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metal music reviews (new releases)

MYRKUR Myrkur

EP · 2014 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 3 ratings
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Unitron
Myrkur-Myrkur

Black Metal is a genre that I'm pretty new to, other then Myrkur and Burzum, I'm not familiar with much Black metal at all. Myrkur was actually my first full venture into the Black metal genre, and what an introduction!

Myrkur is a one-woman black metal band whose identity had remained a bit of a mystery until she was revealed to be Amalie Bruun. This EP was released only a couple months ago, and it seems she's already gotten quite a following in her home-country of Denmark. The style of this album combines very atmospheric ambient sections with menacing chamber-music vocals and elements, and raw yet flowing black metal sections with screams and raw guitar work.

The EP opens up with chamber-choir vocals that start off the track 'Ravnens Banner'. It soon transitions into pounding drums and flowing raw guitar work. During the bridge some menacing riffing comes in that reminds me of some of the guitar work in Pendragon's recent releases. The next song 'Frosne Vind', is a soft folksy track where Bruun's clean vocals really shine beautifully. It then goes back to heavy guitar in the next song 'Må Du Brænde i Helvede', where Bruun gives a powerful screaming performance over crunching guitar riffs. Next is the song 'Latvian Fegurð', which shows her mixing clean vocals and screaming over the heavy guitar and double bass. Then comes the beautiful and melodic 'Dybt i Skoven', Bruun's vocals feel very passionate in this song. The next song is the longest song on the EP and only single 'Nattens Barn', which is the first song I heard on the EP. After flowing raw guitar that has come to be expected on the EP, very menacing riffs come in that start playing under the flowing guitar. Crunching guitar also comes in, playing under the raw guitar as well. Certainly one of my favorites of the EP. The EP ends with the nearly 50-second 'Ulvesangen', which is a beautiful soft piece similar to the track 'Frosne Vind'.

Overall, this is one of the best EP's I've ever heard. One of the best releases of the year, and it makes me very intrigued to hear her release an album. I heard a couple Burzum songs before listening to this, but this makes me really want to delve a bit deeper into the Black metal genre. Highly recommended to any metal collection.

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ELLORSITH 1959

EP · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"1959" is an EP release by Scottish black/death metal act Ellorsith. It´s the band´s first official release and it´s available digitally on the Ellorsith´s Bandcamp profile at "name your price" tag. It´s also available on cassette tape limited to 100 copies through Caligari Records. "1959" was released in July 2014.

The music on the 5 track, 26:06 minutes long EP, features a combination of black- and death metal elements. Instrumentally the music can predominantly be tagged black metal with fast tremolo riffing and repetitive blast beat drumming, but the vocals are unintelligible death metal growling. In addition to the fierce yet atmospheric blast beat sections, the music also features heavy mid-paced parts with dissonant picked chord progressions. The closing track "Compelling Natural Force" is especially slow and gloomy. The EP is bookended by somber Gregorian choir sections, and Russian spoken words.

The music is generally incredibly bleak and reeks of darkness, pain, and death. Themes that go hand in hand with the lyrical concept of "1959", which revolves around the "Dyatlov Pass Incident". An incident which took place in the Ural mountains in 1959 Soviet, where 9 hikers led by Igor Dyatlov mysteriously died. There are quite a few theories regarding the incident, and everything from murder, to a compelling natural force (which was the official Soviet statement), to UFOs, to nuclear missile testing have been suggested (the group´s tent was tore open from the inside, and all 9 hikers left the tent without their shoes/boots in the freezing cold, and were found dead in odd positions on the mountain side). Ellorsith are very successful in bringing the right bleak atmosphere to their music to try and describe the mysterious and quite eerie events.

They are also a very well playing act, and the music and the vocals are delivered with great passion and conviction. It´s not cold precision playing, and it´s obvious that these guys have gone for a more organic playing style. That shouldn´t be misinterpreted as if they aren´t a tight playing unit though, because that would be far from the truth.

The organic playing is complimented perfectly by a very organic, raw, and quite lo-fi sounding production. It´s one of the cases where such a production suits the music well as it brings the right grim and bleak atmosphere to the music. "1959" is upon conclusion a very good quality release by Ellorsith, where everything from music, cover artwork, and lyrics work perfect together and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

JANE DARK Doors to Silence

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Doors to Silence" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Serbian death metal act Jane Dark. The album was independently released in July 2014 through the band´s Bandcamp profile at a "name your price" option. Jane Dark was founded in 2000, switched name to Mortus Causa in 2004, but later changed back to the Jane Dark monicker. The material featured on "Doors to Silence" were predominantly written during the 2003-2005 period, and recorded between 2010 and 2013.

Stylistically the music on the album is a bit hard to nail, but there are quite a few influences from "Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991)"-era Carcass heard in the music. Especially in the way the vocals sound. Jeff Walker has definitely not lived in vain. The more you listen to the album, the less it sounds like Carcass though, and there are quite a few surprises to be found on "Doors to Silence". Mellow clean guitar sections, melodic solos, keyboards, and a generally adventurous way of thinking music, are some of the elements that set Jane Dark apart from other similar artists.

While the core of the band´s sound is old school sounding death metal, there are influences from both thrash, traditional heavy metal, goth, and progressive rock on the album too. The band are relatively well playing and the album features a decent sound production too (the bass drums feature a clicky sound that doesn´t suit the music that well though), so all in all "Doors to Silence" is a pretty interesting release by Jane Dark. I´m not completely blown away, but it´s relatively intriguing and at times even close to being original. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

PICTURA The Equilibration of Minds, Vol. I

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"The Equilibration of Minds, Vol. I" is the debut full-length studio album by German death metal act Pictura. The album was independently released in May 2014. Pictura originally formed in 2005 under the Beltane monicker and released the 2008 "Expressionist" album before changing their name to Pictura in 2010. So if you count the Beltane album, "The Equilibration of Minds, Vol. I" is actually the band´s second full-length studio album.

The music on the album is progressive death metal featuring both deep growling, higher pitched aggressive snarling, and clean vocals. The tracks are predominantly slow- to mid paced and features brick heavy yet quite sophisticated riffs, acoustic/clean guitar sections, haunting leads, and relatively complex rhythm work. Opeth is the most obvious reference (listen to the lead guitar tone on "Streets" and tell me that doesn´t sound like the lead guitar tone on "Blackwater Park (2001)" by Opeth), but I´d probably also mention fellow countrymen Dark Suns among the influences.

The band are very well playing and the extreme vocals are also delivered with conviction. The clean vocal parts sung by Marius Borjans (who also sings the growling vocals) are not anything out of the ordinary though. He has a very regular sounding voice and there´s nothing distinct or especially recognisable about it. The vocals are thankfully not awful though and he gets the job done, but the clean vocals don´t add that extra to the music that they could have with a more distinct sounding clean vocalist.

The sound production is relatively well sounding, but I have a minor complaint about the drum sound. It features a clicky sound (especially the bass drums) and the album could have prospered from a slightly more organic sound. Overall "The Equilibration of Minds, Vol. I" is still a quality progressive death metal release, and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

RA Best of Ra Unplugged

EP · 2014 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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VerticalUprising
It seems strange that I'm covering a best of before any studio albums for RA, but whatever.

BEST OF RA UNPLUGGED is a acoustic (or just lacking the metal riffs) compilation EP for the American alternative metal band, RA, in 2014.

Overall, these songs aren't anything to go crazy over. I very much dislike tracks from the alt. rocking DUALITY, however many people disagree with this notion. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one who doesn't like this, and this is coming from the guy who hates 'One Thing' by FINGER ELEVEN while everyone seems to love it (check out my Them vs. You vs. Me for more information on why I hate that song).

But I have to admit the band does well on this release. Although the songs are obviously lacking the heaviness that I admire them for, RA does not cease to impress me. And I cannot pretend that their cover of 'Broken Hearted Soul' (my favorite RA song) was not well done, even as an unplugged version. Their most known song, 'Do You Call My Name' is of course on here, and it is similarly done well. I always found songs from ONE (aka FROM ONE) were a bit too exotic for my taste; I've always liked complexity, but sometimes it's just a bit too much for me.

Anyway, back to the EP. It isn't bad by any means; I mean, it is a COMPILATION after all, not a album with new, un-heard releases, so I can't really criticize it. All compilation albums should have the most enjoyed tracks on them, and this being their first compilation containing already released songs, they honestly didn't mess it up.

However, if you are looking for a release by RA to get to get yourself introduced to them, this isn't the right one to get. I know compilations are usually good for introduction to a band, but an unplugged compilation EP isn't the right decision.

Therefore, I say yes, this is good if you've listened to all of RAs material first.

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SOUNDGARDEN Screaming Life / Fopp

Boxset / Compilation · 1990 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.64 | 6 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
This is a compilation of the first two Eps namely SCREAMING LIFE and FOPP. A great way to get both as a twofer. Check out my reviews for each separately.

SOUNDGARDEN – Screaming Life 1987 4 stars

SOUNDGARDEN was certainly ahead of the grunge game. Although a scant few bands like Green River and U-Men are credited as being the first grungers, it is safe to say that of the most popular ones SOUNDGARDEN was far ahead of the pack when their first release SCREAMING LIFE came out in 1987. Although this is only an EP it is a great start for the band. They already had their sound pretty much in tact although Chris Cornell has a much more diverse vocal style on this album. In fact he sounds a little like Robert Plant in his vocal approach with his high pitched wails. The rest of the band has a tight yet loosy goosy jam type sound as well.

At this point the band still had Hiro Yamamoto on bass and his doomy bass lines with Cornell's Zeppelin vocals really tapped into a new hybrid metal sound hitherto not successfully executed. The six songs on this EP are all quite good and although I have been a SOUNDGARDEN fan for quite a long time, I have only recently picked up the first two EP's in the form the twofer SCREAMING LIFE / FOPP compilation. Dirty and raw, grunge yet alternative metal at this point finds SOUNDGARDEN sounding more aggressive and creative in their sound than on many of their later albums. Not a bad place to start but since everyone has probably heard the later albums first then you will probably be like me in discovering their origins after the fact. Never too late and yes do check this out. It's much better than I could have imagined.

SOUNDGARDEN – Fopp 1988 2.5 stars

While I was quite taken by the debut EP by SOUNDGARDEN “Screaming Life” I cannot say the same for their second EP release FOPP. While this album displays a more familiar sound that would be quite recognizable the fact is the song quality and spontaneity of the debut is clearly missing here. The title track which appears twice, once as a standard grunge song and another as an ok-ish but not outstanding remix is fairly uninspiring. They are kind of funky and really sound kind of stupid after a very diverse and interesting debut.

This was probably a move to make the sound a bit more accessible but at this point they hadn't quite developed their trademark sound to the point of “Badmotorfinger” and beyond but left behind the very innovative sound that was present on the debut. Not a horrible album but probably the worst in their discography. I really like the remake of Greenriver's “Swallow My Pride” which sounds the most like the future SOUNDGARDEN but the FOPP songs are lackluster. A disappointing followup which is best attained on the twofer album SCREAMING LIFE / FOPP compilation.

SOUNDGARDEN Screaming Life

EP · 1987 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 6 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
SOUNDGARDEN was certainly ahead of the grunge game. Although a scant few bands like Green River and U-Men are credited as being the first grungers, it is safe to say that of the most popular ones SOUNDGARDEN was far ahead of the pack when their first release SCREAMING LIFE came out in 1987. Although this is only an EP it is a great start for the band. They already had their sound pretty much in tact although Chris Cornell has a much more diverse vocal style on this album. In fact he sounds a little like Robert Plant in his vocal approach with his high pitched wails. The rest of the band has a tight yet loosy goosy jam type sound as well.

At this point the band still had Hiro Yamamoto on bass and his doomy bass lines with Cornell's Zeppelin vocals really tapped into a new hybrid metal sound hitherto not successfully executed. The six songs on this EP are all quite good and although I have been a SOUNDGARDEN fan for quite a long time, I have only recently picked up the first two EP's in the form the twofer SCREAMING LIFE / FOPP compilation. Dirty and raw, grunge yet alternative metal at this point finds SOUNDGARDEN sounding more aggressive and creative in their sound than on many of their later albums. Not a bad place to start but since everyone has probably heard the later albums first then you will probably be like me in discovering their origins after the fact. Never too late and yes do check this out. It's much better than I could have imagined.

SOUNDGARDEN Fopp

EP · 1988 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.49 | 4 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
While I was quite taken by the debut EP by SOUNDGARDEN “Screaming Life” I cannot say the same for their second EP release FOPP. While this album displays a more familiar sound that would be quite recognizable the fact is the song quality and spontaneity of the debut is clearly missing here. The title track which appears twice, once as a standard grunge song and another as an ok-ish but not outstanding remix is fairly uninspiring. They are kind of funky and really sound kind of stupid after a very diverse and interesting debut.

This was probably a move to make the sound a bit more accessible but at this point they hadn't quite developed their trademark sound to the point of “Badmotorfinger” and beyond but left behind the very innovative sound that was present on the debut. Not a horrible album but probably the worst in their discography. I really like the remake of Greenriver's “Swallow My Pride” which sounds the most like the future SOUNDGARDEN but the FOPP songs are lackluster. A disappointing followup which is best attained on the twofer album SCREAMING LIFE / FOPP compilation.

PORCUPINE TREE Lightbulb Sun

Album · 2000 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.29 | 10 ratings
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Unitron
Porcupine Tree-Lightbulb Sun

After the good yet same-y and boring 'Stupid Dream', Porcupine Tree seemed to realize what they were doing wrong. 'Lightbulb Sun' still follows the alternative rock sounds of the previous album, yet adds a variety of sounds to make it less boring. Some of the songs do sound same-y, but their is enough difference to change up the style a bit maintaining metal tendencies and experimental tracks.

The album opens up very promisingly with the hard-rocking title track. It has nice shifts from the heavy parts to the acoustic passages, and it has an awesome chorus that is really catchy and easy to sing to. All this makes this song one of my favorites from the album. After the rocking opener, the short melancholy piano piece 'How is Your Life Today?' enters as a nice and relaxing interlude. 'Four Chords That Made a Million', is another really catchy song with a very unique and menacing bridge that contrasts nicely with the chorus. The other two standout songs are the longer songs, 'Hatesong' and the metal epic 'Russia on Ice'. 'Hatesong' begins with some great bass work by Edwin, and soon the drums and guitar come in. The bridge has some great acoustics and guitar blasts, followed soon by a great guitar solo. The second half of 'Russia on Ice' kicks-ass like a building up metal epic should be, with some great bass ushering in thrash guitar that just sounds awesome. The drums are really the star of this track though, Chris Maitland's drums combined with the thrash guitar just kicks you straight in the ass when it comes in.

Even though 'Russia on Ice' is one of the best metal epics I've heard, I still have my complaints about the album. Some of the songs are pretty boring like 'Where We Would Be' and 'Rest Will Flow', they just feel pretty bland and like filler. 'The only song that is 'bad' to me, is the weird 'Last Chance to Evacuate...'. It doesn't fit on the album at all and sounds like they were trying to revive something from 'On the Sunday of Life'.

The lyrics are what you would expect from Porcupine Tree, dark, sad, hopeless, and hateful. Weather it's about the record companies(Four Chords), Drugs(title track), or just hate (Hatesong) Porcupine Tree's lyrics are awesome as always.

Overall, I would recommend this to any fan of alternative rock and metal for the masterpiece 'Russia on Ice'. This was the last PT album before they entered their golden age and released a string of four metal masterpieces.

Hope you found this review helpful.

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VIKING Man of Straw

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Man of Straw" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Los Angeles based thrash metal act Viking. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in July 1989. Viking was a relatively shortlived act who only released two albums in the late eighties before they disbanded.

The band´s debut album "Do or Die (1988)", was a pretty raw and aggressive thrash metal release packed in a murky sound production. Compared to that "Man of Straw" is a much more sophisticated effort by Viking. The band are still very aggressive when that is needed, but they often steer into more technical thrash metal territories and "Man of Straw" is therefore a much more varied album than the debut. The inclusion of the Pat Benatar cover "Hell is for Children" even shows that Viking are fully capable of playing more straight traditional heavy rock/metal. Especially lead vocalist/guitarist Ron Eriksen shines on that track. The material are generally catchy and memorable beyond a few listens.

Another thing that has improved greatly compared to the debut album is the sound production, which on this album is clear, raw and powerful. It´s not like the two albums are completely different from each other though and you are still able to hear that it´s the same band playing, but there is a chance that the two albums could appeal to two different groups of thrash metal fans. The debut to those who prefer their thrash metal raw and aggressive to the bone and "Man of Straw" to those who prefer their thrash metal a little more varied, more professionally produced and overall more sophisticated. There is still a fierce bite and conviction behind the delivery on "Man of Straw" though and this is by no means "soft" thrash metal. A 3.5 (70%) rating is deserved.

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