Wednesday, April 30, 2014

MANITOU - Wounded Knee (1993)

My Heart Is Crying at Wounded Knee...

Taken from the tape booklet: „It’s beyond understanding – all Indian gods, who were always loved by redskins and were never hurt by them, appeared to be too weak in the presence of the only god, who helped pale-faces though they, when he descended on Earth, crucified him. How can we fight against such a god, who fell in love with his own murderers?” All right, the next thing: look at the band’s name and the album’s title or members names. Is everything clear? I hope so. The members of this Polish band from Ostrołęka city are the eulogists of culture and traditions of North American Indians. Is it honest or not, I’m not going to be a judge of their consciences. And to put it briefly, Manitou is very…

…mysterious crew. Yes, I found only two mentions in the past, one in Cursed zine #2 and another in Polish edition of Metal Hammer from 1993 from which I took the address and wrote a letter to the band. The rest is simple. But let’s back to the musical side of the “Wounded Knee” debut album. For sure it is not a thing for modern kind of metallers. For sure the worshippers of nowadays ultra-technical productions can forget about these tunes, because I deal with very archaic method of sound realization. But it is not an obstacle, this material is just another album which has been produced on the beginning of the 90s. And what is more, I’m truly obsessed by it, especially when the bass lines fill the air and dominate the rest of instruments. Really, it is rather seldom to hear such bass recording coming from those dark times, of course I don’t write about big names, as Manitou was in deep underground. Ok, bass is perfect, but the guitars should be louder a bit, especially when they are kept down by the drums.

Musically no surprises can be found while listening to it. The term death/thrash describes the style in a good way, but I want to add doom as well. The Poles took the main part of influences from UK death metal scene (old Benediction, Bolt Thrower), but Swedish touch is also perceptible especially in the only instrumental title piece. Those mentioned death/doom shades reminding me of the very first The Chasm releases appearing in slow yet quite melodic guitar layers. The main information concerning the musical quality is that there is no song with the identical tempo. The musicians give a full kaleidoscope of rhythms and paces in every track. Each step seems to be well-thought-out, just take a listen to the guitar leads, they are all almost mid-paced, heedful and precise, only “Excalibur” contains the fast one, a bit chaotic. Melody is given in a proper way, it is not impudent or sweet and doesn’t soften the sound, yet it brings some kind of secrecy and revery (“Begin from the Sin” or the opening of “A Blaze of Ritual Fire”). Vocals of Ta - Tunka Scah are maintained in middle range of typical growls, however there is nothing to be ashamed of, also in “Dead Indian Traditions” some verses are sung in Polish and I consider this as a really good move. In turn in “Begin from the Sin” vocals are overlapped.

My complaints refer to two things only. The first one is the unconvincing opening intro “20. 12. 1890” (I have been always wandering about this date, as the Wounded Knee massacre took place on December, 29th) played with very average keyboards parts and this isn’t good start definitely. Such an opening with this title has to break my heart, oblige to feel the atmosphere of those tragic whiles. In the case of this one minute intro nothing of that sort can be experienced unfortunately. The second thing is less unpleasant and concerns the last track. “Mass Depression” is the longest one amongst the rest with all the positive stuff I mentioned above. Anyway the ending twenty seconds of the song are calm and not so furious moments and the album ends unexpectedly. I have just been left alone in the surrounding silence… and I don’t like it. Through all these years with “Wounded Knee” still I have the similar feelings as it was on the start: wrong intro and ‘strange’ closure.

To sum all the things up: it’s a good portion of ancient music for every metal hunter. Manitou is a really forgotten band, yet it’s worth a listen definitely. Crude, raw and varied uncompromising sounds, all are good definitions. For sure it was something new on the scene: without Satan, hell, church burning, killing sadness and melancholy. The band had completely original concept on the Polish (world?) scene and it didn’t become banal or childish. Sadly, the band died without any words of explanation. My huge sentiment to this tape has also an influence on the final mark. The tape which is 21 years old and still alive! And still I have many pleasant moments during listening to it.      


(written on April, 2014)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

ARIA - Армагеддон (2006)

Impossible to Be Armageddonized by Six Grey Stones

Aria needed three years to unleash another long play. With direct album’s title and ten new songs, the Russian squad once again tried to conquer my senses. And what? Ahem, after many countless careful listens, I have to write one elemental truth: this is one of the weakest Aria’s efforts so far. Of course, it beats the “Химера” album, their worst stuff, however if I’d like to compare “Армагеддон” to the previous killing album, it looks like an older brother, experienced, but a bit sick and with no life passion. It seems that the truth about “Армагеддон” is very brutal. But no, everything is caused by a splendid level of the predecessor. Fortunately this album has very good tracks, just take a listen to the opening monster called “Последний закат” – for all the world like, the twin brother of the “Патриот” song. Even production is very similar. But do not get me wrong, it’s not a cheap imitation, it’s a heavy metal shock! Musicians simply put their best track on the beginning: it is the fastest piece here preceded by Udalov pounding drums, with air ripping riffs and furious Berkut singing. Really impressive shot in my head on the start.  

The remainder isn’t such an impressive thing as the opener. I don’t deviate from the truth, the middle of the album is taken over by “Кровь королей” beyond all question. It is nine minutes beast, monumental and multi-layer composition with tempo changes from dark, full of secrecy opening and ending as well, to absolutely hard and smashing parts in middle with faster guitars decorated by very long guitar lead and Dubinin bass wizardry. These nine minutes run very quickly, and I admire this song absolutely speechless. For sure this is the same league as, for example, “Палач”, my beloved from the “Крещение огнём” album. Writing about the “Армагеддон” highlights, there is a need to mention about the third song called “Страж империи”, as it sparkles with Maidenish influences through its melody of the guitar portions. Fortunately the chorus is without any British touch and shows the power of the Russians, and yes, the whole track sounds really brilliant! To this holy trinity I can add maybe one more track called “Викинг” which is the heaviest thing here. Well, I am surprised a bit how they manage to create such a crushing guitar parts. It would be a great experience to hear it on the live shows.

All right, that’s the end. The end of writing about the songs making my heart works harder and faster. Luckily it doesn’t mean I stand before the crap truck. No, the rest is simply decent or good but nothing special. Mind you, I’m talking about the legendary band, and it seems the band got into the rut. These six remaining tracks with obligatory ballad are treated by me even as the fillers. Or maybe Aria just felt short of my big expectations? You know, some tracks are too long bringing boring whiles (especially “Меченый злом”, “Чужой”), some didn’t interest me (“Новый крестовый поход”,” Мессия”, “Чужой”) like aforementioned quartet. The ending track written exclusively by Berkut didn’t convince me as well. Also the masterly skills of musicians are not enough to get a splendid mark on the end. But for all that, I liked this album and I listen to this without any problem as it is certainly tolerable. The four pearls and the six grey stones. I think it is a good description of this album. What is interesting, the Russians needed five long years to prepare new songs entitled “Феникс”. And believe me, like a phoenix, they rose from the ”Армагеддон” ashes and entered the next chapter with Mikhail Zhitnyakov on the board. Definitely a better chapter for the band.         

- Tlacaxipehualiztli

(written on April, 2014) 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

ARIA - Крещение огнём (2003)

The Fiery Baptism

It’s very strange situation with this band. I mean, I have been worshipper of heavy metal since 1991, but Aria machine landed before my eyes eleven years ago. It was a time of releasing their ninth album “Крещение огнём”. And what is interesting in my case, the first article (almost five A4 pages interview) about this Russian legend I found in German “Desecration of Virgin” zine #6 bought on the beginning of this century. Many days have passed, and finally I’ve got the album recorded by a friend, later an original copy with a really amazing front cover artwork.
Musically I got… the Iron Maiden’s best heritage. It isn’t a surprise as the musicians confirmed their fascinations of this British band and it can be easily felt in several moments (especially when it comes to the melodic parts and the way of bass playing as the strong leading instrument), however I would be a stupid liar calling Russians a poor imitation. No, of course not! And let me write one elementary truth: both crews deal with heavy metal music and this is enough. The production is simply good, each instrument is audible without any hindrance but the best sound realization of studio albums the Russians will serve during “Феникс” times. All right, let’s strike home, the first track just split my head and left it slaughtered! The furious pounding drums that appeared from out of nowhere, then the guitars and bass attack with shrill Berkut vocals harbinger the heavy metal devastation. “Патриот” really maltreated my senses, as the first perception I could compare with powerful “Thanx for Nothin’” executed by Overkill. The same feelings, the same ravager power. The fast tempo dominates through pretty melodic layers of riffs and even it is played rather simple way, there is no time for a breather, as the fantastic chorus takes place. In turn one minute long guitar lead demonstration that is divided into two parts, makes this splendid guitar eruption probably the best solo lead on the album.

Writing about the next three songs is like putting a brick into the wall. I mean, the bettermost heavy metal music is still on the stage, maybe not so fast as the opener, but I listen to it with bated breath through the second title song (preceded by a subtle intro and then with absolutely great chorus parts) and the third “Колизей” (with smashing slow-down in the middle). Yes, a really classic stuff for me. But, the best is yet to come, and its name is “Палач”. To put it briefly, here I got a culminating point of the album, the longest song, built by several fascinating parts. Written by Holstinin, this is one of the best tracks in whole Aria’s career. Opened by very calm tunes, it turns into epic and majestic piece of metal, what is interesting, it doesn’t contain any sophisticated and studied means, yet its simplicity really paralyze me every time I listen to it, especially when it comes to the emotional chorus parts with Berkut middle-scale singing. The song seethes with beautiful guitar leads, memorable melodies and hard riffs, also the string quartette is present here to support the classic instrumentarium and enrich the whole.

And when the last second of “Палач” passes by, something pops in the kingdom of Aria. I don’t want to write that the rest of the album is just a dunghill, because I’d be emotionally disturbed, but two songs “Твой новый мир” and “Белый флаг” lower effectively the final mark. Yes, that’s true, both are speedy outbursts, but the quality is rather mediocre. Fortunately, the remainder gives a pleasure to my metal heart, bringing such powerful tracks like “Там высоко” (a really good ballad!), “Битва” (the only track written by Popov, quite different thing amongst the rest with slow marching tempos) and the ending composition “Бал у князя тьмы” reminding a bit another ballad due to calmer tunes on the beginning, but after almost fifty seconds, it becomes a ‘proper’ thing: mid-paced bulldozer served by simple means again with astonishing Dubinin bass lines, however at about 2:50 it turns into more melodic part with hearable Iron Maiden’s influences. It is very good and well-thought-out ending song giving me really impressive moments on the end of this album.  

Of course, there is a need to mention about the vocalist, Berkut. While listening to this album, I only knew from the interview about their previous singer Kipelov. I read about his legendary status on the Russian heavy metal stage and through all these great years with Aria’s music, however I don’t think his departure before “Крещение огнём” session as something bad. Yes, it was a high light, something like Dickinson and his replacement in the person of Bayley, though Berkut hasn’t different vocals range, and it means that the band did a safe choice I guess. Safe, but really good, I have to admit. He perfectly fits to the musical content… And what is more, this is the first album with completely Russian lyrics. Me, as a Pole, it was a bit confusing on the start. The foreigners probably don’t understand this specific bond between our two nations, but believe me, many hours of Russians in the elementary and secondary school was a real pain in the ass for young Poles. And no, I don’t speak Russian, however reading the Cyrillic alphabet is not a problem for me. And I have to admit the Russian language is very melodious and I liked it a lot. Man, after all these years…

So, I’ll try to write something on the end. First of all, this is very good album, that’s for sure, but it was like a beginning of the heavy metal avalanche as I had to check their previous albums. When I did it, sadly for this album (and luckily for me!), I discovered more, even better, albums of these Russians heavy metal gods. Yes, most of them come from the 80s, but it is great that the band has enough power to unleash such great albums in the present century. Maybe “Химера” was a step back, but reviewed album and especially “Феникс” with another singer gave me some rays of hope in the numb world of contemporary heavy metal. For me, it was like a finding of fountain of youth. Its fresh waters gave me a new life in the fascinating world of heavy metal. The only my complaint touches the two tracks mentioned above, the rest is just superb. My firemetal baptism is done. But what about you? Will you dare to receive this baptism?  


(written on April, 2014)  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

DISGORGE - Necrholocaust (2003)

Musicholocaust: Beyond the Hospital, Beyond the Mortuary

„Forensick”, the second album of Mexican extreme pathophysiologists didn’t convince me. The debut album was simply great causing mass sense mutilation, in turn the successor was supported by totally messy and botched up production, however the musical quality wasn’t an adequate image of the sound realization. But, as the well-known proverb goes, the third time pays for all, this reviewed offer of Queretaro slaughterers completely revalue my own perception concerning this band. Simply, “Necrholocaust” became one of my favourite death/grind albums, but as compared to the two previous releases, several changes were perceptible. I mean, the front cover is more pleasant for my eyes, just a cage is given, with some dead bodies, nothing controversial at all, yet it has its own sick charm and refers to the album’s title in a good way. The next change is in songs titles and the lyrics, ha, I didn’t find here any medical nomenclature, any intricate mind discharge like “Stygmatodermuropyanephrosism on Impetiginose Urogenism” or “Urethrive Decortico-Xanthomatose Muco Gestated Scaffolds”, man, just take a look on “Excremental Lust” or “Sodomic Baptism” which sound even commercially he, he, though it doesn’t mean that ‘blood’ and ‘gore’ are missing. Antimo didn’t bestow such nice topics on thirsty Aesculapian art devotees, however massacre, perversity, deviance and the like still dominate in this verbal transfer. The lyrics are just given in more come-at-able form, so the medicine students can feel cheated I guess.

The third change, also important, concerns the production. And believe me, Carlos Padilla and Edgar Garcia (guitarist of the band), both responsible for production, mixing and mastering, did a truly splendid work. This monster that worms out of the Disgorge instruments is merciless and slashing indeed. There is even nothing to compare with previous releases, however everything is still maintained in the underground standards. The fourth change, the most important, is the music itself. And at the beginning I was surprised or, better to write, just shocked. Scourged by pretty annoying intro whiles from the debut, the first seconds of “Necrholocaust” was like one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. It lasts about one minute, but it became one of the most impressive introduction I have ever heard! It’s easy to feel worried as it consists of sensitive yet full of fear and unease part of piano with some war-like noises. Then, the sound annihilation begins. And for sure this “Raise the Pestilence” opener is a good prognostic of the things to come. The Mexicans transformed their own musical visions from dirty and frowsty mortuary and brought it onto the streets. Without any warning and mercy they strike the senses, causing mass extermination of human tissues.  This pure musical madness is a real extreme thing, however the appearing chaos at the first listen is fully controlled by musicians. It makes my every nerve starts to curl, to hide in a shelter, but all is for nothing. The superb portions of razor-sharp riffs do not only fascinating speedy and raging tempos, but also magic slow-downs are present amongst guitar avalanches. What is more, mighty Swedish bands from the beginning of the nineties come to my mind while slow moments appear, just take a listen to the first “Raise the Pestilence”, or “Macabre Realms of Inhuman Bestiality” and “Ravenous Funeral Carnage”. But there is no time for a breather, as the storm of riffs with frenzied rhythm section hurtles on my head. The drums performance can really dumbfound me, Guillermo uses all the possibilities to destroy his drum kit: from marching tempos to breathtaking blast beats, from simple blows to broken, arrhythmic constructions that shock the hearing. This multiple tempo festival doesn’t make a while of boredom, but the formula refers to the vocals expressions as well. Antimo accustomed me to the vo-kills rotten arts and this album isn’t an exception. However this time he serves not such varied ‘singing’ as compared to the “Chronic Corpora Infest”, as his vocal scale has a less range. But it doesn’t mean he failed. No, again I’m a witness of ultra guttural vomits supported by extremely good and well-thought-out high-pitched screams, but forget about blackish empty caws. Simply, Antimo is a flat denial of the art of singing. And… I like it a lot!

“Necrholocaust” brings 34 minutes of carnage, degeneration, deviance, tons of blood and mutilated human organs. Being a fucking musical holocaust, the album is one of those killers I cannot live without. This slab became a synonym of death, grind and gore metal devastation, on the other hand, it can be a noisy cacophony for the unbelievers. But, who cares? The next aspect: the Mexicans took this music and put it on the top drawer of the genre, or of the brutal music to be more general. All the songs make one ruthless kick in my face, but I’m a brave man and always try to listen to this album from the first second to the last one. Yep, not selectively, as it has to be heard altogether. Then it will bring its whole power and fury. Indeed, I was wandering about the best song, and after many listens I can state that as awesome and bestial as all those songs are, nothing tops the mighty opener. That’s true, since it is preceded by aforementioned intro, and seems to be a commanding officer of the seven bloody soldiers under the banner of the gore grind. What a splendid squad! I’m with them obviously, with boiling vomits through my veins… just to follow bravely the Disgorging legions!


(written on April, 2014)