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ROYAL THUNDER Crooked Doors

Album · 2015 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
Three years on from their promising debut CVI, Royal Thunder return with their second album Crooked Doors. Whilst building on CVI’s strengths it shows the bands growth as songwriters and they have produced an even better album with 11 tracks of grunge inflected hard rock with psych and blues overtones.

Once again it’s the awesome vocals of Mlny Parsonz that initially draw the listener in, her visceral classic rock tones full of feeling and emotion make her one of the best singers today as well as a very capable bass player. The rest of the band are no slouches though, the guitars of Josh Weaver expertly weave (no pun intended) together forming sometimes hard riffs, often played with a fairly clean sound and resonating arpeggios along with some very tasteful soloing. Drummer Evan Diprima is solid as a rock yet slips subtleties in to match the dynamics that are a prevalent strength of Crooked Doors.

Highlights, of which there are many include the blues soaked Forget You, the driving hard rock of The Line and the slide guitar infused Glow. Forgive Me, Karma shows much light and shade with some subtle but clever time changes. Floor wins by its captivating riff, simplicity and strong melody and One Day’s melody likewise instantly grabs you. The Bear I and II are subdued and plaintive closers, part II in particular, being Parsonz on soulful vocals and piano and cello from guest Matt Jarrard only. An effective way to finish.

Crooked Doors is a remarkably mature second album which hits you fairly quickly but repeated plays reveal layers not immediately apparent making it an album you’ll want to revisit often. Highly recommended.

MINSK The Crash and the Draw

Album · 2015 · Sludge/Post-metal
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"The Crash and the Draw" is the 4th full-length studio album by US sludge/post metal act Minsk. The album was released through Relapse Records in April 2015. It´s the band´s first release since "With Echoes in the Movement of Stone" from 2009, so they´ve had a longer recording break. Quite a lot has happened in those 6 years though both in terms of the members working on other projects (three of the members recorded the "Impious Lamps (2010)" EP under the Cloud Burial monicker), but also regarding lineup changes. Only Tim Mead (lead vocals, synthesizers), and Chris Bennett (guitars, vocals) are left from the lineup who recorded "With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (2009)". Former bassist/vocalist Sanford Parker is still involved as producer though. New faces in the lineup are Aaron Austin (guitars, vocals), Zachary Livingston (bass, vocals), and Kevin Rendleman (drums).

Stylistically the band continue the atmospheric sludge/post metal style of "With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (2009)". Minsk always had a progressive way of doing things, and that is also true for the music on "The Crash and the Draw". They successfully combine heavy sludgy parts with atmospheric and slow building post metal parts (and even an atsmospheric ambient track in "Conjunction"), and clean vocals with harsher type vocals. The drumming has a tribal sound to them, which makes that part of the music pretty interesting. The tempo is mostly slow- to mid paced, but there are a couple of faster parts on the 11 track, 75:36 minutes long album, especially noteworthy on the opening track "To the Initiate".

In addition to the individual tracks on the album, "The Crash and the Draw" features the ""The Crash and the Draw"" four part suite. The material is generally well written and always playful and adventurous, which is one of the band´s greatest strengths. The high level musicianship, and the organic and well sounding production are two other assets, and all those assets are needed, because although the music is both adventurous and rather progressive, it´s not particularly original, and I hear a lot of nods toward some of the leading acts on the scene like Neurosis, Mastodon, and Baroness. So upon conclusion "The Crash and the Draw" is another high quality release by Minsk. A varied and quite dynamic musical journey, which never becomes tedious despite the very long running time. So despite a few issues with the originality of the material, I still think a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

MERCY BROWN Mercy Brown

Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Unitron
Mercy Brown - Mercy Brown

'Mercy Brown' is the self-titled debut studio album by metal band Mercy Brown. Believe it or not, I found out about Mercy Brown through a 'Mary Poppins sings death metal' video on YouTube. So, when I went to the contributors's Bandcamp, I was expecting some awesome death metal. I did get awesome death metal, but I got a lot more then just death metal. I got a wide range of different styles.

Mercy Brown is one of those bands that is simply impossible to categorize. From death metal, to thrash, to black metal, to Gothic-esque clean vocals, and to droning intros and outros, this is one eclectic album. The first song I heard was 'Red and Yellow', which was one of the songs you could sample before the album came out. It is an amazing song, perfectly combining brutal death metal blasts with melodic passages. The album begins with the apocalyptic intro of 'From the Sky'. This is such a great intro, the echoing sounds and wind combined with marching guitar and double bass just give an apocalyptic feeling. It soon flows into black metal instrumentation that opens up the next track 'Birds'. The chaotic double-bass barrages, crushing guitar, and Sera Hatchett's low growls and snarls flow perfectly straight into melodic passages with Hatchett's beautiful clean vocals.

I think atmosphere plays a key role in the album. Like I mentioned with the intro, there is a kind of dark, apocalyptic feel from the beginning to the end. The song 'Where the Fire Is' opens up with great menacing bass-lines, which really adds to the atmosphere. Very often songs will start out slowly and quietly, before crushing guitar, pounding drums, and Hatchett's menacing vocals or growls come in.

Sera Hatchett is an amazing vocalist, having a very wide range of vocal styles. She can go from low growls as heard in 'Red and Yellow', to snarls, to raw clean vocals, and to melancholy vocals which are heard best in 'In the Dark'. Speaking of that song, it's probably my favorite on the album. The way it combines the machine-gun attack of the double bass, the droning atmosphere, and Hatchett's melancholic vocals and high screams is just amazing. Another favorite of mine is 'Codependent', which starts out with crushing guitar and menacing vocals from Hatchett. Like a lot of the songs on the album, they switch sounds often, this song eventually having a unique combination of pure black metal instrumentation and melodic clean vocals. Hatchett's growls on 'Red and Yellow' feel like they're crushing along with the pulsating blast of the guitars and drums.

Overall, this is one of those albums that is so unique and combines so much that it's simply impossible to put it in one genre. It's an album that I grew to absolutely love listen after listen. Definitely one of my top releases of 2015 so far, and I highly recommend it if you want something unique, eclectic, and just different. Hope you found this review helpful.

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DARKOLOGY Fated to Burn

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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adg211288
Fated to Burn (2015) is the second full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Darkology. This release has been quite long awaited as it's been six years since the band made their debut with Altered Reflections (2009). It's a similar situation to another band of guitarist Michael Harris, Thought Chamber, who released their debut Angular Perceptions (2007) and then also did not follow it up for six years, until they released Psykerion (2013) with a largely new line-up. Darkology however have kept the same four piece band together that made Altered Reflections; Michael Harris on guitars, brother Brian Harris on drums, Mike Neal on bass, and Kelly 'Sundown' Carpenter on vocals.

The music on Fated to Burn continues the power metal influenced progressive metal sound of Altered Reflections. Compared to the first album I hear quite a bit more power metal techniques being used although I would still say that Fated to Burn is primarily a progressive metal record. My initial experience with the two albums has been pretty different though. Altered Reflections was a killer record, the rare kind that instantly earned it five stars from me and it wasn't a flash in the pan kind of experience; I still regard it as one of the best albums of 2009. Such an album was always going to be a tough act to follow, no matter how long it took Darkology and Fated to Burn didn't leave such a strong first impression. The second half of the album seemed stronger than the first, like it was getting off to a slow start, with the first really excellent track being The Shadows of Oth, which is still a favourite of mine from the album along with the closing nine minute epic Nightmare King. I even thought that the opening Kill Me If You Can was especially not up to scratch. The first half has grown on me with each listen though, especially Kill Me If You Can, so I would still say that Darkology have done a good job and put out a worthy and consistent follow-up, though overall slightly lesser than Altered Reflections.

To expand on that, it's like that even though there are more power metal elements being used, it does seem to me that Fated to Burn doesn't have quite the same punch as the debut did. I think that the biggest draw to the album would have to be Kelly Carpenter's excellent, powerful vocals which remain on the same level I'm used to from Altered Reflections and also from Beyond Twilight's Section X (2005). The band remain well playing but the same spark seems to be missing. Maybe it's because I already know what to expect from Darkology now so they've lost a bit of the initial wow factor, but then again maybe not; it wasn't that long ago that I re-listened to the debut after quite a while without hearing it and it still blew me away just as much.

Fated to Burn is still excellent though and despite some lower first impressions it's worked its way up to a higher regard from me, but ultimately it's not a masterpiece like their debut was. I'm not disappointed, not at least now that the first half of the album has had time to grow on me. It may not surpass the debut and it may indeed be a small step backwards from it, but it does ultimately show that Altered Reflections wasn't a complete fluke. 4.5 stars.

MORGOTH Ungod

Album · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Ungod" is the 4th full-length studio album by German death metal act Morgoth and the first studio album by the band since "Feel Sorry for the Fanatic" from 1996. The album was released through Century Media Records in March 2015. Morgoth disbanded in 1998, but reunited in 2010 to play select shows. The reunion became a bit more serious along the way and Morgoth released the "Cursed to Live" live album in 2012. The "God Is Evil" single from August 2014 was the first new studio recording by the band since "Feel Sorry for the Fanatic (1996)" though and it was meant as a teaser for a new full-length studio album. However before entering the studio to record "Ungod" lead vocalist Marc Grewe left the band, and was shortly after replaced by Karsten "Jagger" Jäger (Disbelief). "Ungod" was recorded, mixed, and mastered at Sound Division Tonstudio Sundern, Germany in November-December 2014.

If Morgoth had continued the trend of changing their sound radically between studio album, as they did on the three albums released in the 90s, it would have been hard to predict the music style on "Ungod". But as they predominantly chose to focus on material from "Cursed (1991)" and the preceeding EPs (with a few nods toward the material from "Odium (1993)") on "Cursed to Live (2012)", and the two tracks from the "God Is Evil (2014)" single is old school death metal through and through, it isn´t too surprising that the music style on "Ungod" is old school sounding death metal. There are a few nods toward "Odium (1993)", but other than that it´s mostly "Cursed (1991)" and the early EPs which "Ungod" sounds like.

The compositional quality is relatively high throughout the album although there aren´t many tracks which stand out. I´d mention album opener "House of Blood", video track "Voice of Slumber", and the re-recorded version of "God is Evil", as some of the highlights. "Ungod" features 11 tracks and full playing time of 46:23. Out of those 11 tracks, 2 are instrumentals. The title track is one of them and at 6:13 it overstays it´s welcome by at least a couple of minutes, while the closing "The Dark Sleep" (which is the other instrumental on the album) is a bit more interesting. The rest of the material is of a good quality but not spectacular.

It´s obvious that Morgoth are a seasoned bunch of guys, and the musicianship is on a high level throughout. New lead vocalist Karsten "Jagger" Jäger does a very good Marc Grewe impersonation, and while that ensures that "Ungod" sounds unmistakably like Morgoth even though there is a new lead vocalist singing, I think I would have preferred to have heard a more personal vocal delivery from Jäger. "Ungod" features a raw and well sounding production which suits the music perfectly, and upon conclusion "Ungod" is a decent comeback album by Morgoth. It´s not another death metal classic like some of the band´s earlier releases, but less will do, and it´s great to have them back. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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PRONG Primitive Origins

EP · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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FMOTP
It's about time that a review/rating was posted for PRIMITIVE ORIGINS here at Metal Music Archives. I'm a little surprised that Prong is often neglected. They are certainly not at the same level of instrumental skill as the generally regarded leaders of the thrash metal genre. That is not really a bad thing in my opinion. By the time PRIMITIVE ORIGINS was released, Prong had certainly become skillful musicians. If you're looking for great soloing, this is not the place to be. However, I don't think that's what thrash is about.

This EP has a visceral feel to it that Metallica's more recent releases, for instance, lacks. As suggested on other websites, the better songs are on the second half of PRIMITIVE ORIGINS. There is a definite groove influence to be heard in Prong's music which adds to its appeal for me. PRIMITIVE ORIGINS isn't the pinnacle of Prongs' career, but it's still a good sampling of visceral metal.

BRUTALITY In Mourning

Album · 1997 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"In Mourning" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Tampa, Florida based death metal act Brutality. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in January 1997. Brutality were formed as far back as 1986 and released several demos before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Screams of Anguish (1993)". That makes them one of the original Florida death metal acts that helped spawn the Tampa scene that would explode in popularity in the early nineties.

The music on "In Mourning" pretty much continues down the same technically well played brutal death metal path that the band also went down on the two predecessors. Rhythmically varied, brutal yet intelligible growling, and an onslaught of brutal riffing and melodic guitar leads and themes (check out the closing track "Extinction" for an example of that). It´s still Suffocation and to a lesser degree early Gorguts that I´m reminded of, but "In Mourning" features a slightly more personal sound than the two predecessors do. It´s still nineties US death metal in a nutchell, but I find the music more catchy and memorable this time around.

The sound production is very well sounding and powerful, bringing out the best in the brutal tracks. It´s no surprise the album was recorded at the legendary Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with a meaty and powerful sounding production like this. Everything is clear (but not polished) and audible in the mix. I especially enjoy how high Scott Reigel´s growls are placed in the mix and as a consequence of that how commanding they sound. Now that´s what I call death metal growling!

To my ears "In Mourning" is a step up from the two predecessors, which were both great albums, but lacked a bit of a personal sound to really compete with the best releases in the genre. "In Mourning" is close to being up there with the best though and I´d say a 4 star (80%) rating isn´t all wrong.

HEARSE The Last Ordeal

Album · 2005 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"The Last Ordeal" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Hearse. The album was released through Karmageddon Media in August 2005. Hearse was pretty active in their early years and had already released the "Cambodia" EP in January 2005. The band comprises former Arch Enemy/Furbowl vocalist Johan Liiva and his former Furbowl bandmate Max Thornell (bass, guitars, and drums). Guitarist Mattias Ljung completes the three-piece lineup.

The music on the album continues the melodic death´n´roll style that the band already initiated on the debut album. In that regard not much has changed. It´s still a sound that combines the melodic death metal elements and the death´n´roll elements from frontman Johan Liiva´s two previous acts, Arc Enemy and Furbowl. It´s infectiously melodic yet still raw and relatively aggressive when it needs to be. "The Last Ordeal" is slightly more rock´n´roll influenced than the preceeding releases by the band though. The musicianship is as always on a high level. Johan Liiva´s semi-growling vocals are distinct sounding and intelligible, the guitar leads and harmonies are incredibly melodic and memorable. There´s generally a charming organic quality to the playing that works well with the compositions. The tracks are mostly vers/chorus based, but the band always ensures that the tracks feature a suprise or two, to keep them interesting. A great solo, female choirs, an acoustic part and so forth...

The sound prodction is raw and organic sounding. Besides the memorable songwriting, the raw nature of the sound production and the convincing delivery are some of the greatest assets of Hearse´s music. In general and of course also on "The Last Ordeal". Too often melodic death metal sounds tame because of polished sound productions and generic compositions, but fortunately Hearse carry the melodic death metal torch high and proud. Upon conclusion "The Last Ordeal" is a slightly less interesting release compared to it´s predecessors though, but still it´s a great release deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

AEROSMITH Get A Grip

Album · 1993 · Glam Metal
Cover art 3.21 | 26 ratings
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aglasshouse
Enter the 90's. Aerosmith's still on a roll after their numerous smash hits from the 1970's and 80's, but are slowly starting to exhaust their creative processes. This is where their first hit of the decade comes, Get A Grip, in 1993. During this time glam metal was practically dying out with the new explosion of grunge performing a hostile takeover of the music industry. Regardless, Aerosmith held onto their strings and cranked out their last glam album to this day...

...and what we get it moderately good. The album starts with the hard rocking 'Eat The Rich', which is very reminiscent of the good old days that people remember from albums like Permanent Vacation and Rock and a Hard Place. A problem that becomes evidently obvious very quickly is that Aerosmith has depleted much of their variation. Many of the songs utilize the same chord structure and general composition, sometimes differentiating from slow to fast depending on the song. This factor doesn't make it much worse, but it does dampen the listening experience if you're going through the whole 14 set tracklist. Nevertheless several tracks make it through the creative barrier, such as the very arena-rock inspired 'Livin' On The Edge', with it's thundering sound and seemingly suspenseful nature, 'Shut Up and Dance', with it's frenzied dance-style groove, among others.

Away from my run on sentences- this album is a perfectly average release. Sure, it's not what you would exactly expect from these guys if you're experiencing it as the first album from the 90's with the 80's in mind, but as a look at the band as a whole, Get A Grip could easily fit among the others as a pretty good rocker.

AEROSMITH Permanent Vacation

Album · 1987 · Glam Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 20 ratings
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aglasshouse
"She's a long lost love at first bite."

I've never been someone who has particularly fancied the boys from Aerosmith. Their content has been relatively enjoyable during the 70's and 80's, and I have nothing against them. The main reason for my disinterest is mostly based from them being a little bland in their musical variety as a whole. However because I collect music, I still buy anything of theirs when I see it. I picked up their '87 release Permanent Vacation for a few bucks and decided 'hell, I haven't heard them for awhile', and gave it a spin. What I head not only surprised me but also had me in a state of awe.

Permanent Vacation is doubtlessly one of the best albums from Aerosmith, and perhaps their best from the 1980's. This was the band's first venture into the colorful world of glam metal, which in retrospective is a genre which fit them rather well. While most bands failed after joining the glam craze, Aerosmith soared in both sales and quality. What I would call Permanent as a personal genre however? Fun rock. I mean, if you listen to the ever popular 'Dude (Looks Like a Lady)'and 'Girl Keeps Coming Apart' you not only get some great musicianship but also an air of enjoyment coming from the band. Tyler especially, conveying with his spectacularly crazy voice emits subtle vibes of pleasantness. My favorite however has to be 'St. John', with it's great bass work from Hamilton and Tyler's vocal cohesion with himself. Not only that, but we get a partly indecipherable religious message which I'm sure means something, but with Aerosmith's lyrics you never get past much more than sex and lust so it's hard to figure out anything other than that. Other tracks that I enjoy are 'Heart's Done Time', and 'I'm Down'.

Although Aerosmith may not being so well to this day, with releases that lower in quality every new album, it's still great to look back at these glam golden boys in their magnificent heyday.

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