CD review: “Death Becomes My Voice” by Ringworm

Ringworm’s eighth release, Death Becomes My Voice, continues the band’s vicious hardcore metal assault over the past three decades. The title track is a pugnacious combination of hardcore drumming and thrashing guitar riffs that grip your jugular for five minutes. HF’s harsh, maniacal vocals stand out on this track. “Carnivores” is another fast number with some brief blast beats thrown in for good measure. The song speeds up towards the final minute before guitarists Matt Sorg and Mark Witherspoon pull out a grooving riff while the track fades. The dissonant riffs and brutal drumming sounds like The Haunted meshed with Napalm Death. “Acquiesce” is an uncomfortable slower track thanks to the apocalyptic main riff and HF’s guttural vocals. The scooping riff on “Do Not Resuscitate” is reminiscent of a hook slicing in to human flesh. Drummer Ryan Steigerwald delivers the punishment on this track as it is pure Slayer worship from beginning to end. “The God Of New Flesh” is the shortest track on Voice, a chaotic assemblage of thrash, punk and grindcore. The band never falters through the constant tempo changes, keeping the listener on their toes until the song concludes. Album closer “Final Division” is a pummeling requiem that ends with a doom riff and sorrowful guitar solo.

Bands playing across extreme musical genres has occurred for roughly 35 years. Metalcore and deathcore have enjoyed varying degrees of popularity in the U.S. for roughly 15 years. Quality is the key issue, and while many bands attempt to meld genres, few succeed. Ringworm are one of those few bands and Death Becomes My Voice solidifies its status in the metal underground. The tracks on this album hit like a bat to the spine and a rusty blade to the lung. The brevity of the tracks and slight diversity makes Voice an interesting listen. There is little monotony due to stellar drumming and above average guitar work.

Fans of Ringworm should purchase Death Becomes My Voice. It is a fun, thrashing record that induces headbanging from the first track. Fans of crossover and thrash will enjoy the band’s speed and demonic guitar harmonies. Thrash ’til death.

Check out the band’s official Facebook page here:

www.facebook.com/Ringworm13/

Slayer Final World Tour

Fifteen thousand metal-heads, ninety degrees of Georgia heat, five thrash bands, and one dixie storm was the formula for the Atlanta stop of Slayer’s current tour on Friday, August 10. Luckily the rain ceased before the beginning of the show, but an early afternoon downpour made sure Cellairis Amphitheater at Lakewood was a steamy cauldron of blood, sweat, beer, and metal for what could be Slayer fans’ last chance to see the band live. Slayer has announced they will be retiring following the conclusion on this tour.

No one would expect to Slayer to end their career quietly and they certainly lived up to expectations enlisting Lamb of God, Anthrax, Testament, and Napalm Death as opening acts to give the thrash kings a proper send off. All the bands date back to the early eighties and the origins of thrash with the exception of Lamb of God, who formed in the mid nineties.

British extreme metal band Napalm Death opened the show working the early crowd into a frenzy while still in the hottest part a Georgia August day. Bay Area thrashers Testament followed. Like most of the bands, they concentrated on fan favorites including “Over the Wall” and “Practice What You Preach,” but also worked some newer tracks into the set. Guitarist Alex Skolnick upheld his reputation as one the premiere guitar players in metal.

Somewhat surprisingly Anthrax was next on the bill. Certainly Lamb of God has been one of the most popular metal bands of the new millennium and many credit them with ushering in a new era of thrash, but as one of the original Big Four (the Big Four of thrash include the original four thrash bands: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Anthrax) many assumed Anthrax would play directly before Slayer. Some fans voiced their opinions that this was disrespectful to Anthrax, but it didn’t dampen their enthusiasm once they took the stage. With original singer Joey Belladonna back in the lineup, they ran down a list of greatest hits from that era including “Caught in the Mosh,” “ Madhouse,” “Antisocial,” “Indians,” and of course the Joe Jackson cover of “Got the Time.” It’s easy to forget that most of the musicians playing Friday are well into their fifties, but Anthrax still performs with the energy they did thirty years ago and Scott Ian is one of metal’s most iconic musicians and personalities. Anthrax has always seemed to be a band that could balance the seriousness and darkness of the music while remembering that ultimately it’s supposed to be fun. It’s good to see that hasn’t changed.

I admittedly have never followed Lamb of God closely but was told to reserve judgment until seeing them live. That was good advice. The band sounded great, but vocalist Randy Blythe commanded the stage with an intensity that could rival any. Pacing back and forth across the front of the stage like a caged lion, Blythe had the pit-faithful in full mosh mode. The front seven rows of seats were removed to make room for a general admission pit directly in front of the stage and the fans put this space to use during Lamb of God’s set.

My indifference to Lamb of God probably stems from an attitude that thrash was not just a style but an era and therefore not seeing any room for something new in genre. I may have to give their music a closer listen to see if I still feel the same way. I would recommend seeing them live and will definitely make an effort to see them perform again.

After four hours of music, the fans were primed for Slayer. They opened with “Repentless” off their most recent album. During the set, flames shot across the stage forming the shapes of pentagrams and inverted crosses. The heat could be felt from at least a hundred out from the stage. They played songs from their entire thirty-eight year career, but the latter half of their set concentrated more on the classics such “Chemical Warfare,” Seasons in the Abyss,” and “South of Heaven,” and the stadium erupted when the opening riff of  “Raining Blood” began. Slayer also paid tribute to founding guitarist Jeff Hanneman, who passed away in 2013.  A curtain was dropped with the words “Hanneman Angel of Death Still Reigning” written in the design of a Heineken logo, similar to the limited edition beer logo Heineken printed after his death. Knowing the set was coming to a close, Lakewood burst into a deafening roar when “Angel of Death” began. It’s a rare thing to see a band knowing it may be the last time and this was apparent to the fans as few left before the end of the show. It was clear they wanted all the Slayer they could get and Slayer gave them exactly what they wanted.

The tour continues through the end of the year. There are some European festival dates booked for 2019 and rumors of possible Big Four shows in the future, after which Slayer states they will retire. It’s difficult to imagine a metal world without Slayer. Even in my forties it seems like they’ve always been one of the defining bands in metal. Whether this will be the first on many “final” tours or the actual final tour we’ll have to wait and see. I suspect (and hope) that Slayer will continue showing professional dignity and end their career when it’s time without dragging the end out for several years. Either way, a final chance to see them live could be slipping away!

Lamb of God Photo Gallery

Naplam Death Photo Gallery

Testament Photo Gallery

Anthrax Photo Gallery

Slayer Photo Gallery

CD Review: ‘Apex Predator – Easy Meat’ by Napalm Death

The grind continues on Napalm Death’s 15th release, Apex Predator-Easy Meat. Always a band willing to step outside the box, the droning title track stomps in industrial glory. This unorthodox opener may throw some off, but the band kicks things back in thrashing fury on “Smash a Single Digit.” “Smash” is no-frills Napalm complete with blast beats and Barney Greenway’s trademark bark. The vicious “Metaphorically Screw You” is 2 minutes of brutal ecstasy. The twisting riffs and relentless speed reaffirm why Napalm are the kings of grindcore. The dissonant guitars on “Stubborn Stains” oddly complement the frantic drumming on this track, creating an interesting syncopation between the guitar and drums. Then there is “Dear Slum Landlord,” which drew considerable criticism when a video of the band performing the song was leaked. Perhaps some thought the band would do a Morbid Angel and release a soft or “non-metal” album. However, those doubters are wrong and the brief track is certainly not indicative of the album. The first proper single of Apex “Cesspits” certainly put many fans at ease. Its sound is somewhat accessible like “When All Is Said and Done” on 2006’s Smear Campaign. The hardcore punk grit of “Bloodless Coup” shows the versatility of the group. It puts to shame most of the stuff masquerading as “hardcore” these days.

The production on Apex Predator is top notch. The raw digital sound on the group’s four albums or so is present here. It is clear, concise and never overbearing. It is good to hear the bass, guitars and drums without one instrument bleeding into the other. Musically, the band is riding a creative wave. There is a great balance between convention and experiment. In addition, this is the shortest Napalm Death album since Enemy of the Music Business in 2000. At 40 minutes, the band handles business in ample time, thus never becoming stale.

When all is said and done, Napalm has crafted another great album. This is the band’s fifth record since 2005 and it is clear the band are not stopping anytime soon. Apex Predator will thrill fans of the band and anyone looking for some good extreme metal. The blast is strong with this one.

To view more, visit their website at www.napalmdeath.org