Review of Damnatio Memoriae by Grethor

Band: Grethor
Album: Damnatio Memoriae
Release Date: 26 January 2018
Record Label: Edgewood Arsenal Records
Buy on CD ($10) or vinyl ($19) or digital ($10) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Damnatio Memoriae by Grethor

We’re a bit behind on getting some of our local album reviews posted here on DCHM but we’re working to get back up to speed. This one is about an album released by Grethor back in January, but it’s still worth noting in case you missed it. Vivek wrote this detailed piece about it and as always you can stream a few songs at the end of this post to give it a listen.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve enjoyed the hell out of Star Trek. When I found out there is a local blackened death metal band named Grethor, the klingon word for hell, it grabbed my interest. Albeit, its spelled differently than the actual name, Gre’thor. In late January, Grethor released their debut full-length album, Damnatio Memoriae. Grethor are composed of four members. Marcus Lawrence handles the vocals and wrote all of the lyrics. Brian Frost is on the guitar and Tony Petrocelly handles both guitar and bass duties as well. The lineup for this album is completed with Anthony Rouse on drums. On Damnatio Memoriae, Grethor showcase a variety of complex and simple death metal riffs with varied drum patterns and a strong blend of black metal mixed in as well. Lyrically this album is also varied, there are social issues discussed as well as plain fantasy stories thrown in.

Throughout the album the listener is treated to a variety of riffs that have strong influences from Obscura-era Gorguts and Altars of Madness-era Morbid Angel. Some examples of this include the tracks “The Last Manifesto,” “Enantiodromia,” and “From this Rot so Shall We Be Remade.” There is also an interesting black metal influence throughout the album. Think Deathspell Omega, very avant-garde and using weird elements. Some examples would be in several sections of songs, such as, “The Imminent Unknown” and “Requiem for a Strawman.” While this can go very wrong, Grethor keep all of these factors cohesive. They make sure none of these elements outweigh each other. One track where this is highlighted very well would be the third track, “The Last Manifesto.” In this track, it begins with a complex and blasting intro riff. The song transitions into the main riff, which is a simple, mid-paced, and slightly melodic black metal riff. This is a nice contrast between the more death metal riffs that are present throughout most of the album. Rouse speeds the drums up by using a skank-beat and then everything else gets faster, before transitioning into a more death metal oriented riff. This is a nice transition into the first guitar solo. The solo in this song is simple and effective, it fits the purpose of this part of the song and does not try to do more. The solo isn’t too long or too complicated. The song has a quick breakdown, which transitions to the main riff again, but this time, the main riff is played even faster. The main riff develops more of a melody which, to my surprise, enhances the song and gives it a stronger punch for the listener. Eventually, another solo begins and this time it’s accompanied with complex blasting. This solo is complex and shows off that Luc Lemay influence. It’s a great solo too, it’s complex without being overbearing and is not too fast. The listener can absorb all of the notes from the solo and experience it as opposed to just hearing it. It’s a great way to close a great song. Lyrically, this song is also a rallying cry against many of the common injustices and hypocritical rhetoric that is relevant in society.

Marcus Lawrence, uses plenty of descriptive language to get his message across. It’s simple descriptive language too, which makes his point easier to understand. One example would be in the song: “Embracing Oblivion,” the lyrics “Besieged by a pointless devotion. To one’s own ethnicity. When there is nothing special about you. You must feign authenticity. You value nothing beyond. Your empty desire for validation.” showcase this. In that, they provide a criticism of nationalism and show how such an ideology is flawed. As I mentioned earlier, the lyrical content of the album discusses social issues and other topics. Throughout the album, whenever a political or social topic is discussed, the lyrical delivery of said topics is an interesting blend. It is straightforward, for the most part. It is very descriptive and understandable, while being cerebral as well. It gets me to see another person’s perspective on things. Lawrence also keeps the language in the lyrics broad enough, so that you understand his perspective and it doesn’t become preachy. Both the music and vocals feed off of each other and give the tracks have a strong punch to them. Lawrence’s vocals are a more traditional black metal snarl and shriek. However, there are times when the Lawrence’s vocals become too snarl-like. In that, his vocals are so snarl-like that they sound like an elderly cat screaming at their owner. One example where this happens would be in the song “Tongue of Argent.” These snarls appear at the 1 minute and 17 second mark. When these particular snarl-like vocals appear, they sound so saturated to the point where it is nauseating. Whenever they appear, the overbearing snarls can bring down the section of the song that they are in. They bring down the whole momentum of the song and as a result, it weakens the song as a whole. However, this only happens about two or three times throughout the album, I mentioned one of those times, the other times where this happens are in the tracks, “The Last Manifesto” and “Weaponized Madness.”

Damnatio Memoriae is the most complex local release I have heard in a very long time. It is technical, avant-garde, simplistic, and has hints of melody at times. Despite all of these complications present, Grethor manage to juggle them in a proficient manner. Grethor manages to balance each of these elements giving them the right amount of attention. There is a strong blend of cohesion between the black metal and the death metal elements on this album. Grethor manage to combine these parts along with some direct and thoughtful lyrics, which makes for a very complete and fulfilled album. There are a lot of great moments on this album and I can see Damnatio Memoriae, opening many, many doors for Grethor. It’s a great debut album from a focused band.

The Last Manifesto:

Review of Order Of Torment by Genocide Pact

Band: Genocide Pact
Album: Order of Torment
Release Date: 2 February 2018
Record Label: Relapse Records
Buy on CD ($13) or vinyl ($19) or digital ($10) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Order of Torment by Genocide Pact

Washington DC’s own Genocide Pact has recently released a death metal album that has gotten them quite a lot of buzz. I asked DCHM contributor Vivek Rangarajan to write a review about it and let us know if the band is worth all the hype. After you read his review below be sure to stream the album at the end of this post to find out for yourself!

It made my day when I first heard the news that Genocide Pact was recording a new album as I had been anticipating new material from them for a while now. In the past year, they’ve been on the same bills with Nails, Gatecreeper, Power Trip, and Angelcorpse, just to name a few. They were also the first metal band to play at Atlas Brew Works, during the DCHM 2016 holiday party. Genocide Pact are slowly but steadily becoming one of the best new-school bands in death metal. Their first album, Forged Through Domination, the amount of shows played and tours they have been on have all contributed to this. Their Relapse Records debut, Order of Torment, is a showcase of vile and crushing death metal from start to finish. Before I get into that, I’d like to first discuss who Genocide Pact are.

Genocide Pact are made up of members from local grindcore, crossover thrash, and hardcore bands. Tim Mullaney and Michael Nolan are from the grindcore band Disciples of Christ, or D.O.C., Connor Donegan is from the crossover thrash band Red Death as well as a handful of D.C. hardcore bands. Genocide Pact have recently added a new guitarist, Demir Soyer of Narrow Grave and Perpetuated, however he did not join Genocide Pact until after Order of Torment was already recorded by the other three members. On Order of Torment, Michael Nolan handles the bass, Tim Mullaney does all of the guitars and vocals, and Connor Donegan keeps everything in check on the drums.

“Conquered and Disposed” is the first track on Order of Torment and it showcases the heavy, doom-influenced death metal that is becoming Genocide Pact’s trademark. The opening track does not play around and its intro hits the ground running. It begins with an ambient opening and then punches the listener with a fierce intro riff. There’s an Incantation influence that is evident in the songwriting throughout the album but it is prevalent on on this track. Tim’s guitar-work and vocal performance are great on this song. I love how deep and visceral his death-growl is. The vocals provide a hefty layer which enhances the instrumentation. The riffs throughout this song have a chainsaw-like sound to them. The whole song has a tempo variation between very slow to fast. The tempo variations all have seamless transitions between each other, thanks to Connor Donegan’s drum work. This makes each section of the song stand out from one another.

The second track, “Decimation Grid,” begins with an unnerving and atmospheric riff. I like how this intro riff helps establish how the song will conduct itself. The use of a pick-slide in the intro riff helps make it sound more evil. The song picks up its speed after the first verse, and uses the atmosphere developed to keep the song heavy. What stands out in this song is how Genocide Pact keeps the atmosphere intact while varying the tempos. It’s diverse and interesting.

The third track, “Spawn of Suffering” is one of my favorite songs off Order of Torment. “Spawn of Suffering” is faster than the first two tracks, but the atmosphere established by the first two tracks is not lost. Genocide Pact use a slow intro and transition into a faster and blasting track. This song has some interesting tempo changes between the faster sections. It has a slight change between the blast beats and regular drum pattern that produces a cool contrast. It keeps each part engaging and makes each pattern fresh. The track ends with a mid-paced plug and chug riff. It’s a simple and chromatic riff. This riff feels like a nice ribbon to wrap up the song.

The fourth track, “Pain Reprisal,” is my favorite track off Order of Torment. The Incantation-influenced songwriting is obvious on this track and I love it. The song starts with a mid-paced and filthy riff and keeps it going until the middle of the song. Nolan’s bass work is thick and holds everything together on this track. I love how demolishing Tim Mullaney’s riff is in the opening. It’s a riff I can just head-bang to endlessly. Tim’s vocal performance on “Pain Reprisal” is fantastic. The vocals become very low and growling in comparison to the other songs on the album. There is a John McEntee kind of sound found in Tim’s vocals on “Pain Reprisal.” It is a menacing element that Tim Mullaney incorporates into his vocals on the song and they remind me of a demon haunting someone. The song gets slower as the track progresses, however around three minutes and ten seconds, the track shifts to a blasting frenzy. I love how fast this transition is too. Both Tim and Connor Donegan make this transition perfect. The use of cymbal chokes, blast beats, and double bass by Donegan as well as Tim’s use of palm-muted tremolo picking and faster riffs help the punch of this transition. This transition hits like a freight-train and is an awesome way of changing things up while keeping the listener’s attention. This part lasts for about 30 seconds before changing into a sinister guitar solo to close out the track. This solo is great way to conclude the song because of how it begins as a slower and malevolent solo before it shreds into oblivion while the track fades out.

The fifth track, “Ascendency Absolved,” continues what the first four tracks have already created. However, on this track there are a lot more guitar leads. The leads played are great and they are very doom influenced which makes the track more enjoyable. It is also a nice way of adding a small change without sacrificing any of the heaviness. Towards the end of the song, Tim Mullaney stops playing and just focuses on the guitar’s feedback while Michael Nolan and Connor Donegan keep a steady pace going. This ends with a piercing guitar shriek, it’s an unexpected shriek and I love it. It’s subtle and creeps up on you. Once it happens, the guitar shriek rips right through the listener and is constant throughout the rest of the song.

The sixth track, “Structural Dissolution,” is the fastest song on Order of Torment. The use of a fast intro, and combining it with mid-paced to fast riffs make this a demolishing track. The use of the double bass drums is also great. It enhances the riffs and gives them a stronger punch. They help make the buzzsaw riffage a lot heavier. There’s even a small trill that gets played which fits perfectly in the song. I can just aimlessly head-bang to this song anytime it comes on.

“Authoritarian Impulse” continues the sound developed in Order of Torment while having a doomy solo. It’s a solid track, however this track does what already has been presented on Order of Torment. The final track “Blood Rejection,” is a nice closer to the album. The track continues the atmospheres developed on all of the previous tracks and concludes the album on a chilling note. The conclusion is an evil mid-paced riff that includes a pick slide and pinch harmonic which continues until the album fades out. It’s a haunting ending and an effective way to wrap up the album.

No album is perfect and Order of Torment is not an exception. One fault that I had with this album was how it became too slow at times. There were several instances that droned on too long. When this would happen, the tracks would make me lose interest in them. Some people might consider the significantly slower parts as crushing, however, those parts are simply too slow to have a stronger impact. While I do enjoy the contrast between the slower and faster parts, the slower sections that go on too long begin to drone and bring down the songs. Another criticism I have would be with the lyrics of the album. While the lyrics are not bad themselves, the topics they cover could be more developed. It would give their messages a stronger impact on the listener. These faults don’t detract too much from Order of Torment.

Genocide Pact take their identity created on Forged Through Domination, their first album, and continue it on Order of Torment while keeping it fresh. This album is a great stepping stone for them, and hopefully will launch them into a bigger spotlight. Order of Torment proves Genocide Pact is one of DC’s premiere metal bands.

Pain Reprisal:

Review of Inconnu by Thonian Horde

Band: Thonian Horde
Album: Inconnu
Release Date: 9 September 2017
Record Label: Grimoire Records
Buy on CD ($7) or as digital files ($5) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Inconnu by Thonian Horde

With this post we’re debuting a new album reviewer on DCHM. Please welcome Vivek Rangarajan and read his first post for us, a very in depth review of a black metal album released by a band of guys from local doom metal bands. Be sure to stream a few tracks at the end of the post as well!

This is my first review on DCHM and I was given the pleasure of reviewing Thonian Horde’s Inconnu. This album was a blast to listen to from start to finish, but before I talk about Inconnu, let’s learn who Thonian Horde are.

Thonian Horde is a local band which features former and current members of Weed is Weed, Pale Divine, and Faith in Jane. Most of these bands are based in Frederick, Maryland, and each member is active in the Maryland Doom Metal community, which is a surprise since they are a black metal band. In 2016, the band released a self-titled debut album and in 2017, they released their second album, Inconnu. Upon first listen, one might expect it to be a black metal album with some touches of Maryland doom. However, this is not the case! In fact, Inconnu is a very eclectic blend of black, death, and thrash metal with some traditional hard rock. Thonian Horde’s Inconnu is an album that showcases the strengths of extreme metal while blending it with good-old fashioned rock and roll.

The opening track “Stygian Rhyme” sets the tone for the album and wastes no time doing it as well. Bassist and vocalist, FeZZy, uses cleaner than normal black metal vocals to put his own twist on the typical black metal shrieking vocal style. I love it. This heightens the vocal performance because it shows his identity. The guitarists Dirty and D-Mize provide a well-rounded attack, in that, both guitarists lay down the riffs in a cohesive manner. Dirty holds down the song on rhythm while D-Mize shreds for the lead sections.

While the album is rooted in black metal, Thonian Horde incorporate more styles of metal and rock as the album progresses. As soon as the second track, “Angels, Devils, and the Serpent Grey,” begins, we see Thonian Horde incorporate a traditional rock-groove. While this can be shaky, Dirty and D-Mize do an excellent job balancing the rock groove with abrasive black metal riffage. Dirty does a good amount of lead work in this song and his leads show off the rock influence. D-Mize keeps the black metal rhythms going and keeps the song cohesive. The drum work done by Tyler “The Beast” Lee shows off a balance between black metal and rock. There is a mix of black metal blasting while keeping a rock-groove. It makes the song hard-hitting and groovy. This turns “Angels, Devils, and the Serpent Grey” into a black ‘n roll song at the end. It’s a great one as well. The third song, “Three III 3,” is a more straightforward black metal song. It contains a lot of the gloomy atmosphere that is common in black metal. D-Mize and Dirty put their own spin on this by incorporating a semi-melodic lead that corresponds with the main riff.

The fourth track, “Atrocious,” continues what “Angels, Devils, and the Serpent Grey,” began. It begins with mid-paced bass line which transitions into the main riff of the song. It keeps the black n’ roll ball going as the bass line sets the rock-groove for the guitars to add on to. One thing I’d like to note on this song is how the bass guitar is easy to hear throughout the song. I love it when a song actually lets the listener hear the bass. It is unusual for the bass to be easily heard in a black metal song. Hearing the bass adds another layer to the song which strengthens it for me.

The fifth track, “Helltrain,” is my favorite track off the album. Thonian Horde show off their songwriting abilities with this track. This song combines black metal and hard-rock grooves with some speedy thrash metal. The song begins with a straight up hard rock bass-line, then D-Mize brings some dissonant feedback from his guitar. The song transitions into an excellent black n’ roll riff that Dirty holds down, while D-Mize is doing some spastic and bizarre leads. The Beast’s drumming is at its peak on this song, he keeps the grooves going while everyone is doing their own parts. Around the halfway mark, the song becomes a blasting black metal track. I love how The Beast’s drumming hits the listener like a sledgehammer with this transition. The transition is very subtle, which makes the transition’s punch even harder. Once the blasting ends, the vocal attack by FeZZy howls a powerful scream which shifts the entire song into a thrashing frenzy. The drumming in this part of the song by The Beast uses a slam-dancing beat that’s common in thrash. The use of the thrash beat packs a punch and gives a fast circle-pit beat to enhance the guitarists riffs. D-Mize and Dirty go nuts once the thrash beat kicks in. I love the amount of energy their riffs produce during this part of the song. They also include a headbangin’ breakdown that is common in thrash metal. I don’t usually care for breakdowns in all honesty, but Thonian Horde’s use of a thrash breakdown in the track is great. To end the song Dirty goes nuts in his solo and D-Mize even joins in on the insane fun. The guitarists keep the riffs thrashy, yet the atmosphere and attitude of black metal is still present. The song transitions from a black n’ roll song to a traditional black metal song and finally to a blackened thrash song, and I love it. I can see a vicious circle pit breaking out whenever they play this song live.

The sixth track, “The Eleventh Dream,” is an atmospheric instrumental track. The song has a melancholic bassline that repeats throughout the song. On top of that it contains a lot of eerie sounds that evoke a feeling of misery. It’s a track that is nothing but suffering and dread and it feels as if someone has died and we are seeing what life is without this person. “The Eleventh Dream” is a great cool down to all of the madness going on for the first five tracks.

The second half of the album continues the black n’ roll while adding elements of extreme metal. The tracks that do this great in the second half of the album would be the title track, “Inconnu” and “Organized Oppression.” “Inconnu” is more rock influenced than anything else, however, there are sections that are traditional black metal. One thing of note during this track is there is a good amount of melody in the song. I like their use of a melodic section in this song because it makes the more straightforward parts sound more abrasive by contrast.
“Organized Oppression” is a more straightforward black metal song. There is a slight melody throughout each riff which adds another layer to all of the blasting going on behind the drum kit. The song eventually becomes a blackened thrash song with some melodic elements to it. The song concludes after an energetic guitar solo by Dirty.

This is not a perfect album and there are some faults to be found. The vocals could use less reverb on them. They make the vocals seem artificial and the lyrics lose their meaning because of it. In addition to this, the last track, “Iris Effect,” does not have as much variation as the other songs have. It uses a simple riff to carry the album to the end, and the song is very mid-paced throughout which makes it hard not to lose interest. It begins to drone. Inconnu has a few problems, however, they do not detract anything from the overall experience.

Overall, this album is a fantastic local release. Thonian Horde show off how diverse their songwriting ability is. The incorporation of hard-rock grooves and melodies, combining that with black metal and other forms of extreme metal, make this one of the more varied albums I have heard in a very long time. If there is any album that I regret not putting on my favorites of 2017 it is definitely this album. Inconnu shows that there is a lot more to the Maryland scene than just doom metal or grindcore. If Thonian Horde can follow this map they have created for themselves, then I think they can make a big splash at the national level. Who knows, they could be a part of a great tour package. For right now though, their future is bright.

Helltrain:

Angels, Devils, and the Serpent Grey:

Review of Slash ‘Em All by Omnislash

Band: Omnislash
Album: Slash ‘Em All!
Release Date: 9 June 2017
Buy as mp3s ($8.91) from: Amazon
Buy on CD ($10) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Slash 'Em All! by Omnislash

DCHM writer Tal is back with this in depth review of Baltimore based traditional/thrash metal band Omnislash’s sophomore album. Be sure to check out the video game inspired music video at the end of the post when you’re done reading.

We’re pretty spoiled in the DC area with a good number of local bands that sound like pros, and yet somehow I’m always surprised when I find another one. Omnislash is one of those bands. I had heard of them for possibly years, but had never been in the right place at the right time to actually see them live. Their recent album Slash ‘Em All! convinced me that I need to change that ASAP.

If Iron Maiden was a little faster and thrashier, that might describe Omnislash’s sound. They’re melodic like Iron Maiden, with mostly cleanish vocals, anthemic choruses and an upbeat vibe, but given to blistering thrash rampages. They at once claim to combine “the best elements of glam, thrash, power metal, death metal, hair metal, and classic rock” and to represent traditional heavy metal from “a time before the metal scene became fragmented.” I suppose if we hearken far enough back into the 80’s, it might be possible to do both at once. Certainly, Omnislash seems to combine all those diverging genres into one cohesive whole – thrash outbursts flow into expansive choruses, the vocals go from gritty to near operatic, and heavy riffs give way to melodic bridges or speedy solos, in such an organic way that nothing sounds out of place.

After an acoustic/neoclassical intro, the album starts off with rocking riffs with just a little thrash dirtiness, and a vicious scream from vocalist Jeremy Phoenix. True metal, all right. The first song, “Empires Fade,” is exemplary of the album – at once melodic, groovy and touched with thrash grittiness, and impossible to sit still for. The vocal style, clean yet forceful and sometimes rising into a scream, is reminiscent of harder power metal bands like Iced Earth. In another parallel to Iced Earth, there seems to be a historical theme to the song, which I first noticed with the line “Rome controls the Nile.” In an interview in Shockwave Magazine, Jeremy indicated that the song is about “that moment in time when it could have been the Egyptian Empire but it became the Roman Empire.” The wailed, “Run for your life” in the chorus can’t help evoking Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills,” as well.

There are several catchy songs you’ll be rocking out to in your mind long after the album’s done playing, but the catchiest has to be the title track (and band theme song?), “Metalliation Revengeance (Slash ‘Em All).” With the racing, driving rhythm and insistent, somehow danceable lead guitar, you won’t be able to help starting a toxic waltz wherever you are. Then it goes into a horn-throwing, sing-along chorus and bridge, complete with “woah’s” for the full metal experience. But don’t take my word for it; check out their hilarious video at the end of this post. I can just imagine this as the climactic closing song of their live show.

This is just the middle of the album, however, so the songs keep on coming. The most aggressive songs are in the second half: “Nuke the Moon” and “Not One Step Back,” the former about Project A119, a US Air Force project from the 1950’s that planned to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon, and the latter about the Battle of Stalingrad. There’s also a ballad of sorts, “Gothenburg,” if a song with pummeling thrash percussion and machine-gun guitars can be called a ballad just because it has more drawn-out and emotional vocals. “Blood Feud” is a song with furious aggressive verses and a catchy chorus that oddly reaches its anthemic height at the end of the chorus. Since I just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy, I can’t help wondering if the song has anything to do with Appalachia, since that book’s author, J.D. Vance, had some not-so-distant ancestors that took part in some pretty violent blood feuds in that area.

The band’s lyrical themes are another parallel to Iron Maiden, with a more historical bent than most thrash metal, although they still focus on typical thrash themes of war and violence.

One downside to the album, which might have been out of the band’s control, is that the production quality isn’t as good as I’ve become used to for some of our local bands. Some might argue that this is part of the band’s 80’s thrash vibe, but for me, it’s a detriment to the album. For instance, the furious beginning to “Nuke the Moon” sounds like a mess. It would be much more effective at showcasing the band’s technical virtuosity – not to mention more enjoyable as a thrash barrage – if I could hear everything going on. The rest of the album isn’t that bad, but it’s still poor enough that this is one of the rare cases where a pair of good headphones doesn’t help, and actually takes away from enjoyment of the album, since the sound quality issue becomes so distracting.

Sound quality aside, Slash ‘Em All! is a great album, putting Omnislash among the ranks of stellar local bands in the DC area.

Review of Winged Waltz by October Tide

Band: Winged Waltz
Album: October Tide
Release Date: 22 April 2016
Record Label: Agonia Records
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XV: 4:45 Sunday at Rams Head Live

Winged Waltz by October Tide

Maryland Deathfest XV kicks off this Thursday. I’ve tasked the DCHM album reviewers with writing about a band playing MDF that they’re excited to see. Buzzo Jr wrote about grindcore band Insect Warfare (read it here) however Tal’s pick of death/doom band October Tide is on the complete opposite end of the metal spectrum. Read this review to know why you can’t miss October Tide at Maryland Deathfest this weekend!

For the second year in a row, the band I’m most excited about at MDF is a melodic death/doom band that I thought I’d never get to see live on this side of the Atlantic. Perhaps that says more about my love of obscure melodic death/doom than about MDF, though. In the festival line-up, October Tide is buried in an avalanche of black metal.

October Tide began as a Katatonia side project (back in the good ole days of Brave Murder Day – i.e. mid 90’s), released two hallowed albums in the 90’s and then went on hiatus for 11 years, until the band took on a life of its own in 2010. Carried on by founder and ex-Katatonia guitarist Fredrik Norrman, October Tide now also includes his brother Mattias Norrman, who also played bass for Katatonia. Amon Amarth’s new full-time drummer Jocke Wallgren also took part in recording last year’s Winged Waltz. The current October Tide line-up is rounded out by bassist Johan Jönsegård and drummer Jonas Sköld, in addition to vocalist Alexander Högbom.

As they always have, October Tide carries on where Katatonia left off, and Winged Waltz is no different. If you wish you could find more music like Katatonia’s Brave Murder Day, like Daylight Dies and the short-lived Slumber (Fallout, 2004), then Winged Waltz is for you.

Listening to the album is like putting on a well-worn shoe (and I’m not just saying that because I’ve listened to it so many times). You know just how it’s going to feel. As the intro to the first song, “Swarm,” creeps around in a minor key and then jumps by a discordant interval – a jarring feeling that’s also just what you expected. As atmospheric riffs build nearly into white noise, but still with a discernible melody, sorrowful and keening, at the high end. As long notes waver and layer in a more downtempo segment. As the growled vocals full of aggrieved rage complete the crushing weight of the album.

That isn’t to say that the songs are cookie-cutter. There’s variety in pace and melody – an expansive, all-guns-blazing section at the end of “Swarm” contrasting nicely with the meandering pace of the next song, “Sleepless Sun”; more aggressive riffage in “Reckless Abandon” and “Perilous”; the brash melodic motif that runs through “Nursed by the Cold.” But at the same time, there’s not a huge distinction between the songs, making them run together a bit. This isn’t unique to this album, though. For me, it happens with pretty much all melodic death/doom, from Brave Murder Day and other music in that style, to Swallow the Sun and Doom:VS. It might even be a mark of a good melodic death/doom album that it feels like one continuous experience, of churning doom underpinnings, sorrowful melodies and crushing harsh vocals.

And Winged Waltz checks off all these boxes consummately. The 2016 release may be following a formula, but it’s been a successful formula all these years, and I hope they never stop.

Review of World Extermination by Insect Warfare

Band: Insect Warfare
Album: World Extermination
Release Date: October 2007
Record Label: 625 Thrashcore
Performing at Maryland Deathfest XV: 11:50 Saturday at Baltimore Soundstage

World Extermination by Insect Warfare

Maryland Deathfest XV starts this Thursday! As always I let my writers each do a special album review as we lead up to MDF. For this review I let them pick a band they are excited to see at MDF and review their most recent album as well as give some extra background on the band. This one is written by DCHM writer Buzzo Jr and he decided to write about the Baltimore Soundstage’s Saturday headliner, Insect Warfare. If you’re looking for something a bit slower, be sure to read Tal’s piece on Swedish death/doom band October Tide here

Legendary grindcore act Insect Warfare was formed in Houston, Texas, in 2004 by drummer Frank Faerman, guitarist Beau Beasley, and vocalist Rahi Geramifar. They soon broke into the Texas scene with their debut EP; At War With Grindcore, in 2005. Two years later following the release of a handful of splits and EPs, drummer Frank Faerman was replaced by Dobber Beverly. In 2007, the trio released their first and only full length record World Extermination on 625 Thrashcore Records, and split up a year after. Insect Warfare reunited back in 2016 for one final tour and will be playing one of their very last shows at this years Maryland Deathfest. Insect Warfare will be the final band to take the stage at the Baltimore Soundstage on Saturday, playing at 11:50 PM.

The early/mid 2000’s was a damn good time to be a fan of grindcore. The genre that originated in dingy basements back in the late 80’s with Repulsion and Napalm Death was seeing an influx of new bands breathing energy into an already frenzied style of extreme metal. Landmark albums were being released left and right; with Discordance Axis’ dissonant The Inalienable Dreamless, Rotten Sound’s frantic Murderworks and even DC’s own Pig Destroyer with their twisted masterpiece Prowler In the Yard. In 2007, Insect Warfare swiftly cemented themselves as undisputed legends of the extreme metal scene when they released one of the fastest, heaviest, and most pissed off albums in the genre; World Extermination. What Insect Warfare lack in technical prowess, they make up for with pure, unfettered fury. World Extermination is a goliath of all things that makes grindcore… well, grindcore. Beau Beasley’s crushing, punk-tinged riffs rampage with the weight of a goddamn freight train; retaining their incredible power while at the same time being extremely catchy, or at least as catchy as a riff can get on this kind of album. While simplistic in structure, the riffs on this record are delivered at an almost machine-like efficiency, with absolutely no empty space left in between notes. Insect Warfare’s rhythm section is no slouch either; Dobber Beverly’s hyperspeed drumming comes at you like a 50 caliber machine gun, with an unyielding barrage of blast beats detonating in the backdrop throughout each track. Rahi’s insane vocals round out the audio carnage on the record, and his performance is pretty much unmatched in terms of sheer anger. Every single low, guttural growl and piercing, animalistic shriek being is used a rhythmic tool to accentuate the full on assault of the blast beats and riffs. Insect Warfare may not have reinvented the wheel here, but what they did do was take a formula that definitely worked and perfected it; creating what may likely be the best example of the classic grind sound of the late 90s and early 2000s.

If you’re at all a fan of grindcore and for some reason you have yet to listened to this record, drop whatever you’re doing and listen to it. Then listen to it again. And again. (You get the picture.) Insect Warfare’s performance at this years Maryland Deathfest will likely be the last chance most of us will ever get to see this legendary band in the DMV area, so make sure to catch them at the Baltimore Soundstage on Saturday!

Review of The Wretched of the Earth by Sickdeer

Band: Sickdeer
Album: The Wretched of the Earth
Release Date: 20 March 2017
Buy on CD ($10) or as digital files ($7) from: Bandcamp

Cover of The Wretched of the Earth by Sickdeer

You may have seen locals Sickdeer as they play out a lot! They seem to be one of the openers on many DIY metal shows in DC. In case you haven’t seen them yet, they’re playing a show at Slash Run tomorrow night (details here). Today we’re running a review of their debut album The Wretched of the Earth that they released this spring. As you might expect, DCHM writer Tal has a lot to say about this album. Be sure to stream it at the bottom of this post while you read.

I was truly surprised to hear of a band like Sickdeer in the DMV area. Usually, haunting black metal seeping with atmosphere seems to come from some far-off, mysterious place, like Eastern Europe or Russia, or at least Washington state or Utah. How could the urbanized and urbane (and sludge-choked) DC metropolitan area spawn something so atmospheric?

However it happened, I’m not complaining. Well, not a lot, anyway. I do have to say that the band’s name didn’t exactly scream “atmospheric black metal,” so it may not be the most effective marketing tool. Same for the album cover – with the black and white design and the medieval font, it channels Venom’s Black Metal pretty hard.

Once they got me in the door, though, I was quickly won over. “Retracting Accusations,” the first song on The Wretched of the Earth, starts off with an acoustic bit at the beginning, which sounds like it could have some Middle Eastern or Spanish influence. It seduces the listener into the album before the black metal barrage kicks in. Sickdeer is a bit more uptempo than your typical ABM band (which tend to have a more doomy tempo) but I’m going to stick with the atmospheric tag because of the sorrowful, cascading riffs that underpin every song.

They also have a strong groove to their music, especially in the second song, “Pitiful Ego.” It starts out slow but relentlessly driving, impossible to resist bobbing your head along to – at a nice measured pace. And then it picks up from time to time, including a little jackhammer death metal interlude in the middle.

That’s not the only death metal-ish thing about this album. The vocals are mostly a guttural roar, more like death metal vocals, only sometimes going into a raspy scream more typical of black metal. The vocals do get just a tad monotonous, but they do provide a nice contrast to the moodier, prettier atmospheric riffage.

Despite its dispirited title, “The Wretched of the Earth” might actually be the most beautiful song on the album, with a drawn-out, doomy melody. It also has the only annoying vocals. It’s pretty hard to annoy me with black metal vocals — I’m a sucker for the dirtiest, snarliest, gargliest black metal vocals out there — but there’s a part in the middle which sounds like a yowling cat which I don’t enjoy. That may be the point, of course, since some metal bands make a point to be unpleasant to the ears. And it may be that I’ll get used to it, as I have to countless other types of, ahem, unusual metal vocals.

Based on the song titles (I can’t make out most of the lyrics) the lyrical themes of the album seem to be typical black/death metal subject matter – how despicable we all are (“Pitiful Ego,” “The Wretched of the Earth”), how fleeting and doomed our existence (“Sand to Dust,” “Awaiting the Trench”). No nature or fantasy themes here. No clean vocals or choirs either.

I wonder if the band set out to create an “atmospheric black metal” album, or that’s just what The Wretched of the Earth ended up sounding like. Either way, it’s still a great gift to our local metal scene – a mysterious far-away place to lose ourselves in when the DC traffic and politics get to be too much.