Since we continue finding more indie releases in our basement, we thought that you should all be subjected to the same stuff.
Are they good? Well, some of them definitely are!
[section label=”Hoth – Oathbreaker”]
Hoth – Outhbreaker
Location: United States
Label: Independent Release
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to lose count on the number of sub-genres of sub-genres in metal; I mean, look at djent, a sub-genre that essentially got its name from the guitar tone most of the bands use in the genre. One in particular that I’ve always found to be a bit too general and useless is “extreme metal.” While not originally meant to be the name for a specific sub-genre, it has been used as such by many bands who incorporate elements of black metal, death metal, folk, Viking, etc.
Hoth are a metal duo from Seattle, Washington, and one of the few bands I’ve heard with the “extreme metal” tag that truly can’t be placed into a specific genre like black or death metal. Truly, there is a little bit of everything in Oathbreaker, their second full-length LP. There are very large doses of black metal and melodic death metal, but what really caught my attention was the numerous acoustic interludes, like the intro to “A Blighted Hope.” The chord progressions, melodies, and overall vibe sound European, which is truly one of the highest compliments I can give to an American extreme metal band. While there is a palpable air of melancholy throughout, it’s not all just melody and sorrow, as there are some moments of truly intense heaviness, such as the thrash sections on “Cryptic Nightmares,” or the black metal fury of “Acolyte of the Tenebrous Night.”
The only issue I have with Oathbreaker is that although the musicianship is tight and the production is perfect, the songs themselves feel a little too familiar at times. The opening riff on “The Unholy Conception” sounds almost like a black metal homage to the 1989 Batman movie soundtrack, before going into a melodic black metal sound, very similar to Naglfar. That being said, I am impressed by the fact that Hoth have produced such a high-quality album on their own, and their sense of melody and songwriting is flawless. There’s definitely a lot to like here, and I suspect we’ll be hearing a lot more from these guys in the near future.
[section label=”ID – Philosofia”]
ID – Philosofia
Texas has been a breeding ground for brutal death metal for years, producing some of the heaviest bands in the genre (Devourment are an excellent example of this). There have been black metal bands, groove metal bands, metalcore… just about all things hard and heavy, but always with an emphasis on sheer brutality.
ID are a new band from Austin, Texas that mix brutal death with elements of black metal to create some of the most malevolent tones the south has to offer. Philosofía is their debut full-length and, I have to say, it really leaves a mark. With a triple vocal attack, punishing guitar lines, pummeling drums, and super heavy bass, Philosofía sounds like an album written and performed by a band with years of experience, even though these guys have only been an active band since 2012. “Godlike” is a particularly intense track, and is a good showcase for the technical abilities of the musicians. Blastbeats, thick bass, and insanely fast guitar work, and vocals hitting you from every direction; this is basically a sampler of the whole album packed into one song. “Liberate” features guest vocals by fellow Texan Shane Elwell from Vaginal Bear Trap, Oppressive Force, and a rising number of other notable Texas death metal acts. I’m reminded at times of the blackened death metal of Vital Remains, with a little bit of Deicide thrown in, though with much better vocals, and a bit more technical.
The production is crystal clear and polished, without sacrificing atmosphere or intensity. The overdubs are mixed in extremely well and, despite the amount of notes and vocals jammed into each bar of music, the sound doesn’t come off as being too busy or overloaded. The chemistry between the band members is remarkable, and the finished product could truly rival any international death metal act. I don’t say this often, or very lightly, but seriously, somebody should sign ID, and do it quick. Philosofía should be in as many hands as possible, and any self-respecting extreme metal fan’s collection is simply incomplete without it.
[section label=”Insense – De:Evolution”]
Label: Mas-Kina Recordings/Indie Recordings
Over the last couple of decades, melodic metalcore has grown in prominence, thanks in part to bands such as In Flames and Soilwork, who have actively blurred the lines between melodic death metal and hardcore, influencing countless bands in the process. Melodic death metal and metalcore have become almost interchangeable terms due, in part, to the sonic similarities and similar lyrical focus.
Insense are a young Norwegian band that have elements of both of these genres, and who hope to make a name for themselves with De?:?Evolution, their debut full-length. Insense have a similar vibe to Five Finger Death Punch, with a lot of tough-guy metal and hardcore vibes, coupled with melodic vocals and soaring guitar solos. There are a lot of switches from light to dark in the tone, which can be a little frustrating, particularly if you’re looking for some really good heavy grooves to bang your head to. The riffs are a tad too formulaic, “Meandering” being a great example (as well as an unfortunately accurate song title). Here the riff starts off really heavy, before going into a more melodic “pretty” section, which is essentially the same layout of a Killswitch Engage song (another band you could compare Insense to).
The recording isn’t terrible, but the mixing really could have been handled much better, particularly in the vocal department. The vocals are much too high in the mix and, honestly, the vocalist shouldn’t really be the focus in this band, as the riffs are much more interesting. Also, you get the feeling that Insense don’t really know what sub-genre of metalcore they want to go with, as they also have the djent-like song,“Lack Of Progress” nestled in with the rest of the more traditional melodic songs. As a result of this, the production is a bit schizophrenic, with some songs sounding more polished than others. I also feel the songs are a little too short, giving the listener too little time to relish a good riff before the song is over.
Insense have some great moments on De:Evolution, but they really need to tighten a lot of screws, and learn more control before they become a working, well-oiled machine. Fans of the American metalcore bands like Killswitch Engage and All That Remains will probably enjoy De:Evolution, but Insense won’t likely appeal to fans of the more aggressive stuff.
[section label=”Critcull – Back in Brown”]
Critcull – Back in Brown
Location: Canada, eh?
Label: Independent Release
Criticull have been bringing their unique brand of funked-up thrashing mayhem to Ottawa-area crowds for a couple of years, and have finally gotten to the business of cranking out a recording that approaches professional grade. Back in Brown is an EP full of the band’s signature sense of humour, cacophonous arrangements and more scat references than you can throw your charmin ultra at.
What the release lacks in packaging (it’s a simple cardboard sleeve housing a CD-R with the title written on it in marker) it makes up in music. The opening song, “Eye for an Arm”, is a stand-out track for its sudden twists and turns as well as its showcasing of Cutter’s varied but loose and unrefined vocal delivery. It’s refreshing to hear a vocalist unconcerned with technique and who is willing to just belt out lyrics however he feels them. The inclusion of saxophonist Man Dee also lends the songs an added texture that separates the bandfrom other Funk/Metal fusion acts. At times she provides the licks and at others she lays down the rhythm; it’s almost like she’s filling the position that, in a more traditional band, would be occupied by a second guitar player. The EP is produced serviceably but simplistically: Cutter is placed front and centre, and everything is audible and clear, although Ried’s rhythm guitar parts are sometimes drowned out by all of the other craziness going on. Nothing is ever really given a push at key points during the songs; there are no right-channel/left-channel tricks. It’s basically the production that was needed and not much more.
While the production and overall packaging still leave a little to be desired, the songs are so refreshing that they almost completely make-up for it. Criticull is a band that doesn’t forget that music is something fun, and as such they never shy away from infusing the songs with low-brow humour and general weirdness. The fact that they’re all clearly skilled musicians who are serious about their individual playing makes this attitude toward song-writing and presentation that much more refreshing. Songs like “Pick up my shit” (A song about picking up after your dog) and “Sex Candle” (self-explanatory) will make you laugh as much as mosh.
Well, that’s it for now! Tune in next Wednesday to see what new demos we’ll have for you!
And if you or anybody you know has an album you’d like to see reviewed (or mocked) drop us a line!