Friday, 31 January 2014

Slayer - Show No Mercy

SLAYER - Show No Mercy (METAL BLADE - LP 1989)
“Show No Mercy” truly is a legendary album. Not only because it was the first such extreme and fast metal record ever spawned with the Devil’s blessing, but also because it was one of my first extreme metal albums, which I have ever heard in my life, so I can say that its lethal riffing and screaming vocals has infected my blood and thus changed my life. It was in the end of 1991, when I have heard it for the first time, so it wasn’t new anymore and there were more brutal bands and albums around, but back then I was still enjoying my Metallica, AC/DC, G’N’R or Maiden cassettes, when came this! Ha, many years later I can say one thing - it is not my favourite Slayer album, but for sure one of my favourites in their long discography. Maybe the problem with “Show No Mercy” is that if you look at the tracklist then you realize that along with some truly classic and excellent songs, the album contains also some better or worse fillers, with couple of songs, which just don’t match the quality of the best Slayer material. Of course they are an integral part of one of the first extreme metal albums, so they have part in the history, but did such “The Final Command” survive the time? I don’t think so.
This album has a start like a dream and I bet that side A of my vinyl has songs, for which most metal musicians would sell their souls to the Devil, just to have the credit for writing them. “Evil Has No Boundaries” – maybe one of my three most favourite Slayer songs ever! Damn, I just love that opening riff and also that chorus part – it is a classic metal song! And then we have “Antichrist” and “Die by the Sword” and tell me if these are also aren’t just perfect, utterly amazing thrash metal songs? For me they are. “Antichrist” was at the time probably one of the fastest and most aggressive songs known to the mankind and “Die by the Sword” has such a catchy, killer riffing and generally it sounds so damn awesome and memorable than sometimes I can hardly believe that already in 1983 someone was able to compose something like this, such an eternal classic it is. So yeah, you can see now what I meant when I wrote that side A of my vinyl is just perfect, right? And I say that also because songs from side B are not quite as good as those from side A, at least in my opinion. I don’t want to say that “Fight till Death” or “Metal Storm / Face the Slayer” are bad, because they are very, very cool and I like them, but you know… would you include them on your list of mandatory metal classics? Hmm, no. I think they’re just like such Maiden’s “22 Acacia Avenue” or Metallica’s “Trapped Under Ice” – you know, good songs, which are an integral part of important classic metal albums, but just not as good and memorable as „Run to the Hills” or „For Whom the Bell Tolls”, right? “Metal Storm / Face the Slayer” is a song, which I think is more than just solid, I truly like some of the riffs in it and that memorable playing and singing. I know it may sound funny, but for me this song sounds almost like Metallica, with that great influence from NWOBHM, but obviously everything has been played so aggressively and furiously like nothing before! Awesome! Ha, I am lucky that my copy of “Show No Mercy” has couple of bonus tracks and first one of them appears on side B... and it is "Aggressive Perfector"! Damn, another classic song from Slayer!
Side C meanwhile is opened by one of my truly favourite Slayer songs ever and I really mean it. Of course songs from side A were so fuckin amazing, but “Black Magic” is “Black Magic” – this is utterly killer song, with some of the best riffs, best vocals and best feeling ever. LOVE IT! But then there are two songs, which I am not so fond of. First is “Tormentor”, which is just decent. It has quite simple, almost punk riffing, very simple structure, but it just isn’t as aggressive as “Black Magic” or some other songs on the album and is also just not quite as good. Then we have “The Final Command”, which again has a strong punk feeling and NWOBHM inspired riffing, but for me it is just the weakest song from the entire album, a real filler, if you ask me, and I wouldn’t really cry if it has never been recorded. I guess the main problem is that if you have such aggressive songs as “Black Magic” or “Die by the Sword” then such song just doesn’t fit here. It is OK, but I can again use my comparison to such “22 Acacia Avenue”… You know, you probably will never really like this song so much, but since it appears on such classic album then you just must live with it. Finally we have side D and “Crionics” opens it. Well, this is quite weird song, Araya tries to sing more melodiously here, what is a little bit bizarre, but the song is quite catchy, it again has some riffs, which are so much like Iron Maiden on adrenaline for example that it is amazing how aggressive some other songs on “Show No Mercy” are. That mid to end part of “Crionics” sounds for me almost like “Transylvania” or “Phantom of the Opera”, but I honestly like it a lot. But you can hear great difference between this song and the title track, which is next, and which is again an aggressive thrash metal attack and is the fastest and most vicious song with some razor sharp riffs and really unstoppable tempo. Thrash metal was born! Side D has also the second bonus track, which is “Chemical Warfare” and this is yet another classic song on this vinyl; fast, aggressive, violent. Killer.
Right, I guess I would probably have to also write something about the performance of each of Slayer members? But is it really necessary? Everyone knows how awesome guitarists King and Hanneman are, how well they cooperate together, how tight and precise is their playing, especially those leads… Sure, this was only their debut release, so the best was yet to come from these two gentlemen, but they already sounded damn impressive and most importantly, they came up here with a collection of truly memorable songs and classic riffs. Lombardo is the drumming master and if I can sometimes moan about Ulrich or whoever, then Dave has never been playing bad, he invented the extreme metal drumming, so hails to the master! And Araya… well, I can sometimes moan on his high pitched vocals, because I don’t like them so much, but some of his other vocals sound really evil and vicious. His bass playing is sometimes hardly audible, but I can live with his performance and all in all some of his vocals on “Show No Mercy” are just good, some are maybe not quite as good, but it is OK. Artwork? Well, first thing, which you notice is that great huge pentagram with Slayer logo written in sharp letters, with sword inside the circle. Isn’t it one of the best logos ever made? Artwork for “Show No Mercy” is nothing special maybe, but I can put it next to “In the Sign of Evil” or “Morbid Visions”, if you know what I mean.
Standout tracks: “Evil Has No Boundaries”, “Die by the Sword”, “Black Magic”, “Crionics”
Final rate: 85/100

Archaic - Time Has Come to Envy the Dead

ARCHAIC - Time Has Come to Envy the Dead (VIC Records - CD 2009)
If I asked you “hey, do you think they can play good thrash metal in Hungary?” I bet most of you would just stare at me and think I’m crazy, many will probably doubt if they can play any metal in Hungary at all. That would obviously me unfair, as this country has spawned few great bands – Tormentor, Sear Bliss, Age of Agony, to mention just these three. But thrash metal? Aaaaa, no. So, here I want to prove you’re wrong and introduce you to completely unknown thrash band called Archaic. And I say that they’re unknown for a reason and that is even if the band has released one album for Vic Records back in 2009, it somehow went by completely unnoticed and I feel like not many maniacs have managed to hear it. Do your homework quickly then, because I can guarantee you that “Time Has Come to Envy the Dead” is really awesome piece of thrash metal and all in all even I have really enjoyed this album a lot. Not many bands from this new generation of thrash metal have really impressed me, most of them were boring and seasonable, with some kids who saw a new trend and jumped on the wagon, then released one album and quickly disappeared, because no one gave a fuck about them. I hope that it is not the case with Archaic, who haven’t released anything since “Time Has Come to Envy the Dead” (the band is still active though!), but at least I know that their debut was actually really, really good.
Thing, which I like most about “Time Has Come to Envy the Dead” is the diversity of this album. Obviously it is mainly rooted in the old school thrash metal, with bands like Sepultura, bit of Slayer, Destruction, Testament… but here and there Archaic puts something different, sometimes maybe surprising, to sound more interesting that just a plain copy of the old bands. Sure, some people may say that such song as “Memories” is completely out of place on this album and just doesn’t fit here, but I have different opinion and actually really like it a lot, consider this song to be one of the best tracks from the entire “Time Has Come to Envy the Dead”. What is “Memories”? Well, imagine that between the classic thrash metal songs you’ll find a calm, melancholic, kind of doomy and progressive, very emotional and beautiful song, which may remind you Katatonia more than Kreator. Ha, yeah I know. It sounds weird, but “Memories” is like that. This is very sorrowful, melodic tune, with clean vocals and a lot of atmospheric parts, so it differs extremely from the rest of this album. But even if some will accuse the band for composing song, which doesn’t fit the album, one should not deny the fact that it really is well composed and performed song. And it is definitely one of my favourites here. But my real favourite song on “Time Has Come to Envy the Dead” is Tormentor’s cover. I love it. I am not huge fan of this band, but this song, played here by Archaic, is just absolutely awesome and I love it totally. Great riffs, total old school worship, great (again different, more shrieking) vocals… perfect. “Woodland of the Black Treasury”, which ends the album, will also surprise you, with its gothic rock, kind of Moonspell like, music in the beginning, which soon turns into heavy metal similar to Polish Hunter or even Metallica hehe… Hmm, I didn’t expect this to come, but again, I like it somehow!
So, where is all that thrash metal, you’ll ask? Ha, listen to such song as “Eternal War”, “Awakening”, “The Archer”, “Toxic Nightmare” and you’ll know hehe. Also “Thank You!” starts with truly awesome, classic thrash metal riff, but soon it develops into slightly different kind of playing. Meanwhile “Cornu” is heavier, almost death metal like, with small doom / death influence and more melodic riffs at the end. Ha, so you can see that so much is going on here, “Time Has Come to Envy the Dead” is an album full of surprises, but it all works well in my opinion and I really enjoyed listening to this album. Sure, it is not perfect, some vocals could have been better, I guess that the thrash metal vocals’ manner may annoy some of you (like in “Eternal War”), but you cannot please everyone. I feel like Archaic recorded cool album and that is enough for me to give is some listens once in a while and give it well deserved 70/100.
Standout tracks: “Memories”, “Tormentor”, “Cornu”, “The Archer”, “Toxic Holocaust”
Final rate: 70/100

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Absu - Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L.

ABSU - Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (BESTIAL ONSLAUGHT - LP 2004 / GOTHIC Records - CD 1993)
I honestly don’t like the American black metal so much. With just a couple of exceptions from the old days and few newer bands most of the stuff from the US land was not impressive at all. But there are always some exceptions, as I mentioned, and the main one here for me personally is Absu. This is a band, which I actually really fuckin love. They have always been playing very unique music, they never looked at what was going on in the Scandinavia, but just played their own style of black metal, with their own influences and concept and for that they deserve a great respect. I have been knowing them since the mid 90’s, after reading an interview in one magazine when I decided to get one cassette of theirs and since then I am a big fan. This album was titled "Barathrum: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultul Lapidem". Now almost 20 years later I still truly love this LP and consider it to be Absu’s finest along with “Tara”, so damn awesome it is. This album is truly unique, special and one of a kind. No other band before and after has composed something similar. No other band – especially from the USA – have ever matched this quality and I cannot imagine a black metal maniac without this LP in his collection. There are several CD / LP versions released – the one from The Crypt Records is especially worthy recommending, being released as a 3LP box set limited to 500 copies (200 black, 300 red/black marbled) with great layout, etc. I personally have a 2004 Bestial Onslaught picture LP version, which also looks nice. It has the lyrics, which is important for such albums, and the picture of the vinyl on side A has the original artwork (which is just beautiful!) and the legendary band photo, which was also used on the cover of some CD versions, is on side B. So yeah, it truly looks breathtaking. And some may now ask “but what is the point in reviewing something so old and what you already know so well?”. Hmm, I guess there’s only one answer – to pay respect and honour the authors of this album and more so, maybe also to describe how important this LP is for me and finally to recommend it to those, who maybe have never had a chance to hear it (are there still any such poor people???).
Everything about "Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L." is special. The artwork is phenomenal, so is their old logo. The lyrics are great, and finally they even recorded an awesome 12 minutes long video for three of the songs, which also is just excellent. And finally the music… wow. WOW! This is majestic, epic, harsh, aggressive, occult, dark and obscure black metal in its finest form. The origins of the band were more like death / thrash sort of thing, with some very archaic black metal, especially on their demos and previous band Dolmen, and musically you can still hear some of these influences on “Barathrum”. There are quite few thrashing riffs, which spice up the whole album and add some aggression to the entire music, especially as the main focus has been placed on the epicness and atmosphere. To achieve that, Absu has used many intros, special interludes, which truly create dark and evil atmosphere, etc. Just listen to how this albums begins… “An Involution of Thorns” is sort of orchestral, choral, ambient intro, very majestic and gloomy, with killer vocals of Emperor Proscriptor Magikus – it all sounds like some sort of invocation, a beginning of the ritual / rite or something. Truly killer beginning, but then you have “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)”, which for me is the best song from the whole album. From the very first riff you know it is going to be something amazing… opened with sort of almost bombastic, epic motif it is just damn heavy and powerful, but then the pace speeds up, it turns into angry, aggressive beast. I love the atmosphere of this song, all these arrangements, some of which were really brave for this sort of music and for those times – like that one with the female vocals mixed with ghoulish voice of Shaftiel. But it just sounds excellent, in my opinion and how relentless it also is… Uuggghhhh… Personally I consider “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)” to be one of the best black metal songs ever written.
But then we have another beast coming titled “An Equinox of Fathomless Disheartenment”. It is again reasonably fast and aggressive, with very heavy, brilliant riffing… Musically it is sort of similar to some Acheron satanic opuses, in my opinion, maybe just slightly better. There are some seriously killer riffs and the screaming voice of Proscriptor sounds like from the abyss. “Infinite and Profane Thrones” is another truly worth mentioning part of “Barathrum”; opened with another orchestral intro, which always gives me shivers it smoothly evolves into one just incredibly amazing riff and turns into epic, utterly obscure and mystical brilliance. In such songs I can see how great role is of the vocals, where the vocalists are like narrators, invocators. And Shaftiel especially is an awesome vocalist, I think this guy sounds just perfect on “Barathrum”. “Infinite and Profane Thrones” is surely among the finest moments of the album; this song is incredibly diverse, great composed, arranged and performed, so I just have nothing else to wish for. A true masterpiece is also “Fantasizing to the Third of the Pagan Vision (Quoth the Sky, Nevermore Act II)”; the slowest (in some parts) and most epic among these songs, this one is truly amazing. There are more keyboards used in it than in the whole rest of the album, so the atmosphere is truly dark, sinister and mystical, occult in 666%. Pure ritual, this is how I feel this music is like. So yeah, so much is going on in “Barathrum”, there is just brilliant atmosphere and compositions, so I honestly consider this album to be close to perfection.
Standout tracks: “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)”, “Infinite and Profane Thrones”, “Fantasizing to the Third of the Pagan Vision (Quoth the Sky, Nevermore Act II)”
Final rate: 95/100

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Archives of the Dead part XV: Armagedon – Czas przetrwania (demo 1989)

Archives of the Dead part XV: Armagedon – Czas przetrwania (demo 1989)
Armagedon used to belong to my favourite bands at the time, when I started to listen to death metal (so around early 1992). First I remember that I bought their “Dead Condemnation” demo, which was really awesome, but then in 1993 I was just hugely impressed by “Invisible Circle” cassette. It was one of my favourite albums and I considered Armagedon to be just as good as Vader, Pestilence, Death, Dismember or any other death metal band, which I was maniacally listening to and was a big fan of. Ha, these were old days, I was still a kid, but I never stopped liking this band and also nowadays they still are one of my favourite Polish troops of death. I know that “Invisible Circle” to many of you may sound just too archaic or even mediocre, but I don’t care – I love this album! It is funny, but for many years I thought that “Dead Condemnation” was Armagedon’s first demo. Of course I was wrong and before that they have recorded also two more materials… “Czas przetrwania” from 1989 was already their second recording (“Demo 1” was released in 1988). And since this demo is just damn difficult to get in original cassette copy I was happy that someone decided to exhume this demo and did an mp3 version of it. Finally I can listen to it and see what were the beginnings of Armagedon like!
“Czas przetrwania” is quite different musically from Armagedon’s future recordings, but on the other hand the music on this demo didn’t really surprise me, as I actually expected that it will sound like this. Why? Well, just because most of Polish death metal bands, which recorded their demos in the late 80’s, sounded pretty much the same and were playing similar sort of music, which was aggressive, harsh thrashing death metal. There are many similarities between early Vader, Thanatos, Dragon, Merciless Death, Manslaughter, Armagedon and so on and on. And obviously to many this music will today sound unbelievably archaic and outdated, but fuck… it has this unique charm and great feeling, killer atmosphere and playing, which nowadays is almost impossible to be repeated. And despite the fact that “Czas przetrwania” has very rough, primitive production and the music sounds so outdated, it still sounds just bloody awesome. I guess this is just that uniqueness, which the productions from the 80’s have. “Seven Churches” or “Darkness Descends” may sound old, almost prehistoric, but you still love these albums, for the killer songs but also for that feeling and atmosphere of the music. And the same I can say about “Czas przetrwania”. Sure, it may not be my favourite demo of all time, even among the Polish death bands there are some, which I like more. Ha, I obviously like “Dead Condemnation” more, not to mention “Invisible Circle”, but “Czas przetrwania” has some truly awesome riffs, I like that harshness of this demo, this totally old school way of mixing thrash and death metal, with totally vicious and furious riffs and screaming vocals. Don’t worry about the Polish lyrics – you barely understand a single word, so ruthless is the voice of Sławomir Maryniewski used to be. Hell yeah… “Czas obiecany” and “Przetrwanie” are bloody awesome songs that I cannot stop listening to them. Ufff… I’m really happy that I had a chance to finally listen to “Czas przetrwania”, even if it’s only an mp3. It is killer demo, in my opinion, but mind that it is also totally different to Armagedon, which you know from the next recordings.
Final rate: 80/100