REVIEW: Heathen Beast - Rise of the Saffron Empire (EP)

HEATHEN BEAST
RISE OF THE SAFFRON EMPIRE
TRANSCENDING OBSCURITY

Political events within both the USA and Canada often leave us North Americans jaded and confused. Electing new officials usually boils down to who can lie best about who, what, how much money they have, and how fanatical their backers truly are. It has come to the point that media tycoons can take the stand simply because of their wallets, making the entire political system a joke. I don't really need to mention how bad, how thoroughly immature and shortsighted, it all is because you've definitely seen enough of it on your Facebook posts or Twitter. That being said, however, both Americans and Canadians seem to forget that they live in a rather safe environment. One that allows the expression of dislike, even hate, towards their government - and the ability to simply not participate when it comes to most governmental activities. Meanwhile, bands like Heathen Beast put themselves in danger by simply writing a three track EP about their disdain towards a terrible political situation. Yes, there are places where you don't even have the right to express your opinions through lyrics.

That being said, the fear and despair towards this situation does transfer into 'Rise of the Saffron Empire' very well. It makes for a very genuine  and inspiring experience, if not one that makes a person feel a tad guilty. There is just something about a band making a EP in lieu of their livelihood and lives. for the love of music, that puts everything in perspective. You can feel the sadness, almost melancholy, in the music as the band does their best to put their feelings towards a flawed, yet unmoving, system out in the open.

Rise of the Saffron Empire, though simple musically, is extremely captivating in its hybridized sound. Combining traditional Indian instrumentation with black metal stylistics (i.e. walls of distortion and gritty, ugly, vocals) is a truly genius idea and works surprisingly well. I'd never thought that a black metal track could sound so good without a traditional drum-set, but there exists one of this EP and it is truly fantastic - truly original. I'm simply blown away. The remaining tracks, however, are more traditional black metal fare, but of the highest possible quality.

As of writing this, it seems that Rise of the Saffron Empire may be Heathen Beast's final release. This is saddening, as I've fallen in love with what I've heard by them, but completely understandable considering their situation. Not a group to missed, even considering their brief existence.

REVIEW: Altarage - Nihil

ALTARAGE
NIHIL
SENTIENT RUIN LABORATORIES

Raw. That was my first impression when it came to listening to Altarage's 'Nihil' and that was only within the first few moments. This album is rough as hell! But, that really is a vague statement and, yeah, I guess it could be taken out of context; in a negative sense. So, let me clarify: Nihil is rough is all the right ways. A swirling, pounding, downward force of an album and, if you've missed this Spanish band's glorious debut, you are sorely missing out on one of the best death metal albums you'll ever hear.

When I say 'swirling, pounding, downward force' I am not over-exaggerating. Altarage's debut, from the get go, hits you over the head with walls of gritty distortion, a drummer that sounds like he is beating the living hell out of his set, and a questionable vocal style that works, but really starts to grow on you after a while. Hell with all that 'death metal' purity mumbo-jumbo going on these days, Nihil kicks you in the teeth with surgical precision - only to skew your sense of reality in a haze of nightmarish sound. Some tracks even feel as if they exist purely to bombard you with the nastiest grimiest sound possible - tracks like 'Vortex Pyramid' are even genuinely frightening in segments. Even with all the hundreds of albums I've listened to, on this blog and personally, I cannot believe some of the sounds made within these recordings were thought of by actual human minds. Its truly mind-blowing.

There really is no reason why, if you love death, or even sludge, that you shouldn't be at least giving this album a shot. Your out there bashing Deathcore? Well, this is truly everything that genre can never be (not that I hate Deathcore, I'm sort of down the road on it). Hell, it is even on cassette and vinyl for those of us who love our obscure media (I'm addicted, personally). Support the bands you love, and, for crying out loud, support bands like Altarage so that they can keep making albums like this.