CD Review: “Downfall Of Mankind” by Nervosa

Brazilian death-thrash trio Nervosa deliver a blistering dose of speed on its third album, Downfall Of Mankind. The album’s brief intro is dissonant and foreboding, merely hinting at what is in store. The next track, “Horrordrome,” is a full on thrash assault. This song is rife with sharp riffs and blast beats while guitarist Prika Amaral unleashes a chaotic solo. “Never Forget Never Repeat” is a scathing commentary on human history and how bigotry and hatred leads to war and genocide. The brutality of the music complements the lyrics with its maniacal speed and steel cutting guitar riffs. The relentless tempo feels like you are in the midst of a battle among dead bodies and rubble. On “Enslave” there is a tinge of Swedish death metal fused with a hardcore stomp. The song seamlessly speeds up and slows down, and is sure to induce a circle pit at a show. That hardcore influence reappears in all its brutal glory on “…And Justice For Whom?” New drummer Luana Dametto is merciless on the kit, hitting double beats, blast beats and everything in between. Frontwoman Fernanda Lira’s demonic shrieks heighten the energy on this track, making it one of the best on the album. “No Mercy” is one of the fastest songs on Downfall, giving the listener little room to relax save for a brief breakdown during the midsection. This track certainly lives up to its title.

Downfall Of Mankind shows Nervosa maturing as a cohesive unit. The songwriting is technical and precise, but also brutal and unpredictable. The songs twist and turn, but are never wayward. Nervosa are never overambitious, and keep each track under the five minute mark, thus the tracks never linger. The production is great, with no tinny drum sounds or overly thick guitar sound.

Nervosa hit a home run with this album. Downfall Of Mankind is the group’s best record to date and one of the best metal albums of 2018. The social commentary, hardcore drumming and blistering riffs fuse together for an aggressive, unrelenting yet thought provoking album. This record is a mandatory purchase for fans of both old school and contemporary metal.

Check out the band’s official website:

http://nervosaofficial.com/site/eng-band/

CD Review: “Psychosis” by Cavalera Conspiracy

Max and Igor Cavalera continue their brotherly brutality on Cavalera Conspiracy’s fourth record, Psychosis. Sepultura fans can rejoice as Psychosis is primarily based on Arise and Chaos A.D. with its fusion of hardcore, groove and thrash. There is even a smidgen of industrial to liven things up. Album opener “Insane” is a thrashing blitzkrieg with riffs that can slice through a tank. This track is relentless and annihilates everything in its path. “Terror Tactics” continues the metallic assault with maniacal drumming and skull splitting riffs. The song’s tempo abruptly changes into a nice groove with stomping riffs to conclude this track. “Crom” pays homage to the world of Conan the Barbarian. This ode to the Cimmerian god opens with tribal drums before Max breaks out a pummeling riff and Marc Rizzo plays an ear piercing solo and then chaos breaks loose. Rizzo’s hellish solos perfectly fit Max’s cacophonous rhythm guitar. The record takes an industrial detour on “Hellfire” with its repetitive robotic drumming and hypnotic guitar samples. This track seems slightly out of place halfway through a record of straight metal, but hats off to the guys for bringing in Justin Broadrick of Napalm Death and Godflesh to deliver vocals. Luckily, this is a brief detour as “Judas Pariah” is a mix of grindcore and groove metal that works quite well. Of course, a Cavalera album is not complete without a track rife with tribal percussion and we get that on the title track. This four minute instrumental is an amalgamation of tribal beats and electronica that is both mysterious yet uplifting. Oftentimes people underestimate how musically diverse the Cavaleras are and can compose very good world music. Album closer “Excruciating” is pure butchery as are privy to an endless firestorm of fast, sharp riffs and drumming. The track’s midsection then switches gears with a slower tempo and disturbing sound effects that concludes the record in haunting fashion.

Psychosis encapsulates everything fans love about pre-1997 Sepultura with its successful blend of metal and hardcore. The songs transition seamlessly from break neck speed to mid-tempo head movers. Max, Igor, Marc and bassist Andy Rizk can play in the pocket when necessary and then breakout without hesitation. This should not surprise anyone as Max and Igor have played together for over 30 years and made some of the most influential albums in heavy metal. One of the album’s few weak spots is the lack of lead playing from Marc Rizzo. Marc’s guitar work in Soulfly is incendiary and diverse, yet he is afforded few spots on Psychosis to showcase his playing. Hopefully he will show off his chops on the upcoming Soulfly record.

Ultimately, this album is a crusher that will please fans of Sepultura and extreme metal in general. It is Max and Igor Cavalera afterall, yet these brothers do not rest on their laurels and clearly put their hearts and souls into making this record. Psychosis is a lethal dose of thrash, hardcore, grindcore and industrial making it an unpredictable, but exciting listen from beginning to end.

Check out the band’s Facebook page for news and tour dates:

https://www.facebook.com/cavaleraconspiracy/

Testament / Sepultura / Prong in Baltimore

“Are you going to the Testament show on April 24?” a friend asked me casually.  “I wouldn’t miss it,” I replied.  And what reason could I have to not come out to see such a stellar line-up, featuring not only Testament, but supporting bands, Sepultura and Prong.  Each of these groups have released albums that I’ve cherished as part of my music collection, and I certainly wasn’t going to skip a chance at enjoying those songs live.  Despite some miscommunication that delayed my entry to Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore until after the opening band had come and gone, I entered to provide you with these photos.

Prong: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

An Italian musician and friend, Max Usai of Confrontational, turned me on to a number of bands years ago, including Prong, Sepultura, and Sadus (whose bassist, Steve DiGiorgio, now plays with Testament).  I thank him a great deal for sharing his musical joys with me and allowing me to make them my own.  I’ve enjoyed Tommy Victor and each incarnation of Prong that I’ve heard through the years, and he and the boys were kind enough to come out swinging last Monday.  Though only a three-piece, Tommy ripped on the guitar, backed up nicely by Mike Longworth on bass, and Art Cruz, whose energy erupted from behind the drumset.  And while only having time for a six-song set, they made the most of it, unleashing several tracks from their new album, X (No Absolutes), then digging back into their catalog for a few classic tunes from Prove You Wrong and Cleansing.   The set ended with “Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck,” and chants from fans continued for Prong even as roadies took apart the equipment.

 

Sepultura: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

I remember walking through a record store in the outskirts of Dallas, TX years ago and taking home a treasure trove of heavy metal albums.  Two of those albums were Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. and Roots.  The Brazilian metaller’s style of music has evolved throughout the years, beginning with thrash and diverging into more groove-oriented metal when they reached the two aforementioned works.  Now, as the band tours behind its newest release, Machine Messiah, they are rousing audiences with a large collection of songs going all the way back to 1989’s “Beneath The Remains,” but focusing heavily on the new material.  They did a great job of keeping the crowd engaged, as fists jutted into the air in time with the rhythm of the drums (with vocalist Derrick Green joining drummer Eloy Casagrande at one point on a separate snare).  Bassist Paulo Jr. kept the songs tight with Eloy (who was an absolute beast behind the kit), while guitarist Andreas Kisser sank into his riffs, to the joy of those in attendance.  They ended with a 1-2-3 punch of “Refuse/Resist,” “Ratamahatta,” and “Roots Bloody Roots,” which lead the crowd into a frenzy of thrashing delight.

 

Testament: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

Finally, the band at the top of the docket.  Testament has been celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the release of their debut album, The Legacy, which appeared in 1987.  That being said, the majority of their set isn’t pulled from that album, but rather their latest release, Brotherhood Of The Snake.  But they did state that they were trying to change up the setlist they usually play on this tour, and dug down for some tracks that may not get as much love as they should.  Thus, fans heard songs that ranged over nine different releases from throughout the group’s career, and were ecstatic at them all.  Perhaps the most unusual part of their set was not the song choices, but rather the inclusion of a solo performance by every member of the ensemble.  The exception, of course, was vocalist Chuck Billy, but the rest of them took to their instruments in the most impressive of ways.  Bassist Steve DiGiorgio finished his solo by flowing directly into “Urotsukidôji,” joined by the rest of the cast, which served as something of an extended solo performance for those involved.  What particularly stands out in my mind, however, is the band’s song called “Into The Pit,” which resulted in a lot of moshing and quite a few crowd surfers.  If I recall correctly, this venue had signs up threatening expulsion if crowd surfing occurred, but dedicated fans ignored those warnings as they floated blissfully over a sea of hands and into the waiting arms of security guards…who immediately let them right back out into the thick of it.

I had so much fun at this show, and I’m sure you will too.  The musicians are all very humbled to have such a warm welcome, and pour their souls into the performances.  You will not be disappointed.

Live photos: Testament, Sepultura and Prong at Center Stage in Atlanta GA

Testament, live at Center Stage in Atlanta, GA, April 15, 2017

Images of the thrash metal Testament, along with Sepultura and Prong, from the threesome’s Saturday, April 15 concert at Center Stage in Atlanta, GA. Testament is touring to promote their latest album, titled Brotherhood of the Snake.

This is the third album in a row to feature founding member and guitarist Eric Peterson, singer Chuck Billy, guitarist Alex Skolnick and drummer Gene Hoglan. Returning for his second stint in the band is bassist Steve Di Giorgio.

The band pulled out all the stops production-wise, filling the stage with saturated color, smoke canons and strobes. Musically, they never sounded better, and ripped into cuts from the new album like “The Pale King,” “Centuries of Suffering” and the title track “Brotherhood of the Snake.”

Full gallery of Testament

 

Full gallery of Sepultura

 

Full gallery of Prong

CD Review: ‘Agony’ by Nervosa

Brazilian-thrash trio Nervosa brings the thrash on its second record, Agony. The record opener “Arrogance” rips like a scythe through a torso. There is a strong blending of early Sepultura and Death as frontwoman Fernanda Lira screeches like Chuck Schuldiner. The speed continues on “Theory of Conspiracy” with its blinding guitar riffs and ferocious drumming. Nervosa plays tight, never missing a step. “Intolerance Means War” is the initial single off the record with a riff that hits like a mallet with a few blast beats thrown in for good measure. It is a solid track filled with twists and turns. Things slow down a bit on “Surrounded by Serpents” with its descending, spiraling opening riff and pounding basslines. However, the band cannot slow down for too long and the songs speeds up.

Nervosa sticks to the basics on Agony as the songs are dynamic and nearly void of fluff. That does not mean that the songs are simple, but straightforward. The trio are excellent musicians and throw in several rhythm changes to keep you alert. Nervosa has studied from the temple of Sadus, Sepultura and Slayer and know how to thrash. Of course, where there is thrash, hardcore punk is not too hard to find. There are traces of the band’s hardcore influences throughout the album, especially on “CyberWar.” The production is solid and has a slight vintage feel.

Agony avoids the curse of the sophomore slump and should put Nervosa on the map. The songs are fast and heavy and Nervosa never overdo it. If you like thrash, speed metal or old school death metal then you should purchase this record. There is ecstasy in Agony.

For news and tour dates, check out Nervosa’s official website at http://nervosaofficial.com/site/eng-band/

Interview: Gabriel Tachell of Rhine

Better B# - TAM Logo 2


When I first heard his one-man debut album, Duality, I was as struck as during my initial listen of Opeth’s Blackwater Park. Who was this musical wonder and how was I just finding out about him?  So I wrote to the man behind the Seattle progressive death metal band Rhine, frontman and guitarist Gabriel Tachell, and I decided to ask him a few questions. He graciously answered them in full and I’ve enjoyed what he’s had to say. Join me as we talk about how the band came to open for the legendary Sepultura, cabbages, and the group’s second album which is currently in the works!

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I’m interested to hear about the origins of the band. What was the intention when you began Rhine, and where did the name come from?

Well, I guess my intentions have always been to make interesting music that draws from all of my musical influences and life experiences. To make good sounding albums that are unique, pushing some boundaries, and can hopefully reach people and inspire them the same way I’ve been inspired by my favorite artists. I’m also trying to create a place that I enjoy being in. That’s kind of how I think about music. I listen to an epic Devin Townsend or Opeth record with headphones and it really takes me somewhere emotionally and creates associations with places and imagery.

The name is taken from the river Rhine for a few reasons, one being that I just think it sounds cool. It’s a single word name that is easy to remember and it’s pretty ambiguous, it doesn’t scream out “death metal.” Personally, I’m very drawn to water and spent a lot of time in rivers growing up, and then there’s also the fact that I lived in Germany for all of my elementary school years, and have fond memories of that part of the world.

Rhine at Flights Pub in January 2015.

Rhine at Flights Pub in January 2015.

Rhine’s debut album, Duality, was really a one-man show. What are some of the moments of creating that album that stand out to you?

It was a pretty frustrating and tedious process, but I learned a lot. One of the cool things was this sound booth I built, mainly to feel comfortable singing without being heard. At that point in my life I had never performed metal music live or been a front man for a band, and I was living with friends who weren’t exactly into metal, so I was pretty shy about being heard. In the room I was renting, I built a 4ft x 6ft isolation booth with double walls. I could literally scream as loud as possible in there with my roommates right outside the room watching TV, and they couldn’t hear a thing. I covered it with black canvas inside and had it lit by a red light bulb. It was a quiet, dark little space for me to get crazy in.

Lyrically, what was the focus of your first release? What should people take away from the listening experience?

The theme of “duality” isn’t strictly adhered to throughout the record. But the idea of duality is something I think about a lot. The balance of good and evil in the world, happiness and sadness, dark and light. The last song explores that theme the most I’d say, moving through happy sounding parts and dark sounding, evil, sad etc. All the songs vary a lot lyrically, some are nonsense, some are politically driven, there’s some cheesy gore, apocalyptic fantasy, social anxiety, satire, whatever. Some people just like the sound of the music without being able to understand the words. I’m like that sometimes. With some songs the lyrics and music evolve together and really click, and sometimes I just write instrumentals first, then try to write words that describe the “environment” the music has already created.  I generally prefer music with vocals because they add more emotion, and sometimes you can just make sounds with your mouth and that’s all it takes to get the point across, words are just sounds anyways. That’s something I’ve always thought Devin Townsend was good at, you listen to his albums and you hear all these ooohs and ahhs and stuff going on in the background, all this wordless vocalising. I’m more interested in people taking away the big picture, the vibe, not the specific meaning of each song.

Rhine - Duality CoverThe album cover for Duality looks like it could be a Rorschach ink blot test or a demonic Mickey Mouse. What is the real idea behind the image?

The idea came from me cutting a cabbage in half to make some sauerkraut and noticing how beautiful the inside was, so I stuck it on a scanner and had some fun in Photoshop. I manipulated it in a way that there’s a mirror image thing happening, trying to keep with the theme of duality, and now when you look at it you can see other images the patterns have created, the most obvious being a kind of “moth” shape, or for you a demonic Mickey Mouse, haha.

Rhine recently opened up for Sepultura at Studio Seven in Seattle. Can you tell us how that event came together and give us some memories of the evening?

It was really fun. Our bass player broke his low B string in the second song, and my volume pedal was half way off cutting my gain way down for the first two songs before I figured out what was up, but the energy was still great. A lot of venues add local bands to open for touring acts. We ask for gigs like this all the time, and this one came through.

Who are the current members of Rhine?  How did the band’s present line-up come to fruition?

We’ve got Carlos on drums, Alex on guitar, James on bass, and I do guitar/vocals. James has been a friend of mine for almost 10 years, and he’s been on board to play with me since I started looking for band members. Alex and I hooked up through craigslist and turned out to know some of the same people in other bands. He helped me audition a handful of drummers before we found Carlos, also on craigslist. Once we met him we were playing our first show within 4 months. All great guys and good friends. James is from the northwest. Alex and Carlos are both East Coast transplants. Carlos is actually from Nicaragua originally and immigrated to Florida with his family when he was 11.

The band is currently working on its sophomore release. What can we expect from the new album? Can you fill us in on any details to sate our curiosities?

You can expect improved production quality, better singing (especially clean vocals), and just greater musicianship overall. I personally think the music is becoming more original sounding, also much more progressive on this record. There were originally going to be three tracks that are over 10 minutes long, but I cut one of them out because I want to save it and turn it into an epic 30-40 minute long song like Edge of Sanity’s “Crimson.” That song also happened to be the working title track for the album, so now I’m still working out a new album title. But yeah, I’m really happy with the new material; there’s some really sweet melodies and rhythmic play as well as really dissonant odd time stuff.

Since Duality was really something of a solo album, how does the new release differ in its writing dynamic?

A lot of the writing for this record actually happened the year after I released Duality, long before the band became a real thing. I got side tracked for a while, living in the UK with my girlfriend for a year, then coming back and joining an experimental/prog rock-ish band called Alex’s Hand that I worked on two albums with. I also released a short electronic record at some point there too. Rhine got put on hold for a while, but after I left Alex’s Hand I got serious about recording again. We had a hard time finding a drummer, so I actually hired a session drummer from Vancouver, BC, named Sean Lang to play on the new album. Carlos joined the band after all those tracks were already done, so it’s really just been me again working on it solo. But at least this time I didn’t try to play the drums myself! There is some collaborative writing in the works, you can expect more involvement from band members on future releases.

Listening to your playing, on a variety of instruments, it’s easy to hear how versatile you are. Can you tell us more about your music background?

Well first off, I will say that I’m not actually a good enough drummer to play all the material on that record all the way through. I did record real drums and played them myself, but they were heavily edited and almost all of the double bass was programmed. I didn’t want to make a solo record with straight up midi drums, so I did this as a way to make it sound as real as possible. I honestly don’t consider myself to be a really great guitar player either. I’m pretty unconventional; my rhythm is pretty solid and my leads are just a bunch of legato stuff I’ve figured out how to play fast without actually having to pick very much. I feel like composition is my strength, and my guitar skills just barely keep up with what I write. Coming up with grooves and playing bass comes pretty natural for me, I’ve always been very rhythmically oriented and felt like I should have been a drummer all along, just didn’t get an early enough start. My parents are both classical musicians, so I was playing piano and clarinet from a pretty young age, and singing in choirs. Picked up a guitar when I was 14 and that was that. I got a bachelor’s degree in audio engineering and composition from Evergreen State College, then did an internship at a big studio in Seattle shortly before I started working on Duality.

Who are some of your inspirations, musically and ideologically?

Rhine - Band 2aI’ve gone through phases of listening to tons of genres of music, in a truly geek out kind of way. The number of albums I’ve listened to more than 50 times each is huge, and it covers everything from free jazz to afro pop. Some of my biggest metal influences are Opeth, Devin Townsend/Strapping Young Lad, Enslaved, Hypocrisy, Dan Swano/Edge of Sanity, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Between the Buried and Me, Ulver, Bloodbath, Lamb of God, Gojira, Arcturus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum… I also have to mention Prince and Depeche Mode because they are definitely my absolute favorite non-metal artists. Ideologies are a whole other conversation, not really sure where to begin, so I won’t go into it. I’m very liberal… I’ll just leave it at that.

Can you walk us through your gear setup?

I play a 7 string Schecter in drop B tuning. I’ve got a Peavey 5150 II with some mods I’ve done, running through a vertical 2×12 cab I built. I use a Boss Gt-8 for effects and a Morley Bad Horsie wah. The cool thing about my setup is that I’m able to switch my amp channels with the GT-8. Many people don’t realize this, but combined with the 4 cable method I really have endless versatility, and I’m not using any digital distortion or amp modeling. Alex has also got this setup running with his Marshall head now, it’s great. I also use in-ear monitors just for my vocals. I have a cheap little Behringer microMon on my pedal board that I can plug a mic into, then give the thru output to the sound guy. Works like a charm, I have a coiled headphone cable wrapped around my instrument cable, and my earbuds plugged in right by my guitar jack.

What’s the last thing you listened to?

Fever Ray, self-titled.

What is your hope for Rhine’s future?

I’d like to tour all over the world and work on records with producers I admire. I’d like to quit my day job so we can bust out a new record every 1-2 years, and then in 10+ years, we’ll be much better musicians and songwriters with a huge discography.

Why should people listen to Rhine?

To see if they like it.

 

For more on Rhine, visit:
Official Website
Buy Duality:  From The Band!
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