Album Review – Shed the Skin / Harrowing Faith (2016)

Not only an amazing tribute to the life of American musician Tom Rojack (R.I.P.), but also a lesson in old school Death Metal by five skillful veterans.

Rating4

shed-the-skin-album-coverFormed in 2011 in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, in the United States by longtime friends Kyle Severn (drummer from Death Metal legends Incantation) and Matt Sorg (guitarist for Ringworm, Charred Walls of the Damned, Blood of Christ and Beyond Fear, among others) after playing together in a tribute to old school band Blood of Christ at a memorial show for their friend Tom Rojack, who passed away in 1997, Death Metal quintet Shed the Skin are unleashing upon the earth their highly anticipated debut full-length beast entitled Harrowing Faith, following their 2014 7” EP Rebirth Through Brimstone. More than just an album, Harrowing Faith is a statement that proves the fire of traditional and brutal Death Metal is far from being extinguished.

And let me tell you that the name of the band, inspired by the track also named “Shed the Skin” from Blood of Christ’s 1993 four-song promo cassette simply titled Promo ’93, perfectly illustrates what the music by this old school Satanic Death Metal horde will inflict in you. Featuring a gory artwork by James “Human Furnace” Bulloch (Ringworm), Harrowing Faith transpires violence and bloodshed, with each one of its 12 compositions offering the listener the talent and aggressiveness of the band’s five Death Metal veterans in a little less than 40 intense minutes.

The obscure and atmospheric intro Plasmic Flames can be considered the calm before the storm in Harrowing Faith, because when the metallic riffs by Matt ignite the mosh pit-generator Daimonic Adytum all hell breaks loose. Moreover, lead singer and guitarist Ash Thomas (FaithXtractor, Vladimirs, Acheron) vomits his deep guttural like a maniac beast, enhancing even more the impact of this excellent Death Metal devastation. Then we have the title-track Harrowing Faith, a brutal havoc played at full speed where Kyle is absolutely on fire, providing more fuel for Ash to thrive with his demonic gnarls. Albeit very technical, it’s still absolutely raw and dark just the way we love in Death Metal, especially the demented sound of guitars the likes of Cannibal Corpse.

shed-the-skin-bandBlackened bells tow in a sensational demonic intro for the next tune, Putrid and Pious, as fast and aggressive as the previous tunes. The growls by Ash get deeper and deeper, with the album’s outstanding production and hints of Doom Metal taking the song’s pugnacity to a whole new level. A somber ambience grows in obscurity in Unbound Revenant, once again venturing through the realms of Doom Metal, in special the slow and steady drumming by Kyle, being perfect for fans of extremely Stygian music. Right after that doomed exhibit, a sick guitar solo kicks off a two-minute feast of sheer Death Metal entitled Warband Under the Baphomet, with highlights to its amazing vibe, fierce beats and a superb job done by both guitarists Ash and Matt as well as bassist Ed Stephens (Ringworn, Vindicator, Charred Walls of the Damned) with their lacerating strings. And the band keeps the album at a very high level of quality with the deranged composition CSUM, where not only guitars and drums are in total sync, but the hints of progressiveness added amidst all savagery also increase the overall quality of such hostile chant.

In Alpha and Omega, guitar noises grow in intensity and are violently joined by all instruments, generating total madness in the form of high-end Death Metal for the delight of diehard fans of the genre; followed by Cambion, where Ash sounds like a demonic ogre on vocals. Furthermore, this song shows that Death Metal doesn’t need to be played at the speed of light to be awesome, being as heavy as hell due to its amazing riffs and bass lines. There’s still more destruction to come, starting with Inhuman Accretion, a solid composition with demented guitar solos and endless savagery where Kyle is a stone crusher on drums as usual. The last regular song of the album, named Innermost Sanctuary, is very melodic and keeps up with the rest of the album in heaviness, but sounding slightly generic compared to the other songs, with the piercing guitars by Ash and Matt being its best element, whereas the hellish outro Execration Divine, showcasing the Phantom of the Opera-inspired organ by Brian Boston and the demonic guitar lines by Ash and Matt, puts an end to this lesson in Death Metal.

If you’re not yet familiar with the works and projects by each of the five Death Metal war dogs behind Shed the Skin, I suggest you go check their Facebook page, and in case you want to purchase this scorching gem of extreme music called Harrowing Faith simply visit the band’s BandCamp page or the Hells Headbangers Records’ BandCamp page. Wherever Mr. Tom Rojack is, I’m certain he’s truly honored with the final result that Kyle, Matt & Co. achieved with Shed the Skin, a tribute to his life and to all things Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: Harrowing Faith, Putrid and Pious and Warband Under the Baphomet.

Worst moments of the album: Innermost Sanctuary.

Released in 2016 Hells Headbangers Records

Track listing
1. Plasmic Flames 2:06
2. Daimonic Adytum 1:55
3. Harrowing Faith 3:10
4. Putrid and Pious 3:39
5. Unbound Revenant 4:05
6. Warband Under the Baphomet 2:01
7. CSUM 3:28
8. Alpha and Omega 4:44
9. Cambion 4:21
10. Inhuman Accretion 2:42
11. Innermost Sanctuary 4:04
12. Execration Divine 2:38

Band members
Ash Thomas – vocals, guitars
Matt Sorg – guitars
Ed Stephens – bass
Brian Boston – keyboards
Kyle Severn – drums

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Album Review – Grotesque Ceremonium / Demonic Inquisition (2016)

Call it Torturing Metal, Inquisitor Metal or simply old school Death Metal, the destructive music by this one man-army from Turkey will inflict some good pain on your body and soul.

Rating5

153-1Before starting reading this review, go down to the very end of it and take a good listen at the brutal devastation called “Burned At The Stake” by Turkish Death Metal one-man army Grotesque Ceremonium. Are you done listening to it? Good, because that will make it a lot easier for you to understand what an “unholy old school Death Metal band influenced by early 90’s dark, putrid evil” is, also setting the tone for every single song in Demonic Inquisition, the debut full-length album by this promising project led by the multitalented musician Batu Çetin.

Formed in 2014 in Ankara, Turkey, and having released a debut EP entitled Blasphemous Goat Observance that same year, Grotesque Ceremonium return in Demonic Inquisition with a concept album about the Dark Ages and the Medieval Inquisition, where all punishments and inquisition methods were performed by demons and Baphomet’s evil army against all believers of God. Singing about witches, witchcraft, demonic punishments and tortures in the depths of hell (the satanic temple of Baphomet), Mr. Batu Çetin will take you on a tormenting journey accompanied by the sound of his old school extreme music, leaving your agonizing soul completely disoriented and desolated. What else do you need in good Death Metal music, right?

Putrid growls and snarls permeate the air in Defiled Spirits Of Unholy Torments, where Batu displays a very good control of all instruments, in special his obscure riffs and drums like what we see in bands such as Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel, therefore sounding as Death Metal as possible. The title-track Demonic Inquisition builds a direct link with the opening track, enhanced by its profane vociferations and a hellish ambience. By growling deeper and deeper, Batu takes us to the hideous pits of Medieval Inquisition in a little over six minutes or torturing passages and pure Death Metal, exactly the way it’s supposed to sound.

In Burned At The Stake, which is obviously about one of the most heartless forms of torture, Batu translates the unbearable pain caused by fire into brutality with his guitar lines and rhythmic drumming, whereas in Malefizhaus & Hexengefangnis, the witch prisons built during the Bamberg Witch Trials with a capacity of 30 to 40 prisoners each, our one-man army once again provides his vision of such disgusting event through his old school musicality, with highlights to his satanic riffs and nefarious growling. If you feel your head burning after all the darkness spilled by Grotesque Ceremonium so far, get ready for more aggressiveness in Barbaric Apostasy, where despite adding hints of Blackened Doom to his beats, Batu never deviates from the foundations of Death Metal. Put differently, simply bang your fuckin’ heads to this amazing feast of extreme music until your brain detaches from your skull.

gro-bandAgonized Screams Of The Damned might be faster than the previous songs, but it’s still sluggish and extremely heavy, which obviously turns it into one of the most devastating songs of the album (if not the most). Moreover, Batu keeps roaring his fiendish gnarls and delivering his very traditional guitar lines, and pay attention to how vocals and riffs follow the exact same pattern during the entire song, showing how methodical this musician is. Following a similar sonority, we are embraced by total fuckin’ darkness in a disquieting composition entitled In The Cauldrons Of Hell, which blends the heaviness of old school Death Metal with the funereal beats from Doom Metal and Blackened Doom.

The last original track in Demonic Inquisition, named Crushing Morbid Death, is sheer Death Metal with no extra ingredients or any type of shenanigans: it’s simply Batu blasting his wicked growls, riffs and drumming in three minutes of Stygian music. And lastly, the cover version for Profanation, by old school American Death Metal band Incantation, lives up to the original version from 1992, an amazing tribute to one of our death metaller’s main influences with highlights to its “lovable” lyrics (“Pentagram is hailed in hell / Star of death brings infinite life / Enter the circle and desecrate / Devours the soul, embalminate the body…”). Not only that, keep in mind Batu is not a full-bodied band like Incantation, but just one single person, yet again showcasing his refined abilities as a musician.

This impactful display of putrescent Death Metal, available as a jewel box CD limited to 500 copies (including an 8-page booklet) or as a digital download, can be purchased at the band’s BandCamp page, at the Satanath Records’ BandCamp page and webstore, or at Discogs. Perhaps we should say Grotesque Ceremonium, the disfigured child created by the mind of Mr. Batu Çetin, is a forbidding form of Death Metal called “Torturing Metal” or maybe even “Inquisitor Metal” due to its vile nature. A good epitome of what Batu is capable of generating in music, and an excellent alternative for any fas avid for the heaviest form of Death Metal you can think of.

Best moments of the album: Malefizhaus & Hexengefangnis and Agonized Screams Of The Damned.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Satanath Records/More Hate Productions

Track listing
1. Defiled Spirits Of Unholy Torments 4:52
2. Demonic Inquisition 6:28
3. Burned At The Stake 3:08
4. Malefizhaus & Hexengefangnis 5:24
5. Barbaric Apostasy 5:49
6. Agonized Screams Of The Damned 3:53
7. In The Cauldrons Of Hell 4:47
8. Crushing Morbid Death 2:53
9. Profanation (Incantation cover) 5:04

Band members
Batu Çetin – vocals, all instruments