TRAVERSE THE ABYSS – EP Review: “Traverse the Abyss”

Traverse the Abyss album art

Traverse the Abyss is a heavy metal band based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Their intense, face-melting sound draws from a myriad of metal sub-genres, including classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, nu-metal and metal core, as well as hard rock, rock’n’roll and even punk influences. They formed in 2016 and quickly got to work recording their first album Gamble of Life, which was released that November. It was an impressive debut, and you can read my review here. Since then, they’ve dropped three singles, all of which are now included on their new self-titled EP Traverse the Abyss. 

The band has undergone a few personnel changes since their beginning, and the current line up is now Eric Abyss (Vocals), “Iron” Mike White (Guitar), Mike “Bnoc” Bieniecki (Bass/Backing Vocals), Matt Mierzejewski (Guitar) and Nathan Cardona (Drums).

The guys get right down to business with the scorching opening track “Failure.” Our ears are greeted with a wailing guitar solo that’s quickly broken by an explosion of stabbing shredded guitars, jack-hammer death metal riffs, and speaker-blowing drums. Halfway through, the guys throw some nice melodic riffage into the maelstrom of furious guitars, adding texture and complexity to the track. Eric screams the lyrics with a savage ferocity that’s almost frightening.

I hope he has a good ear, nose and throat specialist, because he’ll surely need one after he’s done ripping his vocal cords to shreds on “Dead Weight.” This is a real head-banger, with frantic riffs of raging guitars, crushing bass and pummeling drums.  Eric brutally screams the biting lyrics that are a total repudiation of someone who’d fucked you over: “I think you’ve mistaken me for someone who truly gives a fuck.”

Traverse the Abyss turns introspective on “Time Flies,” ruminating on life changes and the inevitable loss and regret many of us experience with the passage of time: “I have to live with decisions that I’ve made. Yet they make me who I am today. / I lie awake every night and reminisce. About my friends and family and times that I miss, and how they are never coming back.”

The guys continue on their rampaging path of sonic destruction with the face-melting “Family” and “Inner Demons.” The furious, fast-paced riffs rain down hot and heavy, but with an amazing intricacy, and Eric’s death metal growls are positively bestial. They inject a heavy dose of rock’n’roll into their metal on “Battle Cry,” one of my favorite tracks on the album. It opens with a playful burst of fiendish laughter, then Eric sings “A scooba dooba do bop ba bop bam boo” before frantic rolling guitars, heavy bass and thunderous drums take over. “Iron” Mike and Matt tear through the airwaves with jaw-dropping riffs as sharp as razor wire, while Eric screams the lyrics that are a clarion call against tyranny.

I thought I’d heard the most brutal music the band had to offer, but I was wrong! The guys really bare their death metal teeth and dial up the ferocity on the final track “Blink.” Man, the staccato death metal riffs are like machine-gun fire on steroids, and the pummeling bass and drums so powerful I could feel them in my gut. Eric seems to stretch his vocal abilities to the breaking point, his screams and growls matching the fury of the instrumentals note for note. It’s a great finish to a fantastic, hard-hitting album.

With their sophomore effort, Traverse the Abyss further confirm their strengths for writing outstanding heavy/death metal songs with compelling, relevant lyrics and great melodies, as well as their skills at bringing them to life with their impressive musicianship. With two great albums now under their belt, I would safely say they’re a band on an upward trajectory.

Catch them at one of these upcoming shows:

Connect with Traverse the Abyss:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music:  Spotify / Apple Music / Reverbnation
Purchase on  iTunes / Bandcamp

CEREBRAL DESECRATION – Single Review: “Peel of the Rotten”

Cerebral Desecration is an amazing death/thrash metal band based in San Marcos, Texas.  Founded in 2010 by guitarists David Machado and Javier Zamora, the band also includes Kobey Lange on vocals, Joe Muniz on bass, and Collyn Rios on drums. Their brutal sound is heavily influenced by bands such as Testament, Obituary, Hatebreed, Sepultura, Pantera, Whitechapel and Lamb of God, to name a few. They released a debut EP Immortals in 2013, and now return with a face-melting new single “Peel of the Rotten.”

The guys waste no time getting right down to business, unleashing from the get-go a juggernaut of raging buzz-saw guitars, crushing basslines and gut-punching drums. Having two lead guitarists gives their sound extra heft, and Machado and Zamora nicely deliver an unrelenting barrage of furious jackhammer riffs that will satisfy any metal head. Zamora plays a beautiful little melodic riff in the bridge that momentarily draws our attention from the relentless onslaught. Muniz nearly blows the speakers with his supermassive bass, while Rios pummels his drums with awe-inspiring fury.

My ears are bleeding, and I haven’t even gotten to the vocals yet! Lange is quite honestly one of the best death metal vocalists I’ve heard in a long while. He sings with a ferocity that boggles the mind, like a rampaging beast stomping through the streets, laying waste to everything in its path. He seems to effortlessly transition from guttural growls to savage screams and back again without skipping a beat.

It’s a fairly long track, clocking in at 5:16 minutes, but there’s not a single throwaway moment or note. It’s a magnificent death metal song from a totally badass band! Take a listen and see for yourself:

Fun fact: I love that the track was recorded at the Dead Room Recording Studio.

Connect with Cerebral Desecration: Facebook / TwitterInstagram / Reverbnation

APOTHEON – EP Review: “Mechanically Consumed”

Mechanically Consumed EP

Hailing from the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado, indie band Apotheon plays some of the most complex and melodic death metal I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing. Their music goes from face-melting one moment to captivating the next, sometimes within the same track. They create songs of incredible depth and intelligence, while still delivering bone-crushing riffs and brutal vocals that will satisfy the pickiest of death metal fans.

Formed in 2014, Apotheon is made up of five accomplished musicians – Reece Deeter (Vocals), Fernando del Valle (Guitar), Ian Burnside (Guitar), Ibrahim Jimenez (Bass) and Andrew Morris (Drums). All band members participate in writing the music, and the lyrics are written by Deeter. They released their debut four-track EP The Ascension in 2016, and in June of this year, dropped their second EP Mechanically Consumed.

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The EP is rather unconventional in that it contains four new tracks – one instrumental and three with vocals – plus instrumental versions of the three, for a total of seven tracks. But even with only four original tracks, the three with vocals are all of epic proportions, two of them running more than seven minutes in length. As a result, the EP feels more like a full album in scope.

The opening track “Premonition” is just that: a brief but powerful instrumental that serves as an introduction to the dynamic and multi-faceted music stylings of Apotheon, and sets the tone for the three monster tracks to come. A repeating circular riff is backed by shredded guitars, hammering bass and percussion. At the one and a half minute mark, the track slows down as moody synths are added that replicate a harpsichord, strings and a xylophone, among other instruments.

The track scarcely ends before we’re hit with the full-frontal assault of thunderous riffs, bass and drums of “Tyken’s Rift.” Deeter growls his way through the seven-minute track, screaming the lyrics that speak to mankind’s need to rid ourselves of all the artifice and bullshit we’ve bought into:

The human mind can only take so much.
Break the rift or be trapped.
An unnatural state, awake amongst the drained.
So strange, so restless. Wake. Repeat
.

At song’s end, he wails “To break free, there must be release” as the instrumentals rise to a blazing crescendo.

The band’s skill at combining totally different rhythmic stylings into one song is beautifully demonstrated on “Mechanically Consumed.” The track starts off with a delicate synth and foreboding violin strokes, then suddenly erupts into a cacophony of wailing guitars, staccato breakdown riffs and Deeter’s screaming and guttural vocals. At the halfway mark, the track abruptly shifts to a melodic 50-second-long interlude, where keyboards, xylophone and percussion conjure up images of a macabre carnival ride, before death metal instrumentals and vocals return for the outro.

Shredded machine-gun riffs, explosive drums and bits of harpsichord dominate on the monumental “Flesh Machine.” Deeter fires off savage death metal growls at a jaw-dropping pace, a testament to his astonishing vocal dexterity and control. He screams the vivid lyrics about a life born not from a higher power, but from our own imagination:

An amalgamation of body parts lowered into the mold
The skeleton is slowly embedded, Installed, this is your vessel
Enter the flesh machine
Assembled, built around a luminous pilot
Light drowned by wet flesh
Senses activated. Nervous system brought to life
Spasms cause convulsions, vision online
An outside light source initiates birth
This is this is your life. Enter the flesh machine. Enter reality.

At 2:45 the tempo abruptly shifts into a soothing, dreamy soundscape of gentle guitars, percussion and sweeping synths. My take is that it symbolizes the hope of living the existence of our dreams. Then, just as quickly, at 3:38 it erupts into a barrage of machine-gun riffs, swirling guitars, battering-ram drums and Deeter’s brutal vocals admonishing us to take control of our own reality and create the life we yearn to have.

Connect with Apotheon:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music:  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase:  Bandcamp / iTunes / Amazon

Album Review: TRAVERSE THE ABYSS – “The Gamble of Life”

If you like music that melts your face off, then Traverse the Abyss is the band for you! These guys from Scranton, Pennsylvania play metal so heavy, it’ll knock you on your ass. The first time I listened to their debut album The Gamble of Life I was blown away by the sustained, unrelenting fury of their instrumentals and vocals from beginning to end. The thing is, despite the crushing intensity of their music, it’s still accessible and highly melodic. As an added bonus, their lyrics are heavily peppered with “fuck” – my favorite word in the English language.

The band formed only a year ago, in early 2016, and spent much of the year writing and recording songs for their debut album, which was released in November. For the recording of the album, the band line-up included Eric Ross on lead vocals, “Iron” Mike White on lead guitar, Mike “Bnoc” Bieniecki on bass/backing vocals, and Phil Luongo on drums. Luongo left the band in January 2017 and they welcomed new drummer Nelson Negron and second guitarist Seth Cardona.

traverse-the-abyss

The music style of Traverse the Abyss draws from classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, groove metal, metalcore, hard rock, rock’n’roll and punk. In a conversation with band front man Eric via Twitter messaging, he stated “we are all fans of metal and all the different sub genres within it. We like to blend all our influences together to get a more unique sound compared to the monotony of most modern music. Instead of going towards an album with intentions of writing to appeal to only one crowd like some deathcore & death metal bands do, we write more based on the vibe presented.

Regarding the gambling/card theme of the album and song titles, Eric explained “The gambling theme came into play when we first started writing songs. The first two songs we wrote were ‘Royal Flush’ and ‘One of a Kind,’ and our guitarist said ‘what are we going with, a gambling theme?’ Gambling themed titles with a life reference in the song: ‘One of a Kind’ – be yourself; ‘Snake Eyes’ – death/bullets/hatred;  ‘Joker’ – being used/revenge.

The album storms out of the gate with the first track “One of a Kind.” No song lead-in here, but rather an instantaneous onslaught of pummeling bass, machine-gun riffs, hammering drums and Eric’s furious vocals. He screams “Am I the only one who follows his own path? Am I the only one that doesn’t live by a fad?” Halfway through, the song tempo changes a bit, guitars and heavy bass ablaze as Eric shrieks  “I would like to know, who the fuck you think you are? You act like you’re some sort of god.

Not skipping a beat, the second track “All In” explodes with a full-on assault of blistering guitars, powerful bass and fierce vocals. The song is a thrash metal/rock’n’roll gem, even containing a ‘sex, drugs, rock’n’roll‘ lyric. There’s no let up as the album segues to the brutally hard-hitting “Royal Flush.” Unbelievably, the ferocity of Eric’s hardcore, growling vocals reach new heights, and remain there in the intensely dark “21 or Bust.” He screams “Who do I ask these questions? Who’s got a fucking answer? I just want to know what’s the meaning of life.” Shredded guitars and more savage vocals are the highlights of the menacing “Snake Eyes.” By this point, I’m wondering if Eric has any vocal cords left!

I like every song on the album, but a favorite is the frenetic, punk-infused “Aces High.” Awesome, rapid-fire guitar riffs, buzzing bass and staccato drums keep the energy at full speed. Eric’s vocals alternate between clear and hardcore, and I love when he sings “woo” at 2:44, providing a bit of levity in an otherwise intense song. Speaking of which, the intensity dial is turned all the way to ‘High’ on “Diamonds.” The machine-gun-fire bass and hardcore vocals are positively brutal, yet we’re treated to some melodic guitar solos too. Eric growls “Fuck your Disrespect. Its funny now I see the people who support me. Just look over my shoulder and you’ll see the people who matter to me.”

Joker” is the perfect kiss-off – or should I say ‘fuck-off’ song – with furious instrumentals and vocals to match the searing lyrics: “Reap what you sow, don’t go crying to me./ To be honest, I think you should go fuck yourself!” The fury continues unabated in “Bullets“, with staccato riffs and hammering drums that literally sound like machine gun fire. The album closes with the superb title track “Gamble of Life.” The nearly six and a half minute song begins with a haunting distorted guitar solo accompanied by mysterious vocals, then abruptly changes to a rapid heavy metal beat. Bnoc’s staccato bass is at full throttle, with pummeling drums and shredded guitars keeping pace. Eric’s screaming hardcore vocals intensify in the last two minutes, and by song’s end I’m completely spent.

The Gamble of Life is an impressive debut album from this highly talented group of musicians. I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great music from them in the future. Support Traverse the Abyss by following them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Spotify. Gamble of Life may be purchased on iTunes and other music sites offering music for download.

Song Review: GODZILLA LOVES LEMON TREES – “Kaiju”

I’ve long been a fan of hard rock, but it’s only fairly recently that I began appreciating hardcore, death metal, metalcore, deathcore, and all their sub-genres. In fact, I’ve come to like this music so much that I can now state that I’m a big fan, and the louder and more intense the better! What distinguishes hardcore and death metal from traditional hard rock are the powerful, distorted instrumentals and highly aggressive, brutal vocals. And whereas I once thought those brutal vocals were just a lot of guttural screaming, I’ve since learned that there’s a real art to that style of vocalizing (though one criticism I have is that it can be difficult or impossible to understand the often deeply meaningful and compelling lyrics).

I recently discovered a new basscore metal band with one of the best names I’ve seen in a while – Godzilla Loves Lemon Trees. The band is actually a duo from Cremona, Italy, consisting of Luca Barbanotti, who plays a 7-string bass guitar, and Ded (Federico “Dedde” Balestreri) who does the incredible vocalizing.  The guys call their particular style of music ‘basscore’ because there are no guitars, only bass, which creates a much heavier, denser sound. For a detailed explanation of the origin of their sound and influences, check out this excellent article on the band by Darkland Promotions. But for the sake of reference, I’ll just state that Luca and Ded claim as their influences the hardcore and death metal bands Korn, Tool, Iron Maiden, Gojira, Mastodon, Extinction Level Event, Car Bomb and Cradle of Filth, among others.

Their song lyrics are built around the theme of monsters and humanity, specifically the irony of humanity as seen through the eyes of different monsters. Their debut single is “Kaiju,” named for the Japanese film genre that features classic monsters such as Godzilla who typically attack major cities and engage the military and other monsters in battle. The monster theme is fitting, as Godzilla Loves Lemon Trees play really intense, face-melting music. The song is fairly simple but incredibly powerful, with relentlessly heavy, pummeling bass and furious, staccato drums that conjure up images of a rampaging monster on the loose, laying waste to everything in its path. Despite the crushing intensity of the bass, Luca still manages to make it sound quite melodic. Ded’s savage vocals match the ferocity of the instrumentals note for note. Crank up the volume to fully appreciate this gem!

I’ve included the hard-hitting lyrics that help explain the song’s meaning:

Confused phases of existence melting the hemispheres of denial
within this cubical space, within open wounds.
Chaos can never be stopped…
For this illusion of time shall drop while the makers of cruelty erupts.
I have walked the earth, even before you were in her womb,
laughed with the eyes of intentional extinction.
Tangled between the edge of endless nightmares…
Searching for you at the gates of my passage.
You are nonsense with the blankest reason to exist.
You tried to evolve, but the result ended up in corrosion.
Watch the failure of creation infest the life before your eyes!
Why justify your doubts to your non-existent idols?
Just erase your hope for a better existence.
The fracture has opened…
Unexpected spectrum of life, knocking the concrete void of the mind…
Suicide will never stop your destined ever lasting torment.

Ded is also involved with a number of other music projects, providing vocals for the bands Abdominal Rupture, Call It A Plan, and Atomic Factory. Here’s a video of him covering a song that really shows his amazing vocalizing talents that range from high-pitched screams to the deepest growls. His ferocious sounds sure contrast with his handsome, personable appearance!

Support Godzilla Loves Lemon Trees by following them on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel. “Kaiju” may be purchased on Bandcamp.