UNDER AEGIS – EP Review: “[Extinct]”

Under Aegis is a Progressive Djent Metalcore band with a lot to say. Their brutal in-your-face sound, born from generous amounts of crushing bass, explosive guitars, speaker-blowing drums and ferocious vocals, bulldozes a path of sonic destruction. At the same time, they launch a frontal assault on societal evil, hypocrisy and bullshit with their violent but compelling lyrics.

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin based foursome includes Nik Dennee on vocals, Bao Vo on guitar, and brothers Avery Gaitens on bass and Parker Gaitens on drums. In December 2016, they released their hard-hitting EP [Extinct] (two years after their debut EP The Narcissist). We’ve followed each other on Twitter for more than a year, and I’m finally getting around to featuring them on this blog.

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[Extinct] confronts a dystopian world where violence, corruption and despair reign. The opening track “Apex Predator” sets the tone with a full-blown attack on every one of our senses. Avery lays down a bass line so intense you can feel it pounding against your chest, while Bao shreds and distorts his guitar nearly to the breaking point. With his jackhammer drums working in tandem with the crushing bass, Parker seems intent on blowing out the speakers – or our eardrums! Nik growls and screams the lyrics like a rampaging T-Rex: “I am a savage fucking beast at the prime of my killing spree. Brutal. Savage. Controlled by instinct. I always wondered what fed this thirst. Pull yourself together. You won’t feel a god damn thing.”

Unbelievably, the band somehow manages to dial up the intensity on “Born Sick.” The drums and bass are even heavier, and by now I’m certain my head’s gonna explode. The lyrics seem to be about the belief that man is born cursed with original sin, and in a continuous struggle to make it through life in one piece. Nik unleashes his fury as he screams “It’s never safe to say that tomorrow is another day. Live and learn and love and respect, because every breath you take is just another fucking side effect. I’m lost, an empty shell, living in fear.” 

Invective” speaks to someone contemplating taking their own life as a way out from dealing with their problems. “You said you’d give anything for a good night’s sleep. Now you have found a solution not so temporary. You’re a fucking coward taking the easy road to eternity. Listen close, no need to be nervous. Just relax it’s only self disposal. Every tragedy begins with a simple idea. You fucking coward. You worthless waste of fucking flesh. Why don’t you close the door. Roll up your fucking window. And just fucking give up.” The track has some seriously good guitar work, and Nik comes close to tearing his vocals chords to shreds as he whips himself into a vocal frenzy.

There’s no letup to the sonic onslaught on “Total Void,” a depressing song about the futility of life in a dystopian society: “We’re all born with broken bones. Suspended, hanging from a rope. So just lose all fucking hope! The ground is breaking beneath us. Sanity controls us. The ground is breaking behind us. Be free and follow me into nothing. Losing your mind could be the end of your struggle.

Nomad” is the most melodic and, at nearly five minutes, longest of the tracks on the EP.  It starts off with a mysterious guitar riff, then heavy percussion and bass ensue, accompanied by layers of shredded and distorted guitars. Nik passionately screams the lyrics that speak to man’s eternal search for meaning and purpose on an earth that’s increasingly being degraded by his own selfish actions:  “All the lines that we used to know they have all been crossed. In this world nothing is fair. No one belongs anywhere, We are all thieves. Searching for our piece of this rotten world long that has been long deceased. Overgrown cities, self absorbed drones. I’m not a miracle, I’m a walking crime scene. Outline me in chalk. Write my obituary.

Under Aegis demonstrate with [Extinct] that they are not only amazing musicians, they’re also adept at writing deeply powerful, relevant lyrics that speak to social and personal upheaval. Bao told me they’re now working on new songs that will address political and governmental issues, and I can’t wait to hear them.

Follow Under Aegis:  Facebook /  Twitter /  Instagram

Stream their music:  YouTube /  Spotify

Purchase:  Bandcamp /  iTunes

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.

Album Review: ASHES IN THE SKY – “Relentless”

Metal and Hardcore Rock – and all their variations such as Post-Hardcore, Metalcore, Death Metal, Death Core, Nu Metal, Groove Metal, Doom, etc. – continue to remain popular, with a steady number of talented bands making those types of music coming onto the scene. As a result of discovering several really good hardcore and heavy metal bands, I’ve become a bigger fan of those genres myself. One such band I recently discovered when their bassist contacted me about reviewing their album is Ashes In The Sky, a five piece hard rock/metal band from Long Island, New York. They released their album Relentless in July 2016, and it’s quite appropriately titled, with 11 intense, ball-busting tracks that will have you shouting fuck yeah!

Formed in 2010, Ashes In The Sky now consists of twin brothers and original members Patrick and Anthony “Javs”  Javino, and their ‘three best friends’ Dave Lombardo, Anthony Villani and Andrew Kohn. Javs plays lead guitar, Patrick hits drums, Anthony plays bass, Andrew sings lead vocals and Dave plays rhythm guitar and provides the brutal screams. They’re all from Long Island and share a strong passion for music. Like many bands, their sound is influenced by some of their favorite artists, most notably Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine, Disturbed, Pantera, Trivium, Drowning Pool, Queen, and even The Beatles.

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Relentless opens with the gorgeous one and a half minute intro track “Spread the Ashes (A New Fire).” A simple, haunting piano movement starts things off, then strings, guitars and percussion usher in a sweeping rock melody that builds until it explodes into the blistering second track “Here to Stay.” Metallica’s influence is really apparent in this song, with a barrage of rapid-fire machine-gun guitar riffs, pummeling bass and hammering drums. Andrew Kohn passionately sings, with Dave Lombardo screaming the refrains: “No more fighting now, we are all here to stay / Conflicted by your laws no, I will always remain.

The band launches a full-frontal assault on the title track “Relentless.” The song truly lives up to its name, with guitars so hard-hitting and dense that they feel and sound like heavy percussion. Patrick Javino’s speaker-blowing drums ramp up the song’s intensity to even greater heights, and the ear-splitting vocals are downright fearsome. This merciless track will blow the hair right off your head! The guys don’t skip a beat with “Euthanasia,” a bombastic hardcore anthem about fighting against mind-control. With their furious vocals, Kohn and Lombardo spit the lyrics  “Don’t be a pussy, what the fuck’s it gonna do? / Why can’t I just say goodbye? You made me control everything yet nothing at all. Before me there lies a path of destruction.” The song’s bridge contains a military-style chorus “I don’t know what I’ve been told. Your prophecies are getting old.”

The next several album cuts fuse melodic arrangements with the band’s signature heavy metal instrumentals. “Coward” is more straight-up hard rock, with stunning, complex guitar riffs, power drums, crashing cymbals and soaring vocals that implore “You’re nothing but a fucking coward, using love to get your way. So please don’t ask me if I think that you’re the one to blame.” This is one of my favorite tracks – if it’s even possible to have a ‘favorite’ as every track on this album is pretty phenomenal.

Empty Space” is a great melodic track, with more of the band’s killer guitar work and a combination of both heartfelt and fierce vocals. The compelling lyrics speak to feelings of loss from a failed relationship: “I’ll say anything to make you stay. But words won’t fill this empty space / What is my purpose? What am I fighting for?” “Rain” starts off with a beautiful, rather mournful melody accompanied by multi-textured guitars, strong percussion and Kohn’s impassioned vocals, backed by guest vocalist Lauren DeLorenzo. Halfway through, we’re hit with a sudden blast of staccato guitars and guttural screams, then an onslaught of incredible guitar solos guaranteed to raise goosebumps.

The band unleashes its sonic fury in “Torn Away,” one of the standout tracks on the album. This jaw-dropping song kicks major ass! The guitars and percussion are nothing short of monumental, and the vocals are classic hardcore. As if Kohn and Lombardo’s powerful vocals aren’t fearsome enough, Kohn’s brother Tim’s guest vocals on this track are positively brutal. They scream “WHY!? Did it have to end this way?  (Couldn’t I make it okay?) All that’s loved is lost as I am torn away.” By song’s end I’m left speechless. I love the powerful video showing the band performing the song in a barn.

The final three tracks – “What Makes a Man,” the bombastic “Ene(me)” and “Fractures” – serve up more helpings of the band’s rapid-fire shredded and distorted guitars and heavy bass, along with both emphatic and hardcore vocals. All three songs are great, each clocking in at more than five and half minutes. “Ene(me)” is particularly brutal.

Ashes in the Sky is one of the better hard rock/heavy metal bands I’ve come across, and Relentless is a superb album, without a single throwaway song. Support these guys by following them on  Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to their YouTube channel, which features several videos of Tony Javs performing guitar cover solos of heavy metal songs. Stream their music on Spotify or Google Play, and purchase on iTunes or Amazon.

Artist Spotlight – Drillhorse

If you like your rock hard, guitars shredded and vocals raw, then Australian band Drillhorse is for you! They play formidable, take-no-prisoners metalcore rock guaranteed to have you saying “fuck yeah!” Sometimes you just want to hear music that KICKS ASS, and Drillhorse delivers the goods.

Drillhorse Photo

I was immediately struck by this band’s honest authenticity, which I’ve found is what makes fans truly loyal at the end of the day. I hate to paraphrase too much, but in their bio, the band articulates their mission in a way I can’t improve upon:

“Over a period of seven years, we’ve managed to evolve from punk hardcore to ‘pale riders of hard rock.’ For most of that 7 years we were known as ‘A Lost Sense of Direction’ which got us ignored or confused with boy bands, [causing] significant pain. But believing wholly and solely in the capacity of rock to deliver joy to the human spirit in ways no other genre can, we’ve steered away from asking for external assistance, preferring to do it all off our own bat, commitment to tight, unreconstructed hard and innovative rock, free from interference, the media or general public indifference, other than that [which] we always get from our beloved fans. Drillhorse will continue to perform music we design our way and deliver it with punch to attract like-minds, those lonesome riders who come out to hear and see us whenever we play.”

Making the music are Miles ‘Ajax’ Bedak-Stone (vocals), Owen ‘Boo’Lawson (Rhythm Guitar), Harry ‘Cuddle’ Monson (Bass), and Jesse Adams (Drums/Percussion). Their songs are so awesome and compelling I’d like to include them all in this post, but have selected four of my favorites that provide a good representation of the band’s music range.

The first is their hyperkinetic single “Choppergate.”  With pummeling drums, gnashing guitars and Bedak-Stone’s furious raspy vocals, the song blasts through the speakers at a dizzying pace. The song lyrics attack the ‘ripoff pollie motherfuckers taking the people’s money and laughing all the way to retirement’ (in the band’s words). “Baby you look so good in your helicopter. Taking the bus from now on. Brought you down! Pull my leash! Tied to the mast, my captain.”  I liked this track so much the first time I heard it, I played it another three times before moving on to their next song!

“Drillhorse” storms out of the gate in a bombastic barrage of shredded guitars and pounding drums, with Bedak-Stone’s raw vocals on full display. This is a real head-banger!

One of the band’s more hardcore tracks, “Madmen” is a brutal attack on the military industrial complex. To their signature gnashing guitar, punctuated by some terrific riffs, Bedak-Stone screams “No shame, we kill and maim.”

The melodic rock gem “Half” is one of my favorite Drillhorse songs, with a great bass line, steady hard-driving beat and killer riffs.

To hear more of Drillhorse’s great music, check out their Soundcloud page, or you can purchase it on Bandcamp.  Support these guys by following them on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to their YouTube channel.