Welcome back to another installment of the Blast Radius column! This is a very special one in the history of this column because it is the most musically diverse one we have ever had. There are four of us who contributed to this article, and needless to say that we are very proud of it. This is the exact reason why the Blast Radius exists, so we can span over multiple sub-genres of heavy metal at once. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept behind this column, then please allow me to explain. We take material from (not always) lesser known bands who think their hard work should be given a chance to be put out there in the press of the music industry. Maybe we can find a new ‘diamond in the rough’ that is destined for great things, but how would we know if we never give these smaller bands a chance? That is exactly why we started the Blast Radius column, to make sure musicians like that actually do have a voice and the opportunity to gain more of a following.
I mentioned that this is our more diverse column ever, which means that we are moving through gothic, stoner/doom, black, progressive, and power metal territory. If any of our words make you curious about these bands, I will be will linking to their respective websites or Facebook pages so you can easily get better acquainted with them.
Artist: Inner Blast
Album: Sleepless Monster
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Female-fronted goth bands are a dime a dozen. The early 2000s, with Within Temptation, Nightwish and Epica becoming big names in the genre, inspired a whole generation of musicians to give it a shot with this type of music, with different levels of success. Inner Blast, a young band from Portugal, is one of those who tried.
Before going into details about the album itself, it must be said that in terms of production the EP is truly awful. The quality of the songs becomes secondary due to the poor production and mixing. Liliana’s voice seems to have been recorded over a telephone (it’s so bad that I thought that maybe my headphones were broken) and the instruments have the quality of early Burzum albums. Because of this, I was surprised to read that Sleepless Monster is actually being re-issued, even though the logical thing would have been to re-record the whole thing to make it, you know, listenable.
In terms of musical quality, Sleepless Monster is nothing special. While Liliana‘s voice seems to work well on “Tears”, in others it just comes off as horrible, with her trying to reach notes that are well beyond her range (case in point, her attempts at a more operatic voice in “Fixation”). The melodies are not very remarkable and, sadly, they sometimes come off as a repetitive re-hash of Nightwish‘s b-sides.
Together with “Tears”, “Open Minds”, the closing track, is the high point of the EP. The track starts with a wonderfully-used sample of Howard Beale’s speech from “Network” and then goes into a faster and more “epic” melody (although very reminiscent of early Nightwish). Liliana‘s voice is not up to the task though, and it falls through.
While it is impossible to make a fair assessment of the quality of the music without having a properly recorded album, I find it hard to believe that some of the biggest issues (e.g. Liliana’s range and the derivative melodies) would be solved by this… But you can always hope.
Location: Boston, Massachusettes
Starting out with the slow-building “Cryostasis,” invoking an almost post-rocky sense of crescendo, Rozamov‘s debut EP displays an excellent sense of dynamics. The track moves into a full-on Kylesa-esque sludgy gallop two minutes in before returning to its crawl, but it’s on the straightly faster cuts “Lexington Is Burning” and “Woman of Fire” that the band truly shines. With rip-roaring ferocity and pentatonic catchiness in equal measure, these tracks are absolute fucking barn-burners, sure to move any crowd to reckless acts of chaos at the drop of a hat. And on the doomy closer “Red Giant,” the band gracefully bring us back into orbit before crashing through the stratos and leaving a red-hot trail of burning atmospheric fire behind.
Although the lead singer’s voice can be more than a bit grating (truth be told, I was really looking forward to a respite in the form of whoever sings backup), Rozamov‘s debut EP displays a wide range of maturity from a relatively young group, with excellent compositional sense and astoundingly talented musicianship from everyone involved. The production from Black Pyramid‘s own Clay Neely helps to accentuate the punchy riffs and driving drumwork, even letting the bass shine clearly through with a heavy bottom end. If you’re on the hunt for something fuzzed-out and stoner influenced without being too slow, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Rozamov and be left wanting much more. Here’s to hoping a full-length is on the way from this young Bostonian quartet; it’d be even better if they decide to swap out who sings lead! Then they’d absolutely demolish, I’m sure of it.
Album: Purple Sky
Location: Arvika, Sweden
Although they released their first work, “Reaching Higher” in 2010, Swedish metalheads Lancer failed to reach a major audience or to score a record deal. Unabashed by this, and still unsigned, they come back in 2012 with “Purple Sky”, a self-released EP, promising to appeal to fans of Iron Maiden, Helloween and Gamma Ray… not a minor task!
When I received the album, I was skeptical; but then, as soon as I started to listen to it I realized that their blurb was nothing short of accurate. Lancer has delivered a magnificent work that, despite lacking the support of a label, shows a great production and mixing, as well as an amazing musical quality. While the Iron Maiden sound is definitely present, the EP is a prime example of what power metal is all about, with great guitar riffs and powerful drums. True, unlike other power metal singers Isak Stenvall does not show a particularly great range (at least not in this album, who knows what the future brings!) but he works with what he has in a great manner, delivering a truly terrific performance. While the lyrics are nothing special or memorable, they belong to the power metal genre and stick to your head immediately (hell, if you listen to “Mr. Starlight” and don’t find yourself singing it afterwards, there must be something wrong with you).
Keep your eyes open for these guys, they’re sure to go big.
Artist: The Rotting Core
Album: The Rotting Core
Location: Lancaster, Ohio
I’m sure a lot of us enjoy going to live shows. Not only do you get to see some of your favorite bands, but you also get to interact with a lot of different people who share the same enthusiasm as you do. I was waiting for the venue to open up when Behemoth came to town in April and I got chatting with a few guys in line, Sean Jeffers (vocals) and Travis Blosser (guitars). Both of them were really cool and happened to tell me that they were in a band called The Rotting Core and had an EP coming out soon and wanted me to review it. Being the nice guy that I am, I happily obliged them.
When you get into the meat of The Rotting Core they seem rather accessible on the outside. The compositions has an aggressive-yet-simplistic groove metal sound with a tinge of metalcore and death metal thrown in for good measure. It is definitely given that sound by Sean doing his best Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God) impression if Randy wasn’t as insufferable like he normally is. Now, all of this is good and well, but the first two songs ‘Bane of Bloodax’ and ‘Feast’ come out limping. In some ways I think that can be blamed on the production, but this is their first recording so I will let that slide. However, the last two songs, ‘Lament of Desecration’ and ‘Primordial Aggression’ are able to bring the energy level back to normal levels. While there may not be that much to get really excited about here, you can tell that the band is trying to find their “signature” sound, and that has to account for something.
I mentioned that the music is a little simplistic at times, and while that isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own (just ask Last Days Of Humanity), what was there just wasn’t able to grab my attention and keep it for long periods of time. One of the other glaring problems I saw was near the beginning of ‘Bane of Bloodax’. Sean is in the middle of a lyric that he shrieks, but he is then cut off by a sound clip that sucked all of the energy that was building up. This next one is just a matter of circumstance rather than a wanted and calculated decision by the band, but they were forced to use the stock drum samples in Fruity Loops because they were unable to get the drums recorded. Because of this the kick drums can be a little over-powering.
Like with most early material in a bands legacy, there are bound to be points where they stumble. Half of “The Rotting Core” was enjoyable while the other half lingered like an ex-girlfriend. There just wasn’t that much to set themselves a part from being one of those generic heavy metal bands you’ll find writing a soundtrack to a BMX video game. The Rotting Core still have a long way to go in putting out something that will be long lasting, but the talent is definitely there.
Album: Total Death Worship
Location: Ohio, United States
Sometimes it’s a hit or miss with bands and their early stuff; usually their sound has yet to be defined as they have yet to mature or make any sense at all from a musical standpoint. What’s great about Negativism is their surefootedness in what they are doing. This is stuff is unapologeticly black metal, sure footed as a mountain goat.
The album starts off with a bang and ends with one, the cacophony of noise is like taking a fully loaded musket to the face. The barrage lasts from the beginning of the song until the end, rarely, if ever taking a moment to slow down. The sound is carefully crafted mix of lo-fi of early Mayhem and the atmosphereric openness of Emperor. While only a short sample at five songs, Total Death Worship proves Negativism to be apt pupils in the school of black metal. What sounds really friggin awesome is the gritty recording style of the album, as it really lends itself to the music, amplifying the heaviness of any given song. The best example of this is the double bass barrage of “Nothingness”; the open reverb on the drums lets the kicks flow into themselves and they actually seem as if it were one thumping low frequency tone being played along with the music.
However, the real shining gem of the album for me is “Dead…”, it showcases a very mature and progressive approach to instrumentalism that in my opinion, is the next step for the band; it’s a complex and layered sound that manages to be familiar yet still fresh in its approach. While most songs on the EP paint with very dark and abrasive colours “Death…” takes its time to build to a steady climax, often brushing the musical landscape with greys and whites, leaving the ears with the musical equivalent of a visit to the Louvre. The only complain that I can find at all to say about Total Death Worship is the vocal intro to “Natural Selection Process”. Whether intentional or not, it sounds too much like the sound the invisible creature makes in the movie “Evil Dead”.
Without a shred of doubt, Negativism show great aptitude for what they do and Total Death Worship makes sure to nail them to the cross on black metal’s “Next Up List”.
Okay, we’re finished here. Let’s pack it up, fellas.
We here at Metal Blast would like to give our sincerest thanks to Inner Blast, Rozamov, Lancer, The Rotting Core, and Negativism for putting their material out there so we can give our thoughts on it.
The next Blast Radius article will be coming to you all on July 1st, so stay tuned to our Facebook page so you can see who will be a part of it!
If you have or know of any bands who would like to have a demo, EP, or split album reviewed in this segment, then please contact Jon Burkan via e-mail at jonburkan [at] metalblast.net with their band name, album name, location, and label it is released under.