Hath – Of Rot and Ruin (Blackened Death Metal)

American blackened death metal band Hath is a new name to me and as I write this I’m currently just done listening to the EP Hive they had released before the full-length debut Of Rot and Ruin. Hive was a fine display of blackened death metal which they put out same year Hath was formed (2015). Meaning now I was very stoked to hear what Of Rot and Ruin would have in store for me as they now have a few years together, a solid foundation to build on and a great label behind them in Willowtip Records.

Of Rot and Ruin is very different from Hive in some aspects. There is a lot more emphasis on creating a atmosphere that essentially guides you towards rot and ruin. It’s quite beautiful and I respect Hath for going their own way like this, I can’t really say I’ve heard blackened death metal being this close to me naming it atmospheric death metal before. Hell even blackened progdeath would be cool label for it! Labeling aside I am quite sure you haven’t hear anything quite like this. Sure you can say it sounds like Opeth here or Sulphur Aeon there (even some Rivers of Nihil aspects at times) and you’re right in saying so but that would take so much away from Hath and the path they are carving. Of Rot and Ruin has definitely left me speechless at times, which doesn’t happen all that often. One side of me thinks this is unique, inspiring and superb death metal. Then one side things the album is too long, if I aint in the right mood it’s easy for me to ditch this album halfway through as it doesn’t captivate me. That’s where the only negative aspects lay, granted a big one, the album is long and the music is rather unique that definitely requires a listener that’s focused and willing to invest into the music, taking it all in. I do see this being a hit or miss for quite a few out there due to these reasons.

One thing is certain Of Rot and Ruin is miles ahead in songwriting than Hive, the years in the making have proved to be well invested. Also as The Metal Gamer I need to add, how cool is it to make an album based on Dark Souls!? That alone deserves a lot of praise. Hell we all know how hard that game is, you can almost say Hath is hard to get into for a few but those willing to accept it will come to love it. Of Rot and Ruin might not float your boat in terms of the style they go for but I am sure I will see this album being on many peoples end of the year lists.

Written by J.B.

Label: Willowtip Records
For fans of: Opeth and Sulphur Aeon
Release date: April 12th, 2019
Favorite song: Accursed
Score: 3.5/5 Very good

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Contrarian – Their Worm Never Dies (Progressive Death Metal)

The American five-piece Contrarian has since it’s formation in 2014 been very active. Despite a few changes in the line-up they haven’t showed any signs on slowing down and Their Worm Never Dies is the bands third full-length and fourth album overall in only five years. Talk about active! The band also feature a very familiar name, namely George Kollias who is also the drummer in Nile (who has even done some vocals in Contrarian). There has been a lot of change ongoing during the years, that if you compared Predestined, Polemic and To Perceive is to Suffer with each other you can notice Contrarian has taken very different routes on all three albums. Which makes it very interesting to review Their Worm Never Dies, because I got no idea on what to expect!

When it comes to Contrarian’s releases my personal favorite is actually their first one Predestined. Especially the vocals clicks a lot more to me there, and it was a faster more techdeath less progdeath approach than the full-length debut Polemic which took the band into a more late Death direction. That being said they all got their own sound and with To Perceive is to Suffer they became even close to Death and especially The Sound of Preserverence album. Contrarian continue on that route with Their Worm Never Dies.

If Death had continued on as a band this is the way I think they would sound. Contrarian are, just like Gruesome, a great example on how you can continue to build on the legacy from a band that defined a whole genre albeit the two bands focus on different Death eras. Whereas To Perceive is to Suffer was a good album I think Contrarian has done an even better job with Their Worm Never Dies. Everything here is slightly better, despite a snoozer opener with “Vaskania (The Evil Eye)”, where I think they pick it up fast again and the guitar-work especially excels, something “My Curse” and “The Petition” showcase very well.

In the end Their Worm Never Dies is a good album in all its rights, but it’s not something I will remember when I think about the best of the year lists. For many I am sure this will be, especially if you’re a big fan of the last Death albums. Me however I am one of those who basically only listen to Scream Bloody Gore, Spiritual Healing and Human when I want some Death magic. Contrarian keeps on pushing themselves and I would say this is their best progdeath effort yet. Production is great, riffs are very technical, drums spot on, it just doesn’t get my motor running at full speed. Also has to be said the artwork is absolute killer!

Written by J.B.

Label: Willowtip Records
For fans of: Death and Cynic
Release date: March 15th, 2019
Favorite song: My Curse
Score: 3/5 Good

Equipoise – Demiurgus (Progressive Death Metal)

I interviewed vocalist Steve Boiser not long ago and now it’s finally time to review the album Demiurgus from the super group Equipoise. Or what about a group that boasts a line-up consisting of past and current members from Inferi, Beyond Creation, First Fragment, Virulent Depravity, NYN and Hate Eternal? Now that’s what I call a great CV! With those names in mind it is pretty obvious that Equipoise is all about the progressive and technical aspect of death metal.

Many of you reading probably know that one of my favorite bands is Beyond Creation, they definitely made me a tech/prog death metal fan and I’ve loved every release with them. Equipoise are in many ways very influenced by then (as are many prog death bands) but they’ve actually managed to take some of the best parts from Beyond Creation while adding their own unique elements into the mix. Other bands that comes to mind are Gorod, Augury, The Ritual Aura and Inferi, all fine examples being compared to.

As I start my first of what would be many listenings on Demiurgus the first word that stuck me was “wow what is this!?” as the opening tack “Illborn Augury” hits me hard. The prowess of the musicians in Equipoise gets known straight away as every single note is thoughtfully played out. There is so much going on on Demiurgus that at first it might catch you by surprise and overwhelm you, but give it time and you will be rewarded. You get so much from Demiurgus, spin after spin I find new elements on the tracks that I like and it keeps on growing and giving to me each and every time. Hell just for the sake of it there is some awesome acoustic flamenco music as intermission tracks that just works and sounds great in a weird way. There is simply nothing Equipoise seems to do wrong on this album and their onslaught of top tier riffs, super drumming and crushing bass accompanied with Steve Boiser’s wicked vocals will get to you too, I can promise you that.

Is this the best album of the year so far? Yes, yes it is. This is a masterpiece in all its glory, a complete album well deserving the top score (one I don’t give out lightly), that I will get back to for years to come. Demiurgus is an album you will find in the best of the year single digits, maybe even be the album of the year at The Metal Gamer. What a stunning piece of art!

Written by J.B.

Label: The Artisan Era
For fans of: Beyond Creation and Gorod
Release date: March 8th, 2019
Favorite song: Sovereign Sacrifices
Score: 5/5 Masterpiece

Interview: The Ritual Aura

A band that’s always evolving in the technical death metal scene is The Ritual Aura. Their 9th year as a band (if you count the Obscenium years) might be their biggest one yet with a new album coming out, a revamped line-up and an eagerly awaiting fanbase to hear what they show us next. What better time to interview one of the founders, as well as guitarist/songwriter, Levi Dale?

First of all thanks for doing this interview Levi! The Ritual Aura was originally named Obscenium with the single Ectoplasm being the sole release before the name change. As I’ve never actually heard Obscenium I was wondering if it is the same track that landed on your debut as The Ritual Aura, Laniakea or is there any difference between them?

We retired the old name in 2015 in preparation for the release of our debut, Laniakea – a tabula rasa of sorts. We had played local shows under the name Obscenium since 2011, slowly cementing a line-up after various changes until things felt complete.

We released Ectoplasm as a single under the previous name (which can still be found in the depths of Youtube somewhere…) but it was significantly revamped for the final recordings on Laniakea.

Those who manage to find it will hear a few differences, particularly the vocalist swap, guitar parts and mix/master.

Talking about Ectoplasm there is one thing I’ve wanted to know for a long time. 1:26 into the song I swear I can hear a melody from my favorite game of all time, namely Final Fantasy VII and the song Jenova. Am I just hearing things or were you influenced by it?

Ha! I can totally hear that in the arpeggios having listened to it. I wasn’t familiar with the Jenova theme (bit of a FF noob I’m afraid), but I definitely see why you saw similarities between the two.

Tell me some of the history of the band, how did it all start? Why the name change?

It started out like most projects – just a few friends who wanted to write original music and play a few shows. Over time the focus drifted from playing live to making records, and the line-up/band name changed as a reflection of that.

The name change felt like the right thing to do after we got our shit together, for lack of a better term. ‘The Ritual Aura’ is also a little more marketable than ‘Obscenium’ in the grand scheme of things.

You and Darren Joy are the two last original members in the line-up. You recently got HĂŒr Ibrahim Sakman on vocals, is the line-up complete now and are you ready to release your third album?

TRA’s line-up continues to evolve and grow as the scope of the newer albums becomes more and more ambitious. There are 16 musicians on Velothi in various capacities, covering most of the instruments you could ever hope to utilize for death metal (and beyond).

As far as Velothi goes, we are complete. Moving forward into the next release, who knows? Finding a cellist would be nice… (if you play cello reach out to us!) 😉

The Ritual Aura now consists of two vocalists. What made you have that change in the line-up?

I reached out to HĂŒr fairly late into this album cycle after coming across his Youtube channel with heaps of vocal covers for various bands. The guy is a monster!

We had been discussing ways to disperse the vocals workload in the months prior, for various reasons, and HĂŒr was kindly willing to help us complete the record.

With both vocalists feeding of each other we’ve already covered a huge amount of ground in Jan/Feb and should be wrapped up very soon!

Can we expect a release date soon on Velothi?

Once vocals are completed and we can assess things from a mixing/mastering standpoint, I’d be much more confident in sharing a release date. We are very close, I just want to allow for everything that can (and will) go wrong in these closing stages.

That said, we’re aiming for Q2 of this year, which I hope narrows the window down a bit.

Tell me more about Velothi, what can techdeath fans expect from it?

Velothi is almost three years of musical evolution and experimenting packed into ~40 minutes. Easily our most ambitious record to-date, with some of the more outlandish tracks in our catalogue.

Between the release of Laniakea and TĂŠther, we made changes to our overall sound. I feel we’ve achieved that again with the new record but in a completely different way. Things are more refined, orchestral and layered.

I recently started playing The Elder Scrolls Online and I know Velothi takes much from The Elder Scrolls series. What made you choose this route?

I started looking into TES lore after we completed TĂŠther and were looking for a new concept. Having been a fan of the franchise for so long I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of depth and interesting storytelling.

I really enjoy the world-building aspects to universes like The Elder Scrolls/Tolkien/Warcraft, and felt like the lore was incredibly fitting for a metal environment.

As a fellow gamer I obviously have to ask. What are you playing at the moment and what’s your favorite game of all time?

Right now I’m jumping between the Kingdom Hearts and Dark Souls series’ for the achievements (and PVP/Invasions for the latter). I always find myself coming back to both, lots of good memories!

My favorite game of all time is probably Bloodborne, to me it’s a perfect mix of great fantasy storytelling, challenging but rewarding gameplay and beautiful aesthetic.

Honorable mentions go to Fable I/II and TES: Morrowind/Oblivion. So… many… hours…

Thanks once again for taking your time with this interview. Got any last words or shoutouts?

Thank you for the opportunity and great questions, I really enjoyed answering these!

Shoutouts to all the musicians/people, past and present, involved in making Velothi and The Ritual Aura what it is, this has been such a wonderful experience, and an utter monolith of a group effort. It wouldn’t be possible without you guys. ❀

Huge thanks also go out to our fans for their support and patience regarding the new album, it’s your feedback and support that drives everything we do. We hope you enjoy the new record.

Much love!

Interview: Equipoise

Equipoise is one of the new forces in technical death metal. Despite being that their EP did so well and the band is already seen as one for the furture, without even having released a full-length yet! That time is soon upon us though so what better time to interview the vocalist Stevie Boiser on the bands history, how the new album has been going and, of course, what’s Stevie’s favorite game of all time?

First thing first, who does what in Equipoise? Does everyone take part in writing the music?

Oh boy, well this could take a second because we’re like the Slipknot of tech death haha. By that I mean we have a lot of moving parts.  Equipoise is composed of Seven members.  Nick Padovani (Kossuth, Virulent Depravity) Guitar / Classical Guitar Hugo Doyon-Karout (Beyond Creation, Brought By Pain) Fretless Bass Chason Westmoreland (Burning The Masses, Ex-The Faceless, Ex-Hate Eternal) Drums Sanjay Kumar (Wormhole, Perihelion) Guitar Phil Tougas (First Fragment, Chthe’ilist, Zealotry, Eternity’s End, Serocs, Cosmic Atrophy) Guitar / Classical Guitar Jimmy Pitts (Eternity’s End, Pitts/Minneminn Project, The Fractured Dimension, North Tale) Keys  and Myself, Stevie Boiser (Inferi, Tethys, Ashen Horde) Vocals.

As far as writing music goes, Nick handled the majority of writing for the album. A few things here changed here and there by various members. Every solo on the record was written by its performer. In terms of lyrics and vocals, thats 100% my department. Now that we have a footing and a clear direction for Equipoise I’m hopeful that everyone will be contributing more for the next record.

Equipoise is somewhat of a supergroup with members from acts like Inferi, Chthe’ilist, Beyond Creation and Virulent Depravity just to name a few. How do did you all get together?

The origin of the band starts back in 2015 with Nick Padovani and Zach Hohn. They started jamming that summer and things quickly evolved from just playing riffs to writing and arranging songs. Once they had a few tracks completed Nick began reaching out to musicians he admired to see if they would be interested in joining the project. Hugo and I were both tapped and joined the band. I remember that Equipoise didn’t actually have anything recorded when Nick first reached out to me. He just sent me a GuitarPro file for what became Alchemic Web of Deceit haha. It worked though, I was hooked! 

Fast forward a few moths and we were able to complete our first offering as a band, our EP Birthing Homunculi. Much to our surprise the EP did pretty well, and we had a very warm reception. Not too long after that Zach left the band so we recruited Sanjay to fill the void. Sanjay had performed a guest solo on the EP and in addition to that Mixed and Mastered it as well so it was great to have him working with us again. I reached out to my good friend Chason Westmoreland to see if he’d be interested in playing drums. The two of us had been talking about being in a band together for a while and this was the perfect opportunity. Shortly after that Jimmy and Phil joined our ranks as well. I guess you could say that Equipoise was made possible by the power of the internet haha. We’re all pretty spaced out geographically so we didn’t really have the option of approaching this band in a traditional manor. 

Stevie you’ve been a really hard worker with many projects ongoing and you’re a great talent. As such you’ve already been apart of bands such as Vale of Pnath, Tethys and recently even joined Inferi. How has the ride been? Got any secrets to become a wicked vocalist?

Thank you very much Jimmy! I really appreciate that. Its been crazy man haha. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to be in a number of really killer bands and as a result play shows for people in a number of different places. Im very grateful for that. Truth be told im just following my passion. I absolutely love it. Joining Inferi is probably one of the most surreal things thats happened to me. I’ve been a huge fan of their music since about 2007, so this is kind of a dream come true.

As far as vocal tips go I really only have a few. -Practice, practice, practice! Listen to the way your body responds to your vocal approach and then cater to it. You don’t want to burn your pipes out.  – Develop your own voice. Learning a bunch of different techniques or expanding your range is great. Id definitely encourage people to do that, but be conscious of how you can make these things your own. You are an individual and thus have your own voice. Find it, and own it.  
– Lastly, if you can. Invest in a quality way to record your own voice. While its not absolutely necessarily, its a great way to be able to experiment with your voice and listen back abjectivly. This can also save you money in the long run. Last year I recorded vocals for three separate albums (Equipoise, Ashen Horde, and Inferi) and demoed things out for Tethys. All of this was done at home and on my own time. Also, if you’re looking for a band you can use this as a means to audition for bands you’re interested in or at the very least, a way to get your voice out there.

The upcoming album Demiurgus will be Equipoise full-length debut. For how long has it been in progress?

Technically this album has been in the works since 2015. By the end of the year Nick had skeletons for the majority of the album. Although, we didn’t really spend time fully flushing out those ideas until a short while after Birthing Homunculi was released. Once we completed our line up we started the process of combing over each track and revising our work. Due to the face that we’re all so spread out we couldn’t really take the traditional approach of just jamming the songs together in a live room so we had a lot of guitar pro files and scratch tracks flying back and forth between members.

You signed with one of the best new labels The Artisan Era not too long ago. How did it happen?

After we released the EP we wanted to find a way to reach a bigger audience. Honestly, we really didn’t even consider another label. It was evident that what Mike and Malcolm were building with The Artisan Era was special. Every band the label represented released amazing music. We submitted the EP and informed them that we had a new album in the works. Luckily for us they really enjoyed what we did, and now they’re about to release our first full length record.

How do you guys find the time in your schedule between all your other bands to rehearse, write new material and especially go on tour?

As of now we are not an active touring band. However, Nick and I have been discussing the logistics of it all and if theres a large enough demand for it in the future we would love to make it happen! As for balancing writing, rehearsing, and recording equipoise material it all boils down to time management. I can’t speak for the rest of the group, but I tracked all of my vocals for the album a few weeks before the last Inferi tour. Personally, I try to approach my projects by order deadlines. I make sure to shift my focus from band to band so that I can stay fresh and up to date on each of them. I’ll typically spend my time working on whichever band has new material prepped and ready or a show / tour coming up.  

Since the release of the EP Birthing Homunculi the band has not only had a lineup change but also added another guitarist. How has that changed the sound of Equipoise?

Having both Sanjay and Phil join Equipoise was a huge deal for all of use. Both are absolute monsters with a crazy amount of skill and an uncanny ability to navigate their instrument. I think the best examples of this occur in the interplay of their solos. They both have such different styles, but they compliment each other wonderfully. I think that above all else having them on board really helped texture songs. 

There are a lot of guests on Demiurgus, especially on the last track Ouroboric. What was the decision behind having ten different session musicians on the album?

Our goal overall was to really push ourselves to create something special with Demiurgus. When it came to selecting guests for the album we set aside sections we thought would allow the to shine while simultaneously bringing a new flavor to the music. As a result we were able to work with a number of stellar musicians who would broaden our musical pallet. 

From what I see on Facebook I believe you’re a bit of a gamer. If I am right what’s your favorite game of all time and what do you play now?

Oh man… Thats a tough one! My answer is kind of cheating but I’ve got a threeway split for this one. Its a tie between Final Fantasy 9, Final Fantasy 3 (SNES), and Majora’s Mask. I can’t tell you how many hours Ive spent with these games. Each has so much depth, incredible character development, and really fun gameplay.  Right now I’ve been playing a lot of Pokemon Go. I’m trying to catch up on all the stuff thats happens since I stopped playing in 2016.  Currently Im doing some post game stuff in Pokemon Ultra Moon, playing the new Smash Bros, and Breath of the Wild/ I will be taking on Gannon almost immediately after this interview haha.

That was all I had! Thanks for taking your time Stevie, got any final words?

No problem at all Jimmy, thanks again for having me. Its been a pleasure! Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Demiurgus! It drops on March 8th via The Artisan Era. The New Ashen Horde record Fallen Cathedrals will be out on March 22nd, and New Inferi is right around the corner as well! For anyone who would like to keep up to date with what im working on for Inferi, Equipoise, Tethys, Ashen Horde, or my snakes feel free to follow my on Instagram @Mc_Screamy or on Twitter @ScreamyMc, See you next time folks! 

Beyond Creation – Algorythm (Progressive Death Metal)

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When one of your favorite bands release a new album you know the hype is real. It’s a double edge sword though because when you’re that hyped and have the bar set so high as Beyond Creation the backlash if the album doesn’t live up to the high expectations will hurt a lot. I can calm you all down already by saying it lives up to the hype.

It starts off with an epic intro that could easily be in a sci-fi movie as it moves into the Entre suffrage et mirage. A good opening that ends with a great solo, so we are off to a good start but it didn’t have those transitions I want in Beyond Creation. Surface’s Echoes I think is a bit out-of-place with its intro but around one minute in I recognize the core Beyond Creation sound and it becomes a better track than the previous. I’ve always felt that for Beyond Creation to get the most out of track they need to be 6-7 minutes long, which this one is and it makes the band being able to change the tempo and sound a lot during a song, letting it unfold as its meant to. It’s one of the bands strong-points to me, how a song can feel so complete and have all these different elements to it which some bands need a whole album to do. They show a lot of this on Surface’s Echoes, even though I can’t get the first minute of the song the rest is gold. Finally with Ethereal Kingdom you get the whole experience, an intro that sets the tone nicely leading into a beautiful solo and it feels more complete. It also transition really nicely into Algorythm which together with The Inversion are my favorite songs on the album. They showcase what Beyond Creation is all about in a good way. One may say Algorythm lacks a standout track like Earthborn Revolution or Coexistence which in some ways is true but I feel with time Algorythm will be one of their most memorable tracks. It grows on me with each listen.

Algorythm as a whole is a more progressive experience than their earlier albums, for the good and bad that brings. There are some moments that’s a bit slow to me due to this change but at the same time I don’t mind this at all as a whole. It’s definitely a bit different though but with the core Beyond Creation sound of course. They haven’t gone and switched completely but you should be ready that this is a bit of a change in style from The Aura and Earthborn Evolution. All in all Algorythm won’t be my first choice of album when I look back at Beyond Creation’s discography in the future but it’s yet another solid album from a band that set the bar insanely high on the debut. Their skill is showing throughout in both songwriting and instrumental excellence. While it’s not perfect (I think Earthborn Revolution is a perfect album mind you) it’s a well executed album that’s a must have for prog/tech-death fans all around. Beyond Creation doesn’t let you down.

Written by J.B.

Label: Season of Mist
For fans of: Obscura and Augury
Release date: October 12th, 2018
Favorite song: Algorythm
Score: 4/5 Incredible

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Hadal Maw – Charlatan (Technical Death Metal)

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Hadal Maw was a new name to me, I honestly only first heard of them when I saw they were going on an Australian tour with one of my favorite bands Archspire and Psycroptic. Hadal Maw was created in 2010, hailing from Australia, released their debut album Senium in 2014 and has since been met with acclaim from fans and critics alike. Making it rather annoying for me personally that the band had gone completely under my radar for all these years. The name Hadal Maw originates from Hades actually. As Hadal Maw is the name derived from the Hadal zone, a delineation for the deepest trenches in the ocean (taken from metal archives). The latest release Olm, only a year old, was just as their debut met with only positives so with that in mind I was really hyped to review their third offering Charlatan prior its release.

After having had some great time with their past two albums to get ready for Charlatan I quickly realized how Hadal Maw does not simply stick to one sound, they have a core sound sure but they evolve with each album. Pushing their own boundaries and I admire that. Hadal Maw are a technical death metal band to the core but the influences are many. Even within the techdeath realm it can differ from Meshuggah, Beyond Creation to Gojira. Not only that though, Hadal Maw got a darkness in their music that goes beyond techdeath and more into the blackened death or black spheres. This is where Charlatan comes in. Charlatan is by far the darkest album Hadal Maw has done to date, getting closer to the mighty Behemoth than ever before. Hadal Maw does follow in the same path as Olm paved for them (which is very different from their debut) but as I said this is even darker, more atmospheric.

I see this album in many ways as Gojira and Meshuggah  have a meeting with Behemoth in the sense Hadal Maw’s technical death riffs and vocals draws some parallels to Gojira and Meshuggah while the atmospheric and dark feeling that clouds Charlatan is more of the Behemoth style of things. It’s a good match and whereas I thought Senium was more standard techdeath both Olm and Charlatan stands out with a more unique style. Charlatan is a great next chapter for Hadal Maw, a fitting successor to Olm where you can see the band elevate their sound yet again. The album has been a real grower to me. At first I thought it was a bit too slow for my taste in techdeath but after awhile I get sucked into the atmospheric side of it and the album as a whole is a pleasant experience that differs from your common Beyond Creation or Necrophagist clones (which I to be fair like a quite fair share of too haha).

This is an album you might not grasp of fully enjoy at your first visit but give it time and you will come to love it. Charlatan is also one of those albums where it is hard to pick just one track from as the album is meant to be experienced as a whole in my opinion. Whereas I’ve missed Hadal Maw in the past I now welcome them into my metal life as a sweet fresh new techdeath breeze in this hot Swedish weather. One can only wonder if Hadal Maw can go even deeper in that ocean to create more fine offerings to the metal world.

Label: EVP Recordings
For fans of: Behemoth and Gojira
Release date: August 3rd, 2018
Favorite song: Charlatan I The Grand Serpent
Score: 4/5