Reviews for October 3rd, 2012

Enslaved - RIITIIR

Enslaved is a band that should need no introduction. This Norwegian band has been around since the beginning of the Scandinavian black metal scene and was one of the early bands to hoist the Viking metal flag. Active since 1991, “RIITIIR” is the band’s twelfth album. They started out as pure Viking/Black metal, and have in the years since evolved in a more progressive direction.

It is a foregone conclusion that I will like this album. I have heard enough Enslaved over the years to know basically what I am getting. The only question that remains is “what direction will they go with this album?” They could choose to return to their roots and discard the clean vocals and be balls-out heavy, they could continue down a progressive path, or they could go in a completely new direction.

I can tell you that they are continuing in the progressive vein. What makes these guys so interesting is that while the songs have a definite progressive slant to them (long, melodic, introspective music with clean and ethereal vocals) they also retain an extreme metal aspect in some of the heavier music and the harsh vocals. To meld these two styles, seamlessly, without sounding contrived or awkward is an impressive feat. However mellow they may come across in the recordings, I saw these guys play last year and they still crush skulls live.

I expect anyone who has been following Enslaved for years will be happy with the results on “RIITIIR.” For Enslaved newbies, well, this is as good a time as any to get onboard and start learning this icon of Norwegian metal. Check out the video for “Thoughts Like Hammers.”

Sybreed – God is an Automaton

Sybreed is an industrial/groove/death-ish metal band from Switzerland and “God is an Automaton” is their fourth album.

I do not really listen to much industrial music anymore. Back in the 90s and early 2000s I went through an industrial phase. I listened to a lot of Ministry, KMFDM, Chemlab, Circle of Dust, Die Krupps and bands along those lines. Nine Inch Nails even. I am not really sure why I drifted away from the style; maybe it was simply that fewer people were playing industrial.

So on one hand I could go into “God is an Automaton” feeling like this is an antiquated style that gave up the ghost a decade ago. On the other hand I could look at this as a breath of fresh air because I have not heard anything like it lately. Given the choice, I tend to come down on the more positive side (at least when it comes to evaluating music) so I think I will just take it as it comes.

Having a good production always helps, and “God is an Automaton” sounds great. While there are definite industrial/electronic elements to these songs, they remain largely metal in their makeup. The vocals seem to do about equal time bouncing back and forth between clean and harsh.

I won’t blow smoke up your ass and say this is something that I will listen to over and over; I probably won’t listen to it again. But that has less to do with the quality of the music and more to do with this just not being the kind of metal phase I am into right now with my personal listening. I have no qualms about saying this is a well put together album with quality songs that I am sure many people will enjoy. This is good music. It just is not where my head is right now.

Have a look at the video for “Hightech Versus Lowlife.”

Runes of the Evening – Agni/Indra

Runes of the Evening are from Dallas, Texas and “Agni” and “Indra” is a pair of three song EPs they released last month. They play metal that is very much black, but with some death metal tendencies.

Starting off with “Agni”, I was immediately caught up in the combination of melodic, sweeping guitars and a harsh, evil sounding vocal. This has an old school feel with a more modern production approach. Three minutes into the first track, “Of Bravery and Will”, I am in love. The cool guitar work on “Agni” puts me in a dark, mellow trance. Or maybe it is these antibiotics. Either way, I am digging these tunes.

Moving on to “Indra”, we have more of the same crushing-yet-beautiful extreme metal. I am not sure if these six songs were divided up into two EPs for thematic reasons (I suspect that is the case) or some other reason, but both are pretty damn good.

Did I mention these EPs were mastered by the legendary James Murphy? Nice! Last I heard James was having trouble with that brain tumor again. I hope he is kicking its ass. I guess if he is mastering music he is at least doing pretty well.

I very much recommend checking out Runes of the Evening, and I hope to hear more from these guys in the future. Check out the track “Where Shall I Spill My Blood.”

Deserted Fear – My Empire

Deserted Fear is a death metal band from Germany and “My Empire” is their first album.

Looking over their bio sheet I see that the album was mixed and mastered by one of my personal favorite metal musician/producers, Dan Swanö. Dan, of course, is known for his work with Edge of Sanity, Nightingale, Bloodbath and literally scores of other bands, whether as a singer (he has a wicked clean voice), musician, producer or engineer. Not to get sidetracked, but the point I am trying to make is that if Dan was involved, I am immediately inclined to take heed.

“My Empire” does not disappoint me. I am not surprised to find that the production is very well done. The combination of the guitar sound and the drum sound is enough to win me over. This may be death metal but the music is not just senseless aggression, there is a lot of meat on these bones. The vocals are of course harsh and guttural; they are seated well in the mix and sound great alongside the music.

The album does not stand out for breaking new ground, but it does stand out as a quality slab of death metal. I heartily recommend checking out Deserted Fear. You can start below, with the track “The Battalion of Insanities.”