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INTERVIEW: Dutch Black Metal/Post Punk Band Laster

Laster- Ons vrije fatum

2017 may just be getting started, but we’ve already heard some albums that are potential end of the year contenders and are sure to still be talked about eleven months from now.  One of those is ‘Ons vrije fatum’, the sophomore effort from Dutch black metal band Laster.  The group came to my attention back in 2013 with their demo ‘Wijsgeer & Narreman’, which offered up sprawling, bleak instrumentation that pulled from equal parts Burzum style black metal and that of the depressive variety.  A year later ‘De verste verte is hier’ took those ideas to an entirely new level, reaching truly stunning levels of atmosphere that reached truly epic proportions.  The album ended with a surprise shift into shoegaze and post punk, hinting at more experimentation to come.

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INTERVIEW: Greek Heavy Metal Band Agatus

Agatus- The Eternalist

In October Agatus released their third album ‘The Eternalist, their first full length in nearly fourteen years.  The interim period saw two limited EP released in 2011 and 2012, with the title track of 2012’s ‘Gilgamesh’ finding its way onto ‘The Eternalist’.  While earlier incarnations of the band explored elements of black metal that were reminiscent of some of their other Greek counterparts, over the years Agatus has gravitated towards heavy metal and progressive rock to create a sound that’s epic in scale yet warm and inviting at all the right moments.  Traces of black metal remain, but this is a very different effort when compared to the group’s back catalog and it finds them reaching new heights.  ‘The Eternalist’ draws you in with bombastic riffing that has traces of early progressive rock and traditional heavy metal wrapped in a black metal esthetic, revealing more nuances with each listen.

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Interview with black/death metal band TRENCH WARFARE

Trench Warfare are a potent black/death metal band from US. They’ve released one highly acclaimed demo in ‘Perversion Warfare’ and it retains the classic black/death essence of this style. It’s violent, uncompromising in its vision and holds much promise for the future. Here’s a brief interview with the members to find out more information about their band.

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INTERVIEW: U.S. Technical Death Metal Band Crator

The Ones Who Create: The Ones Who Destroy

Crator’s debut full length ‘The Ones Who Create: The Ones Who Destroy’ completely snuck under my radar when it came out back in September, coming to my attention a little over a month later thanks to a promotional push from Clawhammer PR.  You’re likely to see the New York based band branded as a supergroup, though I prefer to think of them as a group comprised of metal musicians whose other projects I am a big fan of.  Formed by Jeff Liefer (Tentacles), Jason Keyser (Origin, ex-Skinless), and John Longstreth (Origin, Dim Mak, and a whole slew of other important death metal bands over the years) with Colin Marston (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia) playing bass and working the boards, that wealth of talent is evident throughout.

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INTERVIEW: Dan Kelly of THE HUDSON HORROR

There are certain smaller groups out there that I just connect with for one reason or another.  It usually has a lot to do with a perfect storm of quality music, clear passion, and personability of the musicians involved.  The Hudson Horror undoubtedly meet these criteria.  I was initially drawn in during the promotion of their debut full length, but they have stuck around and this year released a follow-up EP called Ruiner.  During this time, I have also had the pleasure to correspond with Dan Kelly, the band's vocalist and a founding member.  It seemed natural to sit down with Dan, in real time albeit from across the country, and just shoot the shit about the band, early influences, the current state of the music business, and more.

ALBUM TRAILER PREMIERE + INTERVIEW: Black/Grind Band Kratornas

Kratornas- Devoured by Damnation

December 8th will see the release of ‘Devoured by Damnation’, the newest full length from black metal/grind band Kratornas.  Originally formed in the Phillipines by multi-instrumentalist Zachariah, what began as a full band for a short period quickly became a solo effort.  In the years that have followed Zachariah has relocated to Canada, and recruited drummer GB Guzzarin after utilizing programmed drums on his previous full lengths.  With a real drummer and some of the strongest production values the project has boasted yet, ‘Devoured by Damnation’ is a heavy hitter worth paying attention to.

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Interview with Russian death metal band CONFLICT

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I’m a huge fan of forward-thinking aka industrialized death metal. I found Fear Factory to be the future of death metal in the early days (I have changed my mind since to come to the conclusion that it’s in the fusion of multiple genres). There are acts like Oracles with Aborted and System Divide members who’re doing something similar albeit a lot more modern, and going back a few years, The Project Hate MCMXCIX from Sweden. The beauty of those bands lies in the fact that heaviness is alternated with contrasting moods affected by usually clean female vocals, and it’s this mix that is highly stimulating, for the lack of a better word. Conflict from Russia are doing something similar. Self-professed perfectionists, they have put out a stellar full length, and of late even a stunning video that got featured in our video roundup article.

Transcending Obscurity (Kunal Choksi): Looking back at your mammoth full length ‘Transform into a Human’, what are your thoughts about it? How well was the album received and how far did it propel your band into limelight?

Rodion (guitar): It is quite difficult for me to esteem the album objectively. For me, as a musician, Conflict is the first serious music project in which I participate.

Over time, I have improved my skills as a musician: in composition, structure, riffs, approach to songwriting in general, all that is changing and undergoes metamorphosis, because for me the album seems to be something very far, if I look at myself in the past.

I definitely like the album, but if we had done ‘Transform Into a Human’ now, some things would have sounded a little differently. With the release of the CD, our group gained international fame, and this is a good achievement. Interest in the band has grown considerably; we receive people responses from all corners of the globe. The release of the music video increased awareness of our band drastically. The very fact of our interview now shows the significant attention paid to us.

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TO: Besides the obvious band Fear Factory, your band also reminds me of this underrated group from Sweden called The Project Hate MCMXCIX, what with the modern outlook and clean female vocals contrasting with massive growls. Of late, members of System Divine and Aborted released an album under the name of Oracles which was similar. Is this the future of metal? Once a novelty, female-fronted bands are being well-received and respected as well.

Michael (drums): I believe that the future of metal in a mixture with other genres. Now lots of bands are moving in this direction and it is highly refreshing.

We believe that the future of metal heavily depends on the mood that conveys the genre. If music represents the atmosphere that grows associations, feelings or reflection to inner entity then there would be desire to listen to music all over again. We also believe that it is unnecessary to drive ourselves strongly in frames, metal is very flexible musical direction, which can be converted infinitely by adding new elements from other genres.


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TO: Can you tell us about the concept of your full length album? The artwork looks stunning and I’d love to know more about it.

Anna (vocals): There is a certain pattern in the album. I moved forward, back and forth in the lyric lines to describe transformation from a human being to a machine (literally and figuratively); what a man feels when he comes up with a system, whether it is a policy or internal chains or slavery. Some songs are written upon emotional response to a science fiction film, to its idea. On example, “The Elements of a New Era” based on “Blade Runner” main theme or Infinite Travel on Bicentennial Man’s idea. Both tell about freedom, even a mechanical creature born to be a man’s right hand searches the meaning of its own existence.  A unique fact showing that a robot can be more human than any human can. “Rebuild the parasite” shows another side of a story, where machines are the darkest cluster which reflects a society, trying to decompose a soul and uniqueness of everyone. All these thoughts are so old, maybe somebody calls them banal, but still urgent, reflecting our consciousness today. We have to do everything just not to become a machine of uncontrolled consumption, of war, of ignorance… As for the album name, it was kinda flash in my mind. While we moved further in recording the material, searching of ideas for lyrics, the pattern became more and more colorful and definite. The phrase came up in a second, as envelope for message.

Regarding artwork – after the minimalistic design of “Prototype” we craved for something different, something that would catch an eye, or at least raise questions. We had a big number of designers and artists in mind: the first on the list, who agreed to work on a cover design, was a Greek artist, the leader of “Septic Flesh” – Seth Siro Anton, his style is very outstanding and recognizable.

However, still we doubted whether his artwork would be able to transfer the atmosphere, the mood of the music. Anyway, we took a break to think it over again and, just at that moment, we found through the net some artworks of Pierre-Alain Durand, the French digital artist and illustrator. All uncertainties, questions on who is going to be the author of the cover disappeared at once!

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TO: You have released a slew of singles (mostly covers) since. How has that panned out for you? Do you think singles are important in metal? Is there a risk in doing covers of non-metal acts such as Lana Del Rey?

Rodion: Well, facing the current state of the music industry, the release of singles is a vital necessity! The flow of information is so powerful that if you produce a full-length album every 2-3 years, you could fully drown in this flow. The fans’ attention is unfocused and if we want to stay afloat, there’s need to periodically remind of we are still here and making music!

We definitely like to record cover songs, always wondering how this or that song will sound in a new interpretation, and if it is a pop song, then the process becomes even more interesting! No risk at all, we do not abandon metal as a style, so that our fans may stay calm. At the same time, we are not hostages of the genre and allow ourselves to do what we really like.

Anyway, our fans have choice to listen to our music or not. As you can see, cover versions we make are not limited to the styles of artists taken for covers. In the near future, you may rest assured, and find out the main audience likes our cover versions and still wants more.

TO: The death metal influences lend extra heaviness to your band. Do you want to go with the same sound or do you want to be more progressive in your approach in the future? What can we expect from Conflict in the coming years?

Rodion: Musical roots of Conflict go back to the music that we still like, resonating with every member of the band and this is not easy listening music; we refuse to step off the origins. However, in new tracks, we plan to complete our usual formula with more atmospheric moments, diluting the barrage of machine-gun riffs with catchy melodic fragments. This trend is being seamlessly traced through “Transform into a Human” and we are planning to improve and develop the blend in future.

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TO: Your video was mentioned by me in our video roundup article. I love how there are fitting futuristic animations like Tron in your video. I couldn’t help but notice how popular it has become too. What can you tell us about the video? Did it prove to be very expensive to make that one and how important was that as an investment for the band?

Michael: Among our colleagues, our band stands out with huge perfectionist approach to our art, our releases is the evidence, so what happened to the debut video. In general, work on the video took a very long time and was quite expensive. We are not signed to any label, and completed work relying on our own strength and resources, so you can understand what cost we paid for the action! In any case, we are satisfied with the result.

Initially we did not intend to produce an average music video and film it somewhere in the forest or at an abandoned factory, too many pointless videos out there. Our course was set to computer graphic fulfillment. Visuals entirely based on CGI, everything was created and modeled from scratch; the huge work was carried out!

The higher the quality, the more passionate idea you deliver, the bigger the audience pays attention to a band. That was the most important investment to the video.

The video “Mechanism of Life” executed in the art style of symbolism, where a character becomes a kind of a conventional sign, there is innuendo and hints. The plot tells the story of how man seeks advanced technology to enter the era of “post-humanity” where it is possible to abandon the usual human appearance and cross the border of immortality, completely changing its essence by modifying his/her own body and maybe mind…The aim of the project was to create a high quality video product that would seriously differ from the majority of videos on the metal scene and recognized by audience.

TO: With such surprising and diverse covers – from Fear Factory to even Eiffel 65 – it’d be interesting to know about your influences, past and present. Are there any bands that you look up to?

Rodion: This is a very interesting question. In general, the idea of making a cover on Eiffel 65 came to us on the way home after a gig. We were seating in the car and listening to the retro radio – “Hits of the 90s”. Of course, we are familiar with Eiffel 65 and their music, but when heard the first notes of the song, almost everybody said – “Hey, we gotta cover this song! It would be crazy!” Each member of the group listens to tons of music of different kind, from jazz and hits of 60s to extreme metal.

I used to explore areas of metal music, but now I am an absolute melomaniac. I may listen to Depeche Mode in the morning, then avant-garde jazz in the evening. Even synthwave! It helps to bring new elements into our music and not be limited to the metal genre.

TO: I couldn’t help but notice that your band is still unsigned, which is surprising considering that you seem to have your shit sorted – right from nailing the  sound to the presentation, and doing everything that needs to be done with regards to the promotion. Is this deliberate or are you eventually looking to get signed to one of the bigger labels out there that would be a good match for your kind of music ?

Michael: The decision about self-publishing for the second album was made fast enough. 3 years ago we already had the idea on how the album should look like. No label would not undertake such a clearance. We were also well aware that firing, in fact, a collector’s edition in conjunction with high-quality musical material, we would be able to sell and compensate the edition, collectors still remain. We are glad that people can have a fragment of our work as a token, and not just a set of numbers on a computer that is why we continue to produce CDs.

However, there is another side, of course, a band needs a good label, we are sorely lacking in advertising and distribution of the music and information about the band! We think a label could help much, but so far, no proposals we have. Perhaps with the release of a new record we will approach to the search of a label more responsibly.

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TO: How often does Conflict play live? Have there been any international tours for the band yet? Are there any plans for that in the future?

Rodion: Yes, Conflict plays live gigs, we are fully functional in this aspect, rather than a studio project. Now, basically, we try visit Russian cities. Moscow public is very fastidious and picky people who mostly prefer famous artists to domestic bands. Unfortunately, due to the deteriorating economic situation, it is difficult for us to afford international tours, although we receive invitations, for example to South America. We hope that the situation will somehow change and the band will be able to visit with concerts different countries of the world. Maybe India? 🙂

TO: How challenging is it to play forward-thinking metal in Russia? From the looks of it, most Russian bands seem to be playing more old school-rooted music. How is the support for your band in your home country?

Michael: It is hard for us to find vast audience here among bands who play death, heavy or folk metal. Development and approach in many cases in Russia go with some delay in comparison with the majority of countries in the world, at the same time conservative view is very strong, therefore, more comfortable for people to listen and to go to concerts presenting understandable and comprehensive music they got used to. Sometimes it seems that we have more fans abroad than in Russia, and their warm support grows every day. The fact of lack support at home is a bit disappointing, but we continue to do our job without lowering the bar! Anyway, our fans’ attention and support give us inspiration and strength to go further!

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TO:  When can we expect new original music from the band? Are you working on an EP (wouldn’t be a bad idea) or another full length?

Rodion: Now we have started working on a new material and a couple of tracks are almost ready. The plan is to record 10-11 new compositions for a full LP. As the parallel, we are defining a conception. There are some very interesting ideas, but everything has its time. In addition, we have been frequently asked about a cover album, so we decided to release one to gather all of them, maybe with some new ones. We also do not forget about a new music video and planning its production accordingly.

TO: Thank you for your time and refreshing music. Last words are yours.

Conflict: Thank you very much for your interesting questions. Finally we are not asked why the band is called Conflict! 🙂 Follow our news and online resources; we are moving forward with a good bunch of interesting ideas and plans! Support your favorite artists and listen to interesting and high-quality music!

Conflict Facebook | Conflict Bandcamp | Imperative PR

Interview with guitarist Jeff Loomis of ARCH ENEMY, ex-NEVERMORE

jeff-loomis

Jeff Loomis is known largely for his band Nevermore and has since joined death metal band Arch Enemy. He has a solo project as well as one with notable muscians such as Alex Webster and others in Conquering Dystopia. An amazing guitarist, Loomis performs around the world, touring with Arch Enemy but also doing guitar clinics to a great effect. In December this year, he’s doing a multi-city tour of India, in the following cities – Delhi, Guwahati, Chennai and Bangalore. Peter K. talks to this humble and respected musician to obtain his insights on various subjects and what has kept him going on for so long.

Transcending Obscurity (Peter K): You are embarking on your Conquering India Tour 2016 next month. How does it feel? Is this your first time in India? What are your expectations from it?

Jeff Loomis: Yes this is my first time I will be visiting India and I am really excited about it. Besides playing music I enjoy traveling and seeing new places, so I think it will be great. From what I hear I have quite a few fans in India, so my expectations are very high. I can’t wait to meet everyone and share my music. One thing about touring in a band is that sometimes you really don’t get the opportunity to meet your fans. So half of the reason I started doing guitar clinics/seminars and solo performances was to be able to connect with the fans and answer as many questions as I can.

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TO: How did the tour come about? Were there any issues that you were worried about? How has it worked out with the organizers thus far?

Jeff Loomis: The tour simply came about with my friend who lives in India who is a promoter and event organizer who initially asked me a few months back if I would be interested. The only thing I was really concerned about was if I would have time to do it, because Arch Enemy tours a lot and I just so happened to have a bit of off time. The organizers thus far have been a tremendous support and have helped with every little detail along the way. I’m happy to say everything is locked in and ready to go. Right now with it being two weeks before the tour starts, my days are pretty much busy just preparing for everything and rehearsing all the songs.

TO: In 2014, you joined well known metal band Arch Enemy. How did become a part of the line up? How has the experience been for you so far?

Jeff Loomis: Yes! I joined in November of 2014. Basically to make a long story short, I’ve been friends with most of the band for quite some time. I’ve known Michael and Sharlee the longest and we have kept in touch over the years. As a matter of fact Arch Enemy and my old band Nevermore used to tour together back in the day. So with that being said, Michael basically emailed me while I was in China doing guitar clinics and asked if I would be interested in joining the band. To me it was basically an easy decision, simply because I am a big fan of the band and writing style, and I was really itching to tour again on a professional level. The experience so far has been really amazing. Almost 100% of the shows are just packed. They have such a solid fan base and it’s really a huge honor to be surrounded with such fantastic musicians and people. We have a great crew and everything runs really smooth while on the road. I’m having a great time.

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TO: What’s the most memorable point of your career? Would you like to share some memorable incidents as well? 

Jeff Loomis: Haha well there are so many and I’ve been so fortunate in so many ways. I’ve jammed and met a lot of my guitar idols….Yngwie, Tony MacAlpine, Marty Friedman. But something i’ll always remember the most was playing the Dynamo festival in Holland when i was in Nevermore back in 1995. I was only 23 and we played in front of over 100,000 people. It was massive and we were one of the opening bands of the day. I think we were all a bit overwhelmed to say the least. We had just put out our first album and started touring in Europe. We were lucky enough to play this festival and it really opened up a lot of doors for us and it’s something I’ll never forget. This year marks my 21st year of being a touring musician. I’m really lucky to still be able to do this and I don’t take it for granted by any means. It’s in my blood.

TO: You also a part of Conquering Dystopia along with Alex Webster, Alex Rüdinger and Keith Merrow. The band 2014 self-titled release was a delight for guitar players. What is the current status on the band? Are you’ll working on new material?

Jeff Loomis: Yes thank you! I think that is one hell of an album. I listen to it all the time and it’s such a pleasure to listen to. Keith is an amazing writer and a riff machine haha. We worked really well together and hopefully we will be able to do another one in the near future. Conquering Dystopia is more of a project than a band. It’s basically 4 musicians that got together to do something insane and that’s what we did. Everyone is super busying with other things – Alex W. is in Cannibal Corpse, Alex R. is in a band called Good Tiger and a lot of Keith’s time is dedicated to working with Seymour Duncan pick ups besides him being a composer, and of course me in Arch Enemy. So really it’s about finding the time when everyone is free. I would be super stoked to do another one if the timing is right.

TO: What are your plans for the coming year? How much time do you dedicate or allot to touring and composing music respectively?

Jeff Loomis: The last two years of my life was on the road with Arch Enemy. My plans are to come to India in two weeks for a short run of shows. Them immediately after I will commence work and writing for my third solo album. Arch Enemy will also be recording in this time so my time will be split between those two things. It’s really just about finding the spare time to come up with riffs etc etc. It’s a bit hard for me to write on the road so I find it easier when I have down time and not traveling.

TO: It has been four years since the release of your solo album ‘Plains of Oblivion’. When can we expect the next release from you? How challenging was it to start a solo band?

Jeff Loomis: My next solo release will come out in the Summer of 2017. Doing the solo band thing was something I tried. We did about three tours in the past, a few in the US and one in Europe. I just simply found good musicians and went out on the road with it. I doubt that will happen much anymore because of all the extensive touring I do with Arch Enemy. But at least I will be able to put another album out for people that are interested. This is always fun for me because I’m able to show another side of myself musically.

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TO: What is your take on the relevance of metal these days, when most of the audience is into EDM and such dance-friendly forms of music?

Jeff Loomis: Yes well a lot has changed. I listen to some of the new stuff. But I generally find myself listening to music I grew up with.

TO: Do you think live shows are diminishing worldwide in favour of programmed shows? What are your thoughts on this?

Jeff Loomis: No not necessarily… obviously there are many performers that go that route because it’s part of their style so to speak. It’s just that technology is getting better. This makes recording and performance easier and can also ruin the live aspect of things. Perfection in a recording used to be worked for with hundreds of takes until you got it right. Now things can be processed and in tune with a press of a button. I prefer to work on things with keeping it real so to speak and taking the time to make it right on my own.

be diverse with what you listen to musically. There is so much out there that is beautiful.

TO: What would you like to tell your fans? Do you have any words of advice to young budding musicians here?

Jeff Loomis: Yeah of course. I would say be diverse with what you listen to musically. There is so much out there that is beautiful. People would be surprised of what I listen to haha. It’s really what makes me excited for the frame of mind I’m in during any particular day. I tend to listen to a lot of classical music because I find it relaxing. I also love jazz and 70s music. So I try to mix it up a bit. Also I think it’s really important to get out and jam with other people. I see a lot of kids just playing and recording themselves in their bedrooms and that’s great, however if you play with other musicians like a drummer or bass player it opens up a lot for the creative process. And by all means try to play in front of people. I started doing that at a very young age. It really just makes you better and more seasoned of a player. And last but not least, be an innovator. Do things others don’t and be your own person. Have an identity so people know it’s you when you are playing. I’m still working on this myself, but that’s what makes music fun. It’s an open canvas to let you do what you want.

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TO: Were you aware of the existence of a metal scene in India before getting booked for the shows? What are you looking forward to at your shows in India?

Jeff Loomis: To be quite honest I’m not that aware of the music scene in India so I’m so looking forward to meeting the other bands and seeing what it’s all about! I’m mostly looking forward to meeting other guitarists to see what they’re into and what they are playing. I always look forward to learning something new.

TO: Since this is your first show in India, what can fans expect from your set? Do you have any fixed favourites that you always perform?

Jeff Loomis: The music I will play will be spanning my entire career. So I will play some Nevermore songs, some solo Jeff Loomis material, and also some Conquering Dystopia stuff. Some crowd pleasers are pieces such as Miles of Machines and Jato Unit. I’ll be playing both of those for sure, and a few other surprises as well.

I’m generally a pretty shy person and guitar is another way I express myself through what I’m feeling.

TO: Lastly, what has kept you go on for all these years? What is your secret?

Jeff Loomis: There is no secret really. It’s all about the love of playing guitar and music. To me it’s a passion. It’s a way of expressing myself as well. I’m generally a pretty shy person and guitar is another way I express myself through what I’m feeling. I can’t go a day without picking up the guitar, it just so happens that I can do it on a professional level and tour to share it with others. It’s an amazing thing and I can see the joy it brings to people which makes me happy too. That’s what keeps me going.

TO: Many thanks for your time to answer this interview despite your busy schedule. Do you have any final words?

Jeff Loomis: Thanks a lot for the interview! I would just like to say that I’m beyond excited to come to India and share my music with everyone. See you all very soon.

Jeff Loomis Official Site | Jeff Loomis Facebook 

INTERVIEW + ALBUM PREMIERE: Paraguayan Black/Death/Thrash Band Master of Cruelty

Master of Cruelty- Archaic Visions of the Underworld

Blood Harvest Records has had a fantastic roster of releases this year, many of which we’ve been lucky enough to premiere in recent months.  One of the elements I like the most about the label is their emphasis on South American metal, as their reissues and other releases bring material my way that I might have missed otherwise.  They’ve saved one of their best efforts for the tail end of the year though, as November 25th will see the release of ‘Archaic Visions of the Underworld’ on vinyl, the second full length from Paraguayan black/death/thrash band Master of Cruelty (CD is being handled by Deathrash Armageddon).  It has been four years since Master of Cruelty’s last full length, though they’ve had some splits and an EP in between.  Today we’re premiering the record in its entirety, and it’s one of the better examples of the level of talent that can be found in South American metal.

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