.

What lyrics are the most death metal in your opinion?
-I honestly don’t have a clue. The most common themes are of course gore, death and anti-Christianity. You could say that these themes are the ‘most death metal’. But I don’t think that they represent death metal. There’s so much freedom in death metal because there are many sub-genres and you can write about whatever you want.

What can we expect in the future from Bodyfarm?
-I hope that you can expect a lot! We are already writing material for the next album, and we’re planning to ge tinto the studio somewhere in early 2013. Until then we’re playing some nice club shows, and we hope to play on some international festivals next year!
Thomas Wouters, guitarist/vocalist Bodyfarm