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FIREWIND Immortals

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
As a power metal fan, there are a few rather major bands in the genre I still haven’t looked into as much as I probably should, and one of those is Greek band Firewind. Obviously, I’m well aware of guitarist Gus G. and his insane technical prowess, but the band, on the whole, has never really grabbed my attention, until now. I first discovered them with their previous album Few Against Many, and while Gus and keyboardist Bob Katsionis impressed me with their musicianship, the songwriting seemed rather boring and forgettable, like the band was focused more on showing off their technical skills than on writing memorable songs, so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to hearing any new albums from them. Then I heard the lead single “Hands of Time” from the upcoming album Immortals, and was immediately impressed. After hearing the entire album several times, I’m happy to say the band has managed to win me over, striking the right balance between being technically proficient but actually writing fun and memorable songs to go along with that excellent musicianship.

First off, there’s one major change that happened in between albums and that is the departure of former vocalist Apollo Papathanasio. I’m sure many fans were disappointed by the news as he’s a great singer with a very distinct voice, but thankfully the band decided to move on without him and they brought in Henning Basse, another well-known singer who immediately makes an impact on the music and fits in perfectly. Henning has a very raw and powerful voice that helps give the music a bit of an edge, and he does quite a bit with his voice throughout the album, sometimes singing with a slight grunt, other times providing the kind of soaring vocals required for speedy power metal and sometimes singing in a much more relaxed voice, particularly on some of the softer sections, of which there are quite a few on the album. He does a great job all around, and I think he’s the perfect singer for this new version of Firewind.

Speaking of which, this album feels like somewhat of a restart to me. Obviously, the core of the band is still there and Gus G. still leads the way with his brilliant guitar playing, but I find stylistically this album feels more like a traditional power metal album at least compared to their two previous albums, in that there’s a much bigger focus on the melodies this time around and there are some pretty huge vocal melodies throughout, with the guitars still adding a bit of an edge, but the music certainly doesn’t get as rough or as dark as what was heard on Few Against Many. It’s certainly a much lighter and more melodic album on the whole, with more of a focus on catchiness, though obviously there’s still a ton of memorable instrumental sections, where Gus and Bob go back and forth with for some pretty epic guitar/keyboard solos.

Another thing to note is that this is a concept album, based on ancient Greece, and while that subject has been covered by metal bands before, this album provides an enjoyable take on the history, and obviously it’s appropriate considering most of the band members are from Greece. The track “Ode to Leonidas” does the best job with the theme, starting off with a nice acoustic section leading to pretty cool voice over from the perspective of Leonidas, which gets the song off to a great start.

I mentioned it already, but opening track “Hands of Time” is an instant winner and is the main reason I was curious enough to give the album a go because it really is that good. After a brief intro with some electronic beats, the melodic guitar leads kick in and the track turns into a super fast power metal track, with fun verses, great riffs, a huge sing-along chorus, and of course an excellent solo section with dueling guitars and keyboards. Henning Basse instantly steals the show, with his huge soaring vocals, and it’s the kind of melodic, super catchy power metal track I will never get tired of and also the kind of track I felt a previous couple of albums were lacking, so it certainly gets things off to a promising start.

I will say, while I don’t think anything else on the album is quite as fun as that track, it’s a very strong album overall, with no real duds. I also mentioned the song “Ode to Leonidas” previously. Well, after its big intro it turns into something of a mix between epic heavy metal and classic power metal, with fast tempos and a huge chorus, but it also has some pretty heavy riffs and some of the melodies remind me more of epic heavy metal, and so it’s quite the interesting track and certainly one of the highlights. Similarly, “Live and Die by the Sword” also starts off with an extended acoustic section, this time allowing Henning to show off some of his softer vocals, before speeding up and turning into another very epic and rather heavy track with some memorable vocal and instrumental sections. Those are the two longest songs on the album, and also two of my favorites.

Elsewhere, tracks like “We Defy” and “War of Ages” are still fairly fast, though a little bit slower than previously mentioned tracks, and they bring back a little bit of the roughness found on the previous album, though they’re still fairly melodic overall and are both have catchy choruses. The last really fast track on the album is “Warriors and Saints”, possibly the fastest of all, and it has some slight neoclassical flourishes from the guitars, as well as some nice acoustic sections, but it’s the chorus that really stands out. Likewise, “Rise from the Ashes” is a mostly mid-tempo track, which also has a bit of a rough edge during the verses, though its chorus is spectacular and possibly the best on the album.

On the softer side, we have the ballad “Lady of 1000 Sorrows”, which is a fairly nice track which really showcases Henning’s softer vocals nicely, and it has a pretty nice guitar solo in the middle as well. Lastly, we have the instrumental title track, a brief but very fun track which starts off fast and heavy before slowing down a bit and allowing Gus to provide a very beautiful solo in the middle that demonstrates not only skill but an ability to write beautiful melodies. The bonus track “Visions of Tomorrow” also features multiple extended instrumental sections, and it’s another excellent, mostly mid-tempo track with a pretty huge chorus.

Overall, Immortals is quite the surprise for me, as I wasn’t expecting too much after being less than impressed by Few Against Many, but it seems a new singer and a renewed focus on fun, memorable songwriting overall technical showmanship have allowed Firewind to excel in new ways, and help kick 2017 off with a great album. Recommended for all fans of melodic power metal, who enjoy a mix of great vocals and impressive of musicianship to go along with the expected speedy tracks and huge choruses. I actually think fans of the band’s previous works may be disappointed, but personally, I’m very pleased with the album and I hope the band can build off of this and do even better things in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/12/27/firewind-immortals-review/

LORN Arrayed Claws

Album · 2017 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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adg211288
It's been four years since the Italian black metal act Lorn released their last album Subconscious Metamorphosis (2013). Now back with a new two-piece line-up consisting of Radok (vocals, guitars, bass & synths) and Chimsicrin (drums), their third full-length album Arrayed Claws (2017) has been unleashed.

'Unleashed' being the operative word as for the most part what we have here is a brand of black metal that is played in a fast and furious manner. Like a wild beast Arrayed Claws seems poised to rip its listeners to shreds, an effect only only enhanced by the music's production which serves up a sound that while not totally crisp and clear isn't so lo-fi as to detract from how hard the band's riffs are hitting. But interlaced with these assaults of blackened guitar riffs and snarling vocal fury the album offers up the occasional reprieve in the form of a softer ambient side that manifests here and there, for instance near the end of the opening Disharmonic Feticism and perhaps most notably in the closing Aus Nebel Turm, where even the metal elements, used lightly for a change, take a turn towards the atmospheric.

Lorn have produced an album with two distinct faces in Arrayed Claws. Though neither reinvents the wheel there is something about this release that just immediately works and shows itself to be a high quality album by the band. The black metal is the most convincing stuff in this regard but the ambient passages serve the release in a positive way by offering some variation to break it up, though the one at the end of Disharmonic Feticism does seem to come out of nowhere I must admit. Aus Nebel Turm feels a lot more natural. That's not a criticism of the former as there's nothing wrong with suddenly wanting to exclaim 'wait, what the hell?' when discovering new music.

I can't say if this year is especially different but the black metal genre seems to be exploding with new releases right now, so it's been difficult in some respects to pick and choose which ones to look into. Being on the mighty I, Voidhanger Records label certainly worked in Lorn's favour in that regard and they didn't let the high standard I've come to expect from that label down. Arrayed Claws is certainly an early highlight for black metal in 2017. I, for one, will be listening to this a lot.

TODESSTOß Ebne Graun

Album · 2017 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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adg211288
Consisting of just a single track running for over forty-five minutes, Ebne Graun (2017) is the eighth full-length album release by German depressive black metal act Todesstoß. Formerly the one man project of founder Martin Lang, Ebne Graun is more of a band effort thanks to the contributions from newer members Euer Gnaden (bass) and Flesh of L. (vocals), leaving Lang to handle the guitars, keyboards and percussion in the group. It's the same line-up who recorded the previous album Hirngemeer (2015).

On Ebne Graun the music performed by Todesstoß sits somewhere between depressive black metal and funeral doom metal and even ambient/dungeon synth type stuff such as that used in the intro of the track, where the music is combined with the sound of rattling chains and ghostly sorrowful wails that conjure up image of a dark, dank, medieval dungeon from which there is no escape. At other times the synth parts can even sound folksy, but of course not in a happy way. This dungeon has no windows, so there are no rays of light to offer even of a glimmer of hope.

And that's just the feeling the album/song gives between it even gets in any way metallic. As the metal begins to emerge it's more in the slow, funeral doom metal kind of dirge and continues to blend it the ideas from the previous section. It's all been done in such a way that it's not hard to realise that Ebne Graun isn't all about being dark and dreary although this feeling can never be far from your mind, thanks in no small part to the vocals of Flesh of L. which range between despairing and mournful cleans to tortured and aggressive growls. What it also shows itself to be though is quite intricate. I don't mean that the band is throwing in excessive technical work or progressive elements, but the small details that made the music interesting and make it something more than a dirge – the kind of thing that could even give an album such as this appeal to those listeners who usually avoid this kind of thing, perhaps for considering themselves a happy person. One thing that is often prominent in the mix even when the song moves forward again into a bit faster and more furious sounding black metal section, is the bass of Euer Gnaden. The bass lines played are another layer of music onto themselves here.

Counting myself as one of those listeners who considered himself a reasonably happy individual I would class myself as someone who typically avoids depressive black metal acts. The whole idea of the genre just doesn't usually appeal to me in the least. I decided to give this one a go based on the track record of the label it is released on, that being I, Voidhanger Records who have put out some of my favourite black metal releases such as Spectral Lore's III (2014), Mare Cognitum's Phobos Monolith (2014) and Midnight Odyssey's Shards of Silver Fade (2015) but honestly wasn't expecting to like it this much as my previous experiments with the genre did not go so well. Which is why I hope it gives weight when I say that Ebne Graun is an excellent album from Todesstoß. They've used the long duration of the track well and even after half an hour in can still throw in a section that takes you off guard. Recommend to those who like the strange and unique.

MESHUGGAH The Violent Sleep of Reason

Album · 2016 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"The Violent Sleep of Reason" is the 9th full-length studio album by Swedish technical extreme metal act Meshuggah. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in October 2016. It´s the successor to "Koloss" from 2012 and features the same lineup as the predecessor. "The Violent Sleep of Reason" is a self-produced effort. Engineering was done by prolific Danish producer/engineer Tue Madsen at Puk Studios in Denmark. The album was recorded live in the studio, with all members playing simultaneously. So it´s basically a "live in the studio" recording, but you probably wouldn´t be able to hear it if you didn´t know it. Meshuggah are one tight playing unit. A well oiled machine. And even when they do something like this, everything is still delivered with militant precision.

Stylistically "The Violent Sleep of Reason" features very few surprises if you´re already familiar with the last couple of releases by Meshuggah. Crushingly heavy downtuned angular played guitars/bass riffs, the odd fusion jazz styled guitar solo/theme, technical drumming, crazy time signatures, and Jens Kidman´s raw aggressive vocals in front. It´s safe to say they don´t step out of their comfort zone much on this album, but the quality of the material is as usual incredibly high and the band´s sound is as unique as ever. I understand if some people feel Meshuggah have stagnated and that their style has become a one-dimensional and predictable size, because in some ways that´s true, but if you listen a bit more closely to what the band have to offer, you´ll notice that they still make little tweaks to their core sound. It´s nothing that changes their overall musical style, but there is enough development to keep the listener on his/her toes and ensure that "The Violent Sleep of Reason" stands out as an individual entity in the band´s discography.

The material on the 10 track, 58:55 minutes long album is as mentioned above of a very high quality. The tracks are written in an incredibly clever way and the technical details featured on the tracks are quite stunning. That´s not unusual for Meshuggah though, and it wouldn´t be enough if the tracks weren´t powerful and memorable too. That´s fortunately the case here though, and while there are a couple of tracks which don´t stand out as much as the best tracks on the album, every track is still of a high quality. Highlight include "Born in Dissonance", "MonstroCity", and "Nostrum", but "Violent Sleep of Reason" (which features some very intriguing lead guitar melodies/themes) and the crushingly heavy and therefore aptly titled "By the Ton" also deserve a mention.

"The Violent Sleep of Reason" features a powerful, raw, and detailed sound production, and despite how it was recorded, the album features the cold, clinical, and dark atmosphere, which suits Meshuggah´s music so well. It´s still organic to a degree though, and it´s certainly not a polished and lifeless sounding production.

So they´ve done it again...created another masterful release, which defies catagorization and which just sounds unmistakably like Meshuggah. The fans will probably praise this one as they´ve praised the band´s previous efforts, while the critics will say the same as they always do. This is not an album that´ll change that. Meshuggah´s music is still as demanding and inaccessible as it´s been from day one, and "The Violent Sleep of Reason" requires as much attention from the listener as every preceding release by the band before it. But once you lock into that crushingly heavy odd-metered hypnotic groove it´ll never let go. A 5 star (100%) rating is deserved.

OPETH Sorceress

Album · 2016 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.66 | 15 ratings
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UMUR
"Sorceress" is the 12th full-length studio album by Swedish progressive metal act Opeth. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in September 2016. It´s the successor to "Pale Communion" from 2014 and it features the same lineup as the predecessor. Mikael Åkerfeldt (guitars, vocals), Martín Méndez (bass), Martin Axenrot (drums), Fredrik Åkesson (guitars), and Joakim Svalberg (keyboards).

Stylistically "Sorceress" continues the progressive rock/folk direction from the last couple of releases, and just to get it out of the way, there is nothing on this album which is related to their progressive doom/death metal past. This is purely 70s influenced progressive rock with strong folk leanings, and the occasional nod towards 70s hard rock and jazz rock/fusion.

The material on the 11 track, 56:35 minutes long album is generally well written and relatively memorable. There´s great dynamic on the album with both hard rocking louder parts, mellow melancolic folky parts, and epic moments. "Sorceress" is predominantly to the soft side though. Tracks like the title track, "The Wilde Flowers", and "Strange Brew" feature some hard rocking moments, but there are several very mellow emotive tracks featured on the album too. The predominantly instrumental "The Seventh Sojourn" is a standout track, as a result of the middle eastern influenced melody themes. The limited edition of "Sorceress" features the two studio bonus studio tracks "The Ward" and "Spring MCMLXXIV" (and a couple of live tracks) and both tracks are good quality compositions, which could easily have made it unto the standard edition of the album.

"Sorceress" is a well produced album, featuring an organic sounding production. It´s a sound which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Sorceress" is a another quality release by Opeth. To my ears it doesn´t reach the heights of "Pale Communion (2014)", because the melody lines just aren´t as interesting or as memorable as much of the material on that album. It doesn´t sound like "Heritage (2011)" either, because it´s more structured and less progressive in nature, so on the positive side Opeth have again managed to release an album with an individual identity. On the negative side there aren´t that many tracks on the album which stand out as highlights. The quality is as mentioned good and there´s a professional touch to both compositions, production, and musicianship, but I´m missing some musical magic here. In the end "Sorceress" sounds a bit too safe and derivative of the band´s influences. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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AVATARIUM Avatarium

Album · 2013 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.31 | 19 ratings
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aglasshouse
Candlemass was a fairly early band to the doom metal scene, debuting all the way back in 1986. The band had quite the lineup, though the member that would go onto be known for his involvement in other projects was bassist Leif Edling. Edling has dabbled in a few different facets of the metal circuit, such as when he worked with progressive metal band Abstrakt Algebra on their 1995 album, however he stayed mostly within the confines of the doom metal style. After a long, nine year stint with Krux, Edling went on to form one of the more highly regarded doom acts of the recent era, Avatarium, in 2013.

Before their debut, all Avatarium had released was a three-track EP in 2013 titled Moonhorse, whose title track and 'Boneflower' would end up in the debut in the same year. So it's safe to say Avatarium was relatively fresh as an outfit going in. A rather well-marketable aspect of the band was indeed their female vocalist, Jennie-Ann Smith, as female fronted doom acts were and are few and far between. Avatarium had shown a lot of potential as a band and, being on the already rather prolific record label Nuclear Blast, were set on the fast track to greatness.

As much as this album is heralded as fantastic, I can't say I can exactly replicate that opinion. Don't get me wrong- the music's okay. Pretty damn okay, I would hasten to say. But that's just it- it's just okay. A problem I've always had with Avatarium as an outfit is their overwhelming mediocrity, sounding less like something unique and more like the more derivative moments of Candlemass in the 90's. Avatarium's debut is replete with overbearing guitar solos, powerful drumming, and energetic musicianship-- but it's just not interesting to me. The album also has a sort of sludge vibe that's hard to pin down and when infused with their already established sound, only sort of turns out sounding half-baked and phony. I have a feeling that Avatarium is meant to be a sort of product of all the groups Edling was a part of during the 80's - 00's, combining the prog of Algebra, the crushing doom of Candlemass and Crux, and a bit of sludge influence as a finish. To some it might sound good but to me it just sounds disgustingly average. The musicians are great, they have a lot of skill, but their finished product was just not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be.

ANGEL DUST Into the Dark Past

Album · 1986 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.56 | 9 ratings
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Warthur
If you wanted to make an argument for speed metal as occupying a middle ground between traditional heavy metal, thrash metal, and power metal, Angel Dust's debut album could be Exhibit A for your case. Romme Keymer's vocals may occasionally be a little shaky, but the twin lead guitar assault he mounts with Andreas Lohrum is more than enough to inject energy and vigour into the proceedings here, with a hard, defiant edge to both the music and lyrics reminiscent of the more political moments of 1980s thrash whilst at the same time occasionally hinting at a more epic scope to the band's concerns suggestive of early power metal. Fast, thrilling, this is an exemplary piece of 1980s metal.

MY DYING BRIDE As the Flower Withers

Album · 1992 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 15 ratings
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Warthur
Although subsequent albums like Turn Loose the Swans seem to be regarded as the peak of early My Dying Bride, it's actually this debut album of theirs which has won me around to their brand of death-doom. I suspect the reason it's often overlooked is that it has a somewhat simpler, stripped-down sound: there's still some violin, but it's not especially promiment, and the vocals only come from Aaron Stainthorpe and they are mostly in a death growl. But with their sound pared back like this, you can really appreciate the group's ability to switch between slow, doomy gloom and faster death metal-oriented playing at the drop of a hat. It isn't without its issues - in particular, I think Rick Miah's drum sound is occasionally a bit thin - but it's a solid start for the band and enough to prompt me to take a second look at them.

CUNTSCRAPE Splitroast

Split · 2009 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
If you go by the old saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” when you look at Splitroast, and then find it offensive, it’s your own fucking fault! In this case, the cover is telling the truth.

This less than classy little split album from Western Australia features a spooky looking labiascape cover, like a vaginal “Altars of Madness” or a gynaecological take on Obituary’s “The End Complete”. Inside, Cuntscrape’s artwork features a bearded man having his vagina probed with a stethoscope by a doctor. Death Fucking Cunt are pictured sitting around a tomb vandalized with the phrase “smash sack, sniff petrol, praise Allah”. It’s the perfect cover for filthy pornogrind and deviant death metal, which is exactly what the Mighty ‘Scrape and D.F.C. deliver.

Cuntscrape’s comedy grind is actually pretty well executed, combining highly inappropriate porno samples (A woman puking. A man says “Oh shoot! OK, you coulda used the dog dish. It’s no good. My house smells like sperm”, from “Technical Brutal Death Metal Song”) snatched from fuck knows where, with tight but stupid music. How stupid? Try song titles like “The Veiny Shaft of Justice”, “Uncle Nasty Fingers”, and “Mayonnasian”. “Breastaurant” has an almost blues-y swagger, reminiscent of the occasional flourish by fellow Aussie grinders Blood Duster. “Finntrollop” is a bang on piss take of Finntroll’s humppa-metal. The Middle Eastern-themed “Hommusexual” features ululation, and a yobbo taunt of “eat some meat, ya pansy!” In between all the parodies and porno though, these guys grind like a motherfucker.

Death Fucking Cunt deal in great slabs of brutal, technical death metal. If you like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh, or any other band of that ilk, you will like the four tracks on show here. There’s the constant percussion barrage, the bestial vocals, the heavy, distorted, technical riffs, the breakneck tempos, and songs which are completely indistinguishable from one another. That’s not necessarily a criticism- if you like what happens in the first few seconds of “Flexus Plexus”, you’re probably going to like “hothorses.com”, “Light Beer = Intense Queer” and “Insane Cumsore” too.

The whole “Splitroast” package is intense and perverted. It is misogynistic, slightly homophobic, anti-vegetarian, racially insensitive, a little zoophilic, and childishly offensively funny. It’s also a damn good listen, for lovers of well-produced goregrind and brutal death metal. Anyone upset or offended by it simply doesn’t understand the purpose of “Splitroast”, and shouldn’t be listening in the first place.

DEATHFUCKINGCUNT Splitroast

Split · 2009 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
If you go by the old saying “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” when you look at Splitroast, and then find it offensive, it’s your own fucking fault! In this case, the cover is telling the truth.

This less than classy little split album from Western Australia features a spooky looking labiascape cover, like a vaginal “Altars of Madness” or a gynaecological take on Obituary’s “The End Complete”. Inside, Cuntscrape’s artwork features a bearded man having his vagina probed with a stethoscope by a doctor. Death Fucking Cunt are pictured sitting around a tomb vandalized with the phrase “smash sack, sniff petrol, praise Allah”. It’s the perfect cover for filthy pornogrind and deviant death metal, which is exactly what the Mighty ‘Scrape and D.F.C. deliver.

Cuntscrape’s comedy grind is actually pretty well executed, combining highly inappropriate porno samples (A woman puking. A man says “Oh shoot! OK, you coulda used the dog dish. It’s no good. My house smells like sperm”, from “Technical Brutal Death Metal Song”) snatched from fuck knows where, with tight but stupid music. How stupid? Try song titles like “The Veiny Shaft of Justice”, “Uncle Nasty Fingers”, and “Mayonnasian”. “Breastaurant” has an almost blues-y swagger, reminiscent of the occasional flourish by fellow Aussie grinders Blood Duster. “Finntrollop” is a bang on piss take of Finntroll’s humppa-metal. The Middle Eastern-themed “Hommusexual” features ululation, and a yobbo taunt of “eat some meat, ya pansy!” In between all the parodies and porno though, these guys grind like a motherfucker.

Death Fucking Cunt deal in great slabs of brutal, technical death metal. If you like Suffocation, Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh, or any other band of that ilk, you will like the four tracks on show here. There’s the constant percussion barrage, the bestial vocals, the heavy, distorted, technical riffs, the breakneck tempos, and songs which are completely indistinguishable from one another. That’s not necessarily a criticism- if you like what happens in the first few seconds of “Flexus Plexus”, you’re probably going to like “hothorses.com”, “Light Beer = Intense Queer” and “Insane Cumsore” too.

The whole “Splitroast” package is intense and perverted. It is misogynistic, slightly homophobic, anti-vegetarian, racially insensitive, a little zoophilic, and childishly offensively funny. It’s also a damn good listen, for lovers of well-produced goregrind and brutal death metal. Anyone upset or offended by it simply doesn’t understand the purpose of “Splitroast”, and shouldn’t be listening in the first place.

PSYCO DRAMA From Ashes To Wings

Album · 2015 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Formed in Colorado Springs in 1990, Psyco Drama released their debut album, ‘The Illusion’, in 1996. Although they did release a follow-up the following year, they went on a prolonged hiatus and it took until 2015 for this, their next album, to be released. Singer Corey Brown and Hercules Castro (guitar, keyboards) have always been the main songwriters, and consider this to be the real follow-up to the debut. They have been joined by bassist Ian Ringler, a member of the band previously, as well as playing with Corey in Magnitude 9, and new drummer Greg Sands. These guys are playing melodic power metal with prog metal overtones, and the result is something that is incredibly enjoyable indeed.

It is very American, with the bombast never containing enough power and rawness to break through, which is a shame, as with a different production this would be something that would appeal to fans of Savatage and Angra. It is way too safe for the most part, with the result being that while it is being played the listener happily smiles and enjoys what is going on, but whether the disc will be fully remembered or played again is something else altogether. There are some good moments on this, but too few great ones, yet is still worth hearing if you come across it.

BRUTAL TRUTH Sounds of the Animal Kingdom

Album · 1997 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.48 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US grindcore act Brutal Truth. The album was released through Relapse Records in September 1997. The band´s first two albums were released through Earache Records, but "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" is not their first release on Relapse Records after their label change, as they released the "Kill Trend Suicide" MCH/EP in 1996 through the new label. This would be their last studio album before they split-up the first time and a longer hiatus followed before they reunited in 2006.

Compared to "Need to Control (1993)", "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" is a rather different sounding release, but if you´re familiar with "Kill Trend Suicide (1996)", the sound on "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" isn´t quite as surprising. The tight precision and more clinical sound of "Need to Control (1993)" is replaced here by a more laid back, organic and muddy sounding version of Brutal Truth. I´d even say it´s psychadelic tinged at times ("Jemenez Cricket" is the best example of that). Imagine that! Psychadelic grindcore...

...but Brutal Truth were always boundary pushers, and none of their albums are just "straight" blast beat grindcore (although there are loads of blast beats in their music). While not all 22 tracks on the 74:14 minutes long album (the last almost 20 minutes of the album is just an annoying loop) stand out equally much, Brutal Truth are pretty good at varying pace and incorporating elements from other genres like psychadelic rock, industrial, and death metal to their grindcore style. This ensures that "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" is an album that´s worth listening to again and again. It does overstay it´s welcome a bit though, and I would have prefered a 40 minutes long album, which I feel would have been a more suitable length for music this extreme.

The album is packed in an organic but also pretty muddy sound production, where the drums sometimes drown and it´s not always clear what´s being played. It has it´s charm but I do prefer the more clear and clinical sounding production on "Need to Control (1993)".

With "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom", Brutal Truth confirmed once again that they were not a stagnant act releasing the same album over and over again. They evolved and experimented with their sound and they still stand as one of the most innovative grindcore acts on the scene. Quality wise I prefer the predecessor, which I still feel is one of the most groundbreaking grindcore releases out there, but "Sounds of the Animal Kingdom" is also overall a quality release featuring a unique take on grindcore and despite a few flaws (it´s too long and the sound production is muddy) a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

LOB OF LEMMINGS Just Human

Album · 1993 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Just Human" is the debut full-length studio album by Danish metal act Lob of Lemmings. The album was released through TBA Records in 1993. Lob of Lemmings was a relatively short lived act and "Just Human" was their sole album release.

The music on the 13 track, 53:29 minutes long album is a relatively technical type of thrash metal, but it´s not regular thrash metal by any means. Voivod is an obvious influence and Lob of Lemmings have a similar wild and punked attitude to their delivery as the Canadians. There are also some really heavy, almost doomy parts on "Just Human", so all in all it´s a pretty varied release (there´s even a dissonant saxophone part present on the album). It´s the dark and nightmarish atmosphere that really provides the music with an extra spice though. Sometimes they sound like they are experiencing a really bad trip or something in that vein. It´s a pretty unpleasant and disturbing atmosphere.

Lob of Lemmings are a well playing act, and while most tracks are structurally simple, the band still manage to provide them with a semi-progressive edge and some technical playing, which ensure that the tracks are interesting throughout. Lead vocalist Roar Skan Olsen hasn´t got the most distinct sounding voice, but his delivery is passionate, raw, and suits the music well.

The sound production is raw, dark and powerful. It suits the equally dark and raw music well. So "Just Human" is both well played, well produced and for the most part well written too. It´s intriguing how these guys don´t follow conventions and obviously play exactly what they feel like playing at any given moment. While there are precision playing and sharp interplay between all involved, there is still a loose "Fuck You" attitude to the proceedings that´s greatly charming. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

EDGE OF SANITY Crimson II

Album · 2003 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.41 | 27 ratings
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UMUR
"Crimson II" is the 8th full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Edge of Sanity. The album was released through Black Mark Production in August 2003. It´s been 6 years since the release of the preceding album "Cryptic (1997)". An album which didn´t feature regular frontman Dan Swanö. A dispute over the future musical direction of the band made Swanö split and pursue other projects. Edge of Sanity disbanded in 1999, but Swanö revived the band name in 2003 for the release of "Crimson II". He is the sole member of the band here though and plays and sings everything on the album except for a few parts performed by session musicians like Mike Wead (Mercyful Fate, Hexenhaus, King Diamond, The Project Hate MCMXCIX) and Roger "Rogga" Johansson (Paganizer, The Grotesquery, Ribspreader...etc.).

As the title suggests "Crimson II" is the sequel to the band´s arguably most lauded album "Crimson" from 1996. A single track 40 minutes long sci-fi/fantasty concept album performed in a sophisticated and powerful progressive death metal style, that was something new and fresh at the time of release. Neither "Infernal (1997)" nor "Cryptic (1997)" managed to reach the same creative songwriting heights of "Crimson (1996)" and paired with the internal disputes over musical direction, that probably meant the end of the band. Swanö apparently felt the "Crimson (1996)" story wasn´t closed though and "Crimson II" therefore continues the story of the evil queen and the struggles of her people.

Like "Crimson (1996)", "Crimson II" is one 40 minutes long track (actually 43 minutes) divided into subtracks which seque into each other. There are several musical references and use of themes from "Crimson (1996)" featured on the album, which along with the concept story ensure conceptual continuity. The vocals vary from death metal growling, to black metal styled screams, to clean vocals. Overall the music is unmistakably the sound of Edge of Sanity. Swanö has chosen to add a lot of keyboards to the band´s sound though, which provides an even more progressive touch than what was heard on "Crimson (1996)". Unfortunately the songwriting is a bit lacking and the material is generally not that memorable, and I often find myself waiting for one of the themes from "Crimson (1996)" to appear, because at least those moments are catchy and memorable.

The whole thing simply seems a bit messy, and that´s everything from the tracklist flow, to lack of memorable hooks, to the sound production, which may be professional but still sounds a bit wrong. The musicianship is not surprising of high quality and it´s not like "Crimson II" is a terrible album, but when you make a sequel to an album like "Crimson (1996)", you better put out something of great quality, because a sequel will always be compared to the original, and in that regard "Crimson II" doesn´t stand a chance. "Crimson (1996)" is simply in a whole other league. Viewed upon as an individual release it´s not exactly Edge of Sanity´s finest hour either, but a 3 star (60%) rating is still warranted.

RAZOR Violent Restitution

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 3 ratings
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Unitron
"All the pool hall, hustling dough. I'll beat the panzies and then I'll go."

Searing through the listener's skin just like the sharp blade that the band gets their namesake, Razor certainly performs all the violence they describe with their high-tension lighting speed thrash assault. Violent Restitution is the final Razor album to feature original vocalist Stace "Sheepdog" McLaren, due to inner conflicts within the band.

Ah, but what a swansong for one of the most underrated vocalists in thrash. As soon as you turn the album on, the first thing you hear is the piercing hell-scream of McLaren that opens up the mainly instrumental opener "The Marshall Arts". This long scream carries the song into the rapid-fire rampage that sets the tone and sound for the rest of the album. McLaren's high-pitched screeches rival the likes of Tom Araya on "Angel of Death" and his dirty fast-spitting vocals rival those of Cronos of Venom.

Of course, the vocals need to be spit out in order to catch up with the insane speeds of the instruments. Razor may very well be able to claim the spot as fastest thrash band around, as your head will be torn right from your neck if you try to headbang to the majority of these killer shredders. Occasionally the band slows it down to a fast catchy groove, but slow for Razor is still pretty damn fast. Apart from those occasional grooves, this is mostly pure grinding frantic thrash. The gang vocals during the choruses are perfect and act as a bit of a hook to compliment the blinding speeds of the riffs and jack-hammer drums. Just check out "Out of the Game" for an example of this.

Razor takes the stage as one of the best and most underrated of the Canadian thrash scene, which also housed such classic bands like Annihilator and Voivod. Compared to Violent Restitution, when it comes to speed and brutality, everything else is Out of the Game while the listener is left Tasting the Floor. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

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