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ENTHEAN Priests of Annihilation

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 3 ratings
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Nightfly
It’s always great when you discover a new band that blows you away. Such a recent discovery for me is USA death metaller’s Enthean (Thanks Adam!). To call Enthean simply death metal though is only giving you a small part of the picture. Sure, there’s no shortage of technical death metal riffs and blast beats but we also get prog metal, some black metal and symphonic elements. The eight compositions contain a myriad of changes ranging from some pretty brutal riffing to quiet calm. Complex for sure but a strong sense of melody is rarely absent.

It’s the dynamics present in these songs along with the melody that make it such a captivating listen, Before You, I Am being the perfect example. There’s plenty of technical parts but not at the expense of killer riffs. These guys are no slouches either with each player at the top of their game. Some of the songs break the seven minute barrier giving them plenty of chance to stretch out, but to be honest they still manage to fit a lot in on even the shorter songs and to their credit do so without it becoming fragmented. It doesn’t get any better than Behold the Primordial where compelling riffs and shredding are set against some effective orchestration. In fact these orchestral elements are an integral part of the band’s sound and are going to help them stand out in an over-crowded extreme metal world. The production’s pretty good too, everything’s clear enough, but if I had a minor complaint it could just do with sharpening up a bit and a little more bite.

If you’re into the more extreme side of metal and enjoy it when different sub-genres collide then Enthean could just be the band for you. Well worth checking out and a band to keep an eye on in the future.

INVERLOCH Distance | Collapsed

Album · 2016 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Distance | Collapsed" is the debut full-length studio album by Australian doom/death metal act Inverloch. The album was released through Relapse Records in March 2016. Inverloch was formed 2011 under the d.USK monicker but changed band name the same year to Inverloch. Inverloch features Paul Mazziotta (drums) and Matthew Skarajew (guitars) in the lineup, who were also members of the prolific early 90s doom/death metal act diSEMBOWELMENT. diSEMBOWELMENT released the groundbreaking "Transcendence into the Peripheral" album in 1993, but disbanded shortly after. Since the release of the 2012 "Dusk... Subside" EP, there´s been one lineup change as bassist Tony Bryant has been replaced by Chris Jordon.

Stylistically the material on "Distance | Collapsed" continues the heavy doom/death style of the "Dusk... Subside (2012)" EP. We´re of course also treated to the Inverloch/diSEMBOWELMENT speciality, which is occasional blast beat sections. A feature which is quite unusual in doom/death, and especially in funeral doom, which Inverloch can often be labelled. This is predominanly really, really heavy music though, with long sustained chords, and slow doomy rhythms. There´s an almost ritualistic occult atmosphere to the rhythm patterns, and the drumming is generally quite inventive. The vocals vary between low in the mix unintelligible growling vocals and a blackened snarling croak.

The material on the 5 track, 39:26 minutes long album is well written, compositionally unconventional (doesn´t follow a vers/chorus formula), and generally quite intriguing. For the style it´s also relatively varied and "Distance Collapsed (In Rubble)" and "Lucid Delirium", which are some of the more "busy" tracks on the album, are complimented by the more repetitive atmospheric tracks "From the Eventide Pool", "The Empyrean Torment", and "Cataclysm of Lacuna".

The musicianship is generally on a high level, and as mentioned above the drumming is especially adventurous. There are some really intriguing drum moments spread out on the album. Sometimes it´s just an off-beat cymbal crash or a section with double bass drums which work to great effect (so it´s not necessarily technically flashy playing), but it´s obvious that a lot of thought has been put into creating the rhythms on the album. "Distance | Collapsed" is a well produced album too, and upon conclusion it is an album where everything go hand in hand from the high level musicianship and the intriguing songwriting, to the well sounding production, and it´s through and through a high quality release. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

THRENODY Bad Dreams Do Come True

Album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Bad Dreams Do Come True (2016) is the debut full-length album by US atmospheric black metal act Threnody. The band have released the album for free via their Bandcamp page.

There are only three tracks on Bad Dreams Do Come True, so we're dealing with a couple of long compositions here. The final shorter track is a cover of the Burzum song Lost Wisdom. I'd say that Burzum is a decent point of reference for how Threnody sound on Bad Dreams Do Come True. Especially regarding the growled vocals of Ben Skonecki where it sounds like he's really going for matching the style of growling used by Varg Vikernes. That's not necessarily a good thing as although I do think Burzum's Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994) is a masterpiece of a black metal record, I've always found Vikernes' style grating after a while. Though I do listen to Burzum this particular song is not one I'm familiar with, but when Threnody perform it it sounds like a solid black metal piece.

The bigger draw to this band though is their original material rather than their Burzum cover. Though just two songs they clock in at 27:35 and 12:21 respectively. Taking up over half of the album's duration on its own, the first is 2001: A Space Odyssey, which as you might expect from the name is based on the classic 1968 film by Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, to the point which it samples the iconic theme music from the film as well as dialogue, particularly that of HAL 9000. It takes Threnody a little while to get their black metal music started, to the point where I was starting to wonder if it ever would, but once it does get going the 2001 dialogue against the atmospheric black backdrop proves to be surprisingly effective and even quite sinister sounding.

The middle track is the title track Bad Dreams Do Come True which while still quite long is a much more direct black metal composition from Threnody since it forgoes the voice-overs of 2001: A Space Odyssey except at its very beginning. The track to my ears doesn't flow as well as it could though as there are a couple of instances where it seems to be fading out and ending only to abruptly restart in such a way that it sounds as if the next track has started, as if Threnody just glued a few shorter songs together with cheap sellotape that isn't quite managing to hold everything together.

Though it displays a couple of noted issues their interpretation of 2001: A Space Odyssey alone makes Bad Dreams Do Come True quite the promising debut album from Threnody. It will be interesting to hear what they can come up with next.

CULT OF LUNA Mariner (with Julie Christmas)

Album · 2016 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Mariner (2016) is a collaborative full-length studio album release by Swedish sludge metal act Cult of Luna and American musician Julie Christmas (ex-Battle of Mice). For Cult of Luna Mariner serves as their seventh studio album, following Vertikal (2013) while for Julie Christmas it serves as a second album following The Bad Wife (2010). Mariner has a theme of space exploration and contains five tracks, each of them over the eight minute mark.

Of the two artists I only have some experience with Cult of Luna's work previously, have heard both Vertikal and the accompanying Vertikal II EP (2013). Julie Christmas I know has a similar sludge metal background though, so it's no surprise that the two artists prove a very compatible pairing on Mariner. The music is incredibly atmospheric but with plenty of harsh sections as well, mostly from the vocals provided by Cult of Luna, although Christmas isn't shy to throw in some screams as well. Typically the two both provide vocals in a track, but middle song The Wreck of S.S. Needle is notable for only using Julie's vocals, while the following Approaching Transition takes an opposite approach, not featuring her voice at all.

I usually find that atmospheric black metal acts have a monopoly on capturing the majesty of space, but between them Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas have created an experience to rival their cosmic black metal counterparts, also producing something more unique sounding in the process. Tracks like Chevron and Cygnus are of particular note, but the album has to be taken as a whole in order to really appreciate what's been created here, as the mood can vary quite a lot. The Wreck of S.S. Needle for example is a much more direct track focussing more on riffs than atmosphere, with Christmas providing a varied vocal than ranges from soft singing to manic screaming. Sometimes the album can seem simplistic on the surface, but once scratched many underlying details are revealed, some of which I'd even call progressive, all of which makes up the absorbing sound that makes Mariner such a great album.

I was impressed with Cult of Luna on Vertikal but I have to say that I enjoy Mariner so much more. Not only does Julie Christmas bring a voice that is a nice addition to the table, it simply seems to be an even stronger album on all counts. Mariner is definitely something more than a Cult of Luna album with a guest female vocalist. I'd like to hear these two work together again.

ENTOMBED A.D. Dead Dawn

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Dead Dawn" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Entombed A.D.. The album was released through Century Media Records in February 2016. As most people probably know Entombed A.D. is a continuation of the legendary Swedish death metal act Entombed minus guitarist Alex Hellid, so while Entombed A.D. is still a relatively new act, the four guys in the band have played together for quite a few years...

...and the music on the album sounds unmistakably like "classic" Entombed (which was also the case on "Back to the Front (2014)" (the debut album by Entombed A.D.). The guitars have the right crusty sound, the drums play a punk/rock´n´roll influenced hard pounding energetic style, and lead vocalist L-G Petrov roars with his semi-growling distinct sounding voice. Entombed A.D. are wise enough to spice it up with the occasional more melodic and atmospheric moment, and as in the past there are quite a few hard rock elements in the sound too.

The quality of the material is generally high, although some tracks are more catchy than others. Highlights include powerful album opener "Midas in Reverse", the heavy "As the World Fell", the atmospheric "Hubris Fall", and "The Winner Has Lost" (which the band has also shot a video for). Especally the latter has the qualities to make it a future Entombed A.D. classic.

"Back to the Front (2014)" was a good solid effort by the band, although it wasn´t exactly earth shattering, and the same can be said about "Dead Dawn". The latter is just a notch more interesting and features a couple of really great tracks, which compared to the predecessor makes it the slightly better album overall. "Dead Dawn" is packed in a powerful sounding production, and the high level musical performances are another asset. 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

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KMFDM Opium

Album · 1984 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Unitron
KMFDM - Opium

"Opium" is the debut studio album from industrial metal/rock band KMFDM released in the form of a limited run of cassettes before being remastered many years later. For fans of the majority of their output, there isn't much metal to be found here, having only a handful of metal moments.

While I say only having some metal elements, that still makes this quite the revolutionary release. Ministry was a synth-pop group at this time, Godflesh wasn't around yet, so at the time this was a very different release. Industrial was still a new genre, and nobody really heard many rock/metal elements being added. So I'd say this is most likely one of the biggest influences on industrial metal along with Killing Joke. The metal elements are most prevalent in the opening song, "Fix Me Up" and the electro-industrial attack of "Entschuldigung". "Raf Ok" has the feeling of an atmospheric metal song, and is easily my favorite from the album.

For the most part though, this is noisy industrial rock with some real foot-tapping beats. Just add guitar, and "Helmut Mein Helmut" would sound right at home on one of their later albums. "Penetration" sounds like an industrial blues dirge, with a slow finger-snapping beat and distorted heavy blues riff. The band's signature aggressive snide vocals are here, along with some deeper vocals and voice samples. "The Smell" and "Cuntboy" are a couple other really catchy songs, the latter having a cool guitar solo with many distortion effects.

While not of the same levels of classics like Angst, Nihil, and Hau Ruck, Opium is still a pretty good debut, and was quite the innovative release along with being a good album. It can get a bit too noisy sometimes for my tastes, but the band already has some cool riffs and beats going here. If you want to hear the start of not only KMFDM but industrial metal, this is a must-listen. Hope you found this review helpful.

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RUSH Exit... Stage Left

Live album · 1981 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.01 | 34 ratings
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Modrigue
Rush's best live album?

After four studio records, one live album. Released in 1981, "Exit... Stage Left" concludes in a beautiful way RUSH's second period, often considered as their most progressive and creative. The set-list consists in extracts from "Fly By Night", "2112", "A Farewell to Kings", "Hemispheres", "Permanent Waves" and "Moving Pictures", recorded at concerts in UK and Canada.

The set-list is more varied and colorful than on the band's first live release, "All The World's A Stage". Still played with the same energy and virtuosity, the tracks have been quite reworked in the studio. Furthermore, Geddy Lee's singing sounds less juvenile and enraged, but rather mastered and fluid.

The cover art (front plus back) contains elements from all RUSH's studio albums from 1974-1981.

"YYZ" includes a mindblowing drum solo by professor Neil Peart, displaying his knowledge and technicality, whereas Alex Lifeson has sharpened his axes on "Jacob's Ladder". Not featured on any other live or studio release by the band, "Broon's Bane" is the novelty here. A nice short instrumental acoustic guitar piece by Lifeson, introducing "The Trees". With "Xanadu", the these two songs see their orchestration enhanced by the addition of cool synthesizers accompaniments. Same goes for "La Villa Strangiato", incorporating also great alternative guitar interventions. Unfortunately, these are also the first official released performances with the super soapy ballad "Closer To The Heart", which appearance will become recurrent at the trio's concerts.

Whether you prefer "All The World's A Stage" or "Exit... Stage Left" is just a matter of taste. The first live album represents RUSH's wilderness and youth, while this one represents its sophistication and maturity. The music of the first one is hard/heavy rock just beginning to turn progressive, whereas the second displays a wide panel of the Canadians' neo-hard-prog more elaborated compositions. As you prefer...

Anyway, both live albums are essential for every fan of RUSH, which won't be the case for the third one...

CRIMSON GLORY Crimson Glory

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.89 | 21 ratings
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UMUR
"Crimson Glory" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Crimson Glory. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in October 1986. Crimson Glory was formed in 1979 under the Pierced Arrow monicker but changed their name to Beowulf in 1982, before finally settling on the Crimson Glory monicker in 1983. While not all five members had been part of the early lineups of the band, Crimson Glory were in 1986 already quite an experienced act...

...and that is audible while listening to the album, which features high level musicianship on all posts. Stylistically the music is melodic US power metal and artists like early Queensrÿche and early Fates Warning are valid references. That means powerful heavy metal riffing, blistering solos and melodic lead themes, a pounding organic rhythm section, and the extremely high pitched vocals by Midnight in front. He is an incredibly skilled vocalist with great power and a commanding delivery, and while his helium screams are usually what people mention he does deliver really convincing and more raw mid- range vocals too. Not enough great things can be said about his performance here. He certainly is a vocalist extraordinaire (just take a listen to his performance on tracks like "Heart Of Steel" and "Mayday" for a display of his incredible skills). The rest of the band follow suit though and the instrumental performances on the album are also of incredibly high class.

The material featured on the 8 track, 38:51 minutes long album is well written and quite catchy US power/heavy metal tracks. Crimson Glory are often linked to the early 80s progressive metal scene, but it´s not often they leave the classic vers/chorus formula. Not that it matters though, because they master that formula to perfection. Another strength of the album is the great energy that is present in the music and the good balance between melody and rawness. The album features a powerful and well sounding production too, and upon conclusion it´s a very strong debut album by Crimson Glory. When the quality is as high as it is here, it´s simply wrong using the word promising to describe the album (which is often a word used about debut albums). A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

AT THE GATES We Are Connected / Language of the Dead

Split · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"We Are Connected / Language of the Dead" is a split single release by Canadian thrash/progressive metal act Voivod and Swedish melodic death metal act At the Gates. The single was released through Century Media Records in March 2015. At the time Voivod´s "We Are Connected" track was exclusive to this release (it has since been included on the 2016 "Post Society" EP). "Language of the Dead" is not exclusive to this single but still a relatively rare track, as it´s only included on the limited edition of "At War with Reality (2014)" (At the Gates comeback album).

While "Language of the Dead" is not included on the "regular" edition of "At War with Reality (2014)" it´s certainly not what you´d normally think of as an outtake track, as the quality is way too high for that. It´s a relatively fast-paced and melodic death metal track with great power and melodic hooks. "We Are Connected" is a pretty progressive oriented track from Voivod, which goes through many structural changes and atmospheres during it´s 7:37 minutes long playing time.

The sound productions on both tracks are professional and well sounding and both artists are very well playing too, so upon conclusion "We Are Connected / Language of the Dead" is a quality split single displaying some of the better quality contemporary material by both artists. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

RUSH All the World's a Stage

Live album · 1976 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 26 ratings
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Modrigue
Rush's first live album

One live release every four studio albums, this will be the rule. Recorded in 1976 in Toronto, the band's town, "All The World's A Stage" covers RUSH's first period, from 1974 to 1976. A this time, the Canadians were beginning to incorporate progressive elements in their powerful seventies hard / heavy rock. The set-list features extracts from their self-titled debut, "Fly By Night", "Caress Of Steel" and "2112". All discs are well represented and the songs are interpreted with energy, volume and conviction.

Skipping the "Discovery" and "Oracle: The Dream" sections, "2112" has been shortened to 16 minutes. Overall cool, however I do prefer the more polished studio version. On the contrary, "By-tor And The Snow Dog" has been extended to 12 minutes and is undoubtedly the highlight of the record, maybe superior to the original. The band sculpts here an incandescent sonic magma, especially Alex Lifeson creating a maelstrom of furious cosmic guitars. Terrifying! The mysterious spacey interlude is also transcended and simply gorgeous. An unbelievable tour de force! The selection of the average "In The End" as a calm ballad to slow the pace down is a curious choice. "Working Man / Finding My Way" features a long drum solo at the end, Neil Peart being called "The Professor" by Geddy Lee.

Although a bit lengthy, "All The World's A Stage" clearly remains one of the band's best live releases. The concert will please every early RUSH fans, and is also a good entry point for newcomers to discover the trio's first period.

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