Wormwitch-Heaven That Dwells Within

Medieval Myth & Magic from the Great Wight North.  This is the manner in which the band describes itself on their Facebook page.  I had to look Wormwitch up on the interwebs because I honestly didn’t know anything about these guys before hearing this album.  Fantasy nerds from Canada blasting out some blackened encrusted death metal.  I can get down with that.  This one is different in that Wormwitch really feels like a rock ‘n roll band at heart and they have just added the black and death metal elements as some extra spice to the cauldron.  They kind of remind me of another really underground band from England called Ancient Ascendant, who just recently called it quits as a band.  I think Wormwitch is going to help fill the void left by those guys.

4 flip flops out of 5

Exumer-Hostile Defiance

Every time I come across this band, in my mind I scream in my best Halford voice, “Stand by for Exumer!!”  I don’t know why.  It makes no sense.  But that’s where my brain goes for some reason.

Exumer is one of these thrash bands that had a really short run with a couple of albums in the mid-to-late 80s and then went away.  And then they magically reappeared with a new album in 2012.  I have no idea what went on during the long hiatus or what ultimately brought a couple of the original players back together to reignite the old band and proceed with their career.  We’re on album number three since their reunion and the band is just clicking on all cylinders.  Hostile Defiance is a tight, no-frills thrash record.  Riffs for days on this one.  This damn thing would have fit right in during the formative years of thrash when this band was first starting out.  I, for one, am happy that the metal blood never truly went out for these guys because a nice solid thrash album is always appreciated in this corner of the universe.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Yob, Voivod and Amenra at Barracuda, Austin, TX, 4/13/2019

Well, this was another of those well put together triple bills of different kinds of metal that just meshed really well in execution.  The only downside to this show was due to the fact that it was on the outside stage during an unseasonably windy and cold evening in Austin.  I was a veritable ice cube by the end of the show.  So, I hope you appreciate the effort I put in to bring you this report.

Ever since Yob came out with last year’s Our Raw Heart (#2 slot in the 2018 Best of Metal List), I’ve been itching to see them come through town to perform the new songs live.  In addition, due to head honcho Mike Scheidt’s health scare from a few years back, you don’t want to take any Yob show for granted.  Thankfully, it seems as though Scheidt is back to full health and he was downright frenetic and ferocious in his performance Saturday night in Austin.  This was a spirited set performed by one of doom’s preeminent bands and surprisingly, featured a setlist that only contained one track off of the new album.  I’ll be perfectly honest that I was a tad disappointed that the new album wasn’t more prominently featured in the songs presented, but the setlist did contain a wide range of songs from throughout Yob’s career.  It really felt as if Scheidt crafted the setlist with the most diehard Yob fan in mind.

Second on the bill for the evening was Canadian sci-fi prog thrash band Voivod.  Hard to believe, but Voivod has been toiling away in the metal trenches now for 35+ years and this is the very first time I’ve witnessed their live show.  Voivod brings a stage show that is equal parts frenetic thrash, goofy Canadian stage antics and rollicking crowd participation.  Frontman Snake Belanger is one of those singers who has so mastered the art of facial expressions that it becomes one of the infectious portions of their show.

Opening the show was post-metal band Amenra from Belgium.  This was my first experience with this band, but they come across very much in the Neurosis vein of sludgey post-metal.  Their sound alternates between almost spiritual-like atmospheric segments that blend into bombastic pounding sections.  Vocalist Colin van Eeckhout provides a plaintive type screeching vocal style that invokes someone in a great deal of emotional pain.  Their opening set honestly left me feeling a tad drained.  Not in a bad way, but the performance was just very brutal and raw.

Sadly, no video snippets are available from this show.  The lighting on the stage was minimal for all three bands and I just wasn’t able to capture any decent footage to share.

Vltimas-Something Wicked Marches In

Well, this is a nasty little record.  And one that kind of came out of nowhere.  Take three dudes from three legendary death metal acts and you’ve got a pretty formidable lineup on your hands.

Vltimas consists of ex-Morbid Angel vocalist/bassist David Vincent, ex-Mayhem guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen and Cryptopsy drummer Flo Mounier.  Vincent has been meandering all over the place since his latest departure from Morbid Angel and was last heard promoting his country-and-western project.  It’s nice to see him get back in the metal fold on this album and I think it may be his strongest performance since the early Morbid Angel albums.  All three dudes just seem energized on this album and the songs just crackle with life.  This is very much is the Behemoth sort of death/black metal vein.  It’s cool too in that this thing doesn’t really sound like any of the other bands these guys are associated with.  It is it’s own little entity.

Another plus, if you’re into this sort of thing, is the album artwork.  If your a purist and still purchase the hard copies of album, you’ll be rewarded with a full expanded poster of the artwork on this one.  For this reason, I’ll just never understand people who go digital only.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Fallujah-Undying Light

If you’ve read any of this blog in the past, you’ve probably seen me rail against certain bands in the technical death metal field that I feel let the technical side of things get a bit out of hand.  It’s not that what these bands do is not impressive.  It’s just that the focus seems to be more on how complicated the band can make the rhythms and techniques used in the songs rather than on creating a solid song.  Like the song itself becomes secondary to acting solely as a vehicle to showcase the players’ musical chops.  This sort of technical focus only carries so much weight with many as I get older.  Sure, I was blown away by the Yngwies and shit of the world when I was in junior high, but now, I just want something that fucking jams.  Or something that hits me in the emotional soft spot.  Tweedly leads and scales just don’t have any sort of staying power in my world anymore.

Now, I know I’m probably not in the majority in my viewpoint here, especially in the world of tech death fans.  Case in point is the band at hand, Fallujah.  Fallujah is a fairly new band and is one that has gotten quite a bit of favorable press amongst the metal journalist and metal fans alike.  They were a band on paper that I should enjoy.  However, I just never really warmed up to their sound.  I think a big part of it was that it seemed like their focus was right in line with my aforementioned thoughts:  too technical at the cost of the quality of the songs.  It’s one of those things that I can’t entirely put an exact finger on in trying to explain why their sound never quite gelled with me, but it just never clicked.

So, flash to 2019 and Fallujah has seen themselves go through some changes with the quitting of founding member and vocalist, Alex Hofmann.  As a result, it seems as though the band had a reevaluation of their sound and direction and this latest album sees a distinct shift.  And from the reaction online, it seems to have rubbed a lot of their hard core fans the wrong way.  The new album is less focused on the technical side of things and feels like a tighter presentation.  New vocalist Antonio Palermo has more of an organic growl to his delivery than did Hofmann and I honestly dig it.  He’s kind of reminicient of Tomas Lindberg of At The Gates.  I have a feeling that I’m in the minority in kind of digging the new direction.  It’s not groundbreaking in any real way, but it’s not a sellout direction either.  It’s not like they’ve gone hair metal or anything like that.  It’s still technical death metal at its core, but the focus on flash has been reigned in.  I just feel like this approach is going to have more staying power than their earlier sound.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Plague Vendor and Drakulas at The Mohawk, Austin, TX 4/1/2019

Sometimes you see a band performing live and you realize that around 90% of the bands you see in a live setting are just mailing it in.  Plague Vendor.  Holy crapola.  This was one hell of a whirlwind of a performance.  I think it’s safe to say that if by the end of a show you have to ask yourself, “What the hell just happened?”, it’s probably a pretty damn good show.

Now, I have to give props out to the punk rock wife for me even being at this show.  We saw Plague Vendor the first time a few years ago when they opened up for Refused here in Austin.  We didn’t know who they were, but they seemed like an entertaining little punk band with some infectious energy.  I had honestly kind of forgotten about them since that point, but the wife kept track of them and asked if I wanted to go see them when they set this date. “Sure.  Why the hell not?” I thought.  And, goddamn.  I think I may have missed something that first time around.  This band exudes confidence.  The foundation of the band, guitarist Jay Rogers, bassist Michael Perez and drummer Luke Perine, all lay down a serious slab of impressive punk riffs and rumble.  Over top of all that solid musicianship is this weird force of nature of a front man named Brandon Blaine.  Take a combination of Dennis from Refused merged with the stylings of Mick Jagger and a dose of Iggy Pop’s menacing snarl and pair it with a bit of a Jack White sounding wail and it starts to explain what Blaine brings to the table.  This dude just transformed into a dervish of manic energy from the moment he hit the stage.  It’s just impressive to see a band come out and just buy-in 100% into the performance.  These dudes just left it all out there on the stage and it was just fucking magical.  So many bands just going through the motions in their live shows could really take some tips from Plague Vendor.

Now, I’m not saying these guys are going to be huge, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Plague Vendor ends up being the next big punk band going.  I just don’t understand how anyone could not see them pull off a show like they did last night (for probably around 50-60 people in the audience, no less) and not walk away a fan.  Thank you, Plague Vendor.  Your performance is the kind of thing that still keeps me going to live shows at my ripe old age.

I also have to give a shout out to local band Drakulas for opening the show.  Mike Wiebe is another one of these frontmen that just gives everything in his live performances.  He and his Drakulas co-horts have created this interesting punk project that seems a bit like a group of weird cult figures who have a strange obsession with porn and Beta Max tapes.  It’s weird and creepy and unique and fun.

Plague Vendor