Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: Testament - Dark Roots of Earth

Dark Roots of Earth
Nuclear Blast

As a big, fat fan of their previous offering, the excellent The Formation of Damnation, the build up to the new TESTAMENT record has been rather agonizing.

When the cover to Dark Roots of Earth was unleashed upon the metal community a couple months ago, a giant "Holy Sh*t" was heard 'round the world to the sheer kick-assery of the art work, causing the drool of anticipation to bubble up in my throat and spatter out of my mouth as I yelled, "I want to hear a sample song, dammit!"

When "True American Hate" and "Native Blood" were released, respectively, to a generally well-received audience, the build-up had reached its peak for me. Although I confidently knew in my freakin' BONES that Dark Roots was going to be a near-flawless album, I couldn't help but think that the cover art and the two preview songs were too good to be true, leaving the rest to be a bit of a let down.

I guess I was simply preparing myself for the worst. What an idiot.

Fanboy praise be damned, Dark Roots of Earth is pure Testament and it completely freaking rocks. To speak of how well-crafted the songs are should be of no big surprise. The cumulative musical ideas spanning from each of the past albums created that Testament SOUND, one that is unmistakable and always welcome, and is once again utilized to create yet another classic in the band's arsenal of killer studio albums.

From the opening shout-along metal anthem Rise Up to the final scorching track Last Stand of Independence, fans are treated to the gamut of everything we love about Testament, ballads and all. Classic thrash? Melodic hooks? Death-tinged metal? Well-crafted solos? It's all in there, baby, cooked to perfection.

Stand out tracks for me include A Day in the Death and Man Kills Mankind, both which take me way back as a young fan of Testament and wondering how even more devastating the Practice What You Preach album could be with the thick, bone-shattering production found on Dark Roots.

To back up the strong songwriting is the equally strong presence behind the drum kit: Gene Hoglan. His previous venture with the Testament crew helped forge the heaviness of the band's "f*ck you!" to the watered-down 90s metal scene - the Demonic album (a polarizing offering that remains one of my all-time favorites). Hoglan's welcome return to the skins displays his brand of tight and precise driving rhythms to the melodic and brutal riffing throughout.

One element that I am definitely happy to hear in heavier use this time around is Chuck Billy's catchy vocal melodies, predominately used on past releases such as Souls of Black and The Ritual. Billy has such a knack for creating catchy vocal hooks that work so well with the underlying music, they can easily get burned into the listener's brain.

So fans, old and new, take note. Testament managed to take everything they have perfected over the course of the band's career and build upon that foundation to give us an album that is savagely hungry, effectively beautiful, and as heavy as a near-flawless metal album should be. Dark Roots of Earth is the metal album to top for 2012.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hammer Fight ROCKS!

If you are going to name your band HAMMER FIGHT, you better play like you could bring an ass kicking to a caged gorilla.

Damn if it ain't the truth! Reminiscent of Violentor's one-two punch of rock and thrash and Speedboozer's gutterpunk sensibilities, New Jersey's Hammer Fight slam with a ferocious bludgeoning of whiskey-scarred vocals and balls-out riff rock and metal. As easy as it is to classify Hammer Fight simply as a thrash-rock band, they go far and beyond such a moniker.

When first listening to Hammer Fight, Motorhead comparisons are inevitable, but these guys add burst of well-placed traditional euro-inspired metal to set them apart. Also, while Hammer Fight is not above rocking out to blazing riff chugging, the guitar solos alone display musical chops that align more with Iron Maiden than a typical two-riff punk band.

Now permit me to just use this part of the post to sit in silence and marvel at the riffs Hammer Fight uses to build their absurdly kick-ass tunes.


Holy crap.

The bottom line is this band sounds hungry in their music, making their output as heavy and brutal as an actual freakin' hammer fight. Check out the goodies below and if you like it, you can download their self-titled EP for a measly three bucks! Afterward, hit them up here.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Weekend Breakdown with Warsenal, Verbal Razors, Apache Gunship, and Xpulsion!

Canadian thrashers WARSENAL had me floored with some lightening-in-a-bottle ideas that made the riffs on the classic Megadeth and Metallica albums kick so much ass.

Mathieu Rondeau’s flying riffs are Mustaine-worship through and through, and damn! they are ambitious as hell. The song structures could be lifted right off Kill ‘Em All, albeit a bit more stripped down and loose.

Warsenal went to the roots of thrash and scored well. The ideas are there, the riffs are blistering, and they even found a way to snatch that old-school SOUND. So what’s the downside? Well, it’s a matter of taste here really, and the taste comes down to vocals.

Let me first say that the vocals do not suck. They don’t. In fact, they remind me of a less nasally Dave Mustaine (which fit perfectly with Warsenal’s riffage). What bugs me is the delivery in the vocal pattern is extremely forced in certain places, causing a noticeable and jarring break in the vocalist’s flow (example would be the vocal intro to Unstoppable).

This is a minor quibble when taking Warsenal’s music as a whole, which is thunderous and driving, allowing fans of classic thrash to dive in and enjoy. To me, Warsenal is soooooo close to creating close-to-perfect classic sounding thrash. Music that could make legions of metal fans take notice with an audible “Holy Sh*t” on their lips.

My hope is these guys will continue to grow, iron out the rough spots, and deliver an album that will set the thrash scene on its head. They definitely have the song-writing chops to pull it off.

Check them out below and go visit them here.

A big thanks goes to the Thrash Maniacs blog for turning me on to France’s VERBAL RAZORS. This thrash-heavy crossover outfit pummels out short bursts of snarl-baring aggression.

What I really love about these guys is the hint of pure rock ‘n’ roll infused with the thrashing madness. Cannibal Vegan is a perfect example with its Motorhead-like speed and hard-hitting rhythms backing up the quick solo.

Thrash fans can pick out many things to enjoy with Verbal Razors, from Exodus and Testament-style riffing, to Violentor-style simplicity, all wrapped up in a rough and tumble punk attitude.

The bonus to all this awesomeness is that Verbal Razors have made their EP Settling of Scores available as a free download! Completely kick-ass.

Listen below and hit them up on Facebook here.

Heading over to Ireland, we have the eclectic metal men APACHE GUNSHIP. As opposed to bands such as the aforementioned Warsenal, these guys are not traditional thrash by any means.

To be sure, they are definitely influenced by thrash, but then add hefty doses of rock, prog, and doom to round out a sound that is catchy and crushes at the same time.

Based on the one available song Unleashed, Apache Gunship utilizes their influences successfully in a slab of meaty songwriting. Well done! Vocalist Warren Boyd goes from death vox to 70’s soul rock to 90s Alt rock and back again, embracing the varied styles that seamlessly flow throughout the music.

Maybe Apache Gunship is not for the thrash purists, but if you like heavy music in general, check these guys out.

Right now, they are offering Unleashed as a free download. Listen to it below and if you're interested, go "like" 'em on Facebook!

Hell, yeah! Belgium's XPULSION thrash out with chunky, catchy riffage, head-bangable gallops, and raspy metal vocals that bring to mind Devastation's Rodney Dunsmore.

Although their EP, titled War is Imminent, hinges on old Bay Area thrash, there are hints of old-school crossover bleeding into the sound, making some of Xpulsion's rare left-field nuances palatable to the songs. Sure those nuances, such as the off-color guitar runs in Anaconda Plan, might make you think "What the hell?", but these instances don't take away from the overall bad-assery of Xpulsion's music.

What's freakin' cool about Xpulsion is their ability to combine various influences into seamless, catchy chunks of thrash. They successfully add hints of Megadeth and Schuldiner-style prog to the driving e-string chug, knocking the songwriting up a notch. Also, the openers to songs such as Black Pearl and Welcome to Yourself show Xpulsion harbors killer ideas of how to add atmosphere to the madness. Man, this stuff is kick ass!

Check 'em out below and hit them up here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Lich King: We Came to Conquer!

Here is a new track by the mighty LICH KING titled We Came to Conquer which will appear on their upcoming album Born of the Bomb.

Go here to preorder Born of the Bomb!


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