Album Review – The Promise Of Plague / The Tomb Of Lost Lovers (2019)

The debut album by this American quartet is an obscure fusion of black, industrial, punk and electronic, and you’ll simply love this style known as “Electro Black”.

Featuring members and ex-members of bands like Abominant, Fatal Step, Astrum Empyrean Asunder, Absence of Faith, Märcoda and Assisting Sorrow, the Louisville, Kentucky-based four-piece Industrial Black Metal entity known as The Promise Of Plague is back in 2019 with their debut full-length opus entitled The Tomb Of Lost Lovers, a huge step forward for the band in terms of creativity, strength and overall sound production compared to their 2016 demo Sleepwalking Into Armageddon. Comprised of Jim Higgins and Ashley Vega on vocals, Jerry Barksdale on guitars, keys and programming, and Chris Dalton on bass, The Promise Of Plague play an obscure and piercing fusion of Black and Industrial Metal infused with Punk Rock and electronic elements, or as some people like to say, they play a fairly new style called “Electro Black”.

And their Electro Black becomes already crystal clear in the opening track You Became My Noose, ignited by cutting guitars and electronic beats intertwined with whimsical keys, with Jim alternating between demonic roars and clean, anguished vocals and also presenting symphonic nuances in the background as a welcome add-on. Tim keeps gnarling in great Black Metal fashion in The Quiet, while Jerry slashes his guitar and Ashley brings some finesse to the music with her vocals in a short and sweet display of modern Industrial Black Metal; followed by These Stones Were Meant To Be Thrown, where its imposing and rockin’ vibe reminds me of the primeval days of the unparalleled Cradle of Filth. Furthermore, Jerry and Chris are ruthless with their stringed weapons, while Jim and Ashley make an amazing duet once again exhaling anger, passion, melancholy and darkness from their vocal lines, sounding at the same time furious and doomed. And what can I say about their cover version for Venom’s Warhead? It’s just as raw and infernal as the original one released in 1984 (check it out HERE), showcasing a great job done by Jerry with his scorching hot riffs and the hints of Doom Metal added to the musicality to make it more demonic.

Then leaning towards the classic Doom Metal played by Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost we have Insolent, sounding and feeling considerably different from the previous songs of the album and presenting another spot-on performance by both Jim and Ashley on vocals. In other words, it’s dark, heavy and damned, ending in the most melancholic and beautiful manner you can think of. Chris’ low-tuned bass lines fill every empty space in the somber Mine Is A Place Called Hell, where Ashley’s clean vocals make a very interesting paradox with Jim’s hellish screeches in what’s perhaps the most electronic of all songs, perfectly depicting what Electro Black is all about. And lastly, the title-track Tomb Of Lost Lovers is a rumbling and dancing hybrid of classic Black Metal with electronic music, with Jerry bringing tons of epicness with his keys. Not only that, it should work really well at a dark electro party, with all band members delivering sheer aggression and electricity form their respective instruments.

I guess after reading this humble review of The Tomb Of Lost Lovers you got really curious about what Electro Black is, right? If your answer is yes, go check what The Promise Of Plague are up to on their official Facebook page, and grab your copy of the album directly from the band’s own BandCamp page. In a nutshell, The Promise Of Plague might not be reinventing the wheel with their fusion of metal and non-metal styles, but they have certainly unleashed an interesting and entertaining beast of heaviness, fury and darkness with their debut album, pointing to a very healthy future for the quartet and, who knows, inspiring more underground musicians who are starting their careers in heavy music to venture through the realms of Electro Black, a subgenre of metal that will never go mainstream without any doubt, and we’ll always love it that way.

Best moments of the album: These Stones Were Meant To Be Thrown and Insolent.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2019 Independent

Track listing
1. You Became My Noose 3:54
2. The Quiet 1:53
3. These Stones Were Meant To Be Thrown 4:38
4. Warhead (Venom cover) 3:03
5. Insolent 5:44
6. Mine Is A Place Called Hell 3:18
7. Tomb Of Lost Lovers 3:50

Band members
Jim Higgins – vocals
Ashley Vega – vocals
Jerry Barksdale – guitar, keys, electronics
Chris Dalton – bass

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Album Review – Sülfür Ensemble / I (4 Songs About Dystopia, Satan, Ghouls & Marilyn Monroe) EP (2016)

Four veterans of the Turkish scene united in the names of Satan and Marilyn Monroe, blasting their noisy and heavy Sludge Metal upon humanity.

Rating5

coverWhen four veterans from the underworld of the Turkish metal scene get together to make a lot of noise and write music about Satan, ghouls and, believe it or not, Marilyn Monroe, you already know the final result is going to be very interesting to say the least. That’s what you’re going to get in the extravagant EP entitled I (4 Songs About Dystopia, Satan, Ghouls & Marilyn Monroe), recorded live in only two days by Turkish Sludge/Doom Metal act Sülfür Ensemble, a band that’s more than ready to doom all ears and unleash the noisiest and angriest ghouls upon their audience.

Formed in 2015 in the city of Istanbul, Turkey, Sülfür Ensemble bring forth all the heavy and dissonant elements from old school Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal with their new EP, which translates into a 25-minute feast of distorted noises, anguished screams and a lot of fun. Featuring a simple but effective cover art by the band’s own lead singer Erdem Çapar, I (4 Songs About Dystopia, Satan, Ghouls & Marilyn Monroe) is not only an enjoyable and professional album by this talented Turkish squad, but also a solid statement informing the world of heavy music Sülfür Ensemble are here to stay.

sulfur-ensembleA slow and steady intro led by the distorted guitar lines by Levent Ersoy builds up the ambience for a grumpy and dark display of Doom Metal entitled Daily Hate, with the low-tuned bass by Burak Özgüney reverberating through our ears during the whole song. Moreover, when Erdem begins screaming the song’s angry lines the whole experience of listening to the music by Sülfür Ensemble gets even more impactful. And if you think the atmosphere would get lighter in the following tune, titled Plea, you’re absolutely wrong, because their feast of anguish and distortions goes on, starting with a wicked intro about Satan and flowing into kick-ass Sludge Metal. Drummer Emre Şahin is very rhythmic and adds a lot of groove to the obscurity crafted by the rest of the band, with Levent firing some soulful Blues-inspired solos whereas the bass lines by Burak sound even more menacing than in the previous track.

The old school sludgy chant Karaçor keeps up with the rest of the album, with the main difference that it’s entirely sung in Turkish instead of English, an extra touch of rawness added to their already thrilling music. Erdem provides some low growls and demented screams perfect for the musicality blasted by the band, turning it into a full-bodied composition that will please all fans of the genre, with highlights to the precise work done by both Levent and Burka with their strings. And their last blast of badass and uncompromised music is beautifully entitled Marilyn, another solid creation by this quartet where Emre keeps smashing his drums while Erdem’s growls continue to disquiet our peace. Thus, the main question left by the band to Marilyn (in the form of some demented screams) is “when will I see you again?”

live-in-kargart

Live In Kargart 30092016

The EP has been released in CD format through Morbid Syndicate Records and can be purchased through the label’s BandCamp page or through the band’s own BandCamp page as well. The band is also offering a free download of their first live EP called Live In Kargart 30092016, recorded at Kargart, one of the coolest venues in İstanbul on September 30, 2016, containing all four songs from I (4 Songs About Dystopia, Satan, Ghouls & Marilyn Monroe), one unnamed song and a cover version of Venom’s all-time classic In League With Satan. You can also check the live video of the last 3 songs of the same concert at their YouTube channel. And if you want to know more about those four Turkish guys who worship Satan and Marilyn Monroe (if not both at the same time), go check their Facebook page and SoudCloud, just being careful not to deafen your neighbors with the heavy noises generated by the band.

Best moments of the album: Karaçor.

Worst moments of the album: None.

Released in 2016 Morbid Syndicate Records

Track listing
1. Daily Hate 7:18
2. Plea 4:59
3. Karaçor 8:14
4. Marilyn 4:16

Band members
Erdem Çapar – vocals
Levent Ersoy – guitar
Burak Özgüney – bass
Emre Şahin – drums

Album Review – Venom / From the Very Depths (2015)

Unfortunately, a huge lack of depth is what you will find in the new album by the trailblazers of Black Metal.

Rating6

venom_from the very depthsThe beginning of the 80’s witnessed the birth of the most obscure form of extreme music, Black Metal, thanks almost exclusively to British Black Metal pioneers Venom. For instance, Heavy Metal icons such as Slayer, Cradle of Filth, Kreator, Candlemass, Paradise Lost, among several other Thrash, Speed, Black Metal and NWOBHM bands, were heavily influenced by their music, with songs like Welcome To Hell, Black Metal, Witching Hour, In League With Satan and Countess Bathory becoming legitimate satanic anthems.  Now with From the Very Depths, the fourteenth studio album by this Newcastle-based band formed in the distant year of 1979, Cronos and his crew want to keep the fire of their venomous kingdom burning and disturbing the minds of the weak.

However, if Venom’s first two albums, Welcome to Hell (1981) and Black Metal (1982), are the epitome of this devilish subgenre of heavy music, pretty much all of their following releases lacked innovation, intensity and, consequently, importance (I doubt you can name a relevant song of any of their other albums). From the Very Depths is no exception to that, with its musicality being so rudimentary they seem more like an amateur garage band than those trailblazers of Extreme Metal with so many decades on the road. Cronos, La Rage and Dante stick to the very basics of heavy music, with not a single moment of creativity showcased throughout the album. That would not have been an issue if they were as good as Motörhead or AC/DC, but their extremely limited skills make From the Very Depths an album with absolutely no depth.

But is From the Very Depths really that bad? Well, if you keep your expectations really low you might enjoy some parts of the album. After the intro Eruptus, which really transmits a sense Venom are rising from the very depths of hell, we have the title-track From the Very Depths, which despite not being Black Metal per se (it feels more like Thrash Metal) it’s a very good exhibit of dark and extreme music, with the resonant bass lines by Cronos setting the tone during the whole song. The following track, The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll, has a dark Hardcore/Punk Rock atmosphere, with lyrics that couldn’t sound more Venom than that (“We met the devil at the gates / Not at the crossroads or by humiliate / The man of blues can sell his soul / We’d rather party with the demons… down below”). In addition, its nonstop instrumental helps enhance the electricity of this song, which in my opinion is the best of the album.

venomAfter that satisfactory start, the issues start to appear in From the Very Depths. Smoke is not only generic, especially its lyrics, but it also lacks that wickedness so necessary in Black Metal and it goes on for grueling five minutes. A song so long should have presented more variations or at least a minimum of energy in its riffs, don’t you agree? Temptation sounds like a rip-off of Venom themselves, where the bass lines mess its harmony instead of boosting it, turning it into another disposable track. Leastwise, Cronos’ harsh voice is still in good shape and the song doesn’t go on for torturing five minutes.

The band sounds a lot more cohesive and tuneful in Long Haired Punks, a tribute to Punk Rock and Heavy Metal that connects the heaviest and most deranged aspects of both music genres, with Cronos singing how Venom (and all other metal bands) are punks too (“Fight for survival, hitting the road, get out my way, time for a show / We blast metal, no hip hop or funk, demons from hell, long haired punks”), while Stigmata Satanas, with its very old school sonority, might be nothing outstanding but it’s quite nice, with its crude riffs and vocal lines blending really well with the lyrics, in special with its extremely simple but demonic chorus. On the other hand, Crucified is an awfully uninspired track with a flat rhythm that almost forces you to skip to the next song. The drums by Dante are sadly elementary, sounding like Meg White from the White Stripes without Jack White to salvage the song with more elaborate guitar lines.

Maybe with a more complex (or less monotone) instrumental, Evil Law could have been a really good song, because it contains that trademark devilish aura by Venom, including the wicked noises in the background. In regards to its lyrics (“Fakaa enday yay badah / Urka temeway tado / Coorza onyay femlay / Keelay spray ohapa do”), the only thing I can say is: what the hell is this supposed to mean? Anyway, Grinding Teeth brings back a decent mix of Thrash, Speed and Black Metal, which might sound interesting if it’s chosen for their live performances. Moreover, the band finally tries some different riffs and breaks, helping making the song more delightful.

After another short intro, Ouverture, we have another example of how amateur Venom still sound in Mephistopheles, which despite having a badass attitude it doesn’t offer anything really exciting to the listener. The same can be said about Wings of Valkyrie, a boring track where drums and riffs are negatively overshadowed by the extremely loud bass lines. Lastly, the good song Rise closes the album with the live audience in the background making it sound a lot more organic. If only they had added more of that rawness and brutality to the whole album, From the Very Depths could have been one of the best Extreme Metal albums of the year.

From a technical standpoint there’s almost nothing to be analyzed in From the Very Depths: it’s an album as basic and bland as it can be, with no memorable songs or fresh elements offered in its more than 50 minutes of music. As already mentioned, if you lower your standards (or if you love Venom more than your life) you will actually have some fun listening to From the Very Depths, but it’s hard for anyone else to get thrilled by an album that above all things lack any real depth. Sad to say, after almost 40 years of existence it looks like Venom will continue to be known just as the band who recorded Welcome to Hell and Black Metal.

Best moments of the album: From the Very Depths, The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll and Long Haired Punks.

Worst moments of the album: Smoke, Temptation, Crucified and Wings of Valkyrie.

Released in 2015 Spinefarm Records

Track listing
1. Eruptus 1:01
2. From the Very Depths 3:54
3. The Death of Rock ‘N’ Roll 3:09
4. Smoke 5:01
5. Temptation 3:52
6. Long Haired Punks 4:02
7. Stigmata Satanas 3:26
8. Crucified 4:06
9. Evil Law 5:03
10. Grinding Teeth 4:11
11. Ouverture 1:16
12. Mephistopheles 4:06
13. Wings of Valkyrie 4:00
14. Rise 4:34

Band members
Conrad “Cronos” Lant – vocals, bass guitar
Stuart “La Rage” Dixon – guitar, backing vocals
Danny “Dante” Needham – drums, backing vocals

Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Cruelty and the Beast (1998)

This is how any band in the world should record a concept album.

Rating1

410309-300Today is my birthday and I was thinking about which classic album that has helped define my musical taste should be reviewed. I could go for one of my favorite albums of all time, which would be Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, Judas Priest’s Painkiller or Slayer’s Reign in Blood, but instead I chose something more complex and unconventional: Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast, a unique concept album dedicated to the legend of the serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, the “Blood Countess” from Hungary who tortured and murdered hundreds of young women in the 16th and 17th centuries, and who many believe used to bath in the blood of her victims to rejuvenate her skin like if she was a vampire. The story itself is inspiring enough for a really dark Heavy Metal album, and no other band rather than Cradle of Filth would have been capable of creating such a masterpiece.

I love the intro Once Upon Atrocity, not only because I’m totally fond of obscure intros like this one, but also because the thrilling transition to the amazing Thirteen Autumns and a Widow is beyond perfect. And what can I say about this song? Despite being probably too heavy and heinous for most of our society, it’s a mesmerizing chef d’oeuvre that no other band is capable of doing (not even the current Cradle of Filth is anymore).The drums and keyboards are terrific, providing the song a unique atmosphere. Then comes one of the band’s most famous tracks, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, which is not as fast as the first song, but it’s also excellent and has some very good riffs.

Cradle+of+Filth+Cruelty+and+the+BeastBeneath the Howling Stars was the first song I’ve listened to ever from Cradle of Filth, and until today it makes my day a lot better when I listen to it. From its horror movie-like intro in the keyboards to the chorus, it’s a perfect fit for the soundtrack to apocalypse. I know Dani cannot reach the same high-pitched notes anymore, but it’s still great to listen to this song and I hope the band adds it back to their future setlists. The next track, Venus in Fear, is an instrumental song that is not recommended at all to listen to with your parents or your little sister, while Desire in Violent Overture is another musical typhoon from this Extreme Metal band from England.

The Twisted Nails of Faith is one of my least favorite ones, which doesn’t mean it’s not a furious track (it’s not just as brilliant as the others), followed by what can be considered an “Extreme Metal Opera” called Bathory Aria: this 11-minute insanity starts in a melancholic way with Benighted Like Usher, evolves into a storm with A Murder of Ravens in Fugue, and finally ends with a poem-like part called Eyes That Witnessed Madness. I REALLY would like to see them playing this live one day, that would be a dream come true. The album ends with another instrumental song, Portrait of the Dead Countess (this one you can listen to with anyone around you, no problem), and the fast and heavy track Lustmord and Wargasm. And if you’re still alive after this infernal tsunami, it means you enjoyed it and you’re ready to listen to everything again and again.

All musicians in this album are awesome (including the guest musicians) despite none of them being with the band anymore except for Dani Filth, the mastermind behind Cradle of Filth. Well, he’s the main reason why Cruelty and the Beast is so good, because without him it would be just a regular album. Although Dani’s trademark voice was not as high as in their previous albums, he was singing like a demon, adding a lot of violence and despair to the musicality of the whole album. Not only that, the lyrics in Cruelty and the Beast are also as creative, evil and wonderful as always, this time even better due to the whole storyline involving Countess Bathory as the main character, and the front cover and the rest of the album art are the perfect finishing touch for it.

Cradle_Of_Filth-Cruelty_y_The_Beast_(Limited_Edition)-Frontal

Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition front cover

If you’re lucky enough to find the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, you’ll be amazed by their superb covers of Iron Maiden, Venom and Sodom, bands with a high influence on Cradle of Filth’s music. The only bad thing about this bonus disc is the mix version for The Twisted Nails of Faith: I don’t like when a Heavy Metal song are mixed into some generic electronic song, and this one is not different from that.

Anyway, if you love Extreme Metal and a good story, you must listen to Cruelty and the Beast. Cradle of Filth might not be the best Heavy Metal band in the world, but this album helped redefine extreme music for sure and destroyed all the remaining boundaries between music and art for good.

Best moments of the album: Everything in this album is gold, but if I had to choose only a couple of songs they would be Thirteen Autumns and a Widow, Beneath the Howling Stars and Bathory Aria.

Worst moments of the album: None, unless I can choose a song from the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, then I would say Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix).

Released in 1998 Music for Nations

Track listing
1. Once Upon Atrocity (Instrumental) 1:43
2. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow 7:14
3. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids 7:18
4. Beneath the Howling Stars 7:42
5. Venus in Fear (Instrumental) 2:20
6. Desire in Violent Overture 4:16
7. The Twisted Nails of Faith 6:50
8. Bathory Aria (Benighted Like Usher/A Murder of Ravens in Fugue/Eyes That Witnessed Madness) 11:02
9. Portrait of the Dead Countess (Instrumental) 2:52
10. Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds) 7:30

Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc
1. Lustmord And Wargasm (The Relicking of Cadaverous Wounds) 7:58
2. Black Metal (Venom cover) 3:27
3. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover) 7:10
4. Sodomy & Lust (Sodom cover) 4:47
5. Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix) 5:33

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Stuart Anstis – guitars
Gian Pyres – guitars
Robin Graves – bass
Lecter – keyboards
Nicholas Barker – drums

Guest musicians
Sarah Jezebel Deva – backing vocals
Danielle Cneajna Cottington – backing vocals
Ingrid Pitt – Lady Bathory’s narration on ‘The Twisted Nails of Faith’ and Bathory Aria’s ‘Eyes That Witnessed Madness’

Home Video Review – Slayer / Live Intrusion (1995)

Are you looking for a creepy horror movie for Halloween? How about Slayer’s extremely “soft” first home video instead?

Rating2

Slayer_Live IntrusionContinuing with the countdown to Slayer live in Toronto next month, I would like to give my opinion about one of the first VHS of my life. Back in the 90’s, MTV was growing and becoming more and more important, making almost all bands care a lot more about their videos rather than their own music. Fortunately, when we talk about Slayer the words “MTV” or “commercial” are rarely used, unless we add the prefix “non” in front of them, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in their debut home video called Live Intrusion: a high quality concert, full of heavy riffs and classic songs and that has almost zero commercial appeal to regular people, but for the band’s diehard fans it’s close to perfection.

Filmed at the Mesa Amphitheater in Mesa, Arizona on March 12, 1995 during Slayer’s “Divine Intourvention” around the US, and launched later that same year (there’s also a DVD version released in 2010), Live Intrusion is pure devastation, starting with the insane duo of Raining Blood and Killing Fields until the apocalyptic ending with Chemical Warfare. In fact, before the concert actually starts the video presents us that infamous footage of a guy having his arm scarified with the word SLAYER, then adding alcohol to it and setting it on fire, which in my opinion is the best “intro” of all time to a Thrash Metal concert. If this doesn’t pump you up for the rest of the video, maybe you should press stop and start watching the new One Direction movie instead, because for me this means you’re a total pussy!

Slayer_Live Intrusion02Regarding the setlist, there are many long-forgotten songs from this concert that I would love to see slayer playing again live such as Killing Fields, Sex. Murder. Art. And 213. By the Way, I think they should reintroduce some songs from Divine Intervention, Diabolus in Musica and God Hates Us All in their current setlist, especially now that the band has Paul Bostaph back on drums, and I’m pretty sure Gary Holt would be able to play any of them easily. The fans would love to have even more power added to the mosh pits with some of the fastest songs from those albums.

One of the top moments of the entire show is when guitar/singer Robb Flynn (Machine Head) and drummer Chris Kontos (ex-Machine Head) join Slayer on stage to perform an incredibly heavy version of the song Witching Hour, from Black Metal pioneers Venom. The reaction from the crowd is absolutely insane! Speaking of which, the fans are crazy from start to finish, and instead of morons wasting their time filming the concert what we see are true metalheads screaming, bleeding and banging their heads non-stop in the middle of monstrous circle pits. Good times!

To sum up, Live Intrusion is an excellent opportunity to see Tom, Kerry, Jeff (R.I.P.) and Paul in top form executing perfectly many all-time classics from Slayer’s unparalleled career (what they do in War Ensemble and Angel of Death, for example, is beyond brutal) as well as some great unusual songs, complemented by an amazing crowd and some hilarious footage between some of the songs. So forget about pussies like Freddy Krueger, Jason or Michael Myers, and spend this Halloween enjoying some beers with your friends while watching one of the most bestial videos in the History of Heavy Metal.

Best moments of the video: Raining Blood/Killing Fields, At Dawn They Sleep, Dittohead and Witching Hour.

Worst moments of the video: Absolutely none.

Released in 1995 American Recordings

Track listing
1. Raining Blood 4:23
2. Killing Fields 3:56
3. War Ensemble 4:51
4. At Dawn They Sleep 5:03
5. Divine Intervention 5:33
6. Dittohead 2:50
7. Captor of Sin 3:21
8. 213 4:51
9. South of Heaven 4:58
10. Sex. Murder. Art.  1:50
11. Mandatory Suicide 4:03
12. Angel of Death 4:50
13. Hell Awaits 4:53
14. Witching Hour (Venom cover) 2:54
15. Chemical Warfare 5:17

Band members
Tom Araya – bass, vocals
Jeff Hanneman – guitar
Kerry King – guitar
Paul Bostaph – drums