Best of the Desert Wastelands 2014

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Metalifestyle has grown quite a bit in the last year. Perhaps not in traffic but it sure has in terms of creativity and probably in terms of maturity. Okay maybe not maturity. But thanks to all of you who I met and chatted with at shows throughout this awesome year in Metal. Through each of you, I have grown. Even today as I see some grey hairs in my beard I can grow. After all, growth is a continual process. This past year has shown that positivity and metal can be intertwined. Being negative all the time only alienates you and is not Metal. Its just dumb.

 

This year I decided to do something different than adding to the multitude of metal best of lists out there. Partially because I couldn't afford to buy as much and also because I couldn't make up my mind with so many legendary releases such as the new Corpsessed, new Impetuous Ritual and the new Priest album. Instead of adding to the multitude of year end lists that are out there, I decided to make one different and make a best of Arizona. Most of these artists are from the Phoenix scene only because that is what I have been most exposed to in the last year. So bear in mind that this is obviously very subjective. The Phoenix scene never ceases to amaze me in terms of awesome talent and live presence. A big thank you to those bands for working so hard to create the soundtrack to my life in the last year. I can't imagine the time spent penning and erasing tiny errors and omitting miniscule parts to create that perfect riff. That said, I am always interested in learning about those outside of the smog borders of Phoenix. I hear of so many great bands like Inoculara, Sport Utility Vehicle, Magguts, etc. I look forward to seeing them. If you are a band in Flag, Tucson, Sierra Vista, or wherever feel free to send me a review or have your PR peeps send me one and I would graciously write about it. This is actually out of order. All of the releases are so good that I just threw them all together. Below are bands whose albums you should purchase to bring in some holiday cheer or Santa will summon his reindeer Valkyrie to trample you.

 

1) Singularity

One of the harder working bands in the Valley and also showcasing one of the best guitarists in Jack Fliegler, Singularity's talent has taken over the number one spot. Upon first listen you will be captivated. You have now entered Singularity, a land where "stars and planets have been devoured" by white sound. In this land lies the Monolith, a giant slab of metal that aurally destroys you. Great lyrics and composition in every song.

Buy/Listen to Singularity

2) Lusitania

Lusitania has been around for quite a while. I've seen them twice and each time I found their sound to be uniquely ominous. Parodixically, the very dismal sound and dread generated by black metal bands like this gives a stimulant to my spirit. I was left eager to replay this multiple times and delve further into the black metal world and find some old gems. Featuring members of Gay Kiss, Dealing, Sacred Followers, and Detached Objects this is a must listen.

CVLTNation gives us a Soundcloud of Lusitania's newest, click here

3) Lago- Tyranny

With Tyranny, Lago firmly entrenches itself among the frontlines of the best death metal acts coming out the Southwest the last few years. Every time this band plays they blow everyone away. Upcoming northwest and west coast tour in 2015.

Click here to get destroyed by Lago

4) Twingiant

Invoking a groove that will awake even the darkest of souls, Devil Down's decision to tap into 70s era rock was a good one. Catch their record release show at Rips downtown.

Listen to the shredders in Devil Down, by TWINGIANT

5) Funerary- Starless Aeon

A dark atmosphere where the night is so dark that there is not a star to be seen. The intertwining of gnarly guitar accentuations and unusual time signatures creates a unique twist in the celebration of emptiness. This band employs more than just tuned down guitars. There is some mindboggling guitar effects including clever manipulation of gain and distortion and string sliding at just the right times which creates a tension effect akin to a rope being tightly drawn. For fans of Asunder, Cough, Graves at Sea, Wolvhammer, and Locrian.

Listen and buy Starless Aeon, by FUNERARY

6) Godhunter City of Dust

The band with infinitesimal riffs, Godhunter assails you with masterful guitarwork, deep vocals, and tight basslines. All of the songs on this album are very catchy and easy to hum a long to. What is interesting about this band is the ability to incorporate elements of the southwest into it. Tumbleweeds in the background, ravens pecking on a dead mule carcass in desert wash with pink in the horizon is the visual I get among many.

Buy City of Dust by Godhunter

7) Gatecreeper self titled

Gatecreeper reps Sonoran Desert Death Metal. Drawn swords uplifted, knobs cranked and ready to deliver, Gatecreeper's self-titled debut delivers furious blows to maime and mutilate. Catch them live on the 27th with Lenguas Largas.

Blast some GATECREEPER and buy holiday copies here

8)Take Over and Destroy Vacant Face

 

Take Over and Destroy did Phoenix a solid in picking up the legendary Dylan Thomas. In Vacant Face, TOAD taps into their primordial ooze. Vocals seep out of the blackness of this ooze like its seeping out of a void of the abyss. Okay, that's just weird. Anywho, I really appreciate the goth/deathrock vocals thrown in there occasionally. The guitar solos are spectacular also. Click below to buy the new album.

Vacant Face, by Take Over And Destroy

9). Goya Satan's Fire

I listened to Goya whilst taking a stroll through the desert and I thought this band represents exactly the type of stoner doom rock that I would expect from the desert. The title of the album resembles the backdrop of the Valley sullied with smog and all. Tons of dissonance and driving bass combined with creative guitar playing evokes a hallucinatory effect. The talent of each musician shines but Jeff Owen's clever guitarwork takes you further into a world of dreams and fire. Its been said that certain music if properly played can allow one to transcend the current state to feel a connectedness to another realm. Goya does this.

Listen/Buy Satan's Fire, by Goya

10) Woundvac

Phoenix has an excellent grind scene with the likes of Godawfulnoise, Biocidio, Sorrower, Dusted, and a multitude of others. A constant clash between generation Y and the police state is evident daily. From this land rife with corruption and the home of Sherrif Joe Arpaio would you expect anything less furious sounding? Straight out of the land of gangs, fangs, cactus, and spines Woundvac delivers.

Listen and Buy Woundvac!

Twingiant- Devil Down

When I recently received a promo invitation to listen to Twingiant's new album Devil Down, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. Slumbering in the dark recesses of dive bars in the Valley of the Sun, TwinGiant has awoken. This time not to consume a bar, a mansion, or a lounge. This time it has come to conquer the metal world. The TwinGiant hype is out there and those lucky enough to have witnessed their rise here in the desert will tell you, this band gets your foot stomping.

Back in early 2012, I was blown away by their performance at the Palo Verde Lounge. I picked up their first full length Mass Driver and was enchanted by the amazing guitarwork, pummelling bass, space hoboage, New Orleans sludge vibe and deep vocals. Now they have added probably the most entertaining guitar player out of the Sonoran desert, Tony Gallegos from Enirva, to the fold. Ridiculous. Combining forces with Nikos Mixas makes it one of the most talented guitar duos around. With the band's predecessor, Sin Nombre, the band delved into vibes more than riffs and got a little more experimental. Maybe a little too experimental some might argue. Namely those that are still traumatized by their naked experimental performance at Yucca Tap Room. Some of us are still recovering from the image of Jarrod in a loincloth and Nikos wearing a speedo.

In Devil Down, the combination of 70s style rock experimentalism and heaviness has really come into fruition. The song Old Hag opens with the perfect accentuation of guitar notes adding just the right amount of psychedelic flavor. Much like previous albums, the trippiness factor is heavy here. Old Hag propels you skyward into a sonic space journey. There is noticeably less dissonance and that is great with me as this allows the musicianship to really show. Listening to the bluesy guitar solo at around 2:45 got me banging my head. Then pow the second song cuts you like a razor. Filled to the brim with riffs, Dead to Rights is one of the heavier songs on the album. Jarrod's thunderous vocals are a thing of beauty here. Daisy Cutter is one of the most clever songs on the album and you can tell they really dug down deep for this one. That vibrato doe. This song definitely furthers the bluesiness of the album. The clever guitar moans and pedal usage combined with the hard hitting rhythm of Jarrod and Jeff on Drums offer a successful merge of psychadelia and heaviness. Through the Motions is probably my second favorite song on the album. While there are no lyrics on it, the song will change your perspective. Instead of going Through the Motions, I will use my own personal experience to dictate my life instead of relying on forcefed wisdom handed down through the ages. Anywho like I said, deep song. The textures in Tiger Lily combined with Jarrod's booming vocals are clear and easily distinguishable thanks to Ryan Butler's excellent recording at Arcane Digital. Another stunning solo at 3:45. Under a Blood Moon is a rich song for the changing of the seasons and a perfect metaphor for a night in the desert. The last song Devil Down has guitarwork that is both soothing and archaic, invoking a groove that will awake even the darkest of souls.

Don't let this one grow old from overkeeping Phoenicians, it is time to share this pivotal album with your friends and let everyone you know hear this. Let the sleeping giant awake. After all the hype with this band developing you will be hearing the ole "I knew the drummer, Jeff, before all this. We used to hang out n' stuff...". Digital Release of the album is today, Dec 2nd. Go to TwinGiant.com to download it. Catch them live at Timeout Lounge on Dec 13th with The Midnight Ghost Train as well.

9.5 out of 10 Pale Ales for this one.


Lago- Tyranny brings us Death Metal Decimation

 

Perusing through a few different reviews of Lago's full length Tyranny, I see various references to Immolation, Morbid Angel, etc. While comparisons to those bands are obviously flattering and an aspiration for many, this band has moved on from that point. This band has definitely come into its own fold and is not a worship band. I remember when Lago came onto the scene with a beast of an EP called Marianas. I proclaimed that I "was beating the war drum to let you know that hidden in the urban recesses of phoenix, the beast is coming with a giant haboob behind them". But Tyranny just brings it next level. Here we witness instrumental maturity and a firm entrenchment among the frontlines of some of the better death metal acts coming out the Southwest the last few years. This is an exceptional feat in this world of click happy death metal browsing where the effort put in by many bands gets lost in oblivion. But of the isolation of the Arizona desert, 4 musicians just made this easier. This album stands out easily. Where Marianas was a haboob, Tyranny is the monsoon. From the desert washes, arrives this album. The Lago monsoon spurts blood and guts and omits all that is weak. I can't imagine the painstaking effort spilled into this. I can't imagine the time spent penning riffs and erasing tiny errors and omitting miniscule parts to create this death metal perfection. Well done boys. I was very excited seeing Andrew Breshears guitar skills in the various times I have seen this band live. And I was quite bummed to hear of his departure. However, some things happen for a reason and the return of Manuel Dominguez brings an entirely different vengeful element to the table. After three listens to this album, I am able to differentiate each song on its own- a sign of great songwriting. No filler. My favorites are Father to all and Pox of the Weary. The Cello and Violin addition in the Reckoning create a bleaker and steeper drop into death metal decimation. The galloping crawl of Garrett Thomas' bass playing is a highlight. Brian Miller's drums are tight pitched. A special compliment should also be given to Ryan Butler of Arcane Digital Recordings for some superb engineering. I would suggest picking this up through Battleground Records and/or http://lagometal.bigcartel.com/

 

Gatecreeper- Sonoran Desert Death Metal

 

In Gatecreeper's self titled debut you will not find undiscernable technical noise and leads galore. But you will find the most pummeling riffs you will ever hear. That's what I want. A sign of a killer album is when you play it 12 times and then feel reinvigorated as a whole in the genre. Last night I did just that. I blasted this album and then I pulled some old gems from the crate (Clandestine and Left Hand Path from the almighty Entombed). The first song is Void Below. Like a warrior preparing to enter the front lines, Void Below is the perfect introduction. Drawn swords uplifted, knobs cranked and ready to deliver, Void Below delivers furious blows maiming and mutilating. Void Below has such intense swedish death distortion sound akin to bands like Dismember and Carnage. I would be eager to see what pedals this band uses to accomplish such nasty tone. One of the more dynamic songs on the album, Force Fed, pummels you with a mixture of guitar buzzsaw distortion and a schmidge of just enough harmony. This creates a very groovy death metal and an ease to knod your head to. A review of this album couldn't be left without Chase Mason's excellent vocals. Delivered with such gravity and force the guitars could not have been complemented by better vocals. One moment please..... Okay I'm back. I had to put the album on pause to get some gauze for my eardrums which which suffered a great deal of blood flow. Overdose is probably my favorite song on here. Its got just enough melody. And I love the guitar solo at around 1:25. Fits perfectly! The album ends with Slave. Very Dismaish. What I really like about this song is the focus on heavy as opposed to crunchy fast tremolo picking that is typical of a lot of new death metal. Tomas Lindberg once stated, "I don’t think anyone who wasn’t there in the late 80’s can ever understand the feeling, the honesty, and the energy of the early death metal scene. As the 90s came, death metal turned into big business and that initial feeling was lost forever”. Well Gatecreeper's new album encapsulates this same energy perfectly. It is essential that you catch Gatecreeper's album release with Lusitania, Biocidio, and Kashykk on Nov. 1st at 51 West. Be warned though, there is a a disclaimer for attending a Gatecreeper show. You may or may not be dismembered during the course of the show. Tomas Lindberg quote from Swedish Death Metal By Daniel Ekeroth

 

Singularity- A labryinth of an album

 

I remember first seeing Singularity in 2010 live at Tempe Tavern and I knew they were going to exact a presence in the metal world it was just a matter of when. Each time I saw them, I remember saying to myself that with a properly marketed full length, this band will be huge. The talent was already there in the form of a young longhaired wizard bearing a guitar as his staff. However I don't want to say that Jack is this band as I'm not a fan of bands that are essentially one person. This wizard, also known as Jack Fliegler has assembled an excellent team to ensure that the band is firing on all cylinders and has added keyboards which adds an even darker element. There is no reason not to find this album entertaining as the listener is continuously assaulted by a formidable assembly of talent consisting of not only Jack Fliegler (guitar, vocals) but also Nick Pompliano (keyboards), Nathan Bigelow (drums), and Adam King (Bass).

 

 

A withdrawal of salvation is a perfect introduction to the menacing fortress of sound that is this album. The drum intro sets a good groundwork in creating a visual of this fortress, much as the album cover created by Molly Smith displays. The masterful guitarwork and keyboards provide a beautiful yet dark ascent up the path to the space fortress engulfing the listener into a postapocalyptic vibe. The postapocalyptic vibe is a common metal theme yet what puts Singularity ahead of the curve is their ability to intertwine all musical elements in a manner that doesn't sound like noise. The song ends in a fantastic guitar vortex that sends the listener into a temporary vortex in the form of the track Remnant of Stellar Evolution. You have now entered Singularity, a land where "stars and planets have been devoured" by white sound. In this land lies the Monolith, a giant slab of metal that will aurally destroy you. Holding the grooviest of riffs, Monolith also is one of the heavier and longer songs on the album. Via the Throne of Thrones, we arrive at the nucleus of this white emptiness and the climax of our journey. Catchy keyboard scales, riffs, and rapid fire drumming combined with scientific themes of space, death, and extinction create a beautifully scientific death metal symphony in Desert Planet. Desert Planet is my favorite song since i'm from...well..the desert. Utopian Flesh covers the topic of the reconstruction of a new species after the death of the universe leading to a new species domination. In the last tracks (the Descent, the Ascension, and the Resolution, we arrive at the beginning of the end and are given a labryinth of intricate musicianship to close. This album is blackened scientific metal and is as epic as that musical genre name sounds so order it at http://singularityaz.bandcamp.com/