Ah, the Beautiful South. No, I'm not talking about the band that sprang out of The Housemartins. I'm talking about the Southern Tagalog region, home to, among other things like the semiconductor and automotive companies (that would be Laguna), a hotbed, not only of history, but of some of the sickest metal acts fans both local and abroad have laid ears on (the hardcore acts hailing from these parts do not disappoint, either). To someone like me who has not left the decrepit metropolis called the National Capital Region in recent memory, the fact that Cavite has produced bands like Deepsleep and Pus Vomit has been staggering, to say the least. Enter Toxemia, a five-piece alcoholic crew that has seen on-and-off activity since 2003. Their 2012 EP is up on the table right now. So, shall we take a look deep inside the belly of this, Cavite's Beast?

The minute you pop the disc onto your player, you are drawn into familiar drunken soundscapes, but ones cut from a coarser, more abrasive cloth (think of a cloth that you'd likely use to hogtie someone, gag and bludgeon to within an inch of his life). The mix of old-school death metal and grindcore goes down rough, even with the aid of strong drink. The recording adds to the cavernous experience, and business is done before you know it—with minimum fuss and maximum effect. Repeated spins warranted.

The six-track EP is bereft of any pageantry in presentation; who would need it here, anyway? Available in CD-R and cassette formats, the EP is set to maim more than please the senses. "Consciousness Expansion" and "Ihaw-Ihaw" are personal favorites, and the EP is proof positive that the Beast is alive in this town. Track this fucker down, get a really stiff, strong drink, and blast away...oh yeah, "Ihaw-Ihaw" will give you a craving for the munchies. You have been warned. [toxemia.cjb.net]



With such a dearth of power (or progressive) metal acts plying the local gigscape, the local metal fan might be lulled into thinking that the two intermingling genres are not very well-represented in this neck of the woods. The Quezon City quartet Lavos Beckon may not change that same fan's mind about the lack of representation, but they may very well try. How do they fare? Read on.

If Mass Defect have been doing the circuit for six years before coming up with last year's "Covert Eradicators," the group from Lagro have been slogging it out for nine. During those nine years, the band has been writing material in preparation for an eventual LP, which says something, since not a lot of folks who play in bands 'round these parts think of releasing a two-track teaser, let alone a full-length (a good friend remarks, "...most of the bands in the Philippines beat Iron Maiden from the number of gigs played before they even release a demo." Nothing can be further from the truth, it seems). Now I have in my grubby hands their full-length digipak. Joseph Conde's  cover artwork almost made me drop to my knees like Mike Myers, going "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!"

Those who picked up their 2008 EP ""What Was. What Is. What Will Be." will notice improved versions of "...No Bar to My Call," "Red and Black," and "The Halting" (which was actually part of the EP, not as a song, but a videoclip from one of their sets in the now-defunct Center for Arts). The production is ambitious, and does its part in adding flourish to the style of metal played (hey, power metal and theatrics go hand in glove, or, gauntlet). In that respect, the recording does its job, and does it well. The de rigueur mucisianship deserves the clarity of the production, and with repeated spins, the reason for that is just as resoundingly clear. I say de rigueur as one would expect power metal to place equal emphasis on what technical skill brings to the plate with what orchestration contributes on its own. And the orchestration on this disc does not disappoint either, I give you that.

If I am to voice out any misgivings on the LP that I admittedly was waiting with bated breath for, it would be this: the album is too perfect. Homage of the power metal greats (I need not mention them, do I? Any metalhead worth his salt would know of those guys)  is all right in my book, but I'm of the mind that a band might need to show, through their material, what they can do, and be aided, not shackled, by their idols. The shackles are golden, yes, but they still bind and hamper creativity in places that count, rather than enhance it. In that respect, the album's bright lights  are "The Great Duel in the Sky," "No Bar..." and, to a degree, "The Halting."

In closing, I gotta say that this LP, low point notwithstanding, still delivers, and evokes enough accolades from me to wonder how they will fare on later releases. And yeah, the quality of the digipak, coupled with that gorgeous Conde piece, is well worth its Php270 price tag. Way better than the stuff you get in Recto, yeah? [facebook.com/Lavosbeckon.ph]



2012 has seen the release of another EP from Canadian black/death stalwarts Necrodios. Entitled "Anomie Dominie," this marks the fourth since their inception in 2004. How does it stack up to the rest? We'll soon find out.

The Milton, Ontario-based quartet have been busy plying their trade in that part of Canada, and if recent gigs are anything to come by, having opened for Adversarial, Inquisition, and Pestilence in three separate occasions are bright lights on the band's resume. Front and center are the dual vocal/axe attack of the brothers Asinas (Jericho and Jet), and rounding up the raiding party would be its rhythm section: Kaveh Afshar (drums) and David Whelan (bass).

The EP consists of four tracks: the title track, "Ancestral Shame," "Pawis at Dugo," and "Religion and Warfare."  Listening to these would remind the diehard metal listener of Absu, Antediluvian, and Melechesh to name a select few—the first and third comparisons ring true for the EP's first and third tracks. The band knows its surroundings (geographical and musical), which is a good thing...almost (more on that later). Fans of those aforementioned groups will find themselves in good company with Necrodios, that's for certain. The recording receives good marks in clarity without compromising the filth—the existence of which is a must for this kind of death metal, to my mind at least. For "raw" versions, "Pawis at Dugo" and "Religion and Warfare" sound very polished and exhibit a LP-like quality, at least as far as the recording is concerned.

Now, we move along to what the release leaves a bit to be desired. To be blunt, there is one that I can mention off the top of my head: the fact that familiarity with the aforementioned groups (and more bands on that part of Canada) may work against Necrodios, and not with the intended result. Variety—what would set this band apart from the rest of its ilk—is conspicuously few and far in between. Kaveh's mid-paced blasts and the presence of Middle Eastern vibes (most notably in "Ancestral Shame") are steps in the right direction, that much I can say.

According to the band's Facebook profile, this may very well be the last EP they have lined up before releasing a full-length effort later in the year. This release is available for downloading at Bandcamp, and while I maintain that this is unfinished work for the Canadian black/death quartet, it does whet the appetite for a LP, if only to see how it would stand in terms of steps towards the band's evolution, and ultimately, the search for its identity. [facebook.com/necrodios; necrodios.bandcamp.com]



The following is a repost from The Blackened Throne, which, for all intents and purposes, is a previous iteration of the blog you see now. 


Alabang-based quintet Brimstone in Fire, in the 20-odd years they have been in the local metal scene, have eked out a niche with their brand of death metal. Their most recent release represents an evolution of sorts—not as much of their world view as much as of their sound. With two cuts from this disc reaching the double-digit mark in age, you would think that this release is a touchstone. Boy, you couldn't be more wrong. This release is a fucking pillar.

Entitled "LIVE+ 2012.01.07," this EP contains five tracks of mid-paced technical death metal in its rawest, most unapologetic form. Bereft of any pretense, the soundscapes you will hear are of a mind unglued, its mortal shell bending to its wiles. What follows after you pop the disc in your CD player is a 20-minute aural bludgeoning tempered only by the desire to unleash vistas the likes of which you may not see, should you live your common life. 

Opener "Gouging the Eyes of the Clairvoyant" sets the pace for some mid-ranged goodness, with  memorable riffs and an equally memorable last line. "Glimpse of A Future" is mind-fuckery incarnate, with time signatures that can make your casual jazz listener blush, courtesy of Mikah Azurin and Christian Igna. "Putrescence" is, in my opinion, the track most suitable to bang your head along to, and I do not mean that disparagingly. Starting with a Swedeath vibe as the foundation for some awesome riffs, guitarists Dondi Bunye and Isa Pilapil bash your head in while still keeping you on your toes. 

The last two tracks, "Winter" and "War in My Thoughts," are what I hinted at in the opening paragraph of this review. The former was released as part of a split with San Pablo, Laguna-based Pathogen in 2009 that goes by the name of "All Flesh Fades" (with Dethrone frontman Lloyd Isberto on throat and rhythm guitar), the latter, part of an archaic compilation from Ivory Records entitled "Sa Kabilang Anyo ng Buhay," (with Ado Ortiz on lead guitar, Chris Carbonell on bass, and Noel Queja on vocals), released in 1994. The similarities end there, apparently. "Winter" sounds more abrasive and harsh; its overall feel made manifest from the get-go, while "War" is made more representative of the eye in this less-than-half-an-hour maelstrom; putting you right in the middle of where the chaos is, and not letting up in calculated intensity until the last note.

The soundscapes you hear are made madder by the pipes of Ian Cuevas, who joined Brimstone in Fire alongside Isa Pilapil (one might remember them from the thrash trio Demiurge. I sure do). Save for the clean vocal parts on "Glimpse," Cuevas' throat assault is up front, as if to say, "If you don't accept what you're hearing, I'll beat it into you!" The result is most evident in "Gouging" and "War."

Recorded on January 7, 2012, the initial run for this EP was 50 discs, and it was referred to by guitarist Dondi Bunye as a "rush job" (the quintet were in Davao for a gig with Manila's Insane Bazooka Productions, when they brought Taiwan's Revilement to our shores a few months back). I say in earnest, though, that this release could not be more solid. Track this down! [unhinged-music.net]


More than a year has passed since the four-piece death/grind/thrash outfit Mass Defect released their debut LP "Covert Eradicators." That would be roughly six years since the band's inception. The obvious question that comes to mind, besides "what the fuck is the reviewer doing with a year-old album?" would be "Is the release still relevant?" The following would be my take on the latter question. Answers to the former question are best left to the reader's imagination, thank you.

Anyone who has been going to local weekend gigs for the past three years or so would have not just probably seen these fellows, but heard most of the album's tracks (if they can remember them vaguely, as most of these weekend warriors drink themselves to a torpor, only to regain a semblance of the urgency to join the weekday, er, grind the following week. I should know, haha). Lots of people, even the band's peers, wonder if they would ever release an LP. Come to think of it, the band's vocalist, Alessandro Queri, mentioned the existence of a three-track EP a few years back. Anyway, the LP was released with fanfare (and an album launch gig, which is de rigueur) and I did get my copy. 

Starting off with "Protocol," the listener is treated to a steady tempo that builds up to the songs proper (with the only distraction—a welcome one at that—being a solo bordering on the level of 80's porno sax sleaze, courtesy of lead guitarist Paolo Amutan). "Pre-Emptive Strike" comes next for some siege warfare, the band firing on all cylinders with no let-up. "Shrapneled Existence" take the barrage on a visceral level worthy of the song's title, with some of the violent thrash that you would hear throughout the rest of the disc. "Those Who Oppose," "Born Denied," and "Encrypted Subliminal Command" take recurring metal themes: oppression, submission, and conformity, and put them through an aural spin cycle. The title track continues the tack of violent thrash you would hear on "Shrapneled Existence," and with devastating effect. "War to End All Wars" borders on a level of death/grind a casual listener might associate (lazily, ok, hastily) with Misery Index, to be tempered only by James Jebulan's steady commandeering of the skins. "Skyrust" represents a tack on experimentation that the same lazy listener might find as running contrary to the overall theme, but somehow the quartet pulls it off (more so conceptually than in actual execution; which should not mean "haphazardly"). "Manila Must Fall" closes out the LP with anthemic appeal and messages that lean more to the left-of-center, even more so than the aforementioned fourth, fifth, and sixth tracks.

While one can obviously see no middle ground in Mass Defect's lyrical themes, the middle ground is prominently seen (or, heard) in the music. Very rarely does the band so much as stray from the fine line they have drawn between death, thrash, and grind, which may seem to be a boon to some, or a bane to others. As far as recording goes, this is as crisp as it gets, with my only gripes being having to strain my ears to hear Gelo Peren's low end at times, and the crispness taking away some of the intensity where it counts most.

Summing things up, I would say that this 2011 release is relevant, not as much in opening the jaded metal music listener's ears to this band's existence, as much as opening the same's eyes to this band's potential. Front Toward Enemy! [facebook.com/MASSDEFECTph]



So instead of me getting this blog thing going and hitting the ground running, it simply hit the ground, yeah? Ha ha...

The older blog got canned for name issues, so I decided to nip it right in the bud and start over. No change in content—I'll still be featuring Filipino metal release reviews, gigs, retrospectives, anything along those lines.