Bear Mace

Butchering the Colossus

Independent

Release Date: March 1, 2017

https://bearmace.bandcamp.com/ 

You know, Death Metal can be hard to enjoy. I don’t mean that as a knock against it particularly, it’s just a genre of music that lives and breathes ugly and that can get boring fast. Fortunately, the guys in Bear Mace are channeling their inner Bolt Thrower and offering up 8 slabs of guttural goodness on Butchering the Colossus. All 8 slabs are firm reminders of what Death Metal is capable of when it is placed in able hands. 

Butchering the Colossus is a beast of an album from start to finish. “Death of a Constellation” kicks it all off with wailing lead guitars entrenched in buzzsaw rhythms and circle pit backbeats dabbled with deep, guttural growls that remind me of early Chris Barnes. The album continues to plod and gargle itself along in archetypical fashion before it really whips itself into a frenzy with the title track. Here we begin to see what this band can REALLY do. The drumming drives everything forward, playing off-rhythm to the guitars and letting the clear and succinct lead work shine its way through the fog. When the vocals kick in though, it’s down to business in a way that nearly made me start a circle pit around my computer. By the time you reach the album’s final tracks (my personal favorites) “Wheel of Despair” and “Anguirus the Destroyer” the band is almost in Death N’ Roll mode, finding a dark, heavy groove to dig into and letting everything burst forth from that dank pit. “Wheel of Despair” is particularly dynamic with a lot of times changes and a more epic feel than most of the other tracks. 

It’s been awhile since a Death Metal band even caught my attention, let alone melted my face off. Bear Mace are pretty awesome though and I am thoroughly impressed by the level of songwriting these guys offer up on Butchering the Colossus. If you like it old school (Think early Obituary, early Cannibal Corpse, Vomitorial Corpulence, or Bolt Thrower) then you should check these guys out.

Reviewed by mark 1340

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Grace Street

Big Wreck

Grace Street

Zoe Records/Anthem/Rounder

www.BigWreckMusic.com

Release Date: February 3, 2017

There was a time when I would have called Big Wreck a third wave Alt Rock band, but my how the years have shaped them. The Canadian-American group formally broke up in the early 00’s but reunited in 2010 and have since released a string of powerful and wildly creative Rock albums.  Their latest, Grace Street, is part Police influenced goodness and part 70’s Queen through a modern filter.

Grace Street kicks things off with an odd choice in “It Comes As No Surprise.” It’s Queen influence is extremely pronounced with dynamic time changes, soaring vocals, and giant background harmonies that take over the song when they arrive. It’s an amazing piece of music, but it it’s not quite the smooth introduction you are expecting. “A Speedy Recovery” is another interesting piece here with a fast-paced, rhythmic undercurrent seemingly at odds with the soaring vocals. Its mid-song island flare is welcome, as is how the band keeps so tight despite the individual parts being so different. The album’s closer, “All My Fears On You” is an explorative piece that reminds me a lot of the Police’s deep cuts. It’s got an ambient, mildly dark, overall sound to it that reminds me of the best of the eighties, but it also has a big chorus that reminds me of Genesis’ and Yes’ more straightforward moments. The intimate “Useless” is another powerful moment, providing ample evidence that the band can keep it simple and still move you. 

My personal favorite track here is “One Good Piece of Me.” This is certainly a contender for Song of the Year. Ian Thornley’s voice is like hearing Peter Gabriel, or Sting, play in a Rock band. His voice just shines in a way that forces you to pay attention to it. Then the big guitar riff kicks in and the band goes from atmospheric to anthemic (big, hooky chorus and all) flawlessly. It’s everything music fans love in a Rock song. Such a great song! 

I really and truly dig this album. I haven’t been paying much attention since the band reunited but Grace Street has changed all that. If you like any of the band’s mentioned in this review or if you enjoy Pop and Rock that is dynamic and thoughtful and creative then you should check out Grace Street too. 

Reviewed by mark1340 

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Carpe Noctum (Live)

Armored Saint

Carpe Noctum (Live)

Metal Blade

www.MetalBlade.com

Release Date: February 24, 2017

Born in 1982, fans familiar with eighties Heavy Metal have long considered Armored Saint to be one of the best band’s you’ve probably never heard of. Thanks to the band’s classic albums rising to cult status during the nineties while vocalist Jon Bush was fronting Anthrax, the band eventually returned and are arguably more popular now than they were in their heyday. Their latest offering, Carpe Noctum, captures them at their best…live.

To say that this band is a beast live would be an understatement and Carpe Noctum documents the fact extremely well. Everything is crisp and clear, from the wailing guitar solos to the pounding rhythm work to Bush’s classic voice. As the band rips through “March of the Saint,” Bush sounds so much like a young Bruce Dickinson that you have to wonder why Iron Maiden didn’t call him in the nineties. The guitars drive it along, giving it a thicker, fuller sound than it had in its original form. “Aftermath” is another great turn that, live, ends up sounding a lot more epic than I had previously given it credit for. During the midsection when it’s just Bush and the guitar, it’s as powerful as they come.  Also, “Win Hands Down” kicks off the show as a firm reminder that the band are still churning out favorites late in their career. The studio album was killer but the energy from the live version is even better. 

Few bands of this era still sound this good. The band sounds modern and relevant even when playing the staples despite their more Traditional Metal bent. If you can’t catch a tour/show then Carpe Noctum will do you pretty well. This is one of the most energetic and professional sounding live recordings I have heard and longtime fans will be beyond pleased with it. I won’t hesitate mind to say that this also serves as an excellent entry point for those interested in checking out these cult heroes. 

Reviewed by mark1340

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Complainer

Floodplain

Already Dead Tapes

Released Jan 6, 2017

https://alreadydeadtapes.bandcamp.com/album/ad236-complainer-floodplain

Here we have a two piece noise punk band from St Louis that had the opportunity to record a tape in a German laundromat. The outcome is pretty much exactly what you would expect, Floodplain is loud, messy and exciting. This band used to be called Spelling Bee and their experience is obvious. Over the course of eight tracks, Complainer does everything a two piece can do except for letting up.

Before we get into the music let me take a minute to speak on the packaging here. Already Dead does a bang up job on their tapes and this one is no exception. It's a pro quality clear tape with printed ink on both sides and j card insert printed on both sides. The artwork (see above) is amazing. If you are a cassette fan this is definitely worth picking up.

What comprises Complainer’s sound? Well… you have Mabel Suen yelping and screaming while riffing up and down the neck of her guitar. At the same time, Joe Hess pounds around his drums like he’s playing rhythmic whack a mole. It’s a little bit Lightning Bolt mixed with bits and pieces of Holly Hunt, a smidge of The Sick Lipstick, occasional Crucial Taunt style vocals and drums that sound like By the End of Tonight. I personally find the moments where Complainer sounds like Holly Hunt’s little bratty sibling to be the most exciting (see the intro to “Guts” and the end of “Busybody”) but those moments are not the norm. For the most part, Complainer just rocks out and has a fun time. 

If I had to complain about something on Floodplain, it’s the production style. It's on par with an early CRASS record or something like that. Everything is played crisply and it’s obvious that this sound is intentionally cultivated. The live feel of this record definitely adds to its energy but there are moments it grates on me.

Complainer’s Floodplain is something to be ingested and enjoyed. This record is not going to be for everyone, don’t expect to find it topping Billboard charts anytime soon. For those who find the classic punk production to be something they enjoy will find Floodplain to be right up their alley. This is a fun quick listen and definitely something that would be awesome to see live. Like the aftermath of a flood, there is always something to find in Complainer’s wake.

Reviewed by: Rob 1340

 

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Immured

Cyclocosmia

Immured

Independent

https://cyclocosmiauk.bandcamp.com/album/immured

Release date:  January 27, 2017

Over the years the varied subgenres of metal have come together, breaking scene taboos to create music that is as expressive as it is heavy.  Cyclocosmia is a prime example of the power of crossing genre lines to create something outstanding.  Immured, the duo’s second release takes the sludgy power of doom and adds progressive elements.  Shifting time signatures, orchestral string arrangements and operatic vocals create a heavy, dark soundscape that pulls the listener into a story of despair, insanity, and ultimately, death.  Written and performed by James Scott, with female vocals provided by Aliki Katriou, the album is a wild ride, musically and lyrically.  

Over the span of four movements, Immured tells the tale of a vestal virgin convicted of breaking her vow of chastity.  In the Roman Empire, these priestesses of the goddess Vesta were considered so holy that spilling their blood even for the purpose of capital punishment was forbidden.  Instead, vow breakers often found themselves entombed alive – immured to wait for death to take them.  As the album opens a somber intro is highlighted by soaring, operatic vocals that set a tone of despair.  As we move into “Immured Part II” things take a turn in a more metal direction, bringing to mind the melodic chaos of Dimmu Borgir crossed with Evanescence.  A middle eastern flair runs through the guitar work, which is nimble and passionate.  Alternating clean and extreme vocals from both Scott and Katriou create the sense of constantly shifting between despair and madness.  

As the album continues “Immured Part III” brings to mind both Pink Floyd and King Diamond, showing the depth of influences Scott has incorporated into his songwriting.  This track starts as a gothic lullaby before turning into a pulsing extreme metal monster.  Over the course of this track and the album’s finale “Immured Part IV” our narrator leads us through a range of emotions, ranging from hopelessness to anger, into madness, and eventually vows of revenge.  Musically, the landscape continues to shift, building and falling in roller coaster fashion to take the listener on an emotional journey that is both exhilarating and exhausting. 

Ultimately, it’s the deft manipulation of emotion through instrumentation that makes Immured such an effective album.  James Scott is a masterful composer, and as a guitarist creates layers of sound that range from a light breeze to the sound of Cthulhu rising to enslave humanity.  While many bands are successful in filling a specific sub-genre niche, Cyclocosmia bends metal to its whim, intertwining all forms of heavy music to create an EP that mixes melody and brutality to weave an emotional story that will leave fans of extreme music breathless.  

Reviewed by Jim1340

 

 

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