Blast Radius – March, 2012 (Part II)

Welcome to the second installment of this month’s edition of the Blast Radius column!  As I mentioned in the first installment, we have been getting a lot of attention from all over the heavy metal scene.  What this means is that bands have been sending us demos, EPs, splits, and full-lengths to review and we have been doing just that.  But, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the way this column works, allow me to explain.  We take material from 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.

In Part II of this months Blast Radius column we will have bands that come from all over the heavy metal universe, and it even includes a guest review by our very own Ben Chipman.  Today we will explore bands that have backgrounds in progressive death metal, black metal, d-beat/crust, thrash metal, brutal death metal, post-metal, and goregrind.  All I ask is that you readers keep an open mind about all of the bands here today, and if you like them, then please go support them through the links I have provided in their band names.  Let’s get started!

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Artist: Memory
Album: Erasure
Location: Chula Vista, California
Label: Unsigned

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with a brutal death metal band by the name of Gortuary, but I was first introduced to Oscar Padillo through his magnificent and guttural performance in their 2008 album called “Manic Thoughts of Perverse Mutilation.”  That release was an destructive monster from beginning to end, and Oscar really helped the album achieve the greatness it was meant for.  Unfortunately, Oscar left Gortuary and has moved on to other opportunities, which includes the formation of Memory, a progressive death metal band.  In a conversation I had with Oscar, he had told me a little about Memory and gave me access to their EP, “Erasure.”

What grabbed me as I made my way through the four tracks on “Erasure” is how much of an Akercocke vibe I was getting at certain times.  The music itself isn’t the same brand of Satanic progressive black/death metal we are used to from that bend, but it gives off that same peaceful atmosphere that we would hear in tracks such as ‘Axiom’ or ‘Leviathan.’  The title-track itself gives off that vibe for almost the first-half of it, especially in the way the guitar tone and drum machine is programmed (which were done by Shaun Pena).

Memory make very good use of the “progressive” tag by keeping the song-writing relatively diverse in seamlessly jumping from death metal to more calm and clean instrumental sections, and then back again.  Mateo Bernal’s (bass, synth) work on “Erasure” really stands out in making sure to keep the listener engaged, particularly when it comes to his synth work in tracks like ‘.589’ and ‘Unclear Mental Portraits From Lives (Parts I & II)’ because of those clean breaks.  The only straight-forward progressive death metal song is ‘Erasure,’ in making sure to give us a good amount of melodic leads and vocal range in both high and low growls.  I also need to say that the drums were done incredibly well, and if Oscar hadn’t told me they were programmed to begin with then I would have assumed it was a real drummer.

Memory made sure to pack a lot of material into the 14 minutes that comes on “Erasure,” and I believe they have definitely found their sound.  The EP is available for free download on the bands Facebook page, so be sure to head over there if you are looking for a different approach to death metal to end your day.

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Artist: Death Inquisition
Album: Greatest Shits, Vol. 1
Location: Broken Arrow, Oklahoma
Label: Unsigned

Hailing from Oklahoma, Death Inquisition attempt to give the people a hard-hitting mixture of thrash and heavy metal, and seem to have a decent following in the Tulsa underground.  The majority of this band seems to be in their very early 20s, and obviously grew up listening to far too much Venom, Slayer, Black Sabbath, and Metallica.  With a title like “Greatest Shits, Vol. 1” it shows that this band doesn’t take themselves very seriously, and would rather have fun and jam at a show, so you have to hand it to them for that.

Unfortunately, that is one of the only good things I can say about Death Inquisition at this juncture.  I have listened to “Greatest Shits, Vol. 1” multiple times, and each cycle felt like a bigger chore than the last.  I am going to get this out of the way and say that this demo has a very rough production, but that is in no way what I dislike about it.  The real deathblow to “Greatest Shits, Vol. 1” is the lack of interesting song-writing.  It seems that four-of-the-five songs have no real direction to them and rely on the same riffs and drum patterns repeatedly, showing no real growth.  The only songs that I remotely enjoyed were ‘Proliferation’ and ‘Reaper of Faith,’ but unfortunately for me the vocalist is unable to hit any of the high notes he has given himself or keep his tone intact.  Think of a mixture of King Diamond and Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza, but without the intensity or astonishing falsetto.

Even though this release is pretty bad, I will not condemn Death Inquisition as a whole, and only do so with the material that is on this disc.  The reason I say that is the vocalist moved to rhythm guitar (praise be to Allah) and they added a new vocalist to the mix.  I haven’t heard material done by him yet, but Death Inquisition are a young band and they have a lot of growing to do.  If I were you I would just skip “Greatest Shits, Vol. 1” and wait for some new material to come out.  Until then, I won’t completely write off Death Inquisition, but boy have they set the bar low for themselves.  I also give “Greatest Shits, Vol. 1” the award of “Most Honest Album Title Ever.”

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Artist: Vestiges / Ghaust
Album: Split
Location: United States / Indonesia
Label: Replenish Records / Mayfly Records / Maniyax Records

Virginia’s Vestiges came to my attention on the recommendation of a friend when their debut album, The Descent of Man, dropped in October 2010. Their mix of black metal, crust and D-beat proved to be effective-dark and dour, the album captures the sound of a void like no other. Near the end of 2011 they released a split with Indonesian instru-metal duo Ghaust that would become my favorite split of the year. Vestiges kick off side A with the epic “VI”, an atmospheric, 10-minute opus that takes listeners on a ride across several tempos, vocal styles and genres. The song alternately trudges, blasts and finally comes crashing down in a dramatic crescendo of colliding chords. It captures Vestiges’ sound in an extended nutshell, opening a window into their grim and black realm.

Flip the record, though, and you’ll find Ghaust, the unsung heroes of the split. Splashy and reverby, their sound is incredibly filled out considering the band is only a two-piece. Their music is aggressively percussive, as demonstrated by the first track, “Amongst The Ashes”, which opens with the guitar strumming a bell-like clean progression in front of the crashing of cymbals before breaking down into an increasingly frenetic rhythm featuring one of the best snare sounds I’ve ever heard. The music is dramatic and powerful; like the best post-rock/metal, it takes you places. The serpentine opening riff to “Sleep And Release” is a perfect example, effectively rounding out a true beast of a split.

The bands have made the split available for free download here.

Ben Chipman

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Artist: Menstrual Muff Diver
Album: Sluts N’ Stuff
Location: Rancho Cucamonga, California
Label: Unsigned

Much in the same way I was introduced to the illustrious Machete Dildo whom I examined in Part I of this months Blast Radius column, the most brutal gal in all of Southern California, DeAnna DeHaas of Lobotomy Productions told me about another act that she oversees, and that is the charming two-man cacophony of goregrind known as Menstrual Muff Diver.  I wasn’t told very much about them at first, which I’m glad for because I like to discover the little nuances of bands like this myself rather than have them be explained to me, and I am happy that I stuck to my guns with this rule.

The reason why I say that is the very first thought that crosses my mind is that this sounds like a slightly more simplified Crypticus, in that Menstrual Muff Diver would be the result of Patrick Bruss attempting his hand at strangely upbeat goregrind rather than the dark and dreary death metal he is known for.  Tracks like ‘Bukkake Buffet’ and ‘High Velocity Fecal Splatter’ definitely have that Crypticus-esque feeling in the vocals and riffs, particular the solo in the latter track, which is real nice and groovy.  The music on “Sluts N’ Stuff” is energetic yet typically mid-paced.  Menstrual Muff Diver do not have a lot of  fast grinding passages, but the fun riffs and pitch-shifted vocals are enough to get your feet tapping.  The addition of the wonderful Patrick Bateman from American Psycho can be heard in the introduction of ‘Vaginal Dissection Through Repetitive Rape And Torture’ giving his classic Ed Gein quote about women.  I wasn’t that crazy about ‘Muff Diver’ since the beat just felt a bit awkward to me, but I really liked the way they mixed up the music in ‘Chunk Blower,’ giving it an old-school Florida-styled death metal flair, alluding to the likes of Monstrosity or older Vital Remains.

Southern California seems to be spawning out a lot of great extreme metal acts these days, even if they are catering to a niche audience.  I believe that Menstrual Muff Diver have enough musical diversity where they could actually bring in a lot of traditional death metal fans to their style of goregrind.

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Artist: Virulency
Album: Unbearable Martyrdom Landscapes
Location: Basque Country / Cantabria, Spain
Label: Pathologically Explicit Recordings / Grotesque Productions

I will freely admit when I have been in contact with a musician whose band I examine underneath my microscope of brutality, and the times I have spoken with Jonathan (vocals) of Virulency have always been good, and he is a man that takes pride in the brutality that he creates.  Much like their fellow countrymen who are in Avgrunn and Carnivorous Voracity, Virulency tend to excel in creating heavy-hitting Unique Leader-styled brutal death metal.  This means that while their music is nothing ground-breaking, “Unbearable Martyrdom Landscapes” should at the very least be able to delivery on filling that craving for guttural and brutal death metal.

As soon as I pressed play and was greeting by the opening track, ‘Field Of Impaled Bitches: Inevitable Savagery,’ I was immediately given flashbacks to Matti Way-era Disgorge, and that is mainly due to the way that Jonathan performs his guttural demeanor.  In fact, all of the music here you can easily cherry pick influences from bands like the aforementioned group, as well as Deeds Of Flesh and Defeated Sanity.  Really, just pick a random brutal death metal act out of the hat and you are more than likely spot on.  Sometimes this can be a problem with some bands if they aren’t able to take that type of worship and apply it correctly, but Virulency do a good job of taking a little bit of everything from those bands and even adding their own Devourment-esque slams to it.

While the music on “Unbearable Martyrdom Landscapes” is competent for a traditional brutal death metal listener such as myself, I can’t exactly see Virulency winning over a lot of new-school fans with what they have, mainly because while the riffs are nice and thick, they may not be as adventurous as newer fans may like.  Sometimes the guitar tone does feel a bit weak when it’s side-by-side with the drums, but it typically isn’t too big of a problem.  The reason for that is because Virulency is a band that doesn’t like to play something twice like a lot of their brutal death metal brethren, making sure to always give you something new.  Tracks like ‘Architect Of Her Suffering’ and ‘Concupiscent Succumbed Disturbance’ are pretty standard brutal death metal fare, but the main tracks that stand out are ‘Field Of Impaled Bitches: Inevitable Savagery,’ ‘Unemotional Misogynism,’ and ‘Dissolving Vaginal Integument’ where Virulency as a whole shine for people who love a tried-and-true formula done to a ‘T.’

These sick Spaniards are very capable of creating chunky brutal death metal, and while this formula may feel stale to others, there is still a loyal following that would happily welcome Virulency with open arms.  If you like your brutal death metal to be chaotic in nature but traditional in spirit, then you should do yourself a favor and pick up “Unbearable Martyrdom Landscapes.”

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That’s it.  There’s nothing more to see here.  Pack it up, everybody, it was a good ride while it lasted.  Metal Blast would like to thank Memory, Death Inquisition, Vestiges, Ghaust, Menstrual Muff Diver, and Virulency for putting out the music and letting us have the great pleasure of writing our thoughts about it.  I would also like to personally thank both Ben Chipman and DeAnna DeHaas.  Thanks for your contribution to this edition of Blast Radius, Ben!  DeAnna, for being a staunch believer and avid reader of everything that has to do with Metal Blast.  She has done a wonderful job of helping to spread our heavy metal gospel all throughout the great state of California.

We will see you in April where we will take on Chordotomy, Deprive The Deceased, Malodorous, Pathological Abomination, and Rott!

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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.