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VIDEO PREMIERE+INTERVIEW: Spanish Death/Thrash Band Canker

Canker- Earthquake

While not as well-known abroad, the 90s Spanish death metal scene had quite a few noteworthy bands that contributed their own take on the genre.  Through the efforts of Xtreem Music a lot of these groups have had their earlier material re-issued and offered up new albums, sometimes a decade or two after they were last heard from.  This is the case with death/thrash band Canker, who originally re-issued their 1994 debut ‘Physical’ in a compilation that included their earlier demo material.  Now they’re set to release their third full length album ‘Earthquake’ on September 18th, their first all-new material since 1997’s ‘Exquisites Tenderness’.  What you may not know is that this actually isn’t a brand new record from the current incarnation of Canker, but rather a previously finished and unreleased album that’s been lying dormant since 2005.  But you wouldn’t know it upon first listen, and it gives listeners a window of where the band was at this point in time and where they’re likely to be headed in the future.

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INTERVIEW: UAE Death metal band Nervecell

Nervecell are stalwarts of the Middle East metal scene. The UAE based death metal band have released 2 full length albums, toured across Europe and performed alongside legendary metal acts like Metallica and recently Nile.

Next week the band release their third album Past, Present…Torture via Lifeforce Records (US/Europe) and Metal East Records (Middle East). The band have premiered 3 tracks from the album so far, a peek into their heaviest material yet. A few listens of the album was all it took for me to get convinced that Nervecell had topped their previous album Pscyhogencide.

I spoke to guitarist Barney Ribeiro about Past, Present…Torture, death metal in 2017 and also performing in India.

 

 

Transcending Obscurity (Peter K): Your third album Past, Present…Torture releases this month. How does it feel now that the album is going to be released?

Nervecell (Barney): Pretty damn good, we were in Lyon, France exactly around this same time last year (July 2016) tracking drums with Kevin. After which we brought the drum tracks back with us to Dubai and immediately went into Haven Studios to track the guitars, bass and vocal tracks. So even though the album is new to the rest of the world, those songs have actually been with us for the better half of the last 2 years that we’ve been working on and crafting. If anything it just amazes me how fast time flies. I’m just really glad we’re finally going to release this thing, the fans have been very patient waiting for new music from us and their going to get what they’ve been waiting for.

TO: The album has a post apocalyptic theme. What was the inspiration behind it?

Nervecell: Honestly it’s something we came up with very gradually as the song titles started to come in one after the other. The music has this post apocalyptic vibe in a lot of the songs and the subject matter of the lyrics that James was singing about too was resonating with us quite a lot during the writing stage, which had to do with past events and the dark ages. There is still so much of untold information out there from the past that people do not necessarily know about, and that is only until recently being brought into the limelight. One would expect we live in a modern civilized world today but the future has so much of unpredictability ahead of us that it will inevitably lead to the fall of the human race. The present basically represents us trying to do our bit and alarm everyone to start taking action before it gets too late, hence why you see the Nervecell Emblem arising from the grounds on the album artwork to resemble a sense of warning and symbolism to act now, so take matters in our own hands so to speak, before it’s too late.

TO: You’ve have upped the ante on the production of the album. Did you try anything different this time around with the recording process?

Nervecell: Thanks! Well we played around with loads of stuff. We’ve always been a band that is heavily involved throughout the entire recording process. I mean we used our own Engl guitar amp heads for starters. Basically what we use live, we wanted the very same sound we deliver live to be used in the studio. So we had Rami and my guitar tones intentionally set out differently in that aspect while recording each of our songs. We also have songs on the album that Rami wrote individually and songs that I wrote individually as well, which is different this time around as we used to always merge our ideas together in our songs on previous releases. There are only 2 songs on this album that the entire band contributed to as a whole. We also wrote almost all the drum parts on this record and got Kevin to basically perform / record our ideas while doing the drum tracking. Unlike the first 2 albums, where we pretty much left Dave Haley with a lot of freedom you can say. So all of that together with that fact that we utilized some atmospheric elements into the songs, very faint stuff but you do here these minor details that add that extra element that helps emphasize the mood of certain tracks. Also we’ve recorded the entire album on a different tuning in comparison to our older releases, which gave a different edge on how our songs sounded this time around. We just went into making this record knowing we wanted a brutal more technical sounding record and to keep it as organic as possible.

 

TO: Kevin Foley (One life All-in, Benigthed) has recorded the drums on the album. How did he become a part of the album?

Nervecell: Kevin has always been a guy we’ve been very close with. We’ve worked with various drummers over the years but you know not everyone is necessarily the same. Kevin honestly reminds me of us, he’s extremely down to earth, extremely talented, very versatile by the way in his playing style, completely drama free, real fun to hang with and also has loads of recording experience in him as well! I mean there is more to just being a good drummer that we look for when selecting who we want to have been a part of our band and perform on our songs. Chemistry is so very important to me and I make sure there is that chemistry that we get along with all the drummers we work with more that anything else I’d say. He just had it all man and like I said, a very good friend to the band. Don’t forget he’s toured with us all over Asia and Europe for a good 2 to 3 years so all that counts too.

TO: What are your thoughts on the current state of death metal?

Nervecell: It’s coming back like a fucking tsumani, I mean we’ve got all the iconic death metal bands either releasing/released or working on new albums this year like ourselves, it’s ridiculous. Morbid Angel, Deicide, Suffocation, Decapitated, Cannibal Corpse, Broken Hope, Origin, Decrepit Birth, Obituary and a shit load of newer extreme metal bands too of course…I can keep naming them but anyway. I put up a post about this earlier this year on my Facebook stating how if there was anyone out there who claims Death Metal is dead or going nowhere in 2017 can seriously F#*k off! There are a lot more players now in the genre and the competition is getting real hot. I love it because we coming from the Middle East are used to the heat (and by heat I mean more of those who are envious and jealous of others success – especially in this region), so we are sooo super stoked to kick the shit out of all the non-believers with this new record and let the music speak for itself. “Past, Present…Torture” is going to seal the deal that we aren’t stopping anytime soon, and we are going out there proudly representing the Middle East for Extreme Metal in general.

TO: What have you been listening to lately (metal and non-metal)? Are there any acts that have inspired you of late?

Nervecell: Honestly I haven’t been inspired for the last 4 to 5 years musically. Even in Metal there hasn’t really been anything that really does it for me anymore. There is this whole new wave of Death core bands that I just really can’t get into man. I mean I get it, it’s brutal, break-downs, crisp production etc. but they have like 20 laptops on stage playing backing tracks man…I’m sorry I don’t give in to that shit! Part of me liking metal is that raw, unpredictable and spontaneous energy you get when performing live that keeps this genre pure and different from the rest for me personally. I can’t stand these bands with their choreographed performances. I always keep an open ear for new music though, but really if there is anything I’ve been listening to lately it’s just the classic Thrash and Death metal bands I grew up to man. There just don’t make good old-school quality music like that anymore, the closest to that sound I can relate to today is probably Bloodbath, although that last album they did with Nick Holmes was rather disappointing. If I want to just chill and mellow out I’ll pop in some Sithu Aye, Plini, God is an Astronaut, Massive Attack, Anathema, Leprous…and perhaps even some Extol too, another very underrated band.

TO: You did a short tour of India in 2010. What are your memories from then?

Nervecell: I’ll keep this one short. That Blue Frog venue we played in Mumbai, India was one of the best live shows I’ve ever played with Nervecell. Dudes in the crowd went absolute nuts! I have no idea why the hell we haven’t been back there again since… I mean we almost sold out that venue and it was only our first time in Mumbai. Apart from that, we enjoyed the food and came back home to Dubai humbled, cause every time you feel you have something to complain about in your life, one must go visit India, shit will wake you the fuck up there and make you appreciate every little thing you got going. I’m just grateful we got fans there!

TO: You recently performed with Nile in Dubai. How did the show go?

Nervecell: It was excellent, we haven’t played in Dubai for almost 3 years, so it was nice to come back and perform at home again one last time before we release the new album officially. As always there were a lot of new faces in the audience, but that’s something we are used to being based here through out our entire career. We will probably look at playing Dubai again and other neighboring countries in the Middle East once the new album is released later this month.

TO: Do you have any more shows/tours planned this year?

Nervecell: Nothing as of now, but we sure as hell plan on touring a lot for the better half of next year in support of our new album “Past, Present…Torture”.

TO: Thanks for doing this interview. Do you have any final words?

Nervecell: Well thank you for having me here Peter. Nervecell fans, don’t forget the new album “Past, Present…Torture” comes out on August 25th around the world. Fans in the Middle East can pick it up on shelves post August 25th via Metal East Records and fans from North America / Europe can pick it up from your local music stores via Lifeforce Records. We can’t wait to hear all of your feedback and we definitely look forward to playing in your cities very soon. Cheers!

 

INTERVIEW+ALBUM PREMIERE: Finnish Death Metal Band Desecresy

Desecresy- The Mortal Horizon

Tommi Grönqvist has been responsible for quite a bit of quality Finnish death metal over the years, as he spent over a decade with Slugathor before forming Desecresy with vocalist Jarno Nurmi.  Desecresy has put out albums at a steady pace, and even though this has amounted to four full-lengths over the span of five years each one has explored different elements of the death metal genre.  This year’s ‘The Mortal Horizon’ represents the biggest change for the band, as Jarno Nurmi left the band and now Grönqvist has stepped up to do vocals in addition to continuing to write all of the instrumentation.

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July 2017 Highlights – TO Staff

It turned out to be quite a mix at the month end list this time around. With equal parts big releases (Relapse, Prosthetic, Season of Mist etc) and independent outputs, there’s something here for everyone. Many of the releases highlighted here have a ‘name your price’ offer on their Bandcamps, so make sure to check out the music and buy the release if they please you. ~ Shrivatsan R

Abhorrent Decimation (UK) – The Pardoner (Death Metal, Prosthetic Records)

Abhorrent Decimation

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INTERVIEW: Australian Death Metal Band Psycroptic

Death metal band Psycroptic are one of the well-known extreme metal acts from Australia. They have made a mark with their 6 full length albums, the latest one self titled was released in 2015. This month the band embark on their first tour of India, covering 7 cities across the country.

I spoke to drummer Dave Haley about touring Europe and North America, their upcoming album and also what to expect from their India tour.

Transcending Obscurity (Peter K): You are embarking on your first tour of India. How does it feel?

Psycroptic: It’s quite exciting to be heading to India for the first time. It’s a country that we have wanted to perform in for a long time so it’s going to be very special for us.

TO: Your 6th full length album, a self titled release, was considered by many to be among the best releases in 2015. Tell us a bit more about it.

Psycroptic: I think it’s the best album we have done – it’s still our ‘sound’ but a lot more focused and better written songs. As usual, it was produced and recorded by Joe our guitarist; each album he gets better and better at what he does. We are very proud with how it all came out.

TO: For those who have not heard your music before, which of your albums would you recommend they listen to first and Why?

Psycroptic: I would say listen to our self titled album – as that would be the most balanced and catchy album to first get into. All the albums sound a lot different from each other, but the S/T is a good starting point.

TO: What have you been listening to lately (metal and non-metal)? Are there any acts that have inspired you of late?

Psycroptic: My listening changes all the time, especially with the discover music option on Spotify. We live in a pretty crazy time for easy access to new and different music with so much ease – we are very lucky in that sense. I listen to everything from brutal death metal, to synth wave to ambient…so it’s hard to really single out any one artist. There are too many!

TO: Dave and Joe are also a part of black metal band Ruins. How do you manage between both bands?

Psycroptic: Its pretty easy – Ruins isn’t particularly active on the live front, so nothing clashes. We are all friends between both bands, and communicate a lot, so it really isn’t an issue at all.

TO: What are your thoughts on the current state of death metal?

Psycroptic: There are a lot of killer bands out there, but of course with any scene there are a lot of very average bands. This has always been the way with every kind of music of course – metal is no different. I’m still a big fan of the style after all these years playing it, but now I’m a little more selective with what I listen to.

TO: It’s been a couple of years since your self titled release. When can we expect a new album from you?

Psycroptic: We are actually in the studio at the moment working on the new album – so there will be a new album from us in 2018 for sure. We are always working on new material, and thus far the new songs are sounding very cool. I’m looking forward to playing them live!

TO: You’ve toured across North America and Europe. What similarities and differences have you noticed in the audiences in both continents.

Psycroptic: There are some many similarities, and so many differences between both of them. Europe has a lot more cultural differences in a close proximity – with every country having a unique culture and sometimes a different language – all within very close drives. But North America and Europe are both within the ‘1st World’ so in terms of technology, infrastructure, etc, they are quite similar. European tours for us are a little more comfortable, as we share a bus with other bands and travel that way.

TO: What has been your favourite city/venue to perform in so far?

Psycroptic: Haha, that is too hard to answer, as there have been so many cool shows we have done…as well as a lot of not cool shows. Playing in our home town of Hobart is always pretty damn sick though. We are very fortunate to have been able to travel and tour so much.

TO: Later this year, you will be supporting Dying Fetus on their European tour alongside Beyond Creation and Disentomb. How did the tour come about?

Psycroptic: Our booking agent in Europe asked if we would like to do it, and of course we said yes! It’s an insane lineup, and we’re very honoured to be apart of it. DF are one of my all time favourite bands, so to I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve toured with both Beyond Creation and Disentomb a few times and they are great friends of ours, so it’s going to be a fun one.

TO: Joe mixed and mastered the Godless EP Centuries of Decadence. What other Indian bands have you heard?

Psycroptic: To be honest, not that many! It will be really cool to check out new bands from India while we are there. From what I hear the Indian scene is small, but growing very rapidly with a lot of excellent bands developing.

TO: What are you looking forward to at your shows in India? Do you have any pre show rituals?

Psycroptic: The fact that we have never played their before is the main thing we are looking forward to. New country, new people, new experiences. Pre show we just make sure we are all warmed up and ready to play as the music is quite demanding, and requires preparation.

TO: As these are your first shows in India, what can fans expect from your set?

Psycroptic: We’ll be playing a wide range of material from all our albums. We haven’t fully settled on what we are playing, but it will definitely be a mix of material from us. It will be a lot of fun.

TO: Thanks for answering all our questions. Do you have any final words?

Psycroptic: Thanks for the interview, and we look forward to coming to your amazing country.

Indian metalheads, don’t miss Psycroptic when they play in your city, dates and venues below

LIVE RECAP: Necrot, Undergang at the Tower Bar

To say that the Tower Bar attracts the eye is an understatement. At first glance, it’s a gaudy hunk of architecture rising several stories into the San Diego sky, a kaleidoscope of vibrant blues, oranges, and pinks. Further consideration (and a handy Google search) reveals its appearance actually honors the area’s local Hispanic heritage, spinning it into a rather impressive piece of art that evokes some long-last land. Inside, however, it feels like home.

The whole of the Tower Bar venue is comprised of a single room — the “base” of the tower. A deceptively roomy show floor, long bar, and small just-above-floor-level stage make up its main landmarks. Its parking lot is microscopic — just enough for the various vehicles that bands use to get from Point A to Point B. (I was parked a couple blocks away in a narrow residential street, my rear wheels just barely dipping into an illegal red zone, praying to whatever gods were listening that I didn’t get a ticket — or worse, towed.) A neon sign proclaiming “Tattoo Parlor” glows in an inaccessible upper level — this wouldn’t be a shaky top-floor affair like other shows I’d been to recently.

The stage had only enough room for the drums and the amps — four-fifths of the members of the first band had to occupy the space in front of the stage — another Soda Bar similarity. Real estate was tight, with most of the booths occupied by band members and equipment. I found a comfy spot in the center of the room near a pole (hey, just like the Soda Bar!) that pierced through the ceiling to the floor and watched as the first band prepared to play.

San Diego's Cave Bastard performing at the Tower Bar.

Caving in to a Local Act

I had missed my first chance to see opening local act Cave Bastard (San Diego) at another recent show, and as they kicked off their set I was kicking myself for having not seen them sooner. This powerful quintet delivered a stacked genre-sandwich — a multi-ingredient abomination of mainly death metal, but with toppings of black metal/blackened crust, grind, and a dollop of doom. Their charismatic vocalist raced back and forth, bobbing between a few fans’ faces, and just generally hyping the crowd up; he didn’t have to work too hard on my part — I was pretty sold by the first song, and by the third I was a fan. Their sound came through marvelously to let some seriously sick parts shine through; let’s just say that if I came across them through Bandcamp I’d be VERY pleased with my discovery.

Most local bands I want to support out of obligation; Cave Bastard I’ll gladly see of my own volition.

Infernal Conjuration (Tijuana, MX) performing at San Diego's Tower Bar.

Conjured Beyond the Border

Cave Bastard’s vocalist had remarked how hot it was, and I had the decency to feel guilty — the full force of several fans were blasting behind me, making the place feel more like a comfy department store than a sweltering dive bar.

Shattering that illusion was Infernal Conjuration (Tijuana, Mexico), a black-clad four-piece playing a thrashy sort of old-school death metal brimming with loads of leads and syncopated crashing. The drummer was stellar, playing at times with awe-striking speed across the monstrous kit he lugged all the way from south of the border. The mix was fairly bass-heavy to the point where it drowned out much of the attack of the guitars, but that didn’t undermine the band’s magnetic appeal. The song Death Lechery, introduced as being played live for first time, was a crusher — a perfect embodiment of a band showcasing the allure of this older genre and why it still attracts so many newer bands.

Necrot (Oakland, CA) performing at the Tower Bar in San Diego.

 

Rotting with the Best of Them

The movies playing on the screen in the background had reached a distracting apex — a similar style of perverted gore-horror flicks that had played at the Til-Two. I’d been ignoring them as best I could, but when the scene of a Jesus Christ-figure getting his scrotum cut is superimposed over the band members, I can’t really look away.

Oakland’s metal scene is a rich vein I’ve been mining to great success as of late, and Necrot is the latest gem to catch my attention. A layer of punkish polish coats a gleaming death metal nugget, but biting into their latest bloody offering leaves you with a mouth of barbed wire. I couldn’t have been more excited to see them live.

The first thought penetrating my mind as Necrot unsheathed the slashing opener The Blade was “fuck, they’re good.” Whiplash-inducing backbeats pumped blood through hair-raising riffs, accented by gruff, low grunts. The trio ripped through a weighty set comprised of some of the choicest cuts off their excellent new album “Blood Offerings.” The songs’ subtly complex structures translated live in a remarkably headbang-friendly fashion; whenever a song extended a bar beyond the typical 4/4 timing, it fucked with the tempo in ways that felt like borderline sorcery.

Necrot’s drummer seemed frustrated with his constantly moving kit — irritated by its incessant inching-forward following each song’s pounding, he had plopped a cinder block in front of it to keep it in place. Regardless, he didn’t miss a beat — his single-stroke rolls tore across the toms with the ease of a machine gun’s trigger, effortless and deadly.

By the time 2017 closes out, I wouldn’t be surprised if I still consider Necrot as one of the better live acts I’ve seen this year.

Denmark's Undergang performing at the Tower Bar in San Diego.

Under the Gun with Undergang

Denmark’s Undergang is a death metal delight. At three members strong, and songs that rarely reach that number in length, each member has to pull his weight. They played a modestly sized set — a heap of short songs, ending with a cover of The Chasm by Finnish death metal greats Disgrace, dedicated to the crowd via the vocalist’s cartoonishly deep voice. The primitive simplicity of Undergang’s music was even more apparent live, but what they lacked in finesse they made up for in the thick, massive waves of noise washing over us. They played to a packed Tower (as far as I could tell from the very front; it sure sounded like an entire crowd was roaring its approval after each song); I sincerely hope the enthusiastic response they received was worth the long trip overseas.

Until Death (Metal) Do Us Part

Death metal continues to surprise me. It’s certainly fallen out of favor with me in recent years, but the bands at the Tower Bar showed me the genre still offers a lot — even bands that dabble in the more classic side of the genre, like Infernal Conjuration and Necrot. I’m most excited where bands like Cave Bastard are taking death metal, weaving other genres throughout, but a rock-solid act like Necrot proves that death metal can honor the past without being a tribute (as long as it’s done really fucking well). Each band’s different approach to death metal made for a varied, memorable night, and although Necrot stole the show I can’t deny that the genre is still alive and kicking. Plenty of other fans knew this already; the love for Undergang was unanimous throughout the room. I’m just glad I’m finally catching up.

VIDEO PREMIERE+INTERVIEW: U.S. Technical/Progressive Death Metal Band NYN

NYN: Of Chaos and Salt

NYN first came to my attention when they released the single The Apory of Existence around the end of June.  While there’s a lot of tech death and progressive death metal out there, this song caught my attention with the sheer amount of things happening.  Highly technical and heavy riffing gave way to soaring keyboards that had a significant prog rock feel, and the vocals spanned everything from high pitched black metal style shrieks to death growls.  It stood out a lot, even considering how much of this material comes my way, and put ‘Entropy: Of Chaos and Salt’ on my radar as a highly anticipated 2017 release.

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LIVE RECAP: Blood Incantation, Qrixkuor at the Til-Two Club

San Diego’s Til-Two Club has history. It bears the ancestral name from its first incarnation in the 1940s, before it shapeshifted into a bizarre hybrid salon/bar/chain live venue called the Beauty Bar. You can read plenty of online articles chronicling its transformation into its current form, but one crucial detail they all seem to leave out is that the Til-Two Club is a hallway. A generous hallway, but a hallway nonetheless. A pleasant, refurbished aesthetic is unified by warm, low lighting, comfy booths, and a jukebox stuffed with old tunes. A Roku supplies the TV above the bar with on-screen diversions, and a generous stage rises from the floor at the back.

A few pockets of black-clad people milled around the entrance, seemingly waiting for permission to begin the night’s rocking. Bands slung their gear in, taking over nearby booths, and I situated myself near the jukebox. Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out of Hell” sat behind the glass. Nice. I’d been in dives before, but I was curious how the Til-Two would stack up. Surely for all its newly beautified amenities, they didn’t forget to install a decent sound system, right? The night’s lineup would test that theory.

California's Fallen Angel playing at the Til-Two Club in San Diego.Rise of the Fallen

I knew from their soundcheck half an hour earlier that Fallen Angel (California) were devout worshippers of Cannibal Corpse. Low, guttural growls that transitioned into last-second ear-splitting screams; breakneck tempo changes; near-constant Mazurkiewicz-ian blasting; badass, beastly bass-playing — this was flattery at its finest, but it was hard to deny the effectiveness of this Californian four-piece when they were playing such a fine-tuned style of death metal.

As derivative as their music was (and despite their rather uninspired name), I rather enjoyed what they offered. The stage-right guitarist showed infectious enthusiasm, and they got a good reaction from the crowd. Not a bad way to start the night, not at all.

Consecrate Impure Enthusiasm

After Fallen Angel, I had somehow been charged with guarding someone’s GoPro, which was being used as a drum cam for the night. I didn’t mind, as I wasn’t going anywhere — I still had four more bands to see.

California's Impure Consecration playing live at the Til-Two Club in San Diego.

Up next was Impure Consecration (California), a band I had pegged as thrash-tinged black metal but whose Facebook page classified as “occult death metal.” I guess the band’s bullet-belts, corpse paint, and grim countenance threw me off, but what do I know? It was an effective image nonetheless.

Impure Consecration ripped through a relatively short set of murky guitars and hectic, battering rhythms. The drumming was a high point for me, as the drummer played in an open-handed style (possibly influenced more from Dominator of Dark Funeral than Gene Hoglan, the more well-known user of that technique?). Unfortunately, the lead guitar (and bass?) was out for a couple songs, which lessened the impact of their sound — but it didn’t seem to affect the frequency of “fuck yeah!”s tossed their way after each song. Overall, their music mostly reminded me of “Nightside”-era Emperor, particularly in the raspy vocals — but maybe that’s still my black metal bias coming through. Their last song was a flurry of nonstop tom fills — fatiguing to watch, but sonically impressive — which I feel saved their set. Aside from the ferocious playing of the drummer, their energy levels seemed low, but I wouldn’t blame them if that was attributed to the technical difficulties. You gotta wonder how many once-in-a-lifetime gigs are dampered by shit like that, but alas — it happens. Still, they put on a good show, and I’m always thrilled to see more bands from my state.

Icon of Phobos (Los Angeles) playing at the Til-Two Club in San Diego.I’m Likin’ the Fog-bos

The Til-Two was packed by now, the hallway crowded like a high school between class periods. Snazzy, black-dress-shirted members of the next band weaved through clique-ish clusters to reach the stage, where they began setting up a fog machine. A corpse-paint-and-robes-wearing vocalist wandered in front of the stage, and there was no bass player in sight. From these observations, I thought Icon of Phobos (Los Angeles) had the potential to be supremely goofy, but like all opening bands I was rooting for them anyway. A few moments later, their soundcheck rewarded my resolve, revealing a clicky, Dimmu-esque kick trigger, a promisingly powerful guitar tone, and a vocal-check that reverberated like a Tibetan monk “What are we in for?” I thought, as they got the go-ahead to start their set. Well, what we were in for was half an hour of evocative, vehement black metal.

A veritable stormfront of fog cloaked the majority of the band, giving spotlight to an entrancing vocal performance. The robed vocalist twisted and writhed with possessed drama, seamlessly adding his own vocal effects for harsh screams and operatic Attila-esque proclamations into his theatrical routine. Icon of Phobos didn’t lack for a bass player — one guitar augmented unnerving atmosphere to the other’s body-flogging brutality. Constant double bass propelled the performance, punctured by frequent, dynamic stops aided by thudding toms. The four-piece put on an absolutely thrilling show that erased all my preconceived notions. They’re exactly the kind of band that benefits from the live experience.

UK's Qrixkuor, shredding at the Til-Two Club in San Diego.

Crushing Consecration, Courtesy of  Occult UK Quartet

No matter how you sliced it, Icon of Phobos was going to be a tough act to follow — especially for me, who was a little out of my element. Death metal isn’t my preferred genre these days, but I’d been intrigued by the “weirder” side of the genre. Luckily, I wouldn’t have to wait for the headliner to get it.

With fists raised in the air, Qrixkuor (UK) launched into an intoxicating abyssal attack. Cacophonous, catacomb-crushing heaviness fell upon the audience like an Old Testament plague as the two guitarists’ shredded their stringed implements with tempest-force tremolo picking. I was fixated on the drummer’s mercilessly clean tom rolls and ultra-efficient blasting — but Qrixkuor pulled off an immense-sounding set overall. The only visual effects they subscribed to was one of the guitarists who had donned an executioner’s mask and some kind of occult pendant ’round his neck — for the most part, Qrixkuor focused their every effort on delivering a razor-sharp set of massive, apocalyptic metal.

Anticipation for the ‘Incantation

12:45 AM had creeped its way in, but the room buzzed with anticipation for the headliner. I’ll admit, I didn’t quite revere Blood Incantation (Denver, CO) quite the way many others in the metal community do, but I was looking to change that.

Denver's Blood Incantation, playing live at the Til-Two Club in San Diego.The previous bands had asked the venue for more vocal reverb; such requests aren’t uncommon to achieve the sound envisioned by the artist. Blood Incantation was no different, although their requests seemed to swing the other way — the guitarist/vocalist told the engineer for no reverb, as he’d brought a fleet of pedals to do it all himself.

If “weird” death metal was what I was after, I got what I wanted with Blood Incantation. With mesmerizing musicianship, they manhandled their set of complex compositions brimming with odd-time extensions, tempo shifts, and ruthless death metal bludgeoning. Blood Incantation met each technical feat head-on, returning each challenge ten-fold with ferocity and skill. The colossal Vitrification of Blood (Part 1) was a notable thrill, ripping the audience through thirteen minutes of twisting tempos and swelling, sweltering structure.

Aside from their musical prowess, Blood Incantation was surprisingly high on entertainment value. I saw the reason for the vocalist’s earlier request — he used his pedal rig for more than enhancing his roars to cavernous depths; it was integral to a kind off-kilter, unexpected stage banter.

“Ever wonder why no one can read ancient Sumerian tablets?” he quizzed us, as the band prepped to launch into The 5th Tablet. “Because ‘They’ don’t want you read ancient Sumerian tablets.”

Over time, his warnings against government cover-ups, which seemed genuine at first, later seemed a bit more tongue-in-cheek as we warmed up to his timing and delivery. Whether they believe in any of that or not (they don’t have a Facebook page, after all; talk about staying off the grid) was irrelevant — their skill as musicians was enough to make me highly suspect that aliens do exist, and they go by the name Blood Incantation.

A rousing chant from the audience convinced the venue to let the band have an encore, and Blood Incantation finished with the excellent (and relatively short) Hovering Lifeless.

‘Til Next Time, Til-Two

True to its name, the Til-Two Club emptied its occupants just as the 2 AM hour approached. Another night of successful live music. I’ve always considered the live setting to have the ideal conditions to experience new bands, and despite a few technical misfortunes for Impure Consecration, all the groups that night were at the top of their class. Regardless of whatever unforeseen errors that come up, watching bands perform can’t ever fully translate from a recording — Fallen Angel’s energy; Impure Consecration‘s evocative appearance; Icon of Phobos’s theatrical flair; Qrixkuor’s ruthless focus; or Blood Incantation’s precision playing and banter. This is a lineup I think I’ll remember for a long time.

Swedish death metal band FERAL sign to Transcending Obscurity Records

Swedish death metal force Feral have signed a multiple album and format deal with Indian label Transcending Obscurity Records. Their style of music is uncompromising and pure, and in their own way they take ahead the classic death metal sound, finding gnarlier and more twisted expression within the HM-2-driven sound. With four releases already under their belt since 2007, they’re gearing up to unleash their new full length on the new label.

Transcending Obscurity Records owner Kunal Choksi comments, “Transcending Obscurity Records is proud to have another stellar Swedish death metal act in its ranks. Feral are going from strength to strength and their latest EP was gnarly, aggressive and yet redolent of the classic Swedish sound. We believe the best from them is yet to come. We’re happy to work with David Nilsson and the band and have signed a two-album contract, starting with a full length that will be unleashed first. They’re taking the Swedish death metal sound ahead and that’s what’s most appealing about this hardworking band.”

Feral vocalist David Nilsson adds, “We are thrilled to announce that Feral has signed to Transcending Obscurity Records, one of the fastest growing labels around right now. Their passion for the music and dedication to each undertaking convinced us immediately and we can’t wait to reveal our next release through them. The new material we have prepared is some of our strongest to date, and we are sure that it will be in the right hands with Transcending Obscurity Records. At this point we have more than enough material written and plan to start recording later this year, a raging death metal onslaught is soon in the making.”

Official Feral Website | Feral Facebook 

Transcending Obscurity Records Bandcamp | Transcending Obscurity Records Facebook

 

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