A Halloween Grimoire – The Puppet Master, by King Diamond

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I was obviously behind the times given I just discovered this as I searched for suitable subject matter for this feature, but wow, am I glad I found this?! ‘The Puppet Master’ was of course the title of the 2003 album by King Diamond. By now no stranger to concept albums, this one was about a young couple – namely King Diamond and a lady called Victoria – who go to watch a puppet show in Budapest, and wind up being turned into undead puppets by the Puppet Master and his wife. The album came with a DVD on which King Diamond tells the story of the Puppet Master, sat at a table in a dark room lit heavily with candles. You can watch the entire video above. I highly recommend you do, particularly now night has fallen – its compelling viewing.
I certainly think he makes a good story teller – no, an excellent story teller – and his trademark facepaint only helps to convey that sinister feeling you get from watching him tell the tale. Watch his hands and his eyes, particularly the latter as they roll back and forth. He’s really into this. And it just gets better and better as it progresses.
At the same time, you have to admit, in metal terms, this is pure cheese. But cheese is often good, and the King of heavy metal horror rarely does bad.
 
Peter Clegg
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A Halloween Grimoire – Motörhead – Hellraiser

OK, it’s not the most grisly, or gruesome, or horrific video we could have chosen for this little featurette – but so what? Motörhead? Hellraiser? Lemmy playing poker against Pinhead? That’s fucking rock ‘n’ roll. And as Hellraiser is one of the greatest horror franchises of all time, it’s more than worthy of a place in We Must Obey’s Halloween Grimoire.

Originally this kick ass song was written in collaboration between Lemmy, Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde for Ozzy’s ‘No More Tears‘ album in 1991, but Motörhead recorded their version for their album ‘March or Die‘, and it appeared on the soundtrack of Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. Fair enough, it doesn’t beat their true classic material, and it has a distinct major label feel about it (they were on Epic Records at the time) that just doesn’t quite feel like Motörhead. But then again, Lemmy playing poker against Pinhead!

Peter Clegg

A Halloween Grimoire – Cannibal Corpse – Devoured By Vermin

There are other grisly Cannibal Corpse videos I could’ve picked but I’ve chosen this one (taken from 1996’s ‘Vile’) from the memories of first seeing it. And watching it back, it’s delightfully creepy, kooky and brutal in more ways than one. Filmed mostly in black and white, it’s gleefully unsettling throughout – Corpsegrinder pictured with blood dripping from his mouth, a brief yet brutal scene featured someone haplessly having their head smashed into the ground again and again by their killer, and that scene where the hands come from the abyss to drag the unsuspecting victim into the darkness. Yes, yes and yes! And that’s before we even get to the song itself, which just plain fucking kills.
Granted, Cannibal Corpse’s videos aren’t half as gruesome as the lyrics they pen, but this one had just the right amount of everything for me. The mostly black and white visuals and constant shroud of darkness gives the video the grim and nasty B-movie sheen that it needs. I do wish they delivered more in this vein – the crushing albums they deliver time and time again deserve it.
Peter Clegg

Warbringer – Worlds Torn Asunder

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Warbringer

Worlds Torn Asunder
Century Media
As stated a few times on this blog, I’m a mega-thrash fan. And by such terms, I should be a huge fan of Warbringer. Initially, such a relationship was promising. I was gripped by their track ‘Total War’, which is absolutely devastating. The debut release ‘One By One The Wicked Fall’ was a cracking EP and should have been a sign of things to come. Sadly, I have to say, ‘War Without End’ wasn’t quite the stunning debut I’d hoped for, and ‘Waking Into Nightmares’ was indeed the awkward second album which a lot of up-and-coming bands seem to trip over, as it didn’t really impress me or strike me as an improvement on their previous work. So is album number three, ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’, finally the album to convince me that Warbringer are the full package?

Well, it’s certainly a marked improvement. Although not drastically different by formula, ‘Worlds Torn Asunder’ marks Warbringer at their most focused yet, and the quality of the album runs through most of the record as opposed to the odd-track here and there. It begins impressively with pre-release track ‘Living Weapon’, featuring some solo-heavy action courtesy of guitarists John Laux and Adam Carroll, and ‘Shattered Like Glass’, ‘Wake Up…Destroy’ and ‘Treacherous Tongue’ are all satisfyingly heavy, ferocious songs and crucially, a step up from past albums.
There aren’t many signs that Warbringer are willing to progress beyond delivering face-melting apocalyptic thrash, but on ‘Echoes to the Void’ and closer ‘Demonic Ecstasy’, they do inject a modicum of progression into their sound, the latter in particular sounding befitting of its title as vocalist John Kevill beckoning the hounds of hell with his aggressive, raspy voice.
I still don’t see the signs there that Warbringer are yet to progress beyond delivering feral, apocalyptic thrash, still appearing in thrall to classic acts like Kreator and Sodom. But when done properly, it can be a good thing, and on this occasion, Warbringer have delivered the best release of their career so far. There’s still room for improvement and for progress, but equally, there’s plenty in the meantime to get your thrash kicks from.
Peter Clegg

Black Cobra – Invernal

Black Cobra

Invernal
Southern Lord 

You know that slogan we have at the top? That we’re dedicated to covering all things heavy, groovy and generally kick-ass? Well. ‘Invernal’, the new album from stoner metal duo Black Cobra, is certainly befitting of that motto. Particular the third attribute, because shit goddamn, I really felt like I’d gone 12 rounds with Manny Pacquiao after listening to this.

The first couple of tracks, ‘Avalanche’ and ‘Somnre Tenerbre’ completely steamroll, opposition falling to a barrage of slick-heavy riffs and a relentless drum beat. Following that, ‘Invernal‘ settles down into more of a mid-paced vibe. ‘Corrosion Fields’ begins with a doomy, echoey intro, before hitting the power surge again with a sweet slower, hookier riff. That expansion allows it to blossom into one of ‘Invernal‘s premier tracks with some great riff and tempo changes, and sets the tone for the remainder of the record.

That said, its not all travelling in the same gear, and Black Cobra’s ability to further land blows upon you unsuspectingly is again displayed on ‘Beyond’; starting with another lone guitar line and again building the drums upon the guitar upon the drums, before launching into a scuzzy, thrashy bludgeoner. It lets up again halfway through, giving you enough time for respite with a quieter, doom twang, before picking you up again for yet more punishment.

It suckerpunches again later in the album to great effect, drawing you in with the instrumental ‘Abyss’ – a decent enough track, perhaps marking an event somewhere in the album’s story in its overall mood. It lurches from one riff to another but is perhaps best served as foil for the closer, ‘Obliteration’, which is absolutely furious. ‘Invernal‘s shortest track begins with a single snare, before launching a full on blackened thrash assault. The drums blast amid a swamp of riffery and all out attack. It abruptly finishes. Game over. You’re out cold.

Guitarist Jason Landrian and drummer Rafael Martinez have certainly brought their A-game to album number four, and show an increased maturity by basing ‘Invernal’ on the works and Antartic expeditions of Ernest Shackleton – with a post-apocalyptic twist. There’s a hint of High on Fire about some of the songs this time, which is no bad thing, although its distinct from Matt Pike’s power trio. I wouldn’t quite say its up there with the best albums of the year, and having not yet seen them live, I’d love to see how their sound on record stacks up against their much-lauded live show. But there’s no denying compared to previous releases this is a step up for Black Cobra, and any release that possesses as much venom and bite as the snake it shares it name with (on this occasion) is a winner in my book.

Peter Clegg

Invernal‘ is released on Monday October 31st. Pre-order it here.


Pyrrhon – An Excellent Slave But A Terrible Master

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Pyrrhon
An Excellent Slave But A Terrible Master
Selfmadegod
New York’s Pyrrhon first came to my attention through the ‘NYC Sucks Vol. 1‘ compilation released by the MetalSucks team last year, with the track ‘King of All Tears’. It was a furious blast through three minutes twentyseven seconds of frenetic tech-death metal, with a nice technical sheen that wasn’t too over the top. When they self-released ‘An Excellent Slave but a Terrible Master’ earlier this year, I was quick to pick it up from their Bandcamp page, but for some reason, I continually pushed it aside as the number of new releases began to catch up. Having recently been acquired by Polish label Selfmadegod, the time was right to get a taste of the first Pyrrhon full-length. Why did I leave it so long?


Obviously there’s a lot of tech-death stuff floating around, and some more razzle dazzle than others. Pyrrhon are flashy but not in a kind of attention-starved child fashion. They’re not ashamed to show off their wizardry and indeed their influences – there’s some substantial Gorguts influence here, more than a dash of Suffocation, and the band admit to being in thrall to Deathspell Omega – but nor are they afraid to even out the mix and throw in some nice ideas. Heck, some ideas? How about lots of tricks and nuances, old and occasionally new. The gang vocals in ‘New Parasite’ you’re more likely to see in hardcore than in any form of death metal, but it works pretty well, though brief within the context of the songs.

The album reveals itself more and more as it goes on, continuing down the path of mind-buggery but again, without alienating the listener. The bass intro at the beginning of ‘Correcting a Mistake’ is a nice touch, showcasing bassist Erik Malave’s ridiculous ability and preparing you for the riff that follows it about thirty seconds in. That song provides one of the few mosh-out moments, with quite a few riffs in there to make you bang your head, despite still being batshit crazy at the same time.
Guitarist Dylan DeLilla is equally enchanting, providing a tiptop performance throughout. Yeah, there’s plenty of squeals and pinch harmonics coming out of the guitar at various points on the album, but they’re done to serve the numerous riffs on display, and not just as mindless buggery – ‘Idiot Circles’ a fine example with a mosh-friendly riff. His solos are just incredible as well, like Fredrik Thordenthal getting sucked slowly through a vortex at times. Wonderfully psychedelic and quite otherworldly in their feel, almost as if you’re drifting in and out of consciousness. Not at all reverting to form, but it works staggeringly well. Drummer Alex Cohen is nothing if not imperious, from one drummer to another. He blasts, fills, rolls, pushes and pulls with absolute precision.
Lyrically, ‘An Excellent Slave’ is one of the finest you’ll see all year, a credit to vocalist Doug Moore. One look at the album’s lyrics makes you realise we’re not dealing with fantasy realms or mere obsessions with death, gore, etc. From the outset, ‘An Excellent Slave…’ paints a picture of despondence with the modern world, with city life. ‘New Parasite’ is seemingly brought to you, the listener, from the gutters, the sewers of NYC. Take the opening lines, for example:
‘The subway tunnels sigh
Damp air rushing up through oiled grates
Drawn from phlegmy pools
That fester beneath the streets’
One of the greatest tracks on the album is ‘Flesh Isolation Chamber’, a near eight-and-a-half minute monster. It begins with a by now fairly typical speedy riff with an atmospheric, spacey and altogether stripped down section, slowed down altogether, leaving a feeling of aural weightlessness. Moore’s vocals here are slightly cleaner – by which I mean, his lyrics can be heard – and here he delivers yet more intriguing words when he scowls ‘which is worse/always being watched/or never being seen?
An Excellent Slave…’ is certainly a technical death metal record per se, but it doesn’t entirely rely on guitar noodlery or constant blastbeats to get it by. Yes, riffs are tight, taut and damn complex but not in such a suffocating way that it becomes one great big salad. The balance is just about right. It’s not a perfect album by any means – I had to listen to it several times to convey what I wanted to in this review, because it’s not exactly memorable or catchy, and as such it needs a lot of close attention to fully appreciate what Pyrrhon are out to do. However, we’re only talking about a debut effort here, and already I’d put these guys in the same modern day bracket as Ulcerate, Origin, Necrophagist, etc. Seriously, go out and purchase this record. I hightly recommend that you do.
This was available as a name-your-price download before Selfmadegod signed Pyrrhon up. Now you can only stream two of the tracks – ‘Idiot Circles’ and ‘The Architect Confesses (Spittlestrand Hair)’. It’s a shame the income is no longer directed entirely towards Pyrrhon’s coffers, despite the fact they entirely financed the original recording, but now they’re signed up, hopefully they’re on the road to relative stardom. And with music as challenging and as thought-provoking as it is heavy, you wouldn’t bet against it.
Peter Clegg