Kataklysm: The BEST Death Metal Gateway

Man, I’m really proud of this one.

As I wrote about for Metal Injection several years ago, “gateway bands” are incredibly crucial to the development of a Metal fan. And as you wade deeper into the genre, there is arguably no bigger hurdle than acquiring a taste for Death Metal, one of Metal’s most abrasive incarnations.

In this video I argue that for Death Metal, there is no one more up to the task of “gateway band” than the Canadian band Kataklysm, who have made a near-30 year career out of standing on the precipice of Melodic and Brutal Death Metal.

For any fans out there who are curious but trepidatious about Death Metal, I take this opportunity to explain how to use Kataklysm’s music to help you ease into the genre. There is also an accompanying Spotify playlist to further help you out.

I hope you guys find this video helpful! In retrospect, Death Metal was one of the most difficult transitions for me as a listener, but my patience up front has paid substantial dividends for well over a decade of my life, and if I can guide towards that same light, I will! Watch the full video below:

Essential Metal: Atheist – Unquestionable Presence

And here we are, our first 2020 installment of my Essential Metal series! This time around, I’m digging into Atheist’s 1991 classic Unquestionable Presence, a record that helped lay the groundwork for what would become Technical Death Metal. And despite being considered a key release in the Florida Death Metal explosion of the late ’80s and early ’90s, it actually had very little in common with its peers, as I argue in this video.

In case you’re playing catch-up, a full playlist of every album I’ve covered for the Essential Metal series is available here.

For my full thoughts on Unquestionable Presence, check out the video below. Thanks for watching!

 

Top 10 Albums of 2019: METAL EDITION

Year-End List Number Three is here! My Top 10 Metal Albums of 2019! This was a fantastic year for the Metal genre as a whole. And hopefully this wide range of exciting album I’ve selected – from bands new and old, high-profile and under-the-radar – reflects that. Above all, these lists are always a wonderful opportunity for a moment of gratitude. So THANK YOU to all of these bands for pouring their blood, sweat, and tears into their music and making all of our lives more manageable in the process! Artists discussed here include Allegaeon, Venom Prison, Liturgy, Fit for An Autopsy and more!

Check out the full list below:

Essential Metal: Dissection – Storm of the Light’s Bane

This might just be the best Essential Metal video I’ve ever done. Actually, it might be the best video I’ve done, period.

In this latest addition to the Essential Metal series, I “dissect” (yes, pun oh-so-egregiously intended) the classic second album from Dissection, Storm of the Light’s Bane, which I refer to in this video as “the Old Testament of Blackened Death Metal”.

If you’ve never heard this record, PLEASE go give it a listen (as soon as you watch this video, of course!). If you’re at all into Extreme Metal, chances are you’ve heard it already. But if you’re not, this could be your perfect gateway in. Check out the full video below:

 

Betraying the Martyrs – Rapture Album Review

What’s up guys! Got a brand new Metal review for you today! This week I’m unpacking the fourth full-length record from French Deathcore band Betraying the Martyrs.

I was just introduced to these guys about a month or two ago, and I thought Rapture would be a great opportunity to stretch my tastes a little bit and do a deep dive into something I typically wouldn’t check out. A majority of bands either on the Sumerian Records roster, within the Deathcore movement, or of the “verb-the-noun” persuasion tend to not be my cup of tea – and Betraying the Martyrs happen to check all three boxes. So I purposely went into this review hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Full review below:

Venom Prison – Glitch: Mental Health and Touring Musicians REACTION

Happy Friday guys! Or I guess I could wish you a Happy As I Lay Dying Release Day, Happy Cult of Luna Release Day, Happy Blink-182 Release Day, Happy Zac Brown Band Release Day, or however you choose to make this otherwise-insignificant day meaningful.

I wanted to share a few thoughts on this mental health-centered tour documentary that the band Venom Prison did. You can watch the full documentary here. It’s certainly a unique spin on your typical idealized and/or goofy supercut of “backstage footage” from established bands. “Glitch” instead chooses to focus on the emotional hardships of the touring lifestyle. The boredom, the drudgery, the loneliness. And it brought up a lot of interesting themes that I enjoyed discussing. Check out my full reaction here:

SLAMMING New Exhumed Single “Ravenous Cadavers”: Listen Here

Wow, here’s something to jolt you awake this Tuesday morning!

Extreme Metal veterans Exhumed have just announced album number nine – it’s called Horror and it drops October 4th via Relapse Records.

If this first single is any indication of the full 15-track release, we’re really in for a treat. “Ravenous Cadavers” turns its attention much more towards the Thrash-on-steroids, Carcass-influenced part of the band’s sound, rather than the Grind side of things. Frontman Matt Harvey’s voice sounds as brutal as ever. Check it out here and let me know if you love it as much as I do:

Top 10 Mid-Year Albums of 2019: METAL EDITION

Hey guys, it’s finally time for our Mid-Year Lists! I actually put these together in late June, but July got crazy and I haven’t had time to edit the footage and get it up on YouTube. Part 1 is our Metal list, featuring an AMAZING slew of releases ranging from heavy-hitters like Periphery and Baroness to criminally underrated music from the likes of Astronoid and Numenorean. Also featuring the…ehm…”colorful” commentary from yours truly, as always.

Check out the full video below, and let me know your picks! Non-Metal list coming soon too!

 

The Most Underrated Cannibal Corpse Song!

So the other day I’m in my car raging to Cannibal Corpse’s murderous 1994 classic The Bleeding, as I often do.

And I’m ripping through songs like the maniacal “Pulverized”, and of course, the ultra-violent “Fucked With a Knife”, and thinking nothing of this LP that I’ve heard a hundred times before. And then, all of a sudden, track five stops me dead in my tracks.

“Oh my God,” I said to myself (100 percent out loud, mind you). “How did I never notice the genius of this song??”

That song is “Return to Flesh”, and despite being an oft-forgotten deep cut surrounded by iconic Cannibal Corpse moments, is one of the band’s finest hours.

For starters, it demonstrates one of the great ironies of the early ’90s Floridian Death Metal movement: for a genre that’s known for upping the ante on Metal’s aggression by playing faster, it’s the excessively SLOW musical passages where the style’s “brutality” truly blossoms. Listen to this track’s lumbering intro riff, sauntering onto the speakers like an axe murderer who can’t be bothered to flee the scene.

And note how, after this sluggish intro riff, thr song effortlessly turns on a dime, launching into a breakneck sixteenth note feel, and then quickly transitioning to a catchy mid-tempo groove that would make Pantera jealous.

“Return to Flesh” is also one of drummer Paul Mazurkiewicz’s most impressive performances, as he navigates the constant feel changes and stop-start rhythms with masterful precision. And I love the creative guitar harmonies, which sound appropriately disgusting and disease-riddled. It’s truly a Death Metal masterclass.

Classic records like The Bleeding are the gift that keeps on giving. I live for unexpectedly joyous moments of (re)discovery like this. “Return to Flesh” just might be the best song on this whole LP, and I can’t believe I let that fact go unnoticed for so long.

 

 

August 2018 Album Round Up!

Hey guys! Psyched to make my return to Monthly Round Ups during an action-packed month! Apologies for my little hiatus – work these past several months has been an absolute bitch and it’s been straight up unrealistic to try and squeeze in several listens to 20-25 albums every four or five weeks. It just wasn’t gonna happen. But I’m proud to say that I’m back and here to stay! Kinda like when Jay-Z came out of retirement after not even a year and released a shitty ass record that no one liked but eventually went on to do things like marry Beyonce and make an album with Kanye and start his own streaming service so it was all good. Ok, maybe not quite like that. But still. God, there’s so much to break down from August 2018! I hope you’ve been keeping up via my email list and YouTube channel while I’ve been away!

Mac Miller – Swimming

Five albums and at least twenty (!) projects into his career, one fact remains: Mac Miller is a hell of a beat picker. On Swimming, he lines up an endlessly listenable and surprisingly unique platter of instrumentals, from the funky “What’s the Use?” to the jazz-tinged “Jet Fuel” to one of the sexiest beat switches I’ve ever heard in the trap-laced “Self Care”. Everybody from J. Cole to Flying Lotus to Kanye collaborator Jon Brion to fellow Pittsburgh natives ID Labs to “God’s Plan” producer Cardo contribute to this album’s impressive sound. However, another fact remains: Mac Miller doesn’t really have a whole lot to say. Even after a public split with Ariana Grande earlier this year, Miller’s lyrics on Swimming – rather than directly addressing his feelings – often find him simply crawling between various esoteric trains of thought that leave the production to carry him. I find myself wincing in the first verse of “Wings” when he clumsily points out “that’s a motif!”, and I really struggle through the bleary-eyed pseudo-raps of “Dunno”, the meandering mopefest of “Small Worlds”, and several other underwhelming lyrical moments. So while I dig this album sonically, I don’t find myself connecting with Mac’s words like I did on the lovey dovey Divine Feminine or the triumphant “I’m off drugs!” comeback that was GO:OD AM. I salute Mac for continuing to be carve out his own sound within hip-hop, but I probably won’t be returning to this all that much. NOT RECOMMENDED

Sinsaenum – Repulsion for Humanity

Back in 2016, when ex-Slipknot skinsman Joey Jordison and Dragonforce bassist Frederic Leclercq teased their new supergroup Sinsaenum as an epic collision between Black Metal and Death Metal, I was ecstatic at the thought. At the time, Behemoth’s The Satanist was the last truly great Blackened Death Metal LP I had heard, and I was aching for something new. Well, you can imagine my disappointment when Sinsaenum’s debut Echoes of the Tortured was pretty much just Morbid Angel worship with creepy keyboard interludes. But then, last year’s Ashes EP renewed my hope with a short set of killer tracks that gave me exactly what I wanted – some eerie-yet-brutal, Black Metal-infused Death Metal! So, anticipation was high for Repulsion for Humanity, the band’s sophomore outing and follow-up to Ashes.

Well, they kinda let me down again. Don’t get me wrong, Repulsion for Humanity is very well-executed, but on this record Sinsaenum spend far too much time on compositional Death Metal clichés, aimless guitar solos, and tired lyrical subject matter, rather than turning their attention towards atmosphere and genre-fusing like they did on Ashes. At the end of the day, I found more positives than negatives, but given the raw talent that this band posses, I still wish Sinsaenum would have given us more than a slightly-above-average, dime-a-dozen Death Metal record. Here is a full review. RECOMMENDED

 Travis Scott – Astroworld

Trap powerhouse Travis Scott came in hot with album number three, armed with quite possibly the craziest guest list of any Hip-Hop release this year (Drake, Frank Ocean, James Blake, The Weeknd, Kid Cudi, Swae Lee, 21 Savage, Quavo, Juice Wrld, and Nav all appear). Not to mention, it’s a who’s who of Hip-Hop production as well, with people like Mike Dean, Hit-Boy, Cardo, Murda Beatz, Boi-1da, Thundercat, and even Tame Impala involved. If anybody has done a better job setting themselves up for an “instant classic”, I’d like to hear you argue against Travis Scott. And of course, many critics quickly obliged and gave it that label.

However, I find it surprising that any album containing a Drake verse about taking prescription drugs to fall asleep on a plane can be considered an “instant classic”. Not only do I find Drizzy’s aforementioned “Sicko Mode” verse boring, but a significant chunk of the LP as a whole, with mid-album cuts like “5% Tint”, “Astrothunder”, and “Can’t Say” lulling me to sleep. Surrounded by so many industry heavy-hitters, it’s strange but unsurprising that Scott and his familiar auto-tuned brags are the most non-essential part of this album. The beats are off the chain (see the tuneful Tame Impala and Weeknd collaboration “Skeletons” or the sensory overload of “Carousel”), and more than enough to keep me around most of the time, but Scott himself is just not that interesting to me. So, “instant classic”? Eh, don’t believe the hype. NOT RECOMMENDED

Snak the Ripper – Off the Rails

I got turned on to this amazing record by an Instagram post from Rittz (one of my favorite rappers for several years now), from whom Snak the Ripper had snagged a guest verse for the single “All Out”.

And yet again, Rittz has done great things for my life. I can’t believe how good this record is! Skill-wise, Snak is your archetypal rappity-rapper, packing dense rhyme patterns into complex, high-velocity flows, but his abundance of thoughtful content and his selection of low key, contemplative beats (see “I Ain’t Dead”, “I’m Good, or “Hourglass”) that give him room to let loose lyrically are what ultimately make him stand out. There’s not a single track I don’t like on here, but I’d especially recommend “Baby Boy”, where Snak has some touching words for his newborn son, “Driftin”, which has a super dope video with some tour footage mixed in, and “Knuckle Sandwich”, which brings on R.A. The Rugged Man for a murderous guest appearance.

Seriously, I can’t say ENOUGH good things about this LP! Should definitely end up in the year-end Hip-Hop conversation in a few months! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Jason Mraz – Know

Back in college, if you saw a corny dude wearing a fedora and strumming his Ukulele in the middle of campus, you’d make fun of him. The kid’s clearly just trying to get laid in the saddest, most transparent way possible.

Well, Jason Mraz’s albums are the sonic equivalent of that. I don’t know the guy personally, so if he really is this sunny and optimistic all the time, God bless him. Lord knows we have enough cynicism in the world at the moment. But this cutesy RomCom music is tough for me stomach. When I hear lines like “we could be bigger than cheese and macaroni” (on a song that is titled “UNLONELY”, mind you) I feel like punching him. A decade after Mraz’s most ubiquitous hits – “Lucky” and “I’m Yours” – he’s still using the same old chord progressions, the same child-like turns of phrases, and making the same manufactured Summer picnic music. NOT RECOMMENDED

 Death Cab for Cutie – Thank You For Today

I had no idea how much I missed Death Cab’s warm, comforting sound until I heard this LP. Regrettably, I skipped over 2015’s Kintsugi, so it had been around seven years. But I quickly got reacquainted thanks to misty-eyed highlights like “Autumn Love” and “Summer Years”, as well as the hooky “Northern Lights” and the contemplative intro track “I Dreamt We Spoke Again”, which almost felt Kid A-esque to me. While it fizzles out a tad with the last few tracks (I’m not crazy about the somber “You Moved Away” or the generic “Near/Far”), Thank You For Today is a wonderful way to send Summmer 2018 off, and it’s inspiring to dig back into the Death Cab catalogue a bit! RECOMMENDED

Ariana Grande – Sweetener

I realize that 2016’s Dangerous Woman might’ve been the most overplayed Pop album of that God forsaken year, but I still thought it was excellent. Even the deep cuts. I still jam it all the time. And it makes me sad that I couldn’t feel the same way about its follow-up, Sweetener. I’m very lukewarm on this one, mostly because of the beat selection. Personally, I would much rather hear Ariana’s gorgeous voice over stuff like the bluesy “Dangerous Woman” or the boy band nostalgia-invoking “Sometimes” from her last record than, say, the obnoxious Pharrell-ism “The Light is Coming” or the generic trap of “God is a Woman”. It just doesn’t excite me. Sweetener already feels a bit tired by the time the stand out single “No Tears Left to Cry” arrives ten tracks in. But I remain a fan and look forward to Ariana’s next project. NOT RECOMMENDED

Alice in Chains – Rainer Fog

Rainer Fog is now Alice in Chains’ third album during the William Duvall era of the band. It’s crazy to think about how a decade ago, replacing AIC’s late great frontman Layne Staley seemed preposterous, but this current incarnation really grew into it quickly. With Rainer Fog, the sixth LP overall from the Grunge legends, Alice continue to do justice to their legacy by making lively Hard Rock songs that feel modern and exciting – see the driving title cut or the dissonant stomp of opener “The One You Know” for further proof. It might not be a perfect record – I have trouble vibing with the bloated Sabbathian cut “Drone”, for instance – but neither was Facelift if we’re keeping it all the way real. Seriously, it wasn’t! So I don’t care how much you love their early ‘90s material – the point is, for Alice in Chains to continue to make quality music like this over thirty years into their career, it makes them….one of VERY few grunge bands to do so. RECOMMENDED

A FEW MORE:

LIKE:

Alkaline Trio – Is This Thing Cursed?

Blue October – I Hope You’re Happy

Bun B – Return of the Trill

Eminem – Kamikaze

Nothing – Dance on the Blacktop

Trippie Redd – Life’s a Trip

DON’T LIKE:

The Amity Affliction – Misery

Black Tusk – T.C.B.T.

Excision – Apex

Matoma – One in a Million

Plain White T’s – Parallel Universe

YG – Stay Dangerous