Friday, 15 July 2016

Metal Bounty Hunter: Volume 10

Cardinals Folly - Holocaust of Ecstasy & Freedom (2016) / 78%

Shadow Kingdom Records

Holocaust of Boobs and Doom

The third full length album from this Helsinki based trio is their most cohesive, concise and possibly their best one yet. Lead by Mikko Kääriäinen (bass, vocals, songwriting), the band plays this unhinged sort of groovy material with huge guitar hooks and rock hard drums. I always liked the thick Finnish accent in my doom (or heavy metal) and Mikko’s delivery delivers on that front with the way he sings those excellent and fun Lovecraftian occult lyrics. There’s also some harsh vocal moments and I think it adds a certain urgency to the fast paced material (such as the catchy title track).

It’s hard to avoid the Reverend Bizarre analogies since they practice the olde trad doom with the same determination, the same might and the same lack of restraint. They’re perhaps more subdued than the punk fueled inspired doom of Caskets Open though. I like the production, there’s a certain rawness to it that makes the seven songs sound natural and less polished than your usual modern metal. Overall, Cardinals Folly released a melancholic but entrancing record. Recommended for the doom lovers.

Red Blade – Powerwalker (2011) / 75%

Defunct but sharp blade

I had this in my review folder for ages but never got around it. The now defunct Connecticut based band was super interesting and it’s a damn shame they broke up before releasing their debut full length album. The Powerwalker EP is a four song heavy metal release with a distinctive sound borrowing influences from thrash, grunge, stoner rock or hardcore punk. At times it sounds the Melvins mixed with The Sword and pure trad heavy metal. The production has the rightful amount of quality and lo-fi-ness to make the songs sound good and immediate and the vocals of Jacob Royer are far from your typical heavy metal delivery, they're gritty and influenced by both stoner metal and, to a lesser extent, southern rock.

It’s often pretty fast stuff with sweet guitar licks, a lot of immediate melodies and you can definitely hear the influences of other original traditional bands such as Blackholicus in there. The first three tracks are all around three minutes and just doesn't mess around with unnecessary stuff, it's to the point raw energy with a live feel. There's a good chemistry between the loud but subtle bass play, the active drums and the sole guitar. The aggressive but well flowing EP ends with an atmospheric (the end of "Cronos) and you're left wanting more but unfortunately, this is the only serving you've been served!Hopefully the guitarist and apparent composer Ben Erickson can come back with a new project one day since this was definitely inspired material.


Scalare – At the Edge of Darkness (2016) / 77%

Heavy Chains Records

German tempered steel

The German trio plays a primitive form of heavy metal with terrible in a great way vocals and it’s a fun ride into Teutonic evil territories. The ten songs are all fist raising hymns with simple yet super catchy guitar riffs, high pitched vocals that are almost parodic and fast paced NWOBHMish drumming with a rough edge.

Like their colleagues of Heavy Chains (think of Barrow Wight, Angel Sword, Dracula or Tarot), they’re raw examples of what metal means to the most obscure of minds. This is definitely made to remain in the deepest shadows of the genre even if it’s far from being extreme metal. The cheesy spectre of Venom is never too far either, this is just what I’m looking for nowadays, the pureness of heavy metal summoned by bands like Demon Bitch or Iron Dogs (RIP). Scalare unleashed the riffs and know how to write epic and compelling material (the seven minutes “My Journey to the Stars” is certainly a wonderful way to close the record). They might not be for everyone due to the vocals but the veterans of the scene will find something to enjoy here.

Streaming on Bandcamp

El-Ahrairah – El-Ahrairah (2016) / 95%

Raw feels

After countless demos (I’ll admit I haven’t heard any of them), the Minnesota project released their debut full length back in May and it’s surely one of the best black metal albums I’ve heard this year.

What makes this great is the emotional weight of their succinct numbers and the ability to mix the rawness of their black art with an alluring and almost joyful aura. Songs like “Madeline and Edmund” or the calm and soothing moments on “Cut Like Rogues” really bring a gloomy but melancholic atmosphere to the band’s identity. Like some members of the USBM movement, El-Ahrairah does possess some slight punk leanings (listen to “Gates of Dawn”) but it’s also some sort of concise epic black metal with rough but really discernible guitar riffs. They also clearly explore depressive rock territories (à la Lifelover) at times. The mix of sounds is carefully crafted and done with the utmost care and talent.

The vocals are pretty vitriolic and strident in the best way possible, they’re loud in the mix but this impetuous formula works wonder for the thundering and abrasive sound they picked. The band also really shines when they use sparse but totally surprising clean vocals like the end of the superb closer “Rind of the Earth”. There’s nothing wasted on this record, it’s an essential album, really.


Astronoid – Air (2016) / 50%

Blood Music

The foul air of asinine modernity

The Massachusetts quintet took the thin line between post metal and shoegaze to the next level with their debut album. If you thought metal reached the maximum level of smoothness , well you were wrong. This is by far the least dangerous the genre has ever been. Astronoid took the space metal of Cynic, removed the quasi nonexistent amount of extreme metal they had, they added a super whiny pop punk voice and added competent but out of place blastbeats to the whole thing. While the saccharine voice is certainly a good fit to the post rock core, it’s really damn annoying.

The songs are all dense and they flow really well, this and the true uplifting feel Air has some of the only qualities the band has. If you think Neurosis needed to sound more like Alcest, I guess this is the band for you?


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