Rumblings From the Underground: Assassin (Interview), Gruesome, Head of the Demon + More
Mwooohahaha! I'm surprised I haven't used that yet... I know you think I spend all week pacing back and forth, hyperventilating and manically wondering what line to lead the column with, but this stuff just comes flying out of my mouth and onto my screen as if I'm in a perpetual state of creative motion.
What were we here for? Ah, yes, HEAVY METAL! I've got another heap this week AND a little interview with Joachim Kremer, bassist of German thrash vets Assassin! Their new album, Combat Cathedral, can be purchased right here.
First, a little bit o' news, then some albums reviews for Assassin, Atala, Gruesome, Head of the Demon and Winterhorde and finally, the aforementioned interview. Have you forgotten already!?
Bell Witch play a beautiful brand of funeral doom, especially impressive consdering the outfit is just a duo. Former drummer and vocalist Adrian Guerra sadly passed away this week. He played on both Longing and Four Phantoms. Rest in Power.
Nails sound like they're about to top their first two records of ripsh-t pissed grind with You Will Never Be One of Us on June 17. The new song "Savage Intolerance" rivals the sheer violence of Rotten Sound. Why say more?
Inquistion have announced their latest slab of cosmic black metal mysticism and it's enough of a mouthful to put Karl Sanders' tongue in knots. Across the Empyrean Altar Beyond the Celestial Zenith will be out Aug. 26 on Season of Mist.
Assassin, 'Combat Cathedral'
German thrash. Is there anything better? Not when veteran neck-wreckers Assassin churn out albums like Combat Cathedral. Their name might not carry the esteemed credentials of their native contemporaries, but there's not much else separating them.
Opener "Back From the Dead" is so stacked full of pit-ready riffs that when you play it loud enough you can see a dust cloud on the horizon from the stampede of cut-off jean, flip-brimmed snapback hat clad kids ready to overtake whatever house sent out the metal conch call. Be sure to make your way to the bottom of the post and read through the interview portion with bassist Joachim Kremer.
Listen to Assassin | For fans of: Sodom, Tankard, Destruction
Atala, 'Shaman's Path of the Serpent'
Ready for some spaced-out, riff-charged, desert-expanding stoner doom? Me too! After one listen of Atala's Shaman's Path to the Serpent, I went bug-eyed when I learned this was self-released.
The California power trio perfectly balance droning, trance-inducing moments knowing exactly which riffs they can milk the longest with uptempo mood breakers that play out Atala's keen sense of dynamics. The trippy vocal effects heighten the psychedelia, presumably trying to invoke the effects of the shamanic ayahuasca. Shaman's Path of the Serpent boasts four tracks spanning just over 30 mins, lending itself well to repeat listens.
Listen to Atala | For fans of: Clutch, Gates of Slumber, every Scott Wino band
Gruesome, 'Dimensions of Horror'
Exhumed's Matt Harvey's love affair with the first two Death albums might trump the most ironclad marital bonds. His intentions are clear in Gruesome, paying tribute to the late mastermind, Chuck Schuldiner. For fans of Death, it's impossible to dislike Gruesome and their new EP Dimensions of Horror.
Six tracks bursting with inspired riffing and tactful Schuldiner-esque vocal shrieks feels like the closest redemption any death metal fan can have since losing Chuck. While some fans may cry foul and such obvious imitation, bands like Gruesome are important to keep the flame lit and the spirit of our fallen heroes very much alive. Oh, and... Death.
Listen to Gruesome | For fans of: Death, Exhumed, Asphyx
Head of the Demon, 'Sathanas Trismigestos'
Black metal often gets lambasted for being one of metal's shallowest genres, yet here I stand (sit, rather) routinely mesmerized by how bands like Head of the Demon keep evolving the genre. Sathanas Trismigestos is an atypical black metal record, employing cleaner guitars and a stark use of bleak riffing over the usual blast-beat concussion and ceaseless tremolo picking.
The closest comparison I can draw is Azrael's Act III: Self, as Head of the Demon's sound more so resembles elevator music on a 48 minute descent into the bowels of Hell (that's a compliment). It's plodding, uncomfortable and hazy, begging for a violent outburst that fails to give in to demands. Sathanas Trismigestos is one of the best black metal records of the decade.
Listen to Head of the Demon | For fans of: Howls of Ebb, One Head One Tail, Azrael
Israel's Winterhorde are back with 'Maestro,' their first album in six years! It's clear what took the septuplet (that's seven — saved you a Google search) so long as they've constructed one of the most complex and dynamic records of the year. The architects remain true to their black metal foundation, but build several layers on top and around the stylistic centerpiece and what's left standing is something to marvel at.
Pulling in influences from all metal styles, neo-classical melodies weave in and out out blast beat-laden punishment, backed by bombastic orchestral moments, giving the melodies a sinister edge at times. More jagged rhythm riffing is used to devastating effect, offering a reprieve with straightforward moments that give you time to digest some of the more mind-bending passages around it. This one is going to take a while to really sink in, so keep it in your regular rotation.
Listen to Winterhorde | For fans of: Limbonic Art, Theory in Practice, Ne Obliviscaris
In case you've made it this far and are still unaware of Assassin and their new album, Combat Cathedral, here's your chance to learn a little bit about it! Bassist Joachim Kermer answered a couple of my questions, which you can read below:
Combat Cathedral truly sounds like a lost gem from the '80s from style to production. Would you say the five years between albums helped the energy in the band when it came time to start writing?
Thank you for your impression. Combat Cathedral sounds like [its] from the 80s. I take it for a compliment! But I don't think the five years break between Breaking the Silence and Combat Cathedral gave any impact of energy to the band. I would've preferred to not have that many problems in the band so we could concentrate more on the work inside the band and on the music. That would've give us the opportunity to release a new album at least after three years. But you can't change the past. And all this trouble in the band the last years showed me one thing as well: you [are] always are able to find a solution for a problem and find a way out of it as long as you keep on going and don't give up!
The album cover has bloody skeletons and skulls lying around everywhere inside what I presume is a cathedral. What was the theme you wanted to convey with the art and title?
All in all we wanted to make Combat Cathedral a more modern album in song writing, sound and artwork. That was the reason why we were choosing for Marc Gortz, producer, guitarist and mastermind of Caliban as the sound engineer and Marcelo Vasco as the cover designer.
We were searching for a new cover and we still had some from the Breaking the Silence designer Plamen [Kolev], but none of them fit to the new lineup and ideas of the band. So we were searching for somebody else and it was easy to go for Marcelo because he was working with several other metal bands already and his style of work totally fits to our music.
We still had several possibilities to choose [from] but none of them were good enough that every band member was satisfied with. So my wife started to search for a new cover that maybe fits. One day she came along with this picture of Marcelo Vasco, the Brazilian artist from Rio [de Janeiro] who made the cover of the Slayer Repentless album already. My wife is also Brazilian, so it was easy to make a contact. She showed the picture of Marcelo to the band and after that the decision was quite easy to make it the new Assassin cover. In the end it worked very fine for all of us and I have to say that Marcelo is a very nice guy. It was a pleasure to work with him!
Ingo 'Crowzak' Bajonczak sounds great! What was the process like trying to find a new vocalist?
Thank you very much! I will tell him!
Ingo has several bands that are pretty well known in our area like New Damage, Supersoma or Lord of Giant. The last one I'm a big fan of! Lord of Giant is a really cool stoner rock band. They just released their first long player, only available on vinyl. Real cool stuff! Check it out, dude! [Check it out, other dudes and dudettes]
Our drummer Burn [Björn Sondermann] met him with his Lord of GiantG-band while Burn was touring with the psychedelic rock band Vibravoid as a substitute. Ingo's band was supporting a festival while Burn and 'The Doctor,' band leader of Vibravoid were watching. The Doctor said this singer would be the perfect one for Assassin. After Robert [Gonnella, original singer] quit the band, Burn remembered the story and gave a call to Ingo to [invite him to] audition. The rest is history!
Thanks to Joachim Kermer for the interview. Pick up Assassin's Combat Cathedral here and I'd recommend putting a neck brace in your cart as well.
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