Max Cavalera, Taiwanese politicians and yet more high-quality death metal feature in our latest round-up.
Soulfly – Ritual
By now, the metal world knows what to expect from a new album with the Cavalera stamp, but that doesn’t stop us from salivating each and every time we see the first signs of new material from the Brazilian maestros. If you’ve lost track, it’s son Zyon who joins Max on drums in Soulfly, whilst brother Igor was last heard from on last year’s Cavalera Conspiracy album, Psychosis.
After a wailing, siren-like guitar opens the album, Ritual wastes no time diving headfirst into trademark Soulfly grooves, but the title-track opener is more a haphazard rager than a straightforward thrashy affair, trading off rolling grooves, chugging riffs and Max’s venomous cries with choppy rhythms that only up the intensity. It’s exemplary of a band firing on all cylinders.
The album largely forgoes the tribal beats of its opener from here on out, opting instead for pure heaviness the likes of which Soulfly haven’t mustered in over a decade. From start to end, Ritual is packed with unadulterated energy. Randy Blythe’s vicious cameo appears on the appositely Lamb Of God-esque ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’ whilst Immolation‘s Ross Dolan shows up to drag ‘Under Rapture’ further into the murky depths of death metal extremity. Elsewhere, ‘The Summoning’ flirts with industrial textures and the one-two punch of ‘Blood On The Street’ and ‘Bite The Bullet’ reintroduces the trademark tribal aspects before the part-NWOBHM, part-thrash of ‘Feedback!’ and jazz-tinged closer ‘Soulfly XI’ finish things off in a dynamic fashion.
Better than we could have expected? Quite possibly.
Ritual is out now on Nuclear Blast. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Chthonic – Battlefields Of Asura
Arguably the largest metal band from Taiwan, Chthonic have been on a long journey in the twenty years since their first demo. The five-year gap between previous album Bu-Tik and new record Battlefields Of Asura is in large part explained by changes in the lives of members, starting families and – in the case of vocalist Freddy Lim – forming a new political party and entering the Taiwanese parliament. All of which might have led to a loss in focus or intensity, but Battlefields Of Asura is as great as ever.
Chthonic’s blend of symphonic and melodic black/death metal, with traditional folk elements, is present and correct, with the album being relentlessly punishing in a slick, modern, well-produced way. It would benefit from a few more textural elements and shifts in emphasis, but it’s still a hugely enjoyable album of modern extreme metal, and that it forms a narrative prologue to all of Chthonic’s previous albums is an added bonus for fans. But, you don’t need to take special interest in Chthonic’s anti-fascist interpretations of ancient Taiwanese myth to enjoy Battlefields of Asura; if you’ve enjoyed recent records by the likes of Cradle Of Filth and you’re not already a fan, then you should be all over this. It doesn’t quite top career-best Takasago Army, but it comes close.
Battlefields Of Asura is out now. Purchase here.
Words: Stuart Wain
Moloch – A Bad Place
Probably as close as the UK has to our own Thou, Nottingham miserabilists Moloch champion a particularly desolate strain of sludge, a macabre palette with which they paint murals of agony and desperation. A Bad Place is, from start to finish, dripping in the densest, blackest tar, sticking to your skin and oozing into your brain. Here, Moloch are brooding, jagged and heavier than a truck full of cement. But the heaviness is not always physical, as the cover and audio samples – taken from the film Shame – likely suggest. A Bad Place acts, like Body Void’s I Live Inside A Burning House before it, as an exploration of how our own minds can be just as stifling as any physical plane.
A Bad Place is, evidently, a considered piece of work. It’s two sides work in unison to craft a journey of ruin that deserves and demands to be heard in one sitting. ‘Hang’ opens proceedings with a gut-busting riff that holds no false pretences for what the album is going to entail. Later, the churning conclusion of ‘Bad Gift’ slowly ups the ante with each passing second, closing Side A with one of the most enthralling pieces of atmospherically enveloping sludge ever concocted. Side B, meanwhile, begins with the lively, chaotic ‘Concrete & Pain’, an apt name for a track that’s umpteen shades of heavy. “We’re not bad people,” the sample at the ends claims. “We just come from a bad place.” If you’re in a bad place, Moloch’s latest is going to be no comfort, but it might help you realise you aren’t alone.
A Bad Place is out tomorrow on Feast Of Tentacles. Purchase here.
Words: George Parr
Iskandr – Euprosopon
Iskandr‘s second LP Euprosopon is a supremely confident album that feels as if it lives on a slightly different timeline to its peers. Taking plenty of tropes from atmospheric black metal 101 and shaping them into a sound with a defining quality that, at points, escapes definition. Yes there’s reverb-soaked vocals, yes there’s an average track length of eleven minutes, yes there’s misty production, and yet something that Iskandr bring to the table still makes this LP feel different without needing the “experimental” tag to make people take notice.
Despite their length, not a single one of the four tracks on offer here feels like a chore or a drag, which is the foundation of aforementioned confidence. Euprosopon flows like water; nothing feels out of place over its 45-minute runtime, whether climbing to triumphant highs like the middle section of ‘Regnum’ or guiding the listener through a haunting acoustic comedown at the end of closer ‘Heriwalt’. This is atmospheric black metal for those who are seeking something altogether more ancient feeling without it becoming a folk metal parody; an album that deserves the lights out, headphones on treatment. Take the time to sink into this record and there is no doubt you will be thoroughly rewarded.
Euprosopon is out now on Eisenwald. Purchase here.
Words: Red Sismey
Outer Heaven – Realms Of Eternal Decay
Establishing their resolutely old-school approach with 2015’s Diabolus Vobiscum EP, Pennsylvania quintet Outer Heaven oozed promised, whilst more importantly introducing a strain of subtle individuality which set them apart from a sea of well-meaning but unremarkable Incantation clones. However, even the most optimistic of underground aficionados would not have foreseen the enormous leap in quality that is Realms Of Eternal Decay.
Indeed, for a debut full-length this is startlingly assured stuff, the likes of ‘Pulsating Swarm’ veering between punch drunk d-beat and pitiless blasting with the blood-thirty aplomb of a ritual disembowelling. For those unwilling to look beyond the band’s defiantly traditional filth, faint glimpses of melodic death metal (‘Decaying Realms’), scabrous grind (‘Tortured Winds’) and even (whisper it) the stomp ‘n’ groove of beatdown hardcore are there to be missed, although few could turn a deaf hear to ‘Multicellular Savagery’, the record reaching its terrifying peak with the tracks claw-hammer barrage taking a brief detour into an atmospheric netherworld which, with any luck, may hint at an exciting new avenue for Outer Heaven to further explore. Even with death metal offering up an embarrassment of riches in 2018, Realms Of Eternal Decay celebrates the eternal, demonic power of the genre’s spirit better than most.
Realms Of Eternal Decay is out now on Relapse. Purchase here.
Words: Tony Bliss
Crimson Throne – Of Void & Solitude
Oft tagged as ‘atmospheric black metal’, Crimson Throne are a slightly more diverse offering than the immediate vision said label brings to mind. There is indeed tons of atmosphere on offer here but it is more of the ‘second/third-wave BM plus a dollop of experimentation’ school of atmosphere than the ‘tons of reverb and drawn out melodic compositions’ vibe. Of Void & Solitude is a record that should surely appeal to the largest spectrum of black metal fans, at once containing pummeling blasts, icy tremolo picking, subtle synths and a healthy dose of carefully blended experimentation with acoustic guitars and tension-building that gives the album a solid seasoning of left turns to keep the listening ear attentive throughout.
The crisp production manages to capture the aura of many vicious black metal LPs of yore with the kick drum maintaining a boomy live feel without ever sounding over-processed and the guitars filling the frequency spectrum with chiming yet biting tones that evoke 1349 or Gorgoroth. It is also a slightly unnerving listening experience, in that one can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed at how much attention has been given to crafting those exact sounds for a 2018 record. All told, this is a record that deserves repeat listens if only to find fresh textures each time around.
Of Void & Solitude is out now on Apocalyptic Witchcraft. Purchase here.
Words: Red Sismey
OddZoo – Future Flesh
Future Flesh is the debut album from French post-wave outfit OddZoo, an album that seems to exist in a middle ground between instrumentation and purely electronic music. Admittedly, there is a lot going on in this record and, at times certain, sounds and styles do get lost. But overall, it’s the sense of uncertainty that’s most enjoyable. You’re never sure whether you are going to hear soothing, pretty soundscapes or a descent into an industrial noise battery.
A lot of what is likeable about this record is in the relationship between the instrumentation and the programmed sounds and how they compete with each other throughout the record. It would have been enticing, though, to have had some more powerful industrial/drone moments which could cut through some of the lighter, softer parts of the record.
Indeed, some heavier sections wouldn’t go amiss, and some different vocal styles would have added some variation to the album’s rather monotonous middle, but overall, Future Flesh is a strong record playing with different sounds and styles, and OddZoo should be commended for trying something different and outside the box.
Future Flesh is out now on Blood Music. Purchase here.
Words: Tom Kirby