Nile – What Should Not Be Unearthed

I figured I should weigh in on this album, since Nile is one of those heavyweight bands that profess to be doing something interesting (combining Middle Eastern melodies with brutal death metal).

First, I’m not sure what the production on this thing was supposed to sound like, but there’s a difference between a brutal/punishing sound and something too muddy to hear anything. There are loud segments that are not so much atonal as they are without a tone. The sections consist of chugging on some “chord” in a string of fast sixteenth notes, but it comes across as pure noise.

I’m pretty sure this was not intended. It makes the harmonic minor riffs so much cornier. Loud noise, loud noise, loud noise, sudden “Egyptian” riff which is crystal clear, loud noise. The effect is almost comical. It sounds like a Nile parody band.

To be fair, many of the songs are not quite that bad … but many are. Nile have been around a long time and clearly have excellent technical chops. Occasionally there are some very technical solos and riffs. Too often they fall back on chromatic filler or simply playing a harmonic minor scale.

I’m not sure why they messed with the death metal structure so much. If they took their best riffs and cut the filler, this would probably be a pretty good album. Some bands can get away with developing their riffs into longer, six minute songs because they have the content to do it. Most of the time it feels like Nile wanted longer songs, but couldn’t come up with the material to do it so they chugged on toneless chords.

The lack of development gives the songs a meandering and aimless feel. I think they were going more for chaotic with the sudden tempo and timbre changes. Instead, we’re left with a lack of cohesion.

Overall, there are some good moments but not enough to overcome the lack of interesting content. I won’t bother coming up with a number for this one. Here’s a sample:

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By The Patient – Gehenna Reviewed

By The Patient is a band from Denmark, and Gehenna is their fifth release. I have no idea how I found this band. They must have been on some list somewhere. I tend to throw any album I come across that looks vaguely interesting into a big Google music library. This album had been sitting there for a very long time, so I figured the time had come to listen to it. This is also their last album as they’ve recently announced they’ve broken up.

Gehenna is Scandinavian-style melodic death metal. They mix it up between tracks quite a bit. Some songs are down tempo, almost doom sounding, while others are thrashy in their speed.

Nothing really stands out on the album. When playing fast, they are tight and have some interesting moments. When playing slow, they build good harmonies and the songs have good motion towards a climax. Unfortunately, most of the songs fall in the middle, and we don’t get to hear either extreme.

The riffs in general are not interesting enough to stand on their own. This weakens the songs considerably, because the songs must get their material from other sources: changing textures, rhythms, and feel. To be fair, there are a few stand out riffs that do work to bring the song together, but this is the exception.

I’m not a big vocals person. Vocals rarely change my opinion one way or the other. Bad vocals don’t ruin excellent instrumental work, and great vocals don’t improve terrible playing. The vocals on this album rub me the wrong way though. They remind me a lot of Gojira but as if the singer were bored. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why. It has to do with the overly precise rhythmic execution and how monotone they are.

Unfortunately, this album is too generic. It isn’t as bad as I’ve made it sound. I’ve listened to it in the background probably 8 or 9 times. I’ll just not remember it in a few weeks. I hate doing negative reviews, but I wasn’t prepared to do a different album today. I give it a 5/10.

Here’s a sample:

Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction

Last week I was out of town, this week I’ve been really sick, so I’ve been sleeping in my spare time instead of listening to anything new. I’ll keep this short, because I’m still pretty out of it.

I know Cattle Decapitation’s last album, Monolith of Inhumanity, was pretty universally praised. I know I listened to it, but I honestly don’t remember it very much. I wanted to keep it that way going into The Anthropocene Extinction to not skew my view and constantly compare to it.

This album is one of the most relentlessly brutal I’ve listened to this year. Most of it is fast, but not in a too-fast-all-the-time so as to be boring way. Almost every song slows down into a groove and layers semi-clean melodic vocals into the mix. The also show off excellent technical proficiency at times but have the maturity to exercise restraint at others.

The vocals are hit or miss. Some of the melodic content works well and has some interesting contours to the motion. Other parts feel forced, like they needed a melodic section and couldn’t really come up with something interesting, so they put some notes together that were in the right key without thinking about the overall structure of the melody.

Also, because of the melodic sections, I think some riffs took a back seat. There are sections where every instrument serves as an accompaniment to the vocals which turns the song into a rock feel.

This album is at its best when it all comes together: fast, technical, chaotic, melodic. The soloing is wild and infrequent, the way I like it. Despite the above complaints, they are on most of the time, which makes the less good parts stick out more. It sounds like a lot of complaints, but I’m going to keep this in rotation for a while.

Overall, it does feel a bit formulaic, but I applaud that they’ve found their own formula instead of being poor copycats of older bands. They do their own thing and do it well. I give it an 8/10.

Here’s a sample:

The Arcane Order – Cult of None

I was glancing through recent metal releases to find something new. My sampling wasn’t going very well. I guess I was in one of those moods where everything sounded so unoriginal and derivative. Then I came across The Arcane Order. I had never heard of them, but they caught my attention with their heavy yet atmospheric sound.

They seem to be classified as melodic death/thrash around the internet. I can’t come up with anything better, but this can be a bit misleading. They have a lot of progressive and atmospheric elements and maybe some post-hardcore. Most songs are over 7 minutes long, which they use wisely to develop their material through these various styles.

The Arcane Order excel at shifting in and out of these different sections and styles while keeping a coherent whole to each of the songs. Sometimes they enter a fast riffing section, sometimes they have some laid back chugging under atmospheric synth sounds. Despite the variety, there is never any question it is the same song.

The harmonic motion is usually pretty simple, often centering around a I/IV or I/V idea. Normally this type of thing would get old in such long songs, but they create interest by layering in all sorts of details whether it be driving bass line, changing textures, or non-chord tones in rhythm guitar.

These long songs often build to some big climactic point. They mostly do a good job driving the song motion to these points, but there are a few times where they play too big too early which spoils the suspense. They also do a good job developing from their simple base chords to something much more interesting and complicated to keep the long songs from dragging. That being said, there are definitely moments where the repetition went on a bit too long (“Exo Reign” is my least favorite track for this reason).

Overall, this was a solid release and a nice change of pace. It is hard to come up with similar bands (maybe I just don’t listen to enough melodic death). I’d recommend this for people who like TesseracT. It is far less proggy and djenty, but the atmospheric build up is similar. I’ll give it a 7.5/10.

Here’s a sample:

The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal

My experience with The Black Dahlia Murder has been pretty weak. Back when Everblack released in 2013, I decided to better acquaint myself with their back catalog before doing a review. I looked up people’s rankings (no one agreed) and picked the two that seemed to be fan favorites (I don’t remember which now). I couldn’t get into them for some reason and felt basically the same about Everblack.

Enter Abysmal. In the past two years I’ve forgotten basically everything I’ve listened to by this band, so I came to it not knowing what to expect. I was kind of shocked. Ignoring the cheesy string orchestra opening and closing, this seemed like it would be some solid melodic death metal.

This album is definitely not pushing any boundaries as far as melody and harmony are concerned. The riffs are fine. They do the job and get a solid amount of development throughout the songs. The song structures themselves are pretty formulaic, but that’s to be expected. Like I said, it is solid and standard. That doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, many albums I have to force myself to come back to. I had no problem throwing this on throughout the week.

The biggest negative for me was the consistency of style. Some songs break into almost a rock beat which ruins the intensity and heaviness setup by earlier sections. Also, songs like “Re-Faced” have some strange soloing. The solo introduces some jazz influenced ideas which are totally absent in the rest of the song. The sudden shift in style is awkward. And as already mentioned, I never like the use of strings (especially synthesized) to open/close an album without them being something consistently used throughout.

I know, I criticize for not pushing boundaries, and then when they do something unusual I criticize again. You can’t win. That’s not what I’m saying. Some of the solos are excellent: technical, wild, and introduce chromaticism in a way that is consistent with the rest of the song (see “Stygiophobic”). It is the consistency that makes it awkward and not the attempts at originality.

Overall, I can’t think of much to say about this. I’ll probably give it a few more listens, but like all other BDM releases, I’ll forget everything about it in a few months. I can pass the time easily with solid but generic death metal like this, but it isn’t going to make for something I return to over the years.

I give it a 6.5/10. Here’s a sample:

Hate Eternal – Infernus Review

Hate Eternal have been around for quite some time now, and if you look at their lineup, they’ve gone through quite the collection of prominent death metal musicians. In particular, Erik Rutan remains at the lead guitar and vocal spot.

From the opening track, this album felt like a breath of fresh air. I haven’t been listening to much death metal. This hits hard and stays heavy, fast, and dense from start to finish. I had forgotten how much progressive and technical leaning death metal tends to clean up the sound. This hits the sweet spot between messy and making everything audible.

That being said, most of the songs at some point sink into a wall of sound problem. They get into a too-loud flurry of blast beats with only tremolo support. The solid unchanging sound is hard to get excited about. These don’t last long and probably could have been fixed with a slight change in the mixing, but it does give the listener a reliably monotonous section of the song.

I’d have to say that “Infernus” is probably the best song on the album, if only because they break their formula and produce something that sounds new and original. Many of the songs and riffs are forgettable. They follow a set pattern which makes it hard to remember any of them. The “Infernus” riffs aren’t all that interesting either, but they layer them in interesting ways and even have distinct sections of the song with distinct tempos and feel.

As usual, most of the best moments are during the solos, which are actually quite sparse on the album. The solos break you out of the mold, and they experiment with some interesting almost atonal embellishments of the riffs (see “Zealot, Crusader of War”).

Speaking of which, the longer songs tend to do better in the development section. This may sound obvious, but many early Morbid Angel songs were extremely short in comparison to these and yet had an intense and robust development. It’s almost as if they lacked ideas on the shorter tracks and had to pad them out to a reasonable length, but the longer tracks were full of interesting ideas and they had to refrain from going on too long.

Overall, this is a solid death metal album that will scratch the itch you didn’t know you had. It gets the atmosphere and sound right, but it gets old fast and is ultimately forgettable. It is well worth getting if you are looking for new death metal that is also good. I’ve really enjoyed the week I spent with it, but I’m ready to move on.

I’ll give it a 7/10. Here’s a sample:

Rivers of Nihil – Monarchy Reviewed

Back when the first Rivers of Nihil album released, my readers were pretty split. The enthusiastic ones notified me of its existence and others scoffed at it being vapid metalcore. I never got around to formally reviewing it, but I did like it quite a bit. They managed to achieve a good balance of heavy and brutal elements with melody and technical solos.

I jumped on Monarchy to find out what they’d been up to since their debut. I have to say, I have pretty mixed feelings. Let’s start with the bad. They seem to have caught the chugging fad going around. Maybe this was present on the debut, but I don’t recall it sticking out like this.

Chugging on a single note or chord in various rhythmic patterns doesn’t do it for me. It is a strange phenomenon that so many bands succumb to it. I guess it probably feels impressive to lock in a sufficiently complicated pattern and get it to groove. This may sound interesting to some people. But it ignores too many aspects of music to make for interesting repeated listens. The album doesn’t have a ton of this, but I have to cringe when it happens. It sticks out.

Now for the good. The album has a lot more variety than the first one. They have straight up death metal parts, highly melodic parts, atmospheric parts, different tempos, and these disparate sections flow into each other naturally.

The soloing is as good as ever, and I think these form the highlights for the album. Some solos are slow meanderings around the melodic idea. Others are technical, chromatic, bizarre distortions. I hear the most creative ideas in the solos, and they are sparse enough to be a nice treat. They are placed where they are needed, not in some stock position of every song.

Speaking of which, the songs can feel a bit formulaic. You have fast, chugging rhythms in drums and bass. A held chord fills out the sound, and then some extraneous atmosphere in the upper register like a held single note with a filtered synthetic guitar sound. The song structure usually alternates between staccato forms of the above and a heavier legato form.

I love what they’re doing when they are at their most complex. They can layer a lot of technical and varied ideas in such a tight way that the whole thing still has a relaxed groove to it. This is what they do best. It feels lazy when they settle into the uninteresting chugging parts. It’s almost as if they needed some filler to complete some songs.

Overall, the added atmosphere is welcomed. The tight melodic playing has been stepped up a notch, but the album as a whole has not gone in the right direction. I can only reservedly recommend this. I’ll give it a 7/10.

Here’s a sample: