Screams of Winter “Divine Chaos” Album Review + Stream…

SCREAMS OF WINTER

Divine Chaos – EP – Digital Download

Independent – Released – Sept 1, 2017

Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt

 

Line Up:
Michael Scola/ Vocals
Maxwell Damske / Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Bass, Drum programming
Alex Damske / Lead Guitars

A Brief History:

Screams of Winter is a melodic death metal act hailing from Chicago, Illinois. Forming in 2004 as a middle school act, they disbanded in 2010 when they “failed to evolve musically”. (Reference their Facebook about page). Fast forward 7 years, Screams of Winter have reformed and re-recorded 5 tracks that “finally sound like what the band always wanted them to sound like”. I haven’t heard their 2006 release, which they describe as “far from listenable” but I have to say the 5 tracks schlepped up on Divine Chaos are what I want them to sound like as well.

 

 

Review:

First the cover, which I’m guessing is a depiction of Saint Peter. The gates behind the angel-like figure suggest he’s standing atop the stairway to heaven waiting to pass judgement on whoever seeks entry. He is the Devine. However, there’s also an element of space here. The planet, stars, and comets are the Chaos. Well thought out.

The album opens with ‘Mechanical Chaos’. The first minute and a half is mostly keyboard ambiance with some light percussion and the odd strum of the guitar. This is the kind of thing a band might have the Sound Man play at the start of a show to set the mood as the band enters. Sound Man or keyboardist, that is, if they had one which it appears they don’t though I believe I hear some here and there throughout the album. Guitars lead us into the tune and finally the vocals join the fray. The first thought I have is Screams of Winter sound like a cross between Children of Bodom and Arch Enemy. Michael Scola’s vocals remind me of Angela Gossow and whoever is taking the lead on the guitar shreds like Alexi, early Bodom. Upon reading their bio, I see they list In Flames as an influence and now I can hear it big time. To be clear, I’m talking early In Flames, not current In Flames. There is one low point to the song that I feel compelled to mention and that’s the clean vocals. They’re not bad; I just don’t think they fit the track. In this particular case, they remind me of Ray Alder of Fates Warning, specifically from A Pleasant Shade of Grey. While Alder is one of my favorites, unfortunately in my opinion, using them on this track takes away a bit more than it gives. And don’t get me wrong, ‘Mechanical Chaos’ is solid regardless.

‘Divine Tragedy’, track 2, opens with a super melodic riff and again I can hear that early In Flames. I love the harsh backing vocals here as they allow for a pace that couldn’t be done with a single screamer. Again though, they cut to the clean vocals which I’m not fond of. In this track, they do better suit the layout, as they come while ‘Divine Tragedy’ slows. I believe they’re inspired by God Forbid who uses clean vocals more frequently and who are also, coincidentally, listed as an influence on Screams of Winter’s “About” page. Despite my reservations, this might be my favorite on this EP.

‘Orwellian Overture’ begins with Rush-like keys which come and go throughout the track. Again with the clean vocals; but they’re growing on me. I love how they transition in and out of the melodic riffs on this track.

Scarlet Beast Promo

‘Rise of the Nephilim’ is the perfect tune for a live show. It’s got all the elements I’m looking for. It begins with a pace that’s sure to open a pit. It slows a bit after 30 seconds or so, allowing the guys who get gassed easily the opportunity to stand aside and breathe while the few psychos remaining can keep at it as the reduced pace still justifies some slamming. The backing vocals again suit the track (fry, not clean). ‘Rise of the Nephilim’ continue the tradition of sweet transitions as the guitars sustain, the drums take over for a few seconds before the soloing begins which gives way to a chant “Rise! – Rise! – Rise!”. Of course, in the live setting this is the time for crowd interaction and I have no doubt there’ll be any problems getting the fiends in the audience to chant along. Sure, the nuts in the pit will likely be gasping for breath, single fist raised to open the airways as they labor out a hoarse whisper.  Those who stand back banging their heads and fists will be sure to compensate. Once the chant ends the drums take off, a little back feed and back to the shredding… and moshing. Rise of the Nephilim maintains the pace until it closes.

Holy Lust closes out Divine Chaos with a nice slow melody that takes off unexpectedly. Again, smooth transitions bridge the gaps as the songs changes speed, from death to melodic and back again. I mention them every track as I feel transitions are key in separating the average Melodic Death Metal acts from the exceptional.

With so much going on in each track, it’s hard to notice that the earworms on Divine Chaos average almost 5 minutes each. Despite being just a 5 track EP, Divine Chaos clocks in at 29 minutes. Aside from being an amazing blend of Bodom, Arch Enemy and In Flames this album has one more feature extremely attractive feature and that’s the price. Digital download of Scream of Winter’s album (at the time of this writing) is listed on Bandcamp for $4USD. Are you kidding me? $4? I could create an endless list of trivial items people piss away more money on, sometimes on a daily basis. I’m not going to. All I’m going to say is there’s links below to 4 different ways you can buy it and Bandcamp is the cheapest.

Links:
https://www.facebook.com/screamsofwinter/

https://screamsofwinter.bandcamp.com/album/divine-chaos

https://play.google.com/…/a…/Screams_of_Winter_Divine_Chaos…

https://open.spotify.com/album/1Ei8nKuOBaKlqCpfpB40mB

https://itunes.apple.com/…/al…/divine-chaos-ep/id1278661776…


Helmer “Helmer” Album Review + Stream…

HELMER

Self Titled – Digital Download

Self Released: July 4, 2017

Reviewed by Ric “Suisyko” Dorr

 

Founded – December 31, 2013

Location – Chicago, Illinois

Genre – rock / thrash / acoustic / doom metal

Band Members:
S
tevil Helmer – guitars
Matt Westlake – guitars
Elvin Rodriguez – vocals
Dave Bizzigotti – bass
Gary Farano – drums
Tracy G. – guest guitar (“Bag Of Dimes”)

 

Previous Releases –  “A Million Pieces” single (2013) / “Ivory Tower (Acoustic) single (2015) / “Bag Of Dimes” single (2016)

Two years and three months in the making, this “S/T” album marks a landmark with it being the first full-length release from HELMER and is right on time to fill a void that has been growing wider in scope.  That being original music filled with power and managing to avoid falling into any of the trappings of heavier music while showing a mindset of singularity… to make ‘formula music’ obsolete and forge forward wielding ‘axes high’ in this 9-track, 38+ minute venture into the mind of guitar-master Stevil Helmer.

Pic Stevil Helmer

Each of these tracks is ‘tall-enough’ to stand on their own, much as ‘Bag Of Dimes’ and ‘Ivory Tower’ have done, originally released as singles, and together as a unit, the resulting compilation is simply…. KICK ASS!! From the dark fade in of ‘Electromagnetic’ to ‘Burn The Rain’, with a staggered tempo entry, it is clear there is no rest or compromise offered in the relentless pulling as the HELMER train keeps you moving along with no thought of anything but MORE…

‘Caveman’ has this chilling harmonic squealing that turns into the thickest chunky melody that keeps hitting hard and heavy as we “Shine, shine, shine, shine…”, while ‘Two Birds, One Stone’ hits your brain asking “If Misery loves company, than why am I alone?” and the body of the song is immediately rolling hard, grabbing you along.

‘Pure Madness’ is more of a doom/stoner track in it’s delivery, nice and even and filled with guitar textures galore to fill the most ardent guitar fan with happiness and when ‘Hey Hey My My’ hits, there is nothing to do but scream along with this absolutely genius update that even NEIL YOUNG would have to smile wide. On the version I purchased, the original version of ‘Ivory Tower’ is including in all it’s haunting acoustic glory that was how I heard it first and shows how much even one song can progress just by shifting gears. In MY opinion, the combination of both versions, acoustic first, followed immediately with the electrified would be the perfect set closer/encore in a live setting and would melt heads off.

Get YOUR copy of this immediately, share it out and shove it down the throats of the unwilling. Get out and see this music live if you are afforded the opportunity and keep it LOUD!!


Night Demon “Darkness Remains” – Album Review…

Night Demon

Darkness Remains (Deluxe Edition) – Vinyl // CD // DD // Streaming..

Century Media – Street Date: April 21, 2017

Reviewed by David “The Lovely” LaMay

 

Ventura, California’s Night Demon is, with little doubt, becoming a  ferocious, unstoppable monster within the overall underground metal movement. Though their excellent 2012 debut e.p. seemed to sneak under the radar, it had the goods to land them a deal with powerhouse label Century Media. From there, in early 2015, the band released ‘Curse of The Damned’, a future classic of NWOTHM (New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal) and has followed it up with seemingly relentless touring and a live delivery that will melt your face off, straight down to the bone. Catch Jarvis Leatherby (bass, vocals), Dusty Squires (drums), and newbie Armand John (guitars) off-stage, and they’re every bit as cool as their music is hot.  How can they possibly make the scenario any more appealing to metal fans? Easy- By releasing ‘Darkness Remains’.

Night-Demon_band

 

Now, if you’re worried that the band has left its roots behind or grown beyond what’s made them so appealing thus far, rest easy. If you’re new to them, well, here is as good as any a place to start.

With a catchy as hell, old-school sound firmly in place, the band has wisely chosen not to attempt reinventing the wheel. Instead, they have fine-tuned the machine so that the 10 regular and 2 bonus cover tracks (including Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’ in a really fresh, yet recognizable format) pulse and pound with earthy preciseness.   Foreboding hooves gallop furiously through dark terrain like ‘Hallowed Ground’ and ‘Black Widow’, while mid-pacers ‘Stranger In The Room’ and ‘On Your Own’ really hammer home the early 80’s charm. The title track is the biggest surprise, showing the trio being as adept at penning a tranquil, almost Sabbathy psych vibe as anything else they’ve tackled thus far.

Individually, Jarvis’ melodic, “every man” vocals ala Guy Speranza (R.I.P./Riot) or Chris Bradley (Savage) are smoother and more assured, as is Dusty’s drumming. Armand John’s new role in the band is proving to be a great addition; the riffs are still blazing sharp, but his sense of melody is keener than his predecessor’s, tightening the trio’s sound down to the smallest details. Topping it all off is the robust, vibrant production ‘Curse’ could have used, but never got.

Quartz, Iron Maiden, Angel Witch, Jaguar, Cirith Ungol, Slough Feg and the like are nice touchstones to get an idea where Night Demon is coming from.  In the end, they manage to get their own thing going in full force with ‘Darkness Remains’. This record isn’t good, or even great. It’s downright fantastic. I am, once again, blown away by this band to no end. Essential – Ohhhh, hell yes!

March 4, 2017 (Saratoga Springs, NY)- From Left To Right: Armand John, Dave Lampkins, Jarvis, Myself, and Dusty kneeling in front. They tore that joint doooown!
Dave & Night Demon

New Album Review – OverKill “The Grinding Wheel”

OverKill

The Grinding Wheel – Vinyl / CD / DD

Thrash Metal

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.

 

New Album Promo

 

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.

 

Pro Band Shot

 

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.

Words by David “The Lovely” LaMay


New Album Review – Kreator “Gods of Violence” (Japanese Edition)

Kreator

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”.

 

Gods of Violence_Release Info

 

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.

Words by David “The Lovely” LaMay


Album Review – Gravehuffer “Your Fault”

Gravehuffer

Your Fault – CD / Cassette / DD

Grind/Hardcore/Crossover/British Punk

Swamp Metal Records – Release Date: March 3, 2017

 

When most of us come across the word “retro” used to describe music, we readily think of the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s, but rarely do the 90’s enter our minds – Even though the last day of the decade was over 17(!) years ago.  Of course, it surely didn’t/doesn’t help that as the new millennium loomed close, so too began the severe, still-ongoing decline of quality rock reaching the mainstream.  Joplin, Missouri’s Gravehuffer have something to say about this time frame getting thrown in the trash, and they say it convincingly.

 

Live band Pic

 

“Your Fault” exhibits few, if any, signs that it gives a damn about what is hot or happening in 2017. Throughout it’s thirty minute run time, the record never wavers from taking the 80’s D-Beat punk of GBH, Broken Bones, and Discharge and and infusing it with a strong dose of the early Earache catalog, back when they were actually presenting the most extreme music available circa the early 1990’s.  I do believe I also hear elements of Agnostic Front and the mighty Bl’ast in there too.  Add it all up and you have eleven tracks of unrelenting mayhem, smoothly delivered and more than the sum of its parts.

So, hell yeah, Gravehuffer’s latest gets a thumbs up from me. It’s kinda the musical equivalent of flicks like “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer”– It’s not a casual, off-the-cuff experience, but when that right moment arrives, little will work better to scratch that itch.

Words by David “The Lovely” LaMay