Friday, August 22, 2014

Penthos-Lifeless Haze


Self-Release/Independent
2014

Self-recorded and self-released, the four-track EP "Lifeless Haze" is the second overall demo from North Somerset-based Penthos. At just a hair over nineteen minutes (and most likely the very definition of a home recording project from a D.I.Y.-styled band* given A) it's authentic/earthy vibe and B) it's (highly beneficial come the end of the day) stripped to the bare necessities approach as far the production is concerned!) "Lifeless Haze" quickly and effective announces it's presence with opener "Black Death" while saving the strong title cut for last. Said opener comes across as a terrifying Mexican standoff between Slayer, Deicide and Morbid Angel and for Penthos, a UK-based heavy/death/black/doom outfit which was formed in the summer of 2010 by vocalist/bassist/guitarist Rich Alden (ex-My Silent Wake) and drummer Ross Thompson, that's just the beginning as far as what's in store on this underground/eighties-infused demo! With guitarist/bassist Ivan Sikic rounding things out rather nicely (line-up wise on this demo), Penthos, a band which wisely takes it's cue from (more then anything) both the late eighties/early nineties UK and American death metal scene, wages all out war on the bloody "Bodily Shut Down" before ripping off limbs with the semi-technical "From The Womb"! Even when Penthos attempts to "slow" things down on the title cut (a seven minute plus slab of gripping death metal doom!) it's still a frightening sight to behold making the raw "Lifeless Haze" a furious beast of a demo! For fans of primitive death metal one simply could not ask for a tastier little treat then this EP. And for those who are old enough to remember the good old days when tape-trading was a way of life a release like "Lifeless Haze", which admittedly does have a rougher outer edge then most self-releases of the death/doom variety, passes the taste and smell taste. This one has all the feel of a recently (re) discovered cassette demo from death metal's long-lost underground past! Since it doesn't pretend to be anything more then what it is and because "Lifeless Haze" is the true face of death metal I can't help but recommend this EP and thus Penthos to Heavy Metal Time Machine's more extreme readers!


* Co- founder/drummer Ross Thompson created the cover artwork for "Lifeless Haze" and the band logo while Ivan Sikic (rhythm and lead guitar/bass on this 4-song EP) is credited as far as the demo's actual recording is concerned.


https://www.facebook.com/pages/Penthos/192106544137256

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Interview with Skyconqueror

Germany's Skyconqueror made their debut here at Heavy Metal Time Machine on August 7th. Now I am pleased to present the interview that I conducted with this very cool, old-school/traditional heavy metal band. I want to thank them for checking in with us and if you have not had a chance to read my review of "Under The Pentagram" (the group's latest release) then you can read it at the link posted right below this interview! Enjoy!




Andy (A)-Let me start things off by stating the obvious. "Under The Pentagram" was a labor of love from metalheads to metalheads right?

Skyconqueror (S)-Yes, absolutely! When we started our work on the new album, we realized fairly quickly that the material carries us much more back further into the past than it was the case with the previous releases which had a little more parts of power metal. The releases in the past we recorded usually in one (STREAK OF LIGHTNING) or just in a few days (all the other stuff). This time it took us much more time – especially for the vocal recordings. I think with the new record UNDER THE PENTAGRAM we initiated a kind of new chapter for the band. With HELLSTORY we created a retrospect from 1997 to 2008 and maybe unconsciously we closed a chapter of the band´s history with the record. The focus somehow went much more to the influences, the roots and the essence of our music. What we felt was that there was a new spirit and new energy when the first new tracks were recorded.

A-From the looks and sounds of it Skyconqueror is a real D.I.Y. kind of band. Would that be a correct assessment?

S-You´re right. We always created and played the music for ourselves and we tried to play gigs wherever it was possible. We never tried to get a record deal or something like that.

A-Name, rank and serial number time. Whose who in Skyconqueror and what's it all about?

S-It´s Daniel Hiller on vocals, Jan Tappert on guitar, Mirko Jankord on bass-guitar and Carsten Stiens on Drums. We all know each other from school in Lüdinghausen – in the surroundings of Münster in Northwest-Germany. Nowadays we live in different towns (Münster, Dortmund and Essen) – that´s not too far away from each other, so we are still able to meet during the week or at weekends for rehearsal or hanging around together.

A-If you had a mission statement what would it be?


S-I´m not sure if we really have a mission statement. It´s a wide variety of different styles we like – from Rush to Dissection, from Magnum to Slayer and from ZZ TOP to Darkthrone. Along the years we got influences from all those styles (in the music and in the lyrics – here especially the occult stuff prevails). All these influences are a part of SKYCONQUEROR. We do what we like! Perhaps the variety of different styles could be the mission statement of our music.

A-Old-school heavy metal. You've got to love it right? I know I sure as hell do!

S-Yes, that´s right also. Among all different styles of metal – it´s the old school of metal we all love. That´s the style of music connecting us. In addition everyone has his own preferences, for example Daniel likes progressive metal, Jan is a big supporter of old school Black Metal, Mirko loves old school british HM and L.A. hairmetal as well.

A-Awesome! Now, back to the album at hand. I read somewhere that "Under The Pentagram" took over a year to record. Was there any reason why? I mean other then the D.I.Y. approach of your band?

S-Of course it didn't take us more than one year to do the recordings. The drums – for example – were recorded in just two days. But we all have our jobs and our private obligations. This is why we were not able to work on the album permanently. Sometimes we had to interrupt the recordings for a couple of weeks.

A-My bad then. Switching gears somewhat here, but I've got to say that I am surprised that your band is still unsigned. Especially considering the renewed interest in straight-up heavy metal. Has there been any label interest at all over the years?

S-No, up to now there hasn´t been any label getting into contact to us, but on the other hand we have never sent any copies of our CDs to any labels. We just sent some records to fanzines and sold them on concerts, for example. We are completely satisfied with our current situation. With oomoxx we have a good partner for distribution and Metalmessage (Editor's note: Metalmessage does great work and comes highly recommended!) supports us with promotion. We are going to follow what´s going on with Under The Pentagram, but right now we don´t see any advantage of having a label. But if you know a freaking generous label – let us know! Haha…

A-I'll keep you guys in mind and if I can help in that regard I most certainly will! 

A-The German metal scene is well known for it's more extreme side. I think we can all agree upon that. For Skyconqueror though it's all about staying true to the roots of traditional heavy metal and the N.W.O.B.H.M. movement. Do you find yourself alone in that field or has Germany shown a renewed interest in straight-ahead heavy metal like the U.S., UK and Sweden (just to name a few countries going that route)?

S-Of course there are some very good traditional metal bands in the German underground. But we also like playing with all kinds of bands. We played on festivals as the only metal band among bands playing very different styles of music. The feedback during and after the gigs was always really positive – from metalheads and the other guys.

A-Are there any other local bands that our readers should check out?

S-We sometimes played with Terror Blade (thrash), Metalhead and Somewhere In Nowhere (both power metal). These are really nice guys and we like their kind of music.

A-I'll have to look into those three bands then. But, if you are able then please by all means send them my way! My goal is to continue to support underground and independent acts no matter WHERE they happen to appear on the world stage! Now, "Under The Pentagram" (digitally at least) can be found on the usual sites like Amazon, CD Baby and iTunes (which is where I snagged my copy of your very excellent sophomore release!). And while that is cool and all (and I should know as my digital collection is out of control when it comes to all things metal!) there is just something about being able to hold an album, look at it's artwork and flips through it's pages. Where can fans find hard copies of the album then if they want to add it to their collection?

S-If you want to buy a hard copy you should check out for example Amazon, and if you have the time and we are around you can just visit a gig and buy it there. We always carry copies with us. Otherwise send us a message. For digital releases you can check out "Under The Pentagram" on every major channel, including iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and cdbaby.com. If you want to listen to it first then you should have a look at our Facebook page under Facebook.com/skyconqueror and listen to some tunes there. And if you don´t like Facebook just check out Youtube (but be careful – obviously there is a computer game with the same name – don´t look at that!). You can also find some links on www.skyconqueror.de.

A-That brings up a similar question. Where can fans go to find out more about Skyconqueror?

S-The easiest way is via our homepage and the Facebook link. Or you can find us in beergardens and bars in and around the towns we live!

A-What does the rest of 2014 have in store for the band?

S-We would like to play some concerts in autumn and winter. We hope that works. Perhaps we are going to start working on a new recording. We want to get rid of all our CDs (YOU can help us with that!) and after summer we plan to make a (very late) release party in the Whiskey Dungeon in Münster, Germany.

A-Hopefully this interview and my previous review WILL help you move some CDs as your album is a real banger! 

A-What do you ultimately want Skyconqueror's legacy to be?

S-Wow, that sounds as if we were suspended yet! It´s to early to talk about a legacy. We are going to make more music, music that we like – that´s our legacy.

A-As a fan of solid heavy metal I hope you do continue to make music for a very LONG time! 

A-Final thoughts? The mic is all yours and the audience is listening!

S-You readers, if you like heavy metal of the old school then just have a look at our homepage and listen to some of the new songs! Stay with us for the new stuff and the coming gigs. Support the underground and take care!

A-The same goes to you!

Review of "Under The Pentagram":
http://metalmark.blogspot.com/2014/08/skyconqueror-under-pentagram.html

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gun Club-Fire Of Love (Re-Release)

Superior Viaduct
2014

Long out of print and demanding a high dollar amount on the secondary market, "Fire of Love" is the 1981 debut from The Gun Club. It was only last month that this smashing 11-track album was re-issued in a CD-only version by Superior Viaduct and for those of us who had long ago given up any hope of owning a physical copy of this blues-punk masterpiece that is one dream that has now become a reality! Elegantly produced by The Flesh Eaters' Chris Desjardins and The Plugz' Tito Larriva the amazing thing about "Fire Of Love" is how well it has weathered the changing times. As someone who only discovered the music of this L.A. band as an adult (and only by the good fortune of having once worked with an older gentleman whose wide-ranging taste in music reviled my own!) I'll admit that it gave me a greater perspective on the importance of this early "alternative" band. First formed in 1979 by singer, songwriter and guitarist Jeffrey Lee Pierce*, with guitarist Ward Dotson, bassist Rob Ritter and drummer Terry Graham rounding out the crew responsible for this great LP(!), the band managed to release seven full-length albums, one EP and countless singles during it's existence. Not one of the follow-up release would match the near perfection of "Fire Of Love" though and once opener "Sex Beat" rocks and rattles it's way into your nervous system you'll start to understand why this album is so hard to put down! "Sex Beat" is a tribal number that comes across as solo Lou Reed gearing up some garage rock and roll for all the crazy natives whereas the cover of Robert Johnson's "Preaching The Blues" offers up the first clue that The Gun Club were as knowledgeable about the Delta blues scene as they were about New York punk and 60's rock! The biggest clue though would be the band's choice cover of "Cool Drink Of Water" which comes much later on. This Tommy Johnson traditional is as authentic as one can get and it shows how comfortable Jeffrey Lee Pierce was no matter the environment. As far as The Gun Club's original material was concerned "Sex Beat" (as good as it is) wasn't this album's real highlight. Arguably that distinction would fall on track number four. Much ink has been spilled in regards to the haunting beauty that is "She's Like Heroin To Me". Another love-lorn track that kindles the spirit of a young, lost and lonely Lou Reed (as well as the Velvet Underground), "She's Like Heroin To Me" definite deserves it's revered place in the halls of rock and roll's greatest singles of all time. The problem with "She's Like Heroin To Me" is (at times) it overshadows other strong numbers like "For The Love Of Ivy" (a five minute plus moment of pure punk rockabilly wonderment!), the chaotic (yet strangely alluring) "Promise Me" and "Fire Spirit", a 60s/70s-infused number where the passion of Jeffrey Lee Pierce is highlighted in furious fashion! The colorful "Ghost Of The Highway" is another punk rockabilly song and if there is one thing to be said about "Fire Of Love" it's that not matter how stripped it might get the music packed within The Gun Club's debut album never falls short of brilliant! Caution is throw to the wind on "Jack On Fire" (a bare-naked rocker where primitive sex is presented raw and uncut!) and yet even during it's most twisted moments it never fails that I stare there in utter disbelief at just how far ahead of their time The Gun Club were! Long before rock music would be unclothed by the bands like The White Strips here was this L.A. outfit taking the best of what real rock and roll had to offer and, after cutting away all of it's fat and gristle, giving it back to listeners in such a simplistic manor that it was a feast for the senses! Even at 41 moments like "Sex Beat", "She's Like Heroin To Me", "Fire Spirit" and "Jack On Fire" find me standing with wide-eyed wonder while "Black Train", "Cool Drink Of Water" ( and "Goodbye Johnny" make me believe that the magic of "Fire Of Love" should be shared with our younger generation! This re-release sounds amazing and from "Sex Beat" to "Goodbye Johnny" there isn't a single moment where your ears start to wander. Even if I've had the pleasure of hearing this album before these past few days that I've spent with "Fire Of Love" have found me falling in love with this album all over again. This is one re-release I'll be sharing with family and friends young and old alike!


* A theatrical lead vocalist and guitarist, Jeffrey Lee Pierce was a founding member of The Red Lights and once served as the head honcho for Blondie's U.S. fan club!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Rough Boys-Blood, Booze, And Gasoline

Self-Release/Independent
2014

Now, let me see if I have this straight. What we have here is a Toronto three-piece band that is named after a Neil Young lyric ("All those rough boys, playin' that rock and roll") and sounds an awful lot like Motörhead stone cold drunk on late seventies/early eighties punk (both English and American thank you very much). Is that it? If so then count me in! Formed in the village of Parkdale and with two other releases to their name so far (2011's "Spithead" and 2012's "Speed"), The Rough Boys is lead by bassist/vocalist Tom Gervais and on their third EP, "Blood, Booze and Gasoline" the band can simply do no wrong! And all of that starts the moment you crank up and rock out to opener "Before The Devil Knows I'm Dead"! Existing in that grey area where punk, bluesy rock and roll, hard rock and heavy metal/thrash all join together for a keg of cheap beer and greasy pizza this "North of the border" act has shared the stage with Cauldron, Fuck the Facts, Axxion, Midnight Malice, Adrenechrome and Saigon Hookers and if this Summer-time release has anything to say about it then plenty of headlining shows should be forthcoming for The rough Boys from this point forward! "Blood, Booze, And Gasoline" is four tracks of street-worthy/dive bar appealing heavy metal punk n' roll with a total run-time of 12:42 and if number's like the title track , "Hogtown" and "May Two Four" don't get you up and on your feet then someone better call the coroner because friend you must be dead!

Just some good old boys!

https://theroughboys1.bandcamp.com/album/blood-booze-and-gasoline-ep

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Castle Freak-Still Rotting (Cassette Release)

Tridroid Records
2014

Leave it to our friends at Tridroid Records to offer up yet another great release on cassette tape! This time around the label is tackling Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's Castle Freak who, besides (likely) being named after the old horror classic of the same name* (Can you say Jeffrey Combs baby? Awesome!) self-describe themselves as "grinding death punks"!


*I have a fond memory of renting this 1995 horror film on VHS.

Influenced by bands such as Repulsion, (early) Death, "Scum"-era Napalm Death, Autopsy, Carnivore, Discharge, (early) The Misfits/Samhain and even old-school Megadeth (as well as Beer/Weed, Gore flicks, Troma & Horror of all kinds.) the band (Gigan-lead vox/guitar, Zak-guitar, DZ-bass and P-drums) cuts a clear enough path between punk/hardcore and grind/noise while making "merry" music that will have you thinking it's 1980 something all over again! Having shared the stage with Full of Hell and Noisem (two bands who, alongside Castle Freak, are featured on A389's 2014 Digital Mixtape) this Philadelphia four-piece strikes a real underground cord thanks to their punk attitude and raw, D.I.Y. vibe. For Castle Freak (who also have a 2012 demo to their name) this upcoming cassette release should help the band achieve further acclaim while simultaneously showing how Tridroid Records is slowly turning into a dependable source for underground/up-and-coming acts of all shapes and colors!


The member's of Castle Freak just saying hi to all the haters!

https://www.facebook.com/TridroidRecords

https://www.facebook.com/CastleFreakPhilly

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Letters From The Fire-Letters From The Fire

Self-Release/Independent
2014

This Tuesday, August 19th to be more precise, Bay Area hard rockers Letters From The Fire will release their self-tiled, 5-track EP. All the rage on rock radio these days thanks to their hard & heavy take on The Beatles' single "Eleanor Rigby" and their latest single, "Zombies In The Sun" (a crunchy Godsmack-like rocker featuring nice and meaty riffs courtesy of guitarists Mike Keller and Grayson Hurd), this 5-piece outfit features lead singer (and newest member) Elliot Weber laying down decent enough vocals over-top of decent enough post-grunge/heavy radio rock. While their version of "Eleanor Rigby" is fairly solid in and of itself it is nearly ruined by unnecessary screams towards the number's end. As for their own material there's the new single, another hard rock cut called "This Moment", "Waiting" (a semi-ballad) and (for some reason) the acoustic version of "Zombies In The Sun". Yeah. The EP really didn't need that at all. Letters From The Fire would have been better off adding another fresh number to the mix or (barring that) they could have just left it as is. But, it is what it is and of the few tracks offered here it would have to be "Zombies In The Sun" (the electrified version!) and "Waiting" that serve as highlights. Fittingly (since this San Fran outfit walks the same path style-wise) the band is currently out on tour with Trapt and they will continue to support the release of this digital EP well into October.

http://lettersfromthefire.net/

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Sound of Thunder-The Lesser Key of Solomon

Mad Neptune Records
2014

On September 9th Washington, DC-based A Sound of Thunder will release their fourth full-length album "The Lesser Key of Solomon". Up front the obvious must be stated. If ever there was proof that one does not necessarily need the backing of a major label to achieve success then it would have to be this female-fronted band and their Kickstarter-funded new LP! Produced by Kevin '131' Gutierrez (While Heaven Wept, Raven, Shinedown) and funded in big part by the "Legion of Thunder" (A Sounder of Thunder's loyal fan base) "The Lesser Key of Solomon" will be released on the group's own label and for members Nina Osegueda (vocals), Josh Schwartz (guitar), Jesse Keen (bass, keyboards) and Chris Haren (drums) this phenomenal album isn't just as good as it gets for the band, but rather it serves as the group's defying moment while further proving just how criminally underrated this four-piece is! After the release of group's "Time's Arrow" (an album which made my best-off list for 2013!) it would have seemed hard to fathom that this progressive power metal band could have possibly bested it. But, here it is and with it's genre-defying mix of all things hard and heavy (it's not just progressive power metal anymore folks, but traditional heavy metal, speed metal, melodic metal, dark metal, symphonic metal and even hard rock!) and it's overall dark vibe "The Lesser Key of Solomon" leaves me thinking that not only will it make this year's list, but it might just top the list! Classically-trained vocalist Nina Osegueda, who has rightly been described as "the love child of Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson", sounds better then ever as she stretches her voice to new heights! On "Udoroth" (a number that was previously released as a Kickstarter exclusive) she end's up leading the band through epic metal territory and yet she masterfully switches things up on the beautiful (Doro-ish) "The Boy Who could Fly". And then there is atmospheric "One Empty Grave". I'm at a loss when it comes to fully spelling out the power of this gripping number. It's wonderfully mysterious and for Nina it stands at a moment when all the stars align. At this point in the game Nina has the world at her fingertips as he leaves the listener spellbound by her alluring voice. To be fair it helps tremendously when you're teamed up with skilled musicians like Schwartz, Keen and Haren who combine their creative efforts in order to give their lead singer an ever-expansive stage upon which she can perform. This trio is instrumental (no pun intended!) in making sure that number's as different as "Elijah" (Savatage meets Dio while Merciful Fate looks on? Maybe. Only here there is so much more going on!), "Master of Pain" (sweet Dio worship!) and the heavy, power metal track "Black Secrets" all retain that one distinctive sound that is undeniably their own! With 10-tracks total (all of which are tied together thanks to this album's supernatural themes) "The Lesser Key of Solomon" has so much to offer longstanding fans of the group as well as newcomers. Ending with the eight-minute plus "House of Bones", which is one cut where the band elegantly lays their open hearts out for all to examine, A Sound of Thunder (or "ASoT" as their known to fans) has recorded the most versatile album that one could have only dreamed of and whether you can lay a definitive tag at feet of this motivational band or not isn't much of a problem. The real problem is having to wait until September 9th in order to have the whole package (music, booklet, stunning artwork, etc.) come in it's physical form!

https://www.facebook.com/ASoundOfThunder

Want to have your own copy of this spectacular metal masterpiece? If so then head to the link below to pre-order "The Lesser Key of Solomon".

 http://www.asoundofthunder.bigcartel.com/

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Dead Dark Slide-I am Dead

Dead Games Records
2014

Ever wanted to like a band so bad only to hear it and immediately shudder?  On principles alone I should have dug this outfit. An industrial goth rock band whose influences include Gwar, White Zombie , Bauhaus,Type O Negative and Ministry? Count me in right? For Dead Slide it sounds great on paper and yet having listened to this a few times it has yet to overly impress me. If ever there was a band in need of a better and/or additional lead vocalist it would be this Florida  act. At first I thought it was just the first two tracks of this five-track. Horribly harsh to the point of being out of tune and simply dreadful both "The Seas Are Black" and "Just Die" made it difficult to to own up to to the prospect that this release was let then half the way through! So I did the logical thing and moved onto the album's lead single, "Your Blood Runs Red". somewhat better it is saved by the music which is actual none-to shabby. But, cool music with heavy guitars and cleaver keyboards is ruined when someone like Ryan Michalski (vocals, guitar) gives a half-ass performance where you are wondering if the band's claim to be "the future of metal" is meant to a LOL moment or not does not make it look or sound any better then it is! My advice to Dead Dark Slide would be add another vocalist to the mix or work on reining in Ryan's voice and his "I'll just bellow into the mic and we will just bury it in the mix" style. Just my two cents....

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