John Jackson

Svarteskerm – “Dawn of the Dread”

 Posted by on September 20, 2018 at 14:55  No Responses »
Sep 202018

Swedish anarcho-punks Svarteskerm have released a bit of a discography that is worth checking out in all its raw, chaotic glory.

Svarteskerm are Swedish and nearly everything I can find on them is in Swedish as well, which complicates doing things like reviews, but given that they’re primarily  an anti-capitalist punk rock outfit, that probably doesn’t matter much as you get the idea.  I liberally tried google translate in some cases and it failed me (see band member list below, lol). They’ve apparently been around nearly 10 years and the guys at ZAP Records thought it was time the world should hear the brilliance of the band.  The song on the anthology start out from a 2014 recording and go back to some recorded in 2008 with a couple remixes added at the end for good effect.

The video for the song “Maktlös” should be all you need to know.  Grainy footage, multiple vocalist jumping around and trading lyrics back and forth over a fast punk rock beat that sounds equal parts Crashdog and old Blindside, with maybe some NYHC thrown in for good effect.  The song is fast with a great driving rhythm that would incite near riots in the pits and the production is rough and raw, perfectly matched to the song. Continue reading »

Grave Decay – “From Dust to Dust”

 Posted by on September 19, 2018 at 16:35  No Responses »
Sep 192018

While complex arrangements with symphonic elements abound in Grave Decay’s album  From Dust to Dust, pounding drums and thrashy/doomy guitars really drive the songs on this impressive debut.

Out of the dust of The Memory Remains, Roger Koedoot and Maurice Lefeu formed Grave Decay as a two-man symphonic death metal project originally slated to record a three track demo, but once in the studio they had enough inspiration to create the 10 songs on From Dust to Dust, and brought in Ruben van der Kooj for mixing and mastering.  Roger and Maurice have both been in metal bands for many years, with Roger being a guitarist for doom metal band Morphia from 1998-2005. In 2011 the two teamed up for a few projects including The Memory Remains which lasted several years and saw them share stages with the likes of Innerwish, Xandria, Living Sacrifice, Windrose and more, eventually bringing them to the realization they wanted to return to their thrash/doom roots but bring in some symphonic elements as well….and Grave Decay was born.  Due to distance and being an online collaboration with life getting in the way, the album took a full 10 months to complete.  While on the surface, the name Grave Decay seems perfect for a death metal band, the reality is that the “grave” translates better to “serious” and “decay” to “downfall” reflecting the nature of their songs about the fall of humanity, failings of society and the struggles to learn and grow in such a setting. Continue reading »

Leah – “The Quest”

 Posted by on September 18, 2018 at 17:05  No Responses »
Sep 182018

Leah returns with The Quest, the long awaited follow up to Kings & Queens bringing back essentially the same band as before but shifting the sound a bit more toward the symphonic in a collection of songs that highlight her incredible voice against a lush orchestral backdrop.

The Scottish and Irish heritage of Canadian Leah McHenry has shown through in here previous releases going all the way back to her debut Of Earth and Angels in 2012, a project she recorded and produced herself. Following that release and the critical acclaim it received, Lead release two ep’s in 2013 and then went on to record the full length Kings & Queens in 2015.  For The Quest, Leah brought back her core band from Kings & Queens of Timo Somers (guitars, arrangements), Barend Courbois (bass), and Sander Zoer (drums) as well as special guests Chen Balbus (Orphaned Land) and Troy Donockley (Nightwish). Adding in some more industry heavyweights, the album was mixed and mastered by Jacob Hansen [Volbeat, Amaranthe, Evergrey].

According to Leah, the concept for The Quest is very simple:

We’re all on a journey, and sometimes we lose our way. There are adventures, wildernesses, treasures, monsters, looters, people out to send us down the wrong path. Through it all, we must grow in wisdom and experience, find our compass once again and find our way back to the true path in order to reach our full potential: our destiny. Continue reading »

Abandoned by Bears – “Headstorm”

 Posted by on September 8, 2018 at 13:11  No Responses »
Sep 082018

Sweden’s Abandoned by Bears return with their second album, Headstorm,  a mix of individual pop punk and metalcore songs and songs that blend the two styles.

Abandoned by Bears have been together as a band since 2012 and live scattered across Sweden, which undoubtedly makes for some challenges in recording.  For Headstorm, the band opted to have Buster Odeholm (Impact Studios) handle the mixing and mastering in contrast to their previous work where the band handled everything.  Even the recording itself had a good bit of variety as the band used multiple studios in Malmo and Trelleborg. With the release of the album on August 24th, the band kicks off a US tour with support from Light Up the Sky, Boys of Fall, and We Were Sharks.

Interestingly, Abandoned by Bears have chosen the first and last tracks off Headstorm to be videos for the album.  The opening track “So Far Gone” is over the top pop punk along the lines of Blink-182, Good Charlotte,  and numerous others and the from a style standpoint, there are brief glimpses of guitars that seem a bit too heavy and maybe that should have been my tip off to what was to come.  In sharp contrast is the last track “Greyscale” which is full on metalcore complete with the chugging deep riff expected from a 7- or 8-string guitar.  Gone are the syrupy bright vocals, replaced with deep growled screams and lines like “Back the f*&^ up…” and breakdowns that sound familiar to anyone who has listened to the genre. Continue reading »

Vials of Wrath – “Ataraxia”

 Posted by on September 6, 2018 at 16:33  No Responses »
Sep 062018

Vials of Wrath return with an interim ep to tide us all over until the next full length is released.  Every superlative written about the first two VoW releases applies here, but there is even more as the overall tone seems a bit brighter and the compositions are structurally different giving a fresh sound that is still recognizable as VoW.

Atmospheric, ambient black metal is a genre that seems to combine incompatible elements and perhaps that is why when done well, it simply works. Vials of Wrath has continually supplied excellent music sine the first release, Seeking Refuge, which began in the fall of 2009 when DC Mills, wanted to write Bible-based music in the vein of atmospheric black metal similar to Agalloch, Alcest, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Drudkh.  Those who follow the former Bloodline Severed guitarist on social media have undoubtedly seen the beautiful, raw, pictures Mills has taken of the Smoky Mountains and local forest and with those images in mind, the songs provide the perfect accompanying soundtrack, much like how Swedish/Norwegian black/death metal conjures up the images and feel of winter.

Ever the skeptic, I went into the first album thinking I was going to hate it, but found myself instantly drawn in and then with Days Without Names there was a further progression in everything that was good in Seeking Refuge.  So, without knowing the backstory behind Ataraxia, my expectations were high and true to form, the only disappointment was that this is just a 3 song, 18 minute ep.  Later I learned that this ep was actually older material that wasn’t ever going to be released.  Sonically, the overall tone is much brighter than Seeking Refuge and Days Without Names and as Mills put it the songs “are not indicative of where I am currently.”   Continue reading »