Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Techmaster P.E.B. - Bassgasm (1994) CD Newtown Music Group

And now for something completely different. In the 1990's, a few of my skating buddies had very nice systems in their cars and car audio bass was the shit. I mean, you could listen to The Misfits or Minor Threat (which we did anyway) but you weren't really getting the full effect of your 2 12" system with anything but bass CD's.

Now, being a HUGE fan of 1980's electro, the car audio bass and Miami bass genres totally appeal to me as they are the evolution of that sound. Early Miami bass masters like Dynamix II and Maggotron, Maggozulu Too, DXJ (all James Mc Cauley projects) and MC A.D.E. all took that sound and drove it forward while really trying to retain its roots, using a lot of the same samples and sounds, but pushing the bass side of things more and more until car audio bass was born.

Car audio bass is pretty much what it sounds like - super bass heavy albums with minimal other effects or beats. It's more sine waves for the bass than TR-808 or 909 beats and designed in part to test the limits of your stereo and certainly make your car thump very loudly.

There were quite a few practitioners who didn't add much real music to the bass tracks, but a select few who did - and ended up crafting some fantastic, minimalist, atmospheric electro albums in the process. Chief among these was Techmaster P.E.B.

This is his third record and one of my favorite chilling records of all time. Its laid back for the most part and laden with beautiful synthisizer riffs and effects, kind of like existing in the world of Tron and taking a lesurely drive to the MCP.

Techmaster is still going today and still releasing albums with the same feel and heavy chill vibe. Check out his catalog at

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Toxic Holocaust - Critical Mass (2002) CD-R Nuclear Hell Records

Critical Mass may be one of the top two or three of my favorite albums of the new wave of thrash - its certainly one of Joel's best and rawest, recorded solo and self-distributed. The cover is zeroxed and just a piece of paper folded in half, like so many cassette demos. It's a fast and brutal thrash record, but with some varying sounds, like Joel was still testing the waters with what TH could do.

Songs like 'I'm Not Dead' and 'Prelude To War' are more fitting on Joel's other side project at this time, Hellvomit, which was more of an apocylaptic noise outfit. There are some excellent tracks on the record, including 'Atomik Destruktor', 'The Need To Kill' and a bitching cover of 'Sacrifice' by Bathory.

This demo has since been rereleased by Hells Headbangers Records and I believe its able to be purchased on iTunes.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bathory - The Return... (1985) CS Combat Records

Of the first wave of black/death metal bands, Bathory ranks among the best with some intense songs and fantastic full-length albums while also taking a definite lo-fi approach to recording. The album quality on each of the first three records is definitely not audiophile stuff, but its at the same time a testement to what Quorthon, Bathory's sole member, saw as his type of metal. The sound would be copied almost exactly by the emerging Norwegian black metal scene in the 1990's.

The Return... is Bathory's second album and one of the first four albums that retained the same sound before Quorthon changed up the sound of Bathory and pretty much single-handedly created Viking Metal.

Like the s/t debut from Bathory, this album also starts out with a short intro track, haunting and at the same time strangely calming. In fact, there was a time I use to put this album on before I went to sleep and found myself drifting off to sleep on more than one occasion once the album looped on this track. It then launches into 'Total Destruction', a fast paced, almost pre-thrash thrash with vocals that are grating and harsh but that fit perfectly within the music and raw production style. Quorthon had his own style of singing for sure - short, choppy vocals spread out on each verse and chorus - never rushed and unique enough to make Bathory sound otherworldy.

Quorthon never lacked good material and there are a ton of great standout tracks on The Return... but it is still a comprehensive album. It is interesting to note that the quality of production actually went downhill on the first three releases - most likely on purpose - and on Bathory's next album Under the Sign of the Black Mark the production is even rougher than this effort and some songs require a few listens to even distinguish guitar tracks on them.

This is the cassette version of this great record, one that I take with me to my father's house whenever I visit as I only have a tape deck left behind in my room there. For being such an evil sounding record, its somewhat calming for me, a relaxing and pure record that remains one of my favorite efforts from the late, great Quorthon.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Celtic Frost - Morbid Tales (1984) LP Combat/Noise Records

Morbid Tales, originally released in 1984, shortly after the demise of Hellhammer, is possibly the most powerful work from Celtic Frost and a statement from the band at the time, looking to distance themselves from Hellhammer's simple (but very effective) garagey sound.

The album opens with a series of screams looped over each other for about a minute and then the album kicks forward into 'Into Crypts of Rays,' a blistering black metal fusion of punk driven by over distorted guitars. The sound is so raw, it sounds other worldly. To achieve this, Tom took his Marshall JCM800 and finally found a pedal to really give it the punch he was looking for - an Ibanez Tube Screamer. It's become a staple of blues and rock guitarists for its ability to push the tubes of a given amp into distorting and with his Marshall on 10 and this pedal at full voice, the amp cranks out some howling tones.

Morbid Tales was first released in Europe with only 6 of these tracks and was filled out with songs from the Emperor's Return EP when it was released for the states, making it a full LP.

There is no filler here - every track is hard-hitting and much more developed than any of Hellhammer's previous material. It includes 'Danse Macabre,' a type of song which was to become somewhat of a staple of the band - an etherial piece that's way more avant guarde than metal and from here on out, they would wear that avant guarde metal tag like a badge, really pushing every album to include tracks in this realm alongside their more metal offerings.

For me, this is the most killer album they released - its raw and direct and the production is suitably free of reverb or other effects and just kills me everytime I hear it. 'Return to the Eve' and 'Procreation of the Wicked' are just killer tracks and even though the band definitely got more talented, that driven punk-influenced Hellhammer sound is still there.

For those of you reading this review who have never listened to Celtic Frost and have records from any black metal after 1989 in your collection - give this a listen. You can hear so many other bands imitations of them in this record - that heavy death and roll sound of Emperor, the tight, focused thrash metal that was being born then and certainly in a lot of the Norwegian and Scandanavian bands that came after them. Celtic Frost were true pioneers and really defined a genre before it truely existed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Celtic Frost - To Mega Therion (1985) LP Noise Records

After the Morbid Tales EP and Emperor's Return EP, Celtic Frost finally dropped their first official full-length record, To Mega Therion. Fans found a record with the raw, unfettered approach previous efforts were full of, but also a maturing Frost - one with a great depth of sound and more intricate arrangements - and a true masterwork.

The beautiful and dark cover art and inside gatefold is original artwork by none other than H.R. Giger, whom Tom (Warrior) Gabriel Fisher convinced back in his Hellhammer days to let them use it for one of their future records and its quite an impressive way to present your first LP.

In Are You Morbid - Into The Pandemonium of Celtic Frost,  (essentially the biography of Tom and Celtic Frost, long out-of-print), Tom mentions that he wanted to put distance between Celtic Frost and Hellhammer at the bands outset and you can see where with each new release, they take big leaps forward, trying to outrun Hellhammer's reputation. This record is no exception.

There are female vocals on a few tracks, some additional instruments added to the mix to fill out some of the more epic arrangements, like the album opener, 'Innocence and Wrath' and 'Dawn of Meggido' and much more complex song writing like the six-minute and change 'Necromaniacal Screams'.

They still have driving punk-inspired riffs on tracks like what may be my favorite track, 'Jewel Throne' and also brutal, direct tracks like 'The Usurper' making the whole record much more varied and intense.

It's an album that I have loved for years, but it marks for me the transition to the avant-guard sound they became known for on Into The Pandemonium. Where I wanted more dark, punk-influenced thrashy tracks, Frost started putting in more progressive tracks with much more varied songwriting - seemingly moving away from the raw emotion so expertly conferred through their earlier records. And it wasn't due to the influx of capitol that usually accompanies a band breaking out and having a few successful records. In Are You Morbid Tom later talks about how Noise was terrible at giving advances, making royalty payments, financing tours and so forth. Bills were stacking up, getting money together to tour was getting harder and through all that, they put out an emotionally charged, expertly written and brutal record, one that still amazes me so many years after I first heard it.

It is a record that almost defies description - its part thrash, part death metal, part black metal, part punk, part gothic. It's no wonder they got labeled as avant-guard.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Metallica - Metal Militia (1983) LP Metal Records

Sometimes I'll buy a record knowing I could be in for a total piece of shit in terms of quality, just to have something that is either A) rare or B) somehow noteworthy or C) the one record I need to finish a band's catalog. This purchase was actually all three.

This happens to be an LP version of the infamous No Life 'Till Leather casette demo that was passed around in the underground - the one that got Metallica a record deal with Megaforce. It also has the Whiplash demo on it, which was a pre-studio recording demo made specifically for Megaforce - sometimes known as the Megaforce demo or the Whiplash/No Remorse demo as it is only those two songs.

The later demo is actually clear on this LP and probably the only reason to own it. The No Life Till Leather demo is pretty poor interms of quality as it is presented here. You have to dime the volume to hear anything on my stereo (and my stereo shakes the windows at about 6). Its taken from pretty washed out source material.

On the plus side, its got bitchin' cover art and its the only copy of the Whiplash demo I have. It did also fuel me to find a good copy of the No Life 'Till Leather demo, which I did just a bit ago...

It does highlight Metallica at the beginning of their career, at a time when they kicked serious ass all over the metal scene. The recordings were made with Dave Mustaine on the guitar, so you get to hear his original leads and 'The Four Horsemen' is actually 'The Mechanix', Dave Mustaine's version he later recorded with Megadeth.

You also get some of the vocal highs James was trying for early on as he was still trying to emulate Diamond Head's Sean Harris.

I love these demos and the raw feel from a band so known for their studio cleanness. Say what you will about what they have become - yes, I cringed pretty much all the way through 'Some Kind Of Monster' - what they were was something that will never be repeated.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Celtic Frost - Emperor's Return (1985) EP Metal Blade Records

If I were to have to pick a top five bands of all-time, as tough as it might be to narrow down, I know that Celtic Frost would make that list. Not only are they the godfathers of black and death metal who left an indeliable mark on the exploding aggressive US metal scene, but they abolutely slay. There is so little filler material that each album feels like an express train roaring through your brain in the best possible way.

Celtic Frost evolved from the seminal garage death metal band Hellhammer and while they got much better at playing and arranging their material, they kept a rawness sorely lacking in the late NWOBHM scene. Their recordings from their early years are clean and raw and dark. The vocals are unique, certainly for the time, and have Tom growling and uttering gutteral heys. ows and ughs, which do so much more than you would think to puncuate the music.

'Dethroned Emperor' is by far one of my favorite tracks here and may be my favorite Celtic Frost song period. It's got a deep, driving riff and a great breakdown section.

As 1985 was happening, the US scene was in a full on thrash love affair, with speed and dexterity being paramount, but Celtic Frost stayed slow and plodding - more Sabbath than Saxon in their speed. Their dedication to that very distinct detuned, overdriven, heavy sound laced with so much aggression is what makes the first five Celtic Frost records so impressive and its ramped up to its fullest here.

This EP came out shortly after the Morbid Tales mini-LP and has subsequently been added to the CD versions of Morbid Tales - so you may have been listening to this EP and not known it! It's also got some of the best cover art of the 1980's by far.

This EP is still available on CD with Morbid Tales and an easy find and a must own. Seriously. Go by it. Now.