UNDER AEGIS – Single Review: “Separate”

UNDER AEGIS is a badass progressive djent metalcore band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who I’ve been following since their early days in 2016. Their brutal, take no prisoners sound, forged from explosive guitars, buzzsaw bass lines, speaker-blowing drums and fearsome vocals, is a full-frontal assault on the senses, while their biting, often provocative lyrics are in-your-face, yet highly relatable. Since their formation, UNDER AEGIS has experienced a couple of changes in vocalists, and the formidable lineup now consists of Carl Martin on vocals, Bao Vo on guitar, and brothers Avery Gaitens on bass and Parker Gaitens on drums.

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Photos by Kelley Curran

I’ve reviewed most of their music, beginning with their debut EP [Extinct] in 2016, followed by the scathing singles “Sedated” in August 2017, and “Point Blank” in March 2018. (You can check out those reviews by clicking on the links under ‘Related’ at the bottom of this page.) Now they’ve returned with a face-melting new single “Separate“, along with a violent but visually stunning video. The song is the first single from their forthcoming album Desolate, due out later this year.

About the song’s meaning, Carl Martin told the webzine The Noise, “I went through the darkest time of my life while in the process of writing these new songs. Each and every part has an intense emotional connection while in the midst of a performance. ‘Separate’ represents the desperation I felt to avoid people affecting my sanity over the course of a long period of time.” Thus the opening lyric “Separate yourself from those who bring you pain. Separate yourself. And fall into the weightlessness above”, which Martin sings in beautiful, clean vocals, accompanied by sweeping cinematic synths and Vo’s melodic guitar notes.

Suddenly, the song explodes into a thunderous maelstrom of tortured riffs, crushing bass and shattering percussion, and Martin turns into a rampaging beast, savagely screaming his bitter contempt: “You let me go the wrong fucking way! And I will never live life the same. Why don”t you show me the path to hell so I can forget your name? It’s time to make up my mind again. And rip out the heart of your lies!” Vo continues to blow our minds and eardrums with his furious shredding action while the Gaitens brothers keep the turbulent rhythm section going at full blast. These guys tear the mutherfucking roof off the sucker, and are among the best metalcore musicians around today, in my not so humble opinion.

The bloody but brilliantly filmed – and well-acted, I must say – video depicts the story of what appears to be a drug or some other deal gone terribly wrong, interspersed with footage of the band performing the song. In his discussion with The Noise about the band’s vision for the video, Martin explained, “The music video ties into the theme of the lyrics to an extent. Associating yourself with the wrong people leads to unfortunate circumstances. The bullet and near-death experience is a representation of reinventing yourself as an individual. On the other hand, Avery’s character represents bad decisions that catch up with you. The question is, ‘what’s in the bag?’ You will have to watch our next video to find out.”

Watch the intense video and prepare to be amazed by both the song and visuals:

Catch Under Aegis at one of these upcoming shows:
SAT JUNE 8 – X RAY ARCADE BAR, w/Oceano, The Cambion, Angelmaker, Cudahy, WI
SAT JUNE 29 – UNDER AEGIS @ SUMMERFEST, Milwaukee, WI
SAT AUGUST 10 – EDENFEST 2019, w/I Killed Everyone, Wausau, WI

Connect with Under Aegis:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify / Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

SHADOW OF EVEREST – Album Review: “The Hunting Ground”

Shadow of Everest album art

Shadow of Everest is a Canadian progressive groove metal band hailing from the beautiful city of Halifax, Nova Scotia. (I recently featured another Nova Scotia artist, singer/songwriter Guy Paul Thibault.) Formed in 2014, the band’s line-up includes guitarist/vocalist John Vriend, bassist Shaun Cowell, guitarist Andew Welsman and drummer Matt Burton. Influenced by some of their favorite hard rock bands Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Machine Head, Mastodon, Tool and Karnivool, they play an arresting and innovative style of metal rock, featuring intelligent lyrics penned by Vriend and delivered with unconventional melodies, wicked riffs, driving bass lines and pummeling drums.

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They released an impressive debut album Idle Hands in 2017, and this past March, dropped their sophomore album The Hunting Ground, which I’m reviewing today. As the album’s title suggests, the songs generally speak to the darker, feral nature inherent in each of us to some degree. Similar to their first album, The Hunting Ground opens with an intriguing instrumental track “Umm al-Maa”. Wondering what it might mean, I did a Google search and found it translates to “mother of water” in Berber Arabic, and is also the name of one of several lake oases in the Idehan Ubari Sand Sea located in the Sahara Desert of southwestern Libya. The music on this brief track consists of strummed guitar, delicate piano keys and what I’m guessing to be a cello, accompanied by sounds of wind and water that beautifully convey the sense of mystery and wonder of a remote oasis. The dark irony is that the water in these oases is too salty to drink. John commented “Imagine being lost in the desert and finding that oasis, and then drinking the salty water would be your demise.

They next launch into “Fifty Four”, serving up chugging riffs of gnarly guitars over a foundation of buzzing bass and hammering drumbeats, and punctuated by flourishes of distortion. Vriend’s commanding vocals express a raw urgency as he sings about feelings of hopelessness and ennui: “Substituting for a lack of stimulation. Seeking out the offspring of my mind. Beneath consciousness there’s desperation that fits nicely into my design.” The title track “The Hunting Ground” at first sounds almost like a continuation of “Fifty Four”, with a similar melody and chord progression, but the killer guitar solos in the bridge and outro turn it into an especially satisfying track. Vriend passionately sings the lyrics that seem to speak to the age-old notion of survival of the fittest – ‘kill or be killed”: “Hear that wild call. Smoke them out. Rise or fall. Become what you fear.”

Here’s a great video of the guys performing the song live.

One of the highlights of the album for me is the gorgeous “We Are Wrong”. I usually like when metal and hard rock bands show their softer side with a slow ballad, and Shadow of Everest are no exception here. I love the haunting melody, outstanding guitar work, and especially the sublime vocal harmonies of Vriend and guest singer Erin Crosby. Guest musician Lex Coulstring played keyboards on this lovely track. The message expressed in the lyrics seem to be that “ignorance is bliss”: “And the moments became too many. Time keeps passing on. One day we understand. The next day we are wrong.”

“Castle in the Sky” is hard-driving metal rock at its finest, with rock’n’roll overtones and more of the raging guitars this band so nicely delivers.  This song seems to be about needing to be rescued from a life of degradation and despair: “Couldn’t see the splendor from the underground. There was no will to satisfy. Pull me out of the loss and the ruin. Those broken pieces will build our castle in the sky.” The aptly-named “Dark Spiral” dives deeper into progressive metal, with interesting melodic transitions and greater use of dissonance in the song structure, not to mention fearsome riffs and Cowell’s crushing bass. Vriend’s impassioned vocals are almost chilling as he wails “How does it feel to be spinning on a tangible wave of magnificence? As an ignorant drone, completely unaware and obsessed with your own insignificance.”

The guys unleash their sonic fury on “Ravenman”, the most metal-esque (is that a word?) track on the album and another one of its highlights. It’s a monumental six minute, 49-second-long tour de force of rampaging riffs, buzzsaw bass and Burton’s speaker-blowing drums.  The hardcore backing vocals are sung by Lex Coulstring. Thought I’m not certain, my take is that ‘Ravenman’ represents the devil, or at least the inherent evil that each of us is capable of: “I know the nightmares, what they mean. What you should fear, the shadows in your head, the violence in your hand. Be not a patron to the failures of the damned.” It’s a fantastic song.

They close things out with “The River”, another epic track that seems to be about the end of the world: “The earth is parting and the vultures fly. Statues crumble while the pharaohs die. What glory lies beyond the river’s flow? We’re unaware how far this shadow goes.” As always, Vriend and Welsman deliver scorching riffs while Cowell and Burton confidently maintain the aggressive rhythm section. It’s a strong finish to a solid album of heavy hitters. The guys are all highly accomplished musicians who now have two outstanding albums on their impressive resume. I trust we’ll be hearing more great music from them in the future.

Connect with Shadow of Everest:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on  Spotify
Purchase on  Bandcamp / iTunes / Google Play

BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “Dissident”

Black Lakes

A few posts back, I mentioned that it seemed half the artists and bands I’ve previously featured on this blog are releasing new music in 2019, and another one of them is BLACK|LAKES, a progressive alternative metal rock band that collectively hail from South Wales & Southwest England. Comprising the band are five enormously talented musicians – Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Last October (2018), they released a monumental single “The Divide” which I reviewed, and now return with hard-hitting new single “Dissident“, which drops today.

The track opens with a brooding guitar riff accompanied by an ominous synth chord, then explodes with a barrage of chugging riffs, pummeling bass and thunderous drums. After ten seconds, everything calms down to a melodic interlude of pulsating guitars and measured percussion during the verses, only to ramp back up into a furious onslaught for the choruses, keeping us in a continual state of tension. The guitar work throughout the song is fantastic, really showcasing Scott and James’ considerable talents on their respective six-strings. Lee’s deep bass lines drive the track forward while Dafydd pounds his drums like his life depends upon it.

Will’s resonant vocals remind me a bit of Puddle of Mudd’s Wes Scantlin, starting off smooth and plaintive as he bitterly renounces someone who’s hurt and betrayed him: “Here inside this cage, this never ending maze. Watching myself waste away. The bitterness I taste. Complete intemperance. I sit and slowly count the days.” They turn raw and impassioned in the choruses when he defiantly screams that he will survive and move on: “The last words I’ll ever say. In spite of you I will not fade into a world plagued by you.

“Dissident” is a magnificent and electrifying rock song that proves Black|Lakes’ can continue to deliver the heavy and melodic progressive metal we’ve grown to love from this amazing band.

Connect with Black|Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream/purchase on Spotify iTunes

BLACK | LAKES – Single Review: “The Divide”

I’m back in the UK, this time to shine my spotlight on the band BLACK | LAKES, who just released their phenomenal debut single “The Divide.” The band is comprised of five members who hail from South Wales and Southwest England, including Will S. Preston (lead vocals), Scott Bradshaw (guitar, backing vocals), James Rowlands (guitar, backing vocals), Lee Harris (bass) and Dafydd Fuller (drums). Influenced by too many bands to name, they play an electrifying and melodic style of progressive alternative metal rock.

Black Lakes Promo 2

The single was produced and mastered by Romesh Dodangoda at Longwave Studios, and premiered along with a review on Down the Front Media. As the band explained in that post, “The Divide” is “about rejecting the predetermined path laid out in front of you by mainstream society. It’s about demanding your individuality in a world hell bent on making you the same.” The article’s author Claire Hill goes on to say: “Based on the band’s collective personal experience and persistent, bitter disappointment at being let down by those holding positions of power and authority, ‘The Divide’ is a pretty good assessment of what a lot of people feel about what is happening in society today.”

The song starts off with a delicate synth chord, then blasts open with a cascade of gnarly and wailing guitars, mammoth bass, and thunderous drums. As the song progresses, layers of jangly and distorted guitars are added to the already dynamic mix, propelling the track into the sonic stratosphere.  Will’s gorgeous vocals are filled with passion as he fervently sings the powerful lyrics, soaring to intense heights in the choruses that spread chills up and down our spines: “One by one we fall in line with docile obedience. In lies we trust, stand in line justified you’re one of us. Father forgive them for the lives they have stolen. Further we are taken down the paths they have chosen. One more time.”

It’s a monumental track, and as close to perfect as any rock song I’ve heard lately. The brilliant video was created by Yuvraj Imaginaria. Check it out:

Connect with Black | Lakes:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream on  Apple Music
Purchase on  iTunes

AGENCY PANIC – Single Review: “Panic”

Agency Panic 2

Agency Panic is an alternative/progressive metal rock band based in Wexford, Ireland, and in July they made an auspicious debut with the release of their powerful new single “Panic.” It’s the first song off what they are calling their ‘drip feed’ EP, which is being released one song at a time. Making the hard-hitting noise are J.D.K. on vocals, Tubs on guitars, Lee on bass, and Revsy on drums.

“Panic” is four minutes and 49 seconds of hard rock perfection. The track opens with a blast of crashing drums and fierce guitar, and never lets up. The guitar work is phenomenal – Tubs sets the airwaves afire with scorching riffs of shredded and wailing guitars that are pure bliss for those of us who love intense, guitar-driven melodic rock. Lee lays down a solid bedrock of heavy bass, while Revsy pounds his drum kit like a man possessed. J.D.K.’s strong, passionate vocals are chilling as he snarls the dark lyrics, becoming downright feral in the song’s finale when he screams the words alongside the raging guitars, sending shivers up and down my spine.

It’s an incredible song that leaves me wanting to hear more from this amazing group of musicians, and I cannot wait for their next single! The intense black and white video shows the band performing the song in a darkened room with ominous-looking shadows, alternating with scenes of a man stealing, then destroying, medical records and cutting off his fingerprints in what appears to be an attempt to hide his very existence. Later in the video are scenes of civil unrest and other disturbing images, juxtaposed with the band’s performance of the now almost violent music and vocals. Have a look and prepare to be blown away:

Connect with Agency Panic:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream “Panic” on  Spotify /  Apple Music
Purchase on  Bandcamp /  iTunes

UNDER AEGIS – Single Review: “Point Blank”

UNDER AEGIS is a phenomenal Progressive Djent Metal band who kick ass and take no prisoners. Their brutal sound – forged from explosive guitars, buzzsaw bass lines, speaker-blowing drums and fierce vocals – is a full-frontal assault on the ears, while their provocative lyrics call out societal evil, hypocrisy and bullshit. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based foursome released their monumental EP [Extinct] in 2016, followed by the scathing single “Sedated” in August 2017, both of which I reviewed on this blog. They’ve now dropped a brand new single “Point Blank,” delivering more of their signature face-melting metalcore we’ve come to expect.

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Photos by Luke Steffens

Along with their new single, UNDER AEGIS also has a charismatic new vocalist Carl Martin (who also mixed the track).  He sounds amazing whether he’s aggressively singing and rapping in clean vocals or ferociously screaming guttural metalcore. Rounding out the band lineup are the talented original members Bao Vo on guitar, and brothers Avery Gaitens on bass and Parker Gaitens on drums.

The powerful track is brutal yet melodic, with relentless wailing riffs and Avery’s bone-crushing bass providing a fitting backdrop for Carl’s furious vocals. Through it all, we hear Bao’s eerily beautiful recurring guitar riff that seems to rise out of the maelstrom, while Parker pummels his drum kit with all the strength he can muster. The three minute fifteen second long track leaves us drained but still wanting more. It’s awesome.

My take on the song’s meaning is that we’re all brain-dead and living a hopeless existence in a dystopian society fed a steady diet of pernicious misinformation and thought-control. Carl snarls and growls the bleak lyrics:

The only plan that will meet our demand is when we don’t exist.
Our lives are staged, stuck in a cage.
Projecting conscience in our brains.
When will you begin to conceive it as fake? Everyone is the enemy.
Point blank to the side of our head
they pull the trigger but they didn’t know we’re already dead.
Sweet dreams when they fill us with lead
I’d rather die alone than live with regret.
No life is the ultimatum when you follow in the trail of misinformation.
Every opportunity becomes an altercation, but according to the facts on foreign relations,
It’s inevitable that we can’t change the way the world sways upon the main stage,
and they don’t really give a fuck what we say
they can have the world and we’ll take the day.
Cut the fucking strings, the operation of change is in motion.
So take a shot at me point blank and watch expression leave my face.
I’ve always wanted to escape this fucking place.
Dissemination’s upon us, we live a lie, it’s larger than a nation.
Point blank to the side of our head
they pull the trigger but they didn’t know we’re already dead, so fuck it.

Connect with Under Aegis:  Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
Stream their music on Spotify or Apple Music
Purchase on iTunes

UNDER AEGIS – Single Review: “Sedated”

Under Aegis

Under Aegis is a Progressive Djent Metalcore band with a lot to say. Their brutal in-your-face music – born from generous amounts of crushing bass, explosive guitars, speaker-blowing drums and fierce vocals – bulldozes a path of sonic destruction. At the same time, their blistering lyrics call out societal evil, hypocrisy and bullshit. 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.

Last May I reviewed their outstanding EP [Extinct], which you can read here. In August they released a powerful new single “Sedated,” a scathing, full-frontal assault on the current state of affairs in the U.S. of A. It’s a monumental track, and a bit of a departure from the band’s usual music style. While still featuring their signature fearsome riffs, buzzsaw bass lines and jackhammer drums, it’s more melodic, with a healthy injection of hip-hop. Though he still screams many of his vocals in the metalcore style, Dennee also raps quite a bit, making for a track of greater complexity and impact. I really like it, and think it’s their best song yet.

Their incredibly hard-hitting and provocative lyrics attack the corrupt, greedy and tyrannical forces in our society – whether it be our government and political leaders, the media, or big corporations – all working to control our lives, take away our freedoms and sedate us into compliance and blind resignation.

Welcome to the individual, digital, subliminal, criminal, imminent dawn of the new age. It’s time to wake up, open our eyes, and realize that our lives are at stake if we hesitate.
They seek to control and manipulate.
Fuck that, my life they will never take.
But at the end of the day if you had a chance, if you had a way to attack would you fight back?
You chose to insult our intelligence.
We’ll respond with nothing but malevolence.
All your “search and seizures” with no evidence.
All of your power took all precedence.
We have been tranquilized, victimized, weaponized, demoralized.
They continue to operate away behind closed doors and away from our prying eyes.
And they continue to destroy our lives.
One by one, our world dies as theirs fucking thrives.
And truth be told, your only worth your weight in gold.
Land of the free? Don’t make me fucking laugh.
Destroying our lives and gaining profit.
Death to your prophet.
No matter the cost.
Freedom is lost.
It’s time to wake up.
And let me spare, you the people, another fucking hypocrite
I’m here to tell you how the shit really is.
In this land of unequal opportunity we are always coming face to face with tyranny.
Self treason no matter the season.
You justify arrests with no plausible reason.
Take a stand and react and see the facts.
There’s no fucking way out there’s no turning back.
No. Take a step back and look around.
You will see the facts.
There is no turning back. There is no turning back.
Here is the truth, can you handle it?
I pledge allegiance to nothing. So fuck you.
We will not fail. That’s what they expect from us.
We will prevail. That’s what they will get from us.
We will not fail. No. We will prevail.
All of this hate it must mean something.
I pledge allegiance to nothing.
Here is the truth, can you handle it.
They want us all sedated.
They want us all sedated.
Low doses from the red, white, and blue.

Follow Under Aegis: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music: Spotify / YouTube

Purchase: Bandcamp / iTunes

THREEFOLD MAZE – Album Review: “Dollar of Dust”

Dollar of Dust

Threefold Maze is an indie progressive metal/hard rock band based in Fort Worth, Texas. Formed by long-time friends Doug Whittenberg and Mike Smith, who originally called their fledgling band Aura Caelestis, they released a respectable self-titled album in 2010. Moving forward, as they state in their bio: “it was decided that the next album needed more production, better gear, and a much better name.” After an exhaustive name search, they decided upon Threefold Maze, and spent several years writing and recording songs for their debut album Dollar of Dust. Regarding the album title, Mike explained that it’s “the approximate value of all the stuff in the human body – if dried up. Kinda morbid but sounded cool.” Indeed it does!

Dollar of Dust was released in July 2016, and it’s an ambitious work containing 12 tracks and running an hour in length. Both Doug and Mike played guitar and keyboards on the album and Doug also played bass and provided the lead vocals, while Mike sang backup. Doug’s son Derek Whittenberg was recruited to play drums, and Caitlin Smith provided guest vocals on some of the tracks. The album was self-produced by Threefold Maze, and mastered by Mika Jussila at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, Finland. The band chose Mika based on his work with other bands that fall into the same genre, and the wide-open dynamic sound he delivered that they wanted for Dollar of Dust.

Threefold Maze

I’ve given the album multiple listens and discover another melody, lyric or instrumental nuance each and every time. It’s truly monumental in scope – the kind of album Styx, Boston and Dream Theater would create if they combined their talents and music styles. (In fact, to my ears, Doug’s vocals are reminiscent of Dennis DeYoung.)

From the ominous heavy sounds and eerie tinkling piano at the beginning of the opening track “Phear,” it’s clear we’re about to hear some amazing music, and Threefold Maze does not disappoint. They deliver an onslaught of blistering, razor-sharp guitar riffs, thunderous percussion and soaring harmonizing vocals. Toss in some amazing keyboards and exuberant orchestral synths, and we’ve got songs of incredible complexity and depth. This is strongly evident on “Hope,” one of the many standouts on Dollar of Dust. The guitar solo at the bridge is mind-blowing.

Many of their song lyrics address the search for meaning and purpose in life, and the challenges we face in finding our own truth. With pummeling bass and guitars blazing, the hard-hitting “To Visit the Darkness” tackles this head on:

Speculation about the world around me.
Never knowing what might be found.
I try to find my way.
Struggles of the mind are great.
Love and fear and often hate permeate my thoughts and take control.

The guys serve up more killer riffs and pulse-pounding drums on the melodic tracks “Lost My Way” and “Frozen in Time.” In fact, the brilliant “Frozen in Time” is pretty darn close to being a perfect progressive metal anthem, and is my favorite track on the album.

Next up is the beautiful instrumental interlude “Caelestial Intermission,” a nod to the band’s previous name and album. This track is loaded with magnificent guitar work and mesmerizing synths, and is another one of my favorites. The relative calm is abruptly shattered by the pummeling heavy metal sounds of “Vacant Eyes.” At 2:30, the song shifts to a soothing 30-second interlude featuring keyboards, sweeping synths, and the sublime guest vocals of Caitlin Smith, before the metal riffs return for the outro. Caitlin appears again on “If I” and the epic “What Truth,” a seven and half minute long tour de force of rhythmic shifts, chord change ups, hammering percussion, buzzing bass lines, intriguing synths, mindbending guitar work and lovely vocal harmonies. The track is so melodically and musically complex that it has the feel of a mini rock opera.

At this point, one would think the guys would begin to run out of steam, but nothing could be further from the truth. Their phenomenal musicianship continues to shine on “Beyond the Grey” and “This Moment Calling,” another standout track with jaw-dropping power riffs. The fantastic hard-driving “Neverwake” is a reworking of a track that originally appeared on Aura Caelestis, and a fitting closer to a superb album.

Connect with Threefold Maze:  Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Stream their music on  Spotify / Soundcloud

Purchase on  iTunes / Amazon / Bandcamp / cdbaby

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

SERPERUS – EP Review: “Infernal Seasons”

I can’t seem to pull myself away from the UK, as here I am featuring yet another band from that island nation. There’s such a tremendous amount of musical talent based there, I could devote my blog entirely to UK artists. This time I shine my spotlight on Serperus, a Liverpool five-piece that plays aggressive and melodic heavy metal. Formed in 2014, the band consists of Joey Farrell (Vocals), Mark Coogan (Lead Guitar), Jono Walters (Rhythm Guitar), Mikey Smith (Bass) and Aaron May (Drums).

Serperus performing

They released their debut EP …with Pestilence in December 2016 to wide acclaim, and followed up with their sophomore EP Infernal Seasons this past May. Offering up six tracks of brutal, unrelenting thrash metal that address themes of authoritarian oppression, Infernal Seasons serves to further cement the solid reputation Serperus has established for themselves, and demonstrates the progression of their songwriting skills and technical experimentation.

Infernal Seasons

The title track “Infernal Seasons” sets the tone with an onslaught of wailing guitars and Smith’s buzz-saw bass lines, propelled by thunderous percussion, courtesy of May’s relentless attack on his drum kit. Coogan delivers blistering riffs while Farrell snarls the searing and topically relevant lyrics that speak of the destruction and cruelty perpetrated upon society by ruthless leaders: “A charade, a means to construct the plague. The infernal seasons, the results of tyranny. Mother nature, down to her last legs. Deliverance, for us as the non-believers. Twisting tongues of the prophet, forcing catastrophic opinions.”

Serperus dials up the speed setting on the frenetic “Divulge,” the first single released from the EP.  As the band explained to online magazine Pure Grain Audio, “‘Divulge’ is one of the fastest and most intricate songs, featuring lots of twists and turns throughout. It is our personal favourite to play live and it is perfect to showcase what [we’re] all about.” And they’re not exaggerating about the song being fast and intricate – this beast kicks ass! The scorching, rapid-fire riffs blast through the speakers from start to finish with no letup, calling to mind the epic Metallica song “Hardwired.”

Into Ruin” opens with a mysterious intro of violin, xylophone, and piano before an assault of shredded guitars, hammering drums and crushing bass rain down like thunderbolts. This track’s a real head-banger, and once again our ears are treated to killer guitar solos, which continue unabated with “Deliverance Has Come.”  The song’s lyrics assert that mankind’s suffering will only be relieved by death. “Our fate is sealed. So choke on your last breath, as you sit and wait for the sweet release of death. Light begins to fade, humanity has failed, blinded by deceit, history repeats.

Perhaps the most melodically complex track on the EP is “No Vindication,” a six and a half minute-long tour-de-force. The song starts off slowly, with strummed electric guitar and heavy bass, then a hypnotic drum beat enters the scene, accompanied by Farrell’s calm, echoed vocals. The intensity ramps up with aggressive, shredded guitars and pounding drums,  Farrell’s vocals rising in ferocity to match the brutal instrumentals. We’re then thrust headlong into the hard-hitting closing track “Spirit in Black.” Unrelenting riffs of distorted & shredded guitars are driven by jack-hammer percussion, making this track an adrenaline rush on steroids. When the guitars fade out with a final crash of the cymbal, all you can do is catch your breath.

Even though it contains only six tracks, Infernal Seasons runs over 30 minutes, as they’re all fairly long. That fact, combined with the high level of intensity throughout its entirety, make it feel more like an album than an EP. A minor criticism I have is that some of the tracks sound quite similar to one another, however, the quality of the instrumentals and compelling lyrics more than make up for it. Overall, it’s a great EP that delivers the thrash metal goods.

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