Red Rot – Mal De Vivre (Svart)
Founded by members of Ephel Duath, Red Rot share some of the all-encompassing nature of the recently disbanded forefathers. In their debut record, Mal De Vivre, Red Rot maniacally move through various tropes and genres. Even though they do not travel to the far avant-garde ranges that Ephel Duath used to visit, especially during their latter days, Red Rot still cover significant ground. The foundation still lies in the discordant black metal side, stemming from the feverish visions of Voivodian dissonance, as opener “Ashes” lets on. The piercing leads of “Greatest Failure” carry much of that DNA, while the elusive nature of “Gruesome Momento” brings to mind the solitary sceneries of Ved Buens Ende.
Augmenting the experience, Red Rot indulge in mathcore-esque fascinations. The push/pull mechanics of “Alpha Predator,” the relentless rhythm of “Undeceased” and the groove of “Dualism” draw from the Converge tradition, via Plebeian Grandstand and Serpent Column. Detours still thrive, with a touch of death metal giving more weight to the faster parts of “Near Disaster” and especially the sadistic final moments of “Dysmorphia”. This is when the turn towards the ceremonial and romantic joins in, a touch of doom/death taking over in “After the Funeral” and “Conversation with the Demon”.
It is an overall engaging experience, with Red Rot displaying a great handle on these diverse sounds. However, the short duration of the individual tracks and the somewhat disjointed existence of the different influences do not allow for Mal De Vivre to reach its full potential. Still, it is a great first step acting as the template to something very promising. – Spyros Stasis
Sigh – Shiki (Peaceville)
Throughout their three-decades-long career, the avant-metal of Japanese group Sigh has taken on many idiosyncratic forms, from black metal infused with symphonic and folk elements (In Somniphobia, Heir to Despair) to ghostly chamber creations (Gallows Gallery). Their first album in four years and 12th overall is thus somewhat surprising, as it tones down the overarching weirdness for a more straightforward black metal approach.
Helped by a very polished production and mastering—a stark contrast to the lo-fi, DIY feel of some of their earlier releases—Shiki is supremely listenable. While often centered around Kreator guitarist Frédéric Leclercq’s amazing riffs, it’s the mind-blowing, blazing drumming, and percussive work of Fear Factory’s Mike Heller that leaves the strongest first impression. Providing not just excellent individual performances, Heller and Leclercq are likely the main factors that make Shiki such an unusual album in Sigh’s discography, as their energetic, to-the-point thrash/death metal approach anchors the unhinged songwriting cherished by founding members Mirai Kawashima and Satoshi Fujinami.
The resulting music is thus often groovy and headbang-inviting, but also more than capable of channeling a pervasive sense of strange beauty. These defining characteristics can be heard in the signature vocodered growls, Dr. Mikannibal’s saxophone bursts, furious koto tremolos, heady flute/synth-driven psychedelia, and flourishes of Japanese folklore. And when the time comes for the beautiful, folksy “Touji no Asa” to close the album, there is no doubt in mind: it may be different, but it’s still another Sigh banger. – Antonio Poscic
Thoughtcrimes – Altered Pasts (Pure Noise)
Thoughtcrimes comes from a long pedigree of mathcore idealism. The notion that the controlled chaos and volatility of technical hardcore can come hand in hand with experimentation and sentimentality. It is a strange contortion, and not easy to achieve, balancing somewhere between the mid-period rage of Converge and the precise brutality of The Dillinger Escape Plan. But Thoughtcrimes are up to the task, and in featuring ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan, Billy Rymer this time on guitar, they present a fervent and complete offering with their debut record Altered Pasts.
There are disparate modes in Altered Pasts. Brutal mathcore manifestations roam, with opener “Panopticon” having an immediate impact, while “Keyhole Romance” and “The Drowning Man” build on this thrilling experience. While in this frame of mind, Thoughtcrimes feel unstoppable, unleashing an exhilarating ride with “Mirror Glue” and “Conscience on a Tilt”. Still, there is more to explore here. The tinges of Miss Machine-era the Dillinger Escape Plan shine through the electronic adorations in the opener, and the fantastic ambient break of “Mirror Glue”. This side goes even further, with the melodic edge exposing a Deftones affinity in “New Infinities” and “Lunar Waves”.
Somehow, all of this is performed with grace and in a tasteful manner. Everything has its place, the narrative and the dynamics revealing an act that has a great grasp on its craft. – Spyros Stasis
Wolfbrigade – Anti-Tank Dogs (Armageddon Label/Agipunk)
If it ain’t broke, just leave it alone! Wolfrigade have a set identity, they know very well who they are as a band and what they stand for. Their newest EP, Anti-Tank Dogs, shows as much and at the same time, it acts as a great introduction to the hardcore legends.
Old-school, uncompromising hardcore punk awaits you in the title track. Straight to the point and without any fanfare, Wolfbrigade put down their D-beat groove and march forth. Slight rock overtures, death metal growls, and a crazed solo are simple augmentations to the underlying foundation. Still, there is some variation here, presenting some different modes of Wolfbrigade’s identity. “Brainruler” sees a thrash injection come in, caught between the Slayerized havoc and the DRI purpose, while fully drenched in a Discharge-laden progression. Finally, the spirit of Motorhead circa Orgasmatron is ignited with the grand offering that is “Necronomion”. Not much more that we should expect, or that we should ask for. – Spyros Stasis