Won’t Get Fooled Again: Exclusive Society Sucker Stream!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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Hope you’re ready to get dirty this morning, people — the super-pissed self-titled EP from Wilmington, North Carolina hardcore upstarts Society Sucker streaming below is rife with gloriously grimy grooves, rancid earworm riffage, and nasty, nasty straight-from-the-gutter breakdowns.

Officially out on September 16th, preorders for Society Sucker are on seafoam green, gold/yellow clear or black wax are available HERE, and digital preorders HERE. Keep up with the band via Facebook, Bandcamp, and Twitter.

STREAMING: Num Skull “Ritually Abused”

By: Chris D. Posted in: featured, listen On: Monday, September 15th, 2014

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Medusa Records is a label most metalheads won’t recognize. Based in Culver City, California, the label had a decent stint from 1986 to 1990, releasing a cadre of thrashers from Wrath and Wasted Youth to Christian metal acts Barren Cross and Vengeance Rising (remember their inexplicable inclusion in Hard ‘N Heavy’s Grindcore Special Issue VHS?). The Cali label’s biggest act was Illinois-based Num Skull. The group’s short-lived time on planet Earth started with debut, Ritually Abused. If we’re revising history with the last sentence, let us know.

Anyway, the dudes at Relapse have unearthed Ritually Abused, first reissued in 2002 by Skullsucker Music, for the modern era. Now that thrash metal (and reissues) are at an all-time (post-Megadeth Risk) high, Relapse have tapped Num Skull’s limitless energy, boundless violence for kids in reissue sneakers to enjoy like it’s 1988. Cold War not included.

Ritually Abused in full effect! Your Monday just got thrashtastic!

** Num Skull’s Ritually Abused is out September 16 on Relapse Records. Pre-order is available HERE.

For Those About to Squawk: Waldo’s Pecks of the Week

By: admin Posted in: a fucking parrot previewing new releases, featured On: Friday, September 12th, 2014

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Isn’t this supposed to be a good time of year for releases?  Hmmm… well, there are SOME things.

Welcome, oh ye Wizards of Gore. CANNIBAL CORPSE are back at it with A Skeletal Domain.  And what’s to be said about the 12th release by a forerunner in the genre of death metal? Well, if you’re not familiar with Cannibal’s work, then SHAME SHAME; so, like, go check it out. When a band has a catalog like this, and there are few stinkers, it’s hard to get excited about a new release. This is no exception. This is a Cannibal Corpse to a T: almost (not quite) paint-by-numbers Corpse. There are gut punches, nasty riffs, blasts, guttural vocals, gore, breakdowns: all of that is there for sure. Even though this isn’t their shining moment, this is an above par release.  ”Asphyxiate to Resuscitate” has a general “Butchered at Birth” feel, and “Kill or Become” has an almost sing-along part to it. All of that said, they’ve definitely perfected their craft, and A Skeletal Domain showcases that precisely. It’s just this birdbrain’s opinion that this comes across as a little formulaic. They have taken risks before, and it would certainly be preferred if there were more risks taken on this one. This is not a bad release, but not a stellar one either. Maybe this will grow on me; hey, stranger things have happened. 6 Fucking Pecks.

“You got some metal in my punk! No, you got some punk in my metal!” Crossover heroes IRON REAGAN release The Tyranny of Will on Relapse.  First of all, the cover rules, and this type of stuff gets me circle-pitting in my cage. You know, counterclockwise, the way REAL parrots do it. Anyway, this is a punk/thrash/metal amalgam that’s super fun and super catchy, and has you headbanging and swilling on a shitty beer in no time. To list the members of this band (you have Google, right?) would almost be a travesty, as Iron Reagan can stand on their own legs.  This is just great crossover punk metal fun. Lets say it all together: FOUR MORE YEARS. 7 Fucking Pecks.

UNAUSSPRECHLICHEN KULTEN  hit us with Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath. (Can you tell I get paid by the word?) This is CLEARLY Lovecraft worship, which is why I decided to give this a feather shake. I’m actually more thrilled with this than I thought I would be. I figured this would be black metal played by some “artistes,” but it’s not. It’s actually brutal death metal.  Knock me over with a feather (he he he). This is the kind of old-school death that your boy Waldo really enjoys. Harkening back to the days of early Incantation mixed with old Pestilence, and throw in a little Suffo for good measure. The production here doesn’t thrill me, but it’s not bad, and fans of this sound will like this. So, like Chilean old-school death, I’m in. 6 Fucking Pecks.

 

All Your Heroes Dead? Grind to the UK’s Oblivionized and Razoreater

By: Dan Lake Posted in: featured, interviews, listen, videos On: Friday, September 12th, 2014

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We at Decibel Magazine wish to apologize for not doing enough to support the development and dissemination of grind.  By including occasional articles about other forms of heavy music, some of which include discernible tempos and recognizably human vocals, we have polluted the “scene” (which died 15 years ago, though our anger about it keeps us grinding on anyway) and betrayed our rotten souls with even our half-assed dope-nod attempt at selling out.

Today, we hope to rectify the situation (by the way, Rectify Dissemination would be a great band name if those words meant what they sounded like).  Witch Hunter Records have just released a cassette (and free digital download) of a face-shredding live performance from the U.K.’s Oblivionized and Razoreater.  The recording was captured on July 19th of this year at the Stuck On A Name recording studio in Nottingham.

Here are a pair of videos from those performances, accompanied by commentary from each of the bands.  Get in the fucking pit!

Zac Broughton, Oblivionized:
Oblivionized started gigging in 2010. we’ve always just done our own thing. At the centre it’s about expressing ourselves and pushing what we do musically and conceptually. We’ve put our several splits and EP’s independently, and with DIY labels, while touring over the past few years. This year we recorded our full length Life Is A Struggle, Give Up and we’re working on getting that released currently.

I was just chatting with Will and we were like “mate it’d be fun to do a live recording, as recording a record isn’t quite the same as a gig.” Then I was like “yeah that would be sick.” So we put the idea together and I thought it’d be nice to put out on cassette, so I asked Witch Hunter if they wanted to be involved, obviously Stuck On A Name is a great place to do this, it’s a recording studio my friend Ian Boult runs that puts on ace shows. It all just fell into place, so I sent the idea to Stephan to see if Razoreater wanted to jump on make it a split.  We filmed it also with help from Justine (Justine Jones Photography, Employed To Serve.)

We recorded a lot of material from our album, we’re really into this material and just wanted to share what we do live with the people who care, so it’s all online you can watch the full sets on YouTube, download the songs off the WHR Bandcamp and pick up a cassette.

It was a really fun show, our mates Let It Die played and they were sick, Razoreater were nuts, everyone at SOAN is rad so it was just like any other gig but with mics and cameras. We’ve got some great music here I think Stuck On A Name is as really positive place, you get loads of different bands crossing over there. It’s a really good time, I think it’s important to capture this stuff.  If you download the audio of the split on the Witch Hunter Bandcamp, you get an extra track with Let It Die’s live set recorded, it’s ace. there is also a bunch of other great bands on there, all name your price. http://witchhunterrecords.bandcamp.com/album/this-is-s-o-a-n

Stephan Pickels, Razoreater:
We are Razoreater, a Grind enthused hardcore band from Peterborough. We started life early 2012 after being musically idle from previous bands for a while. When we first jammed we just wanted to have fun and continue the British tradition of being fast, loud and obnoxious. We’re all best mates that grew up listening to the same stuff so it was pretty easy to get things going and get a general feel for our sound straight away. Razoreater has evolved over the time we’ve been a band but we’ve always kept to the same recipe for writing and playing shows so its a pretty natural evolution we feel. We released our first demo tape through Church Of Fuck which was limited to 50 and had 4 tracks on it, it was pretty raw but that’s exactly what we wanted at the time. After that came the split 7′ with Iced Out which also came out on COF limited to 300. Both bands had 2 tracks a side on that one. We recently recorded our next studio record which should be out later this year!

Basically, the split with Oblivionized came about when I was up late one night a few months back and got a message from Zac. He’d basically planned everything out in this email and all he needed from us was a yes or no answer. Straight away we agreed to it because we have nothing but the utmost respect for those guys and their band. Also, the idea Zac had was sick so it was an absolute no-brainer for us to do it and release something with them.

The track list we chose for the Oblivionized split is a healthy mix of old and brand new. We wanted to give people a good spectrum of what we are and what we’re about. Most of Ben’s lyrics are about masking social anxieties, misanthropic feelings and the expectations of reality whilst living a day to day life. they also round up everyone in the bands collective mindset and life experience.

Overall we’re really happy with how the live split tape/video came out, everyone at the show had a wild time and so did we, so what can be better?  Hopefully the people that buy it will enjoy it as much as we did. Its out now through Witch Hunter records on purple cassette, limited 100.

Check out the free download here, and find other Witch Hunter releases here.

Onward Into Battle: Talking MMA with KEN Mode

By: kevin.stewart-panko Posted in: exclusive, featured, gnarly one-offs, lists, stupid crap, videos On: Thursday, September 11th, 2014

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By the time this goes live, KEN Mode’s first round of what promises to be another couple years of non-stop touring will have come to a close and the boys will be getting set to kick their feet up for about 20 minutes before hitting Europe with HARK. See all the details and particulars at this post from a couple weeks ago. Having spent the last couple of weeks on the road with the brothers Matthewson, one thing I and anyone with at least a half-functioning set of ears will notice is how often the topics of both the training and competitive sides of Mixed Martial Arts, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and all that professional ass-kicking business get discussed while the majority of everyone else in the room/van/proximity looks like someone is speaking Mongolian, and this particular jerk wishes he had someone to talk tennis with (yeah, yeah, yeah…). But to sit on the periphery of conversations in which the principle figures are so deeply engaged is as unnerving and confusing as it is interesting and quite helpful in understanding the social transformation my long-suffering significant other says overcomes yours truly when me and the local metal nerds start nerd-ing out. People are into what they’re into and it’s awesome when they’re way passionate about what they’re into. so let’s take a break from the music talk. Maybe it would have made more sense to transcribe an actual conversation, but that sounds like a lot of work and I’m a lazy fuck. In light of that, the Deciblog presents:

My Top Five Favourite MMA Fights of 2014 (so far)
By Jesse Matthewson [guitarist/vocalist]

Yoel Romero vs. Derek Brunson
Intense back-and-forth [action] between two incredibly skilled and athletic up-and-comers in the middleweight division. Brunson looked like he was fighting the perfect fight to beat Romero with his range and speed and then’ BAM,’ the third round sees the scale tipping drastically and Romero finishes him off with brutal ground ‘n’ pound and brutal elbows to the body. I’m very excited to see Romero tested against Tim Kennedy.

Robbie Lawler vs. Matt Brown
This was a brutal slug fest with plenty of clinch and elbow work. Both men have incredible chins and I knew it would be a slog, but nobody would have guessed it would have gone five rounds of constant action. I didn’t used to be a Lawler fan, but since his resurgence in the UFC at 170 he has been an absolute animal. Honestly, in the end what I think made this fight so much fun was that Brown did a lot better than I thought he would.

Lyoto Machida vs. Chris Weidman
I have a soft spot for the real ‘martial artist’ Brazilian types. I loved watching Anderson Silva fight because he always had some new crazy striking technique he was trying out that nobody had attempted before in MMA, and somehow it kept working. Him losing to Chris Weidman, especially the leg break, was tough to watch…A part of me was hoping Chris Weidman would be “exposed” for being not THAT special by another wild ‘martial artist’ type. Lyoto looked re-invigorated at UFC 185 and I was sure he’d get the belt…he didn’t, but damn, I was actually stoked to see just how good Weidman was. Cut off the cage perfectly, utilized range, movement and takedowns to ultimately dictate the pace, yet the fight was still extremely close and exciting. If Machida would have put on the pressure in the third, it could have been a different story.

Johnny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler
I think the most fun part about this bout was that you really had no idea who was going to win all fight. Hendricks mixed it up more, with frequent kicks and his utilizing of takedowns, but Lawler was never even close to being out of that fight. Some of those shots Hendricks absorbed in the third round – and still being able to go on to win – were beyond nuts! The re-match will be wild, especially after watching those last two Lawler fights since Hendricks has been out.

Thiago Alves vs. Seth Baczynski
My Muay Thai bias comes into play here. I just love watching a good stand up war with Thiago Alves. Baczynski is a tough, tough dude, but man, did he take a beating in this one. If Alves can stay healthy, it will be interesting to see what happens with him in this post-Georges St-Pierre welterweight division.

Couldn’t find any relevant video for this one, so watch this instead:

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Encrotchment With Eddie Gobbo From Jar’d Loose: Week 1

By: Eddie Gobbo Posted in: encrotchment, nfl 2014 On: Thursday, September 11th, 2014

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Hello, and welcome to Week 1 of Decibel’s new NFL column, Encrotchment. A lot happened in Week 1, so let’s get started.

Hype! 2: The Seattle Seahawks

Well, the 2014 NFL season started with the Hawks going to a stadium filled with 12th men and women, getting rings, rolling Green Bay, and helping Soundgarden load their gear out of their parking lot afterward. But yeah, this team is insanely good. Every time their smooth, mistake-free offense goes to work, I hear Mother Love Bone’s “Stardog Champion.” When the defense is out there, I hear Black Breath’s “I Am Beyond.”  There hasn’t been a team as likely to repeat as champs since the early 2000s Patriots, who actually did it.

Seattle will get there if they do two things this season: stay healthy and stay home. They are the team every other team is going to want to lay into, especially that one coached by that psycho. Protect Russell, reduce snaps for starters when you have decent leads, and take the extra week for injuries to heal when possible. As for home, I’m referring to home field. Any team that has to go to CenturyLink for a playoff game, good luck. Great start for the Champs and the Old Guy.

Horseshit

Did we see a preview of our AFC Championship game this past Sunday? I mean, for Cleveland to show off their high-powered offense and come back against Pittsburgh’s staunch defense like they did? Well, maybe not that epic AFC clash, but Broncos/Colts definitely could have been a late January preview. And if so, the NFL would cream. Yes, Manning/Brady for the millionth time would be a ratings grab. But everyone knows that Andrew Luck’s AFC QB throne is waiting once Manning retires. It’s always more fun to see thrones usurped than abdicated.

As for the game, both teams conveniently exposed their biggest weaknesses over 60 minutes of prime time. First off, this Denver team does not know how to put their foot on anyone’s throat for the life of them. This game looked very similar to last year’s Sunday Night debacle against New England (the one where they were up 24-0 at the half, only to lose). The Broncos should be disappointed that this game wasn’t over by the third quarter. As for Indy, this game reiterated the fact that Andrew Luck is surrounded by a few underachievers that he may not trust as much as he should.

Case in point, the goal line 4th and 1 in the third quarter where Luck hurried to the line of scrimmage and attempted a QB sneak, only to get stoned. Why isn’t Luck putting the ball in the hands of Trent Richardson? You know, the guy they gave up a first round pick for? Yes, Indy’s O-line is weak, so Richardson isn’t all to blame for his schizophrenic production since becoming a Colt. However, a pass-heavy offense like the one Indy will surely have this year should open up the run more for T-Rich. He has to make the most of that this year.

Oh yeah, then there’s Coby Fleener: the 6’6″ third-year, first-off-the-board tight end, in an explosive offense led by his college quarterback, who continues to be a non-factor. Luck passed 53 times on Sunday. Eight of those passes were to Fleener. He caught three of them for 21 yards (Luck threw for 370 total, by the way). Fleener has to be more productive than 2013, which was, all things considered, a bad season for him. His main competition for touches, Dwayne Allen, was injured the whole year. Yet Fleener still found a way to live in mediocrity with 52 receptions, 600 yards and, most importantly, only four TDs. Now with Allen back healthy, Fleener might fade into obscurity. He should be Luck’s security blanket and a red zone nightmare for defenses. He’s not even close to being either.

All that said, the Colts do have the luxury of some breathing room in the AFC this year, given the overall weakness of the conference compared to the NFC. They can make some mistakes, shoot themselves in the foot a little bit, lose some close games, learn on the job and still be poised for a run come playoff time.

He’s the Wiz, and Nobody Beats Him

Nice road win Week 1 against a decent team in a hostile environment for the Tennessee Titans, led by Jake Locker passing for more than his usual 150 yards and 1 TD (266 passing yards and 2 TD, thank you very much).  Yes, Alex Smith and Kansas City played a sucky game. What’s important, though, is that Tennessee didn’t play a sucky game back, like they normally would. I think Ken Whisenhunt may be to thank for this. I see the Titans turning a corner this year behind their new coach. He’s the long-term answer to their Jeff Fisher question. The franchise is still hanging their hat on that Super Bowl they lost in the closing seconds (Whis can relate to that). They’re a match made in heaven. He’s my dark horse candidate for Coach of the Year.

Who is Cairo Santos?

The NFL’s answer to Keyser Soze is here. His name: Cairo Santos. Legend has it he once played one game and attempted two field goals. Both hit the post. One went in. One didn’t. And just like that, poof, he hits an extra point.

The Kelly Value

On opening Thursday, like an extra present on Christmas from Satan, it was announced that Jim Kelly is now cancer-free. He is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever, a football legend, and his story is inspiring. Truly awesome news!

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Thanks for reading, and I hope to have you back next week and hereafter. I know this was an unbelievably dark week for NFL fans, for obvious reasons. The NFL handled something extremely poorly, and now are attempting to handle it “properly” in a too little, too late fashion. No matter what good happens this season, this incident will be a black cloud over all of it, as it should be. All we could do is hope for proper reform, and that anyone who added to this nonsense face proper consequences.

Pick of the Week

Cincy -5 over Atlanta

Follow Eddie: 

FB: www.facebook.com/jardloose

Twitter: @jardloose

CONTEST: The Color of Noise Tickets

By: zach.smith Posted in: featured On: Thursday, September 11th, 2014

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We love AmRep and we’re pretty sure a lot of you do too. If so, there’s a good chance you’ll also dig The Color of Noise, a film about HAZE XXL (Tom Hazelmyer) and Amphetamine Reptile Records. The label has put out releases from the likes of The Jesus Lizard, Helmet, Melvins, Unsane (notably the HOF inducted Scattered, Smothered & Covered), Killdozer and countless others, so not surprisingly director Eric Robel’s film is “an exceptional look at the integrity of the American underground starting in the late 80′s through the mid 90′s, specifically targeting forerunners of the grunge movement, the collision of punk rock and printmaking, and beyond.”

While you can buy tickets to see a screening in select cities (not to mention view an art installation beforehand that will feature various works by Hazelmyer, including hand-carved and hand-printed fine art linocuts that are often found on hand-made, ultra-small edition art records), we’re also giving away a pair to a screening of your choice. Just email us by 8:00pm EST on Friday (9/12) and tell us your favorite AmRep record and why, and our favorite entry will win. Tom and Eric will be at the shows doing a Q&A after every screening.

If you need a good starting point to dive into the label’s back catalog — or a leg up on your entry — Hazelmyer was nice enough to tell us about his five favorite AmRep records, which you can check out below the trailer.

Halo Of Flies’ “Rubber Room” 7″ (1986)
Okay it’s self serving as it’s my band. But this was the one where it all came together. After several aborted attempts, this was the first record I put out and it got done the way I wanted it to.

Helmet’s Strap It On (1990)
Aside from changing the face of rock, being involved from the beginning with this one taught me how to handle a tiger by the tail and not get mauled (well at least too much).

Melvins’ “Night Goat” 7″ (1992)
We did a bunch of great bands, but this song is truly one of the fucking greats. All time periods, all genres. We got to be a part of that.

Helios Creed’s The Last Laugh (1989)
Chrome are up there with The Stooges and The Birthday Party as one of my all time favorite bands. I got to work for/with and help and for one of my idols at a time he really needed it. It was a great run we had with about five LPs.

Cows’ Cunning Stunts (1992)
The perfect storm. A great band fucking nailing it. If there’s ever the perfect AmRep LP, this is it from the cover to its contents, we all fucking nailed it and then some.

HazeRobel

Screenings:

First leg

9/17, Strange Matter, Richmond, VA (doors 7pm, screening 8:30pm)
9/18, Rock and Roll Hotel Roof, Washington DC (doors 6pm, screening 7:30pm)
9/19, Otto Bar – Upstairs, Baltimore, MD
9/20, Underground Arts, Philadelphia PA (doors 7pm, screening 8:30pm, Ladder Devils and Multicult 11pm)
9/21, Highline Ballroom, New York, NY (doors 6pm, screening 8pm)

Second leg

10/15 Riverview Theater, Minneapolis, MN
10/17 Eronel, Debuque, IA (tickets here)
10/18 Shakespeares Pub, Kalamazoo, MI
10/19 Tangent Gallery, Detroit, MI
10/20 Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH (tickets here)
10/22 CMJ Conference Center, New York, NY
10/23 Club Cafe, Pittsburgh, PA (tickets here)
10/25 Studio 35, Columbus, OH
10/26 Double Door, Chicago, IL (tickets here)
10/27 High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI (tickets here)

STREAMING: Beyond Creation’s “Earthborn Evolution”

By: justin.m.norton Posted in: featured, listen On: Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

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“It’s a testament to the boundless creativity of modern, progressive metal.” That’s what label Season Of Mist is saying about the sophomore album from tech death Quebecers (wrestling joke intended) Beyond Creation.

Now, if you’re in the label business these days part of your job is saying good things about your roster so people will get a physical copy of said record. The beauty of the Internet age is that you can put sales proposals to the test immediately: your friends at Decibel are streaming “Earthborn Evolution,” the first track off an album of the same name. We happen to like it.

The album will be released on October 28 and can be preordered here. Let the band know what you think on their Facebook page.

A full track listing follows the stream.

1. Elusive Reverence
2. Sous La Lueur De l’Empereur
3. Earthborn Evolution
4. The Great Revelation
5. Neurotical Transmissions
6. Abstrait Dialog
7. The Axiom
8. L’Exorde
9. Theatrical Delirium
10. Fundamental Process

Epic Ruination: Exclusive Krieg Video Premiere!

By: Shawn Macomber Posted in: exclusive, featured On: Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

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Last week Philadelphia black metal stalwarts Krieg unleashed a disquieting beast of an album christened Transient. Now comes appropriately dark visual accompaniment in the form of the video for “Ruin Our Lives,” streaming below. Get into it.

Sucker For Punishment: Dig Your Fingers In

By: Adrien Begrand Posted in: featured On: Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

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For some crazy reason the Canadian province of Alberta is on one hell of a roll when it comes to metal these days. The underground extreme side is thriving, yielding death metalers Revenge, primitive thrashers Blackrat, grind aces Wake, and old-school speed metal upstarts Gatekrashör. The Weir delivers first-rate noise, Chron Goblin excel at stoner rock, Death Toll Rising is tremendous tech death, Villainizer is capable of wicked satire and even better thrash metal, Viathyn is extremely promising power metal. The polished, much-improving music of Kobra and the Lotus, the feral modern thrash of Mortillery, nihilists Begrime Exemious, the late, great Weapon. Right now Alberta metal is as healthy as the Athabasca oil sands are an ecological disaster.

The best band of the lot might not be the coolest by North American standards, but Edmonton’s Striker is one of the most gloriously spot-on speed metal outfits on the planet at the moment. Signed to Napalm Records on the strength of their shockingly good self-released 2010 debut Eyes in the Night, the quintet made a huge leap with Armed to the Teeth, a rousing collection of highly melodic tunes that hearkened back to 30 years ago. Back then metal was metal and not divided into subgenres, and bands were never afraid to combine aggression, flashy hooks, and soaring lead vocals, and this band, led by guitarist Chris Segger and singer Dan Cleary captured that feeling perfectly.

Teaming up with producer Fredrik Nordström, Striker is out to further refine that sound, and the end result is City of Gold (Napalm), a record that steers that classic sound towards something a little modern and aggressive, but never for a second loses touch with what makes that music so appealing in the first place. No matter how extreme the music gets, as on the throttling “Crossroads”, the hook is always king, and this record is loaded with knockouts. “Bad Decisions” pulls off ‘80s Scorpions minimalism beautifully, “All For One” approaches the relentless pace of peak Arch Enemy, while “Mind Control” cranks the party metal riffs. This is high-energy heavy metal at its best, European in sensibility yet, to the band’s credit, unrelenting enough to appeal to the younger crowd on this continent. You need this album.

Also out this week:

Autumn’s Dawn, Gone (Eisenwald): Metal’s so funny sometimes. All the hyperbole can be added to describe this Australian band’s debut album to make it sound metal – “despair”, “depressive”, “shadowy” – but in actuality, only one word applies: Swervedriver. This album sounds totally like Swervedriver, with a few double-kicks and screams tossed in for good measure. And when I compare a band to Swervedriver, whose 1993 album Mezcal Head is a classic, that is very, very high praise. Call your music anything, fellas, but don’t call it “depressive black metal”. It’s much, much better than that. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

Crimson Shadows, Kings Among Men (Napalm): Power/traditional heavy metal bands that employ growling vocalists tend to stick in my craw, but for some crazy reason this Toronto band makes it work surprisingly well. Perhaps it’s because the guitars are so vibrant and flamboyant, capable of DragonForce-level shredding, or perhaps it’s because of the inclusion of a second vocalist who sporadically provides some well timed singing. Either way, this second album is a blast from start to finish, exuberant, catchy, and very convincing.

In Flames, Siren Charms (Sony/RED): I’m as shameless an In Flames apologist as you’ll ever find, having thoroughly enjoyed their post-2000 turn toward mainstream metal. Their last couple albums following up the excellent Come Clarity didn’t exactly show consistency, but the good still outweighed the bad enough for me to give mild recommendations for both. This new album, though, is so consistently awful, a collection of tepid, uninspired tracks that place too much emphasis on softer sounds. When they do turn up the volume, like on “Rusted Nail”, it feels like an uninspired rehash of Reroute to Remain hooks, feeling more somnambulistic than empowering. There’s nothing wrong with a band streamlining its sound, and In Flames’ success over the past dozen years is a sterling example, but this album takes things too far, losing touch with what made their past records so enjoyable. They sound creatively adrift, and desperately need to be pulled back before all hope is lost. If it isn’t already.

Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Napalm): The bazillionth Scandinavian retro rock band, Norway’s Lonely Kamel treads the same blues-derived path as Graveyard, but despite a couple above average songs “Freezing”, “Shit City”) there’s just not enough here to distinguish the band from all the other like-minded acts saturating the market at the moment. The music swings mightily at times, but it needs more personality.

Megaton Leviathan, Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell (Seventh Rule): The latest by the Portland project helmed by Andrew James Costa is a graceful blend of the more progressive side of doom, with enough massive yet comforting drones and melodies to remind one of The Body. What grabbed yours truly the most, though, is when Costa sings, like on “Here Come the Tears”, as he concocts vocal melodies so strange, alien, and compelling that it sounds like Damo Suzuki fronting a doom band.

The Order of Israfel, Wisdom (Napalm): There’s nothing wrong with playing a similar style as Saint Vitus, imitation has long been accepted in metal. And the tunes on this debut smoke in that lumbering, swinging, doomy way that Vitus was – and still is – so great at. Those vocals, though, detract from the music, sounding like Randy Bachman as opposed to aptly reflecting the power of the instrumental arrangements. The guy can carry a tune, but only barely, and unfortunately this style of music demands a lot more than that.

The Sabbathian, Ritual Rites (Svart): The latest doom project by Chad Davis, who’s best know for is work under the Hour of 13 moniker, takes a slightly different approach, employing the services of former Nattsol singer Anette Gulbrandsen, which adds a distinct feminine air to the music. She handles the role very well, too, taking on a more powerful, robust tone than expected, much like Farida Lemouchi of The Devil’s Blood. Unlike Leif Edling’s psychedelic-tinged doom project Avatarium, though, the music is a lot more rigid, a lot more conservative, but on this three-track release the approach works very well, enough to leave you looking forward to a proper album from this cool new partnership.

Steak, Slab City (Napalm): As rampaging as Orange Goblin, as hazy as Kyuss, as psychedelic as Monster Magnet, this British band serves up some mildly satisfying sludge on its third album. The only problem is that there’s not enough staying power to sustain an entire album, as each song starts to bleed into the next. It’s the same old problem: the mechanics are spot-on, but stronger songwriting is needed.

Not metal, but worth hearing:

Esben and the Witch, A New Nature (Nostromo): The Brighton, England trio’s evolution has been fascinating to witness. Featuring three raw musicians with no formal training, the band took an instinctive approach to making dark, gothic music, and the result was frail and unpredictable early on, but with each new release got tighter and a whole lot more confident, to the point where now they’re regarded as a ferocious live act. So when they decided to work with Steve Albini on this self-released third album, you could sense where all this was going. Indeed, the masterful Albini has the band sounding incendiary, epic tracks “Press Heavenwards”, “The Jungle”, and “Blood Teachings” combining the visceral intensity of Suicide and Swans, the discipline of Can, and the feral aggression of early PJ Harvey. Led by Rachel Davies – whose singing often takes on a Beth Gibbons quality – and featuring a vicious rhythm section (an Albini trademark), it’s hard to believe this is the same band that sounded so tentative three years ago. This is one of the year’s best, one a lot of metal fans will be wowed by. Listen and purchase via Bandcamp.

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