Reviews

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Artist: The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death

Album: Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar

Rating: 9.5/10

Hailing from the Cuyahoga Valley, experimental metal act The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death provide an avant-garde approach to modern extreme metal. Through the use, and misuse, of odd time signatures, samples and bone crushing riffs, they have stamped out a often-attempted-yet-rarely-successful niche. With a sound and approach falling somewhere between The Dillinger Escape Plan, early Mastodon and the Mike Patton-led Fantomas, the band fully and equally embrace experimentation and brutality, sacrificing nothing in between. Their live shows are proof of this.

Recently, AFOTBD dropped their sophomore EP, Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar. On this release, the band have successfully expanded upon their earlier work, while showcasing their signature sonic intensity. In a nutshell, there is no sophomore slump!

Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar opens with the brief but mood-setting instrumental, “Haunted.” With a beautiful and eerie minor key piano piece, mood and atmosphere are immediately established, lending the perfect segue to the first full track, “The Whole in Things.” This proggy little number gets right to the point, with a barrage of slamming riffs that aim straight for the jugular. The drum and guitar work immediately catch the ear, as their interplay and odd rhythmic structure are utterly infectious.

From there, “Charlie Murphy’s ‘True Hollywood Stories'” is packed with blast beat-to-chugging riff/drum interplay, with a grinding riff that commands your attention. Finally, the EP closes with perhaps its most ambitious track, the ten-minute “Born of a Broken Jar.” Grinding, chugging riffs lead off the track, before an almost blusey, Zappa-esque lick takes the track in a more groove-heavy direction. By it’s middle, this track gets very interesting, breaking down with a quieter, Middle Eastern guitar lick, reminiscent of the more ambitious moments of Nile, before building itself back into a soaring and slamming conclusion.

It’s safe to say that The Apocalyptic Fist of the Black Death are, without a doubt, among the most ambitious acts to emerge from the Northeast Ohio music scene, of really, any genre. With Volume II: Born of a Broken Jar, the already forward-thinking act have pushed their own envelope, creating a small but loud statement with the confinements of an EP. It leaves you on the edge of your seat, desperately craving more.

Key tracks would include all of them because well, there’s only four, and they all stand out quite well. However, the massive crescendo that is “Born of a Broken Jar,” the EP’s final cut, is nothing short of a masterpiece, that only gets better with repeated listens. All in all, a must-have for fans of experimental, heavy, progressive music.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Third Class

Album: Virginia’s Playlist

Release Date: 1/1/17

Rating: 9.5/10

For nearly two decades, Northeast Ohio’s Third Class have dazzled audiences from across the region and beyond with a fierce passion. With an intimate and immediate delivery, Lee Echard Boyle and Co. consistently hit the mark with songs that boast as much dry wit as they do emotion. On their latest offering, Virginia’s Playlist, the Indie Rock mainstays craft a heartfelt, touching and often cynical story that takes the listeners across time and space, with all of the whirlwind emotions in between.

With Virginia’s Playlist, Third Class have taken their unique brand of quirky Indie Rock and Folk Pop and have sprinkled in subtle hints of Americana, Garage Pop and Baroque Pop for a 20-track massive opus. Not only is this perhaps their most ambitious record to date, but it serves as a refreshing reminder that the band is still searching, still hungry and still eager to push the limits of their songwriting one step further than the next.

Kicking off with the tongue-in-cheek “College Radio,” Third Class come out swinging in a charm all of their own. “We’re college radio but no one plays us, We never played a show where people paid us right, And in our pinky toe we’ve got more talent than you could ever know, Your bass rig towers high,” is a part cynical, part facetious, slightly-ambiguous look at either the local scene, or perhaps a parallel to the greater music scene in general.

A swarm of lush acoustic guitars and strings dominate “Radio to Cassette,” before the piano-driven “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” and the folky “Being and a Ball,” draw from personal reflection. From there, “Kiss You Until You Bleed,” “Lonely for You” and “Crying in the Dark” drive home the sincere melodramatic love songs that are trademark of Third Class. Somewhere between the brooding of Neil Young and the bluesy swagger of Springsteen, the songwriting carves its own niche of pure lyrical poetry.

The Neil Young-esque “Hardwood Sky” and the Baroque Pop of “Lonesome Dove” change the pace slightly, leading off the climatic second half of Virginia’s Playlist. “Colors of You” and “Better Mood Today” take a page right from White Album-era Beatles songwriting with a quirky baroque piano taking the lead on the former and a more subtle approach on the latter.

As the record draws to a close, tracks “Me and Wally” and “Witch Hunt” paint the melancholy picture of a summer sun setting of the reckless abandon of youth. Closing track “Sweet Potato” is a soaring glimmer of hope lead by a beautiful and frantic piano that fades off into the sunset.

Virginia’s Playlist is not a record you should put on at a party, and perhaps that is its most endearing quality! It is a record that demands your full attention. Best experienced by a few full uninterrupted listens. Third Class have crafted a record of continuity, a record that once heard in its entirety, it sticks with you. It is also evident on this record that the band have not hit their plateau in songwriting. Standout tracks include “Radio to Cassette,” “The World Sounds Like Poetry,” “Hardwood Sky,” “Grow Up in Portland,” and “Witch Hunt.” However, Virginia’s Playlist will leave the best impression if listened to from start to finish.

Virginia’s Playlist is available directly from the band at thirdclass.net.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

POTD

Artist: Psyclosarin

Album: Perceptions of the Damned

Rating: 9/10

Since 2011, Northeast Ohio Death Metal mainstays Psyclosarin have been offering up their unique take on the genre. With enough massive riff and slamming grooves to bring any mosh pit to its knees, the band have carved themselves a special niche on the scene. With dozens of high profile performances at notable venues such as the Agora in Cleveland, Psyclosarin have set the stage as one of the leading forces in a new generation of Extreme Metal.

With their latest release, 2016’s Perceptions For the Damned, Psyclosarin take the overt brutality of classic Death Metal and sprinkle in a slight but significant touch of the atmospheric drone of Black Metal for a refreshingly exciting collection of very heavy songs. Similar to the approach taken by acts like Behemoth and Vader on recent releases, Psyclosarin favor neither style over the other, but sacrifice nothing, keeping up with straight-forward yet extreme ethos of the hybrid sub-genre, Blackened Death Metal.

Perceptions of the Damned opens with the rousing title track. A true Death Metal Slammer complete with grinding riffs overtop blast beats for an unrelenting pulverizing track with a middle section vaguely reminiscent of Powerviolence and a closing guitar lead-to-final refrain that climaxes into the highest reaches of hell.

From there, the slow opening of “Limb from Limb” does nothing to prepare for the insanity that’s to follow. Crashing into a wall of chaotic, frenzied riffs, the track introduces some more Black Metal riffing styles for some serious textured sonic torture. “Thrown to the Wolves” offers more gigantic riffs while “All Hail None,” the undoubted standout of the first half of Perceptions of the Damned, boasts another wall of  massive guitars, but the real moments of genius hit just two-thirds into the song, as the song begins to shift into an unexpected slamming groove.

“Sever the Cord” begins with an interesting melodic swarm of guitars, taking a brief but welcomed left turn, before igniting into another nuclear assault of riffs and chaos. The Thrash-like riffs that hit by the middle of the song are also a definite highlight! “Born to Burn” showcases more of what Psyclosarin seem to do best, with twin guitar attacks shifts from Black to Death Metal-style riffing seemlessly. The album closes with the Thrashy “Rampage,” with riffs that rival the most technical and brutal moments from Machinehead.

All in all, Perceptions of the Damned is an unrelenting, ugly collection of songs that rarely comes up for air. Amidst the chaos, there are several moments of genius and some really well-crafted material that comes across to perfection. The production does great justice, by balancing the harsh technically to where nothing sounds sacrificed; a rare feat in the age of extreme digital compression. This record is Psyclosarin coming into their own, and serves as an exciting landmark of what’s they’ve done and where they’re heading. Standout tracks include “All Hail None,” “Thrown to the Wolves,” “Born to Burn” and the title track.

Watch the official music video for “Limb from Limb” by clicking here.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Filter

Album: Crazy Eyes

Release Date: 4/8/16

Rating: 9/10

Few survivors of the industrial rock scene have remained as consistent as Filter. Since their debut in 1995, the Richard Patrick-led project have pumped out one great record after another. With the industrial scene eventually fading into the background of metal or goth-techno by the late-90s, and genre pioneers like Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails taking long hiatuses, there was little representation of the golden age of industrial rock; save for Filter. Despite waxing and waning mainstream attention, the band have retained a core audience that spans the likes of alternative, industrial and heavy metal listeners.

At the core of Filter is Patrick, the one-time Nine Inch Nails guitarist who exited the band on the eve of their most commercially-successful era. He formed Filter, looking for a less synth-driven and more guitar-driven sound. Their iconic 1995 debut, Short Bus, dropped at the height of the industrial-alternative crossover, when the sound was at it’s peak popularity. The follow-up, 1999’s Title of Record, was a massive success propelled by the crossover hit, “Take A Picture.” But for much of the 00’s, addiction issues and an evolving alternative scene kept Filter out of the limelight, despite releasing the underrated gems The Amalgamut and Anthems For the Damned. In 2011, Filter came back hard with the slamming The Trouble With Angels record, boasting a return to the sound that brought Filter to fruition. 2013’s The Sun Comes Out Tonight further featured the rage and socio-political disdain that was synonymous with industrial rock. Few artists have captured the heaviness of the original industrial scene as well as alternative rock sensibilities quite like Filter.

With their latest release, Crazy Eyes, Filter dive head first into a classic industrial rock sound with pulsating synths, distorted bass lines, mechanized drums and grinding guitars, matched with a primal rage against a failing system. Tracks titles like “Pride Flag,” “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Your Bullets” quickly indicate the social commentary that’s to come, while “Nothing In My Hands” and “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” tease up the anger and disdain.

Crazy Eyes opens with the classic industrial slammer, “Mother E,” a synth-heavy stomper that finds Patrick screaming the refrain; “I got my reasons and my reasons are sound,” as a wall of swelling synths build to a head-banging groove. “Nothing In My Hands” looks at the Ferguson and Michael Brown case, while capturing all of the socio-political angst the industrial scene had/has to offer. From there, the more accessible, and dare I say, poppy, “Pride Flag,” keeps in tune with the album’s feel, looking through the glass at a society spiraling into chaos.

Filter mastermind Richard Patrick, circa 2016. Photo courtesy of blabbermouth.net.

Filter mastermind Richard Patrick, circa 2016. Photo courtesy of blabbermouth.net.

Tracks such as “The City of Blinding Riots” and “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” feature a more atmospheric, KMFDM/Combichrist-esque stomp, while “Take Me To Heaven” and “Head of Fire” boast a more groove-heavy bass-driven feel, with sneering hooks in the vein of NIN. “Tremors” is also write with Ministry-style mechanical percussion, circa Land of Rape and Honey.

Most of Side B on Crazy Eyes leans a little more in the rock direction, with tracks like “Kid Blue From the Short Bus, Drunk Bunk” and “Your Bullets” featuring the more classic Filter sound of heavy alt-metal, most prevalent on Title of Record. The album concludes with “Under the Tongue,” a slow-building heavy groove tracks that spirals into a wall of distortion, before descending into the acoustic comedown of “(Can’t She See) Head of Fire, Pt. 2.”

All in all, Crazy Eyes may be Filter’s strongest album since Title of Record. While the last few records clearly showcase Patrick showing his teeth and muscles, it’s few and far between they feature his ability to write really interesting songs. Crazy Eyes ebbs and flows, and although it’s consistently heavy and brooding, both sonically and lyrically, it ties together many small concepts into a central theme. Standout tracks are difficult to pinpoint, but would certainly include “Mother E,” “Welcome To the Suck (Destiny Not Luck)” “Your Bullets” and “Pride Flag.” For fans of the golden age of industrial rock, this will surely spark an interest in a scene long stagnant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRV51e753f8

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

VVVV Cover

Artist: Cvttvnmvvth

Album: VVVV

Release Date: 2/12/16

Rating: 9.5/10

Over the past few years, the Northeast Ohio music scene has seen an explosion of Sludge, Doom and Stoner Rock influenced acts attempting to, and often succeeding to, bring raw, gritty heavy rock back to the forefront. But none have dared further, lower, dirtier, eviler and spacier than Youngstown’s Cvttvnmvvth!

Since the release of their 2013 debut, Tough Snake, Cvttvnmvvth have pummeled ear drums with their unique blend of Doom, Space/Psych, Stoner Metal and Post-Punk, with heavy atmospheres reaching as far in Goth as they do into Black Metal. Now, the power trio of gloom are set to release their next monumental output, a cassette tape titled VVVV.

Over the seven tracks that comprise VVVV, Cvttvnmvvth touch base on all the aforementioned styles, piss all over them, and write their own set of rules. The upbeat “Barf Star” opens the tape, setting the tone with a lo-fi, punk slammer of a track, leading into the heavy licks of “Strangle Game.” Along with a DIY aesthetic, the lo-fi production and heavy reverb, especially on the drums, is almost instantly reminiscent of the hey day of the tape-trading Black Metal scene of early 80s acts like Hellhammer and Bathory.

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“Plug Life” is the first track to really slow things down, right down into the dirt! Featuring some Pentagram-esque riffage, the track emphasizes Cvttvnmvvth’s ability to dig deep, while keeping the song grounded and interesting. “Subwolfer” sounds like a long-lost Black Sabbath demo, complete with drummer Kenny Halbert and bassist Eric Tharp holding down a tight, swinging groove over top some deliciously doom-y riffs and almost bluesy vocals courtesy of singer/guitarist Javier. “World Abattoir” continues this vibe before naturally segueing into the spacey, psychedelic doom the concludes VVVV.

“Sex Feast” nods to Candlemass, perhaps if Candlemass had begun in the early 70s, with a very classic doom riff filled with Space Rock flair. Finally, the album concludes on a definite highlight with “Sky Burial.” The epic eight-plus minute track soars high, really high, serving as a well indicator of how Cvttvnmvvth have developed as songwriters.

VVVV has a very genre-bending overall approach, one which says more in seven tracks than most artists do across three albums. Upon listening to VVVV, there’s no doubt that Cvttvnmvvth are both unafraid to take risks, and enjoy pushing the boundaries of which they have set. VVVV is the perfect answer to Tough Snake, the band have not only grown as songwriters, but have set the bar even higher this time around.

Cvttvnmvvth will hold an official release party for VVVV on Feb. 20 at Cedars West End along with Mississippi Gun Club for support.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vh93CQ7ylo&feature=youtu.be

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

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Artist: Red Water Tragedy

Album: The Beast A Part of Me

Rating: 8.5/10

Storming out of the Akron/Kent music scene, Red Water Tragedy front a new breed riff-heavy Rock and Roll. Their particular blend of bluesy modern rock and grinding sludge, offer an equally powerful blend of soul and angst. The band take on the aesthetics of acts like Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, with a modern twist that’s interestingly both radio-friendly and slamming heavy. On their latest output, The Beast A Part of Me, the band have clearly defined a path for which their exciting brand of heavy rock will take listeners on a relentless, wild ride.

Initially formed over a decade ago, Red Water Tragedy have undergone a handful of lineup changes and fresh starts before solidifying themselves in 2013. Now, after slaying audiences across the region with high-profile performances throughout the Akron, Cleveland, Kent and Youngstown areas, Red Water Tragedy are set to unleash their first major statement on the face on the regional scene.

The Beast A Part of Me comes out swinging with the slamming opener, “Lest You Forget.” The track immediately announces its presence, and offers a nastiness in the vein of Clutch or Red Fang, with soulful angst-ridden vocals of lead singer Paul Galloway in full effect providing a unique edge. From there, a blast of riffage hits hard via “Storm the Castle,” which to many fans, has become Red Water Tragedy’s signature song thus far. The track particularly highlights most of the band’s best qualities; tight-yet-pounding rhythms, massive riffs and searing vocals.

The tracks “Concede” and “The Struggle” both feature and Alice in Chains-esque dynamic of hard riffs and moody atmospheres. They contain a certain quality of darkness that is immediately and refreshingly reminiscent of Layne Staley in the mid-90s.

Red Water Tragedy

Red Water Tragedy

After a brief “Intermission,” Side B of The Beast A Part of Me sees the band taking their songwriting up a notch with more diverse subject matter and musical complexity. “The Reckoning” displays a tense build-up before an epic crescendo, finding Galloway screaming “Go fuck your ego,” with true conviction. Although political overtones are subtlety and tastefully weaved through the album, the following track, “False Fangs,” places them front-and-center. “Contradict and leave us in the dark,” sings Galloway, while making a strong point, and leaving just enough to the listener’s own interpretation.

Closing out the album is the ripping “Far Too Long,” featuring some flavorful wah-heavy guitar, slick bass lines and cowbell! Finally, the album concludes with “Darkness Inside,” a brooding, atmospheric and vulnerable acoustic track, that still puts high emphasis on what’s quite possible Red Water Tragedy’s true knack; moodiness.

All in all, The Beast A Part of Me serves as a great introduction to what Red Water Tragedy is all about. There’s power, angst, soul, groove, heaviness, moodiness and well-formulated songs. The production quality is very high, leaving just enough grit for the average Sludge/Stoner Rock fan to enjoy, but just enough polish for a radio-friendly audience to grab. That is no easy feat, as some acts who walk the line of underground and mass acceptance run the risk of insincerity. Luckily, this is not the case for Red Water Tragedy, as each individual track stands out in one unique way or another. The Beast A Part of Me is perfect for fans of regional acts like Resinaut, Mississippi Gun Club and Rule of Two, or national acts such as Clutch, Red Fang, Floodgate or Alice in Chains.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TAjP0RWGzpA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIHVeDuzAn4