Wow. Just wow. What a way to end a long week. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of witnessing a show on the inside stage of Hotel Vegas in Austin, let me explain. It is small. It is dark. It is cramped. It’s a space to see music up close and personal. Spirit Adrift, in my opinion, is one of these young metal bands that is right on the cusp of blowing up good. And to see them in the grimy and no-frills environment of Hotel Vegas on their way up through the trenches was a cool treat to see. I really believe these guys have the chops and the stage presence/charisma to propel this band into the mainstream metal public’s consciousness. It won’t be long before these guys are playing much larger venues. I implore you to seek these guys out when they play your town and especially go pick up their latest, Divided By Darkness.
Well, lookee here! Pelican is back with a new album. It’s been six long damn years since these guys have put out a proper full-length album. It falls right in line with my burgeoning love affair with the metal coming out of the city of Chicago.
Even though it has been six years since we last heard anything new out of these guys, the new album doesn’t really pull many surprises. The songs are all instrumental again and the sounds and structures composed here are right in line with what we’ve come to expect from Pelican over the years. It’s driving post-metal combined with catchy hooks. I have to say that while the new album is solid, I feel like I have to ding it a bit for the overall rating. I mean, six years. I have to say that I expected to be more inspired by this one than I actually was over the course of the first couple of listens. Like I say, it’s fine. It’s solid. But it just never quite reaches that level of amazing that I’ve experienced with a good chunk of their past releases. I definitely don’t think I’d hold it in nearly high as regard as I do their last album, Forever Becoming. A good effort, but not great.
3.5 flip flops out of 5
So, after reviewing Darkthrone’s Old Star last week and now having Enthroned’s latest, Cold Black Suns, drop on my desk this week, I really feel as though it would be a truly missed opportunity if both bands don’t go out on a co-headlining tour called the Decrepit Heavenly Bodies Tour. It would totally be the smash tour of the summer (well, it would be if Darkthrone ever toured, that is). This one is on me, guys. You’re welcome.
This is the first album for Belgium’s Enthroned in quite a few years. The latest album is just as black as their previous work and it really feels as though the band is going for that sweet spot lurking between black and death metal. Subject-wise, the one is very bleak and black, but is delivered is more of a melodic, grinding sort of death metal manner musically. It reminds me a lot of that musical space that Behemoth has occupied for quite some time. And they do a helluva a job with it. I found this album to be one of the more accessible and engaging death metal albums to come out so far in 2019. I just really dug this one. I think you might as well.
4 flip flops out of 5
Death Metal Monday should really be a thing. Nothing like slagging through the first day of the work week and ending it at a sparsely filled metal club while getting bludgeoned by a wall of death metal sounds. Makes the following Tuesday morning alarm an absolute treat.
So, here’s one of these shows where I went primarily to check out the opening band. Chicago’s Warforged is touring off their debut full-length (see review of I: The Voice from June 7). I was so impressed by this quirky album that I decided to spend my Monday evening checking out their live show. And it didn’t disappoint. These guys don’t really look the part of a metal band appearance-wise, but they brought a confident and energetic set of songs from said debut album. These guys have a different spin on your traditional death metal sound and it keeps things interesting. I’m looking forward to see where these guys take it in the future.
This is in stark comparison to headliner Inanimate Existence. IE is among the technical death metal bands with whom I find myself increasingly frustrated. These guys have talent for miles. The technical chops of these guys are completely off the charts. But, it feels as though riffing and especially soloing as fast as humanly possible has become the sole focus here instead of crafty truly memorable songs. Songs just run seamlessly into one another with no real personality or hook to differentiate one from the next. Just stomp on the gas and let this puppy rip. And I guess that’s cool for the first couple of songs, but I just kind of lost focus over the remainder of the set.
Former Gorgoroth frontman Gaahl is one of these near-mythic personalities from the Norwegian black metal scene and he’s back with a new band entitled Gaahls WYRD. From his one world answer “Satan.” in explaining Gorgoroth’s main influence during his infamous Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey interview to his open endorsement of church burnings to multiple convictions for assault to becoming an openly gay man in the black metal scene, Gaahl is simply one of more interesting characters to come out of the Norwegian metal scene. The latest incarnation of Gaahl’s creative vision is still very much rooted in the black metal world, but finds his delivery of such in a much more progressive manner than his work in Gogoroth. You’ve got about a 50/50 split between traditional black metal vocals and his more croonish regular singing voice. Musically, there is quite a bit of this album that is extremely melodic and downright accessible. If given an actual shot, it really feels as if this album could have some crossover appeal to fans of less extreme forms of metal. Lyrically, this one is still rooted in the usual misanthropic themes that form most of black metal’s stomping grounds, but the many stylistic changes found throughout the album make this one an interesting listen overall. It may not be for everyone, but I found this about as engaging an album in which Gaahl has been involved.
4 flip flops out of 5
Damn. Album #17 for these frostbitten and blackened souls of the north. Darkthrone’s style has come a long way from their early albums as one of the forefathers of the Norwegian black metal scene. Whereas the music has become a little more accessible over the years and has strayed from the true formula of those early black metal traditions, the music presented here is still putridly dark and grimy.
The latest album is a brief one in length, but it’s styles are kind of all over the place. I hear elements of the blackened crust punk sound they have embraced in recent years and also a little more of a traditional heavy metal sound overall. At its core, however, is that same old Nocturno Culto and Fenriz collaboration that has pushed this vehicle forward for all of its years of existence. Seriously, these guys are the Astbury/Duffy of the black metal world. A two-man team of creativity that just keeps churning out solid music year after year.
October Tide is one of those former side project that has since evolved into a main gig band for one of the original members. This band started as a side gig for Jonas Renske and Fred Norrman of Katatonia. I never really understood the purpose of this band since it sounded quite a lot like old Katatonia, but I guess it gave Fred and Jonas a death metal outlet as Katatonia evolved into a more melodic and melancholy entity over the years. At any rate, Fred eventually left Katatonia and has since had October Tide as his main creative outlet and Jonas has left October Tide.
In Splendor Below sees October Tide ditching their old minimalist logo for this latest release and going with the new old-schoolish death metal logo for this one. Not sure I really care for the new look, but it does kind of fit for the album enclosed. This new platter feels a little more of an embrace of the death metal aesthetic than their previous album, Winged Waltz. Even though this new album feels grittier and contains a bit more edge than their prior album, I still think the material doesn’t quite reach the level of quality of the previous album. I can’t exactly pinpoint what is holding this current batch of songs back a bit, but overall, it just feels a tad rote. Like there just wasn’t a grand bout of inspiration pushing the creation of this one. It’s not bad. It just feels a little middle of the road style death metal.
3.5 flip flops out of 5