Reviews for November 27th, 2012

Incantation – Vanquish in Vengeance

Incantation is an American death metal band that has been around for over twenty years, and today they are releasing their ninth album, “Vanquish in Vengeance.”

In the early 90s when Incantation started releasing albums I had yet to become enamored of extreme metal (I was still holding a torch for thrash) and so my early experience with the band was not exactly favorable. Some of the early death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse, Deicide and Death were catching my attention, but bands like Incantation still left me unsatisfied.

First impressions are sometimes hard to overcome, because based on that original distaste I never really listened to Incantation again, even when I fell hard for extreme metal. I did catch them on tour with Cannibal Corpse back in 2002, but other than that I have paid them no attention.

Cut to the end of 2012 and here I am receiving a promo for “Vanquish in Vengeance.” It was time to get back on that horse and see if I could ride it. My tastes have changed and evolved so much over the years that now Incantation sounds perfectly normal, in the context of death metal anyway. I suppose I would have to go back and listen to the early albums to see if I was missing out, but I am currently enjoying this latest release.

The songs on “Vanquish in Vengeance” range from fairly fast to almost ploddingly slow. In either case they sound very much like traditional death metal, which is ok since that is what they are, right? The quality production goes a long way toward validating this album in my ears. The vocals of John McEntee are very deep and dangle over the precipice of becoming completely unintelligible growls, but thanks to the production and the placement of the vocals in the mix, I declare these songs more than listenable.

I suppose this means I have to go back and check out the earlier albums. Awww, shucks. I love “discovering” a band that already has a huge catalog; it is like stumbling across a goldmine of music.

Here is the title track from the album.

Chariots of the Gods – Tides of War

Chariots of the Gods are from Ottawa, Canada and “Tides of War” is their first album.

Bio sheets are funny. Particularly bio sheets for heavy metal bands. So many hungry and undiscovered bands want to make sure you know just how fuckin’ metal they are, so they pull out all the clichés to emphasize their, like, total metalness. This makes me laugh, and maybe cry just a little inside. Chariots of the Gods are only one of many, many bands that suffer from bio sheets with silly text. “Balls to the walls, in your face Heavy Metal.” Thank the gods for that comma; otherwise those balls on the wall were in your face. With their “rock-steady lineup” Chariots of the Gods will “storm the world and take no prisonners” with their “Pure, Heavy, Fuckin’ METAL.” (That was their typo on “prisonners”, not mine.)This shit is a little embarrassing people; metal as a genre really needs to invest in professional writers to do the bio sheets if we want to be taken seriously.

Luckily, the music on “Tides of War” quickly dispels any doubts left in my mind by the bio sheet. The music lies somewhere in between thrash and groove metal with traditional metal elements as well. The vocals are not exactly harsh, but they do have a heavy edge on them most of the time.

The production sounds really good. The music is tight and punchy and the vocals sit in the perfect spot to cut through it all and be heard. The kick drum sounds a little clicky, but on the whole I am very happy with the sound.

Good job on the album, guys. The music is pretty awesome. Maybe work on the bio a little, just sayin’. (To be fair, at least they include a bio, an alarming number of bands do not.) Now if you will excuse me, as a prisoner of metal I must go place my balls on the wall…

Nominon – The Cleansing

Nominon are a Swedish death metal band and “The Cleansing” is their fifth album.

I should get this out of the way first. When I see the band name Nominon I cannot help but start singing the Sesame Street song “Mah Na Mah Na.” Ma Nominon! For a seemingly dead serious death metal band, their name makes me giggle.

When the album starts playing, all thoughts of kid’s shows, light, happiness and the will to live get sucked right out of the room. They are cleansed from my consciousness, if you will.

There is no funny business going on here; this is serious doom and gloom death metal. The album has a very cold and cryptic feel rather like a black metal album, but with the synth-free intensity of death metal. The production is not quite as great as I tend to prefer, but in this case it is a big part of what gives the album that cold feeling. Since the music is mixed well and all that, I accept the production for what it is and do not consider it a check mark against the album.

It is hard to put my finger on exactly what it is about “The Cleansing” that I like, I just like it. In many ways it is a very simple and straight-forward album. Like a steam roller is a very simple piece of heavy machinery. Both will roll over you and leave you crushed and bleeding.

I am rather surprised it took me five albums to hear of these guys. They are worth a listen.

Daemonicus – Deadwork

What’s up next? Ah, more Swedish death metal. Daemonicus and their second album, “Deadwork.”

Sometimes I like to clump bands together on the schedule based on style or country of origin, but in this case the two Swedish bands in a row was unintentional. It might have been better for Daemonicus if I had not placed them directly after Nominon. While the name Daemonicus does not bring to mind any Sesame Street songs, their album does not hold up quite as well when heard right after “The Cleansing.”

This mostly has to do with the production. In fact, it has everything to do with the production. The songs are actually pretty alright. They are somewhat stock death metal, but they get the job done. The rather murky production is the album’s Achilles heel. If I were to come into this album cold, not having listened to anything else recently, the production might bother me less. But after listening to the last three albums, my ears are expecting something a little clearer.

Don’t give a shit about production? Well then you might just dig this album. I certainly don’t hate it. I just hope they pay a little more attention to the sound quality next time around. Here is “Nothing But Death.”

Mammoth Mammoth – Volume III – Hell’s Likely

How about we change gears completely and head down under to check out the third album from Australia’s Mammoth Mammoth – “Volume III – Hell’s Likely.”

Mammoth Mammoth combine classic stoner rock with the hellfire punk of the Supersuckers to make something I like to call “stunk.” Ok, maybe that word sounds too derogatory, but “spunk” sounds way too much like the way someone might describe a teen emo band.

These songs are a bit fast to truly hang out in the stoner/doom arena, but they have a nice raw and crunchy stoner guitar tone. The vocal styling is certainly punk-like in origin. I would not have been the least bit surprised if this album had been released in the mid 90s.

“Hell’s Likely” seems to me like it would be a good album to listen to while cruising down the highway. It has that foot-stomping, head-banging drive that makes one bang on the steering wheel while bobbing head like a chicken.

Hell’s likely, rockin’ is guaranteed. For a good time call Mammoth Mammoth. Here is the video for “Hell’s Likely.”

Leka – Grievance

If Mammoth Mammoth was not weird enough for you, may I present you with Leka and “Grievance.”

Hailing from Finland, Leka is the project of Juuso Leinonen and “Grievance” is his second demo, which contains three songs.

There is just enough clean, pristine and powerful metal on this demo to make these songs normal enough for me to enjoy, and just enough…that which is NOT metal…to make me wonder what the hell he has been smoking. These songs are both bizarrely experimental and oddly accessible (in the metal sense). Is he perhaps the bastard offspring of Devin Townsend and Mike Patton?

I am not normally an adventurous sort when it comes to experimental music. Things get weird and I get confused and it all just ends badly. Which is why I am very surprised to say that I really, really like what Juuso is doing here. Somehow he makes it all work without leaving me feeling alienated and lost. These songs sound more interesting and different than truly weird; I expect the masterful way he makes everything flow seamlessly has something to do with that. The pristine production and phenomenal guitar tone, combined with a brilliant metal voice leaves me in slack-jawed awe.

To dust off a little Oliver Twist, “please, sir, I want some more.” Three songs merely whet my appetite. I hope Juuso is hard at work on a full album, and I hope he sends me a copy when he is done. Check out “Green Love.”