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metal music reviews (new releases)

BLACK CURSE Endless Wound

Album · 2020 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
I initially thought Black Curse was a new band but they’ve been kicking around since 2015 but only got around to releasing their debut album now. This is no doubt down to the fact that all members have been busy with varying amounts of success in their main bands making Black Curse a supergroup of sorts I guess. In their ranks we have members of Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Khemmis and Primitive Man amongst others. Let’s hope this doesn’t turn out to be a one off because it’s fucking brilliant!

Black Curse play an old school blackened style of death metal. No clinical sterile production here. This is raw as hell, the sound dense and crushing. Most of the time they adopt a wall of noise approach, apart from the occasional lull, with riffs that’ll bludgeon you into submission. This takes precedence over a more technical style with most of the songs whilst containing plenty of twists and turns to keep it fresh, are not overly complex. They save the best for last with Finality, I Behold having more great ideas into its nine minutes than many bands manage over the course of a full album. The rest of the album though has no shortage of strong tracks which are almost as good. Listen through the atmospheric murk and you’ll hear a compelling collection of riffs that reveal themselves over repeated plays. If you like Incantations blend of death metal you’ll probably like Black Curse but even they don’t quite manage to create the suffocating density on display here.

Overall then Black Curse have produced a real winner, an album that any death metal fan needs to hear. Whilst it might not get all the accolades heaped on Blood Incantations latest offering from 2019, it’s an album that I’m sure is going to be featuring on best of year lists in six months’ time.

RAGE Wings of Rage

Album · 2020 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
There is no doubt that since I discovered Rage in the Nineties, I have looked forward to each and every release from the band. It does not seem to matter who he has with him, as bassist/singer Peavy Wagner ensures they fit with his vision and each album is full on Rage. Here he is accompanied by Marcos Rodriguez (guitar) and Vassilios “Luckyˮ Maniatopoulos (drums) for their third album together as a unit, but although this album was only released in January it has already been announced that Rodriguez has left the band for personal reasons and Peavy is now contemplating moving the line-up back to a twin guitar attack, the first time since he totally changed the line-up back in 1999.

Peavy has been pushing this band since their formation in spring 1983, and while these days they are far more power metal than thrash, there is also a large amount of commerciality within their sound, and they are certainly one of the most recognisable metal bands around. As one has come to expect, this is a modern sounding album which also looks back over the band’s nearly forty-year career. Fans of of earthy thrash tracks with the Rage attitude will be pleased with the likes of “True” and “Wings of Rage” while those more into power metal will “Tomorrow” and “Chasing The Twilight Zone”, there really is something here for everyone. For older fans, there is even an updated take of the 1996 single release “Higher Than The Sky” which originally featured on ‘End Of All Days’, here called “‘HTTS 2.0”.

Given that Wagner is still also working with Refuge (which is the early Nineties line-up of Rage with Manni Schmidt and Chris Efthimiadis) plus Lingua Mortis Orchestra, all of which have been releasing material over the last couple of years, one can only be amazed at how he holds it all together. Yet another incredibly solid and enjoyable release.

ALESTORM Curse of the Crystal Coconut

Album · 2020 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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DippoMagoo
During these dark and trying times, music can be a good distraction, especially anything on the more fun and upbeat side, which is certainly an accurate description for British pirate metal band Alestorm. I’ve been a fan of them since just before the release of their third album, Back Through Time, which is when they really stepped up their game, going from a solid, amusing band, into an excellent, often hilarious band, with some of the most over the top, yet irresistibly addictive and catchy metal tracks imaginable. They followed up that album with two more wonderful albums in Sunset on the Golden Age and No Grave But the Sea, and they are now set to release their sixth full length album, Curse of the Crystal Coconut (a title inspired by the videogame series, Donkey Kong Country), and suffice to say, the band has once again delivered some of the most epic,silly and wildly entertaining metal tracks I’ve ever heard!

Anyone who’s heard Alestorm before should know exactly what to expect from Curse of the Crystal Coconut: The band has a clearly established sound, and they’ve found their winning formula at this point, so anyone familiar with the band should already know whether or not they’ll enjoy this particular album. As usual, there’s a steady blend of hard hitting, fast paced power metal (with the occasional hints of thrash riffs thrown in) some very fun and playful folk metal, and some epic, cinematic sounding symphonic metal, with the various elements often coming together for glorious results.

I found No Grave But the Sea toned down their power metal elements a bit, compared to usual, but this album seems to have brought it back to around normal levels, so fans can expect a nice variety in the tracks, with quite a few fun, upbeat power metal anthems, as well as some slower paced, more folk-infused tracks, some mid paced tracks and some tracks where everything comes together, as well as one particularly strange and hilarious oddball track. As always, Christopher Bowes strikes a great balance between performing an excellent pirate impersonation, while still singing well, while musically everything sounds great, with the guitars hitting hard at times, while the folk elements are done very well, and the symphonic arrangements are very epic, and help add extra flavor. Performances are flawless across the board, with the vocals, keys and folk elements being the highlights, as usual, and production is absolutely perfect, as expected from the band.

As much as I love Alestorm, I was a bit nervous about the songwriting going into album, as one of the first two singles left me less than impressed. Thankfully, though, this proved to be an outlier, as aside from one other questionable track, the songwriting here is excellent, as usual, with a few tracks in particular standing out as some of the band’s absolute best work to date. Kicking things off is lead single “Treasure Chest Party Quest”, a mid paced, but fairly upbeat track, with some nice rhythm guitars, a great use of folk elements, fun verses, and an extremely catchy chorus, complete with funny lyrics, as usual. It’s not one of the band’s all time best tracks, but it’s quite a lot of fun, and gets things off to a strong start.

Next is “Fannybaws”, a very upbeat track, with a nice main folk melody, as well as some great guitar work throughout. It alternates nicely between heavy and melodic throughout, with very fun verses, an insanely catchy, epic chorus, awesome pirate themed lyrics, and an excellent instrumental section in the second half, with an impressive, yet very melodic guitar solo and more wonderful folk melodies. It’s pretty much a classic Alestorm song, in all the best ways possible, and stands as one of my personal favorites. I remember when I first heard the track, I thought it should be a single, and then about a week later it was released as one, so I was very happy! Another instant highlight “Chomp Chomp”, one of the band’s classic, thrashy power metal tracks. The song moves at a frantic pace, and features a nice blend of thrahsy guitars, more wonderful folk melodies, intense verses and a very fun chorus, as usual, to go along with more hilarious lyrics, and one of the best solo sections on the album, where the music gets quite intense. It also features some excellent harsh vocals, performed by Finntroll’s Vreth.

I mentioned being a bit concerned about the album, and the reason for this was second single “Tortuga”, which simply did not impress me much, even after several listens. My main issue has to do with the main beat, which I find rather irritating, and once the keys are layered on top, it quickly starts to grate on my nerves. The chorus is actually very melodic, and stands as the clear highlight of the track, but it simply doesn’t show up often enough to save a track I otherwise don’t really enjoy. The big elephant in the room here is the inclusion of a rap section just over a minute in, performed by Rumahoy vocalist Captain Yarrface. I initially hated that part (because I tend to hate rap in general), but over time it’s grown on me, somewhat, to the point where I now find it tolerable, and even slightly funny. It and the chorus still can’t save an otherwise weak track, though.

Picking things right back up is the brilliantly titled “Zombies Ate My Pirate Ship”. I was expecting something completely wacky and out there, but for the most part, that’s not what the band did here. In fact, I’d say the band in general has a more fun side to them, where they can be super wild and silly, as well as a more complex, epic side to them, and if anything this track feels like a perfect blend of the two, with some of their most cinematic sounding symphonic arrangements ever, and an absolutely beautiful sounding, super melodic chorus, to go along with a wonderful middle section, featuring guest vocals from Patty Gurdy (who also plays hurdy gurdy throughout the album.) Musically, the track is quite nice, and has an epic feel to it, but on the other hand, the lyrics are every bit as silly as one would expect from looking at the name, complete with keyboardist Elliot Vernon screaming out some rather humorous lines throughout. It really feels like a perfect combination of everything I love about Alestorm, all in one track, and it’s definitely one of my favorite songs by them, to date!

The highlights keep coming with “Call of the Waves”, the fastest paced track on the album. It’s a very speedy, melodic power metal track, with more nice folk melodies, nice symphonic arrangements, and yet another very strong, catchy chorus. It’s less silly or intense compared to many of the other tracks, but it’s still an excellent, very fun track on its own. While there’s no title track, there is in fact a Donkey Kong Country themed track, as the band did a cover of “Pirate’s Scorn”, from the animated TV series, and they absolutely nailed it! Aside from the expected changes, such as making it much heavier and more metallic, the band also added in plenty of nice folk melodies, to freshen things up, as well as a really nice, entirely new instrumental section in the middle, while the track on the whole is quite faithful to the original, except with much stronger vocals and much better sounding music overall, while still maintaining the same level of silliness, complete with the absolutely incredible lyrics. In case that wasn’t silly enough, the band follows it up with “Shit Boat (No Fans)”, which is essentially their take on a fight song. I won’t go into full details on this one, as it’s only 74 seconds, and I wouldn’t wanna spoil the effect, but needless to say, it’s one of the most delightfully over the top and silly things I’ve ever heard! Following that is another fun track in “Pirate Metal Drinking Crew”, another fairly upbeat track, with great lyrics and a super fun, curse filled chorus. It feels like another classic Alestorm track, and is yet another winner.

The longest track on the album is “Wooden Leg Part 2 (The Woodening)”. Yep, the band seriously thought to make an 8 minute epic, as a follow up to one of their absolute silliest songs ever. As expected, this track feels like a longer, more stretched out take on the original, brilliantly reprising certain passages, while adding in epic symphonic arrangements, and updating some of the lyrics as the track goes on, while adding in some really epic choir vocals. I won’t spoil it, but things take an insanely goofy twist towards the end, and the final sequence is absolutely wild and ridiculous, in the best way possible! Overall, it’s a fantastic track, and would have made a great ending to the album. However, the band instead decided to close things off with “Henry Martin”, a cover of an old folk classic. The band performs it well enough, mostly performing it as an acoustic folk track, but I find the main melody a bit irritating, while the constant repetition of the lyrics drives me insane. Unfortunately, the track doesn’t work for me, but I won’t fault the band for it, because my biggest issues with it seem to come from the song itself, and not from anything the band did with it.

While I was initially a bit worried, Curse of the Crystal Coconuts has turned out to be yet another excellent Alestorm album. At this point, fans know what to expect, as this is yet another collection of insanely goofy, wildly entertaining pirate themed tracks, with a steady balance between power, folk and symphonic metal, as well as the occasional more epic sequences. Despite a couple weaker tracks, the album is amazing overall, with some of the band’s absolute best work to date, spread out fairly evenly throughout the album. Fans of the band are sure to love this, while anyone looking for fun pirate themed metal would be highly recommended to give this a listen, as it’s every bit as good as any other Alestorm album.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2020/05/17/alestorm-curse-of-the-crystal-coconut-review/

METH LEPPARD Woke

Album · 2020 · Grindcore
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Grindcore has become the new Comedy Central in the metal world because the core metal bands keep ramping up the hilarious factor several notches. Here’s a great one! Coming from Adelaide, Australia is the noisy as fuck duo of Cheese on vocals and guitar along with Kienen Murray on drums. Together they are METH LEPPARD and while this album may cause you some “hysteria” and drive you to commit “pyromania,” one thing is for sure, you will remain “high ’n’ dry’ because all that fucking METH keeps you from sleeping so you are sooooo WOKE!

This band has been around since 2015 and has released a bunch of splits but WOKE is the first official release that in grindcore tradition takes 16 short but highly bombastic tracks and keeps the album’s run at just over 17 minutes. This is metal at its most primeval anxiety release with extraordinary distorted guitar riffs chugging away and blastbeats fucking pummeling up a storm. Cheese sounds like an angry demon pissed off cuz hell was taken over by politicians and the rhythms are basically chugga chug and i love the alternating guitar effects.

It’s hard to take this too seriously as the tracks tend to sound similar but some of the titles are cool like “Kangaroo Court” and “Thrash Sucks!” This is definitely grindcore 101 since this is just pure spastic rage spewing out at a million miles per second with an incessant flow of gruntcore growling away! There is no bass! There are no keyboards! No sound effects! Just two guys, a guitar (or two) and some drums making as much noise as humanly possible as if there is some sort of deadline to crank these tracks out. OK, you’re certainly not going to play this at your wedding or your gramma’s funeral but WTF it’s a fun little romp into the mucky mocking world of METH LEPPARD where “Pour Some Sugar On Me” takes on a whole new meaning. G’day, mate!

VADER Solitude In Madness

Album · 2020 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.42 | 3 ratings
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Nightfly
Apart from a couple of lacklustre albums – The Beast springs to mind, Vader have been releasing quality death metal for near enough thirty years. A couple of masterpieces – De Profundis and Welcome To The Morbid Reich remain highpoints but now onto their twelfth studio album there’s been no shortage of gems to get stuck into including Litany, Necropolis, Tibi Et Igni and most recently 2016’s The Empire.

Some people felt Vader had gone a bit soft on their last album The Empire. I’m sure they were talking relatively speaking as Vader could never be accused of being soft but I can understand what they were getting at as by death metal standards it was a fairly accessible album. A strong collection of great riffs, quality songs and strong musicianship won me over however and I still rate it very highly. Solitude In Madness should have no problem shutting the doubters up. From the off they hit harder and faster with the aggressive Shock And Awe, a grand statement of intent all over in just over two minutes. Most of the songs are on the short side in fact, but what they lack in length they make up for in ferocity. They still manage to pack a lot into the short time frames making some of them seem longer than they actually are but it’s all over in a mere thirty minutes. There’s no shortage of compelling riffs that soon get under the skin and of course the musicianship is top notch. Drummer James Stewart in particular demonstrating with inventiveness and precision why he’s one of the best in extreme metal. A powerful production is the icing on the cake that really brings this excellent collection of songs to life.

Vader have surpassed themselves with this one and as good as the last couple of studio albums have been I’d say this is their best since 2011’s Welcome To The Morbid Reich putting it up there with the bands best work. When you’ve been doing this as long as Vader have that must take some doing but they attack this stuff with the vigour of a band half their age. Awesome stuff indeed.

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MOTÖRHEAD 1916

Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.89 | 34 ratings
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UMUR
"1916" is the 10th full-length studio album by UK heavy rock/metal act Motörhead. The album was released through WTG Records (a subsidiary to Sony BMG) in February 1991. It had been four years since the release of "Rock 'n' Roll (1987)", which at the time was the longest time between the release of two Motörhead studio albums. The long waiting time was due to problems with the band´s former label and lead vocalist/bassist Lemmy Kilmister´s move in 1990 from the UK to the US (where he would settle in West Hollywood and live for the rest of his life at a close proximity to to his beloved Rainbow Bar and Grill). Motörhead initially started working with producer Ed Stasium (Living Colour), but they did not agree on how the album should sound and Stasium was fired (He is credited for producing 3 tracks on the album though) although he claims to have quit because he couldn´t tolerate Lemmy´s drug and alcohol abuse. The band hired producer Pete Solley to complete the album.

"1916" turned out to be a turning point in the band´s career. Since their glory days in the late 70s/early 80s (especially the release of "Ace of Spades (1980)" made them a household heavy rock/metal name), Motörhead experienced decline in record sales and problems with labels over the decade, but "1916" generally received favorable reviews and positive fan reactions, and the album even received a Grammy nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 1992 Grammys. They lost to Metallica's "Metallica (1991)" album (The Black Album).

Listening to "1916" it´s obvious why the album is widely regarded as one of the peaks of the band´s long and glorious career. They´ve simply taken everything up a notch here from the performances, to the sound production, to the quality of the songwriting. Most Motörhead albums feature a couple of standout tracks, quite a few good quality tracks, and a couple of fillers, but that´s not the case with "1916", which features a well constructed tracklist and a more varied songwriting approach than what we usually hear from them.

"Nightmare/The Dreamtime" is for example a dark an eerie sounding track, which doesn´t feature much of the hard rocking blues based heavy rock that is the usual style for the band, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." (which is a tribute to the legendary New York punk rock act Ramones), is a full on punk rock song, "Love Me Forever" is something as rare as a Motörhead power ballad, and the title track is something even more rare in the Motörhead catalogue as it´s a ballad type track (and a quite brilliant one I might add). All four tracks are among the highlights of the album, but hard rockers like "The One to Sing the Blues", "I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)", and "Going to Brazil" are definitely worth a mention too, but there are no fillers on "1916", and the remaining tracks on the album are also high quality material. Powerful and memorable rockers.

While there is more variation on "1916" than what is usual for Motörhead, the basis of the band´s sound is still intact. Hard rocking drums and blazing guitar riffs and solos, a rumbling distorted bass, and in front the unmistakable rusty roar of Lemmy. The latter delivers one of his strongest and most varied vocal performances on "1916". His performance on the title track is so honest and emotive, that it´s hard not to feel the impact of his words about the horrors of war.

Despite the change of producer a while into recording the album, the sound production turned out great. It´s an organic, clear, and detailed sounding production, which suits the material perfectly. So upon conclusion "1916" is a high quality release by Motörhead and to my ears one of the peaks of their recording career. It´s no coincidence that this is the album which effectively put Motörhead back on the map of the heavy rock/metal elite. It´s simply such a high quality release that it cannot be ignored. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

NADER SADEK In the Flesh

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.59 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"In the Flesh" is the debut full-length studio album by US, New York death metal act Nader Sadek. The album was released through Season of Mist in May 2011. Nader Sadek is a project which is named after it´s founder Egyptian-American artist Nader Sadek. Nader Sadek is known as a stage director, visual arts artist, and producer for artists like Mayhem and Sunn O))).

"In the Flesh" is a concept release as it was created by Sadek to bring the hazards of petroleum usage to the public eye. Sadek is responsible for composing all material on the album, artwork design, and for producing the album. He has enlisted drummer Flo Mounier (Cryptopsy, Solium Fatalis), guitarist Rune Eriksen (Aura Noir, Mayhem, Twilight of the Gods), and lead vocalist/bassist (Morbid Angel, Warfather) to perform the music he has written.

...and with an all star cast like that it´s really no surprise that the music is exceptionally well played. It´s played with great conviction and high level technical skill. Stylistically the music on the album is technically well played death metal and it´s artists like Nile, Behemoth, and especially Morbid Angel, who come to mind. "In the Flesh" is well produced too, and upon conclusion it´s a quality debut release by Nader Sadek, which even features a pretty interesting and urgent concept. When that is said the material aren´t that original sounding, and it´s not the kind of album that instantly screams that you´re listening to Nader Sadek, so developing a more unique sound, which could set Nader Sadek apart on the scene is needed before the really high ratings are given out. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NEUROTHING Vanishing Celestial Bodies

EP · 2005 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Vanishing Celestial Bodies" is an EP release by Polish metal act Neurothing. The EP was independently released in June 2005. Neurothing formed in 2004 and "Vanishing Celestial Bodies" is their first release. The EP features 4 tracks and a full playing time of 17:13 minutes.

Stylistically the music on the EP is a technical extreme metal style, which is obviously influenced by the angular chugging style of Meshuggah. While Neurothing don´t quite reach the intense polyrhythmic assault or the high number of challenging time-signatures of the Swedes, they do deliver quite the impressive technical attack. The vocals are predominantly aggressive hardcore oriented screaming (which again isn´t too far from the vocals on Meshuggah´s music), but there are some clean male vocals in the EP too. Neurothing should probably not have included the clean vocals though, as they aren´t very well sounding. The material is othwewise well composed, powerful, and effective.

"Vanishing Celestial Bodies" is relatively well produced, featuring a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production and paired with the potent material, and the high level musicianship, it´s a good quality EP and a promising first release by Neurothing. The band don´t have that many original ideas though and that´s a minor issue, so they probably need a little more time to develop their sound and find their own unique take on the style of music they´ve chosen to play. A 3 - 3.5 (65%) rating is warranted.

A PERFECT CIRCLE Mer de Noms

Album · 2000 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.79 | 48 ratings
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ssmarcus
Despite being a more commercially viable distilled form of metal with more than its fair share of cash grabbing excesses, alternative metal, as a scene, definitely had a progressive streak to it. While Tool was indeed creating an explicitly progressive form of alternative metal, even more straight forward sounding groups like The Deftones and A Perfect Circle (APC) had embraced a kind of psychedelic and, at times, art-rock approach that set themselves apart from the pack.

This psychedelic and art-rock approach to alt-metal is captured quite well on APC’s first record, Mer De Noms. Every song on this record has its own unique flavor. Some tracks like “Judith” and “Thinking of You” revolve around a fairly standard riff while tracks like “Rose” and “Thomas” are more comfortable taking their time to explore different soundscapes before drawing to a climax of some kind. Still, the strongest song on this record by far is the opener with its futuristic verse riff and explosive chorus.

Not all the tracks on this record work. But APC’s willingness to take chances deserves to be lauded.

SOUNDGARDEN Badmotorfinger

Album · 1991 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 66 ratings
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ssmarcus
Badmotorfinger is an ear-bleed inducing balls to the wall heavy trip from start to finish. Cornell pushes his vocals to the absolute limit of their range and distortion abilities. Despite being the album that brought Soundgarden into the mainstream, the song writing is better than anything else they had done as a group until then. Specifically, this album has a unique way of utilizing Cornell’s vocal leads to resolve the dissonant riffs and accompaniment.

The album’s only downside is the dated production choices which negatively affects earphone listening. But this is easily overcome when playing the album on a good stereo system.

PRAYING MANTIS Keep It Alive

Live album · 2019 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Rodney Matthews, the Troy brothers, ‘Metal For Muthas’, when someone mentions Praying Mantis to me, I always tend to think of the same things. There is no doubt there was a brief period when they were mentioned alongside some of the greats of the NWOBHM movement, and they rightfully deserved their place on one of the most important compilations of all time, and “Captured City” is a great song. That number opens this set, but when reviewing again the 1980 release, it is worth noting that only one of the bands were allowed two songs instead of one, and while some of the other groups did continue for a while, none of them ever had anything like the success of Maiden, with two of the other groups actually giving members to that band (Samson, White Spirit).

Their debut album, in 1981, some seven years after they were originally formed, ‘Time Tells No Lies’ had a cover by Rodney Matthews, but within a few years the band was gone. They reformed again in the 90’s and have been releasing and playing on and off since then. The current line-up is of course Tino Troy (guitar, vocals) and his brother Chris (bass, vocals), along with Andy Burgess (guitar) and newest members Hans in’t Zandt (drums) and singer John 'Jaycee' Cuijpers. This set was recorded live at the Frontiers Rock Festival V in Milan, Italy on 28th April 2018, and it must be said the audience were up for it and even sang “Happy Birthday” at one point. It also seems that this is an unadulterated live recording as there are a few duff notes here and there, while Cuijpers certainly misses some of the higher ones, in which case the harmony vocals must be what were being performed that night and all credit to the guys as they are very good indeed.

This is exactly the sort of album I would expect from Praying Mantis to be honest. They were only contenders for a very brief period of their career, but they have kept going through sheer determination and a refusal to give in. The songs are okay, but not brilliant, as is the musicianship, and the result is something which any fan of melodic hard rock will probably enjoy without ever getting too excited. Singer Cuijpers certainly feels the band are far larger than they are in reality, and one wonders if that is because he normally plies his trade in tribute bands (a quick glance at EM lists him currently being in Foreigner, Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden and Van Halen cover acts).

I was 16 in 1979 when NWOBHM started to gain traction and the metal scene in the UK started to explode. I sought out independent releases, read everything Deaf Barton had to say about it, and listened to TV on the Radio. To be honest, even though I was seeking out bands like Angel Witch, Mythra, Chainsaw, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Handsome Beasts and so many others, I never bought any Praying Mantis releases in their heyday, and have not looked for any since then (even though Dennis Stratton was with the band for years when they reformed, and I always liked him). Having listened to this I do not think I have really missed out on anything, and while I may watch them at a festival such as this one, I may also feel inspired to go to the bar.

NIGHTWISH Endless Forms Most Beautiful

Album · 2015 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 13 ratings
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Kev Rowland
In between this 2015 album and the previous studio release, 2011’s ‘Imaginaerum’ it is safe to say the band had been through some struggles (seek out the excellent tour documentary on YouTube detailing what happened). Due to singer Anette Olzon being hospitalized immediately before a show in Denver, the band went ahead with Alissa White-Gluz and Elize Ryd (who were part of support band Kamelot) taking on the role, using printed lyrics and a revised setlist. This in turn led to Floor Jansen being invited in for the rest of the tour. Late in 2013 it was announced that Jansen would be the full-time replacement for Olzen, and the band also made Troy Donockley a permanent member (he had already been touring with the band for five years at this point). However, before they went into the studio to record the new album it was announced that founding member and drummer Jukka Nevalainen would not be involved due serious insomnia (he has since left the band as a musical member although to this day he is still heavily involved in taking care of band-related business), and he would be replaced by Kai Hahto (Wintersun.

So there had been a lot going on in the band, but they had weathered issues prior to this, particularly with the loss of original singer Tarja Turunen, so like many I was intrigued to hear this album. I happened to see Nightwish on the tour with Floor (who I had always admired with After Forever) and thought the band had connected really well together, so was looking forward to this. Jansen is a good replacement for Olzon, as while she can sing that material well, her voice is also suited to the earlier material of Turunen, and I expected to see something of a return to the sort of material with which Nightwish made their name. When Marco Hietala joined the band in 2001, he made a massive impact as it gave the band a second really strong songwriter and someone who could also take centre stage as lead singer, so I had very expectations indeed.

However, apart from a few standouts, what we have here to my ears is a band who are really going through the motions. It has everything that one expects from Nightwish, but somehow muted. It is bombastic and over the top, yet without the soul and passion I expect. Delicate numbers such as “Our Decades In the Sun” stand out as they are a delight, an oasis of light in a fairly dark and parched atmosphere. But, it’s not a bad album, it is still much better than many bands will ever hope to release, it is just I expected more from a band who had been through so much, and I firmly expected them to take a step up from ‘Imaginaerum’, which I loved, yet somehow they have not managed that.

Anyone who enjoys symphonic metal is going to love this, but for me while it is an excellent album, and one which I am sure I will return to, it doesn’t deliver as I expected it to.

BEASTIE BOYS Hello Nasty

Album · 1998 · Non-Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Unitron
"One two one two, this is just a test"

Hello Nasty is like no other hip hop album I've heard, it's like an exploration in various sounds and samples but always with the Beastie Boys' fun loving attitude. Its got such a busy sound with everything going on, but it's never overwhelming even with the 22 songs on the album.

Remote Control, Just a Test, Intergalactic, and Putting Shame in Your Game are probably my favorites, Just a Test especially being one of the B-boy's most underrated songs. They've got such great flow, and their rap bravado is contrasted by fantastic moody and ominous samples, and it gives it such a cool sound. The electro-rap of Intergalactic rightfully was the album's biggest hit, and it's impossible to not love the delivery of "let the beat...mmmDRRROP".

One of the strangest parts of the album are the neo-psychedelic songs that are completely devoid of hip hop, though there's a psychedelic element throughout the album. These songs include Song for the Man, Song for Junior, and I Don't Know, and they all fit in and sound great.

Hello Nasty is a bit of a grower, but once it hit, it hit. One of the best of both the B-boy's and hip hop as a whole.

VALE OF AMONITION Those of Tartarean Ancestry

Album · 2017 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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African metal bands are still completely under the radar in terms of worldwide exposure but the Southern nations such as Botswana and South Africa have been quite prolific in recent years however when it comes to sub-Saharan regions ranging from Senegal all the way to Kenya and Tanzania, there really haven’t been a lot of artists who have gone the metal route. There are exceptions of course and here’s one of them. VALE OF AMONITION is a doom metal anomaly coming from the city of Kampala, Uganda and has been sticking it out since 2009. So far this band has released three EPs and two full-length albums. The first titled “Those of Metal Afar” which came out in 2012 and this sophomore album THOSE OF TARTAREAN ANCESTRY which didn’t emerge until 2017 as a digital release only.

While the lineup has changed over the years, the core members are the duo of Victor Rosewrath aka Vickonomy on lead guitars and vocals along with Solomon Dust who plays rhythm guitars and bass. Walter Warblood was added in 2014 as drummer and has been along for the ride ever since but seems to get credited as a session musician rather than being a full member of the band. Generally speaking Vickonomy crafts the poetic lyrics and Dust crafts the musical accompaniment. The band actually got its start as a fairly standard blues rock band called “Downtown Blues” that borrowed liberally from classic 60s and 70s artists like Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple but once VALE OF AMONITION was formed went for a more avant-garde metal approach but since it’s almost impossible to find a sample to check out i’m not sure how weird it was.

On THOSE OF TARTAREAN ANCESTRY the sound has gone into the direction of doom metal with the most obvious influence coming from the English band My Dying Bride with its long drawn out gloomy doom marches and is especially obvious in Vickonomy’s contemplative lugubrious vocal style that at times is a dead ringer for Aaron Stainthorpe. The music of VALE OF AMONITION follows MDB’s snail-paced march through epic and lumbering tales of lands far away and augmented with intermittent spoken word narrations that recount various aspects of the tale at hand. TARTAREAN refers to the deep abyss in Greek mythology that was used as a dungeon of torment and suffering for the wicked and as the prison for the Titans. The music generally offers an epic sprawling procession and matches these gloomy themes quite well.

While doom metal is almost unheard of in Africa, VALE OF AMONITION carries it off quite well however this music is a bit too derivative from the original sources for my liking. The My Dying Bride influences are too much in the forefront with the same time signatures of the drawn out guitar riffs and the atmospheric claustrophobia that oozes out of the cracks. Vocally it falls way to close to a lost My Dying Bride album at least in the singing department. Also the drumming sounds a bit lackadaisical and the album drags on for too long as it lacks enough variety and climactic justification to linger on for so long. Oh and the album takes way to long to get to the metal parts. On the positive side of things there are many moments with strange guitar tricks and a few off-kilter vocalized extras and i would’ve loved to hear more of these variations strewn about the album but it feels that VALE was playing things a bit too safe with deviating from the established orthodoxies of doom metal. Overall not a bad album but not as awesome as i was hoping for. Ugandan doom metal may not be common but i can see that these guys have potential if they allow a bit more creativity to flourish.

HORRIFYING Altered States Fermentation

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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It shouldn’t come as a surprise to many but South America has been one of the most emphatically staunch supporters of extreme metal from the very beginning producing many famous bands starting way back with Sepultura and continuing into the modern era. One of the most intense metal nations surely has to be Chile that for a nation its size at 17 million seems to have a huge number of metal bands per capita even in the remotest of regions.

One of the more intense death metal bands to come from Chile emerged in the southern city of Puerto Montt which is pretty much the end of the road before you hit the pristine natural splendor of Patagonia’s southern lands. This band was formed in 2010 by Putrid Body (drums) and Raul Arancibia (lead guitar) and later joined by Johan M. (vocals, 2011-present) and Mario Carrasco (guitar, 2012-present). The band released a demo in 2012 and a following EP “Euphoric Existence” in 2013 but ALTERED STATES FERMENTATION the only full album to emerge so far was released in 2017 on the Veins Full of Wrath label.

While many death metal bands are drifting off into psychedelic and technical terrain, bands like HORRIFYING are steadfast in keeping old school death metal sounds alive and well in the 21st century with all those classic labyrinthine riff drives, blistering bass and drum freneticism with the expected growly guttural growls that offer a few Morbid Angel guitar squeals and sizzling Slayer inspired solos. HORRIFYING has been compared to classic bands like Sweden’s Merciless or the California based Sadistic Intent with blistering sonic assaults that are designed to raise the dead.


While this is technically an album, it only clocks in at 26 minutes with five tracks however HORRIFYING delivers quite a specular display of instrumental command and a flair for crafting old school death metal without sounding like a mere clone of those classic sounds from the past and the album is graced with the benefit of a modern production job that doesn’t resort to slick polishing but rather enhances the sick and twisted morbidity of it all! Band members are associated with other bands from the burgeoning Puerto Montt scene which is a city of over 200,000. Satellite bands include Demonic Rage, Infernal Slaughter, Excoriate, Funeral Chant, Satanic Ripper and Warfare.

While originality can’t be claimed by HORRIFYING as this is as classic death metal as it gets with nothing new under the sun to bring to the table, it is quite impressive that this band has so carefully crafted an album that fits in so nicely with the classic early 90s sounds of old school death metal and offers an extreme delivery of five tracks that runs the gamut of anarchic swirls of chaos to select melodic passages that add a little sweetener to the mix. The guitars are raw and ugly as are the murky mixes and demonic vocal utterances. HORRIFYING deliver a much better than expected product and i find this truly amazingly awesome death metal! Aaaaarrrrrggghhhh!

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