Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ossuaire - Le Troubadour Necrophageophile DEMO [2005]


It's not everyday that you unearth French death metal - in fact my knowledge of the genre's existence in France doesn't go too far beyond Massacra - since France's 21st century output has been marked by a colossal weaving of uncanny black metal acts more than anything else, but find you may, and trust in Ossuaire we do. This triad had independently released a debut back in 2010 (back when bare bones old school death metal revivalism was still fairly popular) but naturally it passed almost unnoticed. But before even that, they actually had a demo, buried under the nether of lost OSDM recordings, and I had the chance to uproot it. The funny thing about it is that while wildly falling to the thrill of their salacious fantasies in a rather funny way, the trio manages to cultivate a death metal sound that doesn't serve as an immediate carbon-copy of any other niche I can name; a strangely proficient brew of Bolt Thrower, Death and Finnish obscurity a la Demigod, Convulse and Depravity.

So let's be straight: this isn't something that will change the fundamentals for death metal, far from it. Through unwavering research and quests into the obscene, I've been thankfully able to discover some real 'game-changers' in the field, even at a time where the glorious pungency of Autopsy and the force-fed awesomeness of the Swedish chainsaw have expired; Ossuaire's queer little demo basically draws upon the Bolt Thrower of 1988-1992 and Finnish putrescence, not as a contender for reinventing the wheel, but as a tasty reminder of some of the ugliest records of the 90's. The tone and production on this demo is fairly outstanding because they've managed to captivate the fuzzed-out soniscape of the early 90's, but beyond that the riffs are anything if not old school, huge, cantankerous bulks of disgusting rhythms and chug fests driven with the prosaic blasting of the drums. It doesn't knock you right across the park, but it's filthy and titular enough to enjoy the sight of dislocated bones while reveling in bowels and grime. Ossuaire take paunchy sound from the American scene as well. ''Le Fleau'' is overflowing with thrashy sways and hypnotizing tremolos redolent of Immolation, Cannibal Corpse and even Morbid Angel, and unlike Bolt Thrower, they don't always stick to being 'slow', since the demo is speed-wise (and aesthetic-wise) not very far from ''Eaten Back To Life'' or something of that vein.

The Finnish influence is buried between the less noticeable tremolo patterns, like in ''Necrofistum Prima Nocte'' where they extricate a gruesome, sinister aura, though I wouldn't have minded if they had some more substance to them. The vocals aren't really too distinguished here, but if you're into the kind of timber championed by Craig Pillard or Karl Willets, they should fit your bill. The lyrics are all in French, so it's an odd delight to be hearing the same tales of gore and bloody requital sang in the language renowned for its posh extravagance. This is 'posh' death metal, and haters can fuck off. But that aside, this is hardly an introspective brand of music (in case the cover art didn't do the work) with implications that don't go far beyond your 'stock' old school death metal offering, and while it would be interesting to hear what the Frenchmen would sound like if they got on a level with, say, Trbiulation or Putrevore, the demo is solid a piece of work, but nothing I'll be listening to consistently.

Highlights:
Le Fleau


Rating: 63%

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Gruesome - Savage Land [2015]


What's the best way to respond to morbid gimmicks? More gimmicks! Despite the fact that so many old school death metal acts keep falling under the same dome of generic, tactless ordure, member of Exhumed and Dekapitator Matt Harvey insistently pushes forward in the imitation game, with the most affably like-sounding album I've heard in years. Indeed, it doesn't pain me when I see a huge old school resurgence budding to counterfeit the more modern, busy-bodied splurge of technical death metal bands, especially when masters of like Death, Pestilence, Autopsy, Exhumed, Carcass and Morbid Angel are put into exhibition through fresher production qualities, but the downpour of this musical carnality has long lost its initial gloss of delectable, grotesque beauty embodied via some of the foremost contenders of the new wave of old school death metal, and coming across one band which actually heralds something more than the dry worship of the early 90's has become an eerie process. Unfortunately, Gruesome does not quantify as the insurgent savior in this case of cannibalistic banality, and in fact their debut ''Savage Land'' goes beyond even the rudiments of worship: a literal copycat of what Chuck Shuldiner formulated in 1988.

Everything, from the campy, gore-induced cover art to the precise tones of Harvey's inflection, scream ''Leprosy''. While I would have found the opaque, spidery lattices of guitar riffs redolent of a typical OSDM revival offering, ''Savage Land'' has an instant and unwavering appeal to the exact motifs and carnal leftovers that was granted to us with Death's 1988 magnum opus, sprawling tremolos still tinged with the primal expressionism of late 80's/early 90's thrash metal, and the album is so devoted to its source material that it exhorts the kind of semi-technical for which Chuck was renowned for with inseparable mastery, fleshing out the layers of contusion and antiquated morbidity in the way which Shuldiner would have done. It's almost as if Chuck has been brought back from the dead, with his infected 1988 timbre (before he began to focus on raspier growls) and decided to give his fans one last tour de force. Gruesome certainly know to relish the exact period on which they based the album on: ''Savage Land'' denies both the even more primitive evil of ''Scream Bloody Gore'' and the more technical, polished aestheticism of Shuldiner's later efforts and sometimes undesirable flirtations with melody. If anything this is a potent, convincing tribute to everything the great man dedicated his life for. Yet despite the incantatory putrescence of it all, ''Savage Land'' brims with a robust production and crisp tenet uncommon for ''Leprosy'', owing to the obvious gulf of 27 years in between records, and the formulaic intensity reaches new heights with the pummeling vividness of the kit. It does grant the album a greater impetus for the grooves which marginally separates it from ''Leprosy'', including some fairly cool fills here and there, but I certainly wouldn't substitute it for  Hoglan's sinister beats and organic texture which made the album such an instrumental part of my cognitive death metal compendium.

That being said, there are few other moments here worth mentioning. Notably the leads, which are, like everything else, derivatives of Chuck's uncanny leads and crepuscular harmonies, are somewhat improved if we had to take this album as a replica of ''Leprosy'', with songs like the title track and ''Trapped in Hell'' featuring some catchy, if spurious solo work that I found to be a major distinction point between this album and the other (if it can be called a 'major' distinction.). But otherwise there are whammy bars and imprecisely concocted leads aplenty here, like on the fast, molesting ''Psychic Twin'' with not much depth to them. On a funnier note, the band parodies the song ''Open Casket'' with its corresponding tune ''Closed Casket'', and there's even a a cover of ''Land of no Return''... in case, well, you needed more Death for your listening pleasures. It's certainly a more brutal offering than ''Leprosy'' courtesy of modern production values, but the skin tingling, blood-curdling pleasure of the latter, it's indisputable ability to resurrect the dead and pile rotting bodies on top of one another until you're body withers away cold and numb, is amiss. Gruesome are either unaware of the fundamental fact that ''Leprosy'' happened once, and will never happen again, or they're just parodying the record, which at this rate of devotion and accuracy, seems unlikely. And while no death metal would be devoid of its influence, copy pasting is just downright weird as a musical practice. A cool, fierce record that certainly fits the bill if you're into the early Floridian scene, but unlikely to elicit more than a few listen from me.

Highlights:
Hideous 
Gangrene
Trapped in Hell

Rating: 67%


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Malthusian - Below the Hengiform [2015] (EP)


During the steady flow of the last 5-6 years we've accumulated more amorphous or 'cavern-core' death metal then we'd care to listen to: Antediluvian, Ulcerate, Mitochondrion, Impetuous Ritual, Teitanblood and Vassafor are just a handful of the many that come to mind, and Ireland's Malthusian has showed no reluctance in joining ranks with these bands and the ungodly, otherwordly death metal which they've effectively articulated. The band's debut EP and first offering after a rather highly regarded demo speaks in the exact language as the aforementioned giants, with an appeal to the extra-dimensional chaos of Lovecraftian horror and cavernous din espoused by the country of the maple leaf in particular. Make no mistake: Malthusian come (or rather trudge) with a murky expose that promises something far below the straits of 'catchy', 'melodic' or 'assonant', and ensures a permanent place near the bedrock of your iPod, spewing forth lava and bile.

''Below the Hengiform'' is at once cataclysmic and bloated with a disgusting synthesis of impenetrable death/doom motifs and wallowing vortexes of black metal airiness. The Irishmen deserve some credit for begetting the same kind of oozing, cantankerous death metal as some of the peers, but with a few flourishes and twists here and there to render things more unique. To be sure, 'cavernous' seems like a wonderful way to describe the coitus of tempestuous guitars, dowsed in reverb and the overall atmosphere they so successfully forge, but Malthusian gape through a certain level of almost oriental accessibility, with their looming chords balancing more towards an ''Onward to Golgotha'' rather than an ''Obscura'', though fascinatingly enough they employ enough technical skill a and variety in certain riffs to give the squamous slipperiness of the riffs some level of containment. Rather than piercing straight into the helpless soma of listener, the riffs spew a continual discharge of ichor and pustular extravagance, coating, slowly but gradually, as though with incandescent bones and limbs dipped in grime and pus; yet even then there's a level of tension to be suffered through the parade of some more dissonant riffing which Ulcerate or Gorguts fans would appreciate, even though the larger portion of the record is decidedly more loyal to the recipes of the masters of the early 90's than anything.

So this is 'old school', if that's your game, though for either party Malthusian pose unanimous annihilation. The quality of the production certainly works in their favor. Unlike in many records, the drums are clearly audible here, and not only that but they incorporate an abusive percussion through a wealth of cymbals and demented blast beats that suit the matchless chaos of the riffs well. The vocals are arguably the most distinct part of the Ep. As a contrast to the low-end riffing and spelean dive bombs, vocalists PG, AC, and MB (yes, they've got three guys going vox!) implement a mix of denser growls and utterly nightmarish shrieks redolent of Deicide, through at least twice as unnerving. Unfortunately, ''Below the Hengiform'' isn't as viscid to the ear as it is within itself. There are 2-3 riffs which I was utterly engrossed by, like the verse riff on ''Slouching Equinox'', but since the music engenders more artsy atmospheric than anything else, it's probably a safe assumption to say that none of the material here really stands out as mesmerizing, even at its sheer, apocalyptic best. With compositions as long as 9 minutes and just 3 tracks, you're bound to be in some shortage of dynamics, though thankfully the final (and shortest) track ''Forms Without Vapor'' is shattering and memorable enough to stave off the banalities of the other two tunes with its lurching, grooving riff patterns and linear, raspy black metal vocal lines. So like all the bands hailing under the black/death banner, but without providing as colorful a flavor as some others, Malthusian requires immensely concentrated consumption, followed by regurgitation. And then repeat.

Highlights:
Form Becomes Vapor


Rating: 73%


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inculter - Persisting Devolution [2015]


Norway is a fertile harbor for not only its chief export of black metal, but also for a recent upsurge in bands which claim immunity from being stringently pigeonholed into either one of the black, thrash or speed metal genres, and hence exposing themselves to the market shamelessly as 'black/thrash', drawing their influences not just from such antiquarians of primal evil such as Bathory, Venom or Hellhammer but also younger acts like Nekromantheon, Deathhammer and Aura Noir, also haling from Norway. Needless to say, Inculter is another one of Norway's breed of frolicsome evil, a compelling two-piece running on the strength of merely an EP and a demo, with a new record that hardly eschews the kind of rifftastic profanity purists seek in this niche. And to wit, the Norwegians create an infernal expanse of black and thrash metal that doesn't just scream 'Bathory', but actually secures its position as a record with some identity and simmering infernal magnetism.

''Persisting Devolution'' definitely moves a fraction beyond the 'stock' black/thrash offering as offered through the various records of Force of Darkness, Destroyer 666, Witchburner and the like, owing to the skippy, fraudulent quality of the riffs, at times sounding like a blackened version of Death Breath's ''Stinking Up The Night'' with frenetic, lashing chords and fantastic speed/thrash cutlery, always campy yet also genuinely disturbing. The tone and pace of the album are perfect; it's sufficiently lo-fi, rugged enough cook skewed human flesh on, if you're into some analogy, but still clear enough as to hearing the excellent slew of riffs which the Norwegians propagate, reaching paces fast enough to keep up with one ''Reign in Hell'' or ''Horrified''. Make no mistake folks: this as 80's as you're going to get. The promise of denim, leather, spikes, motorbikes and auditory grime is just the cherry on top of the huge rotten cake of festering flesh and gnarly awesomeness, but unlike so many gimmicks undergoing a similar trajectory Inculter are abstrusely efficient with nearly not one second spared from the the album's razor-sharp array of riff-works and fanaticism. Remi's vocals are serpentine and gruesome to the bone with a clear nod pretty much any other band operating in this niche, but his inflection is ghastly enough to accrue frilly 80's anger and infernal fire at the same time.

Inculter's subscription to the art and literature of the black/thrash niche is more than convincing. The songs are all boisterous, fast and fleshy, from the choppy ''Mist of the Night'', to blistering speed metal rampage of  ''Diabolical Forest'' to the simply excellent ''Traducers Attack''; each track does not necessarily promulgate an entirely original or separate sense of evil or blasphemous delight, but there's so much fun to be had among the jumpy cascade of riffs, mutes, pluggy bass lines and cramped drum fills that one really cannot care all to much, especially with the existence of 2-3 outstanding pieces in the entire compendium. The closest thing I can cite to ''Persisting Devolution'' besides the regulars is probably Deathhammer's ''Onward to the Pits'' or Nekromantheon's ''Rise, Vulcan Specter'', although the former was more engrossed in heavy/black than anything else, and the latter was indefinitely heavier. It only goes on to show that the album is another great addition to the black/thrash vernacular. Even at the finale, ''Envision of Horror'', the dynamic evil is there. There's still plenty of space for Inculter to develop, but ''Persisting Devolution'' brims with youthful, daemonic energy; ignore at your own risk.

Highlights:
Persisting Devolution
Traducers Attack
Diabolical Forest
Mist of the Night

Rating: 80%

Monday, April 13, 2015

Solefald - World Metal. Kosmopolis Sud [2015]


If some kind of annual award for musical wackiness would have existed, Solefald would have trumped its competitors each year it put out a new album. While Sigh would have no difficulty competing against their Norse counterparts, the duo's latest, ''World Metal.'' achieves such levels of imaginative finesse, surrealistic progression, folksiness and unprecedented eccentricities, that it even tops their 2010 opus ''Norrøn Livskunst'' which was already one of the most superior bizarreries I had heard (it still keeps its position). Five years later, with nothing keep the masses appeased in between records besides an EP which struck me as far more mediocre and lethargic than it ought to be, Cornelius and Lazare reassemble for what might be the most astonishing afflatus the year has to offer, abandoning the traditionally 'Norse' aesthetics of their previous Icelandic Trilogy, a veritable amalgamation of epic Scandinavian black metal and the residual avantgarde,  and delving straight into the foliage global music complete with all its oddities.

That's not to say they've entirely abandoned their sound - certainly not - since the dispersion of the band's older niche is far more than piecemeal. You know it's Solefald. Lazare' indispensable cleans are there with all their epic, hovering gloss, interwoven with simplistic, heavy black metal riffing and grandiose synthesizers or organs that beckon such greats such as ''Song Til Stormen'' or ''Norrøn Livskunst''; and Cornelius' inflection is still there, maybe not as indecipherable or raspy as before, but certainly plump with force and carnal power. The echoes of the band's sound yawn and  reverberate with the majestic force of northern waves and huge, pallid Icelandic mountains. Yet there's caveat to it all, one that's all to absorbingly delicious. In retrospect, I remember maybe 2-3 real black metal riffs (aside from the swelling tremolos and richer chord progressions) and the guitars aren't so protean as, say, Dream Theater, nor as significant to the mix even though there are some marvelous, grooving anchorages on the record which owe themselves to Kornelius' riffcraft, so the guitars have given themselves up to other sounds populating the mix. Pianos, synthesizers, saxes, organs, all typical of the Solefald cannon. But this time the Norsemen have integrated even more, from Congolese toms to electronic inclusions that range far beyond the safer medium of samples and minute samples. We're talking multi-layered servings of mind-fuckage and, yes - I hesitate to say - even dubstep if that's what you want to call it. The opener, ''World Music With Black Edges'' is one that completely lives up to its name with entirely unpredictable sequences of oddly euphoric pianos to straight dance/disco scores. This is a rave, and the DJ's are two of Norway's busiest, most ingenious composers.

As much as I hate to admitting the apparent overtones of electronic music, ''World Metal.'' certainly never overlooks the fact that this is still a metal record (albeit one which purists will start to exorcise the moment they hear it) and Solefald seamlessly incorporate electronics - without overcrowding - into their smorgasbord of calculated cultural and musical diversity. There's also a twist to Cornelius' vocals in that they're far more mercurial. He keeps his gnarly guttural inflection, but he does an excellent job of channeling George Corpsegrinder-esque lows into such tracks like ''The Germanic Entity'' which sizzle with irresistible, crushing groove, as well cleaner moments, as in ''Future Universal Histories'' where he speaks through radio broadcast. At any rate, his timbre matches the diversity of sounds that envelope him, capable of modifying the changing environment. And if that piece didn't freak you out there's still ''Bububu Bad Beuys'', where Cornelius' minimalist, almost Darkthrone-ish riff patterns mold with tribal African beats and drums: it's sure to win the award for the most ridiculous song of the year. Yet these Norsemen are certainly not fucking around. ''String The Bow of Sorrow'' is a splendorous and uplifting tune with gigantic choral and instrumental overtures, a Scandinavian avantgarde response to Carl Orff's ''Carmina Burana'', and it's equally angry as it is somber.

It's a grand emotional crescendo, mounting to the moody finale, ''Oslo Melancholy''. I did miss tracks like the superb blackened rockabilly ''Blackabilly'' from the previous record, and I was mildly disappointed for the absence of something in the vein of ''Eukalyptustreet'', but the duo's ability to avoid dullness, interchangeability and nadirs is unbelievable. There are indeed very few artists in today's metal market who could hold up to such levels of consistency, change and originality as these two pariahs. ''World Music.'' is more emotionally gripping than any of the other records in their backlog, not for its sheer epic excellence but because it also feels like the folksiest of their offerings. Indeed, tracks like ''String the Bows of Sorrow'' are good enough to be sung by exiled Scandinavian sailors during long, troublesome voyages. So here's to another album that justifies why Cornelius and Lazare oughtn't acquire any other pastimes besides music, because when they make it, it's simply sublime, and with already some twenty spins I'm salivating at the thought an equally masterful, eccentric follow-up.

Highlights:
Future Universal Histories
World Music With Black Edges
The Germanic Entity
2011, or a Knight of the Fail

Rating: 94%

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Perdition Temple - The Tempter's Victorious [2015]


Armed with the cutlery of ungodly riffs and production values that hearken back to the mid-early 90's, Perdition Temple is another band who channels the vainglory of Angelcorpse, Morbid Angel, Impiety and the like. More than adhering to the now antiquated cavern-core aesthetics of Antediluvian, Motichondrion, Impetuous Ritual or Vasaeleth, there's a more dynamic sound to be sought here and one that can definitely garner some attention. I'd been hesitant enough to dismiss the recent EP, ''Sovereign of the Desolate'', of this Florida five-piece, but the sophomore ensures that any mistakes made in the past (i.e. laziness/trepidation) have a chance of being redeemed through the musical purgatory which they have to offer, and while I do think my actions can be partially justified with the blandness of the band's initial image of pentagrams and blazing temples, there's some truth saying that no matter what, you can't judge a book by its cover, especially if it's Angelcorpse on hold.

That being said, ''The Tempter's Victorious'' is not necessarily the superb splash of profane originality you were probably betting on, but it's still superlatively more distinguished and dynamic than at least a handful of other albums you'll hear of its quotient. Acrobatic and unholy, the riffs are flung endlessly, like charred limbs and body bits being catapulted from the crenelations of some darkly fortress, with beautifully gnarly, serpentine tremolos crawling apace, and while this record does not sound as devastating as anything derived from Angelcorpse's body work, there's a certain, infinitesimal creep to it which I've frankly grown very fond, such that it might easily appeal to fans of a more broad circulation of contemporary death metal a la Putrevore, or if you like your death metal really old school, Funebre, Morpheus Descends or even Demilich. The overgrowth of the death metal portion of this record makes you crave some of the black metal that was promised by the esteemed Metal Archives tag, but in truth the only thing 'black' about this is Impurath's sepelean rasp which adds a rather enjoyable contrast to the seeming transparency of the riffs... and that's fact, because the guitars are hardly doused in any sort of reverb or overripe thickness, which even makes the album strangely technical.

You can even hear plodding, almost psychedelic bass lines grooving behind the systematic tremolo patterns which usually sound like they were ripped out of the cortex of some technical death metal piece and then run through the bowels of Baphomet. Chaos galore. The drumming is spot on, though it largely doesn't stay out of the norm's of this style. Tracks like title track and ''Extinction Synagogue'' are paragons of the album's unmitigated force, sprawling panoplies of black/thrashing and intensity in case you needed any more, and ''Chambers of Predation'' has a great set of chug-oriented riffs which I quite enjoy; ''The Tempter's Victorious'' is clearly not a far shout any Morbid Angel or Angelcorpse record, but its capacity to disturb and penalize are realized well, with suitably heretical apparel to make a name for themselves in the underground. 8 tracks prepared to drill your mind with manic fervor. In the end, the tempter is victorious, and its victory lap revolves around the pillars of a crumbling church, where hopefully, an inquisitive reader would be interested enough to exhume this disc from the debris afterwards, and indulging in all morbid and malicious details it keeps within. Not a terrific record, but as solid as they'll fucking come.

Highlights:
The Tempter's Victorious
Extinction Synagogue
Chambers of Predation

Rating: 75%


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Incinerate - Eradicating Terrestrial Species [2015]


The breeding ground for uncouth 90's death metal has grown more popular than it was during its heyday as a myriad outfits continue their mechanized, bloody advance to claiming their testators' legacy (i.e. Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Morbid Angel, etc.) but fruitfulness in such endeavors has rarely been the case. In other words, enter the dialectic of Incinerate third record ''Eradicating Terrestrial Species'', and the testy death metal listener will instantly realize that he/she has already run the gamut of the band's cadaverous gestalt of brutal/technical death metal, with almost zero new tricks to satisfy the culinary appetite which one may have hoped ravish. Playing like a manic, defunct tutorial for disfiguring ugly extra-terrestrials, this international cooperation leaves much to be desired, (Dave Rotten and Rogga Johansson created some of the most ill-bred sonic abuses of recent history with ''Macabre Kingdom'' in 2012, and we all know what a blast that was) but less to be acquired...

Comatose Music has had the honor of governing such depraved and bombastic retro-90's death metal acts like Incinerate, though the department's been generally running low on originality. Incinerate plucks at the strings of Hate Eternal, Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Florida obscures Brutality and Disincarnate and Immolation more than the cavern-core worship bands these days usually vie for, and even the production values have been altered somewhat to patch in with that gruesome production of the 90's. Before I gone on to scold how much this record lacks proper clinical galvanization, let me point out that the 90's mechanics are perfectly in place, and the riffs are densely punishing enough to come close to the aforementioned groups, with dredged up technical punishment and furious tremolos delivering most of the album's fundamental butchery, and treacly chugs gulping away at the listener's ear with systematic tension and ugliness.The drums contain enough fills and frenetic double-bass convolution to sound tantalizing, at least to an extent; add to that a metallic, grinding base line and everything seems in place to become the bonafide tech-death offering of the year, but the tracks are so interchangeable that it feels like musical equivalent of dull paint job.

I frankly enjoyed the overt presentation of gore, religion and science-fiction tropes, but aside from the few cheesy film sequences sandwiched in between or before some of the tunes, the concepts did nothing for the theatricality of the album. Incinerate is constantly technical, but they obdurately lack the quality to modify themselves throughout the record. Jesse Watson's vocals are the typical growls you were expecting, providing little anguish or trauma. They go excessively deep sometimes, and the cavernous lows mixed with the unsavory technicality generate something of a Demilich current, but once again, pleasure is stifled. Perhaps my favorite track here was ''The Berzerker'', which sounds characteristically similar to all the other tracks but has a intro featuring Shelley's poem ''Ozymandias'' as the only moment which was elevated to auditory limelight in the entire song. This is 30 minutes of unscathed brutality that feels long enough after the first spin. Evocative? I doubt it. Pure calculated ordure, and a fine piece to listen while you're raging over your maths project, I imagine. Yet this scarcely pushes the imaginative expanse of anyone's mind, and I certainly enjoyed some of the surgical guitar work and intensity, I won't hesitate to say Incinerate's got a better compendium of cult horror/sci-fi films than masterful riffs.

Highlights:
Fucking the Rotten Nun
The Bezerker
From Distant Worlds

Rating: 50%


Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ketha - #​!​%​16​.​7 (Ep) [2015]


I've not ventured as far deep into this Ep as to understand the meaning behind its affably ungrammatical title, or the artistic nihilism behind the geometric anomaly of the cover art, a full-fledged banner of abstruse, almost kaleidoscopic triangles painted chrome-metal black, but judging by the nightmarish and unique penumbra offered by the music itself, I imagine there is some sort of vague, even philosophical statement about the conceptual preferences of these unfrazed Poles which have come to produce the second most inventive metal experience I've heard thus far in 2015 (first place goes to Solefald's latest). Certainly when you thought you couldn't devote another second to anything Meshuggah-related, these Poles come to seize the day with music more irrationally addictive than the title itself, a masterful performance straddling the straits of death, progressive, avatgarde, jazz, groove and 'math' metal for a price that's cheaper than a pack of cigarettes (€2, yo!) and a run-time that'll be over before you've even had your third fag.

Grooves. With a capital fucking 'G'. Ketha's got 'em, and they're not afraid to use the methodical precision of surgical math metal impetus is certainly immensely riveting, as they're played with spectacular staccato grooves during some of the more percussive moments of the Ep, something of a progressive metal fixation, or just on a more atmospheric basis when they're hoovering above the vocals. Songs like ''Multiverse'' or ''K-boom'' explode with such incendiary tempo patterns and hooking chords and mutes that they make comparisons to Meshuggah at once irresistible and equally difficult because the momentum here is something far more avantgarde in nature. The slugfest of rhythm guitars and bedecked with spiraling, dizzying segments of queer melody and effect-laden lead guitars, but there is an even more compelling feast of sounds and atmospherics manifested through the saxophones which blare vociferously throughout the Ep. The command of the sax over the groundwork is just huge; there is more to them than just arbitrary appearances like on a lot records as they display clear pungency for the majority of the disk, providing some of the best jazzy dissonance you'll hear anytime.

Guitar effects are certainly high in supply, with anything from the convulsive wah-wahs of ''Airdag'' to the fading, algebraic lead riff of the 36 second track ''3C 273'', but pianos, electronic influences, sheer industrialized punishment, saxes, rowdy radio voice-overs and trumpets are exerted at such rates of variety and unabashed playfulness that the Ep reaches Mr. Bungle levels of eccentricity, or CSSABA levels of tension, and that's no easy feat. The tracks are ridiculously short, the longest one being some two and a half minutes and the others ranging typically below the 1-minute mark, and they flow into each other like a meticulously adjoined potpourri of musical freakishness. And yet what a well-rounded offering it is... vocalist Maciej Janas appears occasionally, and harnesses the power of both deep death metal growls and some more distinguished, individual inflections that disperse themselves across the record at his will. And if you're asking about the drums; they're equally impressive, with enough fills and tenacity as any high-brow jazz performance.

12 tracks, each unique, and it's only fucking fault that it's too damn short. And like all other beautiful things, ''#​!​%​16​.​7'' ends up biting its tail much too prematurely. Forget any other musical reservation you've made in recent times and purchase this, since your planned purchases are likely to be dross anyway. Tension. Trauma. Unprecedented, wallowing Lovecraftian evil in the form of the architectural aberrations witnessed by Arctic explorers in At The Mountains of Madness. Ketha don't care if you like Meshuggah or not, and they care less about your lighthearted opinions. There is evil abound; our only reconciliation is to fight evil with evil.

Highlights:
K-boom
Multiverse
The Sounderiad
Crink Crank


Rating: 88%