Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bolt Thrower - Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness) [1989]

Take a look at that album cover. The new logo and awesome "Warhammer" artwork look nothing like the cover of the band's debut album, so one has to wonder if the band even sounds the same. Well, not really. Sometime after "In Battle There Is No Law!" was released, Bolt Thrower must have gone on a doom metal binge, because "Realm of Chaos (Slaves to Darkness)" is way heavier than the band's previous full-length. The sound here is a perfect bridge between the US death metal bands and the Swedish death metal bands (Who would later release their first full-lengths). Bolt Thrower didn't play at 200 mph and riddle their music with blast beats, nor did they possess a chainsaw guitar tone backed by d-beats. They had their own sound, and what a glorious sound it was. 

As mentioned earlier, Bolt Thrower decided to slow things down. They went from wicked fast riffs on "In Battle There Is No Law!" to some crushing, mid-paced madness on this record, and the transition was amazing. Every single track on this album has at least one riff or moment that will get the listener's headbanging, with "World Eater" being my choice for maximum whiplash. It isn't just the riffs that make this album though, but the groove that is created from the guitar tone and tempo. The tone isn't as thick as Entombed's, but it's plenty heavy and a lot more doomy. Simply put, if you don't find at least one instance where your head is bobbing uncontrollably, you are a false and may not entry. 

Bolt Thrower didn't completely abandon their inner speed junkie, but they effectively mixed the faster riffs with the slower ones and they did so flawlessly. "Through the Eye of Terror" and "Lost Souls Domain" are great examples of this. One minute you're enjoying the mid-paced mayhem and the next, Bolt Thrower decides to channel their inner Slayer and your neck will thank you later. 

There aren't any complaints that can really be made about this album. It's one of the heaviest albums ever recorded and has a great mix to please just about everyone. Now quit being a pansy and put on your big boy/gal pants, grab your preferred alcoholic beverage, put the album on and proceed to damage your neck. 

"World Eater"
"Lost Souls Domain"
"Eternal War"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.2/10]

Nocturnal Breed - Aggressor [1997]

Nocturnal Breed's "Aggressor" is a monstrously crushing album. Every single time I listen to this release, I'm blown away. Fast, crunchy guitars, throat ripping vocals and black metal keyboards mixed in with an atmosphere of the absolute end of human kind. "Aggressor" is the soundtrack to the Apocalypse. The title suits the album perfectly. Aggressive and savage with the intent to show no mercy. From front to back, this album has you by the balls with an iron grip and never lets go.

This release is definitely one of the first albums to go about the whole thrash metal throwback but they blended it with aggressive black metal to make the perfect sound and atmosphere. Tracks like "Maggot Master" and "Frantic Aggressor" are unrelenting and filled with nothing but filth, speed and blasphemy. I was a bit skeptical when I first read that Sven Kopperud from Dimmu Borgir was a big part in the creation of this album but now, I can easily say that that is behind me because this release is a true masterpiece.

The production on "Aggressor" is raw but it suits the music very well. Blackthrash rarely sounds good with clean, pristine production, in my opinion. It adds that perfect sound to the fast riffs or the slow, black metal synth that shows up quite often on the album. Another fantastic addition to the album is the cover of one of Death's best songs, "Evil Dead". Kenneth Svartalv's vocals on the cover suit the song almost as well as Chuck Shuldiner's did. While not a perfect cover, it's just another cherry on top.

This is one hell of an album and definitely something any fan of the Teutonic thrash bands (Sodom, Kreator, Destruction) or Brazilian thrash bands (Sepultura, Sarcofago) should check out as they draw strong influences from both on this album. Absolute filth, hatred and black thrash is what you'll find here.

"Maggot Master"
"Dead Dominions"
"Alcoholic Rites"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.6/10]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Abigail - Descending from a Blackend Sky [1993]

Abigail have dubbed themselves as the most evil band in Japan and with a debut EP like this, I'd believe that. This release is nothing but savage, relentless black metal with a trace of the thrash metal that will make itself more relevant in their later releases. This isn't like anything you'd hear from Norway though. It's just as cold and evil but as soon as the album begins, you know that it's straight outta Japan.

The raw production of "Descending from a Blackend Sky" adds to the evil atmosphere as if it's expected to be taken seriously but with broken English song titles like "The Lord of Satan" and "Descending from a Blackend Sky" (Blackened being spelled wrong, of course), it's gonna be taken as seriously as any Japanese metal album would. The album also includes chilling ambient parts as the beginning and in the middle that are actually really well done and I just love how well it blends with the evil, fast paced black thrash. They add a very oriental feeling to the atmosphere on top of what's already there.

The guitars on the EP are vicious and fast as if they were to rip through your body like a chainsaw. The drums are often quick blast beats usually followed or proceeded by typical drum beats. Simplicity's never sounded so good. This release might be primitive and simple but it's the very first stepping stone to the beautiful black thrash that Yasuyuki Suzuki continues to make and it's definitely a stepping stone in the right direction. I definitely recommend listening to this and the rest of Abigail's discography in you're in the mood for savage, flesh ripping black/speed metal.

"The Lord Of Satan"
"Descending from a Blackend Sky"
"Count Barbatos"

Final Rating
Masterpiece [9.2/10]

Bolt Thrower - In Battle There Is No Law [1988]

Debut albums by legendary metal bands are always a tricky bunch when it comes to judging them, especially when looking back at the albums years after they were released. In some cases it can be the band's best work, their worst or it could just be an average album. So what about "In Battle There Is No Law!" the debut album of death metal legends, Bolt Thrower? An album that showcases the band at their most raw and primitive state (Not counting demos of course). Well, before the answer to that question, an even more important one. Is this album even a pure death metal album? 

Bolt Thrower is of course a death metal band, but "In Battle There Is No Law!" is definitely not a pure death metal album, but more of a metalpunk or grind album. While death metal pioneers in the US, like Death and Possessed were creating their brand of death metal based on their love of thrash bands like Slayer, Kreator, and Dark Angel, Bolt Thrower was worshiping Discharge and other punk bands that roamed the UK at the time. The songs on this record are definitely more likely to be found on a Napalm Death or Repulsion album than a Morbid Angel or Obituary one. The classic death metal tremolos aren't present for the most part, but instead ridiculously intense riffs being pushed by punk-driven beats. 

Now, for the actual music. This record is pretty damn fast throughout, with some headbanging, mid-paced moments placed in the perfect spots.The album kicks off with the track "Attack in the Aftermath," which is one of the better songs on there. A cool drum intro starts the track and is followed by some power chords that resemble a lot of punk bands at the time (The tone), before being launched into blistering solos and fast riffs, accompanied by Karl Willets' savage vocals. This, more or less, is pretty much the description of all nine tracks on the record. Nothing but nontechnical solos, headbang inducing mid-paced riffs, great drumming, extremely fast riffs and a heavy vocal assault, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Back to the original question. Is Bolt Thrower's debut album their best, worst or is it somewhere in the middle? Well, there's no such thing as a bad Bolt Thrower album, but this one is definitely not their worst, but it isn't their best either. One thing is for sure though, this album was just the beginning of what would become the best overall death metal discography ever. 

"Attack in the Aftermath"
"Concession of Pain"
"In Battle There Is No Law"

Final Rating
Awesome [8.4/10]