Woodtemple – Forgotten Pride

•August 20, 2014 • 1 Comment

woodtempleI’ve had a love hate relationship with Woodtemple since this project first surfaced in 1998. On one hand, I love Aramath’s lofty vision for the music he creates. Synthetic choirs, voice synth tones and generally a fair amount of atmosphere permeates all of his releases (Sorrow of the Wind being my favorite), but the reality remaining on the other hand, is the fact he has been crushing hard on Rob Darken musically, ideologically and just about in every other aspect you can imagine since this project began. Aramath is essentially Darken’s winter-swept Krampus when it’s time to Larp it up. They practice their sword moves together. They are the stoic warrior duo in their pagan metal selfie time. Hell, they probably complete each others sentences by now. It’s actually quite cute. So it’s no surprise that Woodtemple’s affinity for the Graveland musical aesthetic remains unfaltering on Forgotten Pride, Aramath’s 5th album.

One typically gives a band a bit of leeway when it comes to their early works. OK… this sounds like Graveland. No problem. He’ll figure it out and move on. As Woodtemple’s journey unfolds, instead of figuring it out and finding his own voice, Aramath has actually fallen deeper into his Graveland worship. Instead of hearing what’s going on and saying, “Cool bro. I appreciate the sonic high five, but you’re kinda cheapening my buzz”, Darken joins the band. Even though he’s not in the pic that accompanied this promo, he has had a hand in shaping this material. The plodding drums sound kinda real, but the atypical programming gives it away as being fake, acting more as an ongoing guitar riff than a time keeper, mirroring the 2nd half of Darken’s post Capricornus musical career verbatim. The riffs are airy and barren, buzzing forth just the right combination of melody, triumph and war influenced black metal ala that Viking era Bathory nod of respect. It does all work together quite well, other than the production on Forgotten Pride is too clean and it restricts the instruments from uniting in a distorted nebulous fury that really needs to be there to help this material and sound gel. The harshest element in this music is Aramanth’s blazing hell vocals, which find a slightly higher register to dominate, though simply sound like a younger Darken screaming out on classics like In the Glare of The Burning Church or Celtic Winter. As the album plods on, the lack of variation becomes tiring and “heard it all before” because yes … you fucking have! Repeatedly!

The bottom line is, I tend to tolerate, and at times have even liked Woodtemple, because I really enjoy Graveland. Sure there may be a veiled and minute compliment in there somewhere, but the fact that this project refuses to accept its influences and evolve with a more individualistic voice all his own, is really quite sad. Forgotten Pride is about as close of a clone to Graveland as you’re going to get, but the quality of this material isn’t as proud of a statement, or dense, or vibrant as Graveland. Let the pagan metal completists have their fun with this one, but count me out of the collector mentality from here on out when it comes to Woodtemple – unless he can come back with more conviction or something that at least tries to stand on it’s own merit. -Marty

Sacrilege Records


Until only ashes circle around the moon

•August 13, 2014 • 5 Comments

Back in the Worm Gear haven, away from the autumn winds already returning after this short and cold summer, worn down in mind and body from the past few months of toil in the crunch months of a tourist economy, anticipating a few more hours of sleep, and all I can do at this moment is appreciate this quiet moment to discuss and listen to music I love with good friends. If we have a question for you this week, it’s this: What’s the real value of this music to you? What does it help you deal with? How does it inspire you? Is it something that brings you together with others, provides a private moment for contemplation or escape, or some combination? Let us know, and thanks for reading. -Jake

Jake Moran Playlist
Tempestuous Fall – The Stars Would Not Awake You
Blood and Sun – White Storms Fall
Endlichkeit – I-II
Endlichkeit – III-V
Grouper – Hold / Sick
Obsequiae – Demo
Unwilling Flesh – Between the Living and the Dead (promo)
Gehenna – First Spell
Hades – Alone Walkyng
Katatonia – Dance of December Souls

Jim Clifton Playlist
Spectral Lore/Nachtreich – The Quivering Lights split LP (pre-master)
Coldfells – s/t (demo)
Dead Register – TRVNS BLVK (demo)
Agalloch – The Serpent & The Sphere
Shards of Humanity – Fractured Frequencies
Loudblast – Burial Ground
Darkest Era – Severance
A Tribe Called Quest – Anthology
Blaze Foley – The Dawg Years (1975-1978)
Reverorum ib Malacht – De Mysteriis Dom Christii

Marty Rytkonen PLaylist
Brimstone Coven – S/T
Horrendous – Ecdysis
Unwilling Flesh – Between the Living and the Dead
My Dying Bride – As The Flower Withers
My Dying Bride – A Map of All our Failures
Falls of Rauros – Believe in no Coming Shore
Nachtreich/Spectral Lore – The Quivering Lights Split LP pre-master
White Medal – Yorkshire Steel
White Medal – Guthmers Hahl
Wodensthrone – Curse

Horrendous – Ecdysis

•August 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

horrendousWhere the excellently written debut, “The Chills”, placed this East Coast kill unit on the map with traditional, though endlessly intelligent death metal, Horrendous have bravely stepped into an elevated realm of evolution on Ecdysis. Lurking within the 10 roller coaster tracks comprising this album, is a desire to incorporate more of “everything” good and essential found within the death metal fire storm. Really deep traditional metal influences can be found in the song structures and impressive solo work, and this element alone has greatly increased the level of feeling and passion in their music. A progressive metal strand can be felt with technical tendrils coiling throughout the guitar work in the form of open minded, note oriented riffs. Excellent tempo variations hurl this material at the listener, and even though the Becerra (Possessed) influenced vocal drawl remains the one true link to Horrendous’ past efforts, this band’s journey has risen beyond Seven Churches, to embrace the thrashier elements and odd structures of Beyond the Gates, but Horrendous have done so with their own superior death metal tone and keen sense of songsmithing. Having only had the time to sit with this album for a few days, the songs continue to unlock many surprises and yes, a few challenges. Tracks like Resonator feel almost linear in their structure with little or no riffs repeating themselves. Instead, Horrendous keep piling on the ghastly layers with inventive/perplexing guitar harmonies and the feeling of the unknown when it comes to their vision for this album. I love the challenge and Horrendous have constructed a devious monster of a death metal album that will keep you guessing, keep you immersed and most importantly, keep you wanting more. Ecdysis may be a tough egg to crack for those of you more suited to pop structured death metal, but this album unveils so much musical and metal maturity, it’s damn near impossible not to be impressed and even a bit blown away by the high brow hammering awaiting you. Great production. Crushing vocals. Headbanging death riffs that harken back to DM’s formative and meaningful years. Fuck yes. -Marty
Dark Descent Records

Northern Oak – Of Roots and Flesh

•August 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

northernoakProgressive and blackened folk metal is quite often found and heralded in countries like Ukraine and the like, but jolly old England in the past has its share of bands and tends to gravitate towards the more commercial and fruity side of the genre. I think it’s proper to blame Skyclad for this, wouldn’t you agree? With this in mind, I was pleasantly surprised that Sheffield’s Northern Oak keep the in-key frolicking to a low roar and tasteful on their self financed 3rd album. The blackened side of their sound is in full effect on Of Roots and Flesh. With a harshly black vocal standard leading the charge, the riffs remain dissonant in their melodious march, yet full of purpose and memorable hooks that follow Medieval folk path in terms of melody. The guitars act as the meat of songs like The Dark Midsummer, while a solitary flute carries the melody lines over the metal wreckage. As the album unfolds, violins, acoustic guitars, synths and other commonly used “traditional” instruments in the folk metal field surface and do help to inject a nice eclectic aura into the bulk of this album. Yes at times there is an slightly noticeable level of cheese that can drift into segments of this music, which is hard to avoid for bands that utilize higher levels of melody, but to their credit, Northern Oak maintains that harsh vocal presence and solid guitar riffs to keep just the right level of melancholy where the more upbeat musical passages didn’t completely bother me. Melody and adventurous song structures are the driving force behind the formula set forth by Northern Oak, and even though such a light hearted atmosphere is something that appeals to me infrequently, Northern Oak are masters of their craft and have presented a fine balance between the darkness and a spirited trip back into their musical culture. A very talented band. It surprises me that a bigger label hasn’t snatched them up yet. -Marty


Panopticon – Roads To The North

•August 13, 2014 • Leave a Comment

a1750879016_10For an album ostensibly taking as its lodestar such traditionally-expected-in-black-metal concepts as winter and the general direction of North, Roads To The North could be a remarkably surprising album to a listener unfamiliar with the steadily growing artistic output of Austin Lunn. Not at first though: the first sounds one hears on this release are samples of a foreboding wind, the distant and trembling howls of wolves, and the trudge, soon to break into a run, of a solitary walker through the snow, and they’re quickly followed by Lunn’s frantic, blasting drum-work, and a pair of interwoven tremolo melodies vying for space with a triumphant fiddle (courtesy of Johan Becker), in a style you might expect to hear on a Forteresse album. So far so conventional, although excellently composed either way, but Lunn quickly makes it clear that the Norwegian tribute of the split with Fall of Rauros began and ended there, and he does this with something that’s both new to Panopticon’s sound and relatively absent from the current “underground” metal landscape: a complex, punchy, melodic riff in the vein of At The Gates’ Slaughter of the Soul and other associated melodic death metal albums (Hypocrite frequently came to mind during my own listens of the album).

Now, you might be raising your proverbial eyebrows if you haven’t read the many other reviews written long before this one that have already made a point of noticing and praising this element of Roads To The North (at least, when they aren’t drawing comparisons as ridiculous and ill-informed as Earth Crisis or Shai Hulud). This may seem a little odd, as the Gothenburg sound is a horse that died near instantaneously after birth, and it’s been beaten into an unrecognizable pulp of sugary hooks and metalcore appropriation long since then. Its presence in the sound of a band associated with black metal would usually amass ridicule at best, even for a band with an appeal as far ranging as Panopticon. I think it’s significant that it doesn’t in this case, and I’d like to suggest a few reasons why:

  • Not all melodic death metal is the sort of pre-packaged Wacken drivel locked to the barren teats of Slaughter of the Soul or In Flames’ later output, and Lunn, to my ears, is drawing from a lot of the more vibrant and creative history of the sound (see: Eucharist, Ablaze My Sorrow, A Canorous Quintet, or the aforementioned Hypocrite, and keep in mind that this style of riff writing isn’t exclusive to melodic death metal either. Also, as much as I’d rather not admit it, there’s almost certainly some Reinkaos in there as well).
  • The saturation of this particular genre is long over, and I imagine that for those who are tired of retro thrash and old-school death metal and whatever other else the metal world has been gorging itself on for the last few years are likely ready for something different by now.
  • It doesn’t really matter.

I’ll clarify that last statement, because it gets to the heart of why I love this album so much, as well as why I find a lot of the discussion about it I’ve encountered online to be fairly tiresome. As with just about every Panopticon release, Roads to the North draws from an eclectic pool of techniques: bluegrass and Appalachian folk, black metal, melodic death metal, post metal (translation: I don’t really know!), post rock, and other arbitrary terms you may as well draw at random from a hat. What makes all this significant isn’t the novelty factor, though that’s perhaps what catches attention most easily, it’s the relentless force of passion and knowledge of musical craft that melds and forges all of these elements into a cohesive whole, and Roads To The North, more so than any previous release by Lunn, does this with unbelievable adeptness.

Lasting over an hour, the real secret to this album is masterful pacing: blasting tremolo sections that reach deep down to the bones with their intensity; soaring, sky-piercing melodies; ominous dirges of malevolent arpeggios and earth-shaking bass lines; invigorating bluegrass picking and pastoral Appalachian folk; softly lush instrumental passages; spirit-stirring violin lines; even a dramatic orchestral arrangement; everything is in its right place for the fullest emotional effect on this journey of an album. It’s done so well that, since I received the promo a few weeks ago, I’ve listened to it nearly every day, often multiple times, and often consecutively. If I had the time, I would love to write so much more about this album, to be able to express how incredible and moving it is, how refreshing it is to listen to an album that defines its own sound without needing to rely on the tag of a genre, or how impressive it is to see Lunn really coming into his full ability as an artist. But I don’t have to, you can hear it for yourself now and watch these paltry and faint paragraphs disappear in the shadow of Roads To The North. -Jake

Bindrune Recordings / Nordvis

Burn our smouldering hearts, on a Summer night …

•July 30, 2014 • 5 Comments

Two underground reviews for you to peruse this week; quality black/death metal from the UK and and an offering of inspiring, atmospheric black metal from Slovenia. Both are fine accompaniment to this high-sixties Summer we’re having Up North, where hoodies and jeans have taken the place of shorts and thin t-shirts. Maybe that’s a good thing …
Anyway, curious to know what’s been burning on your Summer grills – what grub do you go for when a craft beer and a Craft album come-a-calling?

Jim Clifton Playlist
Belial – Never Again
Belial – Wisdom of Darkness
Arghoslent – 1990-1994 The First Three Demos
Bölzer – Soma
Panopticon – Roads to the North
Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn
Townes Van Zandt – Live at the Old Quarter
Wicked World – A Tribute to Black Sabbath
Mötley Crue – Shout at the Devil
Misfits – Legacy of Brutality

Towers of Flesh – Antithetical Conjurations

•July 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Towers of Flesh - Antithetical Conjurations ArtworkThe prolific drummer/guitarist/songwriter Anil Carrier produces new music on a scale enviable to most in the underground – the last few years have seen his participation in two releases by the Bolt Thrower-esque Binah, an EP by blackened death metal band The Solemn Curse, and yet another EP by black metal band Exsequor, amongst others. His latest brainchild, Antithetical Conjurations by the United Kingdom trio Towers of Flesh, mines his prodigious repository of riffage and content for an ore that is at once black, death, melodic/disharmonic, and composed. Judging by this and other releases, one could argue that Anil rejects the notion that extreme metal of this ilk should always be under-produced, as a cleanliness to the overall atmosphere permeates each track, but he smartly avoids over-compression or the nail-through-the-eardrum treble; the drum sounds are present and clear, but do not invade the space occupied by the midrange-y guitars, letting them billow outward in a sorrowful fog that, when not trichording or tremoloing, have classic metal-spiced solos and thrash-influenced rhythms that give the songs an emotional range extending beyond straight death metal’s hatred and rage. However, it is the moments of black metal dissonance Towers of Flesh brings to the table that adds a distinctness to the song structures and overall mix, bringing to mind echoes of Mayhem’s triumphant Order Ad Chao.
While the fetid genres Towers of Flesh cobble together are instantly recognizable and not entirely unique taken on their own, multiple playthroughs of Antithetical Conjurations reveal a maturity of composition and individuality that only comes with hours spent in dank rehearsal spaces and dimly lit studios. A glance through Anil’s discography – and an attentive listen to the new album – prove he’s done his time in both. Antithetical Conjurations earns those elusive qualities so often sought by a band but rarely achieved: to not be easily described or dismissed, and to be an elevation of one’s musical inspirations. -Jim

Candlelight Records

Veldes – Skyward

•July 30, 2014 • Leave a Comment

a1710148785_7Anguish. Violence. And ultimately, surrender. The cavalcade of sound heralding the arrival of Skyward – second release of Slovenian, atmospheric black metal project Veldes – sinks its mouldy digits into your soul as quickly as you can push play on this emotive ode to nature and despair. Behind the slow and frosty guitars that evoke earth and sky (and the truly tormented vocals shreiking as much from within as without), tastefully wrought piano lines pervade, serving not only themselves with a shroud of beauty, but also providing an iron core for each song to spring forth from in strength, much like how ivy-overgrown train tracks give a sense of direction and distance, long after they’ve been abandoned. In the music of Skyward, as listener, you’ll experience abandonment of another sort – that inviolate separation between the ‘reasoning’ life in the human world, and the loss of the once-shared purity of flora, fauna, Earth, Sun and sky lying parallel to it.
The guitars are black metal and melodic, forlorn and folk-laden. The drums speed and slow with the winds blown by the forces of feeling lying beneath the album’s surface. Veldes is the art of a man longing to do the impossible while living: to return, as an equal, to the atmosphere we look upward to and to return, as an equal, to the ground we walk upon. Skyward is his impassioned, grief-stricken acceptance of the impossibility of that return. Exemplary. -Jim

Razed Soul Productions

Burning passions, decisive as the night …

•July 23, 2014 • 2 Comments

Would that the pay (there is none) equals the passion (there is plenty) for putting pen to paper for Worm Gear. Instead the grind of our day jobs sometimes takes its toll from time to time, and we have to make peace with a pittance of a publish like we have this week (one review). Luckily, at least for myself, things are getting back to normal and throughout August maybe can win back any we have lost with our infrequency this Summer. So enjoy the words and sounds of Taatsi, and let’s hear it – how does the balance between passion and responsibility take shape in your own lives, and where does metal lie upon that scale? Playlists and discussions, let’s hear them!

Jim Clifton Playlist
Bölzer – Soma
Stargazer – A Great Work of Ages
Coldfells – s/t (demo)
Necros Christos – Triune Impurity Rites
Mayhem – Esoteric Warfare
Panopticon – Roads to the North
Deceased – Supernatural Addiction
Obsequiae – Suspended in the Brume of Eos (vinyl)
Type O Negative – Slow, Deep, and Hard
Lustre – Wonder

Taatsi – Amidst the Trees

•July 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

TaatsiAn embrace of the morning cold, told through throat-choked whispers. A dying off of fog at dawn, evoked via emotive orchestration. A balance between epic composition and the haunting black metal production techniques of the Second Wave. For all this and more I give you Finland’s Taatsi, and their debut full-length Amidst the Trees. For the sake of the Finnish woodlands and folklore, the duo of ‘A’ and ‘M’ adeptly twist tremolo riffs in and around soaring keyboards that, while melodic, avoid LARPer crowd appeal (ie, more In the Nightside Eclipse than Lord of the Rings – not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you). The guitars themselves aren’t buried in the mix, and with their presence and low-end frequency, actually aid the synths in their creation of another, better world. The drum programming – a staple of this style of atmospheric black metal – impresses with its sophistication; clearly, ‘A’ took his time with the construction of beats and fills, and it shows.
Though Taatsi’s grandiose style thematically ties all seven tracks of Amidst the Trees together, the band subtly dips a toe in other heavy genres as well; for example, on ‘Funeral March Of Hintriikki Peltoniemi’, Taatsi spew forth an all-too-brief doom instrumental that would not be out of place on an old Candlemass album. Album closer ‘Hunts In the Night’s Mind’ displays a variety of tempos and movements, hinting at both the sounds of their more aggressive-style black metal countrymen, and the anvil-smashing traditional metal gods of old.
Feverish and ill, I stare through my window, watching branches and leaves undulating with the wind. Gray skies carry along with them what promises to be unusually cool temperatures for this Summer day, and I sense that the powerful sorrow of Taatsi is the perfect harbinger of – and accompaniment to – this singular moment. The music of Amidst the Trees – as intended – succeeds as solemn backdrop for one’s contemplation of the natural.
Forever Plagued Records

Time is Eternal in the Shadow Land

•July 9, 2014 • 4 Comments

Welcome to another Worm Gear update on the heels of a week off. Did you miss us? Like all of you, the summer is keeping us scribes pre-occupied and in demand in other areas of our lives. This doesn’t mean the fire is dwindling!!

Here are 4 reviews for all of you to ponder. As I sit here and listen to Lucifer’s Hammer I have to lament on the passage of time and how this music has evolved over the years. There is a lot of promising changes for certain, but as LH once again enchants me with ancient black doom, there is no denying the old feel that permeates in an atmosphere rarely felt in the newer generation of occult metal. Is it the curse of technology? Have musicians lost the muse? Or have we all just become so accustomed to the darkness that we can no longer feel the reheated flames of mysticism? Discuss friends. And let’s not allow the sharing of playlists to die….

Thanks for your time and dedication folks! -Marty

Marty Rytkonen – Playlist

Brutality – Screams of Anguish (such a good hammering of Floridian carnage!)
Bolzer – Soma (Wow!)
Panopticon – Roads to the North (Test Pressing) Passionate and genre expanding!
Agnostic Front – Victim in Pain (So much fury and well played crossover)
Cryptic Slaughter – Stream of Consciousness (I love this album. Even the production. Never could understand why people passed on this)
Sacrifice – Forward to Termination (An often overlooked thrash classic. Fuck the big 4!)
Obsequiae – Suspended in the Brum of Eos (On vinyl! A modern classic!)
Coldfells – S/T (Summoning on blackened doom steroids? Yes please!)
Lucifer’s Hammer – The Mists of Time MMXIV (FUCK!)
Sacrilegium – Sleeptime (cold and churning excellence!)

Bolzer – Soma

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

bolzer_SomaEndlessly mystical and seemingly locked into a vein of expression completely their own, Switzerland’s Bolzer have taken death metal by storm. Aura is still being talked about, discovered and revered by those of us who search for darkness within art and the band is quick to follow up that MLP with another EP to keep our ears bent on worship and our souls yearning for the release of that elusive full-length which just can’t seem to drop fast enough.

Soma finds this innovative duo staying the course set aloft on Aura. The main difference is a less “cluttered” production this time out, though the songs are just as enchanting as the tones and nuances found on Aura. Bolzer’s sorcery is unlocked/enhanced/entranced by the 10 razor strings of a BC Rich Bich guitar and the manner in which vocalist KzR morphs open chords into searing harmonies at seemingly the same time. His playing style fills all the holes left behind by the lack additional musicians and instruments, with light defying darkness and a truly atypical riff style that claws up from the chamber very much alive. KzR is doing double and triple time, once again handling all the vocals and lyrical rituals while his desperate and burly death moans add even more of a unique flavor to Bolzer’s overall sound. His delivery feels like a force of nature, or even an entire wolf pack on the hunt with the urgency and projection of his screams that embody feelings of glory, suffering and even punishment. HzR’s drum performance is just as commanding as his rhythmic choices always fit the mood and intent of the guitar work seamlessly. There is a lot of confidence and pure fury in these beats and such a powerful sense of self in his playing, and in this band for that matter, further empowers the music of Bolzer and makes it the ruling entity that it is.

Even though there is no one riff between these 2 songs as world ending as the one found in Entranced by the Wolfshook, Bolzer are an inferno of deathly magic and with Soma, have further set their legacy in stone. The moon is full… Come… join in the hunt. -Marty
Invictus Productions

Empire Auriga – Ascending the Solar Throne

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

empireLo-fi solar flares burn slow and reach out on Ascending the Solar Throne, the 2nd full-length effort by Michigan natives Empire Auriga. The lack of production values and dissonant note choices allows the sounds and style to congeal in an unashamed level of Xasthur appreciation, but Empire Auriga employ an underlying electronic aura in the form of caustic dark ambience to further infect their doom laden black metal crawl. The drum programing is a functional, slow plodding kick drum, (when there are drums at all) but is so enveloped in static ambience that the reality of it being merely a time/place holder really isn’t a bothersome factor. We’ve heard these sounds and style before, but the chilling depression that emits from the presentation of this music is unshakable and at times overbearing. This has always been the mission statement for Empire Auriga… unyielding depression in the frozen vacuum of space. Ascending the Solar Throne isn’t something you will reach for often, but if cult to the core blackness finds its way into your player on occasion, Empire Auriga are perfect for late night drones and sulking in a nebula of negative energy. -Marty
Moribund Records

Lucifer’s Hammer – The Mists of Time MMXIV

•July 9, 2014 • 1 Comment

lucifershammer-themistsoftimeBeing a Michigan native during metal’s formative years, I have attended the Michigan Death Fest organized by Sandy “Metal Mom” Newton as often as I could over the years. During this era I was able to witness Lucifer’s Hammer live on many occasions. They always made the fest line-ups because lead singer Todd was Sandy’s son. That aside… they DESERVED to be on the bill every time, for Lucifer’s Hammer were sadly an overlooked gem in the late 80’s/90’s US black/death metal underground. Their sets consisted of dense fog and some of the best blackened doom crafted the old way you have probably ever heard. I am admittedly late to cover this excellent reissue by Destro records because I have interviewed the band in the past and reviewed this very material when it came around the first time back when Worm Gear was a zine proper. As I hit play on something that I haven’t spun in several years, it all comes back to me. That vibrant conviction. Well placed and utilized keyboards. Plodding, though so perfectly constructed songs built on atmosphere. Lucifer’s Hammer was a band that you could tell practiced a lot and meant every note they played. Todd’s vocals on this recording are right out front in burnt black agony where his phlegmy delivery lends an aura of ritual sickness to this musical event. Even though this re-issue could have benefited as a 2CD compiling all of Lucifer’s Hammer’s music (There was also a full-length album to come after this one called Ghosts of Fall), Destro Records chose the better of the 2 albums to revitalize and further making this essential by including the fantastic The Burning Church demo as a bonus. With new artwork and a what seems like a thicker sound, this disc captures Lucifer’s Hammer’s most stirring material that feels just as timeless as the years it was created. Perhaps The Mists of Time MMXIV will finally give this band the due they fought so hard to achieve while they were still functioning. Excellent. -Marty
Destro Records

To my surprise…. this band remains so obscure that the only track to be found on youtube is from their The Burning Church Demo. So, we’ll post the link to Destro’s bandcamp…

Misery Index – The Killing Gods

•July 9, 2014 • Leave a Comment

mnisery indexYet another band that enjoys a lengthy career/discography and I wander into their latest album like the lost and confused old guy at the mall. Perhaps such a vantage point is a good thing when reviewing a longstanding bands new music, for I can enter with no preconceived notions or thoughts of, “this will NEVER be as good as their demo” elitism that sadly does creep in from time to time and attempt to close my mind. It rhymes. Word.

13 years behind them and The Killing Gods is Misery Index’s 5th full-length album. Deathly potent grind is the platform for this material, but what instantly grabs me is the searing catchiness, or dare I say “traditional metal” influenced guitar harmonies? Yes. It’s all in there. The twin leads and undeniably memorable motion and notes in the riffs keep me going back with the desire to have these songs stick. And they do! Misery Index lays on the speed with precision and a feeling of life ending violence, but they are not slaves to the grind so to speak. Tracks like Conjuring the Cull are solely mid-paced and metal to the core with sophisticated leads and again… those powerful melodies that will remain long this album concludes. Mid-ranged, though discernible death vocals may center on a dimensionless intensity, but the lyrical placement is usually well-considered and the overall delivery simply fits perfectly. The vocals serve and important purpose effectively, but I found myself mainly concentrating on the music as it always felt more meaningful and endlessly intense in all the right ways.

The Killing Gods is a no bullshit type of album that will appeal to fans of bands like Nasum, Dying Fetus and Squash Bowels, though Misery Index maintain a far more diverse songwriting open-mindedness. Meaty and pristinely produced grind with true substance exploding from their metal core, Misery Index have unearthed a scorcher and though this is within a genre that I really need to be in the mood for, one cannot deny the quality at hand. -Marty
Season of Mist

No light escapes the shadow

•June 25, 2014 • 2 Comments

Here we are, past the mid-way point of 2014. It is alarming how quickly time goes. In spite of all the busy things going on in our worlds, Worm Gear is never too far from myself and Jim’s thoughts. We didn’t want to drop another barren week on all of you fine folks, so here we are, some last minute reviews to keep you guys satiated until we’re all able to re-emerge in full-force.

Thanks for reading and participating as always friends! Keep spreading the word and sharing what music has been doing it for you these past several weeks. Till next time, take care! -Marty

Marty Rytkonen Playist

Vallenfyre – Splinters (This album is MASSIVE on vinyl! Believe it!)

Morbus Chron – Sweven (I went into this doubtful, but I’m a believer. Really interesting music. Glad I bought the vinyl!)

Sacramentum – Far Away from the Sun (Another vinyl conquest. Such a classic and the poster is ace!)

The Ruins of Beverast – Blood Vaults (Another vinyl acquisition. I’ve been going nuts again!)

Brimstone Coven – S/T (Congrats to Andrew and the guys for their signing to Metal Blade!)

The Best of Metal Massacre

Vex – Memorious (On tour with Agalloch! The boys are destroying!)

Ahamkara – The Embers of the Stars

Emptiness – Nothing But the Whole (A pretty interesting and creative album. Closer investigation forthcoming)

Afflicted – Prodigal Son

Blood Red Fog – On Death’s Wings

•June 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

blood red fogOne of the many cryptic and caustic black metal projects to arise from Finland during the 2000’s, Blood Red Fog have soldiered on through the years, producing 3 full-length albums and a myriad of split and EP releases to keep the name out there and to fill in the gaps. I have heard this band before and have always appreciated the traditional dissonant crust executed by them, even though the overall impact is largely unremarkable. Harsh and unforgiving black metal that hides behind a treble grated, lo-fi guitar tone and affinity for depressive minor notes/chords. Agonized vocals that range from your typical mid-ranged snarl, to more of an old Vikernes, crying orc scream of anguish are evenly paced and largely interesting in the way the lyrics are placed/performed over the wall of fuzz.

What has stayed my hand in hitting “stop” and hunting for something else to review, is regardless of the fact that Blood Red Fog still cling to their core formula and many of the elements previously mentioned, there is a noticeable jump in songwriting quality this time out. BRF still won’t boast pure creative innovation with their sound for On Death’s Wings, but the bands attention to creating riffs that are memorable and the way they are constructed within a structure makes me want to stick with this album and maybe even come back to it. The depression on hand somehow feels authentic even though there is a playful motion in tracks like As Lightning From Heaven with its memorable and simplistic nod to folk rock.

Has it always been this way? Have I skimmed over this bands past works during a time when I either wasn’t in the mood, or burnt out on Finnish bands general fascination with crust? Again, Blood Red Fog certainly are not re-inventing the wheel on this album, but the outcome is very catchy, making it easy to get into with only several listens invested. Does this bode well down the road for my enjoyment of this album? In all likelihood, it will fall through the cracks in time, but for now On Death’s Wings is an enjoyable listen. Fans of Goatmoon and the like take note. -Marty
Saturnal Records

Day of Doom – The Gates of Hell

•June 25, 2014 • 1 Comment

day of doomNew York death metal has always maintained a distinct style and execution that revolves around a crippling form of technicality, brutality and de-tuned tonality that appeals to a certain demographic of pit terrorists. Day of Doom hail from Long Island and even though their style embodies all the irrelevant characteristics that are typically found in NYDM, this trio surprised me on the title track by breaking away from the tech blasting and slam grooves in favor of strange music breaks and even slower tempos/riffs that are actually a bit innovative. A different way of approaching the genre for sure and such an experiment does wonders for opening this music up to breathe a bit more. But then it’s back to the gurgling death fury which does lose a bit of Day of Doom’s impact due to a very garagey/muddy production. I can appreciate the talent and obvious painstaking work that went into the creation of The Gates of Hell, but as I’ve stated time and again within these digital halls, straight-up brutal death quickly and definitively died for me in the glut of the mid 90’s. A band has to be doing something pretty special within this medium to make me want to stick with them, or take notice. Even though some interesting song writing aesthetics do surface, Day of Doom really are not my thing in spite of their talent and obvious desire to expand creatively. -Marty
Lavadome Productions

Mefisto – The Megalomania Puzzle

•June 25, 2014 • 1 Comment

mefistoVic Records live and breathe in the past and this old fart appreciates their hard work and dedication to bringing all of us those lost classics. The past is alive indeed! If you were like me and somehow missed out on Sweden’s influential Mefisto during the tape trading teen years, then Vic’s got us covered with The Megalomania Puzzle. This career retrospective CD (LP coming later) finds both of the bands demos in one convenient place, featuring liner notes penned by Metalion (Slayer Mag) and the members of Mefisto themselves.

For all intensive purposes, this short lived power trio may be a bit amateurish around the edges, but their atypical approach to creating thrashing death metal made them WAY ahead of their time. Even though they may not have been understood back in 1986, there is no denying their innovation for carving out their own special place in the archives of metal with nearly every heavy band coming out of Sweden during that era being influenced by Mefisto in some form. The mid 80’s was a nebulous time where some thrash bands in Europe/Scandinavia began morphing into something far darker than the at times more lighthearted spirit of thrash. The vocals were taking on more of a demonic delivery. The guitars dropped in tuning and the distortion exploding from the amps possessed the power to level an entire field of grazing buffalo. Mefisto’s music shines for it’s underlying atmosphere and stellar guitar work. Omar Ahmed’s playing skills felt classically trained, for all of his solos are tasteful, though technically gifted. His riffs were firmly rooted in tight thrash with a sinister undercurrent to carry them along. Sandro Cajander’s vocals had embraced the death/black metal aggression and misery and it fit perfectly within the songwriting style, but his delivery seems a bit underdeveloped to me on certain songs. Further rough around the edges moments can be found in the drum performance. Roberto Granath is hanging in there, but that double bass plod is teetering on the brink of a sack of potatoes rolling down the stairs. Still, I appreciate the style and hungry feel emitting from this material even if Mefisto’s creative yearnings may be just outside of their technical ability.

In closing, both the Megalomania and The Puzzle demos are highly impressive and enjoyable slabs of thrashing death metal and will appeal to those of you who came from a time when metal bands emerged from obscurity with their own unique and powerful sound. Those were the days. -Marty
Vic Records

Owl – Into the Absolute

•June 25, 2014 • 2 Comments

owlInto the the Absolute, the open minded and colorful EP from the German duo Owl, is the bands 3rd musical voyage since 2011, and is my first trip into their creatively diverse world. Though this output does maintain a common thread spun throughout the 4 tracks, Into the Absolute dares to defy stereotypes as Owl effortlessly embody many differing styles of heavy expression to paint their bleak portrait.

The title track lurches out of the gate with a dark and doomy presence augmented by a machine-like dissonance and choppiness in the riff work. This produces a head nodding crawl, colorized with a very modern guitar tone. The riffs themselves are simplistic and endlessly heavy due to the avoidance of technical embellishments and what sounds like music created and executed on one down-tuned string. When the blasting erupts into this track, it gives us a break from the sloth-like hammering and shows that Owl are working with many different formulas to arrive at their desired impact. The composition in a lot of ways is flawless as each track flows effortlessly, further spiced up by synth and other technological manipulations. Vocally, Christian Kolf is a master of all trades when it comes to knowing which delivery fits the mood being set by the music AND he pulls off every delivery with skill and ease. His clean tones are morose and passionate. From there, he shouts, screams and death moans his way through this material. The clinical nature of the production and modern styles that slip in to congeal with the metal underbelly of Into the Absolute, not to mention some of the compositional ques Owl emplys, puts me in mind of a more foreboding and underground metal inspired Devin Townsend. For some reason, this may make some of you purists cringe at the thought, but I mean that as a compliment. Even though Devin’s music is something I rarely desire listening to, there is no denying the mans talent and dedication to what he does. He’s quite a passionate songwriter and performer. Even though he may come off as kooky or pandering to the commercial side of metal, you cant take that away from him.

I get the impression that Into the Absolute is a closer realization of a deeper evolution for Owl than this Eps predecessors and it works as a good starting point for a guy like myself just getting my feet wet with this project. Perhaps 4 songs is just a teaser to the potential full immersion that could be experiences on a proper full-length. Even though Owl isn’t a style or the type of band that I often gravitate towards, Into the Absolute has been a fine escape from reality. Maybe even bordering on meditative. -Marty
Zeitgeister Music

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