Review: Iwrestledabearonce – “Ruining It For Everybody” (Century Media Records)

In what is sure to be alternately the most loved and/or hated release by any band this year, we have the new album by genre benders IWABO.  In the outright PR and marketing coup d’état of 2011, the band shocked the world with the declaration that they were “turning black metal” on May 17th. This what we call in advertising the perfect confluence of a savvy band and their handlers knowing exactly how to push buttons and manipulate the public. The metal media and public outcry from both fans and detractors was an amazing spectacle to behold for a few days. The band, with some help from MetalSucks.com essentially punked the world. Since there is in fact no such thing as bad press, they indeed had the last laugh. The fact that so many people didn’t get the joke and the level at which IWABO operates just tickled my funnybone silly. Hype is all fine and good, but the real punchline is that the new IWABO album delivers musically beyond all expectations.

Although there is an occasional flirtation with black metal, the sound of the new album is the same IWABO you always loved or hated. Spasmodic shifts of tempo blended perfectly with their aggressive mash-ups and wry sarcasm. Opening track “Next Visible Deliscious” straddles the line between tech deth, proggy deathcore and a PRIMUS like jam section in the middle. The sleeves of the band are all rolled up, revealing their entire bag of tricks to all comers. The first thing you notice about the song of the band is how much more defined and prominent the rhythm section is than ever before. “You Know That Ain’t Them Dogs’ Real Voices” has a sick heavy verse and an amazing chorus. The second verse finds the enchanting and limitless Krysta Cameron wailing on her brutal vocals. There is other assorted good weirdness in the track like surf guitar and grindcore. I have literally listened to this one song alone dozens of times since getting the album. “Deoderant Can’t Fix Ugly” is discordant, avant-garde and most of all wonderful. And yes, it does end with a gospel style chorus like a 1990’s RnB song. Although the entire band has improved individually and collectivley, I’d have to single out drummer Mike Montgomery for being excellent and particularly crushing. The actual song on the album with a black metal influence is “It is “bro” isn’t it?” which sounds like it could be an outtake from the current BLACK DAHLIA MURDER album. That is until the gorgeous chorus and angular guitar riffs come in. More surprises like well developed keyboard parts come to the forefront like never before. John Ganey and Steven Bradely are not just fine guitarists, they are sick songwriters and programmers to boot. “Gold Jacket, Green Jacket” flirts with techno and other oddities in and around a deathcore song structure.“Break it Down Camacho” is another song I can’t say enough good things about with it’s cool bass parts courtesy of Ricky Martin. Songs like “Stay to the Right” and “I’m Gonna Shoot” just rock and again show there is no boundary the band cannot shatter. The single “Karate Nipples” is great on repeated listens as well. Rounding out the proceedings with possibly the best track of them all in “Button It Up” with its subject matter as dark as its tone. Sorry to break it you haters, the joke is still on you!

RATING: 9.5 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/iwrestledabearonce

Review: Fit For An Autopsy – “The Process of Human Extermination” (Black Market Activities)

Every once in a while, when the whole deathcore scene once again seems to be in a generic, redundant state, a certain band comes along that provides a fresh sound that reminds you that with the right ideas, a renewed sense of determination, and a fairly well known group of people whom could be considered veterans in the North Eastern metal scene, this genre can still be awesome. Fit for an Autopsy is that band, and on “The Process of Human Extermination“ they are out to prove it.

Right from the start the band rips into a heavy metal frenzy, blending traditional death metal speed and riffage with more modern style breakdowns, and in my opinion, one of Nate Johnson’s (Through the Eyes of the Dead, Premonitions of War, Deadwater Drowning, Buckhunter, and about 93 more bands from all over the states) best vocal performances yet, plus a whole powerhouse of guest vocal appearances.

Musically, the band has matured big time since their demo a few years back. They have a lot more strong, solid riffs, some pretty intricate breakdowns, and a little mini-solo here and there that sounds eerie as fuck, making for an even more traditional feeling. Not to mention the clean production that really adds to the overall power of the album, making every note loud and clear and the album as a whole heavy as fuck.

The song names also caught my attention. They are all nouns, describing what seems to be a person that has something to do with the world coming to an end, or an extermination, if you will, with names like “The Conquerer,” “The Jackal,” and “The Executioner.” The artwork is really creepy, and nothing short of bad ass.

If you heard Fit For an Autopsy before-good. You’re on the right track. But to hear a much more solid and matured band, then “The Process of Human Extermination” is a must. They are one of the few bands I can name that really have a style of death metal that any sub-genre can appreciate, without being incredibly over the top. You can read this review all you want, but this is really an album you have to buy to appreciate, and while you’re at it, check them out at a show. You will not be disappointed.

RATING: 9 / 10
By: Greg Mann
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/FitForAnAutopsyOfficial

Review: Sepultura – “Kairos” (Nuclear Blast Records)

SEPULTURA is back with their long awaited new album Kairos. The band has seen many ups and downs since Max Cavalera quit the band following the Roots album in 1996. In spite of a public war of words, mostly instigated by Max the band has soldiered on valiantly. They have released album after album of challenging and interesting metal. Even after losing a second Cavalera brother (Igor) a few years ago, the band has remained consistent and resolute. Some people will just never accept them without the founding brothers, but the truth is they have earned the right to keep the name alive. As proven by their recent American tour, they are not just interested playing the classic hits (which they played immaculately well), but they are still moving the sound of the band forward while keeping true to the name.

The meaning of Kairos comes from ancient Greek which basically marks a special, transformative moment in time. Right from the jamming opening riff of “Spectrum” the SEPULTURA we know an love announced it is back and in full effect. Tribal drumming, thrash riffs, terrible haunting growls and insane guitar solos all show up early on the record. Front man Derrick Green has long found a comfort zone with his gravely delivery and as usual he is at home in the pocket of madness. Andres Kisser continues to churn out great riff after great riff, proving over time to be Max’s equal in that department.”Kairos” is every bit as aggressive and evil as anything going back to the Chaos A.D. days. In addition to Kisser’s manic riffs, drummer Jean Dolabella has fully stepped to the plate and replaced Igor at the drum throne. Yes, I just said replaced. His drum performance is incredible and he deserves a lot of credit for putting a fresh take on the drum sound without losing the quality the fans expect. Another crusher of a song is “Relentless”. Again, if you loved the classic late 1980’s to the early 1990’s sound of the band this song is right in your wheelhouse. Chugging rhythms and screaming vocals with uplifting lyrics about payback galore can be found here. The solo is also amazing. A curious mid-album cover of MINISTRY’s “Just One Fix” is well done and faithful to the original except the meaner vocals. I just might have put it at the end of the album is all I’m saying. Other songs like “Mask” and “Seethe” just kill and are on par with recent releases from SLAYEREXODUS and TESTAMENT in the modern old-school thrash department. As usual bassist Paulo Sixto Pinto Jr. holds down the bass well, occasionally stepping up to shine in little ways. The fact that Green no longer plays guitar in the band says as much about Pinto Jr. as it does Kisser regarding the sound of the band. Other top tracks are “Born Strong” and “No One Will Stand”. The bonus track version of the album has a cool metal cover of “Firestarter” by THE PRODIGYSEPULTURA is back so please throw your horns and bow down in respect because you are not worthy.

RATING: 9.5 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sepultura

Review: Tombs – “Path of Totality” (Relapse Records)

If you ever had any doubts that city dwellers have no place in the black metal community, you’re wrong and you haven’t heard TOMBSPath of Totality is the second full-length album from this Brooklyn based blackened sludge metal band. That’s right, I said Brooklyn, as in totally not from Europe. If you want to imagine how evil this album sounds, I’d say picture yourself in a nightmare with Dorian Gray and Alistair Crowley, both just casually having late night conversations about the end of humanity set to a scene from Dante’s Inferno. It’s a pretty sinister album. The thundering drumming on this record is authentic, taking off with the savage percussive assaults inspired by black metal titans DARKTHRONE. Wailing guitar tones and well-paced elements of despair were captured masterfully. Both the guitar and the ominous vocals were the responsibility of Mike Hill, who chants his mournfully oppressive lyrical themes all throughout the thoroughly morbid album; any expressions of nice things weren’t invited into the recording studio when John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, Baroness) produced it. The entire album and architecture of the songwriting is elaborately composed. Everything is paced together to convey a sense of yearning and ascension through build ups followed by climatic suspense and inevitably the pulling percussions slam you right back down into seething dissonance. Like a cascading series of volcanic eruptions, you can merely anticipate where the next measure will take you, only knowing that it is going to be hot. Path of Totality has it all.

RATING: 8 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TombsBklyn

Review: Xibalba – “Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias” (Southern Lord Records)

Hailing from Pomona, CA, hardcore death metal upstarts XIBALBA are ready for blood to spill. Xibalba is an ancient Mayan word that literally means place of fear or land of the dead. Mystical names attached to apocalyptic prophecies aside, XIBALBA kicks ass. Operating outside the current crop of typical bands, they are actually doing a style that is more like a hybrid of 90’s hardcore and death metal than modern deathcore. Downtuned and foreboding, the music definitely has the character and feeling of impending doom and is not for the faint of heart or soft in taste.

From the first notes of the aural assault that is “Bright Sun” you are not hearing any kind of trend jumping, prettied up metal for the masses. You hear bold hardcore and death metal inspired gut wrenching metal made for the stage, the mosh pit and most of all the microphone pile up. The band has as much in common with HATEBREED as they do THE ACACIA STRAIN, but again don’t call it deathcore. The slow, punishing main riffs will have you breaking your neck with glee and throwing the horns.  “Madre Mia“ is next and keeps the brutality level turned on high. The combination of urgent riffs and tight, technical playing really makes the track. “Never Kneel” just beats your ear drums senseless with insistent rhythms and crushing chord changes. There is a definite flavor here like OBITUARY and MALEVOLENT CREATION that continues on next track “Fallen”. Vocalist Nate Rebolledo sounds like he’s going to scream hard enough to make his lungs blow out of his chest. His gruff, bowel shattering vocals have an intensity to match the brooding feel of the music perfectly. “Time’s Up” sounds like a pre-Roots SEPULTURA with its killer drums supplied by Jason Brunes and the grinding riffs of guitarists Jensen Hucle and Brian Ortiz. The band is not afraid to try experimenting or take musical chances which I like, as heard on “We Deserve to Die”. In between brutal power grooves lay some intricate guitar work that may surprise you. Later on in the song it’s full on circle pit time. In addition to peppering the album with some cool intros via movie samples, the last third of the album contains their earlier releases as well. That way you get the full picture of what this band is capable of. Good music to either hurt someone else or yourself to.

RATING: 8 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/placeoffear

Review: Unearth – “Darkness in the Light” (Metal Blade Records)

UNEARTH is back and in case you didn’t get the memo, play time is over. They were at the forefront of modern metal and helped invent and popularize metalcore when no one else was doing it. Then all the copycats came and rather than be lumped in with the bandwagon jumpers, they switched up their style. The resulting change yielded solid and occasionally great music, but something was always missing. Now back to the style that made The Oncoming Storm a modern classic comes their new record, ready to stomp the competition into submission and serve notice to all in their way.

From the very start of opening track “Watch It Burn” the sound of the band is unmistakably classic UNEARTH. Energized songs chock full of crazy guitar melodies, tasteful breakdowns and plenty of mosh pit fodder the song is a great start to these proceedings. Vocalist Trevor Phipps turns in some of his sickest screaming since the start of this band and we’re only talking about the first song here. When guitarist Ken Susi lays down a melodic backing vocal part and it’s followed up by a crushing groove, it becomes 2003 all over again in my ears.  “Ruination” kicks off with a chugging thrash guitar line that will have you pumping your fist in the air and smiling. The power groove during the verse is pure badassery. There are plenty of great riffs courtesy of Susi and his partner in crime Buz McGrath while the drumming was handled by Justin Foley (KILLSWITCH ENGAGE/BLOOD HAS BEEN SHED). Although not a permanent member Foley definitely improves the rhythmic quality of the album over his predecessor. The song’s ending mosh part is a brutal, epic piece of music. Third track “Shadows in the Light” is a great slice of classic sounding metalcore with three guitar solos that will knock your balls off. This song has yet another throwback chorus part full of graceful melody and harshness at the same time. Fourth track “Eyes of Black” may be the hardest song the band has ever produced with a main riff that will tear you a new asshole.  Phipps again doing some of his best work ever shifting between his hardcore screams and his death metal bellow. “Last Wish” is another cut with a stomping groove, snaking riffs and crazy blast beats. The awesome sing-a-long parts are huge as are the solos. Many of these songs seem just made to be played live and I do hope we get a good dose of them when the band hits the road this summer.  “Arise the War Cry” is my favorite cut here and is easily one of the bands’ best ever. From a technical standpoint it is a pretty flawless, pure metal and catchy too. For a change of pace a delicate piano and more cool guitar work highlight the contemplative, but still heavy “Equinox”. Then they ratchet things back up to full speed with “Coming of the Dark” and “The Fallen”. As if by design all of the songs are relatively short, make their point and leave rather than regurgitate parts. Unearth has made a monster comeback record even though they didn’t really need to since they never really went away in the first place.

RATING: 9.5 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/unearthofficial

Review: Toxic Holocaust – “Conjure and Conquer” (Relapse Records)

It’s been over ten years since Joel Grind spawned TOXIC HOLOCAUST out of the pacific northwest (Portland). In that time he was the forerunner of much of the crust punk/neo-thrash that you hear so many bands churn out ceaselessly and with zero flavor today. Plenty of things should have made him give up his dream of making it, but he never did. Joel paid no attention to fads with his D.I.Y. attitude and his love of metal and forged forward, undeterred. While all of the imitators (and a few legitimately talented bands) and johnny-come-lately’s dumped their albums on the blind masses, he didn’t fold. He continued to refine his songwriting, solidified his lineup after years of rotating casts and put out some great records building up to where he is today. Now with Conjure and Command ready to drop, Joel has fulfilled his potential and promise in spades.

First track “Judgment Awaits You” is a blistering slab of thrash and death with a hint of hardcore too. Grind‘s vocals in particular are sicker than ever before and the beautifully raw production (no triggers, no protools) sounds classically awesome. The de facto title track is next in “Agony of the Damned”. The song has some of the best riffs you will hear on a record this year. Waves of crust punk-style blitzkrieg drums pound away while blackened death sounding chords choke your ears. The breakdown is pure SABBATH-ian inspired heaven to my old ears. “Bitch” has the fierceness of old school punk (think COC) and the riffage of push thrash metal. I even hear a lot of Dave Mustaine’s snarling sarcasm lyrically in Grind, who isn’t afraid to let his many influences fly. One of the great things about this band is even when they pick a topic you’ve heard before (witches) the lyrics are always very smart and original. The half-time feel in the middle section is gonna be the soundtrack to a lot of broken bones when it gets played live. “Red Winter” is another slamming track full of speed metal and angry punk fire. In the persons of bassist Phil Zeller and drummer Nikki BellmoreGrind has finally found the musicians who can match him in hostility, talent and performance. “No Where To Run” is another track you will swear was written in 1985. Unlike many of the people and bands that followed in his footsteps, Grind has a knack for making the old-school riff sound fresh and new. I hope they play this song live because the chorus part is humongous! Sinister songs like “I Am Disease” mesh beautifully with thrash monsters like “In the Depths of Your Mind”  and “The Liars are Burning“.  Wrapping things up with the equally strong “Revelations” and “Sound the Charge”, the album files in as one of the years’ best yet top to bottom. When listening to this album in your headphones, car or home jam box, never forget that you should never underestimate one pissed off guys’ determination to make it using the power of metal and a ton of confidence.

RATING: 10 / 10
By: Keith “Keefy” Chachkes
Band Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ToxicHolocaust