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/

CD Review: “Electric Messiah” by High On Fire

High On Fire pay tribute to the legendary Lemmy Kilmister with its aptly titled eighth record, Electric Messiah. The trio’s blend of Motorhead, Black Sabbath and Slayer is in full throttle throughout the record. “Spewn from the Earth” is a straight trasher replete with frontman Matt Pike’s guttural wails and ground shaking guitar riffs. Drummer Des Kensel’s manic double bass only heightens the song’s intensity. “Steps of the Ziggurat/House of Enlil” is one of two epic songs on this album that surpass nine minutes. A metallic take on the history of Sumeria, “Steps” is a towering piece of riffs that trudge forward, engulfing the listener’s ears. Things speed back up on the title track, which would do Lemmy proud. “Electric Messiah” is a blitzing take-no-prisoners assault of pummeling double bass and lighting palm muted riffs. This track offers little breathing room and forces you to bang your head. The way it should be. The second epic track, “Sanctioned Annihilation,” is composed of a driving triplet drum pattern underneath sludgey guitar riffs. This leads to a disjointed, yet cohesive tempo that is slow but mid-paced. There is little drag despite its 10 and a half minute duration, and it stands as the record’s centerpiece. Album closer “Drowning Dog” is a galloping psychedelic rocker that concludes the album in grand fashion.

Electric Messiah rarely lets up throughout its 56 minute duration. This record pays homage to Lemmy in the best way: playing loud, fast and heavy. Matt Pike’s riffs attack from every angle while bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Kensel easily keep up. The record’s primary weak spot is “The Witch and the Christ” which lacks direction. Matt and company are at their best when they are dynamic and have an end goal. Luckily, this is only one misstep and the other eight tracks more than make up for it. The production is rugged yet clear, and one can hear the band’s pugnacious sound in all its glory.

Matt certainly paid proper respect on Electric Messiah. A heavy, thrilling musical journey that will leave ears bleeding and necks hurting. Fans of the band should pick this up as well as folks new to the group. This is certainly worship music for the Church of Metal.

Check out the band’s official website here:

http://highonfire.net/

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

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Testament Photo Gallery

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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/

Slayer’s Summer Tour drenches Baltimore

Drenching wet, save for my camera, I stood dripping under the canopy of the Pier Six Pavilion in Baltimore.  Umbrella or not, blocks of walking through the streets overflowing with water had left me and my fellow concert-goers far from dry.  Our victory: standing in the presence of one another, and soon, of some stellar musicians under the safety of the awning overhead.  Tonight would be one of metal, for we were about to embark upon a journey led by Behemoth, Lamb Of God, and Slayer.

 

Behemoth: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

I had heard great things regarding The Satanist, the newest album from Polish metal band, Behemoth, and thus was excited to experience them trial by fire.  Though I dabbled in a few songs prior to the show, I was largely approaching their music with virgin ears.  Not only did I not burst into flames, but I was stunned by the sheer power exuded by these blood-coated individuals on stage.  Nergal, the frontman of the group, roared out lyrics and waved an incense burner to properly acclimate the crowd, while low-ender, Orion, and lead guitarist, Seth, gave off devilish smiles and riffed out one dissonant chord after the next.  Drummer, Jon Rice, filling in for regular percussionist, Inferno, pounded out one song after another, and I certainly had no complaints.

 

Lamb Of God: Official Website | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram

The Richmond, VA-based groove metalers, Lamb Of God, are the one act who played on July 28 which I probably knew best, especially considering I had reviewed their last full-length release, VII: Sturm und Drang.  However, despite my love of their music, I had yet to see them in concert.  I was not disappointed!  Drawing most of their material from Sacrament, followed by the aforementioned album, the quintet launched through ten of their most recognized songs, even teasing a few seconds of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.”  Throughout, vocalist Randy Blythe hurled himself through the air, belting out his signature guttural tones, while the Adler brothers, along with Mark Morton and John Campbell, created a sonic wall of destruction.  They closed their 50 minute set out with the rhythmically infectious “Redneck,” and it was clear that the crowd would have loved an hour more.

 

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

As part of thrash metal’s Big Four, alongside Metallica, Megadeth, and Anthrax, Slayer helped pioneer American thrash metal in the early 1980s.  When I tried to induct myself into the leagues of Slayer fans years ago (when I first became a fan of Metallica and Megadeth), I didn’t see the appeal.  However, with time my tastes has fluctuated, and upon listening to albums like Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits, and Reign In Blood recently, I’ve found that immersing myself in their music is greatly welcomed.  And they were ever bit as intense as I imagined, ripping through an hour and a half of music at breakneck speeds, with guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt alternating through blistering solos.  Towards the end, someone attempted to yell at frontman and bassist, Tom Araya, between songs.  Tom, unable to hear what the fan was saying, began moving his lips silently in reply.  I couldn’t see the fan from my vantage point, but it seems someone thought a middle-finger was in order, which saw Araya smiling with the release of a few birds of his own.  Next thing you know, the entire audience was waving middle-fingers in the air.

As a metal fan, I greatly enjoyed this show, and I would have been sorely disappointed had I missed it.  While I was still far from dry by the time the last song rolled around, it was time well-spent, and you’d do well not to deprive yourself of the experience.

CD Review: “Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume” by Integrity

Darkness abounds on Integrity’s ninth release, Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume. The trio conjures imagery of black magic and devilry over a serrated blend of hardcore and metal. “Blood Sermon” morphs from black metal to d-beat throughout the song’s three minute duration. Equal parts Darkthrone and Discharge, the track provides a glimpse of the album’s sound. The Slayer-esque “Hymn For The Children Of The Black Flame” is speedfest with hacksaw guitars and dissonant guitar leads. It is a short, but relentless track that packs a punch. Things come to a gloomy halt towards the middle of the record. “Serpent At The Crossroads” and “Unholy Salvation Of The Sabbatai Zevi” are slow, crunching dirges with melancholy, sinuous riffs. The classical guitar leads provide the perfect contrast to the downbeat mood on these tracks. There is a gothic beauty here, especially on “Unholy Salvation.” The band takes the swampy riffs of Autopsy and combines it with Gothenburg inspired leads. “String Up My Teeth” is a mid-tempo rocker more in tune with Motorhead or 80s rock. However, it fits on the album and has a nice bluesy solo.

Integrity take risks on Howling, which makes it a good record. Bands have mixed hardcore and metal for over 30 years now. However, Integrity take things further by blending thrash, doom, hardcore and black metal on 11 tracks. It manages to not sound disjointed and still retains a degree of complexity to it. The crunchy production is a highlight as it encapsulates the dark and menacing tone of the music. It is not muffled or tinny as the instruments blare from the stereo.

Howling, For The Nightmare Shall Consume, is a dark but fun record that show Integrity can hang with the young guns. Last year, Integrity’s label mates Ringworm released Snake Church, which has a sound similar to Howling. It makes one wonder if Integrity heard that record and had a creative spark, or wanted to fire back. Regardless, the band sounds great on here and has not lost its edge in its 29 year career. The music on this record is the stuff nightmares are made of.

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

https://www.facebook.com/INTEGRITY.HT/

CD Review: “In His Infernal Majesty’s Service” by Witchery

Blackened thrash metal supergroup Witchery return after a six year absence with its sixth hellish offering, In His Infernal Majesty’s Service. “Lavey-athan” storms from the abyss like a demon ready to devour innocent souls. The track is full on thrash with chainsaw guitars and punkish drumming. The stomping midsection gives way to an eerie clean guitar and a whispered verse before ending on a heavy note. The chaotic “Netherworld Emperor” is a pugilistic track that strikes from all angles. New drummer Chris Barkensjo showcases his skills here as the track has several time changes but maintains a consistent groove. “Nosferatu” is the initial single and one can see why with its galloping riffs and frontman Angus Norder’s shrieking vocals. The band’s black metal roots show on this track with its dissonant riffs and the atonal guitar lead. Things speed up on “The Burning of Salem” which recalls early Slayer. The suffocating riffs sound like a fiery whirlwind while the drums manage to keep up. The apex of the song is during the middle when we hear a man identifying himself as Salem’s magistrate sentence several defendants to death by hanging. History certainly comes alive on this track. A haunting organ opens up “Escape From Dunwich Valley”which grooves from start to finish. Guitarists Jensen and Rikard Rimfalt put their stamps on this track, as this track as a major Black Sabbath vibe.

 In His Infernal Majesty’s Service main strength is the diverse songwriting. The band draws from death, black, death and even doom metal to forge some unpredictable but dynamic songs. Witchery refuses to play within any parameters, but can play in the pocket when necessary as seen on “Escape From Dunwich Valley.” Musically, the band members all hail from some of metal’s most revered bands. Bassist Sharlee D’Angelo plays in Arch Enemy, guitarist Jensen plays in The Haunted and lead guitarist Rikard Rimfalt played in Seance. These guys can play melodic metal or straight thrash at the drop of a coin. We see this throughout Majesty and it gives the record an extra kick.

The six year absence certainly has not dulled Witchery. In His Infernal Majesty’s Service would please the Dark One as only Witchery can do. It is pure blasphemous heavy metal that rarely lets up. Fans of the band member’s main bands should pick this up as should fans of extreme metal. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is the soundtrack for the journey.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s official Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/officialwitchery/

CD Review: “Decision Day” by Sodom

It took three years, but the legendary Teutonic thrash outfit Sodom is back with its fifteenth record, Decision Day. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the band’s formation in 1981. However, the band still retains the aggression and Satanic vigor of its early years. The opening track, “In Retribution,” blasts through with reckless abandon with its chainsaw riffing and maniacal drumming. Frontman and bassist Tom Angelripper’s fiendish shrieks are as menacing as they were on Persecution Mania. The title track has a strong Slayer influence with its dissonant guitar chords and double bass drumming. It is a thrasher with a solid groove but a little underwhelming compared to the initial track. However, the barraging “Caligula” is a mammoth tribute to the decadent Roman emperor. The lumbering guitar riffs sound like a centurion of demons clearing a path for Caligula himself. A Sodom record is not complete without a blasphemous track, and “Who Is God” fulfills that requirement. The punkish tempo moves things at a hellish pace before it is drowned by a molten breakdown towards the end of the song. Another standout is the hellish “Belligerence” with its sinister meld of groove, blast beats and punk. The schizophrenic nature of the track puts the listener on alert for its duration, never knowing what will happen next.

Decision Day does not attempt the reinvent the wheel. Sodom is more than able to do what it wants at this point. Still, the trio deserves props for not simply dialing it in. Decision Day has great songs and there is some solid musicianship. One should not forget that Sodom was the least technical band out of the “Teutonic Three” with Destruction and Kreator pushing the musical envelope. Still, Sodom won the award for being the most extreme out of the trio both in music and lyrics. Decision Day shows the band playing blackened thrash the way it is meant to be played, nothing more and certainly no less. The production is slightly murky, and it works as it gives the music a raw edge.

Well, the grizzled trio have created another devilish treat with Decision Day. The are some solid songs on this record that will cause headbanging and moshing on the band’s upcoming tour. That is all that matters at this point. Sodom have a winning formula and it sticks to it on Decision Day. If one decides to purchase this record they will not be disappointed.

For news and tour dates, check out the band’s website http://www.sodomized.info/?l=en

CD Review: ‘Mass Confusion’ by Dust Bolt

German thrash outfit Dust Bolt cut to the chase on Mass Confusion. The opening track, “Sick X Brain” is one minute of full on crossover thrash. The blitzkrieg rages on with the title track which starts with chugging riffs before the band launches a thrash onslaught. There are strains of Metallica, Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, and Destruction on this track, showing the versatility of the band. The pummeling breakdown in the middle of this song is gold. The initial single, “Allergy” is a frantic riff tornado that that gives the listener little room to breathe. Things get a hectic on “Mind The Gap” with its time signature changes, but drummer Nico Remann keeps it all together. It is one of the more interesting tracks on the record especially with its shredding lead. “Exit” is a somber semi-acoustic number that breaks up the ferocity of the record. It is not filler and prevents the record from sounding monotonous.

Mass Confusion is thrash metal played right. The Teutonic quartet has done its homework, drawing influence from the thrash and hardcore groups of the 80s. Mass Confusion is not too crossover or too thrash and finds a solid median. The musicianship is top notch as guitarists Lenny Breuss and Flo Dehn play well with each other. The duo seamlessly trade riffs and keep a tight rhythm. The album is produced well as there is no clipping and the instruments do not bleed in to one another.

Dust Bolt were not confused when recording Mass Confusion. The band has all its marbles on this, its third record, and plays them well. Mass Confusion is a great thrash/crossover record that is a cut above the current but stale thrash revival scene. The band puts its own unique spin on an older subgenre to good results. Fans of The Haunted, Municipal Waste and Toxic Holocaust should pick up this record. Dust Bolt bring the speed.

For news and tour dates, check out Dust Bolt’s website: http://dustbolt.com/

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/