February 2009 ~ April 2009
Revelation of the Black Flame
Norway's 1349 has been delivering the black metal since 1997, and they've always delivered with blisteringly fast, old school black Norwegian black metal. When I heard that their new disc was taking them down a slightly different musical avenue, I was interested to hear what the result would be. Revelations of the Black Flame is the result, and what a different sound they have on this.
Long time 1349 fans will probably be stunned when they hear the opening track of the disc, "Invocation". Sure, the initial screams may be something you could have heard on their previous disc, but the stark, industrial, slow paced performance that follows is a complete departure for 1349. In ways, it reminds me a bit of Blut aus Nord's MoRT, with the bleak soundscape that is used, but isn't quite as dissonant or outrageously unmusical as MoRT was. "Serpentine Sibilance" is a bit more inline with what I'd expect, although still a bit out there. Still slightly industrial sounding (mainly due to the drum production), the riffs are heavy and brutal here, while the vocals are effect laden and almost spoken word.
"Horns" takes us on an atmospheric instrumental break, and seems almost pointless if you ask me. "Maggot Fetus...Teeth Like Horns" is probably as close to the "classic" 1349 sound you're going to get here, with plenty of blasting drums, tremolo picked guitars, and a good raspy vocal delivery from Ravn. They've also seen fit to include a most interesting choice of cover songs here, that being Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun". Had this been included on any prior 1349 album, they would have had to completely change it for it to fit in, but in stripped down, slower, more industrial context here, it fits in well.
I was talking to fellow GASP writer Adam about this disc the other night, and how I didn't really like it. He asked me if I would like the music if it weren't 1349, and I responded that I wasn't sure at the time. Now that I've listened to this a bit more, I can honestly say that I just don't really care for this too much. Experimentation can be a good thing, but the end result has to be good to have success. With this release 1349 took a big gamble, and I can say that, for me, it came out a bust. I can't even award bonus points for having Tom G. Warrior (er, Fischer now I guess) co-mix this disc, as I just don't care enough about this release.
Mass III-II/IIII (two-disc set)
I first heard of Belgium’s Amenra when they opened for Zoroaster at O’Briens in February and was completely knocked out by their live presence and this release aptly represents their fury onstage. After a four minute mellow intro riff “Silver Needle. Golden Nail” kicks disc one off with a heavy, slow, guitar driven vengeance with hernia-inducing screaming lead vocals. “Le Gardien des Rêves” continues immediately in the same vein of heaviness while “De Dodenakker” starts off with some experimental sounds that blend into the first riff and build up to a driving riff with more of the same screaming vocals. It should be mentioned these are not you’re generic sounding screaming vocals, they sound truly tortured and genuine, like I mentioned earlier, hernia-inducing. It should also be noted that the guitar sound is also not generic but almost an AC/DC type of distortion played similar to Neurosis style.
Most of the songs follow the similar formulaic pattern throughout this two-disc set but it never gets tiresome, in fact it only picks up in intensity. Once entrenched in the midst of this band’s sound you will find it hard to break away. “Razoreater” has a nice mellow break in the middle with melodic clean vocals that are a nice touch in the middle of such brutal force and disc one’s closing track “Terziele. Tottedood” has a nice trance-like section in the middle of it.
“Your Shapeless Pain” kicks off disc two at an epic 10 minutes and is by far the slowest and doomiest sounding track on the disc and it blends right into “Nemelendelle”, an equally intense track. “Am Kreuz” has some nice female vocals that add a nice accent to the intensity of the song. “From Birth To Grave” is a five minute song that starts off mellow but gets quite heavy and “Ritual” ends disc two on a dramatic note with the lyrics “cutting off my fingers one by one for you”. Speaking of the lyrics, the ones I can decipher seem to be about intense emotional subjects, but in abstract form. And considering the way most of them are delivered I think ANYTHING would sound intensely emotional.
Amenra could have easily put out two discs separately but what you get with this set is well worth the money you will spend.
B -Matt Smith
In the Constellation of the Black Widow
Anaal Nathrakh sound to me like what you'd get if a tornado came ripping through this years Maryland Death Fest while all the bands were playing at once. They create an absolutely amazing amount of sound, and squeeze it all into a tightly wound package of blistering speed and brutality. Playing what I guess would best be described as industrial metal, but with bits of black metal, grindcore and other stuff thrown in there, and somewhat prog-rock sounding clean vocals that make an appearance on just about every track (and they fit in surprisingly well, too). "The Unbearable Filth of the Soul" has a kickass main riff that carries the early part of the song, then goes completely haywire for a while with all sorts of blasting and screaming, then the riff makes a return to usher the song to an end - brilliantly done.
If you can keep up with the sheer chaos that is going on throughout this disc, you'll love it. It can be a bit overwhelming, and sometimes the songs blur together a bit, but overall this is pretty damn good stuff.
Old Stuff Part 3
Wicked Sick Records
There's something to be said of Anal Cunt, first, they have one of the best names in metal history and second, they aren't afraid of anything. Anal Cunt can and will offend everyone and it is their absolute right to do so, in fact, it's their mission. As one of the founders of grindcore, Anal Cunt believes that everything can and will be made fun of and they don't care as to whose expense and you gotta love them for that.
This album is filled with one classic after another like “I Went Back in Time and Voted for Hitler” and “I Thought Hitler was Cool Until I Found Out He Didn't Drink” and with 23 songs, you know there's something you gotta love. My absolute favorites have always been their covers and this album is no exception. Some mentionables being, “Religious Vomit” by The Dead Kennedys, “I'm Glad I'm Not a Girl” by the Meatmen, and “You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side” by Morrisey to name a few. But my all time favorite is “Killing Yourself to Live” by Black Sabbath, they do a version of this so amazing it has to be heard to be believed.
Love them or hate them, there's one thing to be said for Anal Cunt, they never give up on trying to offend you. Even if you do hate the band, by their shit anyways cause if you have a neighbor that's pissing you off, open your windows, put your speakers in them, crank your stereo up as high as it will go, put the disc on repeat, and go out all night. You'll never have another problem with your neighbor again.
Animals AS Leaders
Much like Scale The Summit, who I reviewed here last time, Prosthetic label mates Animals As Leaders play instrumental progressive rock. This time, though, the music presented here is the creation of a sole individual - Tosin Abasi. He wrote and recorded all the stuff for this disc, but since has assembled a band to play some shows. They were supposed to play at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival this year, but cancelled for some reason or another. Anyway, onto the music.
What Abasi delivers here is 12 songs of progressive rock/metal with a touch of jazz thrown in. There is guitar noodling aplenty, as he makes full use of all the strings on the 7- and 8-string guitars he used to record this disc. There are also some heavier parts, like the middle bit of "Thoroughly At Home", which serves as a brief break in the otherwise sometimes overwhelming array of sweeping arpeggios, multi-digit string tapping, and over-the-top guitar histrionics. "CAFO" features some pretty darn cool stuff as well, but it lasts too long, and repeats the same themes way too much.
While there are definitely elements to this music that are great, I find the repetitive nature of most of the songs here make it drag on and on. I know there are people out there who will love this stuff, but to me it just runs on endlessly at times, repeating the same musical ideas too much and sending me to the search or skip buttons to get to something different.
You may have found The Answer already. Their first hit debuted on Guitar hero last year, and the buzz earned them the opening slot on AC/DC’s Black Ice world tour. But if you haven’t taken a deeper dive into The Answer’s catalog, now is your chance. Everyday Demons is their first official US release, and is easily one of the best rock albums of 2009, with smart songwriting and a nod from 70’s rock gods.
Hailing from Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, The Answer have already performed with the Rolling Stones, The Who, Aerosmith, and AC/DC. So it comes as no surprise that Everday Demons echoes the same blues undercut while adding their own heavy-handed signature riffs. It seems so classic, and yet appeals to your appetite for something new and raw. Jimmy Page recently said, “If you want to know what it was like to see Led Zeppelin in the 70’s, go see The Answer.” High praise indeed, and quite accurate.
Favorite tracks on Everyday Demons include “Demon Eyes” and Too Far Gone” and the absolutely blistering “Evil Man.” But mark my words, every track on Everyday Demons is a gem. Cormac Neeson may be the finest vocalist to emerge since Axel Rose went off the deep end, and guitarist Rory Gallagher may be the world’s first slide-guitar rock god. You’ll have to listen to understand why.
A -Dan McDermott
Sweden's Arise drop their fourth disc, The Reckoning, on us by way of Regain Records. Following in the same pattern as their previous releases, you'll get an ear full of melodic thrashing death metal, with riffs that lean towards the groove metal side of things mostly. While nothing that they are doing here is particularly bad, it isn't particularly interesting or overly good, either. It almost feels as if the same song is being played 10 times in a row, just with slightly different vocals each time. Sure, there are some decent riffs and guitar leads peppered throughout, but the sameness of everything makes this a tedious listen.
Salvation Like Destruction
Assaulter hail from down under, and Salvation Like Destruction is their debut, released on CD by Pulverised records.
The first thing you'll notice about this disc is that the production is a bit weak. The guitar tone is a bit wirey, and the drums are quite trebly, while the mid and lower end of the sound is pretty well muffled. Your ears soon adjust though (at least mine did), and the music comes through for what it is - well written black metal with a thrashy edge. The standout track on here for me is "Glory Alone" - it starts off a bit slow and moody, and picks up throughout the track. The painfully evil sounding chorus is some of the strongest vocal work on the disc as well, and there is a good guitar lead about half-way into the song.
While the production on this definitely leaves something on the table, the music here is good nonetheless. If you like your black metal with a dose of thrash in the middle of it, you will want to check out Assaulter.
Severed Survival (20th Anniversary Edition)
It has been 20 years since Autopsy's debut record, Severed Survival was originally released. Since then, it has been heralded (along with the follow-up EP Retribution for the Dead and even more so the LP Mental Funeral) as highly influential on many death metal bands that followed. It is fitting that Peaceville release this 2-disc 20th anniversary set to mark the occasion. The first disc contains the same content as the 2003 re-issue, while the second disc is the one that will interest Autopsy fans the most. It contains the two new tracks that Autopsy recorded in the fall of 2008, along with 13 tracks from various rehearsals and live shows from 1987 through 1990. There is also an extensive booklet with numerous pictures and comments from the band.
So what can I say about Severed Survival that hasn't already been said a million times? Nothing really. You should already know the disc if you are reading this, and if you don't, then buy this 2-disc set and thank me later for it. This is still some of the best and most groundbreaking brutal music ever to be put to tape - one of the pioneering releases of the death metal genre. The addition of the second disc makes this an absolute no-brainer purchase for anyone that doesn't have it yet, and makes it a highly recommended addition to those who like this classic slab of brutality.
What can I say, for such a supposedly diverse band, a lot of their music sounded similar. I listened to this album several times and always found myself in a trance-like state. I guess the one thing I can say is that they are way better then Evanescence. Since they both have a female singer and their music is often a lot a like, I instantly compared them and I found that liked Autumn a lot better. But a lot better than passing a kidney stone doesn't mean much unless you'd prefer to pass a stone than to listen to Evanescence again.
I hate to spend the whole review comparing this band to another, but that's what I'm left to say since the album was something the akin to being doped up on morphine. Mindless music for a mindless generation. A good album if you want to induce a coma or someone you know is in fact in a coma.
Nothing much to say than if you like shitty music, buy this album.
Marching Towards Destruction
This latest release from Sweden's Axis Powers sounds as if it was recorded at Sunlight Studios in the early 1990's. From the buzzsaw guitar tone, to the snappy and slightly trebly guitar tone, this disc screams early 90's Swedish death metal all the way (well, maybe that crossed with a healthy dose of Autopsy - but didn't a lot of the earlier Swedish death metal already have that?). None of this is a bad thing, mind you, as this time period was one of the most influential on my own preferences in metal, and this disc brings back plenty of good memories from 15+ years ago.
Lyrical themes are all about war - fairly similar to Hail Of Bullets "...Of Frost And War" from last year. From "War Of Attrition", to "Another Onslaught", to the ending "Artillery Pointing West", your ears will be slaughtered with the immensely ripping guitar sound and the vicious vocal attack that is aimed your way. The disc is fairly short at about 35 minutes, so it won't take a whole lot of time to check out the entire thing a few times.
Basically, if you like old school Swedish death metal, grab this disc and you'll enjoy it.
Having been a fan of Believer's first three albums for the 15-20 years they've been out, a few weeks isn't quite long enough to decide Gabriel's ultimate place in the "Believer canon." However, I can state with certainty that, even 15+ years later on, Gabriel is a worthy addition to it.
Since a couple of years back when Believer core members Joey Daub and Kurt Bachman announced the band's return I was kind of wondering where they'd go after the progressive/jazzy extremes of Dimensions. As work was underway, they described it as “a sick, insane cross between Tool, Voivod, NIN, and Destruction,” which was kind of hard for me to reconcile, mentally, with what they'd already done; but it makes sense upon hearing it.
Suffice it to say that Gabriel is just how they described it, also successfully incorporating the defining elements of each of the first three albums. The songwriting and rhythms come across as a bit more straightforward a la Extraction From Mortality or Sanity Obscure, with a generous helping of thrash tempos throughout ("Focused Lethality" is particularly killer), but selective use of sound samples and compositional dynamics hint at the Dimensions vibe. It's this sonic mastery that sets Gabriel apart from any pretenders.
Kurt's vocals are slightly higher-pitched than before, though instantly recognizable. The trademark guitar distortion has been modified somewhat--perhaps to match the vague yet troubled vibe of the lyrics--to a hollower, somewhat more jagged tone, but is still suitably heavy while the warmth of the bass and kick drum take up some of the slack. The leads are tasty as ever, and feature some contributions from friends in CKY, Sacrifice, and Living Sacrifice, as well as former Believer conspirator Jim Winters. Former violinist Scott Laird also lends his talents to the album. The only "outside" contribution that falls notably flat is the melodic vocal on "The Brave," where KsE frontman Howard Jones doesn't deliver quite what the song needs in that part (the screams he contributes to the track are outstanding, however).
Saving the most adventurous track for last, the majority of the (official/listed) closing track "Nonsense Mediated Decay" is a hypnotic first-person account of a UFO encounter. Nice work.
These guys haven't lost a step even after a 15 year hiatus.
A- -Mark Fields
There aren’t many anticipated releases this year I will get as excited about as Black Pyramid’s self-titled full-length debut on MeteorCity and after listening to it about a hundred times now I have to say it’s going to be hard to top this release this year. Why, you may ask? Let me count the ways. For starters, they have THE best songs this side of Sleep, and the songwriting and musicianship is better than any I have heard on any Sword or Cathedral album thus far. To be completely honest with you, Black Pyramid could single-handedly lead the Stoner Doom genre without a problem. I felt the same way the first time I saw WarHorse live with their first singer and I had the same feelings when I saw Black Pyramid’s crushing live performance for the first time last year.
Lead vocalist/ guitarist Andy Beresky’s riffs are well structured and never boring and his solos are tasteful compositions, just listen to the melodic classic metal structures in “Mirror Messiah” and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. Gein’s bass lines build a solid backbone along with Clay Neely’s perfectly accented pounding driving drumming, man, what I wouldn’t give to have these guys in my own band.
The well-crafted songs cover topics such as science-fiction (“The Worm Ouroboros”), mystical (“Visions of Gehenna”, “Cauldron Born”), and mythical (“No Life King”) and are not your standard shallow lyrical fare that comes along with this genre of metal. All of the songs from their self-released three song demo CD are here in much heavier and meatier versions and there are some new additions that these ears haven’t heard until now like “Twilight Grave”, “Wintermute”, and “Cauldron Born” and they only further cement the reason I love these guys so much. There are some nice breaks from the stoner slaughter like the beautiful acoustic “Celephais” instrumental and the mellow, melodic beginning of “Wintermute” that truly make these guys stand out among the copy cats and play-by-number bands in the genre.
If you like your stoner doom well-crafted and thought provoking, not to mention skull-crushing, then look no further than Black Pyramid and get the CD while it’s available in the limited-edition gatefold packaging from MeteorCity.com. Definitely my number one album of 2009, it will take a monster release to change my mind
A++ -Matt Smith
Grand Feast For Vultures
Norway's Blood Tsunami are probably more famous for the history of their drummer than for the melodic thrash metal that the band creates. I guess when said drummer is former Emperor skin basher Faust, it will draw a lot of attention. Their debut, Thrash Metal, drew a mediocre review here, so let us see how the follow up, Grand Feast For Vultures, stacks up.
Opening with "Castle of Skulls", we first hear a riff and solo that could have easily come off an early Slayer disc - a decent if highly unoriginal start. The vocals kick in, and this is where the band loses my interest a bit. The vocals are kinda screamy and bordering on metalcore sounding, and get pretty darn annoying at times. There are a good dose of dual tracked vocals here, which hide the lame ones a bit, but not nearly enough. Riffs lean heavily on the bands influences, which to my ears are early Bay Area thrash, early German thrash, and to a lesser extent some of the melodic death metal bands coming out of Sweden.
"Personal Exorcism" is my pick for standout track here - the riffs used throughout the song carry a lot of melody and power, and bring forth much headbanging potential. The band shows off their abundant musicianship with the 12+ minute instrumental "Eceladus Rising". For the length of the song, the guitars, bass, and drums perform musical calisthenics in the form of numerous riffs and uncountable solos. Oh, and the vocals aren't there to distract you, either.
Music-wise, there are some decent riffs and good solos represented here, but the main vocals drag it down. Use more of the backing vocalist as the main vocals, and this would be a good bit more listenable for me. As it is, this is purely average at best.
Devotion to Unholy Creed
The unholy Greek quartet Burial Hordes return with their second full-length release, Devotion To Unholy Creed. Unrelenting, raw, vicious old school black metal is all the band deals in, and they deal a strong hand with this release.
Opening with "Praise the Bloodcore of Hatred", we're greeted with a slightly melodic bit to start, but that quickly transforms into utter chaos with blasting drumming, ultra-fast guitar riffs, and a truly evil sounding dual vocal attack that will excoriate your eardrums if played loudly enough. There is a kickass riff towards the end of the song that will have you headbanging and throwing the horns in rhythm. "Infernal Necromancers" is one of my favorite tracks here. The opening riff is super intense, with the pick scraping and just pure goodness of it. Overall, the song is more mid-paced that most of the disc, but I think that helps to add to the intensity of it all here.
Burial Hordes should appeal to all fans of old school black metal. They absolutely nail the style perfectly.
I can't tell you how much I loved this album. At first I thought, “What a stupid name for a band”, but I gave them a chance and they were by far my favorite album I listened to for this review session. Ballsy thrash for a new millenium and surprisingly they're from Canada, who would have thought.
Kicking off in 2004 and taking over the North American scene with a vengeance, the band released their first full-length album entitled “Birthing the Giant” on 6/6/06. Audiences nearly ate the band alive for their infectious hardcore/metal sound. “Hail Destroyer” is the second release and the band has already taken their sound to a whole new level.
Unfortunately for me, the disc that my editor sent me didn't work properly so I wasn't able to listen to the whole album, but what I have heard makes me want to hear more. So, I'm going on the hunt for both this release and their previous album. Cancer Bats have what the metal scene needs, a ballsy new sound that is not like anyone else. Go out and get this album now!
Exile On Mainstream
Germany's Celan's debut album Halo has all of the workings of a sludge worthy rock fest and that's exactly what it delivers, from the screaming tortured vocals and grinding guitars and bass backed by pounding drums that get right up in your face. Comprising of members of Einsturzende Neubauten (Ari Benjamin Meyers), Unsane (Chris Spencer) and Oxbow (Niko Wenner), it makes an unlikely combination but they mesh together well and form a sound that you would make you think this is what they've been playing their whole music careers. Most of the disc is pretty angular and aggressive but "Washing Machine" is a nice instrumental that is very mellow and sleepy, I would like to listen to it as I'm lying down to sleep. The same goes for the last track, "Lunchbox", I could easily use it as a sleep aid!
Not a bad debut from alumni of a diverse musical background.
B -Matt Smith
Conspiracy is a one man metal band from the Netherlands (by way of the Ukraine), comprised solely of "Carpathian Wolf" (aka Al Hazred, formerly of Melecesh). Aside from Mr. Wolf, there are some other well known names involved here - namely Andy Laroque who mastered the disc, and Dan Seagrave, who did the cover art after the original artist failed to produce something of enough quality to be used.
While rooted in black metal, Conspiracy's music on Concordat could also be described as thrashy, and at some points just plain old heavy metal. There is a decent mix of stuff here, which should keep a good majority of listeners happy. The title track, for example, is mostly a good lesson in melodic black metal, but has a bit in the middle that could easily fit in with a NWOBHM song. "Faith" is a slow, semi-acoustic track that feels a bit folky for the most part, a very different feel than anything else on the disc. "Courage" opens with an almost funeral doom feel to it, before opening up a with a bit more speed and melody towards the middle/end of the song.
The production on the disc is muffled and dull sounding, which makes it a bit tough to listen to at first. I started to be able to ignore it a little ways into the disc, but it still takes away from some of the enjoyment here. Overall, this is a decent effort, but the production drags it down a bit for me.
Side Effects Explained
Formed in 2000, Germany's Centaurus-A released a handful of demos, then went off and played gigs around Germany for a while as they crafted more music for a full-length release. Forward to 2009, when French label Listenable Records releases their debut slab of technical death/thrash, Side Effects Explained.
"Praying Mantis" gets us started in the manner you'd expect from technical death metal - a heavy riff with lots of guitar noodling winding in and out of everywhere, blast beats filled drums, and guttural vocals spewing forth the venomous lyrics. I sense a bit of Carcass at times in this track, as well as some Coroner-tinged riffs at times. "Narcotic" is a bit more basic, with lots of chug-chug riffing going on, while the super technical stuff is a bit more sparse. "Morning Tremble" is the best song on here, with a kick-ass heavy intro full of pinch-harmonics, and some of the most intense drumwork present on the disc. The main riff is superb, and some of the guitar trickery used here should please all tech-metal fans. "Arson" is a heavy as fuck piece, with tons of low end riffage on hand to rattle the walls a bit, but also features some downright super-melodic guitar leads in a "quieter" middle passage.
The technical death metal genre is a crowded market to break into, with fervent fans that demand only the best from their musical style of choice. Will Centaurus-A make the grade with them? I guess only time will tell. I think they put together a good disc here, but it is a bit uneven and that may turn off some fans of this style of music.
The Stars Of Never Seen
Cruz del Sur
The musicians of the world know that when creating a debut album you have all the time and energy in the world, but the second album dictates whether you have any shot of a sustainable career or if the fickle public will relegate your recordings to the historical wasteland. California’s Crescent Shield feature Michael Grant on vocals and Dan DeLucie on guitar, along with the veteran rhythm section of bassist Melanie Sisneros and drummer Craig Anderson- and their previous years of slugging it out in the scene make The Stars Of Never Seen a full length outing that reaps huge knowledgeable benefits. I sense throughout longer tracks like “Temple of the Empty” and the epic 9 minute plus “The Endurance” this quartet spent months in pre-production and rehearsals fine tuning all the arrangements, the nuances of multiple contrasting vocal parts and basically putting full force energy into sonic and stylistic exploration while maintaining the greatness of traditional, old school metal ethics.
Michael’s presence lifts “The Grand Horizon” and “Lifespan” to Geoff Tate meets Bruce Dickinson with Heir Apparent-like proportions- he really has little trouble holding the highest notes for full measures and I think he’s taken better care of keeping the melodies less complicated than their debut. Musically this album appears to be in line more with the early Destiny’s End days of Delucie’s previous band, along with a tip of the cap to acts such as Helstar, Omen, early Iron Maiden and possibly early Fates Warning and Mercyful Fate. There’s plenty to digest, bob your heads about and scream your larynx out with, as I think playing overseas re-inspired their passion for the cause. The production techniques forego loads of sampled sounds and synthetic, computer generated punches in- as veteran knob twister Bill Metoyer kept the tones pure and down to earth, proving Crescent Shield allow their talent and special songwriting to win out in the end. Favorites include the personally relevant yet punishing “10,000 Midnights Ago” that contains air riff swirling madness plus “The Bellman” which seems tailor made for furious crowd sing a long action and could have easily been written in 1984 even as it hits the streets for 2009.
The Stars Of Never Seen serves a twofold purpose. The album proves that you will never kill metal’s inherit ability to inspire others to buy albums, go to shows, pick up instruments and play for a positive, uplifting outcome. It also should serve notice that we must never forget the glorious history of the movement, as Crescent Shield knows that they wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for their noteworthy predecessors who more people need to hear.
A -Matt Coe
Blind Faith Loyalty
Cruz del Sur
If anyone watches the scene closely, the Italian label Cruz del Sur Music in its 6 year lifespan has established itself as a risk taking venture as they feature a variety of power, progressive, traditional and/or out of the box acts that push the boundaries for heavy metal. My favorite acts through the years have been Pharaoh, Bible of the Devil and Slough Feg as each brings something different to the table. So to say my anticipation for this sophomore release from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Crown the Lost starts at a supersonic level would be the understatement of the year. After a week’s worth of airing at nonstop proportions, Blind Faith Loyalty shatters the technical thrash/ death genre and gives the whole movement a serious benchmark that could be looked back on as an all time classic as the years roll into the future.
As a five piece Crown the Lost would fit in the thrash mold for the most
part- but not the raw, purely go for the throttle and re-create what’s already been done movement that runs rampant with the younger sect. The five-piece instead cultivate a swift changing bevy of intricate riffing, punishing drum work and an exploration of arpeggio lead transitions while the arrangement can go through speed, thrash or blast beat proportions within the same instrumental break of a song. Artists that came to mind would include Into Eternity, Rust In Peace era Megadeth, Forbidden, Heathen, Necroticism… and Heartwork album period Carcass as well as the pit-inducing rhythmic motion of Nevermore or possibly Children of Bodom. Understand that even though I’m throwing a number of other bands at you- Crown the Lost truly have created a sound 100% their own and I haven’t heard the combination of influences siphoned in quite a memorable way as I hear through tracks like “Defame the Hypocrites”, “Symbiotic” on through to the concluding title cut.
Vocalist Chris Renaldi keeps the group into the top tier of high class bands, as his strong emotive presence and deep harmonic sensibilities recall a unique blend of Keith Caputo during the “River Runs Red” heyday for Life Of Agony as well as the recent solo output from Bruce Dickinson.
His melodic/ fierce contrasts bring favorite songs like “Drawing the Parallel” and “Finality” into instantaneous attention keepers- along with the engaging build ups for the latest guitar hero to make 6 and 7 stringers perk up their ears, one Joe Bonaddio. The layered riff approach allows Bonaddio and rhythm guitar cohort David E. Gehlke ample experimentation to add flurries of note explosion or the occasional foray into slower, pit punishing power.
Call me crazy, but if the planets align and the quintet can deliver this material on a worldwide tour or festival basis, I think we will be witnessing an act others will attempt to emulate as a pioneer in the metal business. Take a bow Crown the Lost.
A+ -Matt Coe
Thrashing Heavy Metal
This three piece from Sweden is a real throwback to the early days of metal.
If you took the musical stylings of Mercyful Fate and put Cronos from Venom on lead vocals, you'd get Deceiver.
The band got their start in 2004 with a fourth member, Destormo, on vocals and in 2005 released their first full-length album entitled Riding with the Reaper to mild acclaim. Shortly afterwards, Destormo left the band and guitarist Pete Flesh took over the vocals. The band released another album soon after entitled, Holov Posen Tro May Trot with a more aggressive sound, but the band still didn't get the push they needed and by 2007 the band was ready to call it quits. Beginning of 2008, Pete Flesh decided to make Thrashing Heavy Metal their last album.
It's a shame that a band like Deciever has gone unnoticed. In a sea of endless metal bands that sound so similar, one could not pick a band in a blind listening test, Deceiver rises above heralding a true old school sound that once made metal so great and diverse.
Definitely worth a listen to if you're a fan of the glory days of metal. Best tracks are "Blood of the Soul" and the title track, "Trashing Heavy Metal".
Blood & Ashes
I had never heard of Devil's Whorehouse before I was given this CD to review, so I really didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t read any press releases. All that being said all I can say is “Holy Danzig!”. If Danzig put out a new great album this is what it might sound like. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Danzig hasn’t put out any good albums lately, I’m just saying if he were to try and recapture his old style with a bit more heaviness it might sound like this. Song lyrics are pure Danzig influenced, guitar riffs are like John Christ on steroids (wait a minute, isn’t that Glen?), and the bass and drums are like super heavy versions of Eerie Von and Chuck Biscuits. Atmospheric at times and totally heavy at others this is sure to give any fan of gothic metal rock a stiffie. Elements of The Misfits and Samhain are also evident, so to say these guys are über-fans of Danzig is an understatement. If someone told me this was Danzig’s new album I would believe them. The band did start off as a Misfits/Samhain cover band, after all, so I guess it is really no surprise.
B- -Matt Smith
Devin Townsend is a man who wears many different mucial hats. From fronting for Steve Vai back in the day, to Ocean Machine, to his self-named band, and of course the extreme metal of Strapping Young Lad - Devin has showcased a wide range of musical talent and interest. His latest project - simply titled Devin Townsend Project - is his most ambitious to date. His aim for the project is to create four different albums, with four completely different bands. The first entry into this quartet of releases is Ki, an hour long tour through the musical mind of Devin, with support from drummer Duris Maxwell (who has in the past played with Heart, Jefferson Airplane, and jammed with Hendrix), bassist Jean Savoie (who played in a Beatles cover band as well as playing on cruise ships), and previous collaborator Dave Young on keyboards.
The music here is rooted in progressive rock, but also has many touches of metal (see "Heaven Send" for the most obvious), jazz ("Ain't Never Gonna Win..."), and even a bit of Elvis (the beginning of "Trainfire"). Devin did a great job assembling the band for this release, as everything seems to fit in where it should be perfectly, with the rhythm section locking in whatever style they need to while Devin and Dave Young lay down the melodies and riffs on their respective instruments.
"A Monday" is a brief instrumental opener that phases into "Coast", the first true song. This is a bass and drum loaded song, with a foot-tapping rhythm in the beginning that transitions into an industrial sounding bit towards the end. "Disruptr" and "Gato" will probably be the most pleasing to people who only know Strapping Young Lad, as they are some of the heaviest songs on here. What you are mostly going to get, though, is a mish-mash of varied styles, all encompassed into a passionate soundscape that will keep you listening if only to see what is coming up next.
This is a mighty varied listen, and a very ambitious project. If Ki is any indication, the quartet of releases that the Devin Townsend Project has in store for us will be an astoundingly good collection of music.
Suicide and the Rest of Your Kind Will Follow
The latest release from Greek one-man black metal band Dodsferd is an epic collection of two songs, tracking in at 37-minutes. It is a sanguine symphony of suicidal tendencies played out in a manner that conveys its own sadness stellarly.
The title track is the opener, and in the 20-minute running time, your ears will be (mis)treated to a fine, doomy attack of various repetitive riffs, mesmerizing melodies, and voracious vocal attacks. The combination of the downright doomy music and the pain filled vocals make this music truly depressing, which I guess is the point of it.
"His Veins Colored the Room Red" (great song title, paints a good picture already), starts off with some pained screams and dissonant guitar lines, while sparse drumming plods all around. When the song kicks in, the main guitar riff carries us along, while there are still some dissonant sounds spewing forth in the background. This is the music that reminds you to slit your wrists the long way if you want to do it right.
Yes, the music here is repetitive as all hell, but it is also freakin great. Maybe not a complete masterpiece, but a damn good set of songs...just keep the sharp blades out of the room when you listen to this.
From Soil To Shale
Brooklyn's Dogs of Winter are a three-piece that play power rock that borders on prog-metal mixed with a perfect blend of stoner rock vibe. Vocal duties are shared by guitarist Brian Grosz and bassist Ryan Dowd and sound like Mike Patton at times and Dave Valle's drum playing is solid and tight. Interesting time changes and nice catchy hooks make these songs better on repeat listens. Definitely not your generic heavy rock band, Dogs of Winter have a unique sound that make them stick out in the music scene.
B -Matt Smith
Fear No Evil
There’s just no stopping Doro Pesch. It’s been a quarter century since she released the now classic Burning the Witches, and she’s gone on a warpath of balls to the wall metal since. Metal’s premier vixen has returned for the newest album in her seemingly bottomless catalogue of NWOBHM flavored, unabashedly old school style of metal. Fear No Evil doesn’t go anywhere new, and honestly, who would expect anything else from Doro? Like every one of her albums, it’s like being serenaded by a beautiful woman at a German metal club circa 1984.
The opener, “Night of the Warlock,” is classic Doro: simple, effective, and triumphant. Her voice soars just as it did in the days of the song’s eponymous band. After doing a better version of “Running with the Devil” than Van Halen did, she goes into the straightforwardly enjoyable metal anthem “Celebrate.” When musicians shed their pretentions and just write about the greatness of metal, it’s always welcome. Diverting herself from common metal thematics, Doro has a few songs about heartbreak on here with “It Kills Me” and “Long Lost for Love.” Musically, these songs do nothing to stand out from the rest, but hearing an old school metal song about heartbreak is delightfully novel. Finally, Doro eschews metal conventions once again with the song “I Lay My Head Upon My Sword.” It’s a relieving call for peace instead of another all-too-common glorification of war.
People may scoff at this album for being too simple, boring, or staid. Get off your damn high horses and enjoy this record! No, it’s nothing new, and it’s nothing special either. It’s been played a million times before by a million different bands. But Doro’s voice brings something special to the table. It’s impossible to listen to this album without smiling in reflection at one of metal’s greatest careers. Hearing her belt out her new tunes is nothing but a joyful experience. Whether she is being triumphant or heartbroken, she is undeniably Doro Pesch. After twenty-five years, she hasn’t changed, and it seems like she never will. She’ll always be Doro.
B -Adam Kohrman
Songs Of Torment, Songs Of Joy
Leif Edling is undoubtedly one of metal’s most influential and pioneering personalities. During the writing and promotion of Candlemass’ new album, has taken a timeout to write his first solo album, entitled Songs of Torment, Songs of Joy. While this album certainly is not subpar is any fashion, it seems unnecessary. Edling himself is handling the vocal duties, and I have no idea why, as he cannot sing for the life of him. I love Leif, but he sounds like an angry frog croaking after having a few too many beers. I’m sure that he, of all people, could have found a decent vocalist.
I’m not going to pan this album simply due to the vocals though, as that would be unfair. Edling has always been known for created powerful minimalistic Doom Metal, and that’s exactly what he does here. Both lyrically and musically, Leif is pouring out his soul. The songs seem more hopeless than the rest of Leif’s oeuvre, and provoke many themes of aimless wandering. While he has typically written stories on Candlemass albums, this is a very autobiographical album, and it’s clear that Mr. Edling has not been a gleeful man lately. Leif is showing us the ugly sides of his soul through his music; it’s simultaneously dark and depressing.
While the necessity of making this album is questionable, complaining about that misses the point, as this is still a frighteningly dark glimpse into the soul of the Godfather of Doom. Any fan of Leif’s should pick this record up to learn about who he is as a man, or if they want to hear him attempt to sing.
B -Adam Kohrman
It just goes to show you that you can't judge a CD by its cover. At first look at this disc, I thought, “What a douche”, but then I gave it a chance and I kinda liked it. A cross between Korn and Ministry is about the best description I could come up with.
Egoist is exactly what they claim to be, a one man band creation of Poland born Stanislaw Woloniej, but you'd never know it through the music. This guy can do everything and do it really well.
More industrial than metal, Egoist definitely has its hooks, but not for your average metalhead. Fans of Throbbing Gristle, Nine Inch Nails, and bands of that ilk will really dig what this album has to offer. I will say that the album seems to get lighter as it goes along, but completely worth a listen to if you're looking for something new.
Two Tragedy Poets
Last year, Elvenking made the metal world cringe when they released The Scythe. The poppy, dumbed down mess caused their fans to begin decrying the once innovative folk metal act. It seemed as if one of the genre’s original acts had begun a downward spiral. Well, jigging metalheads, you can all take a sigh of relief. While Two Tragedy Poets is not a true return to form, it’s a strong step in the right direction. It retains the folksy roots of Elvenking while heavily incorporating influences from Irish punk. Whether this is even a metal album is up for debate as well. Some of the songs are ridiculously catchy folk metal hootenannies, while others are simplistic folk punk tracks. The simplicity of these songs rightfully invokes some of the same criticism levied at The Scythe. Despite the overt simplicity, however, Two Tragedy Poets puts the slightly stunted Elvenking.
Like old school Elvenking, there is a string quartet. But unlike their older music, the quartet is no longer the accompaniment, but the focal point. The guitars play simple, mid paced folk rhythms, as does the bass. They never amplify to their full potential, and lack the fierceness of most metal music. Instead, it creates a more folk rock/punk sound more reminiscent of The Dropkick Murphys than Skyclad. Although, the album begins in classic folk metal style; the fiddles and violins produce a main riff followed by strikingly clean vocals. The vocals are classic punk style, somewhat shouted, but cleanly sung altogether.
Some of these tracks strike the perfect chords, but some just remain irritatingly simple and basic. This album does have some really great parts. The choruses on the first two songs, “Another Awful Hobs Tale” and “From Blood to Stone,” are anthemic and infectious. They’re sure to induce many shindigs among listeners. Later on in the record, Elvenking belt out the head scratcher “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” Yup. That’s a Belinda Carisle cover. As you might expect, it’s incredibly catchy, but painfully horrendous, which is unfortunately the case with much of the album’s latter half. It’s almost as if these songs were left off The Scythe. Keeping up with classic heavy metal spirit is the song “Not My Final Song.” It parades the band as an unstoppable musical force. It sounds like it would be played at an Irish pub in downtown Dublin as drunken barflies sing along in a gleeful uproar.
Right now Elvenking are returning to their former glory, albeit with a different sound. It’ll be hard for them to live down their Cold Lake. It’s as if they are in physical therapy, and are half way to being fully recovered. Fans will be glad to hear this album, as it proves that they still have what’s necessary in making good music. This is not a great album, though. There are multiple glaring flaws resembling the corny pop anthems of The Scythe. The next Elvenking album will either break them back into the high tiers of metal, or it will break them permanently.
B- -Adam Kohrman
Endstille's Verführer exhudes violent tendencies from start to finish. Hell, even the cover, depicting German Emperor Wilhelm II in his "working gear" (i.e. a blood covered blade and apron), is a violent image. The 47 minutes of black metal carry this theme to extremes, and then some.
"Alteration Of Roots" is the first song here, and it is a relentless attack of blast beats, super fast guitar riffs, and the most blood-curdling screams that have torn their way through these eardrums in a long time. "Hate Me... God?" slows things up a bit, with a bit more of a marching pace at times, and the vocals are a bit more subdued as well (although still purely evil sounding). "Monotonus" returns the blistering pace, and rips through you from hind to head like a hunter skinning his kill - quick and messy. The title track closes things off, and actually has a ton of melodic guitar lines running throughout it. It is a good change of pace from much of the rest of the disc, and really makes you long to hear more of the music, so you might as well just hit repeat and start it all over again.
Endstille's latest effort is a lesson in pure violence and brutality. It is an unrelenting shitstorm of viciousness that will leave you longing for more.
Rex Mundi X-ILE
Cruz del Sur
Avantgarde gothic metal, Italy’s Ensoph send your mind into scary terrain with this album. Fueled with electronic, techno, industrial and extreme metal influences, these 12 songs convince me that this five some would not be a group of people I would want to meet under any form of medication or liquid lubrication. Marilyn Manson, Strapping Young Lad, Nine Inch Nails along with an affinity for the European black metal scene make tracks like “Dance High And Shine”, “Splendour & Majesty” as well as their twisted, dirge driven version of Alice In Chains’ “Would” furious and tribal in their purpose.
This record is evidence that despite a rocky economic climate in all parts of the world, Ensoph plan to screw with your head and lay to waste your fears. Not for the close-minded, Rex Mundi X-ILE challenges the establishment and pushes buttons much like a precocious teenager trying to assimilate themselves to their environment.
B- -Matt Coe
A Clear Perception
Metalcore seems to be all the rage these days. For me, it is totally hit or miss, with most of it being a miss. I just don't find much of it to be very entertaining, as it all seems to come from the same cookie cutter mold - lame grooving "riff", then a breakdown, throw in some whining/clean vocals, then another breakdown, then usually even more breakdowns. The Eyes of a Traitor follow much of this mold on their debut disc, A Clear Perception.
The opening track, "Under Siege" contains much of these traits. From the opening groove line, to the horrific clean sung chorus, to the requsite breakdowns scattered throughout, this is metalcore by numbers. I don't know if they are trying to be clever or whatever, but there is some lame bass/drum bits at the end of the second track that just don't fit in at all.
I could go on pointing out the other bits of this disc that I don't like, but suffice to say that I didn't really find any redeeming qualities during the 40-minute playing time. If you like breakdown laden metalcore, this will be right up your alley, but for me it is just another one to throw in the miss pile.
Score To A New Beginning
Keyboardist Philippe Giordana subscribes to the less is more philosophy when it comes to membership in Fairyland. He’s the sole main member within the group these days, employing 17 contributors from lesser known but musically strong power and progressive metal artists from around the globe- including members from Pathosray, Heavenly, and Serenity among others. Score To A New Beginning allows Philippe the room to continue his symphonic vision, flavoring these 10 songs with larger than life choirs, tear-jerking ballad moments as well as a super slick synthetic production.
However hasn’t material like “Master of the Waves” or “Godsent” already hit our stereos in the form of Italy’s Rhapsody (Of Fire) album after album after album? Marco Sandron (Pathosray) handles the main vocals on these 10 songs, and his voice clearly belongs in the upper echelon for melodic progressive or symphonic/ neo-classical material. Much like a marriage between two people, I need to feel an emotional connection between the material, the lyrics, the delivery and the total package- and instead Fairyland leave me road-weary, perplexed and unimpressed. Thanks to modern technology cut and paste projects like these have me screaming for a time when you really spent thousands of hours fine tuning and creating for your craft.
I’ll pass on soundtrack affairs and hope Philippe gets back to basics, as this record belongs buried with the dog bones in my backyard.
D- -Matt Coe
Full Blown A.I.D.S.
Seth Putnam is at it again, out to offend anyone and everyone, but this time it's a little bit different. Full Blown A.I.D.S. aren't just noise, they have real song structure and have very catchy tunes, a far cry from the blurcore of Anal Cunt. Of course there's still Seth's ungodly screaming, which if you've ever seen him sing, you'd wonder why he hasn't stroked out long ago. A mix of hardcore, thrash, and some of the best doom songs ever recorded, there's something for every fan of metal on this disc.
The best tunes of the album are the incredibly doomy “Leech”, an unbelieveable version of “For Those About to Rock” that destroys the original, the ultra-depressing “Everything”, and my favorite “Throwing Cars at People on Coke with Thor” with our very own Mark Fields on background vocals.
If anything, buy it for the AC/DC cover, it's amazing. This album is totally worth a listen to even if you absolutely despise everyone who plays on it.
Corpus In Extremis: Analysing Necroticism
Corpus In Extremis: Analysing Necrocriticism is General Surgery's second full length release, following a few split releases and their debut EP that was released back in 1991. Sounding like what you'd get if you surgically merged older Entombed with older Carcass, the band definitely don't attempt to hide their influences here.
Opening the 15-track, 36 minute assault is a quick little number called "Necronomics". Blasting drums, surgically precise, cutting riffs and amazingly well-done dual vocals set up the gruesome scene of what will be dissecting your eardrums for the next half-hour plus. From there, the band carves through a ton of massive riffs - check out "Restrained Remains" for some of the best on the disc, along with some flat out catchy choruses - "Exotoxic Septicity" comes to mind first with the chant of "Necrotising Fasciitis". The lyrics here are most obviously influenced by Carcass. Heck, the whole track "Virulent Corpus Dispersement" could quite easily be confused with a Carcass song. They do say that imitation IS the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
While this Swedish quintet doesn't break any real new ground with their musical stylings, they take the best of their major influences and stitch it together into a slab of blood-soaked death metal that is just flat out good. While some may not like the obvious use of their influences, it works fine for me.
Meet Us At The Southern Sign
French black metal band Glorior Belli's third full-length release, Meet Us At The Southern Sign, is their first since signing with Candlelight. They are also embarking on a US tour with Absu, so this could be a big year for the band.
The opening track, "In A Blood Red Moon", is a rather gloomy and dark piece, crawling along at a slow pace until the very end. This song sets a rather depressive mood to open the disc, but "The Forbidden Words" that follows it changes things up quite a bit. Full of blast beats, tremolo picked riffs, and gargled, raspy vocals, this one brings the speed up a bunch and adds a sort of urgency to the music. Alas, the speed doesn't last, as a good bit more than half of this disc is in the slower, gloomier style you'd expect from Glorior Belli. "In Every Grief-Stricken Blues" even includes some clean guitar parts, adding to the desperate feeling the song has from the start.
I think the best song on this disc is the title track, which is also the discs closer (and longest song). Starting off slow, with a nice memorable guitar part, the song reeks of sadness. The mood changes at about the three minute mark, though, when the blasting drums kick in and the vocals get a bit more violent sounding. The crescendo brings the slow pace back, with some really nice melodic guitar work bringing the song, and the disc, to an end.
This is Glorior Belli's finest album to date, and a perfect launching pad for their upcoming US tour. Get out and see them if they come through your area.
I greatly enjoyed God Dethroned's last disc, The Toxic Touch. When I heard about this new release, I was very interested in hearing it. Then I read a bit about the concept behind the album, and became even more interested. The concept here is based on a World War I battle in a Belgian village called Passchendaele (Americanized to Passiondale), near Ypres in West Flanders. During the four month battle, nearly a million soldiers lost their lives. I could go on and on about the battle itself, but Wikipedia does a decent job summarizing it. How does this stack up to the bands other work? Read on and ye shall see.
After an intro, "Under A Darkening Sky" gets things going. Fast, brutal, yet melodic and groove laden at the same time, this is the music I'd expect from God Dethroned in 2009. The lyrical theme of this track is the beginning of the battle, as the troops move in. I guess this song is to prepare us for the remainder of the battle that is ahead, and it does a good job at that. "No Man's Land" and "Poison Fog" offer incredible music, along with vicious lyrics covering being shot to death or asphyxiating by mustard gas. The lyrics are pretty graphic and intense to read through here, putting you smack dab in the muddy bog that was the battlefield in 1917, hoping against hope that you would somehow make it out alive. The title track slows things down a bit, with an almost funeral march feeling to the beginning of it. "No Survivors" is flat out fast and brutal at the beginning, then slows up a bit for a clean vocal part in the middle. While the clean vocals seem at first out of place, they add a passionate feeling to the lyrical part there which just makes them even more grim.
This is a great disc, with solid production. The music is intense and brutal, yet catchy and melodic at the same time. The lyrics are great, and can easily draw pictures in your mind of the tough times the soldiers faced during this battle. War and metal go hand in hand if you ask me, and this disc shows just how perfectly they can match up when done right.
Boston’s Gozu are what you would call stoner rock in the truest sense of the word. In many ways it’s like being transported back to the mid nineties when Kyuss and Fu Manchu were still reigning this genre. Master skin basher and ex-Wargasm member Barry Spillberg lays the backbone of this powerful bands sound. Marc Gaffney’s vocals are very Josh Homme influenced and the guitars are also indicative of a Josh Homme/Kyuss influence and are smoking with wah-wah/delay-filled solos.
The disc ends with an instrumental track called “Barry Time” that reminds us how much Barry kicks ass on the drums! Very reminiscent of Queens of the Stoneage at times and total Kyuss, Slo-Burn at others, this 6 song CD will please any stoner rock fan.
B -Matt Smith
This disc took me by surprise - I had not heard anything from Hacride before this disc landed on my desk. Upon first listen, my ears perked up to their combination of technical riffing, complex rhythms, spacey atmosphere, and downright catchy music. All of that adds up to a lethal combination for my ears, as they keep asking to hear this over and over again.
The opening track is a 15-minute long affair (the longest on the disc), which is a bold step for a band to take. Fortunately, the song starts of great and only gets stronger. Some may find the spacey but in the middle to be a bit overlong and may drop out there, but I think it fits in nicely where it is, and there is enough going on there to keep your interest if you are easily bored. "Awakening" starts off almost ballad like - quiet and sparse, with cleanly sung vocals, but the mood changes, and the heaviness breaks out in the middle. It is still one of the softest songs on here, and even throws in some industrial sounding bits towards the end, which shows how diverse the band really is. In fact, every song on here has so many different elements, it is pretty much impossible for your mind to drift from boredom while listening to this. The band moves between musical themes seamlessly, which is quite impressive and one of the strong points of this disc.
The bio for the band compares them to Meshuggah, Gojira, and Neurosis. While these are decent comparisons, I wouldn't lump the band into a category with any single one of those bands - they are just too diverse to be pigeonholed like that. If you like those bands, by all means give Hacride a try, as you're likely to dig this band as well. I wouldn't be surprised if this disc held a spot on my top list at the end of the year.
Thrash metal has seen a resurgence of late, with newer bands like Evile, Municipal Waste, and Warbringer (to name a few) joining older bands like Exodus, Testament, and Destruction in keeping the style alive and (somewhat) fresh. Some of the newer bands do it well, others not so well. I would put Havok somewhere in the latter category.
This is entirely average thrash, from beginning to end. The riffs are there, but they seem a bit uninspired and don't bite into you like a great thrash riff should. The drums are basic and not all that interesting to me, while the bass has a flat droning sound that started to annoy me somewhere about midway through the third song. The vocals are at times alright, but usually it sounds like he's trying a bit too hard and straining. I don't think the production on this helps too much either, as it is a bit dull and flat, with weak sounding drums, and the guitars are a bit buried in the mix - the vocals, drums, and even the bass guitar overpower the six-strings most of the time.
Since this is the bands debut, I'll give them a bit of leeway on it, and say that I will look forward to hearing what they come up with in the future. I hope that they come up with something a bit more interesting than this - although that isn't setting the bar too high.
Horde Of Hel is a collective of anonymous Swedish black/death metal scene legends. Their debut album, Blodskam, is out now on Moribund records, and includes 14 songs and just about 50 minutes of pounding industrialized black metal. Let's give it a listen and see what it is all about.
Precise drum tracks drive the main music here, while chaos erupts all around. Guitars are wildly distorted and layered in a way that covers the entire spectrum of sound quite well, while the evil raspy vocals spew forth their viciousness quite violently. The sound here is immensely huge, taking a while to decipher all that is going on in the music. The album is setup so that there are a couple of songs, then a mellower instrumental to break things up, then back to the ferocity once again. I guess this helps to keep things a bit in order, but it also breaks the momentum that may have been created with the preceding songs. This may be what turned me off to this disc, as it just never seems to build upon anything, and just falls flat.
Overall, I found this to be a tiresome disc to attempt to enjoy. There are a few good moments, but they are too few and far between, with the momentum never being kept up for more than a few minutes before being sidelined.
The Politics Of Irredeemable
Abstract, cold, industrial, bleak, dismal, haunting, barren, this album would be the perfect soundtrack to a post-apocalyptic world, kind of like Blade Runner or the Mad Max movies. I was listening to this in my car all during the last stretch of rainy dreary days and it honestly fit the mood, AND my mood, as I've been dealing with some very trying obstacles in my life lately. If I wanted to bring myself down or remind myself how bleak I can feel I will put this disc on and feel the cold steel against my flesh. Dirge-filled riffs, with droning abrasive effects and pounding accents, I can only imagine listening to this during the winter months in the city. Don't get me wrong, these are emotions I feel, but would like to keep them hidden away until I'm ready to enter the abyss again or kill myself.
C+ -Matt Smith
So reading their promo packet, I was excited to listen to this band since Metal Blade likened them to Dillinger's Escape Plan, but upon listening, not so much. Being fast does not make a good Math Metal band, they're just another thrash band and Into the Moat is just that. No stop on the dime time changes, nothing innovative just straight thrash. They're not bad at it, just don't compare yourself to a band that you have nothing in common with. That's like if AC/DC was a new band and their promo people said they sounded a lot like Slayer, you'd find out quickly that neither band sounds alike and get turned off right away. What Metal Blade should have said was this band sounds like everyone else and then they would have hit the nail on the head. Nothing exciting or noteworthy is happening on this album.
Completely bland metal, should be a huge hit.
I may be premature saying this but this might be my album of the year.
I'm not entirely blown away by the artwork but these songs are incredible. I feel the last few Isis albums felt too clean and polished. Almost dulling down the heavy parts at times. Not on Wavering Radiant however. You can still sense that heavy sludgness under all the layers of music. The songs are a little long on paper but I have yet to skip a single track or get bored while listening.
(I'm maybe on my 20th listen.) I just feel that this record captures a live element of the band... something I don't think the previous record had and something I am stoked to hear.
Music: Atmospheric metal. The songs take you in and out like tides...just when you get comfortable in some ambient playing they hit you with harsh waves of sound. I feel this mixes all the best elements of the band and the tracks "Hand of the Host" and "20 Minutes/40 years" could be favorites on the album. I've loved this band since the late 90's and have been waiting for this record since Celestial came out.
This could be my favorite full length release thus far. I can't wait to hear these tracks live this spring on the North American tour and to get my hands on the record upon release. If you have ever liked this band or anything like them buy the record if you are disappointed I feel sorry for you, you must be deaf.
A+ -Eric Guntor
Some bands seemingly can do no wrong. Everything they touch turns to gold. When they release a new album, their fan base stands on edge, waiting to hear a just s smidgen of the music. Isole are one these acts. Despite being relatively unknown, these Swedish doom titans have now released their fourth full length to their microcosmic yet ferociously devout fans. Each album Isole creates either matches or tops the prior, adding depth and creativity. Last year, Isole won my album of the year award with the awe-inspiring Bliss of Solitude. We’re only three and a half months into 2009, but Isole are once again at the top of the heap.
There is no doom band currently active with the consistency that Isole has. On Silent Ruins, the tempos are faster, the songs a bit longer, but the overarching despondency and conveyed hopelessness remain intact. Daniel Bryntse and Henka are dynamic in the vocal department. One of them using a subdued, almost spoken voice to set up the other’s startling mid range. Bryntse’s voice echoes and invokes intense emotion with directness and throbbing baritone. Yet, he never becomes over the top. IN addition, their voices both compliment the already morose moods and melodies, bringing the songs to greater depths. The drumming is quite different than most doom bands. Jonas Lindström implements quick double bass at multiple points throughout the album. Such a quick tempo would seem out of place in most doom acts, but here it creates an added sense of ominous chaos, furthering Isole’s negative themes. The riffs are slow, plodding and melancholic, bringing to mind Messiah-era Candlemass in its prime. Yet at the same time, there is an earthy rapture to the music reminiscent of Cathedral.
This is a lush, surrounding album. Seven profound, evocative soundscapes embody it. Continuing their path as an unknown yet venerable doom act, Isole have released another slab of doom at its best. In my nearly three years of reviewing, I’ve never given a perfect score. Congratulations, Isole. You’ve changed that.
A -Adam Kohrman
What Horrors Await
Jungle Rot have been cranking out albums for 13 years now, with What Horrors Await being their sixth release to date. Despite the frequent releases, they've gone unnoticed to many. Will this new release bring them more exposure, or will they be stuck composting under the trees somewhere?
The disc opens strong, with both "Worst Case Scenario" and "The Unstopable" being capable slabs of groove laden and catchy death metal. After this, though, they start to lose me quickly - "Straitjacket Lie" seems like a lazily written song, with skads of boring breakdowns thrown in all too frequently. It seems like most of the other songs here are plagued by the same problem, aside from the shorter bits like "End of an Age" and "Nerve Gas Catastrophe". It seems almost like they ran out of ideas partway through the song and decided to just throw in breakdowns to bring it to full length. Boring is what it really brings the music to.
Overall, this is a lacking disc, and is average at best. Maybe they can pull these songs off better live, but on disc they just don't do anything for me.
I first saw Kylesa open for The Ocean at church in Boston last year and thought they had a unique stoner rock vibe to them. This disc is the first time I’ve heard them in the studio and I get a lot more of what they’re all about by listening to it. Total Melvins heavy at times and at others psychedelic rock comes to mind but it all has a stoner metal rock undertone. They have two drummers (Carl McGinely and Eric Hernandez) and that adds another level to their rhythmic approach and fills that part of their sound in quite nicely. It reminds me of what the Melvins do when they play with Big Business. Two vocalists who also double on guitar, keep it interesting with Phillip Cope being a screaming shout type of singing and Laura Pleasants a smoother type of sound that is indie sounding yet appropriate. Some analog synth sounds pepper the album and keep it from getting stale. Interesting songs that improve upon repeated listening I would recommend this to any one looking for something more than just your every day average stoner rock band.
B -Matt Smith
Gospel of the Wretched
Germany's Lay Down Rotten have been laying down the death metal for 10 years now, with this release being their fifth full-length release, their second for Metal Blade. Mixing and mastering by non other than Dan Swanö, who also provides guest vocals along with Martin van Drunen, and Marc Grewe (Grave), so the band have help from some big names this time around.
The title track kicks things off, and right away you can hear some of the influences from the guests. The sound is great, with a good bit of that Swedish feel to it, especially in the huge guitar sound. The song is mid-paced, with a slower doomy part in the middle where Martin van Drunen's unmistakable voice makes a guest appearance. After a nice guitar lead, a quick grinding blast beat brings us back to the main riff in the song. A whopper of an opener, for sure. "When All Becomes Nothing" is probably the standout track for me - mostly mid-paced with some kickass riffs and melodic guitar lines, along with some of the most brutal vocals found on the disc. Top it all off with a shredding guitar lead in the middle, and you have the recipe for a damn good song.
One thing you'll notice as you make your way through a few listens of this disc is that just about every song has a breakdown almost exactly halfway through the song - weather it be slow part, or a mosh part, or whatever, each song has it in the same spot. I realize that most songs (by any band) have these types of changes, but it just seems like they all come at the same exact point in the songs here. Nothing major, just something I thought I'd mention.
Production here is top notch, with a stellar guitar sound, strong drums, and the vocals are perfectly placed in the mix. Overall, this is a really good death metal disc, although the songs do all seem to have that "halftime break" I mentioned before. If brutal and heavy is what you are after, kick back with Lay Down Rotten and experience just that.
Oh Pantera. What have you created?
Thrash metal is healthier than it has been in 20 years right now. Bands like Fueled By Fire, Warbringer, and Evile are taking off where thrash left off around 1991. Sadly, there is another group of bands that find it necessary to obnoxiously downtune their guitars, belt out imbecilic lyrics, and portray themselves as Natty Ice swilling tough guys. Lazarus A.D. falls into the second group, the one that continues to give metalheads a bad name. Imagine an even worse version of Lamb of God coupled with a frat boy Phil Anselmo wannabe, and you’ve got these guys.
Lazarus A.D. epitomizes the modern groove metal mediocrity that has somehow permeated itself into the metal mainstream. The riffs never really go anywhere and often repeat the same note far too much. Even worse is the drumming, halfway through this album, you’ll find yourself predicting what the upcoming drum patterns will be. The songwriting really is that amateur. Nothing on this album is more irritating than the vocals. They are shouted in an over the top “tough guy” voice that is more angering than invigorating. Vocalist Dan Gapen is trying too hard; it’s as if he’s trying to prove that he can kick your ass. Frankly, it just sounds childish, as does this entire album.
I know this is the first album that Lazarus A.D. has made. But they need to erase what they’ve done and start all over if they want to have any chance of making it. I expect the core metal fan base to reject this album. Some kids will love it, but forget about them in two years. Older and more hardened metal fans will simply laugh at Lazarus A.D.
D -Adam Kohrman
A Bliss To Suffer
A Bliss To Suffer is the third release from Swedish black metal act The Legion. The band has been around in one form or another since 1996, so they are well traveled in the black metal scene. Lets have a listen and see how their somewhat atmospheric black metal stands up.
"Shining Redemption" opens things up with a blistering attack of blast beats, tremolo picked riffs, and is soon joined by pretty standard sounding vocals. All pretty basic so far. There is some addition of keyboards and somewhat clean singing in and around the chorus, which brings to mind Keep of Kalessin at times, and maybe Marduk in other places (no surprise on the latter as The Legion's drummer used to be in Marduk). A decent if unremarkable start. "A Toil Beneath The Skin" takes a slower attack at things, with a galloping rhythm that is sure to get crowds in a frenzy when they play it live. With the kickass catchy riff, the mild but very well places use of keyboards, and the great drumming on this track, I pick it as my favorite song on the disc. Sometimes a little change of pace makes all the difference, and in this case it helps the song to stand above all the others on this disc. "A Curse For The Dead" is another song where they change the speeds up a bit, and it works great - especially in the middle section, with the evil sounding chanted vocals.
Overall, A Bliss To Suffer is a decent disc, but leaves me wanting for more. Sure, there are a few really good songs here, but there are even more that are mediocre and pretty much uninteresting. I'd still love to see this band live, though - I am sure the songs would translate better live.
Tall Poppy Syndrome
Some bands come along, and upon a first listen, there is no reason to spin their disc ever again. Other bands immediately hit you with their simple, yet catchy songs. Finally, there’s a third set of bands that pique interests, but are impossible to digest upon one listen. Leprous are one of these bands. During progressive metal’s current doldrums, a band like Leprous is greatly needed to reinvigorate the genre. And, boy, are these guys progressive. Even better, they are not prone to showoff-ism like many other prog metal bands, such as say…Watchtower; yet at the same time, they do not sacrifice any sort of complexity in their music. In short, progressive metal has a new powerhouse. Welcome, Leprous.
Let’s talk about potential for a second, here. Drawing from an array of influences including Into Eternity (who really is a close soundalike), Evergrey, and even Tool, Leprous create an enigmatic, shining opus of progressive metal. Nevertheless, Tall Poppy Syndrome has some off-key vocals and some awkward sounding shouts. Still , it’s a candidate for the end of the year top 10. I have no doubt that such a clearly talented band, with a strong jazz background, will improve upon these tiny obstacles. Just imagine how great they’ll sound with these issues fixed. It makes the anticipation for their next album all the more nerve wracking. The sky is the limit, here!
The band is strongest in its infectious clean choruses. Mixing clean vocals and metalcorish shouts, they blend choruses and verses in the same vein as Into Eternity. However, they don’t fall into the irritating overly melodic trap that Into Eternity sometimes does. Leprous use both their metalcore influences and melodic passages tastefully, never gratuitously overdoing either. Moreover, isolating a structure or a theme for any song is a difficult task as they flow through so many different stages. Even with such variegated songs, the songs never become awkward or choppy; the transitions are seamless.
I declared progressive metal “dead” six months ago. Thank you, Leprous, for proving me wrong.
A- -Adam Kohrman
The Paris Concert
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Living Colour perform live, way back in 1991. It’s a show that remains firmly etched in my memory, one of the finest raw performances I’ve ever seen. My only regret was that I never had the chance to see them again. They remain, in my humble opinion, one of the most talented but under appreciated hard rock bands of the 1990s.
Having reemerged on the scene a few years ago, Living Colour continues to solidify its reputation as live act. The Paris Concert is a fine example, although as a Living Colour fan I would have preferred a less eclectic song selection. There are a surprising number of covers, particularly when there is only one that I would deem necessary. Their rendition of the Talking Head’s “Memories Can’t Wait” remains a classic cut for both bands. But including “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Crosstwown Traffic” seem a bit indulgent for a band that has such a powerful catalog all their own.
Still, for Living Colour fans The Paris Concert is a likeable and long-awaited live set.The standout tracks are not surprising: “Middle Man” and “Glamour Boys” anchor CD1, while “Go Away,” “Cult of Personality” and my personal favorite “Love Rears Up Its Ugly Head” round out CD2. Fans should check it out.
B -Dan McDermott
Wolves & Witches
Four years ago, just after the release of Once, Nightwish had reached the apex of metal stardom. Their female fronted approach to the style was new and fresh in the incredibly cluttered and diluted field of power metal. Then hundreds more bands jumped on that bandwagon, leaving the female fronted power metal scene just as diluted as the scene it revitalized. Magica were one of those bands, and they have suffered the inevitable (and arguably unfair) fate of being labeled a “Nightwish clone.” While calling Magica a Nightwish clone is indeed an unfair claim, there is still very little originality on display here. Magica’s sound on Wolves & Witches is starkly similar to the classic catchy, overtly cheery power metal style purveyed by fellow Finns Stratovarius and Sonata Arctica.
The album starts by pumping into the ridiculously gleeful and painfully catchy “Don’t Wanna Kill,” with a riff straight out of the book of Timo Tolkki. Then another song sounds the same, then another, and then another—and it doesn’t stop. Each song sounds exactly the same. Opening riff, verse with strong emphasis on vocals, bridge, overly catchy chorus, and a solo thrown into the mix somewhere: the classic Finnish power metal style. Some bands pull off this simplicity very well, but Magica comes across as stolid and pre-molded. It’s as if they wrote the songs with the intention of sounding like a Finnish power metal band. The music quickly becomes background for doing something else. Despite the standout tracks “Hurry Up Ravens” and “Just for Two Coins,” little can be done to save this album from drowning in its own mediocrity.
For those who can’t get enough of the Epica and After Forever style of power metal, then dig into this record. For those of you tired of the myriad of similar bands playing this style, then bring your ears elsewhere.
C -Adam Kohrman
Dawn Of Reprisal
Malefice have been classified by the Metal Archives as melodic Thrash/Death. I don’t know what this is, but it isn’t Thrash or Death Metal. That’s for sure. Just because a band calls themselves something doesn’t make them it. If someone points to a porcupine and says that it’s a tree, it’s still a damn porcupine. There’s bad death metal and bad thrash metal, but Malefice’s new album Dawn of Reprisal sinks somewhere below that. This is the lowest of extreme metal mixed together with some derivative –core influences.
The sounds that Malefice creates is that of a third rate opening act at a trendy metal show. The riffs are irritatingly downtuned into a slobby crunch. They move quickly and never really have direction. Even worse are the vocals. They consist of tough guy shouts and half rate death growls. Even worse, they match up terribly with the instrumentals. It’s as if the band didn’t pay any attention to the two parts together, but just randomly mashed up vocals on top of music. Before long, this album just becomes annoying. Listening to it is a chore, as there are very few parts that are even moderately enjoyable.
Even the trendy pseudo-thrash crowd should stay away from this one.
D -Adam Kohrman
Millenium At Low Tide
Milwaukee’s Masonry play a brand of mostly instrumental metal fused with progressive punk and indie influenced guitars. At times they sound like Shellac and others King Crimson but never predictable. This three-piece sometimes can be very mellow and beautiful then turn on you and crush you with some tasty metal riffs straight out of a Melvins song book. There are a few vocals in various places but they’re far and few between and are usually group chorus type of sing-a-longs. Also scattered throughout the disc are some samples that give some politically charged social commentary on various topics. Clocking in at just around 35 minutes this 17 track disc is a nice little jam to pop in when you need a breath of fresh air.
B- -Matt Smith
Crack The Skye
"...the album is about an "out of body experience," and looks at the concepts of astral travel, wormholes, Stephen Hawking's theories and the spiritual realm. The album follows a quadriplegic who learned to astrally project and on his journey he flew too close to the sun, burning his umbilical cord which connected him to his body and he flew into oblivion. At the same time in Czarist Russia Rasputin and his cult were channeling spirits and brought the quadriplegic to their time. He explains his situation and foretells the assassination of Rasputin. Inevitably Rasputin is assassinated and Rasputin guides him back to his body."
Crack the Skye is also meant as an homage to Drummer Brann Dailor's sister, Skye Dailor, who commited suicide at age 14.
Ok, it's safe to say the band put a lot of heart and effort into this album but does it show? My answer: Yes! Upon first listen I was a bit skeptical, thinking "man, what the fuck? this is so prog-y" And I'll honestly say I was a bit reluctant to give it a second listen, but they performed a few songs off the album in Atlanta when I saw them at Scion Rock Fest and they sounded so good. So, I gave it a second listen and the songs started to unravel for me. More and more elements came through with each listen and by the 5th time through I was telling everyone I know to listen to this.
Lets go through the breakdown... First off, the artwork is fucking phenomenal, Paul Romano is a mad man. Now the Music... I feel like everything they ever did and never did is on this album if you break it down. I don't mean that in a bad way, I'm saying they have evolved with these songs. I feel like oblivion starts the listener on a journey and you are taken up with some great progressive metal and rock in a steady flow all the way through the track "The Czar". This track is the turning point of the album to me... from here I feel you are thrown into a world of darkness. Tracks "Ghost of Karelia", "Crack the Skye" and "The Last Baron" have a darkness to them that sets them apart from the rest of the album to me. Scott Kelly of Neurosis makes a return and adds vocals to the title track "Crack the Skye"... and i have to say, this is my new favorite Mastodon song overall. I can honestly say even though slower than past key tracks like "March of the Fire Ants" or "Blood & Thunder" this song gives me similar goose bumps.
If anything else you can at least appreciate the talent of these individuals with Crack the Skye. It could be the best collection of songs they have ever made musically.
A -Eric Guntor
Adios... Puta Madres is a live disc showcasing performances from the bands final tour, the C U LaTour. There are two separate releases for this - a single CD audio release with 13-tracks, and a 2-DVD set with the live footage on one disc, and a 40-minute behind-the-scenes collection of band interview and backstage stuff.
The live CD consists entirely of newer material from the bands last three studio releases. I guess this is fitting, since their last live CD was in 2002 and showcased a good array of the bands earlier material. The sound is what you would expect from Ministry - precise, mechanical and almost sterile sounding. Crowd noise is kept to a minimum, and even then it is only used between songs. If you like latter stage Ministry, this will be a good bookend to your collection.
The live disc in the DVD set has many of the same songs as the live CD, but in a different order, and also includes some older Ministry tunes ("So What", "N.W.O", "Just One Fix", and one of my favorites - "Thieves") to help appease the long-time fans. If you are annoyed by rapid-fire edits and crazy strobe lighting annoyances, I'd advise skipping the first track on this disc. In fact, I almost gave up on this DVD during the first song as it was just too many quick cuts and annoying lighting for my taste. I like to be able to see what is on the screen long enough to determine what it is before it changes to something else. After the first song, the editing is thankfully a lot more tolerable. It is clear that the video was shot at a couple different venues - one being outdoors and has the band behind a chain-link barrier, and the other being indoors with no fence obstruction. The performance here from the band is energetic, with all the guys putting full effort into the entire set. The sound is much like the CD portion of the show - precise, clean, and slightly sterile sounding.
The second disc in the DVD set is an interesting look at some of the behind-the-scenes goings on from the tour, along with some decent interview with all the band members. It is good to hear what the guys have to say about the tour preparations, the conditions on the tour, and what not, as well as to see some of what happens before and after the shows on the tour bus and at the venues. For me, this is definitely just bonus material, as I don't think the replay factor on this documentary is very high at all.
Overall, both of these releases are worthy additions to your collection if you are a Ministry fan. If you haven't heard them before, the DVD set is probably a good launching point as well, as it covers a good range of the bands music from the beginning (well, sorta) to the end.
Poland’s Mothra play a low-end progressive type of metal that would easily fit on a bill with Gojira, as a matter of fact I would be surprised if they haven’t played with them at some point. Intricate riffs that don’t get too complex yet are challenging to the ear with nice plentiful heavy grooves are throughout the 7 track disc. Aggressive vocals are accented by tasteful clean vs. heavy riffs and intricate breakneck drumming.
The disc goes by so fast (clocking in at only 27 minutes) that it never has a chance to get boring or stale. Many of the songs blend into the next and before you know it the disc has ended and has left you wondering what you’ve been hit with. Fans of Gojira and any interesting progressive metal will find this disc a must.
B+ -Matt Smith
For Lies I Sire
My Dying Brides latest collection of music, For Lies I Sire, is 9 songs and an hours worth of depressive, gloomy, doom that usually crawls along at a pace that would make a snail look fast. This is what My Dying Bride does best, and that is what they do here, thankfully.
"My Body, A Funeral" is the opener, and right away we get to hear what makes this album good. Slothly slow pace, plodding drums, sustaining guitar riffs, violins and keyboards to add texture and layers, and of course Aaron Stainthorpe's mournful vocal style - they are all there to deliver the doom. "Fall With Me" picks up the pace a bit to begin, and has a really cool Maiden-esque dual guitar lead in the latter half of the song. The title track may be the doomiest song on here, never reaching anything more than a crawl, and Aaron's vocals once again bring the doom. Picking the "doomiest" song out of this collection, though, is really tough, as they all bring the doom pretty strong here.
The band throws a total curveball in towards the end of the disc. "A Chapter In Loathing" has an almost blackened doom feel to it, with some harsh raspy vocals and much more quickly paced guitar and drum work throughout. A bit out of their usual, but it fits in fairly well here. The epic closer "Death Triumphant" is a masterful combination of heavy riffing, melodic violin and guitar work, and numerous time and pace changes to keep things interesting.
If you've been a fan of My Dying Bride for a while, you know what they'll deliver these days. If you aren't, and want some truly depressive melodic doom, this is a great place to get it.
From Hell To Texas
Nashville Pussy have cranked out another slab of blues-drenched southern fried heavy rock that doesn’t break any new ground but feels so good you don’t care. Like AC/DC, NP doesn’t feel the need to experiment with new sounds or subject matter and instead go for what they know best, songs about drinking and driving, “Drunk Driving Man”, life on the road “From Hell To Texas”, and getting high, “I’m So High”. Some new subject matter like “Late Great USA” is nice commentary on the current state of America and keep the songs from all being too clichéd. As usual the playing is tight and the riffs and solos are tasty and apparently this album was recorded at Willie Nelson’s recording studio which just adds to the authenticity of their sound.
If you were a fan before this album you will be happy as a drunken pig in shit with this one, and if you’re looking to see what they’re all about this is good a place as any to start. Pass me the cooler and throw some more beef on the grill!
B -Matt Smith
Death To All
I hadn't heard much, if anything, from Necrophobic since their 1993 debut, The Nocturnal Silence. That is, until their latest release, Death To All, showed up in my mailbox to be reviewed. Thank you to Regain Records for bringing this band back to my attention after all these years - Necrophobic still has it, and it is still damn good.
We begin the 45-minute assault of technical blackened death metal with a "Celebration of the Goat". This is mostly a quick-paced song, with tons of kickass riffs running all over the place, superb drum work, and some really brutal vocals. This, though, is simply the start to the disc - there is plenty more to come. "Revelation 666" is next, and is my favorite song on the disc. Running with the same plethora of riffs as the opener, this one adds a kickass chorus that is just wanting to be screamed along to when they play live. Numerous time and mood changes highlight the song, with the galloping riff about 2-minutes in being one of the high points. The extended outro to the song, though is my favorite part, especially the harmonized guitar leads - everyone knows I am a sucker for those, and the one Necrophobic does here is a damn fine listen.
Also worth noting is the 3-part title track that closes the disc. It is as close to "epic" as the band has ever gotten, and features all sorts of different moods and atmospheres, as well as a ton of great guitar work. I could've easily chosen this as my favorite track, but I just like "Revelation 666" a bit better.
Necrophobic is still going strong after all these years, and this disc proves that point emphatically.
Washington DC's Nihilitia are a breath of fresh air in the metal world, combining math rock with space metal they forge a sound that can only be described as Jesus Lizard and Voivod getting high and jamming together. Sara Hussain's vocals are a cross between Helium's Mary Timony and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and her bass playing is solid and inventive. Chris Thomas's guitar playing is so deliciously reminiscent of Piggy that it makes me all warm and fuzzy to hear him lay some riffs on me. Drummer Brad Sheppard is the perfect fit to the riffs and the production is superb, as it should be having Joel Hamilton (Unsane, Made Out of Babies, Peeping Tom, A Storm of Light) at the helm.
I have to say Nihilitia is one of the freshest sounding bands I have loaded into my iTunes this year!
B+ -Matt Smith
Death Star Records
When friends give me CDs to review, I’m always worried. I’m just too nice of a guy to completely pan a buddy’s album. Even if it’s good, I’m worried that I’ll excessively praise the album. So when my good friend Reuben Annany slipped me the new EP Daylight Withers for his solo project Nocuous, I began my usual course of panic-stricken buddy reviewing. Thankfully, this is a damn good album, so I don’t have to worry about hurting Reuben’s feelings. If I laud this too much, so be it.
Going into this record, I was expecting straightforward black metal, maybe with a few folk influences. Upon spinning this album, a myriad of influences ranging from black, to thrash, to old school metal sprang from my speakers, all accentuated by Reuben’s venomous rasp. This album really is beyond classification. Even so, an overarching aura of second wave black metal runs through it. The cold themes of the genre seep through each of the songs, of which there are only three. The first song, “Forgotten Words” cascades from inspired Emperor-influenced to riff heavy death metal in seamless transition. Then the shorter, but nevertheless pummeling “Beneath the Blackened Sky” plays before the epic closer “Fate.”
These songs are similar, but one never expects variety on a three song EP. If the album went any longer, it might get boring and stale. Seeing where Mr. Annany takes Nocuous on a full length record is going to be interesting, as he’ll need to mix things up while retaining the cold ferocity of Daylight Withers. For now though, there is very little to complain about here. The next time I run into Reuben at a local show, I wont be blushing or hiding in the corner, because his album rules.
B+ -Adam Kohrman
Time Has Nothing To Do With It
One can not live on metal music alone. Right? Well, I guess that is what I listen to mostly now, but every once in a while I need a break from it. I frequently listen to Rush during these times (as they are still my favorite band), but every once in a while I'll get something from a band I'd never heard of before that I just flat out like the first time I hear it. No Go Know's soon to be released Time Has Nothing to do With It is one such release. This is the Portland, Oregon trio's third release, and the two-disc set combined poppy progressive rock with a bit of an aggressive edge, and even throws in some psychedelic spaciness at times.
Highlights on this disc are many, but "My Black Dog" grabs you right from the start with a throbbing bass groove and jangly guitar parts that hit a crescendo at the end with some crazy over the top guitar work. "Yours is a Small, Still Voice" has a bit of a Talking Heads vibe to it at times, and the middle half trips out into a spaced out bit for a while that I like a lot. "End of a Stay" is a mellow psychedelic trip from start to finish, and might be my favorite song on here - I can just put it on, crank it up and space out for 7-minutes if I need to. "Is It Getting Better?" throws even more out there at you, this time using a lap steel guitar (or at least something that sounds like it) that gives a bit of a country feel to the song - a really good and unexpected change there. "No, We Won't" probably goes as close to the metal side as this album gets, and that is just for a little segment in the middle when the song briefly builds up to a strongly distorted guitar part.
This album won't likely appeal to the majority of our readers, but if you have an open mind and want something that is simply good to listen to, and need a break from the brutal metal for a bit, this will fit the bill nicely.
Darkest Day is the latest from Floridian death metal mainstays Obituary. They've been going at it for 20+ years now, and they don't seem to be letting up anytime soon. In fact, their last album and this one have shown that they are getting stronger, as I felt they had slipped a bit in the later 90's, before they went on hiatus for a while.
C'mon, we all know what we're going to get from Obituary now - mid-paced, heavy riffing, pounding drums, and of course the unmistakable vocal style. They deliver all of that here on Darkest Day, and in droves. The great lead guitar work contributed by newest member Ralph Santolla is also still present, and provides the same technical wizardry as it did on Xecutioner's Return. This, to me, breathes a good bit of fresh air into the Obituary sound, and helps it immensely.
"This Life" is my favorite track on here - I am not sure if it is the Bolt Thrower like riff that is in there, or just the overall feel of the track, but this one gets me going. "Truth Be Told" comes a close second, with a Celtic Frost feel to much of the song that is great. Hey, maybe I don't really like Obituary, but I like the bands that influence them the most...whatever, this is a damn good and heavy disc that will be spinning for me for a while to come.
A year or so ago, having learned that Obscura featured former members of Necrophagist and Pestilence, I decided to check out the band's debut album, Retribution. While the musicianship was stellar, for whatever reason I found the songs themselves mostly forgettable. If a band doesn't have SONGS, I really don't care how well fast or technical they can play. But I made a mental note to check up on them in the future, thinking that they might get it together by their next release. That turned out to be one of the smart decisions I made last year.
Relapse picked up these guys and now we have Cosmogenesis. The songs are highly memorable, having now caught up with the members' technical talents, and the result is a real cracker of a tech-death album if ever there were one. Comparisons to Necrophagist will be inevitable but, Necrophagist being another shining example of this style done right, this is no complaint.
In very basic terms, what we have here is an album not that far stylistically removed from Necrophagist's Epitaph with its fantastic buffet of precise, jaw-droppingly technical death metal, but with more melody, dynamics, mood, and atmosphere. Jeroen Paul Thesseling's fluid fretless bass work, given almost-equal prominence in the mix alongside the other 2 guitarists, weaves into the songs masterfully and is a critical component in Obscura's successful chemistry on Cosmogenesis.
Guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer's vocals vary between a mid/high shriek and a more often employed guttural growl. And in a few spots scattered throughout we even hear clean (albeit processed w/vocoder, somewhat reminiscent of Cynic) vocals, but nothing infuriatingly sappy like Bullet For My Valentine, etc. It's appropriately varied to suit the songs.
Drummer Hannes Grossmann (ex-Necrophagist) is deadlier now than ever, painting rhythms with a broader palette than before. Totally impressive.
Production and mix are clinically precise, and each musician's performance is worth a dedicated listen for the length of the album. Absolutely superb.
Let me stress again that Cosmogenesis is not about senseless noodling (e.g. Beneath The Massacre), but great songs played by four world-class musicians. It is somewhat overwhelming on the first listen or two, but with each successive spin the greatness becomes more and more apparent. This will end up somewhere in my top 10 favorite releases for this year, for sure.
A -Mark Fields
Plague of the Planet
I love Portland, Maine. Not only does the city have great restaurants, beer bars, brewerys, and art galleries, but it is also home base to the mighty trio of Ogre. I first saw the band about 4 years ago at the second incarnation of the Sweet Leaf Festival (R.I.P.) in downtown Lowell. I was told to be sure to check them out, and was glad I did as they blew me away with their blend of 70's rock/heavy metal and more modern doom. Plague Of The Planet was originally released by Leaf Hound Records in early 2008, but since then it seems that the label has disappeared. Enter Shadow Kingdom Records, who swooped in and snapped up the disc for a re-release.
Plague Of The Planet is a concept album - a single 37-minute song divided into 11 parts, chronicling a future oil war in the style of a comic book (with some killer illustrations in the booklet, courtesy of the bands drummer). Musically, the band leans heavily on 70's rock, prog-rock, and heavy metal, while intertwining in a touch of more modern doom elements. With plenty of massive riffs (and I mean PLENTY - there is a truly endless collection on here), thunderous bass, pounding drums, oodles of organ and synths, and a shitload of screaming guitar solos (especially the reverb and echo laden one at the end of the disc) - this disc will deliver more musical entertainment than many bands do throughout their entire catalogue. I'd pick a favorite track, but there is only one, so just listen to the whole damn thing - then hit play again and listen some more, it is intoxicating.
If you want to hear some truly good music, head to Ogre's myspace and check them out. If you like what you hear (and you should), then buy this disc. If you get the chance to see them live, then clear the schedule and go see them - they are great on disc, but that much more entertaining to see live.
Orcustus is a black metal band from Norway who have been around since 2002. The music here was written between then and 2007, and recorded during 2007 and 2008, while it finally saw a release in 2009 via Southern Lord records. Pure, grimy, raw black metal is pretty much what to expect here, and that is what you'll get.
From the opening to "Coil", to the last tortured strains of "Asphyxiokenisis", there is a never ending array of blast beats, wirey, tremolo picked riffs, venomous raspy vocals, and thunderous bass attacking all of your senses in unison. There are also plenty of somewhat catchy, more melodic riffs in there as well, which is always a plus as it makes for a more enjoyable listen for me. The best track here is "Jesus Christ Patricide". With a vicious opening that will ravage your eardrums into surrendering, the song then slows a bit with a mid-song breakdown of the utterly amazing variety. The riff here is sure to have everyones head bobbing along with it. Freakin' brutally good is all I have to say about that.
Fans of old school style black metal need to have this disc in their collection. This is how it should be done, but guys who know how to do it. It is all out, eardrum shearing madness from start to finish, with no filler to be found.
The Barnical Chrodius
Who would have thought that metal like this would come from Omaha Nebraska, but here it is and it's some pretty intense shit. Tight, intricate, songs flow one from another in a blinding rate. Not much is known about this band other than they started in 2001 and they have one other release entitled Misanthrope.
Not to be confused with Pariah of the 80's, this band is creating music that few can be compared to other than Mastodon or Dillinger's Escape Plan. This is a great album and if it's any indication of what this band is capable of, there's no stopping them.
If you like interesting metal that challenges your mind, then Paria is for you. This is a must listen to if you care about your ears at all. I can't say enough about these guys other than awesome awesome awesome! Buy it!
Shade In The Light
During my vast tape trading days in the late 80’s/ early 90’s, I had the good fortune to hook up with a number of Greek fanzine editors. As a result I learned more about the epic/ traditional metal scene, while also discovering a local scene flooded with talent in the power/ progressive metal realm. Larger acts like Dream Theater and Fates Warning draw huge crowds in this country, the latter even recording a live DVD in Athens on their last tour of duty. So should it surprise me that worldwide record labels are now taking a decent interest in progressive metal from Greece in 2009?
Persona Non Grata (one of the favorite sayings of my high school librarian, I must add) formed in 2003, fleshing out their lineup a few years later as a quintet. Shade In The Light contains 10 songs of melodic progressive metal, a style that incorporates strong hooks, subtle use of instrumental dexterity and a bigger emphasis on songwriting over sheer bombast. Tracks like “Collision Course” and “Personal Gratitude” blend together the early rhythmic mastery of Zonder-era Fates Warning along with the unique sonic exploration of Germany’s Poverty’s No Crime or latter day Ian Perry led Elegy.
Vocalist Bill Axiotis possesses a wide range of lows, mids and
highs- seeming most comfortable in the middle to middle-high soaring range.
He’s not Ray Alder, but he’s worked hard to enunciate and understand the English language without tripping over it in a heavily accented manner.
Keyboardist John Ioannidis often paints chords and piano parts fit for the best AOR albums in the business- his work within “Dual Unity” for instance a great marriage of early Night Ranger and Journey.
Shade In The Light doesn’t astound from the first strike- it’s one of those grower records that gains a better understanding weeks or months down the road. I’d hedge betting that Persona Non Grata will gain a lot of favor with the ProgPower audience across the board- and this is worth your time if you like any semblance of progressive metal.
B+ -Matt Coe
Power of the Damn MiXXXer
As with most (if not all) of the Thirteenth Planet releases, the latest Prong disc gets the remix treatment from a wide variety of mixologists. The outcome is Power Of The Damn MiXXXer, containing versions of all 12 songs from Power Of The Damager (with 2 versions of "The Banishment").
Since I'm not familiar with all of the mixers on this disc, I don't know what their signature sounds are. The ones I am familiar with, though, are fairly easy to pick out. The opening track, "Worst Of It (Worst of the Worst Mix)" is done by Jon Clayden of Pitchshifter, and if you are a fan of his band, it is pretty easy to peg this as his work. The remainder of the disc is a combination of beats, samples, and reworkings of what was a great album. The base songs are still there for the most part, but the power is often lost with all the mish-mash that is thrown in with it.
I guess some of it works, but I would much rather listen to the original versions of these songs instead of these watered down, drum and bass laden versions contained here.
Homage To Martyrs
UK black/thrashers Razor Of Occam shred forth with their debut full-length release, Homage To Martyrs, courtesy of Metal Blade. While it is the bands debut, the band members have plenty of other releases under their belts with their other projects - including Adorior, Axis of Evil, and Deströyer 666 to name just a few.
"Altar Of Corruption" starts things of with plenty of ferocity. A massive thrashing riff, pounding drums, and superb black metal style vocals blend perfectly into a heavy attack of brutality. A blistering guitar lead sneaks in for a bit, with some nice blast beats backing it up. This song is just loaded with stellar riffs, superb drumming, and guitar leads - setting the stage perfectly for the remaining 30-minutes or so of ear shredding madness. If the opening riff to "Day Of Wrath" doesn't get you to bang your head along with it, then pretty much nothing will. In fact, this entire disc is just jam packed with music that will force you to want to headbang along with it. The riff are well written, and perfectly strung together. There are plenty of guitar solos, but they never run on too long as to be boring. The drumwork here is just outstanding as well, ranging from mid-paced double-bass attacks to all out blast beats. The vocals are downright evil sounding - check out the middle part of "Heat Of Battle" for proof on that. There really isn't a bad moment on this disc.
I've been listening to this disc quite a bit since I got it, and I don't see it going out of my rotation for a while. It is the perfect blend of black metal and thrash, and just plain old fucking good. My only complaint is that it only runs a bit over a half hour in length. Something that is this good should go on for longer, if you ask me. I guess that is what the repeat button is for, though.
Dead Throne Monarch
Arctic Music Group
Hailing from Bilboa, Spain, Rhino hits you like a ten ton sledgehammer right from the get go with a perfect blend of low-end, sludge that is reminiscent of Eyehategod, Crowbar, and even early Helmet. But they are definitely no one-trick pony, er, rather, Rhino. In addition to the complete heaviness onslaught and brutality they deliver, they also show us a side most bands of their genre never show. For instance, on the epic 15 minute track, “Funebre”, we have a slow doom beginning to the song and when the vocals start, lead vocalist/guitarist Javier Galvez, breaks into what I can only describe as a sweet Chris Cornell impression, from the Louder Than Love days. This track is what really made me realize these guys aren’t out to just be the most brutal and heavy band out there, they really are into creating a mood that will transcend music barriers. The track eventually picks the tempo up a bit and comes back to a total doom riff with more soulful vocals. This song alone is worth the purchase price of the CD. “Wendigo” also is a nice mellow acoustic song that is almost reminiscent of Alice in Chains and the last rack brings us back to the brutal onslaught of the earlier songs. Definitely a band I would love to see live because this disc is a great representation of what a true metal band should be, heavy yet not afraid to try something a bit different.
B+ -Matt Smith
Awakening of the Gods
Seance last released an album way back in 1993. Since then, Patrick Jensen (one of their main songwriters) left the band, and then the band went on hiatus for 10 years. Since reforming in 2008 they signed to Pulverised records to release their new disc, Awakening of the Gods. I was a big fan of their debut, Fornever Laid to Rest, and thought that the follow-up, Saltrubbed Eyes, was decent. We'll see how the 15-years since that release have treated the band.
No real surprises here, as what Seance delivers is old school, Swedish death metal. Almost from beginning to end, you are dealt blow to the head after blow to the head of powerful riffs and growling vocals. I say almost because there are two brief instrumental tracks thrown in here that just don't fit it all. In these digital days, though, it is easy enough to skip those tracks completely, and I suggest you do. The remaining 30+ minutes of brutal melodic death metal are worthy of a good listen, if totally unoriginal and slightly uninspired. "Forever Haunted" is the standout track for me, some killer vocals and great guitar work that overshadow the rest of the disc.
Overall, this is a decent effort, but is lacking anything that would make it a standout disc.
Keyboardist Derek Sherinian builds upon his fine virtuoso reputation with this latest solo outing Molecular Heinosity. Probably best known for his stint in Dream Theater, he’s also gained a chance to play around diverse acts such as Billy Idol, Alice Cooper, Kiss and Yngwie Malmsteen. Hand picking this latest lineup, you’ll get the chance to hear fretless bassist Tony Franklin, octopus drummer Virgil Donati and blazing guitarist extraordinaire Zakk Wylde among the many incorporating these 8 instrumentals and final closing vocal number (the straight forward “So Far Gone” with Zakk handling the singing duties).
Derek’s playing has a warm, full tone, often mirroring what the neo-classical guitar hero breed have put out over the past 3 decades. He’s not afraid to lay back in certain moments and let other musicians have the spotlight as evidenced in Rusty Cooley’s fleet of finger escapades within the rhythmic groove swinging “Frozen By Fire”. Meanwhile the slower, emotive capabilities shine on “The Lone Spaniard”, a track that doesn’t stray far from the Gary Moore meets mid-80’s Shrapnel Records legions. The opening song “Antarctica” could unthaw that climate in a hurry, especially with the 2:34-2:53 dizzying math maze riff that sweeps up and down in escalator mannerisms (the patterns changing from 3’s to 4’s to 5’s and 6’s within a four bar measure) and the title track could double for a cyber science fiction battle against the best of Meshuggah.
Complaints may surface regarding the vinyl-like 39 minutes and change play back which seems contrite in today’s modern market. Trust me though, Derek doesn’t skimp out on the playing or full on energy that “Molecular Heinosity” contains- you’ll hear a fresh lick or tongue wagging riff at least ten times with every individual pass.
If you enjoy instrumental progressive metal, Derek Sherinian delivers every time.
A -Matt Coe
Cruz del Sur
In a world inundated with conformity and calculation, the search for true flag waving individuality remains a needle in the haystack outlook in the music industry. Since my first encounter with San Francisco’s Slough Feg back at 2001’s inaugural Classic Metal Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan, they’ve shortened their moniker (no more The Lord Weird) and tried their best to apply their do it yourself work philosophy into a series of US and European tours. Oh and they continue to release the best Celtic Folk meets guitar harmonic traditional metal with a decidedly 70’s slant I’ve heard in my lifetime.
The 10 minute plus title track for instance opens with a “Black Betty”/ Ram Jam boogie riff while new drummer Harry Cantwell takes the galloping tempo to Brian Downey speed fill proportions- but by the instrumental center the three pronged string attack of bassist Adrian Maestas and vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi and fellow axe wielder Angelo Tringali engage in the harmonic chase of the century- Steve Harris and Phil Lynott would be so proud of this monster. Why can’t Iron Maiden exploit this in their current incarnation perplexes me- but Slough Feg keep the “Phantom of the Opera” spider web lines through the 7:45-9:38 portion that summon the horns, a passage worthy of the hall of fame. The other 7 tracks clock in at a tight 28 minutes, illustrating the light fuse and get away approach to Slough Feg’s style. “Simian Manifesto” harkens back to the Southern Rock live jams, a dueling cage match between Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blackfoot and The Outlaws while Scalzi sings as a storytelling chameleon, evoking the best of Moog, Lynott and Ian Anderson. “Shakedown at the Six” tugs at the cultural rhythmic sensibilities, one of the better speed efforts for Slough Feg with continuous ‘can you top this’ soloing and matching drum parts. “White Cousin” appears like a fairy tale set to metal, the acoustics offering up a change of pace against the twin riff/ solo mirror action in the instrumental sections.
I had to pull out 2007’s Hardworlder to see how that stood up against Ape Rising! - and I think Slough Feg wanted to prove to any doubters that they can pick up the pace, dive bomb with those Irish/ Celtic thematic elements and still leave you with a smile on your face and your jaw firmly dropping to the floor.
Slough Feg : take a bow, keep flying American metal high, as Cruz del Sur Music continues to be the best European metal label in terms of roster and outlook for the future.
A+ -Matt Coe
Gods Of Vermin
When given the chance to showcase your talent in an upper echelon dark power metal act such as Kamelot, it’s little surprise that to spread his creative wings keyboardist Oliver Palotai assembled a group of musicians to play his own sophisticated brand of symphonic progressive metal. Sons Of Seasons contains a powerhouse singer in Henning Basse, who many of you already know through his work with Metalium as well as drummer Daniel Schild from Blaze, bassist Jurgen Steinmetz and latest guitarist Pepe Pierez. The added female flavor in the co-vocal enhancement comes in with Simone Simons of Epica fame, who brings in her beautiful melodies and keeps the theatrical nature of the arrangements on high.
Gods Of Vermin takes into account the furious dramatic nature of Palotai’s work with Blaze and Kamelot but adds in more of a progressive and symphonic element in terms of the riffing and arrangements. The quieter passages of “Belial’s Tower” for instance give Basse a chance to flex his lower range muscles while Palotai fills in with straight piano and larger classically based orchestral parts- contrasting the pile-driving precision double bass and axe attack that propels this 6:21 track. “Fall of Byzanz” thematically comes from an 80’s new wave meets Middle Eastern motif, at times reminding me of latter day Therion especially with the diverse multi-tracked vocal melodies. There are even times when I felt the band were reaching into extreme metal directions through the throat lacerating screams that end verses within the title track or the sinister nature of “Dead Man’s Shadows” where Oliver cuts through with copious note bending slice a la the best classical composers of ancient times.
Do I feel that Sons of Seasons create the most breathtaking, innovative style of power progressive metal on the planet? Not really- but I can’t discount their ability to develop songs of a freeing attitude without many boundaries. This album will hit my every other week play list, and may be a grower as the months go on.
B- -Matt Coe
The next time I get a disc that says "Starring Janet Leigh" on it to review, I sure hope it is a DVD of the movie Psycho, and not a garbled piece of crap collection of "music" like this is. Welcome to my trash can.
Buffalo, New York's Stemm have been branded by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) as their soundtrack artists matching aggressive music to their aggressive sport. Stemm's style of metal can be compared to the radio-polished likeness of Disturbed, Papa Roach, or Godsmack.
Opening track "Blood Soaked" was deceiving. I liked the catchy, heavy riffs and thrashing double-bass percussion accompanied with harsh vocals. This first song reminded me of Devil Driver's style and I was looking forward to the rest of the album. Then immediately on the second track, “House of Cards”, the Halloween mask comes off and you see their true style. Commercial radio mediocrity. This persists for the remainder of the album. “Wish” sounded like a blatant rip off of Nine Inch Nails.
The guitar solos are what stood out the most on Blood Scent which I noticed first on “One King Down”. Alex Scouten's style is more than I expected. There's also a hidden track at the end that reminded me of Seattle post-grunge, hard rock and sounded much like Stained. This was where I recognized Joe Cafarella's vocals are above average.
Though Stemm has found and mastered the formula for commercial radio success, will that be enough to stand apart from the crapload of bands doing the same thing? They have a sound catchy enough for the masses to get used to (especially if commercial radio shoves it down their throat repeatedly), but I wanted to hear the heavy aggression in “Blood Soaked” consistently in the remainder of the album and didn't get that.
And We Wept The Black Ocean Within
Slow, drifting landscapes with melodic drone-like metal riffs and not quite smooth yet not completely harsh vocals. Ambient sound effects blend these songs into one another and accent them nicely in certain areas. I like the flow of the songs as they unfold and take your mind on a time vanishing journey of sea-filled tales with themes like “Black Oceans” and “Albatross”. “Mass” starts off very mellow and trance-inducing and with it’s slow pounding drums and drone-like synthesizers and picks up to a heavier sound with some interesting spoken word effect-filled vocals and scream filled lyrics.
“Descent” blends into the epic 10-minute disc closer “Iron Heart” with a very trance-inducing vibe that will make you feel like you’ve been hypnotized. All of this is wrapped up by a three-minute long sounds of an old ship at sea that is entirely appropriate after this hour-long journey. Soothing at times and utterly punishing at others, this disc will capture the experimental fans AND metal fans alike.
B+ -Matt Smith
Norwegian melodic thrashers Susperia return with their fifth release, Attitude - their first since signing with Candlelight Records. The release of this disc comes shortly after vocalist Athera was rushed to the hospital with a heart condition back in March. Here's to hoping he recovers quickly so the band can get on with promoting this disc.
The thirty plus minutes of music contained here will treat you to a combination of melodic thrash metal, with some slightly groovier elements thrown in. The blackened elements of the bands earlier days are pretty well gone now, which may turn off some earlier fans. Opener "The Urge" sounds as if Testament hired a metalcore guitarist to lay down the main grooving riff. In fact, the band definitely shows some major Testament influences throughout this disc, especially in the vocal department (and yes, Chuck Billy makes an appearance here as well). There seems to be too much of the same sound on every song here, without enough to differentiate any one song from the other.
Susperia stepped out a bit with their previous offering, Cut From Stone. I wasn't a huge fan of that disc, and I am not much of a fan of this one either. I am sure some out there are, but it just doesn't do it for me.
Tankard has been making thrash metal about beer for over 25 years now. Since beer and metal are two of my favorite things, it is just common sense that I've always enjoyed listening to Tankard. I'm gonna crack open a nice brew (Mayflower Brewing's excellent IPA, if you care to know) and check out the 10 new tracks that encompass the bands latest offering, Thirst.
If you've heard Tankard before, you know pretty much what you are going to get - vicious German thrash songs about drinking. While that is exactly what you get here, the band does venture out a bit in the lyrical department here. The opening track, "Octane Warriors" is one such song. Taking place in 2060, the oil reserves are gone, the world is at war, and the band even makes some political statements in this song. "G.A.L.O.W." is about ancient Greece, and "When Daddy Comes to Play" seems to be a song written from the point of view of an abused child.
Of course, there are also songs about drinking on this disc, with "Stay Thirsty!" being the most catchy of the tracks on this disc. The chorus just screams to be chanted along to:
"Stay thirsty! Stay thirsty!
That's what life's all about
No fighting, no burning
We drinkers hang around
Stay thirsty! Stay thirsty!
Let the beer flow - Stay thirsty!
Liquid nation - Stay thirsty!"
I think you can get the point of what the song is about from just that right there. If you want a good laugh, check out "Myevilfart", a song which described the "beer fart" and it's end results quite well.
Tankard's thirteenth (!) release delivers with a pitcher full of great riffs that you've come to expect from the band, as well as a liter of surprises with the different lyrical territory then their standard. Grab yourself a mug full of suds and give this a listen.
Sweden's Tribulation make their debut with The Horror, thanks to Pulverised Records. Featuring eight songs (and a brief intro) and just over a half-hour of music, The Horror is a fairly quick listen full of thrashing, blackened death metal.
The opener (and best track) "Crypt of Thanatophilia" simply slays from beginning to end. Stinging riffs come and go, temp changes happen instantaneously, the drums are fierce throughout, and the vocals deliver the evilness perfectly. Check out the immense section of blast beat, death grunt, kickass riff and incredible solo that starts just before a minute into the song. It is pretty much unrelenting for the rest of the song. A perfect way to start the disc. "Beyond The Horror" has many similar traits as the opening song, but also has a bit of a slower/quieter part towards the end. "Spawn of the Jackal" changes things up just a bit, with a slow intro, and more of a galloping pace to the main riff (versus the breakneck pace used elsewhere on the disc).
Production here is great. It features an old-school Swedish guitar tone that sounds almost like a chainsaw ready to eviscerate you. While overall it is an enjoyable listen, the songs tend to blend together and at time can be indistinguishable from one another.
The Great Depression
UK technical death metal troup Trigger The Bloodshed bow forth with their second release, The Great Depression. I found their debut release to be shrouded in mediocrity, so hopefully they've stepped things up a bit for this one.
The title track kicks things off in good form, with tons of technical guitar licks, super fast drums, and brutal dual tracked vocals. There isn't a whole lot of catchy riffing going on here, as the guitars are mostly going off on crazy technical licks all the time. The band does slow it down a bit towards the end of "The Scourging Impurity", which is a welcome (and much needed) change of pace. Unfortunately, they don't change the pace up often enough, which leads to a lot of samey sounding songs, and an overall unsatisfying listen. The disc does get better towards the end, though, with the two best songs ("Dessicate Earth" and "The Infliction Of Tophet") being in the latter half of the running order.
This disc is a small step up from Trigger The Bloodshed's debut, but it is still steeped in mediocrity. They do show some promise in the last half of the disc, so hopefully they'll go a bit more in that direction for their next release.
In The Light Of Darkness
Sweden's Unanimated is back. After releasing two discs in the early-mid 90's, the band split up. Much like fellow countrymen Seance, they recently reformed, and now have a new disc, In The Light Of Darkness, out on Regain records. They still do melodic death metal - but not the pansy stuff (like In Flames, for example) - Unanimated's style of melodic blackened death is more akin to Dissection.
Opening with the instrumental "Ascend With The Stench Of Death", the disc starts off rather slow and melodic, then fades into the brutality that is "Retribution In Blood". While still retaining all of the melodic touches, the heaviness of the main riff, combined with the blood-curdling vocals bring out the brutality of Unanimated quite a bit. "In The Light Of Darkness" is my pick for best track here. From the slow, heavy opening, to the melodic bits that follow, onto the great chorus, this song is just damn good all the way through.
The production here is slick and clean, but the mix is a bit weak in my mind. The drums are a bit overpowering, and the intense guitar work is often buried behind them. Other than that minor quibble, this is a great disc and should re-kindle interest for former fans of the band, as well as fans of Dissection style melodic black/death metal.
New Life Behind Closed Eyes
Syracuse based Unholy (not to be confused with the old Swedish death metal band, or the Finnish doom band of the same name), hammer your skull with their metal-ish hardcore (although decidedly not metalcore, as these guys don't suck) on their Prosthetic Records debut, New Life Behind Closed Eyes. Featuring 10 songs, and a bit over 35 minutes of crushing hardcore with metal element, the band throws down the power from beginning to end, with no letting up for a break at all. Now, why did I say these guys are decidedly not metalcore? Well, they don't have all the lameness associated with metalcore - the incessant breakdowns (yes, they are here, but not constant, and they do them right unlike many metalcore bands), and no cheesy clean vocals or screamo crap to litter the soundwaves here.
"Seeker Immortal" starts off very nicely, with a thrashy riff that belies (at least partially) what is about to come from the rest of the disc. The powerful vocals kick in, and the music gets a little bit more hardcore oriented at this point, but there is still more than enough metal to kick your ass - including some killer guitar leads. That is actually a constant theme here - lots of metal riffs mixed with well done hardcore breakdowns, and tons of screaming guitar leads that sometimes pop out at you during a part of the song you wouldn't expect. "These Wounds Never Heal" reminds me a lot of Overcast, from the riffs to the vocals - this isn't a bad thing, as I think Overcast is a great band. "Behind The Veil Of Darkness" is a powerhouse song that packs an immensely heavy first half that concludes with a good little breakdown, then it transitions perfectly into a great little guitar lead. It is these little seem less transitions that make this music stand out in my mind.
The production here is quite good - the guitar tone is great for this style, the drums sound decent, and the vocals come across super powerful. The musicianship here is tops for a band in this genre - the guitar work is especially good all around, and especially with the guitar leads. If you like your hardcore with a bit of a metal edge, or your metal with a bit of a hardcore edge, you should like this disc by Unholy - just don't expect your standard metalcore by numbers, as this is FAR removed from that.
Ad Luciferi Regnum
Ad Luciferi Regnum is Vanmakt's second disc on Pulverised Records. Coming to us from the metal hotbed that is Sweden, they deliver a frantically paced black metal for just about 50-minutes on this release.
Blast off begins with "The Second Key", and right from the start, we get unending blast beats, rapid-fire riffing (with some killer melodic parts), and raspy vocals that all kinda jumble together to create a somewhat decent sound. Second song brings more of the same...and this is where the album starts to falter for me. There really is only one speed here, and that is all out blasting. While I love blast beats (probably more than most), there can easily be too many of them. Yes, there are short parts where the pace slows down here, and those are the high spots on the disc. All too often, though, the speed is flat out and the songs just blur together indecipherably as one.
I am sure this will please fans of brutal and fast black metal, but I found it to be a bit of a tedious listen.
Wolves in the Throne Room are back with their third full-length offering of atmospheric socially conscious Black Metal. The Weaver brothers, Aaron and Nathan, have created an album that transcends time and mind set, taking the listener on a journey through fog-filled seas and cascading forests that all hearken back to their connection with Mother Earth. Essentially they are Black Metal hippies, but to label them as such is doing them a great disservice, so I will call them environmentally and spiritually aware Black Metal folks. Honestly, when I first put this disc in my car CD player I literally didn't take it out for a week or so. It's the type of music that I find comfort in, even though on it's surface it may sound like another Black Metal band, they are so much deeper than that (for even more evidence of this see my interview with Aaron this issue).
All that being said, Black Cascade is truly a masterpiece in the metal world, and if you're patient and wiling like myself to sit through 10 and 15 minute long songs then you will be rewarded. For instance, on "Ahrimanic Trace" there is a nice mellow break in the song with some echo-filled drums that lets you space out for a bit. The same thing goes for "Ex Cathedra", about half-way through the song there's a nice mellow ambient section that simulates the feeling of flying (in my opinion) and gives the listener a nice breather for a minute or two before coming back to the heaviness. "Crystal Ammunition" ends the disc with a 14 minute Black Metal fury that covers all tempo changes and has a nice acoustic section in the middle that shows their affinity for folk music.
Randall Dunn was the knob twiddler for this album, but this time he used a two-inch tape recorder that adds to the vibe, giving it an analog warmth you don't hear enough in today's modern music. If you were a fan of WITTR before, this will no doubt tickle you black, if you haven't heard them before, this is a perfect place to start, because they have really come into their own with Black Cascade.
A -Matt Smith
Voice Of Saturn
When I first heard Zoroaster's first full-length album, Dog Magic, I thought THIS is what Psychedelic Doom is all about, and quickly declared it one of my Top 10 favorite metal releases in the last 5 years. With Voice of Saturn, Zoroaster bring their sound to new heights and then some. After a minute long noise intro they kick right into "Seeing The Dark" with a groove-laden doom riff that rocks out for about two and a half minutes before it descends into a nice piano section for a minute or two and then comes back in a psychedelic anthemic melody that makes the heavy part that much heavier when it kicks back in. As if that wasn't enough to sell me, the next song "Spirit Molecule", creeps in with a totally heavy sludge riff enough to make the windows in my car rattle when I crank it. Traditional in every Zoroaster way, this epic thirteen minute song is by far the albums centerpiece as it encompasses everything they have and will stand for, total heaviness as only they can deliver. Plodding and driving, accented with some gritty spacey moog effects this is truly what makes those mushrooms or hit of acid you took worthwhile.
"Undying" breaks the psychedelia with another stoner groove-filled doom riff that picks the album back up in a sinister theme that would scare the unsuspecting victim not ready for it's unholy venom. Back-masked guitars only add to the already psychotic vibes and they break into an almost Black Metal speed before going back into the slower riff with Will Fiore rocking some serious fucking killer licks! "White Dwarf" starts off sounding like a dying space bird before it blends into an experimental industrial influenced instrumental that will bring your high even higher if you're in the right state of mind, and if you aren't, it will soon bring you there.
"Voice of Saturn" brings the heavy hand of doom back into sight for an eight-minute doom romp with more sick bass lines from Brent Anderson's fuzzed out moog pedaled sound and a nice drone-like guitar solo with the chant-screams of "Chaos" echoing through the end of the track. "Lamen Of The Master Therion" ends the album with more melodic piano we heard at the beginning of the album with some swirling tornado like effects before ending almost abruptly. But wait, after a four minute break a drum solo breaks that showcases Dan Scanlan's rhythmic prowess as more sound effects provided by moog-powered machines even out the drum beat patterns.
This is a definite contender for my Top Three favorite albums of 2009 list!
A -Matt Smith