Thursday, March 31, 2022

Bog Wizard vs. Froglord - A Frog in the Bog EP (2022)

Can we start with how awesome the cover art for this split release is? I'm getting total vibes of primitive PC graphics, and by primitive I mean the PEAK. If we saw something like this on a Commodore 64 game's title screen, my bros and I might have creamed our collective corduroys. No surprise then that it is another tripped out recording from Michigan's psychedelic sledgehammer Bog Wizard, this time paired out with the equally outrageous Froglord out of England. There is no scenario in which the two of these groups collide and dungeon level mischief does NOT ensue, so make sure up front that you've run some clean bong water, written your wills, put on your space helmets and whatever random pieces of armor you can sling together to defend yourself from the trudging, sludging and drudging you are about to receive.

Bog Wizard's portion of the split definitely feels in the same wheelhouse as their recent Miasmic Purple Smoke album, that is to say a steady, slow, crush of distorted swill playing out thick, oozing, repetitive grooves that will devolve you into your respective reptilian or amphibious DNA. The vocal tracks are delivered with a barbaric hypnotism, but the band also breaks the heaviness down into some simple bass lines and percussion here. Froglord's contributions, "The Bog" and "The Wizard", both references to their partners in crime (much as "Reptilian Death Squad" did for them), are slightly more robust, accessible stoner metal jams with great tones, and a cool vocal that sounds like Rob Zombie got punched square in the gut, but gets a little more hoarse when they get to a chorus part. To be honest, both sides of this equation do complement each other well, they're both well within that wheelhouse of savage, simple doom and sludge that was undoubtedly inspired by Robert E. Howard's Conan fiction and dangerous degrees of hashish consumption. The Brits go for a brighter tone whereas Bog Wizard sounds more dreary, raw and repressed by design.

What's even cooler, is that in addition to how their individual contributions celebrate one another, there are two directly collaborative tracks named for one another, and these are some of its funnest moments, with the "The Frog Lord" mantra being repeated against some sizzling synth effects, and the aforementioned vocals attacking you from all angles as the tripping turns paranoiac. "The Bog Wizard" sounds like Clutch on a bad bender after listening to some Conan or Buzz*oven records, and it's just kind of cool to see a split recording taken this general, the bands can remain a bit disparate and then the whole experience feels forced, but here it's all quite balanced. The songs are all really simple, and I wouldn't mind either band getting a little more riffy, complex or experimental for some added depth, but it seems like a good time was had by all, and if you're a fan of their individual records, then there is no reason to skip this one.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Voivod - Synchro Anarchy (2022)

The Wake was, at least to me, another of Voivod's myriad masterworks which celebrated everything that had come before it, everything that this anomalous Canadian band had built into its DNA through the decades, and then pushed those parameters even further, fattening the envelope with some fresh ideas like a touch of orchestration or some riffs and arrangements which have naturally bled into the band's process with the integration of Chewy's great talents. That's a daunting act to follow, but to its credit, Synchro Anarchy strives really damn hard to do just that, and while it might not succeed 100% of the time in its task, it's an absolute scorcher that belongs on the shelves of anyone into inspired, original metal music, or maybe even music in general?!

Granted, this is my favorite band ever, and I'm biased, but until there are as many copies of Voivod as Michael Jackson out there in the world, I will not rest. This is the hill I want to die on! After hearing the first couple singles off of Synchro Anarchy, I was definitely feeling a heavy Dimension Hatröss vibe, as if the weirdness and grooving thrash of that particular record had been energized and updated for yet another decade. To an extent, that's true, as displayed through the weird dissonance of the chord sequences, thick cement-like bass grooves and almost drugged, introspective vocals, but once you've listened through this one a bunch and discovered its bigger picture, the album has a lot more going on, and like its predecessor, offers a few new spins on the considerable lexicon of the Canadians' progressive sci-fi metal tropes. At points I was hearing a little more of Chewy's death metal heritage splash into the writing, like a few of the brief tremolo picked runs in the opener "Paranormailum" before lurching into those warped jilted, extraterrestrial guitars.

A track like the titular "Synchro Anarchy" teases you with some of the old Piggy trademark chords, but splays them out in new rhythmic patterns beneath Snake's mesmerizing, punk-inflected hymns to retro and post-futurism. There are loads of details which are obvious from the get-go, but after increased listens through I started to enjoy them...increasingly, especially some of the warmer and more proggy flights of notation from Chewy. The other new-ish member, Rocky, also floods this album with what might be the fattest and most impactful bass-tone they've ever had, once again honoring his predecessor Blacky in full with lines that are odd, alien, funky and fresh when you run them up against about 99% of what other low-enders are performing in metal bands. He literally drives tracks like "Planet Eaters" out of the stratosphere, and the rest of the band has to find something tasty to distract us away from how amazing he is. To be fair, they do, and it all gels together so smoothly despite the obvious level of aggression, for Synchro Anarchy feels slightly more tense and hungry than Target Earth or The Wake.

It also doesn't hurt that the veterans, Snake and Away are at the top of their game with their own respective instruments and writing, and the production on this is totally killer. While I'm not always the biggest sucker for levels of polish like this, for what a band like Voivod is pulling off, it's so critical to get those volumes clear and potent and right in your face, because this is not a band that requires an atmospheric sheen to enhance it...the wondrous, frightening musical spaces they create are AUTOMATICALLY transports to otherworldly metal music parallels. And yet there are plenty of atmospheric effects added here anyways! There is not a note on the album that sounds mixed out of place, and Francis Perron absolutely nailed it. Away's artwork is as always a delight of that freaky pulp futurism we've seen before from the, as with the Post Society EP, and I really enjoyed letting each concept sink in while I stared at the accompanying imagery. The band's visual concepts ignite my nerdy imagination just as they did when I was a kid and first encountered the band.

What's more, there is not a single dud on the entire album. As strong as the first three tunes are, the album gets even BETTER as it goes along, and while highlights are not easy to pick out, tracks like the weird, pumping "Sleeves Off", churning "Holographic Thinking", and catchy-as-hell "Memory Failure" were initial standouts. Of course I was being hasty, because with each successive spin I've continued to appreciate the entire album even more, and it's one of those efforts where you could pull out single tracks for a quick, effective thrill, or just bask in the 48 minutes of genius. There are certainly moments that feel like visitations to the past, but plenty enough here to confirm that this Machine Is Far From Lost, the band's constant creativity is well-intact, they can honor their own history while forging ever further into the sparkling black depths of space metal. I hope I've got enough oxygen to follow along for as many light years as I can.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.75/10]

Monday, March 28, 2022

Voivod - Lost Machine: Live (2020)

Lost Machine was recorded on the same tour that I last caught Voivod on, so the set looks mighty familiar, and that's a good thing, because I had a blast at that gig, and thanked several of them afterwards. Not the same DATE, of course, as I live in New England, but with this Quebec City recording, I feel like I can relive it all over again, and what's more, they sound excellent. The Canadians have put out a number of lives in the past, with the low point being Voivod Lives in 2000, and high water mark to Warriors of Ice in 2011, but it's safe to say this sounds almost the measure of the latter, with a great track list spanning a lot of their albums...not ALL of them, because you're not going to begin to cover 15 albums with 13 tracks, but let's just say there's a variety here that made the set an entertaining aural roller coaster.

"Post Society" starts out strong, setting the benchmark for how clean this is going to sound. They've always been a band that excelled with the single guitarist, because the rhythm section is so interesting that there's always plenty to captivate you, and Chewy's tone here is fucking phenomenal. His rhythms might sound a little thin, but they're so clean and perfectly played, and his leads are wild. The bass also sounds awesome, and Away's drumming is as proggy and energetically balanced as in the studio. Snake is also on point, an entertaining frontman to experience, and that wastoid punkish quality to his voice sounds like he hasn't aged a day since the 80s. They rifle through new excellence like "Obsolete Beings", "The End of Dormancy", "Iconspiracy" and "Fall" as they were classics, rubbing up against fan favorites like "Psychic Vacuum" and their "Astronomy Domine" cover, but also took me by surprise with "The Prow" from Angel Rat, which I remember being stoked to see in person.  They also do the titular "The Lost Machine" off The Outer Limits, duh, which is also had an unusually potent presence on stage with their odd sci-fi projections playing out on the screen behind them.

Lost Machine: Live is an awesome presentation of the band, and no matter what track selection they had come up with, provided it wasn't all from Negatron, the quality would have probably been the same. Yes, I am biased, this is my favorite group in the universe and they can do no wrong (not even Negatron was that wrong), but it's another cool live album that maintains peak professionalism while never lacking the vibrancy and creativity that has always driven them. Mandatory for fans and collectors, and still well worth a listen for everyone else too.

Verdict: Win [8.5/10]

Friday, March 25, 2022

Voivod - The End of Dormancy EP (2020)

Even as a Voivod devotee, the contents of The End of Dormancy EP are a hard sell, because there's just not a lot to it, but the idea is at least fun. Take the title track and then spice it up with a horn section. It works, it works really damn well, the saxes and so forth honking and squealing along to the already-weird, progressive taxonomy of the composition. At the same time, it does seem like you could just cut and paste them in there, they don't really feel like naturally parts of the tune, and so I'm relieved they stick to one track. The Wake certainly had its experimental side, the band playing with new ideas like some brief orchestration, and so this one isn't at all a stretch, but it definitely can come across like some guys just playing along to a previous recording...however, I will say that when the song goes into that weird, lurching segue near the end, where it feels like a ship lurching back and forth, the brass does give a Circus-like that was quite cool and even felt like a Mr. Bungle tune.

The 'B' sides are two live tracks, from the Montreal Jazz Fest of 2019, and the song actually shines more in that capacity, with a little variation from the studio incarnation. A great live mix doesn't hurt, but in this context it feels like a more naturally a pairing, along with the passionate vocals and performance of the core metal instruments. They also include a live of "The Unknown Knows" from that same date, but it doesn't seem to include the same instruments...sort of a misstep, though it's cool to think a crowd of jazz lovers would want to hear one of Voivod's more funky, weird tunes in the buff. So this is a quirky little collectors' item, which at least sounds good, but I almost wish the experiment would go a little further, maybe an album's length, with an EP of songs having the brazen jazzy sounds mixed more organically into the recording, and then more live tunes also integrating them. Having said that, if this is all we get, I'm fine with that. Failure is not within the Voivod lexicon, and they're not have bad sounding with the saxes and such. Just don't do a hip hop remix record, please.

Verdict: Indifference [6/10]

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Killengod - Into the Ancient Moon (1998)

Killengod's obscure sophomore album comes across quite different up front. Gone are the weird, surreal alien things from the debut's cover, and this in fact looks as if it would be more of a black metal album, or at least it would if the logo weren't the same. Actually, when I was listening to the synth intro "Ode to an Ancient Moon", I was fully expecting them to erupt with blasting, snarls and tremolo picked melodies. After all, the first record was a bit trendy with what extreme metal was happening in 1995, so why not the 1998 album too? But this turns out not to be the case, because where the aesthetics and production of Into the Ancient Moon might differ from the debut, it's still very much brutal death metal with a Floridian foundation, only I feel a bit more of that New York intensity creeping into it here.

You still get the Deicide-like split vocals, alternating between the guttural and snarl, and they do it with a lot of character, and occasionally in tandem. The riffs, though, are far more ambitious, dabbling in more technical, varied patterns which are a smattering of thrash and brutal death, and shifting around enough with the drums that it occasionally sounds a little cluttered, with walls of riffs crashing into each other. There is a lot more technique, little pinches and melodies abound, and they also use a little more synth which recalls some of the early Nocturnus. The instruments all sounds fairly good for something at this budget, but the guitars are a bit sharper and more cutting than on the first album. There are also a few spurts of more melodic, simple riffing almost like a crude melodeath, as in the bridge of "Masquerade the Masters", but it's not enough to distract from the more abusive, intense battery they usually engage with.

Tunes like "Lord of Whores" should still sate fans of the first two Deicide records, or maybe None So Vile, and I found there were a fun, bouncy, primal grooves, although in terms of chord or note selection, this album doesn't really stand out so much. But it's competent, punishing Down Under death metal that will probably surprise those hunting deep through the underground for some competence, and their willingness to make the small aesthetic changes shows that they were a group keen on evolution and progression. It simply never progressed beyond this point...

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]

Friday, March 18, 2022

Killengod - Transcendual Consciousness (1995)

With all the love foisted upon obscure death metal of the 80s and 90s, down to the demo level, it's hard to believe that this Australian band, Killengod, goes unnoticed. Sure, the cover art is hideous, the name of the band is a bit dumb, but the production and songs on this 1995 debut, Transcendual Consciousness (whatever that means) are tight enough that I can imagine those into a more semi-brutal acts of that time period like Malevolent Creation or Deicide would get a kick out of this. Come to think of it, the name actually seems to me like a lazy alternative to Deicide, and the band has a lot of stylistic comparisons with Benton and company. I'll even go further to say that the production job on this CD is even better than half of what Scott Burns was putting out, so there it is.

This is equal parts fast brutality and groove-based death metal which is heavily rooted in the Florida style, with perhaps a sliver of sensibility towards bands like Biohazard when they go into a breakdown, though this wasn't a foreign technique to death metal itself either. The riffs chug along in engaging if forgettable patterns, and they aren't afraid to throw some weirdness over the top like flange ("Soul Mutilation"). They use a dual vocal, the most apt comparison to Deicide, with the snarl and guttural going off in constant unison, and it sounds pretty nasty and silly at the same time, but I doubt the latter was the intent. The drums are damn solid, with steady double kick, fun fills and some blasting, though never so much that it becomes monotonous, and they also seem to stick with the guttural in those parts and it sounds fairly awesome. Like their Floridian forebears Deicide and Cannibal Corpse, there is definitely also a bit of a thrash influence here which directly translates into some of the riffing, but much of it meat-fisted and brutal death metal, but lacking the overt complexity some of the bands were starting to branch into.

The lead aren't great, but they add a nice dimension of messiness over the thrust of the low end, and the bass is warbling all over the place. The band actually did their best to vary this one up, they'll have a clean acoustic part here or some rhythmic shifts that sound like nothing else on the album as in "Experimental Evidence", which sounds more like a brute thrash tune via Sacred Reich or Demolition Hammer. The title track also steps off into the Twilight Zone with a weird mix of groove, thick bass lines, chugging build-ups and a cool, weird ambient intro which sounds like water running, bells being rung and some warped samples of alien pleasure. Transcendual Consciousness deserves far more credit than I'd give it just by first impressions, for such an unknown record it sounds quite competent, and the songs are frenetic and fun, especially for a time when the chugging and grooves were still in vogue. If you enjoy that period of death metal when Suffocation, Cryptopsy and the aforementioned Florida acts were fast becoming gods, you could do much worse than check this one out if you can find it.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Frostvore - Drowned by Blood (2020)

We've heard the influence of Swedish death metal worldwide in the past, particularly in the German, Finnish, and North American scenes, but I cannot recall having heard Japan take a spin on it 'til Tokyo's Frostvore. The hope here is the regional differences will take the popular guitar tone of this niche and come up with something interesting in turn, and while I don't know that that is 100% the case with this debut album, it's definitely not the most blatantly unoriginal use of the aesthetics. The cover art is strange and creepy, with that blood-limned celestial body spreading a sanguine gloom over the smokestacks and corpse-piled landscape, gore and gravestones and even what looks like a skeletal titan chained to the sky in the distance, and various maws and eyes emerging from the heaps of bodies. Unnerving, with eye catching color.

Is the music as great as the cover? Hardly, but it's got a hustle to it that reminds me of other bands in the Swedish throwback style I've enjoyed like Bastard Priest or LIK. The idea is to take those formative, early Nihilist and Entombed releases, make them a little more raw, almost punkish within the d-beat fold, though more in the drum-beats, as their riffs are a little choppier thank your Discharge derivatives. Apply a bunch of strong, forceful melodies and some slower, roiling classic death metal riffs in the vein of old Chuck's debut, and you've got something which should appeal to devotees of this death denomination. I like the guitar sound, as familiar as it is, but it's a bit thinner and more atmospheric than some comparable bands, and the lower, chugging guitars sequences in spots like the intro to "Extreme Cold Torture" or the breakdown of the title track sound devastating. It's also very even, the melodies are just as corpulent as the rhythm guitars, rather than just being these weaker threads woven though the churning substrate. The drums and bass don't quite dazzle me, they do their job, but it's the guitars and the moments where they do branch into their own thing (the epic bridge of the title track) that really impress the most.

Vocally, it's definitely got a hoarse, abusive style similar to L-G Petrov, but maybe more energized and raunchy and with a little less of the phrasing and character. It's fully hostile and fits really well to the apocalyptic thrust of the tunes. The band also gets some credit for variation, they definitely try to swap tempos and moods with the bleeding, faster pieces offset by a slow, dark chugger like "Eroded Mind", and thus it's a well-considered debut. As someone who does often grow exhausted with this style, I admit that lately it hasn't been quite so saturated, so Drowned by Blood was fairly enjoyable, not exactly a unique progression to the Swedish niche, but balanced and checking off a lot of the boxes of what we so enjoy about those old records in the early 90s. If that's your thing then this one is worth hearing.

Verdict: Win [7.75/10]

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Maul - Gallery of Torment (2021)

Can't recall covering a lot of metal out of North Dakota, so there's an inherent novelty to Maul which helps them stand out. I've actually been listening to them for a couple years after a friend recommended some demos, but this Gallery of Torment is a much better starting point, as it gathers together the material from both their Monarchy of Mold and Deity Demise EPs in 2020, as well as some other tracks off demos and splits. A much more substantial product to hunt down for those immersed in all the great traditional death metal radiating out of these new bands over the last decade. They don't play in a style that would be unfamiliar to you, but there's a little nuance that keeps them feeling fresh, another band that strips things to the roots, covers the basic fundamentals and then layers something else on top.

So they play a slow, plodding death metal that often borders on death/doom, but with a steady, chugging sense of groove to it. The vocals are the deep gutturals evolved out of groups like Incantation, and the almost minimalism to the riffing helps those sound broader and nastier when sustained. But as basic as the rhythm guitars and beats can get, they'll throw on these nice atmospheric melodies in places that feel naturally more impactful since they're not being spun over a more complex web. And there's already a good amount of atmosphere due to the way it's mixed, fairly raw but clear, and the aforementioned sustain to the growling. In a way, it's almost related to slam death, but moves along at a more languid pace where the grooves really settle into your conscience. There are some production peaks and valleys, since these are recordings drawn from a number of sessions, and I think the Monarchy of Mold material is likely the best sounding and brightest; some of the odds fade into the background, but I will say that it's all cut from the same cloth, with a few tunes denser and less interesting in the construction than others.

Other highlights beyond Monarchy of Mold are the two tracks from the 2018 demo Soaked in Penance, Solicit the Torture, which have a great production to the bass and guitar chugging, and some really grotesque vocals, and the "Ambiguous Lurk" single which is slightly more evil and clinical sounding; in all I'd say there are about 7-8 tracks that kill it, and then the handful of others aren't as interesting, but Gallery of Torment makes a great launch point for a proper full length album where the levels will be more balanced and the crushing concepts coherent. Maul is heavy, leaden and effective, almost like the bludgeoning weapon of their namesake methodically bashing in the skulls of a line of kneeling, bound victims in true Lucille fashion. If you only like your death metal highly progressive or technical, stay as far away as possible, but if you enjoy Asphyx, Disma and Autopsy, check them out.

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]

Monday, March 7, 2022

In Solitude - Sister (2013)

It's a fairly common occurrence where a new band will come along, put out a few albums emulating a particular influence, style or 'scene', and then suddenly get struck with a storm of sporadic creativity that puts them a great distance from where they started. In Solitude's third full-length, Sister is a glaring example of such a game changer, a work that contains only a fraction of aesthetics that could be comparable to either of its predecessors, and even then that usually manifests in a little lead lick, or a vocal line that still captures a bit of essence of the legendary Danish bands that first inspired the Swedes' sound. For the majority of its running time, however, Sister has entered new ground, basically a fresh take on Gothic rock/metal that doesn't just sound like another doppelganger of Sisters of Mercy or The Cult, even if those do sound like they would have been among the influences that helped inform this transformation.

So damn different, and so brilliant, you could almost see this as an album that would foreshadow their fellow Swedes Tribulation and their own third album transformation. Sister mesmerizes instantly with its brooding, glistening acoustic intro "He Comes" and you will immediately be struck by the lower pitched gloom of the vocals. When the metal arrives in "Death Knows Where", you might actually get a little hint of a King Diamond-style guitar melody, but it just feels more shadowy and depressing to fall in line with that Gothic aesthetic, and here we get some awesome howling vocals which are at once frightening and as soothing as the grave. The riff structures still have a good share of metallic elements, like dour little melodies that play out along the chords, and the essence of occult heavy metal is still felt in the note choices, but there are also pieces like "A Buried Sun" which are like an edgy, airy, downcast rock and roll very similar to what Sólstafir transformed into with their own transformative 2009 stunner Köld. The difference there, however, is that feels more like an Icelandic roadhouse for Gothic cowboys, and this Sister is more like a black & white silent horror film...more Bauhaus...more vampiric.

Sister is by far my favorite In Solitude album, one so great that I felt a trace of emotional devastation when the band decided to call it quits, because I thought it sat so well in my collection with Climax by Beastmilk, which dropped in the same year, or the records the aforementioned Sólstafir was putting out. The evolution might have come as a shock to many, and I remember some bitching and moaning, but this is honestly so much more impressive than a band doing Mercyful Fate or King Diamond far less worthily than the genuine articles. And yet, some of that STILL creeps through, but relegated tastefully to some of the guitars. All of the songs here are my favorite songs from this band, like the amazing "Pallid Hands", "Lavender", "Horses in the Ground", or the creepy, crawling title cut, and this was one of the better albums the year it came out, and one I still spin often today, especially when that late Autumn chill starts creeping into my days. Not heavy on the surface, perhaps, but so heavy in its own way that it just drips sorrow and darkness  despite any overt need for chaos or destruction.

Verdict: Epic Win [9.25/10]

Friday, March 4, 2022

In Solitude - In Solitude (2008)

I'm not going to repeat what others have said too much, the obvious...In Solitude is another of a batch of bands, many Swedish, who came along with a sound heavily reminiscent of the old Danish masters Mercyful Fate. They aren't the most egregious example of such, and you could tell from the debut that the group had some different ideas, but that's really the wheelhouse in which they're toiling. The band uses the Fate toolbox, but not its limitations, and in fact I think its this band's solitude which is a little more of a doppelganger for that sound. Fortunately, unlike a few of their peers, this band put together a pretty damn well composed album which could stand on its own outside the shadow of its influence, and In Solitude has a clean, efficient production that isn't a far cry from what their countrymen in Ghost would attempt with their simpler and more accessible debut Opus Enonymous

There is a bit of the falsetto shrieking you might expect, but vocalist Pelle spends more time in a sort of soaring, mid-range which emulates a little of the creepy King patterns, but also carries inflections of a lot of other epic/heavy metal bands. The riffs, too, seem drawn from a wider array of classic metal bands, with even a measure of 70s inspiration drawing me back to Rainbow or early Priest. In a few places I even caught a hint of Candlemass. Maybe I'm crazy. Once it gets a little harder and meaner, you do get some vibes from albums like Don't Break the Oath, Abigail, or Them, with the darker rhythm patterns and breakout leads not unlike Andy, but it's never so annoying that it feels like outright theft. They definitely excel at tacking into that horror/haunting vibe, and the record is consistently hammering along, they don't stop a lot for interludes or thematics, it's the straight metal dope or bust. "Witches Sabbath", "7th Ghost", "Kathedral" and "Temple of the Unknown" are favorites here, but it's actually quite consistent across all 36 minutes.

Where it does lack a little in having individual riffs that are blazing and immortal, or vocals lines with a real hook. The tunes flow well together and which one another, but oftentimes I'll be listening through this and just expecting some money shot lick to come flying at me, only to end up a little underwhelmed. The leads are good, but don't really reach that explosive next level that I love in metal music. But all in all, In Solitude is a very seasoned and solidly composed record, especially for a debut, and its just busy enough that you get a hint of promise that it might prove prescient of some greater evolution in the future, taking the influences somewhere different. And boy would they ever do that a half-decade later, but maybe not in the way I would have expected.

Verdict: Win [8/10] 

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Fleshbore - Embers Gathering (2021)

What sort of world do we live in when a record like Fleshbore's full length debut Embers Gathering goes virtually ignored? I always talk about the embarrassment of riches in metal music, and I know that a lot of the genre can feel flooded and redundant, but perhaps the millions of us heshers need to do better to get this stuff out in the conversations. This Indiana quintet's material is a bit deceptive, while it fully aligns with the popular brutal/tech aesthetics common for a lot of labels and scenes, they also have throw in some of these moments of ambiance, atmosphere, jazzy and busy little bass-lines, or floods of emotion created through a sheen of ebullient guitar chords. These moments really round out what might otherwise be seen as more generic, and those explosive, blasted sequences also have the advantage of holding your attention and reminding that Fleshbore lives up to its name and can throttle that brutal end of their spectrum.

I'm reminded a little of Fallujah or Rivers of Nihil, not that these guys sound exactly like those, but in how they have that musical subtext to their impressive technical chops. It's never really about showing off, but about hitting the listener with a contrast of intensity and calms. That just happens to be carried out with a lot of finesse that should sate fans that require the ceaseless technical, melodic onslaught of a band like Inferni, but I never find that they go over the top, there is never too much, they are always reeling back to offer you a more interesting, dynamic rhythmic vista. The bass performance here is consistently incredible, as are the spiraling rhythm guitars when you hear a cut like "Careless Preacher" where they just burst out of control and then back into the choppy, hammering patterns that get the neck strained. In "The Scourge", they complement a lot of chugging, complex undercurrent with some ringing, atmospheric notes as the momentum continues to crush and suffocate, and then "Embers Gathering" itself clotheslines you with melodic tech spasms that will dizzy you before once more pounding you relentlessly on the slab.

It's the tech death record for those who want more than just that, and thus has proven an adventure as I continue to listen through it. The production is the same polished perfection you'd expect from this style, and sort of necessary so you can make out everything that's happening. The cover art is quite compelling, some knights and philosophers on some existential journey, representative of the music itself, which is thoughtful but also armored in technique. A very strong debut that I've heard too few talking about, if you want modern technical death metal that combines a whirlwind of performance with an added layer of depth, or perhaps you want to tech a slightly more brutal, intense step past a band like Revocation or Obscura, this is your jam.

Verdict: Win [8/10]