Behemoth – The Satanist

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Behemoth
The Satanist
Nuclear Blast

It’s been an eventful five years for Polish blackened death metallers Behemoth. It began with ‘Evangelion‘, which, after years of building their way up the ranks in terms of the wider extreme metal scene, marked their further emergence onto the world stage, building upon the status they had already achieved. Led by its lead single, the thoroughly dark and crushing ‘Ov Fire and The Void’, Behemoth, at the time, seemed unstoppable. Then their founding member, vocalist Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski, was rushed to hospital with leukaemia in 2010, subjected in the metal media to a frenzy stating that at first, it was too advanced, and then it wasn’t. In any event, he was eventually released after having a bone marrow transplant early in 2011, and following this he was even threatened with prison over tearing up a Bible on stage. The dust finally settled back down, and the band entered into the recording the now arrived album, ‘The Satanist’, coming five years after ‘Evangelion’, recorded in roughly half of that time space.

Despite it being the longest gap between albums in their history, it’s clear time has not mellowed Behemoth in any way, but ‘The Satanist‘ is certainly a slightly different beast to the one that rose to the head of extreme metal. The tone is certainly set from the off with ‘Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel’, a song that for me seems a strange choice of single for the band to lead from – it doesn’t really grab at you like Behemoth usually do and instead it follows a path of intrigue, with a meaty slow riff that takes its time to build, eventually exploding into life towards the end, but in a way that doesn’t feel as though it befits the intro. Maybe it’s just me – it feels a bit of a grower but I’m still not sure about where it fits in. But that’s track one, and regardless of the menace and regality of the album’s beginning, the blood and thunder approach we normally expect from the band returns over the course of the next few tracks, really picking up by the time ‘Ora Pro Nobis Lucifer’ comes around – a galloping monolith of pounding drums, unerring riffery, and appropriate guttural sermons, though not before ‘Messe Noire’ ends with a whopping big guitar solo that again doesn’t seem like the Gdansk extremists, yet within the context of this album, but with repeated listening feels right at home and is one of the most affirmative points on the album.

Behemoth – Ora Pro Nubis Lucifer (official lyric video)

As it progresses, it becomes clear that Behemoth’s rise to the edge of the metal mainstream is possibly shaping their sound. ‘In The Absence Ov Light’ features a spoken word passage taken from ‘The Marriage’, sandwiched by some of the best riffing on the album, while the title track, and the amazing closer ‘O Father O Satan O Sun!’, utilise slower riffs and cold ambience to further increase the atmosphere. Sure there will be those who cry foul at this, but the band loses none of their depth, their power, nor their aesthetic in these moments. They are broadening their scope, making a case for domination. It’s Behemoth on a grander scale, bringing forth their vision with far more imagination than most metal bands can dream of. Put simply, they’re back, with as powerful a statement of intent as you could ever expect.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘The Satanist‘ here

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Soulfly – Savages

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Soulfly
Savages
Nuclear Blast

It seems Massimiliano Cavalera has got his teeth into all manner of stuff lately, be it with the Cavalera Conspiracy, trying to get the original Sepultura back together, jamming with the likes of Troy Sanders and Greg Puciato, and contributing guest vocals to other bands such as Man Must Die. It seems he must have been consuming a lot of cannibal horror films a lately as Soulfly’s new album ‘Savages’ is full of butcherous lyrics and macabre themes, and indeed marks a further shift away from the thrashier approach of ‘Dark Ages’ and ‘Omen’, and more into the groove metal they originally became known for. Don’t balk at that though – for the most part ‘Savages’ has more than enough in the band’s collective experience to keep it as what we understand Soulfly to be, having developed more into a crushing unit in recent years.

The first thing to note before delving into the remainder of the review, its worth noting this is the first Soulfly album to feature Max’s son Zyon Cavalera, helming the drummer’s throne and doing so with aplomb, pushing and pulling through every groove even without as much technicality as his uncle Igor – for which there’s plenty of time to develop yet. Back on track, ‘Savages’ is not without a smattering of guests, the finest of which is Neil Fallon, appearing on the track ‘Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla’, a welcome diversion from the cannibalistic theme with Fallon delivering spoken like a prophet over a super groove, and appropriately hollering during the faster section between Cavalera Snr’s trademark gruffness. There are times when the nu sees the metal a bit too much, case in point: This is Violence, which contains some sliding effect that harks back to the stale days of nu-metal’s fall from popularity; Mitch Harris’ cameo on ‘K.C.S.’ doesn’t really prove to be much of a thriller either, considering how awesome a prospect a Cavalera/Napalm Death meeting of minds was. Still, for the most part, Soulfly get it spot on, not spectacularly but efficiently so, be it the thrashier ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, or with satisfying succulent grooves on ‘El Comegente’, its gang vocal chorus appropriately describing its subject matter, Dorangel Vargas, aka ‘El Comegente’ – the Venezuelan ‘people-eater’.

Like most veteran bands these days, if you don’t know what to expect from Soulfly by now, where have you been? And for those that do, don’t expect miracles – but a good solid all round Soulfly album which proves groove metal can still be done well in this era.

Peter Clegg

Soulfly – Ayatollah of Rock ‘N’ Rolla (feat. Neil Fallon)

Buy ‘Savages’ here

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Carcass – Surgical Steel

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Carcass
Surgical Steel
Nuclear Blast

A lot of bands do comebacks for various reasons. Some seemingly for the money. Reunions are still in boom and there’s no doubt some people who view them cynically. I don’t believe you can say that of Carcass. Now in the sixth year of their reunion, which originally focused solely on reviving the classics, ‘Surgical Steel‘ is how comeback albums should be. It’s not been rushed. It’s refused to be drawn on whatever has gone by in metal since 1996. And in many aspects, for a band that spent their career hopping from one style joint to another, not too much has changed. And that is a blessing.

Crucially, the core duo of Jeff Walker and Bill Steer remain, and if they could pull from any era of their genre hopping history, they couldn’t have done any better than call predominantly on the spirit of their early 90’s era. ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious‘ and ‘Heartwork‘ are stone cold death metal classics, and while ‘Surgical Steel‘ doesn’t quite reach those stratospheric heights, it does make for one of the best comeback records to come from this reunion frenzy of the last few years. Initially, it begins a bit with an instrumental, the short ‘1985’ which could easily fit on, say, one of WASP’s albums – it’s a bit too overture for me, but at least they soon get down to business with ‘Thrasher’s Abattoir’. The first few tracks seem to breeze past, until ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’ introduces back into the death-groove that Carcass worked so well in 1993. And it’s from that point on that the album gets better as it progresses – for me, always the hallmark of what sets apart the great and the good. ‘The Master Butcher’s Apron’ is part blast either side of a body-slamming mid-section that if played live might yet result in the destruction of a venue or two. ‘Noncompliance to ASTM F 899-12 Standard’ is six minutes of masterful soloing, precision blastwork and classic groove rolled into one, while ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills is sheer excellence from start to finish. The only let-up is the introduction to the closing ‘Mount of Execution’, which goes from acoustic to another savage dialysis to a suitably riffed outro.

Carcass – Captive Bolt Pistol (official lyric video)

While it's always a shame that original drummer Ken Owen, still paralysed from his brain haemorrhage in 1999, can't be ://here for this glorious reunification in his original role, though he does contribute guest vocals on a couple of the tracks, It's excellent to see that Walker and Steer recognised the future, and in Dan Wilding, the sticksman for Trigger the Bloodshed, they got themselves a diamond. He pushes and pulls at times with effortless ease, dictating the tempo and providing furious roles and some excellent groove patterns. Walker and Steer meanwhile pull extensively from each period of their history. Whatever your favourite period of Carcass, be it the swagger of 'Swansong‘ – which makes fleeting appearance in bits of ‘The Granulating Dark Satanic Mills’, and in which ‘316 L Grade Surgical Steel’ – or ‘Necroticism’, particularly on ‘A Congealed Clot of Blood’; or whichever era of Carcass you continue to hotly debate with fellow worshippers as the best. Fact is, what makes Carcass great is that they create on their terms, their rules. They know what clicks, and few do the tempo shifts and the groove breakdowns better than they have done over their career.

True, it’s significantly more polished than anything from the original Carcass era, but otherwise it’s pretty much everything any Carcass, indeed any metal fan could dream of. They didn’t tinker too much with the dynamics. They didn’t do this for the money. They put the time, the effort, and indeed, their collective experience behind this release, and the collective trust of any respecting fan who was old enough to experience the band’s original career arc has surely been paid back handsomely, and with as much in proverbial blood and guts as before they laid in near-cadaverous state.

Peter Clegg

Buy ‘Surgical Steel‘ here

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Hatebreed – The Divinity of Purpose

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Hatebreed
The Divinity of Purpose
Nuclear Blast

It’s true. I’m a pretty big Hatebreed fan. And I don’t feel any shame in saying that,. Hatebreed are undoubtedly an easy target for metal fans, presumably because of their heart on sleeve, hardcore pride lyrics and the assumed predictably of their songs. That doesn’t make them any different from a number of bands from over time, and while Hatebreed aren’t quite legends of their era, there can’t be any denying that, love them or hate them, they’ve done a lot to bridge the divide between hardcore and metal in the new millennium, for better or worse, as well as encouraging a new wave of hardcore bands to emerge, from the likes of Sworn Enemy, Terror and more recently, Trapped Under Ice, to name a few.

Even as a ‘diehard’, it’s my own personal opinion that I haven’t found a Hatebreed album as compulsive and empowering as 2002’s ‘Perseverance‘, though that’s not to say they’ve put out bad records since. Still, ‘The Divinity of Purpose‘ is, for me, the band’s best release since that album. That it’s their first in four years, their longest gap since the five years between ‘Satisfaction is the Death of Desire‘ (their other magnum opus) and ‘Perseverance‘, perhaps gives this impression – the breather in recorded activity feels to have given the band chance to gather on their collective experience and channel it into new vitality.

The sixth album begins with the usual fire and is clearly still in good effect, with the toast to longevity ‘Put It To The Torch’, very much like the Hatebreed of old, before settling into their style shown on more recent albums. ‘Honour Never Dies’ and the pit anthem-in-waiting ‘Own The World’ are satisfying slabs of brutality in their own right. However after a few listens it begins to chafe a little though as that conundrum of everything bleeding into another presents its ugly mush. It’s not a bad album by any stretch, but save for a slamming breakdown at the end of ‘Boundless (Time to Murder It)’, there’s no change of pace, which might have helped a little more here. Still, it’s not a bad return from a band approaching the magic twenty years in existence, still at the forefront of hardcore in the 21st century. So while the wider hardcore/metal community will mull over whether to bother with this album, diehards will likely need no invitation to get on board. And that still includes me.

Peter Clegg

Hatebreed – Put It to the Torch

Buy ‘The Divinity of Purpose’ here

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Nile – At The Gate of Sethu

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Nile
At The Gate of Sethu
Nuclear Blast

As they approach the twentieth year of their existence, South Carolina’s Egyptology-obsessed death metallers Nile are showing no signs of slowing down, returning once again with their seventh album, ‘At The Gate of Sethu’. First impressions of ‘Sethu’ suggest it lacks the initial explosive power of some of Nile’s previous releases, yet it still possesses enough magik from the fast hands of Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade to continue to devastate as per what we’ve come to expect from Nile.

The lack of perceived initial firepower might well stem from what seems – whisper it – a slightly accessible feel to it. Yes, it’s still absolutely brutal, but the average song length is slightly down, no huge, long dirges as per ‘Those Whom The Gods Detest’ and ‘In Their Darkened Shrines’, for example, and the resulting compactability certain makes the songs that tiny bit more imprintable on the mind in a strange, catchy sense. That doesn’t mean that Nile are any softer, mind – their palette this time just emphasises the technical aspect a little more, and Sanders and Toler-Wade displaying exactly why they’re regarded as one of the finest shred-combos in death metal. The musicianship is extremely tight once again, with regular fast tempos employed with absolutely clinical blasts of guttural aggression. The occasional clean vocals are thrown in again too and work exceptionally well. Yes, its still Nile as we know and love, but credit for them for challenging themselves on every record.
 
Summarising, ‘At The Gate of Sethu’ certainly isn’t Nile’s finest work, but it’s far from shoddy – at least Nile refuse to become stagnant and continue to try things most death metal bands can only dream of.

Peter Clegg

Nile – The Gods Who Light Up the Night Sky at the Gate of Sethu

Buy ‘At The Gate of Sethu’ here

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