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If you have found this blog, it probably means you were searching for something that isn’t in the public eye. My intention is to promote awareness of artists that you would otherwise likely never know existed. If you like what you hear, support the artist by purchasing their music so that they can continue to create, and enjoy the release in the quality they intended.

Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Axis of Metal.

Rob Dougan – Furious Angels

Posted by T. Bawden Friday, 28 May 2010 0 comments














Rob Dougan – Furious Angels – 4/5
{Link removed at request}

Perhaps best known for the instrumental renditions of ‘Furious Angels’ and ‘Clubbed 2 Death,’ both used notably in the “Matrix” trilogy, it is unfortunate to see the man relegated to such a low status amongst many listeners. Successfully combining a strong classical influence with a powerful trip-hop electronic beat, gratuitously layered with powerful and emotional vocals with a blues-filled gritty style reminiscent of ‘Tom Waits,’ this is an artist worthy of mentioning beyond any association to the film industry.

Many could make the argument that his work isn’t original – sampling the drum beat from ‘When the Levée Breaks’ by Zeppelin for “I’m not driving anymore,” or using an orchestral arrangement composed by Elgar to open “Clubbed to Death,” – its not necessarily his source material that’s important, but rather how he utilises it, and it is here that he truly excels; breathing new life to old pieces, re-inventing his influences for modern times and seamlessly integrating them to suit his own purpose.

The manner of combining simplistic but effective trip-hop beats with acoustic and orchestral arrangements often resulting in a memorable atmosphere, delicate and fragile and perfect for allowing his vocal talent to reign. Perhaps not the tidiest of vocals, he instead lends a gritty imperfection filled with emotions from despair to retribution, and he doesn’t stop there. The lyrics have a certain poetic nature to them, carefully thought out and presented in realistic manner void of any romantic cliché, with lines that become rooted in your mind:

“Is there a melody - that could lead you to me - like a lullabied child lead to sleep?
So for one moment in time you'd find that you're mine
And softly I'd kiss you and weep” – ‘Drinking Song’

Despite this, the vocals could easily become wearisome and grinding in their depressive manner, which is where his orchestral capabilities come in. Writing his own pieces in ‘Will You Follow Me’ and the aptly named ‘Instrumental,’ he maintains a romantic theme, here often using a flurry of strings to provide a far lighter tone, contrasting his vocal manner. There is also an instrumental version to many of the tracks, but I’m at a loss as to why one would choose to listen to them over his thought-provoking lyrics. I may not be well versed in classical/trip-hop fusion, but I can’t imagine it being common, let alone so well performed.

Highlights: Left Me For Dead, Nothing At All, Born Yesterday

Orphan Hate – Blinded by Illusion

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 27 May 2010 0 comments


Orphan Hate – Blinded by Illusion – 4/5
Link

If you've ever encountered a German whilst on vacation you'll probably have noticed something about them is a little strange; even when relaxing they seem to have a military precision about how they go about their free time, reporting at 0700 to ensure that not a single sun bed is left without a German towel in their invasion of the prime locations at the poolside with a round-the-clock watch put in place. Minus the machine guns, its as though they never truly left the war. I may have run away with my analogy far more than I intended here but the point I'm making is you'd think the German precision displayed by this band would make them stand out loud and proud, the hard working ethos resulting in this self-released debut full-length after half a decade of hard work a testament to tradition, and yet just how they've managed to slip through the cracks and gone unnoticed all this time is a puzzle I've yet to figure out.

Now there's little to be said for pushing boundaries on creativity, many of the elements feeling plucked from various other artists; there's the “Morbid Angel” death metal school of drumming, DePierre (Amaran) like soaring cleans amidst Kitty Saric's (Decadence) ferocious thrash growls and guitar solo's that seem torn between technicality and a more traditional train of thought. There's even a metalcore tinge to it all; the simplistic grooves of the rhythmic guitar delivered with plenty of bass providing a constant pounding throughout the music, acting as the piece's continuous lifeblood that only feels all the more essential when it inevitably dissipates.

And yet despite me picking out near-enough clones for each of the elements, it never comes off as some cheap knock off or as stagnant material; it all feels precise without any instrument haphazardly blurring into another, and this doesn't feel as though a result of extensive production either. Everything registers and has the bite to make a genuine impact; the drums in particular given enough presence and opportunities to provide ample fills and neither the lead guitars or the impressive range of delivery from the vocalist do anything do detract from the multi-layered composition. I've been silently obsessing to this release for the past couple of days and its slightly disappointing that still many of the tracks blur into one another; the melodic grooves just a touch too similar to distinguish themselves from the other tracks, there's not enough of the lead presence throughout many of the verses (not least of which the released single “Circus”) and too much time feels waiting for either the chorus or the solo to kick in. Sadly its just this one component tarnishing an otherwise highly impressive debut.

Highlights: 24/7 Liar, Evil A, Nothing's What it Seems

TsuShiMaMiRe – Pregnant Fantasy

Posted by T. Bawden Sunday, 23 May 2010 0 comments


TsuShiMaMiRe – Pregnant Fantasy – 3.5/5
Link

I bet this this starting to sound like a broken record now, but once more I find myself having difficulty putting this band into a single category except maybe experimental rock. With a name that combines a number of words (“Tsushima” being the bassists surname, “Ma” again coming from the guitarist/vocalist Mari and “Mi” from Mizue the drummer, arranged with “Mamire” at the end which roughly means 'mixed up' in Japanese) it feels oddly suited to them, each member bringing something to the table and mixing it all up into the one song style. And it isn't just how it all sounds that remains peculiar as the very album title probably suggests; with lyrics heavily invested in sex, death and food – often all at the same time – tracks such as 'Camaboco' devoted to singing about how upset the fish cake (personified by the lead vocalist) is that it hasn't met a grizzly fate in the hot pot yet exemplifying my point.

With a hefty bass presence many of the tracks take on a funk filled stance, remaining simple by design but inexplicably catchy and allowing the guitars to layer themselves on top. Content to let the bass carry much of the rhythm, the guitars – also played by the vocalist – often relegate themselves to simple ska punk chords, or quite often don't play at all so she can focus on the vocals, but where they really excel is in the occasional interludes and short solos emerge that sound like some odd combination of “Big Black” and “The Ventures;” chaotic and eccentric and yet with a smooth groove to it all. With drumming showing no shortage in creativity and vocals that often feels less like singing than it does a batshit insane Japanese woman angstily screaming or cutely singing her joys (perhaps because she actually is just a mental hospital escapee) it all kinda works to create a tone that whilst not bizarre is certainly 'a little bit different.'

It's not all entirely convincing though; certainly the quirkiness of the band is largely lost on me as all the lyrics are naturally in their native tongue (though a later track called “My Brain Shortcake” has English passages, including an intro which invites listeners to eat her brain) and the limitations of having three musicians at times makes itself known with everything sounding a little thin; the basic bass melodies and slow pace of the drums often supplying the entirety of the bands sound. There are times when everything gets moving and it all clicks together, but this isn't always the case and this filler can at times become a problem in an album clocking a mere 32 minutes. I'm still not entirely sure what should be made of this album; its quirky and original but the moments of excellence are undermined by elements of boredom making for a fairly inconsistent effort, but not one without promise for future.

Highlights: (Track 2), Tea Time Ska (Track 5)

Jack Slater – Extinction Aftermath

Posted by T. Bawden Wednesday, 19 May 2010 0 comments


Jack Slater – Extinction Aftermath – 3.5/5
Link

I've spent long enough listening to this release so I guess its time I finally got my thoughts down on this blog. Whilst something can be said for its ability to last, the main reason for that is hardly down to unbridled originality or creativity or anything of the like. In fact its the exact opposite; its easy to listen to but it never really draws my focus beyond the occasional slow melody, and for a band that Metal Archives considers “Brutal Technical Death Metal” I'm not sure this is a good thing. Far from being overtly brutal or dominated by the quest for technicality, it actually has a rhythm which for me places it far closer to the likes of the melodeath band “Arsis” than their braindead brethren, which brings me full circle as another probable reason its sustained my interest for this long.

Already I predict two aspects that may turn people off before they are given the time of day; that 'melodic' descriptor and – what now seems to be a derogatory – 'technical' tag. If you go in expecting some Gothenburg clone, flowery power metal riffs over weak growls then you'll quickly be surprised as this is a band that doesn't sugar coat the genre to make it more palletable, instead demonstrating closer to an old school train of death metal thought where music is made by the melody and not the amount of distortion on the guitars. Likewise the technical aspect doesn't dominate the song structure but rather flows around it in an unrelenting array of quick guitar fills, riffs and solos mixed into the overarching composition allowing for the addictive simplistic guitar lines that dominate continue at their content mid-tempo.

But despite many aspects done precisely as I could have asked for, its still missing something; the drums make themselves known, the vocals roar and howl and the tracks are snappy enough to not stagnate, but it feels altogether too soft. No doubt partly down the production which has robbed many of the instruments of their bite, the music itself feels inexplicably unoriginal; as though they are re-exploring avenues already trodden and not quite doing it as well, which whilst doesn't make it inherently bad, doesn't make for terribly memorable music either. I'm sure there are legions of fans looking for modern death metal that can hold a melody and for them this surely will quench their thirst for a short period of time, but its unlikely that then once you've chewed up and spat back out everything it has to offer that you'll return for a second round.

Highlights: Dysthymia, Omniscience, Extinction Aftermath

Deep Turtle – Turkele

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 13 May 2010 0 comments


Deep Turtle – Turkele - 4/5
Link

It has been a while since I revisited the shores of this music blog and whilst my return may be a slow one it has not been abandoned. Deep Turtle are a Finnish band that sing entirely in Spanish; a fact which alone probably gives you a decent idea what level of normality can be expected. Their sound is not readily definable, perhaps almost comparable to Ska punk except this is far from what you would expect. It isn't all about simple twangy guitar lines and bouncy fun guitar lines, even if they feature prominently in this short but sweet EP. Instead everything has been taken that bit further, stretching into Avant-Garde territory with an aggressive jazzy lines and a progressive chaotic tone that often feels more akin to Zorn's “Naked City.”

A key component to this sound is the way the bass and lead guitars play off one another, both given equal opportunity to shine with neither dominating; the bass providing catchy melodies to balance the simple chords of the guitars in a smooth jazz groove only to spontaneously erupt into their own brand of insanity, with both instruments providing their own technical riffs before abruptly changing mood back into their smooth grooves, it feels impressive that the drummer manages to keep up with the rapid changes in pace but instead he seems to relish in the opportunity to be free to perform as he wants. By comparison the vocalists duty feels almost forfeit as his rough and ready roar feels as appropriate for the swinging latin-jazz influenced passages as it does when apparently infuriated at what his compadres are doing behind him.

But throughout all the time signatures and eccentricity it never feels as though its performed for the sake of it. In the context of each track it has a purpose in creating the whole entity, crescendo's and crashes galore. What Deep Turtle deliver is jazzcore without the pretentious wankery; chaotic and yet with all the sense of melody you could ask for. There are few bands that even attempt something like this but that doesn't relegate them to some sort of novelty act. This is a trio of musicians who produced all their releases themselves so as to create a unique sound to their own liking and it never suffers for it. Simply sublime.

Highlights: Basura, Pesadilla

Toxodeth - Mysteries About Life And Death

Posted by T. Bawden Monday, 10 May 2010 0 comments


Toxodeth - Mysteries About Life And Death (1989) - 3.5/5

Although the majority of the more praised old-school death metal albums come from the early 90's, any fan of this particular style of death metal knows that from the mid to late 80's that there was a fair share of solid releases, mostly demos, EP's and so on. The death metal from those times was not surprisingly quite primitive, usually closer to thrash, simpler, and rawer. Some may even disagree with the death metal status of quite a few of these releases, but most often, the tag of "death/thrash" often works. Some bands from this sub-genre lean more towards the "death" side of things (Eternal Dirge, Massacra, Agressor), others the "thrash" one (Thanatos, Sadus, Devastation). Then, we have bands like the incredibly obscure Mexican Toxodeth who were right in the middle. Released in 1989, the same year as monumental and quite influential albums such as "Severed Survival" and "Altars of Madness", "Mysteries About Life And Death" is one of the earliest examples of death metal that still has many characteristics of its "parent" genre thrash metal while entering the more complex and structurally/compositionally adventurous worlds of what was to come in death metal.

As expected of a lot of primitive and early extreme metal, the production here is quite raw. Vocals are reduced to strange "howling whispers", drums are sharp yet suppressed, while the bass is pushed into the back and guitars are surprisingly high-register and clear. It's not something that you'll get used to immediately, and in spite of how poor it sounds on paper, it actually works a great deal towards giving this album its unique atmosphere. The whole thing is still listenable and if anything, the odd production helps to give off a vibe of something going on some voyage into a misty, gloomy forest. This feeling of mystery is further enhanced by their interesting playing style. It's not really "technical", but listening to their oddball approach to death/thrash, it becomes clear that this band was aiming high at things out of their reach, with moments of pseudo-virtuosity struggling to shine through a feeling of amateur-ish-ness. It's hard to tell if some of the playing is sloppy or just on some strange middle ground between complexity and simplicity, but it adds an interesting element to their sound.

The style of the guitar playing comes off as a mixture of the flair and virtuosity of progressive and traditional metal bands of the years past combined with the roughness of early death metal acts. Laced into gritty and raw primitive riffs straddling the line between death and thrash are familiar melodic devices and lead work inherited from progressive metal and NWOBHM. Toxodeth are not afraid of using bursts of nuanced lead guitar playing that at times evokes a feel most of us will be more suited to hearing in say, a neo-classical power metal context. These sudden excurses into the realms of guitar-hero virtuosity more associated with Yngwie Malmsteen than old school death metal usually completely alter the flow of a song, shifting the momentum towards focusing on the powerful, gripping melodies, and while it is definitely one of the most interesting parts of their sound, to some it may sound disjointed. It does manage to work in the context of their general style, fortunately. You will hear a lot of crunching murky palm-muted riffs and tremolo picked passages as is often the norm for death/thrash, but theirs have a stronger sense of melody inherited from classic heavy metal, more than is the norm for a lot of death metal. Toxodeth link these to short bursts of lead-guitar work, forming an effective contrast to the rougher muted strums and thrashy palm-riffs and sharp tremolo picking, with the lead work often being responsible for the flow of a lot of the momentum in a song. The end result strikes a surprisingly effective balance between extreme metal roughness and more conventional melodic-ness. One thing they're not afraid of doing is soloing, and they tend to have more than just one solo-section in a song. Although the solos don't always feel completely professional and tend to have slight hints of the atonality of death and extreme thrash metal, it becomes clear that Toxodeth were also trying to emulate the grace and fluidity guitarists like Jason Becker and Marty Friedman. The solos are quite long and often go through a variety of styles, from tapping sections focusing on sustained longer melodies (oddly similar to tremolo picking in their use of melody in a way) to wilder versions of dual guitar harmony-centric interplay. The end result can feel a bit rough around the edges, but they actually manage to nail it a fair share of times, albeit it sometimes being "just there" and rather roughly, although the roughness tends to add an interesting flair to their approach.

The rest of the band holds up reasonably well, but the guitarist obviously being the center of the action and his skill level being awkwardly higher than the rest of the band. While the bass pretty much just follows what everyone else is doing, the drummer, while he comes off as a bit unsure of his abilities, is able to do a great job of accenting the wild sonic adventures of the guitarist, creating compelling and fitting patterns. He does not use any blast beats and has an eye for putting rolls and fills at just the right moments, although some of his patterns can feel a bit rudimentary and not quite as imaginative and supportive as the guitar work. A solid job on his part though. The vocalist will be VERY hit or miss. His voice does not come as up-front and powerful as usually is expected of death metal, but his strange whisper-howls have few equals or similarities in death metal. The production isn't always too kind to him as he seems pushed back in the mix, but despite how unprofessional his voice sounds, he can do a good job of sustaining it and sounding like some eerie, decrepit, narrating voice calling out from behind of a veil of guitar virtuosity and hazy production. His range might be limited, but his general tone and delivery fit into the sound.

Injecting elements from progressive metal and NWOBHM into a mixture of death and thrash metal, Toxodeth created an album that had a lot of what was great about all of these into a primitive yet unique and forward-thinking take on what death metal could be. Although the album is held back, ironically, by its greatest strengths (the generally bizarre approach) and the uneven performance, its primitive, rough, and unpolished yet compelling grasp of virtuosity and penchant for dynamically changing songs and excellent lead guitar work make it an album worth checking out for those looking for strange, mostly unused pathways into what death metal could have become.

Molested - Blod Draum

Posted by T. Bawden 2 comments


Molested - Blod Draum (1995) - 4/5


The early 90's were generally a good time for death and black metal. The former came first, emerging mostly from Sweden and Florida, then the latter came around, supposedly to oppose it, from Norway and also Sweden. Although Norway is mostly associated with black metal nowadays, they did have a fair share of death metal bands back then, such as Cadaver, Thou Shalt Suffer, and this review's focus: Molested. Like the black metal, this band had a strong but very unconventional sense of melody as well as a folk tinge, but as a death metal band, they delivered it in a strange, creative way that would make them very hard to mistake for the genre's arch-rival. The general approach of the band is a sort of mixture of total madness and numerous melodies. The idea seems somewhat self-contradictory at first and sure as hell doesn't sound like it when you put on the first track. A closer approach though, reveals that there's more to this album than just a lot of death metal happening very quickly.


Molested really like tremolo picking, seeing as it makes up at least over 90% of all guitar work on the release. They construct their songs around these powerful melodies that while aggressive and able to shift their momentum quickly, always stay very cohesive and orderly. Mostly free from rhythmic reference, they spin, twist, and turn around, like some fast-moving cobra on steroids and mind altering substances. The non-stop savage pace may turn many off at first, but they manage to in a way channel the whole wall-of-sound effect in such a way that creates a sound that is simultaneously gripping while in a way possessing a sort of ambience to it. Subtly folk-tinged guitar lines rear their head throughout the album, evoking a sort of epic feel usually more associated with black metal. From beneath the storm of tremolo-picked madness, medium-low ranged vocals let out sepulchral growls. While they seem to be somewhere under the guitars in the production, this seems to have been an intentional move. It only really results in the vocals sounding a lot more ominous and eerie; like some monstrous wild beast growling from behind the cover of foliage. Under all of this, a totally maniacal drummer hammers out a barrage of total rhythmic warfare, which as mad as it sounds, fortunately is very appropriate given the constant assault of the band's sound. Rolls and fills burst out like sudden, interjecting explosions while prolonged blasting sections send a song's momentum charging forward. Even at slower or mid-paced sections, the drumming never really seems to let up its frantic, maddening pace.

In spite of how chaotic it is, there are some pretty solid examples of songwriting here. "The Hate From Miasma Storms" showcases the band at their most melodic without entering the realm of bad radio singles. "Following the Growls" seems to almost show a tragic side to the band's sense of melody before entering an incredibly eerie totally folk instrument section. "Carved by Raven Claws" is pretty much the band at maximum intensity; the song itself starts out with an incredibly harsh, chromatic assault of deconstructive twisting riffs. "Forlorn as a Mist of Grief" opens up with one of the coolest non-metal openings in death metal; some folk instrument whispering out a discomforting, creeping melody before barbaric melodies ambush it and bring the album towards a hellish end.


It's a shame this band has mostly been forgotten by extreme metal fans all over the world. It essentially takes a lot of the general ideas black metal had and twists them to work in a definitely death metal format. Even then, what it creates is something that no one has managed to successfully imitate or build upon yet. It is simply one of those hidden treasures of the past; those timeless albums that don't really seem to belong to any particular time period. Melody and madness join forces to create something that has the best of both worlds on Molested's first and only release. For those who want something that can fuse two seemingly opposing forces together, definitely give this beast a go.

Creed – Weathered

Posted by T. Bawden Thursday, 6 May 2010 1 comments


No. 8 - Creed – Weathered – 4/5
[Link Removed at Request]

Yes, you heard me. Creed made my list. Surrounded by generic and bland albums, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest of their catalogue, proving they can be emotional, aggressive, diverse and come up with some of the best tracks the genre has to offer. This is a rare case of an album that frequently gets put down, that in my opinion, doesn’t deserve a shred of it.

The guitars are either heavily distorted, or very clean, playing simple chords over a simple drum beat. Yes, its simple, on that front they perhaps don’t shine opting for a two tone approach that adds a surprising amount of variety. The bass and drums once again are prominent, adding the occasional fills but add nothing especially spectacular. The vocals are unique and diverse, being both clean and with a strange tone I’m at a loss to really describe, constituting the main attraction here. Its not his vocal range that draws the attention, it’s the emotion behind it, the atmosphere the combination of all the instruments creates perfectly encapsulating the theme of the song.

The lyrics aren’t clever, they aren’t ‘poetic’ but they fit with the simplistic motif aimed for. They’re bold, emotional, and leave nothing to the imagination. From the soft and emotional “Children don’t stop dancing/Believe you can fly” - (Don’t Stop Dancing) to the more aggressive “At least look at me when you shoot a bullet through my head” - (Bullets), they succeed in being obvious, yet still fairly hard hitting, and sometimes making yourself clear is better than hiding meaning behind clever metaphors.

If you asked for one single aspect to their sound that was done well, I’d be at a loss to come up with an answer. The individual parts are fairly mediocre, but put them all together and the result far exceeds what you would expect. The album is diverse, with plenty of idea’s, tones, emotions, and yet despite this variety, remains consistent, with the only exception being “Who’s Got My Back,” which is disappointing and one of the main reasons for it being low on the list. Certainly an album that perhaps was unwarrantedly overlooked.

Highlights: Bullets, One Last Breath, Don’t Stop Dancing

By T. Bawden

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Guide

Guide to the Ratings
0/5 - This caused me physical pain
1/5 - This is really bloody awful
2/5 - This was below average
3/5 - This was above average
4/5 - This was pretty darn good.
5/5 - I cannot fault this epitome of perfection.

I cant guarantee all reviewers adhere to these guidelines, but work as a general guide.

Author's credit is given on all posts.