Undercover Spotlight: Exocrine - Molten Giant

Exocrine - Molten Giant
Label: Unique Leader Records
Runtime: 34 minutes
Released: August 17th, 2018
Genre: Progressive Tech-Death

A sleeper hit of a record if ever I've seen one, Exocrine's third album, 'Molten Giant', was criminally under-publicized at release, and few reviewers took the time to really delve into it. While I won't labor under the delusion that my voice carries any significant degree of weight, I regardless feel the need to shine what little spotlight I possess on this absolute monster of a record. 'Molten Giant' is, in this author's humble opinion, the greatest progressive technical death metal album since Virvum's masterpiece, 'Illuminance'.

Clocking in at a tight 34 minutes, Molten Giant doesn't spend any time screwing around. 'Scorched Human Society' sets the scene with an atmospheric soundscape swiftly giving away to frantic tech-death guitar. Fans of the band will immediately notice that the production woes that plagued them on their sophomore album 'Ascension' are long gone. The mix is clean and professional, though listeners of a more discerning nature will note that the album is on the loud side, but that's a staple of modern tech-death for better or worse. The real standout section here is the mid-album trio of 'Backdraft', 'Molten Giant', and 'Flamewalkers'. Atmospheric, technical, and memorable, these songs eviscerate the notion that tech death can't be simultaneously catchy and blistering. Each song also features breaks from the brutality with surprisingly tasteful solos and the occasional synth build. It's a noteworthy touch that helps the band stand out from the pack of modern tech-death. 

The album closes out with 'Shape of the New World', an 8-minute long behemoth of a song, led into by the slow build of instrumental 'Behind the Wall'. This closing track could easily have been a disaster, as longer tech-death tracks tend to be, but somehow it pulls through without any distinct issues. Listener fatigue can set in by the end of even the most concise tech death albums, and ending with a song this long is a ballsy move. (At least it's not Alkaloid's 'Rise of the Cephalopods', yeesh.)  In the end though, it just works, and rewards the listener with layers upon layers to tease out over subsequent listens. If you enjoy technical death metal, you need to check this out today. With it streaming for free on Bandcamp and Spotify, what excuse do you have to miss out?

Molten Giant is available now on Bandcamp.

Decapitated - New 'Kill the Cult' video released!

A year after being falsely accused of rape and imprisoned in a foreign country for over half a year despite being found innocent, the boys in Decapitated have finally been able to finish and release the third video for their album 'Anticult' which was one of the best damn grove metal albums released last year. I don't know what it was about Anticult--it wasn't overly technical or even original--but from a song-writing perspective it was pure win. I remember every note of this track like it was released yesterday. Too bad these guys won't be touring the US again any time soon, but who could blame them? Keep kicking ass, Decapitated! Don't let the bastards grind you down!

Live Review: Bloodshot Dawn, Æpoch, Becomes Astral, Ending Tyranny @Schwaben Club, Kitchener, Ontario

"Whose dad IS that?" Kyle Edissi (Æpoch, guitars) asked incredulously from the stage as a diminutive man, easily over sixty years of age, crowd surfed for the third time during last night's show. No one seemed to know, and it didn't matter in the slightest. Everyone on the floor was happy to give him the night of his life, transporting him around the floor atop dozens of helping hands. For all the bad reputation the industry press seems intent on leveling against the metal community these days for being a supposed 'unsafe space', it's anything but—at least if last night's concert at Kitchener's 'Schwaben Club' was any indication. People were attending from all walks of life: old-school geezers like myself, teenagers, men, and women (over a quarter of the show's patrons were female, a welcome sight!), and they were all there for the same reason—to witness the best technical death and melodic death metal that the region has to offer, topped off by a blistering set from UK's own Bloodshot Dawn on their very first Canadian tour.

Review: Goreworm - The Path to Oblivion EP

Goreworm - The Path to Oblivion EP
Label - CDN Records
Runtime: 18 minutes
Release Date: March 23rd, 2018

At the ripe old age of 36, I may not be hip to the 'slams' that metal kids these days listen to on their shitty earbuds while I shoo them off my lawn with a grandpa guitar, hurling Slayer LPs in a frothing rage of tr00 kvlt righteous fury, but every so often I stumble down the rabbit-hole and something dank tenaciously sticks to my shoe, refusing to be ignored. Sure I'll walk around pretending like it isn't there, but eventually people start asking about the smell, and by then it's too late. I have a serious Goreworm infection, and as any metal-head worth their salt knows, the only cure for a bad case of the br00tal-deaths is to lance and purge the boils in the form of verbal or written diarrhea. This is the latter. I'm sorry.

Hailing from the middle of ass-fuck nowhere (Brantford, Ontario), Goreworm allegedly started as a project by Brent Moerschfelder and Jordan Elgersman, intending only to write a couple of songs "just for the fun of it." According to their press release, when they noticed that every track was better than the last one, they decided to go whole-hog and make an actual band out of it, proving once and for all that anything can be made better by chucking a few more Canadians at it. The malformed motley crew was then picked up by local legends CDN music and catapulted into the stratosphere of obscurity where I found them floating in the aforementioned rabbit-hole alongside an old Thy Flesh Consumed promo and Michael Jackson's 'Thriller'. Initially mistaking it for a copy of Abysmal Dawn's 'Obsolescence', I picked it up and joyfully skipped home, not realizing that Goreworm had used me as a vector to spread dankness to the uninfected multitudes who read this blog (all four of them.)

Undercover Spotlight: Godslave - Reborn Again

Godslave - Reborn Again
Label: Green Zone Music
Runtime: 46 minutes
Released: March 9th, 2018

Oh man, where to begin with this one? It's thrash metal from Germany, and if that's got you thinking of Kreator, well, you're not too far off, but Godslave is far from a one-trick-pony. Influences here range from the obvious (Kreator) to early Metallica, Overkill, Iron Maiden, Exodus, and a host of other wide-ranging sounds. We start with excellent straight-forward riff-centric thrash, and slowly go off the rails the further the album goes all the way to the swaggering cock-rock meets thrash of 'Rock on, man', the brilliant speed-metal banjo in 'Instrumental Illness', and a surprising addition of female vocals on album closer 'No Complaint'.

Reborn Again could very easily have felt like a mess, but somehow it all comes together into an extremely entertaining album showcasing killer song-writing and flashy guitar, wrapped up in a punchy production. Check it out! The album is available for streaming on Spotify and to purchase on Amazon and Itunes. Unfortunately, they don't plan to distribute on Bandcamp, although you can check out a few songs there for free. Check out this awesome 360 degree video below.

Review: Rivers of Nihil - Where Owls Know My Name

Label: Metal Blade
Runtime: 56 Minutes
Released: March 16th, 2018

“Where Owls Know My Name” is the third in a series of albums representing the four seasons, with the summer of ‘Monarchy’ falling to the inevitable decay of Autumn. Themes of longing, change, and regret permeate the album from the lyrics to the band’s experimental take on the classic ‘Rivers’ formula. New elements have been added to form an unlikely mix: Mellotron, Moog synths, trumpet, saxophone, and clean vocals are all very present, added to Rivers of Nihil’s already proggy take on technical death metal. One would think that this would result in a heaping mess of clashing ideas and vibes, but somehow it all pulls together into one cohesive whole that, while not without flaw, is much greater than merely the sum of its parts.

My first sit-down with the album came in the wake of learning about the death of an old friend. Not just any friend—the friend who exposed me to extreme underground metal. Without him I wouldn’t be writing this blog, listening to this album, or have had some of the most transcendental experiences of my life. I sat alone in a dark room, turned up the speakers, and let the album wash over me, and like experiences that now seem so long ago I felt myself transported, soaking up the ascendancy of something pure, neither good nor evil, organic or spiritual, simply BEING. And for that moment in time, it was enough. “Where Owls Know My Name” is that kind of record. If you let it in.

Metal Undercover's Top Ten Albums of 2017

Twenty-seventeen has been a crazy year, filled to the brim with quality metal from all corners of the globe in all sub genres! While the blog has been slow to update due to the sudden availability of paid writing work (the horror!) that doesn't mean that we (me) at Metal Undercover haven't been keeping up with new releases! Take a gander below the cut for the albums of the year, and keep a close eye on the blog in the coming weeks for discussion of some extremely honorable mentions!

Undercover Spotlight: Hadal Maw, Aeternam, and Primal Attack

Hadal Maw - Olm
Label: EVP Recordings
Runtime: 46 Minutes
Released: February 5th, 2017

Atmospheric Death, Tech and Groove Influences

Hadal Maw's sophomore release, Olm, sees quite a few changes to what was once another 'me too!' in a sea of tech-death metal bands. Three years and one new vocalist later they've gone darker and slower, sacrificing much of their technical wankery on the altar of atmosphere and rhythmic groove. The Meshuggah influence is strong here, and while it's not overpowering, it shows through in composition, guitar tone, and even occasionally in new vocalist Sam Dillon's varied screams. The album should resonate with fans of slow to mid-paced atmospheric death metal, while fans of a more speedy tech death would do well to give the band's previous album Senium a spin or two.

MORE BEHIND THE CUT! Aeternam's Ruins of Empires and Primal Attack's Heartless Oppressor

A Year in Review: Metal Undercover's Top Ten Albums of 2016

Twenty-sixteen was one of the best years for metal in recent history, and the sheer quantity of quality releases was truly off the charts. I went into the process of creating this (late) list completely overwhelmed by the number of albums from the past twelve months and no real means of doing them all justice. Now, this type of list is, of course, subjective and caters to the whims of the individual author. In my case, I spent a good portion of 2016 obsessed with technical death metal, and that will show quite obviously on my list. As always, your mileage may vary. Here are my favorite metal albums of 2016:

Review: Chariots of the Gods - Ages Unsung

Label: Independent
Runtime: 41 Minutes
Released: September 16th, 2016

Something amazing has happened here. Forget all you think you know about Einstein-Rosen bridges and throw your quantum mechanics textbooks into the void of the closest wormhole, because Ottawa, Ontario-based metalcore/melodeath band Chariots of the Gods has at last uncovered the mysterious art of time travel. It's difficult to know exactly how it all went down, whether a group of intrepid space/time-faring musicians traveled fifteen years forward in time to remind us future-dwelling technophiles of a time before smartphones and Spotify, or if some nefarious songsmith devised a means of filtering our modern consciousness into the past, (no doubt all part of some grand scheme of world-domination), but either way prepare yourself to rock like it's 2002 all over again. So if you are or were a fan of early Killswitch Engage, Shadows Fall, Trivium, or the early New England metalcore scene, you might find this trip down memory lane a welcome diversion from the fast-paced uncertainty of the digital age.

Review: Eye of Horus - Obsidian

Label: Independent
Runtime: 17 Minutes
Released: November 25th, 2016

Just take a moment and soak in that gorgeous cover artwork by the talented Federico Musetti. Say what you will about Edmonton, Alberta-based death metal outfit Eye of Horus, but they are blessed with consistently high quality artwork gracing their covers that just screams modern death metal (and a love for mysteriously glowing towers.) Eye of Horus bills themselves as melodic death metal, and while there is absolutely a degree of melodic death influence in their songwriting, it's not the only sub-genre that springs to mind by a long shot. Obsidian runs a wide gamut of sound from melodic death to black metal, even tastes of what feels like deathcore from time to time, at the core of which is a solid foundation of slightly-blackened death metal. Obsidian is a step up in songwriting from the band's previous album Infernal Calling, somehow feeling more diverse in influences while being more focused in composition, a fine feat for any band zeroing in on their own signature sound. 

Review: Wastewalker - Funeral Winds

Label: Independent
Runtime: 33 Minutes
Released: November 1st, 2016

Funeral Winds is the debut album from Sacramento-based melodic/progressive death metal band Wastewalker. Despite being mainly lumped in with modern tech-death acts by press and fans alike, this debut owes a weighty portion of its sound to the melodeath greats that came before them while adding in just enough tech and progressive elements to be their own unique animal. Just listen to the leading riffs of opener 'Hazmat Birth' and the melodeath influences will be more than readily apparent. Genre conventions aside, how does Wastewalker stack up against the competition in an ever growing pool of talented metal artists? The band features a number of notable names from modern metal, including Alterbeast vocalist Cam Rogers, John Abernathy from Conducting From the Grave, Sepsis's Nate Graham on guitar, Dire Peril's Justin Tvetan on drums, and is rounded out by Joel Barerra on bass.With this kind of pedigree, metal fans that have been in the loop for the past few years should know that they're in for something killer.

Review: Dark Tranquillity - Atoma

Label: Century Media Records
Runtime: 49 Minutes
Released: November 4th, 2016

November marks the return of two Gothenburg, Sweden-based melodic death metal originators, and while the collective metal community seems to have given up on In Flames after their numerous and storied shifts toward a pop-metal sound, Dark Tranquillity stand accused of an entirely different crime: stagnation. Even DT's staunchest supporters generally admit that since 2007's album Fiction, Dark Tranquillity have been in a creative rut that just keeps getting deeper and deeper. 2010's We Are the Void failed to innovate or garner much attention in an increasingly over-saturated metal scene, and in 2013, Construct proved that consistency of output isn't always a net positive. And then in early 2016, a bombshell dropped: founding band member Martin Henriksson quit the band, stating that he had "lost the passion for playing music", leaving fans more nervous than ever about where Dark Tranquillity would go from here on out. This brings us to the November release of Atoma, the latest DT platter and their first album post-Henriksson. So how does the new album measure up against Construct? Have Dark Tranquillity broken the chain of Fiction-clones and produced something for Gothenburg metal fans to sink their teeth into?

Review: Testament - Brotherhood of the Snake

Label: Nuclear Blast
Runtime: 45 Minutes
Released: October 28th, 2016

What a year it's been for the return of old-school thrashers! Following hot on the heels of sensational albums from their contemporaries in Megadeth, Anthrax, and Death Angel, Testament aren't about to shirk in their duties to the denim-clad gods of thrash. Since these Bay Area originals rose like a phoenix from the ashes with 2008's triumphant return The Formation of Damnation, Chuck Billy and company have been putting out regular hot slabs of gritty thrash metal every four years that never deviate too far from the template laid out in 1999's exceptional album The Gathering, but nonetheless show flourishes of originality and invigoration despite the long road this troupe of titans has tread over the years since the salad days of the 80's metal scene.

While the band feels that it's one of their strongest records to date, Brotherhood of the Snake was plagued with difficulties from the beginning of the recording process, with iconic vocalist Chuck Billy stating that the album was "probably the most difficult record we've ever done." Brotherhood's music was written entirely by guitarist Eric Peterson and the band entered the studio having never heard or practiced the songs before. Despite the stress and miscommunication plaguing the production, the finished album feels tight and well-played, a fitting testament to the sterling musicianship of the band as a unit. Legendary drummer Gene Hoglan returns once more, providing his own unique voice to the rhythm section, paired with long-absent bassist Steve DiGiorgio for a call-back to the nuanced brutality of The Gathering.

Review: Sacred Steel - Heavy Metal Sacrifice

Label: Cruz del Sur Music
Runtime: 47 Minutes
Released: October 14th, 2016

German power metal. There, now that we've weeded out the lactose intolerant, it's time to dig into Heavy Metal Sacrifice, the latest release by Sacred Steel, fronted by the 'siren of metal' himself: the incorrigible Gerrit P. Mutz. Heavy Metal Sacrifice is Sacred Steel's ninth full length album since their debut almost twenty years ago and their second for Cruz del Sur Music. One of power metal's undeniable workhorses, Sacred Steel have achieved admirable consistency of output over the years while never quite attaining the recognition afforded their peers. Will Heavy Metal Sacrifice break the cycle and usher Mutz and company into the gates of Valhalla?

It's impossible to discuss Sacred Steel without touching on the elephant in the room: Mutz's vocals. So let's get the obvious out of the way first. While they have been honed and refined over the years, the core of Gerrit P. Mutz's vocal stylings remains relatively unchanged over the past several albums. But would it still be Sacred Steel without the high-pitched nasal vocal attack? What Mutz lacks in range he more than makes up for in uniqueness, which has lent the band more than its fair share of fame and notoriety over the years. From time to time the vocals take a dive into growl territory, which are actually quite well done, but these passages are the exception rather than the rule. The bottom line is that if you couldn’t get past the vocals before, you'll likely find that little has changed.