Label: Hellprod Records
Although the Netherlands is usually associated with Symphonic metal acts like Epica and Within Temptation, the country also has a vibrant scene catering to the heavier sides of metal. From the thrash of Legions of the Damned to the (now deceased) occult music of The Devil’s Blood, the Low Countries have some very good representatives in the metal world.
Villainy shows yet another facet of this Dutch metal scene, with an 7” EP featuring just two songs. Interestingly enough, both songs seem so different from each other that if I didn’t know better I would have assumed they come from different bands altogether (I had to double check to make sure this wasn’t a split!).
“The View From My Ivory Tower” is, for the most part, a slow doom/crust track that, as it picks up speed and enters into a more traditional Death and Thrash Metal territory, becomes reminiscent of the likes of Death and other founding fathers of the genre. It’s a particularly interesting choice when compared to the other track, “Heir to the Throne”, which goes in a completely different direction, picking up speed from the very beginning and moving much closer to the realm of punk rock.
While “Heir to the Throne” is a great song, “The View From My Ivory Tower” bored me to no end. The vocals don’t seem to be suited to that type of music (I think a death growl would have been more appropriate) and so they feel completely out of place (especially when coupled with the low-fi production that feels more appropriate to a punk setting). Although, thankfully, “Heir…” makes up for it, it’s hard to get that first bad impression out of my head.
Let’s just hope that any future releases will be more cohesive and coherent than this.
UnKured – Mutated Earth
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Voivod just be one of the most underrated and overlooked bands in thrash metal; this despite the fact that their unusual sci-fi lyrical themes, the impressive technical abilities and progressive songwriting, and even the stylized band logo, have influenced countless bands. The level of technical ability and highly original song-structuring they brought to the metal arena has literally changed the way many up-and-coming metal bands approach creating music.
One such band is Ohio’s UnKured, who play an intense and technical brand of death/thrash metal with a heavy sci-fi theme and vibe in it. Their latest album, Mutated Earth, is a heavy slab of technical thrash metal with some death metal elements, particularly in the vocal department, which range from deep growls to more high-pitched yells similar to those of Chuck Schuldiner’s. Musically, Mutated Earth occupies a sonic space somewhere between Voivod and the slightly heavier Vektor, with a healthy dose of Human-era Death mixed in. There are plenty of mosh-able moments, like the album opener “Mutated Earth,” which serves as a bit of a sampler for the rest of the album, with its blast-beats, sweep-picked solos, and heavy riffs that alternate between thrash and a really jazzy feel. “Cells” is another great example of UnKured’s ability to switch back and forth from technical to heavy, and even go into odd prog-metal sounding territory; during the song, the guitars occasionally drop the crunchy overdrive to play in a cleaner tone, with a slight reverb. The music effectively gives off an otherworldly vibe at times, and sounds like the kind of thrash album a conquering alien species would blast while invading Earth and subjugating their human prey.
The experimental nature of the songwriting doesn’t always work out too well, however; “A Call From Eternity” is a bit of a mess, with guitars and drums not sounding properly synched up, leaving me wondering if it was done on purpose, or if the producer just did a poor job mixing. For the most part, though, UnKured manage to walk the line between technical and heavy pretty well, and are boosted by a pretty decent production (albeit with that one exception). If you like heavy death/thrash with a bit of a technical side, such as the later works by Death, or you like the sci-fi thrash of bands like Voivod and Vektor, UnKured would make an excellent addition to your collection.
Martelo Negro – Equinócio Espectral
Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Before there was death metal or black metal, there was Hellhammer, which later developed into the mighty Celtic Frost. The music produced by both of these bands was abrasive, primitive, and downright nasty sounding, especially when compared to a lot of the speed metal and NWOBHM of that time. The foundation for a lot of the sonic qualities and tropes found in death metal, and subsequently black metal, were laid by Hellhammer and Celtic Frost; demonic lyrical themes, ghoulish vocals, black leather and spikes, and fast, brutal riffing.
Martelo Negro (formerly known as Black Hammer) from Portugal play a raw, heavy form of metal that takes elements of thrash, speed, black, and death metal, mixes them up, and produces some truly malevolent sounding music that owes a lot to Hellhammer/Celtic Frost. Right off the bat, you know exactly what the band stands for, with its cartoonishly evil/gory album artwork, and demonic intro with howls of anguish and deep, back masked vocals. While the artwork might not do much for me, the intro is pretty evil-sounding, and the final scream is pretty unsettling, which then quickly gives way to the first proper track, “Culto Hermetico.” The music is extremely primal in nature, and not overly technical; then again, you don’t have to be Yngwie Malmsteen to get the point across either. There’s definitely a lot of Hellhammer in the sound, though with much more gruff vocals, all of which are overdubbed to great effect, mixing deep death growls with high-pitched black metal shrieks. “Inferno Abysmal” is a particular favorite track, with a riff that will have you banging your head from the first second; what I love about this song, and really, the whole of Equinócio Espectral, is that it’s truly a perfect mix of death, black, and thrash metal. The blending of styles is handled extremely well, and fans of each individual style will certainly find a lot of tasty riffs to sink their teeth into.
The production is excellent, with plenty of low-end in the mix, while not sacrificing the mid-range which you absolutely need to have for the thrash tunes. The use of overdubs on the vocals manages to not sound too busy, and the use of sound effects and audio clips don’t come off as cluttered either. The heavy-handed Satanic imagery might put some people off, but if you listen to a lot of black metal, this will be pretty much par for the course. Martelo Negro have really knocked it out of the park with Equinócio Espectral, one of the most satisfyingly brutal records I’ve heard in a while.
Machinergy – Sounds Evolution
Portugal’s Machinergy cover the standard death/thrash bases with a respectable enthusiasm. What’s mind blowing about Sounds Evolution is just how professional it sounds, despite it being produced entirely by the band. It’s crisp and clear with a good emphasis placed on the vocals and no instrument drowning out everything else, which so often happens with the bass or drums in indie thrash recordings. Before anything else, Machinergy deserve praise for their effective sonic palette.
Rui Vieira’s voice is… do people who speak Portuguese just sing like this? The man sounds like a crossbreed of Max Cavalera (ex-Sepultura, Soulfly, etc.) and Wagner Antichrist (Sarcofago), who themselves sounded very similar. In no way is that meant as a criticism, as that vocal style has proven to be the perfect fit for death/thrash, being not quite death growls, but still more guttural than the standard thrash delivery. In fact, Machinergy’s entire shtick seems to be to effectively ape classic Brazilian thrash. Vieira employs the same bombastic, bottom heavy guitar tone that was found on Sepultura’s Schizophrenia, Helder Rodrigues’ drum sound is a dead ringer for that found on Sarcofago’s Laws of the Scourge album, and some of the more ambient/industrial touches seem to be torn straight out of Mutilator.
Usually such derivation would sound stilted, but Machinergy bring so much passion and energy to their well-written, well-produced songs, that everything I’ve mentioned becomes more of an observation than a criticism. Their material is varied and engaging, and should be respected for making ample use of their native tongue in the lyrics. While I think the band still has a way to go before finding their own true voice and style, they’re definitely coming from a good place and are certainly worthy of keeping a keen eye on.
Location: Montreal, Canada
Label: Self Released
In the realms of thrash, pushing the envelope can be a difficult thing to accomplish, since few of the core elements can be changed before you are no longer playing thrash at all. Faster and heavier guitars? More furiously-pounding drums? Sound more or less like Slayer? Born Broken’s answer to this question was to add a story, and I use the term loosely.
Don’t get me wrong, The Healing Powers of Hate is a moshable album, but that’s really all that can be said about it. It brings nothing new to the table for thrash, quite possibly devolving from it as guitar solos are nearly nonexistent, opting instead for what sounds like the same heavy riff played over and over again at different tempos, occasionally throwing in a really gross core breakdown. Even within the album, there are no signs of development from song to song, making the whole thing become this primordial soup of thrash that no life form will ever crawl out of.
At times there is a slight glimmer of hope that maybe they’ll try something new, a dirty bass line will kick in for a few seconds, the guitars will actually try a slightly different, more complex passage for a couple bars, and at one point there was something that almost sounded like a Joe Satriani solo. These moments are quickly washed away by the singer shouting into the mic with his core vocals and the guitarist and drummer resuming their caveman marches. The band claims that their singer, “can be distinguished from the rest,” which is hard to believe as he can barely be distinguished from song to song as he attempts to be edgy singing the story of some generic apocalypse and the downfall of humanity. The whole story just seems copied and pasted from Iced Earth’s Dystopia, except poorly executed.
Overall, the sound is decent enough to get heads banging and bodies moving, but that can be said for countless bands. Everything about the album just feels uninspired, from the lazy guitar work, to the incessant unchanging vocals, to the overused themes of hate and anger in their supposed “story.” There is so little development in the album that if you took one track and looped it for forty minutes, you would essentially have the same experience.
Well, that’s it for now! Tune in next Wednesday to see what new demos we’ll have for you! In the meantime, drop us a line if you think there are any releases we should review!