Swine Overlord – Parables of Umbral Transcendence (Gore House Productions, 2014)

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“Mature” probably isn’t the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of brutal death metal, hell it probably isn’t the five-hundredth word one thinks of.  But I’ll be damned if Parables of Umbral Transcendence, the debut full-length from NY/FL-based project Swine Overlord isn’t a shockingly mature slab of BDM.  The band has largely shed the slam leanings and cartoonish visual imagery of their earlier recordings in favor of a more pure brutal death metal sound accompanied by science fiction-influenced artwork, and as a result have released one of the genre’s best albums of 2014.

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Ace Frehley – Space Invader (eOne Music, 2014)

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I’ve only talked about it a few times here on THKD, but those of you that know me personally and/or follow me on social media are no doubt aware of my unabashed love of all things KISS.  As such, I couldn’t help but be a little excited when I heard that my favorite original member, lead guitarist Ace Frehley, had signed a deal with eOne Music and a new solo album was on the horizon.  Frehley’s last effort, 2009’s Anomaly, was a solid slab of rock and the guitarist seemed poised to succeed where Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley had failed with the abysmal pair of recent faux-KISS records, Sonic Boom and Monster.  After all, Frehley’s 1978 solo record was the last great KISS album, and is quite frankly more enjoyable front-to-back than many of the full-band KISS albums from the quartet’s classic era.  Sure, 1978 was a long time ago, but considering the potential shown on Anomaly and the fact that Frehley was on-point when I saw him live a few years back, there was reason to be hopeful.

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Dropdead / Full of Hell / Noisem / Plague Widow / RAD @ Midtown Barfly, Sacramento, CA 08/24/14

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My second show in Sacramento was in some ways a throwback to my younger years in Des Moines; I used to walk down to Hairy Mary’s by myself to see shows because my sorry ass didn’t have a car and to make matters worse I didn’t know anyone else who gave a shit about the underground.  Not being much of a grindcore fan, my wife decided to sit out Sunday’s matinee at the Midtown Barfly, and as a result I found myself flying solo once again, which is always a delightfully awkward experience given that I’m not exactly the most outgoing person out there.  Also, many of those shows I hoofed it to back in the day were heavy on grindcore bands such as Black Market Fetus, Strong Intention, Catheter, Entrails Massacre and Phobia, to name but a few, so I was excited to experience a show in a similar vein in my new city.  A complete and utter lack of social skills doesn’t matter much when you’re being pummeled at a million miles an hour by some of the most vicious and unrelenting music out there.

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Fiends at Feast / Tragic Death – Purgatory Rites (Horror Pain Gore Death Productions, 2014)

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I’ve been following Santa Cruz’s Fiends at Feast ever since they self-released the excellent Shadows of Extinction EP back in 2011.  In that time, they’ve signed to up-and-coming metal label Horror Pain Gore Death Productions and released an impressive debut full-length in the form of Towards the Baphomet’s Throne, an album that saw the band building upon their already considerable strengths, sharpening their songwriting and upping the musicianship factor.  Continuing to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built for themselves over the past three years, the Fiends are back with what might be their most compelling set of songs yet on Purgatory Rites, a split with Madison, Wisconsin’s previously unknown (to me) Tragic Death.

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Belphegor – Conjuring the Dead (Nuclear Blast, 2014)

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If there is one thing metal critics hate, it’s consistency.  Satan forbid a band should find a sound that works for them (not to mention their fans) and stick with it, dooming their albums to forever be referred to in print as “more of the same” “a rehash” “nothing you haven’t heard before” etc, etc.  Luckily, I’m not a critic, and I love it when bands I enjoy give me exactly what I want. Such is the case with Austrian black/death heavyweights Belphegor, who’ve returned from an uncharacteristic three year silence with Conjuring the Dead.  To say that it’s everything you’d expect from a Belphegor record would probably be the understatement of the decade, but predictability isn’t much of a factor when what you’re predicted to do is kick ass.

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Harassor – Into Unknown Depths (Dais Records, 2014)

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One of my favorite things about digging into the metal underground is when one great band leads me to another great band.  That’s exactly what happened when Lord Time mastermind Andorkappen (aka Sandor GF) turned me on to Harassor, the LA black metal trio he plays drums for.  They’ve just released their fourth full length, Into Unknown Depths, via Dais Records and it’s a damn fine slab of bulldozing USBM if ever there was one.

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