Reviews: metal

(metal / industrial crossover / punk / stoner)

Major Conflict – Sounds like 1983

Mad at the world records is a Hungry Eye related label for punk, trash and hardcore music. Major Conflict was a New York City based hardcore band in the early 80’s. This cd features tracks form an early 7”, some live tracks and additional studio material from the early days of the band.

The sound of the band is authentic hardcore and nothing like contemporary commercial punk(pop). It is raw and aggressive music which articulates the frustrations and fears if the youth of that era.
If band names like Youth Of Today, Urban Waste and Leeway ring a bell you should check out this cd.

Crisis -­ Holocaust Hymns

Before Douglas P. and Tony Wakeford invented neofolk, they played punk rock. Their punk sound was fueled with post-punk and new wave influences and they appeared under the name Crisis.

Holocaust Hymns collects the early recordings of the band. From the first single from 1978 to the mini LP from 1980, all tracks are present on this disc. Also included are some rare live recordings and alternative versions of songs.

If you like the early sounds of The Clash, The Cure, Gang of Four and Warsaw this is the record to listen to. For fans of Death in June this is a nice historical document. Despite the fact Crisis had the very specific sound of their days, these tracks are worthwhile to hear. It displays the Zeitgeist of the era very well. A recommended history lesson!

Vision Bleak, The – Carpathia: a dramatic poem

I don’t like metal. Still the first album by The Vision Bleak was a record I could enjoy more or less. What you can expect on this second album is more of the same grotesque, theatrical, dark gothic influenced metal.
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State of Being – Haywire

Though the cover of this album made me think that I could expect a space ambient album, “Haywire” from State of Being actually contains a typical American crossover industrial sound. This group from Cleveland, Ohio, mixes heavy rock/metal guitar riffs with keyboard layers and occassional electronic beats and the mildy angry vocals of Christopher Földi. Names like Stabbing Westward, Thrill Kill Kult of Machines of Loving Grace come to mind. It’s probably no coincidence that producer Andy Kubiszewski worked with the likes of Stabbing Westward and Prick in the past.

State of Being sounds professional and solid, and rather commercial at times, perhaps due to the slick production. The mix of various styles keep the album interesting, though also perhaps a bit too eclectic. The heavy rock songs are alternated with a midtempo poppy piece like ‘Whitespace’, a catchy track like ‘Take me Away’, with uptempo beats and female backing vocals, or the ethereal gothic-inspired ‘Wondering’ with female lead vocals. Certainly not all songs are equally interesting though. Nevertheless this band, which is active for more than a decade, could achieve quite some popularity amongst fans of accessible dark rock with electronic elements.

State of Being has also released a limited edition CD-EP titled “Haywire Remixes 1:2.” The disc contains remixed versions of songs from the “Haywire” album, with a largely electronic sound with most guitars filtered out. Don’t expect much subtleties here: heavy straightforward EBM beats up to 140 BPM, distorted vocals and club-friendly synth melodies are clearly aimed at the cybergothic dancefloors.

Dreamside, The – Spin moon magic

In the mid 90’s The Dreamside was one of my favourite goth/wave bands from The Netherlands. I still play their debut album “Pale blue lights” (Death Wish office, 1994) now and then. Then they were mostly a duo, sounding largely electronic, with all room for the melancholic voice of founder Kemi Vita, which reminded me of All About Eve. In recent years The Dreamside have become a real 5-piece band, with a harder sound in which guitars play a prominent role.

For some reason the artwork of the new album reminds me of Within Temptation. I suspect the success of Dutch goth metal bands like Within Temptation, Epica or Asrai, as well as an act like Evanescence, must be an inspiration for The Dreamside. Their recent sound can be described as contemporary dark rock. I must confess that this album does not really appeal to my personal taste.

The vocals of Vita are still strong, but the style of the songs with a huge, bombastic synth/guitar sound does not please me much. A good (or bad) example is ‘The feast is set’, which I find a bit over the top with metal riffs, distorted vocals, classical synth loops and an overwhelming refrain, which seems to borrow from The Mission’s ‘Deliverance’.

The Dreamside have certainly managed to create an attractive album for a larger audience though, and some songs like ‘Forsaken’ and, ‘Open your Eyes’ (featuring Rogue of The Cruxshadows) have hit potential. I wish The Dreamside a lot of succes, I only doubt if this album is original enough to make them stand out from other goth/metal acts.

Things Outside The Skin – You Knew It All Along

Things Outside The Skin is an aggro-tech industrial band (at least that is what they call themselves) from Brooklyn, NY. You knew it all along is the third full-length release from the gentlemen. As I’m not aquainted with the old material, I can’t compare to that.
Though the band itself says there is only a distinct dash of hip hop influence, I can’t help the first band that comes to my mind when listening to this record is Body Count (the metal-project of Ice-T). Though Body Count had a much fatter (and better) sound. Not much other bands/acts pop up in my head while listening to this record really.
Where it was promissed to be agro-tech industrial, this is more hiphop mixed with some punk and a bit of electronics. Some scary effects are used, but don’t have the effect of scaring me, it’s much closer to making me laugh.

The lyrics are mostly political oriented, asking to burn down the White House and Bush with it. They are one of the stronger points of TOTS, one of the very few I must say. This is one of the very few acts that is able to make me long for the original recording of “Spice Up Your Life”, as their version is so much worse.
Just one more negative remark to make before I stop complaining about this cd: it just goes on and on and on and on… though the cd builds up from the worst to the best (those are the remixes) it just is way too long with 22 tracks and over 70 minutes.

Morbide Eenheid – Op een booreiland twee jaar geleden

Never ever heard from this band until mr. Funprox was nice enough to give me this album. Honestly, I have no idea why the band decided to send promotional material to Funprox. Although covering lots of musical styles, it’s about (dark) underground music mostly (but count black metal out). This project plays some kind of improv./jazzy rock/metal with no vocals.
Although the musicians involved know how to play their instruments I find their music extremely boring. I mean, it’s well-played but not my cup of tea. It sounds like a fun jam session on a Saturday afternoon. I wouldn’t even call the tracks real songs, they don’t make a lasting impression and just sound too, well, improvised. I can’t find any atmosphere or feeling in the tracks, it just sounds too flat and ‘happy’.
What maybe disturbs me most about this release is the title of it and the titles of the tracks. Is it supposed to be poetic? Philosophic? Funny? Ironic? I’d say cheap. Btw. The band is now called Quarles van Ufford.

Bloody Mary – Blood ’n Roll

A new label, specifically set up to give better deals for young bands in the metal scene. An independent label that wants to spread metal to the world, set up by Paul Beavis and Tim Fraser (former manager of Christian Death and Theatres Des Vampires). They were later joined by Dave Pybus (formerly working for Peaceville, but better known as ex-axeman with Cradle Of Filth).

Where they had already signed their first bands in 2004, 2005 sees their first releases. One of them being “Blood ‘n Roll” by the Italian band Bloody Mary. The information that was send out to me, mentions them as a goth-rock band, but to be honest, I don’t hear any of this. I do see though, how they leave a gothic image through the booklet that comes with the cd. But this looks more like a gimmick, as both the bandname and album title seem to be gimmicky in nature.

What the five men of Bloody Marry have made is a metal-album with some melodic influences. Not bad, as far as I can judge with my limited knowledge of metal-music. Still not really that interesting either, I can’t say I hear much that really keeps me listening with great interest. Then again there isn’t anything that really makes me run to the on/off button on my stereo either.

Where I’m not the right person to give a big opinion on metal-albums I better take this space to praise the effort of Six Six Six to give young bands a change. A good initiative indeed, now hope they will find their way in the land of the metal-fans.

Phallus über Alles – Iron Woman

If you thought Digital Hardcore was no longer produced, you aren’t awake. Phallus über Alles proves it is a genre that is still alive and kicking. This project fuses electronic punk music with feminist lyrics. Of course the music sounds aggressive and activistic.
Loud and hectic beats with screamed vocals are the trademark of Digital Hardcore, so also for this record. Even though Phallus über Alles have got a new thematical angle, the music stays true to the original concept of its style. Also there are some dancefloor anthems on the album like ‘Cunts for cash’, ‘Cockpit and ‘Buzzbox’ that will please both industrial and punk fans.
As said there is nothing new to the music on Iron Woman, but this record is a very solid one in the genre.

Mute Angst Envy – South 11th Street

Mute Angst Envy is a three-piece band from San Franciso who released their third album with ‘South 11th street’. They have been active since 1988, but were on hiatus since 1995, untill this comeback. The music on this cd is mainly dark alternative rock, with a few excursions to harder metal, like on the opening track ‘Siege’. Personally I like ‘Love like a fight’ more, a midtempo piece with atmospheric keyboards. I A slow moody song like ‘The sword and the cross’ makes me think of Fields of the Nephilim. Most songs are quite claustrophobic and oppressive. like the guitar and rhythm section, only the vocals are not entirely convincing. Worth noticing is the Cure cover ‘The Figurehead’, which is an acceptable attempt. This is quite a good dark rock album, just not completely my personal taste.

Eremit, Der – Das

If I’m correct this is the fifth release of Der Eremit. Over the course of their albums they have transformed from pure electronic music, to the use of more real instruments and more metal-like music. The band started out as a solo project but by now is a six piece.

Der Gian is the frontman of Der Eremit, he used to play in death metal bands and this history can be heard on Das. The band gives the listener a lot of metal, mixed with some samples, cello and e-cello. It is especially this last instrument that gives a special taste to this album. A taste varying throughout the album though from sour to somewhere near sweet. Then again it is not like this album is all metal, it is mixed with some (gothic) rock, some indy and even some industrial. This whole range makes for an album that is not easy to listen to at all. It is especially in a song like “Hippiekacke” that this gives me the creeps

The Swiss remind me at times (and this are their good times) of Letzte Instanz, but in general do not much more then annoy me big time with this album. Let it be noted that I don’t like metal that much and that this may be the reason for my negative reaction on this album, but it’s true, it only makes me want to cry.

Ministry – Houses of the Molé

After ‘Psalm 69′ I lost track of the development of Ministry. But judging from ‘Houses of the Molé’ not so much has changed in their universe, despite the departure of long time member Paul Barker. Al Jourgensen and co. are as always loud and aggressive.

Ministry still has an overwhelming industrial metal sound, which is violent and repetitive. Probably the Bush government and contemporary politics has given the band enough fuel for an inspired album. The political samples are fired at you like bullets, backed up by the solid defense of guitar riffs, heavy bass and drum machine.

Opening track ‘No W’ (a subtle reference to someone’s middle initial) begins with a Carmina Burana part, but it does not take long before the attack begins. It strongly reminds me of old-fashioned trash metal. In general this monster album is dominated by heavy guitar riffs, as well as the angry comments which Jourgensen shouts and spits at George W. The pace is always high and the volume stays loud, don’t expect much variation.

Really a violent, convincing album in the line of the latest Killing Joke album or Ministry releases like ‘The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste’. Personally I would have liked more industrial influences and less trash metal guitar, but it is hard to resist the intensity of this album. Ministry is not thinking about retirement yet, at least not during the years of the Bush reign.

Electric Wizard, The – We Live

After the demise of stoner/doom cultists ?Electric Wizard? a lot of changes were made in the band?s line-up, to give birth to its successor ?THE Electric Wizard?. The new line-up consists of Jus Osborn (the only surviving member of EW), Justin Greaves (ex-Iron Monkey), Rob Al-Issa and Liz Buckingham.

This new group managed to deliver one of the heaviest albums of recent times. The new album is far less ?stoner-rock? influenced, and sounds more dirty and distorted. The Electric Wizard has become quite influenced by the ?sludge? sound, very much comparable to the excellent Iron Monkey, Unearthly Trance or Grief. This does not mean that it has become a clone of these bands. In fact ?we live? is a very solid album, and a milestone in the EW history, with monstrously heavy riffs, perfect drumming and a great bass as well as excellent vocals.

Whether you liked Electric Wizard in the past or not, this new album is certainly worth checking out. It is available on CD, and as a limited edition double vinyl album on beautiful purple vinyl and with a loooong bonus track (the entire d-side of the album).

Year Future – The Hidden Hand

This is the second EP by the Calfornian band Year Future, and a precursor to the full length debut (expected this winter). The band could be called a punk, hardcore or rock band. I prefer to use the description dark punk.

Opening track ‘Nature Unveiled’ refers to the Current 93 album with the same title. The bands used this title as a parody as Year Future is often associated with the gothic scene. The track is an intense, raw and loud song. ‘Police Yourself’ is a bit reminescent of Dead Kennedys but sounds darker.

The title track is by far the best track on this EP. It is the most intense and sinister song. Heavy and dark bass sounds and hectic rhythms are the ingredients of this dark punk track.

If you like other Gold Standards Laboratories bands like The Vanishing and Heart Of there is a good chance you can appreciate the dark punkrock by Year Future also.

Iron Monkey – Iron monkey / Our problem

It does not happen often that I review releases that are already out for a number of years, and of which the band has already split up. In this case however, I felt it was really necessary to write something about Iron Monkey because they are certainly one of the heaviest bands I ever encountered.

Iron Monkey has been around for only a few years before they split up, and released only two full-length albums (the same titled one from 1997 and one called ?our problem? from 1998). On these albums you can find the most heavy, dirty and slow sludge-doom metal that you have probably ever encountered. Comparisons that come into my mind are bands like Grief, Eye Hate God, Electric Wizard and Sleep, but somehow these do not seem to cover the load. Maybe combining the best of all these bands would do the trick.

Iron Monkey created incredibly heavy riffs inspired by Black Sabbath, but with a dirty, distorted sound beyond comparison, these are accompanied by some intense drumming and screaming and growling vocals that makes you wonder why this band has not gained a lot more attention.

The first and same-titled album is pretty much straightforward. Six long and monotonous sludge tracks pound on and on and keep your mind into a continuous groove. The second album is a bit more complex. It starts out with the heaviest riffs ever produced, but towards the end contains some funny tracks with drunk or stoned band members talking bullshit (which is actually kind of a relief after all that sonic violence).

If you are into intensely distorted, manic and extreme rockmusic, you will probably agree with me that this is glorious stuff that makes you wish your amplifier had the option of going to eleven!

My Dying Bride – Songs of darkness, words of light

With each new release, My Dying Bride seem to become more and more professional. This release offers 8 excellently produced tracks in the typical MDB style. Emotional sounding guitar layers, melodic keyboards, slow drums and varied vocals (ranging from dramatic speech to ?black metal? style grunting) produce a multilayered and melodramatic carpet of depressing doom metal of the highest calibre. Because of their immense success, MDB can easily be rated amongst the most successful doom metal acts ever.

Because of (or perhaps ?despite? is a better word) the incredible production, the well arranged tracks and the overall variation there was something that unnerved me from the moment I started listening to this record. At first I could not establish what it was that unnerved me, I thought it was perhaps the result of my own nostalgia of listening to the band, or the emotional content of the music (it is DOOM metal after all!). But that did not seem to be the problem.

After listening to the album a couple of times, I started noticing that it might be the emotional content after all. In fact, it seemed to be a lack of emotional content somehow. But that sounded like a strange conclusion, since the album is obviously full of features of emotional expression. However, although the production on this album is better than ever, it struck me that there did not seem to be any real new elements in the music, no creative progress. The tracks just sound like old MDB tracks, the vocals and texts just sound like old vocals and texts. Evidently MDB simply copied its earlier self.

By copying its own earlier self, MDB has somehow lost its creativity and lacks a certain honesty or integrity in their expression, its restriction to innovating its production has turned it into an unnerving and ?kitchy? product. A smooth and edge-less parody of its old self.

MDB?s success will lead to its demise, but eventually all flowers wither.

Inner Shrine – Samaya

Gothic metal is a big hit. Bands like Within Temptation and After Forever have become famous with it. Without discrediting these bands, Inner Shrine is much more gothic metal than they are.

This band fuses powerful metal pieces with dark and tranquil gothic atmospheres, opera voices and Latin lyrics. Their music is loud, frightening and dark but it also has its relaxing and beautiful moments.

The music on Samaya goes into all these aspects and thus portrays the diversity of the band. The musical skills of Inner Shrine are evident in tracks like ‘Path of Transmigration’ and ‘Soliloquium in Splendor’ that fuse many different moods and styles into a harmonious whole.

I am not a big fan of (gothic) metal but I can recommend this record to all fans of the genre.

Melomanics – ….From the factory

The four tracks on this demo cd portray a taste and style of their own. The sound of Melomanics can be compared with early Faith No More and late Devo. Expect a fusion of rock with funky elements and weird electronic popsongs. The rock elements are mixed with synth, wave and elektro sounds.

All of this results in danceable music without sounding too much electronic. When Melomanics are able to work this original mix out a little better and write more songs of the same quality a new talent may arise.

Promonium Jesters – Time and Place

A few years ago I heard a demo by the Promonium Jesters from Canada. The main thing I can remember is that it was quite loud, heavy guitars with aggressive electronic music and some weird elements. This 11-track debut (?) album contains some songs of that previous demo and has a similar crossover style. Driving guitars, harsh electronics, shouted vocals. ‘Strange’ reminds me of Marilyn Manson, mostly because of the vocals. The overall sound is more electronic though, with some danceable EBM-beats as the song evolves. A few tracks are quite catchy, like ‘Deepdownslavaryhounds’. The music on “Time and Place” is not really my cup of tea, but probably of interest for lovers of energetic dark cyberpunk crossover with a distorted twist.

Trepan – s/t

A rock band from Seatle. Of course ‘grunge’ comes to your mind. Especially when they have a renowned producer on board in the person of Jack Endino, who has worked with big names like Nirvana and Soundgarden.Trepan itself names a more contemporary comparison like Queens of the Stone Age. What can you expect of this debut? Well, 8 solid rock songs, for which musical history won’t have to be rewritten. Just a classic quartet with guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Singer Kevin is the most expressive element in the band, shouting at times in an Alice in Chains/Soundgarden-manner. Trepan offers us heavy rock with a pinch of grunge, a piece of stonerrock and a little classic hardrock. ‘Leg (show me)’ has a healthy dose of 70’s bluesrock. ‘Hive’ is somewhat heavier, with a less accessible structure, somewhere between Kyuss and Tool. The boogierock of ‘One night stand’ calls to mind AC/DC. Not a bad album, but certainly not revolutionary either.