CD REVIEW Relapse Records special, part 2

Label: Relapse Records
Distribution: Rough Trade Benelux - Tone

The first 2012-special for Relapse. Keep on going, keep the metallic flames burning, keep the concrete train rolling…
[see footnote as well]
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Band: Abysmal Dawn
Title: From Ashes
Release date: January 17th 2012
Review: CD (re-release)

Abysmal Dawn are a band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 2003 and creators of a handful of acceptable Death Metal epics. Shortly after their 2004-demo, the band started working on the debut, From Ashes, released through Crash Music in early Spring 2006. May 2008 saw the light of Programmed To Consume, the band’s Relapse debut, showing some positive progression, followed by Levelling The Plane Of Existence (review updated on February 18th 2011), by far Abysmal Dawn’s most mature recording to date. An evolution I cannot dislike, of course. What’s the future to come with?...
Since Relapse Records have an intelligent vision on the conceptual marriage of commercial tactics and promotional ethics, which can be seen in their huge catalogue of important and sometimes highly interesting re-releases, it may not be that surprising that this label does re-issue Abysmal Dawn’s 2006-debut as well. That album, From Ashes, was recorded by forming and sole remaining member Charles Elliott (g, v), Jamie Boulanger (g), Terry Barajas (d) and session-bass player Mike Bear, (former) member of Inhuman Visions, another band with Jamie and Charles, and it got engineered, mixed and mastered by John Haddad – think, when it comes to studio assistance, about acts like Exhumed, Lightning Swords Of Death, Murder Construct, Intronaut, Hirax or The Funeral Pyre; he also used to be member of, for example, Californian Phobia and Eyes Of Fire, by the way.
As mentioned before, I think the band grew (and probably still grows) during its existence, with each new recording being somewhat stronger than the former one. Unfortunately this is the band’s debut, so it’s that one…
But don’t get me wrong; I never mentioned ‘bad’ or ‘f*cking bad’. From Ashes follows the standards, focusing on how merciless and uncompromising, no-nonsense USDM should sound like. And they do succeed. At least when it comes to energy, intensity, persuasion. These whirlwind blasts are beyond expectations and leave no prisoners, just the way it must sound like. You think? Yes? Well, what’s the problem? Ooh, it does sound too much alike, it is too much of the same shit, unfortunately. At that moment, it was clear that Abysmal Dawn were a band with a glorious future to come, yet some less repetition and more of an own face would help. After this release, the band didn’t but grow because of that. But anyway, the likes of Morbid Angel, Suffocation, The Black Dahlia Murder, Through The Eyes Of The Dead, Decrepit Birth, or their former band Inhuman Visions aren’t that strange at all to be compared with, and I think it’s rather a compliment for those bands for being honoured with such tribute. Therefore recommended to those who like classic über-USDM and who do not have this album yet. Or, surprise surprise, what about the bonus tracks, taken from their 2004-demo?...

(original 2006-score) 77/100
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Band: Christian Mistress
Title: Possession
Release date: February 28th 2012
Review: CD

I didn’t know this quintet but by name, yet apparently this quintet did release their debut full length in 2010 (called Agony & Opium, through 20 Buck Spin; there were a demo recording and a single as well in 2009, by the way)… They’re pretty ‘young’, for being formed less than five years ago, and one of those many Doom-laden bands with a female vocalist in its ranks – Christine Davis is the name of Christian Mistress’ singer – which is not that renewing anymore; for a modest list of same-oriented bands, I’d like to refer to the (grandiose) review of the new The Wounded Kings album (I Hate Records), posted on February 11th 2012. However, Doom… No, it’s not the traditional kind you might expect here.
The sophomore album Possession lasts for forty one minutes and as from the first song (Pentagram And Crucifix) on, my careful attention awakens. Have the eighties come back? Is this a twenty five year old re-release? Damn no, this stuff just breathes the atmosphere of two decades back. Up-tempo and thrashing Heavy Metal with an ol’ times’ rocking vibe and a modest wink to Seventies Doom. Warlock, Faith, Girlschool, mingled with NWOBHM-technics and North American styled grooves… And on top of it, Christian Mistress do have an own, characteristic approach, which goes for both the songs an sich, as well as the sound. The latter, besides, goes perfectly with the energetic, though catchy (!) no-nonsense performance. A well-balanced sound with a sublime final mix (only the main drums are produced too ‘hollowly’), yet at the same time unpolished, rough and grumpy, the way I like to grump
Before running to the store immediately, with the aim to buy, very honestly, this new recording, professional advisory: do NOT buy, or steal, or at least do not listen to it in case banging your head will be fatal… because you will bang your head!
Includes the Faith-cover Possession (the title track indeed)…

83/100
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Band: Death
Title: Vivus!
Release date: February 28th 2012 (North America), March 2nd 2012 (Belgium, Germany, Holland), March 5th 2012 (rest of Europe / the world)
Review: double live-CD (re-release compilation)

Another Death-re-release; this time compiling two live albums, Live In L.A.  (Death And Raw) and Live In Eindhoven ‘98, both of them originally released through Nuclear Blast in October 2001 (resp. 16th and 30th) with the The Sound Of Perseverance line-up; and by the way, both of them released as DVD-edition as well (also in 2001).
All at that terrible moment when Cancer was slowly yet definitely introducing Death…
Live In L.A. (Death And Raw) was recorded at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go club in Los Angeles, California, but the sound quality is rather inferior. The members’ performance, and the individual songs of course, stand highly above average, and it is nice to hear songs from both the ‘present’ (read: The Sound Of Perseverance) and the past (like Pull The Plug).
Disc two brings the registration of Death’s performance on the well-known Dutch Metal festival Dynamo Open Air, the 1998-edition. The sound is slightly better, yet beneath standards as well, and the performance ingenious, though less cohesive. Here again, old and (especially) new material to enjoy…
The reason for this compilation? Charity? Ripping off? Who cares, then again?

---/100
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Band: Liberteer
Title: Better To Die On Your Feet Than Live On Your Knees
Release date: January 31st 2012
Review: CD

I guess most people do know Matt Widener from Cretin (in the early years, and back as from 2001, as bass player), or from his co-operation with Exhumed or Citizen. He used to be involved with Fun / Gore / Grind combo The County Medical Examiners as well. Actually, Liberteer sort of is a new solo-project by Matt, yet one might consider it the continuation of defunct Citizen, yet with Matt as sole remaining active member.
Liberteer are not just a logical successor of Citizen, even though the comparisons are legio. Sleaziness against melodic drama, or Grind-eruptions versus melodic-experimental kick-backs, it’s an opinion of non-ignorant roots not to deny. Yet again, what Liberteer bring is more than just a continuation of some past efforts.
At the one hand, you have those Grindcore / Death Metal blasts in some Brutal Truth / Nasum / Exhumed-vein, and on the other you got these specials, creativity in some out-of-the-box-thinking sphere. What to think about the few bombastic keyboard parts (I was wonderfully surprised when I heard the intro, for example, those happily classical synths on Built No System, or the creepy melodic key-lines on a track like Rise Like Lions After Slumber), or the technical Fingerspitzengefühl leads and solos. What about the punkish harmony shouts or the fine slow-down moments
Most tracks, however, do sound somewhat too alike, and the monotony of a few parts is sad. The main approach, and this goes for the production as well, is rather predictable and lacks of any originality, yet again, the few unique additions (and besides the keyboards I have to mention the splendid guitar leads again) are a nice counterbalance to the totality.
Anyway, twenty seven highly recommended minutes for everyone who appreciates non-traditional and, at the same time, very classical Grindeathcoremetal…

85/100
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Relapse Records were a leading label in the past, and still they are. Last year I did review tens of new and re-releases (some of them combined in another ‘special’ – check out the review section to find out), and I do not have the impression that 2012 will be a turning point. Not at all, as a matter of fact. Even though I am, especially, a fan of Funeral Doom and grim Black Metal, I do like Relapse’s attitude, and intelligence, to expand, to trespass known, safe borders, with nothing to fear. I really am curious to find out what the unholy combination 2012 – Relapse has to bring further on.

Ivan Tibos.