Review: ABNORMALITY – “The Collective Calm In Mortal Oblivion” (DIY)

Abnormality is a death metal band from Marlborough, MA whom, to say the least, is just full of surprises. Not only does the music have many twists and turns that work in a beautiful, technical manner, but they have a female vocalist whom I can honestly say kicks the shit out of many male death metal vocalists out there. The Collective Calm in Mortal Oblivion is nothing short of intense. It’s fast, it’s heavy, it’s angry, and it’s very aggressive. It’s albums like this that remind me just why I love death metal.

The album starts out with a weird riff sounding like it was recorded in 8 bit, then kicks right in with a ridiculously heavy opening riff to the title track, which is full of everything you’d expect: lots of blast beats, fast riffs, and even faster double kick. The next two songs, titled “Hatred Relentless” and “Zealotry” both go by fast, reason being because this demo almost does not let up at all. The mini-solo on “Zealotry” brings
out a bit of a break from speed although there’s still that hammering double kick beneath everything, and then they continue with the aggression until the very end.The production is very clean, but still has a little bit of that raw, brutal sound that makes death metal what it is. It’s not an overproduced, over-edited sound that plagues most of today’s modern metal, yet everything can be heard clearly and every note is easily distinguished.

I have always been a fan of Abnormality since I first ever heard them, and in my opinion this is their best offering yet. It’s no wonder to me why this band is one of the more well-known death metal acts in the New England metal scene. My only complaint with this album is that it is not long enough. The three songs offered are a frenzy of intense death metal that just leaves the listener beggin’ for more, and we can only hope that there is a full length on the way. In the mean time, check them out on Myspace or Facebook, buy this demo, and do what you do to help keep bands like this alive and strong.

RATING:  10 / 10
By: Greg Mann


Review: KATAHDIN – “Pamola” (DIY)

Katahdin is the name of the highest mountain in the state of Maine. Located in Baxter State Park, it was believed by some Native Americans to be the home of the storm god Pamola, deeming it a place to be avoided. Such a name is perfect for a band like Katahdin, and not in the sense that they should be avoided at all. Hailing from various parts of Massachusetts and Connecticut, this band’s sound isn’t what I would call ground breaking, but nonetheless still something that I will be listening to over and over for quite some time.

Pamola is an album that can be thoroughly enjoyed by black metal purists, but they also show a large death metal influence, and even a bit of thrash. I’m definitely seeing a huge Symbolic era Death influence as well which is something that really caught my attention. Another thing that caught my ear is that they don’t concentrate on only screeching high vocals, but also have moments of some good sounding lows that remind me a lot of Decrepit Birth.

The album opens with a very cool intro, with Native American music playing over a thunderstorm and a really cool sounding drum buildup, as if the tribe being studied is getting ready to walk into battle. One last loud thunder strike, and then they immediately kick into “Blood Red Moon.” The next song, titled “The Root of Wind and Storm,” is another perfect example of their sound, with a lot of really cool sounding leads. The solos on the album definitely catch my attention, but not quite for the right reasons. There are just some parts of them that sound like they aren’t quite on key with the rest of the song/solo.

The production is very dirty, which is perfect for their style. The drums sound a little stale in the mix, and I’ve never really been a huge fan of the heavily reverberated drum sound either, but it works for what they’re doing. I am, however, a big fan of the artwork, which shows a Native American style picture of what seems to be half moose, half bird, with the arms of a man, and that unmistakable, quite illegible logo that seems to be a requirement for many black and death metal bands, making it incredibly hard to know what it says unless you already know who the band is.Overall this album is awesome, and a great example of what a good blackened death/thrash band should sound like. Though there are a few things that I feel could use some work or changing around, it’s still something that I’ve found myself listening to a lot and really getting into, and definitely worth looking into no matter what sub genre you’re into. Katahdin is a band that shows lot of promise, and if they keep it up, they definitely have a bright future ahead of them.

RATING:  7 / 10
By: Greg Mann

Review: ION DISSONANCE – “Cursed” (Century Media)

Ion Dissonance has always been pretty high up on my list of what to spin on a regular basis. Between Breathing is Irrelevant (2003, Willotip) and Solace (2005, Abacus) they created a pretty large following in the tech and mathcore scene. But the release of Minus the Heard (Abacus) in 2007 nearly ruined that for them, because the album was full of watered down breakdowns that couldn’t even be considered off time, but more-so polyrhythmic. They lost a large fanbase with this (also due in part to the replacement of Gabriel McCaughry with Kevin McCaughry on vocals), but at the same time gained a lot of respect from today’s “deathcore” scene.

Fast forward to 2010, and Cursed is born. The band jumped to Century Media for this one and realized exactly what they had to do to make a solid record that would gain them respect in both worlds. Opening with a droning intro that is title track, they show hints of keeping it slow and steady, and then Boom: They kick in with the song “You People Are Messed Up,” which brings us back to their early days of absolutely assaulting their math influences, with some very subtle hints of Minus the Heard style breakdowns. They kick in next with “The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same” showing no intentions of slowing down. The riffs sometimes seem a bit redundant, and you get the feeling that they keep repeating for the sake of repeating, but the feeling immediately disappears when the next riff comes into play. Just when you think this is going to be a nonstop speedway of tech and straight up heaviness, the Canadians pull off a bigger surprise then when they suddenly beat the American hockey team in the Olympics: In the last track, titled “Pallor,” the all of a sudden pull into a slow, somewhat atmospheric sounding riff, with guitars that have no distortion. As if that didn’t catch you off guard enough, a bigger surprise comes along, and when the song reaches the 1:36 mark, clean vocals emerge out of nowhere. Not only is this something Ion Dissonance has never done, but it actually sounds good, which is something a lot of todays heavy bands have a hard time pulling off.

The song titles bring questions to mind, though. Questions like did you put any thought into these titles at all? In my opinion, when the name of a song is “We Like To Call This One…Fuck Off,” it just screams lack of creativity. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they’re just trying to come off as ironic, but sorry boys, that’s not the best way to do so. Same goes for most of the lyrics when they are audible. There are some points where you can tell what he is saying without reading a lyric book, and they are definitely head scratchers. Sorry kids, but no chants like “Kill Yourself or Someone You Love” on this one.

Overall, I will say this album caught my unguarded attention. Musically it’s an improvement, definitely worth listening to. Lyrically, it’s something I would normally let pass, and I feel could use more originality. If this bothers you like it did to me, there’s always the ability to just not pay any attention to them. All in all, a great effort, and a sign that the band may possibly be heading in the right direction (backwards) in hopes of gaining back their original fanbase without losing what they’ve gained. Well played Canada, well played.

RATING:  6 / 10
By: Greg Mann

Review: ONEIRIC REALM – “Hallowed Ambrosia” Demo (DIY)

I must say, I don’t listen to enough black metal anymore. This is partly because it has  become a joke, with bands like Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir turning it into a Realm is one of those that stand true to the roots, supplying you with 22 minutes of straight up raw, majestic black metal like the good ol’ days of burning churches and making album covers of suicidal band mates making their final statement.

They start right off with sheer evil, without giving you even half a second to warm up to what might come. In this style, most of the bands have some incredibly epic intro of eerie noises, vikings in battle, or other such moments that you could swear came out of a movie you’ve seen before, but I don’t think that has to be an absolute necessity. At about 2:55 in track two, entitled “Cirque De Macabre,” they break into an almost jazzy sounding rhythm, with a very creepy sound lead, that leads right back into pure evil. “Of Gravity and Decay” has a few slight moments of clean guitars which may throw the listener off for a moment, but in a good way because it works perfect with what the rest of the song is doing. On the track “Imbibing Ignorance and Realization” they bust out the clean vocals; sweet, operatic sounding clean vocals that are definitely what made this for me. The songwriting is exactly what you’d expect, with random tempo changes here and there that aren’t exactly technical, but still very interesting considering how well it works for the sound. Plus it’s so melodic and majestic sounding, it brings bands like Emperor to mind more than it does Gorgoroth.

The production is perfect for black metal. Very raw, not over produced like a lot of mainstream bands mentioned before. The vocals are very low in the mix, but still allow you to hear just how high he can get without losing that raspy scream, which is something I can really appreciate because again, it just adds to the raw power of the mix. One of the biggest things that stands out to me (being a bassist) is the fact that the bass is very audible, and he doesn’t just do what the guitarists do, which is a what lots of black metal lacks (keep in mind all you purists out there that I don’t listen to much black metal), and it definitely makes for an enjoyable listen. The drums are especially tight sounding, and the kick has a very natural tone to it, rather than sounding like a basketball bouncing in the court, but a little low in the mix.

Overall, I give some major props to Oneiric Realm. In a scene that is just plastered with corpse paint and mockery (see: any Immortal Photoshop contest), this band sticks to the roots and delivers pure, evil sounding black metal that makes me wish there were more than four songs. Perhaps a full length may be seen in the future? We can only hope, because this is one band that I would definitely like to hear more from. As any internet forum nerd would say, Oneiric Realm is kvlt.

RATING:  9.5 / 10
By: Greg Mann

Rreview: HARD No. 9 – “Caps Demo” (DIY)

Hard No. 9 is a rock band from Worcester, MA. Good, old, bluesy rock ‘n roll. When I popped this demo in, it reminded me of something I would listen to while having a mid summer BBQ surrounded by good friends and doing copious amounts of drinking, which I’m sure is part of their intention given not only the band name, but the song name “Another Shot (of Whiskey).”

I do listen to a lot of rock, but not normally this style of it, so I’m gonna do my best in reviewing a style that I haven’t put much thought into. I’m clearly hearing a large blues influence, mixed with southern rock. It’s definitely music that would draw in the drinking crowd in no time. Excellent musicianship, and very steady song structures that keep you interested and wanting to hear more.

The production is excellent, and you can very clearly hear every instrument. The guitars have a nice, dirty distortion tone which is perfect for the style, and the leads stand out just enough to let you know they’re not just here to play simple rhythms. The bass and drums work perfectly together, laying down perfect rhythms for the guitarists to have their fun over. The only thing I’m not exactly big on is the vocals. You can definitely tell he has put in some hard work to get the voice he has now, I’m just not a particular fan of the sound he seems to be going for.

As I stated before, this isn’t normally what I listen to, so that makes it a bit more difficult to write a good, detailed review like the others I have posted as of yet, but this shouldn’t stop you from giving it a spin. The sound they are going for is definitely a style that attracts attention from mainstream radio stations across the world along with high end record labels, which helped them grab the attention of Capitol Records at a showcase they played back in August. If the boys keep it up, they may be in for a bright future. Music for fans of good ol’ rock ‘n roll that gives you a perfect excuse to drink, or keep drinking.

RATING:  8 / 10
By: Greg Mann