CONDEMNED "Realms of the Ungodly"

NEPHELIUM "Coils of Entropy"

By Dr. Abner Mality

I've been a death metal fan since the inception of the genre in the late 80's, but the ultra-guttural "slam" death metal based on endless brutality is not my favorite offshoot of the music. A lot of it lacks dynamics and winds up as a boring whirlwind of "riff salad" coupled with monotonous vocals and often infantile lyrical themes.

Condemned from San Francisco is a little better than the typical slam/ultrabrutal death metal band. The production on "Realms of the Ungodly" is quite acceptable and careful listening reveals the band can actually play. There is some attempt at songwriting going on here...but I can't say it's successful because very little of this sticks in your head. There's so little differentiation between songs that it is useless to even mention the titles. There's simply no way to keep them straight. The mush-mouthed mumble that passes for vocals offers no enlightenment or relief...not a single word is intelligible. In the end, despite slightly higher quality and talent, "Realms of the Ungodly" is basically another faceless slam album.

More interesting and exciting by far are Nephelium, who hail from the burning sands of Dubai in the Middle East. This is another band you can add to the burgeoning list of talented Middle Eastern metal groups and few are more brutal and punishing than these desert demons. The seven epic tracks here feature a multitude of twisting and tortured riffs and some piercing. nimble-fingered solos, some of which are melodic and others purely shredding. This is comparable to the death metal of Nile, Origin and Immolation but maybe even more brutal. There are boring passages of machine gun cacophony here and there, but always followed up by cool time changes and killer riffs. Nephelium inject some doomy breaks and twin guitar harmonies to break things up and the vocals, while uniformly grotesque, change pitch and tone occassionally. This is a top notch slab of utter brutality that should appeal to slam fans and aficianados of more technical death metal to boot. Nephelium still have areas to work on, but they show an awful lot of promise on "Coils of Entropy".