Mini-Reviews from Around the Toilet Bowl: 02-05-16

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Small, but mighty. Read ’em where you please, you don’t have to tell me.

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Dream Theater The Astonishing
Roadrunner Records | January 29th, 2016

Wow. Just… wow. This album is nothing if not aptly named. It really is incredible that one of my favorite bands of all time managed to pull off something so… wow. Imagine a concept album that merges the best parts of Rush‘s 2112 and Queensrÿche‘s Operation: Mindcrime, and you will be holding in your mind the polar opposite of this… thing. Dismal drum tones, cheesy-ass vocals, uninspiring music and a forgettable story that aims to celebrate music but ends up feeling like a third-rate rip-off of a terribly tedious Off-Broadway musical. But there must be something good, right? Well, I think I heard about three and a half cool sections, but the whole thing is OVER TWO HOURS LONG, and the idea of trying to find them again is… wow. I can only recommend this to people who have insomnia or really, really like naps: this stuff will suit you just right. — MoshOff

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Ayahuasca – Instinct [EP]
Independent? | August 18th, 2015

Ayahuasca’s debut EP Instinct is like catching up with a bunch of friends you haven’t seen for a few years – kinda strange but still familiar. This 3 track offering from the German band runs at just over 20 minutes and was released in August 2015. As you may have guessed from their name, there are some South American themes running through this album, and they greet you from the moment you press play. Tranquil jungle sounds are cruelly interrupted by some mid-90’s Sepultura tribal drumming only to be cut-short themselves by a riff straight from the textbook of Meshuggah (think Obzen). As I alluded to in my opening statement, there is a fair bit of experimentation going on here but it invariably comes from sources you’ll recognise quiet readily. The vocals remind me of those found on say Decapitated‘s Carnival Is Forever or Betzefer‘s Down Low, with some sparse cleaner sounding moments, the note choices also bear a certain resemblance to those that Vogg has used to great effect. Throughout the EP I hear moments that bring to mind Spain’s Neter, which can only be a good thing. There’s even some short-lived “chugga-chuggas” for those that are that way inclined. Didgeridoo, throat vocals, lots of different percussion instruments, if any of this sounds like something you might enjoy, give it a shot, it’s name your price. Lacertilian

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Totem Skin – Weltschmerz
Halo Of Flies Records | March 4th, 2016

Take Trap Them, add some of the blackened elements of Italy’s The Secret, top it off with the occasional dirgy moments from Cult Leader, and the result is Totem Skin‘s Weltschmerz. If there’s a void in your life that is clamoring for something with a healthy dose of buzzsaw guitar tone, then look no further. Throughout the album’s seven tracks, you’ll get your fill of blast beats, hardcore/punk stomping, quiet moments of atmosphere and even some traces of melodeath making guest appearances throughout. Without batting an eyelash, these guys switch through all these various subgenres naturally to generate cohesive songs that make for an engaging listening experience. Totem Skin play with an energy and intensity that should put them in the conversation alongside their established peers. — Ron Deuce

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RitualChamber_Cover_750Ritual Chamber – Obscuration (To Feast On The Seraphim)
Profound Lore | February 26th, 2015

Armed with 25 years of underground metal experience, multi-instrumentalist Dario Derna (AKA Numinas) brings us this monstrous death metal solo effort. There is a lifetime’s worth of dark, misanthropic energy built into this album. Most songs spend their time in the mid-paced tempo range, alternating between blasting double time and doom-laden half time. Even in the quicker moments, however, this album never feels fast and urgent; a chokingly dark atmosphere of doom grounds this thing at all times. The guitar work can occasionally get lost in the mid-range murk, but it’s not a bad thing. The resultant atmosphere sounds intentional when aided by the mournful leads and sulfurous vocals. Some people may be turned off by the whispery vocal style, but I thought it fit the feel of the album very well. Favorite track: “As Dust And The Animal.” — Stockhausen

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10259287_245284242261967_5469211793969570563_oGygaxCritical Hits
Creator-Destructor | January 22nd, 2016

If you haven’t the slightest idea as to who E. Gary Gygax is, well, he’s the guy behind Dungeons & Dragons. And if you haven’t the slightest idea as to who Gypsyhawk were, don’t panic, neither do I. Whatever the die may to you tell, the combination of these two, Gygax, is one great rock band in the vein of Thin Lizzy. Critical Hits starts a bit slow, but from the twin guitars of “Draw Breath” forth, the album is pure gold. Coupled with a warm production, lively beat, clear bass and fuzzy guitars, Critical Hits is a fun, nerd-ish, piece of rocka rolla I expect to last.  Karhu

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10270382_269184536538604_3414782174015695077_nÖxxö Xööx – Nämïdäë
Blood Music | May 26th, 2015

This album came out quite some time ago. The reason it’s taken me this long to write about it is pretty simple. Öxxö Xööx’s music is as flamboyant and extravagant as it was on their debut, harpsichords; electronic beats and (more) organic drumming and symphonic elements meet in a daze of black and doom tinged music. Male and female growls and cleans add to the already megalomaniacal soup. But whereas Rëvëürt‘s songs slowly opened into whole new levels, here nothing of the kind happens. One’s understanding of the songs becomes clearer, but the songs have less tales to tell. Nämïdäë is a good album, but it stands in the shadow of a great one, kept captive by the bands forceful need to appear eccentric.  — Karhu

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God’s Hate – Mass Murder
Closed Casket Activities | February 5th, 2016

Let’s keep it simple: if you’re not down with breakdowns, fedora-tipping lyrics about the evils of religions, or the 4th album this year to use a bunch of audio samples from season one of True Detective, this record is not for you. However, if you like metallic hardcore in the vein of Hatebreed, Merauder, or Warhound, you’re probably gonna dig Mass Murder, the debut from God’s Hate. This Twitching Tongues-affiliated crew aren’t breaking any new ground in the world of extreme music, but they are causing me to aggressively karate chop the area around my cubicle, and isn’t that what music is all about? — Joe Thrashnkill

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Villainy – Villainy II: Dim
Listenable | February 12th, 2016

As Joseph Schafer over at Invisible Oranges notes, black-n-roll seems to be on the rise. Unlike Slægt, though, Villainy are approaching extreme metal from a more progressive rock angle. Expect dynamic shifts in mood and tone, soft interludes of gentle calm, and varying song structures to accompany the rasped vocals and blazing double bass. Make no mistake, though. Dim is as much rock’n’roll as it is metal, and there is no shortage of killer riffs or barn-burning solos on display. Commence the blackened headbanging.  W.

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Ocerco – A Desolação
Signal Rex | February 5th, 2016

2016 has thus far been the year of the EP, and A Desolação may be the most punishing 20 minutes of new music dropped so far! This is sludge from the Indian/Love Sex Machine school. There is no light to be found on A Desolação, only all-consuming ugly darkness. The downtuned, despondent guitar work and rancorous drums are buried beneath a thick and putrid layer of mud that swallows all hope and lends a menacing heaviness to the already brutal musicianship. Probably the most sinister moment is the long build-up at the beginning of “A Desolação” that sounds like horrifying beasts howling in the distance before the eruption of a chaotic cacophony of percussion pushes you further down into the muck. Don’t skip this.  W.

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