Hot Coffin – Hot Coffin
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Label: Triple Eye Industries
Roughly three years after the release of their debut album, LAW, Hot Coffin have returned to redefine themselves with this self-titled album featuring Chris Chuzles as their new vocalist. With a run-time of less than 30 minutes, it’s tempting to peg this as an EP, but having eight tracks squashed into that duration gives them some lee-way with the format sticklers. As you might expect from that time-tracks ratio, the songs have a strong punk component to their delivery, with grimy-sounding chords and crusty vocals backed by solid (and surprisingly fluid) drumming along with workhorse bass. The group also does a good job of keeping anyone from stealing too much of the spotlight or being pushed into periphery.
There are a few aspects to the group’s sound that seem a bit underdeveloped, starting with the inclusion of sludge as a core part of their musical make-up. To my ears, the closest they came to getting sludgy was having a kind of sloppy mix, as most of the songs pop along too quickly to build up any of the wallowing misanthropy so common to that genre. Noticeably, there was also a lack of feedback, another common trait in sludge. On a similar line, outside of some buzz-pedal FX and a few math-inclined break-downs, there didn’t seem to be that much holding up their noise rock claims. What WAS there (in my opinion) was some grungy modern punk with a slosh of dirty rock; totally enjoyable on its own merits, but a mix which may surprise anyone who’s taken the hype around this release at face value.
Fans of emerging groups such as Milk Duct Tape, Queen Chief, and Escape Is Not Freedom will probably want to check this out, along with those who just enjoy hearing chunky riffs played with attitude in a non-sterilized musical environment. There’s enough meat to the songs that replays won’t wear thin too fast, but that’s balanced against being persistently lively to the point of near-manic. A fun ride, as long as you have the disposition to go with their crassness.
Rimfrost – Rimfrost
Location: Hagfors, Sweden
Label: Non Serviam Records
Rimfrost‘s self-titled album is their third since debuting about a decade ago with the EP A Journey to a Greater End. With their latest effort, the Swedish group offers almost an hour’s worth of traditional black/death metal. Blast-beats, harsh vocals, dramatic arrangements, and the decrying of religious dogmas are all here, but the group brings a respectable liveliness and engagement to their performances, which helps give a bit of freshness to the well-worn designs.
The drumming may be the most impressive part of the music, battering along with furious speed while keeping the individual beats crisp and distinct. While that manic pace characterizes most of the album, there are also a few sections of slower, semi-orchestral moodiness (such as the end of the opening track, “As The Silver Curtain Closes”), which furnish some much-needed contrast and breathers from the usual intensity, while maintaining the sense of grandiosity built by the persistent upward drive. The songs’ titles help on this front as well, naturally, with names like “Beyond The Mountains Of Rime”, “Ragnarök”, and “Frostlaid Skies” providing ample atmosphere in case you feel like just letting the growls wash over you instead of deciphering the lyrics.
While it doesn’t run as fast as the drums, the guitar-work and its snarling tones do a nice job as counter-point to the howls from the vocalist, rippling and sweeping along with clear purpose and firm execution. The foundational bass is no slouch either, but owing to the mixing and sheer fervor of the other elements, it tends to end up the most subtle part of the songs.
Generally speaking, Rimfrost is a well-executed album, with a few dips here and there as the toll of keeping up the blasting speed for such durations saps away at the sense of spontaneity and fiery anger. Oddly, though, this seems to affect the shorter tracks more than the long-runners. The infrequent shifts into slow bridges make for more memorable sections than the majority of the shredding, though there are some parts of the latter that really seize the moment and run with it through some hard and powerful rhythms. Not quite great, due to slightly too much flab, but certainly enjoyable.
Castle Freak – Human Hive
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Label: Grim Winds Records
Having been on hiatus for much of 2015, Philadelphia-based death/grind outfit Castle Freak have returned with a new EP, Human Hive, and a new rhythm section. Joining founding vocalist/guitarist Andrew Gigan and second guitarist Zak Carter is ex-Necropsy bassist Ben Aft, and ex-Necropsy/Noisem drummer Sebastian Phillips.
Human Hive is an excellent follow up to 2014’s Still Rotting; the buzzsaw, 80’s/early 90’s sounding riffs are still in full effect, Andrew’s vocals are of the high-pitched Chuck Schuldiner variety, and a crushing rhythm section. “Sickening Corpses” sets the pace, and basically represents the EP as a whole, with the old sci-fi/horror soundclips, grindy opening riff, and d-beat section. The guitar tone is super fuzzy, and reminds me of the early 90’s Swedish death metal scene, particularly Entombed and Dismember. There’s a distinctly old-school tone to Human Hive (for example, listen to the solo in the middle of the title track), with a lot of reverb drenching everything. While I enjoyed it for the most part, when Castle Freak goes into full grindcore mode, the cymbals tend to overpower everything else in the mix, making the tone a little muddy. Still, it hearkens back to the early days of extreme metal, with the grind sections reminding me of Repulsion.
Overall, Human Hive is a pretty solid release from a band that seems to have found the perfect combination of members. If you like your death metal mixed with a little punked up grindcore, pick up a copy today!
Éohum – Ealdfaeder
Location: Montreal, Quebec
Label: Mycelium Networks
One thing that can no longer be said about the North American black metal scene is that it is mediocre and derivative. Every year, there are more and more bands releasing records from this continent that have every bit as much passion and ferocity as their European counterparts. Take Canada’s Éohum, for example. Formed in 2010, Éohum pen odes to traditionalism and environmental decay, not unlike some of the pagan-leaning themes of the Scandinavian black metal bands. The music they create runs the gamut of sounds, with traditional black metal, folk, doom, progressive metal, and even percussive sections that border on industrial.
This year’s Ealdfaeder continues along that path, with some truly ferocious black metal that mixes just about every sound you’ve probably ever heard on a black metal release. On paper, that sounds like it could come off as a real clusterfuck of noise, but the band’s ability to transition between different styles is truly awe-inspiring. Take “Ode To A Martyr” for example; speedy black metal riffs give way to folk metal sounding keyboards, followed by a slowed down, sludgy riff that comes off as a mix between industrial metal and doom. The tin whistle heard throughout “Eurocide” gives the song an extra boost in the atmosphere department, simultaneously making the song slightly eerie sounding, as well as giving it a folk metal edge. “The Apathetic Plague” is a real standout, upping the ante on speed, brutality, and technical ability, with numerous time-changes.
If you like your extreme metal a bit experimental, give Ealdfaeder a spin; the mixture of black metal, folk, prog, and loads of atmosphere make this a release that reveals something new with each listen. Éohum have a bright future ahead of them, so keep an eye out for them!