Sutrah – Aletheia (Progressive/Technical Death Metal)

Sutrah has had quite some hype behind them with their debut album from 2017 Dunes getting some absolutely raving reviews back then. Personally I never heard it and their new EP Aletheia was going to be my entry into the band which features some very talented musicians with a resumé from bands like Svart Crown, Chthe’ilist, Benighted and Serocs. Would it live up to the hype?

I will be honest, at first I was not that keen on this album. The first listen I thought was a snooze fest and I was ready to just give this album a miss (as I generally don’t write reviews on albums I don’t like). However I went back to it a few days later, a new mindset perhaps or whatever as all of a sudden it just clicked. The album is beautiful, elegant and just reeks of wonderful instrumentals with killer vocals. So what changed during those days? Well that’s the beauty with music, while I can consume an unhealthy dose of osdm daily that’s not the case with the progressive music. In this case there were too much instrumentals, a slow album and heavy on the atmospheric side. I was not ready for it as I expected something along the lines of Beyond Creation or perhaps Nile (as the promo did mention). With musicians from bands such as Benighted, Serocs and Chthe’ilist being what forms Sutrah I went in expecting more, well brutality. That was not the case at all and it took me by surprise, in a bad way.

Having heard the album 15-20 times now the past two weeks I can safely say my mind is now changed, I shouldn’t have been so set in my ways and thought this is bad because it didn’t deliver what I thought it would. It’s a whole different journey, one where the instrumentals does most of the story telling and the atmospheric side plays a big part on building the road. That being said Laurent Bellemare on vocals does a killer job but that’s not what brings me back to this album, it’s the rather unique experience, the whole package that does it for me. I do find many similarities with this release to when I first heard the album I:Voice from Warforged, which I also found being something special that stands out, but might take a few listens to get into, if you even do as it’s not for everyone. And just like with I:Voice this is an album I will listen to many times in years to come but I do need to have a certain mindset getting into it, this is not something you just put on in the background, when you hit the gym or the likes. This album needs your full attention and it gives a lot back in return if you do so.

Artist: Sutrah
Label: The Artisan Era
For fans of: Gorguts & Warforged
Release date: March 13th, 2020
Favorite song: Variation II.ii – Genèse
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Interview: Defeated Sanity

Interviewed: Josh Welshman

A band that hardly needs an introduction is Defeated Sanity. They’ve pushed the boundaries for what is brutal technical death metal over and over again and the expectations for their new album is high. They just finished the upcoming album so now we’re all eagerly waiting for more news but until then I hope this interview with the bands newest member, vocalist Josh Welshman, will make the wait a bit easier.

Defeated Sanity is rather unique as it started as a father and son project. Do you know if Lille Grubers father, Wolfgang Teske, was into the extreme side of metal before you two started the band as well?

-Wolfgang was into Proto Metal like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and also Jazz/Rock like Mahavishnu, Chic Corea or John Abercrombie. Back when he was younger Heavy metal (like the Scorpions etc…) was considered cheesy and not serious in his circles…..his attitude changed when he heard Slayer, Sepultura etc…through me. The rest is history as they say haha.

Being on the forefront of technical brutal death metal, does that come with a lot of pressure? If so does it press you on, pushing yourself to work even harder with each album?

-We’re definitely always pushing the envelope in the technical domain, and this new album will definitely be a testament to that. Pressure isn’t the right word though, mainly the only struggle I would say is the balance between the brutal and technical elements of the music, but for Lille this seems to come naturally.

Having been around for a long time you’ve toured a lot. Do you have any favorite memory from a tour you’d like to share?

-Granted I’ve only been in the band for a fraction of the band’s history, I’ve also been present during the most active years of the band as far as touring goes. There are so many great memories it’s really hard to isolate any in particular. The highlights always tend to be in the people we meet along the way, whether it be fans or the bands that we share the road and stage with. Every tour has its bullshit that happens inherently, but there are great memories from just about all of them for me.

A new album is coming which this time features you as the new vocalist, but you played with Defeated Sanity live back in 2015 too. How did Defeated Sanity find out about you to begin with?

-Lille had found me through a solo project I was doing at the time called “Autonomy”. I also had a vocal cover of Defeated up on YouTube at the time, which also peaked his interest. This was around 2010-2011 I want to say, and we had corresponded a handful of times about potentially collaborating in the future. Fast forward to 2015 and I was filling in on vocals for a US tour after Konni had left the band, which left me with some huge shoes to fill. The rest is history!

How come Defeated Sanity hasn’t had a permanent vocalist? What’s the reason behind wanting to change vocalist with each album?

-It was never intended to be as such, but as the story goes “life happens”. It’s hard to keep up with the touring schedule with families and careers to also balance. All prior vocalists of Defeated are still on good terms with everyone in the band so there were never any major issues that led to any sort of falling out. I’m planning to end this stigma attached to Defeated however!

Speaking of the new album, which you just finished recording, when will we get more info on it?

There will be info coming very soon. The music is ready and we’re moving onto getting artwork and stuff like that done now. We’ll have some news coming really soon, so hang in there!

The album as recorded at The Thousand Caves who also did the famous Psalms Of The Moribund album. Will it have a similar sound?

-This is actually the first record we’ve done with Colin so I’m not sure where you may have heard that (TMG: I read it on Discogs). Psalms was done at the Soundlodge in Germany if I recall correctly. The sound of this record will be different than anything prior though to answer your question.

What can Defeated Sanity fans expect of the new album?

-We’ll put it this way: Men are born with two balls for a reason, one is a backup for when an album like this one drops. We think it will crush, and we’re all extremely happy with the result on all fronts!

Will we get to see a Defeated Sanity tour to promote the new album in 2020?

We have plans to play extensively this year. We just announced a tour in support of Origin and Beneath The Massacre this Spring in the US, and a couple of shows in Iceland and London in May. We have a few other things in the works for this year but nothing that I can offer specific details about at this time.

If you had to choose one song by Defeated Sanity that you would show a friend what the band is all about, which song would that be?

-For me I would say a great well-rounded song for Defeated in terms of style is Consumed By Repugnance. It’s very fast but also has plenty of groove. It also displays some of the jazz influence and more abstract songwriting aspects of the band.

It’s not everyday you get to interview one of your all time favorite bands so I want to give a massive thank you for saying yes to this interview. Any parting words?

-Cheers man! Keep your ears to the ground, we’ll have more news coming soon and the record will be out late spring/early summer. We’re all really excited to present this new material to you guys!

Wormhole – The Weakest Among Us (Technical Brutal Death Metal/Slam)

The year starts heavy for The Metal Gamer as the first review of the year comes from the brutal tech-death band Wormhole and their sophomore release titled The Weakest Among Us. Their debut album Genesis was a sleeper hit that came out late 2016, which I personally didn’t find out about until around a year after but it was definitely one of the better brutal tech-death albums for its time where I enjoyed the hints of slam and deathcore. Fast forward to 2020 and the Kumar brothers now got a drummer in Matt Tillett (Greylotus, ex-Cognitive (live)) and Anshuman Goswami (Perihelion, Cognitive (live)) on vocals joining them on The Weakest Among Us after Goswami having been doing vocals live for Wormhole. He got some big shoes to fill as both Calum Forrest and, the almost legendary, Duncan Bentley were doing solid work prior. Will The Weakest Among Us solidify Wormhole as a giant within the genre or will it prove to be the weakest among us, seeing the band take a step backwards with the member changes?

To start of with The Weakest Among Us got a whole different feel to it than their debut, the deathcore vibe is completely gone and it’s a lot more technical. The title-track “The Weakest Among Us” showcase that right from the start and shows a new side of the Wormhole that sounds more mature, heavier and vastly improved songwriting. With “rA9_myth” bringing way more slam bits into the giant hole I’m just about ready to be devoured by this worm as it is surely going for the kill by now. “D-S3” slows it down a notch, walking on the progressive path for a while, where you can hear some similarities to Sanjay Kumar’s other band Equipoise at times.

With more heavy slam in “The Gas System” putting the….gas back in the tank…. and the mouthful “Wave Quake Generator Plasma Artillery Cannon” we quickly go back into full gear again. The album closer “Ingswarm” is a wicked way to start your 2020 with some filthy breakdowns and the highlight of the album for me together with the opener, and title-track, “The Weakest Among Us” has been my two most played songs at the beginning of this year. Those two songs I think capture perfectly who Wormhole are in 2020.

One thing is certain The Weakest Among Us is a completely different beast than their debut Genesis and a much more varied effort. While Genesis was solid it might have lacked some bits to make it stand out and be a long lasting album in my playlists I find The Weakest Among Us bringing all the right stuff. As far as technical brutal death metal goes this is definitely one of the more experimental albums I’ve heard in the genre. Or as the promo said “prepare yourself for a new generation of Slam and Technical Death Metal!”. It might be a bit too nice and a bit too little brutality at times, while going too hard on the progressive/technical side but at the same time that’s a thing I like with the album. The Vulvodynia resemblances are basically all gone in my opinion, welcome the lovechild of Wormed, Decimated Humans and Equipoise in all its glory. A band that says “fuck it lets go nuts on our sophomore album”, try breaking some boundaries and the result is a good fucking album that makes 2020 have a flying start. Oh and did I mention they base their music on not only common sci-fi but Metroid lore (which you can see through the cover art)!? Metal gamers better dig this!

Written by J.B.

Artist: Wormhole
Label: Lacerated Enemy Records
For fans of: Wormed & Decimated Humans
Release date: January 14th, 2020
Favorite song: Ingswarm
Score: 4/5 Excellent

The Ritual Aura – Velothi (Technical Death Metal)

The wait has been long but now The Ritual Aura finally returns after three years with their third full-length record. What makes this extra juicy for a metal gamer like me is that Velothi is all about The Elder Scrolls mythos, which is one of the best game series ever made. Velothi is by far their most ambitious project yet where you hear instruments like viola, erhu, harp and fretless guitar in this 10-track titan of orchestral, prog and even jazz-infused tech-death. To make this happen they bring in not just one, nor two but TEN guests. A behemoth of an album in store for sure.

With a sweet piano piece “Destati | The Womb, Astral” opens up the album and you can tell you’re in for a beautiful journey. “Sunder I: Lorkhan, Heir of the Void” then presents itself in all its fury, showing that this is extreme metal in the works too. Right after what would become my favorite song makes itself known as “Sunder II: Elysian Flesh-Divinity” showcase both beauty with beautiful use of growl along with clean singing and instrumental play that’s perfectly synced, much like some of the best tunes heavyweights Beyond Creation has done. “Keeing IV: Red Year & The Fall” has one of the most beautiful sections I’ve heard this year when the viola comes to play and is a close second for the spot. However this is an album that’s meant to be heard in full, not only because it’s a concept album but due to how it’s mixed and the two sections (Sunder and Keeing) kind of blend into eachother nicely. To make it even greater the bonus song “Silt Sunrise” even features arrangements of Jeremy Soule’s “Silt Sunrise”, who originally composed for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Gaming metal galore. A major thing worth noting for fans of The Ritual Aura is that Velothi is definitely quite a lot different than their past work. The core is there but bringing in all these musicians and loads of instruments at play, while it also being a concept album, does obviously come with some changes in sound. Keep that in mind when giving Velothi a listen.

Velothi does make a metal gamers heart pumping with joy as the album plays around with rpg-like instrumentals and metal infused incredibly well throughout the whole album. I can promise you that if you read this blog, with a name like The Metal Gamer, then you will enjoy Velothi. Now excuse me while I log into The Elder Scrolls Online while putting this album on repeat for a day.

Written by J.B.

Artist: The Ritual Aura
Label: Independent
For fans of: Beyond Creation and Obscura
Release date: September 1st, 2019
Favorite song: Sunder II: Elysian Flesh-Divinity
Score: 4/5 Excellent

Albums of the month: May

What a month! This year for metal has been good overall, granted some months better than others but May oh my…. There has been not just one, nor two but six albums I could consider album of the year contenders! How freaking sweet is that (and bad for my wallet)!? That being said the album of the month was very very hard to pick and hell even the top five won’t consist of the all the albums that might find their way into the yearly top ten! Hope you find some great metal here, be sure to check all the band out and comment your own lists here, on Instagram, Twitter or on Facebook as I would love to hear them! With this album of the month article I am going on a vacation to Prague for a bit over a week. Catch all of you metal gamers later!

Album of the month

Vale of Pnath – Accursed

Wow what a journey Vale of Pnath has had! They’ve always been of my favorite techdeath bands, much do to their black metal influences, but they really knocked this one out of the park! A perfect five in my book and a crown jewel in their already great, and growing, discography. Released May 17th via Willowtip Records.
Read the review here

Runners-up

AngelMaker – AngelMaker

From one of my favorite techdeath bands we have one of my favorite deathcore bands. Angelmaker is not just mine but also my wifes go to band when we want some deathcore quality. This is their most varied release yet and I absolutely love it! Released May 31st as an independent release.

Misþyrming – Algleymi

This is in my opinion the best black metal release so far. Even with strong releases from bands like Nordjevel, Abduction, Murg and their countrymen Sinmara I think Misþyrming got an edge and Algleymi has been one of my most played albums since its release. Released May 24th via Norma Evangelium Diaboli.

Warforged – I: Voice

Warforged was probably the band I had changing up and down the most if it was going to be my album of the month or not. What an experience! Add the very cool music video for the whole album and you got yourself a great time. Released May 10th via The Artisan Era.
Read the review here

Murdryck – Födelsen

My biggest surprise of the month. My partner in crime K.P. was all up in flames over this release and it didn’t take more than a couple of songs to understand why. Nearly perfect black metal in the Swedish old school way. Released May 1st via Leviaphonic Records.
Read the review here

Honorable mentions

Decomposition of Entrails – Abnormality
Darkthrone – Old Star
Krypts – Cadaver Circulation
Nihility – Thus Spoke The Antichrist
Entrapment – Imminent Violent Death
Kampfar – Ofidians Manifest
Kull – Exile
Ontborg – Within the Depths of Oblivion
Fleshgod Apocalypse – Veleno
Firelink – The Inveterate Fire
Mordbrand – Döden/Efter Döden
Possessed – Revelations of Oblivion
October Tide – In Splendor Below
Amon Amarth – Berserker
Abnormality – Sociopathic Constructs
Osiah – Kingdom of Lies
Deathspell Omega – The Furnaces of Palingenesia

Vale of Pnath – Accursed (Technical Death/Black Metal)

Vale of Pnath is an interesting band, even with quite a few member changes during the years I personally think all their albums are great. They somehow seem to be immune to it leading towards a bad album every now and then. Maybe that is exactly why the band is always up for experimenting, while making it work is due to the strong glue and vision Vance Valenzuela (guitar) has who keeps it together (I should interview him one day to find out).

“Shadow and Agony” strikes me first and it’s such a scary, horror movie like intro fitting the Lovecraft techdeath masters! Banger after banger Vale of Pnath is hitting me with, they simply don’t want me to go anywhere as I give this album a spin. There is such a great flow throughout the album, time just flies by and your neck is sore after all the headbanging yet there is enough room to breathe at just the right times so it doesn’t break. Even with a great flow, a red thin line, every song sticks out on its own. It isn’t just a simple rinse and repeat for seven songs straight. Something I find hard to find albums which does great on both areas, making the album have a wicked flow and be great end to end but at the same time letting the songs speak for itself so I can just choose one at random and enjoy it. Very well done, it’s certainly not something I take for granted!

“So Jimmy what song do you recommend I listen to first?” Fact is I choose “The Darkest Gate” only due to it being the single I’ve heard so many times before this album dropped it’s just stuck in my head, and rightfully so as it is a killer track. You could definitely take any pick and you would be pleased, they have different elements to their songs that works good on the tracks they are meant for. Both “Obsidian Realm” and “Spectre of Bone” are epic finishers with a more atmospheric and techdeath side to them than the first half of the album for example (Vale of Pnath seems to have a patter to end with the longest, most epic track).

What a year for the technical side of death metal it’s been so far! First we got the riff feast from Equipoise, followed with a phenomenal experience in Warforged (which also brings a lot of black metal influences into the mix) and now Vale of Pnath shows they don’t want to be any worse with their strongest album yet. What do these three bands have in common? They have been experimenting with their sound and executed it well! The path Vale of Pnath has walked has led them to this sound, album after album has drawn them close and close to what finally became Accursed. This is a big change for the band who are now closer to being called a technical black metal band than ever before. I welcome this change with open arms with Accursed being the best I’ve heard from Vale of Pnath so far and an album of the year contender in my book! This makes all my metal sensors tingle the right way and fans of extreme metal have to give this a listen.

Written by J.B.

Label: Willowtip Records
For fans of: Enfold Darkness and The Black Dahlia Murder
Release date: May 17th, 2019
Favorite song: The Darkest Gate
Score: 5/5 Masterpiece

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