16 – Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds

16

Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds
Relapse
Having put themselves back in the sludge picture with their Relapse debut ‘Bridges to Burn‘, 16 are back with ten more tracks of sonic bleakness, where once again positivity is properly shut out and only heavy misery remains, and vocalist Cris Jerue spitting out lyrical woes over various chug sludge riffs. They haven’t evolved much over time, even up to now, and simply don’t feel the need to. They convey their message very effectively indeed.
Initially I struggled to find anything particularly memorable about ‘Deep Cuts‘, even though there’s nothing wrong with the material. Its very much as you were and perhaps one of the things I can note is how Jerue’s vocals, wrapped in distortion, rarely ascend from (though no less passionate for it) a consigned-to-the-gutter scowl – as opposed to his fierce yell on ‘Throw in the Towel’ (from ‘Bridges to Burn‘) for example. I don’t raise that particularly as a negative point, just one that to me stood out on an album full of solid riffs and jams, but few on standout moments. That said, now I’ve heard the album a few times, there are a fair few shining moments, and when they do occur, they really do stand out – personally I’m digging the bludgeoning breakdown on ‘The Sad Clown’, and the brutally raw ‘Bowels of a Baby Killer’, with the line ‘blame/it’s not your fault/shame/but you deserve it‘. And ‘Only Photographs Remain’ is one of the (lyrically) most miserable tracks you’ll certainly here all year and one of the best too. A real sludge downer to finish on, it deals with the subject of grief appropriately, and you can actually sense the gloom in Jerue’s voice, and in the band’s instruments, as he growls ‘feel my pain/only photographs remain‘.
It’s a strange sensation to say there’s not a lot of stand out moments, though, when you’ve actually enjoyed said album. Perhaps it says a lot about how little 16 have changed over the years, focusing instead on their sludge/noise racket to create an abrasive, wallowing experience, no less intense than previous records, just one mired in heavy, sludge addiction abuse. Those perhaps craving a little more from this band might be slightly disappointed, but most will celebrate the return of a band that have had more than a few troubles of their own in the past. I’ll choose to sit in the latter camp. It’s not 16’s best work by any means, but not many can make such depression sound better.
Peter Clegg
Stream it below:

Revocation – Chaos of Forms

Revocation

Chaos of Forms
Relapse

Despite accumulating a cavalcade of plaudits for their previous albums, swallowing up top positions in year-end lists like Sebastien Vettel snatching pole positions, Revocation can consider themselves unlucky not to have risen to the cream of the crop unlike recent metal success stories such as Mastodon, Kylesa, The Black Dahlia Murder, The Dillinger Escape Plan, etc. Their music is certainly on a par with those bands at least, possessing a care-free swagger fuelled by main man and guitarist David Davidson’s style and sheer confidence that most rock ‘n’ roll bands would give their right arm for, never mind heavy metal bands.

Revocation can best be described as a technical death/thrash metal band, but to describe this trio in these terms is scraping the barrel slightly. ‘Chaos of Forms‘ is certainly their most complete record yet, surpassing their previous albums for ambition and even quality by some distance. ‘Chaos of Forms‘ could not be a more appropriate title, as Revocation churn, skronk, twist and waltz and more whilst effortlessly blasting away the competition in virtuostic fashion.

It’s death metal, with thrash elements, technicality, classical flourishes and a hard rock swagger. The majority of what they do is aggressive, tight as Ken Bates’ chequebook, with catchy nuances and hooky riffs all over the place. ‘Cradle Robber’ offers the first chance for an anthemic chorus , but not before a savage blasting and a devastating riff. This track and the songs either side of it are Revocation at their most primal, delivering pure technical riffs and shreds, mixing up thrash and death metal beats and all with killer precision. Even when they’re not going full speed ahead, things are glorious, the closing melodic monotone to ‘Conjuring The Cataclysm’ being a particular highlight as it backs Davidson’s screams.

Revocation then start to show a more experimental side from then onwards, ever subtle at first, before going full throttle for the outrageous. The title track itself showcases most of ‘Chaos’…‘ characteristics, absolutely on the front foot at first…before suddenly stepping back around the 2:30 mark with a spacey solo, and a virtuostic melodic section follows that to immense effect. The following song, ‘The Watchers’, going all Dillinger Escape Plan one minute a la the ‘Ire Works‘ album, and stunning with a Hammond organ solo straight after that. The charm beyond that is that nearly every song is a potential anthem – Revocation certainly know what makes a killer song, and do possessing a melodic edge without sacrificing heaviness, and not for the sake of airplay either.

The brilliance of this band is there to behold – although they’re not unique in that they do share similarities with similar bands of the moment, they’re smart enough and ambitious enough to stand out. Not too flashy to become pretentious, essentially heavy and brutal without sounding the same as the other 99%. That I’ve listened to this album numerous times and have yet to find a discernable flaw is a testament to the level of performance on this record. A must-have.

Peter Clegg

Review: Exhumed – All Guts, No Glory

Exhumed

All Guts, No Glory
Relapse

On their first full-length of original material since 2003’s ‘Anatomy Is Destiny’, San Jose, California’s Exhumed are still as sickeningly brutal and gory as ever and the album’s eleven tracks prove that Exhumed are still more than capable of grinding out their gore-soaked death metal twenty-one years into their career. Whether ready or not, the listener should be ready to behold the surgical and rotting horrors that lie within ‘All Guts, No Glory’, as for all their putridness, they’ll stick in your brain and fester away.

Tracks such as ‘Distorted and Twisted into Form’ are delightfully chaotic, trading between lyrics of sadistic surgical alteration and brilliantly crafted solos by vocalist/guitarist Matt Harvey. Other songs, such as ‘Death Knell’ and ‘Necrotized’, display Exhumed’s knack for the catchy mini-chorus and it doesn’t take long for most of the songs to get embedded under your skin in this manner.
All this talk of necropsies, pathology, blood and guts undoubtedly brings up the comparisons with pre-‘Swansong’ Carcass again, particularly the ‘Necroticism’ and ‘Symphonies of Sickness’ days, but Exhumed stopped stealing their organs long ago; and like Carcass, they’ve evolved into very much their own breed a long time ago and the guitar work in particular nod to the Gothenburg melodeath sound on this occasion, fusing nicely with their own stylings. Harvey’s screams are traded off with guttural growls frequently enough to keep the vocals interesting, and while every song on ‘All Guts, No Glory’, bar the intro, follows a simple formula of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-verse/chorus, and within this formula, there’s no real deviation in terms of speed, style and indeed, finesse – or rather, lack of it. But that’s just a minor complaint.
It doesn’t quite stack up as their very best, but in a year where death metal legends are making their comebacks to mixed results, Exhumed show little sign of sounding out of touch. And although it’s largely more of the same, it’s a devastating, catchy death-grind soup that’s worthy of repeated offerings, served up to feast your ears on time and time again. I think I best stop with the horrid puns there.
Peter Clegg

Review: Weekend Nachos – Worthless

Weekend Nachos

Worthless
Deep Six/Relapse

Weekend Nachos exploded onto the hardcore scene back in 2004, unleashing a barrage of punk fuelled aggression. They’ve gone from strength to strength since putting out the ‘Torture’ EP back in 2006, they’re ridden a wave that has seen comrades in rage such Trap Them and Trash Talk emerge alongside them to the forefront of the scene. ‘Worthless’ sees ‘Nachos continue very much along that trend.

The tracks on ‘Worthless’ are mostly what fans of WN have come to expect from them – hate-filled powerviolence that often comes and goes in short sharp bursts of furious energy. The first seven tracks pass by in a heartbeat; ‘Hometown Hero’ and ‘Black Earth’ and ‘Old Friends Don’t Mean Shit’ just a few of the highlights, with the former opening with the album’s only guitar solo and before throwing down the fury. It sets upon a somewhat rinse repeat pattern – fast section, microblast, followed by a beatdown.

From there they mix things up slightly – the instrumental title track builds up with a whole 2-minute wall of feedback before unleashing a slow, heavy riff. Traditional hardcore fans might not get it, but at the very least it breaks up the action, which immediately resumes with ‘Friendship’; ‘Jock Powerviolence’ even sees Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy providing clean-ish vocals in a superb move, while closer ‘Future’ sees them diving full-on into sludge territory about ninety seconds in.

Given the brevity of most of the tracks, you’d be forgiving for tiring at the slower sections of the record, and admittedly ‘Worthless’ and ‘Future’ do leave you wondering when the end is coming. But don’t let that or the repetition put you off – Weekend Nachos transit between styles supremely well, and they mean the hate that powers every blast, every mosh section. And you will feel it pounding away at your ears so much that you’ll want to circle pit right there and then, regardless of who’s about. ‘Worthless’ is very much worth your attention.

Peter Clegg

Visions: Red Fang – Wires

There’s a lot of buzz at the moment surrounding the new video for ‘Wires’ by Portland rockers Red Fang. The video is getting plenty of rave reviews and positivity and I can see why. Directed by Whitey McConnaughy, it’s chock full of wanton destruction and hilarity as the band blow a $5,000 budget on what is surely one of my favourite videos in recent times. I’m digging the song itself too. This is really good stuff. Kick-ass, thunderous rock ‘n’ roll that doesn’t compromise. Check out the video above – oh, and look out for Brian Posehn!

‘Wires’ is from the album ‘Murder The Mountains’ which is available now.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Murder The Mountains’ here


Red Fang Official site
Bandcamp
MySpace

Review: Pentagram – Last Rites

Pentagram
Last Rites
Metal Blade

Here we are, fourty years down the line. Carrying a tumultuous past and a singer in Bobby Liebling with years of baggage, it’s incredible and somewhat perplexing that Pentagram have managed to survive, in one form or another, for all this time since their formation in 1971. They’ve gone through a plethora of band members, and didn’t get round to releasing their debut album until 1985; not to mention vocalist Bobby Liebling’s well-documented issues in the past, that to a certain extent hindered Pentagram’s progress. Nonetheless, Pentagram have stayed the course and undoubtedly are one of more recognisable names of America’s underground heavy/doom metal underbelly.

Pentagram 2011 are just as potent as they were all those years ago. ‘Last Rites’ is a riff fest from start to finish, and most of those are laden with bluesy grooves that will worm into your brain instantly. Indeed, it’s worth noting that the new album includes reworkings of tracks dating back to Liebling’s Stone Bunny days (‘Into The Ground; Nothing Left), and ‘Walk In Blue Light’ and ‘Everything’s Turning To Night’ were both records back in the 70’s as demos – see Relapse Records’ First Daze Here’ and ‘First Daze Here Too’ compilations. But that’s not to say this is just a rehash of old material. The old material retains their original structure and are brought thundering into the modern day. Happily, it doesn’t fall out of place with the rest of the record and the end result is a classic band seemingly reborn.

It starts off fantastically – as far as I’m concerned, ‘Treat Me Right’ and ‘Call The Man’ make a fantastic one-two combo, the latter of which has a crunch that had the neck bobbing up and down on the morning train as I first divulged the album. ‘8’ is probably the most accomplished of the new tracks on show here, as Liebling delves into his troubled past with aplomb, driven by returning guitarist Victor Griffin’s layered riffage building into the mix over some sterling rhythm section action.
 
The only quarry here is that after that opening, the mid-section just feels like it falls slightly short; it sure captures that melancholy present in Pentagram’s sound, but for me doesn’t quite reach the heights of previous efforts – ‘Windmills In Chimes’ particularly strikes me as a little forgettable. The album does begin to pick up again towards the end, with the reworked ‘Walk In Blue Light’ and ‘Death in 1st Person’ being particular highlights, the latter of which sees Liebling speaking of horrors that would haunt you in your dreams.

Liebling is bang on form here, a heady mix of showmanship with an undeniable air of warning about it. You’re welcome to enter Pentagram’s cavern, but beware what lies in wait. You can never be quite sure of ‘what’ it is, and it may not be evidently obvious – but venture on anyway. Just don’t say you didn’t see the signs.

This is also Griffin’s first appearance with Pentagram on record since 1994’s ‘Be Forewarned’, and what a huge difference it makes. ‘Last Rites’ is chock full of fantastic riffs and this is in no small part down to Griffin’s presence. This is by no means a classic Pentagram record, but it’s definitely a solid one and in some respects a return to form.

Liebling, undeniably everything that is Pentagram, is now sober. Griffin is back in the mix, and a three-record deal with Metal Blade is signed and sealed. Let’s hope that Pentagram finally has a stable footing to forge a formidable reputation for themselves once again.

Peter Clegg

Pentagram on MySpace