Reviews

Sacred Reich - Live at Wacken

Golden Core Records 2012

Form in the 80's. Release a few albums. Break up in the 90's. Reunite ten years (or more) later. Sounds like a familiar formula, eh? Metal doesn't shy away from the reunion bug; in fact, it embraces it just as much as other forms of music. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that if the likes of Max-era Sepultura or Kiske-era Helloween were to reform, tickets would be going like hot cakes. People love nostalgia, even if it's for a third-tier thrash band like Phoenix's Sacred Reich, who haven't released in a new album in over 15 years, but are able to enjoy the fruits of the European festival circuit.

Their Live at Wacken CD/DVD set chronicles their 2007 return to European shores, this, after reuniting the same year. The band's reformation was hardly ballyhooed, ranking several tiers below the recent re-groupings of fellow 80's/90's thrash mavens Anacrusis and Believer. In earnest, Sacred Reich simply doesn't have the back catalog or worthy "classic" album to substantiate any real fuss, with only their Surf Nicaragua EP serving as their sole standout moment. Therefore, it's probably with little fanfare that Live at Wacken will come and go; it's another one of those unnecessary live outings released to keep a veteran band in the public's eye.

Twelve songs comprise the set, including a cover of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" which naturally, elicits the loudest crowd response. The band's groove-thrash sound is simply average at best, with singer/bassist Phil Rind remaining the lone selling point amidst lackluster riffs and arrangements. Sure, "Administrative Decisions" is mildly fun, but the sub-thrash of "State of Emergency" and "Death Squad" are proof of a band that entered the 80's thrash gauntlet a little too late.

Hard to imagine a strong market for this, and given the band's unwillingness to enter the studio to record a new album, Live at Wacken paints Sacred Reich as a tired and old band, only looking to capitalize upon the marginal success they achieved. They're probably better than that, but you wouldn't know it via this route...



David E. Gehlke


   

Cradle of Filth - The Manticore and Other Horrors

Nuclear Blast 2012

Like clockwork, Dani and his merrymen keep on churning albums out, doubling the productivity of long-time rivals Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, and Satryricon. However, productivity doesn’t always translate into lead dog, for the sort of ramp-up/build-up/excitement that used to predicate a Cradle of Filth album isn’t quite there for their tenth release, The Manticore and Other Horrors. And it’s not like their shtick or anything has gone sour…perhaps people aren’t as warm to COF as they used to be.

Like 2010’s workmanlike Darkly, Darkly Venus Aversa, The Manticore and Other Horrors has a similar extreme metal flourish, pushing the orchestrations to the back, making the guitar tandem of Paul Allender and James McIlroy the point of focus. Allender, who has steered the band since 2000, once again pulls from his bottomless bag of riffs, most of which are of the down-and-dirty variety, specifically “Manticore,” which also pulls in some Middle Eastern instrumentation. Lead single “Frost on Her Pillow” is perhaps the top riff tour-de-force of the album’s 11 cuts, with a fleshed-out melodic riff interval in the chorus that hones in on the band’s late 90’s work.

The only noticeable mutation belongs to the aforementioned Dani Filth, who with every album, sheds more layers off his once-derided/once-lauded banshee shriek. Filth, like Allender in the riff department, is never at a loss for words, something that has long given their music a claustrophobic feeling, but when it’s time to play the verbal spitfire game, there are few better than the pint-sized singer. He’s in top form on “Huge Onyx Wings Beyond Despair,” which is one of the few songs here that calls for vintage COF treatment; the bulk of the album, however, sees Filth transform into a more decipherable vocal acrobat.

The Manticore and Other Horrors’ sideways punk edge and utter lack of finesse runs in stark contrast to COF’s halcyon black metal/Goth experimentation. Therefore, it strikes one as odd that as more extreme the band has become, the less threatening they are to the BM status quo. The resounding sentiment here is that Cradle of Filth hasn’t done any sort of conforming; it’s more like their adversaries have found other punching bags, while the Brits soldier on, isolated in the impenetrable world they’ve created.

David E. Gehlke


   

Voivod - Target Earth

CENTURY MEDIA 2013

Upon the release of Voivod's Warriors of Ice live album a few years ago, Blistering spoke highly of freshly-inserted guitarist Dan "Chewy" Mongrain's handle on Denis "Piggy" D'Amour's lavish and 100% unique guitar work. Mongrain's pedigree is in technical death metal, having spent the better part of his career slugging it out in Martyr, a band widely acclaimed in Canadian metal circles. Combine that with the fact he's a life-long Voivod fan and alas, just reason to record the first posthumous Piggy album, Target Earth.

Target Earth (the band's whopping 13th album) also marks the recording return of bassist Jean-Yves Theriault, who will be known as "Blacky" from this point forward. The two parties are the straw that stirs the drink here, as Mongrain's amazing attention to detail (there are some riffs here that Piggy would have had no problem putting down) and Blacky's blower bass style have given longtime standbys Denis "Snake" Belinger (vocals) and Michel "Away" Langevin a swift kick in the Canadian keister…Target Earth is the direct parallel to a Dimension Hatross and Nothingface hybrid.

The primal churn of “Kluskap O Korn” is a great starting point, with Mongrain knitting abstract arrangements with a punch that recalls the band’s underrated mid-80’s era. The ominous tone of “Empathy for the Enemy” draws the most direct line to Nothingface, with Snake getting all multi-faceted on everyone, while lead single “Mechanical Mind” brandishes angular thrash, only in Voivod’s off-center way, as in, the song sounds like it’s the soundtrack to some sort of weird, robotic factory. Songs of similar punch and drive come in the form of “Resistance” and “Kaledios,” which is perhaps the best number of the bunch thanks to Mongrain’s chord couplings and Snake’s wily old croon.

Target Earth stands to hang around much longer than the Katorz and Infini albums, mainly because a.) the band can actually tour to support it; and b.) they no longer have the cloud of Piggy’s death hanging over them. Either way, what you have here is another inspired, on-the-loose Voivod album that gets better with every passing listen.

David E. Gehlke


   

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