Monday, 28 August 2017

Review - Stigma (Greece) - Sickness of no survivors 1991

A magnificent death metal demo. Featuring great technical thrash riffs, one of the most amazing drum sound/performance ever layed on tape, absolutely frantic, some keyboard and acoustic breaks similar to how Death did them around the same period; good if slightly unimpressive vocals. The main draw--apart from the quality of the songwriting--for me are the drums, similar in energy to the drums in the second Thanatos album but with a more natural sound. Truly amazing. It's a shame the band didn't release any official albums; one of the best death metal early 90's bands from Greece, along with Death Courier, Septicemia and Selefice,

You can listen to the demo on Youtube here

Their next and final demo, Epitaph (1993), is also great, with a more straight death metal sound and vocals, slightly less exciting production though--but still very high quality. You can check this one out here

Review - Cradle of Filth discography 1992--2015

Cradle of Filth were the band that got me into metal, and since a new album is coming soon, I'll post my pointless opinions here about their previous releases.

Invoking the Unclean - Orgiastic Pleasures Foul: Despite great titles, their first two demos are pretty lacklustre death metal. Can't say I've listened to them more than a couple of times; the production is bad, not in a good way. Am I crazy or was there a third demo called "Black goddess rises?"

Total Fucking Darkness: Recently re-released, this one is fairly better, with improvements overall. Some better riffs and vocals definitely. "The raping of faith" is a stand-out track.

 The Principle of Evil Made Flesh (1994): 
A great debut, with the sound of the band closer to what they would become known for; though the compositions are still slightly immature, excluding classics like the title track, "Summer dying fast," "The black goddess rises," "To Eve the art of witchcraft," maybe "Of mist and midnight skies." Littered with instrumental interludes that may please or annoy, depends. It's a classic either way.

V Empire or Dark Faerytales in Phallustein (1996):
This might be the pinnacle of the discography of the band. 4 new tracks that are among the best in "majestic black metal" as they used to call it, everything from vocals to drums as it should be, great riffs and keyboards, audible bass. Gothic and extreme metal influences combine to form epic tracks in length, ingenuity and atmosphere; which ranges from romantic and melodious to raging Clive Barker-esque hellscapes. The re-recording of "The forest whispers my name" I prefer to the original in the debut; and just one instrumental here. I'd say my favourite ep of all time, definitely check it out.

Dusk and her Embrace (1996):
Definitely my favourite Cradle of Filth album, and the one that has the most successful production of them all. Here the vocals and drums are unbelievable; the rest of the band meshes together in a way you don't often hear in metal, were instruments tend to be fairly "separate." The lyrics, always great, are amazing here. No stand-out tracks here, they're all great.

Cruelty and the Beast (1998):
By many considered the best, despite a somewhat iffy production, this is their first concept album, about the life of infamous Elizabeth Bathory. It's a classic no doubt, with truly amazing lyrics and vocals, and some of the best riffs in their career ("The twisted nails of faith," "Beneath the howling stars," "Bathory Aria,"). Not much to say other than "it's awesome!"

From the Cradle to Enslave (1999):

Their second ep; only two new songs, but both great ("Of dark blood and fucking" is ridiculously underrated), two decent covers and a re-recording of the classic "Funeral in carpathia" from the "Dusk. . .and her Embrace" album which is good (incredible achievement, a good re-recording of an old song). This ep was released alongside a VHS tape--later dvd which is a must, featuring a videoclip for the tittle track and some live songs--if you want to see them at their prime you need it.

Midian (2000):
Loosely inspired by Clive Barker's Cabal and its movie adaptation (among other things), this is considered the last "great" Cradle of Filth album. I like them all. This one is probably the most accessible they've been till now, with a heavier emphasis on riffs--which are thrashier for the most part. Once again great lyrics, great vocals, probably their most well known songs are on this album ("Her ghost in the fog," "Lord Abortion," "Cthulhu Dawn") overall a magnificent work.

Damnation and a Day (2003):
This time inspired by Milton's Paradise Lost, and featuring real orchestral arrangements (never sounds like a full orchestra), this was the first metal album I got; regardless, I think I can objectively review it. It's awesome. An even heavier emphasis on riffs despite the aforementioned orchestra, which is used in one of the best ways ever on a metal record. Some songs are forgettable, (since the album is quite longer than it should be), but overall the effect of the music is not diminished by this.

Nymphetamine (2004):
This album is a little bit too polished and formulaic, with some really catchy songs and some really forgettable ones, simpler and even riffier than "Damnation. . ." I quite enjoy it, and tracks like "Gabrielle," "Filthy little secret," and "Medusa and Hemlock" are undeniably good, even though not very well known.

Thornography (2006):
This is a truly polarizing album; I enjoy it for being different from the previous albums. Quite accessible, a little bit "sell-out," but fun nonetheless. The cover on the left is the "Harder, Darker, Faster" version, which features some great songs not included in the original version--and they are. . . you guessed it. It's the version you want to get if you like it.

Godspeed on the Devil's Thunder (2008):
Very well received, hailed as a return to form, this is a concept album inspired by the life of Giles DeRay, of the crypts of rays. I'd put it in the same league as "Damnation. . ." some great songs, some forgettable. The vocals here are quite better than "Thornography," and continue to improve in the next album--before "Mantichore," which is by far the band's worst album. The "nilely" entitled "Midnight shadows crawl to darken councel with life" features one of the most evil riffs as its chorus. Behold the bold inauguration of the dark side!
Darkly Darkly Venus Aversa (2010):
This one continues the upward swing of the band, with a return of over-the-top keyboards, frantic drumming and even some death metal moments. Still, some songs are forgettable, but you can't have everything. Also a concept album, this time about Lillith, lyrically it's not quite up to par with the previous albums. Still fun.

The Manticore and other horrors (2012):
Really disappointing after two great records. A sub-par vocal performance and way too similar, way too forgettable songs, bad production with the guitars too loud and the keyboards buried even when they are supposed to be leading. Still, if you get tired of the other albums, it would work.

Hammer of the Witches (2015):
A thousand times better than "Manticore," this is Cradle picking up were they left off on "Darkly," with many nods to the past and some to the future. The guitars that had become monolithic around "Nymphetamine" get nimble again, the vocals and lyrics rebound and I was a happy customer. Good parts in all the songs, though some feel unimaginative in their structures. An album that boded well concerning the follow up, and from the two tracks released so far, I don't think I'll be disappointed--and neither any other fans.

Links: Their Official Website  -   Their Official Facebook Page

You can also find their albums in record stores. They're pretty famous.

Review - Berserker by Fred Saberhagen

Berserker is a collection of short stories, the beginning of a saga featuring the titular entities: one of the greatest inventions in science fiction.

Here is how the first story begins:

The machine was a vast fortress, containing no life, set by its long-dead masters to destroy anything that lived. It and many others like it were the inheritance of Earth from some war fought between unknown interstellar empires, in some time that could hardly be connected with any Earthly calendar.
One such machine could hang over a planet colonized by men and in two days pound the surface into a lifeless cloud of dust and steam, a hundred miles deep. This particular one had done just that.
It used no predictable tactics in its dedicated, unconscious war against life. The ancient, unknown gamesmen had built it as a random factor, to be loosed in the enemy's territory to do what damage it might. Men thought its plan of battle was chosen by the random disintegrations of atoms in a block of some long-lived isotope buried deep inside it, and so was not even in theory predictable by opposing brains, human or electronic.

This is probably my favourite collection of science fiction, due to the variety of the stories. The first one is classic puzzle-solving s-f: the protagonist has forced the berserker into a precarious stalemate, and must resist the berserker's mind-beam long enough for reinforcements to arrive by developing a system to trick it--which features his pet monkey (who reminded me of Leinster's Murgatroyd) and an ingenious "programming" solution. A solid story, of a kind that doesn't often get written anymore.

The rest of the stories are nothing like this one; some skew towards space opera, others adventure, horror, fantasy, and even humour; some stories share characters (which lends to the book more continuity then the short introductions to them, written for the book edition), others are stand-alone. This approach may turn off some people, but all of them are great and the variety gives the book an additional, almost mythical depth rarely found in science fiction, even when it is explicitly inspired or emulates mythology.

Consider the excerpt above, describing the berserker; it is the closest thing to an absolutely evil entity, a destroyer of worlds, unequivocally against life but at the same time random and created by unknown beings--it represents anything from death and hate to a cold, indifferent universe and chaos; the berserkers are much like the fomor, or the giants, or the titans; and the stories when read in sequence feel like folklore of the future.

Highly recommend it, and its author, Fred Saberhagen, criminally under-appreciated these days.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Review - Vulture - The Guillotine (2017)

After a very promising ep, "Victim to the Blade" in 2016 comes the debut "The Guillotine" and more then delivers.

Granted, Vulture are not the kind of band that re-invents the wheel, but they make it roll as few other current speed/thrash bands can. And as far as I'm concern they got everything right.

From the production, which is clean and strong, with great guitar tones and drums, a fairly audible bass (considering its metal we're talking about), and AMAZING vocals--from the classic scratchy thrash to the hammer-to-the-balls highs (of which there are many!) the guy is great--I could go as far to say the best in the style right now.

The compositions of the songs are both straightforward and complex, with quite a few left turns, interesting breaks and surprisingly successful clean acoustic/keyboard intros. The riffs are great, ranging from classic speed metal to catchy thrash, classic metal melodies and maiden-esque harmonies.

Really there is nothing to complain about (well, it wouldn't hurt to hear some faster thrash beats in the future) and--without any of the other new bands in the speed-thrash "scene"--it feels like Vulture take the music a little bit more seriously; more "metal" less "fun," and appreciate that. Nothing wrong with more "party"--self-conscious  records but I prefer a serious approach. (If you don't get what I'm trying to say, more Slayer than Municipal Waste).

You can hear the whole album on the NWOTHM Full Albums Youtube channel.

This is the official Vulture website - has information about upcoming shows too, check it out.

This is the band's Youtube channel

Their Facebook page

And the site of their record label were you can buy the album High Roller Records

Check them out!

Path to the Unholy Frozen Empire

Here's a link where you can listen to the song on youtube:

Godkiller: Path to the Unholy Frozen Empire

Forgot to put one in the review; but I guess you could just google the band and find everything.

But listen to this song--it's amazing. Especially that part around 6:30 with the keyboard coming in over the guitars. Excellent.

It's been a while since I have enjoyed a black metal demo so much.

Review - Godkiller (Monaco) - First 2 demos

Ad majorem satanae gloriam (1994)
A truly awesome demo from a one-man band; epic, melodic but unrepentantly dark black metal. With some of the best keyboards in the genre, and a drum machine that sounds even better than the early Septic flesh/Rotting Christ releases, which I considered for quite some time the only decent drum machine-backed bands. Excellent guitars, nothing mind blowing but well-done; the overall sound of the band and production is just magnificent. Highly recommended along with the next demo, which I like even more. Oh, the vocals are sweet too. Great release.

The Warlord (1995)
This one is amazing. Everything is better; the medieval keyboards reach unbelievable levels of epicness, they work better with the guitars, the drum machine is awesome, the vocals better, the riffs are fucking awesome, the arrangements of the songs are brutal, epic and surprisingly confident; other bands never reach this kind of level in composition after 20 releases, let alone one. "Path to the Unholy Frozen Empire" is one of the best song titles ever. Goddamn epic. And look at that cover. I like this one so much I'm a little bit afraid to check out the rest of their discography--tired of being disappointed all the time; but the reviews on encyclopedia metallum are heartening.

Links: This is the only one that seems official - Godkiller - here you can download both of these demos. Can't find anything else.

Seriously check them out, at least The Warlord.

Review - The Legion of Space by Jack Williamson

 One of the first, if not the first science-fiction novels I read, I unequivocally love this one, and if it has any flaws I fail to see them.
The novel begins with an introduction that, though largely disconnected from the rest of the novel, introduces the future world and imparts a sense of size and magnitude quite more successful than similar attempts in other novels:

“I was still falling, all right. I was in the same position—but no longer on the Earth. 
All around me was a weird plain. It was blazing with a glare of light, pitted with
thousands of craters, ringed with mountains higher than any I had ever seen. The Sun
was burning down out of a blue sky dark as midnight, and full of stars. There was
another body in the heavens, huge and greenish.
“A fantastic black machine was gliding down over those terrible mountains. It was
larger than you’d think a flying machine could be, and utterly strange. It had just hit
me with some weapon, and I was reeling back under the agony of the wound. Beside
me was a great explosion of red gas. The cloud of it poured over me, and burned my
lungs, and blotted out everything.
“It was some time before I realized that I had been on the Moon —or rather that I had
picked up the last thoughts of a man dying there. I had never had time for astronomy,
but one day I happened to see a photograph of the lunar craters—and recognized
them, and knew that the greenish crescent had been the Earth itself.
“And the shock of that discovery only increased my bewilderment. It was nearly a
year before I understood that I was developing an ability to recall the future. But that
first incident happened in the thirtieth century, in the conquest of the Moon by the
Medusae—the man whose last moments I shared was one of the human colonists they
“The faculty improved with practise, like any other. It’s simply telepathy, I’m
convinced, carrying thought across Time and not merely through Space. Just
remember that neither Space nor Time is real; they are both just aspects of one reality.
“At first I got contact only with minds under great stress, like that of the dying
colonist. Even yet, there are difficulties—or I shouldn’t have asked you to examine
me this morning, Doctor. But I’ve managed to follow human history, pretty well,
through the next thousand years. That’s what I’ve been writing.
“The history of the future!"

 This is John Delmar talking to the narrator of the prologue, his doctor. He then goes on, giving a synopsis of the future of humanity and its expansion in space, were his descendants play an important role, up to the year 3000; there, the novel actually begins, in third person and the style you would expect in a 1930's science fiction novel--but a lot better.

Even though I like the writing  in the Lensman series, which is often held up as the finest specimen of this kind of novel, it doesn't compare to Williamson, whose prose is cleaner, livelier, and his ideas quite more wonderful.

John Star, hero of the novel, graduates from the academy of the Legion and receives  his first mission; there is a beautiful girl involved, with a deadly secret; interstellar adventure, escape from prison, survival on a hostile alien planet, interstellar war, etc. I don't want to spoil anything in the book, it's one of the finest "sense-of-wonder" adventure stories of all time. I'd even go as far as to advice you not to read the backcover if you buy it; it will be much more enjoyable this way.

As far as the sequels go, I tried the second one (the cometeers) but for some reason couldn't get past the beginning. I will definitely read them in the future when I have them all.