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ARGUS From Fields of Fire

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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Nightfly
My introduction to Argus came with their second album, Boldly Stride The Doomed, an album that received such universal praise it was impossible to not want to check it out. My initial impressions were good but it was to take a few plays before it really hit home with its combination of doom and old school metal. After a while though I couldn’t leave it alone and it became a firm favourite in my collection. Its follow up, Beyond The Martyrs arrived in 2013 and listening to that after BSTD I have to admit it was a bit of a disappointment. Yes, it was good, sometimes very good but they’d reduced the doom element which might have been part of the reason but overall some of the songs lacked that killer punch, only occasionally reaching the greatness of its predecessor.

Roll on to 2017 and From Fields Of Fire arrives on my doorstep. See, I still had enough faith to buy it without hearing first and I’m very happy to say that I don’t regret it. After the short acoustic instrumental Into The Fields Of Fire, Devils Of Your Time is a good omen of what’s to come. The old school metal vibe of past work is retained as it moves along at a fair pace, rolling double kick drums pushing it along overlaid by compelling staccato riffing and a well thought out solo, i.e., not just a blur of fast notes. Brian ‘Butch’ Balich’s vocals are the icing on the cake, an excellent singer in the classic 80’s metal mould of which there aren’t enough of these days. This is epic stuff! The galloping As A Thousand Thieves is more of the same, maintaining the momentum and only marginally missing the mark set by Devils Of Your Time. As the album progresses it becomes clear that the doom element that added greatly to Boldly Stride The Doomed has been pretty much ditched, but this time it’s not missed as they’ve really upped their game on the strength of the compositions as one after another the hook laden songs keep coming. By today’s standards this is not particularly heavy when you compare it to the more extreme metal that’s prevalent. This album screams 1980’s in style and delivery and if it had come out then it would have seemed heavier and they’d have been massive. However, there’s not too many bands doing this stuff, particularly so well, at the moment so it’s like a breath of fresh air with an organic production in keeping with the vibe.

This album beats Beyond The Martyrs, not only because the songs are better but also with its sheer consistency, with no weak tracks to speak of. As with most albums though it has its highlights. One of these comes mid album with the eleven minute plus Infinite Lives, Infinite Doors which has plenty in common with Iron Maiden in their more epic moments – the Maiden comparisons being nothing new to this band. This dynamic and dual guitar work of Dave Watson and Jason Mucio is key to this and indeed the whole albums overall success. Another highlight is the slow build of No Right To Grieve, the only time anything approaching doom appears. For the most part its slow and melancholic and whilst it throws in a few doomy power chords it’s not doom per se.

Argus have really excelled expectations here. I never doubted it would be good but with From Fields Of Fire they’ve made an album at least the equal of Boldly Stride The Doomed. Some may even think it better. For me, I’m on the fence.

ACCEPT The Rise of Chaos

Album · 2017 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland


Accept’s last album, ‘Blind Rage’, reached #1 in Germany and Finland, as well as several top 10 positions; Czech Republic, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK and last but not least, the US. For a band that released their debut back in the Seventies, and have been following a fairly uncompromising path ever since, that is quite an achievement. So why change something that obviously works? This is straight forward basic heavy metal that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on 1983’s ‘Balls To The Wall’, but they know what their audience wants. One thing I have always liked about Accept is that one knows exactly what the album is going to sound like when the CD gets into the player, and by using Andy Sneap as producer one is also guaranteed that the production quality is going to be of the very highest order.

If you like Accept then you’ll enjoy this, and if you haven’t come across them before as you have been residing down a hobbit hole, then basic HM doesn’t get any better than this. Good and solid without being essential.

SEPTICFLESH Codex Omega

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
As the Greek economy continues to crumble into the eternal fires of Hades threatening to take down the entire European Union in its wake, a few signs of life still resonate from the fertile Hellenic soils amongst the olive stomping ceremonies and the esoteric speeches of Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis explaining in great detail how in vivid detail of how we’re all just plain fucked. There is no doubt that extreme metal bands were ahead of this umpteenth wave of eternal doom and pessimism on the nature of humanity’s utter stupidity and some such as Greek’s own SEPTICFLESH have constructed a soundtrack or two in its honor even in the most remote nooks and crannies of this here global village.

Although the list of symphonic death metal bands isn’t huge ( i think the list only includes Aeternam, Arch Of Hell, Atrocity, Brymir, Dark Lunacy, Dawn Of Tears, Depressed Mode, Dissonance In Majesty, Dominia, Empyrean, Eternal Tears Of Sorrow, Ex Duo, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Gorgon, Hollenthon, Inactive Messiah, Irreversible Mechanism, Kalisia, Karlahan, Mayan, Meadow’s End, Mechina, Odes Of Ecstasy, Ouroboros, Persefone, Red Descending, The Monolith Deathcult, SEPTICFLESH, Serenity In Murder, Shade Empire, Sidious, Skyfire, Waltari, Whispered, Whorlion, Wintersun, Vesania, Xerath ) because of the short time it has had to branch off of its parent death metal world, SEPTICFLESH was well ahead of this game in the field of having incorporated symphonic touches to their extreme metal passions all the way back on their second album “Έσοπτρον” in 1995.

Since then the band has dipped in and out of the symphonic atmospheric world of metal and opted for death doom or Gothic metal at times but starting with 2003’s “Sumerian Daemons,” the band latched onto a symphonic death metal sound all their own. Whereas some of the aforementioned bands like Fleshgod Apocalypse for example went for a brutal death metal approach with a philharmonic aggressiveness to back it up, SEPTICFLESH went for a more traditional death metal sound with an orchestra to primarily add atmospheric touches. Following three years after their tenacious symphonic taste of bombast “Titan,” the Greeksters conjure up another dose of high octane fueled death metal meets a full orchestra on their 10th studio album CODEX OMEGA which pretty much continues down the path of full return without much to add, however when the elements of impending doom lifted so gracefully by the Czech Republic’s FILMharmonic Orchestra Prague, gosh the apocalypse just doesn’t seem so bad!

SEPTICFLESH are masters of codifying the opposing forces of bombastic death metal and lush symphonic classical music into allies which united somehow bring a form of musical harmony to the universe. Stylistically CODEX EFFECT isn’t much different than the previous offering “Titan.” Both contain exquisitely hideous cover art, death metal bombast punctuated by the charismatic growls (and clean vocal declarations) of Spiros Antoniou and death metal riffing and percussive blastbeats that could conjure up ALLLL the mosh pitting demons of the world. They also contain the most sensual atmospheric symphonic effects possible even accompanied by a complete choir that despite existing on polar opposites of the musical spectrum somehow perform the great dance together although both musical realities are in reality subordinate to the nexus of Antoniou’s beastly and charismatic domination.

However, despite the similarities between CODEX EFFECT and “Titan,” there remains one fundamental difference. That being that despite everything “Titan” had going for it, it was lacking in the most basic prerequisite of all, namely interesting compositions. Apparently the band got the memo about this trivial little faux pas and decided to correct the matter in the three year gap and succeeds in creating a very listenable album indeed.

One of my main gripes with SEPTICFLESH is that they produce outstanding music that culminates on the first side of the album and then slowly fizzles out into generic forgetfulness. They seem to be the symphonic death metal version of Soundgarden who suffered a similar fate. On CODEX EFFECT, the band seems to have paid attention to the pacing of the myriad elements involved in the project in order to make an easier to follow album’s length of material. I find the material on CODEX EFFECT to be some of the best the band has ever conjured up and granted that they are merely perfecting their style rather than adding any new experimental touches, i find this to be a satisfying listen from beginning to end unlike the majority of the prior canon.

At this point SEPTICFLESH is an institutional force in the death metal world having been around for well over a quarter of a century and while some band’s peak and fizzle out and fade away into obscurity, SEPTICFLESH on the other hand takes notes on their past mistakes and opts to learn from them rather than ignoring that they existed. CODEX EFFECT shows the band on top of their game with not only some of their best death metal hooks laid down to digital form but likewise construct some of the most conducive philharmonic shadow effects that perfectly gel with the greater groove. CODEX EFFECT is a great return to form after a rather lopsided “Titan” and a series of albums that while great initially seem to run on autopilot after several tracks in. I’m finding this to be a great comeback and a reality check in realizing the shortcomings of previous works and how they could have been better.

BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION BCC IV

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Kingcrimsonprog
I absolutely loved Black Country Communion and was gutted when they split up. Their music was so fresh, vibrant and energetic despite its obvious homage to the past and they really were just about the best Hard Rock band doing the whole ’70s-worship sound of recent years. All three of their albums from before their split have at least five songs that are among my favorite ever songs and which are better than just about any of the classic ’70s band’s modern output for my personal taste.

How happy was I then, when I heard they were getting back together. I remember reading on Blabbermouth all around the time of their split (and yet again when California Breed, a band with some of the same members, formed) about how lead guitarist and occasional singer Joe Bonamasa was too famous and busy in his own right to give Black Country Communion the time, as his schedule simply wouldn’t allow it. I remember hoping for the day he’d have the time again. Well, thank goodness its all sorted and we have more from this band. You can see the phoenix on the cover illustrating the band’s reformation.

There’s a certain magic when Glen Hughes, Jason Bonham, Derik Sherinian and Joe Bonamasa get together, (only heightened by ‘fifth member of the band,’ producer Keven Shirley). The bass and drums match styles perfectly, the keys accentuate the vocals so well, the guitar and key solos fit well together, both vocalist’s styles gel, the guitar works so well with the rhythm section. Its all so perfectly balanced, and thanks to the roomy production it all sounds so big and warm.

Basically; this reunion record has a lot of expectations to live up to. On first listen its nice to hear they are keeping up the same style of music and doing the same sort of thing. Its not suddenly taken a rap or electronic turn, they haven’t chucked it all away and went pop or something. Its exactly what you’d hope for, stylstically.

There’s plenty of depth, characther and a fair bit of variety. A lot of the tracks stretch out a bit, many lasting seven or eight minutes. There’s a nice balance of slow and fast, of hard and soft, of thoughtful and of instantaneous. There’s moments that lean a bit more into each of the member’s individual territories and there’s moments when its a mixture of all.

After knocking you over the head (no pun intended) with two mid paced Hard Rockers, for example, they drop a very interesting folky number. If you liked ‘The Battle Hadrian’s Wall’ then you are sure to dig ‘The Last Song for My Resting Place.’ If you like things a bit slower, sexier and well, blusier then at the album’s midway point they drop ‘The Cove’ which has some seriosuly good guitar and very atmospheric keys. Eight-minute album closer ‘When The Morning Comes’ starts out on a slow and sombre note before kicking off.

If you like the band at their faster and heavier however (think ‘The Outsider’ or ‘Confessor’) then they’ve got that here too, on ‘Sway.’ ‘The Crow’ does it too, sounding initially like a rip-off of RATM’s ‘Bulls On Parade’ before hitting the gas and running away with the speed.

I think my favourite track has to be either ‘Over My Head’ with its fun stop-start verses and its catchy ‘yeah-e-eah’ hook, or else ‘Awake’ which doesn’t really sound like anything they’ve done before, it starts off jaunty and almost indie rock but has a kind of ‘Achilles’ Last Stand‘ vibe in the verses and then goes into a full-on Yes meets Dream Theater solo-trade-off.

Overall; BCCIV had a lot of high expectations to meet, and luckily it holds up really well. They do what they do best, they try some new things, they balance all the different shades of their sound well and present an entertaining record that keeps you guessing but that fits together into a stylish hour long journey. The quality of the material is damn strong, the musicianship is exemplary, the production job is of course perfect and even though I’m biased and just glad to have the band back, I’d say this is absolutely good enough to sit alongside their previous work. I’d recommend checking it out if you’ve ever been a fan!

LEPROUS Malina

Album · 2017 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.99 | 3 ratings
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The name LEPROUS isn’t just made up gibberish in an Elvish language or anything of the sort. It is in fact an English word that in the biological world means having or consisting of loose, scurfy scales (as well as the meaning of ‘having leprosy.’) “Scurfy” is a term that denotes a loose scaly crust coating a surface and you know what? That kind of describes the music of LEPROUS. No denying that their mere five album career has been an interesting one since the band jumped to the top of the list of the progressive metal world with “Tall Poppy Syndrome” and has been changing things up slightly ever since. Eight years after their highly esteemed debut they release their fifth album MALINA which at this point seems almost like a totally different band. Except for that scurfy thing. Yes, the surface with a loose scaly crust. What the f.u.c.k is he talking about? - you ask.

The music of LEPROUS may differ stylistically from album to album but one thing has remained a constant, that being the melodic powerful vocals of Einar Solberg whose tender and affectionate operatic antics have always been the focus and in the limelight and therefore the “surface” of the band’s style and sound. The jittery glitch guitars, the bouncy fretless bass slides, symphonic, electronic touches and the myriad styles of drumming that accompany Solberg are ever changing in dynamics, tempo, time signatures and delivery and count as the “loose scaly crust” which sounds like its flaking away from the lyrical delivery. I swear i’m not tripping as i write this. In short, the music is the wild card as it gravitates around the vocal performances.

On MALINA, Norway’s masters of jittery staccato hyperactivity have toned things down a bit as they continue to pull an Opeth and down the path of de-metalling their sound. While the first couple of albums were chock full of a smorgasbord of sounds, riffs and styles from the metal universe including ferocious death growls and spastic thrash fury, MALINA is surprisingly placid and sombre and only has two tracks that have even a fraction of the intensity and drive as their earlier albums. But this hasn’t come as a shock as “Coal” and “Congregation” both began the de-metallization process and instead LEPROUS have continued to ratchet up their progressive rock leanings. Likewise MALINA takes the next logical step on this trajectory by creating more elaborate compositions, more clever melodic developments, cleaner and sharper production values and a slicker overall sophistication that once all the metal defenses are withdrawn reveal some of the band’s original influences. Personally i have always viewed LEPROUS as more of a sophisticated art pop rock band that just happened to add healthy doses of metal to the mix, so i for one am not shocked that they would tackle a fairly metal free expression of their inner world.

The number one culprit in the inspiration pool is clearly Radiohead and that has never sounded so true as it does on MALINA. Solberg is a dead ringer for a Thom Yorke only Einar just happens to have a larger vocal range and sounds classically trained. Add the sombre electronic atmospheres that surround every note that slinks and slides around like a slithery snake as well as the electronic beats that bring their trip hop influences Massive Attack and The Prodigy to the forefront as well that they seamlessly blend in with the rock instrumentation and you have quite the eclectic mix of sounds although these accoutrements are usually banished to the background of the sonic stage except for intros and moments of contrast. MALINA also sees a shift to a more symphonic sound as Raphael Weinroth-Browne joins the cast and crafts some mean cello and string sections that add a classical touch to certain tracks (such as the rock-free zone on “The Last Milestone.”) Likewise there has been a change of the guard on guitar as Robin Ognedal replaces Øystein Landsverk however the gravitational style of the LEPROUS sound has indoctrinated Ognedal as a dead ringer for a replacement.

Like many a progressive metal band that sheds a layer of their more hardened epidermis to make room for more of the soft underbelly of their layers, MALINA will surely divide fans into the usual two camps of those who dislike new directions especially down the unthinkable path of de-metallization and those who are quite eager to follow the band into any musical pastures in which they graze the yumminess of their musical harvests. LEPROUS remains true to their art pop rock instincts that have been present from day one and despite new ways of delivering their inner tributes to Radiohead, trip hop and bands like Porcupine Tree, they still adhere to the same idiosyncratic sound that got them noticed in the first place. MALINA is yet another powerful musical expression from LEPROUS that careful balances their progressive and math rock tendencies with clever and catchy melodies and possibly qualify this as some sort of indie pop rock.

Of the eleven tracks (twelve if you have the one with the bonus “Root”), only two “Captive” and “Coma” have the instrumental heft of a true metal song in energetic delivery but even these are built in a strange out-of-sync fashion with Solberg’s vocals being rather calm in response to the musical hurricane around him. For those who have always felt LEPROUS was too proggy or artsy for their own good might find MALINA a more suitable listen while metalheads who deem anything else a sellout should steer clear. For those with a more eclectic palette, MALINA is an excellent power indie pop prog run for its entirety run with one strong, addictive track after another showing a more subdued and intricate way of weaving their distinct tapestry of sound. Yeah, i do agree that this is not the best they have to offer but it is by no means a throwaway album that shows the band looking for a retirement home. I could easily see a future release jumping back on the metal bandwagon but in the meantime i’m loving this one a lot.

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FLOTSAM AND JETSAM No Place for Disgrace

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 18 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
No Place For Disgrace is the sophomore full-length album by the cult US Thrash Metal band Flotsam & Jetsam. It was released in 1988 as their old bandmate Jason Newstead was working on Metallica’s …And Justice For All album.

The Phoenix, Arizona band’s musical style here is mostly more or less a direct continuation of that found on their fondly remembered debut album Doomsday For The Deceiver. Its quickfire but not Slayer levels of fast. Its not succinct but never progressive. Its got melody but isn’t overly sugary or radio-pleasant. It reminds me a little bit of Death Angel’s The Ultraviolence at times.

Highlights include the Title Track, especially when it breaks down to a soft section where singer Eric AK describes a man killing himself via hari kari (hence the album’s artwork) as well as the brief instrumental ‘The Jones’ and ‘I Live, You Die’ which is perhaps the fastest song on the album and has some of the finest guitar work.

On an interesting note, there is a rather odd decision here to cover Elton John’s ‘Saturday Nights Alright For Fighting’ which does hold some gimmick value but doesn’t really match the rest of the material.

Compared to some of the more famous bands like Exodus or Anthrax or Overkill or Megadeth, Flotsam & Jetsam are maybe lacking something in character, however they are far from the most generic or forgettable band to play Thrash. A possible exception to this would be the very fun, PMRC-baiting track ‘Hard On You’ which is arguably the catchiest track they’ve made to this point. For me this track, as well as the improved production job, arguably tip this album over their debut, which admittedly was more charming than this at least.

If you like Thrash and want to try something less obvious, this is definitely worth checking out. If you are interested in the band, this is definitely the first album of theirs I’d recommend for you check out (unless you’re just in it for the Newstead connection in which case although some songs were still co-written by him here, the debut he actually plays on is the more obvious way to go).

ANTHRAX Live: The Island Years

Live album · 1994 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.55 | 7 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
Live: The Island Years is a live album by the American Thrash Metal legends Anthrax, it was released in 1994 as a sort of finale or closure of the band’s successful and critically acclaimed Joey Belladonna era, as the band had recently started a new era with John Bush.

It is not one continuous concert all the way through but rather it is two sections; firstly the soundtrack to their Live Noize video, recorded in concert in California in 1991 and then there is a second section which was recorded for radio in New York, live in the studio, added on at the end. You can think of it as two shows cobbled together or you can think of it as them adding some extra value for money onto Live Noize… its up to you.

It is a bit jarring the change between one show and the next, and again the change in sound between the two recordings and productions and mixes, but this is still less jarring than one of those live albums where there’s a different show from a different city as every track, and you do get two well flowing shows in and of themselves.

In terms of track listing, there’s two tracks from their ‘Killer Bs album (A Kiss cover in ‘Parasite’ and the smash hit Public Enemy cover/collaboration ‘Bring The Noise’ fleshed out by Flava Flav who guests here singing part of his own ‘Too Much Posse.’). There’s also one Neil Turban era tune in the form of ‘Metal Thrashing Mad’. The rest of the material is drawn from their four Joey Belladonna era albums. There’s thirteen tracks in total, although annoyingly Spreading The Disease era gem ‘A.I.R.’ is for some reason randomly split across two tracks in an awkward way, which also makes the track order on the back wrong as it doesn’t take this split into account. There’s still thirteen songs however because ‘Too Much Posse’ is not on its own track by itself.

I guess you could complain that four of the tracks are covers (if you are counting ‘Too Much Posse’) or that maybe some of your favourite songs aren’t included but then that’s offset by having a lot of the big singles and concert favourites from Among The Living and Persistence Of Time such as ‘Caught In A Mosh,’ ‘Indians,’ ‘I Am The Law,’ ‘In My World’ and ‘Keep It In The Family’ and a few surprises too. (Hey, who’d have expected a deep cut off of State Of Euphoria? But the album closes with ‘Now Its Dark’).

That’s some great live Thrash Metal from such a classic band during their golden period. In terms of performance, things are accordingly entertaining. Its got a great live feel and isn’t slick or heavily overdubbed and squeaky clean. It feels fun and raw and realistically live (without sounding rough or ramshackle either by the way). The guitar solos have a real energy and aren’t exactly the same as on the albums, Joey singing Neil’s song is interesting, the band having fun geeking out to Kiss is interesting, its all got a sort of atmosphere of fun. I guess they were the band who were noted for always laughing and for example dressing up in beach shorts instead of making themselves grim and serious.

Yes it came out a bit too late and might’ve appeared either like a cash in or like a snub to the Bush era to some fans. Yes, the packaging may seem a bit rushed and cheap. Yes it is two shows mashed together and one of those is in a studio not a proper concert. Yes, 30% of the setlist wasn’t written by Anthrax. However if you like Anthrax and want to hear the band live back in their heyday its still an absolutely worthwhile addition to your collection. There’s some great tunes, some fiery performances, a fairly decent amount of content and a more than adequate live sound job. I feel it does a good job of sitting as a nice full-stop on the Belladonna era.

There are better Anthrax live albums available nowadays; Music Of Mass Destruction (with Bush circa We Have Come For You All) and Alive 2 (from the 2005 Belladonna reunion tour) are particularly recommended. If you only have a limited interest or amount of money then this wouldn’t be the main one I’d recommend, but if you do have an predisposition to check this out I’d definitely state ‘don’t be put off, give it a go!’

MONGE Monge

Demo · 2013 · Black Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
Holyfuckingshit!

THIS is the reason I listen to metal. Occasionally, just very occasionally, something is thrown at you which is so unexpected and so intense it reinvigorates your lust for metal. As a rule, I’d rather listen to a noisecore demo which sounds like someone has thrown a pizza on a turntable and then dropped the needle on it than to subject myself to almost anything from the black metal underground. Atmosphere is something to breathe not listen to, symphonies are best kept for orchestras, and the old gods are as praiseworthy as the tooth fairy.

And so I approached Monge’s self-titled demo with much trepidation, investigating only because it is a side project of Brazilian grindcore band Facada.

The acoustic intro “Descending into the Deepest Abyss of the Self and Deny the Creator of Lands and Seas” is pretty ho-hum. Silly title, competently performed, but nothing much to write home about.

But then, “The Doctrine of Transcendental Invocation” blasts out of the speakers, and “Monge” is transformed into something sublime. All preconceptions are instantly vaporised. This is red-meat-dripping-blood raw black metal, a direct descendant of early Bathory and Mayhem. As with all the best raw black metal, it has buzzsaw guitars, lightning fast drums, and throat shredding vocals. The five tracks following the intro stick strictly to this formula, but it is hardly formulaic, because it is so viciously, convincingly carried off.

The only time this formula seems to change even slightly is on “Summoning the Lords of Tragedies Storm”, which seems to veer more towards crust-tinged grind, punctuated with incredible black metal blasting, and fades out into the only atmospheric passage of the entire demo, a rumbling rainstorm.

The cover of Rotting Christ’s “The Signal of the Evil Existence” is the coup de grace. The song is a perfect choice, made all the more so as the Greek gothic black metal masters began their humble existence as a grindcore band. Monge make it their own.

These three grind freaks could teach even the most frostbitten and grim tr00 kvlt high priest of black metal that the darkness and evil can still return without the extra-curricular fuckwittery of church burning, murder, and National Socialism. This is truly inspiring, violent extreme metal.

RUINS Ruins - Hatoba

Album · 1994 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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While the unhinged drummer Tatsuya Yoshida is often referred to as the Japanese version of Christian Vander for his avant-garde crazed and adrenaline fueled take on Magma's zeuhl contributions to the musical world, on this particular early collection of recordings (1991 - 1993) where he hooked up with experimental and psychedelic noise rocker Omoide Hatoba, he created a very, very strange and bizarre album that will surely leave anyone who dares to enter these realms with the lingering question of if most of this could actually be called music! While zeuhl rhythms dominate the majority of RUINS releases, on this one it is the pure essence of noise rock laced with the extreme and utmost experimental features that could leave the uninitiated running away in sheer terror. On this release there is no doubt that RUINS (sometimes referred to as RUINZHATOVA) runs side by side with label mates the Boredoms in creating the most bizarre and extreme sonic expressions possible all the while maintaining a humorous journey through the unexpected. If you think RUINS in general produces some of the most asymmetric angular bizarreness in the experimental rock world on their "normal" albums then you really need to check out this freak-a-zoid world of the oblique and free form psychosis rock that equally eschews the norms at every step similar to the early Boredoms albums while worshipping the cult of unconventional and placing pandemonium on center stage with a crown royale gracing its riotous presence.

This album is (for the most part) a series of short attitude filled with short punk (in attitude) mode tracks that come and go rather quickly most lasting less than a minute but some reaching the unthinkable three minute mark. Sometimes some thrash metal is added, sometimes weird sound effects, but always highly unstructured musical creations that offer glimpses into the musical ward of an insane asylum but somehow always finding a glimmer of resolution. Graced with ridiculous track titles like "Macrocosmic Microcassette," "We Are All Frozen Stiff," "United States Of Stink Bug," "Geeg Geeg Geeg," the short but sweet post-punk meets avant- prog tracks that deliver all kinds of bizarre twists and turns ranging from funk guitar to chanting to heavy distorted punk / thrash guitar to acoustic psychotic folk that makes me think of Tiny Tim during an acid trip. Everything about this album is meant to be jarring as one idea simply harpoons the previous down. While not quite to the level of early Boredoms where things change by the second, this callithump of creativity at least has the decency of staying somewhat stable for enough time to grasp what is going on.

While the first 25 tracks are an interesting sonic rotisserie of one bizarre idea after another, the true test of the listener's patience comes from the very last track "Rock + 1 (Challenge Your Face)" which lasts a staggering 24 minutes and 51 seconds! This is a true shocking contrast to the in-yer-face punk fueled shorter tracks that make up the first half of the album. The last track could possibly qualify as the most unlistenable piece of, a hem, "music" ever recorded down to tape (as it was in 1991 when this was recorded). This long and surprisingly LOOOOONG track is nothing more than a totally bizarre and wild a cappella ride that has the pseudo-form of creating melodies that has many vocal parts delivering the most bizarre interpretations of monkeys, dog wining and chicken clucking. It goes on for a staggering 20 minutes adding counterpoints and occasionally bizarre and weird echo effects. It's the kind of stuff you can't believe you are hearing! After those 20 minutes, it actually does some weird instrumental things and then turns into the first track of the first album by Italian avant-garde jazz fusionists Area ("Luglio Agosto Settembre Nero")

Just when you think it will never end, it does. This album is definitely a 10 out of 10 on the experimental bizarre-omater. It challenges all notions of what music is. It disturbs the senses like an atheist at a sacred religious ritual. It is Copernicus to the Catholic Church. It's just wild. It all sounds like a fun-fueled event that was caught on tape and subsequently released to the public. Everyone on board is having a very good time as evidenced by the laughter on board. This is free form rock of the highest degree with a healthy dose of Zappa humor on board despite the desire to utterly eschew every orthodox rule of established rock ethics. This is a must hear but will hardly be something that demands repeated listening, however there is something subtly addictive to this if you are an adventurous music lover and i would highly recommend this for everyone to at least check out once. While hardly essential, it is nonetheless strangely satisfying for those seeking out the most bizarre and heterodox musical creations to be heard.

RUINS II

EP · 1987 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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RUINS released their second EP a year after the first and doubled the length by upping the time length to over 20 minutes! They also changed up their sound quite a bit. This begins totally different as it has a mix of melodic bass lines that have a rather subdued effect although the drums are chomping at the bit for a major energy explosive release. After the short opening “Human Being” which belies their true nature, the appropriately titled “Entropy” unleashes the full RUINS effect with Kimoto Kazuyoshi abusing his bass and Tatsuya Yoshida going wild on his retrospective drum kit. Both men scream and holler like animals being violated in test labs and the mix of chaotic zeuhl rhythms and avant-punk chaotic dissonance destroy the musical landscape like a tsunami erasing entire coastal villages.

The main difference between the first EP and RUINS II is that this one has more moments of reflection and contrast in the form of straight forward melodic and rhythmic intros and snippets of sanity between the free-for-all noise rock meets avant-prog and zeuhl rhythms although they are short and to the point but at least recalibrate the listener’s perception before taking the chaotic train to nowhere. The slower parts are much more in line with noise rock bands like Sonic Youth or The Jesus Lizard despite the wild and unhinged vocals but when the duo jump into the swirling eddies of brutal avant-prog they create a maelstrom of time sig tornadoes and unrelenting brutality that the listener finds difficult to believe that only two guys are creating. RUINS II is a step up from the debut in that it has more layers of sound, more diverse musical approaches and is slightly more accessible but still would be deemed extreme noise by the uninitiated who happened upon this.

Although origianally a 10 track EP, it has been released on CD with 19 extra tracks under the titled "Ruins II & 19"

RUINS Ruins

EP · 1986 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Although intended to be a power trio the Japanese band RUINS (there’s an Australian band of the same name) ended up as consisting of only two members: drummer/vocalist Tatsuya and bassist of which there have been four in the history of the band. On this debut EP that to date has only been released on 7” vinyl finds Kawamoto Hideki handling bass duties. Therefore there is no guitar to be heard but rather a cacophonous noise rock production that utilizes the Magma inspired zeuhl rhythms as inspiration but at this point these guys were into free improvisation with highly distorted bass tones, frenetic brutal prog workouts and screamed, shouted and screeched lyrics that were created in their invented language (the Magma connection runs deep).

On this short but sweet debut release that came out in 1986 they manage to cram six tracks into a 10 minute and 17 second release. The whole thing comes off as an avant-punk type of sound actually as the bass gallops so fast that it sounds like a guitar frenzy at times and some of the rhythms remind me more of a Dead Kennedys on speed than anything Christian Zander pumped out however the Magma influences are quite pronounced in the vocals even if the blatant instrumental aspects hadn’t quite conjured up the sophistication to evoke their favorite prog superstars. RUINS is the logical beginning of this band that has always been about speed, distortion and avant-bravado. This EP was never released on CD but is on YouTube and many of the tracks are on the compilation “1986-1992” however “Crisis,” “Catastrophe” and “Nocturne,” half the EP is missing. This is decent but nothing totally unexpected or overly different than their more easily obtainable 90s releases.

FATES WARNING Inside Out

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 34 ratings
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martindavey87
The follow-up to the highly successful 'Parallels', 'Inside Out' is almost identical in sound and style to its predecessor, so much so that it is often regarded as "Parallels Part 2", though I find it is an unfair assumption as this album does contain material of some merit, even going as far as to say it's some of the bands tightest and most consistent songwriting.

Musically, this album follows on where 'Parallels' left off, which a strong emphasis on duel-guitar melodies that allow both players to shine, Mark Zonder's incredible drumming that adds so much flavor to the music, without dominating or taking too much spotlight, and Ray Alder's vocals which truly peaked here, especially in terms of range and capability.

The production is neat and tidy, with no musician being given preference. It does a good job of being a metal album, while also emphasizing the melody of the band.

With songs like 'Outside Looking In', 'Monument', 'Pale Fire', 'The Strand' and 'Face the Fear', it's clear that 'Inside Out' is an underrated classic, which is often overshadowed by the strengths of what came before. It's got some of the bands strongest material and is definitely a worthy addition to the collections of metal and prog fans.

DALI'S DILEMMA Manifesto For Futurism

Album · 1999 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 10 ratings
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martindavey87
After hearing and falling in love with the song 'Within a Stare', I was determined to find this album on CD. I had read other reviews for 'Manifesto' online, and the common opinion was that this album was a "bland, generic, Dream Theater clone". Nothing too much to get worried about then, since this seems to be the typical description for most prog metal bands these days.

I wouldn't go as far as to say this is bland and generic, but whilst the album starts off with some amazing tracks, about halfway through it tends to drop dead, and leaves you feeling like you've been listening to the same song on repeat.

That's not to say this is a bad album, in fact, there are some incredible compositions here that definitely make this a rare gem worth owning. The problem is that for every classic, there's a rather dull, lifeless filler song. Sadly, Dali's Dilemma never had the chance to rectify this with a follow-up album, as this was their only release. At least, at the time of writing this review the band have long-since split up. Still, as far as debut albums go, this one is still pretty decent, and shows a band that had a lot of potential.

With such highlights as 'Within a Stare', Miracles in Yesteryear', 'Despite the Waves', 'This Time Around' and the short-but-sweet piano ballad 'Whispers', this is still an album worth checking out, even if it isn't anything you've never heard before.

KAMELOT Dominion

Album · 1997 · Power Metal
Cover art 2.95 | 17 ratings
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martindavey87
The band’s debut 'Eternity', despite being nothing more than standard 90's power metal, had some pretty cool moments in there. Unfortunately their follow-up album, 'Dominion', is more-or-less the same thing, only with all-round weaker and less memorable songs.

However, with that said, there are two highlights for me, which is 'Song of Roland' and 'We Are Not Separate'. At this point both of these songs are stronger than anything else Kamelot recorded on this album or its predecessor. Sadly they're just not enough to save the whole album from being anything more than "good".

An all-round good power metal album, not really for anyone other than Kamelot diehards though. The best is yet to come.

3 INCHES OF BLOOD Battlecry Under a Winter Sun

Album · 2002 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 6 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
With heavy galloping guitar riffs right out of the 80s came Victoria, BC’s answer to 80s power metal for a new millennium leaving no influential rock unreturned and shamelessly tethering it to their underbellies to unleash the anthem metal fury of a time gone by. While heavily fortified with every New Wave Of British Heavy Metal sound possible with Maiden-esque guitar gallops, dungeon and dragon fantasies of early Dio, US power metal gusto reminding me of Brocas Helm or Manilla Road, the feisty band 3 INCHES OF BLOOD meant business taking their passion for the art to points of well…. ridiculousness!

Forming in 1999 and unleashing their debut BATTLECRY UNDER A WINTER SUN in 2002, the band quickly found a newfound niche in cleverly crafting their NWOBHM approach with the unexpected lo-fi production values and occasional demon shrieking of black metal courtesy of the duo vocal machines of Jamie Hooper who handles the demon parts and Cam Pipes who does his best intermediate version of Rob Halford and King Crimson.

The duo succeed in screaming their throats out as the duo guitar attack and bass and drum punishment tackle the epic battles in fantasy lands worshipping everything 80s epic with a more darkened image update in a punkish black metal lo-fi approach. Approaching this album left me with a less than lackluster expectation as this band seems to get little respect, is rated rather poorly and after all, hasn’t there been enough genuine metal from the 80s without a need for nostalgic retread?

Well, lo and behold i was quite surprised how easily i digested this little raucous romp through the feisty curiosos as they channeled the greats of yesteryear. While this is hardly the most original amalgamation of sounds ever composed it certainly has a decent entertainment value as it brings to mind various great bands of the past but yet doesn’t sound exactly like any of them.

Pockmarked with pummeling speed and power metal gallops, 3 INCHES OF BLOOD’s debut album is a retro stampede into the world of Orcs, chaotic thrones and blazing fires. Laced with addictive riffs and screaming dueling vocalists often rendered audibly inseparable, BATTLECRY UNDER THE WINTER SUN is a surprisingly listenable journey into the retro promised lands that deliver all the expected skeletal onslaughts and curses of lighthouse keepers.

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