Album Review – Akhenaten / Golden Serpent God (2018)

Steeped in the mythology and mysticism of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia while exploring forgotten paths of history, here comes an infernal duo armed with their brand new opus of crushing Blackened Death Metal.

Forged in 2012 in the fires of Manitou Springs, a resort city in Colorado, in the United States by the “Houseman Brothers” Wyatt Houseman on vocals and Jerred Houseman on all other instruments, here comes a unique and vibrant Black/Death Metal studio project infused with Middle Eastern Folk Influences (even called “Blackened Mesopotamian Folk/Death Metal”) known as Akhenaten with their brand new album Golden Serpent God, steeped in the mythology and mysticism of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia while exploring forgotten paths of history, extracting unknown lore and threads of truth. For instance, Akhenaten, known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV, was a pharaoh of Egypt especially noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centered on the Aten, giving you a very good idea of how distinct and aggressive the music by the duo sounds.

With parallel themes to what’s found in the brother’s Symphonic Black Metal band Helleborus, and featuring an imposing cover artwork by Tony Koehl of Sketch The Soul and a title page artwork by Dennis Lee Hughes of Cythraul Art, Golden Serpent God will appeal to fans of the music by bands such as Al-Namrood, Narjahanam, Melechesh and Kartikeya just like what happened in their previous release Incantations Through the Gates of Irkalla, from 2015, whispering to the most remote regions of primal memory to the sound of their Blackened Death Metal, filled with exotic instruments and rhythmic structures of the ancient Near and Middle East. “The album is a mural of epics from Egypt and Mesopotamia. It tells stories of belief, warfare, men and Gods,” said Jerred about their newborn opus, inviting the listener to an idiosyncratic and extreme music journey together with the duo.

In the excellent opening track, titled Amulets of Smoke and Fire, ominous sounds take us to the Mesopotamian world of Akhenaten, with Jerred generating a dark and embracing atmosphere with his scorching riffs, whimsical keyboards and demonic beats, while Wyatt growls like an Egyptian beast; followed by the also imposing and devastating Dragon of the Primordial Sea, where the guitar and bass lines create a beautiful paradox with the epicness flowing from keyboards, while Wyatt declaims the song’s lyrics with his deep, visceral growls, enhancing the song’s taste and impact even more, creating an instant link with the crushing chant Throne of Shamash, where the drums by Jerred get more and more demolishing as the music progresses in an excellent display of classic Blackened Death Metal, feeling like a battle hymn due to its thunderous vibe.

Then Middle-Eastern and folk elements permeate the air in the captivating instrumental bridge Through the Stargate, setting the stage for Akhenaten to smash our senses in Erishkigal: Kingdom of Death, a full-bodied, metallic feast of darkened sounds and nuances where the Houseman Bothers are absolutely on fire and in total sync, with highlights to the rumbling sounds extracted from guitars and bass. And things get even more thrilling as the strident and piercing sound of keyboards take the lead in the melodic aria titled Pazuzu: Harbinger of Darkness, the perfect union of history, myths and metal music, with the vociferations by Wyatt matching the musicality flawlessly, whereas in Akashic Field: Enter Arcana Catacombs get ready for over seven minutes of tribal beats and Middle-Eastern tones and nuances in another fresh instrumental extravaganza by this talented band, with Jerred blasting hypnotizing beats while the atmosphere remains as cryptic as it can be.

Featuring Brian Palmer (Circaic) on the guitar, God of Creation is the most devastating and modern composition by Akhenaten, with Wyatt growling like a demonic entity while Jerred makes sure the ambience remains as violent as possible in a multi-layered, intricate feast of Black and Death Metal for our avid ears. After such furious explosion of extreme music we have another interesting display of Middle-Eastern music infused with Extreme Metal and even futuristic elements entitled Sweat of the Sun, sounding a bit too weird at times (not to mention it could have been slightly shorter and more metallic), while in Apophis: The Serpent of Rebirth the duo gets back to their more incendiary mode, blasting a potent fusion of Progressive and Blackened Death Metal, being therefore tailored for fans of bands like Behemoth. Furthermore, the intricacy flowing from guitars and bass are the exact background Wyatt needs to thrive with his gnarls, flowing like a firestorm until the music fades into the atmospheric and vibrant outro Golden Serpent God, with all its hypnotizing sounds generating an enfolding and obscure finale for such heavy and captivating album.

In case you want to explore in more detail the vast and eccentric realm of Akhenaten, simply pay them a visit on Facebook for news and other nice-to-know details, and grab your copy of Golden Serpent God (available for a full listen on YouTube, on Spotify and on SoundCloud) from their BandCamp page, from the Satanath Records’ BandCamp page, from the Cimmerian Shade Recordings’ webstore, from iTunes, from Amazon or from Discogs. Akhenaten offer you a one-way ticket into the blackened and mysterious lands of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia in Golden Serpent God, and I’m sure such distinguished experience will deeply encourage you to stay there and not come back of your own free will.

Best moments of the album: Dragon of the Primordial Sea, Pazuzu: Harbinger of Darkness and God of Creation.

Worst moments of the album: Sweat of the Sun.

Released in 2018 Satanath Records/Cimmerian Shade Recordings/Murdher Records

Track listing
1. Amulets of Smoke and Fire 3:42
2. Dragon of the Primordial Sea 3:22
3. Throne of Shamash 2:50
4. Through the Stargate 2:35
5. Erishkigal: Kingdom of Death 4:03
6. Pazuzu: Harbinger of Darkness 4:09
7. Akashic Field: Enter Arcana Catacombs 7:05
8. God of Creation (feat. Brian Palmer) 3:22
9. Sweat of the Sun 5:59
10. Apophis: The Serpent of Rebirth 5:49
11. Golden Serpent God 2:44

Band members
Wyatt Houseman – vocals
Jerred Houseman – all instruments

Guest musicians
Brian Palmer – guitars on “God of Creation”
Rose White – female vocals

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Album Review – Ritual Aesthetic / Wound Garden (2018)

One of Denver’s most promising metal outfits returns with a hard-hitting album of terrifying digital aggression, blending melodic dance rhythms, harsh metal guitars and dark experimental noise atmospheres.

Formed in 2013 in Denver, Colorado, in the United States by Sean Ragan (also known as Sean Von Helvete), who was drumming for Los Angeles-based Industrial/Melodic Black Metal band Dawn of Ashes at that time, Industrial Metal outfit Ritual Aesthetic returns in 2018 with their second full-length installment titled Wound Garden, not only a follow-up to their 2014 debut release Decollect, but more important than that, a highly recommended album of terrifying digital aggression for fans of the most demented form of industrial music, blending melodic dance rhythms, harsh metal guitars, aggressive EBM styled vocals and dark experimental noise atmospheres.

What was born as a solo project by Sean quickly evolved into a full-bodied mechanized beast, now featuring the aforementioned Sean on vocals, Grant Nachbur on the guitar, Daniel Combs on bass and Jeremy Portz on drums, delivering high-quality, berserk Industrial Metal through their sharp instruments. Written by Sean and Jeremy together with Alex Crescioni and Ron Hutchinson, engineered by Sean in Denver, and mixed and mastered by Alex Crescioni at Stygian Sound in Los Angeles, Wound Garden is a step forward in the career of Ritual Aesthetic, showcasing a focused and talented band that definitely knows how to effectively travel between the worlds of electronic and metal music, always sounding fresh, vibrant and insane for our total delectation.

An ominous and mechanized intro named Stasis kicks off the album by setting the stage for the sonic onrush entitled Life Amnesia, where the quartet gives a lesson in lunacy, blasting piercing, industrialized sounds spearheaded by Sean and his eccentric roars. Furthermore, the song’s background electronic effects help boost its impact even more, not to mention Jeremy’s assembly line-like pounding beats. And The Analog Flesh feels almost like an ode to the thunderous music by giants like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Fear Factory, blending the most powerful elements from Industrial Metal and Neue Deutsche Härte, with the guitar lines by Grant being at the same time very subtle but as venomous as hell.

And it looks like their wicked party has no time to end, as they blast another dense and disruptive Industrial Metal tune titled Divided, where the guitars and background keys create an interesting paradox of sounds while Sean continues his ode to madness through his raspy growls; followed by the slower, darker and more demonic Dread, showcasing creepy guitar lines and vocalizations, as well as a heavy as hell atmosphere, cutting our skin deep from the very first second just like what happens in Malefaktor, a modernized wall of industrial and robotic sounds and noises. Throughout this insane tune, Daniel and Jeremy beautifully generate a rumbling and Stygian base for Sean and his demented vocals.

If you think their regular music is not weird enough for your twisted mind, you’ll have a sonic orgasm with the rest of the album, where Ritual Aesthetic offer the best of the metal and electronic worlds combined. The first remixed tune of this wicked combo is called Mechanism Of Desire (Electronic Substance Abuse Remix), being highly recommended for lovers of pure industrial and electronic music, sounding as crazy and eccentric as it can be with the help of their friends from British Industrial Noise project Electronic Substance Abuse. Then it’s time for American Industrial Metal act Seraphim System to experiment with Ritual Aesthetic’s music in Chemical Weapons (Seraphim System Remix), also bringing forth a metallic, industrialized extravaganza of sounds, almost like the soundtrack to a horror movie. And last but not least, it’s American Dark Electro entity Xentrifuge who adds huge dosages of electricity to the song Amnesiac (Xentrifuge Remix), with Sean’s vocals matching perfectly the music proposed.

In a nutshell, if you’re searching for a crisp and heavy alternative in the world of Industrial Metal, Ritual Aesthetic are among us to offer you exactly what you’re craving in the form of Wound Garden, which by the way is available for a full listen on YouTube. Hence, don’t forget to show your support to such distinct entity from the always fruitful underground Industrial Metal scene by paying a visit to their official Facebook page, and grab your copy of the album from the band’s own BandCamp page, from the Cleopatra Records webstore, from iTunes or from Amazon. And then, as soon as you have Wound Garden on your hands, let your soul be embraced by its hard-hitting mechanized sounds. You won’t regret having that wicked experience at all.

Best moments of the album: The Analog Flesh and Divided.

Worst moments of the album: Dread.

Released in 2018 Cleopatra Records

Track listing 
1. Stasis 1:29
2. Life Amnesia 4:27
3. The Analog Flesh 3:32
4. Divided 4:33
5. Dread 3:12
6. Malefaktor 4:33
7. Mechanism Of Desire (Electronic Substance Abuse Remix) 6:58
8. Chemical Weapons (Seraphim System Remix) 3:23
9. Amnesiac (Xentrifuge Remix) 5:11

Band members
Sean Ragan – vocals
Grant Nachbur – guitar
Daniel Combs – bass
Jeremy Portz – drums

Album Review – Cloud Catcher / Trails Of Kozmic Dust (2017)

Blasting top-of-the-line music since their genesis in 2013, this cosmic power trio is inviting you for an electrified journey through the realms of Rock N’ Roll, Experimental Metal and Acid Rock with their brand new album.

There’s a cosmic power trio hailing from Denver, the capital of Colorado, in the United States, that has been forging their own path in music by blasting top-of-the-line Heavy Rock since their genesis in 2013, described by the band members themselves as “heavy-boogie rock on acid”. The trio, known as Cloud Catcher and consisting of Rory Rummings on guitar and vocals, Kam Wentworth on bass and Jared Soloman Handman on drums, has spent considerable time crafting their own style of heavy cosmic rock, taking deep inspiration from the music by Black Sabbath, Grand Funk Railroad, Spirit Caravan, Led Zeppelin and tons of other classic groups, resulting in their brand new amazing album titled Trails Of Kozmic Dust.

Cloud Catcher have been on a roll since day one, delivering year after year high-quality material, starting with their debut EP Colossus in 2013, followed by some rehearsal demos in 2014, the full-length album Enlightened Beyond Existence in 2015, and the single Righteous Ruler in 2016, before returning with the full-bodied Trails Of Kozmic Dust now in 2017. Displaying an enthralling cover art designed by Adam Burke of Nightjar Illustration, this is an album that will expand your music horizons and put you on a trance from start to finish, and you won’t even need to take any acid to feel the band’s chaotic, groovy and intricate music flowing through your veins and especially through your mind.

Psychedelic sounds warm up the listener for a journey back to the 60’s and 70’s entitled Astral Warlord, a vibrant and electrified tune full of breaks and variations where albeit all musicians sound incredibly creative and focused, it’s Jared who steals the spotlight with his refined technique, setting the perfect tone for the song’s crazy, poetic lyrics (“Winds of dawn are howlin’ / Calling your name in the dark of the night / Winter comes for your life / Cold is the steel that ends your strife”). Celestial Empress brings more top-tier Heavy Rock smoothly flowing from the band’s sharp instruments, with Rory delivering an inspired performance on vocals. Moreover, the instrumental pieces sound like a hybrid of the early days of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, in special the excellent bass lines by Kam and the fiery guitar solos by Rory. And without allowing the listener to breathe, the power trio keeps blasting rumbling bass lines and distorted riffs in the groovy Beyond The Electric Sun, a song that contains all elements fans of the genre are always searching for, those being heaviness, progressiveness, craziness and  tons of feeling, with its final instrumental sequence being beyond astounding.

Then we have quick Jazz-inspired break from all insanity going on, named Dimensional Interlude, followed by Visions, a psychedelic composition tailored for lovers of Grand Funk Railroad and Captain Beyond (with a metallic twist à la Iron Maiden), with sheer acidity emanating from the guitar lines and vocals by Rory while Kam and Jared keep the reverberation at a maximum level with their pounding bass and drums. After listening to such powerful song, you’ll certainly ask yourself how far into space this talented band can go with their music. Anyway, the title-track Trails Of Kozmic Dust is yet another a complex, soulful creation by Rory, Kam and Jared, quickly transporting you to another dimension, not to mention the song’s eccentric lyrics (“Trails of kozmic dust connect my soul / Tellin’ me secrets that should not be told / Time is iridescent in black holes / Trails of kozmic dust will guide you home”).

Before the final curtains fall in Trails Of Kozmic Dust, the low-tuned, menacing bass guitar by Kam slowly drags us to the world of Cloud Catcher in the  Blues-ish Heavy Rock instrumental trip Super Acid Magick, with its last minute being a demolishing display of how intricate Experimental Rock can be; whereas Righteous Ruler, which builds an instant connection with its predecessor, sounds as if the band is returning to planet earth after such otherworldly voyage through the realms of rock music, again showcasing potent riffs by Rory and the always roaring bass by Kam, while Jared continues to do magic behind his drums. In addition, if you want to know how good this power trio sounds when they convey all their music madness to the stage, you can enjoy an amazing live performance by Cloud Catcher at the Marquis Theater in Denver, on December 19, 2015 playing several songs from Trails Of Kozmic Dust by clicking HERE, HERE and HERE.

If you enjoyed becoming part of the hallucinatory sonic expedition led by Cloud Catcher, go check their Facebook page for more news, and purchase Trails Of Kozmic Dust at the band’s own BandCamp page, at the Totem Cat Records’ Big Cartel in CD or LP format, at the Stickman Records’ webstore, at Discogs or on Amazon. The never-failing fusion of Rock N’ Roll, Experimental Metal and Acid Rock has always had an enormous potential to blow our minds under any circumstances, but when the band in question has an undisputed, full-blown talent like Cloud Catcher as we can see in Trails Of Kozmic Dust, we know that mental explosion will be even stronger and more potent than anyone could expect.

Best moments of the album: Astral Warlord, Beyond The Electric Sun and Visions.

Worst moments of the album: Righteous Ruler.

Released in 2017 Totem Cat Records

Track listing
1. Astral Warlord 5:31
2. Celestial Empress 5:41
3. Beyond The Electric Sun 7:06
4. Dimensional Interlude 1:03
5. Visions 4:28
6. Trails Of Kozmic Dust 6:21
7. Super Acid Magick 3:34
8. Righteous Ruler 5:42

Band members
Rory Rummings – guitar, vocals
Kam Wentworth – bass, backing vocals
Jared Soloman Handman – drums