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metal music reviews (new releases)

WARHAMMER Visual Antagonism

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Visual Antagonism" is the debut full-length studio album by Indonesian death metal act Warhammer. The album was released through Brutal Infection Records in April 2016. Warhammer was formed in Yogyakarta in 2011. They released a promo in 2015 before signing to Brutal Infection Records for the release of "Visual Antagonism". In the years 2009-2011 they were known under the Genital Cavity monicker.

The music on "Visual Antagonism" is late 80s/early 90s influenced death metal. The growling vocals are predominantly doubled with higher pitched screaming, and Glen Benton (Deicide) has probably been an inspiration on lead vocalist Adin. The band are generally well playing and the material relatively varied in terms of rhythmic diversity, so there are both fast-paced and heavier tracks/sections on the album. To my ears one of the greatest assets of the band´s sound are the many well played guitar solos, which occur pretty often throughout the tracks. They are for the most part of the pretty typical atonal screaming kind, but I like how they seem to come out of nowhere and break down the structures of the tracks. It provides the music with a raw chaotic edge, which is greatly enjoyable.

The album is relatively well produced, although both drums and guitars could have prospered from a bit more punch. Upon conclusion "Visual Antagonism" is a pretty solid death metal release of the old school variety, and while it certainly won´t win any prizes for sounding original, a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

HATEBREED The Concrete Confessional

Album · 2016 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
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"The Concrete Confessional" is the 7th full-length studio album by US hardcore act Hatebreed. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Entertainment in May 2016. It´s the successor to "The Divinity of Purpose" from 2013 and features the same lineup as the predecessor. "The Concrete Confessional" was produced by Chris "Zeuss" Harris. "Zeuss" has produced every album by Hatebreed since "The Rise of Brutality (2003)".

Stylistically "The Concrete Confessional" features few surprises if you´re already familiar with the last couple of albums by Hatebreed. It´s aggressive and groove laden hardcore featuring quite a few thrash metal styled riffs (Slayer often comes to mind, when isolating the riffs). Lead vocalist Jamey Jasta has a powerful and raw delivery, which is slightly one-dimensional (save for a short clean vocal part on "Something's Off"), but very effectful. In true hardcore style the lyrics are dealing with subjects like corruption, political issues, social injustice, and how to overcome personal problems.

The material on the 13 track, 33:28 minutes long album is generally memorable and well written. Most tracks are instantly catchy and you can shout along to them almost immediately. The quality is generally high but there are some tracks which stand out more than others, and some tracks which aren´t fully up to par with the best material on the album. It´s not that there´s anything bad on the album, but some tracks just feel a bit like filler. But maybe it has more to do with the relatively one-dimensional nature of the tracks, and the fact that my attention begins to wander about half way through the album, because of lack of variation between tracks. So it´s a more overall stylistic issue than an issue with individual tracks. When that is said the short playing time and generally short length of the tracks help "The Concrete Confessional" to be an entertaining album through most of the playing time. I´d mention the two opening tracks "A.D." and "Looking Down the Barrel of Today" and the closing track "Serve Your Masters" as some of the highlights of the album.

The sound production is clear, detailed, and very powerful. The massive heavy sound is perfectly designed for the music. Upon conclusion "The Concrete Confessional" is another quality release by Hatebreed and they prove once again why they are such a prolific act on the scene. As mentioned I could have wished for a bit more variation in the songwriting department, but it´s nothing too serious and looked upon individually every track on the album is entertaining and well written, so a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is fully deserved.

SYMPHONITY King of Persia

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 3 ratings
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Writing a negative review is never fun, but one thing that can be equally frustrating is reviewing an album that feels like it has huge album of the year potential, but ends up falling a bit short, due to some serious drawbacks. Such is the case with King of Persia, the second full-length album by symphonic power metal Symphonity. If anything, this album is a special kind of frustrating, because on paper it seems like it should be one of my top 10 albums of the year, but while it certainly shows signs of reaching that level, it doesn’t quite get there, due to reasons I’ll mention below.

Symphonity made their debut in 2008 with Voice From the Silence, a pretty nice album that fell on the more melodic side of the genre, and it featured moments of brilliance as well a very strong vocal performance from Olaf Hayer, who I’ve always been a fan of, especially during his time with Swedish band Dionysus. For unknown reasons, Olaf hadn’t been heard on an album since Magic Kingdom’s third album Symphony of War, released in 2010, so knowing he was back in the game was enough reason for me to be very excited for King of Persia. My excitement only grew more when I heard that the band had recruited Sinbreed vocalist Herbie Langhans to be a co-lead vocalist on the album, which is why I had such incredibly high expectations. Well, long story short, about half of the tracks are truly magical as I was hoping for, but the rest of the album leaves something to be desired, and unfortunately there is a predictable pattern that explains why some songs are better than the rest, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Musically, Symphonity tends to lean more towards the power metal side of their genre, with the symphonic elements mostly being secondary and more in the background, outside of the title track. There’s some much heavier riffing on this album at times compared to on their debut, and there’s also slight progressive leaning at times. For the most part, though, this is definitely still on the more melodic side of the genre, with a ton of soaring choruses and memorable vocal sections, and even the guitar work is still very melodic at times. This is quite the varied album, with a nice mix between faster and slower tracks, and there’s a pattern as well where Herbie tends to sing the most explosive tracks, while Olaf tends to only take lead on the more laid back tracks. This makes sense, as Herbie has a very powerful voice that’s well suited to faster, harder hitting songs, though Olaf has excelled at singing power metal in the past, and Herbie has shown himself to be capable of singing ballads before, so there’s already some mixed feelings there.

Moving on to the songwriting, we have the title track and then we have the rest of the album. By that, I mean that the title track is one mammoth of an epic where it feels like the band threw in everything they had to create the most epic song possible, and it truly is the highlight of the album and one of my favorite songs of the year. It opens with some atmospheric keys before giving us a brief preview of the heavy riffing that appears later on, immediately reminding me a bit of Symphony X with how the guitar sounds and the track definitely have some strong progressive leanings throughout. Verses are mostly slow and Olaf does a nice job with his more theatrical approach, but things really pick up once we get a first taste of the chorus, where guest vocalist Jana Hrochová provides some excellent mezzo-soprano vocals to go along with Olaf, and this makes for an amazing effect. The track also has some excellent instrumental sections where the guitars and orchestra take over, but it’s the speedy version of the chorus that appears later on where the track really reaches takes off, and while Olaf is the lead singer for most of the track, Herbie shows up later on and really steals the show with his powerful voice.

Speaking of which, the tracks where Herbie takes lead are without a doubt my favorites on the album. The first of these is “The Choice”, a speedy track where the guitars again have a bit of edge, though it’s certainly not as heavy or as complex as the title track. Instead, it’s a more straight-forward power metal track with an outstanding chorus, where Herbie’s vocals are the clear highlight. While he sounds as powerful as ever on this album, he also shows an ability to tone it down just enough to let the melodies shine through, and this is especially noticeable on more melodic mid-paced tracks like “Live to the Tale” and “Flying”, with the latter having a huge vocal section towards the end where Herbie provides the most powerful moment of the entire album and probably the best vocals I’ve ever heard from him. On the faster side of things, “Unwelcome” and “Children of the Light” are both instant winners, with the latter especially having yet another outstanding chorus, though it also has some extended instrumental work and there’s a slight neoclassical feel to the track. All in all, that track is definitely one of my favorites on the album. On the whole, I have to say this album may be the best performance I’ve heard from Herbie, and so at least on that front, the album delivered big time.

It’s been all positive so far, and things continue to look promising with “In the Name of God”, the first track where Olaf sings by himself. His more dramatic vocal style works very well during the mid-paced verses, and he does a great job of getting the lyrics through, while the chorus is great and overall it’s a very melodic track with some excellent guitar work. Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about the track is that it doesn’t quite have the same spark the tracks with Herbie have. After that, though, things go a bit downhill as “A Farewell Meant to Be” is the first ballad and while Olaf sounds decent on the chorus and the guitar solo in the second half is amazing and helps save the track, the verses are not so pretty, to say the least. This is the first case where we hear Olaf struggling a little bit, as his voice seems much lower than it did in the past and he’s clearly struggling to hit some of the notes here during the verses, his dramatic approach not quite working the way it should be, so as much as I’ve liked him in the past, it pains me to say he’s clearly the weakest link in the band at this point. Likewise, his performance on “Siren Call” is downright embarrassing at points, where his voice just clearly isn’t there anymore. I hate to say it, but I would have much preferred the album if those two tracks were either removed completely or if Herbie had sung them.

So in the end, Olaf Hayer’s big return ends up being a bit of a disappointment, though at the same time with how good he sounds on the title track, it really leaves me with mixed feelings on where Symphonity should go, as he still shows signs being great. That little bit of negativity aside, though, King of Persia is still a quality symphonic power metal album I could easily recommend to fans of the genre, and fans of Sinbreed who would like to hear more from Herbie Langhans have a lot to enjoy here, so it’s still a satisfying album overall, even if it feels like it could have and should have been even better.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/12/03/symphonity-king-of-persia-review/

METALLICA Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.46 | 13 ratings
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At this point, it's a long wait for when a new Metallica album comes around. While I'm in the minority of enjoying every Metallica album to a certain extent (not counting Lulu), with the release of the three singles, people were excited for this Metallica album. When the album was finally released, it has seemed to have caused a split among fans. Many people were underwhelmed and found it disappointing, and many people loved it and found it to be Metallica's best album in a long while.

I belong to the latter group, I think this is the band's best album since Load, if not Master of Puppets. As I'm one who loves Load, probably my third favorite Metallica album, that's nothing to be understated. Hardwired...to Self Destruct brings together the best parts of both the thrash side and straight up heavy metal side of the band. Being a double album, this half-and-half sound works out (almost) perfectly. Disc one is pretty much a straight thrash metal assault, starting with the rampaging title cut that opens up the album. Switch the modern production values with an 80's sound, and this sounds ripped straight from one of the band's classic albums. "Atlas Rise" and "Moth Into Flame", the other two singles, are of the same caliber. While they don't sound straight out of the classics, they are indeed pure Metallica thrash.

Now those singles are all killer, but this album has a lot more to offer. "Dream No More" may very well be my favorite, with an infectiously catchy main hook. This one's more reminiscent of the band's crunchier songs like "The Thing That Should Not Be", which is interestingly my favorite from Master of Puppets. Disc two lands more on the groovy Black Album/Load-esque heavy metal sound, with the winner from those being "Am I Savage?". You know, this may even beat Load even though it's of similar style. I find it impossible to not bang my head to the groovy swagger of the main riff, and the main chorus is great. "Spit Out the Bone" is the one exception of the general sound on disc two. This song is all-out thrash, showing the most relentless aggression from the band in a long while while retaining amazing melodies.

All the members of the band are all in complete top form. Hetfield gives absolutely amazing vocal performances, killer riffing from both Hammett and Hetfield, great drumming from Ulrich, and you can actually hear Trujillo's awesome rumbling basslines. You can especially hear the latter in "Am I Savage?". It all really comes together during the chorus of "Dream No More", with the absolutely punishing riffs fronted with Hetfield's gargantuan vocals.

All the songs are great in my book, but the songs I mentioned are certainly all the highlights. I think this is easily up there with the band's best albums, although I think it would have been nice if they released the two discs as separate albums. If they did do that though, "Halo on Fire" and "Spit Out the Bone" would have to be switched around. "Spit Out the Bone", while overall it would fit better on the first disc, works as a perfect finale to the album as it is. If you're a fan of Metallica, and not just the 80's classics, check this killer album out. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

METALLICA Hardwired... to Self-Destruct

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.46 | 13 ratings
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If you don't count the poorly received collaboration album with Lou Reed, Lulu (2011), and I'm sure that most of us would rather forget that album, then Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (2016) marks Metallica's comeback after eight years since an album, that being Death Magnetic (2008). Counting Lulu and covers album Garage Inc. (1998), Hardwired... to Self-Destruct is the band's twelfth album. It's been presented as a double album (with special editions also including a third bonus disc), however the use of two discs here, much like Helloween and their album Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy (2005), isn't actually necessary as the material would just about fit on one disc. It would have gone over had they elected to include Lords of Summer (which has been re-recorded since the so called first pass version from 2014) as part of the main album and not a bonus track and the fact that they decided to do that seems a bit like a kick in the teeth, like they're trying to force purchases of the three disc album just so fans can get all the new material. Really, with Lords of Summer, a few cover tracks and some live recordings, this should be a double CD album at most.

I'm in the group that doesn't think that Metallica has released anything original that is really worthwhile since the early nineties. I like Garage Inc. but it's all covers. Death Magnetic is solid enough, but it doesn't have many tracks that have really stuck with me since it was released. That album definitely was a case of tracks needing some trimming down to be more effective, most being around the six to eight minute mark. The same is still true on some of Hardwired... to Self-Destruct's offerings but there are also examples of more concise song-writing like Hardwired (3:09) and Moth Into Flame (5:50) and better usage of mid-length durations, like Atlas, Rise! (6:28). Those three tracks, also known as the album's trio of pre-release singles, are about as good as Hardwired... to Self-Destruct gets. Hardwired is a full on thrasher while the other two blend thrash with strong traditional metal elements that have been more Metallica's thing since Metallica (1991), A.K.A. The Black Album. After these singles dropped, I had some real high hopes for Hardwired... to Self-Destruct to be a really great album from Metallica, the like of which we haven't got from them since the aforementioned Black Album. They were delivering thrash metal with a great energy and James Hetfield was laying down his best vocals in years, so there was even some hope in me that this one would surpass the Black Album and sit comfortably with their thrash metal albums, or at least close to them.

Unfortunately with the exception of the closing Spit Out the Bone, which is another thrasher, the band seem to lose a lot of their steam elsewhere on the album, delivering slower, more heavy metal based tracks. There's nothing inherently wrong with Metallica when they play heavy metal but when they deliver an album like Hardwired... to Self-Destruct where the thrash metal (and even the thrash/heavy metal cross-breeds) kick so much arse, the result is actually a disjointed release. One that even has a couple of really weak tracks in the form of ManUNkind and Murder One. The latter is supposed to be a tribute to the late Motörhead frontman Lemmy, so it's unfortunate that it's one of the weaker cuts here. Another track that doesn't really do much for me is Am I Savage? Which sounds a little too much like Metallica is trying their hardest to have something of their own that kinda sounds like their beloved Diamond Head's Am I Evil? At least with the title. In fact, the second disc of the album in general is a lot weaker than the first. Lords of Summer is also a thrash metal song but as I said earlier Metallica decided to make it a bonus track on the album, so not all versions have it. Which is a shame, as it's actually a lot better than a few of these tracks that made the cut for the actual album.

My impression of Hardwired... to Self-Destruct is that it's an okay heavy metal album that should have been a great thrash metal album. Ironically it's still the best album that they've done since the Black Album, being a very small improvement on Death Magnetic and leagues ahead of Lulu or the just as hated St. Anger (2003). I'd also take it over Load (1996) and ReLoad (1997) any day. But it's just too inconsistent in quality and even style to ever be considered as more than passable.

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BUCKETHEAD Pike 98 - Pilot

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 98 - PILOT 57th album out of 60 in 2014 and 127th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:14 and has nine tracks All tracks are titled “Pilot”

“Pilot 1” (2:51) begins with a startling electronic buzz followed by funk guitar and then funk bass. The time sigs change it up and it sounds like a 70s p-funk track trying to battle it out with Kraftwerk or something. While the guitar and bass do their funk thang, electronic whizzing and hyperactive drums come into the picture as do strange freaky sounds. The bass changes it up often with different types of funk lines and the guitar and other accoutrements follow suit. The track continues to change things up often in the most avant-garde of ways. Really freaky but mostly funky!

“Pilot 2” (2:59) continues without missing a beat and begins with a water drip and more industrial noises that irregularly march forth with off-kilter time sigs and then a freaky electro-funk synth turns into terrifying and horrific weird noises over an industrial drone sound. Enter the funk once again with dissonant trebly tones and then more weirdness. Random and jarring that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ministry album

“Pilot 3” (3:25) more synth funk for ya with slightly off guitar parts but quickly becomes spooky ambient down tempo with industrial sounds coming at ya randomly but they vanish and are replaced by funky bass and cheesy drum machine. Then they disappear and it becomes spooky ambience again. A subdued guitar joins in with a monotonous strum and then a brash turntable type of scratchy groove. This one is just plain wwweeeiiiiiirrrddd!!!

“Pilot 4” (3:21) begins with a demented piano, keyboards, strange noises that create strange rhythms. Very avant-garde but turns to a more funk style for a while and then a freaky ambient meets tortured guitar part. Picks up a bouncy freaky groove only in full weird zone and then the groove breaks down into proggy time sig frenzy while the bass tries to be funky. It keeps going changing things up often and in a million directions. More wild and totally unpredictable stuff

“Pilot 5” (5:06) has a very strange background while a clean guitar delivers a somewhat normal soft melody and then totally displaced by a funky bass and drums. After the funk struts its stuff for a while it becomes a weird church bell type of ambience briefly and then starts another weird guitar meets industrial synth and changes up dynamics as well as time sig breakdowns occurring. Once again. This one is all over the friggin’ map and only gets weirder and wilder creating sounds that i can’t even describe really

“Pilot 6” (3:42) at this point there’s really no meaningful use for tracks. It is imperceptible as to which track is which and ideas whiz by so quickly that no song structures exist at all although the snippets of ideas are based in a general musical genre but some things are just so experimental that their is no vernacular capable of capturing their weirdness. Funk still alternates with industrial and whatever the whim of the chicken lover has in store

“Pilot 7” (3:07) actually bursts into something new. No, it’s still weird and wild but it has dissonant guitar chords with dystopian ambient synthesizers that sound like possessed church organs. It continues changing things up often in totally unforeseen directions and continues to ratchet up the mayhem by making everything ever more alienating and jarring to the ears. Even the guitars and bass are totally in their own world only to join in together briefly in horrifying ways and then back to total musical breakdowns

“Pilot 8” (2:00) is different in that it is soft with a normal clean guitar line and freaky hyper electronica in the background. It also has a sort of funk meets industrial thing going on but changes things up often and steers the instruments in disparate directions

“Pilot 9” (2:43) is exclusively a freaky ambience track that feels more like early Klaus Schulze but a clean guitar finds its way into the lost soul department and creates a detached echoey contribution to the swirling sounds around it. A violin sound joins in and then all ends

Wow! This album is a true trip. It is one of the most wild and unexpected pieces of free style experimental rock there is to be heard. BH has done a few of these and this one is truly one for the most uninhibited musical listeners who love those rides at the amusement park that move in multiple directions while on a roller coaster. You have to be quick to stay on this BH ride or you might lose you lunch and ruin your freshly cleaned clothing. Weird for weird’s sake. Wild for wild’s most unimaginable journey. This is truly one of the most bizarre slices of avant-garde music ever. No metal on this ride but lots of funk, ambience and even the kitchen sink!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 97 - Passageways

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 97 - PASSAGEWAYS 56th album out of 60 in 2014 and 126th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:05 and has five tracks All tracks are titled “Passageway”

“Passageway 1” (5:24) starts out with a slow dreamy ambience and a clean guitar plucking notes slowly. Bass only joins in reluctantly after the minute mark and no percussion to be heard. A nice dreamy melody slowly unwinds. What? This is one of those super slow and sappy PIKEs. But wait. I’m actually liking this one. The melody is soft and sensual as are the synth and guitar tones. It has sort of an epic soundtrack quality to the whole thing and it isn’t ruined by out of place sounding phony drumbeats

“Passageway 2” (2:51) continues unperceptibly with the same background ambience only the guitar ratchets up the intensity a bit and a drum joins in for the uptick in speed but then drops out as it slows down and a lead guitar begins a somewhat Floydian meets Celtic Folk type of mix. Cymbals take over as percussion and all remains soft, sensual and dreamy with an addictive melody whisking my attention away. Full percussion joins in but it is done in a complementary way and works quite well. Love this

“Passageway 3” (6:50) also begins imperceptibly but changes it up with a new clean guitar line with background ambience and shortly picks up speed a little with cymbal action and bass but not too much faster, just slightly. A second guitar joins in and the two parts complement each other well as does a symphonic type of synth part. It picks up speed as the different instruments branch out their melodic parts creating a more harmonic experience. This one might go on a bit too long but it’s a rather pleasant blend of melodic developments with varying dynamics

“Passageway 4” (3:44) also begins simply by extending the previous track’s flow and then changes it up slightly to technically create a new track. This one is exactly the same in that consists of background ambience, a clean melodic guitar and then picks it up slightly to include a bass and drum. The guitar becomes more bluesy and has that semi-Floydian type of feel without hinting of any direct influence.

“Passageway 5” (10:14) also picks up right where the previous left off only whilst maintaining the guitar line, it picks up a little speed and the drums and bass are a little more pronounced and then becomes heavier than it has been the entire run of the album including electric guitar riffs as well as the solo which picks up a little distortion as well. The bass becomes more accentuated and the percussion is in the legit rock format now. The track continues the basic riff and goes on several more minutes. This is about the time the track starts becoming less interesting but just when i’m ready to give up, the guitar picks up intensity and everything else ratchets up accordingly. It

“Passageways” is the way to make one of this mellow albums good. It successfully ratchets up from a soft, sensual and ambient passage to a full fledged rock workout towards the end with each subsequent track ratcheting up the intensity a little bit more. The melodies are more pleasant than other similar PIKEs and despite this being my least favorite type of style in the PIKE series, this one works perfectly as every element is thoughtfully juxtaposed to the other and the net effect is a very pleasant listening experience. Yay!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 96 - Yarn

Album · 2014 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 96 - Yarn 55th album out of 60 in 2014 and 125th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 30:15 and has three tracks “H.V.” (6:29) immediately bursts into grungy heavy alternative style metal with down-tuned guitar and beefy bass with jittery drum patterns. An energetic guitar solo comes soon after and then it slows down a bit and subdues heaviness. The melody is often supplanted by a riff stomp effect that just keeps the beat and is often not even realized until the solos come in play. Solos are usually short and trebly guitar riffs also trade off with the bass side of the equation. The groove is a tad monotonous but hypnotizing and the treble aspects are what keep it from going on too long. Not bad. Nice rhythmic grooves with touches of melodic embellishments are key points. Well constructed and heavy as bleep with some electronica surprises towards the end along with some stellar guitar performances

“Spindle 1” (13:23) begins totally different with a synthesizer creeping in slowly and turning into ambient tones sustaining and then dropping out only to be replaced by a totally heavy metal guitar riff with some electronic effects and processed vocals screams or something. The rhythms are irregular and offer some proggy time sig gymnastics. When the metal totally drops out it exposes the weird ambient electronic atmosphere that exists in the background noise. The track basically contains dreamy types of ambience that become drowned out by intermittent metal outbursts that also include some hyperactive electronic contributions. Once again the guitar performances are top notch. This one also has periods of a bouncy monotonous grooving that last a short duration and then become replaced by the opening riff or some strange avant-garde guitar displays. This one is pretty cool as well. Lots of interesting twists and turns while maintaining accessible riffs and melodies. It doesn’t even outstay its welcome because it changes things up enough and has enough recurring elements to give it some sort of continuity at least for BUCKETHEAD. The guitar shredding towards the end is dizzying

“Spindle 2” (10:23) starts with jittery heavy guitar that dances around strangely and then breaks into an energetic solo. The bass is steady as are the drums but the guitar is just plain freaked out like a spooked horse galloping through a parking lot of hissing locusts. Not as melodic as previous track. More frenetic and really frantic. The guitar shredding is just as off the hook and begins much sooner. The frenetic shredding is sometimes suppressed by an electronic industrial type of section but always comes back more feisty than ever with unbelievable finger workouts, wild off-kilter proggy time sigs and more than a taste for the avant-garde. The track keeps chugging along at full speed until the end and my fingers hurt just listening to this one. Whew!

This one i like a lot! Heavy as hell. Feisty and defiant. It’s BUCKETHEAD at his most metal magic and even the lengthy tracks don’t get old. There is a lot of interesting unexpected surprises and enough recurrence of themes to keep the listener from becoming alienated. Enough progginess to please the headier crowds and enough straight rhythmic drive to bang yer head most of the time. Another decent PIKE

DETEST DeathBreed

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"DeathBreed" is a demo cassette tape by Danish death metal act Detest. The demo was self-released in October 1992 and is the band´s first release. Detest were founded in 1991, but quickly became one of the most prolific Danish death metal acts of the early 90s. "DeathBreed" is to my knowledge still one of the best selling Danish extreme metal demo tapes. Expectations were therefore high to their debut full-length studio album "Dorval", which was released in 1994 through the Progress Red Label, but somehow "Dorval" failed to provide the band with the same high profile success as "DeathBreed" did, and after releasing a promo tape in 1995, they disbanded in 1996. Maybe times had changed (in 1994 death metal was already in decline), or maybe the quality of "Dorval" simply didn´t live up to the high expectations that the fans had after listening to "DeathBreed". Having listened to both releases back when they came out and again today, I lean towards the latter explanation. "DeathBreed" is simply a better quality release than "Dorval".

It´s not often you´ll come across demos that are better than the succeeding studio album, but "DeathBreed" is one of those few exceptions to the rule. The music on the 4 track demo is old school death metal. It´s not highly original but it doesn´t belong to any particular death metal school either (old school Swedish death metal, Florida scene, New York scene...etc.). It´s brutal, it´s catchy, it´s heavy (and mostly mid-paced) and edgy, and it´s generally very well played. Considering the fact that these guys had at this point only played together for little over a year, they were already pretty skilled and tight playing. Lead vocalist P. Jørgensen delivers a convincing deep growling performance and occasionally visits more aggressive snarling vocal territory too, which is great for the variation in the vocal department.

So both the songwriting and the delivery of the music are satisfactory, but it´s the professional, raw, and powerful sound production that puts the icing on the cake. Because of the strong sound production "DeathBreed" could easily have been released as an EP instead of a demo, and overall it´s just a high quality demo in every way possible. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is well deserved and might even be a bit too low.

DARK ANGEL Leave Scars

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.30 | 9 ratings
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"Leave Scars" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Dark Angel. The album was released in January 1989 through Combat Records in the US and through Under One Flag in Europe. There have been two lineup changes since the recording sessions for "Darkness Descends (1986)" as bassist Rob Yahn has been replaced by Mike Gonzalez (the change happened immediately after the recording sessions for "Darkness Descends (1986)") and potentially a bit more disturbing lead vocalist Don Doty has been replaced by Ron Rinehart.

The latter mentioned does a great job here though, performing his vocal parts with both passion and conviction. He is a raw sounding vocalist and his voice isn´t miles away from Don Doty´s voice. Stylistically the music on "Leave Scars" more or less continues the raw and generally fast-paced thrash metal style of it´s predecessor. In the 3 years between the two albums, Dark Angel have become a bit more compositionally sophisticated though. The lyrics have more depth (mostly written by drummer Gene Hoglan), than on the predecessor and the tracks are generally longer (5 out of 9 tracks are longer than 7 minutes in length) and feature more different riff sections, more guitar solos, and are structurally more complex.

In a lot of positive ways "Leave Scars" is the natural successor to "Darkness Descends (1986)", but not everything are pure bliss on "Leave Scars". First of all the sound production lacks power. The guitars are too low in the mix and the drums often drown in the mix when they play faster parts. The bass drums also have a thumb sound to them that doesn´t bring much power to the music. It´s too bad because it´s obvious that "Leave Scars" features about a million powerful, fast-paced, and edgy thrash metal riffs and some really great drumming by Gene Hoglan, that deserve better. Fortunately the voice production is decent. Another issue is that while the riffs on the album are generally of high quality and nicely aggressive too, some of the tracks feel too long and tedious as a consequence of them featuring too many sections. Especially the 7:20 minutes long instrumental "Cauterization" is a bit of a snore fest. Although pretty short, Dark Angel´s take on the Led Zeppelin classic "Immigrant Song" is also a bit of a showstopper as it doesn´t work well for the overall flow of the album and isolated seen it´s just not a very good cover version.

On the positive side tracks like the opening trio "The Death of Innocence", "Never to Rise Again", and "No One Answers" are aggressive thrash metal tunes delivered with fierce conviction, that fully showcase what Dark Angel were capable of in those years. To be honest I´m a bit biased towards "Leave Scars", because on one hand it´s an album full of the metal virtues I love like fast-paced thrash metal riffing, technical/powerful drumming, and aggressive vocals, but on the other hand it has a tendency to occasionally become a bit overblown and tedious and the muddy sound production doesn´t exactly do the music any favours either. So as much as I would like to rate "Leave Scars" higher, I can´t give more than a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 95 - Northern Lights

Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 95 - Northern Lights 54th album out of 60 in 2014 and 124th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 28:42 and has two equally long tracks

NORTHERN LIGHTS (14:20) - begins super slow, super mellow with two clean guitars and then breaks into heavier rock that includes bass and drums. It then slows down a tad and does a little riff dance and echo reverbs. A nice melody builds but is one of those repetitive chord progression types. The echoplex is quite nice and the instrumentation is well balanced. The basic melody stays intact but slight variations over it spring forth and it continues in the same general mode for a while and then picks up steam allowing a bluesy yet quickened guitar solo to erupt around the five minute mark. The chord progression loop begins to wear thin about this point even as the guitar soloing relentless charges on and only gains intensity. Unfortunately a boring endless riff with impressive guitar soloing isn’t very interesting. Meh. Oh wait. About 12 minutes in it stops and goes back to the original riffs from the beginning but still the same exact melody and minimal chord progressions only slowed down. Double meh

FLARE (14:22) - begins with a similar tempo and a distorted guitar riff before breaking into a bizarre echo reverb frenzy. It alternates with an alternate metal type of riffing and then they trade off again. This basically goes on and on like track one with a recurring chord progression that eventually bursts into a heavy metal loop with bluesy guitar soloing. While it starts out with some somewhat interesting alternating elements by the middle it is like a record skipping. Ugh. By the 22 minute mark of this PIKE i’m so ready for it to be over. Even as background music this is so irritating. I just find this so boring. Usually this type of PIKE is reserved for those mellow endless bore-a-thons so it has now been proven that heavy metal loops of non-interest exist in these here slunk stacks. Guitar work is impressive. Song structures are less than so

RUSH Signals

Album · 1982 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.76 | 33 ratings
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Signals is the ninth studio album from hard rock band Rush. With the success of the groundbreaking Moving Pictures, Rush continued with extending their use of synth on the albums that were to follow. Signals, the first of these four "synth -period" albums, shares some similarities with it's predecessor; however it really "signals" in yet another new era for the band. Now the synth was immensely overused in 80's rock in my opinion, however, some bands used it quite well. Rush was one definitely of these bands.

Opening up with the popular single "Subdivisions", you immediately get an idea of the sound for the album. The album has an overall melancholy synth-rock sound, with the band's otherwise core hard rock sound taking a back-seat. That doesn't effect the quality of the music here much though, as this is still a great rock album. The aforementioned track is certainly great and among the highlights, as is the other popular single "New World Man". It's easy to see why the latter was picked as a single, it's infectiously catchy and reminds me a bit of The Police.

However great those songs are, some of the best tracks on the album come from the deeper cuts. These tracks are "Chemistry", "The Weapon", and "Countdown". "Chemistry" has a very grandiose sound mixed with some hard rocking riffs, "The Weapon" is a stomping track with the synth creating a really cool brooding atmosphere, and "Countdown" is simply a fantastic finale. Unfortunately for these three awesome songs, there are three pretty weak songs. "The Analog Kid" is decent, "Digital Man" drags on for too long, and the ballad "Losing It" just doesn't work and has some pretty annoying electric violin noodling that borders on avant-garde.

While not quite up to par with it's predecessor and preceding albums, Signals is still a great album in it's own right. I recommend it to fans of Moving Pictures, and I could also see New Wave fans enjoying it as well. One of the stronger albums of the band's synth-era. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 94 - Magic Lantern

Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 94 - Magic Lantern 53rd album out of 60 in 2014 and 123rd overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:24

“Magic Lantern” (6:29) starts with a feisty heavily distorted guitar riff chuggin’ along a rushed paced without being frantic. It picks up its alternative metal groove and becomes a little bouncy and then alternates with some distorted arpeggio riffs. The drums and bass are right on the rhythmic bounce with the guitar but they soon relax and let the guitar do some finger exercises that aren’t quite solos but more akin to some kind of bluegrass picking. It basically jumps around leading back to bouncy part and finger pickin’ with some other alternate performance thrown in while keeping the same melodic skeletal system throughout

“Cheese Roof” (4:05) starts out mid temp with grungy guitar riffs and heavy bass and drums. It alternates heavier and lighter passages but when heavy has a loud abrasive single chord stomp that then turns into one of those finger pickin’ extravaganzas for a while. It changes back into the ratchet it up riff with the drums getting faster and faster. The finger pickin’ parts have a catchy melody and are played extremely fast and proficiently. Pretty cool track

“First Corridor” (9:59) is another bouncy distorted number with staccato start up and is fairly energetic. While fairly accessible has some little off-kilter time sig changes and then slightly shifts to another mode of operand. This one continues for some time in bouncy mode and even the changes have the same underlying rhythm. As it continues it incorporates cool guitar slides and electronic noises and has somewhat jazzy chord structures and also has a flair of funk in its mix. This one is pretty cool actually. Everything is set up well and flows logically yet surprises are abundant. As it progresses through its near ten minute run it continues to change things up by throwing solos, jazzy guitar breakdowns all the while alternating with the ubiquitous chord stomp and even manages to throw a country twang feel in from time to time. Very cool track that juggles many elements and strings them together quite remarkably

“Wind From Where” (3:44) picks up steam a bit and creates a frantic pace with a similar stomping type chord structure but has a more free flow to it for a while and then kind of derails into strange off-kilter time sigs and then picks itself up and becomes sort of normal. This one is very weird. It’s like when you get up from a deep sleep and try to have a conversation. You know you’re hearing yourself speak but still halfway in a dream state. This one distorts everything just enough every so often to throw the listener off. Still quite heavy rockin’ even at its mellowest. Ends with a funky bass attack

“Land Of The Lanterns” (5:07) is quite the contrast as it begins with slow, dreamy, clean guitar tones. The bass and drum tag along like lazy sleepy-eyed tots arising after a sugar induced slumber. This is slow and breezy. No more in a hurry. Take it easy. The melody never really develops into anything OMG but it’s pleasant enough. Nice effects and a little more interesting than the average PIKE that has thirty minutes of this stuff. Tagged onto the end, it’s in a tolerable dose but not the most original of tracks.

I love this PIKE except the last track. It is quite the creative expression of experimental, progressive instrumental rock and metal. It is quite unique in BH’s canon as well and i’m not sure how to explain it. It’s one of those slightly off-kilter releases where everything seems like it was recorded on a different reality plane and doesn’t quite resonate the same in this dimension, hence the “Magic Lantern” effect. The first four tracks are keepers

POSSESSED Seven Churches

Album · 1985 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.31 | 15 ratings
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Back in the mists of time, in the 80’s, I had my first introduction to extreme metal with the thrash metal movement and quickly became a big fan of many bands of the genre my favourites being Slayer, Metallica, Megadeth, Celtic Frost and Exodus. At the time the true significance of Possessed never really hit home with me and I thought of them as simply another thrash metal band, albeit one at the more extreme end of the genre. Inspired by Venom and Exodus in particular, in retrospect it was clear that if any band had a claim on being the first death metal band then they could be it. Their first demo had even been called death metal!

Seven Churches is their debut album and with song titles like The Exorcist, Pentagram and Burning In Hell their image was more Satanic than most bands around at the time. The music still stands strong today with great playing, especially in the guitar department and is complex, relentlessly fast, brutal and incredibly heavy aided by a thick organic production. The riffs ooze evil and does vocalist Jeff Becerra’s high end growl which sits between what would later come to regarded as the standard for death growls and black metal ‘s harsher rasp. Best of all the quality of the material barely dips.

The band clearly had a big influence on the death metal genre when it kicked in fully as can be heard in the likes of Death, Morbid Angel and Deicide. Even if that were the only reason Seven Churches deserves its place in history. The fact that it’s also one hell of a great album only adds to its importance.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 93 - Coaster Coat

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 93 - Coaster Coat 52nd album out of 60 in 2014 and 122nd overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 32:46 One of two PIKEs that spells BUCKETHEADLAND in Japanese katakana on the cover

“Coaster Coat” (12:43) starts out with a steady beat and beefy bass with a space rock guitar riff in a mid tempo march and develops an easily digestible melody right off the bat. The guitars remain clean with a warm tone and it evolves into a more subdued section before picking up steam again but it never really heats up past simmer. While Pink Floyd is the usually suspect for space rock influence, this one doesn’t sound anything like them although it does have the same general feel. Close to the four minute mark the tempo picks up a bit and a guitar solo wails away. It is rather bluesy and gains intensity with the help of some electronic effects but after it runs out of gas it gets calm and placid again. The melody always remains in the same mode and this doesn’t jump around randomly like the previous PIKE did. As it continues it basically trades off more rockin’ passages with slow breakdowns. The upbeat segments include guitar soloing over the riffs. This one is a fairly decent example of BH creating a highly accessible meandering but melodic track. It goes on a bit too long but has some nice moments, especially some of the guitar work towards the end

“Flying Cat” (9:00) begins totally differently with a funky bass and heavy drumbeat mixing with slap happy guitar funk. After a fairly straight forward intro it does some time sig tricks. It then returns to the funk rock and then has a staccato guitar attack before bringing in da funky part once again. It continues with slight variations of the general theme and alternates the familiar for a few measures with something improvised off it for an undetermined amount of time. A fairly straight forward but fun track

“Coastline” (11:03) is once again different than the others. This one begins with clean dreamy guitar parts without percussion or bass. It develops a very strong and spacey melody and does bring some Pink Floyd to mind and also has some cool slide guitar. In addition to the two guitar parts (one rhythm, one lead) there is plenty of background ambience to give the whole thing a airy ethereal feel. Usually i don’t like these tracks because there is cheesy percussion that ruins it but i’m liking this one. The lead guitar parts become more bluesy and Floydian as the track progresses. This one remains in dream state and simply focuses on a recurring melodic loop that slithers along at a snail’s pace. It’s very soothing

This is a cool PIKE that focuses strictly on melody rather than the bizarre and avant-garde. While i prefer the latter, this one is a very nice accessible slice of BUCKETHEADLAND. Perhaps not the most original release and could use a little more coal in the fire but a very pleasant listen

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