Author: Steve Dinsmore

Arkona – Yav

If your knowledge of Arkona was (like mine) limited to the sunwheels-and-frame-drums drama of “Liki Bessmertnykh Bogov” or “Slavsia, Rus” and the drink-vodka-and-punch-your-friends two-beat of “Stenka Na Stenku” (all YouTube favorites of mine), then the diversity of “Yav” may come as a surprise—and that’s all to the good. From the tricky ensemble figures of ‘Zarozhdenie’ to the head-bobbing grove of ‘Na strazhe novyh let’ to the epic solemnity of ‘Jav’ and the black metal atmosphere of final track ‘V ob’jat’jah kramoly’, Arkona have pressed a slab of Enslaved-like complexity. After pondering the overall impression of “Yav”, I’ve come to...

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Near Death Condition – Evolving Towards Extinction

Near Death Condition are a Swiss death metal band and have just released “Evolving Towards Extinction”, their third full-length. I pulled it from the ThisIsNotAScene promo collection a bit late but I jumped at the chance to review it nevertheless, and why these guys aren’t better known is a mystery to me. I discovered them when I came across their previous album “The Disembodied – In Spiritual Spheres”. I thought it ruled but flew under the radar. Now Near Death Condition is back, again with minimal fanfare. This band gets a big, big sound. The guitars are dense, the...

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Coffinworm – IV.I.VIII

Coffinworm are a bit like their namesake critter; they’ll keep digging and chewing into your brain. The initial impression of “IV.I.VIII” (the band’s second full-length) is contemporary death-doom, a bit “cavern”, rinse and—no, don’t rinse: leave it filthy. The logo font and impenetrably black aesthetic suggest overseas origin—Finland and Japan occurred to me before I learned that they’re straight outta Indianapolis, Indiana. “IV.I.VIII” does not grab you by the throat as soon as you open. This is an album that grows into itself, getting stronger over the course of its runtime. The song titles combine threat and wit in...

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Ophidian I – Solvet Saeclum

Technical death metal is a genre that is getting harder and harder to break into…or better said, to break out of. Icelandic shredders Ophidian I are some of the latest entrants in the “who is playing all those notes?” stakes. I kept having to listen to this release over and over…because I couldn’t really remember just what it sounded like clearly enough to write this review. And that’s the bad thing that I have to say about this well-played set: like so many tech-death records, it’s not very memorable. Having said that, “Solvet Saeclum” is a well-executed genre piece. Deep growls, very frequent shifts in tempo, active and slick drum kit, thick guitars, lots of changes—it’s all there. Slap bass and acoustic guitar make several appearances and provide a bit of ear-catching interest among the formulaic bits. Depending on your personal taste and individual appetite for death metal, I’ve just either turned you off this album or got you excited to hear it. Sometimes a death metal fan is in the mood for technical death metal and those times are when the subtleties that distinguish one record from another are heard and appreciated. “Solvet Saeclum” is a solid choice for those moods, but I doubt most fans of the genre would reach for repeated listens before their Obscura or Spawn of Possession albums. Now, these Ice-men can definitely play...

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Martyr Defiled – In Shadows

Myron and Ross hooked me up with a brief but satisfying slab of deathy sounds with this release, enabling me to squeeze in one more review before my impending paternity leave hiatus. (Do not cue Impending Doom jokes here.) Martyr Defiled are from England, and play a style that most would call deathcore. Regardless of your feelings about the tropes of that genre, Martyr Defiled come across with an undeniable sense of fun in their music. It’s kind of an intangible thing, but you can tell when a band has that kind of energy in their performance and can communicate it. Variety helps too. ‘Black Mesa’ begins with an up-tempo melodeath theme that continues with variations through a handful of changes in rhythmic feel. ‘r_Evolution’ has a really nice guitar solo over an unexpectedly melodious coda. (Reviewer bites his tongue as regards prejudice against nü-metal-style alternative orthography.) On the other hand, if you do like deathcore without reservations, and breakdowns are mother’s milk to you then “In Shadows” is going to please you for sure. ‘Nemesis’ is a symphony of breakdowns—in fact, it’s full of tempo changes period—and it rocks. ‘Prison Walls’ follows with sinewy, down-tuned riffs and appropriately enraged, feral vocals. One thing that separates this release from a lot of contemporary deathcore is its stripped-down production. There is very little in the way of 808 drops, keyboards,...

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