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Reviewing metal albums is a joy, but oftentimes somewhat frustrating. After all, there are only so many ways one can call a band “heavy”, “crushing”, or “brutal“ – metal has always been about extremes, but hyperbole has rendered many of these terms meaningless within the world of this funny little genre. However, every so often there comes a band that really feels like they earn those descriptors, and then some. Anyone can buy a Line 6 amp, tune to drop A and chug out some “heavy” riffs. It takes a special kind of artistic irresponsibility to produce something truly crushing, brutal, and heavy, even within a genre where such sonic characteristics are mere prerequisites.
The English collective known as Dragged into Sunlight takes this quest for extremity in metal music more seriously (and convincingly) than I’ve ever seen in a metal band in recent memory with their monster of a debut LP, “Hatred of Mankind”. Even the band’s presentation, totally removed from the music itself, adheres to this aesthetic – during live shows the band plays with their backs to the audience in total darkness (save some strobe lights), the band members don’t release their real names, and they address interviewers without a lick of humor or irony about what they do. Even their official band page sports an ominous download link, a press package which features a JPEG image of a rotted corpse and an absolutely horrific music video set to E. Elias Merhige’s monstrosity of a film, Begotten.
But of course, all of this focus on presentation would be simple posturing if the music itself wasn’t so damned good. Sonically DIS falls somewhere within the realm of sludge and death metal with something of a black metal visual aesthetic (and maybe a sprinkling of Whitehouse styled noise). The production is absolutely jacked into the red – the septic guitar tone sounds like the Sunlight Studios ‘buzzsaw’ tone (popularized by Entombed, Dismember, etc) ran through a vat of battery acid, and when coupled with the excessive wash of ride cymbal noise you’re left to wonder whether that’s really distortion you’re hearing, or just the sound of your collapsing eardrums. Far from modern metal’s unfortunate propensity for unnecessary polishing, the band sounds like they’re tearing it up right in front of you. The performance itself is similarly unhinged – it’s loose, grimy and alive. They play with such reckless energy and enthusiasm that it’s impossible not to feed off it with a grimaced face and a banging head.
Opening number and brilliant statement of purpose “Boiled Angel/Buried With Leeches” absolutely kills it right off the bat, offering an 11 minute cocktail of crawling open-chord sludge grooves, amped up death metal blasting and violently harsh noise, as well as potently featuring the band’s secret weapon – the vocalist, simply named T. Less a standard extreme metal vocalist, he comes off more like an enraged howler monkey amped on speed and set on fire. If that sounds hyperbolic, look no further than the aforementioned opening song. He howls, heaves, spits and screams in an insanely cathartic performance that must be heard to be believed. Other standouts include 3-minute scorcher “To Hieron” and “I, Aurora”, which features a deliciously catchy main riff straight from the Dismember school of barn burning death metal mastery. Layered over the music are various samples of interviews with serial killers, effectively contributing a chillingly psychotic atmosphere (and exemplifying the misanthropic attitude presented by the album title). It’s all marvelously executed, and makes for the most exciting debut from an extreme metal band in recent memory.
Underground music. It's a term that's been used, abused, and generally worn out over the course of heavy music's history. The general population's perception of "underground" is flawed; they think that if you record an album yourself and use a high contrast black and white cover, you have underground "kvlt" art. Most bands who embody this attitude fall short and end up sounding uninspired. To be truly underground (in my opinion), the music needs to evoke a feeling of dread, fear, and a sense of mystery.
However, once in a while a band comes along with a truly unique sound and reinvents what is meant by "underground" music. Dragged Into Sunlight is one such band that changes the game. The visual style and music come together to create a sound that is truly unique.
And what a fucking sound! Seriously, folks, it has been a LONG time since I was truly devastated by a band's sheer sonic brutality, but this album certainly did the job. Never have I heard such a terrifyingly brutal and effective combination of death metal, black metal, doom, and SUPER dirty sludge. We may very well be looking at the scariest and heaviest album of 2010.
The album starts out with a voice sample (of something, sounds like it's an interview or something), and quickly erupts into an incredibly visceral, heavy, down-tuned riff that is "Boiled Angel" that's somewhat reminiscent of Crowbar. The vocals are unintelligible, but are terrifying, particularly when the singer does one of those very high screams. It may sound like a worn cliche, but it LITERALLY sounds like what a person would sound like if they were subject to several hours of brutal torture.
One of the most impressive things about this album, as I mentioned, is the band's talent at mixing several elements of the extreme metal spectrum into one twisted abomination. "Buried with Leaches" is a brilliant example of this, starting this song off with a riff that wouldn't sound out of place on one the Gothenburg melodeath band's albums.
The only drawbacks I can think of on this album are the overuse of sound samples (they get old rather fast, in my opinion), and the fact that the longer songs require a fair amount of endurance to listen to all of it. It makes no difference to me, however, as I enjoyed literally every riff, scream, and blast beat on this album.
To conclude, this album is one of the few releases of this year (or in the last little while) that I would consider true underground extreme music. The sonic and visual brutality presented here makes almost any listener cringe with fear and I have a feeling that's EXACTLY what Dragged Into Sunlight wished when writing these twisted, sludgy hymns to darkness and evil. Well fucking done.
In late 2009, Prosthetic Records made its first signing of a UK band -- a mysterious foursome called Dragged Into Sunlight -- and the label has now reissued the band's debut album, "Hatred For Mankind", which was originally released in more limited distribution more than a year ago by Mordgrimm Records (Anaal Nathrakh, Covenant). The album, was produced byTom Dring and Billy Anderson -- who has also produced groundbreaking albums by Eyehategod, Neurosis, Melvins, Weedeater and many more -- and it features the striking cover art of Justin Bartlett.
Now, even if you have a taste for extremity in your metal, "Hatred For Mankind" may be pushing the envelope. Listening to it is a harrowing but remarkable experience. It's a cataclysmic, corrosive, chaotic, cathartic, crushing cavalcade of cacophony. It's one of the most disturbingly brilliant albums I've ever heard. The seven tracks on the album range in length from 2:47 to 11:36, with a collective running time of over 50 minutes. Getting from the beginning to the end unscathed is an impossibility, and yet "Hatred For Mankind" is an album that seems designed to be heard in one sitting. The songs move from one to the next almost seamlessly, and the cumulative effect is decimating.
Billy Anderson's involvement in the production provides a clue to the music. It does indeed share DNA with bands like Eyehategod and Neurosis. It also reminded me of "Streetcleaner"-era Godflesh, but Dragged Into Sunlight have served up their dish of sludge and doom with less of an industrial flavor and instead have heavily spiced it with the rushing acidity of black metal.
Vocal samples appear in almost every song (including a passage on the opening track from John Moran's opera, "The Manson Family", but the vocals actually recorded for the album are terse and vicious and submerged in the mix. A combination of disturbing shrieks, near-pig-squeal explosions, blood-coughing hacks, and razor-edged whispers, the vocals enhance the scorching atmosphere of the music, but in the main, this is an instrumental album.
Guitar-wise, the band employ rancid, down-tuned, fuzzed-out chainsaw riffing reminiscent of early Swedish death metal, but they throw in walls of fuse-blowing tremolo picking, rhythmically moving from feedback-laced doom-metal crawls to accelerated blasts of up-tempo mayhem, with electrical arcs of exploding transformers firing in the darkness. Walls of guitar noise whine and churn, they claw and tear, they grind like gears about to lock up for lack of lubricant, and they hit you in waves. Squalling solos erupt without warning and spit fire like a circus geek with a belly full of kerosene. But although the music at times veers into avant-garde, experimental territory (particularly on the closing track, "Totem of Skulls"), there are plenty of headbanging riffs and rhythms to keep your attention hooked.
And speaking of rhythms, the brilliant drumming on this album is absolutely key to its success. Heavy use of the toms and bass drums enhance the bleak, booming, destructive tone of the music, and changes in the drumming techniques and rhythms both keep you off-balance and pull you deep into the blackness: There are moments in every song when the double-bass kicks in at an insane pace, pushed forward in the mix, and it creates a dull, whumping sound like the rotors of a rapidly approaching attack helicopter about to rain death from the sky.
Whether droning and discordant or voracious and seething, the songs are inventively designed to create an atmosphere of soul-rending despair and to generate the kind of adrenaline surge brought on by the threat of imminent destruction. Listening is like being caught in the roaring squall of a hurricane, realizing too late that you can't ride it out like you stupidly thought you could: It's the end of your world, in a maelstrom of overwhelming sound. Listening may leave you with your eyes rolled back in your head and flecks of foam at the corners of your mouth, and it may leave you smiling, too.
(This is an edited version of a review that originally appeared at:
I can say without any hesitation that Dragged into Sunlight's debut album was the most brutal album released in 2010. Their name makes me think of one of the most brutal vampire movies ever, John Carpenter's excellent Vampires, where the bloodsuckers are shot with a crossbow and violently dragged by winch into the sun, where they explode into flame. And these are not pussy, sparkly vampires either. These vampires are kvlt. Just like the gentlement in Dragged into Sunlight.
Hatred for Mankind combines every kind of extreme you could possibly think of, starting with a base of sludge/deathgrind and adding elements of black metal, doom, deathcore, and even drone. It sounds as if these Liverpudlians were raised in the dark, on a steady diet of Incantation, Eyehategod, Napalm Death, and snippets of TV news about the worst sins of mankind. The vocals absolutely seethe with rage, including death growls and black metal screeches. The voice samples actually seem to work, being an integral part of their sound.
Opener "Boiled Angel" sets the stage, beginning with heavy, aggressive sludge and a voice sample. It switches to New York death metal-like mid-paced fare with constant bass drum, then they throw in some grind leads. Then they let the feedback ring out on the guitar while bass drives it forward, along with voice samples, before moving back into sludge territory. The whole album is essentially like this, moving from one territory to another, such as the slow sludge, to black metal blast beats and tremolo riffing, to badass breakdown on "Lashed to the Grinder and Stoned to Death".
And they manage to do all of it without seeming like it's stitched together. They never find themselves wholly in one genre or another, but rather all of them are present more or less all the time, and one riff might be more in one camp than another. The tempo changes often, but effortlessly, and all of it flows.
The production is a bit flawed, however. When they hit their noisiest and most brutal moments, the recording gets blown out. It's not terrible, but it can be distracting. They also could have done without the last two tracks. While they're not afraid to write long songs (highlight "Volcanic Birth" goes over 9 minutes), they do it well when they stick with what they do best. On the other hand, "I, Aurora" is over 11 minutes, and seems to have a more epic structure and feel. But they just can't seem to pull it off. And drone closer "Totem of Skulls" doesn't really add anything. Still, if you drop these you still have a 34 minute exercise in brutality.
The Verdict: This is an extremely impressive and innovative debut, with the most brutal sound I've heard in quite some time.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
When I think of blackened doom I must confess the first bands that thrust themselves into my mind are Xasthur, Nortt, Make A Change... Kill Yourself, etc. All the good depressive black metal that one could possibly think of. However, this was anything but that same overused sound. In fact this album is quite the reverse in every way possible. Yes, it contains many levels of cold depressive black metal. But rather than letting itself be confined within that they've added crushing amounts of sludge and death influence to create a truly thick and painful feeling.
The first track started off with a voice over. And normally I really loathe voice overs in most music as almost always the band in question grabs a famous movie quote, or political figure speech that has questionable relevance to the song at hand and then tries to base the whole song around it somehow. However in this case the voice overs fit really well and didn't cause my mind to switch off to any degree. It wasn't even taken from anything so far as I knew. The whole album actually has many voice overs that interlace themselves throughout the songs and each one adds it's own piece of humanistic degradation. For example: 'You're an inhumane bunch of fucking living bastards and bitches and you're gonna get your asses nuked in the end.' This was one of the smaller, lesser voice overs at the start of the song "To Hieron." This is the kind of album that shows no respect towards it's listeners in order to create a very grungy feeling.
In fact, the longer this album went on through my playlist the more awed I was by how incredibly monolithic it was. With the incorporation of death and sludge metal into the mix of blackened doom, the voice overs, the lyrical content and atmosphere the album ended up with one bloody hell of a heavy, dirty, filthy sound that leaves you feeling as though your soul needs some good scrubbing before it could ever be considered clean again. The vocals are harsh and violently angry. They convey a pure sense of angst and vile desperation. During this the guitars and drums work together in a frenzied fury that leaves no opening for any peace of mind. In my opinion the two most outstanding tracks on this album would be "Boiled Angel, Buried With Leeches" and "Volcanic Birth." Both songs have an immediate and dark sensation to them that buries you in the purely disturbing thickness of this release.
Due to the sludge influence of this album there is a definite "core" feel to the album. But don't let that repulse you away from the release to any degree. If anything it adds to it making this quite a fresh sound for depressive black metal. There's plenty of blast beats and tremolo picking, chunky palm muting and fast leads to keep you entertained. Break downs are not a sound you'll find in here.
To wrap things up I have only this to say; this album truly, deeply impressed me. I have not been awed by a single release like this since I first listened to Anata's "The Infernal Depths of Hatred" or Shape of Despair's "Illusion's Play." Not that this release can honestly be compared to those in any way. It's not as melodic as "The Infernal Depths of Hatred" and it's not as atmospheric or honestly, even as depressing as "Illusion's Play." But the feel of the album itself was one of extreme impact. And it's not a feeling I will forget quickly.
Erupting out of Liverpool like a purulent sore bursting open with a sickening torrent of pus and maggots, Dragged Into Sunlight command attention with what is clearly an above-average debut release. Mordgrimm Records is an über-kvlt label which selects its roster of artists with great precision – previous Mordgrimm alumni include Anaal Nathrakh, Covenant and Worms of Sabnock. DIS also benefit from the kudos of working with legendary producer Billy Anderson (Eyehategod, Neurosis, Teeth Of Lions Rule The Divine, Noxagt, Weedeater, Om, High On Fire, Orange Goblin etc), whose leave-well-alone treatment leaves plenty of rough edges in the mix whilst bringing out the music’s massive aggression.
Opener ‘Boiled Angel’ combines slower, blackened sludge sections with blastbeat-driven brutal death metal à la Obituary or Desecration, barbaric riffs ramming home the music’s intense, corrosive misanthropy, with vocalist T (the five-piece band prefer to remain anonymous, wearing terrorist-style balaclavas in publicity shots and playing gigs in near-total darkness with their backs to the audience) deploying a truly horrific arsenal of throat-shredding roars and snarls. DIS don’t win any originality contests, though, for using vocal samples of Charles Manson – they’ll be dragging out poor old Aleister Crowley next. ‘Buried With Leeches’ and ‘Volcanic Birth’ maintain an incredible level of brutality, with ‘Buried With Leeches’ even finding time for a brief guitar solo in between the bludgeoning riffs and convulsive screams. DIS don’t fit neatly into a death metal pigeonhole. There are elements of black metal, doom and sludge in here, combining to impressively grim effect, though the overall pacing and attack are rooted in death metal and grind, despite the band themselves describing their sound as ‘terminally slow and loud as fuck’. Loud? Oh, yes, this is certainly loud, no doubt about that. Slow? Well, only some of the time. Perhaps the closest touchstone for comparison would be the Glaswegian death-squad Black Sun, who share DIS’s scathing savagery and obliterating nihilism.
The promo CD I was sent only includes the first three tracks of Hatred For Mankind, but I heard the rest of the album via an internet link that the band sent. Overall, the first half of the album is more convincing than the second half. The near-11-minute ‘Lashed To The Grinder And Stoned To Death’ and the 11-and-a-half-minute ‘I, Aurora’ I, Aurora’ both seem excessively and exhaustingly long for the frenetic speed they whip along at, and the vitriolic, hate-filled speech samples get to be a bit too much as well – DIS actually have a band member, A, who devotes himself exclusively to samples, and he needs keeping on a tighter leash. The final track, ‘Totem Of Skulls’, is a quietly unsettling ambient dronescape adorned with sonorously chiming metal percussion and vocal samples about violent atrocities.
Dragged Into Sunlight score bonus points, though, in the visual presentation department. The Mordgrimm edition of Hatred For Mankind features artwork by Justin Bartlett, noted for his work for Sunn O))), Gravetemple, Gorgoroth and Moss among many others, and Mike Diana, the notorious underground cartoonist whose Boiled Angel zine of the early 90s (presumably the source for Dragged Into Sunlight’s song title) resulted in the first-ever obscenity conviction of an American artist, and a court order to stop drawing! Mike Diana has worked for various other bands, including Iron Monkey and Autopsy. There’s also a promo poster for the album by Glyn Scrawled, who’s worked for bands including Earth, Unearthly Trance, High On Fire, Mayhem and Wolves In The Throne Room. Using any one of these artists would have been a very cool move by Dragged Into Sunlight – using all three just seems kinda greedy, though clearly the band has impeccable taste in visuals.
Dragged Into Sunlight recently became the first British band to sign with leading American metal label Prosthetic Records, home to such notable acts as All That Remains, Gojira, Kylesa, Lamb Of God and Testament. Prosthetic plan to re-release Hatred For Mankind in the spring of 2010, a move which should see Dragged Into Sunlight being dragged from cult status into the sunlight of major media exposure, and a 7” EP on Mordgrimm entitled Widowmaker is also imminent. Expect to be hearing more about this band soon.
This review was originally written for Judas Kiss webzine: