Monday, September 12, 2016

Neurotech-In Remission

Keeping with the one-man band theme from yesterday, the country of Slovenia gets in on the act, as Neurotech has emerged. The brainchild of Wulf since 2012, he has had four albums under his belt under the Neurtoech name that plays symphonic industrial metal. His latest album In Remission becomes album number five.

In Remission is 35 minutes of ambient industrial metal that isn't going to necessarily blow you away, but provides enough in the way of atmosphere to keep your attention. While most of the music is predominantly programming, there is the standard guitar, bass, vocals, and drums combo that many bands have, and they all seem to work in concert with one another. Vocals-wise, they're clean with a small amount of distortion thrown in periodically and rarely rise above the music. While atmosphere is created fairly well and the music is rather straightforward, it also happens to be a problem, as the limitations of incorporating programming into the music often leave little to the imagination, as many of the tracks tend to sound the same. Only the last track "Alleviate" truly stands out, and it also happens to be one of the slower songs on the album that also gets time to develop. Other than the last song, the rest of the album is just there, as it doesn't jump out in any way, good or bad.

Neurotech has an interesting approach when it comes to industrial metal, and while there is potential for greatness, far too often on In Remission, it just settles for a middle ground. It's not terrible, but one gets the feeling that so much more was expected. It's good for a curiosity listen, but anything more than a couple of spins may be pushing it for enjoyment factor.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Assignment-Closing the Circle

Sometimes, it is better late than never when it comes to bands getting their act together. Such is the case with Germany's Assignment, who began in 1994 as a thrash/death metal outfit, but later changed their sound to progressive power metal. Their debut album Progressive Changes wasn't released until 2003, nine years and two demos after they formed. Seemingly on an album every five years deal, their latest album Closing the Circle, their first on Massacre Records, breaks that spell in a major way.

The opening track "Evolution" begins with about a minute of sound samples before the actual music hits, and while it doesn't blow the listener away, Diego Valdez's vocals adds something to it, as one gets the feeling that he took cues from Ronnie James Dio. The title track and "Presence of Death" show more of what Assignment is capable of, as musically, they match Valdez's energy and vocal range with musicianship that is top notch. On the subject of vocal range, Valdez expands it on "Genetic Slavery," as he begins with what many would describe as the normal singing voice, alternating between it and the power metal vocals during the song. The intro to "Crimson Poison," as well as the brief guitar wails during the opening of "Chemical Healing," shows that the music is more than just straight ahead power. "Chemical Healing" is also where the first pronounced solos appear, as prior to that, they didn't stand out from the rest of the music on the album. "Variaxis" has what sounds like flamenco guitar opening the song, as well as a guest vocal appearance from Maria Jose Pot. It is also the closest thing to a ballad, as it is not quite as strong in terms of overall power, but both sets of vocals work well together, particularly since there is full range in all facets of the music. "Entering the Universe" and "Between Parallel Worlds" are concept songs that are broken into three parts each, and given the time of each, it's not surprising that they're also the best songs on Closing the Circle, as the music is given time to develop. The only drawback on the album is that the solos could have been a little more pronounced, as musically, in terms of ability and storytelling, it's excellent, and the vocals are what make it memorable.

For as long as they've been around, Assignment hasn't found that special spark that would get them more recognized. With Closing the Circle, they may have found that spark, as it has the ability to be remembered as a special album. If you're looking for something worthwhile in the progressive power metal genre, Assignment has the album for you.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Scarification-Scarification

There seems to be something in the New Mexico sun that causes people to form black metal projects, as there has been a few of them coming out in recent years. The one man band that calls itself Scarification and is made up of a man known only as Rott. The self-titled effort is the second album from the project, and the results are interesting, at the very least.

Many of the ten tracks on the album fall under the four minute mark, with just two of them going over that mark (the self-titled track and "Fortress of the Dark"), so it would stand that Scarification would put their best within the time confines that it sets upon itself. Heavily influenced by bands such as Mayhem, Burzum, and early-era Darkthrone, it is obvious from the the opening track "Spirit of the North" that it goes for a raw black metal sound complete with production values that recreate that sound from the time period. The lo-fi effect makes for an album that has to be turned up to hear everything that the album has to offer. The overall speed of the music is also similar, as it doesn't go fast, instead stretching out notes to  prolong the aural agony that it wishes to inflict on the listener.
The atmosphere, particularly on the self-titled track, has a nighttime in the forest in the winter feel to it, something that is pulled off with surprising efficiency given that it's coming from a band from the predominantly desert land of New Mexico. At times, the low production values work against Scarification, as even with the sound turned up, it's still somewhat difficult to pick up what is being put out there. What does work though is the disjointed nature in which the songs are presented, something that at times, hides the fact that the songs have mostly the same consistency in terms of delivery and tempo.

Scarification is definitely a product of the bands that it looks up to, and while it doesn't break any new ground, it does pay homage to bands such as Mayhem and Burzum well. While the low production values do add to the sound, it also overdoes it a little, as even with the sound turned all the way up, it's still somewhat inaudible. Scarification is worth a listen or two if raw black metal is your preference.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Subrosa-For This We Fought the Battle of Ages

Salt Lake City may be one of the least likely places to find good metal music, but much like the city itself these days, it's growing, and at the forefront of the metal music movement there is Subrosa. Considered one of the best bands that few have heard of, that label is in danger of being shed as they gain more recognition, so pressure to produce another great album is naturally on for them. Their latest album For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is quite possibly their most complete album yet.

With six tracks clocking in at just over an hour, Subrosa sets the tone with one of the deepest songs on the album in "Despair is a Siren." As the title says, despair is the main theme, and the music portrays it perfectly, with violins providing the feeling alongside the pained vocals of Rebecca Vernon, the measured guitar riffs, and a rhythm section that ensures things don't get out of hand. The bass lines that begin "Wound of the Warden" give way to an equally beautiful composition that shows a slightly darker, angrier side to the album. Vocal range is on display for "Black Majesty," and like the rest of the album, it doesn't disappoint when it comes to atmosphere or musical composition. There is a small break on the album with "Il Cappio," which is the only track that is under seven minutes by a lot, as it is only a minute and a half long. Even that isn't allowed to go to waste, as between the singing in Italian and the use of a lyre, it provides a nice bridge to the next song in "Killing Rapture." The closing track "Troubled Cells" begins with guitar strains that eventually serve as an underlying layer to the vocals that remain as hauntingly beautiful then as it was when the album began. The consistency on For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is remarkable, even as the previous albums have been works of art unto themselves, but it is taken to a new level, as the elements of their music truly come together.

If you were to put together an album that served as a soundtrack to the possible end of humanity, Subrosa's For This We Fought the Battle of Ages would be it. Naturally, it figures that the inspiration for the album is taken from a near 100-year old dystopian novel entitled We by Yevgeny Zamyatin. Subrosa's work already stands out on its own, but with the increasing recognition they're getting within the doom metal scene, it is great that they're not letting up when it comes to creating compositions worthy of an art museum. For This We Fought the Battle of Ages is a must have for doom metal fans, and even if you aren't a fan of doom metal in general, it is still an album to own.