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metal music reviews (new releases)

DEATH ANGEL Humanicide

Album · 2019 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 4 ratings
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UMUR
"Humanicide" is the 9th full-length studio album by US, California based thrash metal act Death Angel. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in May 2019. It´s the successor to "The Evil Divide" from 2016 and features the same lineup as it´s predecessor. Rob Cavestany (guitars), Mark Osegueda (vocals), Ted Aguilar (guitars), Damien Sisson (bass), Will Carroll (drums).

Jason Suecof has again been chosen to produce, and in many ways "Humanicide" is a completely natural successor to "The Evil Divide (2016)". There hasn´t been much progression of musical style and Death Angel sounds unmistakably like themselves. The material are well written and very well performed thrash/heavy metal with the strong voice and delivery of Mark Osegueda in front (he is the type of thrash metal vocalist who can sing both raw and more melodic vocals). Some tracks are intense and aggressive thrashers, while other are more melodic and draws influence from traditional heavy metal and speed metal. The album is packed with powerful riffs and rhythms, and there are also several blistering guitar solos featured on the album.

The album is reasonably varied and the tracks are predominantly memorable and effectful, but to my ears it´s the musicianship which steals the light here. Death Angel are incredibly well playing and Osegueda is such a strong and versatile singer, who brings a little bit of originality to the band´s sound. The instrumental part of the music is not quite as original, but still well written and catchy. The sound production is powerful and detailed, and suits the material well, and upon conclusion "Humanicide" is yet another high quality thrash/heavy metal release by Death Angel and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

MAYHEM Daemon

Album · 2019 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
There are few metal bands which force me to jump my self-imposed lead time when I am sent a new album and push it to the top of the queue, but I was there when Mayhem played New Zealand the first time in their history, and they ripped the country a new one. It is more than five years since their last studio album, ‘Esoteric Warfare’, and it is indeed strange to think that this is only their sixth album. But given their debut ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ is one of the most important black metal albums of all time they always have a lot to live up to. The line-up these days is Necrobutcher (bass), Hellhammer (drums), Attila (vocals), Teloch (guitars) and Ghul (guitars), and while only Hellhammer was the only full member at the time of the debut, both Necrobutcher and Attila were involved and all five of these guys were on the last album together so they have been touring and playing for quite some time.

It shows on this, as this is unrepentant black metal with no frills, atmospheric weirdness or ambient trickery. Here are five guys intent on painting the walls with your blood and offering a sacrifice to Satan. This album reeks of evil, it is full of minor chords and dischords, deliberately unsettling and pushing the genre to show who the real masters are these days. When Mayhem are in this sort of mood there really is no-one who can live with them. They have always been challenging what is acceptable since the days of Dead and Euronymous, while the actions of Varg Vikernes also did much to put an air of mystery around the band (I highly recommend ‘Lords of Chaos’ as the definitive account of those days of the early BM scene, the stave church burnings and murders). Musically Necrobutcher, Hellhammer and Attila have refused to rest on their reputation and have continued to push themselves and their music, and ‘Daemon’ is yet another example of that. While it isn’t a follow-up to the last album, neither is it a sequel to that debut, which must have been a danger/option given they have been playing all of it live in concert over the last few years. It is Mayhem doing what they have always done, gone into a studio and coming out with gentle melodious ditties. Or not.

Mayhem are back guys and girls, with walls of sounds, riffing guitars, a rhythm section underpinning everything, and a pervasive nastiness which infects everything it touches. I love it.

MUNICIPAL WASTE The Last Rager

EP · 2019 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
It’s been a couple of years since the ‘Slime and Punishment’ album, and after a few split releases the Virginia metalheads are back with four new songs. They just manage to break the ten-minute barrier, but this is more than enough to show that while they have been away, they haven’t mellowed out at all, and are still as violent, thrash and punk as they have ever been. This isn’t a band that one can ever imagine producing a delicate ballad, and instead know what their fans want and are going to deliver just that time and again. It is hard to believe their debut EP came out as long ago as 2001, but Municipal Waste are going to keep pumping out material like this as if they were new kids on the block. It may not be pretty, it may not be gentle, but it sure is a lot of fun.

POSSESSED Revelations of Oblivion

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.68 | 6 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Wow, hands up all those who never thought there would be a new album by Possessed? There are many arguments as to whether they recorded the first ever Death Metal album with 1985’s ‘Seven Churches’, but there is no doubt it was hugely influential, but their last album was ‘Beyond The Gates’ in 1987. Just a few years after that and vocalist Jeff Becerra was left paralyzed from the waist down after a shooting incident, and even though guitarist Mike Torrao tried to get a version of the band working again in the Nineties it didn’t last long. But now the band are back – true it is with only one original member, but that is Becerra! He has built a new band with songwritiing partner Daniel Gonzalez on guitar (Nailshitter, Gruesome) plus Claudeous Creamer on guitars (Dragonlord, Serpent, Girth), Robert Cardenas on bass guitar (Coffin Texts, Masters of Metal, Agent Steel, Malice, Engrave), and Emilio Marquez (Brainstorm, Sadistic Intent, Engrave, Brujeria) on drums.

The result is an album of a band reborn. How Becerra can sing like this from a wheelchair is beyond me as he must be using an incredible amount of upper body strength and determination to produce vocals as powerful as he has ever been. I can’t think of another metal band of any style where the singer is constrained to a chair – just go to their site (https://possessedofficial.com/) and check out some of the videos, I have no idea how he manages it. While one is bound to react to a singer in a wheelchair, it is quickly forgotten (I can’t imagine there are many Def Leppard reviews these days which mention that they have a one-armed drummer) as this is all about the music.

This is death metal which (whisper it) also manages to sound quite commercial. Becerra’s vocals are rough and raw, but unlike quite a few within the genre it is easy to understand the lyrics, while the rhythm section pin it down and let Gonzalez and Creamer destroy the riffs. They are joined at the hip, intertwining their lines or supporting each other, allowing the music to build, crash and create hell., I can’t remember I enjoyed a death metal album quite so much as there is a light within it which makes it a joy to listen to. Possessed are back where they belong, at the forefront of exciting metal music.

THE MEADS OF ASPHODEL Running Out Of Time Doing Nothing

Album · 2019 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
The Meads of Asphodel was a project conceived by singer Metatron in 1998, and over the years they have been through some different line-ups but they he is currently joined by J.D Tait (guitars, vocals, keyboards, bass) and André Kjelbergvik Thung (drums). They also include multiple guest musicians of whom the most well-known is Hawkwind’s Alan Davey who plays bass on four numbers. Musically it is all over the place, mostly in a good way, mixing genres in a way I don’t think I’ve ever heard before. The result is an album which I honestly can’t imagine anyone saying they really enjoy every song, I know I don’t. I have real issues with “I Stood Tiptoe, Reaching Up For Heaven”. They obviously thought it was a great idea to play news clips of discussions on ISIS, terrorism, people being killed, Jimmy Saville, all with a laugh track over the top. From there they move into a dance track which just doesn’t interest me whatsoever.

The band are one of the very few I have seen who have a mission statement on their website, which reads “Experimental extreme metal band The Meads of Asphodel believe in all peoples right to live in peace, free from the shackles of inflicted dogma & servitude”. One has to agree with that statement, and there are undoubtedly some interesting songs on this album for fans of Hawkwind, Robert Calvert and the idiosyncrasies of GWAR, but the humour and approach is not something I can come to terms with.

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EARTHSIDE A Dream in Static

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"A Dream in Static" is the debut full-length studio album by US, New England based progressive metal act Earthside. The album was independently released in October 2015. Earthside consists of four well educated and highly skilled guys, who all have college degrees in music composition and production (or other similar educational skills). It´s like reading the Dream Theater fairytale again, but these guys of course deserve to be judged on their own merits. Earthside doesn´t feature a permanent vocalist, so the band have enlisted the services of singers like Lajon Witherspoon (Sevendust), Björn Strid (Soilwork), Daniel Tompkins (Tesseract), and Eric Zirlinger (Face The King, Seer).

"A Dream in Static" features 8 tracks, and a full playing time 63:52 minutes. The album opens with the instrumental "The Closest I’ve Come", and it´s audible from the get go, that we´re dealing with incredibly skilled musicians and composers. The performances are tight and the playing technically challenging. The material are relatively varied and while there are both heavy rhyhtms and hard edged riffing on the album, there are also a lot of more atmospheric parts, which lean more towards progressive rock than progressive metal. There are even hints at post-rock which the slow building and atmospheric "Entering The Light" is an example of. The band make the use of different guest lead vocalists work pretty well. The album does however become slightly inconsistent and feels a little more like a "project" instead of a band effort, because there isn´t a designated vocalist in the band, but there is no denying that Earthside have chosen some really skilled guest vocalists who fit well with the instrumental part of the music.

"A Dream in Static" is a very well produced affair, featuring a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. Fans of the more polished and accessible type of progressive rock/metal should be thrilled with this album on all parameters from the high level performances, to the professional sound production, to the intriguing and clever compositions. To my ears Earthside need to work on a more unique sound (there´s very little here that´ll surprise fans of the genre or which sets Earthside apart from other contemporary artists), and a little more raw edge wouldn´t hurt either, but that´s a purely subjective point of view and quality wise, this is a high quality release and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

EXTOL Mesmerized

EP · 1999 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.14 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Mesmerized" is an EP release by Norwegian metal act Extol. The EP was released through Endtime Productions in November 1999. "Mesmerized" bridges the gap between the band´s debut full-length studio album "Burial (1998)" and their sophomore studio album "Undeceived (2000)". There have been a couple of lineup changes since the debut album as guitarist Ole Børud has been replaced by Ole Halvard Sveen and bassist Tor Magne Glidje has been replaced by Eystein Holm.

Featuring 6 tracks and a total playing time of 34:41 minutes, "Mesmerized" os quite a long EP release. "Mesmerized" features three new compositions and three remixes of tracks which were originally featured on "Burial (1998)". The three new tracks continue in the same technical/progressive death/black metal style of the material on "Burial (1998)". High level musical performances from all involved including some powerful snarling vocals and the occassional clean vocal part too (most prominantly featured on "Storms Of Disillusions"). Death (the band) are a major influence, but Extol are much more than a Death clone, and in addition to the technical death metal influences in the music, the tracks also feature elements from both black metal and progressive metal.

The remaining three tracks are as mentioned remixes of tracks originally featured on "Burial (1998)", and honestly they aren´t that interesting, and I much prefer the originals. It´s hard not to feel that the remixes devaluate the otherwise hiqh quality release that "Mesmerized" is. Therefore what could have been a 4 star (80%) rating drops to a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating, but the three new compositions are still definitely worth the price of admission.

EXTOL Burial

Album · 1999 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Burial" is the debut full-length studio album by Norwegian, Oslo based death/black/progressive metal act Extol. The album was released through Endtime Productions in December 1998. Extol was formed in 1993 and released the "Embraced" demo on 1996. Opinions on the band often vary greatly, as they make no attempt at concealing their Christian faith (which in the metal community is not always a popular move). It´s a red thread throughout their discography, and on "Burial" the best example of that is probably the closing track "Jesus Kom Til jorden For A Dø" ("Jesus Came to Earth to Die").

Like the case is with Satanic/occult lyrics it´s always an aquired taste if you can stomach them when they are delivered in an outspoken way like they are here, but that´s up to each listener to decide for himself/herself. Listened to with as objective ears/read by as objective eyes as possible the music and the lyrics on "Burial" are relatively well composed/written. It´s interesting to read lyrics for a song like "Superior", where Extol turns the "regular" demons mutilate/kill Jesus story on it´s head (a story and similar stories we´ve heard Satanic/blasphemous artists deliver time and time again), and the lyrics generally leave very little room for interpretation of which faith Extol have. These guys definitely kick ass in the name of the Lord (and yes the pun is intended if you´re familiar with the "Braindead (1992)" movie).

Stylistically we´re treated to a combination of black metal, technical death metal, and progressive metal, which is relatively unique. Especially considering that this is a release from 1998. The vocals predominantly belong in the black metal camp of high pitched raspy snarling, although there are also some aggressive growling vocals on the album, which are not completely unlike the vocals by Chuck Schuldiner from Death, and a couple of clean vocal sections too (which is mostly heard in the almost psalm like clean singing delivery on "Jesus Kom Til jorden For A Dø"). But "Burial" feautures a lot of technical riffs and adventurous ideas, which put it more in the death/progressive metal camp, than in the black metal ditto.

"Burial" features 12 tracks and a full playing time of 62:06 minutes, so it´s a relatively long release. Especially considering that it is a debut album. The quality of the material is consistent though, and it´s not an album which feels like it overstays its welcome. The combination of intriguing songwriting, high level musicianship (there is some really great technical playing on the album and especially the drumming by David Husvik is of a high quality) and a powerful and detailed sound production, works wonders and "Burial" is overall a very impressive debut album, which really doesn´t sound much like a debut album at all. And then again...the tracks could have been a bit more tightly contructed and Extol do on occasion venture into territories which aren´t necessarily the most effective in terms of impact on the listener, but those are minor issues and "Burial" is upon conclusion a strong debut album by Extol. A 3.5 (70%) rating is deserved.

ANATA The Infernal Depths of Hatred

Album · 1998 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 2.73 | 5 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
ANATA started out in Varberg, Sweden (just south of Gothenburg) all the way back in 1993 when Fredrik Schälin (vocals, guitar), Mattias Svensson (guitar), Martin Sjöstrand (bass), and Robert Petersson (drums) started jamming to their favorite death metal bands and took their sweet time in releasing the two demos “Bury Forever The Garden Of Life” and “Vast Lands Of My Infernal Dominion” but the practice and patience paid off because as the band was honing its chops it successfully caught the attention of the Seasons of the Mist label. By the time the band got to releasing the 1998 debut THE INFERNAL DEPTHS OF HATRED there was a new lineup with Henrik Drake on bass and Andreas Allenmark.

Noted for their brutality and technical inclinations, ANATA’s debut started out as a typical death metal release in the vein of Cryptopsy, Deicide and Dark Tranquility only more bombastic, with faster tempos and a sense of brutality more like Suffocation. The band’s unique stamp was that it implemented C# tuning and created melodic constructs out of dissonant guitar riffs. While sounding rather generic on this first offering, the band exhibited a firm command of the instrumentation with lightning fast riffs that pummel away the senses and with heavy distortion and hints of progressiveness that would mature on future albums although one wouldn’t call this technical by today’s standards especially when side by side by other 1998 landmarks such as Gorguts’ magnum opus “Obscura.”

While creating melodic tracks instead of focusing on the rhythmic patterns that many tech death bands use to construct their labyrinthine progressions, ANATA has been referred to as melodic death metal given that the band emerged near the epicenter of melo-death, the Gothenburg scene where bands like At The Gates, In Flames and Dark Tranquility got the ball rolling. Having played with bands like Rotting Christ, there is a sense of blackened death metal in the mix as well. Overall the tracks contain a plethora of ridiculously fast tempos with incessant dissonant guitar riffs pounding away with the occasional Morbid Angel influenced guitar squeal or two. The musicianship is top notch but overall i find this to be a bit too generic for its own good as the tech death world had evolved significantly by this time.

Particularly impressive is the drumming prowess of Robert Petersson who nails all the blastbeat and jazzified fills like a pro. Fredrik Schälin’s growly vocals offer zero variation as he simply imitates the growly grunts of the past and in the process contributes to the rather stale presentation on display. As far as variation in the music though, there’s enough disparate elements to keep this from being a total waste of time although for those not accustomed to the fastest tempos played in a death metal context, this will probably all sound the same. Overall i’m impressed by the instrumental skills of the musicians involved on THE INFERNAL DEPTHS OF HATRED but the compositional fortitude is clearly lacking as ANATA is simply going through the motions without really placing their own stamp on the world of extreme metal at this point. Still though ANATA are considered one of the more important bands of tech death so the logical place to start is in the beginning and although this debut isn’t the most stellar example of tech death metal, it certainly gets the job done.

HIGH TIDE High Tide

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.68 | 4 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
The TIDE comes in, the TIDE goes out. Such is the lesson of the UK’s most promising prog rock band of 1969 with the phenomenal “Sea Shanties” where the heavy prog band HIGH TIDE that consisted of Tony Hill (electric & acoustic guitars, organ, vocals), Simon House (electric violin, organ, piano), Peter Pavli (bass) and Roger Hadden (drums, piano, pipe organ) lived up to their moniker and delivered a stunning display of musical fusion that delivered an intense interplay of early heavy metal, progressive rock and psychedelia with jazzy chords that focused on the folky of Simon House’s violin screeches that traded off with Tony Hill’s hard rock bombast and weirdly designed guitar solos. Debuting in the year 1969, HIGH TIDE was one of the premier prog rock bands that developed a unique style from the getgo that sounded utterly like no other, mostly due to the ample use of violin as a primary instrument in the context of a rock band.

However, all TIDEs must recede and that’s exactly what happened with the sophomore release which was unexcitingly simply titled HIGH TIDE. The quartet tamped down the guitar heft of the debut and instead replaced it with an artier mix that included more piano, organ and acoustic guitar however the main combo pack punch of the guitar and violin were still in firm command of the musical processions. HIGH TIDE’s second eponymous album originally consisted of a mere three tracks that was just shy of the 33 minute mark with each drifting past the 8 minute mark. While “Sea Shanties” delivered scorching proto-metal performances wrapped in progressive rock compositions, this self-titled debut takes a few cues from Tony Hill’s previous psychedelic rock band The Misunderstood and lightens things up on this one in which the organ added the proper psych atmospheres to give this second coming a much spacier feel but make no mistake about it, Tony Hill still delivers some stellar guitar workouts as does Simon Hill on the violin. Overall the album focuses less on hairpin turns and progressive time signature frenzies and engages in long sprawling jam sessions most evident on the opening “Blankman Cries Again.”

The opening track signifies an immediate stylistic shift from the debut as the compositions are more accessible. The violin has more of a folky sound and at the jazzier times evokes a sense of the future sounds of Jean-Luc Ponty in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The album is primarily string based with the guitar, bass and violin all sharing more less equal turf as Hill’s guitar dominion of the debut had clearly waned. While it could be argued that the three string sections along with the drums and organ touches deliver a more balanced approach to HIGH TIDE’s unique sound, in the end it sounds a little lightweight in the shadow of the debut’s sheer perfection. “The Joke” while exhibiting the classic HIGH TIDE touches also presents verses that sound a lot like early King Crimson which finds the band incorporating influences from the great KC that dropped their debut bombshell on the world and not so subtly announced that progressive rock was in town and was taking over the music scene for a while. Tony Hill’s vocals are quite distinct but at times he’s a dead ringer for Greg Lake’s slower singing style.

I find the third and longest track “Saneonimous” to be the most interesting and the one closest to the debut’s decked out progressive rock freneticism. While the track engages in the jamming sessions of the previous tracks, it’s allowed a bit more freedom in changing up the dynamics as well as tempo changes and more time signature shifts and at nearly 15 minutes long manages to remain engaging helped greatly by the instantly addictive melody and Tony Hill’s vocal style that fits perfectly in between the squealing violin runs and guitar and bass. Roger Hadden also deserves plaudits for a stellar percussive performance that manages to punctuate the busy polyrhythmic counterpoints of the strings. The atmospheric contributions often take a back seat but do add an artier mood during quieter passages.

As with “Sea Shanties,” the second HIGH TIDE album also has a much better remastered release than the original album. Not only is the production sharply improved but it includes a monstrous essential bonus track in the form of the near 16 minute “The Great Universal Protection Racket” which equals anything else on this album and while the remaining three bonus tracks that include two alt versions of “The Joke” and “Blankman” along with the short “Ice Age” are of lesser value, they are not throwaway tracks either. While the TIDE was HIGH on “Sea Shanties,” the sad truth was that all TIDEs must recede and therefore the second coming of this unique band was more like a LOW TIDE in comparison to the startling brilliant debut. While this second album may not be as immediate in its presentation and initially disappointing, many subsequent listens have substantially raised my opinion of it. It delivers an excellent mix of intricately designed prog rock only with the guitar heft of the debut tamped down. Unfortunately this marked the end of HIGH TIDE as Tony Hill, Peter Pavli and Roger Hadden moved on to work with Rustic Hinge as well as other acts. The band would reform in 1990 and release more albums but would never catch the magic of the early years. While the debut is superior, this is still an excellent release.

DIVISION BY ZERO Independent Harmony

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 6 ratings
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UMUR
"Independent Harmony" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Polish progressive metal act Division By Zero. The album was released through Prog Team in April 2010. Division By Zero was formed in 2003. Their original run ended in 2013 when they disbanded. They released two studio albums during their 10 years together. "Tyranny of Therapy (2007)" and "Independent Harmony (2010)". There´s been one lineup change since "Tyranny of Therapy (2007)" as bassist Michal Wieczorek has been replaced by Maciej Foryta.

Stylistically the material on "Independent Harmony" is pretty much a continuation of the progressive metal style of "Tyranny of Therapy (2007)". So Division By Zero´s brand of progressive metal which features both technically challenging instrumetal sections, melancholic atmospheric parts, and the occasional death metal growl is intact. The band have grown as composers though, and they´ve also honed their already considerable playing/singing skills even more since the debut. Slawek Wierny has a strong voice and a convincing delivery, which isn´t far removed from the sound and style of Mariusz Duda (Riverside). His growling vocals are not as interesting, but they get the job done, when a more aggressive atmosphere is called for. Personally I think the album would have been stronger without them though.

"Independent Harmony" features 7 tracks and a full playing time of 44:03 minutes. The material is very well written. The tracks are generally complex in structure but still catchy and memorable, and the combination of atmosphere, technical wizardry, and heavy riffs and rhythms work really well. "Independent Harmony" also feautures a professional, clear, and detailed sound production which suits the material well, so upon conclusion it is a high quality release and a great sophomore album by Division By Zero. They aren´t necessarily the most unique sounding progressive metal act on the scene, but they deliver their music with great skill and conviction and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DIVISION BY ZERO Tyranny of Therapy

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 5 ratings
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"Tyranny of Therapy" is the debut full-length studio album by Polish progressive metal act Division By Zero. The album was released through Insanity Records in May 2007. Division By Zero were formed in 2003. Their original run ended in 2013 when they disbanded. They released two studio albums during their 10 years together. "Tyranny of Therapy" and "Independent Harmony (2010)".

In regards to the material on this album the progressive metal term doesn´t mean progressive metal in the vein of Dream Theater and their ilk. Division By Zero are one of those eclectic progressive metal acts which also include extreme metal elements like occasional growling vocals and they are generally in the harder edged end of the progressive metal scale, although they certainly don´t shy away from melodic moments and more traditional progressive metal traits like tempo- and time signature changes and fast guitar/keyboard harmony runs. Sometimes they remind me of a very heavy version of Riverside.

They are obviously a skilled bunch of guys, who can handle their instruments and lead vocalist Slawek Wierny has a strong and pleasant clean vocal delivery. I´m not as impressed by his extreme vocals, but they get the job done. The material is adventurous and quite dynamic with both loud heavy parts and mellow atmospheric parts. While the song structures extent beyond the regular vers/chorus formula, the tracks are generally still accessible and memorable. So Division By Zero are the type of band who use technical playing and progressive ideas as a means to an end and not to show off or as the central part of their sound.

"Tyranny of Therapy" features a powerful, detailed, and well sounding production, which suits the music perfectly. So all in all it´s a high quality release by the band. Personally I could have done without the extreme metal vocals, when they aren´t more convincing than they are here, but it´s really a minor issue and probably an aquired taste too, so I´d say that a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still deserved.

DIVINA ENEMA At The Conclave

Album · 2000 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"At the Conclave" is the debut full-length studio album by Belarus, Minsk based avant garde/progressive metal act Divina Enema. The album was released through the Canadian label Great White North Records (or rather through subdivisions of the label) in 2000. Divina Enema was formed by lead vocalist Yaroslav A. Burakoff in 1998.

Stylistically the material on the 6 track, 46:28 minutes long album is a very eclectic type of metal. Avant garde/progressive metal probably isn´t the worst description of the music, but of course such a description should be explained a bit more in detail. It´s overall a highly theatrical form of music with elements from goth, black, death, progressive, and symphonic metal. In addition to guitars, bass, drums, and vocals, the instrumentation also includes piano/keyboards, violin, cello, and tenor-sax. Lead vocalist Yaroslav A. Burakoff has a varied vocal arsenal to say the least. He often sings in a high pitched voice, which is quite similar in style to the high pitched singing by King Diamond, but he also uses a deeper goth type vocal style, and both death metal growling and black metal screaming. His phrasing is theatrical/paatos filled and his vocals are probably what you´d call an aquired taste. But no one can take away from him, that he is an incredibly skilled singer.

The rest of the band are well playing too. The tracks are all relatively long and go through many transitions/structural changes and even after many spins they can be a bit hard to tell apart. "At the Conclave" feels a lot like listening to one long track with many different sections and changes. And it is in the songwriting department where I think Divina Enema lacks a bit. They are obviously skilled composers, but I don´t think the music is particularly memorable. The fact that the sound production isn´t the most powerful either (the drums feature an odd tone, and the guitars lack punch) isn´t helping the album either. So upon conclusion "At the Conclave" is what I´d characterize as an interesting album, but not a great album. Still there are enough quality here to warrant a 3 star (60%) rating.

BREED 77 In My Blood (En Mi Sangre)

Album · 2006 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
During your formative years of discovering a genre of music, in this case metal, there are always going to be bands that you really enjoy at first who then get left on the roadside as their genre doesn't become one of your favourites. Years later, we suddenly stumble across that band in our libraries or collections of physical media (those of us who still have them anyway) and for a brief time may listen to them again, looking back in nostalgia for a while until consigning them once again to the oblivion that is the depths of our libraries and shelves that we know we should dust more often than we do.

Once in a while however, you stick one of those forgotten records on and there's only one thing you can say about it. You'd forgotten, to your shame and regret, just how fucking good it was. In this story the band is Breed 77 (pronounced breed seven-seven) and the album is In My Blood (En Mi Sangre) (2006). This is actually one of four albums I own from these guys, but it was my first one and it was always the best to my ears.

I have never come across another band that is quite like Breed 77. They play alternative metal/hard rock mixed with elements, of all things, of flamenco. Of course given that the band originally hails from Gibraltar, the appearance of flamenco in their music shouldn't be all that surprising, except that they're a metal band. Of course if there's anything that over ten years listening to metal has taught me, it's that you can do pretty much anything with metal and make it work.

And yet this unusual fusion of sounds isn't even why Breed 77's In My Blood is so damn good. It's simply a hard rocking, metallic and infectious little album of memorable songs like Petroleo (You Will Be King), Alive, Blind and many others. A big part of this is their incredible vocalist Paul Isola. His accented vocals, which sometimes slip between English and Spanish lines within the same song, suit the flamenco tinged metal and softer parts in equal measure, only briefly relying on some harsh screams in the title word of Blind, which was a departure for the band as even the previous album Cultura (2004), which I didn't hear until later so was never as familiar with, had more extensive use in tracks like La Ultima Hora and The Only Ones. Isola's growls are actually quite effective in Breed 77's music, but the man has one hell of a singing voice, so it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone to hear him using it more completely on In My Blood.

An album that was a genuine pleasure to rediscover (and will be prompting me to do the same with their other albums I own plus check out the ones that released since they fell off my radar), I'm certainly not planning to forget about In My Blood again in a hurry. Unfortunately it doesn't look like Breed 77 is around any more despite no official word on calling it a day, so this one may have to go down as one of the 2000's hidden and forgotten gems. Well worth checking out for anyone in search of a band with a unique sound.

XYSMA Lotto

Album · 1996 · Stoner Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Triceratopsoil
Very strange album to be coming from a former death/grind band, though not totally unexpected given the trajectory Xysma's career had been taking up to this point. While the prior albums First and Magical and Deluxe being somewhat lighter & trippier variations on Entombed's "death-n-roll" theme, Lotto veers into stoner rock and even almost pop-punk. Think, a more garage version of Monster Magnet or Queens of the Stone Age. The production is intentionally a bit lo-fi, but it works.

The lyrics are goofy ("There's a feel I gotta be behind the wheel, I love my tram") and the vocals are split duty between croaky and (surprisingly good) clean. Overall, the thing that strikes me most about Xysma and especially Lotto, is how lighthearted and fun it all is. Hard not to have a good time listening to this album.

Favourite tracks: We Just Came Inside, New Gel In Town, The Tram

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