The Ravenna Arsenal – I. (2013); Gholas – Litanies (2014)

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The Ravenna ArsenalI. (self-released, 23 February 2013)

 

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GholasLitanies (Dullest Records, 11 February 2014)

 

Hello out there, folks. Hope this week has gone well for you all. Over the past few days — during which things got pretty crazy busy, to the point where I didn’t have any time to get anything written — I’ve heard some pretty incredible brand-new releases, and I definitely look forward to sharing those with you. But not quite yet; instead, today we’re going to turn back the calendar a little bit, and spend some time with a couple of my favorite releases from years past that I just never quite got around to writing about yet. These were featured in my Top 13 of 2013 and Top 14 of 2014 lists, respectively, chiefly due to the fact that both of these bands know how to write a hell of a song. These are both albums that I’ve listened to front-to-back like dozens of times, and I feel pretty certain you’ll agree that every single song on each is of excellent quality …

 

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Derkéta – In Death We Meet (2015 Reissue)

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DerkétaIn Death We Meet (originally self-released 2012; remixed/remastered CD and vinyl edition Ibex Moon Records, April/December 2015)

 

Named for a goddess of death in the mythology of the fictional kingdom of Stygia (analogous to Egypt in the Hyborian era setting of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories), the band Derkéta are widely regarded as Pittsburgh’s own goddesses of death/doom metal. You remember Derkéta, don’t you? Formed almost three decades ago, active on and off throughout those years with many of the same core members rotating in and out of the line-up; released a number of demos and EPs but then finally put out their debut album in 2012?

For a quick refresher, you could get a more complete history by checking out this interview that I did with founding guitarist/vocalist Sharon Bascovsky about three and a half years ago, when the band was about to perform at the Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh.

Since that time, In Death We Meet was remastered for a vinyl release via Ibex Moon, and during that process they went ahead and polished up the recordings for a new CD version as well — which (in my opinion) was a vast improvement to the overall mix (generally sounding louder and heavier, wider and more spacious, with a more even blend of all the instruments rather than having the cymbal crashes dominating everything else) and warranted an “Honorable Mention” on my Top 15 of 2015 list.

And now — tonight, in fact — the band will be appearing in Pittsburgh once again, this time alongside the legendary Deströyer 666 at the Smiling Moose. You can find the relevant details about that right here if you happen to be in the area, but first, whether you’re planning on going to the show tonight or not, this seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to discuss In Death We Meet

 

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Battle Path – Ambedo (2015-16); Hollow Leg – Crown (2016)

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Battle PathAmbedo (digital+vinyl Inherent Records / Crimson Eye Records, 09 November 2015; cassette Wood and Stone Productions, 24 June 2016)

 

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Hollow LegCrown (Argonauta Records, 04 March 2016 EU / 24 June 2016 NA)

 

Well good morning, readers, and a happy Tuesday to you all. I’m finally back after taking an extra week off from writing — partly to recover from the Independence Day holiday weekend (and that Primitive Man show last Monday night!) and partly because of me being so overloaded at my day job. But as always, there’s tons of stuff to tell you about — both old and new — so here we go again. Today we’ll be taking a look at albums by two different bands from the southeastern United States, Battle Path from Murfreesboro and Hollow Leg from Jacksonville. Each of these albums originally came out a little while ago (Ambedo back in November and Crown in March), but they both just got reissued near the end of last month (the former has now come out on cassette, while following a European release the latter is now also available domestically).

 

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Pilgrim – II: Void Worship (2014); Blizaro – Cornucopia della Morte (2016)

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PilgrimII: Void Worship (Metal Blade Records, 01 April 2014)

 

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BlizaroCornucopia della Morte (I, Voidhanger Records, 15 April 2016)

 

Hey! Did you enjoy Monday’s post about old-school occult/doom metal? I hope you did, because [[SPOILER ALERT]] there’s plenty more where that came from. Today we’ll be taking a look at another pair of bands who fit that description: Pilgrim and Blizaro.

As it turns out, each of these bands will be joining together with Castle on a handful of their upcoming tour dates (which we had discussed yesterday); one of the shows Blizaro is scheduled to play (July 31st in Pittsburgh) also will feature Brimstone Coven; a few lucky people will get the chance to see both Blizaro AND Pilgrim together. Further details about all this will be tucked into the comment section below, so be sure to check that out. But first, let’s talk about some music …

 

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Brimstone Coven – Self-titled (2014); Castle – Welcome to the Graveyard (2016)

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Brimstone CovenBrimstone Coven (Metal Blade Records, 05 August 2014)

 

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CastleWelcome to the Graveyard (Ván Records, 15 July 2016)

 

Good afternoon, all you fine people visiting the Valley. Things have gotten a little bit hectic around here recently — I’ll never understand what it is that makes people want to go on vacation in the summertime when it’s so gross and hot and humid outside. Given the choice, I’d rather sit in an air-conditioned office all day, and save days off for later when I really don’t feel like going. Not that much writing happens while I’m at work anyhow, I’m plenty busy enough doing my actual job, but I usually at least can spend the day listening to stuff, and jotting down some little notes that I can turn into a full article or review later. But sometimes lately I haven’t had much chance to even think, let alone formulate coherent sentences.

But as always, there’s tons of stuff happening in the music world, new releases to tell you about, older stuff that you may have missed but really deserves your attention, tours kicking off that just might be coming through your city. And this will be a blend of all of those things: one band whose new album comes out next month, and who started a tour (that will last pretty much all summer long!) just last week; another band who released an excellent album two years ago but somehow we never got around to sharing it with you, and who will be joining the first band for a handful of those shows in a few weeks. So keep on reading, you’ll hear some great music, and the full set of dates for each band will be listed down below in the comments …

 

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The Order of Israfel – Wisdom (2014), Red Robes (2016); Candlemass – Death Thy Lover (2016)

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The Order of IsrafelWisdom (Napalm Records, 09 September 2014)

 

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The Order of IsrafelRed Robes (Napalm Records, 27 May 2016)

 

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CandlemassDeath thy Lover (Napalm Records, 03 June 2016)

 

Good afternoon. Today, let’s talk about Swedish doom. First I’d like to call your attention to a band from Gothenburg, whom some of you may not know yet, since they’ve only been around about four years now. In that time, they’ve released two albums — the first almost two years ago, and the second last Friday — both through Napalm Records. We’ll be discussing both of those.

The other band we’re going to cover today, from Stockholm, is likely to already be familiar to every single person reading this: their debut album was released thirty years ago this month, and it literally defined the “Epic Doom Metal” genre. Celebrating that milestone, the band will be releasing a brand-new EP this Friday — which we’ll also talk about today.

 

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Six Feet Under – Crypt of the Devil (2015), Graveyard Classics IV (2016)

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Six Feet UnderCrypt of the Devil (Metal Blade Records, 05 May 2015)

 

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Six Feet UnderGraveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest (Metal Blade Records, 27 May 2016)

 

Okay, here’s my story. About fifteen or sixteen years ago, the file-sharing software Napster had hit its prime. The MP3 file format had been around for a few years, and it was a revolutionary new way to store and transfer digital audio due to the way it compressed data, which meant that over a relatively decent dial-up connection, it became possible to download a song in a matter of several minutes rather than hours. But coinciding with the rise of the Napster service, cable or DSL internet services were becoming increasingly widespread among household users — and while these broadband connections couldn’t compare with the direct lines found in larger businesses or colleges (or even with the high-speed options available in homes today), this increased upload and download speeds exponentially: now (depending on the speed of the specific peer-to-peer connection), that same MP3 file could usually be downloaded in less time than it would take you to listen to the song it contained. There was still plenty of technological advances yet to come, to the point where you can now go to Bandcamp and download an entire album in about thirty seconds or less, but compared with the way things had been for years prior, this was a pretty amazing development.

At that time, I was just into my early twenties, and very eager to learn about all the music that was out there for me to discover. No longer limited to what was available on the radio or MTV, there was a whole new world now accessible with just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. And so I set out to fill my ears with everything I possibly could. Wikipedia was still in its infancy then, and the Encyclopaedia Metallum had not yet been launched, but I remember finding an invaluable source of information at the now-defunct CDNow.com — which, at the time, was basically the music store equivalent of Amazon.com, who was still primarily involved in selling only books. CDNow had fairly extensive biographical information for most of the artists whose music they sold, and also had an excellent system of recommendations — a series of rabbit holes through which I spend many, many hours wandering. Between all of that online research, and sometimes just stumbling upon random things in the course of conducting Napster searches, I had started to amass quite a sizable library of music, in an ever-broadening range of styles.

The point of all this is that at some time — I guess it was probably around early 2001 — I happened upon a death metal version of Dead Kennedys‘ “California Über Alles” by a band called Six Feet Under, which I thought was well-done, in a somewhat amusing, tongue-in-cheek kind of way. As it turns out, just before this (specifically, in October 2000), the band had released an album called Graveyard Classics which was entirely made up of cover versions of old-school rock, punk, and metal songs — so naturally when I tried searching for more of their material, these were the songs that popped up most often: “Sweet Leaf,” “In League with Satan,” and so on. At the time I didn’t know anything about Six Feet Under, although I did learn that it had first launched as a side project of Chris Barnes who had been the vocalist for Cannibal Corpse. Now that was a band I was at least somewhat familiar with, as a high school classmate had introduced me to their highly disturbing brand of extreme metal back in the early- or mid-90s. Anyway, given that limited amount of information, and the selection of songs I had been finding available for download (for what it’s worth, I later did end up buying a copy of Graveyard Classics), the natural conclusion I drew at that time was that apparently Six Feet Under was essentially the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes of death metal …

I don’t remember exactly when, but eventually I learned the full story behind the band — that they do have original material as well, and that Barnes had decided to shift all his energy here after being expelled from Cannibal Corpse following their first few albums (and not long after forming this side project), for reasons that vary depending on which version of the story you hear, but which may have included being more interested in marijuana than in being seriously committed to the band. Whether there’s any truth to that could be debated endlessly, but I’ve always found it a bit peculiar that there might have been an issue with someone’s seriousness when it comes to membership in a band whose lyrics and titles were so offensive that it was almost cartoonish, and whose artwork was so absurdly graphic that their albums were normally sold mostly (or even entirely) covered with a plain cardboard sleeve. But anyway, none of that is really relevant here — we’re here to discuss Six Feet Under, who have always seemed to (at least at some level) embrace the inherent silliness of the extreme death metal genre — especially when it comes to tackling cover songs that are often, as I noted earlier, clearly intended to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

 

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