About Me

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I'm Chris. I'm 22 years old and I'm into a large variety of music, from Metal in its many forms (mostly the extreme ones) to Goth and Postpunk, Reggae, Jazz, Prog, Techno, Ambient and Film Scores. This is where I rave about albums I really like, and other stuff.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Cynic - Demo 1991 (Roadrunner Demo)

Cynic - Demo 1991
Progressive thrash metal
1991 Roadrunner Records


Discovering the demo material of Cynic was something of a minor revelation for me, being only really familiar with the Focus album. At this point Cynic was quite a different band, though the evolution of their demos does give a hint at the direction they were headed. The first two demos from '88 and '89 are more rudimentary if still enjoyable thrash, the '90 demo an explosive shot of hyper speed, uniquely melodic technical riffs and relentless drumming that in my mind comes out on top of enough full albums by other bands. On this demo the sound is veering more towards death metal and coincidentally is the one that secured them a deal with Roadrunner I think, it would explain the name anyway.

By this point the classic Cynic lineup had been established, with bass as on the previous demo being handled by Tony Choy, an astonishingly gifted bass player who was apparently the only one capable of filling the gap in Atheist left by the insanely skilled Roger Patterson. His playing also blends seamlessly with this incarnation of Cynic, he wouldn't have worked on Focus but I would have loved to hear what a full length recorded around this time would have sounded like. There are three songs, two of which later appeared on the debut. They are noticeably different from the Focus versions, as well as the added appeal of hearing them in these far more brutal incarnations. The version of "Uroboric Forms" in particular just destroys, in some ways I prefer this to the album version though it is the most similar to the one on Focus. "The Eagle Nature" is quite different, the most bass intensive of the three songs, without the clean break in the middle and a different ending. The final track "Pleading for Preservation" is the most energetic and driving one, with relentless melodic thrash riffing bursting out from a relaxing clean intro, and an ending that was later reworked into "How Could I" on Focus. Paul's vocals are absolutely awesome, savage and fitting the music perfectly. No vocoders yet. Of course, if you're familiar with this band you know the instrumental performances are just out of this world. If not, then listen and be duly blown away. There are just some insanely fast riffs in this demo, and the degree of technical skill is nothing less than highly impressive while still being completely emotive. The solos especially are quite frankly, just wonderful.

Despite its short length this is absolutely worth tracking down, sadly there has yet to be an official release of the Cynic demos but this is an essential listen for fans and anyone into early 90s death/thrash.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Gorguts - The Erosion of Sanity

Gorguts - The Erosion of Sanity
Technical death metal
1993 RoadRunner Records

I fucking love death metal. If you were to ask me, what is my absolute favourite death metal album, there's a very strong chance that I'd pick this. Its up against some pretty stiff competition (Death's Human and Individual Thought Patterns, Suffocation's Breeding The Spawn, to name a few) but when all is said and done I think The Erosion of Sanity comes out on top and for me, has done for about the last 8 years. In my opinion this album, released at the tail end of death metal's initial explosion of popularity in the early 90s, represents that "old school" formula taken to its upper limit. In a few ways its also quite a progressive album, released at a time when that style death metal was really coming into its own and a bunch of more advanced, forward looking albums came out (1993 in particular was full of them). Though The Erosion of Sanity is not as "out there" as say, Thresholds or Elements, it is still definitely something of a left field choice for favourite death metal album over the likes of Tomb of the Mutilated and Leprosy. What really makes this album stand out to me is the quality of songwriting and the riffs, many of which are among my very favourites in all of music, period. The progressive tendencies of this album serve to embellish the music and give it additional intrigue, rather than being the sole focus.

Gorguts' first album, 1991's Considered Dead, was an enjoyable if somewhat derivative (recorded at Morrisound, produced by Scott Burns, guest appearances from James Murphy and Chris Barnes, etc) slice of solid traditional death metal. It had a bunch of great riffs that made it stand out as being better than average, but on the whole it wore its influences on its sleeve for all to see. For The Erosion of Sanity, the band seemed to make a gigantic stride forward into a sound that was entirely their own. Apparently this album was inspired a fair bit by two albums in particular: Suffocation's Breeding the Spawn and Atrocity's incredible Todessehnsucht (another big favourite of mine), two albums that are considerably abstract compared to most "standard" death metal. This influence can be detected in some of the riffs and choice of harmonies (Breeding's jerking, unusual rhythms and Todessehnsucht's almost neoclassical compositional values), but Gorguts have still managed to create a unique piece that is quite rightfully hailed by many as one of the genre's greatest achievements. After "With Their Flesh, He'll create" flays the skin from your proverbial limbs with its barrage of intense riffs and addictive tempo changes, the metal attack stops for a moment and the startling piano intro of "Condemned to Obscurity" emerges from a sinister low keyboard drone. This is hands down, one of the most profoundly beautiful and haunting things I've ever heard. What's even better is that it, in the best compositional way, subtly mirrors the equally bewildering pinch harmonic driven opening riff which then lurches into a series of equally irresistible riffing. The intelligence of the arrangement behind these songs is something that has never ceased to impress me, displaying a level of compositional awareness that lesser bands wish they could get near. Everything just flows so well, and there is a definite sense of subtle and bewitching melody behind many of these brutally punishing themes. The production this time is handled by someone called Steve Harris and is mixed by the well known Colin Richardson. To be honest, the move away from Burns and Morrisound did this album a huge favour. I don't dislike the classic Floridian death metal sound, in fact I love it, but this album wouldn't be as good if it sounded like another Morrisound job. The production is clear while retaining the right amount of grit, it has qualities that I'd describe at both warm and bright and it sounds unlike any other death metal album I can think of (the guitar tone in particular is just great). The mix, while heavy on the guitars and vocals, allows everything to be heard well enough. Attentive listening may be required to pick out the more subtle nuances in the drumming and bass playing.

Which brings us to the performances. As I have mentioned, the guitar riffs are just impeccable. I cannot praise them enough. Luc Lemay and Sylvain Marcoux achieved a fantastic quality of riffing on this album. Lemay has always been one of my favourite extreme vocalists and here he gives a thoroughly caustic performance, his agonized sounding vocals lend the album a character that it just wouldn't have if the vocals were merely your standard "low as possible" growls. Up there with the likes of Martin Van Drunen on Consuming Impulse for sure. The bass work by Eric Guigere is precise to the rhythm guitars, which considering the complexity of some of the riffs is admirable in its own right, yet the playing is also highly imaginative elsewhere, not afraid to offer an additional melody to create a sound that is harmonically quite rich in places. He also uses an overdriven bass tone for the most part (and a chorus/flange at a few points!), something I would normally not be very fond of in death metal, but it seems to fit the feel of this album quite nicely. Stephan Provencher's drumming is also to be commended, keeping a solid beat with plenty of propulsive double kick, great fills and very interesting use of the cymbals and hihats. I also have to point out that he only uses one blast beat on the whole album, allowing more creative beats to be used. All this is complimented by a brilliant set of lyrics concerning such subjects as insanity, nightmares and the subconscious among others, taking it yet further beyond the worn out cliches of years past. And then, the cover art. Just...wow. Dan Seagrave never drew a better picture in my opinion, and that must be saying something as he drew a lot of undeniably classic album covers. The image is very strange, full of fantastic details and rich colours (sadly the album cover only represents around a quarter of the whole painting, which can be viewed here: http://www.danseagrave.com/detail/the-erosion-of-sanity/) and to me it illustrates the "feel" of this music perfectly, and really completes the whole thing.

So, can you tell that I really, really like this album? In an ideal world, this album and others like it should have given the genre the shot in the arm required to not go through its period of creative limbo during the mid 1990s (which saw some pretty mediocre albums such as Morbid Angel's Domination somehow sell truckloads of copies...go figure). Around this time Roadrunner began to drop many promising artists (Suffocation, Immolation, and others) from their roster in favour of...I'm not sure what, but it probably sucked. Gorguts were also dropped, and dissapeared for a few years before finally reemerging (with a new label and lineup) to turn everyone's idea of death metal on its head with 1998's Obscura, an album that baffles new listeners to this day. Though that is a wicked album for sure, it doesn't quite have the instant charm of The Erosion of Sanity, which is accessible enough to any extreme metal fan on the surface, and which reveals its captivating intricacies over time.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Sepultura - Beneath The Remains

Sepultura - Beneath The Remains
Thrash metal
1989, Roadrunner Records


I think perhaps that, if this was suddenly the only thrash album on the face of the earth that I'd be fine with it. Maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but it should go some way towards explaining how I feel about this one. Beneath The Remains is a strong contender for my favourite thrash album ever, and definitely in my top 10 metal albums period. To elaborate I need to take you back to when I first heard it. This was one of those "benchmark" albums that raised the bar quite early on what I considered to be the hardest, fastest, most extreme music during my quest through adolescence to see just how far it could really go. Before this must have been Reign In Blood, if memory serves. Of course, if we're speaking in those terms, Beneath The Remains has been trumped innumerable times since by various death and black metal albums, but those benchmark experiences have a tendency to stay with us. Context is indeed of great importance when it comes to experiencing a lot of music. At the time I heard this I was 14 years old. As I say the most extreme things I was aware of at the time were Slayer albums such as Hell Awaits and Reign In Blood. Suffice to say Beneath The Remains promptly demolished my ideas about metal at that time. Sure, those old Slayer albums are still evil as hell, fast and heavy, but this seemed to top even them. I had a best friend at that time who was largely into the same stuff as me, and we'd share music (specifically metal) as we came across it. He was the one who showed me Reign In Blood, and I'll never forget the way my jaw just dropped when I heard it. Some time later I showed him this, and he didn't like it. That was when I knew I was a fan of extreme music, and this album was the springboard.

Reality is always more disturbing than horror, and Beneath The Remains is definitely a take on reality as opposed to Slayer's largely fantastical satanic approach. The venomous lyrics, fueled by passion and righteous anger were one of the things that attracted me the most over time, spinning tales of dystopia and human corruption that you don't have to be from fucked up South America to understand or relate to in your own life. At first though, the main attraction was the music itself, the lyrics hard to distinguish through Max's thick accent to my virgin ears. What still impresses me as much as day one is just how FAST the riffs are. Today any fool (me, for example!) can put together lightning speed guitar tracks piece by piece in pro tools with enough time, in 1989 it took a little more and it is a remarkable achievement. The riffs are furious and unrelenting, the melodies dark and enthralling. The tightness of the playing might cause wrist pain in guitar playing listeners! The drums are constantly holding everything together with skill and there is some nice playing going on, but this is really a guitar album. Bass is practically non existent, though Scott Burns is still to be commended for the punchy and aggressive production. Of course, its not all just breakneck speed from beginning to end. There are some great slower and mid paced riffs to shake it up, and in the case of Mass Hypnosis is the prompt for a fantastic, melodic solo. The previous album Schizophrenia (also essential thrash in its own right) had showed the Seps moving towards this point out of their more primitive beginnings, and this album is where they arrived. Then began the slow descent into painful mediocrity, but let's not go there! And who can forget the amazing cover art? Brilliantly detailed and mysterious.

The best songs? All of them. Though there are some (Mass Hypnosis, Lobotomy for example) I like more than the rest, discussing the songs individually is irrelevant. More importantly I can't be bothered to dissect every little detail that I like, because you should be doing that for yourself. This album is PURE THRASH. It makes no apologies for being so, and doesn't care if you don't approve because plenty of others do and always will. Though its not a From This Day Forward or a Time Does Not Heal, albums that show how far the boundaries of the genre can be pushed in various ways,  I would go as far as to say this album represents the "conventional" heads down, all out thrash approach taken to its logical conclusion. All further attempts by anyone are, for all intents and purposes (minus a few worthy exceptions), a waste of time. I'm looking at you, modern retro thrash scene. You just won't top this. Stop trying.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Deicide - Legion

Deicide - Legion
Death Metal
1992 Roadrunner Records

Legion. In my opinion Deicide never made a better album than this. They made a couple of decent ones afterwards, but in my opinion this album is the zenith that they never reached again. Especially when considering the joke they've become now with half baked albums like "Til Death Do Us Part" that bored the hell out of me, in a way it makes me appreciate this album even more. This is flawless, supreme brutal death metal possessed of an unmatchable, furious and primal energy. At just under half an hour in length, it doesn't outstay its welcome either. The hilarious thing is, I heard they had to record this one *twice* as the original version was *too fast*! I would love to hear that version, languishing in some archive somewhere or potentially lost forever. Then again, it could just be a myth..

So what makes Legion so good? Its basically the first album on steroids. Everything that made the self titled so wickedly great is intensified twice over here. The speed, the aggression, the atmosphere, everything. After a creepy and somewhat humorous intro of bleating goats and reversed speech, the first riff of Satan Spawn grabs you by the head and slams you into the nearest hard surface. If you aren't fully sold by this point, I suggest you give up now and move on to tamer things. This one song may be the best Deicide song ever. On the whole album, the riffs are catchy and brutal as hell. The drums are merciless as expected from Steve. Glen's bass (though the rumour is he didn't actually play it himself) is the best its ever been, nicely audible for a change and delightfully revolting in tone, following the guitars but adding so much by its mere presence. His vocals are also his best performance in my opinion, you'd think he was a conduit for Lucifer himself! His lyrics are also a damn sight better than they are now.

The music is probably the most complex this band ever created, its funny to watch their devolution on the next album which, while by no means terrible,  sounds positively tired next to this one. They hardly play anything from this live now, either. Tracks 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8 are the strongest I think. Fans of quality death metal cannot afford to miss out on this. Don't let their later decline in quality fool you. At this stage in their career, Deicide were a force to be reckoned with. This has been a steadfast favourite of mine for many years now, and will be for years to come.

"Evil unwind...
Exit the womb, your life is mine."

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Cryptopsy - None So Vile

Album review: Cryptopsy - None So Vile
Technical Death Metal 

In my eyes, Cryptopsy’s second album is one of the defining moments of its genre. Taking everything that made the debut so good, and multiplying every aspect of it by two. NSV is one of the most brutal and interesting albums out there. The production quality, speed and overall intensity is massively improved over the debut and while the production certainly is a lot cleaner it works in the album’s favour and is certainly nowhere near as glossy and over-polished as a lot of modern tech death tends to be, mostly to its own detriment in the eyes of many listeners. No, this album will still blow your head clean off. Call it a happy medium.

The ever insane sounding Lord Worm gives maybe his best performance on this album. The guy sounds like a fucking rabid animal. I’ve seen some opinions that his performance is too monotonous or gravelly, and I have to disagree. He throws in all kinds of possessed noises and on the whole just sounds fully evil. His lyrics are as usual very well written with a poetic quality to them, disturbing and articulate as opposed to many standard Death Metal lyrics. Sure they’re nasty and everything, but he does it with a flair that is pretty uncommon to this style of music (he’s a teacher of English, somewhat unsurprisingly). Jon Levasseur and Steve Thibault (who for some reason is not credited, he left after this album) contribute some infectious riffing and soloing with abstract and twisted structure and a keen sense of melody without being anything near “melodic Death Metal”. Flo Mounier is as crazy behind the kit as ever, using the hyperblasts a lot more on this album and doing some backing screams to good effect. New bassist Eric Langlois is all over the place, a more than worthy successor to the excellent bass player on the debut album. He uses more a funk style and tone with some savage slap playing during the breakdowns and is perfectly audible. For 1996 this is surely a serious benchmark soundwise. 

Although most of their albums have something good to offer, None So Vile is perhaps the highlight of this band’s work. Cryptopsy has always been a musician’s band as well as a listener’s band and the musicianship on display here is nothing short of seriously impressive. It may seem a bit crazy and jarring if you’re unaccustomed to this kind of DM but personally I Iove this kind of demented sounding music. Canada seems to be the wellspring of some of the most crazy and fascinating music (these guys, Gorguts, early Kataklysm, Purescence and Obliveon to name a few) in metal. What are they smoking?