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MELVINS A Walk With Love & Death

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"A Walk With Love & Death" is the 25th full-length studio album by US hard/heavy rock act Melvins. The album was released through Ipecac Recordings in July 2017. It´s the successor to "Basses Loaded" from 2016. While "Basses Loaded" is an album featuring material compiled from various recording sessions during the last decade, "A Walk With Love & Death" features freshly written new material.

"A Walk With Love & Death" is a double album release. The first part of the album is titled "Death" and the second part of the album is titled "Love". The "Death" part of the album (tracks 1-9) are individual tracks in the usual hard/heavy rock style that Melvins have played for now many years, while the "Love" part of the album (tracks 10-23) is the soundtrack to a short film by Jesse Nieminen, titled "A Walk With Love & Death". The album features various guest performances, but the main tracks were recorded by the three-piece lineup of King Buzzo (Guitar, Vocals, Theremin, Modular Synth, Assorted Noise), Dale Crover (Drums, Vocals, Assorted Noise), Steven McDonald (Bass, Vocals, Assorted Noise).

The heavy/hard rock part of the album is pretty standard quality Melvins. Some tracks stand out a bit more than others, but the "Death" part of the album is generally pretty consistent in quality and style. I´d mention tracks like "Euthanasia" and "Christ Hammer" as some of the highlights, but they aren´t major standout tracks. Overall it´s not Melvins as their best, but certainly not at their worst either, and the "Death" part of the album is generally entertaining enough.

The "Love" part of the album is another story. Some soundtrack albums feature "regular" vers/chorus pop/rock material and maybe some atmospheric sound collages/experiments, voice samples, and assorted noises (there are plenty of examples, but I´d mention "More (1969)" and "Obscured by Clouds (1972)" by Pink Floyd to make my point), but Melvins have opted to only include the latter type of material on the "Love" part of the album (with a few exceptions where they break the sound collage style with something which resembles regular songs). It´s probably an aquired taste if this type of music is something a listener can appreciate, but if enjoy atmospheric sound collages, you may be able to enjoy the 14 tracks on this part of the album.

Personally I find the "Love" part of the album completely redundant, and although the "Death" part of the album is good quality heavy/hard rock and "A Walk With Love & Death" features a well sounding organic production and Melvins are as always distinct sounding and very well playing, I have to evaluate "A Walk With Love & Death" as a full product, and in that regard the soundtrack part of the album does drag my rating down. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

JUDAS PRIEST Firepower

Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 13 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
18 studio albums in, and Metal Pioneers Judas Priest are still relevant. There are many bands from the past who are making great music nowadays. Kreator have been as good in the past 10 years as they ever were in the ’80s. You can add Saxon and Accept to that list. Queensryche since Todd joined too.

Priest’s best moments on Redeemer Of Souls and Angel Of Retribution were in that sort of sphere as well but not to the unquestionable level of the above mentioned renaissances. Judging from how magazines, podcasts, blogs and websites I care about have reacted to Firepower however, I was expecting seriously great things when pressing play for the first time.

I’ve been hammering this record non-stop in the car for about half a month now, repeat listening to it over and over again. Its taken a while to grow on me as I had such high expectations after the last Saxon album and also all the hype surrounding this, that it almost did more harm than good setting me unrealistic expectations, but after taking a good long time to really digest it and understand how I feel about it, I can definitely confirm Firepower is a bit of a banger.

There are a few moments of variety, such as the slower closer ‘Sea Of Red’ and the brief instrumental ‘Guardians’ but most of the material is just straight ahead well written classic heavy metal. Highlights for me include ‘Evil Never Dies,’ ‘Rising From Ruins,’ ‘Flame Thrower’ and especailly ‘Traitors Gate.’

That being said, its an album you can listen to all the way through, and its an album you can happily listen to on repeat. I once heard the phrase ‘an album you can get lost in’ and that’s exactly how I feel about Firepower. The performances pop. Rob’s vocals are more energetic than on the previous record. Travis’ drums are that little bit harder. The production is a lot sharper and more metallic as well. Everything sounds that little bit harder and heavier. Maybe its having that Andy Sneap involvment? Who knows, but everything rips. The band sound twenty years younger.

I wouldn’t go overboard and start heaping tonnes and tonnes of hyperbolic praise on this personally. I wouldn’t argue its better than Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller. I like Angel Of Retribution and Redeemer Of Souls well enough already not to go down that ‘best album since Painkiller’ route, but I will say it is a worthy addition to the band’s catalogue and no disapointment whatsoever. A pedantic person may be inclined to argue it is a bit overlong, and that a few songs are a bit forgettable compared to the better ones, but those are arguments that can be made for pretty much every album nowadays. Iron Maiden fans are well used to it at this stage and it doesn’t stop us buying their albums.

After Nostradamus I thought this band may be hitting a downer period and after KK left the band it seemed quite unlikely they would be anything more than a nostalgia act but that’s two albums now they’ve proved that fear wrong. The band are arguably on an upward streak and they are starting to sound almost as fresh and relevant as the new Accept and Saxon albums have been. Considering by how long Priest pre-date those bands its even more impressive really. It isn’t just as amazing as I was expecting, but what I was expecting wasn’t realistic to begin with, but the more I play Firepower, the closer it gets to being a reality.

If you like Priest, get it. If you like Classic Metal, get it. Hell, if you like Metal at all, get it!

AUGURY Illusive Golden Age

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
It's been a long road for the Canadian technical death metal act Augury to reach their third album, Illusive Golden Age (2018). Band members have come, gone and come back again and nine years have passed them by since the release of Fragmentary Evidence (2009), which itself took five years since their debut album Concealed (2004). The band was formed in 2002 and has never been outright inactive, but three albums in sixteen years isn't the most consistent showing. Augury is forgiven for this of course due to how bloody good those first two albums were. Augury is, as far as this humble reviewer is concerned, the best death metal act to have ever existed. Concealed is the main reason for that belief, but Fragmentary Evidence also goes a long way to strengthen it. Still, making their fans wait almost a whole decade for this follow-up can't have kept them in everyone's good graces. It's been so long that now that the album actually has dropped many may have even forgotten that these guys were in fact still around and who can blame them? But the third Augury album is here now and it's time to find out if it was worth the wait.

Hell. Fucking. Yes. Yes it was.

Illusive Golden Age has the sound of an album that is both familiar if you've heard Augury's earlier work but also with a bit of a different spin on it. The more atmospheric sections of music that they like to use have seen a reduction here compared to Fragmentary Evidence, as have the clean singing vocals from frontman Patrick Loisel, who main sticks to mixing his deep growling and higher pitched screams. His clean voice is still used but don't expect a track like the previous album's Sovereigns Unknown to show up during Illusive Golden Age. After nine years away Augury seem to have made a statement that they're all about the death metal. I'm not sure that anyone ever doubted that about them as they've always had a heavy sound and Loisel's deeper growls have always been brutal as hell, but that's the best description of how this album feels compared to their previous one that I can come up with.

That's not to say that their sound has become lesser by reducing these elements of variation. After all they are still there being used to effect when needed and the level of technical skill on display seems to be higher than ever, if that was even possible, including the audible fretless bass work from Dominic 'Forest' Lapointe. This is so noticeable it's like the bass is being used as the lead instrument. Not to sell what may be some of the best and most intricate technical death metal guitar work ever recorded short here, but fretless bass guitar works so damn well in this genre that it's near impossible not to focus on it as the band's defining feature. Augury and by extension Lapointe's ventures with similar band Beyond Creation have always done this well and it really does feel like he gets to share the centre stage with the two guitarists, Loisel and Mathieu Marcotte. That's very rare for a bass player and for me it's what really makes Augury more than simply technical, but also progressive.

Due to how technical and progressive their music is calling this album straight-forward seems like the start of a bad joke, but the simple fact that matter is that Illusive Golden Age is undeniably a bit less unusual in terms of its song-writing direction, especially if you're comparing it to the often weird Concealed (which for me remains their best album) or the more atmospheric Fragmentary Evidence. I think maybe stripped back would be a more appropriate way to describe it in relation to their previous, but Illusive Golden Age can only be called generic at your own peril. Augury's ability to write coherent and mostly unelongated songs while still being so technical with their riffs should quickly squash any such thoughts you might be having about this release. They did not make their comeback as just another generic tech death act by any means. They've made their comeback with an album that still sounds distinctly like an Augury album that has its own identity from their previous two. I don't know about you readers, but I'll take it.

I haven't mentioned any specific songs from Illusive Golden Age yet and that's because of the eight it's difficult to single out any particular one and then convincingly justify why that one is better. It can't be done. At a total running time of 44:20 Illusive Golden Age is pretty easy to take in during a single listen and let it all in as a singular experience. I will say that Augury made a good choice in Mater Dolorosa as the first song released to promote the album as it is a great one for getting a feel of exactly what to expect from the album. I didn't personally have any doubts that Augury would deliver when they eventually managed to get a third album out, but this song certainly sealed the deal on a CD pre-order from me. Of course there was little doubt that I'd have bought it anyway, but that song was enough to know that I need this in my hands as soon as possible. This is the death metal album to beat in 2018. I have little faith that anyone will come close to what Augury achieved here though. The long wait is forgiven...though try not to leave it another nine years next time lads.

DANZIG Black Laden Crown

Album · 2017 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Black Laden Crown" is the 11th full-length studio album by US heavy rock act Danzig. The album was released through AFM Records/Nuclear Blast Records in May 2017. "Black Laden Crown" is the first Danzig featuring new original material since "Deth Red Sabaoth" from 2010. The two albums are however bridged by the covers album "Skeletons" from 2015. The material on the 9 track, 43:11 minutes long album were recorded over the course of 3 years, with the initial recording sessions starting in February 2014.

Vocals, rhythm guitars, some bass parts, and some drums were performed by Glenn Danzig, while lead guitars and the remaining bass parts were handled by Tommy Victor. In addition to the drum parts that Glenn Danzig performs, no less than four other drummers were involved in the recording of the album: Joey Castillo, Johnny Kelly, Karl Rockfist, and Dirk Verbeuren.

Stylistically most tracks on the album can be described as a heavy and dark type of doomy rock. Most are slow and atmospheric tracks, but "Eyes Ripping Fire" and "Devil On Hwy 9" are slightly more hard rocking with a heavy bluesy edge. Not completely unlike the musical direction on the early albums by the band. It´s obvious though that a lot of water has run under the bridge, and in the intermediate years Danzig changed their sound and added industrial elements and generally had less focus on the bluesy heavy rock side of their music. On the last couple of albums the latter style has crept back into the band´s sound though, and "Black Laden Crown" is a combination of the various elements the band have picked up over the years. The material are generally well written and fairly memorable, although a bit more variation could have made the album more interesting.

The musicianship is solid, although there´s little here which requires great (technical) skill to play. Glenn Danzig was born in 1955 and is not a young man anymore, and while he still has a powerful and distinct sounding voice, said voice has changed a bit and has become a bit more hoarse on his older days. "Black Laden Crown" features a sound production which unfortunately takes away some of the power of the music. The instrumental part of the music is often a bit low in the mix, while the vocals are placed unnaturally high. The latter are also produced with an effect, which makes them sound a bit like they were recorded in an empty bathroom, and that´s not particularly pleasant to listen to.

Despite some elements of the album not quite reaching the expectations, it is nice that the tracks generally work well and "Black Laden Crown" is overall a decent quality release. It would be fair if some listeners had their doubts regarding the project after the minor catastrophy of "Skeletons (2015)", but thankfully Danzig make a decent return to form on "Black Laden Crown". The album doesn´t exactly reach the heights of the band´s iconic late 80s/early 90s releases, but less will do and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

KAMELOT The Shadow Theory

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
As someone who listens to a large amount of music every year, I’ve piled up a ton of favorite bands, some of which I’d say I can always rely on to produce an excellent album, while others fall into more of a long shot category, where sometimes they’ll disappoint me, but other times they’ll pull through and blow me away. One of the main bands I place into that category is American band Kamelot, one of the most well known and prolific power metal bands in all of North America. They’ve released three of my all-time favorite albums over the years in Epica, The Black Halo, and Silverthorn, but they’ve also released some disappointments like Ghost Opera and the total snooze fest, Poetry for the Poisoned. They’re one of those bands where every time I start to either lean towards loving them for all their great works or being a bit hard on them for their disappointments, they always manage to turn things around on me fairly quickly. So it’s no real surprise that after their last release Haven ended up letting me down a bit after the masterful comeback album Silverhorn, to the point where I started doubting the band again, their upcoming 12th full-length release The Shadow Theory has yet again managed to pull me back in. It’s not quite on the level of some of their all-time best works, but it’s a more consistent, more cohesive, yet somehow more varied and interesting album than Haven, which in some ways pushes their sound forward a bit, while also celebrating everything they’ve been in the past.

For a while it’s felt like Kamelot hasn’t quite known what to do with their sound, with the likes of Ghost Opera and Poetry for the Poisoned experimenting with melodic heavy metal and progressive metal respectively, neither of which quite worked for the band, while Silverthorn represented the return of their classic power metal sound in all its glory, paired with an increased focus on symphonic arrangements. At the time, I was expecting future albums to continue with that direction, but somehow Haven pushed the power metal elements into the background, while keeping the symphonic elements as the main focus, and so it ended up feeling like a slightly better version of the two aforementioned weaker albums, while still ultimately falling short of my expectations. Obviously, I had no clue what to expect from The Shadow Theory, but in the end, it has proven itself to be their most varied release in quite some time, possibly ever, combining elements from all their past releases, while also including some new elements at times.

Most notably, the keyboards seem to be a greater focus than ever before. Obviously, they were always there on past albums, but this time around they become the main focus a bit more often, along with the symphonic elements, of course. While they sound more typical on some tracks, others like “Ravenlight” and “Amnesiac” have a much more modern sound to them, almost giving the music a slight trance metal feel, which has never been there before. The guitar work is also a bit heavier and more modern sounding on some tracks, especially on “Phantom Divine” and “Kevlar Skin”. At the same time this is a Kamelot album, and so there’s still a ton of great melodies here as well, with some excellent melodic guitar leads, great guitar solos, epic symphonic arrangements, and huge vocal melodies and choruses. In fact, this album has some of their best melodies in quite some time, especially on some of the speedier, more power focused tracks, but even a slower, darker track like “Burns to Embrace” has an incredible chorus. As far as the songwriting goes, there’s a little something for everyone here, with fans of their classic power metal being given quite a few great tracks to look forward to, while fans of their slower, darker and more melodic tracks have quite a few songs to look forward to, and of course there’s a couple more progressive tracks as well as two ballads. Most importantly, though, where Haven had a couple tracks that bored me, this time around every song is consistently engaging. The musicianship is of course top notch as always and the production is absolutely perfect, as fans would expect.

The one element of Kamelot that’s consistently been excellent is the vocals, and of course, The Shadow Theory is no exception there. I’ve always loved Tommy Karevic’s vocals, and while I personally prefer his more emotional, higher ranged vocals he uses with his other band, Seventh Wonder, he’s done an excellent job of fitting in with Kamelot’s sound over these past three albums, and each time he sounds more and more comfortable. At this point, he feels like he seamlessly blends in with the band, doing an equally great job on the speedier, more upbeat sections and on the slower, darker sections. Perhaps the one thing I miss is some of the more dynamic vocal performances he gives with Seventh Wonder, as he seems to be more and more focused on channeling Roy Khan here, singing lower and darker than normal, which he, of course, does a great job of, but it does feel like some of his talents are largely being left untapped. Make no mistake about it, though, he does an excellent job on this album, and if anything my criticisms are more due to personal taste than anything else.

Of course, the biggest concern for any Kamelot album is whether or not the songwriting holds up. Thankfully, this time around the band has produced a collection of excellent tracks, which cover all aspects of their sound and it feels like they did their best job of giving everyone a little something to enjoy. Unsurprisingly, there’s both an orchestral intro and outro, both of which are quite nice, and in between those are 11 songs of varying sound, but each of them is memorable in different ways.

Fans of speedy power metal are in for a treat right away with “Phantom Divine (Shadow Empire)”, which has a brief keyboard intro before the orchestra and guitars kick in and it quickly speeds up, before slowing down for the slow but heavy verses. Once the chorus hits, though, it goes full speed ahead, with an excellent, speedy power metal chorus that fans of the band will instantly fall in love with, as Tommy delivers some epic vocals that bring Khan to mind in the best way possible, and from there the song keeps getting heavier and more intense as it goes on, with the second half of the track featuring the first of two appearances from Once Human vocalist Lauren Hart, who provides some pretty epic death growls. Overall, it’s an excellent track, which kicks things off in style. Next is “Ravenlight”, the first song released and it kind of represents a middle ground, largely being more of a darker, mid-paced track with some pretty heavy riffs and nice modern sounding keys, but it speeds up dramatically towards the end, for its most impressive section. Overall, I find the track to be solid, but it doesn’t fully grab my attention as the melodies are nice but not fantastic, and the main riff isn’t especially memorable. However, the final 45 seconds, when the song fully speeds up, are absolutely fantastic and help take it to the next level.

Other speedier tracks include the oddball “Amnesiac”, a fun and upbeat track which doesn’t quite reach full power metal speed, but it does move at a nice pace, especially during its chorus. It starts off with some very heavy guitar work, before giving way to some very trance-like keys, which lead the way through much of the track, especially the chorus, which is upbeat and very fun. It’s a bit of weird track, being a bit lighter and more keyboard driven than normal, but it’s actually very effective and feels fresh and new, while still having just enough of the classic Kamelot sound to fit in with the rest of the album. A more traditional power metal track is the hard hitter “Kevlar Skin”, which charges out of the gate and delivers some of the heaviest guitar work on the album, only slowing down a bit for the verses, before really speeding up during the intense and super addictive chorus. The guitar work only gets heavier as the track goes on, and the instrumental section is pretty damn intense and awesome. My favorite of all is “Vespertine (My Crimson Bride)”, the most classic symphonic power metal sounding track here, as it’s a track that constantly rolls along at a fast pace, mixing heavy riffs with epic orchestral arrangements, and it has an absolutely incredible, super melodic chorus, where Tommy delivers some of his best-soaring power metal vocals. Even the one slower section in the second half stands out due to how dark and heavy it gets, and it makes for a great contrast with the rest of the track, while the instrumental section that follows goes back to being speedy and super melodic. Definitely my favorite song here and one I’d proudly put up there with some of the band’s all-time best. After that is the last full song here and also the longest and most progressive, “The Proud and the Broken”. It’s a more complex song, which starts off with a nice piano section before quickly speeding up. It goes through many transitions throughout, largely being a progressive power metal track, but it’s a bit lighter and more melodic than one would expect from the band, and it has some very nice softer sections, as well an excellent chorus, as usual. It’s definitely the most progressive track here and is another one of my favorites.

On the slower side, the first big stand out is “Burns to Embrace”, one of the band’s darker, more atmospheric tracks, but where I found the tracks like this on Haven to be a bit forced, this one actually works much better, pairing dark and heavy verses with a huge and epic chorus, and the track builds up tension nicely as it goes along, starting off calm and soft during its first verse, before picking up during the chorus and then finally going all out during the second verse. It’s a song that gets better as it goes along, with the instrumental section being great and then at the end the band brings in a children’s choir for the last two runs through the chorus, which is something I usually don’t like on a metal album, but here their voices combine with the lyrics to give the song a chilling and powerful effect that really elevates the track from being solid to being one of absolute best on the album. Unsurprisingly, things calm down with the next track, “In Twilight Hours”, a nice ballad which has some great vocal melodies, as well as some excellent guest vocals from Beyond the Black singer Jennifer Haben, who works very well with Tommy and helps to elevate an otherwise decent but forgettable track. She especially excels during the final run through the chorus, which is the best part of the song. The other ballad on the album is “Stories Unheard”, a largely acoustic track which has some very soft and excellent vocals from Tommy, as well as another excellent chorus. I find it to be a better written and more engaging track than “In Twilight Hours” overall, though both are pretty nice. Also on the softer side is “Static”, a track which starts off with some nice piano melodies and symphonic elements before getting slightly heavier during the opening verse. It’s a fairly light and calm track, with just a slight metal edge to it, and it has some nice vocal melodies, as well as another great chorus. It feels like the kind of thing they were trying to do on Poetry for the Poisoned and parts of Haven, except here it’s much better executed and more enjoyable. Also similar to much of Haven is “Mindfall Remedy”, a more mid-paced but very heavy track, with some great riffs and modern keys. It has a very fun chorus, as well as some more growls from Lauren Hart, and again it feels like they took the sound they had on much of Haven, except here the riffs hit just a bit harder and the melodies are just a bit more engaging, so the track ends up being much better than most of that album.

Overall, The Shadow Theory is an excellent album, which has a bit of everything for all Kamelot fans to enjoy. It once again brings back some of the band’s classic speedy power metal, as well as features some of their heaviest tracks, while also featuring some very modern keyboards and some darker, slower paced tracks, as well as some more relaxed and more melodic tracks. It’s definitely one of their most varied releases to date, while also feeling fresh in spots, and after Haven let me down, this one managed to win me over once again. I wouldn’t place it up there with their all-time best, but I’d certainly take it over anything else they’ve done since 2005, aside from Silverthorn.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/03/31/kamelot-the-shadow-theory-review/

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NICKELBACK Curb

Album · 1996 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.23 | 11 ratings
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martindavey87
I never really cared much for the term "post" being placed before music genres. "Post this" and "post that", it all sounded a bit pretentious to me. That is, until I heard Nickelback's debut album, 1996's 'Curb'. Often cited as "post grunge", it all makes sense to me now! Channelling their inner Seattle grunge scene, 'Curb' sounds a lot like a Canadian band poorly mimicking Nirvana or Pearl Jam a couple of years removed from the grunge genres mainstream peak.

Now, don't get me wrong, I actually like Nickelback, and don't understand the absolute scorn and contempt that is thrust upon them. But it's hard to believe the worldwide success they'd go on to have, considering the quality of this release.

I guess it's just a case of a young band trying to find their sound, but there's really nothing noteworthy here except a few half-assed watered down attempts at sounding like the aforementioned grunge bands. The musicianship is fairly average, vocalist Chad Kroeger (who'll go on to become one of the most hated men in rock music) has a good voice and an impressive range, but if you're going back to this album after hearing their later mainstream hits, it's apparent how much he's trying to sound like Kurt Cobain.

Still, it's not all bad. There's one or two moments where it's easy to hear where the band truly shine, and that's in the riffs department. 'Little Friend', 'Pusher', 'Detangler' and 'Where' are all innocent enough numbers. Nothing amazingly outstanding, but they have their qualities that make them listenable. Should I accidently stumble across them, that is.

But overall, let's face it, we only want to hear the bands 2001 mega hit 'How You Remind Me', and this sounds nothing like that band! This is a pretty bland and uninteresting (yet inoffensive if you do happen upon it) release. Wait for them to develop their own style and things will really start to fall into place.

AXEL RUDI PELL Eternal Prisoner

Album · 1992 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 6 ratings
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martindavey87
Third album, third singer. Axel Rudi Pell is back... are back?... (I'm still not sure which one to use)... with more fist-pumping hard rocking that probably comes a decade too late, but is a pretty decent album regardless. Featuring powerhouse vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, at this point best known for his work with Yngwie Malmsteen and Talisman, this looks set to be a stable line up for the band which could last longer than one release.

The music is the same as before. Hard rock, power metal, call it what you will. It's got 80's rock stamped all over it. Long haired men with leather jackets (shirts optional), high pitched wailing, simple songs with crazy guitar acrobatics, and of course, at least one of them is probably wearing a bandana.

While Axel Rudi Pell's first two albums were fairly average, 'Eternal Prisoner' is where the band starts to really improve the quality of their work. In particular, Soto's voice lends itself to the music perfectly. Not that there was much wrong with former vocalists Charlie Huhn or Rob Rock, but Soto's voice is perfect for Pell's sound and style. And the songwriting as a whole sounds a lot more confident because of it.

Axel Rudi Pell's guitar playing though still struggles to truly catch on with the solos. The compositions are good, the vocal melodies work well, but it's the guitar solos that tend to drag on in similar fashion. There's a few moments where he does shine, but for the most part his rhythm work stands out far more than his mindless shredding. He's still miles better than me though.

'Long Time', 'Streets of Fire', 'Ride the Bullet' and 'Shoot Her to the Moon' are all fairly decent tracks, maybe even a bit of a guilty pleasure in their cheesiness. But in all honesty, 'Sweet Lil' Suzie' sees the band channel their inner Aerosmith and it is incredible! Easily the best song off the album, and all-round one of the bands best pieces, the album is easily worth the price just for this! Otherwise, this is a standard early 90's hard rock that probably would have been a raging success if it had been released in the 80's. It's got its merits, but overall there's much better stuff to come.

AGNOSTIC FRONT The American Dream Died

Album · 2015 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 3.69 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Agnostic Front have been licking up a hardcore storm for more than thirty years, mixing in thrash and punk when the mood takes them, and this 2015 album finds them mixing through the styles. The album commences with a great deal of sound clips, and immediately the listener knows that Roger Miret and the boys are going to be out there making a point. Sixteen songs at under thirty minutes in length, the old adage is true that if you don’t like something hang on a minute as there will be something else along in a minute. But, it does make for quite a disjointed album as when they are good, such as on “Test of Time”, they are very good indeed and there are few who can catch them in their hardcore thrash crossover mode. But, the songs such as the title cut have plenty of aggression from the singer, but not really being carried through by the band, and it just doesn’t contain the attack and passion that it should.

More good than bad, does it stand up against classic albums such as ‘Cause For Alarm’? Personally I don’t think so, but anyone who has been flying the hardcore banner for nearly forty years demands respect.

MOTÖRHEAD 1916

Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 30 ratings
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Vim Fuego
Motörhead’s “1916” came after four years of label problems, and other bullshit with the business side of music. That wasn’t what Lemmy was about. The man just wanted to play his own mutant version of rock and roll. The band’s previous album, simply called “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was not as well received as its predecessors, so expectations for “1916” were not high.

Fuck expectations. This is Motörhead. The band had occasionally dabbled outside the blues/rock/punk/metal mix. For example, “Orgasmatron” could be considered proto-doom-death metal, but most of their albums stuck fairly closely to the old formula. First track “The Ones To Sing The Blues” threw out the formula and shattered all preconceptions. Unlike a number of other Motörhead tracks, it’s not particularly bluesy, but thunders along, powered by Philthy’s legendary double kick drums. On “I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)”, the blues does raise its leery head, along with Lemmy’s clever, incisive lyrics. What seems like a song full of tall story bragging actually reveals his inspirations. “Going to Brazil” is a blues boogie road song which only Lemmy could write. It has a bit of a story behind it. The band recorded four songs with producer Ed Stasium. When Lemmy listened to a mix of “Going to Brazil”, he asked Stasium to turn up four tracks, and on doing so heard claves and tambourines added without the band's knowledge. Stasium was fired and Pete Solley hired as producer. And thank fuck for that!

And next, a big step sideways. Judas Priest had faced a civil suit in 1990, around the time Lemmy was writing songs for this album, and one of the accusations levelled at the band was that they had hidden subliminal messages in their cover of Spooky Tooth’s “Better By You, Better Than Me”. Always one who stuck up against injustice when he saw it, Lemmy deliberately filled “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” with backmasked vocals and music, which were far from subliminal, giving the song a truly eerie vibe. And what did he actually say? Even that’s open to interpretation, perhaps proving once and for all that backmasking is rather an inefficient way of conveying a message.

“Love Me Forever” is a power ballad from an era when power ballad were ubiquitous, but it’s far from typical. For a start, it’s not weepy or self-loathing, instead showing both sides of love and relationships, a black/white, all/nothing contrast.

“Angel City” is a filler when you don’t write fillers. Like the “Going To Brazil” road trip, it’s a fun descriptive song of life in L.A. at the tail end of the glam era. It’s followed by another good time rocker in the form of “Make My Day”.

Lemmy was asked why he wrote the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” The answer? “’Cos I like The Ramones”. Best answer ever to a stupid question. The Ramones liked the minute and a half long song so much they covered it themselves. Basically, it’s The Ramones put through a Motörhead filter.

“Shut You Down” is an “I’m outta here” break up track, in a fashion only Motörhead could pull off, like a metal “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”.

These ten tracks would have made a very good Motörhead album, showing some new musical facets, and more energy and drive than the previous album. But this is Motörhead. Expect the unexpected.

“1916” is unlike any song ever recorded by this or any other metal band. First, it’s not metal. Second, it is such a visceral, heart rending tale, it is more an accompanied epic poem than a song. Musically, it is part hymn, part sombre march, with simple orchestration, cello, a military snare, and Lemmy’s voice quavering with more sensitivity than you might think possible. While it is a song about World War One, it is so thought provoking and emotionally wrought it could come from any war, where young men think they are heading off for a great adventure, only to be dehumanized, ground up, and spat out by an unfeeling, unstoppable war machine. Like no other song, “1916” vocalises the true stupidity, futility, terror, and waste of human life of war.

It seems Lemmy understood how deeply emotionally and psychologically damaging war could be to those caught in the fighting. My own Grandfather fought in the Pacific Island during World War Two. In the 26 years I knew him, he spoke of the war to me only once, and then only to relate a funny tale of having to run flat out from tent to surf when going swimming, in order to avoid mosquitoes. In his last few lucid hours, he suffered nightmares and flashbacks to those days six decades before. Even though this song is of a different war, now a century past, it still makes me think of my Grandfather and the terrible things he may have seen and experienced, which are beyond my imagination and recognition. It took a special kind of bravery to have faced a mortal enemy, who was probably feeling very similar emotions and terrors, and then to return to civilization and lead a productive life, all the while keeping those horrors locked away. It may not have been the intention of this song to cause this reaction, but it does.

And so the song “1916” elevates the album “1916” from the realms of very good into great. It also secured Motörhead’s future, both financially and musically. The band finally had a decent record deal, and had explored some new musical avenues which opened new frontiers for the band to explore for the remainder of its existence. Albums like “Ace Of Spades” and “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” established Motörhead’s legendary status in rock and metal. “1916” cemented it.

SUMMONING Minas Morgul

Album · 1995 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 2.98 | 9 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
And just as the second wave of black metal had exploded in the metal underground, it seemed as if some bands were ready to move on almost from the very beginning. One such band is Austria’s SUMMONING that released their debut “Lugburz” in March of 1995 and by October released their followup MINAS MORGUL without their drummer Trifixion, were reduced to a duo and radically changed their musical direction. While “Lugburz” was an interesting debut, it was well within the mold of the second wave black metal template started by Mayhem and Darkthrone but beginning with MINAS MORGUL which takes its name from the fictional language of Sindarin in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe in fact means Middle-earth, that more generic black metal approach had completely transmogrified into something different.

It was with this sophomore release where Protector and Silenius, now a duo began to merge the dark ambient and dungeon synth atmospheric sounds of their side projects Ice Age and Die Verbannten Kinder Evas with their black metal antecedents as heard on their debut and the early demos prior. The result was one of the earliest significant deviations from the second wave orthodoxy into what would soon be tagged as atmospheric black metal since all that remained from the debut were the Tolkien tinged lyrics and the raspy unintelligible vocals. Oh the unholy horror of it all!

This is what i call their video soundtrack black metal debut and it was no surprise to learn that the album cover for MINAS MORGUL was taken from the 1991 video game “Ishar: Legend Of The Fortress.” And so began the next chapter of the SUMMONING universe where more relaxed epic symphonic marches with repetitive and quite catchy ear worms would become the focus of the hypnotic trance of eleven tracks that utilized the tremolo guitar distortion as a backing instrument and the role of Trifixion reduced to a more obsequious and programmable drum machine while Protector and Silenius shared the role of keyboardists, vocalists and strings.

MINAS MORGUL is a pleasant journey into mystic lands where anthemic and even Medieval folk tinged melodies prance about like chilled out pilgrimages over the mountains and into the valleys below like Hobbits on a mission to fulfill their destiny of ridding the world of the stranglehold of evil once and for all. Each track begins with a slow and repetitive keyboard based riff and then repeats ad nauseam to infinity at times however the subtle changes in the tempo and dynamics slowly fortify the overall soundscape to satisfying crescendoes with the guitar distortion ramping up while Protector delivers his famously frantic shrieks and raspy declarations of all things Middle-earth.

While i am quite fond of the debut album, i can hardly fault SUMMONING for tackling something so utterly unique at the time and ultimately successfully carving out a tiny niche all their own in the burgeoning and expanding black metal market. The template laid out on MINAS MORGUL was indeed an interesting one to explore and while many kvlter-than-thou black metalheads of the day may have run to Lucifer in utter contempt to complain, the overall success of this darkwave ambient dungeon synth mixed with black metal elements is quite addictive actually. Despite the recipe having been created, i don’t find MINAS MORGUL to be nearly as refined to the high quality perfection of the later releases as it’s a tad uneven in quality and the drum machines sound a little canned at times however they do effectively drive the monotonic mood setting steady pace that the duo were going for. An excellent experiment that would only continue to get better and kudos to these guys for making such a huge change.

NIRVANA Incesticide

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 10 ratings
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Vim Fuego
“Incesticide” is a rare thing. For a rapidly thrown together record label stop-gap, it is actually a pretty good compilation.

“Incesticide” was made up of demos, b-sides, unreleased tracks, and other extraneous material recorded between 1988 and 1991. Released a year after the revolutionary “Nevermind”, it was intended to be a high quality version of material which was already circulating in bootleg form. Geffen Records decided not to promote it heavily, in case fans suffered Nirvana burn-out. Yeah, right Geffen, so why release the fucking thing in the first place then? Despite this, it still went platinum in the US, UK, and Canada.

So why did “Incesticide” do so well? Simply put, the album includes some of the best material Nirvana ever recorded. It shows off the breadth of Nirvana’s influences and the diversity of the band’s sound. Was Kurt Cobain a misunderstood genius or an overrated junkie slacker? Who the fuck knows. He made some interesting, noisy music, then blew his brains out, and left it up to the rest of us to decide his place in history.

First song “Dive” came from a recording session for Sub Pop which was intended to be for the follow-up album to “Bleach”, and was released as the b-side to “Sliver”. Of course, we know the follow-up didn’t come out on Sub Pop, and this song would not have fit on “Nevermind” anyway, with a feel closer to “Bleach”. The song has a fatter, warmer sound than the “Nevermind” album. Like all things Cobain, the lyrics are either cryptic or nonsensical, depending on your own interpretation.

Just to get things ass backwards, “Sliver” appears after “Dive”, even though “Dive” was the b-side to this single. Anyway, “Sliver” has the most memorable hooks Nirvana ever recorded, both in the bouncy bass line and the “Grandma take me home” lyric which constituted the song’s chorus. The lyrics are trivial, but engaging, seemingly taken from a child’s point of view, remembering an evening with grandparents.

“Stain” has a rougher edge than the previous two songs. It was originally released on the “Blew” EP. It’s a shouty punk song, with a great discordant noise solo, and is basically musical simplicity itself, both catchy and compelling.

“Been A Son” is a later song, recorded for the Mark Goodier radio show for the BBC in November 1991, with "(New Wave) Polly" and "Aneurysm" coming from the same session. It has another of those trademark vocal hooks, with Cobain slurring his vocals a little.

"Turnaround", "Molly's Lips", and "Son of a Gun", were recorded in 1990 for the John Peel Show for the BBC. “Turnaround” is a Devo cover, but is a surprisingly forgettable and unlikeable song. The next two tracks are Vaselines covers, and have a seemingly happy, bouncy feel to them, despite the reasonably grim subject matter of addiction on “Molly’s Lips”.

“(New Wave) Polly” shows the band made an excellent decision by sticking with the acoustic version of the song for “Nevermind”. While not a bad song, the shock value, and raw emotion present on the acoustic version of the song are not near as striking on this version.

"Beeswax", "Downer", "Mexican Seafood", "Hairspray Queen", and "Aero Zeppelin" all came from Nirvana’s first studio demo, recorded in January 1988. These show a young but focused band, playing like their whole lives depended on it, with a feel of determination edged by desperation. It demonstrated an early incarnation of the grunge formula of mixing garage punk with classic rock and pop sensibilities, with the added ingredient of emerging slacker cynicism. “Hairspray Queen” in particular fully demonstrated the musical weirdness which could emerge from such a mix, with a simple, yet effective three note bassline from Krist Novoselic, while Cobain’s vocals vary between Bobcat Goldthwaite rant, a subterranean grumble, and a crystal clear coherence. “Aero Zeppelin” is a straighter style rock song, and is really the first time on the album things seem to drag. While quite a powerful track, it seems too safe and mainstream compared to the rest of these demo tracks.

“Big Long Now” was recorded during the “Bleach” sessions. It would not have been too far out of place on that album, but was probably too slow paced. It is a dragging dirge, and feels like trying to emerge from a deep, deep sleep, but the grip of Morpheus is not ready to let go.

Final track “Aneurysm” combines the band’s noisier aspects with a driving punk beat. Kurt Cobain’s vocals are at their raggedy, melodic best, and the song has hooks big enough to catch mako sharks.

For such a diverse collection of recordings, “Incesticide” is surprisingly coherent. At the same time, it shows the breadth of vision of a group of young musicians, led by a reluctant mouthpiece, who didn’t care for the rules of how music should be created or sound, and wrote their own rules. Then they broke them repeatedly, and the outside world came to embrace their vision. Whether the outside world ever understood that vision then or now doesn’t matter. The resulting music speaks for itself.

MARDUK Panzer Division Marduk

Album · 1999 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 11 ratings
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Vim Fuego
A black metal album with a fucking big tank on the front? Finally, someone gets it!

Actually, there’s two versions of this album, but both have a fucking big tank on them. One’s a Swedish Stridsvagn 104 main battle tank and the other is a German Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger heavy tank used in the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. But let’s not get hung up on tanks. This is still about the music.

Marduk is one of those black metal bands, like Immortal and Impaled Nazarene, which metal fans can get into without having to swallow the whole black metal schtick. Yes, it’s fast and anti-Christian, but there’s no deeper pretence about the music being anything but metal. Forget atmosphere, melody, and non-metal instruments, just write some evil fucking tunes, and play ‘em fast as fuck until yer balls are hanging out! That is what black metal should be.

So, what we have here is a 30 minute album full of war themed songs. Some are describing real events, which others are repurposing the theme for a blitzkrieg on Christianity. The first song and title track best illustrates this with the line “Panzer division Marduk continues its triumphant crusade/Against Christianity and your worthless humanity”. Glad we cleared that up...

Run through the rest of the songs and you get “Baptism By Fire” which uses bombing raid imagery as an attack by Satan on Christianity. “Christraping Black Metal” taunts Christ on the cross. “Scorched Earth” describes tanks racing back and forth through the Losheim Gap, the main invasion route into France and Belgium for the Germans during both World Wars, and the location of a famous tank battle during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. “Beast of Prey” and “Blooddawn” further explore the war/anti-Christianity theme.

"502" refers to the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion, which was involved in the Siege of Leningrad. While the rolling Panzers must have been an awe inspiring (or dread inspiring, point of view is important here) sight, history has recorded what happened to this force. Despite destroying 2000 enemy tanks (according to the song - official figures put the number at 1400, plus 2000 guns destroyed) during the infamous 900 day siege, Russian forces eventually prevailed, and the Germans were sent into full retreat. The 502nd was eventually redesignated the 511th in early 1945, and continued to fight up until April 27, and finally surrendered on May 9.

The final track has the gloriously offensive title “Fistfucking God's Planet”. And as you can probably guess by now, it’s anti-Christian/pro-Satan. There’s nothing new about it, the music is still breakneck speed fast, but it’s still fun to listen to.

And that is the lasting impression of this album. It’s got bits about tanks and wars. It’s got bits about Satanism and how Christianity is bad. It’s heavy. It’s loud. It’s metal. Full fucking stop.

BLACK SABBATH Black Sabbath

Album · 1970 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 158 ratings
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FMOTP
The other reviewers have already stated it - this is as essential as a heavy metal record gets. I may listen to Master of Reality or Volume 4 more, but there's no denying the value of this debut. I'll only add a couple of points. First, many bands need an album or two to hit their stride. It's amazing to me how Black Sabbath was changing the face of rock music from the start. Every major innovation in hard rock until early 90's death/black metal was foreshadowed in Sabbath's first few albums. Second, Ozzy's public image has possibly prevented him from getting his deserved recognition as a singer.

MY DYING BRIDE Anti-Diluvian Chronicles

Boxset / Compilation · 2005 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The album was released through Peaceville Records in May 2005. The compilation was released as a 3-disc digipack featuring a poster and a booklet with an in depth interview with lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe. Each disc features more than 70 minutes long music, making "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" quite the comprehensive release. Although it features remix versions of some tracks (some of which also features newly recorded parts), and a couple of live tracks too, it is more than anything just a representation of the band´s music from their early days until 2004-2005, featuring a tracklist which covers most of My Dying Bride´s releases up until then. In that respect it´s quite different from the band´s earlier compilation albums, which focused more on rare and hard to get material. "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is more of a "best of" compilation, although that expression may be a bit vulgar when speaking of My Dying Bride´s music.

The compilation is build in reverse chronological order, which means that the tracks on disc 1 are the most recently released material (in 2005), while the tracks on disc 3 are material from the earliest part of the band´s discography. You can always argue about the choice of tracks for the compilation, but overall I think the chosen tracks serve their purpose well and provide a fine representation of what My Dying Bride is about. Although it´s always preferable purchasing the regular studio albums, and the few remix tracks, changes to tracks, and live versions on this compilation don´t change that, "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is still what I would label a successful compilation album with great quality material by a unique sounding artist and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Meisterwerk II

Boxset / Compilation · 2001 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Meisterwerk II" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in June 2001. It´s the second part of a two series compilation. "Meisterwerk I" was released in November 2000.

"Meisterwerk II" features a combination of album tracks, rare demo/single/limited edition bonus track recordings, and the video for "For You" from "Like Gods of the Sun (1996)". Like the case was on "Meisterwerk I", the regular studio version tracks are a bit redundant, and it´s the rare recordings that are of most interest. The versions of "Vast Choirs" and "Catching Feathers" from the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo, "Follower" which is a bonus track from the Japanese version of "34.788%...Complete (1998)", "Some Velvet Morning" from the Peaceville Records "X" compilation, and the Portishead cover "Roads" from the Peaceville Records "X" compilation. Those five tracks and maybe the video for "For You", are the attractions here.

I´m sure most listeners can do without the regular studio versions of "Sear Me MCMXCIII", "She Is the Dark", "Two Winters Only", and "Your River", which on their own are quality material, but here work more like redundant filler. Therefore "Meisterwerk II" isn´t the most necessary compilation release, and upon conclusion the end product would have been much more interesting if Peaceville Records had compiled the rare recordings from "Meisterwerk I" and "Meisterwerk II" on one release and left out the regular studio recordings. As "Meisterwerk II" is now a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

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