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SEPULTURA Quadra

Album · 2020 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 12 ratings
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UMUR
"Quadra" is the 15th full-length studio album by Brazilian metal act Sepultura. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2020. It´s the successor to "Machine Messiah" from 2017. As the case was on the predecessor Sepultura went to Sweden and worked with producer Jens Bogren. "Quadra" is a concept album based on the Quadrivium, which is the four subjects/arts of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

The band were very conscious in the way they composed tracks for the album, as they wanted to include three tracks of each of the four main styles, they believe Sepultura have produced on recent releases. Fast and aggressive thrash metal tracks, groove laden/percussive heavy tracks, semi-progressive tracks, and some more melodic oriented tracks, with Derrick Green treating the listener to his pleasant and powerful deep register clean vocals. Green´s performance on "Quadra" is strong and varied, and he is capable of both raw barking vocals, raw screaming (hardcore tinged) type vocals and the clean vocal variant described above. The rest of the band are of course also very skilled performers, and while I´ve already said it a thousand times, I have to mention again how exceptionally great a drummer Eloy Casagrande is. He is just the energy boost and creative rhythmic mind that Sepultura needed to elavate their music to new heights.

The material on "Quadra" is as you can imagine from the desription above quite varied and adventurous in nature. There is a musical red thread throuhgout the album though and it´s always audible that you´re listening to Sepultura. It´s just the most eclectic version of the band rearing their head here. I´m actually amazed how well they make all the different musical elements work within their sound and how they avoid making those elements sound like they were forced upon the songs. Semi-symphonic parts, fast technical harmony guitar/keyboard runs, middle eastern scales and creative rhythmic ideas, are just some of the elements which make up "Quadra". The closing track on the album "Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering" even features female clean vocals (performed by Brazilian singer Emmily Barreto)

"Quadra" is well produced, featuring a powerful and detailed sound production, which suits the material perfectly. I could maybe have wished for a slightly more organic drum tone, but that´s my subjective opinion, and it´s a minor issue. So upon conclusion "Quadra" is a high quality release by Sepultura. To those who found "Machine Messiah (2017)" to be a fresh sounding and eclectic release (which it definitely is), "Quadra" pushes the boundaries of Sepultura´s sound even further and this is a release for those who enjoy Sepultura when they are most adventurous and creative. So while there are fast thrashy parts and heavy grooves on the album, this is not a return to the the band´s sound of the late 80s/early 90s. Sepultura have moved on and they now utilize elements from all their previous releases and add new ones to the palet and as a result have created another strong release. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ANAAL NATHRAKH Endarkenment

Album · 2020 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Of all the extreme metal bands that has defied being filed into a given subgenre of the metal universe, the English ANAAL NATHRAKH from Birmingham has been one of the most wily of all without getting thrown into the dumping ground of avant-garde metal. The band has been in existence since 1999 and as of Oct 2020 has released its 11th album ENDARKENMENT on its long time label Metal Blade. While the band has had numerous members come and go for its live performances, ANAAL NATHRAKH is more or less the studio project of Mick Kenney who plays guitars, bass, drums and pretty much everything else! The only other member that keeps this from being a one-man band is vocalist Dave Hunt also known as V.I.T.R.I.O.L. or if you’re feeling adventurous Visita Interiora Terræ Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem.

While getting thrown into the generic holding cell of black metal for database purposes, this artist is perhaps the most successful at fusing elements of symphonic black metal with extreme kvlt black metal, death metal, grindcore and industrial music. More detailed descriptions include industrial death metal, industrial black metal or even blackened death metal but in the end there is really no other band that sounds like ANAAL NATHRAKH and this has been the case since its debut release “The Codex Necro” which ushered in the new millenium with a cauldron of extreme sounds all stewed down into a sonic maelstrom of energetic furor all the while keeping things on the catchy melodic side of things despite a freneticism of fast tempos, ugly distortion and grindcore inspired blood curdling vocal screams that will surely give you nightmares.

Stylistically not much has changed for ANAAL NATHRAKH on ENDARKENMENT with the same heavy hitting formula that its famous for. This album showcases ten tracks that clock in at just over 41 minutes and finds the band in fine form with punishing blitzkrieg deathened blackened industrial grindcore gusto that finds the perfect way to alternate the orotund energetic metal madness with melodic moments of something akin to blackened power metal with clean epic vocal parts, suave symphonic backings and what sounds like a tug of war between the ugly aggression of the death and black elements with the epic uplifting ones. Either way you slice it, blackened power metal or grinding deathened black, ANAAL NATHRAKH are masters of a universe of their own making.

The album wastes no time busting down the doors and delivers a relentless grindcore explosiveness for the album’s entire run but key moments of lightning quick silence are added for contrast’s sake. Generally speaking the album focuses on rampaging tempos with the death / black / core elements in explosive tumult but moments of industrial bleakness and uplifting epic clean metal power metal verses come and go and sometimes there’s even a beauty and beast affect with the two styles trading off. The effect is quite satisfying and very successful given the power production has captured the spirit of the album perfectly as it retains that evil as fuck extreme metal bleakness but offers rays of light through the juxtaposed triumphant clean singing style. The incessant riffing also finds some contrast with soaring guitar sweeps and lightning quick solos.

ANAAL NATHRAKH has crafted a unique extreme metal niche that i really never tire of. Listening to any of their albums scratches many itches simultaneously and ENDARKENMENT clearly follows that trend with all those amazing attributes of ANAAL NATHRAKH on display once again. Perhaps this album doesn’t develop the band’s sound in any particular direction but each and every track is excellent even if albums tend to sound very similar in style. The devil is in the details of course and the way the band pulls off these unorthodox moves of fusing these disparate styles together without sounding like a major cheese-fest is quite the accomplishment especially when those power metal melodic guitar solos and epic glee of the gods is in full regalia. The only other act i can think of having come close to this sort of thing was Necrophagist but unlike that German oddity, ANAAL NATHRAKH seems to be in this game for the long run. Another triumphant march of the restless ones!

LAMB OF GOD Lamb Of God

Album · 2020 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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L:AMB OF GOD has been cranking out the quality groove metal since its inception as Burn The Priest in 1994 with a series of high octane albums ever since however this Virginia band led by the screaming maniac Randy Blythe but hasn’t exactly been the most prolific in its output with only nine releases ( eight under the LAMB OF GOD moniker ) in the 26 years of its existence. Five years after “VII: Sturm und Drang” comes the band’s followup simply titled LAMB OF GOD. It baffles me as to why bands choose to use eponymous titles this late in their career especially if they haven’t reinvented their sound and taken it to new unthinkable worlds.

One thing is pretty much a given for LAMB OF GOD and that is that what you expect in terms of fast paced groove metal with rampaging riffs, half speed bass and drums and Blythe’s gut busting vocal utterances, will always be delivered in abundance. While the band has done a fairly decent job of adding new sounds to their albums and integrating them well into their classic groove metal stomps that dominated “As The Palaces Burn,” LAMB OF GOD seems to have hit a brick wall in the creative department as this eponymous release that came out in the era of Covid-19 is pretty much business as usual without any real developments or deviations from the band’s already established sound.

With ten tracks that add up to almost 45 minutes and a bonus track on the limited digipak boxset as well as the Japanese edition, LAMB OF GOD seems to be resting on its laurels and in the year 2020 with its usual predicative blend of groove metal, thrash furor and metalcore breakdowns. LAMB OF GOD has always maintained a consistency of quality and bad tunes is certainly not the issue at hand with this self-titled release but rather a ho hum been there done that before with one track after another sounding cut out of the same cookie cutter songwriting process and a bad case of playing it safe which obviously paid off since the album debuted at number 15 on the Billboard album charts and sold 30 thousand units in its first week of release. Some metalheads prefer safe and predictable over innovation and progression. Personally i’m not one of those.

This album debuts newbie drummer Art Cruz who replaces long time drummer Chris Adler but his drumming style has been tailor made to fit the band’s established sound and he offers absolutely no signs of individuality. There are a couple guest vocal appearances. “Poison Dream” features Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and “Routes” allows Testament singer Chuck Billy to let loose. Noticeable absent from this self-titled release are any extras that add different layers of atmospheres or subplots in the musical motifs. This is a back to basics groove metal type of album and while that’s not a bad thing per se, it’s certainly not anything that’s taking metal into any new territories. As a LAMB OF GOD fan i’m always a sucker for those chunky groove metal hooks in tandem with Blythe’s unique style of vocal grunts that are teased out into melodic screams.

For those who love diversity in songwriting this may not be the album for you. The tracks all bleed together with only a few such as “Resurrection Man” offering some sort of unique atmospheric counterpoint otherwise it’s a chugging fest in the vein of early LAMB OF GOD bombast. This is a decent album that won’t disappoint those with low expectations as LAMB OF GOD ticks off all the elements that make them LAMB OF GOD however for my tastes i find this to be a very generic album in relation to the interesting albums such as “Sacrament,” “Wrath,” “Resolution” and “VII: Sturm und Drang.” In the end this is an album that will end up in my collection as a fan but will remain one of the least revisited except all inclusive marathon sessions. I expected more after a five year break but c’est la vie.

SWEVEN The Eternal Resonance

Album · 2020 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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A few years ago there was a Swedish death metal band called Morbus Chron and their second album was called Sweven (2014). It was a gem combining death metal with retro progressive rock and psychedelic music, something that had been heard in black metal based acts like Hail Spirit Noir and Oranssi Pazuzu, but was still a rare element for metal to use (outside of the more obligatory stoner metal genre of course). It was the kind of album that showed its band off as something unusual and special. But then Morbus Chron disbanded in 2015. But now they're back, well, at least frontman Robert Andersson is and since his new project is also called Sweven you know that the new band is going to be more or less a continuation of where Morbus Chron left off. The Eternal Resonance (2020) is the group's debut album.

Sweven's The Eternal Resonance is not a mere rehash of their namesake album, but all the same elements are there: death metal, prog and psychedelic rock. While Robert Andersson brings a growling vocal style to the music it often feels like a bit of stretch to call this a death metal record. The instrumental work transcends death metal far too much to even pigeon-hole as progressive death metal; instead it falls more into the category of extreme progressive metal, a term often reserved for big names like the Opeth of old and Ihsahn and few others. And even that doesn't completely describe Sweven's sound, because there's just far too much retro progressive rock and psych in here as well to say its merely 'just' one thing. It's an album sitting on a bridge between two worlds, not torn between them, but in harmony.

The big difference in how the elements are balanced between The Eternal Resonance and the namesake album Sweven is that Morbus Chron used the psych influences a lot more than Sweven the band do here, but those are still an integral part of the new album's sound and it wouldn't be quite as special without them. Though if there is a fault here then it's that I really would have liked to hear the psychedelic element a bit more like in the previous band. Psychedelic metal is such an untapped well of potential that few bands seem willing to embrace, and fewer still the fans that seem to be able to recognise it, such as seems to have happened with this year's Hail Spirit Noir album Eden in Reverse, which to my knowledge could well be the first true psychedelic metal album that isn't stoner or extreme metal based. It's a shame that Sweven dialled this back on The Eternal Resonance, but they still make a really excellent record that has a rather unique sound, so I can't complain too much about that.

I find The Eternal Resonance to be one of 2020's finest debut metal records. Creating a unique sound in 2020 is no easy feat and while Sweven do lift a lot from their frontman's previous outfit one can hardly cast blame on the man for continuing to peruse a musical vision that produces an album this good. I can only imagine that Sweven will go on to impress even more if this is what they serve as the appetizer. Let's hope though that they make more albums than Morbus Chron did.

WAKE Devouring Ruin

Album · 2020 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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Canadian act Wake first hit the metal scene in 2010 with the EP Surrounded by Human Filth, playing grindcore, a genre that they've stuck with through their first decade of existence. While their last album Misery Rites (2018) was noted by some for bringing a blackened approach they were still a grindcore band. So it might come as a surprise to some that their fifth and latest album Devouring Ruin (2020) has seen them pretty throw all their grindcore roots out of the window and have instead released their first actual black metal record.

Of course that's selling the sound of the release shorter than a lot of grindcore albums are. Wake didn't just go black metal, they've expanded their sound in a number of different directions, with everything from technical death metal to post-sludge being found on Devouring Ruin. The change in direction has also resulted in an album of greater quantity from Wake; in true grindcore fashion the longest any of their four prior albums latest for was just shy of twenty-seven minutes, while the four albums between them could only claim two tracks that broke three minutes. Here we have a much more substantial not quite forty-six minute album, complete with a song, Torchbearer, which breaks the ten minute barrier. Grindcore is of course a genre where the very idea seems to be to go in and get the point across as quickly as possible, but with the new sound Wake have been able to change their approach to song-writing and new ideas are given room to be expressed.

It's a powerful sounding record, only really ever letting up for a couple of shorter interlude style tracks (sorry to disappoint those who thought the short tracks would be grindcore numbers), which are oddly placed to either side of just one song (and not even the real long one) rather than more effectively break up the record. Wake's take on black metal has a rawer sound to the vocals of Kyle Ball, approaching more death metal style and avoiding the cold, necro roots of black metal, though the riffs themselves retain a black metal atmosphere throughout, with other genre details hidden in the album's subtleties. Listen casually as your own peril, for there's a lot to dig into and explore here.

Existing fans of Wake who were expecting them to continue on with the grindcore may be disappointed in the change in direction, but for me Devouring Ruin is the release that has put the band on the map. Of course I listen to a lot more black metal than I do grindcore (by which I mean none at all), but they certainly seem to be making more waves with the album since it's release than they did before, which can only be good for them. They're obviously a talented band, based on what Devouring Ruin has to offer, an album that reaffirms for me my love of the black metal genre and it's continual ability to produce such high calibre albums. I hope we'll get to hear more of this kind of thing from Wake.

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SCORPIONS Animal Magnetism

Album · 1980 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 32 ratings
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The sound of Animal Magnetism is often what I first think of when I think of the Scorpions. Even though Taken By Force beats this by a little bit as my favorite from them, Animal Magnetism just has a unique sound and atmosphere that is just pure pre-power balled Scorps. It blends the big and loud sound of 80's metal with this real dark and seedy atmosphere. It makes me feel like I'm walking in some shifty alleyway where there's no telling what goes bump in the night. Meanwhile I'm being serenaded by Klaus Meine's absolutely sublime melodies and the beautiful guitar harmonies and pumped up riffs.

The fast jams like Don't Make No Promises (Your Body Can't Keep) are an absolute blast to listen to, especially with the fistful-of-power sound of Herman Rarebell's drums, but a lot of the album relies on this thumping plod that's brought to life by Francis Buchholz's real deep bass sound. It's no more apparent than on the final two songs The Zoo and the title track. Ever since first listening to these guys years and years ago, The Zoo's always been an absolute favorite. The whole song balances melody with this dark swaggering march of a hook, and Only a Man does as well and takes the cake as my top favorite on the album.

Though when it comes to foreboding and absolutely massive sounding, the finale title track takes the cake. I remember when I first heard this song when I first spun the vinyl for the entire album, and what an ending. I never knew anyone could make a song about sex sound so fucking threatening, but it is darkly beautiful and almost has a meditative quality.

Few other albums blend beautiful melody with a lumbering darkness as good as this.

DISSIMULATED Exogenesis

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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When it comes to many extreme metal bands, it seems they are going for the abstraction jugular with not only album titles but bands names in general. Take the word “dissimulate” for example. This is a rather infrequently used English word that means to conceal one’s intentions under a feigned appearance so if you take all the possible word variations of this word then you will get bands like Lithuania’s thrash metal bandDissimulation, the US deathcore Dissimulator and even a Crux Dissimulata from who the fuck knows where. Well here’s yet one more variation of the word, the US technical and progressive death metal band DISSIMULATED which comes from Brentwood, CA which sits equidistant between San Francisco and Stockton.

This powerhouse of primo noise makers formed in 2006 and had five members but by the time the band released its so far first and only album EXOGENESIS in 2011, the lineup was down to Taylor Elsasser (bass), Tim Head (drums, vocals) and Matt Mauro (vocals, guitar). EXOGENESIS (another abstract title that every nerdy sci-fi metal band seems to evoke) features six lengthy tracks that add up to just over 45 minutes. This is some seriously brutal technical death metal that ticks off the expect tech death attributes such as seriously wicked monstrous riffing, bass and drum abuse with time signature gymnastics but the band also mixes in softer passages that implement mellower guitars without distortion and clean vocal much like many progressive metal bands use.

The shortest track is “Cognitive Dissonance” at 5:55 and the longest is “Red Sky” at 9:00 and all the rest play somewhere in between. DISSIMULATED are seasoned musicians for sure as they play high speed brutal death metal riffs with explosive energy but are also masters at changing up the riffing styles as well as featuring dueling guttural growls in a call and response showdown. There are clean guitar parts that offer contrast and short segments of slow tempos that serve as a break to catch your breath. There are also occasional guitar solos but if i had to choose one musician that stands out it would have to be drummer Tim Head who performs outstandingly complex drumming antics that run the gamut from blastbeat death metal wankery to jazzified complexities. The fretless bass runs are also a pleasantry that sounds all the more awesome when allowed to shine without the guitar bombast.

EXOGENESIS is an excellent display of tech death magnificence that is high in quality when it comes to virtuoso performances however what DISSIMULATED fails to conjure up is that magic mojo that offers a sense of uniqueness as the band sounds like myriad other bands that have mastered these same techniques at a million miles per second. The one saving grace is that the progressive nature of the tracks allows a healthier diversity in the tracks than the average tech death band and while not completely lost in a generic haze, DISSIMULATED does rise enough to the occasion to at least make the album a compelling listen but for the most part sits nicely in the tech death crowds of the modern day. Personally i enjoy this one quite a bit. Influences include Periphery, David Maxim Micic, Animals as Leaders, The Contortionist, Circa Survive, Between the Buried and Me, Cynic, Disperse, Intervals.

AGONIA En ruinas

Album · 2005 · Crust Punk
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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I just love bands from countries that pick up styles of music that aren’t native to their land and do things with them nobody else would. AGONÍA ( Agony ) is one of those unorthodox bands that formed in San Luis Potosí, México in the year 2000 and has released two albums since. The first was this debut EN RUINAS ( In Ruins ) which emerged in 2005 and the second came in 2011 titled “No Respiraremos el Aire Muerto ( We Will Not Breath The Dead Air ).

While not dishing out a wildly bizarre style of avant-garde metal or experimental rock, AGONÍA has been interesting in how it mixes elements of black metal, folk music, crust punk and even good old fashioned heavy metal into a steaming cauldron of explosive furor. This album of 13 tracks is only over 24 minutes long and is primarily classified as a form of crust punk for its brevity and directness that includes heavy distorted hardcore punk constructs and screamo style vocal shouts.

The black metal aspects are heard in the lo-fi production, filthy raw kvlt sounding guitar tones and overall bleakness. Folk melodies find their way into the mix as do unexpected anthemic 80s heavy metal musical scales. The contrasts are rather unique and although perhaps not the most bizarre out there nevertheless offer an interesting deviation from anything i’ve really experienced before. The art is in how seamlessly all these styles are forged together in a cauldron of molten metal until a new bastard is born.

While in stylistic regalia EN RUINAS comes off as a hardcore crust punk album for sure but in composition is quite a different beast and just off-kilter enough to get my attention. No punkiness was sacrificed to make room for the other elements on board and the lyrics are evil and Satanic ( in Spanish ) and the music perfectly exemplifies such horrific subject matter. A nice little discovery from the middle of central Mexico. The second album took the black metal punk thing even further with aspects of death metal so all i can say is that i like this band’s approach.

THERGOTHON Stream From the Heavens

Album · 1994 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 3.69 | 4 ratings
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Finland’s THERGOTHON was one of the earliest pioneering funeral doom metal bands along with the Russian Вой (Voj) and Swiss Mordor by having released its debut EP “Fhtagn-nagh Yog-Sothoth” as far back as 1991 with the aforementioned two bands. THERGOTHON was formed in Kaarina, Finland in 1990 by by vocalist Niko Sirkiä, drummer Jori Sjöroos and guitarist Mikko Ruotsalainen as a death metal band but quickly switched over to doom metal followed by Sami Kaveri joining as a second guitarist. A demo titled “Dancing In The Realm Of Shades” preceded the EP.

Looking like the band was set to sail, that’s when everything went topsy turvy with Kaveri leaving the band so THERGOTHON decided to focus exclusively on recording music in the studio and not play any live shows. As the band’s doom metal sound began to evolve it grew slower and darker with elements of death metal but went beyond the mere hybridization of death-doom and crafted eerie atmospheres with the inclusion of keyboards. The band had finished recording its one and only album STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS as early as 1992 but due to significant delays but finally found a home on the Italian record label Avantgarde Music.

STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS officially was released on 15 June 1994 and is considered one of the earliest landmark albums of the funeral doom metal subgenre and remains popular in the modern era often appearing on top funeral doom metal album charts. The lineup had been significantly reduced since the band’s inception and on this album has become the mere trio of Niko “Skorpio” Sirkiä on vocals and keyboards, Mikko Ruotsalainen on guitars and Jori Sjöroos on drums and vocals. The album hosts six dirge-like tracks with some such as "Yet the Watchers Guard” and “Elemental” hovering around the nine minute mark thus showcasing a sneak preview of the standards by which funeral doom metal would evolve.

Sirkiä has explained that the music was created to express the existential fear that one experiences at the end of adolescence when one is thrust into a cruel unforgiving world and all the pent up uncertainties that go along with it. While many Scandinavian extreme metal bands were falling into either the black metal route or the death metal routes with increasing speeds, intensity and jarring characteristics, THERGOTHON seemed to exhibit a form of paralysis and went the opposite direction by slowing down tempos to a snail’s pace with doom-laden guitar riffs and a bass and drum rhythm section to follow. While this type of music can easily become boring quite quickly if not infused with an inspiring methodology of keeping things interesting, THERGOTHON added creepy keyboard crafted atmospheres that haunt the background while the thunderous guitar stomps sustain and proceed in their funeral march processions.

There are also moments of homegrown folk music creeping in as well and while the majority of vocals are evil sounding guttural death growls and also sporadic clean vocals in the style of Viking music popularized by bands like Enslaved on later releases. As far as i’m aware this was quite rare at this point in time considering Amorphis is often cited as a pioneer in adding folk elements to their death metal release “Tales From The Thousand Lakes” which also appeared in 1994 so considering STREAM FROM THE HEAVENS was finished as far back as 1992, the addition of Finnish folk elements to extreme metal may actually originate with THERGOTHON. In addition to the growls and clean vocals which include moments of liturgical chants, there are a few spoken word moments which seem to represent a sermon of some sort only not the kind your grandparents would approve of for sure.

Of the three pioneers of funeral doom metal which found THERGOTHON in third place, it’s this band that seems to have gotten the credit as most inspiring innovator of the style probably because they did it in a way that was the most accessible and in the process inspired the entire funeral doom metal subgenre with several bands such as Rigor Sardonicous, Mournful Congregations, Beneath Oblivion and Ea crafting similar sounds to this sole THERGOTHON album. While not as surreal as bands like Esoteric or as hardcore as bands like Skepticism, THERGOTHON gracefully constructed that fine line between glacial doom metal with a dungeon synth accompaniment which was utterly unique at the time and still holds up well some 26 years after its release.

DYING FETUS War of Attrition

Album · 2007 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 3.91 | 7 ratings
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"War of Attrition" is the 5th full-length studio album by US, Maryland based death metal act Dying Fetus. The album was released through Relapse Records in March 2007. It´s the successor to "Stop at Nothing" from 2003 and features a couple of lineup changes compared to the predecessor. Lead vocalist Vince Matthews has jumped ship, and the vocal duties are now shared by guitarist John Gallagher and bassist Sean Beasley. Gallagher has always performed the unintelligible deep growling vocals in the band´s music, and continues to do so here, while Beasley takes up the more aggressive yet still brutal growling vocal style. Drummer Erik Sayenga has also left Dying Fetus and is replaced here by Duane Timlin. With guitarist Mike Kimball making his second appearance on a Dying Fetus album, the lineup has gone from a five-piece to a four-piece.

Stylistically the material on the 8 track, 36:50 minutes long album pretty much continues the brutal technical death metal style of "Stop at Nothing (2003)". In fact there are very few surprises here if you are familiar with the band´s releases all the way back from their inception in the early 90s. Dying Fetus are a technically skilled band and they deliver their music with great passion and conviction. Their trademark heavy grooves are here in abundance as well as the fast arpeggio sweeping and the two types of growling vocals, as mentioned above. So don´t expect much development of sound. What you get is high quality playing, powerful compositions which will force your head to bang and your body to move, and a brutal and raw yet clear sounding production.

So if you can forgive Dying Fetus that they have by now found a trademark style which they stick to and don´t deviate much from, "War of Attrition" is yet another high quality release in a long line of high quality releases by the band. I´d rank it with "Stop at Nothing (2003)" in the band´s discography but below "Killing on Adrenaline (1998)" and "Destroy the Opposition (2000)", which to my ears are still the band´s most accomplished releases. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

DEF LEPPARD On Through The Night

Album · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.75 | 30 ratings
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DEF LEPPARD was of course one of the original 70s hard rock bands that stepped things up and joined the first British heavy metal invasion now tagged the NWOBHM ( New Wave of British Heavy Metal). The band originated in Sheffield, England as far back as 1977 with its roots in the prior band Atomic Mass formed by bassist Rick Savage, guitarist Pete Willis and drummer Tony Kenning. After lead vocalist Joe Elliot joined shortly after, he proposed a name change to Deaf Leppard which the other members agreed upon and soon after recruited Rick Allen to replace Kenning and then guitarist Steve Clark.

The band spent 1979 touring and gaining an audience which propelled the band into the nascent NWOBHM rather quick. This got the band noticed by the Phonogram / Vertigo label (which is Mercury Records in the US) and before long the band was on the road touring with AC/DC. The five members cranked out a bunch of tunes that were recorded and released on the debut release ON THROUGH THE NIGHT which was released on 14 March 1980 and raced to the top 15 on the album chart in the UK but despite touring the US and supporting acts like Pat Travers, AC/DC and Ted Nugent failed to make a dent at this stage.

If you ask me why the band failed to make the big time at this point, it has to do with the mediocre material presented on ON THE THE NIGHT. At this stage the band sounds like a rather ho hum garage band that was just getting acquainted to the heavier sounds of metal and the entire songwriting process. In many ways this debut album sounds like a demo to my ears. The production is shoddy, Joe Elliot’s vocals haven’t reached their full potential and the tunes themselves are fairly forgettable. Anyone coming to this after experiencing the much better following album such as “High ’n’ Dry,” “Pyromania” or even “Hysteria” will be let down by the amateurish performances here. This sounds like any old bluesy hard rock band from the 70s. Generic AF.

There were three singles released: “Wasted,” “Hello America” and “Rock Brigade” but none made a dent as the band was getting its foot in the door as an album oriented hard rock band through touring. This debut was produced by Tom Allom who seems to have failed both in scoring a decent production job but also failed to harness the band’s potential and create a signature sound. That duty would go to John “Mutt” Lange who took the ship by the helm and crafted DEF LEPPARD’s sound into a heavier arena with stronger material that suited the band’s strengths. The material on ON THROUGH THE NIGHT is decent but as many times as i’ve tried to get into this one, i’m always left cold and underwhelmed by the rather average sounding tunes with the exception of “Rock Brigade.”

While the band would step things up for their sophomore release, at this point they were trying to sound like Thin Lizzy, UFO or even Mott The Hoople but didn’t quite have the magic mojo to craft interesting stand alone tracks yet. There is nothing outright bad about this album but in the company of much better material that followed, this one just doesn’t match the quality of the album’s that followed. Despite the band’s phenomenal success as a hard rock band starting with “Pyromania,” ON THROUGH THE NIGHT along with the following “High ’n’ Dry” are the only two examples of the band generating a heavier NWOBHM sound and had they continued down this road, it’s hard to tell how their career would’ve developed. For my listening pleasure i find this debut by DEF LEPPARD a bit tedious and even boring but the material is decent enough and for those who don’t mind a crappy production and straight forward heavy rock tunes then you might like this more than me.

FLAMING ROW The Pure Shine

Album · 2019 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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voila_la_scorie
The music on this album is so incredible that they released it with a second disc of just the music! Yes, I didn’t quite expect to enjoy the second disc so much. After all, the songs and vocal parts are fabulous and tell the story of this conceptual piece, which is based on Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” series. That whole first album is a treat with astounding instrumental passages between the rock opera vocals with a host of singers taking up the different parts. It’s a brilliant piece of work! But very soon I found that the music was just so exciting, so involved, so beautiful that it really could stand up on its own.

Flaming Row released their third album in December of 2019. After chalking up their previous album “Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures” as one of my favourite prog metal albums and favourite concept narrative albums of all time, I was both excited and hesitant to get the new album. The former is like Ayreon meets Dream Theater meets Haken. Since I hadn’t heard the first album “Elinoire” I didn’t know if “Mirage” was just a special thing or if this complex, varied and thrilling music was just how the band worked.

My first observation was that the metal element was relegated way in back of the acoustic side. In fact, it's quite the opposite of "Mirage" where the album was mostly electric with acoustic interludes. Here the acoustic instrumentation takes over and the heavier electric sequences are present and effective, but not at the front of the stage as much this time. However, that was not anything to disappoint me. All the acoustic guitar, piano, strings, woodwinds, and percussion easily won my ears over in an instant. There is simply so much beauty in the music here! So once again, I'm listening to just the instrumental versions of the tracks after having heard the whole first disc with the vocals once more through.

There’s something very interesting about some the music on this new album. Right from the first listen, I recognized at least a couple of the powerful and memorable melodies. I’d heard them on “Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures”. But the two stories were completely different. “Mirage” is about an alien species that tries to eliminate humans from the earth before it's destroyed by human beings, and how the survivours struggle to find a way to keep the human race from being snuffed out. “The Pure Shine” is from the Stephen King novel series mentioned above. Was there some connection?

I contacted guitarist Martin Schnella and asked about the repeated melodies. He replied saying that they had actually written much of the music for a trilogy back in 2011-13. But as his acoustic project with Melanie Mau overtook Flaming Row in popularity and also some key members left the band, the trilogy fell through. However, Martin loved much of the music he had written and decided to pass it along to the third album. It seems a bit puzzling to hear the same melodies for two different stories, but I really like hearing these again in a new sound pallet. Catch the powerful melody at 13:12 in "The Sorcerer" and compare it to "Pictures" from "Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures"at 2:39. There's also the flute melody in "Jake's Destiny" - incidentally, my pick for most awesome track on the album - that sounds really close to one in the opening track of "Mirage".

So, whether you enjoy the whole of album one with the lyrical parts and wonderfully good vocal executions or you can get into just letting the instruments speak, this album is a special work. I can enjoy either disc equally.

And if you can, I highly recommend checking out “Mirage: A Portrayal of Figures” because it's such a tremendous piece of work.

I'm giving this album 4 stars because it is not a masterpiece of METAL music but it does make an excellent addition to a metal music collection. As a prog album, though, I'd give it a full five stars.

SHIT Scavengers of a Dying Sun

Album · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Some bands really need help when they choose a band name i swear. Here is a good case in point, SHIT really was shitty in this department when they formed in 2009 on the border city of Tecate, Mexico but has spent much of its time in Tijuana across from San Diego, CA. The band has so far released a couple demos two full-lengths and a split however the first so-called full-length “Apocalyptic Rage” is a 17 minute cassette so that classification as an album sounds like a bunch of SHIT to me.

SCAVENGERS OF A DYING SUN is the band’s second album and the first released on CD. It’s also an album’s playing time of 34;26 so really their only fucking album per se. This SHIT-cult has gone through a few lineup changes but on this shitty release it’s Mackoy Uribe (drums), Isaac Vargas (guitar), Noel Bello (guitar), Carlos Escobar (bass) and Sam Townsley (bass). Despite the band have a rather SHIT-ty moniker, the music is anything but to my surprise.

SHIT plays a blackened form of old school death metal that uses the Floridian model of bands like Deicide, Obituary and Cannibal Corpse as the prototype and then fortifies their rampaging metal madness with crust and black metal influences from bands like Sarcófago, Mystifier and Blasphemy. The album has seven tracks with a couple racing one the seven minute mark. There are also plenty of those jangly arpeggiated chords as popularized by Deathspell Omega that has some atonality to the mix but generally speaking this is a fairly “accessible” death metal band with blackened overtones.

There are also a few guest musicians on here such as Lorenzo Kemp playing lead guitars on “On The Wings Of Extermination,” Antimo Buonnano on backing vocals on “Bearer Of The Stigma” and Melchor Félix on lead guitars on “Revenant Worship.” The musicians are quite talented and create a maelstrom of high tempo riffing sessions that are quite impressive. The rhythm section of guitar, bass and drums is in perfect tandem and there are backdrop counterpoints that add a creepy atmosphere. In other words this band is much better than the SHIT moniker suggests. Perhaps a band name like Monsters of SHIT would’ve had a better ring to it but whatever!

This is a really excellent blackened death metal album actually! No SHIT! The tracks all vary from one another. There are moments of down time as in the classical epic intro on “Sulphur The Right” and the death metal is played impeccably tight and ferociously. The vocals are much more varied than the average guttural growls and although based in old school death metal, the musicians seemed seasoned enough to create subtle virtuosity in the hypnotic riff chugs. The songwriting is particularly excellent as well with nice traditional scoops of death metal with a few interesting zingers to keep things flowing. Now grant you this SHIT isn’t the most original of the lot. There is nothing groundbreaking on SCAVENGERS OF A DYING SUN but the performances are so top notch that this is definitely an album that warrants return visits. In other words this really is some good SHIT here and you don’t have to smoke it! HA

MACABRE (IL) Unabomber

EP · 1999 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Unabomber" is a compilation by US extreme metal act Macabre. The compilation was released through Decomposed Records in 1999. At this point it had been quite a few years since the release of the band´s last full-length studio album "Sinister Slaughter (1993)" and although they did release the "Behind the Wall of Sleep" EP in 1994, there had been awfully quiet from the Macabre camp for some years.

While the "Unabomber" compilation broke the silence, there is only one track here which is exclusive to this recording, and that is the title track. The two demo versions of "Ambassador Hotel" and "The Brain", which would appear in their "regular" studio versions on the "Dahmer (2000)" album only a year down the line, are in these particular versions also exclusive to this release, but especially "Ambassador Hotel" sounds very similar to the version on "Dahmer (2000)". "The Brain" features effects on the vocals, which provide this version of the song with a psychadelic twist, but the core elements of the song are the same as the version on "Dahmer (2000)". There are only 7 tracks featured on the 17:01 minutes long compilation, and the remaining four tracks are culled from the "Grim Reality (1987)" EP and from Macabre´s debut full-length studio album "Gloom (1989)" (two tracks from each release).

So there are no tracks featured from "Sinister Slaughter (1993)", which makes it a bit of an odd compilation in terms of who the target audience is. With only half of the very short compilation featuring "rarity/different version" type material, and the rest just being culled directly off the releases they originally appeared on, doesn´t make it a very interesting release for fans, and for newcommers there simply isn´t enough material to provide a decent impression of what Macabre sounds like. Add to that the fact that there aren´t a single track featured from "Sinister Slaughter (1993)", and this becomes a bit of a redundant compilation release.

With the issues out of the way, the material featured on "Unabomber" is still worth a listen though. Macabre deliver their material with great passion and conviction, and they have a very unique extreme metal style, which is also a great asset. So while I don´t find the idea behind releasing "Unabomber" that great, and the release in itself a bit redundant the quality of the recordings still makes me rate it with a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

DISSECTION Storm of the Light's Bane

Album · 1995 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.37 | 42 ratings
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UMUR
"Storm of the Light's Bane" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish black/death metal act Dissection. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in November 1995. There´s been one lineup change since the release of "The Somberlain (1993)" as guitarist John Zwetsloot has been replaced by Johan Norman. Dissection was formed in 1989 and in their original run existed until 1997, when they had to disband as a consequence of lead vocalist/guitarist Jon Nödtveidt having to serve his prison sentence for being convicted as an accessory to murder.

Stylistically the music on "Storm of the Light's Bane" continues the blackened death metal style of "The Somberlain (1993)", but it leans a bit more on the black metal side of the band´s sound than was the case on the predecessor. It´s still a very melodic type of black/death metal with heavy use of guitar harmonies (and the occasional acoustic section and use of folk melodies). There are a few thrashy riffs featured on the album too, but the dominant style is melodic black metal. The vocals are raspy black metal type vocals.

Dissection masterfully create a cold yet epic atmosphere and paired with their considerable playing skills, it´s not hard to understand why so many people hold "Storm of the Light's Bane" in such high regard. It´s one of those albums where they hit the right balance between rawness and melody, which means they don´t go overboard with any of them but instead the listener is treated to both very melodic and very harsh parts, which combined creates the high quality material featured on the album.

It doesn´t make things worse that the album also features a clear, professional, yet raw sounding production, which does the music a lot of justice and helps make it shine. So upon conclusion "Storm of the Light's Bane" is a high quality release and while "The Somberlain (1993)" was certainly a great debut album, I think this sophomore release is just a notch more focused and the songwriting a bit more memorable. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

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