Artificial Brain - Labyrinth Constellation  [♫]
Between the frosty harshness of Diocletian and the monstrous hypnotism of Portal, in the gutters below Gorguts, lies the depravity of Artificial Brain from New York, featuring Dan Gargiulo from Revocation. Guttural, dissonant and ugly, yet complex and diverse, you really need a prefix to call this record death metal (brutal and technical seem the adjectives of choice). It took me some time to get into, because one really needs to pay attention. This isn't background music and this isn't something you listen to for three minutes. Labyrinth Constellation is unique in that it sounds both mechanical and organic, both sharp and blunt at the same time. Alien insect organ soup with cyborg sawblade shards in it, as the Sci-Fi lyrics would put it. This album is worth the effort.
Bongripper - Miserable  [♫]
I usually try to avoid bands that have references to weed in their name, because the music was always the same interchangeable dull blur of bass-only stonerdoom to me. This moloch of a record might have somewhat cured me of that attitude: Bongripper's three song instrumental record manages to find a sweet spot somewhere between the massaging, hypnotic repetition of drone, the palpable groove of stoner and partially the uneasy feeling some death/doom records have. It's not even a harsh record, it's not Eyehategod slowed down even further, it's not Acid King, it's rather Pelican gone dark. Most importantly, there's still texture and structure and a plot to it, it's not an undefined blob. I caught myself just listening to this and doing nothing else. Well done.
Entombed A.D. - Back to the Front  [♫]
It's been seven years since the ok Serpent Saints. Meanwhile legal struggles have torn the founding members of Swedish death metal legends Entombed apart, thus the name change to Entombed A.D.. The new record eagerly stays true to the band's trademarks, however to the degree that it is predictable and disappears somewhere in the blur behind the gamechanging releases of the early 90s. When it comes to the bare ingredients - Petrov's roaring vocals, the trademark guitar sound, fine production - Back to the Front has everything it needs, but the mixture won't exactly blow you away. Maybe there aren't enough catchy hooks, maybe the album starts out too slow, it's hard to put a finger on the reason why this record is alright, but that's about it .
Paranorm - The Edge of Existence  [♫]
I love Voivod, Vektor, Obliveon, early Nocturnus, all that space metal stuff, so why not give these guys a try. This is the second EP from Swedish band Paranorm, who at first listen sounded a lot like a sterile version of Coroner to me. The Progressive/Technical Thrash Metal label seems to fit well. Paranorm display well-crafted instrumental work here, with nice changes between the melodic lead and grinding rythm guitars. One release it reminds me of is Demolition by Vektor: there are some great songs on that, but it took them until the next album to play them as well as possible. On paper I should love this EP, but it feels too stiff to leave a lasting impression. Should the parallel work out, these guys have the potential to release a killer full length debut.
Vaniardur - Ithryn Luin  [♫]
I admit that I've been very superficial about this one. I was interested in the kind of music a guy makes who puts the two blue wizards, a minor footnote in Tolkien lore, onto the cover of the album. Exactly what you'd expect, it turns out: Ambient with black metal elements, wavering keyboards, guitars as stringy shapes of noise, more keyboards, sounds of nature, big organic drums, more synth. Don't get this mixed up with the condensed, bitingly sharp Minas Morgul by Summoning, this soundtrack to a story that never was is significantly more clear, serene, just as majestic, but in brightness, not darkness. Minas Morgul terrifies you, this enchants you. A one-man project from Denmark, Christian Grønning has put together a coherent, if somewhat monotonous soundscape.
Sacrilege - Behind the Realms of Madness  [♫]
This bloody little gem from England's Sacrilege is an often overlooked milestone in extreme music history. The mixture of hardcore punk and metal, which rushes back and forth into grindcore territory, provided a blueprint for Bolt Thrower's "In Battle There's No Law" and Napalm Death's "Scum", not only for the ingredients, but also very much for the overall sound. Vocalist Lynda Simpson spits fire and acid above a sawing and thrashing instrumental sledgehammer that would later join Benediction, Napalm Death, The Damned, English Dogs and others. Classical grindcore often cites punk bands on one hand and metal bands on the other as an influence, but Behind the Realms of Madness might be the purest aggregation of both worlds.