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ENTOMBED A.D. Back to the Front

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Back to the Front" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Entombed A.D.. The album was released through Century Media Records in August 2014. "Back to the Front" was originally meant to be the 10th full-length studio album by Entombed, but before recording the album guitarist Alex Hellid decided to quit, and the four remaining members (Lars Göran Petrov (Vocals), Nico Elgstrand (Guitars), Victor Brandt (Bass), Olle Dahlstedt (Drums)) recorded the album after they opted to continue with the band. Because of disagreements over the ownership of the Entombed name, they were not allowed to release "Back to the Front" under that monicker though, so they decided to release the album under the Entombed A.D. monicker instead.

...and listening to "Back to the Front" it makes perfect sense that they opted to continue with the Entombed name, even though they were forced to add the A.D. at the end of it, because this sounds unmistakably like Entombed. You won´t notice that there now isn´t a single person in the band that has appeared on every release the band have recorded. Besides Alex Hellid, the above mentioned lineup is actually also the exact same lineup who recorded the band´s previous studio album "Serpent Saints: The Ten Amendments (2007)", so these guys have played music together as Entombed for many years now.

Stylistically the music on the album pretty much continues the distinct sounding death metal style of it´s predecessor. So it´s a mixture of old school Swedish death metal, rock´n´roll, hard rock, and punk influences. There´s little new to be found here as this is more or less how the band have sounded since 1993, but they´ve increased the old school death metal elements a slight bit over the last couple of releases and the death´n´roll tag that has been applied to them is only partially true these days, and it´s probably mostly due to the organic, raw and filthy way the band play their death metal and how they chose to produce their albums. Entombed deliver both heavy and mid-paced tracks and occasionally speed up to a faster pace too. The music is not just raw death metal as the band also successfully incorporate acoustic guitars and piano to some tracks as atmosphere enhancers. As always it´s Lars Göran Petrov´s distinct sounding semi-growling vocals that defines the band´s sound, but the guitar tone and the riffing are also easily recognisable as the sound of Entombed.

The material on the 11 track, 51:08 minutes long "Back to the Front", features few surprises and as such it´s just another good quality release in a longer line of good quality releases by Entombed. I wouldn´t rate it among the band´s best output, but it´s a fairly strong release that shows that Entombed A.D. are more than worthy to carry on the legendary name (A.D. added or not). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SCAR SYMMETRY The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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Primeval Scum
The Unseen Empire and Dark Matter Dimensions were good albums in their own right, but this album has removed any traces of doubt from my mind......Scar Symmetry is still as BRILLIANT as ever!

The greatness of the first part of The Singularity rivals the greatness of Holographic Universe in just about every way. If the final two parts can maintain the quality established here, the Trilogy will displace Holographic Universe as Scar Symmetry's crowning achievement. I was as skeptical as anyone when the band moved on without Christian Alvestam, and never thought I would love anything they did quite as much without him...until this album. Yes, it's that good.

The band has clearly mastered their sound. The vocalists sound amazing and their chemistry with each other and the rest of the band has improved by leaps and bounds. The pacing is perfect. They nailed the futuristic atmosphere they were going for and it goes hand in hands with the interesting lyrical concepts about transhumanism. The songwriting sees Scar Symmetry at their most progressive and creative, without sacrificing an ounce of the catchiness and fun choruses the fans love. All in all, this is exactly what I wanted out of a Scar Symmetry album in 2014 - and I can't wait until the next two installments!

Highlights: All the songs are top-quality stuff, but I like Neohuman, Neuromancers, and Technocalyptic Cybergeddeon the most.

A SOUND OF THUNDER The Lesser Key of Solomon

Album · 2014 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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adg211288
The Lesser Key of Solomon (2014) is the fourth full-length album by US heavy metal act A Sound of Thunder. A Sound of Thunder are one of those bands who seem to be an unstoppable force with their output as it's only actually been a few years since their debut album Metal Renaissance (2011) was released. I've personally followed them since their second album Out of the Darkness (2012) and have never failed to be impressed by their work and their last album Time's Arrow (2013) was just about everything I wanted from the band after first experiencing Out of the Darkness. Needless to say that makes The Lesser Key of Solomon a release that I've been highly anticipating since it was first announced.

It's clear right from the first spin though that The Lesser Key of Solomon isn't the instant love affair that Time's Arrow offered. The mood of this album seems darker than the previous two A Sound of Thunder efforts I've listened to, which may explain why it needs a little time to sink in. I guess the band were also due an album that was less immediate though, needing time to grow on the listener and I feel confident to say that's certainly the case here. I can actually track my reactions to each spin I've given the album starting from this is good, but... to I may have to settle on a lower score than Time's Arrow for this one to hmm...I think I've been misjudging this one so far.

The music on The Lesser Key of Solomon is essentially yet another take on A Sound of Thunder's traditional heavy metal sound and that's exactly what I expect to hear. I still need to hear their debut but they haven't made the same album twice since I've been listening to them. Though The Lesser Key of Solomon has proved to need a few listens to get into this was one thing that was never in question. I do think though that the actual elements in the sound, in terms of the amount of different genres being drawn on, that The Lesser Key of Solomon is actually the least diverse I've heard A Sound of Thunder so far but to counteract that rather than drawing a little bit of several genres they instead draw more extensively on progressive metal, which has now become the most common the most common secondary element I can hear in their music, followed by power metal which to my ears is absent on this record.

I would go as far to say that the progressive elements make The Lesser Key of Solomon a progressive heavy metal album. That is to say that it's not a progressive metal album in the sense that the term is used for bands like Dream Theater or Ayreon but it's also significantly more than a straight up no frills attached traditional heavy metal album too. This is the same niche that I'd put Iron Maiden's later records in as well as their classic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) album. In fact a comparison to the later Iron Maiden albums isn't wrong in other ways too. Particularly the mix of longer and shorter songs has later Maiden written all over it.

As the album grew on me more and more it became clear that The Lesser Key of Solomon is easily A Sound of Thunder's most consistent work to date. Early standouts should be mentioned as Elijah and Blood From the Mummy's Tomb, which are two of the album's longer tracks. The of course there's Udoroth, the first full long on the album after the doomy intro piece Nexus of Realities, which is a real beast of a song. The other songs all definitely reach the same level after a few spins too. Even the more ballad orientated parts are top quality work and not all metal albums can claim that.

The Lesser Key of Solomon may be a grower but it's often the case that such albums end up the better regarded works and after giving it a few listens I'm happy to report than my early fears of it being a step down from Time's Arrow were unfounded. In fact just as Time's Arrow was a step up from Out of the Darkness so too is The Lesser Key of Solomon a step up from Time's Arrow. This is the finest traditional heavy metal release I've heard from 2014 and a top tier rating is most definitely well earned. The first of hopefully many for A Sound of Thunder.

98/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/a-sound-of-thunder-the-lesser-key-of-solomon-t3806.html)

HANNES GROSSMANN The Radial Covenant

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"The Radial Covenant" is the debut full-length studio album by German artist Hannes Grossmann. The album was independently released in January 2014. Hannes Grossmann is quite a prolific name in metal circles having contributed his drumming to recordings by acts like Blotted Science, Necrophagist and Obscura. On this album he handles the drums and rhythm guitars, while a host of guests contribute lead guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals. Among others Linus Klausenitzer and Christian Münzner who at the time were his bandmates in Obscura, but also prolific names like Jeff Loomis and Ron Jarzombek. Triptykon guitarist V.Santura is one of the guest vocalists on the album and he has also handled the mixing and mastering of "The Radial Covenant".

Not surprisingly the music on "The Radial Covenant" is technical/progressive death metal which is very similar in sound and execution to Obscura (the Obscura track "Euclidean Elements" is included in a piano version, which closes the album). The musicianship are on an impressive high level and the material, which were written over the course of two years and recorded in July/August 2013, are of a relatively high compositional quality too. It´s a sci-fi concept album. The vocals are growling and the music features tempo changes, blazing solos by the many guests, and fast-paced riffing. There is the odd progressive idea here and there like a latin music section with handclaps, but other than that, "The Radial Covenant" is a relatively consistent album both in style and in quality.

Hannes Grossmann is first and foremost a drummer and therefore it´s only natural that the drums are pretty dominant in the mix. Not in a tasteless way tough and the sound production is professional, clear, detailed, and powerful.

Compared to some of the other acts that Hannes Grossmann has been involved with, this solo project is ultimately just a notch less interesting. When it comes down to it, it´s the compositions that lack a little something to elevate them from solid to brilliant. Fans of the above mentioned acts and especially fans of Obscura, should definitely check out "The Radial Covenant" though. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS High Priestess

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 4 ratings
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Unitron
Kobra and the Lotus-High Priestess

'High Priestess' is the follow up to Kobra and the Lotus's amazing self-titled album, and their overall third studio album.

'High Priestess' expands on everything that was set in place on the previous album, adding in thrash elements while maintaining the traditional/power style of the previous album. It begins with the fast and powerful 'Warhorse' which sets the mood of the album very well. The song 'I am, I am' is fully-blown thrash metal, which sounds very Helstar-like with the music combined with Kobra Paige's powerful vocals. My personal favorite song is 'Battle of Wrath', which can sound very menacing at times. 'Soldier' is another favorite, having great lyrics and melody and a great music video.

Unlike the previous album, there is much more of a balance between fast and angry tracks and more flowing tracks. Songs like 'Heartbeat', 'Hold On', and the finale 'Lost in the Shadows' have a softer and more flowing aspect to them.

Overall, all I can really say is that it's everything the previous album was and more. I recommend it to any fan of power metal or traditional metal, and definitely anyone who enjoyed the previous album.

Hope you found this review helpful.

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SUICIDAL TENDENCIES How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.03 | 8 ratings
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UMUR
"How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Suicidal Tendencies. The album was released through Epic Records in September 1988. "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today" marks the beginning of the band´s most commercially successful period helped along by the change of label from the small Caroline Records to the major label Epic Records.

The music on the album is a further step in a thrashy direction compared to the predecessor "Join the Army (1987)". Still the band won´t fully let go of their crossover/hardcore roots and they pop up now and again. The quality is generally high on the album but to my ears it´s especially the opening trio of tracks "Trip at the Brain", "Hearing Voices" and "Pledge Your Allegiance" plus the great title track that stand strongest in memory. Some of the material on the latter part of the album are not as memorable albeit still enjoyable.

The musicianship is solid and the sound production professional and suits the music well. It was already obvious on the last album how great a guitarist Rocky George is, but here he really gets to show all his skills. The album is loaded with blistering guitar solos courtesy of George. The vocals by Mike Muir is as always an aquired taste, but I think most people can agree that he has one of the most distinct sounding and easily recognisable singing styles in metal. Had all tracks been of the high quality of the first four tracks on the album, "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today" would have deserved a full 4 star (80%) rating, but as I think the quality drops slightly the longer you get into the album a 3.5 star (70%) rating will do.

ATTOMICA Attomica

Album · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Attomica" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by Brazilian thrash metal act Attomica. The album was released through Equinox Discos in 1987. It was reissued and remastered on CD by Kill Again Records in 2006. The reissue features four bonues tracks.

The music on the album is filthy, raw and energetic thrash metal. Because of the high pitched snarling vocals I´ll even dare call this a blackened thrash metal release. The sound production is pretty lo-fi, noisy and distorted and it would be a stretch to call it professional sounding. It does however suit the extremely raw nature of the music very well. Other than "Lost Time" which is an instrumental track, the rest of the 7 tracks on the 37:00 minutes long album, are all aggressive blackened thrash metal tracks, delivered with fierce conviction and sometimes in a very fast pace too. It might not technically be blast beats, but considering that this album was released in 1987, the drumming is occasionally pretty fast-paced.

So if you like them as raw as they come, "Attomica" might by your poison. The musicianship could have been on a higher level, the sound production could certainly have sounded more professional and the songwriting is at times not of the highest quality either, but damn this album still possesses a rare "raw to the bone" type charm... a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

STYX The Serpent Is Rising

Album · 1973 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.16 | 4 ratings
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Unitron
Styx-The Serpent is Rising

After the good but overall weaker effort of 'Styx II', Styx released one of their most groundbreaking albums yet. The mighty 'The Serpent is Rising' came and became a pretty odd release in Styx's discography.

The Serpent is Rising is a widely varied album, with songs ranging from heavy proto-metal rockers like 'Witch Wolf' and 'Young Man' and softer melodic tracks like 'The Grove of Eglantine' and 'As Bad As This'. Dennis DeYoung wrote most of the songs for the previous album, but guitarist John Curulewski took most of the songwriting duties for this album. This probably led to this album being much heavier then anything Styx had done before, hence James Young or Curulewski singing on most of the tracks. I find it hard to imagine DeYoung's vocals being very suited for the gritty heavy songs, his vocals give a great performance on 'The Grove of Eglantine' though.

My favorite song on the album is 'Young Man', which begins with some great acoustics and pretty dark lyrics. The song builds up quite a bit, especially after a soft melodic bridge when Young screams, quite a contrast. Another standout song is the title track combined with the final two tracks. The title track is sang by Curulewski and his voice fits in perfectly with the swirling keyboards and moogs and heavy menacing guitar. Then comes 'Krakatoa', which is a one and a half-minute track of screams before 'Hallelujah' starts playing.

I'm not sure if this is true, but I've always seen this album as a concept album. It may be subtle, but it appears that it's a concept album about life and death. Many of the lyrical themes connect to different parts of a mans life, 'The Grove of Eglantine' being about finding love, 'Young Man' being about war, 'As Bad as This' having to do with depression, and the title track relating to death.

Overall, this is my personal favorite Styx album and one of my favorite progressive rock albums of all time. It's an extremely underrated album and an album I find flawless.

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FUEL Natural Selection

Album · 2003 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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VerticalUprising
Out of all the hard rock bands I listen to, there's something about Fuel that makes me like them so much. Even though other HR bands that I know, such as Theory of a Deadman and Nickelback, Fuel takes the top spot as my favorite of them all. Which is saying alot, seeing as Theory was a band that I have known all my life.

I think a great example of Fuel's expertise is in their 2003 album, "Natural Selection".

As apposed to other Fuel albums, "Natural Selection" has a distinct metal tinge to it. A good example is my favorite song, 'Won't Back Down'.

'Won't Back Down' actually originated from the Daredevil film-score from 2003, however it was remixed and added to their album released in the same year. It was already a single from the motion picture, however got higher success upon the release of "Natural Selection". This song sort of brings out the difference of Fuel that I mentioned before. Unlike the other, slightly weaker song, 'WBD' has dark tones, great vocals, and awesome composition. Great recommendation for anyone wanting to listen to the album.

Other tracks, as stated before, are a little weaker, but honestly not by much. As apposed to the modern style of rock that alot of bands had and still possess today, this has a much darker feel to it than say Theory of a Deadman's "The Truth Is...".

The album is able to retain a symphonic yet overall crashing hard feel to it, and it really shows.

Overall, this album is a no brainer for any Fuel fan, and a definite purchase for anyone wishing to get into the band.

Go give it a listen.

DRAGONFORCE Valley of the Damned

Album · 2003 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.66 | 21 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
After releasing a demo turned EP in 2000 with the same exact album title but then known as DragonHeart, the band changed its name to DRAGONFORCE. Right from the getgo this was a guitar oriented band formed by guitarists Herman Li and Sam Totman who amazed and dazzled with their super fast and dizzying guitar solos that evoked electronic sounds that remind of retro video games. This is certainly a controversial band evoking lots of love and probably even more contempt. It's true that power metal has a certain cheesy haughtiness that evokes a fantastical triumph of forces and although DRAGONFORCE is no exception to the rule, the fact is that for me personally I can listen to the music if its good despite having a storyline or lyrical content that is a little shallow and predictable.

A major complaint about these guys is also that the tempo is way too fast. Personally that is one of the reasons I like these guys despite the cheese factor in the delivery of the vocal performance. The reason I can't rate this album any higher is more of sameyness for the most part. As we go through track by track each is performed amazingly well but there is little variation between tempo, cadence or content (with few exceptions like “Starfire” being a ballad in the midst of the speedfest). That alone is the main problem for me with DRAGONFORCE in general. This debut album sets the stage for a pattern that is replicated throughout their career and despite the amazing talent on board, there is a sense of playing it safe throughout not only this debut but the many albums to follow. Still though with all this in mind, it's a decent listen albeit not one that I choose to throw on regularly.

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