Saturday, December 27, 2014

VX - Sense pietat (2013)

Krakatoa Reminiscence: Beneath Metallic Ash

VX is a serious band. Deeply rooted in the glorious past, looking like persons transported from the eighties and delivering good music, they know the rules. And some day one man wanted to join this Valencian crew. Who was it? Yep, it was a keyboardist dressed like the rest of the band, who wanted to make the music softer, easier and in the vein of Amaranthe or something like that. Hopefully the band had totally different point of view and prepared one bullet for him. There were no way out, the result is shown on the front cover…

All right, joking aside and to the point: what do VX come up with? Well, the band serves three own new songs and one cover of Razor titled “Iron Hammer”, so only almost nineteen minutes after three long years. Not too much, but as compared to the previous “Contraataque” some changes can be heard. Firstly, the production is definitely with a modern touch missing “Contraataque” rawness, luckily with any signs of such common artificiality, however I prefer previous bass lines realization beyond all question. Secondly, I listen to different music. But be calm, it’s still metal to the bone, yet the main thrashing influences are gone or displayed in significant minority. For me it is just heavy metal with some speed strikes hither and thither. And constantly find myself comparing “Sense pietat” to Running Wild from the first bestial album and the “Masquerade” era. Same metal execution, same general atmosphere, yet one band must be mentioned here as well: Motörhead and its no-stop motility. This amalgamation really moves on ceaselessly giving pretty good moments, being a better choice for the band than pure thrash attack I guess. Just listen to the third killer “Krakatoa” which rips my guts apart! Fast heavy yet simple ass-kicking riff structures, memorable chorus that is known for all my disco neighbours and long guitar lead. Or take a listen to the most brutal part in “Del lado de Satán” after 1:07 which becomes really killing heavy speed sonic hammer. The whole is drowned in good and catchy riffs and decorated by complex and quite melodic guitar leads. No more is needed, believe me. About vocals, they are still in Spanish, however Diego uses rather middle range of his screams. And it’s pity that “Iron Hammer” hasn’t been sung in their native language. It could be add some extra points to the final mark…

To sum all the things up, this band fits my taste perfectly. They do not fill my speakers with any modern shit, yet I don’t consider them another retro copy-cat polluting the scene. The only complaint concerning this hot piece of metal is the running time. To put it shortly: I beg for more, guys, as I know it by heart! So, you can see, it’s time for something bigger, for full-length with completely new songs. It will be a real test for these Valencian metallers, that’s for sure. But I have an impression that this quintette (si, no teclados!!!) will show a better face of their music once again.  


(written on December, 2014)           

Sunday, December 21, 2014

VX - Contraataque (2010)

The Armor-piercing Depository

The first mention about this band I found in Thrash Attack #10 zine, where name VX has been given during the describing Heavy Metal Espectros Festival in Murcia, Spain. Then I decided to check out the Spaniards by myself and know what is all about. Musical entirety is some kind of novelty for me, because when the land of Spain is concerned, I get recently either pure heavy traditional stuff, or old school ancient death metal miasms. VX is the first band executing thrash / speed metal from this land, and it is very interesting whether I can keep that “Contraataque” next to the best Spanish metal releases. The front cover shows a tank spitting missile with the band’s name, firing its pom-pom and crushing some heads belonging to the unbelievers and posers I guess. However the picture isn’t special and original on the metal scene, I took the liberty on asking one fundamental question: is this real killing war machine and devastating the senses or just a poor cartoon-like imitation?

It starts off with quite calm guitar (yes, no keyboards included!) marching intro, then after sixty seconds the missile leaves a barrel. The explosion gunfire becomes fast speedy parts of riffs driving my mind to… Slayer heritage. Yep, in addition from “Reign in Blood” and “South of Heaven” era luckily. But, there is something wrong (?) with the sound. I agree it has a light flavor of the eighties, yet the guitars seem to be too soft and without a power, unlike the rhythm section with perfectly recorded and performed bass section of Jose Morán. I gave first famous name, however “Ira VX” may lead into error. It’s quite different as compared to the rest of the songs, yet saying it doesn’t fit to the whole “Contraataque” entirety, would be nonsensical misuse. Well, the band simply changes the direction and begins its journey straight to the German land, envisaging the king called Tankard! Yes, exactly, this smashing beer crew is the main influence for the next Spaniards offers. Just listen to the third track “Metal sin parar” which I treat the best one here, just then times of “The Morning After” and the nineties albums (emphatically on “Two-Faced”) cross my mind. But this is the main evidence I consider VX a thrash band more than speed. The latter parts taken from Canadian gods Razor or Exciter are audible in furious guitar attacks, yet they are served in lesser extent definitely. The well-known riffs smoothly posses my senses, giving a good tasty whiles of hectic music. Guitar leads performed by Javier Castellanos try to create rather long melodic layers than chaotic shots, definitely with the best one in “Asalto”. The band put also some short introductions (beginning of “Asalto” and “La gola de l'infern”) and even if I consider such doings as redundant, it isn’t a disturber here.      

It is always easy to fall into a trap of boredom and makes some yawns. The band knows it and tempo changes aren’t anything uncommon. My attention is still maintained on the proper level, there is no any moments that make my mind get stranded. I mean, banging all the time. What is more, my children have another lesson of Spanish language (as the lyrics are sung in it), you know, not only Martina Stoessel and Jorge Blanco known from cult Disney serial. Yes, as the Spanish is called out just now, it is a good moment to write something about Diego Mateo and his throat. Even if on the beginning I wasn’t too convinced to his performance, several spins gave me a better insight into his role in the band. For sure he operates pretty strange hybrid of Gerre and Mille Petrozza, decorated by theatrical-like kind of sinusoid that ranges from high pitch (sometimes similar to blackish screams) to low, almost guttural short exhalements. Yes, Diego is a strong part of the team.     

That’s true that VX isn’t original outfit, but I don’t search for it. Thrash should be thing that kicks my ass and the listening time with “Contraataque” wasn’t a waste. Maybe the picture tank isn’t invincible piece of steel, and maybe aforementioned missile isn’t nuclear or ballistic, it is a solid armor piercing shell for sure. One can say that is always better to listen to originals and probably he would be right. But, for me, it is a great adventure to discover another new crews raising from the depths of the underground and bringing the music I love. Such a band is VX, it is not a revelation on the scene, but their music is simply decent. The patterns are obvious and they know how to mix it in proper devastating way. This hot dish I swallow without any hindrance. Asalto otra vez!!!    


(written on December, 2014) 

Friday, December 19, 2014

GRAVEYARD - The Altar of Sculpted Skulls (2011)

Cult of the Altar

Through last two years I bought death metal items in most cases. And being supporter of Spanish Graveyard since the first tune of “Prologue: The Reaping” from the debut album, I got “The Altar of Sculpted Skulls” copy (released by Pulverised Records, 2012) last November… Yep, I know, it’s hard to believe, fast blink on calendar and the year, but, as one could easily say, better late than never… Even if I’m going to tell that this band became one of the highlight acts in nowaday metal scene and one of the best metal bands generally in my private ranking! And believe me, this Ep isn’t an exception. To put it briefly, it is a perfect thing that merges the debut album and the mighty second crusher “The Sea Grave” that took hold of my mind to the end of time. The band managed to throw off the gyve of too crystal “One with the Dead” sound realization, giving dirt, crude yet powerful and massive production created by Javi Felez in his own stronghold Moontower Studios. And listening to the opening title track, the monstrous heaviness of music overwhelms me unmercifully. Trying to gasp for some fresh air, my scared and disoriented senses have no way to escape. The altar casts a spell on me…

While relishing the music itself, there is a need to mention about the front cover made by Putrid. He replaced Mr. Giordano and he made a perfect awesome job. Again with two colours only, black and white in sight, again breathtaking picture. And if the debut was a some kind of determinant of the band’s style and attitude, here I have no surprise: it’s still bestial Swedish-like death metal played the ancient way, the way it should be executed, however some influences taken from the rest of European scene (especially Dutch and British) are audible as well. And such a woven vibe makes my day simply better. Production-wise is rather far from to be another Sunlight clone, yet this well-known stitch is still present, especially when characteristic captivating melodic tunes or the guitar structures are on the stage. It must be added that Spaniards can create amazing atmospheric sounds (the beginning of “An Epitaph Written in Blood”, or instrumental “Cult of the Shadows”) that bring some fear and horror-like moments. These fragments, just like the rest of compositions, are supported by devastating and devilish vocals of Julkarn, he made a really good job giving next strong brick to the altar.

Mind you, there is no weak song, even the last two crushers (re-recorded “Ritual” and remixed / remastered “Howl of the Black Death”) known from the previous works, perfectly fit to the rest. It’s really hard to choice the leader in this deathly sauce and I’m not going to do that. Simply, the whole kills, and it is (almost) impossible to put the button stop. The altar seems to be like a drug, it keeps me strongly and infects my senses. 24 minutes of bestial death metal that envenoms the blood. What more is needed for me? 


(written on December, 2014)

Thursday, December 4, 2014

REMAINS - Angels Burned (2014)

Walking the Skeletons Path

The debut album of Mexican Remains wasn’t a love at first listen. Having in mind their smashing “…of Death” I expected just better release. It is an obvious thing because progress is something natural and common. And well, after many hours with “Angels Burned”, I can state most emphatically that Miguel Angel managed to record such an album. On purpose I wrote ‘Miguel Angel’ as he was responsible for all music and instruments (excepting drums played by Martin Martinez from Xipe Totec and several guitar leads). He also recorded and produced it, and to make a long story short, the sound simply kills as well!

This positive beginning seems to be a good insight of the things to come. And walking the path created among skeletons piles, skulls and bones, I arrive at the half-open gate that invites me to make one more step, into the realm of Remains, where old school death metal king reigns. Nevertheless I didn’t find any clear influences and ‘in the vein of’, some famous bands come to my mind while listening to it. The first one is Edge of Sanity due to vocal lines, some rhythm guitar structures and covering their song called “Living Hell” (which I treat it as definitely better choice than dismemberish “On Frozen Fields”), sometimes another Swedish killers like Entombed (Clandestine era), Grave or Carnage due to overall atmosphere, or Asphyx (just listen to the fantastic riffs in “Dark Entities”) and Incantation when slower parts are concerned. Generally speaking it’s very hard to classify “Angels Burned” and put it into stiff genre framings. So it is way better to write about Remains as old school death metal act. Definitely this is an advantage, just like sense crushing production. Miguel didn’t clone Sunlight sound and walked a bit different way with modern touch, but with the ancient spirit in the core. The first-rate bass lines supported by ruthless drums are murderous weapon to fight with silence and daily monotony. Musically I can see the same as compared to the previous “…of Death”. Again I cannot indicate the best song, the leader. The whole is maintained in equal high level, even intro with these characteristic melodies and some light keyboards passages in the background, isn’t a needful thing or disturber recorded just for having an intro on the start. No, it smoothly turns into the first proper track and perfectly fits to the killing whole…

Repeating myself, this album wasn’t love at the first listen. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think about it as a shit or something like that, yet it seemed to be worse than previous stuff. And now I’m wondering why? And when the moment of rupture took place? Ha, I don’t know, yet the album doesn’t let me leave it alone in the corner of my desk. Anyway, I didn’t lose my patience and now I can admire these sounds through all the time. Music isn’t complicated. It is played by simple means, maybe “Remains” song delivers some more complex riffing. This all-embracing lugubrious mood that is spilled from the speakers makes me push the button ‘play’ once again. Believe me, there is no way out! The method is simple: the guitars can create memorable parts, from fast to slower pace, supported by morbid yet catchy melodies, all bathed in well-thought-out tempo changing. And don’t demand the titles from me, because I could list the whole tracklist here. No fillers, just killers, it makes a sense here! Vocally Miguel follows rather deep growling style, pretty much similar to Dan Swanö, yet it can be diversified by adding some clean voices with absolutely great performance during slowdown in “Angels Burned” and in the “Remains” song. Shortly about guitar leads, it is served in four songs only, what a pity, because I like them very much, especially from “Bringers of Death” divided into three parts. All these elements paint a real picture, without useless and unwanted things and colors.

Writing something on the end, yes, I’m impressed. I didn’t expect such a great release, however I am not going to claim this Mexican monster is at least a bit original. But! I do not search for any originality here, yet it has enormous strength to play and slaughter the armless senses, what is more, Miguel Angel has balls to unleash superior old death metal. His devotion to the style has given these so desirable and juicy fruits. And as compared to “…of Death”, he did a step forward, the band develops and expands its deathly charm, still basing on well-known patterns. Since this year Miguel managed to complete a regular line-up, and the next slab is planned to be spewed into the bowels of the underground. Being united under the rotten banner of ancient death metal, Remains join the lethal and obscure legions that create present-day metal scene. And I’m telling you, I can’t wait for the next band’s attack…    


(written on November, 2014)