Black Heaven – Vinyl // CD // DD // Bundle Packages
Nuclear Blast Records – Released March 16th, 2018
Terry “The Ancient One” Cuyler
A Journey into Black Heaven
Mario Rubalcaba (drums)
Isaiah Mitchell (guitars & VOX)
Mike Eginton (bass)
Greetings music heads this is that old sonic wave rider The Ancient One and I want to tell all of you about San Diego’s heavy psyche rock trio Earthless and their upcoming album Black Heaven. Originally signed to the independent record labels Gravity Records and then Tee Pee Records, Earthlesshas been Blowing minds since 2001 with their own brand of almost entirely instrumental heavy-psych rock that many of other great musicians/bands credit as inspiration in their own music. To date they have released a slew of split albums with the likes of Witch, Danava, Lecherous Gaze, Premonitions 13, Radio Moscow, and Harsh Toke. This is accompanied by2 live albums and 3 studio albums with their 4th“Black Heaven”, the subject of this review.
Released on March 16th, 2018 on the Nuclear Blast record label with songs that have more vocals than all their previous releases combined, Black Heaven is a leaner meaner Earthless album . Though I cannot be certain because I don’t have any contacts in Nuclear BlastRecords or Earthless I suspect the band’s association with the Rock Giant is why the bands latest album have significantly shorter songs. Is this a bad thing, absolutely not!! Isaiah has a fantastic bluesy voice that is also on display with his other band Golden Void.
While the 40 minute album is broken into six tracks, to me it all seem to blend together into two parts with interlude track “Voit Rush” acting as sort of a road sign telling me were I am at in the journey. What catches my attention most about Black Heaven is that more than half of the songs have guitarist Isaiah Mitchell also taking up the microphone as vocalist. Which I think he does a bang up job at. Yet for all that has changed Earthless has remained true to their original mind-bending blend of krautrock and Japanese heavy-blues rock with still some of the freshest and finest Riffs, meanest basslines and Cosmic Drumming on this great Universe!!
Nuclear Blast – Release Date: September 29th, 2017
Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky
Germany’s premiere retro-metal rockers Kadavar have long been a favorite of mine, since their first album dropped. Their take on the heavy 70’s sound was surprisingly refreshing and convincing for a genre so hell bent on mimicking the past masters, and they had a killer fashion sense to boot. Seriously, these guys dress to impress, and they’ve got some righteous hair and beard styles to match the bombast. In a field that was rapidly becoming over-saturated, this three piece stood out as something special, and their second album still stands as a solid test to their legitimacy, not by treading any new ground, but rather by solidifying and consolidating their alchemist formula: one part Black Sabbath, one part Pentagram, and a heavy handed helping of Sir Lord Baltimore.
It was Kadavar’s third album, Berlin, where we saw some real growth in the band. Not only did they polish up, modernize and thicken the production a bit, they also wrote some songs that were more hook oriented and less blues based, while others took a slightly heavier approach. It’s that heavy approach that’s carried over and is thrust up front on their latest record, Rough Times, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer….
The first three songs are really in your face, with a huge, throbbing bass tone and gnarly guitars cranking out more modern riffs. The title track leads off this album, and it starts with a bombast of hyper saturated guitars smashing through a chain of punctuated and syncopated power chords overlaid by a subtle, subdued lead. This sounds like nothing that Kadavar have ever done before, and if I hadn’t known who this was, I would have probably never guessed, even though the vocals aren’t too different from their past releases. They’ve still got that signature, shrill Ozzy-esque sneer, and “Lupus” still got a really great range. A little past halfway through the song, there’s a groovy breakdown riff that straight up sounds like something that Rage Against The Machine might have played in their heyday.
The second track, “In The Wormhole” continues this approach with a more plodding but equally heavy guitar part that’s more typical of modern doom. There’s also some cool organ on this one during the vocal parts, along with a low and fuzzy guitar solo that adds some dimension. “Skeletal Blues” opens up with another big groovy riff that once again reminds me of RATM….maybe it’s the accentuated bass? Anyways, the verse and chorus are a bit bluesier; perhaps it’s the strange production choice that gives these songs their more modern edge.
It’s not until the fourth song that there’s a shift in vibe and production towards what has come before. With “Die Baby Die”, that we hear anything remotely “retro” or resembling the first two albums, and even then, it’s a more busy, complicated take on that early sound. The ultra-catchy “Vampires” opens with a 60’s inspired psych sound; fuzzy chords ring out, followed by a jovial, simple bassline and some bare bones atmospheric keyboards alongside the vocals. The distortion kicks in for the second half of the verse and remains through the chorus, though it’s still one of the album’s catchier number. “Tribulation Nation” showcases both the more psychedelic side of the band that reared its head on the first two albums and the more hook oriented songwriting from Berlin, and it’s an early album favorite for me. It straight up sounds like a Hawkwind song, complete with the driving Lemmy-esque bassline, and that’s A-okay by me.
The next track “Words Of Evil” sounds a bit like Sin After Sin era Judas Priest with its palm muted power chords punctuated by bluesy runs and progressive flourishes. “The Lost Child” is a more subdued song, with a sinister vibe that creeps into Doors territory with its “riders on the storm” ready keyboard parts and lush guitars, though they do rev up the old distortion pedals for the chorus. Fans of the softer, more acid-damaged Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats tunes will eat this up. True to the album’s form, Kadavar changes gears again for the next song, “You Found The Best In Me”, a laid back, though upbeat, major key Southern rock ballad with some truly soaring vocals. They end the album with the odd “L’Ombre Du Temps”, a more ambient affair with airy whispers of French poetry spoken over the music. It’s interesting to note the contrast, how the last three songs decrease in both volume and distortion, and what a drastic difference this is from those first three songs. In a strange way, it does offer at least some semblance of symmetry and balance to the album.
I don’t often do the whole track by track analysis in my reviews, as I feel like a lot of other reviewers already do that, and they do it much better than me. This time around, it feels like the obvious and intuitive way to approach Rough Times, as it’s both a diverse and an uneven record. There’s just not any other way for me to write about it that would make any sense. There’s no overarching theme or trend in the album other than its variety. I’m not sure if this album was recorded in different studios, though the drastic shifts in productions style certainly point that way. I’ll tell it straight – I don’t really care for the first three songs, and I’m not exactly sure what they were going for. I can appreciate that they tried to go there, did something different, and for me….it just doesn’t work. It’s too jarring, too clunky a shift. Are they trying to veer into the more extreme stylings of modern stoner doom bands like Electric Wizard?
I’m not sure. I’m not entirely against them going for a heavier approach – they managed to do so, much more convincingly in my eyes, on Berlin. “Last Living Dinosaur” was a good, solid heavy track that didn’t sound forced. It sounded organic, natural, authentic, and these are all key ingredients of the sonic cocktail that’s made Kadavar so successful up to this point in time. Those first three tracks just don’t sound like a natural progression to me at all, it sounds phony, and the shift after these tunes towards their more natural inclinations only drives this point home.
photo: Clemens Mitscher
Once the tone does shift, I rather enjoy the rest of the record, and I’m well aware that there will be those who enjoy and embrace the added heft of those first three songs. Hell, I’m aware that there are also people out there who actually enjoy listening to Rage Against The Machine, as odd as that idea might be to me personally. There are probably folks who aren’t going to like some of the other tracks very much, preferences always vary from person to person. I still stand by my point that bands should experiment and vary their sound, they should take risks and try new things, regardless if these new directions align with mine or anyone else’s tastes and preferences.
With that in mind, I’d highly recommend checking out this album, as it does try out a lot of different things – it seems to me that there’s at least something for everyone to like. It feels a bit like a transitional record, where Kadavar are branching out and seeing what works, and I for one am hoping that it leads to greater things down the pipeline. I’d love to see them trim the fat on the next release and really up the bar in terms of their consistency. All in all, the uneven nature of this record isn’t enough to tip the scales and dethrone Kadavar as my personal leaders of the proto-metal pack.
Tuetonic titans of tumultuous thrash metal, Germany’s Accept, will return with their fourth outing for Nuclear Blast Recordson August 4th. Titled ‘The Rise Of Chaos‘, will continue the tradition of its most recent three predecessors – Blood Of The Nations, Stalingrad, and Blind Rage – with grandeur and precision. The longrunning, legendary band seem to only be getting better and better with the passage of time and it is safe to say the new album will bolster that fact.
Guitarist Wolf Hoffmann comments: “The Rise Of Chaos is something I have been thinking about often. Wherever we go – there is some hidden as well as some visible destruction and it kind of changes the world we know. What was there today – can be gone tomorrow and it’s somehow irritating, because it happens on so many levels and no one knows what comes next. The cover is our last stage set – but now clearly “destroyed” – like… after a catastrophe”
The Rise Of Chaos tracklisting:
“Die By The Sword”
“Hole In The Head”
“The Rise Of Chaos”
“What’s Done Is Done”
“Carry The Weight”
“Race To Extinction”
And if this wasn’t enough, Accept will celebrate the album’s live premiere exclusively on August 3rd, on the day before its release, as a part of a special show atWacken Open Air, Germany.
Nuclear Blast Records – Release Date: February 10, 2017
You can count on three things in life: Death, Taxes, and if you haven’t guessed already, OverKill. From 1983’s “Power In Black” demo right up until this very minute, no thrash band, and I mean not a one, has been as consistent and true to their roots as the NJ outfit has. They are just incapable of making a truly bad record. Now, even though the band is largely uncompromising, that by no means indicates they’re standing still. They had the classic Megaforce /Atlantic Records era, filled with youthful, fire-breathing slammers, the decade plus middle run that incorporated chug and groove into the mix, and finally, the 2010-to-now stint, returning to the full-on fury of the early days.
So, what I guess I’m trying to get at here is this- “The Grinding Wheel” finds the Kill boys running on a full head of steam. They are just as defiant and angry as they’ve ever been. The whole affair starts off with a bang, as ‘Mean, Green, Killing Machine’ builds from a rhythm section intro straight into neck-snapping velocity, then all gets nicely rounded out with some Sabbathy doom groove. ‘Our Finest Hour’ is a gut punch with plenty of the micro-second stops and swing the band has nearly patented. The ever-so-slightly slowed up ‘Come Heavy’ shows a darker, moodier side to the proceedings, but still can’t resist the urge to mash the pedal down at key intervals. These three tracks really represent the rest of the album well; the other seven tunes blend these highlighted facets just as sweetly. If you grab the limited edition, you’ll get an eleventh tune…A rousing cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Emerald’ to fatten things up. Oh, just in case you are wondering, Blitz’s contemptuous snarl and lyrical cynicism are as potent as ever.
I love when the old guard shows the youngsters how it should be done, and “The Grinding Wheel” is ass-whoppin’ evidence to back such a perception. OverKill has been around as long as “The Big Four” and this record is proof-positive that sales or commercial popularity will never outshine integrity.
Gods Of Violence (Japanese Edition) – Vinyl / CD / DD
Nuclear Blast Records – German Thrash Metal
Release Date: January 27, 2017
“The Big 4 Of Thrash” has never been a term I give any merit into. None. It’s based on record sales/public acceptance far more than overall quality of output and integrity. If that wasn’t the case, so many bands are realistically more deserving and would get their due, and Germany’s Kreator ranks extremely high on the list for proper candidates. Don’t think so? Then you must not have heard their latest, “Gods Of Violence”.
Quite simply, “Gods” may just be the band’s best work in their 35 years of existence. The previous three albums to it have been really excellent, but this trip around actually manages to surpass them in terms of intensity and musicianship. Grandiose intro “Apocalypticon”, complete with choirs, marching drums, orchestration and melodic guitar overlays, strong implicates something epic is soon to come. And does it ever! Starting with “World War Now” and completing with bonus closer “Earth Under The Sun”, the listener is thrown back in a sonic blast that is amazing in its heaviness, songwriting and versatility. While smoothly executed speed with snarling, intense vocals is the overall order of the day, all tracks have plenty of dynamics, be it an acoustic intro/section, flawless time/tempo shifts, or devastating guitar leads and solos of impeccable melody. Every track, without exception, has a clear identity of it’s own, yet taken as complete work, each fits together nicely to create a unified package. Accomplishing that in any genre is an admirable task, and rightfully so.
Dare I say that Mille, Ventor and company have created a bona fide thrashterpiece? Damn right I do. If I had 10 thumbs, they’d all be up. Either get this into your collection or just admit you aren’t really a metal fan after all. A bold statement for an equally bold platter.