Metal Skull: Reviews To Lose Your Leaves To

Nile - Those Whom The Gods DetestNile

Those Whom The Gods Detest

Nuclear Blast

Nile’s previous album and first for Nuclear Blast, Ithyphallic, was the subject of much debate. Older fans lamented their moving away from sprawling indecipherable Egyptian-themed death metal epics, and newcomers were snagged by the tighter songwriting, more accessible structures, and of course, unbending heaviness.

The latter certainly remains in tact on Those Whom The Gods Detest—the titular reference being to metalheads in general—and the tighter songwriting manifests, as it did last time, in shorter songs. Where Ithyphallic had “Papyrus Containing The Spell To Preserve Its Possessor Against Attacks From He Who Is In The Water,” the new record introduces the bare-bones death metal of “Permitting The Noble Dead To Descend To The Underworld.” Of course, that 3:32 track follows “4th Arra Of Dagon,” the longest cut at 8:40, so there’s a balance. Still, some will whine.

As to the quality of the record itself, it should go without saying that Nile are among the best in the current U.S. death metal scene. Whether you believe they hit their creative peak with 2000’s Black Seeds Of Vengeance or you think they’re still on the rise, if you’re willing to drop the argument for an hour and actually listen to the record, you won’t be disappointed.

Burnt By The Sun - Heart Of DarknessBurnt By The Sun

Heart Of Darkness


There’s always been an aura of importance around Burnt By The Sun, and I’ve tried multiple times to find out why that is. On the occasion of their swansong, Heart Of Darkness, I thought maybe I’d give it another shot. But this still just sounds like heavier metalcore to me. Maybe it’s me. I’m hardly the world’s biggest hardcore fan, so I’ll allow for that possibility. They’re certainly good at what they do; it’s just not my thing.

That said, the New Brunswick metallers have already made a splash around what probably won’t turn out to be their last album (reunions and break-ups are things of the moment), so I’m definitely in the minority in not being hooked by it. Whatever.

Leaves Eyes - My DestinyLeaves’ Eyes

My Destiny EP


Ah, cleavage metal. So very, very lame and vaguely sexploitational. And nerdsploitational. Let’s face it, nobody wins here. Everyone looks bad: The classically trained girl singing in the 19th Century underwear, the five dudes behind her who could have just as easily been a band without, and the audience trying to trick themselves into believing they’re there for any other reason than her boobs. And the cynical reviewers who don’t buy it. We all come out losers.

Following the Lacuna Coil format of girl-sings-while-guy-shouts-behind (though Alexander Krull does take leads as well), Leaves’ Eyes are basically the Liv Kristine show. You’ll note how many of her bandmates feature with her on the album cover. They open My Destiny with the title track, and if there’s a difference between this and Evanescence, it’s probably a marketing budget. I don’t want to make it seem like I’m anti-women in metal. What I object to is the exploitation going on here.

And you can just as easily say, “Well no one’s forcing her to do it.” Oh no? She’s obviously a talented singer, why not sing in opera houses or do live theater? This is how she can get noticed, and really, that’s all of our fault, including mine for giving the album publicity. See? No one wins.

But yeah, sure, boobs. If you can live with yourself and get down with the non-album tracks that comprise My Destiny—including a disheartening cover of “Scarborough Fair”—then good for you. Damned either way.

Note also that so far this is the longest review in the column. God I hate myself.

Virus - The Black FluxVirus

The Black Flux

Season Of Mist

Somehow The Black Flux, which apparently was released in the U.S. Nov. 11, 2008, ended up in my to-review pile. Was it resent? Is this destiny? Can’t really say, but it’s too powerful a coincidence to ignore, so here goes:

Hi-ho forest-dwellers, here cometh a Norwegian trio! Yeah, but if you’re in the woods taking pictures of yourself in corpsepaint at night so you can load them onto your Powerbook and Photoshop them into looking like the cover of Transilvanian Hunger, this probably isn’t going to be your scene. Virus emit a surprising post-everything experimental rock that moves a bit more than Ulver’s recent work but should appeal to the same crowd. The emotive vocals of guitarist Carl-Michael “Czral” Eide ride out on top of a sometimes spasmodic sometimes grooving metallic jazz, drummer Einar Sjurso and bassist Petter Berntsen both veterans with Eide of the band Ved Buens Ende, who of course released one album in 1995 and were the best thing ever.

Virus keep a mindful balance between experimenting with their sound and writing actual songs, and on The Black Flux, that works heavily to their favor. They could just as easily have gone off the deep end with their process, but they manage to keep it together across these nine tracks, and come up with an impressive bit of avant metal. Too bad it took me nearly a year to hear it.

Genocide (Nippon) - Black SanctuaryGenocide (Nippon)

Black Sanctuary

Shadow Kingdom

Wow. The latest installment of Shadow Kingdom’s ongoing Reissue Cool Shit Program (“RCSP” to those in the know), the resurrected 1988 debut from Japanese metallers Genocide (Nippon) is a treasure of underground ‘80s heaviness. This is metal before there was a subgenre for every band, before grunge or hardcore took over. They take influence from the NWOBHM, but Genocide (Nippon) have a darker sound and the piercing vocals of Toshihiro Takeuchi put them in another category altogether. Plus, it’s sung in Japanese, which just rules.

Contained on this reissue are the original eight tracks of the LP, the CD bonus cut from back when, and a second disc with six demos of songs from the album. Whether you’re a classic metal enthusiast or a curious youngin’ wanting to find a decent companion for your copy of Pantera’s Power Metal, Black Sanctuary is just waiting to be discovered. Put it up to whatever you want, I guarantee this is more metal on almost every level.

Let The Night Roar - Let The Night RoarLet The Night Roar

Let The Night Roar


Prior to actually listening to the album, everything I’d heard about Atlanta trio Let The Night Roar basically boiled down to this: “They sound like High On Fire.” After listening to the record, I guess that’s true to some extent, though guitarist Jeff Joseph Juszkiewicz (ex-Malevolent Creation) sometimes veers from a Matt Pike-style vocal approach. Otherwise though, it’s pretty dead on. I guess enough time has passed since Surrounded By Thieves came out that bands are going to start adopting the influence, but to hear the sound transposed so accurately is jarring. Juszkiewicz’s soloing doesn’t manifest the same coked-up fuck-all as Pike’s, and drummer Hunter Cook is a little more grounded than Des Kensell, but in general there’s a heavy debt Let The Night Roar are paying to the Bay Area three-piece.

This is their debut, so there’s plenty of room for growth, and I’m not saying that Let The Night Roar doesn’t rock, just that if you got The Art Of Self-Defense or even Blessed Black Wings, you know exactly what tricks Let The Night Roar are going to pull. Still, their tones are Matamp-ed out, the Sunn is shining and there are Riffs to be worshiped. There are certainly worse bands to hijack the approach of, and Let The Night Roar do it pretty well, so no complaints.

JJ Koczan is a gleeful participant in the game show of life. Unfortunately, what he doesn’t know is that his bid is a dollar over the actual retail price. Some you lose.