Album Review – Zarraza / Necroshiva (2018)

These Kazakh corpse gods of Thrash Metal take no prisoners in their quest for extreme music, infecting us all and spilling our blood into the circle pit to the sound of their new pulverizing album.

Formed in 2010 in the city of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest metropolis set in the foothills of the Trans-Ili Alatau mountains, Kazakhstan Thrash Metal maniacs Zarraza have just released their long-awaited debut album Necroshiva, following up to the band’s 2013 EP Cutting Meat. Fast & Loud. And one of the hardest working metal bands in Central Asia, having already played in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, takes no prisoners in their quest for extreme music, with each of the eight groovy and pulverizing songs in Necroshiva crushing your minds mercilessly like a runaway train of evil.

Comprised of Nick Khalabuzar on vocals and guitar, Alex Filatoff on bass and Ruslan Konon on drums, Zarraza’s only concern in Necroshiva is how their lyrics would be translated into Kazakh or Russian. “Anti-religious songs full of sarcasm and quotes from Giordano Bruno and Pierre-Simon de Laplace are not welcomed in a country where there is a significant Muslim population,” said the band, but that seems to be only a minor issue for them in the end. Displaying a beyond devilish and somber cover artwork by Russian artist V. Smerdulak (Katalepsy, Melancholy, Semargl, Arkona), Necroshiva is everything we love in Thrash and Groove Metal, being highly recommended for all mandatory thrashing activities such as slamming into the pit, headbanging like a beast and raising your horns to the band’s infuriated music.

Abyss Above Me kicks off the album with an explosion of brutal and austere Thrash Metal, a fantastic welcome card by this Kazakh squad led by the demented drumming by Ruslan and the raspy, choleric vocals by Nick, bringing elements from Groove, Death and Black Metal, and their furious onrush of extreme music goes on in the also belligerent Shadows, with Nick sounding bestial with both his growls and riffs, while Alex adds tons of groove to the musicality with his rumbling bass. Then we have the title-track Necroshiva, an insanely demolishing display of Thrash Metal with a strong progressive vein, where Ruslan is even more impressive with his intricate beats and fills and its modern-day lyrics go along extremely well with the music (“War’s for gods… Slaughter of lambs / It’s hecatomb we made for thousand years / Immortal rites of human sacrifice / Transformed into modern way of life”); followed by another complex and infuriated tune titled More Than Hate, an almost-Death Metal creation by the quartet led by Nick’s spot-on riffs and solos, with the level of adrenaline being exactly what you need to crush your skull into the circle pit.

Dark waves permeate the air in the melancholic and apocalyptic bridge Echo Of The Future, setting the stage for the modernized thrashing feast named Dead Star, displaying hints of Scandinavian Melodic Death Metal the likes of Arch Enemy and the early days of In Flames. Furthermore, Nick managed to sound even more boisterous on vocals, as well as the metallic bass lines by Alex which will punch you in the head mercilessly. After such beautiful exhibit of extreme music, get ready for a Progressive Thrash Metal voyage in Voice Of The Forgotten, with the music flowing in some sort of demonic Dream Theater-ish mode, but of course with Nick bringing rage to the sound with his roars, all spiced up by some electrifying guitar solos. And ending the album on a high and violent note we have 150 Words, with its lyrics reeking of malignancy (“Serpent – you crawled inside my world / To steal – affections of my soul / To brew your bile words of hate / And sting me in back to weaken / Your only way to live is betrayal / Soaking dirt to digest”). Musically speaking, it’s a frantic, violent Thrash and Death Metal attack by Zarraza, leaving us eager for more of their devastating music.

I’m not sure if you have already realized you’re in front of a metal band from the distant land of Kazakhstan playing top-notch Thrash and Groove Metal that only the finest bands from the United States, the land of thrash, are capable of reproducing, which means you should definitely show your total support to Zarraza by buying Necroshiva (available for a full listen on Spotify) from their own BandCamp page, CD Baby, iTunes or Amazon, and by following them on Facebook, VKontakte and YouTube. The corpse gods from Kazakhstan are among us to stay, and you better be prepared to spill your blood into the pit in the name of Thrash Metal.

Best moments of the album: Abyss Above Me, Necroshiva and Dead Star.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Abyss Above Me 5:00
2. Shadows 3:48
3. Necroshiva 3:13
4. More Than Hate 3:28
5. Echo Of The Future (instrumental) 1:29
6. Dead Star 5:38
7. Voice Of The Forgotten 4:39
8. 150 Words 3:27

Band members
Nick Khalabuzar – vocals, guitar
Alex Filatoff – bass
Ruslan Konon – drums

Guest musician
Evgen Hablack – bass on “Necroshiva”

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Album Review – Xenoblight / Procreation (2018)

A precious gem of Progressive Thrash and Death Metal made in Denmark, courtesy of an up-and-coming horde that’s more than ready to take the entire world of heavy music by storm.

Hailing from Silkeborg, a small city located in the middle of the Jutlandic peninsula in Denmark, here comes a new Extreme Metal horde that goes by the powerful name of Xenoblight, playing a multi-layered fusion of Progressive Thrash and Death Metal characterized by an intense and blistering atmosphere, while at the same time maintaining an apathetic and melancholic lyrical universe. Although the band is relatively new to the scene, being founded in the beginning of 2017, Xenoblight spent the following year carefully crafting their first record while playing only a limited number of shows before entering the studio, unleashing now in 2018 their debut opus Procreation.

Featuring an obscure and stylish artwork by Fendie Art, Procreation not only brings forward in its ten unrelenting and totally demolishing tracks what the band comprised of the she-demon Marika Hyldmar on vocals, Rasmus Tobias Clemmensen and Mikkel Jepsen on the guitars, Steffen Hagelskjær on bass and Thomas Halborg Madsen on drums is capable of, but it’s also a lesson in how to blend the best elements from old school and modern extreme music with tons of progressiveness and feeling, turning it into a must-have for any diehard fan of the music by renowned bands such as Behemoth, Cattle Decapitation, Gojira, Kreator, Skeletonwitch and Fleshgod Apocalypse, among several others.

In the intro Procreation the band offers the usual “calm before the storm” until they come crushing like a bulldozer in Descension, a crisp and modern display of Progressive Death Metal with a lot of punch where Marika begins gnarling the song’s lyrics in a beyond devilish way (“Behold our entitled savior / Spreading knowledgeable fumes / Binding hands with a single glance / Beredied for a stance… / …Entering the mortal realm / With stricts holds of selfproclaimed victories free from shame”), also showcasing a fantastic job done by Thomas with his piercing beats and fills. And Steffen Hagelskjær kicks off the dark tune Shapeshifter with his menacing bass, with the music morphing into a flammable hybrid of Thrash and Death Metal where Rasmus and Mikkel slash our ears with their heavy and metallic riffs.

Obsidian Chromatism is a traditional Progressive Death Metal creation where the entire band fires sheer aggressiveness, building the perfect stage for Marika and her demonic growls; whereas in the song that carries the band’s name, Xenoblight, we’re treated to three minutes of piercing sounds and nonstop beats and fills in a demolishing instrumental voyage, with highlights to the scorching guitar riffs by Rasmus and Mikkel. Then without giving us a single second to breathe Xenoblight keep blasting pure evil through their instruments in Nocturnal Manifestations, a frantic, furious and superb display of modern-day Thrash and Death Metal led by the enraged screams by Marika, with Thomas once again sounding brutally amazing on drums while Rasmus and Mikkel are bestial with their solos, followed by Transcendence, where a whimsical start morphs into another explosion of contemporary and vibrant Thrash and Death Metal, sounding like a hybrid between Exodus and Death. Moreover, Marika takes her insanity to a whole new level, making it the perfect opportunity for cracking your spine in half into the circle pit.

Kill Yourself. brings less than a minute of pulverizing Blackened Thrash Metal by the band, and even with such restricted amount of time in their hands they were capable of delivering a fun and electrifying tune, setting the stage for the full-bodied Predominance, led by the classic shredding by the band’s guitar duo. Furthermore, in this bold and thrilling 6-minute ode to devastation, Thomas not only is a beast on drums but the complexity of his beats is outstanding and, needless to say, Marika once again kicks us in the head with her hellish roars. And an instrumental start warms up the listener for the rabid harsh growls by Marika in the closing song Virus, perhaps the most progressive of all tracks, showcasing thrashier-than-hell, austere lyrics (“Delusional pesticides / Stand asunder / Tributing their gods / Keepers of the luminescent humanoid pollution”) in a display of first-class European Extreme Metal, also bringing gripping guitar lines and an extremely crisp drumming.

You can take a very good and detailed listen at this precious gem of Danish extreme music on Spotify, and follow the band on Facebook and on YouTube to keep up to date with all things Xenoblight. And in order to show your proper support not only to the band but to underground metal in general, you can purchase Procreation directly from the band’s BandCamp page or Big Cartel (as a regular CD version or as a CD + shirt bundle), as well as from iTunes or from Amazon. Xenoblight are set to take the world by storm with their incendiary debut opus, and if you consider yourself a true fan of extreme music you must have such incredible album on your hands. Because in the end, if you don’t buy it, I guess Marika and her henchmen will have to pay you a not-very-pleasant visit, if you know what I’m saying.

Best moments of the album: Shapeshifter, Nocturnal Manifestations, Transcendence and Predominance.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2018 Independent

Track listing
1. Procreation (Instrumental) 1:01
2. Descension 4:37
3. Shapeshifter 5:35
4. Obsidian Chromatism 4:46
5. Xenoblight (Instrumental) 2:57
6. Nocturnal Manifestations 6:58
7. Transcendence 5:16
8. Kill Yourself. 0:52
9. Predominance 6:22
10. Virus 5:31

Band members
Marika Hyldmar – vocals
Rasmus Tobias Clemmensen – guitar
Mikkel Jepsen – guitar
Steffen Hagelskjær – bass
Thomas Halborg Madsen – drums

Album Review – Droid / Terrestrial Mutations (2017)

An extraterrestrial three-pronged sonic organism has just landed in Canada, bringing new sounds of degradation and alienation to all admirers of the more technical and progressive versions of Thrash Metal.

In the city of Brampton, located in the peripheral suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, resides a three-pronged sonic organism known as Droid. Though conceived in 2012, it has been the amalgamation of years of shows, rehearsing and writing that has led to the fully realized aural representation of their efforts in their 2017 debut album, titled Terrestrial Mutations. And this Canadian Sci-Fi Thrash Metal entity is more than ready to present to fans of renowned acts such as Voivod, Megadeth, Annihilator and Anthrax, among many other bands known for blending aggressiveness and dexterity in a compelling way, an amazing alternative in the world of underground thrash.

Since their inception, Droid already released the demo Malfunction, in 2013, and an untitled promo in 2014, followed by the six-track EP Disconnected, in 2015, but it’s with Terrestrial Mutations that the power trio comprised of Jacob Montgomery on vocals and guitar, Michael Gabor on bass and Sebastian Alcamo on drums reached a much higher level of speed and harmony, bringing new sounds of degradation and alienation to all admirers of the more technical and progressive versions of Thrash Metal. However, if you’re a fan of old school thrash, don’t think that they’ll sound too modern for your ears, as they always keep their sonority deeply inspired by the foundations of the genre.

For instance, the piercing guitar sounds by Jacob welcome the listener to the Sci-Fi world of Droid in the opening track Amorphous Forms (Shapeless Shadows), where the band delivers old school Thrash Metal with Sebastian pounding his drums mercilessly throughout the entire song. In Suspended Animation, we face lots of groove flowing from the guitar by Jacob and the bass by Michael, bringing those “dancing and slamming” elements from the music by Suicidal Tendencies as well as lyrics that couldn’t sound more thrashier than this (“Cold saline injected / straight through the heart / drained of blood given / hours to restart”); whereas in Abandoned Celestial State we’re treated to a fast and groovy start with a Blues-ish vibe led by Sebastian with his beats, generating a fun and interesting ambience for Jacob to declaim the song’s lyrics in a rabid manner. In a nutshell, this excellent tune offers the listener a well-balanced mix of Thrash and Groove Metal, and just like a Sci-Fi movie it follows a “script”, ending in a dark and somewhat apocalyptic way.

The title-track Terrestrial Mutation brings forward almost 10 minutes of 80’s-inspired Thrash Metal, starting with a somber, eerie intro before Jacob comes ripping with his riffs until the musicality reaches a very melodic shape. However, the song loses its grip mainly due to its length, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of good stuff to enjoy such as the low-tuned metallic bass lines by Michael and the song’s more progressive pieces. Fortunately, a piano intro presents to the listener another harmonious and visceral creation by Droid, titled Pain Of Reincarnation, where Jacob, Chirs and Sebastian put all the potency of their instruments together to generate a truly exciting sounding, feeling like Thrash Metal with Rock N’ Roll and Hard Rock elements, which turns it into one of the top moments of the album for sure. And in Temptations Of Terminal Progress the band fires an electrified feast of riffs, harsh and demented growls and pounding beats, also presenting interesting breaks and traditional thrashing lyrics (“The soothsayers learning / it’s best not to reveal what / he knew / the bones they are burning / for the means for the many / not the few”), morphing into a display of progressiveness mixed with elements from Blues and Jazz at times.

The rumbling bass lines by Michael and the fierce beats by Sebastian dictate the rhythm in the high-octane and electrifying tune Cosmic Debt, an old school Thrash Metal chant that will certainly ignite some good circle pits with highlights to the deranged vocals by Jacob à la Paul Baloff; followed by Excommunicated, a lot slower than its predecessors but still heavy and groovy, with Jacob delivering some cutting guitar riffs while Sebastian keeps smashing his drums effectively. The song never really takes off though, falling flat after a while, but at least the closing song, Mission Drift, with its over 10 minutes of music, showcases all the band’s passion for progressive and heavy sounds, with the bass punches by Michael sounding truly awesome. This is the perfect depiction of Progressive Thrash Metal, bringing intricate guitars and drums, and obviously keeping the stamina and complexity at a very high level until it fades into a somber, wicked conclusion.

The extraterrestrial thrashers from Droid can be better examined at their Facebook page, while Terrestrial Mutations can be purchased at their own BandCamp page, at the Nightbreaker Productions webshop, at the Hells Headbangers webshop, at the Temple of Mistery Records webshop, or at Discogs. As you can see, the music by Droid truly exists and is easy to find (as opposed to ETs), so if I were you I would support such promising power trio by buying their album, in order to ensure their future endeavors become a reality and keep their Sci-Fi soundings as thunderous as possible, piercing our metallic minds.

Best moments of the album: Amorphous Forms (Shapeless Shadows), Abandoned Celestial State, Pain Of Reincarnation and Cosmic Debt.

Worst moments of the album: Terrestrial Mutation and Excommunicated.

Released in 2017 Nightbreaker Productions

Track listing
1. Amorphous Forms (Shapeless Shadows) 4:58
2. Suspended Animation 3:26
3. Abandoned Celestial State 7:30
4. Terrestrial Mutation 9:56
5. Pain Of Reincarnation 6:36
6. Temptations Of Terminal Progress 8:00
7. Cosmic Debt 4:10
8. Excommunicated 6:45
9. Mission Drift 10:43

Band members
Jacob Montgomery – vocals, guitar
Michael Gabor – bass
Sebastian Alcamo – drums

Album Review – Cryptic Shift / Beyond the Celestial Realms EP (2016)

An action-packed voyage through space and time, led by a Sci-Fi Death Metal Assault Squad from the UK eager to conquer the entire universe with their progressive and technical brutality.

Rating5

btcr-coverAre you ready for a voyage through space and time, a daredevil journey to a parallel universe where you’ll face technology a million light-years beyond our knowledge and where unknown forms of extraterrestrial life coexist, all to the sound of a very progressive and technical fusion of Death and Thrash Metal? This is what you’ll get in Beyond the Celestial Realms, the brand new EP by British Progressive Death/Thrash Metal act Cryptic Shift. If you’re a fan of the hard-hitting and intricate sound of iconic bands such as Death, Obituary and Voivod, lasers will blast from your eyes with excitement while listening to Cryptic Shift.

Formed in 2010 under the name Crÿptic Shift, this Leeds-based group calls itself a “Sci-Fi Death Metal Assault Squad”, a distinct designation that makes total sense as soon as you start listening to their high-quality material. And this blend of extreme music and Sci-Fi led the band to share the stage with renowned acts like Exodus, Hirax and Lost Society, also playing at some up-and-coming festivals in the UK such as Thrashersaurus, Full Thrash Assault and Thrashoholic Fest, all between 2014 and 2015. Beyond the Celestial Realms, which features a “futuristic old school” (if that expression exists) artwork by Nemesis Design, can be considered the “encapsulation” of the band’s short but very active career,  containing revamped versions of some of their original demos mixed with brand new compositions and, of course, a high level of brutality and stamina.

In the cinematic/alien-inspired intro Beyond the Celestial Realms, ominous acoustic lines and a phantom voice inform the listener a dangerous journey is about to begin, entitled Voyage Through Dimensions.  This feast of old school Death and Thrash Metal with a futuristic concept brings forward sheer dexterity and aggressiveness through the guitar riffs by Xander Bradley and Henry Parker, which precisely follow the potent rhythm imposed by drummer Ryan Sheperson. The second half of the song gets groovier thanks to the rumbling sound of the bass guitar by John Riley, adding layers to a song that has all it takes to become the band’s biggest classic in the future.

cryptic-shiftWhen a song is named Deathcrusher, we all know it’s going to be a demonic onrush perfect for breaking your neck headbanging until its apocalyptic ending, with its Slayer-ish riffs being nicely complemented by some traditional Death Metal beats.  In addition to that, Xander and Ryan not only have their kick-ass riffs to provide us, but their solos are also amazing. The following song, Spore, showcases a traditional fast-paced Death Metal rhythm boosted by the piercing guitars by Xander and Ryan, sounding like a fusion of Anthrax and Death, in special the vocal lines by Xander. And after the song’s calm and harmonious break halfway through it, we’re treated to a storm of groovy high-end guitar solos and endless progressiveness. Lastly, the initial peace found in Glacial Reclamation suddenly gives place to an outstanding Thrash Metal extravaganza, with Xander blasting his growls while John keeps delivering his low-tuned punches. All band members display a high level of adroitness with their instruments in this solid and thrilling composition, getting even more progressive than all previous tracks.

The gates to the parallel universe of Death Metal crafted by Cryptic Shift can be found at the band’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, SoundCloud and ReverbNation, and the key to open those gates can be purchased at their official website or BandCamp page, at the Fractured Mind Records’ BandCamp, at the Nightbreaker Productions’ webstore, at the Tictail’s webstore, or at the Blood Harvest’s webstore. Cryptic Shift aim at conquering this universe (and any other existing ones) with their fusion of progressiveness and brutality, and based on the high quality of the music found in Beyond the Celestial Realms, we can say their spaceship of Death Metal is on course without a shadow of a doubt.

Best moments of the album: Voyage Through Dimensions.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Fractured Mind Records/Nightbreaker Productions

Track listing    
1. Beyond the Celestial Realms 1:12
2. Voyage Through Dimensions 5:29
3. Deathcrusher 6:04
4. Spore 5:40
5. Glacial Reclamation 4:40

Band members
Xander Bradley – vocals, guitars
Henry Parker – guitars
John Riley – bass
Ryan Sheperson – drums