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DEATHINITION Online

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Online" is the debut full-length studio album by Polish thrash metal act Deathinition. The album was independently released in January 2017. Deathinition was founded in 2008 and have released a couple of minor releases in the years between being formed and releasing "Online".

Stylistically the material on the the 9 track, 40:33 minutes long album is thrash metal, predominantly US influenced. Especially Testament sound like they´ve been a major influence on Deathinition and more than one time lead vocalist Adam Langowski sound quite similar to Chuck Billy. I wouldn´t call Deathinition a clone act, but they do wear their influences on their sleeve. The major difference here from their US influences is that the lyrics are in Polish, which in this case proves to be a pretty great language on a thrash metal album.

The quality of the material is relatively high throughout although the tracks seldom reach excellent territory. It´s a solid release though featuring high quality musicianship, a well sounding powerful production job, and upon conclusion it´s definitely worth a listen, if you appreciate contemporary thrash metal influnced by the the late 80s US West Coast scene. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is warranted.

FLESHKILLER Awaken

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Nightfly
Awaken is the debut album from Norwegian extreme metal band Fleshkiller. New band yes, but not lacking experience as it features guitarist/vocalist Ole Børud of Extol fame and previously Schaliach. Also present is guitarist/vocalist Elisha Mullins who’s also a member of The Burial and ex- A Hill To Die Upon, bassist Ole Vistnes from Tristania, ex- Zerozonic and drummer Andreas Skorpe Sjøen.

Of the past bands these guys have played with above the only one I have any experience of is Extol and Fleshkiller don’t sound too dissimilar playing a blend of prog metal injected with more extreme elements, in this case melodic death metal with a touch of thrash thrown in. It sounds generally heavier and more complex than later day Extol to my ears though I know their earlier work less, at times reminding of technical death thrashers Revocation with added melody. The vocal harmonies are still in place and if anything have an even more melodic edge and integral to the sound alongside the harsher more extreme vocal work. Musically it’s pretty complex stuff with each song rarely sitting still for too long before throwing in another complex series of shapes, licks and intricate riffs. These songs are full of strong hooks with inventive progressions that often go off in unexpected directions. In fact it’s a strong emphasis on melody that really help mark these songs as something special and not just a vehicle for displaying exceptional musical chops. The guitar solos have an equally melodic edge too.

Not surprisingly, these guys play really well – a pre-requisite for this sort of complex material. I’ve already mentioned the vocal harmonies but it’s worth emphasising their importance to the overall sound and certainly makes them stand out in extreme metal circles. Like Extol the songs have a Christian leaning. I’ve always felt that Christianity and death metal make unlikely bedfellows but then again why not and it doesn’t come across as incongruous. The production is powerful and with everyone cutting through clearly in the mix displaying the intricacies of the songs effectively. Not a single moment is wasted with every song earning its place making it compelling listening from start to finish, but it doesn’t get any better than the first two tracks, Parallel Kingdom and Salt Of The Earth being perhaps my pick of the bunch for the interplay between vocal melodies and inventive guitar hooks.

2017 has been a great year for death metal and Awaken can now be added to the list of best albums for this year, it really is that good. It also comes recommended to Prog metal fans who don’t normally venture into extreme metal territory who may also find much to enjoy.

AMBERIAN DAWN Darkness of Eternity

Album · 2017 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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DippoMagoo
Finnish symphonic power metal band Amberian Dawn has long been one of my favorites in the genre, but at the same time, I’ve always felt they had potential to be even better than they are if they could just be a bit more consistent with their songwriting quality. They’ve released some excellent albums in the past, to be sure, with 2009’s The Clouds of Northland Thunder, 2011’s Circus Black and 2015’s Innuendo being my personal favorites. However, I find even their best albums always manage to fit in one or two tracks that don’t quite do it for me, as the band often goes for some oddball tracks, some of which deliver big time and end up as major highlights, while others fall flat and end up stalling momentum on their respective albums. I’ve said all this to say, out of every album Amberian Dawn has released so far, Darkness of Eternity, their seventh full-length release, and one I was highly anticipating, is easily their most frustrating, inconsistent release to date, with some tracks that match their career highlights, while others simply feel odd and out of place on a metal album, and it all makes for a release where you can have songs placed together that conflict with each other and are so strikingly different, it feels like you suddenly switched to a different album. With all that being said, the high points of the album are good enough to make it easily worth enduring the low points, and it’s still a quality album overall, but it’s also incredibly frustrating.

Every Amberian Dawn album to date has a had a mix of different styles, ranging from speedy symphonic power metal with excellent guitar riffs and epic keyboard solos, to slower, more theatrical tracks, all while mixing in some classical flavoring throughout. All of this is true on Darkness of Eternity, however, while the speedy power metal portions are still intact on a few tracks here, a couple of which can be considered among the band’s best work to date, I find some of the slower songs here to be a bit off-putting and not really in line with what I want from the band. Obviously, they’ve never been the heaviest, most guitar-driven band in the world, as keyboards and orchestras have always been the most dominant elements of their music, however, some of the tracks here fall into straight up 80’s pop territory. Again, this is something they’ve briefly hinted at on past albums, with “The Court of Mirror Hall” from Innuendo being perhaps the most obvious example, but even a track like that felt more metal and more epic than a few of the tracks on this album. Take, for example, the second track, “Sky Is Falling”, a track dominated by bouncy vocal hooks, cheesy, pop-inspired keyboard lines and a catchy, overly pop-infused chorus. There’s absolutely nothing in that track I consider metal in any form, and even the brief flashes of guitar work sound so light as to have no effect, plus I don’t even notice any symphonic elements at all, effectively making the track feel more like a dance-pop track than anything else. I will admit, it’s a decent track in its own right, but I really don’t think it belongs on a metal album, even coming from a band that tends to stay on the lighter side of the genre most of the time. The song especially feels out of place when coming after such a classic sounding power metal track like “I’m the One”, and it’s the first sign that band leader Tuomas Seppälä is perhaps overreaching a bit in his attempts to be creative and ambitious.

Moving onto the biggest positive element of the album, Capri’s vocals remain as strong as they’ve been since she first took over vocal duties on the excellent re-recordings compilation Re-Evolution in 2013. As always, her voice is very powerful and deeper than many other female vocalists in symphonic bands, and she sounds as impressive as ever, be it during the heavier tracks like “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies”, or the lighter, more pop-infused tracks, all while sounding as varied in her approach as ever. In fact, she briefly does some semi-operatic vocals on “I’m the One”, making it an instant highlight. She’s also very effective on the two ballads, as expected, and her vocals are definitely the band’s biggest strength at this point.

Unfortunately, the area where the album struggles the most is in perhaps the most important area of all, that being the songwriting. The band at least gets things off to an exciting start with “I’m the One”, a very speedy, classic sounding symphonic power metal track with some excellent guitar leads, epic symphonic arrangements, a huge, catchy chorus with awesome operatic vocals, and an amazing keyboard solo. For all the flaws in the songwriting department, the band still displays some great musicianship throughout the album and this track is certainly one of the best examples of that. It’s also extremely catchy, while still sounding metal and it would definitely feel right at home on one of the band’s earlier albums. While that song is probably my personal favorite here, “Dragonflies” isn’t too far behind. It has some pretty heavy guitar work throughout, with a darker feel than many of the other tracks, though Capri’s vocals still help add a lighter tone to the track, and she excels throughout as always. It has incredible instrumental sections, with some very chunky guitar riffs and epic orchestras accompanying an excellent keyboard solo, and of course, the chorus is spectacular as well. From a purely instrumental standpoint, I think this is probably the best track on the album, and I love how the guitar manages to have come excellent neoclassical flavoring while still being very heavy. Also in the speedier category, are“Golden Coins” and “Abyss”, with the former again having a very classic Amberian Dawn vibe throughout, with epic keyboards and some very impressive, classical flavored melodies, while the latter is brief but very fun and perhaps the speediest track on the album, with some more excellent keyboard work and vocals.

On the slower side of things, we start with the previously mentioned “Sky is Falling”. I’ve already mentioned why I’m not so fond of it, with the biggest reason being that it really throws off the pacing, being thrown in there right next to such epic speedy tracks as “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies”. Well, I wish I could say it was one-speed bump and that the album fully recovered afterward, but sadly that would be a lie. Two tracks later, we get lead single “Maybe”, another very pop inspired track, with some cheesy keyboards, bouncy vocal lines, a catchy chorus and a general lack of anything resembling metal. Again, I know the band has done tracks like this in the past, but this feels very pop like even by their standards, and while I do slightly notice symphonic elements on this track, they aren’t enough to prevent it from having an “Abba with guitars” feel, and the thing is, if I wanted to hear dance pop, I’d listen to dance pop, not a symphonic power metal album. Even worse, the track feels like it’s cut off at the end, as the keyboard lines simply fade out instead of actually reaching a conclusion. I’ll admit it’s certainly a catchy and well-written track, but it simply isn’t what I want from the band, and that ending does come across as a bit sloppy.

Moving into the second half, there are two ballads and two tracks which feel like a blend between the two dominant styles on the album. Firstly, “Luna My Darling” is a pretty solid track, starting with an epic vocal section before moving onto some bouncy, pop-infused melodies during the verses, which give way to a slightly heavier, more epic chorus. The highlight of the track is in the second half when the music speeds up and we get epic dueling guitar/keyboard solos. See, if I’m going to get obvious pop elements in my symphonic metal, I prefer it to be done in this way, as at least this track has a nice blend of both pop and power metal, and is a nice track overall. Similarly, “Ghostwoman” is a speedy track, which also has a power metal feel to it, though it sounds a lot bouncier than the other up-tempo tracks on the album, especially during the verses, and even the chorus is pretty pop like as well. It’s a fun track, and the chorus is very catchy, though not really one of my favorites. The highlight is the epic guitar solo in the second half.

Lastly, we have the two ballads which close out the album. Yes, just in case the overall flow of the album wasn’t already completely out of whack, the band decided to end with not one ballad, but two ballads! First is “Breathe Again” which starts out slowly and calmly, serving as an excellent showcase for Capri’s vocals, before the music picks up in the second half, with some epic orchestral arrangements and some heavier guitar work at points. It’s an excellent track overall and probably the better of the two ballads. After that, we have the closing title track, which also happens to be the second part of “Symphony Nr.1”, the epic sequence the band started on Innuendo. Where part 1 was an epic, complex symphonic metal track, with many twists and turns, this track is a pure ballad throughout, with some nice classical piano serving as the main focus, though there are also some nice orchestral elements in the background. Capri does a wonderful job as always, and it’s a nice track overall, but because part 1 was so epic and especially because this one serves as a title track, I was expecting a bit more from the track overall.

And that about sums up my feelings towards Darkness of Eternity on the whole: It’s a nice enough album, which at times has some big standout moments that equal some of the band’s best works, but overall it’s simply a messy, inconsistent album that left me wanting a whole lot more. Power metal fans, in particular, are likely to have mixed feelings, as “I’m the One” and “Dragonflies” are sure to get them excited, while many of the more pop-infused tracks are likely to frustrate them just like they frustrate me, and the overall focus on bouncy keyboards over epic symphonic arrangements on many tracks here is a rather puzzling choice, as is the decision to end an already oddly paced album with two ballads. Overall, longtime fans are sure to find some songs here to be satisfying, but I consider this to be Amberian Dawn’s weakest album to date, and I have a hard time recommending it to my fellow metal fans.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2017/11/12/amberian-dawn-darkness-eternity-review/

BELL WITCH Mirror Reaper

Album · 2017 · Funeral Doom Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 4 ratings
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adg211288
US funeral doom metal duo had released just two full-length albums, Longing (2012) and Four Phantoms (2015), when their line-up was split in two following drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra's departure. Bands change line-up all the time but this change was tragically made all the more profound when a year later, in 2016, Adrian Guerra passed away. Mirror Reaper (2017) is the group's, which now consists of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and new member Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals), first new recording since then. The monolithic, eighty-three minute long single song album can be seen as a eulogy to their fallen comrade, whose presence is still felt by the insertion of some vocals recorded before his untimely death at the age of just 35, credited under 'the words of the dead'.

Because Mirror Reaper is so long, physical versions of it have to split the song into multiple parts. The CD version has two discs with the track split into two (titled As Above and So Below) while the vinyl is also a double, with the track split into four parts. It's worth pointing out at this point that at least in the case of the CD version the physical pressing does NOT come with a download code so buyers can also obtain the full uninterrupted version of the album. Without confirmation, I'd assume that the vinyl is the same. This, while I won't allow it to affect my rating in this review, is a considerable omission to make in my view, making Mirror Reaper one of the extremely rare cases where the physical version can be deemed inferior to the digital (more so because the digipak packaging is one of the most shoddily made I've ever encountered).

In any form Mirror Reaper is a daunting journey, one that I'm certain most potential listeners will want to think hard about whether they even want to try taking it. Those that do will definitely need to find themselves in the right frame of mind, and set aside enough time to take the whole composition in during a single sitting regardless of whether you're listening to the seamless digital version or the four part vinyl version. A piece like this loses its impact if you decide to take a break of any length and while at least in the case of the CD version the split between the As Above part and the So Below part does make sense, So Below doesn't work near so well as a stand alone track.

Funeral doom metal is known for its plodding pace and atmosphere of misery and that's exactly what is delivered on Mirror Reaper, via some quite extended length non-metal sections, especially during the So Below part of the song. No idea is treated like a flash in the pan thing, but is drawn out for ages. The vocals range from growling to hypnotic chant to subdued singing. Despite the growls, there's no forays into actual death-doom like the works of Evoken or Esoteric, so it's pretty much a dirge from start to finish. In that sense, Mirror Reaper may just be an example of funeral doom metal at its most pure, though since there are no guitars and it's all done on bass the sound is a little difference to the average band. At least it's a pure funeral doom metal sound until one of the non-metal passages hits, then it's something else, yet still very much funeral and very much doom, just without the metal.

Mirror Reaper is not, understandably, an easy album. I expect that many who give it a go will find it to be too much in one way or another. To many, this will be far too long than any one song has a right to be. For others the length in itself won't be an issue but the snail's pace tempo will be. For more still it will be how it actually sounds. Mirror Reaper is certainly a dreary affair, even depressing at times, but that's hardly surprising given the genre and backstory and the death of Adrian Guerra. It's true that the point, musically speaking, could likely be accomplished in a much shorter yet still lengthy composition and that to some ears it may have been better for it. Those people will be entitled to their opinion, while I will remain steadfast in mine that they just don't get it. All things considered it seems highly appropriate that Bell Witch went all out with Mirror Reaper and produced something that will stand tall as a monumental work of what funeral doom metal is all about. This is their tribute to their fallen bandmate and it's certainly not found wanting. Even being so long there's definitely a coherence to the whole composition so that despite all the pitfalls it could fall into it never actually feels aimless.

Mirror Reaper will not go down as an album that will grace my speakers with any kind of regularity, but it's one I'm pleased to have taken the plunge on for when the mood strikes. Bell Witch have crafted a quality, well thought out work here.

ENSLAVED E

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 6 ratings
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Nightfly
I’ve always viewed the development of Opeth and Enslaved as running parallel with each other. Both started as extreme metal bands, death metal for Opeth, black metal for Enslaved and both even at an early stage displaying progressive influences. As they have developed the progressive elements have come to more to the fore. One of the areas where they differ though is whilst Opeth these days bear no traces of death metal Enslaved have never entirely lost touch with their roots. Sure, they’re much more of a prog metal band these days but their black metal roots can still be heard.

E is Enslaved’s fourteenth studio album, drawn as a Latin rune which is why it appears as M on the cover meaning Horse. The albums not about Horses per se but is symbolic of the partnership of co-operation and trust between them and man. 2015’s In Times was their most progressive album yet but still managed inject some pretty harsh black metal moments. E whilst maintaining the prog quotient is less reliant on extreme metal though it’s still there and Grutle Kjellson harsh rasp vocal work is still in place. In Times was the last album to feature keyboard player/clean vocalist Herbrand Larsen and I expected a major shift in dynamics and sound with his loss. New guy Hakon Vinje slips easily into his shoes and has a similar clean vocal style so E just seems like a natural development which could and probably would have happened even if Larsen hadn’t left.

The music on E is epic and grandiose shifting through a myriad of changes no better demonstrated than on opener Storm Son, at almost eleven minutes giving them ample opportunity to stretch out. Clean vocals dominate over harsh here and their sound is a lot smoother than the Enslaved of old but they can still pack a punch. Kjellson’s rasp is still present and more to the front on other songs though like on The River’s Mouth that has a spacey outro that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Hawkwind album.

Sacred Horse might just be the albums best track where more extreme metal elements come to the fore but includes a Hammond organ solo that Opeth would be proud of. Light and shade are present but largely it drives along at a fair pace. That said E has no weak moments and shows a band on top of their game with no sign of running out of ideas. The musical interplay between band members is strong as always and like most great bands Enslaved aren’t afraid to experiment – they even use saxophone on album closer Hiindsiight, but still retain enough of their original identity to keep older fans happy.

E just keeps getting better and better with each play as more subtle melodies come to the fore and whilst it probably won’t end up being my favourite Enslaved album it not lacking in any way. It’s great to see this excellent band still on top of their game after all these years.

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MEGADETH Capitol Punishment: The Megadeth Years

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.15 | 8 ratings
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martindavey87
There's always going to be an issue for compilations that they quickly become outdated and nothing more than fodder to be snapped up by elitist fans that need to own everything (do these people still exist?). As far as such releases go, 2000's 'Capital Punishment', which was also the first "greatest hits" album Megadeth released, is a bit of a mess.

I mean, the bulk of the music is fine, and covers most of the bands major early hits, but at the time of its release, with 15 years and nine albums worth of material to choose from, it's certainly an underwhelming collection. Made even more bizarre by the backwards order of its track list. You know something's not right when you're listening to 'Use the Man' four songs into the bloody thing!

Regardless, it's probably dirt cheap these days, so could be an easy starting place for newcomers. It's got the bulk of the important songs, including 'Holy Wars... The Punishment Due', 'Hanger 18', 'A Tour Le Monde', 'Peace Sells', 'Trust' and 'Crush 'Em', but overall, it's just an outdated release that is mostly irrelevant today, except for a weird montage hidden at the end of album in which a load of tracks are all mashed together to form a brief retrospective of the bands career. It's interesting, but nothing overly memorable, or listenable.

The album is also notable for two new songs, 'Kill the King' and 'Dread and the Fugitive Mind'. The former would appear on later compilations, while the latter would appear on the bands next studio album. Again, rendering this release obsolete.

'Capital Punishment' is an album I'll probably never listen to again, and the CD will spend the rest of its days collecting dust on the shelf (I'm one of those collectors, damn it), but still, back in the year 2000, at 13 years of age, this was my third Megadeth purchase, and the fact I'm still here today shows that the album did its job well.

MEGADETH Cryptic Writings

Album · 1997 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.11 | 68 ratings
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martindavey87
Having outlived the thrash era of the 80's and survived the grunge period of the 90's, it was evident that Megadeth were gradually going for a more radio-friendly sound with each album. While 1994's 'Youthanasia' still maintained a lot of the bands metal elements, 1997's 'Cryptic Writings' is where they really started to delve deep into "hard rock" territory.

Most fans probably scoffed at the thought, notoriously frowning upon any of their heroes for "selling out" to reach a wider audience and make more money. However, while this may not be the same thrash metal band that released such classics as 'Holy Wars', 'Hanger 18' and 'Peace Sells', the material here is still of a high quality, and the top-notch production really gives the band a very clear, vibrant, and contemporary sound. And it still holds up today.

'Cryptic Writings' is notable for being the final release featuring what many consider the "classic" Megadeth line-up, with drummer Nick Menza leaving the band after this album, and guitarist Marty Friedman leaving after the release of its successor, 'Risk'. Still, the members are as cohesive as ever here, and the lack of thrashy, speed metal riffs has given them more space to breathe, with a wider palette of ideas making for more colourful and varied compositions.

I was 12 years-old when I bought this on CD, and at the time it was heaviest thing I'd ever heard. In fact, this was my second Megadeth purchase after 1999's 'Risk', and so both albums have an endearing place in my heart. Hits such as 'Trust', 'Almost Honest', 'Mastermind' and 'A Secret Place' have stayed with me well into adulthood, and for the metal fans who crave for the Megadeth of old, there's songs like 'The Disintegrators', 'She-Wolf', 'Vortex' and 'FFF'.

Overall, 'Cryptic Writings' is a largely underrated album. It has an excellent sound, and consistently strong songs from start to finish, and if you can accept that the days of 80's thrash metal are dead and gone (and metal in general wasn't a hot prospect in 1997 either), then you'll find this to be one of the standout releases in Megadeth's discography.

ICED EARTH Burnt Offerings

Album · 1995 · US Power Metal
Cover art 4.26 | 34 ratings
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martindavey87
After two strong releases and a firm standing as one of power metal's more prominent bands, 1995 saw Iced Earth unleash their third album, 'Burnt Offerings', which many fans consider a career highlight, thus making it all the more confusing that I just can't seem to get into it.

What makes this album notable is the debut of new vocalist (their third in three albums) Matthew Barlow, a man who would go on to become the voice of Iced Earth for years to come, and while his powerful, operatic vocals would certainly help define the band on later releases, here, they come across as rather uninspired, oftentimes feeling out of place or forced.

One of the biggest problems I have with this album is that there's so many time changes and riff transitions that just seem jarring. Like they're just thrown together with no real effort to make it feel organic. The musicianship itself is of a high quality, with incredibly tight guitar playing and atmospheric keyboards. But while 'Iced Earth' and 'Night of the Stormrider' are both fantastic records that have stood the test of time, 'Burnt Offerings' just feels so disjointed.

If I had to dig out any highlights, 'Last December' is a good song, and the title track has its moments, though it suffers from the aforementioned issues. It does have one hell of an intro though, arguably one of the bands heaviest songs. The rest of the album just doesn't work for me, though. The 15-minute 'Dante's Inferno', which is regarded by fans as one of the bands finest pieces, bores the hell out of me. Seriously... what am I missing???

Iced Earth are one of my favourite power metal bands, and while they've built up a solid discography over the years, countless attempts to get into this album have done nothing but made each listen more laborious. It's a shame, because the high reverence it gets from fans makes me feel like I'm missing out on something. But whatever that something is, I'm not hearing it.

SCYTHE Decay

Album · 2006 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sea Whisperer
This band from Buchholz, Germany, is pretty obscure, despite having five full-length albums in their discography. Their fourth album “Decay”, released in 2006, continues in the direction of “Poetry of Illusions”, which had been issued three years earlier, offering quite interesting Death-Doom metal, where heaviness of the former genre perfectly balances and complements sorrowful atmosphere of the latter.

It’s hard for me to name some famous band as an influence to this. It’s obviously rooted in Old School death metal, but their approach to songwriting doesn’t remind about any particular band. As for similar bands, another not so well-known German collective, Valborg, comes to mind.

First half of the album consists of heavier and more complex songs with mid-tempo riffs, pretty straightforward drums and captivating atmosphere of depression, grief and anger. It is notable, that SCYTHE creates multi-layered soundscapes, easily conjuring images of autumn, without keyboards – some well-placed clean guitar parts and leadfills work wonders on this record. It feels like music sounds in vast open, breathing space. Just listen to opening of “Pretending not to see”, with clean arpeggios evoking a feel of falling raindrops, backed up by crushing riffs and steady drums. Another important part of SCYTHE music is vocal performance of Sven Hosan. He does a terrific job, providing both furious growl (sounding similar to Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth) and clean parts. He is also responsible for guitars and bass on this album, delivering lots of catchy riffs and mournful solos. As for the structure of these songs, all of them consist of several distinct parts, containing some memorable elements, which helps to rivet listener’s attention from start to finish. A good example of this approach to songwriting is the longest track on the album, 13-min long epic “A Glimpse of the Eastern Sunrise”, with orientally-flavored opening and calm, slumber-like fragment in the middle and false ending. At the same time, different parts flow seamlessly one into another, creating a feel of continuous narrative. Frequent using of recurring themes helps reaching completeness and wholeness of the songs.

Second half of “Decay” opens with “Das Leben, das ich selbst gewählt” (lyrics by German writer Hermann Hesse), fast and furious, the only song on the album with elements of Black metal in it. “Cogwheel” is the least heavy track, with prevailing bass and interesting echoing guitar sound. “While everyone sleeps” is one of the most depressing song I’ve ever heard, with hauntingly beautiful intro which suddenly gives way to powerful riffs and harsh vocals, expressing, aside from sadness and anger, resignation. Album concludes with a ballad-like track “October”, which perfectly conveys all spectrum of emotions associated with autumn. Omnipresent clean guitars, Sven’s thoughtful vocals, devoid of its rage (“I want to lose my wrath”), long crying solo in the end (reminding of some songs by SATURNUS), makes it a great way to end this journey. Summary: highly underrated album from highly underrated band. A great soundtrack for long autumnal evenings.

ARCHITECTS All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us

Album · 2016 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us was the critically acclaimed 2016 album from British Metalcore champions Architects. It is their seventh full-length release, their most successful to date, and their final album to feature Tom Searle before his untimely and tragic passing. It was produced by Fredrik Nordstrom (Arch Enemy, At The Gates, In Flames) and released on Epitaph records.

Architects fans generally fall into three categories; people who only like the incredibly brash and technical Dillinger Escape Plan-influenced early days. People who worship their breakthrough album Hollow Crown above all else, and people who favour their newest three albums. Me, I’m in the latter camp. My favourite of all their albums is Lost Forever // Lost Together.

My second favourite of all their albums is this. All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us is a real achievement. It is arguably their finest and most diverse record to date and when you take personal favouritism out of it, objectively their best. Their electronic side is fleshed out the best here. Sam’s voice is the strongest its ever been here. The balance between their heavy and contemplative sides is at its most harmonious here. Its got their best lyrics to date in my opinion. The production job is utterly perfect, the twinkling electronics float and the crunchy riffs really crunch.

The musical style comes close to Djent a lot at times especially with the balance of progressive metal style clean beautiful vocals, floating electronics and crunchy rhythmic, awkward riffing. They don’t fully immerse themselves in that one style but fans of it would love this album. Its one colour in their bigger picture. They also look in some more commercial directions here too, and luckily they have the tact and taste not to sound like they’re selling out or anything, again its just one part of a bigger whole. Its a very natural evolution of the style they’ve been refining since 2012’s Daybreaker.

Highlights include the punishing opener ‘Nihilist’ (which is the sort-of title track), as well as the rhythmic single ‘A Match Made In Heaven’ and the touching Anathema-esque closer ‘Memento Mori.’ It fittingly tells us to be mindful of death.

Overall; this is a stunning, tasteful, diverse and beautiful album that lives in a mathy, techy, heavy world too. It is expertly written, played, produced and has some fantastic lyrics. Its one of the band’s better if not best albums and if you like the band you’d be mad to miss it (unless you really only like the earliest stuff only). If you like bands like Tesseract, Circles or Monuments I’d also highly recommend this one to you to try.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTE ALBUMS) Thunderbolt - A Tribute To AC/DC

Album · 1998 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Listening to “Thunderbolt - A Tribute To AC/DC”, several things become immediately obvious.

1. AC/DC wrote some fucking great songs - Just look at the tracklisting here - “Highway to Hell”, “Back in Black”, “Live Wire”, “Whole Lotta Rosie”, “ It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)”. Such great songs of such quality. Many bands have aspired, to such greatness. Most failed. And AC/DC just kept on doing it. This compilation could have been twice as long without the slightest drop in the quality source material.

2. AC/DC inspired some amazing bands - First track up is “Highway to Hell” by Kevin DuBrow, the late singer of Quiet Riot. His swagger and voice has that perfect combination of rough and smooth to do justice to Bon Scott’s ragged bourbon-and-cigarette howl. The rest of the band hit that AC/DC groove bang on, although the bass player shows off a little too much. Second track is “Little Lover”, performed by Sebastian Bach. As accomplished a singer as he is, he doesn’t quite match DuBrow in trying to re-create Scott’s greasy, sleazy drawl, just a little too clean for his own good. Bach’s second track, an album closing take on “T.N.T.” doesn’t work well at all. While the vocals are fine, it has an awful pinging snare drum, misplaced samples, and a pseudo-industrial element to it. Not the place for experimenting.

3. Made-up bands are quite often a bit shit - The biggest down-side to this album is it seems to be made up of various “supergroups”, thrown together just for the album. Often, as in Joe Lynn Turner’s rendition of “Back In Black”, the musicianship is flawless, there’s scope for some reinvention, particularly of Angus Young’s solos, and it’s a fairly faithful cover, but...it just sounds wrong.

4. Made-up bands can also be fucking good - One of the better renditions included here though, is Whitfield Crane’s The Sensational Whitskiteer Band doing “Live Wire”. A little rougher and heavier than other songs here, the song also featured Crane’s Ugly Kid Joe bandmate Klaus Eichstadt on guitar, and the pair showed up many of the more seasoned musicians here, injecting agro and energy into the track. The band also contribute an ultra-laid back rendition of “Ride On”, cruising through the lazy blues track with the throbbing bass line like they were born to play it.

5. AC/DC songs can sound a bit shit if not performed convincingly - “Sin City” is credited to Jack Russell and Mark Kendall (Great White), with Bobby Blotzer (Ratt), and a couple of other fellas. It doesn’t suit Russell’s vocals, the music is pretty fucking bland, and the song just seems too long. “Shake A Leg” just sounds awful with John Corabi’s tuneless screech over top of it, while Bruce Kulick shows why he got kicked out of KISS with some awful try-hard guitar heroics. It doesn’t suit the song one little bit. Bass player Billy Sheehan must have been cringing listening to the racket. He shows much restraint, sticking to AC/DC’s original basic bassline, demonstrating few of his legendary chops.

6. AC/DC inspired some real hacks - The Stephen Pearcy (Ratt)/Tracii Guns (LA Guns) version of “Whole Lotta Rosie” (listed here as “Whole Lot Of Rosie”. What sort of fuckwit changes a song title to something grammatically correct?) shows why neither of their bands quite hit the stratosphere like Guns N’ Roses or Def Leppard. Pearcy tries too hard, and inexplicably sounds like the song is way out of his range, where a singer of his abilities should have handled it comfortably. Guns fares a little better, but his performance leaves you longing for the original. “Night Prowler” performed by Dave Meniketti (Y&T) along with former AC/DC drummer Simon Wright is just boring. Wright was probably note-perfect with the drums, but ya don’t listen to AC/DC for the fucking drums!

7. AC/DC had some legendary friends - A supergroup featuring Lemmy, Jake E. Lee, and Simon Wright (again!)? Do supergroups get any more super? “It's a Long Way to the Top” by this combo is a pure gem. While sounding totally different, Lemmy’s crusty old vocal cords probably best matched Bon Scott’s of any singer on the album. While not as revered as Randy Rhoads and overshadowed by Zakk Wylde, Lee was still Ozzy Osbourne’s guitar player, and no matter how fucked up he ever got, Ozzy always knew a shit-hot guitar player when he heard one. Lee fills in the spaces where Bon Scott’s bagpipes would have been with some incredible lead work, probably the best on the entire album. Lemmy and Lee both just seem to have the right feel for this song.

8. Dee Snider would have made a fucking great vocalist for Anthrax - Dee joined Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, and Frank Bello of Anthrax performing “Walk All Over You”. While it’s the heaviest song of any on the album, the Anthrax boys resisted the temptation to thrash the track up. Dee Snider injects plenty of energy into the song, but is hardly stretched. A good solid, honest rendition of the song.

9. Quite honestly, the only band which does AC/DC songs any justice is AC/DC - Yup. As great as some of these covers are, this album leaves you longing for the real thing.

SUPERNAUT Supernaut

Album · 1999 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 2 ratings
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voila_la_scorie
Today I am going to do two things for the first time. One is that I am going to review an album entirely from listening to it on YouTube and the other is that I am going to rate an album below 2 stars.

But first, a little about Supernaut. An English band formed in 1973, they were, as you can guess by the name, Black Sabbath fans and like their mentors, played music with heavy and dark-sounding riffs. Unlike Sabbath, however, they included a spacey keyboard in their compositions. The band cut a single self-titled album of seven tracks in 1974 which was later released on CD.

Searching about the Net, there is little more information, though one site includes some info from the CD booklet which states that the band recorded a demo (the album) and had Vertigo's interest. The label said they were too heavy and requested Supernaut to record some Eagles covers to which the band obliged but were "so disgusted" that they split up. There seems to be some question as to whether this was a real band and is cautiously considered fictitious on another metal site.

Listening to the album there are two things that you will notice immediately. The riffs are really doom heavy and the guitar playing sounds really amateur. Honestly, the first time I clicked the play icon, I was immediately transported to my 17-year-old self with my Anjo electric guitar, sitting in my bedroom with a Boss distortion pedal plugged into a small, inexpensive amp and cranking out a riff that I thought sounded cool but couldn't do anything with. And this is the one very huge drawback to the album: the guitar playing sounds really amateur. Unfortunately, most of the tracks are introduced by the guitarist indeterminably hammering out his riffs on his very cheap and poorly sounding equipment. Once the drums and bass are in and the keyboards (surprising they are at first) start playing, the guitar playing slips into the flow of the music a little better and the recordings are passable as early demos of a young band. The vocals, sparse as they are, don't sound any better than the guitar.

This is available as a CD still now and I listened to this on YouTube because I was at first interested in an early doom band from 1974 and had an eye on the disc. I am glad I decided to listen first though and saved my money. In comparison, the early recordings by Iron Claw, which have a pretty shoddy production and don't sound so good and don't have the ideal vocalist, at least have a better sense of composition and playing. Perhaps it's because Iron Claw used to play Black Sabbath's debut album in its entirety at their live shows. Also worthy to consider in comparison is Necromandus, who were actually taking under Toni Iommi's management and who played excellent progressive, early doom but were abandoned after recording their album as their manager went overseas to tour in America.

I think Supernaut needed to have a guitarist who could play a little more fluidly and professionally, a better recorded guitar sound, and a proper producer in the studio to help them flesh out their style more. The actual riffs are somewhat promising and the music indicates that the band had a vision and potential but in the end lacked what they needed to make their album sound good. They get points for effort and could possibly have been a great early doom metal band. Instead, we are left with an album that is almost painful to listen to at times and has attracted criticism and scorn in the YouTube comments and no praise.

Not to be confused with the 1974 release by the Perth, Australia glam rock band by the same name.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS Adelain

Album · 1995 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
While the Scandinavian second wave of black metal was in its full glory, the lesser areas of Europe were busy gestating their own version of musical misanthropy in the form of extreme metal ranging from the death and doom dirges of maximum distortion to the blackened pits of fiery hellish metal that served as the soundtrack for Hades. Eastern European black metal bands may have been few in number in comparison to their northern neighbors but nonetheless some persistent aficionados of the style churned out some memorable albums. Greece has never really been on the forefront of any musical movement perhaps since the homegrown folk styles such as rebetika, however lurking in the shadows arose a few well known extreme metal bands such as Septicflesh and Rotting Christ. One of the lesser known but no less worthy of recommendations were THE ELYSIAN FIELDS who may have taken their namesake from the conception of the afterlife in Greek religious philosophies but were very much a part of the here and now of the 90s when they released their debut album ADELAIN in 1994 after a couple of attention getting demos.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS created one of the most unique forms of melodic black metal in the 90s despite sounding somewhat familiar in comparison to its Hellenic counterparts of the scene but yet somehow drifted into its own unique arenas that took disparate sounds and made them their own. The band very much developed their sound in conjunct with bands such as Rotting Christ and Varathron but somehow fell off the radar while the others rose to the ascending throne of the world’s attentive ears. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS gained a loyal following in the early 90s as they released a few demos and demonstrated a unique interpretation of the black metal scene. Dominated by heavy aggressive guitar riffs and blastbeats that offer a backdrop for the angry raspy vocals to lash out against, this melodic black metal band’s sound was actually centered around a melodic keyboard riff that served as the anchor for the full fueled fury to dance around. In this regard THE ELYSIAN FIELDS took the same approach as the Ukrainian band Nokturnal Mortem did on their debut demo turned EP “Lunar Poetry” which uses a simple melodic hook on the keys to generate a never ending stream of aggressive riff changes and second wave black metal fury.

Also unique to the band were its exemplary ability to utilize aspects of death, gothic and doom metal in their musical cauldron to create a larger than life experience that mixed the typical blackened metal aggression with piano laden spoken word segments and more moody slower parts that created a unique contrast. At times during the slower parts the band can bring a doom metal band like My Dying Bride to mind but during the heavier parts the vocalist known only as “Bill A” is a dead ringer for Sakis Tolis of fellow Greek band Rotting Christ as do their crunchy guitar riff attacks mimic periodically throughout the album. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS also had a knack for a poetic prowess like few others of the day and created a more epic feel with their lyrics rather than simply blasphemous or misanthropic passages. Having been well steeped in the traditions of the Ancient Greek mythologies, this band utilized their exposure to these hidden worlds quite effectively and likewise utilized the proper mood setting musical principles to amplify their power. While the following album “We.. The Enlightened” expanded the overall sound manyfold, ADELAIN remains a typical melodic black metal 90s album that while not quite as frenetic as what Emperor or Cradle of Filth were pulling off back then, maintained a heavy sound with only certain moments where the full speed of their fury was uncaged.

THE ELYSIAN FIELDS remains one of the forgotten obscure Hellenic black metal bands that has fallen through the cracks to the point of true obscurity but more than deserves a resurrection from the vaults as the band crafted some excellent melodic black metal with death, doom and gothic touches. The piano and keyboard accompaniments are purely evil in their minor key hauntings and usher in the perfect storm of extreme metal savagery with devilish guitar distortion that alternate between tremolo picking and doomy sustained chords that linger on to infinity. This is an excellent taste of extreme Greek metal from the 90s and in my opinion much more sophisticated than what Rotting Christ was cranking out at the time with their early releases. THE ELYSIAN FIELDS knew just how to craft their compositions with the proper ingredients to create something not too far removed from the overall second wave black metal scene but yet with enough touches to make it sound totally original at the same time. Highly recommended.

EDGUY Mandrake

Album · 2001 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 18 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
There’s a very handy Metallica comparison that works when thinking about Edguy. So, Kingdom of Madness is the Kill ‘Em All of the discography, a more raw and charming affair that wears its influences loud and proud and is fun but not yet fully developed. Vain Glory Opera is like Ride The Lightening, a more mature and uniquely them record that starts showing off their ambition while still rocking. Theater Of Salvation is Master Of Puppets, the magnum opus, the really grand and ambitious album that contains amazing, well constructed and monstrously catchy songs. The Savage Poetry is …And Justice For All, the follow up to their best album and almost as good in its own right.

All of that brings me to what I’m trying to say here. Mandrake is their Black Album. After four albums in one particular style and tone, the band decide to mature off in a new direction and break out of the confines of their home genre. Like The Black Album still had some Thrash songs on it like ‘Struggle Within’ and ‘Through The Never,’ Mandrake has some pure Power Metal songs on it like ‘Painting On The Wall,’ ‘Golden Dawn’ and ‘Save Us Now.’ Even then, sometimes when it does do traditional Power Metal, its more of a Master Of The Rings vibe than a Keeper Of The Seven Keys vibe if you know what I mean. Just listen to the little skiffly drumstick solo and high pitched comedy vocal in the middle of ‘Save Us Now’ to see what I mean.

Largely however, Edguy find themselves testing the limitations of their German Melodic Power Metal roots. ‘Painting On The Wall’ and its more progressive big brother ‘Tears Of A Mandrake’ have some very Bon Jovi and Detonater-era Ratt sounding influences audible on them, its no the whole picture but it is one colour they’re painting with. ‘Jerusalem’ sees them blending their Power Metal stylings with a more commercial Hard Rock vibe foreshadowing where they’d go on their next album. ‘The Pharaoh’ is a ten minute epic with an eastern vibe that sounds like a mixture between Sabaton when they get slow and stompy and when Rainbow would go eastern sounding like on ‘Babylon’ and ‘Tarot Woman.’ ‘Nailed To The Wheel’ although opening up acoustically with some very different vocal melodies than Edguy usually go for, evolves into the fastest most pissed-off Thrash Metal like song the band had put out to date. If you get the version with bonus tracks, ‘The Devil & The Savant’ also has a touch of Glam to it. Not the whole picture again, but its there. Its the band testing their boundaries.

The production job also has a lot to do with it. This album has a much more full, bright, unmetallic sheen to it. Commercial is the word best to describe it really. Its good in its own way but it sounds quite different to where they’d been living in previously.

Like with Metallica, there are lots of fans who consider The Black Album the last of the classic-five and there are other purists who think there was only a classic four and this is the first one afterwards. Of course, there are also a large amount of fans I’ve discovered online who prefer the band in their more Hard Rock form and say things like ‘Yeah, they got good when they stopped trying to sound like Iron Maiden’ and even those guys are also split on this record, because its not quite the Pure Power Metal style and its not quite not either.

Overall; Mandrake is a very good album, and a very interesting album, but whether you’ll like it or not very much depends on what you wanted out of it in the first place. The production job may be off putting if you wanted a certain thing, as may be the songwriting for about half of it. The songwriting on the other half may be off putting if you wanted a different thing. Vocals, guitar solos, drum patterns and creativity are all above reproach, its just the sound and musical direction that people are divided over.

EDGUY The Savage Poetry

Album · 2000 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.11 | 13 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
Edguy were in an interesting position at the turn of the millennium. Starting the group as a bunch of wide-eyed teenagers in the early to mid ’90s, Tobias Samet and the rest of the boys who would go on to become legends of German Melodic Power Metal, were initially a rough an ready influences-worn-on-sleeves kinda band. They released a demo quality debut album called Savage Poetry in 1995 and then through years of practice and touring went on to become a leading force in Power Metal and one of the finest to be doing it at the time. After releasing their absolute magnum opus Theater Of Salvation in 1999 and being considerably more famous and beloved, fans kept asking if they would reissue Savage Poetry which had long since been out of print. Doing them one better, the band took all the talent, skills and confidence they’d been developing over the years and remade the album. No reissued, not re-recorded, but remade entirely.

Everything is different here, new artwork, new logo, new track order, new guitar solos, heck even the bassist and drummer are new when you think about it as neither were on the original version. They added a ‘The’ to the title as well, that’s new. Essentially, what happened was the band listened to these old songs and then wrote them again in 1999 as only the band who had released Theater Of Salvation could have. What resulted was a mix of old and new, that ticks all the right boxes to sound classic and modern, naive and accomplished, charming and sophisticated. There’s a duality to it that works as well as your go to metaphor (be that chocolate and peanut butter, tits and dragons or whatever people are saying these days, the point is the two compliment each-other despite seeming like different worlds).

For most people this is just some handy background information for a pub quiz however because unless you go out of your way, you aren’t hearing the 1995 version easily and the differences between the two versions are therefore largely academic. Regardless, because this is Edguy in 1999 we’re talking about here, this is an absolutely superb album not to be missed by Edguy fans, or indeed anyone with an interest in this style of music. If you listen to Gamma Ray, Helloween, Hammerfall, Blind Guardian, Freedom Call, Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius or anyone of that nature, you really want to get up on this album. I would be so bold as to say The Savage Poetry is either the band’s second best, or sometimes if I’m feeling generous, joint-first best studio album.

There are a lot of similarities between this and Theater Of Salvation. They were both recorded around the turn of the millennium at Rhoen Studios in Fulda, Germany, and were both self produced by the band, with the same line-up. They both feature a mixture of Maiden and Priest influenced speed metal sections, bombastic grandiose sections with pianos and choral singing, and then some occasional ballads, and happy Helloween-influenced melodies. They both come before the band went a bit more Hard Rock in direction and they both come before the band started letting their humour play a big part.

Highlights include the speedier more metallic tracks ‘Sacred Hell’ and ‘Misguiding Your Life’ as well as the slow stompy Hammerfall-esque opener ‘Hallowed’ and possibly best of all, the diverse multi-faceted ten-minute ‘Eyes Of The Tyrant.’

The album works really well from start to finish, the two ballads break things up (and are surprisngly tasteful), the longer tracks take you on a little journey and then the rest of the album gets its head down and delivers exactly what you love about the band perfectly, only with a little bit more of a NWOBHM gallop than usual.

Overall; be sure not to miss out on one of the band’s absolute finest hours. If you like the glorious melodic guitar lines, crunchy riffs and pounding drums of Edguy at their most metallic, this is seriously up there as one of the finest examples of that. If you like the band being adventurous and writing long complex stuff, that’s here too. If you like them when they drop some ballads, these are some of the band’s best. If you’re tempted by the band but scared off by the more commercial Hard Rock stuff or the comedy stuff there’s none of that here. This is the band at their best, with some damn fine songs and a sterling production job, updating some charming old songs into an absolute beast of an album. Highly recommended!

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