June 2010 ~ October 2010
The Id Will Overcome
Black Market Activities
Borrowing heavily from EYEHATEGOD, The Abominable Iron Sloth hit you in the face like a sack full of shrapnel and lead. I’m not saying TAIS is an EHG rip-off, but they seriously get a lot of pointers from the book of Dopesick, and it’s definitely a GOOD thing!
“Big Iron Door” has some nice female vocals that add a nice accent in the middle of the album and “Heterodox Nonconformists” is an epic (twelve minute) exercise in low rumbling noise that could be a jet engine or a factory machine filtered through an Orange amp which transforms into an ambient section about half way through. “The Timely Death of Billy Mays” cranks the heaviness for a short track that is a great send off to a punishing album.
For fans of EYEHATEGOD I would highly recommend this album.
B -Matt Smith
Chicopee, Massachusetts must be a bustling little city. This is my assumption based on it being the birthplace of The Acacia Strain. I find myself struggling to find something positive to say about their latest release Wormwood but there comes a point when you just give up.
I can only deduce that there must be a lot of fun things to do in Chicopee, because it seems like there was little effort put into this album. However, I can positively say that The Acacia Strain are certainly not posers, are very very heavy and angry, and will never conform to the mainstream deathcore (a genre they are often lumped
into) formula with it's happy clean vocals and melodic tendencies.
There's absolutely nothing happy or uplifting about The Acacia Strain.
Trudge metal. Is that a genre? Well if it wasn't, it is now. Similar to sludge but heavier and much less progressive. Basically all flat, heavy chugging with Barnes-esque growling through most of it. Slow, grumbling monotonousness. Let's see how many run-on, boring sentences I can cram into this review to make it parallel the album as closely as possible.
I really couldn't tell one song from the next with the single exception of “The Unabomber” which had the only catchy, intelligent riff on the entire album, thus making it the single favorite track. Another distinguishing trait was the closer, and absolute worst song [probably that I've ever heard], “Tactical Nuke” for it's extremely drawn-out, sludgy, doomish ending. Horribly repetitive slop, like playing the same distorted chord over and over and over again for nearly every single minute of the five and a half minute, anger- and disgust-inducing song.
If that was supposed to be 'progressive', then I fear for the future.
Similarly, this uninspired song corresponds to how the lyrics of Wormwood were sometimes crude, and mainly terribly unimaginative.
They only other thing that stood out was “Bay of Pigs.” If they were trying to be the most unappealing noise in metal, they sure broke the mold with “Bay of Pigs.” There was some kind of grating squealing that overlaid the end of this song that didn't even sound like a real pig, more like a loose imitation through human vocals chords that isn't too far off from the grating, croaky, hoarse vocals throughout the album anyway.
Jamey Jasta (Hatebreed) is a featured guest vocalist on “The Beast” along with Bruce Lepage (100 Demons) and Kyle Chard (Born Low) helping out on “Nightman” and “Jonestown” respectively. Though I couldn't even tell the difference between those three tracks, let alone any difference in vocals to hint that there even are guest vocalists. Maybe that was my own fault for not paying close enough attention, but Wormwood is definitely not an easy album to pay attention to. I tried, I really did.
The only time I would ever want to put this album in, would be if I'm extremely pissed off at work and wanted to (at the expense of probably ruining my credible taste) piss off everyone else around me. But you won't find me singing, or should I say grumbling along. Other than that, Wormwood only makes me want to snore and maybe drool a little on my pillow. I'm sure The Acacia Strain are happy about that fact (if they could ever be happy about anything for once) because they state in the album “I wouldn't mind if you never woke up again.” Maybe this is their attempt at putting a sleep spell on all of us. Listen with caution, try not to be standing, and have a pillow nearby because the effort will be exhausting.
Path Of Fire
Swedish quartet Aeon are back with their third release, Path of Fire, out on Metal Blade records. While the band has been going at it for 11 years now, they seem to take their time releasing records - with their last one coming 3 years ago. Technical, brutal death metal is what they deliver, and they do it quite well - a good combination of Swedish and American sounds that should please a wide variety of metalheads.
Right of the bat, with "Forgiveness Denied", you will get a good idea of what Aeon will deliver in the coming 11 track and 40+ minutes of music. The riffs are tight and heavy, the guitar leads rip out with some of the best in the genre, and the dual tracked vocals of Tommy Dahlström are mighty impressive (if not eerily reminiscent Glen Benton). "Kill Them All" brings even more memories of Deicide's better days, with blasting drums and crushing riffs delivering the heavy, while again the vocals kick major ass (especially during the chorus). They even channel Nile a bit with the instrumental interlude "Total Kristus Inversus". I'm going to pick "I Will Burn" as my favorite track here. Mid-paced (for the most part), brutally heavy, and with a killer groove during the chorus, this song stood out to me from the first listen, and continues to be the track I remember the longest after repeated listens.
While Aeon isn't really delivering anything new or ground breaking here, the precision and intensity that they put behind the music stand out above a sea of mediocrity. A definite must check out for sure.
This Is Not A Threat, It's A Promise
I've been an Agathocles fan for somewhere close to 20 years now. I can't say that I have anywhere near their complete discography, since it spans some 100+ releases - 10 or so full-lengths, a bunch of EP's, spots on numerous compilations, and more split releases than you could possible imagine. Despite the massive amount of output from the band in their 25 years of existence, they never seem to put out anything that lacks substance. Everything I've ever heard from them has been all out, mind mincing grindcore. That brings us to their latest release, This Is Not A Threat, It's A Promise, out now on Selfmadegod records.
As I said before, with the might Ag, you know what you're going to get. On this release, that is 27 songs totalling a bit over a half hour of old school, raw grindcore. Well, there is a brief break from the grinding during "God Save The Real Green Crocodile", when they go a bit of ska for a couple segments in the song. Aside from that, though, they just grind on through from track to track - some songs are a bit longer than others, some blast along at lightning speed, others are slower and many have a decided d-beat feel to them. If you are more into the death metal sound, then check out "Aside", "Gaszilla" and "Motherfucker (Swing That Axe)" - which also happen to be the longest songs here. Those wanting a faster, more pure grinding attack, check out "Manipuloriek", "Financial Cris-Ass", "Go With A Blow" or "Cut Off". No matter what you chose, though, you'll be treated to some of the most insane guitar sound around, snapping drums (although the cymbals are a bit overdone if you ask me), and just pure musical chaos available right now.
Fans of Agathocles will want this in their collection. If you've been living under a rock and haven't heard the band before, this would be a good place to start (as would just about anything else in their lengthy discography).
Fragments of Form and Function
What are the two greatest things ever come out of Colorado? Boulder Beer and Greg Burgess. I mean, this guy isn't just a guitarist who knows his scales like the back of his hand. He has impeccably clean, amazing flow to his melodies that aren't merely memorable, but borderline addicting. It sounds as if he possesses an old soul and is capable of transcending the listener along with him.
Right off, you can hear that he had to have been classically trained.
Sure enough, he holds a degree from the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Greg's also a major hero in my book for sharing his skill and knowledge with the Denver School of Rock kids. That's super-classy in an overcrowded genre with very little class.
As for the remainder of Allegaeon, percussionist Jordan Belfast has great style. I liked how he wasn't trying to break speed records most of the time and mainly focused on driving the music with smooth grace.
There's a small amount of blast beating, but the album wasn't riddled with it (good thing, too because the production on the drums might have ruined that). The vocals were a generic deathcore scream/growl very similar to Children of Bodom. That, and the back-up guitars were a very fitting accompaniment to the more noticeable talent in Allegaeon.
Too easy finding the stand out tracks on this CD. The closer, “Accelerated Evolution”, was by far the most memorable. Very satisfying at over eight minutes long with fantastic melody. A close second was “Biomech-Vals No. 666” for the same reasons and which ended with an acoustic piece that's just absolutely beautiful. Here you're all awed and relaxed and peaceful and then you're unexpectedly blasted with the heaviest part of the album; the intro of “From Seed to Throne” (which I'd like to hear live because on the CD, the percussion sounds awfully flat). Opener “The Cleansing”, “Atrophy of Hippocrates” and “The God Particle” also deserve mention. The rest of the album seems to blend right into the melodic deathcore genre. I think Greg was holding back some so as not to take all the limelight or something. But I say, to Hell with that, man! Take the reigns and forge onward!
Now, we've all heard albums where the guitar is what carries the whole thing, I'm sure. But DAMN! In the case of Fragments of Form and Function, it just can not be avoided. I can't really fault the rest of Allegaeon for that because Burgess has got serious mad skills that are highly elaborate and near unbelievable. Definitely an eye-closer. The melody is simply blissful. There was a little bit noodling in here but it seems to be somewhat tasteful. And you can totally tell that he can
do so much more than what you hear him do with Allegaeon. I love a shredder
Mellotrons and analog synths on a Black Metal album? Yes, that is always good in my book, in fact it makes the listening experience that much more enjoyable for me. But to label Angst Skvadron as a Black Metal band is doing them injustice, as they are all of that and more. Most of the vocals are very Black Metal influenced and that’s what instantly makes me think of that label, but in reality they are very progressive in their songwriting approach, and instrumentation.
“Dolcotine Blues” is a nursery rhyme type of song with some very sweet clean guitar and mellotron flowing throughout the song making it a mellow almost Space Rock ballad if you will. “Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome” is quite the progressive opus starting off with piano and then breaking right into a heavy song with many synth sounds, gothic chanting and tempo changes that make this one of my favorite tracks on the album.
Angst Skvadron have a very unique approach and I would highly recommend them to any one looking for something out of the ordinary yet not too bizarre.
B -Matt Smith
World In Decline
If you wanted to compare metal bands to certain kinds of beer. You would have the hard-to-find, fancy beers with high percentages of alcohol compared to the greats; Sabbath, Slayer, Faith No More, etc.
etc. You'd have the imports in various degrees of excellence; Scandinavian as well as other foreign metals of many varieties. I'm sure you know what bands fit there. Your American classics; Budweiser I'd probably have to say... Aerosmith, maybe AC/DC (though technically not “American” but certainly considered a great American pastime). The girly beers: Coors light or Miller Ultra Light would be something like Bon Jovi; goes down quick, tastes like old, dirty water, never satisfies or gives you more than a weak buzz, if that, and anyone can drink it. But who would want to if there were others to choose from.
Everyone's taste buds are different, I'm sure you get the idea.
Something to argue for hours.
Antagonist is American metalcore. If Unearth were compared to a Sam Adams, probably one of their Imperial Ales, Antagonist would be like a Sam Adams Light. It's the easiest way I can describe them. They remind me very closely of Unearth, just not quite as heavy and without sacrificing much of the robust flavor. Though you can certainly taste that it would be quite satisfying, once it has been aged a little longer. Good on a night when you want something substantial, but getting full-on crazy drunk is not on your immediate agenda. For now.
World In Decline is the first album from Antagonist that I've tried.
The vocals remind me a little of Dillinger Escape Plan. They sound mature and full of young angst at the same time. I heard that this is their first attempt at an album devoid of clean vocals. And I for one am thankful for that because a.) it explains why I haven't heard much about them and b.) if there were clean vocals, it's possible I might think they were more like an O'doul's.
The best song is easily “Wake Up and Smell the Lies” right in the middle of the album. It has this teeth-grittingly awesome opening that sounds like really good old-school death metal. This song is where I found that the guitar is a major carrier in the music, what gives it the memorability. Hardly noticeable until now (except for “Disguised in
White”) due to the all other instruments/musicians jiving so well together. Here the album seems to get stronger from then on. They close with two more fantastic tracks “Darkest Darkness” and “World in Decline.” The solos were definitely the stand-out characteristic in the best of the songs. The rest were very good, just maybe not great.
However, live might be a whole different story.
Though Sam Adams is a Boston based company, and Antagonist is from California, they have that East Coast metalcore sound. More melodic-death and ferociousness than you would expect from the West Coast. Maybe the absence of the clean vocals is what throws you off.
Nevertheless, I'm pleased with this album and would recommend World In Decline to anyone who enjoys metalcore. Especially for those who like some metalcore, or try to, but don't like the clean vocals. I look forward to hearing more in this new direction they have taken, and can only hope Antagonist has abandoned the clean for good.
Defunct Swedish black metal duo Armagedda posthumously release I Am, an EP of material recorded somewhere around the time of their debut release, but not seeing the dark of night until now. It contains 4 unreleased songs (with only the title track being played live before) and about 23 minutes of seriously raw black metal. If this were sushi, it'd still be swimming it's so raw.
The first thing that you'll notice here is the aforementioned rawness of the recording. This sounds as if it was recorded on a very minimal system, with the drums pretty muffled and distant, and the guitars a bit wiry and slightly weak sounding. That said, this type of recording somehow fits the music here quite well. Would this come across as more powerful with a better recording and production - of course it would, but it does still pack a bit of zazz, even in the confines of the current state of production. The standout track for me is the title track - a slow, droning number with some of the most intensely pained vocals I've ever heard. You can almost feel the agony and pain coming through the speakers on this one.
Fans of the band will already have this, for sure. Anyone else that is interested in older, raw Swedish death metal should also search this out and add it to their collections. It's not perfect, but it is definitely a good bookend to the bands career.
Pitch Black Records
A personal project of Greek singer Nicholas Leptos, Terra Incognita marks the second full length for this epic metal act. Imagine if you will musicians who incorporate flashes of exotic riffs amidst their love of traditional and power metal and this explains best what Arryan Path are all about. “Cassiopeia” for instance navigates around a Egyptian chord-like sequence as Nicholas rises above the metal with his Khan meets Dickinson-like range. The title track contains Middle Eastern instrumentation (the real deal, not merely samples from keyboards) and penetrates your brain with a slower, epic doom arrangement.
The lyrics tackle history and religion not in a preachy manner, merely focusing on storytelling without really interjecting much in the way of personal viewpoints. Where I think Arryan Path may struggle to sustain a following is their moniker- as many will mistake the first name with the Nazi political movement of Hitler’s era, which is not the case (it’s actually a type of flower). This may be an uphill battle where a name can make or break the lifetime appeal, so we’ll watch in the coming years.
Overall, Terra Incognita has a lot in common with the essence of Rhapsody (minus bombastic orchestration) along with the spirit of Manowar, and I think the songwriting has enough meat and potatoes substance to possibly carry them places. File this one in the occasional listening category.
B- -Matt Coe
Exile On Mainstream
Astrosoniq is a psychedelic hard rock act from the Netherlands, who keep us in touch
with an array of bands that influenced the genre throughout Quadrant. From the
onset of this release, the first track "Faustian Bargain", has an unmistakable Pink Floyd "Dogs of War" feel and approach. This is repeated, and at times comes off a bit too clearly.
Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, Lizzy, Iron Butterfly, Deep Purple and even Rainbow can be found in
this hodgepodge of a release, that any proud owner of a 70's paneled "shaggin' wagin'" shouldn't be without(the song "Bloom" gives me an instant visual...or maybe it's an acid
flashback). Musically, it's solid but for the most part lacks originality, aside from the
90's grunge spin they throw into the mix. That's not to say it's a bad listen. I actually
quite enjoyed my time with this disc, and if nothing else, it reminded me that I need to
break out some of my forgotten favorites, and put them back into my daily rotation.
isn't something I would personally choose to listen to, however it's not something I would
have an issue with either. It's one of those "middle of the road" releases. No harm done.
The One Amongst the Weed Fields
The Atlas Moth's The One Amongst the Weed Fields, is a covers EP, in the tradition of Metallica's Garage Days Re-revisited (even using that album cover with their heads pasted over it). There's quite an eclectic mix here as they cover "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & The Papas, "Fearless" by Pink Floyd, "Golden" by Failure, and "Five to One" by The Doors. They bring new light to each and every one of these covers, although I've never heard the original version of the Failure song but that only makes it better for me as I had no preconceived notions of what the song sounded like originally.
If you're a fan of The Atlas Moth you'll really get a kick out of hearing them cover these classics, but I really must say I DO look forward to their new full length album!
B -Matt Smith
Guitarist Olaf Lenk has been working with this German melodic power band since 1998, releasing 8 full length studio albums. He’s gone through some awesome singers (Dustin Hartmann, Mats Leven) and currently has Rick Altzi fronting the band. The formula for Olaf’s albums is very similar to an Axel Rudi Pell or other blues based melodic power metal acts- a mixture of classically-laced instrumentals, the odd ball cover song and then mid-tempo to faster guitar oriented hard rock with highly engaging hook laden choruses. His influences are prominently Blackmore meets Yngwie based.
Decade captures 37 compositions over 2 CD’s. The first disc prominently highlights the songwriting of his original career, while the second disc captures cover songs, bonus tracks and a lot of his metal interpretations of classical songs and themes. I tend to prefer the Dustin H. led songs such as “Only Human” and “Dragonchaser” as well as the mid-tempo anthem “The Evil In You” when Mats Leven took over for Dustin. The second disc features cover songs from Tears For Fears, Survivor and a lot of Abba among others. I’m happy that someone took a chance and gave Supertramp’s “The Logical Song” a heavier interpretation, as it’s always been a personal favorite of mine from childhood. Of the Abba songs, “S.O.S.” makes the most sense while “Money, Money” takes on even more of a campy, over the top approach based on Dustin’s comfortable high range.
This one is only for the people who haven’t taken in At Vance ever, because I consider most large compilations such as this as just marketing ploy cash grabs. Seek out Only Human for the best full length At Vance album.
B- -Matt Coe
A newcomer from the Hannover, Germany metal scene, the five piece Athorn have hit the scene running with their debut album Phobia. Forming in the fall of 2008 and releasing an independent EP Livable Hatred a year later, they quickly received label offers and now like clockwork in the fall of 2010 these 10 songs hit the airwaves.
I’ve read various descriptions that peg Athorn’s style as a modern version of Sanctuary or Nevermore in terms of their traditional and power sound. I would agree that sometimes the guitar tones and multiple vocal deliveries from Carsten Frank bring to mind acts like Darkane as well as possibly Five Finger Death Punch who like to throw in some solid hooks through the rhythms. Lead guitarist Stefan Schonebeck blazes with his neo-classical arpeggio solo technique during “Emperor Of Ruins”, one again lending credence to the love of Jeff Loomis’ innovative methods through the years.
During the mid-tempo cuts the emphasis swings to the contrast between harsh and clean melodies, and I think Carsten does possess an engaging voice- there are just some times I wish he would extend notes a touch further to wrench even more emotion out of the material. They even delve into current In Flames territory with a bevy of guitar harmonies and consistent fierce drum tempos for “A Matter Of Time”.
I’m hoping Athorn will be able to smooth out these growing pains on future recordings- as they haven’t really made a collection of songs that are distinctly their own at this point of their career. It’s as if they’ve taken a dash of this, a sprinkle of that and out comes Phobia- without any plan or forethought on writing solid songs.
Nowhere near close the discography of At The Gates, Darkane or Nevermore.
C- -Matt Coe
The Golden Bough
Cruz Del Sur
A discovery for my eclectic tastes, this German quintet quietly moved into the label ranks due to a powerful demo that received much accolades in the larger German metal publications. Italy’s Cruz Del Sur scooped up this epic doom meets traditional group and we have a mammoth nine song full length album on our hands. The Golden Bough will not be for the casual metal headbanger or the impatient, quick fix need to retain on the first listen consumer. With three songs clocking in over 10 minutes, this material has a deep, cranium cranking quality that challenges every fiber of your being to just take the Atlantean Kodex journey.
Acts that come to mind when hearing “Pilgrim” and “Vesperal Hymn” include Bathory, Cirith Ungol, early Manowar and even Manilla Road in parts. Markus Becker has the perfect voice to accompany the epic, story telling arrangements- he’s clear with nary an effect to enhance his words, holding notes in all octaves to give you the chills. Lead guitarist Michael Koch isn’t throwing down solos for the sake of showing us his technical skills- he instead will use compact, slower movements to build the dramatic impact.
The closing number “A Prophet in the Forest” takes you on a 15 minute atmospheric progressive doom trip- drummer Mario WeiB hitting the snare at a snail’s pace while tumbling mid tempo double bass as the guitars and bass recall the beauty of Pink Floyd meets The Gathering over at Manowar’s lair if you can believe that. The production isn’t fancy and I respect the basic, down to earth sound you hear- it’s pretty much what I would expect if seeing this act in a live setting.
Those who live for epic sounds will delight in The Golden Bough - proving classic metal will never die.
A- -Matt Coe
Germany through the years continues to produce hard rock and metal that sticks
to the traditional model, regardless of what the media or trends in other parts
of the world seem to favor. Guitarist Axel Rudi Pell consistently hits the
market with Deep Purple/ Rainbow inspired music, featuring a mix of high energy
material and epic doom-laden efforts along with the occasional tender ballad.
His thirteenth studio album The Crest features his long time cohorts in
vocalist Johnny Gioeli, keyboardist Ferdy Doernberg, bassist Volker Krawczak and
drummer Mike Terrana: and if you are expecting anything outside the formula,
best steer clear of this 9 song plus intro effort. Trademarks include prolonged
soloing during the epic tracks such as “Dreaming Dead” and “Dark Waves of the
Sea”, a neo-classical instrumental such as “Noblesse Oblige (Opus #5 Adagio
Contabile)” and the usual smattering of mid-tempo to high energy tracks that
accent Gioeli’s impressive hard rock pipes like “Prisoner of Love” and “Burning
In comparison to his previous discography, The Crest isn’t as
memorable as the Jeff Scott Soto-led albums Black Moon Pyramid or Magic. I think
putting three slower tracks next to each other in the middle of the album could
lead many to eject this disc quickly- as I prefer a better dynamic balanced
effort in terms of the pacing. Axel comes from the Ritchie Blackmore school of
soloing- he will throw down slower, emotive build ups on the longer tracks but
then throw down a thousand note barrage with the faster material.
long time fans won’t mind, but I doubt the younger generation will understand
all the hoopla about ARP in comparison to today’s shred contingent. He must be
doing something right with sold out tours in mainland Europe- but for me this
isn’t exciting or captivating.
C- -Matt Coe
Hotter Than Hell
One of the gateway hard rock bands for multiple generations has been AC/DC.
Either with Bon Scott in the 70’s or Brian Johnson ever since, the three chord
bluesy sound gains instant appeal and has a timeless quality. Possibly due to
the success of Airbourne, we are hearing many newer bands willing to take their
own stab at recording songs in this AC/DC style- which puts us in the hands of
Hotter Than Hell is the debut album from this German quartet.
If you ever wanted a tribute band attempting to write AC/DC riffs and renaming
them, adding in a dose of bawdier lyrics and titles like “Porna Lisa” and “Hell
Whores & High Heels” then this 13 song record may be your ticket to nirvana.
Vocalist Thomas Gurrath sounds like Brian Johnson on his fifteenth whiskey and
gargling razor blades all the same. His melodies have a same-song pattern to
them and he rarely varies his approach, rendering songs like “Plugged In” and
“Killdozer” almost interchangeable and anonymous.
You need to have that
energy or passion to make original music stand out- and I think that effect is
tenfold when you tackle such a revered and well known style as AC/DC deliver for
the past four decades. Big Ball need to retool their riffing and vocal
components as I doubt many will care beyond a cursory experience.
D+ -Matt Coe
Sun In The House Of The Scorpion
Ukraine's Blood of Kingu rose from the ashes of Hate Forest, and could easily be called a side/parallel project to Drudkh, as the bands share 3 of the 4 members. This is the bands second release, following 2007's De Occulta Philosophia.
The main thing that sticks in my head whenever I listen to this is repetition. The music here is very repetitive, to the point of causing boredom at times. Sure, there are some good riffs here and there - like after the first verse in the opening track "Those That Wander Amidst The Stars", but they seem to get swallows up by all the sameness of the rest of the work here. I do like the quieter/chanted vocals that are used at times, although they are drowned way down in the mix - they add a slightly mysterious feeling to some of the tracks. The Middle Eastern percussion interludes are ok, but seem somewhat misplaced most of the time. The big, booming bass tone at the opening of "Incanation Of He Who Sleeps" is pretty monstrous as well.
Recommended only to people who are already fans of the band, or diehard fans of Drudkh if they want to be completists. Otherwise my only recommendation is to avoid this.
Man Of No Account
This two song 7 inch EP by Burden makes me think of what Life of Agony would sound like if they jammed with Kyuss. Nothing overly innovative or interesting, just plain old groove-filled, well played Stoner Rock influenced Metal.
C+ -Matt Smith
When one thinks of purely instrumental offerings in the metal community, usually
observations that come to mind include a neo-classically trained guitarist who
shreds at will while the back up musicians keep up with the proceedings.
Georgia’s Canvas Solaris have shown through the years that you can pull together
a memorable, swing for the fences progressive tech instrumental metal act while
not performing exclusively for the schooled musician crowd. Their fifth album Irradiance allows the listener to hear a quintet willing to experiment and
explore their musical horizons and at the same time put the songwriting down in
shorter, consistent bursts.
“The Horizon Feasts On Stars” for instance
relies on a lot of jumpy Zero Hour- type guitar runs while bassist Gael Pirlot
and drummer Hunter Ginn quietly navigate their rhythmic duties with power,
finesse and a team chemistry outlook. “Accelerated Testing Phase” gives Canvas
Solaris a chance to interlock their alternative main part fixation along with
keyboard and guitar parts that remind me of Cynic and Watchtower during their
peak performance periods. “Threads of Dead Space” delivers an exotic touch with
Hunter’s multi layered percussion use and Donnie Smith’s skill at the Chapman
The cover art takes a psychedelic and magical trip with the mind-
much like the analog synthesizer pouring through personal favorite “Soliton
(Emergence From Dispersion)”- something I would likely hear from Rush during
their late 70’s/ early 80’s songwriting period. Overall the 9 songs give me
endless hours of enjoyment, as Irradiance gets both sides of your mind going and
prove that Canvas Solaris’ forward thinking style and application may not get
them the widest following, but I think the cult they create will stick by them
A- -Matt Coe
Chambers is raw, gritty, heavy, New Jersey garage-metal. It actually sounds more metal than rock given the constantly harsh, throaty screaming vocals. I'm feeling some serious pity for Dan Pelic's vocal chords as they sound like they may not be able to put up with the abuse for too long.
Old Love is tons of punk-rock influence with a little primitive, 70's classic rock tinge and a pinch of hair metal era simplicity which is well hidden by their abundant energy. Chambers is more angst than anything. They remind me of Doomriders first, Scissorfight, maybe some Black Flag and a little of very early Clutch.
The guitar solo's are catchy. This is where I hear the blues-rock that reminds me of the hair metal and classic rock eras. Mainly, the guitar assisted my choice of stand-out tracks; their strong opener “Pig”, and my favorites “Take My Juice”, “Glamour Her” and “Old Love”. I'd have to say the music isn't anything we haven't heard before, but still good, heavy, energetic (and short, of course) punk-metal. Unfortunately, it was not memorable enough to want to go right back to.
All the punk rock energy and monotone vocals that surround the catchy guitar, sort of sounds the same in every song on Old Love. Like it's on cruise control on the highway; one speed. Repeated listens didn't make anything memorable, it just started to get more grating. It is listenable and could be good background noise for maybe a loud biker party or something, but it would probably be to harsh for most folks.
They do have great, unclean production and vocals though (as in raw, real). Now all Chambers need to do to glamour this girl is dazzle me with an unforgettable performance. Or at least add a little variation to their songs so I can tell them apart (I certainly hope they do that live). Then I'd gladly give them another listen.
It's Time To Face The Doomsday
Italy's Children Of Technology is a four piece thrash/punk crossover act. It's Time To Face The Doomsday is the bands first full-length release, following a demo, numerous splits and a couple of singles. Let's straddle the crusty line between punk and thrash and see how this disc delivers the goods.
While a pretty short release, at just over 25 minutes for the 8 tracks, Children Of Technology pack a wallop of a punch in to each and every song on here. From the tenacious title track, to the blitzing "No Fuel...No Hope!!", the band deliver music to mosh, bang your head, and kick someones ass to. It is pretty much unrelenting from the beginning to the end, with hardly a break to be found anywhere (aside from the intro the the album closer "Screams From the Earth", which I found to be a bit lame). "No Man's Land" has some very Motörhead like sounds to it, not the least of which is vocalist Deathlord Astwülf total Lemmy-like growling, which is prominent throughout this disc, but even more so here. I will point out one thing that was a bit of a turn-off on this for me - the whiny, nasally backing vox in "Nuclear Armed Dogs" - they just didn't seem to fit at all for me, and made me want to skip the song as soon as they started.
Production on the disc is surprisingly good. Not really sure why it surprises me, but for some reason it does. There are times where the vocals are overly effected, especially some of the gang vocals, but aside from that, i can't really say much bad about the production. Fans of d-beat, crust, hardcore, punk and thrash should take note of this release and check it out. There is a good mix of stuff on here to please most everyone.
Agony & Opium
20 Buck Spin
Washington state quintet Christian Mistress bring us their debut, Agony & Opium, thanks to 20 Buck Spin. Classic heavy metal is what they are delivering to us, with a very strong leaning towards a NWOBHM sound.
Upon first listening to Agony & Opium, the thing that grabbed me most was the infectiousness of the songs - each of the six tracks on here is catchy, full of hooks, and flat out memorable. "Riding On The Edges" gets things going quite strongly. The great use of dual guitar harmonies (courtesy of Ryan McClain and Oscar Sparbel), the great rumbling bass line (Johnny Wulf), the time precision drums (Rueben Storey) and the raw, smoky sound of Christine Davis' vocals will instantly have you hooked. Just try not to band your head or be beckoned to sing along to this, and you will almost definitely fail. The trade-off guitar lead is also spot on and allows the guitarist to showcase their chops very nicely. Next up is my favorite track, "Desert Rose" - once again the thundering bass line and superb dual guitar riffs and melodies make this song rock, but it is the catchy chorus make this song stand out from the rest. You WILL be singing this chorus to yourself all day long. The dual guitar lead half way through "Black Vigil" is simply awesome, too.
Overall, this is a brilliant release. If you want some straight up metal, with no gimmicks, recording tricks, or overly polished production, this is what you need to have. It has been in my regular rotation for quite a while now.
Songs Of Ill Hope And Desperation
Clinging To The Trees of a Forest Fire have a very wordy band name. They also have, in Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation, their second full-length release, the bands first since signing with Prosthetic Records. The band plays a combination of grindcore and funeral doom. Yep, you read that right, funeral grind...read on to try and figure out what the heck that means.
Songs of Ill Hope consists of 13 songs totalling 33 minutes - which could fit easily into the short, quicker grindcore realm of songwriting. The songs, however, range from 48 seconds to 6+ minutes in length - providing some different moods and styles along the way. "Teeth & Hair" is the opener, and with it, we get 100 seconds of pure mayhem. Fast, loud, discordant and just flat out chaotic grindcore. "Cloven" sandwiches a doomy opening and closing around the chaotic slab o' grind in the middle. "I Walked Away From The Human Race" could define the "funeral doom" moniker, as the last two thirds of the song is slow as heck, but still feels more like grindcore than the doom that it really is. "Gold Frankincense & Myth" is where they dive (almost) completely into the doom for an entire song. Slow, plodding and heavy as an anvil (just ask Wil E. Coyote) - this song still has a bit of a grind feel, which comes mainly from the vocal style, which doesn't really change the way the musical styles do here. "Recession" follows, and this one does change the vocal style into the lower range growl, giving this song a real depressing feel. I feel like I should mention "They Smeared Shit On Their Skin So They Could Blend In At Night", if only because when I first saw that song title, I chuckled a bit.
Clinging To The Trees of a Forest Fire may not appeal to everyone, what with their intermingling of two seemingly incongruous styles of music. In my opinion, they do a pretty darn good job of combining the doom and the grind into a fairly cohesive collection of songs. Check them out, maybe you'll form the same opinion.
A New Beginning
Good things come to those who persevere. Take schoolmates Rudy Albert and Dario Rodriguez. The guitarist who also plays in Zandelle met this drummer back in 1999, working on the material for this album through the mid 2000’s and finally have the chance to see these demos realize full album potential. Adding keyboard duties to his resume, Rudy gained the attention of noteworthy drummer John Macaluso and then filling out the lineup with vocalist Mike Dimeo (ex-Masterplan, ex-Riot), guitarist Marco Sfogli (James LaBrie Band) and bassist Joey Boney (Chris Caffery).
This sets up the 8 song debut record, and A New Beginning has an instant likeable appeal not just for the musicians assembled, but the emphasis on stellar songwriting and fresh tones in many facets of the performances. Yes you will hear hints of acts like Masterplan, Pagan’s Mind and Symphony X through certain songs like “World Holocaust” and “Dissociate”- and then there are other times where the originality of percussion assaults your aural nerves during “Of Shadow And Flame” where Dario appears to be hitting a variety of electric and natural drums almost in a tribal atmosphere, as well as keyboard bends and tones that aren’t your typical power/progressive metal clichés.
The songs are rather lengthy (5 of the 8 hitting over the 7 minute mark, and the “Creation’s End” namesake concludes at 11:14) but there’s enough musical action and appropriate transitions to justify the sprawling interplay. “Still Life” for instance during its instrumental sections throws down a series of tempo changes which see the band move from thrash to power to progressiveness and back again. Rudy and Marco aren’t throwing arpeggios at will in the solo parts- they certainly mix up their technique to satiate the cynic who believes all progressive/ power guitarists either worship at the John Petrucci or Yngwie Malmsteen altars.
Rarely does a band impress coming out of the gate, but A New Beginning should make an immediate impact on all shores. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 7 years to have the second album hit the streets.
A -Matt Coe
Seven Greek musicians come together and decide to send the music community at large on a gothic/ theatrical/ progressive / heavy outer realm experience. Crime Scene is their second album- you’ll hear strains of circus themes (“The Charlatans”), snippets of appreciation for Moonspell meets Therion (“The Urban Tribe”) and 7 other songs that prove my life will never quite be the same again.
Female singer Christina Kalantzi possesses one of those Gwen Steffani chameleon vocal deliveries- she makes her mark felt in understated ways with the whispers within “Camouflage” and then at other times comes off as a larger than life theater buff during “Scaremongering”. Drummer Stavoros Vorissis has the tough task of keeping all the lunacy into cohesive-sounding material, and I believe his forward thinking snare and cymbal work keeps me tuning in longer than I normally would.
I know there will be many who appreciate this left of center approach, but I just think the extravagant nature of the material gets irritating quickly and a peer group like Diablo Swing Orchestra have a better idea on how to blend the vocals, instrumentation, songwriting and arrangements for safer audience consumption.
Maybe it works better live, for now Dakyra doesn’t get much beyond a serviceable handclap from me.
D- -Matt Coe
Not a real surprise to see this re-release of the debut Delain album hit the
streets, especially after Roadrunner signed the group and plans to make this
melodic gothic metal act a priority. Very catchy, larger than life keyboard/
orchestral accompaniment, and the serene, majestic vocals of Charlotte Wessels
along with guest appearances from Marco Hietala, Sharon den Adel and Liv
Kristine make Lucidity one of those albums that can be easy to get into and yet
doesn’t have enough bite for long term keeper status.
Do we really need
a European version of Evanescence meeting Edenbridge or Rhapsody in a dark
alley? Songs like “Silhouette of a Dancer” and “Shattered” just have far too
many up front keyboard parts for my normal metal liking. I prefer when the
heavier, guitar-oriented material makes it’s impact, such as “A Day For Ghosts”
where Marco shares main vocals with Charlotte. 3 of the 5 bonus tracks are
acoustic versions of the album material, with “See Me In Shadow” working best as
a stripped down ballad.
Their appearance at this year’s Progpower XI USA
festival will increase their profile and sales base- I guess I fail to hear what
all the buzz is really about regarding Delain.
C- -Matt Coe
Australian duo Denouncement Pyre launch their debut full-length, World Cremation, which follows numerous EP's, splits and demo recordings. The old school fiends at Hells Headbangers Records have the honors to release this eight song collection of blackened death metal.
Upon my first few listens to this disc, I didn't think too much of it. It seemed to be pretty much straight forward, by the book black/death metal. With a few more listens, it started to grow on me a little bit more. Sure, it is more or less straight forward stuff, but that isn't really a bad thing. The riffs here are heavy and catchy, the vocals are potent enough to strip paint, and the drum work is pretty stellar. Listening to the opening track, "Black Womb Of Magdalane", you get a good mix of fast and not so fast stuff, a nice combo of melodic guitar parts and crushingly heavy riffing, and a little smattering of blast beats here and there. Things pick up a bit with "The Flesh of Thy Master", which I will also pick as my favorite track on the disc. The main guitar parts here are so well done and catchy, the vocals are just flat out perfect for this track, and there is some really well done guitar lead work sprinkled in here and there. Catchy, heavy and good - what more do you need in a song? "Engulfed Temples" give us more of a straight ahead back metal track, with lots of trebly guitar riffs and constant high speed drum bombardment.
Overall, Denouncement Pyre's debut stacks up pretty well in the crowded back/death metal market. It isn't perfect, but it is sure to please most fans of the genre. Maybe a little more time together will improve on things.
Forming in Spain during 2006, the five piece Diabulus In Musica play a blend of
symphonic laden gothic metal on their 11 song debut album Secrets. Within their
lineup you’ll get the chance to hear the strong classical laden pipes of Zuberoa
Aznarez, similar in respect to many of her female contemporaries from Epica,
Within Temptation or Nightwish. The keyboard work of Gorka Elso plays a
prominent role as much as guitarist Adrian M. Vallejo, keeping the anthem-like
cultural strains of “Evolution’s Whim” on an even keel while drummer Xabi Jareno
gets the chance to throw in a few thrash blasts in the transitional
Opener “Come To Paradise” has the male/female
duet vocals with clean and gruff approaches not dissimilar to Therion, the
rhythm section playing with a power foundation as the guitars alternate between
mid-tempo and speed picking. “Nocturnal Flowers” follows in more of a
keyboard-friendly accessible manner, giving Zuberoa a chance to flex her pipes
in multiple octaves. You’ll even get songs that feature death metal blast beats
in the old Edge of Sanity vein such as the dramatic carnival ride that is
“Beyond Infinity” (which also contains an addictive echoing keyboard part during
the 2:39-3:21 section).
I can see the majority of this album lifting off
very well from studio to stage if given the right budget in terms of session
singers to compliment Diabulus In Musica. Their niche involves implementing the
heavier elements of the underground against the normal gothic/symphonic
conventions- and I believe this could give Secrets an advantage to appeal to the
best metal demographic population. As they gain more of a chance to deliver
their music on stages across the globe, I’m sure Diabulus In Musica will cement
their style and it should be exciting to watch their progress on subsequent
B+ -Matt Coe
Collapse The Void
New York's Dimentianon return with a healthy dose of blackened melodic death metal on their
full-length Collapse the Void. Not an easy task trying to accomplish anything melodic without
sounding completely drab when mixed with the extreme, these guys pull it off with style.
me first say, the recording quality here is powerful, and once the first breakdown in "Return..." hits, it becomes quite clear how important that is. It takes a lot of work to come directly off
a monster black/death anthem into a dueling guitar lead without having it sound like a train wreck,
or worse, sounding like a metalcore band. So, Dimentianon take a lot of chances, and each and
every time it pays off with some really moody breakdowns that jump seemlessly back into chaos.
This makes for a great listen with a lot of twisting and turning throughout, leaving the listener
not really knowing what's around the corner. Keyboards are used often, but composed so well you
never have a chance to become bored. "Fragmented Nostalgia" is a piano/synth composition/intro that
clocks in at just over the 3-minute mark, and really seems out of place, until you take it as a
whole with the following track "The Forgotten" which is a dark black metal anthem ala old-school
Vital Remains' "Let us Pray".
Overall, this definitely has a ballsy, New York, east-coast sound.
Most of the work here is mid-paced and crushing. The vocals are right in the middle as far as style.
Not too screamy, not too growly, but more on the black metal side. Collapse the Void should please
fans of classic Morbid Angel, Behemoth, Watain, and even fans of atmospheric black metal. Good stuff.
Western Canada’s Divinity return to the scene armed with their second full
length and fresh label presence with Candlelight Records worldwide. I had the
good fortune to review their debut Allegory for another website and remember
believing this act has immense technical ability and can find ways to streamline
the material into songs not far off the Death/ older Into Eternity path. The
Singularity hurls riffs at you much like the speed of light, and yet you’ll get
some surprising moments that bring the proceedings to soft tenderness - such as
the quiet piano opening for “Embrace The Uncertain” and the fleet classical
piano exercise during closer “Approaching The Singularity”.
Sean Jenkins employs a battery of tones and inflections- clean, deep and high
pitched screams all within his arsenal and sometimes the triple-laced delivery
works to convey the chaos completely- “Lay In The Bed You’ve Made” being the
easiest example to ascertain. Guitarists James Duncan and Sacha Laskow lay down
some serious tapping speed nuance action during the appropriately named
“Monsters Are Real”- keeping up with the time changes in Strapping Young Lad
meets Meshuggah fashion. The rhythm section of drummer Brett Duncan and bassist
Nick Foster deserve hearty applause as I can only imagine the finger, hand and
leg fatigue that comes out after pummeling audiences with material like
“Formless Dimension” or “Emergent”.
What pleases me most about Divinity
is their reluctance to employ simplified breakdowns to encourage crowd
involvement- they know how to keep a steady groove while still laying down some
jaw breaking, neck jarring material. It’s got to be something about long, harsh
winters that brings out exemplary skills and the talent to pull these songs
together into a cohesive album- as Divinity wow me again and should appeal to
those in the technical thrash, power and death camps.
A -Matt Coe
Two Fifths Gone Records
When you’ve had the good fortune to watch bands slug it out in the industry for
15 plus years and 4 albums on various independent labels or self-financed
records, you know that they have a passion and dedication that should be
noteworthy. Hailing from Virginia, Division are fairly well known for their
internet presence, opening slots for major acts like Kamelot, Nevermore, and
Evergrey in their local area as well as their willingness to circle the states
to play power/progressive/ traditional metal festivals. Six years beyond their
last release Trinity, the major change in the group is the loss of guitarist/
producer Matt Crooks, who leaves on amicable terms as he concentrates on his
studio endeavors as well as his project act Fools Game.
Never fear,Control Issues probably represents Division’s most aggressive power album to
date, incorporating flashes of traditional and thrash parts and introducing new
axe slinger Dave Evans. One of the roughest complaints through the years has
been how much Division financially could throw into the production aspect- and I
believe with this album you’ll get a closer view into what they are like in a
live setting with material like “Future In Your Eyes” and “Perfect Little
Slave”. Division sound plants itself into a lot of the late 80’s and early 90’s
sounds that many may not have sought out but did have their pocket of followers
for: Metal Church, Flotsam and Jetsam, Vicious Rumors and Savatage.
Singer Nick Kelly has one of those clear voices that bridges alt rock
and metal- his multiple personality effect comes to fruition through the
highlight track “ .45 Intent” which has a charging riff plan and equally
forceful vocals. And you have to admire a band willing to call out the latest
quick fix with ‘Short Attention Span Society”- featuring one of the faster drum
tempos from James Goetz and more Forbidden-maze like guitar work out of Mike
Blevins and the aforementioned Dave Evans.
Good American power metal
with nary a trace of commercial intent in sight.
B -Matt Coe
Horns Of The Wasted
Hungover Hungarian Drünken Bastards unleash their second full-length release upon us, entitled Horns of the Wasted. Consisting of 8 tracks (including an intro and two cover songs) and less than 20 minutes of beer and liquor fueled punkish thrash, these Drünken Bastards keeps things flowing at a pretty steady pace, never allowing the initial buzz wear off. The initial buzz, for me at least, was weak and never seemed to get any better. I just never really could get into this release very much at all, despite its very short playing time, and the sporadic mildly interesting bits of riffs. I even tried listening to it when I was drunk to see if I liked it any better, and that didn't really work, either. Oh, well, you can't like everything, can you?
The seventh album from these symphonic metal musicians, Solitaire keeps the
listener on more of a progressive and theatrical edge with tracks like the
Kamelot-esque “Skyline’s End”, the faster “A Virtual Dream” with back and forth
guitar/ drum chase sequences and the engaging title track. Sabine Edelsbacher
keeps the proceedings very melodic with her serene and soaring vocal delivery.
People who enjoy recent Nightwish with slightly more progressive and
power in the guitar and keyboard arenas will gravitate towards Solitaire. Leader
Lanvall knows as a composer how to maintain dynamics with the tempos and
arrangements without overbearing the listener in terms of bombastic chicanery.
The ballad “Out Of This World” explores atmospheric, almost 80’s electronic
driven territory, with quieter rhythms and Sabine’s lower and mid-range carrying
the weight of emotion.
Decidedly European in terms of style, Edenbridge
will probably achieve greater success beyond the finicky North American shores.
Such a shame, as I think many consumers of metal would welcome Solitaire for its
B -Matt Coe
The Full Intrepid Experience of Light
Sometimes less is more, and too much is just too much, as avant-guard French rockers 11 As in Adversaries prove on their release The Full Intrepid
Experience of Light. If you take a local bar-hop on any given Saturday night to check out all the local rock acts in your city, put them into a blender, add a
dash of post-punk funk, a sprinkle of indie-rock, lock them in a basement for two weeks, and then record the outcome I believe you will have 11 As
There is just so much going on here that my brain is unable to process any of it, making for a seasick-like listening experience. Musically
and vocally this cd is all over the place, making it impossible to make any solid comparisons. There are moments of Red Hot Chili Peppers meets Tool
meets Mastodon. It's all very awkward and unsettling, as if you're being pulled in twelve different directions at once.
This two-piece are obviously
accomplished musicians, but it almost seems like they couldn't agree on what they wanted to play as a whole. There is only one song here that can hold my attention
for longer than a half-minute. "Versus From Which to Whirl" is set apart from the rest, as there is actually a song structure, and is a bit more moody than the
rest of the disc. "The Night Scalp Challenger" features a guest appearance from Niklas Kvarforth of Shining, but does little more than allow some name
dropping in hopes to gain some attention. This can be summed up in one word. Overkill.
The Empire Shall Fall has a new Boston metalcore vibe with big chunk of alternative mixed in. Their core (pun intended) sounds like several New England metalcore bands such as All The Remains, Shadows Fall, Unearth, and [appropriately] Killswitch Engage. Former Killswitch vocalist Jesse Leach happens to be the voice and lyrical genius behind The Empire Shall Fall.
By new Boston metalcore, I'm referring to the style of the clean vocals. They're not always annoying like many in the genre. Some of the vocals reminded me of Haloburn; a great singing voice, though sounding more suited to a 90's alternative frontman than a core band. However this can sometimes make for a better edge when trying to mix clean into a core sound. If it's done right anyway. Then there's also a good amount of angry vocals that reminds me of one of my favorite Boston band-leaders Drew Simollardes (Reveille, Genuflect) more for sound than style. And the lyrics... well, poignant would be an understatement.
Usually, you don't even bother with the lyrics, if the music isn't satisfying right off. With urgent passion, enough to incite an uprising, you will find Leach's lyrics are part of the reason you'll want to further open yourself up to the music.
I found that a majority of Awaken had very inspiring characteristics, musically as well as poetically. However, the only negative aspect was some Foo-Fighter-like overtones mixed into many of the tracks that didn't always please my open, yet particular tastes. Sounding like a mixture of 90's alt-rock with hardcore, though probably a good way to blend clean vocals, isn't always well suited for a metalcore sound. But I have to say part of the time it was tasteful, and then sometimes the Foo-ishness was just Foo-ish. It seemed off, like... happy metal.
Hopeful. While hopeful can be a good thing, and uprising is a great thing, hope in metal can sound delusional to our metal-sensitive ears.
Out of place. Yet commendable in any case.
“Our Own” was a little too Foo-ish. Too happy-sounding. And “We the People” was weird. It might be the most progressive track. It's great in some senses, the heaviness and lyrically, then a little too genre-crossing to be a favorite. There was a bit of what sounded like jazz spiraling that I didn't care too much for. All minor ticks aside, the messages sound dangerous yet imperative. Forgive my hopeless negativity but I'll remain thankful that the 'Empire' hasn't taken away our right to create and listen to music. I greatly admire the effort, but should you be provoking them? What little freedoms we have left are precious and few. I'd hope to remain an underground voice if I were you. You have my blessings... but please tread carefully.
I thought “Lords of War” was the best song. It had a fantastic opening and was probably the fiercest song on Awaken. Another brutal favorite was “Choirs of Angels” reminding me a little of Into Eternity for it's tasteful clean harmony and it had more lyrical urgency; “It is your duty to question the authority!” Other hits worth mention are the closer “The Kingdom”, and one of many important messages on Awaken; “Voices Forming Weapons” indicating to us of how our voice is a weapon we are all armed with and how we should use it.
I thoroughly enjoyed the lyrical value of this entire album. With a name like The Empire Shall Fall, I would expect nothing less from the band. The words far outweigh any minor dislikes you or I might have in the music. Thus making Awaken not only a worthy listen, but a necessity. They're trying to tell us something here, guys... Wake up!
Recently on a trip to Stockholm, I was hanging out in a metal themed pool hall. After speaking with a gorgeous blonde girl, she mentioned that she was friends with the guys in Enforcer. My reaction was akin to a six year old discovering a Playstation under the tree on Christmas morning. I began shouting at her about how great they were, a band full of untapped potential, and one of the best bands currently in Sweden. Needless to say, this Swedish girl, who had a passing interest in metal through association was a bit frightened by my unbridled geekery. She just doesn’t know how great her friends’ band is.
Bands trying to recreate a “lost” scene, like Enforcer, are always suspicious. I can’t help but feel that some of them are doing it ironically, silently laughing at the music while performing it. Their disrespect isn’t worth our time or money. Then again, there are bands who play the style simply because they love it so much. A sense of admiration and excitement exudes through the music, and that is the case with Enforcer, a stellar Swedish band only on their second album. I’ve been putting this review off because I didn’t quite know how to do the album justice. This album is a time warp back to the glory days of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, recapturing the spirit and intensity that so many bands strive for. Diamonds is an infectious collection of great traditional metal songs, and a contender for album of the year.
Headed by prolific singer Olof “Enforcer” Wikstrand, the band is never short on high pitched, soaring vocals, sounding like a beautiful whine. Wikstrand’s range isn’t profound and deep, but it doesn’t need to be. Enforcer make invigorating, undeniably happy heavy metal that shoots through you. Range isn’t necessary here, only adrenaline -- and Enforcer have tons of adrenaline. Adam Zaars and Joseph Tholl are a dual guitar team with blazing solos and riffs the hearken back the formative days of Iron Maiden. Their impeccable work on the instrumental title track could have come right off Killers. Many of these riffs lusciously trickle up and down the neck of the guitar, creating a classic, groovy atmosphere, reminiscent of metal’s glory days. The songs coalesce into terribly catchy music. The simplistic and quick flowing melody of “High Roller” or the spellbinding “Katana” exemplify Enforcer’s uncanny ability to write effervescent songs as if its nothing.
I always get excited for a band like this. They’re young and full of talent. Enforcer have the ability to be the next Wolf: a band devoted to carrying on the legacy of great traditional metal without the support of major labels or touring. Here’s to the next underground sensation!
The Empires Of Humanity
You would think we are in a mid-life crisis with the metal movement. Then again,
it is entering the fifth decade of existence, so much like your mother and
father looking to hold onto their youth, what is older becomes newer again.
Instead of aspects moving into more punishing, extreme or new directions, all
that’s left is cross-pollination or second/third generation interpretations of
well worn sub-genres. Welcome to Fatal Embrace, a five piece unapologetic in
their old school stance and playing abilities.
This is German thrash
with an emphasis on all facets American with their latest effort The Empires of
Humanity. They’ve been involved in the scene since 1993, releasing three albums
previously on three different labels. Vocal patterns that sometimes mirror old
Metallica, Megadeth or Sacred Reich, musically songs like “Another Rotten Life”,
“Into Your Face” and “Ravenous” slice and dice the way raw, angry bands should
sound. Remember old Razor, Kreator or most American thrash before 1987?
It’s not retro-thrash or new wave thrash- it’s just pure, unadulterated
metal with little care for commercial acceptance, so those who feel like they
need to test the boundaries of thrash beware. I also love their heavier
interpretation of Iron Maiden’s “Killers”, which is a bonus to prove Fatal
Embrace aren’t merely stuck in one fast rhythm dynamic.
exactly going to set the world on fire or become an online selling sensation-
it’s workman-like in its execution and probably translates well in a live
environment more so than a consistent request at metal bars or for your local
parties. I’ll stick again to the veterans for the most part and leave Fatal
Embrace for the diehards.
C -Matt Coe
Enter The Fog
Here we have a local Boston area band, Fog Wizard, with their first self-released demo, Enter The Fog. At only four songs and under 14 minutes in total running time, this sludgy, crusty music is delivered quick and to the point - there's no messing around here.
While listening to this, you can hear influences from Eyehategod, Hellhammer and all sorts of other metal and hardcore bands. The guitars are churning, distorted and raucous, while the drums keep the beat with a bit of a hardcore feel at times. The vocals are almost chanted for the most part, with an angry and vile delivery. If you are looking for a catchier song, then "Murder Train" is the one you want. If you want über sludgy music with some really personal and heartfelt lyrics, then the closer "Gone" is for you. The production here is dirty, raw and grimy. Not really terrible, but could use a bit more definition and separation on the instruments, and maybe a touch less vocals, but I'm a picky fuck about stuff like that. It is a demo after all, though.
Overall, this is a decent first recording from the band. I am sure with better production and a bit more time together, things will get better.
Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring
A Forest of Stars sophomore effort, Opportunistic Thieves of Spring, may not immediately appeal to most listeners. You see, there is a whole lot going on here, and it can be a bit overwhelming at first. This is black metal meets doomy folk metal meets psychedelic post-rock - sometimes all at the same time. This relatively new quintet from the UK really mix it up on this six song, 72 minute affair.
The opening track, "Sorrow's Impetus", starts off with a quiet, psychedelic like intro before blasting into some pretty killer black metal (albeit with some really crazy psychedelic keys in the background). There is a slow, doomy section in the middle that features extensive violin parts - which adds an almost eerie feeling to the music at times. "Raven's Eye View" has an extended intro, with some mouth harp and flute thrown in to keep things interesting. I guess this is where I should also mention the great vocals by Mister Curse. The sound is rash and harsh, with a severely tortured sound to them - very well suited for the music here. "Thunder's Cannonade" is my pick for standout track here. After beginning with a nearly three minute intro that features just violin, the song picks up to a doomy pace and just totally pummels you with a total sense of despair and torture. The 16+ minute closer is the most diverse composition here, with all sorts of doom, progressive, folk and post-rock elements making their way into the song at various points. I was a little off-put with the vocal effects used here, but I guess they do fit in with the vibe of the song at the point they are used.
Opportunistic Thieves is definitely not for everybody, but for those that give it a chance and have an ear for the unique and interesting, they will be in for a real treat.
Legend Of The Shadowking
What constitutes ‘happy metal’ these days? So many power metal bands know how to
throw down the double bass (even if it’s more of a studio invention and you
wonder what you are experiencing when a live drummer can’t pull the same tricks
off) and multi-tracked sing a long choruses, I think you have to look at Legend
of the Shadowking as a prime example of the good, the bad, and the ugly when it
comes to this genre.
Fantasy laden lyrics about warriors, dragons and
good vs. evil? “Thunder God” and “Merlin- Legend of The Past” qualify. Choir
vocals? The opening 20 seconds and chorus of “Out of the Ruins” fill with those
early Angra/ Edguy sing a long parts- ‘rising together, on my knees, etc.’ that
all the maniacs who want to feel as one with the band need when at the shows or
in the private bedroom/ car karaoke shows. Let’s not forget the uplifting
keyboard tone- filling in the sonic space to get the crowds clapping or chanting
Where Freedom Call succeed is when they take the throttle off the
race car pedal a notch, moving into mid-tempo terrain where they can express
their mystical and theatrical tendencies with more dynamic flair. Tracks such as
“Under The Spell Of The Moon” and “The Darkness”, two songs where vocalist Chris
Bay doesn’t feel like he has to sustain the helium high range for every melody
and chorus and the riffing has a darker, straightforward traditional quality to
If I’m going to listen to this style, I tend to revert
to classic bands like Angra, Edguy, Helloween and Sonata Arctica versus Freedom
Call. There’s too many clichés and sugary sweet material on display for me to
not snicker and laugh at times. Who knows where things will go from here, as Dan
Zimmermann has left the band to concentrate on Gamma Ray for the future…
C- -Matt Coe
Reaper Subconscious Guide
Reaper Subconscious Guide is the latest release from Norway's one-man black metal band Furze. If you are familiar with Furze's
earlier releases, then this one may throw a curve ball at you. You will not find any super fast "necro" black metal anthems here.
What you WILL find is a more abstract and doomy Furze. I was intrigued while reading R.S.G. is labeled a "tribute" to metal gods
Black Sabbath early 1970's era, after a listen, perhaps just a small liner note in the cd jacket would have sufficed. It's an attempt
at a lo-fi early metal recording that falls short musically, and only succeeds at times through the use of outdated effects.
a couple descent songs hidden here if you can make it through to the last 2 tracks before boredom sets in. There are some descent riffs, and
I'm reminded of Isengard, and even Sarke. Vocally, things are all over the place, by design I'm sure. There are times where I swear
Tom G. Warrior ala Cold Lake is being summoned through a whiny, nasally attack on the ears. "The Bonedrum" and "Essential Wait" are the standouts here, musically and vocally. "Essential Wait" has more of Sabbath feel, with a Dodsferd-sounding vocal and
All in all, this COULD work, if not for the drums. Simply put, they are terrible. The beats feel hollow and empty, and
never go anywhere, making for very long, drawn out songs. The sounds of the ride and high-hat is like Chinese water torture. I was
unable to get past it. I WILL give Furze credit for trying something different, and experimenting with new sounds and equipment. And
perhaps the next time around it will work...just not this time.
Trumpet Of Triumph
I have always been a big fan of Jeff Gruslin's vocal style, ever since his early Vital Remains days, and they seem to
only get better with each release. Godless Rising IS old-school death/thrash metal. A lot of bands will bill themselves as "old-school", but these
guys back it up with this release. The only comparison I can make here is Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, but with
more melody (Check out "Where is Your God", and "Christ Cadaver" and you'll see what I mean.) The guitar work is fantastic,
and never becomes "stale". Using only one man (Toby Knapp) to play both guitars and bass has paid off in the recording studio.
Lots of evil harmonies thrown in for atmosphere, along with some great soloing.
Speed is used very sparingly, and most of this album is mid-paced and just brutal as hell, much of that owed to the slow-paced
double-bass, and galloping drums provided by the session drummer. It's no easy feat to play death/thrash metal and sound original
these days, Godless Rising are in an elite class of bands that are able to pull it off.
"Christ Cadaver" is my personal favorite, and I think gives a good overall landscape of this entire release. That being said, if you
love old-school blasphemous death/thrash metal, this is well worth your time.
The Clans Will Rise Again
Traditional metal will never die. It may never be flavor of the month, we may never see its appeal hit stadium headlining status in North America, but you can’t deny the basic, primal need to headbang, chant and scream at the top of your lungs. Is it little surprise that Germany through the years has gained acclaim for its respect and reverence to the style- putting on some of the best tours and festivals through the years with tens of thousands of fans flocking from all sides of the globe?
Take one of the veteran acts of Deutschland Grave Digger for example. Starting their career 30 years ago, The Clans Will Rise Again showcases their love for exploring famous countries and their rich historical impact- this time engaging in another look at Scotland which was the centerpiece for 1996’s Tunes Of War. Ardent fans know that vocalist Chris Boltendahl and his bandmates aren’t going to stray from their powerful, guitar driven pure sound they’ve displayed throughout their career. Losing two guitarists last year, Axel Ritt easily slips into the main guitar slot and plays with the passion and fury of multiple men- his style a mix of old school with neo-classical shred chops as well.
The video track “Highland Farewell” contains real bagpipes through the opening chords and chorus, propelled by Axel’s quick hitting riff tricks and the coming of age battle ready lyrical focus. “Rebels” features the conventional double bass kick work from Stefan Arnold and another throat ripping exercise for the cause from Mr. Boltendahl. They even pay a slight tribute to Accept during “Valley Of Tears” as the main riff has that mid-tempo “Princess Of The Dawn” appeal- the one that will definitely get the crowds geared up for audience participation.
The Clans Will Rise Again is a worthy successor to Ballads Of A Hangman - so if you are willing to handle rough and tumble melodies but the heart and spirit of traditional power metal, Grave Digger should be one of the bands you investigate.
B+ -Matt Coe
Bloody Pit Of Horror
25 years. That is how long Gwar has been chugging out their brand of theatrical themed metal. In that time, the band has released a whole slew of stuff - full-length discs, VHS tapes of all sorts, and a ton of DVDs - not to mention constantly touring and turning fans all over the place red, green, and whatever other color goo they decide to spray that night. The band is, after all, more at home performing on stage that in the studio, at least in my opinion. I've always thought they were mediocre on disc, but in a live setting, even if the music is just average, their amazingly entertaining live show makes up for it in a big way. That said, I thought their previous release, Lust In Space, was one of the better discs that Gwar has ever released. Not wanting to waste any momentum, Bloody Pit Of Horror comes just a little over a year later, and carries on with some pretty entertaining sounds.
"Zombies, March!" gets us rolling with a pretty kickass, fast paced attack. Featuring the bands signature humorous and fun lyrics, this one really gets you going and sets the tone for what is to come. "A Gathering Of Ghouls" brings some real catchiness to the game, along with some sweet gang vocals that Gwar is well known for. Of course, the whole time I am listening to this, mental images of the bands live show are running through my mind, which make everything seem a little more entertaining. The fast paced, humor and gore laden thrash continues on for about 40 minutes here, each song bringing back memories of different celebrities meeting their demise during a live Gwar performance.
Bloody Pit Of Horror might not be the most inventive or technical release of the year, but damnit, it sure is fun to listen to. If I listened to this without knowing anything about the band, I might not dig it too much, but having seen Gwar more times than I can remember over the last 20 years, whenever I listen to their music, I have their great stage performance dancing around in your head. That is what makes this band who they are.
Hacavitz is a band out of Mexico, which I wasn't really familiar with until now. While doing a little research on this band, I discovered
the past Hacavitz releases were labeled as death metal. I would have to say that Metzli Obscura is more on the black metal side, with
death metal overtones, and a heaping spoonful of thrash thrown in the mix. Making this one hell of a release. I often cringe at Mexican
extreme metal, simply because the production is usually horrible. This is not the case here...Dirty, yes...Muddy, no. The guitar distortion
is well done and not so "necro" that you can't follow it. I can hear a lot of "Pure Holocaust"-era influence in the guitars at times, possibly
coincidental, and certainly not a rip-off by any means. If anything it only adds to the brutality.
The vocals are delivered nicely, again I
can catch glimpses of some early Norwegian-era BM here and there. Antimo Buonnano(ex-Disgorge and Impiety) does both vocals and all
guitars/bass on this album. This guy can belt out some harsh screams at times, and gets points for really mixing it up. The drums, provided
by Oscar Garcia(also ex-Impiety) are just sick, loads of double-bass, blast-beats, and more galloping than a stampede at a cattle-ranch...seriously, this guy is good.
I can tell you for sure, this has and will be in heavy rotation in my household. If you like your metal dirty, black,
nasty and straight to the point, with NO filler (The longest song is just over 5 minutes) get this album!
On Divine Winds
Ever since the release of their debut disc, ...Of Frost And War, in 2008, many of us here at GASP have been proclaiming how great Hail Of Bullets is. Then we saw them at the Maryland Deathfest, and it pretty much machine gunned that fact into our beer soaked skulls. Now, with On Divine Winds, Hail Of Bullets leaves no doubt that they are one of the strongest death metal bands around right now, even if they've only been together for four years now. The theme, of course, is war, with the Pacific War being the focus this time around. I love that there is a history lesson involved with this.
You know what the music is going to be here - brutal death metal, through and through. Of course, a nice little intro starts things off with some well done orchestration, ending with a fleet of bombers flying by and dropping their incendiary payloads. "Operation Z" (about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor) is the first song proper, and of course, it rips and shreds your ear drums to pieces as you'd expect. The guitar tone is superb, the bass is deep and heavy enough to dislodge filling from your teeth, and the drums are freakin' massive. Of course, we all know Martin van Drunen is the king of death metal vocals, and he proves it once again here. I still get chills from hearing his voice - it is that good. They even throw in some kickass melodic dual guitar leads here (check the 2:00 mark), which is a nice treat to these ears, as I think dual guitar leads rule all. Speaking of twin guitar leads, the vinyl bonus track "Sugar Loaf Hill" features a really sweet one that I only wish was a bit longer. The last part of "Unsung Heroes" goes into this massive doomy part, which seems like a nice musical tribute to all the POW's that the song is about - brilliant stuff. While the big rally cry on ...Of Frost And War was "Slit their fucking throats!", here it is during "The Mukden Incident", when Martin chants "Head for WAR!", and we go into a chugging riff that could easily signal the beginning of a long battle. Other highlights are, well, everything. From the machine gun sounding riffs in "Guadalcanal", to the doominess of "Tokyo Napalm Holocaust" and "To Bear The Unbearable" and every other bit on here, there is no soft spot, no weakness, no letting up. Just 52 minutes of total ferocity.
Produced by drummer Ed Warby, and mixed (as with the debut) by Dan Swanö, the sound on this is strikingly amazing - powerful, heavy, and as close to perfect as you can get. I can't put into words how good this is. If you don't have it, get it now. Do yourself another favor, and go see them when they play the Maryland Deathfest in May - they are sure to be one of the best performances of the Fest.
Forming in 2007 with links to acts such as To-Mera and Linearsphere, the English
sextet Haken certainly aren’t an act that will be easy on the ears. With 4 of
the 7 tracks clipping the 10 minute timeframe and beyond, their progressive
rock, metal and jazz style does take multiple passes to fully ingest all of the
nuances and dynamics on display. They seem to have as much appreciation for
ethereal, atmospheric acts like Porcupine Tree and older Genesis as they do for
Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation.
Guitarist/ keyboardist Richard
Henshall and guitarist Charles Griffiths take 40 years of progressive music and
sprinkle in their technique, theory and apply as necessary- sometimes just
spitting out circling, clean lines such as the ones through “Streams” and at
other times hitting the momentum distortion shift gauge for a heavier track such
as “Eternal Rain” Drummer Raymond Hearne approaches Haken with a jazz meets
metal mentality- splashing free flowing fill work when called for, and at other
times making sure to just hold all the moving parts together as the key
Vocalist Ross Jennings sometimes has a maniacal, almost
King’s X meets southern rock style when he wants to switch things up, most
evident during the opening verse of personal favorite “Drowning In The Flood”.
His smoother approach will appease many who fear a singer that wants to merely
show off his multi-octave chops. The lyrics also fuse sci-fi and fantasy
concepts with a personal, down to earth nature- lending itself to an intelligent
debate regarding the importance of the words in progressive rock and metal.
I’ll admit this one took quite a few listens to complete engage me.
Aquarius isn’t for the casual or the weak- you need to be a deep progressive
follower to enjoy their kitchen stew, jam-like propensity.
B+ -Matt Coe
Some reviews are just difficult to write. The promo sits on the shelf (or in the hard drive, nowadays), and gathers “dust.” This is one of them. Hammers of Misfortune’s recently re-released debut is so unlike other music that its sound is difficult to explain. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t one of those mediocre albums in which reviewing becomes a chore. It’s quite good -- flashy and idiosyncratic. The problem is that there is so much going on that it cannot be summed up in a few paragraphs. Mike Scalzi’s “other band” sounds nothing like Slough Feg, save of course his distinctive low pitched howl. This is still metal, but stands out on its own. Its similar to an opera, as each song is divided into multiple parts, often without even choruses, that transition from one to another. It’s not progressive either; these songs are intended to create a narrative culminating into culminate into a full album.
The Bastard has many different voices and sounds. Janis Tanaka’s soothing soprano is the primary focus, accented by Scalzi the very King Diamond-like growl of John Cobbett. Each voice works off each other, chiming into the album whenever their voice best fit. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Scalzi’s voice is great, but sometimes he struggles to carry a song with minimal backing instrumentation. This is just nitpicking, however, as there has clearly been so much time and effort put into this record. I can’t imagine that the band cares too much about my criticism, because the music is still their “vision,” and altering it in anyway would change their vision. Yes, there are a few awkward transitions, but so what? It’s too cool to hear metal produced so artfully.
This was merely the debut from Hammers of Misfortune. Despite lineup changes, there was enormous potential lying here, which was to be built upon.
Minsk, Harvestman, and US Christmas all join together to each take on a total of eleven different Hawkwind songs. They each do Hawkwind much justice, even sounding as close to the original as possible, which as any Hawkwind fan knows you have to have the know how and the right equipment to pull this off.
US Christmas’s take on “Masters Of The Universe” is spot on as is Minsk’s version of “Assault and Battery/The Golden Void” even adding some power and fury that wasn’t on the original. In many ways they sound like modern touring versions of Hawkwind and it wouldn’t surprise me too much to find out some of the members of each of the bands featured on this tribute album weren’t part of an actual Hawkwind live tour. Harvestman’s version of “The Watcher” is simply mesmerizing, as this psychedelic trance metal band shows us what it’s like to cover one of the spaciest bands in existence.
If you’re a fan of any of the bands on this tribute or if you’re a Hawkwind fan I would highly recommend checking this out, you will NOT be disappointed!
B -Matt Smith
Last Station On The Road to Death
Debemur Morti Productions
French black metal commandos Hell Militia take their time releasing music. They formed in 2001, released a split and a demo before coming out with their debut, Canonisation of the Foul Spirit, in 2005. Now, they've finally released a follow-up to that, in the name of Last Station on the Road to Death. Maybe it's because the members of this militia are in all sorts of other bands - Temple of Baal, Arkhon Infaustus, Antaeus and Secrets of the Moon to name but a few. Maybe they just like to take their time. Who knows? Who cares? It is all about the music after all, right?
About the music then. Well, yup, it's most certainly black metal. Uninteresting and pretty basic black metal at that. After the intro which features samples from what sounds like a 40's/50's exploitation movie, we're treated with the somewhat promising "Born Without Light". Blasting, grinding and all out destroying their way through the song, Hell Militia infiltrate out senses pretty strongly on this one. The dissonant guitar during the slower middle part is actually pretty damn killer. From there, I started to lose interest in the disc. Each successive song seemed to have very similar structure and feeling, and basically just seemed uninspired. The GG Allin cover, "Shoot Knife Strangle Beat & Crucify", did change things up a bit, but at that point it is too little, and too late.
I Shalt Become is a one-man Black Metal project out of the U.S. (Illinois). This is a very moody release, highly symphonic,
and crawling speed. Perhaps crawling a little too slowly for too long at times for my taste, but I get it. This is basically a
55 minute offering, broken into 10 songs. It's filled with valleys and peaks, culminating with some fantastic orchestral strings.
The keyboards are the standout here, and at times downright epic. Four songs in, "No Quarter at the Somme" is the first peak
on this album, and it becomes clear just how talented this guy is at grasping atmosphere and converting it to music.
are minimal, and sometimes lost in the background as screams and whispers, the drums are simplistic, and well done, as not to
take away from the mood. This, for me, would be something I would listen to as a backdrop to doing something else, it works well
as a soundtrack, not particularly something I would listen to while driving to Grandma's house, as it's just a bit too drawn out
and a bit too depressing for that, but something to set the mood as you prepare yourself for a much needed rest after a long day
All in all, a solid offering, with some great production, especially for a USBM release.
Celebrating their tenth year as recording artists, Danish power metal act Iron Fire decide to pick up some previously unreleased songs in their history, give them a 2010 treatment and match this with some new, fresh material to make up this 12 song effort. They’ve come a long way from their early Noise Records beginnings where they seemed to be a mini-Helloween with a nasally Vince Neil fronting the group. Martin Steene certainly possesses one of those upper register voices that can be an acquired taste, and through the years he’s worked harder on controlling his melodies and understanding where his comfort zone is.
The songs on Metalmorphosized run the gamut from instant mid-tempo headbangers (“Still Alive”), off to the battlefield speed numbers (“The Underworld”) , and the occasional introspective, quieter epic (“Crossroad”). I feel the band retain a better chance to distinguish themselves from the pack when they take the accelerator off the rhythm section, allowing the guitar work of Kirk Backarach a chance to sink into your cranium- the best example being “Left For Dead” where the main riff straddles the line of power, traditional and the current American modern sound.
If you’ve been following the group for a while, this album will not waver your thoughts one way or another. They aren’t reinventing the power wheel. Adequate however doesn’t pay the bills in a time when consumers are more discreet with their entertainment funds. Thus Metalmorphosized isn’t going to be a record I’ll regularly return to my rotation- I will stick to Revenge or To The Grave when I need a little Iron Fire to stoke the flames.
C- -Matt Coe
Shitloads of good metal bands emerge from Sweden all the time - Istapp is one such band, and Blekinge is their debut release, with Metal Blade being the presenter. The band delivers the frozen goods with very melodic black metal, also drawing in some viking and folk metal influences when needed.
One thing I noticed after my initial listen to this was that while the songs here aren't very long (averaging right about the 4 minute mark in length), they felt longer than that. Not longer in a sense that they seem to drag on, actually just the opposite. The songs feel as if they are longer because the band packs so much into every song. Take "I Väntan På Den Absoluta Nollpunkten", for example. It starts off fast and furious, with some lightning quick melodic riffing and raspy vocals, then, just over 30 seconds in, it turns slower and more melodic, and another 30 seconds later we get some clean vocals and bells coming in to completely change the atmosphere. This change happens a couple more times in the 3:38 running time of the song, which makes it seem a bit more epic than the running time would suggest. The title track is a bit more straight ahead, with some pretty strong Disseciton influences coming into play. The mid-fast paced song has tons of killer melodic guitar work, staggeringly good drumming, and haunting vocals that deliver the frigid messages in the bands native tongue.
Crank up the heat, drop in Istapp's Belkinge, and be prepared from the frozen aural assault that is about to come your way. A great combination of melodic and heavy, with all sorts of other bits thrown in to keep it interesting and a bit different, make this a stellar effort from these Swedes.
We know the tributes have been pouring in left and right since the passing of
Ronnie James Dio. His legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of every metal
generation- his work spanning the entire spectrum. He was there when metal
gained a foothold and when it was a dirty word for many countries. You can’t
deny the man’s impact with Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his solo band. So who
better to give tribute than Norway’s Jorn Lande, he with a similar vocal gift to
sing to the heavens and wrench every emotional muscle with this 13 song, hour
long plus album.
Opening with “Song for Ronnie James”, this 8 minute epic
recalls the mystery and majesty of his mid 70’s Rainbow years along with a tinge
of his early solo years. You’ll get a great mixture of Ronnie’s more melodic
material such as “Invisible” and “Don’t Talk To Strangers” along with the
standard up tempo crushers such as “Stand Up and Shout”, “Kill The King” and
“Sunset Superman”. Plus the epics aren’t the normal fare one would expect as
Jorn willingly tackles “Sacred Heart” and “Lonely Is The Word Letters From
Jorn doesn’t attempt to spin the material into uncharted
territory- he rather pays ultimate reverence and includes a lot of the
instrumentation that was at the musicians disposal in those eras (deep Hammond
organs and guitar tones that feel more analog than digital). The album closes
with a live rendition of “Straight Through The Heart” and you can hear that his
dominance reigns not merely in a studio setting but also on stages far and wide.
The only tribute I feel eclipses this for Dio would be the double disc
Century Media put out many years ago that I picked up at the Powermad 1999
festival- but this certainly stomps over any Dwell Records compilation.
A- -Matt Coe
Los Angeles rockers Judge Jackson Drive on with their fifth release of pop and blues tinged rock n' roll. This is what you'd get if you crossed Cheap Trick with the Black Crowes and throw in a little Buck Cherry or other more modern rockers into the mix. It has a total arena rock feel to it, complete with sing-along choruses and lighter raising ballads.
"Head Over Heals" is the opener, and probably the best song on the disc as well. A bluesy rock riff carries through most of the song, and the hook laden chorus will have pretty much everyone singing along. If you want more cowbell, then "Radio" gives that to you, along with some semi-cheesy backing vocals which almost remind me of a bad Poison or Warrant song from the 80's. The title track is a pretty rocking number as well, but a bit mellower overall. Break out the lighters (or I guess just use the lighter app for your smartphone, these days) for "Me Then You", as it is your required "power ballad". "The End" is another ballad, but has some pretty cool organ work going on, which makes it far more interesting for me. Just to throw a total curve ball, the last song "Meant to Be" is a country-rock ditty, complete with slide guitar and knee-slapping rhythms.
This certainly isn't the style of music that I typically listen to, but they hit the target that they were aiming for. This is decent stuff for fans of Cheap Trick, Black Crowes, Buck Cherry and the like. If poppy retro-rock is a guilty pleasure of yours, then by all means, Judge Jackson delivers a pretty good verdict.
Poetry For The Poisoned
Ninth album for this veteran dark power metal act, who have reached headline status the world over thanks to the charismatic vocal presence of Roy Khan, the unyielding work ethic and vision of guitarist Thomas Youngblood and the overall impact to not stand still musically when others would be content to coast with their style. Poetry For The Poisoned contains an array of guest appearances that come into play based on their skill sets: Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid for his death roar on “The Great Pandemonium”, Jon Oliva and Amanda Somerville for their special vocal contrasts during “The Zodiac”, Gus G lighting the fretboard on fire during “Hunter’s Season” as well as long time guest Simone Simons during the ballad “House On A Hill”.
I believe Kamelot at this point in their career prefer to explore songwriting realms with larger, grandiose theatrical arrangements, almost as if they are conveying scenes in the grand scheme of a play ( especially evident in the four part title track). Keyboardist Oliver Palotai appears to have more of a hand in the proceedings, intertwining computer generated sounds against his normal symphonic laden chord duties. This makes for a deep headphone experience as I’m certain many Kamelot consumers will savor progressive-like tracks such as “Seal of Woven Years” or the conventional energetic fare of closer “Once Upon A Time”.
If you thought Ghost Opera was a little too modern for your tastes, Poetry For The Poisoned may appeal to your senses as I think Kamelot recognize the need to walk the tightrope between pleasing their creative juices and also writing material that will stay with the fans for a lifetime. When analyzing this against their complete discography, the album as a whole doesn’t maintain a permanent place in my heart like Siege Perilous or The Fourth Legacy- and yet I respect the multi-cultural explorations sonically enough to return to this from time to time.
B -Matt Coe
Can a single album make you... dance around your house in your underwear like a possessed whirling dervish, grit your teeth and raise your middle finger to "the man," bang your head until you get a "bang-over," want to scream at the top of your lungs with wild abandon, fill your mind with apocalyptic visions of the future, or smile wickedly with your feet firmly entrenched within the melancholy dark underworld (phew), all at the same time? Well, if your listening to an album by the band Killing Joke, it can and will.
Their newest release and 13th full length studio album since their inception in 1978, Absolute Dissent, does not disappoint in this respect. With dance/trance inducing tracks like "European Super State" and "The Raven King," anthem-like and ferociously aggressive, smash your head against a wall, scream like a banshee, then repeat, kind of songs like "Fresh Fever From The Skies," "The Great Cull," and "This World Hell," and a twisted nod to the sounds of Dub with "Ghosts of Ladbroke Grove," you really get and understanding what Killing Joke is and has been all about. The album is like a celebration of all things Killing Joke without being a tired re-hash of old material or ideas. It is a mature and full sounding exploration of where they have been, musical experimentations they have made as well as a fitting tribute to the late Paul Raven. A reemergence of some clean vocals by Jaz Coleman on a couple of tracks balances well with the primal and haunting howls on others, inciting a call-to-arms.
Bleak and beautiful, Absolute Dissent is clearly Killing Joke with their 100% original mix of post-punk, industrial, goth, and electronic sounds. The album is not immediately accessible (as it should be) and will take a few listens to truly appreciate its density and brilliance. Veteran fans of the band like myself, will appreciate that it is nothing less than an uncompromising extension of their musical catalog and upon repeated plays will have a hard time getting some of these songs out of their head. Those new to the band may hear a couple of song parts and think, "I think I heard something like that from..." WRONG!!!! Killing Joke did it first! With this album, they continue to solidify the reasons why they are one of the most influential bands in music today.
A- -Hillarie Jason
King Giant churn out their debut full-length release, Southern Darkness. Released by the band themselves, this 55+ minute slab of southern rock tinged doom is sludgy, yet somehow melodic and quite catchy at times. This quintet from Virginia's booze fueled effort brings forth memories of Clutch (especially in the second track, "Burning Rights"), Black Sabbath (many many times) and the mighty Kyuss.
Doomy, dirty, and dank are some of the first words that come to mind when listening to King Giant. The riffs are huge, from the opening of "Solace", right through to the closing bits of "Desert Run", and even their cover of Skynyrd's "Needle and the Spoon" is heavied up a bit. "Lady Whiskey" stands out as my favorite track, quite possibly because I am a big fan of Whiskey, but also because it has some of the most massive riffs and a really well done, gruff vocal delivery. "Potter's Field" deserves a mention as well, as it features a hook so big and fierce, Quint could probably have been used to catch Jaws without any problem at all. The main downside on this release is the repetitiveness gets a bit too much at times, but that always seems to be the case to me with this style of music, so it probably isn't much of a big deal to most.
If any of this piques your interest, head on over to their website and grab a copy of this release.
King of Asgard are one of a slew of bands that have been incorporating folk influences into a black metal base. With an authentic Norse influence as well, it comes as no surprise that many of these songs are about battles, mythology, and “the North.” Add to that an album title like Fi’mbulvintr, and you can immediately expect Norse pride to run through this release, and you’d be absolutely right. This album sounds as if a quartet of Vikings timewarped into 2010 to record an album about their triumphs. There isn’t anything remarkably original here, but King of Asgard have a fierce sound that is nothing short of warlike.
The music here sounds like Dissection meets Heidevolk. The minimalist instrumentation style is absent however, and in it’s place is a heavy, crunchy riff style similar to Immortal’s later years, just not as massive. Instead, King of Asgard attempt to sound both violent and majestic. The folky atmosphere of the aforementioned Heidevolk is here, but more than anything, the band has an energy to them that is purely bellicose. Karl Beckman’s vocals bring this mentality forth more than anything else, as he can alternate between a melodic scream and the more traditional growling. What’s most important about King of Asgard is not their individual instruments, but the overall feeling on this album. It’s dark and moody, but most importantly, fierce and Nordic.
It’s not all glorious battle hymns, though. This album is a bit too long for it’s own good, and by the end, it dips in quality. Part of that is due to how great the opener is. After a song like “Einharjar,” it takes a lot of strong material to match up, and King of Asgard just aren’t able to do that on Fi’mbulvintr. The songs begin to drag into one another and become undistinguished. The band’s one dimensional, yet quite cool, angry mystique has faded.
This is a promising debut. King of Asgard have pinpointed their authentically Norse sound. While there are dozens of popular bands playing this style now, and I have a feeling that the genre is on its way out, they nevertheless create music with a vengeful and energetic atmosphere.
Deeper The Fall
Serbian duo Kozeljnik and Paragon Records deliver the bands second full length release, Deeper The Fall. A collection of 6 songs totalling almost 42 minutes, we're in for some lengthy compositions here.
Things get started with "ThetruthisDeath", a 7+ minute affair of black metal with a good bit of grooviness to it, this track is a good opener and should awaken the ears of listeners quite nicely. One thing you will notice, however, is that the guitar sound is a wee bit muffled, almost like there was a heavy foam pad between the speaker and the microphone during recording or something. It does seem to take away a bit of the power from the sound, but I got accustomed to it before too long. There is some kickass riffage and melody going on here, too. "Void to Final Consumption" is where things kick all sorts of ass on Deeper The Fall. A bit slower and almost doomy, the guitar work here is commendable and memorable, and I really like the chanted vocals used during the middle part of the song, it ads a lot to the gloomy feeling of the music for this song. An easy pick for best song on the disc.
This is quite a good listen, aside from the slightly muffled production values. If you like your black metal slightly old school, but with some modern grooviness to it, fall no deeper than the latest from Kozeljnik.
Krieg has been pumping out and endless supply of material for the past decade or so (excepting the approximately two year break from 2005-2007), and The Isolationist is the bands latest full length release, their first since signing with Candlelight Records. It is their sixth full release to date, to go with somewhere around 15 split releases, a bunch of demos, some EPs and a DVD. As you can see, the band has been busy. Also noteworthy is the bands lineup, which aside from vocalist Imperial and guitarist Joseph Van Fossen seems to be in a constant state of flux.
After a fairly long intro, "No Future" kicks into high gear, with pounding drums, layers of super heavy guitars, thunderous bass and superbly vicious growling all coming together to devour your eardrums. "All Paths To God" - slow(er) and heavy as fuck, massive crazy dissonant guitar work in the middle, leading into a real slow part with an abundance of keyboards, showing a little something different from the band. Speaking of different, "Depakote" breaks down into a sort of black techno bit during the middle section - not really sure what to think of it, but it does seem to kill the momentum of the song pretty quickly. Follow that up with the instrumental (and mostly drums at that) "Religion III", and it seems to bog down the middle of the album pretty well for me.
Fear not, though, as "Blue of Noon" gets things going strongly once again, with really good drum work laying the foundation for this mid-paced (at least until the last minute) mind crusher. "...and The Stars Fell On" starts off slow and almost rocking, with some killer melodic guitar licks carrying throughout - just try not banging your head during this song, you will likely fail miserably. The last two minutes of the track fades out into electro-noise, which again, I don't care a whole lot for. This theme continues into "Remission", so I'll skip that and just tell you about how insane the closing song "Dead Windows" is. Maybe the most "straight up" black metal attack on here, it is full of blasting drums, rapid picked guitar lines, and raspy vocals that will cause your speakers to melt, but it is a bit short and seems to start fading out right as it hits its crescendo.
Krieg's latest is a great black metal album, helping to solidify the band as one of the top US black metal bands. There are a few time where they stray a bit too much and I start to lose interest, but they always snap me back into it before too long.
For Death, Glory and the End of The World
Switzerland's Kruger is steady, noisy doom that's not always slow.
Others have compared them to Neurosis and Converge. If you have a strong preference for mellow doom, you might thoroughly enjoy what Kruger has to offer. I can't speak for the rest of Kruger's albums, but For Death, Glory and the End of the World sounded like medium-to-slow-paced, background noise made of metal. Their music and instrumentation is OK, but it's metal that's not very memorable to me.
Sometimes run-on and blended so much that it's hard to tell songs apart. Actually, it's pretty darn boring. This is probably what the elevator music would sound like in Metal Metal Land. Let me see if I can bore you to death with this review the same way this CD flitted in one ear and out the other without leaving a trace of an impression on my brain.
Not a thing stood out on this album. In fact, the only time I stopped to note what song I was listening to, was when something seemed even more boring than the rest of the album, or so overly bland and/or repetitive it became annoying. Much like the long, progressive [sort of but without really expanding] “Our Cemetery is Full of Strangers” or another one I didn't care for, the closer “Turpitudes”. That one creeped me out with vocals that seemed intentionally annoying and off-key; “Are you still there?”. It wasn't a scary-creepy, which might have grabbed my attention, it was more of an unpleasant-on-the-ears-creepy.
“Anthem of Pretended Glory”, was very zone-y but not as noisy as “Our Cemetery is Full of Strangers” and “Muscle” had a little bit of groove somewhere in it. These were the only two songs that maybe didn't bore me as much as the remainder of the album. There were no clean vocals throughout, which is awesome and I'm always thankful for that. But those were monotone and added to the whole album sounding pretty 'muffled'. If any of these previous points didn't seem bland enough, I will now name off the titles of all the tracks I have yet to mention: “The Ox”, “Return of the Huns”, “Villains”, “Centre”, and lastly “Dukes of Nothing”. And doesn't that one sound interesting?
On the whole, this album was just way too blah for me to wrap my head around. It sort of reminds me of that friend you have [doesn't everyone have one?] that tries to have a conversation with you, and no matter how hard you try to pay attention to them, your mind just can't concentrate on what they're saying because it's usually more boring than a spot on the wall behind their head or even invisible particles in the air that seem to need your attention more. Don't get me wrong, this was listenable metal and far more interesting and much easier than talking with that friend of mine. I just don't remember it. It's still playing even. What impression?
Seriously though, I put this thing on repeat and listened to it over and over again and again... I still have no idea which song this is, how many times it went around or what stood out.
Season Of Mist
Following hot on the heals of last years immense Static Tensions is the latest from Southern psychedelic sludge rockers Kylesa, entitled Spiral Shadow. This five-piece band (two guitarists/vocalist, bass and two - yes, two - drummers) take us on a 40 minute trip through hook and groove laden heavy rock.
The album opens with the massive riffage of "Tired Climb", which almost has a Fu Manchu feel to it for the first little bit - mainly due to the somewhat similar vocal approach of Phillip Cope and the abundant fuzz on the way downtuned guitars. Fellow vocalist Laura Pleasants provides a bit of trippiness with her softer, effect laden vocals which are backed by some equally trippy guitar work. As expected, the rhythm section on this disc is quite massive throughout, and you really get to hear the dual drummer effect during "Drop Out", as the percussion lays down a huge amount of the heaviness for that track. A slightly more "poppy" sound (for lack of a better term) comes with "Don't Look Back", featuring ringing guitars with less distortion, synths, and a cleaner vocal approach. The title track opens with some pretty nice bluesy guitar licks, before transitioning into a more psychedelic sound in the early-middle part, then going all fuzzed out for the latter half. I think that is a pretty damn good example of what the band has to offer, and will pick it as my favorite track on the disc.
Kylesa's latest is a great combination of sludge, psychedelia and pure catchy grooves. They show that they aren't afraid to progress a bit from release to release, rather than staying in a single comfort zone. Sure, they may not be straying too far, but they are making their music better and more interesting with each release, which is a damn good thing if you ask me.
Lantlôs has been making waves in the music scene since 2005, with their self-titled debut disc coming out in 2008 on ATMF. After that release, two of the three band members left, leaving only Herbst. Enter vocalist Neige (Alcest, etc), who joined up with Herbst while he was in the process of writing the bands sophomore effort, .neon. The recordings were completed in February of 2009, and in mid-2010 it saw the light of day via Prophecy Productions.
.neon consists of six tracks and 40 minutes of what I guess could best be called post-black metal, or something like that. This is a pretty good and unique intertwining of black metal and post-rock styles that comes together quite well. The opener "Minusmensch" starts off slow and quietly, with a laid back, almost jazzy feel at the beginning, but a couple minutes in, the heaviness comes in and proceeds to slaughter your senses. The guitar work is heavy and super fuzzy, yet still quite melodic sounding most of the time. The drum work is quite solid, ranging from a stark post-rock type sound to some pretty decent blast beats during the middle part of the song. The vocals here are harsh and tortured sounding - a bit of a departure from what Neige has been doing lately with his own band.
Clean vocals make an appearance during the slow beginning of "Pulse/Surreal", which is one of the longer and more varied tracks here (although all of the tracks are actually quite varied). The middle part where the harsh and clean vocals "harmonize" together is pretty damn cool, too. "Coma" is my pick for best song on here, and I can't really pinpoint exactly why, but it is the song I go to most frequently. Maybe it is the layers of guitars, or the snazzy drum work, or the killer riff that happens right about the midway point of the song. I'm not sure, but I know I like it.
.neon is sure to interest some, and will likely be a bit too much in the post-rock realm for others. I, however, definitely land in the first category, as this disc has been in pretty frequent rotation for a while now, and will probably continue to be as well.
The Extra Dimensional Wound
Los Angeles based black metal horde Lightning Swords Of Death give us their Metal Blade debut (their second full release), The Extra Dimensional Wound. If you didn't know the band was from LA upon first listen, your first guess about their origin would most definitely be Sweden, as they have the old-school Swedish black/death production sound going on here in a big way.
The title track opens things up, and you'll surely get the Swedish feel right from the start. The guitar tone here is immense and cutting, the bass sound is thunderous (all black/death metal bands should take note of this and try to imitate it), the vocals are biting, and the drums are fierce and brutal. Some of the riffs here sound as if they could have come off of Entombed debut disc - which isn't necessarily a bad thing if you ask me. "Nihilistic Stench" follows in pretty much the same manner, as does the next song. These guys don't seem to want to stray too far, but then again, it sounds good, so why mess with a good thing? Ok, so most of the songs here sound very similar, and have pretty much the same feel to them. They do, however, save the best song for last. The albums closer, a 12 minute piece entitled "Paths To Chaos", is a massively intense track. While it still follows a lot of the same patterns as its predecessors, there are some damn good parts to this song which make it stand out. The quiet, spacey break in the middle is followed by an immense showcase of killer guitar riffs, before going back to the quiet stuff for an extended fade out.
A must for fans of old-school metal, especially that "Scandanavian sound" that many of us loved back then and still love now. While there isn't a whole lot of variety here, it is still a damn good listen. I'd love to check these guys out live - hopefully the sound would be as good as it is here on disc and if so, I am sure they'd be insanely good.
Norway's Limbonic Art return to release their seventh full-length release, Phantasmagoria, which is also the bands first release as a one man project of co-founder Daemon, after last years departure of fellow co-founder Morfeus. At 12 songs and 70 minutes in length, this is a pretty long take, so we'll just get right to it then.
The opening title track starts off well enough, with a beastly little intro leading into the bands signature black metal sound with some symphonic elements. We'll talk about those elements right now, as this song has them right in the front - before and during the chorus, to be specific. The first time I heard the pre-chorus line "Supernatural forces, disembodied voices", with its silly keyboards and even sillier vocal lines that follow the keyboards, I almost spat my beer all over the place. It just sounded quite out of place to me then, and still does now. Anyway, the guitar work here is decent, in a pretty standard black metal tremolo picked kinda way. The production is a bit thin and trebly, helped in no part by the horrible drum machine used to keep the beats. "Curse of the Necromancer" opens with a pretty basic riff, but damn, is it memorable and good. In fact, it carries the song and makes this song the most lasting one on the disc for me - good riff, no overly silly keyboard lines getting in the way or anything, just a solid song with some killer riffing. "Dark Winds" changes things up quite a bit, with almost a funeral doom like feel to it, which is a good change of pace. After that, though, it is back to a lot of the same, and it gets a bit tiring to listen to after a while.
Overall, this is just an ok disc. The production could use some thickening up, and the drum machine needs to be retired (just listen to the horrible sounding fills on "Apocalyptic Manifestation" for any proof you may need). Those two drawbacks, with the exteneded running time, make it a chore to listen to this disc all at once. Pick of a few songs at a time, and it is tolerable, but as a whole, it is a bit too much.
Columbus, Ohio, based Locusta deliver us their self-titled and self-relesed debut disc, filled with ten songs of progressive, technical death metal. While many bands that are described to me that way have an artificial, over produced sound, and boring songwriting (the "look at me", I can play 100 arpeggios in 30 seconds kind of stuff is lame, if you ask me), Locusta has a much more organic and natural sound, and the songs are pretty well written, for the most part.
With the opening song, "War Of Knaves", you're dealt a pretty good dose of what Locusta does best. The riffs are heavy, catchy and plenty technical. There is ample use of pinch harmonics (though, thankfully, not overused). The drums rally around, keeping the beat nicely while also laying down some pretty massive fills when need be. The bass follows along with the guitar for the most part, but also rumbles off on its own for some killer technical fills here and there. The vocals are pretty deep and gruff, yet understandable for the most part. Oh, and there is some kickass guitar soloing in there to solidify the bands technical prowess. Each song contains all of these elements, intertwined uniquely so that each piece stands out on its own, whereas many technical death metal bands tend to have samey sounding songs that cause me to get bored easily with their sound. If I were to pick favorites here, I'd go with "2012" and "Into The Tomb". The former for its sheer technicality, and the use of clean/acoustic sounding guitar parts and some incredible lead guitar work. The latter for is sheer brutality, while still containing a fantastically catchy riff and some great pinch harmonic usage.
Production on this disc, as mentioned before, is definitely not overly polished. It is also not perfect, but being a DIY release, is certainly acceptable. The sound is very natural, and almost like it's a live recording of the band, which, to me, is a good thing. Nothing triggered or overly processed to water down the sound and make it fake. With a bit more time and a bit of a push from a willing record label, Locusta could be a pretty damn big band in the not too distant future.
Romanian female fronted power metal band Magica release their fifth album Dark
Diary, and honestly outside of the guitar shredding “Anywhere But Home” opener,
there’s little else but pedestrian material on display. Singer Ana Mladinovici
doesn’t sound convincing in her higher parts, instead very shrill on tracks like
“Tonight” and “Wait For Me”. The keyboards play as important a role as the
guitars, which softens the overall impact of their style.
Later in the
album “Release My Demons” sounds like an obvious radio single attempt, but I
don’t know if many who normally listen to power metal want a little Evanescence
style song in the middle of their air guitaring exploits. It may seem harsh, but
Magica are one act that will leave little more than a footnote in this genre.
A sad case where you have obvious practice in terms of instrument
knowledge and yet the application in songwriting form just comes out dull and
without much to scream outside of storage.
D -Matt Coe
Czech black metal duo Maniac Butcher return after a ten year absence with their latest slab of black metal, Masakr. The band was quite active in the mid-late 90's, releasing numerous full-length albums, a few of splits, and also a few demos. Then, in 2000, they released Epitaph, which was to be the final onslaught from the band. You see, they thought the scene had changed too much, with black metal incorporating too many keyboards ("good for disco music, not heavy metal" they proclaim) and too many female vocals ("We prefer to use the mouths of girls for much different activities" says they. Then in mid-2009, the band reunited for a gig in their hometown, and apparently lit a fire in their blackened hearts to go out and create new music, and this is the result.
Masakr provides us with six songs totalling 30 minutes of raw, unrelenting old-school black metal. No fanciness here, this is black leather and bullet belt wearing, corpse painted, horn throwing black metal from start to finish. The drums are pretty basic, with a lot of blast beats, thundering double bass, and a few basic fills here and there. Just enough to keep things moving along. The guitar is a distorted amalgamation of fast and catchy, somewhat technical riffs, minimal use of tremolo picking, and some pretty decent (if basic) lead work. The bass is there, but doesn't provide a whole lot of anything different, which is really fine for this type of music. The vocals are pretty damn good, with a venomous sound that is purely evil. It sounds like there are multiple tracks mixed together for the vocals, which provides an even more evil sound. Add in the fact that the lyrics are all in Czech - with song titles like "Desatero krutých zim prežitých v teple žhnoucí záre slávy minulé" and "Bezbožné rouhání zpovední pred tažení vojnového zapocetím" - and the evilness of the sound gets amped up even more.
If you want a good dose of black metal, without all of the histrionics that have come into play in the genre, then Maniac Butcher's Masakr is what you are looking for. Fasten up your bullet belt and give it a listen.
Death Suits You
This is my first encounter with Mr. Death, so before listening I researched a little bit to find about the band. Silly name? Check.
Silly album cover? Check. Silly album title? Check. Silly guys dressed up as recently buried corpses? Check. So, WHY is this release so
amazing?...."Oh, they're from Stockholm". Of course!
This band is why you can never judge a book by it's cover, and I honestly groaned when
I saw the cover of this cd, until it slapped me in the face with a healthy dose of horror-laden brutal death metal. It's so difficult to sift
through the hundreds of thousands of death metal bands to find those few gems hidden in the mix. For me this is a perfect example of
old-meets-new death metal. Death Suits You is a 20 minute assault on the ears. 6 punishing songs, all well under the 5-minute mark
makes for a killer release, and only left me wanting more. There is nothing fancy here, no core, no technical guitar scales, no clean vocal
breakdowns. What it DOES have is something that has been missing from most new death metal releases....simplicity. I have always been
a big fan of bands that write short and to the point songs, packed like a hand-grenades, so this works well for me. No need to water things down
when it comes to my death metal.
If you're looking for something original, you're not going to find it here. But what is lacking in originality is
made up for in brutality. The guitars are drop-tuned, and nicely distorted, complete with that signature "over compressed" sound coined by
the Swedish heavyweights that put them on the map back in the day. Nicely complimented by some really solid stack work on the drums,
makes for a very full wall of sound. The vocals are in typical fashion, and again nothing fancy. A well rounded offering.
The Swedes perfected the formula back in the early 1990's, and prove that after 20 years, it still works.
Dave Wyndorf and the rest of Monster Magnet trip out with their eighth full-length release, entitled Mastermind. This is the bands first release since signing with Napalm Records. The band has been cranking out catchy, trippy, spaced out stoner rock for about 20 years now, so let's see how this one stands up.
Not wanting to start off on a sour note, "Hallucination Bomb" rumbles to life with some nasty distorted bass, and then the signature Monster Magnet guitar riffing takes over, and the even more signature vocals from Mr. Wyndorf kick in. The bluesy, catchy, trippy riff here is backed by some pretty cool synth work as well, adding to the space rock feel. If it is space rock you want, then be sure to check out "Bored With Sorcery", especially the latter half of it. Crazy synth work enhances the feel of the song - and is even better if you've enhanced your mood a bit beforehand.
Straight up, hook laden rock is represented with the title track, which showcases some of the best lead guitar work on the disc, as well as some really impressive bass guitar lines. You want some pretty cool percussion, check out "Perish In Fire". Sure, it has the hooks and stuff that you've come to expect from Monster Magnet, but the use of bongos for added percussive elements is a really nice addition here. There are a couple of slower, almost ballad like songs on here as well - "Time Machine" and "Ghost Story" to be specific. While they might not be my favorites on here, they are decent all the same.
Production on this disc is quite spiffy. Everything is as you'd expect from a Monster Magnet recording. I do have to say that the bass sound on this disc is quite impressive. If you're looking for a good dose of spaced out stoner rock, then Mastermind will deliver the goods for you.
Addicts: Black Meddle Part 2
At one point, Nachtmystium was considered to be in the forefront of the USBM movement. With their 2006 release, Instinct:Decay, the band started to incorporate small amounts of psychedelic bit into their songs. While the inclusion here was minimal, it came to the forefront with 2008's Assassins: Black Meddle Part 1, especially during the Seasick trilogy that closed out the album. With the recently released Addicts: Black Meddle Part 2, the band pretty much widens its reach even more, bringing in techno and disco like elements into their psychedelic metal attack (which really isn't very much black metal at all anymore).
Opening with the trance like "Cry For Help", with echoing drums playing behind the spelling out of "nothing hurts more than being born", we segue straight into the most traditional (and only, really) black metal track on the disc - "High On Hate". It is on the next track, "Nightfall", where the band changes things up quite a bit. Sounding like more of an indie rock song than anything else, there are tambourines, jangly, catchy guitar lines, danceable beats, and even clean vocals. "No Funeral" brings us to new wave, with all sorts of keyboards and synths dancing around - I think this is what Blake referred to when he called the album "black metal disco". Three proper songs in, and three totally different sounds presented. An arena rock feel is presented in "Addicts", with big, catchy riffs, a huge rolling bass line and a superb chorus that just wants you to scream along with it.
Addicts is a stellar and wide ranging collection of songs. The black metal elements are pretty minimal (mostly just the vocal style is left), but Nachtmystium has been heading that way for a while now. I personally think that this is some brilliant songwriting, being able to tie so many different styles together into a pretty cohesive unit like this. The songs may all be very different from each other, but somehow, they flow quite well. This will be in my regular rotation for some time to come, it is quite addicting.
Southern California based Nails was recently picked up by Southern Lord, who then decided to re-release the bands latest release, Unsilent Death, while the band works on new material that the label will put out sometime in 2011. With ten songs and a total running time of under 15 minutes, it won't take you long to give this one a listen and see what the band is all about. Thankfully, Southern Lord is making that possible, given that the original CD and vinyl releases have been pretty well sold out for a while now.
Well, shit, that didn't take long. "Conform" is the first track (running time 0:31), and it is enough to blow your brain straight across the room, possibly taking your entire body with it. Barely giving you any time to even digest the sound, the blasting drums, nasty, overly distorted and mid-range heavy guitars (think early Entombed here), and absolutely vicious vocals (courtesy of frontman Todd Jones (ex-Carry On ex-Terror, etc.), the opening half-minute certainly sets a high bar for the remaining 13+ minutes. The title track is very reminiscent of Entombed (there goes my Entombed loving ears again), with a heavier "Wolverine Blues" sound to it. I could go picking and choosing little bits of songs to highlight here, but fuck it - just grab this and put aside 15 minutes of time to listen to it. Then be prepared to put aside a few more 15 minute blocks of time to listen to it again and again, because you really will want to.
This is a massive combination of d-beat hardcore, swedish death, grindcore and nasty crusty punk. Brutal doesn't even begin to describe this disc. This has to be heard to understand just how vicious it really is. Sure, they're not really creating anything new or overly original, but damn, they created something really fucking good here. This totally blew me away. My only complaint is that when it ended, I wanted more...and I still do. Guess I'll have to wait until next year for that. They're playing the Maryland Deathfest, too. I am sure they'll get the crowd whipped up into a whirling frenzy, and I'll be a part of it, for sure.
The Opening of the Primordial Whirl
ATMF/De Tenebrarum Principio
Italian black metallers Near return with "The Opening of the Primordial Whirl", and pay homage to all that is old-school. The music is good.
Fast drums that give way to mid-tempo beats, multi-string swiping chords, octave shifts and grim, screamy vocals. Unfortunately, they are
unsuccessful at putting any kind of new spin on, or taking things to the next level.
There is nothing original here, and Near has failed to put
any sort of stamp on their music that would set it apart from the pack. I am constantly reminded of Transylvanian Hunger or Under a Funeral
Moon, and not much else.
This could easily be labeled as a "lost Darkthrone recording found under Fenriz's mattress", and I wouldn't have
questioned it. So, I suppose if you're looking for more of the same, then this release wont disappoint you. If you're looking for something original,
this probably won't do much to satisfy you.
After reviewing the masterful Măiestrit on the site recently, I was very excited to check out the newest release from Romania's Negură Bunget, entitled Vîrstele Pămîntului. This is also the first release since two of the original three members left the band, leaving only drummer Negru the sole long time member of the band. How does the new lineup handle the bands mesmerizing blend of black, folk and progressive styles?
"Pamînt" opens things up with an extended intro featuring flutes, varied percussion, and some chanting vocals, before briefly ending with some more familiar metal sounds and instrumentation. "Dacia Hiperboreana" once again has a very long intro, this time with acoustic guitars, synths and heavy bass providing the majority of the soundscape. Somewhere around the midway point, the vocals kick things into high gear, and the distorted, layered, guitars follow suit. There is still a whole lot going no here, with cleaner, more melodic guitars in the forefront, and some pretty good synth work looming in the background. There really is a whole lot going on here at all times, it can be somewhat overwhelming. The only real strike I can give this release is that a lot of the songs have a very similar structure, with a very long, quiet intro, and then building to a big, loud finish. While it works on a per song basis, you kind of lose the momentum from track to track when you go from the big built up ending of one song, to the long, quiet folky intro of the next. Not really a big deal, though. One song that has no such problem is "Arborele Lumii", which starts right off with the heavy guitar riffs and barely lets up.
So to answer the question, how does the new lineup handle the music here? Quite well, if you ask me. It is quite possible that Negură Bunget could have two releases in my best of list at the end of 2010.
Part 1 Catalepsy Sinks
Lugga Music Productions
French gothic metal with a strong Moonspell influence as this three piece intertwine clean female vocals, clean male vocals and death/blackish growls and screams on this debut EP. While the music has enough variety in its riffing and chord assembly, and I appreciate the contrast between light and dark atmosphere, the whiny vocals of Iggy Sharpe Blake make songs like “Last Breath” and “Hope” rough sailing to these ears.
By the time this concludes with the longer 6:48 “Dark Blight”, I’m left wondering what exactly Nicht wants to accomplish with their virtual leftover stew sound where they throw everything into the pot and see how things turn out. Advice would be really dig deep into exploring a tighter style expansively versus dabbling in more areas than one can convincingly handle.
D+ -Matt Coe
Heavy, heavy. Me likey. Meat and potatoes kind of metal. Dark, chunky, undressed. Spicy, savory, juicy and blackened at the same time. With fantastic seasoned variety. Death Culture is hot and fresh. Despite the twelve years under their belt, they've been Slovenia's best kept secret. Noctiferia serves up everything you could ask for in your meal … I mean meat ... Metal! I meant metal.
They sound a little more black metal than straight death metal. But it would be hard to put them into a single category. They have several good, dark characteristics but not so many that they're breaking genre boundaries. You could say they are slightly progressive or experimental, but they are absolutely not flighty or spastic.
Definitely tasteful and very easy to listen to. I'd say innovative, while staying true to form. Very rare. Especially now.
Not really thrash because instead of focusing on speed, they'd rather enamor you with steady, menacing metal and create ambiance that moves the listener. The percussion is perfectly driven. Super style! Guitars are a little bit melodic, but not so much that they uphold the album or anything. Heavy on the bass (which is like live bait- to catch me personally). Every talented member has a vital part to their sound.
There doesn't seem to be a single dominant feature, as the collaboration of these musicians is just the right formula to make the music the focal point. As it should be.
The lyrics are poignant. Enlightening. Not always so serious (like when they're expressing their dislike of 'verbal diarrhea' during “Holy Men”). And they say so much with few words! Playing on words like an instrument! Now, that's an intriguing skill that I found to be extremely clever and an unexpected bonus. “Deluders... create...
followers... create... deluders... create... followers...create...” Where have Noctiferia been these past twelve years and why haven't I heard of them?
It's like, taking parts you like best about known metal bands, and then whipping it into something extremely listenable, enjoyable and unique.
Slightly industrial but with a prominent edge of tuned down chugs and groove. Like a Slipknot/Fear Factory/Meshuggah/Lamb of God/Devil Driver/Soulfly-hash smash. Vocals and keys remind me of Children of Bodom and Cradle of Filth but better. Meatier. "Monarch" is a great example of proper use of keyboards in metal. Subtle and enhancing, not at the forefront. They can also portray the slow heaviness of Pantera and the sinister creepiness of Fantomas.
There's some metal filler in the album, which might be what you notice first. Maybe it's disguised as regular death metal, then things start popping out at you and you start to pay more attention. After repeated listens, things are still popping out for me to notice. And I realized that the filler-metal [in between the more noticeable qualities] is a perfectly appropriate train ride to the next awe-inducing factor.
The most endearing quality of Noctiferia is an ethnic and spiritual diversity that's severely enchanting. They smoothly incorporate a Middle Eastern/Persian/Egyptian-like aura in a few songs like “Catarsis” that I kept going back to. Or “Samsara” which reminded me of Rammstein and then it had this fantastic tribal thing going on on top of that. I haven't heard anything that good, in the same respect, since Second Coming's self-titled. Maybe the best track; “Delluders & Followers” (which reminded me a little of Dethklok) was melodic and anthemic. The culmination of all their attributes. Reaching, striving.
This track, along with a few others such as “Samsara”, makes you feel like your on an epic quest to save villagers or something playing a video game. There's also a cool bonus track “S.M.02” that sounded like a death march.
Though you could compare Noctiferia to many, many successful metal bands, they certainly are something special. They are as good (maybe even better) as the more successful in our current metal scene. There are numerous facets to Noctiferia's music and it's so expertly blended, you barely notice the flavor changing and don't even care to try and decipher the ingredients. You just want the pleasure to last until you've had you're fill. Death Culture is something you are going to want to go back to time and again.
Noctiferia is positively virulent! So let's go buy all their shit, and demand they get their Slovenian asses over to here to the States so we can tear up the place. What do you say?
Devastated Graves - The Morbid Celebration
California based Nocturnal Blood is a one-man old-school blackened death metal band. In the two years since forming the project, frontman Ghastly Apparition has been busy, releasing a demo, two EPs and a split release (with Sanguis Imperem, who are as his backing band when playing live). Devastated Graves - The Morbid Celebration is the first full-length release from the band, and Hells Headbangers Records is releasing the CD and vinyl versions.
Coming from Hells Headbangers Records, you should already have an idea of what to expect from this release. I guess I didn't even have to mention old-school in my description above, but I did anyway. Devastated Graves - The Morbid Celebration sounds like what you'd get if you got your Autopsy in someones Beherit. Dirty and grimy sounding guitar lines (I hesitate to use the term riff), rapid fire drums, and majorly delayed vocals come across as seeming distant, almost cavernous in their sound. The songs do tend to blur together a bit, but I think that adds to the unnerving, almost frightening feel of the music here. The track I like most here is "Ghouls Wrath", which has a total Autopsy feel to it, especially with the opening guitar riff and the drum fill that follows it.
This release is not for everyone, but neither is most of the stuff released by Hells Headbangers. However, if you want some good, grimy, old-school blackened death metal, the debut from Nocturnal Graves will deliver just that.
The Ocean are back with another epic release, but this time they really push the boundaries of their eclectic brand of metal. The progressive riffs are still in abundance here but there is a lot more piano and more melodic songwriting going on. Dare I even say they seem to be going for a more mainstream sound? Yes, I definitely will say that, but in this case it sounds great and brings another dimension to their already multi-dimensional sound.
One standout track that could almost be a radio friendly cut is “Ptolemy Was Wrong” with it’s piano based ballad vibe. But don’t think they’ve mellowed much, there are still plenty of heavy riffs, they’re just more interspersed with very melodic passages and vocals. “The First Commandment of the Luminaries” and “Swallowed By The Earth” are two tracks in particular that have plenty of heavy riffs and all the dependable elements of a typical song by these innovative Germans. “Epiphany” seems to be a religious song as it mentions praying but is not a preachy song at all, in fact it’s more spiritual in tone. The expansive sounding “The Origin of Species” carries on the religious theme with the theory of evolution and further cements the concept of this album, which I interpret as being a spiritualistic view of God. And speaking of God, “The Origin of God” wraps up the album with some nice saxophone work and ends the album on a somewhat mellow note.
I can already tell this is one of those albums that will only get better with every listen and I can see myself going back to absorb it again and again.
A -Matt Smith
The Ocean's second release in less than a year shows they certainly aren't using filler here by any means, as this release is as pure and heartfelt and their earlier 2010 release Heliocentric, and if any thing they have even progressed from the aforementioned album in many ways. "For He That Wavereth" is a certain example of their undeniable knack for writing melodic ballads in a sincere manner and "The Grand Inquisitor II - Roots & Locusts" shows them at their most ferocious and accessible, sounding like a bit like later Voivod. "The Grand Inquisitor III - A Tiny Grain Of Faith" has some great female vocals and psychedelic synths making this a stand out track for me even though it is less than two minutes long. "Wille Zum Untergang" is a very pretty instrumental track and "Heaven TV" cranks the heaviness back up and the final track "The Almightiness Contradiction" ends the album on an epic note, starting off with cello and clean guitars and mellow vocals and leaves us with this lyric to ponder, "There's no one here who knows it all/There's nothing there beyond the world we know/Is there something there beyond the world we know?"
Anthropocentric is definitely marked progress for these German Progressive Metal band and I look forward to them playing around the Boston area sometime soon, as it's been awhile since they last hit these shores!
A -Matt Smith
A Collapse Of Faith
Debemur Morti Productions
October Falls third full length release, A Collapse Of Faith, is comprised of a three part song, clocking in at 42 minutes in length. While the CD is split up into three separate tracks, they all flow as one, being tied together by acoustic guitar and piano parts. Part doom, part black metal, part folk - October Falls ties it all together into one gloomy conglomeration.
We start off with an acoustic intro, a musical theme that is reprised numerous times in the duration of A Collapse Of Faith. From there, we transition into some nice melodic, black and doomy sections. This isn't music that is going to get you up and moving too much, it is more of a turn out the lights and relax type of sound that October Falls creates. The melodies created here are enthralling, though, even in their repetition.
While a single, 42-minute song is quite an adventurous undertaking, October Falls puts it together in such a way that your interest never wanes. Some may think that the transitions between segments get a little long, but I think they are just about right, giving you time to digest the prior bits before a new onslaught of sound is delivered.
Desolate Kings: The Oracle Anthology
The re-issue label of Matthew Rudzinski, who also heads up Tribunal Records,
unleashes another unheralded gem from the melodic power genre of the early
1990’s with North Carolina’s Oracle. This band, headed up by current Line of
Fire vocalist Shawn Pelata, released 2 demos and an EP during their time but
struggled to gain much of an impact in America- although receiving numerous
accolades in foreign countries were traditional high pitched vocals and powerful
musicianship gains more appreciation.
Desolate Kings: The Oracle
Anthology consists of 17 songs- some alternate and demo versions of the same
song but it’s clear you hear the strength and skill this act had. Songs like
“Passage Denied” and “Witches and Warlocks” have a mix of Crimson Glory,
Sanctuary and Sacred Warrior in terms of the approach and melodies. Shawn Pelata
possesses one of those killer high pitched ranges, sustaining notes with ease
and then pinning the speakers with his screams.
Limited to 1,000 copies
and containing a new interview with Shawn from this year, I know there are
pockets of followers both here and abroad who would appreciate the style and
talent this act had. It’s a shame a lot of these acts fell through the cracks,
but if you enjoy darker power metal with a positive lyrical landscape, Oracle
could be one of those gems you need.
B+ -Matt Coe
Gradual Decay Of Conscience
I want to think this is more than it is. Perpetuum play quirky and unique black/death that is anything but normal. The songs are intricately written, and often veer off into progressive territory. Its atypically structured, with riffs transitioning one to another throughout the song-- far from your run of the mill opening riff-verse-bridge-chorus style. Yet, with all this going for it, Perpetuum are for the most part… pretty boring. While many riffs, melodies, and verses are good individually, the songs never really come together in any compelling way.
Perpetuum have a very unique sound on Gradual Decay of Conscience, which makes the Chileans easier to like. Any band breaking free of genre-based shackles scores points with me. That excitement lasts throughout the album’s beginning, but it unfortunately fades, so very quickly. The initial enthusiasm for unique music is lost as the later songs fail to come into their own. They’re still unique, and occasionally a riff comes in that would get any head rolling. Yet, as I said earlier, these songs are simply interesting riffs layered on top of each other, with little care for song construction. The result is a very lukewarm album with a very promising first five minutes.
A necessary component to engaging uniqueness is attention to detail and songwriting. Perpetuum are only halfway there.
This Is War
Texas traditional power act Phantom-X release their third album This Is War, and
they hope to capitalize on some of the publicity they’ve received through
Anvil’s documentary movie that’s been all the rage. If you are unaware,
Phantom-X toured Europe during the summer of 2005 with Anvil and much of the ups
and downs of touring without record company support are on there for the world
to see. Vocalist Kevin Goocher has also gained attention through VH1’s “I Know
My Kid’s a Star” which featured his daughter Devon extensively competing for the
Taking This Is War on its own merits, this 13 song album
features bass lines with a lot of jump, guitar riffs that mix in British flavor
with early American tradition and Kevin’s magical range, certainly in line with
your Dickinson, Dio and Halford lineage. The title track has that tribal drum
opening and high pierce vocal accompaniment that would fall right in line with
Kevin’s previous work with Omen along with Maiden and possibly Manowar. “Into
Battle We Ride” at 6:22 is the longest song on display, featuring multi-tracked
harmony vocals during the beginning and throughout the chorus, the arrangement
almost march-like in the guitar/drum areas and reminding me of the classic
doom-laden Chastain epics in the late 80’s.
An album assuredly for the
old guard who miss punishing traditional sounds, lyrics revolving around tragedy
and triumph, as well as the occasional acoustic interlude with beautiful speed
picking as “Twilight” serves up. Proof that bands can still produce albums in
2010 that sound authentic and not over processed, cut and paste recordings-
Phantom-X bring me back to my teen years with This Is War.
B+ -Matt Coe
As A Dog Returns
Giddy Up! Records
It seems as if Place Of Skulls should be a huge name in the doom music world. What with Victor Griffin (Death Row, Pentagram) being the frontman, and the band releasing three previous slabs of massive, riff-laden traditional doom. For some reason, though, the band always seems to be a bit under the radar. With their 2010 release, As A Dog Returns, the band also returns to their original lineup from 2000. Featuring the aforementioned Griffin on guitar and vocals, Lee Abney (also with Griffin in Death Row) on Bass, and Tim Tomaselli (Molly Hatchet) on drums, one could say that this is an all-star lineup of sorts.
When you listen to Place of Skulls, you want DOOM, and doom is what you get on As A Dog Returns. Huge, hook laden riffs, drums that aren't so much played as abused, bass that will rattle your brain in your skull, and killer vocals delivering the message (in this case, it is all about Christianity). There are a lot of quieter times on the disc as well, although they are usually the beginning of the song and ramp up to a much heavier conclusion. My favorite track here is the opener, "The Maker", which is just a flat out doom track. Not letting up at all, the thick riffs will rock your brain while the pounding drums will get your head moving - exactly what this music should do. I also like the 10 minute long "Dayspring" for its combination of quieter passages and flat out catchy riffs spread throughout the song.
Place Of Skulls make a long awaited return, at least for me. They demonstrate that after all these years, doom is still solidly entrenched in their blood, and it oozes out of every pore and onto tape (more likely a hard drive, nowadays) with ease on As A Dog Returns.
Disgusting Blasphemies Against God
Profanatica's sophomore release (to go along with a bunch of demos, splits and EP's) is the ten song, 40 minute long Disgusting Blasphemies Against God. Those familiar with Paul Ledney's main project should know what is being delivered here - agonizingly evil and dirty black metal, plain and simple.
Wasting no time getting things going, "Black Cum" comes in like a bat outta hell (or maybe a bat into hell, in this case). The bass tone here is the most noticeable thing, almost taking front stage from everything else. It is so low and growling that it overpowers everything else. The riffs are pretty basic, almost sloppy sounding at times, but I think that has to do with the production more than anything else. The drums are also pretty basic, plodding along at a pseudo blast beat pace for the most part. The vocals are slightly effect laden, mid-range gurgles that spew forth the blasphemic anthems. Choice song titles include "Fuck The Blood Of The Lamb", "Angel With Cock" and "Christs Precious Blood Poisoned", to name but a few. While there are ten songs on here, most of them sound pretty similar to me, which is one of the major downfalls of this release. The other is the production. I'm all for dirty, raw production on music like this, but I just don't care too much for the sound here. The bass is way too overpowering, the guitar is kinda weak sounding, and the cymbals are a bit too loud and tinny to me. I suppose all the true, cult fans will worship this release, but I am just not a fan of it.
Listening to this disc makes me feel grimy and dirty. Maybe that is a good thing for some, but I don't think I'll be going back to this release all that often.
Since 1992 Pro-Pain has been delivering their groovy hardcore/thrash crossover sound to the masses with nearly constant CD releases and touring. With Absolute Power, the band deliver their twelfth studio release (augmented by a couple "Best Of" releases, a live disc, and a covers album). Founding member Gary Meskil and longtime lead guitarist Tom Klimchuck are joined in this release by newer guitarist Marshall Stephens and new drummer Rick Halverson, and there is even a guest appearance on "Stand My Ground" by Schmier of Destruction.
If you've ever listened to Pro-Pain, you know what you're going to get here. If you haven't, then where the heck have you been? They dose out sledge hammer riff on top of sledge hammer riff, laying down some heavy ass grooves that would even swallow up the Seattle Space Needle. From the opening track "Unrestrained", to the overly catchy, almost radio friendly "Gone Rogue", to the amazing blast beats and brief death growls in "Hate Coalition", Pro-Pain ignites the speakers with their explosive attack. Every song will have you moving with the groove, chanting along with the gang vocals, and flat out enjoying yourself. I'll pick "Destroy Your Enemy" and the previously mentioned "Hate Coalition" as my favorites, but the album as a whole is quite worthy.
"Absolute Power" is a good name for this disc, as it absolutely delivers the power from start to finish. Call it hardcore, call it groove, call it thrash. Whatever you want to call it, it is pretty damn good stuff.
Strings To A Web
One of the longest running German power/speed metal acts who certainly haven’t
received much more than a Progpower headlining appearance and sporadic releases
in North America- the Rage trio keep the flag waving high on their nineteenth
studio record. No folks, that’s not a misprint- the productive machine that is
Rage keeps moving forward, and they may have one of their more balanced efforts
The album opens with a slight Van Halen-esque tapping escapade that
rolls into “The Edge of Darkness” - one of those energetic double bass power
songs with guitarist Victor Smolski’s array of finger and hand axe tricks.
Drummer Andre Hilgers gets a chance to flex his hi-hat to double bass tempo
juggling ability (and some savor fills) on the more progressive “Hunter &
Prey”. The middle of the album has the band once again tackling more
classical-like, theater touches in terms of darker themes such as “Empty Hollow”
with the striking keyboards and off/on riff movements.
Rage fall into
one of those sub-genres where they aren’t heavy enough for a lot of the
underground folks to fawn over but also are too musically inclined to appeal to
the quick fix people who don’t want to invest time and energy into their music
escapades. Critical darlings to some, bottom of the boat power to others- Strings to A Web would put me into the former rather than the latter appeal.
Songs like the Savatage-like “Purified” (circa Sirens) and “Saviour Of
The Dead” make this a long term mainstay in my play list- they have a unique
approach to their style and emphasis on hooks without sacrificing cheesy
A- -Matt Coe
When After Forever left the music scene in 2008-09, we had to know that singer
Floor Jansen would stay creative in the symphonic metal realm. The songwriting
team of keyboardist Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) and guitarist
Waldemar Sorychta (Grip Inc., Enemy of The Sun) worked on the songs with Floor,
although the permanent lineup is a sextet with neither musician involved.
ReVamp shows Floor take command vocally, her impressive range and
emotion dominating tracks like “Head Up High”, “Million” and “Fast Forward” as
she intersperses her operatic ability with the fierceness and determination
prevalent in metal. The keyboards and guitars approach the songs with an
attacking, progressive nature, willing to mix up the tempos with hooks- which I
think helps ReVamp separate themselves from the commercial leaning symphonic
In the middle of the album you’ll get a three part journey
entitled “In Sickness ‘Til Death Do Us Part”. The first song “All Goodbyes Are
Said” has sweeping dramatic ebbs and flows musically, especially crashing
through Floor’s tender melodies during the bridge and chorus. “Disdain” would be
the heaviest of the trio, containing almost thrash-like speed and roaring male
vocal parts to offer a point/ counterpoint stance. “Disgraced” concludes with
more of the standard style we’ve grown accustomed to, although the drum work has
that slower, power doom feel.
This one surprised me a little. I enjoy
the grit and heaviness present, I think Floor wanted to make sure that she
proves to the world she belongs in the metal genre. If you love a little Kamelot
sprinkled in with your symphonic and progressive sounds, ReVamp could work well
in your collection.
B -Matt Coe
A Sign Of Sublime
I don’t remember the last time I rolled my eyes as much as I did upon my first listen to Sarah Jezebel Deva’s debut album, A Sign of Sublime, whose title is almost as pretentious as the performer’s obnoxious pseudonym. Despite the juvenile image, Ms. Deva is an accomplished and prolific vocalist, who’s done backing vocals for many well known and respected metal acts, from Therion to The Gathering, and even with Cradle of Filth. Backing her up are session players Dave Pybus and Martin Powell, also from CoF fame. The music on this album can easily be described as “gothic,” which is no surprise, but such a term would be misleading. While the title of “gothic metal” is surely the closest fit for the project, the guitars do get heavy and occasionally riffy. However, these moments are sparse, and much of the album focuses on Sarah’s mediocre voice. Like many solo efforts, the singer is the focus, and sadly, Sarah Jezebel Deva’s does not have the range or passion required for such an album.
This album ranges from deep and engaging to tepid, and at times, very annoying. While the backing band sometimes goes into downtuned, riffs that open or close songs, each track revolves around Deva, and this is the main problem. Her cooing voice is constrainingly limited, causing the songs to remain stagnant and emotionless. Her voice strives to achieve elegance and a “haunting” quality, but fails to do so. Much of the album is left dangling limp, unable to convey much of its intended emotion. Deva has made a career as a secondary vocalist in many bands, and that’s just where she should stay. Her limited range fits well in such a role. Putting herself into the spotlight was simply a misstep.
Let The Devil In
Finnish black metal is an acquired taste. It's chaotic, noisy and pure evil. I happen to love this style of black metal, and for me there is a real
beauty that can be found deep within the chaos if your mind allows you to hear it. The other reason I have become such a fan of the Fin's over
the years is the fact that this music actually gives me an "uneasy" feeling. The same feeling I remember having as a kid watching horror movies
at home alone late at night. So, I have been anxiously awaiting the chance to sink my teeth into Let The Devil In, by pack leaders Sargeist,
(comprised of members of Behexen and the mighty Horna). My expectations were high, and let me say, from the opening note, this album does
not disappoint. In fact, after listening to this a handful of times, I will easily call it their best effort to date for a few reasons.
Firstly, let me say
this is STILL Sargeist, and will not let down the die-hards of the old. However, this is a more mature release musically. The song structures have
come a long way since Satanic Black Devotion, but still maintain everything this band is known for. There is definitely more of the
signature intertwining guitar work, that weaves in and out amongst the chaos of the drums and ghastly vocals. It's that guitar work that
takes the listener for an emotional roller coaster, especially on songs like "Burning Voice of Adoration", which has the ability to stir up absolute
sadness and sorrow. As for production, the formula is still the same. Turn everything up beyond reason and comprehension, almost to a breaking
point. Seriously, prolonged exposure to this will probably make your houseplants wilt and die. The major difference between Let The Devil In,
and the older releases is that you don't have to try as hard to distinguish what's going on musically. It's still noisy and dirty as ever, but also more
My advice? Get this cd. Light some candles and spend some time alone with this one, and see if it doesn't make the hair on the back
of your neck stand up.
Swedish gothic metal featuring many Draconian members in the group. Very similar
to older Sentenced and Paradise Lost with clean male and female vocals- I’m not
super impressed with this by the book album. “The Whithering Of Mine” had a
little pep in its rhythmic step, but one killer track does not make the rest of
Ashen intriguing over the course of a lifetime. Maybe I’m a bit too picky about
gothic metal these days- but Shadowgarden just isn’t different enough for me.
C- -Matt Coe
Phoenix, Arizona's (Sic)monic are going AWOL. No boundaries. No explanations. No permission. Just out there. Not entirely deserting the metal genre, but so far outside of it most of the time they're not really serving us with what I consider satiable metal. Imagine Linkin Park, Nonpoint and maybe a little System of a Down going all progressive. Even trying to be superfast, and death-y and experimental sometimes. But not all the time. Then trying to squeeze a bunch of lullabies in the mix.
Definitely hard to categorize, (Sic)monic confuses my aural senses.
Flip-flopping between pleasant and unpleasant noises, It's tough to decide if the good outweighs the unsavory. I'll apologize ahead of time that there's so much going on in the music, it's impossible to keep this short.
The instrumentation sounds good for the most part. Mostly guitar talent. But it can easily depend on vocals to make or break an impression of an album because they're all over it. And boy are they ever all over this album. Vocals can be overlooked if the music is worthy enough. For (Sic)monic, the vocals seem to be THE focal point.
The emphasis. It drowns out a lot of the good music and you have to really search for it underneath. Then if the vocals are not good consistently, why try so hard to find the rest? Throwing in a few screams and growls in there didn't help much. Just covered up even more instrumentation. I'm pretty sure the percussion was great, I just couldn't really hear it much.
Vocalist Taylor Hession certainly has some major talent, but only a little bit of soul. He can belt it out almost as well as the hired vocalists that tour with Trans-Siberian Orchestra one minute, like in parts of “Paradiseum” which was a great ballad that's almost so pretty it starts to get annoying eventually [not metal]. Then in every other song he's rambling in a near Rastafari style that irritated me. I didn't go for that aspect of his singing at all. It seemed a little high (young) and soft for ranting which gave his great singing voice a rotten/off sound. He sings like that all over the CD. I immediately thought this was like a Nonpoint resurrection (who died after the few catchy songs on the first album couldn't carry over my respect to any consecutive releases). I was driving back from NYC when I threw Somnambulist in the player for the first time. All cocky, I swore I recognized the unique voice. Then looking it up later, to my utter surprise, I found out it wasn't Elias Soriano at all but a different singer. It totally sounds like Hession would be surprised to learn that his style isn't unique. [cough.. linkinpark..cough ahemmmm hmm].
In some songs he'd try to perfectly pronounce every single word like in “Requiem” and “Just How Far Down Do You Want to Go?”. That's a bit weird in metal and if you're going to insist on being that clear, you had damn well better rhyme right. I really wished he would bring the soul out more. What bugged me most was they spent an overabundant amount of time making lullabies. Or working pieces of them into most of the other songs (even the real heavy ones and vice versa), then calling it experimental.
I can't say any one track was great because Taylor had so many different styles of vocals mashed into every song. It took away from the better ones. Of the 11 + 4 bonus tracks, Somnambulist had three main styles. Heavy, alternative/mid-paced, and lullabies. And a whole lot of choppy songs with all three. Not consistent at all. “Fist to Throat” would have been best track as it had this really cool thrash riff but the 'off' vocals ruined it. Which leaves that and the deceiving opener “To the Fiendz” as the most appealing points of the album. They had more metal aspects than probably the rest of it combined. There was also some guitar that stood out here and there along with maybe a vocal melody or two on some of the pretty songs. For all the lullaby stuff, only two stood out; I enjoyed most of “Illumination” (I can actually remember a guitar solo in that one) and some of “Paradiseum”. These were the first highlights of Somnambulist that I could easily find.
“Just How Far Down Do You Want to Go?” sounded way too much like Linkin Park and opened with some sloppy thrash-fiddling that Charlie Daniels would shake his head at. (Sic)monic actually covered “Devil Went Down to Georgia” at the end of this album and I suppose I should be thankful that a band could even cover that song, but it was a tad sloppy, too. I did like the metal aspects they added, but the fiddle wasn't played near as well as Charlie did it. However, they do get kudos for trying.
I couldn't stand “Seven Inches Deep” because of that vocal style I didn't care for. I hate it when singers add stuff to words. Such as adding “heeee' to the end of words that end with -ay (stay-heeee,
way-heee) or fabricating extra syllables in words like those that end in -ize (realize is re-a-li-hize, eyes becomes ah-hize). That probably shouldn't bother me but it does. “Requiem” absolutely sucked. First of all, I can understand what he's saying and that's sooo not metal.
Second, it sounds extremely similar to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” or something Meatloaf-y and that's too damn pretty to be metal. Third, I really don't like Meatloaf at all so all I have to say is ewww. Ewww!
Broadway or metal. There is no mixing. You can't do both. You don't have my permission. It's just not allowed.
What's funny is they describe themselves as jazz-fusion influenced I
didn't hear that at all. Flighty maybe. The only thing I felt was jazzy was the length of the songs or the vocal spiraling. And the violin thrown in, too. The other tracks that I didn't mention, weren't worth mention thus far. I'm afraid, that after several rotations, I find myself becoming acclimated and starting to enjoy parts of this album and even looking forward to those moments coming around again.
Unfortunately, the unpleasant outweighed the appealing traits of Somnambulist on the earliest passes. And it was a tad too flighty for my immediate tastes. So I have to stand true to my initial impressions and not my more biased acceptance after repeated tries. I don't like to have to dig relentlessly through an album to find the positive and truly entertaining points. I like it when they jump right out at you and are hard to ignore. Where sometimes his voice sounds fantastic, then most other times I don't even want to try, I'm not going to force it. Especially for a band with little to no history.
Latvian folk metal with a distinct doom and traditional flavor here on this 11
song album. Songs like “The Devilslayer”, “Curse Of The Witch” and “Black Rider”
have a lot of German influence in the proceedings, as guitarist / vocalist
Peteris Kvetkovskis could be a clearer twin of Grave Digger’s Chris Boltendahl.
Three of the five members use native woodwind or folk instrumentation against
the normal electric weapons of sound- giving the material a cultural and
I know this genre has been gaining momentum in all parts
of the world, but I personally prefer older Skyclad when I need my folk metal
fix. They’ve been involved in the scene for 15 years, it’s just not my cup of
D -Matt Coe
In War And Pieces
Long running German thrash trio Sodom return with another album focusing on their favorite subject matter: the excesses of political arrogance and greed, most often as a result of war and military conflicts. Front man Tom Angelripper joined by guitarist Berenmann and drummer Bobby Schottkowski decide to let the production reigns flow in the capable hands of Waldemar Sorychta- he of past thrash experience with his own acts Despair and Grip Inc.
A smart decision, because I believe Waldemar gives In War And Pieces a slightly fresh production, not watering down Sodom’s impact in any way but rather aiding the group in their slice and dice thrash attack. Songs like “Through Toxic Veins” and “Storm Raging Up” go for tight jackhammer guitar and drum syncopations while Tom’s word volleys bring blood boiling to your body, ready for instantaneous pit convergence. When the band decide to slow things down to conventional mid-tempo pastures, it can often be accompanied by sort bursts of blasting such as “Soul Contraband” which reminds me of Seasons Of The Abyss-era Slayer along with the past glory of Sodom circa Agent Orange.
I’ve always believed Sodom has maintained that punk edge to their material- there’s a certain level of rawness that acts as a buffer between the strong riffing and obvious musical ability behind these 11 songs. Favorite songs include “God Bless You” that features addictive guitar harmonies amidst the militant drum march in the chorus and the atmospheric buildup in the title track that just sucks you in from first note to last.
28 years from incarnation and shredding limbs worldwide, you’d be remiss in not taking in any Sodom album if you love all aspects of thrash.
A- -Matt Coe
Sons OF Tonatiuh
There must be something in the water or air in Atlanta that just makes people create heavy music. Let The Night Roar, Withered, Mastodon and now Sons of Tonatiuh have all been pumping out some heavy ass stuff over the last few years. I am sure there are more, but those are the bands that come to mind first. Anyway, this is the Sons debut release, with eight songs and 35 minutes of sludged out crusty southern doom.
The massive, fuzzed out riffs that are contained on this disc are mighty impressive, and the opening track, "To The Throne", wastes no time smacking you right in the face with that fact. Holy crap, those are some damn big hooks they are laying down here, and the tempo change from the mostly mid-paced beginning to the slow, super sludged out ending really stacks up on the heaviness factor. Aside from the huge guitar sound, the drums and bass are pretty damn mighty and in your face as well, and the vocals sound as if they are being forced out through molten lava. "Den Of Thieves" gives us a bit more of a droning feeling, but still contains an assload of catchy riffs. "Chain Up The Masses" continues on with the brutally heavy attack, amping up the catchiness quotient a bit, and features a bit of a wild guitar solo. The dual guitar lick that opens up "The Artifact" is one of my favorite parts on the disc, launching the song into a thick, viscous groove that you can't escape from.
Downtuned, fuzzed out and heavy as fuck, the Sons channel Eyehategod, Sourveign, Thou and other similar bands, whilst never seeming to be a clone of any of them. Here's to hoping that they get out and tour a bit, as I can pretty much guarantee that this shit would be massive live.
Sorgeldom is a Swedish black metal act, and Inner Receivings is their second release to date. The music here is black metal at its roots, but far from straight ahead, and at times far from black metal at all. There is all sorts of atmospheric and quiet parts thrown in here, and a lot of shoegaze influence as well (including a cover of well known shoegaze band Slowdive's "Summer Day").
The first two songs, "I Kloaken Lättar Vi Ankar" and "The Cold Empty Void", offer a good combination of the bands fiercer, distorted and blackened side along with the quieter, more peaceful sounding side. While the former starts off with the heavy stuff and transitions to the calmer mood, the latter does it in the opposite direction. These songs are quite lengthy as well, giving them plenty of room to maneuver between styles, sounds, and various themes within each individual track. The title track is far and away the best song on here, coming in right after the mid-album cover mentioned above. While the cover is slow, quiet and almost dreamy, the title track is (mostly) a faster paced affair, with plenty of blast beats, tremolo picking, and harsh vocals to satiate your need for black metal. Following their own pattern, though, the song goes into a two minute trance inducing break in the middle of the song, which all but kills the momentum for me. The two remaining tracks (not counting the instrumental closer) are pretty much pop songs, and just do nothing for me at all. I supposed I could just look at my shoes when I listen to them, but I'd rather just listen to something else instead.
While I am all for adding atmosphere and interspersing different styles of music together, Sorgeldom's approach to this doesn't really work for me. Sure, there are some decent moments on here, but they don't outweigh the downright boring moments that seem to pop up at all the wrong times.
Victims Of The Modern Age
Inside Out Music
8 years may be a long time to wait for a follow up album, but in the case of Dutch keyboardist/guitarist Arjen Lucassen, it’s understandable. Star One represents his metal project, featuring some of the best melodic/power/ progressive singers in the business, from Russell Allen and Damian Wilson to Floor Jansen and Dan Swano. Musical accompaniment comes from drummer Ed Warby, bassist Peter Vink and solo help from keyboardist Joost van den Broek (ex-After Forever) and guitarist Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery).
The man behind the Ayreon project doesn’t complete anything without a thorough vision and impeccable execution- and these 8 full songs (supplemented with “Down The Rabbit Hole”, a short 1:20 intro) keep the powerful metal style on high. “Digital Rain” features Russell and Floor on main vocals and the beefy, 70’s style keyboard tone we’ve come to expect from Arjen while Joost and Gary send out a spirited back and forth ‘can you top this’ solo tally. The title track contains one of those slow charging exotic chord progressions along with vocal melodies that evoke the classic qualities of Deep Purple, Rainbow and Whitesnake in terms of stirring your emotions.
Arjen’s ability to twist the right players in the right parts gives the listener a much more versatile and dramatic experience- most evident in the slower “24 Hours” where the heavier vocals from Russell contrast the quieter verses from Damian and the chilling refrains from Floor. Overall you’ll feel like you are listening to progressive metal heading to the next century or another dimension of space- where humans, instrumentation and computers come together in harmony.
For those of you who believe all these project albums that seemingly double your purchasing decision struggles aren’t worth the hassle, Star One and Victims Of The Modern Age may make you rethink your stance.
A -Matt Coe
Stench seems to have created something here by drawing bits and pieces of everything good in the Scandinavian extreme metal
scene. There's something here to please every one's taste all at once. Death, Black and Thrash metal all served up in a dirty mix by
this Swedish band. And they do it well. If you are a fan of early Grave and Entombed, Necrophobic, Morbid, and Watain then this is
certainly worth checking out.
In Putrescence is a journey through death, made up of two Tribulation (Swe) members. Musically they
are on point and talented. One thing that immediately stands out is the relationship between the drums and bass. More often than
not, the bass is usually lost in the background and used only to thicken things up. But Stench have pushed the bass and drums to the
forefront of this recording, and it pays off big time.
The songwriting is well constructed with killer riffs and moody breakdowns, as I said these guys are true musicians, and it's quite obvious
just how much time went into constructing these songs, and how versatile this band is. The vocals will please both black and death metal
fans alike. Raspy, phlegmy goodness along the lines of (Dead-era) Mayhem. The recording itself is above average. Certainly not "polished",
but nothing is lost in the mix either. It's hard to pick out a favorite song here, from start to finish there are no weak moments. They planned
on taking the listener through the journey of death, and do just that.
Andy B. Franck has two concurrent metal bands taking his time- the more traditional power outfit Brainstorm and this slightly more mainstream sounding Symphorce. Each act has been moving slowly up the ranks in terms of attention due to a consistent album/ tour release schedule. Stateside though we haven’t received a full tour from either band- which is a shame as I think Americans would benefit from the powerful Vicious Rumors-like attack of Brainstorm and the slightly modern power melodic sound Symphorce has put out through the years.
Slowly evolving away from their Nevermore penchant, Unrestricted officially signals the demise of their old ways. Bright piano, swirling keyboard effects and streamlined riffing equals Symphorce’s assent into pure modern pastures. Playful outer space keyboards through “Whatever Hurts” plus the obvious modern rock radio groove in “The Last Decision” had me heading for the eject button. And if I hear the incessant chorus “Until It’s Over” one more time, I may have to bathe my ears in acid. It’s quite a gamble at this point in their career to write obviously accessible hooks in an attempt to broaden their fan base- of which they may have to suffer the consequences of defection and scorn.
Stick to Twice Second or Godspeed if you want to hear what this German act are truly capable of.
D+ -Matt Coe
What we have hear is a split release featuring Italy's Tenebrae in Perpetuum and Seattle's Krohm. Each band plays depressive, doomy black metal, and on this release, both bands have three songs that total about 21 minutes. Pretty much a 50/50 split right down the middle.
The first trio of songs belong to Tenebrae In Perpetuum, and are simply titled "I", "II" and "III". Cold, desperate and haunting are three words I could use to describe the three tracks here. Generic, boring and unimaginative are three different words i could use here as well, and they'd be just as fitting to the music. While the sound is chilling and sorrowful, it is also pretty unoriginal and never really grabs at you. As soon as I am done listening to these songs, it is pretty much forgotten, leaving no lasting impression.
Krohm's unholy trinity follows right on the heals of TIP's, and while it provides a similarly chilling atmosphere, the music is a good bit more interesting. I think it might be the added texture of the keyboards, or just the simple fact that the music is more well written and more memorable. Yes, it is quite repetitive and dreary at times, but that is often the case in this style of black metal. Of the three tracks, I like "Sentinel Monolith" the most, simply because it has the best riffs, dirtiest vocals (although sparsely used), and is just the most memorable track on this disc.
This disc is a very mixed bag for me. While I didn't care much for the Tenebrae In Perpetuum songs, I somewhat liked the tracks from Krohm. Neither bands efforts really lit my eardrums up too much, though, and I doubt I'll be revisiting this disc very often, if ever.
Away From The Haunts Of Men
It's up to new bands like Tasmania's THRALL to keep black metal fresh and alive, and still keep it's sinister edge. I know that's a lot of pressure, but
in an over saturated scene, the genre is losing momentum as a whole. The key to this, in my opinion, is to put your heart and soul into your music.
After being punched in the face with the opening track "Spit in the Eye" it became obvious Away From the Haunts of Men is an emotional release
from a passionate duo. The rawness of old-school black metal mingles with doom, making for a brutal onslaught of well formatted songs. Fast black
metal gives way to some really desolate moments, leaving the listener feeling cold and isolated. There's a lot of simplicity here, and even some straight
up doom such as "Rank Webs", which fits in nicely a little past the halfway point of the disc, and works almost as a 9-minute intermission before diving
back into the chaos with "Black Hearts Burn!" one of my personal picks.
Musically, this disc flows, and the production does not disappoint. By design, it's
very raw, giving a very "noisy" sound to the vocals, and guitar, but still quite distinguishable. There are some well thought out arrangements, typical black
metal giving way to some really nice "triumphant" grooves that get your head moving. Not sure that this release will have a lot of staying power, although
I just started listening to it yet again, so I suppose that's a good sign.
"A slight improvement"...Incorporating more "death" and less "core", UK's Trigger The Bloodshed have outdone their two prior releases (That's
not really saying much in my opinion). Will this one be soon forgotten? For me, yes...for fans of the newer tech/death genre, probably not.
had a pretty solid following before this, and I'm guessing this album will gain some new fans and re-ignite the old. The recording is very well put
together, and the production is pretty much flawless, but it can't save me from utter boredom. The rapid fire machine gun-like drums, provided by
Jacob Hansen (Aborted) are the only thing saving this band, and for sure the standout here. The songwriting has gotten better, but if I'm not paying
attention, everything just seems to become lost from one song to the next.
If you're a fan of the genre, you'll probably want to check Degenerate out.
The Road Less Traveled
Female fronted power metal that doesn’t sound a thing like Nightwish. What a joy! So many female metal vocalists are forced into the weak and overdone majestic sound created by Tarja Turunen. It strikes me as a bit sexist that the only clean vocal style female singers can achieve in metal is one focused on elegance and beauty -- standards of female constraining gender roles. Finding success and recognition as fierce, powerful vocalist is difficult for women, almost unheard of. That’s why a band like Triosphere, led by the bellowing vocals of iconoclast Ida Haukland, is such a breath of fresh air. Their power metal tinged with prog might not be a new sound, but Haukland’s vocals propel the band above the rest, simply by being more striking and powerful than so many other bands.
Backing up Haukland is a very strong group of musicians on The Road Less Traveled. The guitar playing is melodic and occasionally even soaring, with great harmonies and well executed transitions from Marius Bergesen. These songs are progressive, but don’t have any awkward parts where the song lacks flowing cohesion. What’s very unique about this is album is the stellar drumming from Ørjan Aare Jørgensen. His style is fast paced and unique, with excellent and tasteful use of the cymbals. Jørgensen doesn’t overdo it with pretension, however. Opting not to simply play faster than anyone else, he stands out with more accomplished songwriting. His style is different, and he lets that show. He yields to the band when he needs to, and doesn’t overpower the music, like so many other heralded drummers do.
Above all else is Haukland’s voice. Like most power metal bands, Triosphere focus and lead up to their choruses. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t. While on some songs, Haukland carries simply crafted enigmatic choruses above otherwise simple music, other songs fall flat due to their similarity. Apart from a few ballads, The Road Less Traveled runs together through the middle with undistinguished songs. Fortunately though, these quibbles do not restrain the album into mediocrity.
Despite a few flaws, Triosphere’s The Road Less Traveled is a refreshing take on female fronted power metal. In fact, it really shouldn’t be looked at that way. This doesn’t have the calm majesty that has become such a clichéd component of the genre. For the most part, Triosphere go their own way and eschew such overly frequent commonalities.
Norwegian gothic metal seven piece who release their sixth album Rubicon- and
believe it or not this is my first exposure to this band. Their vocal approach
represents a mixture of clean and death/harsh vocals, both female and male
oriented so the listener gains a wide spectrum of sonic dynamics. Some of the
music gains more of a tribal march appeal, especially the double bass fueled
“Patriot Games” with an incredible hook melody within the chorus.
Tristania have a symbiotic relationship with Moonspell, in the sense that they
aren’t afraid to throw down some doom and death parts in their main gothic
construction. They employ classical instrumentation from time to time, be it
harpsichords, violins or pipe organs when they want to make their riffs even
darker with impact, especially evident in a power ballad such as “The Passing”.
Listeners do not have to worry, the emphasis musically certainly stays on course
with heavier guitar tones and these added flavors only enhance Tristania’s
thought provoking style.
Rarely do I find a band who have equally
enveloping female and male clean vocals- but one listen to a song such as “Exil”
and you’ll notice Mariangela Demurtas and Kjetil Nordhus soar together with the
best singers in the business- comfortable, confident, gliding in middle to high
ranges. I think I need to search out their previous discography, as this band
certainly have a firm grasp on their music and brim with energy that many other
bands can’t convey this deep into their careers.
A- -Matt Coe
To say Ufomammut are mesmerizing is like saying Slayer is brutal, it’s obvious from the first 5 minutes of playing one of their albums. Droning, chant-like vocals all backed by hypnotic guitars and drums that vary between heavy and clean sounds. Some nice synth accents make it that much more psychedelic and each song is connected and epic in length so you really have a chance to get fully immersed in the mind-melding odyssey of their trance-like compositions.
They definitely have some Om and (((o sunn influence, but they put their own spin on it so it doesn’t sound like they’re ripping either band off. In fact they even expand on both of said bands and bring a new dimension of mind expansion. Spoken word samples are strewn throughout the album and only add to the already spacey vocals that are more chanted than sung.
For fans of trance, doom, and experimental metal, this is a band to check out.
A -Matt Smith
Clinic For Dolls
Forming a few years ago, this Polish gothic/ alternative metal act features ex-Vader guitarist Maurycy “Mauser” Stefanowicz along with complimentary veterans of the underground like Decapitated bassist Heinrich, Induki drummer Vaaver and the female melodies of Annelyse “Aya” Stefanowicz. Clinic For Dolls is their sophomore release, the follow up to 2008’s The End Of Life which I never got the chance to hear so this is my first encounter with UnSun.
These songs and arrangements have a lot in common with Epica, Nightwish and Lacuna Coil- except the guitar tone and instrumentation at times illustrates these musicians and their obvious affinity for heavier realms. Witness the chugging, charging riffs through the main verses and chorus of the title track or the octopus fill action drum wise for “Mockers” which fits beautifully against the atmospheric meets staccato guitar parts. Aya as a vocalist has one of those lighter, fantasy-laden vocal ranges- she wouldn’t be mistaken for Leather Leone or Wendy O Williams anytime soon, although she delivers some nifty Arabic-like melodies during “Not Enough”.
Get your lighters ready for “The Last Tear”- a ballad focusing solely on piano and Aya’s plaintive approach, while the follow up “Home” features some pulsating keyboard movements and intriguing cymbal/ snare work out of Vaaver. My main complaint with Clinic For Dolls lies not in the performance but more so in the songwriting formula. They haven’t produced much that wasn’t already done by their influences much better, and I feel like UnSun appear to be writing their material for a mainstream audience versus crafting tracks truer to their hearts.
There are a couple of songs that could easily ignite the current modern rock radio format- but I think the long time gothic metal followers won’t be so excited by this.
C- -Matt Coe
Arctic Music Group
Florida's Upon Infliction slay us with their second release, Inhuman...In Human, out now via Arctic Music Group. On this recording, the band consists of three current and/or former members of Malevolent Creation in drummer Gus Rios, Guitarist Gio Garcia and vocalist Kyle Simmons, along with guitarist Seth Ringler. These guys are no strangers to death metal, so it should come as no surprise to you that is what they deliver here.
Death metal comes in many varieties nowadays. You have you're old school, technical, and super brutal varieties, and you also have the evil that is deathcore getting in the way of good music. Upon Infliction would teeter on the edge of the old school and super brutal categories, while also visiting the technical side on occasion. "Blackout" is a great opener, with enough brutality to get things situated, some pretty good drum work, and a couple of really good guitar leads to showcase a bit of technicality. It is the second track, though, where I really started to get into this a bit more. "Morbid Obsession" starts off a bit slower, with a seemingly heavier and more brutal attack that just begs you to bang your head along with it. I always like the crazy, dive bombing whammy bar laden guitar leads, and we get one here, so it gets a horns up from me \m/. "Eternal Nightmare" is another standout track, with a bit more of a technical feel to it, and a totally vicious breakdown just after the 2:00 mark. The production here is decent, but not perfect. I find the drums to be a bit too loud in the mix, especially the cymbals and bass drums, while the guitars are sometimes a bit stifled, particularly the second guitar when they do trade-off guitar solos.
Upon first listen, I wasn't all that impressed with Upon Inflection. Then it started to grow on me, and I started noticing the different things that they stuffed into each song, and I found myself grabbing for the disc quite a bit more often. While it may not be the absolute best death metal to come out this year, it is still a pretty strong release.
Raven God Among Us
Bloody Mountain Records
Raven God Amongst Us is Valdur's second full-length release, following their 2007 self-titled debut, while there were numerous splits sandwiched between the two releases. It's a fairly short release, at just over 34 minutes, so it should be a quick and dirty listen for you to enjoy (or not).
The album starts off strong with "Wound Fires In The Afterlife", which has some killer layered guitar riffs that are at once melodic and crushingly violent. The vocals are echo and reverb laden, providing that feel of mysticism that effect laden vocals tend to have. The latter part of the song slows things way down, getting heavier and more brutal, while the vocals get deeper and provide a more death like growl. The second track didn't entice me as much, with the fade in and fade out that almost feels as if the band didn't know how to start or end the song, so they just used the fades as a crutch. The real strength in this recording is in the middle two songs - "Med Fjell I Horisonten" and "Berserrker" - which provide a nasty one two punch to the eardrums. The former is almost like a black metal chant, with a killer feeling that brings total darkness to my mind. The latter is just a brilliant piece of melodic black metal. Catchy, melodic riffs are the centerpiece of the track, while the whirlwind of drums provide ample entertainment for those who like more than your basic stick on skin bashing. The last two songs on the disc leave me feeling bored, making it tedious to finish. Not a good sign with such a short running time.
When listening to this disc, I thought it started off ok, got really really strong in the middle, and totally petered out at the end. The band shows in the middle of the disc that they have talent and songwriting abilities, but it seems under utilized here. Maybe next time.
Man Of Two Visions
“Running Out”, the lead track off Valkyrie’s sophomore album easily sounds like it could be a Budgie cover, but alas it is an original, and what a tribute to that aforementioned band it is. Driving riffs with not-as-high-pitched nasal vocals and pounding drums that puts them in a neo-NWOBHM category instantly. “Dawntide’s Breeze” has some very hippy-inspired lyrics about spreading love but instead of a psychedelic rock sound they have searing guitar solos and heavy Sabbath inspired riffs to back up the message. Come to think of it, Sabbath also had a few hippy inspired lyrics in their time, so this really isn’t any thing groundbreaking.
“The Green Highlander” is a nice little mellow melodic interlude that sets up the galloping rhythm of “Apocalypse Unsealed” which could easily easily be an early Iron Maiden tune complete with guitar solos to match. “False Dreams” has a Pentagram feel to it, as a matter of fact they are a big influence on these guys in general, but this song it’s more evident than on others. “The Gorge” is a nice acoustic piece that sounds a bit like the folkier Zeppelin tunes off of Led Zeppelin 3 and “Man of Two Visions” ends the album heavy seven minute epic with a slow sludge-filled mood that truly encapsulates most of what this band is all about, vintage Doom Rock that would make any Pentagram, Maiden, or Sabbath fan happy.
A -Matt Smith
Beyond Cops. Beyond God
Waking The Cadaver is one of the most infamous deathcore bands around. Just search for them on youtube, and you'll find a whole slew of videos people made with their own interpretations of what the unintelligible lyrics are, most of which are a flat out riot. Their debut release was also pretty much routinely panned in every review, and I know many people who claimed it was the worst metal release ever. So, did they change things up at all on their sophomore release, Beyond Cops. Beyond God?
Generic, boring riffs? Check. Sloppy, wanna-be technical drumming, chock full of crappy gravity blasts? Check. Pig squeals and other assorted cheesy vocals? Check. Overly immature lyrics? Check. Breakdowns at every turn? A plethora of checks for that one. I guess whenever they can't think of a generic riff to run with, they just do the old breakdown thing and chug around in place until they can come up with something better. Ugh, I can't take this anymore.
Is this better than their debut? Yes, but that isn't saying a whole lot. This is still pretty damn terrible stuff. There is maybe one or two short riffs on this that are worth listening to again, but that is about it. Unless you were already a fan of this band (I am sure they exist, somewhere), then avoid this turd at all costs. Beyond Bad.
Season Of Mist
Three years after the release of Sworn to the Dark, what I consider to be one of the greatest black metal albums ever recorded, Sweden's satanic trio
Watain return to drag us back to hell with Lawless Darkness. While Sworn to the Dark immediately grabbed me by the throat, Lawless Darkness is a more
subtle approach. This one will take time to grow on you, it's more mature offering, and rather than an album packed with satanic black metal
anthems and chorus hooks, Lawless Darkness is more about storytelling. It becomes quite obvious that a lot more time and thought has been put into
the new songs, yet nothing has been lost in the process.
As far as sound quality is concerned, it picks up right where it was left off 3 years ago, and as the
opener, "Death's Cold Dark" kicked things off, I thought to myself "it sounds like a continuation of Sworn to the Dark", and at times it does. However, this
album is laid out, I'm guessing purposely, with the intention of taking the listener for a ride. "Malfeitor", "Reaping Death", and "Four Thrones" keep up the
pace of brutality this band is known for, and have some of the most intense lyrical content you'll ever come by. More time has been spent on harmonies and
leads, right down to the smallest detail with great success. At first listen, you take everything as a whole, but once you fully absorb this album you can really
hear and appreciate all the attention given, and realize this was anything but thrown together.
"Wolves Curse" begins what I will describe as the second act
of this album, slowing things down a bit with a moody, mid-paced, 9-minute powerhouse. Watain are really able to paint a vivid picture through music and
lyrics, and this song especially leaves me feeling surrounded by darkness. The title track, a 6-minute instrumental continues the somber mood, perhaps
just a bit too long after the previous epic, but fear not, "Total Funeral" sweeps in to start off the third act, and sets things straight again. This release is filled
with peaks and valleys, and when the title is coming to a close, it feels as though the album is ending as well. "Hymn to Qayin" and "Kiss of Death", which has
become one of my personal favorites, has some of the most intense guitar harmony to be found. The grooves on this disc are simply crushing at times, and while
musically there are no similarities, I am reminded of that feeling I got in my gut the first 100 times I heard "Reign in Blood".
This band is all about slaughtering
through music. Painting a picture that stays with you, and more often than not, these riffs get stuck in my head for days at a time. The fourth, and final act "Waters
of Ain" which clocks in at almost 15 minutes brings things to a close (Unless you have the bonus track "Chains of Death"). The choice to put this as the last track
was, in my opinion, a mistake. After 9 songs, and almost an hour of music, this number knocks the wind out of me and loses a lot of momentum. If you were to
think of Lawless Darkness as a movie, "Waters of Ain" would be the track playing as the credits are rolling. Most people leave the theater at this point. Aside
from that, Watain are still at the top of the food chain in my book.
The Babel Inside Was Terrible
Exile On Mainstream
I have to say right off the bat, when I first listened to this cd I didn't get it, there was too much going on. However, after a couple more listens, it began to make
sense. We Insist! is a progressive/jazz/math/rock band from France. While there are probably a few more genres I could have tagged them with as well, The Babel
Inside Was Terrible is a daring experiment in music. The difference, and what will set this apart from most acts that try to incorporate things like saxophones, xylophones
and jazz organs into rock music, is intelligence. The songs are anything but thrown together, they are well thought out, tricky and it's hard to wrap your head
around the odd time signatures, which is why it took a couple listens for me to adjust. It's strange, to say the least, but not awkward. The time signatures are truly
insane. It's a constant roller coaster ride without the nausea, and these guys can jump out of a melody into chaos so smoothly, and with such ease, if you're not paying
attention you'll miss it.
My first impression was TOOL on acid, and the singer sounds and delivers just like Maynard. But there is much much more going on here. Some songs such as
the opener "Deja Vu" reminds me of the sound of late 1980's bands that began experimenting, or getting signed to DISCHORD Records out of D.C. But it's
impossible to categorize this band. I'm sure each listener will hear different tinges of influence throughout this release. There are moments of straight up jazz,
followed by dirty sounding punk-infused rock. It's like an abstract painting that you buy and hang on your wall, and one day you walk by it, and say "Ahhh,
now I see it!" Everyone will take away something different from this cd.
Normally not something I'd get into, but due to those influential roots mentioned above, this was an enjoyable listen by some truly talented musicians.
From The Devil's Tomb
The Ajna Offensive
Just over a year ago, I got my first dose of Weapon, in the form of their debut release, Drakonian Paradigm. It quickly became one of my favorite release of last year, and it is still a disc I listen to very frequently. When a promo of their new release, From The Devil's Tomb, showed up in my PO Box one day, I wasted little time getting home and throwing it in the good old CD player and blasting it at full volume, eager to see what one of my new favorite bands came up with on their sophomore release. Well, let's just say that I was once again left picking my jaw up off the floor after only listening to the first few minutes.
I really don't know where to start in describing this masterpiece that spins before me. I could say that the riffs on here are massive and catchy as hell, I mean, just listening to the first riffs of the opening title track will tell you that. I could say that the ingenious use of acoustic/quieter passages add a whole new dimension to the music - the instrumental track "LEFTHANDPATHYOGA" shows this quite nicely. I could mention the Middle Eastern influenced sounds used during out the opening and middle part to "Sardonyx" which are brilliant. I could also mention the supremely heavy part in "Sardonyx" (or the equally immense part in the title track) after the middle segment, right after the death grunt, and how utterly AMAZING it is. I could bring up the fact that the drumming on this disc is flabbergastingly good, even if the sound is a little too clicky and triggered for my tastes - when the drum work is this good, I guess I can easily put up with the triggered sound. I could say that the production on here is quite a bit better than on the bands debut, which it most certainly is. I could say that the guitar leads are really sweet - they seem to be a bit more well planned out and integrated into the songs better this time around. I could say a whole lot more about this disc, but suffice it to say that I an completely enamored with this album. It really doesn't get much better than this.
Bottom line is, this disc achieved something I wasn't sure would be possible. It surpassed Drakonian Paradigm. Maybe not by a whole lot, but I do think this is a better record in all aspects. The songwriting is better, the performances are much better, and the production is far superior to its predecessor. While it is definitely getting crowded at the top, this disc immediately through itself straight to the head of the line as far as album of the year contenders go.
Oh man, when Goz said this band was total Cathedral worship he wasn't kidding! I must admit though that I really like it, because they sound a lot like Forest of Equilibrium-era Cathedral and that is ALWAYS a good thing in my book!
Heavy as fuck riffs and vocals that are very reminiscent of Lee Dorian, but they have just enough originality so that I wouldn't call them a Cathedral rip-off. For example on "Thou art Cursed", they have a nice mellow intro before the heaviness kicks in, and you really don't find that on Forest-era Cathedral too much. But in essence, they do carry the Cathedral torch very high and this makes me happy, because so many bands say they're influenced by Cathedral but don't have the know how to actually back it up.
So, if you're in the market for a Doom album that sounds like a natural sequel to Forest of Equilibrium then you have come to the right place with Witchsorrow!
B -Matt Smith
The Hungering Void
The Hungering Void is a three song EP from Swedish black metal troupe Withershin, that follows the bands 2008 debut, Ashen Banners. Clocking in a mere 15 minutes in length, it is a quick, yet brutal listen, chock full of great riffs, killer blast beats, and melodic intros - and that is only within the first minute of the opening track, "Wherein I Exalt"! The monumental riffing continues on in the title track, while the closing track, "Crossing The Threshold", slows things down for most of the song, with a quieter intro, and a fairly technical guitar section towards the end of the song.
The Hungering Void is a good listen, but nothing really stands out and grabs at you or leaves you wanting for more. Maybe it's just the short running time, maybe the music just didn't grab me all that well. Either way, it is decent, but not something I'll be jonesing for all that often.
Exile On Mainstream
This is a minimalist release that is certain to be lost in the shuffle almost immediately. It's a sad, somber approach at a very dull form of indie/pop. Pvll is
a snooze fest. There's no other way to put it. I thought MAYBE things would get interesting after listening to the first couple songs, but I was so wrong. Basically,
this entire release is nothing more than piano/synth, violin/strings and incredibly mundane vocals. To say it's boring is an understatement. Musically, there's
a beginning, a middle and an end...The end just doesn't come quick enough. Song after song of the same dreary tones that go absolutely no where.
I first heard Woe sometime last Winter, when I saw they were booked to play show at Ralph's Diner in Worcester (a special Saturday night edition of the iconic Metal Thursday). I sought out their debut disc, A Spell For The Death of Man, and was instantly blown away by it. Seeing them live just reiterated how great they are. This put their follow up, Quietly, Undramatically, very high on my most anticipated release list. Quietly, Undramatically, Woe's first release as a complete band (frontman Chris Grigg handled everything on the debut), is out now on Candlelight Records.
Opening with the one-two punch of "No Solitude" and "The Road From Recovery" (the same songs that opened their live set when I saw them in March), we're instantly shown what to expect from the 7 song, 43 minute affair that is about to unfold. The slow, almost progressive start to "No Solitude" builds up to a heavy crescendo before seemlessly transitioning right into "The Road From Recovery". This is a blasting, frenetically paced black metal attack that will leave your head spinning in amazement. The drum work here is freakin' stellar - blasting away, but also throwing down some monstrous fills when needed. The guitar work is equally intense - tremolo picking away, yet still able to keep some semblance of melody and provide a few mean hooks that dig deep into your mind and stick around for a while, and even some nice little lead work thrown in near the end of the track. All this, and we've only made it through the intro and first track. The title track follows, and comes across as a bit more melodic, or maybe even progressive, definitely more dynamic. I think it's the catchier riffs, slightly slower pace, and the clean vocals that bring this feeling out.
"Without Logic" is a real quick (2:24 to be exact), punky affair that leads is to Woe's magnum opus, the albums pièce de résistance if you will. I am referring to "Full Circle", a near 13 minute track that combines a rocking start, blackened early part, quiet and then doomy middle section, a bit of some progressive tones as we approach the end, and a furious bit that fades out to the end. It is really impossible to put into words how epic this track is. Hopefully they play this one live, but I'm not counting on it. This leads us to the closer, "Hatred Is Our Heart". Fast and aggressive as hell, this one might slip by you upon first listen, seeing as you just had your ass kicked "Full Circle" style. But then, something happens after you finish listening to the disc. You remember the kickass hook that is played during the chorus of the song - you know, the one that has the killer gang vocals shouted over it. Yeah, that one. The one that had you banging your head while you listened to it at the gym, in your car, or wherever you listen to your music nowadays. Riffs like that are what make a good song, if you ask me.
I consider this disc to be top notch in all aspects. A tour de force in how metal should be played. This should vault Woe into the forefront of the US black metal scene/movement (or whatever you want to call it), and should end up on many year end best of lists for 2010. I know it will be at or near the top of mine. Other bands should also take note of the drum production here - this is how drums should sound on a metal record. None of this triggered, clickity click crap that everyone uses these days.
Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac
Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac is the second release from Utah (by way of Mexico) black metal horde Yaotl Mictlan. They've been around for over ten years now, but their releases have been sparse and the lag time between releases has been a bit long.
The eight songs here provide us with about 50 minutes of raging black metal. Mostly it is pretty fast paced, with lots of blast beats, but it is when the band slows things down a bit that they get more interesting. Take for example "Hin Hunapu", which has a really catchy, mid-paced feel to it, with some intensely catchy riffs to boot. There are parts to this song which get going really fast, and when Yaotl Miclan do that, the sound tends to get blurry and washed out, sapping the power from the music instantly. The drum sound on this is pretty weak as well, especially during the fills (see the 2:15 & 3:25 marks of "Cihuacoatl" for prime examples). "Noche Triunfadora" is another song that starts off strong, but loses steam in the middle when they pick up the pace.
The band has some decent musical ideas here, but between the fairly week production, and the often somewhat uninspired songwriting, it doesn't hold my interest all that well. Hopefully they'll get some better production on future efforts, as that would make it leaps and bounds better than what we have now.
Gate 1: Chaosmogonic Rituals Of Fear
Chaosmogonic Rituals Of Fear is the first volume in the YOGSOTHERY Trilogy of metal tributes to the genius of H.P. Lovecraft". This disc is made
up of four songs by four contributing artists, none of which I was familiar with. After reading a short bio where such phrases as "abysmal dark
soundscapes" and "frightening blackened space-doom", I had no idea what to expect or what I was about to experience, but I was intrigued
none the less.
Track one, "Kuihtuman Henkivi" by a Finnish band called JAAPORTIT is a 25 minute journey that would make a fitting backdrop to
an alien movie set on a spacecraft. It's a dreamy synth number high on single notes echoed and faded in and out, with eerie little sounds in the
background. There is no real song here, no build up and no climax. The only use I could find for this track would be meditating or falling asleep.
Track two, "Suur-Nikkurin Virsi" by the second of three Finnish bands on this cd, UMBRA NIHIL, is a bit more meaty. This song has more of a dreamy
doom feel, with some black metal undertones. It begins with some somber acoustic guitar, and begins to get heavier as drums and electrics (both
guitar and synth) thicken things up. There is a nice creepy feel to the music, complete with some rather eerie clean vocals delivered in a low monotone.
Something I would definitely like to hear more of.
"Lovecraft Knew" by AARNI, brings us back to outer space. Though not as soothing as the opening track. This is more of some sort of
synthesized cosmic noise. It was actually rather silly, and was forced skip this one.
The fourth, and final track, "Resurgent Atavism" by a band from Italy called CAPUT LVIIIm rounds out the last half-hour of this disc with a blackened
version of life in outer space. It's long. Really long. Painfully long. It's a distorted synth/guitar track with some screamy vocals. If you can get through
to the 21-minute mark there is a bit of a climax(if you want to call it that) with some slow single beat drums and a ride thrown into the mix. But by this
point I was starting to twitch, and just wanted to get off the spaceship.
UMBRA NIHIL are, in my opinion, the only thing saving this release, and I think that single worthy of throwing onto my mp3 at home.
Zoroaster are back with another slab of psychedelic Doom as only they know how to do it! Delay-drenched vocals, analog synth sounds permeating the heavy guitars, and bass that hits you in the gut like an acid trip-butterfly stomach. Progressing even further than their last album, Voice of Saturn, Zoroaster continue to blaze their own trail of Psychedelic Doom Metal with the lead track "DNR" setting us up for the mind trip they are about to take us on. Guitars that sound like Radiohead got into some of Electric Wizard's stash and realized they needed to make a Doom Metal record. "Ancient Ones" hits you in the head with a tripped out sledgehammer and sets you up for the "Odyssey" they take us on the next track, which when on the right substance will transport you into the outer stratosphere and leave you floating within the cosmos.
"Trident" has a much more straight up Stoner Rock vibe and "Firewater" is almost a total straight up noise guitar track with bass and drums backing it up. "Old World" has the most "traditional" sounding Zoroaster sound with phased out guitars and a tribal drum section in the middle. "Black Hole" has a Black Metal vibe to it with enough Zoroaster vibe to make it their own sound and "Odyssey II" is a nice instrumental with acoustic guitars and "Matador" ends the album on a mind journey with it's tripped out synths flowing and reverberating throughout the track and droning guitar riffs repeating under barely decipherable raspy mellow vocals, definitely an appropriate end to a most Psychedelic Doom experience!
If you were already a Zoroaster fan then you will be very pleased by this release, if you're new to Zoroaster this is a perfect place to start off, as they will most likely only be getting trippier and more out there with every new release.
A -Matt Smith