Midnight – No Mercy for Mayhem

midnight - no mercy cover
Midnight made waves in the metal/punk community with their brilliant debut LP Satanic Royalty.  I’ve owned it since it came out in 2011 and I’m still not tired of it.    If you can, track down the copy which comes with a DVD.  It’s worth the price to see some of the interview and live footage of the band.  They call Cleveland, OH home and although I’ve never been there, I’ve heard it’s a shit stain of a city which explains the grimy, dirty punk/metal these guys spew forth.

Made up of Athenar (Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Drums, Commandor Vanik – (Guitar), and SS (Drums), these fellas play balls to the wall metal.  Take the straight forward punk songs (three chords), shout along choruses, Lemmy-style vocals, and the tuning of Venom, early Slayer, and you have Midnight.  That alone should get your attention.

The album starts with an ominous intro which leads into “Evil Like a Knife”.  The chant of “Evil! Evil! Evil!” takes me back to the Slayer song “Evil has No Boundaries” from Live Undead.  The immediacy of this album hits throughout as one song after another pummels your brain.  The pacing of this album is great too.  You can actually envision these guys playing this album from front to back in a live setting kicking it off hard (“Evil Like a Knife”), slowing it down a touch with “Prowling Leather” and “No Mercy for Mayhem”, picking up the pace a bit for “Degradation” (my favorite track), and wrapping things up nicely at the end with “Aggressive Crucifixion”.   It’s not only the song order, but the production that makes these feel so raw and live.  If you shut your eyes and cranked this to 11, you’d swear they were right in front of you.

My only gripe is I want more!  The album is around 30 minutes long and while that’s long enough for many bands to outstay their welcome when playing this type of music, Midnight keeps you salivating for more.  I’ve listened to this 3 times in a row (getting ready for a fourth).  It’s that addictive and that good.

This release should really put them on the metal map as one of the great acts of the last few years.  Other bands try this style and comes off as either too punk, too metal, or they simply can’t write songs this catchy.  I didn’t think they could top Satanic Royalty.   Midnight has achieved what I feel to be an instant classic in No Mercy for Mayhem and thankfully proved me wrong.

The LP comes out 8/19/14 on Hell’s Headbangers.  Details and format information (along with ordering) can be found here: http://shop-hellsheadbangers.com/midnight-no-mercy-for-mayhem.asp

midnight - promo 2014 4midnight - promo 2014 3midnight - logo

Ashen Horde – Sanguinum Vindicta

a1996665691_2

Hollywood, CA is the home of movie stars, fake tits, plenty of sunshine, and home to the great Ashen Horde.  The first release was the EP Ab Initio was released in 2013.  A solid debut by the one-man band showcasing a solid understanding of death metal as well as a few melodic touches here and there.  This EP is 4 songs long and provided a glimpse into the great mind of Trevor Portz.  While great, it doesn’t compare to the absolutely brilliant and essential new full-length Sanguinum Vindicta.

Drawing influence from the crème de la extreme, Ashen Horde celebrates the darker side of metal in all its grim glory. Inspired by bands ranging from Vintersorg to Enslaved, and Tulus to Strapping
Young Lad, this is blackened prog-metal art at its finest. It’s technical and crushing, yet at times darkly melodic.  On Sanguinum Vindicta, there is extreme emphasis on the word ‘melodic’.

The one two punch of “Midwinter’s Lust” and “Baited Breath” will have you banging your head and hitting repeat again and again.  The opening riff to “Baited Breath” packs more melody than most cock rock on the radio, all the while keeping it’s trve status for those who care about such things (I don’t).  The riff takes on various forms throughout the song and brings it back to the original riff by songs end.  This song is an instant classic to my ears.

But that’s not all!  There are 8 more songs of progressive, melodic, brutal metal to be heard and it’s all spectacular.  “Smoke and Shadows” kicks of with a brilliant blast beat/melodic riff that reminds me of a slick lick that Behemoth would create.  “Mind Over Matter” keeps things moving at a frantic pace and slamming home that melody with intense tremolo picking.  It reminds of something Napalm Death would have created in their Diatribes days (only this riff is better than anything on that album).

I could go on and on about each song, but I think you get the idea.  I have seen a few blog posts here and there about Ashen Horde, but not enough.  This album will be in my Top 10 of the year and has absolutely no label support and is all self-funded and released by Trevor.

Absolutely brilliant.

Go to the Ashen Horde Bandcamp and you can buy Sanguinum Vindicta for $10 or you can chip in an extra $3 (or more) and receive both the Sanguinum Vindicta and Ab Initio on fantastic looking CD’s.  It will be the best $13 you’ve spent in ages.

Bandcamp
Facebook

Cormorant – Earth Diver

Earth Diver

I’m not sure what more I can say about Cormorant that I didn’t say in my previous review of Dwellings.  This is a band that can seemingly do no wrong.

This album is on par with their previous efforts, but I feel they have matured as songwriters and musicians.  They seem to be coming into their own as a band and finding their own identity.  Very few artists these days have this capability.  In music (especially metal), we want to categorize our love for a band to describe their sound.  Cormorant escape these trappings and cannot be pigeonholed.  Are they prog metal?  You betcha.  Death metal?  Indeed.  Black metal? Oh yes!  Do they sound like three different bands playing this music?  Not even close.  This is what makes Cormorant so special.  After one play, this will be on repeat in your house or car for many days to come.  Your mind needs these repeated listens to decipher all that Cormorant have to offer.  You will find yourself humming riffs and vocal passages and wanting to give the music spin after spin.

Their vocalist left in 2012 but it didn’t seem to phase the band.  I think the melodic vocals by their new vocalist are even better than on the Dwellings album

Stunning art, stunning music, and stunning packaging.  The full package worthy of your money (and it goes straight to the band).  The good news for vinyl lovers is this album will be seeing a vinyl release by Blood Music.  The art is sure to pop off the jacket with it’s vibrant colors.

While I haven’t heard the new Agalloch or Triptykon, Earth Diver will be a contender for album of the year.

Facebook

Cormorant – Dwellings

Dwellings

If you’re obsessed with music like me, you have a list.  The list is either bands to check out or albums to buy eventually.  I’ve heard arguments made stating there is no good music being made.  Hogwash!  I’m partial to metal music and every year, various blogs and web sites come out with the Top 20, Top 40, etc. albums of the year.  The year 2011 came and went and many of you saw Tombs, Ulcerate, Krallice, Deafheaven, etc. make the list.  Tombs was a popular (and worthy) candidate for album of the year.  NPR’s resident metal expert Lars Gotrich picked Cormorant’s Dwellings as album of the year.  I added it to my list of bands to check out and never got around to it.  Silly me.

Here comes 2014 and Invisible Oranges posted a review of their new album Earth Diver.  It was my reminder to check them out and boy am I glad I did.  Cormorant are based in San Francisco, CA and play a mixture of doom, black metal, and progressive rock.  If you’re like me and can’t stand Yes or King Crimson, don’t let that progressive rock tag scare you away.

I bought both of their albums and started with Dwellings.  This album is like a metal history lesson.  The album begins with what may be one of the greatest/catchiest 45 seconds metal has had to offer in many years in the song “The First Man”.  When you hear it, you know this is something you’ll be listening to 20 years from now and will be considered a classic.  Much like when you put on an Agalloch record (with which these guys have a little in common).  Every song on this album is stellar.  You will hear some black metal, some progressive rock, doom, tons of melody, a little thrash, and it all works cohesively.  I have probably played this album 50 times since it’s purchase (about a month ago).  Yes, it’s THAT good.

Vocals switch between your standard death metal growl, a slightly sung yell, and even standard singing.  Again, it sounds terrible when written out, but it works.

The best part is every dollar you give the band goes right back to them.  They do not have a label and would like to keep it that way.  If these guys sold their soul to a label (I’m sure many have tried), they’d be on every metal blog, in every metal magazine, and on tour.

You don’t need to take my word for it, just listen.

Facebook

Asilo – Comuniòn

Asilo

I live in the USA and have to say, I respect the music being made in other countries.  In the USA, it seems a lot of bands try to copy each other or play what they feel is the ‘next big thing’.  Do we need another hardcore band playing Hatebreed-type songs?  Another black metal band trying too hard to sound like Emperor or Enslaved?  I think not.  That’s not to say there aren’t great bands in the USA.  It just feels like things have become trite and stale.  I’m hoping the new Agalloch and Triptykon will change the landscape a bit for me.

This brings me to Asilo from Argentina.  If you like vocals ranging from screaming to mild singing that equates to sounding like someone losing their mind, look no further.  Do you like Unsane, Eyehategod, with a dash of black metal?  Asilo has you covered.  The songs range from two to eight minutes in what feels like a lesson in metal over the last 10 years.  Everything I enjoy about ‘metal’ is here.  This isn’t a band trying to cram various genres into an album and it comes out sounding forced.  It works from start to finish.  Even the primarily piano-driven interludes “Pichiciega Fe”, “(anti voz)”, and “(no a la vida)” work.  They’re placed in a way to give the listener a short break of being pummeled between the ears.  This breaks show the delicate side of the exists and they appreciate music from all genres which is refreshing.

Overall, I enjoy this album from start to finish and it demands repeated listens.  You can get the album digitally for a name your own price on their Bandcamp page, or you can purchase a CD for $10.  Check ‘em out!!!

Facebook

Bask – American Hollow

Bask

What makes a band stand out among their peers?  Some will say image, maybe fashion, or even a gimmick.  For me, it has always been about the song.  I’ll admit, I have fallen for a gimmick or image in my day, but I’m 40 now and gimmicks don’t really cut it for me anymore.  If the SONG isn’t memorable, I usually move on to the next gem to tantalize my ear holes.

As stated before, I get e-mails, Facebook message, etc. from bands wanting me to take a listen.  While I don’t release much these days, I always like to listen and am honored when a band sends something my way.  This brings us to the band Bask.  Their Facebook message pretty much says it all.  Heavy.  Melodic.  Loud.  These are all things I dig.  Bask hail from Asheville, NC and you can almost feel the country, coal, and blue collar aesthetics running through these songs.  There’s also a slight hint of country in these songs but you’d only notice if you were familiar (I’m talking old country, not Luke Bryan, who isn’t really country, but that’s for another day).

A member of the band sent me their album through a private link (and no I’m not sharing it) and I have to say, these guys should be jamming on stages with Red Fang, Mastodon, and ASG.  The album starts off with the heavy, melodic, loud “High Mountain Pass”.  I challenge you to listen to your local rock station for a day and find a song being played catchier.  It won’t happen.  I’ve played this song countless times in the past few days and I can’t get enough of it.  The songwriting is superb, the dynamics are perfect, and you’d swear these guys are a professional touring act.    “American Hollow” is a 5 1/2 minute stunner.  It starts with a haunting song that starts with a catchy clean guitar pattern that makes way for a catchy line that tells like a story: “You came on horseback…you left in clouds of smoke.”  This line keeps repeating as the music builds and builds to a final crescendo.  The harsh vocals make their appearance towards the end and add to the dynamics of the song.  Baroness, eat your heart out.

All of that, and we’re only two songs in!  The rest of this is just as great.  It’s not often an album comes along and hit you with this much excellence.  Jennifer Lopez would get what she calls ‘goosies’ from this album.

Check them out live here:

May 9 – Johnson City, TN @ The Hideaway
May 15 – Harrisonburg, VA @ The Blue Nile
May 16 – Charlottesville, VA @ Main St Annex
May 17 – Huntington, WV @ The V Club

Online:

Bandcamp (one song only)
Facebook

Body Hammer and Chasma PRE ORDER NOW!!!

The long wait is here. Sorry it took so long.  Money is tight (as always).

Body Hammer’s II: The Mechanism of Night CD’s are here and look awesome.  We put a lot of time and money into this project so I hope you can find it in your black heart to help support it.

Chasma’s Codex Constellatia vinyl is on the way.  These dudes were on Moribund Records and I’m proud to release this one on vinyl.

Both of these will be shipping out towards the end of May.  I will try to throw in some extras as I’m eliminating some dead stock I have laying around.  If you get something you already have, give it to a friend.

Here’s the link to Bandcamp which now has physical ordering options as well: http://thepathlesstraveledrecords.bandcamp.com/

As always, thanks for your support.

Eos – L’Avalé (review/interview)

1619500_276137132543773_15398844_n

A funny thing is  happening now that I’m more in a writing mode as opposed to a ‘label guy’ mode.  All the e-mails and music that I see is being examined with a different lens.  I can finally kick back and APPRECIATE music again.  It’s hard to explain, but there are times when you’re so entrenched in your own world, you find time escapes you.  I love music.  I always have.  But when you run a label, things are much different.  If you’re not putting something out, you tend to listen briefly and move on.  You know it’s good and you’re aware someone else has put it out, and you type it into your ‘want list’ and off you go.  Now when something comes around, I can listen intently and appreciate (there’s that word again) music.  I can fall in love with it again.  I’m not worried about time lines, bands getting me art, me approving art, putting bar codes on the back of 200 records, shipping, etc.  The fun is back.  This brings me to Eos.

I am on the Fallen Empire mailing list.  I have been for a while.   I know they’re a great label.  This one came across my inbox about 3 days after I made the decision.  I listened to one song and was hooked.  I asked the Fallen Empire folks if I could have a contact e-mail for the ‘band’ and they responded immediately.

The music is what many would generically label as ‘black metal’.  To me, it’s much more.  It’s black metal that you can feel and touch.  It takes hold of your senses and pulls you in.  The sound is extremely organic in nature.  It sounds as though they plugged in and went for it without sound like it was recorded in a bedroom.

Eos is made up of two members who are known to me as “G” and “K”.  They live together and make music.  They are from Québec City and make some of the best depressive, bleak black metal you will hear all year.  I sent them some questions as finding information about them on the Internet was difficult (don’t worry, I will have links at the end for you).  If you like what you read and what you hear below, be sure to go check them out and also check out Fallen Empire out of New Jersey.  A great label that is putting out some extremely beautiful and dark music.  Bands/labels like these don’t get the press they deserve.  Enjoy!

What are your names and what instruments did you play on L’Avalé?  Did anyone else contribute?

G. : I played all the guitars and bass on L’Avalé.
K. : I played all the drums and did all the vocals on the release. No one else contributed.

Where are you from?

G. :Québec City

How did Fallen Empire hear of Eos?

G. : They wanted a Wendess’ track for the SVN OKKLT compilation, but we didn’t have any track to contribute. I then suggested Eos since we were already in the process to record some demo tracks, which led to the Katharsis track on the compilation. Mike is a great guy to work with and we hope it will be a long partnership.

How many releases do you have out?

G. Beside L’avalé, the only other release we have is the demo version of Katharsis, which is on Fallen Empire’s SVN OKKLT compilation.

Can you describe the recording process?  Can you let me know the gear you used?

G. We both studied in sound engineering, so we did everything ourselves. First, we recorded the drums in our rehearsal place with a Sennheiser MD-421 on the bass drum and on the toms, Shure sm57 on the snare and we don’t remember for the overhead unfortunately. The  rhythm guitars were recorded at our school studio with a SM57 and MD-421. The rest of the guitars were recorded at our rehearsal place as well as the vocals which were recorded with a SM-58. The bass was done with a D.I mixed with the amplifier signal. We mixed and mastered all the demo at our home-studio with Cubase 7. The result is not what we first expected but still, we had everything under our control.

Who are your influences?

G. I’d say Emperor, Deathspell Omega, Swans, etc.
K. : Deathspell Omega, Mayhem, Sonic Youth, maudlin of the Well
What are your thoughts on illegal downloading?

K. : We’re both not against it and that’s a reason why we want to put anything we will release for free download.  We cannot say how many bands we’ve discovered by illegal downloading, free download or YouTube and that we’ve went to their shows, bought their merch and their physical albums after.  As an underground band we want to be heard but we don’t expect to earn our lives with our music.  Still, we know that for some other band, it’s not the case, but illegal download still help them to be known.

Your album has a very bleak sound but also sounds somewhat hopeful.  That may sound weird for what sounds like black metal.  I think there are some melodic undertones (especially on Avale).  Is there a sense of ‘hope’ in these songs?

K. : If you can feel hope then yes there is.  As in life, if you can sense all the grey, but you can see it in a kind of objective way and get over it all, well there can be hope.

Any shows planned in the future?  What is the future for the band?

K. : We’re planning to do live in 2015 and we’re actually composing our first full length which we hope will be finished by the beginning of 2015.

Anything you’d like to add?

G. : Thanks for your interest in our music!

Bandcamp
Facebook

Check out all of Fallen Empire’s:
Bandcamp
Facebook