Sunday, 24 August 2014

#357 Children of Technology - Future Decay

I'm a massive fan of d-beats. Logically following from this, I'm a massive fan of Children of Technology's post-apocalyptic d-beat relishing attack. For as long as I've been aware of their first full-length release; It's Time to Face the Doomsday - a sneering, grimy, thermonuclear storm in  twenty-five minutes, I've been eagerly hoping for a follow-up. Perhaps it's indicative of how haphazardly I keep up with metal news that the way in which I found out that the band's second full length - Future Decay - had come into existence was simply because I was browsing bands I like on metal archives, just in case they'd made new albums - heck, sometimes I'm late to the party, but sometimes the method works works. As it turns out, Children of Technology had.

Future Decay opens with a somewhat more grandiose opening than I expected, with the first minute of music amounting to a distinct, enjoyable, and very musically solid intro-section, indicative perhaps of some misty moment of maturity, or stroke of inspiration the part of the band. Soon, a squeal and acceleration of the music forward, like some oil-drenched road-machine ensures the listener that no, the whole album definitely isn't going to be like that... or quite like that, anyway. It promptly ups in intensity, and very seldom relents right through to its conclusion, unleashing pent up d-beats like steam from a locomotive. There's something about the tone throughout the record which steeps it in something quite breezy, fresh, almost elevating; at first listen it seemed an unusual choice, but subsequently grew on me. As with the previous record, it's an attack, a lurching, vicious riff-fest, oozing greasy-haired, oil-on-your-hands metalpunk snottiness, but this album, as the intro foreshadowed, really does at times feel big. I can't quite tell the extent to which I'm imagining this shimmer in the music, but it does to some extent seem to be there; an impression of passion, scale; the roaring motorbike of d-beat madness colliding with the vast, scenic salt-flat, and the soaring chord progressions in the riffs certainly help to grant it this feel. It's odd for music like this to feel outright panoramic, and as first impressions go, that one makes Future Decay an extremely interesting album, especially considering how well it seems to work.

Atmosphere aside, which I've dwelt on for far too long as it is, the record offers you roughy what you would expect - I dare say what you would hope for - from a Children of Technology album. It's intense, cacophonous nuclear frenzy at its best, executed so as to be an indulgence;so many of the riffs and songs are extremely well formed, but stick close enough to the shores of familiarity to deliver music which, instead of taking you by surprise, is exactly what, knowing the genre, you want to hear - indeed, it's the sort of album you would happily refer someone to if they simply asked for "a good metalpunk record". For that reason, of course, it would be exaggerating to describe the record as particularly innovative or ground-breaking (although it does feel unusually fresh for a genre with its fair share of recurring musical tropes), but that need not count against it. People often underestimate how strong an album can be when it relies on simply being good at what it does, and this is such a record; a fitting continuation of the bands career, and clearly the product of individuals well-versed in their genre, and in particular, well versed in how to make it damn well. 

Initially, I had my misgivings about Future Decay. Nothing major, of course, but a level of uncertainty about whether I was really enjoying what I was hearing. Subsequent listens - always vital to the process of digesting an album - have revealed that I do, indeed, enjoy the music to be found on the record. It's a bit different to its predecessor, but that if anything is refreshing, and to the sound of thunderous d-beats, I'm exceptionally refreshed.

This is an 8/10.

Children of Technology on Bandcamp
Children of Technology on Facebook
Children of Technology on Metal Archives

Friday, 15 August 2014

#356 Nunslaughter - Hell's Unholy Fire

Sometimes all you need to hear is a bands name, and you know you'll listen to them the moment you get the chance. It's safe to say that Nunslaughter are one such band. Last review, I went into some detail about what I like about death metal, and in many ways, this review is almost a sequel to that. You see, Nunslaughter are another band, albeit very different to Immolation, that really deliver the goods when it comes to death metal, although, as we shall see, the reasons are quite distinct. Today, I'm reviewing the album which introduced me to Nunslaughter's music - Hell's Unholy Fire.

Nunslaughter describe their music as "devil metal", and there really couldn't be a more fitting term. Memorable, demonic sounding riffs meet one another explosively through the slew of short, to-the-point tracks on "Hell's Unholy Fire", with crushing but swaggering guitar which truly does sound like the devil's work, aided by filthy d-beats and frenzied, psychotic blasting. It would be tempting to praise Nunslaughter for a "less is more" approach, but that would imply that this album is somehow less than others, and that it certainly isn't - Nunslaughter pack dozens of exceptionally memorable moments into their material, while still keeping the average song-length well below two minutes - there's easily as much content here as on any death-metal record, even if this one is about as straight-forward as they come, and straightforward in a non-critical sense; Nunslaughter have truly mastered the trade of creating some of the best straight-forward death metal around. While a record which spits almost twenty tracks at you in a mere thirty minutes can be a challenge to internalise, it's well-written to the point of providing you with at the very least a few instant favourites, from which to slowly conquer the rest of the record. Indeed, the whole thing doesn't have a bad song on it whatsoever - each one a barrage of decidedly bare-bones, no-nonsense hellish ordnance, with one of the most crushing but attitude-laden guitar tones I've heard in a long time; like the roar of rusting, smoke-belching petrol engines.

I've always had a thing, as I think I mentioned last time, for death metal which really does sound like evil, evil music, whether with eerie grandiose leanings, or, in the style of the earliest extreme metal, for instance Venom and Hellhammer, in which the low-fi, primitive structure creates an organic, intrinsic evil sound in the music. It is in the latter style which Nunslaughter delivers it's payload of Satan, and what a payload it is. The album - heck, all of the band's work - has that spark to it; it feels like music which people weren't supposed to listen to, let alone enjoy; the sort of thing you would find one day, and be slightly terrified by. In many ways, I think a lot of the best metal - particularly the best overtly underground metal -  is like that; it has a subtle "no, not for you" exuding from every sonic pore to all but the relative few who truly enjoy it, crave it, and seek it. Hell's Unholy Fire feels near the top of the ladder when it comes to riff-based death metal, and at a guess, of the totality of riffs which have really caught my attention in the last month or so, it might be safe to say at quite a proportion of them are from this album. There are few records which come even close to offering up such a face-ravaging bouquet of old-school goodness.

Nunslaughter are, as far as I'm concerned, one of the best bands which the underground has to offer, and their raucous, catchy death-metal is of a sort which deeply satisfies me to listen to. Raucous, spitting, snarling and teeth-grinding, but most of all, delivering riffs and song-structures which make you want to listen to them again and again.

This is a 9.5/10.

Nunslaughter on Facebook
Nunslaughter on Metal Archives

Friday, 8 August 2014

#355 Immolation - Dawn of Possession

When I first discovered extreme metal, I wasn't able to listen to bands like Immolation properly; they just seemed so, so heavy, to the point that I couldn't discern what was going on in the music. With what I suppose is a degree of foresight, I put them aside for the time being, deciding to re-visit them when I was better versed in death metal. On a whim, I decided to listen to Dawn of Possesion earlier this week, and it was immediately clear that my taste had matured enough to enjoy the album properly. Thus, the review begins...

As an album, Dawn of Possession bursts into life right off the bat. For me more specifically, the record's beginning, this time around, was also a burst of "Oh! Now I understand". Cacophonous, cavernous riffs seethe and rumble below a crisp surface of frantic but accomplished and intimidatingly tight drumming, and vocals delivered from the pits of hell. In short, all of the goodness which I would previously not have had the ear to really appreciate until these last few years. It might seem very obvious to praise the record on its leaning towards "old-school death metal" - after all, that is precisely what it is. However, records like this one go above and beyond the call - this is not any such album, but one which very legitimately stands as a pillar holding up the notion of what death-metal bands both then and now aspired to create. The churning, dry but deep guitar tone is one which is unmistakably associated with the genre, often emulated, and to my ear now, generally appreciated. I tend - or at least, tended - not to enjoy super dry, dusty production, but Dawn of Possession keeps a good middle-ground between being a sharp and blunt instrument; neither a knife nor a club, but a barbed-wire-baseball bat of unholy writhing. Combine this with the atmospheric leanings which the album indulges in, and what begins to be unearthed is a winning recipe for dark, oppressive death metal.

The lead sections on the record - or, at least, the sections where lead guitar is emphasised - are often the climactic moments of songs, and certainly, in the throes of some of the solos, the songs seem to capture what old-school death-metal - or as far as I'm concerned, death metal in general - is all about. Of course, the album also offers crushing, pulsating riffs which are extremely fun and powerful on a non-atmospheric level -  it's worth remembering that plenty of bands try to go too far the other way, and create songs which, while atmospheric, don't do especially much. Dawn of Possession doesn't fall for this, instead, the songs are very substantial. Notably, however, the record offers a maelstrom of depth which a lot of the more modern side of the genre simply cannot offer. The album is an assault, but an assault with the sort of subtlety that death-metal flourishes on; idiosyncrasies of playing and production which the extremely clean production which predominates a lot of death-metal nowadays irons out as opposed to promoting. Dawn of Possession is grimy, but also replete in that trademark Immolation majesty, with an almost grandiose leaning, and a wide but suffocating atmosphere, like being trapped in a storm - but a vast storm. The record remembers depth, but, likewise, the record can't be criticised for being so deep as to be void - a superb balance between texture and dynamic sound.

Immolation, for me, have been a lesson in patience - we begin listening to metal as mere musical children, and we can't reach the high cupboard to get the best cookies. As we listen to the music we love, we grow in height, until one day, music like this is within our grasp, and it feels extremely rewarding to hear the band with refreshed ears, and new insight. The band which I just couldn't get into years ago is now a solid favourite.

This is a 9/10.

Immolation Official Site
Immolation on Facebook
Immolation on Metal Archives

Friday, 1 August 2014

#354 Sanctuary - Refuge Denied

I like to start reviews with a few words how I discovered the band in question... But what is it to discover a band? I've known about Sanctuary for quite a while, even if I didn't quite know what they sounded like. I'd seen their logo on festival flyers, and heard tell of them plenty of times on the internet - indeed, for a couple of years, they've been one of those bands I simply know of.  On the other hand, I've not actually been listening to Sanctuary for very long - which is the moral of this story. As many bands as I know by name, the ones which could are the ones I've properly heard - note the gap between "heard" and "heard of". It can be easy to lose the will to explore the work of a band which you already know of, filling in the gap, but, as the Refuge Denied album taught me, that can be a mistake.

I'm a big fan of what I understand to be USPM, assuming that I'm not misusing the term. It has the sound which I associated with "heavy metal" when I was a child, and, even when listening to a fresh album I've never heard before, it feels nostalgic in addition to being greatly enjoyable. Refuge Denied, as it happens, is many of the things I enjoy about USPM. It's big, bold, brazen and shiny, but it is most certainly not over-the-top - it has a raucous but monolithic feel, clean as opposed to dirty, sharp as opposed to barbed. It's a record on which the basic requirements of metal are forged together with sufficient skill to create a grandiose, dynamic and complex album with a rich atmosphere and ability to absorb the listener with undulating, pulsating riffs. All the while, it does not need to call on extraneous elements to get the job done. It is, some might wager,  metal at its purest and in many instances most memorable form - heavy without being extreme for its time. Indeed, Refuge Denied was created at the apex of thrash metal in the US, and by my reckoning, draws on both the aesthetic and musical influences from the genre, without becoming entirely something of that genre - something Sanctuary share with Metal Church, another band which I deeply enjoy for similar reasons.

This blend gives the album a dynamic nature, with both plentiful swaggering, almost rocking sections in the vein of Judas Priest - which is, while I think about it, a very prominent influence indeed, by the sound of things - but also a capacity for energy, both in terms of swiftness and explosive sections, albeit in a contained, very tightly played manner. In many respects, the whole album is like that - paced and sensible, as opposed to frenzied. It doesn't feel like a record which has set out to prove anything by appealing to any extreme, but instead sits in the middle rather comfortably, which - almost ironically - gives it, and albums like it, a niche all of their own, and one which I'm especially partial to listening to. Refuge Denied has its character very much cemented into place by the production and tonal choices made - the guitar tone has a real roar and juiciness which works wonders for the songs, really giving them the touch magic - and reverb - which they deserve; the songs really ring out, and are given a glorious amount of oomph by the combination of solid guitar-work with full, rich riffs, and the passion and power of the vocals, which often serve to elevate the songs to the next level.

Above all, however, Refuge Denied is an album which manages to be very fun without being saccharine, and retaining a very agreeable balance between catchiness, sincerity - which the album certainly has - and enjoyment of the upbeat sections of the record. Ultimately, when I listen to an album like this, it takes me straight to the meaning of what good old fashioned heavy metal is all about.

This is an 8/10.

Sanctuary on Facebook
Sanctuary on Metal Archives