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MGŁA Age of Excuse

Album · 2019 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Black metal has emerged as one of the most creative and fertile grounds in all the metal universe where countless hybrids of musical genres have cross-pollinated and resulted in some of the most forward-thinking stylistic approaches in the entire metal universe so it always boggles my mind when a rather ordinary run of the mill band seems to emerge from the darkened battlefields and achieve a major victory in terms of commercial success and popularity. The Polish black metal outfit MGŁA is exactly one of those types of bands that i’m talking about and this band ain’t no Behemoth or Batushka.

Having formed in 2000 as the duo of multi-instrumentalist Mikołaj "M." Żentara with the collaboration of drummer Dariusz "Daren" Piper after playing together in Kriegmaschine, Daren moved on in 2006 just as M continued on to create a series of EPs and full-length albums and since then has steadily enamored the black metal world like very few have in recent days once the current drummer / percussionist Darkside (Maciej Kowalski) joined forces and conspired to conquer the world from their dark metal headquarters in Krakow, Poland.

MGŁA found its niche and has stuck to it ever since rarely deviating from its status quo and has been called the Amon Amarth of black metal in the process and that’s not an unthinkable comparison actually. Just like its death metal Swedish counterpart, MGŁA takes a melodic approach on the more extreme examples of the sub-genre and tames the once dissonant rage into more harmonic and accessible chunks of the blackened noise parade. Here in 2019, this duo has released its fourth full-length album AGE OF EXCUSE and not surprisingly continues where the previous “Exercises In Futility” left off.

While i’ve been aware of MGŁA (Polish for “fog”) for many years now, my scant exposure to a few tracks here and there has never prompted me to actually investigate further. Well, after the band releases another album with many fans going gaga, i figured it was probably time to fully digest a complete album in its entirety and AGE OF EXCUSE proved to be the easiest point of reference since it’s the most current album at this moment. Accusations of Nazi sympathies and other vicious rumors aside, MGŁA comes off as a rather generic black metal band that does everything by the books and really adds zilch to the sub-genre of black metal at all and no matter how hard i try to understand what the big whoopty-do is about this band, i remained baffled.

While nothing on AGE OF EXCUSE (or any other MGŁA release) is bad by any stretch of the imagination, neither does this band add any creative interpretations nor does it excel in any technical wizardry that sets it apart from the legions of imitators out there. The one thing they do exhibit quite well is the fact that the melodic constructs are instantly catchy much like Amon Amarth, Rotting Christ, Dimmu Borgir or a whole host of others however unlike all of THOSE bands, MGŁA just seems insincere to me and going through the motions. My first impression is that the band is basically copping a melodic take on the Deathspell Omega sound. Miikko Aspa styled raspy vocals drenched in evil, slightly off tune guitar on dissonance light and rather monotonous drumming techniques dominate AGE OF EXCUSE from beginning to end.

Another complaint about this album (and band) is that it begins to sound quite monotonous halfway through. Now it’s quite common for many to claim that a black metal album is monotonous and that is quite true for the untrained ear but the genre is all about detecting the subtleties beneath the carpet bombing of din that assaults the senses from every perceived angle. MGŁA delivers the same tritone laced chord progressions and monotonous groove with impunity. Yeah, there are some drumming outbursts from time to time and as i’ve stated, the album is perfectly listenable but as someone who has spanned the entire spectrum of black metal from its nascent origins with bands like Celtic Frost and Bathory to the more avant-garde experiments that range from Ukraine’s Graal to Norway’s Dødheimsgard, i just do not detect anything spectacular here.

Repeated listens do offer that magical ear hook experience for sure but at the end of the day i just can’t shake that this band is just playing the melodic alter ego of the much superior Deathspell Omega. Yeah, i do understand to a point. As metal ages and artists develop bolder and more avant-garde styles of musical expression, some of it is a little alienating for newbies trying to latch onto the relevance of the sub-genre but personally i would always recommend going back to the earliest examples of melodic black metal over this been-there-dont-that-before retro metal any day. Excluding bands like Emperor or Dimmu Borgir that implemented synthesizers to nurture a more melodic approach, bands like Dissection, Kvist, Nagelfar, Melechesh, Windir or Sacramentum just to name a few were much more creative in their delivery. As open minded as i am about music, once in a while a certain band makes me hit a brick wall and i just have an immediate reaction and in the case of MGŁA i am perplexed why it has become so revered while i just get a meh ho hum reaction. Oh well.

COME BACK FROM THE DEAD The Rise Of The Blind Ones

Album · 2019 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Despite kicking around for a decade Come Back From The Dead, a death metal band from Spain were unheard of to me, until I recently added them to our database here on MMA that is. Always eager to hear some new death metal that will pummel me half to death I gave this, The Rise Of The Blind Ones, their second album a listen.

Did it do the trick? Well, to be honest not really, but that’s not to say Come Back From The Dead don’t have any merit. They clearly sit in the old school camp and play with no shortage of enthusiasm. Their songs are on the raw side, fairly simply structured but played well enough nevertheless. Vocalist Paul attacks the songs with unrestrained vigour and is the bands greatest asset. These songs whilst not going to set the world on fire occasionally makes me sit up and listen more intently but for the large part its death metal by numbers. They also inject a bit of doom and some punk touches too which is a welcome addition. Death metal should bludgeon the listener into submission but a weak and thin sounding production robs the band of having much hope of doing this. The drums in particular sound very distant at times though drummer Marcos is clearly giving it his all. Something that dawned on me later, that’s unusual in death metal, unless I missed them – no double kick drums. They’re barely missed however with Marcos throwing in no shortage of fast rhythms and fills around the kit.

Come Back From The Dead should not be written off by any stretch and I warmed to this album more with repeated plays but with the glut of great death metal out there they’ll need to follow this up with something a bit more special if they are to make any serious dent in the current scene. I think they have it in them though and the next album with a better production could be a winner.

TNT (NORWAY) Encore: Live In Milano

Live album · 2019 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
‘Encore’ was recorded during TNT’s headlining set at Frontiers Rock Festival in Milan on April 30, 2017 and is currently the final live footage of the band with singer Tony Harnell. Given that this is the third time he has left the band no-one can be really sure he won’t be back, to be fair, but TNT need him as although many may think that guitarist Ronni Le Tekrø is the one who really matters, and while he and drummer Diesel Dahl have been there since the very beginning back in 1982, it is Harnell who provides the class. His voice is amazing, and he is the one who lifts the band, as to be honest most of their numbers are fairly forgettable, but when he is fronting them then he takes them to a whole new level.

I’ve lost count of how many live albums Frontiers have released recently, but you have to admire the commercial nous which got them to set up a festival just for their bands and then record all of them. Here the sound levels and production are perfect, with the right levels and mix throughout. This time around it is the lack of great songs which lets down the band, but they have been in the business for the best part of 40 years, so maybe it’s just me. I don’t think I’ll ever be a fan of TNT, but Tony Harnell? Boy, that guy can sing.

DAWN OF NIL Culminating Ruins

Album · 2019 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Culminating Ruins" is the debut full-length studio album by French progressive death metal act Dawn of Nil. The album was independently released in May 2019. Dawn of Nil is a one-man project formed by Vincent Laugier, who performs all instruments and vocals on the album.

Stylistically the music on "Culminating Ruins" is progressive death/black metal, often atmospheric in nature (keyboards are occasionally used and the album feautures acoustic parts too). The vocals are low in the mix growling/occasional black metal screaming, and the riff- and rhythm styles vary between death metal and black metal influenced playing styles (often in the more melodic end of the spectrum). The material is structurally adventurous and there are some pretty creative songwriting ideas on the album.

It´s obvious that Laugier is both a skilled musician and knows how to compose music, but the sound production on "Culminating Ruins", do come off slightly amaturish. It´s a bit too audible that the drums are programmed, which wouldn´t be a problem if the artificial programmed drum sound was an integral part of the the soundscape and enhanced it, but here they work like a replacement for a human drummer, because a human drummer was either not available or because Laugier did not want to bring in a session musician to play the drums. It´s sometimes the curse of one-man projects that the artist has full control and often don´t realise that outside input could have enhanced their project greatly. The drums are otherwise well programmed, they just sound a little stiff and artificial.

The choice to place the vocals as low in the mix as they have been placed is another production choice I question. Maybe they are placed this low to create a mystical effect or something like that, but to my ears it does not work well. They sound like a deep growling noise in the soundscape and thereby more like an instrument than actual vocals.

So upon conclusion I´ll praise the many creative songwriting ideas on the album (and the many great epic and melodic moments) and the fact that Laugier is a capable musician, but the songs really aren´t that memorable and they generally don´t differ enough from each other (there are many great ideas, but they aren´t put together in a particularly effectful or memorable fashion), and as mentioned above the "bedroom" sound production and the programmed drums don´t do the material any favors either. I overall respect the basis of project, but to my ears the glass is only half full, and Laugier still has some way to go, before releasing what I would characterize as a fully professional sounding release. Still a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

OCTOBER TIDE In Splendor Below

Album · 2019 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Formed in 1995 by Katatonia members, Jonas Renkse (Bloodbath) and Fred Norrman, October Tide released two albums before going on hiatus for eleven years. In 2009 Norrman parted ways with Katatonia, and resurrected October Tide, consolidating the band's re-emergence with a new featuring Tobias Netzell of In Mourning on vocals. Now back with their sixth album in total, the band currently comprises Fredrik Norrman, his brother and guitarist Mattias Norrman (also ex-Katatonia), vocalist Alexander Högbom (Demonical), bassist Johan Jönsegård (Letters From The Colony) and drummer Jonas Sköld (Letters From The Colony, Thenighttimeproject). Although Katatonia came out of the Swedish scene they were always a very different proposition to the rest of the bands around them (I still consider myself very fortunate to see them at No Sleep Til Auckland in 2010, one of the very few metal festivals we’ve had here in recent years). The same can be said for October Tide, as although their roots are far more obviously in the melodic death scene, they have also put in plenty of doom and considering one genre is normally very quick while the other is slow, it means they are approaching the music from a quite different area than many. The other, rather refreshing, aspect is that this band keeps getting heavier while many of their contemporaries from the Nineties seem to have forgotten what they started all those years ago.

Look past the death metal style logo, and the rather threatening cover imagery, and even some of the growls, and one quickly realises that what we have here is an incredibly heavy band who are also intensely melodic. True, this isn’t the sort of material one will hear on the radio, and the riffs during “Seconds” would make Iommi proud, but each time I play “Stars Starve Me” I find myself singing the chorus. It’s not intentional, it just happens! I don’t expect it from a band with this style of imagery, and to be honest I certainly don’t expect it from any outfit who are signed to the mighty Agonia Records (one of my favourite, and certainly one of the most consistent metal labels around), yet somehow it just happens. These guys have captured a groove and a style which is lifting them above so many others. Alexander Backlund (singer with Letters From The Colony) undertook production duties, and knowing the guys so well obviously helped as the sound he has captured it huge, while Daniel Lidén did a great job on mixing and mastering.

This isn’t an album I would have expected from either October Tide or Agonia Records, as it is so intensely melodic as well as being incredibly heavy. Certainly worthy of investigation, play it loud.

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Album · 2001 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 9 ratings
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To my ears the Codex Necro at first sounded like a fairly straight ahead black metal album, and for much of its running time that's exactly what it is, but it pays off attentive listening well. Anaal Nathrakh's core duo consist of talented multi-instrumentalist Irrumator and impassioned screaming frontman VITRIOL, and what's clear from a listen to this is that whilst this is a consciously black metal-oriented album, the pair were also paying close attention to what was going on in grindcore and the more industrial-influenced side of metal at the time.

With these influences creeping in around the edges like rust corroding the seal on a drum of toxic waste, Anaal Nathrakh are able to invest their black metal attack with a set of textures that previously hadn't been heard much in a black metal context, but in retrospect really helped establish the tone they were going for. The band show a particular knack for getting the most out of the studio without their work appearing overly sanitised as a result of that, and on the whole the debut sets a strong foundation for an auspicious career to come.

MASTODON Leviathan

Album · 2004 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.20 | 80 ratings
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Atlanta’s MASTODON made quite the thundering debut with 2002’s “Remission,” an album that sounded like a herd of ancient pachyderms rampaging across the Siberian tundra en masse with such force that the very ground below them quaked and split the continents in two. The album introduced a new kind of progressive sludge to the metal universe and excelled at creating murky dark soundscapes that added touches of suffocating atmospheric gloom and doom. The story of MASTODON has been pretty much that it incrementally at a snail’s pace slinked into more accessible stylistic approaches that would de-emphasize the chaotic paranoia and settle into more streamlined even melodic approaches. This trend began all the way back on the group’s second full-length release LEVIATHAN.

It’s more accurate to state that the band made some tradeoffs. While jettisoning the fear porn of the debut, the band instead adopted characteristics of the progressive world and on LEVIATHAN the band’s very first concept album was born which was loosely based on Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby-Dick. While taming the wild antics of the debut album, LEVIATHAN by no means slowed things down and continued a rampaging parade of ten sonic attacks of sonic ferocity well intact. Decorated with more progressive compositional workouts and tight consistent instrumental interplay, LEVIATHAN was the album that saw the band taking both the progressive and metal world’s by storm and catapulted the band into the big boys’ club. Laced with the raging angst of hardcore crust punk and the ambitiousness of tech metal wankery, MASTODON hit the scene like a derailed train colliding with an anvil factory.

With the first hard-hitting riffs of “Blood And Thunder,” MASTODON sets the tone for LEVIATHAN that never lets up until the bitter end. Laced with venomous guitar distortion and interchange of Brent Hinds’ and Bill Kelliher’s dual double axe attack, MASTODON takes the timbre-based sinew of sludge metal and coerces it into performing technical gymnastics that subtly sneak in and steer the aggressive assaults into more advanced creatures. The tracks seamlessly blend together with an idiosyncratic series of riffing made all the more outrageous by Brann Dailor’s approach of alternating the lazy slug drumming experience in the Eyehategod school of drumming along with more tech infused jazzy outbursts. Brett Hinds also delivers his madman vocal approach from under the cacophonous din of the relentless tempo drives save the short instrumental contrasts as heard on the intro and subsections of “Seabeast.”

Another interesting factor and what ties the band’s first four albums together is that each one symbolizes one of the four elements of tetralogy. While “Remission” was not a concept album, it was still considered to have the theme of the element of fire. LEVIATHAN therefore not surprisingly represents the water element however the turbulent paths forged throughout this relentless metal madness is more like the Drake’s passage between South America and Antarctica which is known to have the most devastating channels and highest waves on the entire planet. Of interest as well is the stunning artwork on the album cover created by Paul Romano which is a revamped version of Martin Heemskerck’s 16th century interpretation of the “Pharos of Alexandria” as well as the wave representing Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” It’s also notable that the vinyl edition has a different track listing with “I Am Ahab” and “Island” appearing toward the end of the album, presumably so that the tracks could be spaced out more cozily.

Of the ten tracks on board, “Heart’s Alive” exercises the band’s complete progressive workouts and at 13 and a half minutes runs the gamut of tender arpeggiated sequences to galloping metal fury and a healthy dose of Viking metal mythos as well as NWOBHM sensibilities. While Brent Hinds is the clear lead vocalist of the band, on LEVIATHAN, Neil Fallon picks up the task on the opening “Blood And Thunder” and Scott Kelly likewise on “Aqua Dementia,” but you know what? They all growl alike so it’s unlikely you could tell the difference anyways. “Aqua” also has a cello cameo and the final instrumental features organ by Joseph Merrick who strangely has the track named after him. Some kind of endorsement scheme here? My mind is so suspicious. Back to “Hearts Alive.” Despite it being the longest track it doesn’t seem to make the most of the progressive opportunities and actually becomes a big stagnant, however LEVIATHAN is an outrageously fun romp through the world of stampede style sludge metal with a few progressive candles channeling the spirits of technical wizardry. A great album that continues the band’s unique style.

PRESSOR Weird Things

EP · 2018 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Here we have yet another release through the Russian no name label, who have certainly been putting out some intriguing albums over the last few years (as CDs by the way, not just digital like some small labels), and Pressor are no exception. The band was formed in 2008 in Kostroma, Russia under the name Leaden Sky by guitarist, vocalist and main songwriter Stanislav ‘Zoiner’ Vasiliev along with bassist Ilya Beschastnov with whom he had already been working with for a few years, mixing together funeral doom with death metal. Stan was also in the black metal band Nocturnlands with Anton Khmelevsky, and the following year Anton joined Leaden Sky on lead guitar. They started to move more towards sludge, changed the name to Pressor, and released their first EP.

Over the years there have been a few line-up changes, but Anton and Stas are still at the helm, and this is their latest EP, released in 2018. This is still sludge, but they have added just a few synths and Theremin, which mean they come across as stripped down incredibly heavy version of Hawkwind. I can imagine Lemmy listening to this and really enjoying it, as it has that same balls to the wall approach that his era with the ‘wind personified. No band name or EP title on the cover, just a psychedelic speaker stack, with the swirls carried through to the CD and inside the digipak. There are times when they are channelling early Sabbath and doom as well as sludge, but they pick up the tempo when the time is right, and with distorted vocals and heavy distortion everywhere it is almost as of Blue Cheer have been resurrected. This is also available through Bandcamp, and fans of this style of music really should seek this out and discover what is happening in Russia, as this will surprise you all. Solid.

AMEBIX Monolith

Album · 1987 · Crust Punk
Cover art 3.73 | 4 ratings
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Amebix continue their experiments in blending hardcore punk and the most chaotic side of then-current extreme metal on Monolith. The end result sounds sufficiently close to proto-black metal to such an extent that Darkthrone's later dabblings in crust punk make perfect sense in retrospect, with enough thrash elements that it also sails slightly in the direction of crossover thrash. Perhaps the thing which stops Monolith from going full crossover is a certain sense of the epic - plenty of crossover thrash bands sing about the same subject matter as Amebix, but few give it this sense of awful spectacle that Amebix manage to.

ACID BATH Paegan Terrorism Tactics

Album · 1996 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 8 ratings
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On their second album Acid Bath diversify their sound a little, delving into the sludge-adjacent portions of stoner rock and grunge here, getting a little mellow with their psychedelic side there, and generally offering a deliciously morbid meditation on death and the various religious distractions from it. The tragedy of Audie Pitre's death as the result of a drunk driver ramming the Pitre family car brought an end to Acid Bath, making the album's near-obsessive focus on death somewhat eerie in retrospect, but even if you aren't aware of that the album's morbid, downbeat tone is brilliantly realised and will stand out to any listener.


Album · 1975 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 103 ratings
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What sounds like just like a form of wordplay on the band name BLACK SABBATH, SABOTAGE, the final album of the classic mandatory six found the quartet of Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward culminating all the heavy metal thunder one last time before the band effectively lost all momentum and quickly fell from grace. SABOTAGE is also one of the most misunderstood and least appreciated of the big six but for us diehard fans the album ranks very well near the top of the mighty SABBATH’s canon for being one of the most intricately crafted and esoterically interesting of the bunch. Graced with epic proto-prog compositions that eschew conventional songwriting with a fiery passion reinvigorated that allowed more experimental touches to seep in, SABOTAGE allowed SABBATH one last moment of musical glory before the band hit a creative brick wall. The album while seemingly random in many ways actually makes a lot more sense once the story behind it is unmasked. The tale is somewhat hinted upon with the oddball album cover that shows the band’s reflection in the mirror behind being SABOTAGED.

SABBATH had a phenomenally successful run with the first five albums but like many rock bands of the era found themselves in the spoils of riches which led to hedonistic drug abuse rituals and incessant bouts of self-indulgence. Around the time of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” the band discovered that the management had been ripping them off all along and siphoning funds like a parasitic scourge. SABOTAGE was created during the time when the litigation against former manager Patrick Meehan and others was taking place. Many of the references on the album are derived from the experiences of this period of time and despite the stress that the never-ending legal battles generated, the incident seems to have reinvigorated the fiery passion of distrust, paranoia and rage against the machine that made the first two SABBATH albums so amazingly focused. Despite all odds, the band seemed to channel all of the angst into crafting one of the most sophisticated and fine-tuned albums of its career. While SABOTAGE usually ranks last of the classic period amongst the general fanbase, the album that requires more than the average spins before digesting is actually one of the band’s highest artistic statements.

SABOTAGE is a unique mix of stylistic approaches. Not only does it contain some of the band’s heaviest moments such as the crushing “Symptom Of The Universe” which some cite as one of the first blueprints of thrash metal (another would be Queen’s “Sheer Heart Attack” the prior year) but the album also contains the bizarre “Supertzar” which while based on Iommi’s guitar riffing, employed the English Chamber Choir to ululate wordless vocalizations which eerily accompanied the heavy metal thunder. The opening “Hole In The Sky” sets an important tone of blistering heaviness that evokes the zeitgeist of earlier albums like “Paranoid” and the short acoustic guitar snippet “Don’t Start (Too Late)” which i always assumed was about taking political action was actually an inside joke that referred to tape operator David Harris who was often frustrated because they band would start playing before he was ready to begin recording. The less than a minute echoed guitar sequence reminisces of the short instrumentals on “Master Of Reality” and provides the perfect fluffer between the heavy metal bombast of “Hole In The Sky” and the soul crushing uptempo heaviness of “Symptom Of The Universe, arguably one of the band’s finest moments.

Starting with “Megalomania” the album becomes much more experimental. While heavy metal guitar riffs remain aplenty, the track which approaches the 10-minute mark displays SABBATH’s most proto-prog leanings that begins with a sinister mid-tempo slice of echoey guitar fueled paranoia that slowly morphs into a heavy metal guitar riff based powerhouse. The track not only provides the perfect canvas for Ozzy Osbourne to vent his rage and discontent but also allows his much improved vocal style to hit a new level of sophistication by exploring a wider range of octaves as well as some of the most powerfully emotive deliveries of his career. The rest of the album only builds off of the momentum. “Thrill Of It All” follows suit with another dualistic one-two punch of melodic constructs. It begins with Iommi’s guitar parts, both rhythm and lead generating a fiery metal experience that shifts into a more keyboard dominated second half which displayed the band’s much improved integration of keyboards.

After the choral metal experience of “Supertzar,” the sole single of the album “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” also proved to be one of the most hated of the band’s career right up their with “Changes” from “Vol 4.” While the “(Radio)” annex to the title insinuated an edit of some sort and the cause of much confusion, the title actually was derived from the Cockney slang term “radio-rental” which means “mental” and if like me you’re not up on your English dialects especially in the slang department it is an understandable misunderstanding. The song itself is hardly a throwaway despite its commercial appeal. By far the most accessible of the SABOTAGE track listing, it was also one of the few tracks where Ozzy wrote the lyrics, a job mostly performed by bassist Geezer Butler. While Ozzy’s lyrics usurp the guitar playing of Iommi on this one as his playing becomes subordinate, the track is quite arty in in display of heavy and soft alternate passages and Ozzy’s emotive vocal delivery and lyrical content narrated the depression that the band was in the middle of.

The biggest mindfuck of the album has to be the fact that “Am I Going Insane (Radio)” was a title of the penultimate track however it was the final track “The Writ” that actually repeated the lyrics “Am I Going Insane.” The closer wasn’t really a bona fide song of sorts but rather a melodic declaration of frustration and paranoia not experienced since the band’s earliest albums of 1970. The pop melody is the most repetitive of the album and IMHO was the ultimate statement of a band truly losing its shit before the inevitable downturn which was prolonged for an agonizing two more albums which finally resulted in Ozzy leaving the band. The track is also rather symbolic. As Ozzy repeats the lyrics like a deranged declarative chant of sorts, the album ends by sinister laughing voices mocking him as if the lawyers had the last laugh. So many ways to interpret all of this but the ambiguity of it all plus the stellar instrumental performances of SABOTAGE are what has made this one of the hardcore fan favorites. While not as immediately accessible as the first three albums, SABOTAGE was in reality the peak of SABBATH’s Ozzy-era creative prowess and for true fans where the six year party officially ended. A more careful analysis and the proper time for its magic to sink in will reveal SABBATH’s most crowning achievements made all the more remarkable by the traumatic events that surrounded it.

TOOL Undertow

Album · 1993 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 58 ratings
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While TOOL gets much of the credit for keeping the metal universe relevant during the early 90s at least in commercial terms, the truth is that the band was simply riding the wave of the harder edged alternative rock bands like Jane’s Addiction, Alice In Chains and Faith No More that were finding commercial success however as the glam metal world experienced a sudden upheaval and suddenly grunge was the dominate commercial force with Nirvana and Soundgarden suddenly becoming household names, TOOL was right there beside them. The band of Maynard James Keenan (vocals), Adam Jones (guitar, sitar), Pal D’Amour (bass) and Danny Carey (drums) gained momentum on the 1992 debut EP “Opiate” with a fiery aggressive brand of alternative metal that focused on lengthy progressive cyclical grooves but on the band’s full-length debut UNDERTOW the progressiveness had really blossomed into a totally unique sound that implemented crazy time signatures that once taken further on future albums like “Ænima” and “Lateralus” would make TOOL one of the hottest bands of the entire 90s.

Love em or hate em, one thing is is for sure. When TOOL debuted with UNDERTOW there was nothing that sounded like the dark, angry and lengthy complex sprawling soundscapes that TOOL had crafted. While bands like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden were still reliant on blues rock constructs for the compositions, TOOL completely eschewed the familiarities of what came before and crafted a mysterious mix of metal, grunge and even post-rock however the music itself sounds like none of those genres but usually gets lumped into progressive metal or in the case of UNDERTOW simply alternative metal. Having settled on Zoo Records, where both Keenan and Carey experienced a surprise gold album as a part of the comedy metal act Green Jellÿ, the album struck a nerve with the public with the creepy stop-animated videos for “Sober” and “Prison Sex” and shot up to the top 20 albums in no time. As of 2010, the album has been certified double platinum which shows TOOL’s

Unlike “Opiate,” a hard hitting more straight forward slice of alternative metal, UNDERTOW displayed a more focused sprawled out series of guitar and bass riffs augmented by Carey’s percussive delineations that often took on the characteristics of an African drum circle or an Indian tabla session. Eastern elements occasionally creep in as heard with the sitar addition on “Bottom” (Henry Rollins also appeared as a guest vocalist on this one).There is a resolute industrial grittiness to the music as well coming to full roost on the album’s closer “Disgustipated” which included Henry Rollins’ guitarist Chris Haskett playing sledge hammers. The final track “Disgustipated” displayed another factor that would make TOOL standout from the pack namely social commentary in the form of spoken narration, extended noise effects, darkened whispered singing styles and a propensity to end an album with a series of noises and silence before a final musical statement which nixed the main guitar and bass sounds. In this case at 6:45 the sounds of crickets are heard for just over seven minutes. This was actually a popular but annoying trend of 90s alternative music.

While UNDERTOW was somewhat of a rough draft for the more artistic statements that followed, the band’s basic stylistic approach had been laid out here. The rhythm section had already developed the crazy polyrhythms, Carey’s drumming style had already adopted the tabla percussive style at certain points and although the musical flow is a more nonchalant shuffle, the time signatures offbeats have awoken to realize the far reaching potentials. Another proclivity of TOOL’s albums is that they insist on lengthy albums that take up as much playing time as possible. UNDERTOW clocks in at 69:13 and even subtracting the final several minutes of cricket chirping time is still over an hour’s run. While steeped in the experimental elements that would continue to expand their horizons into the stratosphere, UNDERTOW is still firmly planted in the world of alternative metal without all the crazy artsy extras that decorate “Ænima,” therefore the album becomes a bit tedious to experience in a single listening session. Overall not a bad debut at all but in the end UNDERTOW lacks the excitement of what was to come and i didn’t discover this debut until after the rest so i’ve never been blown away by it.


Album · 2001 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.55 | 12 ratings
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The first phase of Absu's existence, before lineup changes prompted a hiatus and a realignment of their sound, might just be the absolute pinnacle of their unique style of "mythological occult metal". Steeped in the darkly surreal atmosphere of Celtic mythology from the cover art to the occasional acoustic moment of calm to the twisting guitar riffs, the album takes us on a furious black metal journey of unusual technical complexity and accomplishment. With the vocals (including a guest appearance from King Diamond under the pseudonym Masthema Mazziqim) shrieking like capering spirits and the musical backing making the best use of the studio (I particularly like how they briefly go lo-fi at the start of From Ancient Times to get across the idea of a legend from the distant past), if Absu deserve to be remembered for anything, it's for this.


Album · 1994 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 19 ratings
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W.F.O (Wide Fucking Open) is the seventh full-length studio album from the East Coast Thrash Metal legends, Overkill. It is an interesting bit of history for the band.

Their first five albums are all absolute classics of Thrash Metal, their sixth album was a diversion into Stoner/Groove Metal territory, but this seventh album is a quick return back to Thrash again, and yet, as it came out in 1994, it still has some Groove to it. It is their return to Thrash and yet it also isn’t pure Thrash all the way through.

The album is pretty damn good. There’s a good mix of fast and slow, modern and old school, familiar and variety. There are some real memorable songs, like ‘Fast Junkie’ ‘Supersonic Hate’ ‘Gasoline Dream’ and ‘Where It Hurts.’ Some of these ended up on the band’s later live albums. There’s also a weird bonus track where they jam out a few cover songs like Voodo Chile and Heaven & Hell.

Interesting fact; the third track uses the same ‘Here comes the pain’ sample that Slipknot use on their debut album.

The downside of the album however, is it has a really weird production job. It has a very loud clunky bass tone, muddy drums, muffled guitars and vocals too low in the mix. Some people can’t get past it. I don’t really notice it when listen to the album on its own, but if you add the songs to a playlist or hear them on shuffle amongst other albums, then it really does stand out as sounding quite unusual.

It isn’t an absolutely essential album like their first five albums are, but I would still recommend it to any warm blooded Thrash fan (or Fast Junkie), who is looking for more.

ABIGOR Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age

Album · 1994 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 7 ratings
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On the debut album Abigor might have originally presented a front cover reminiscent of a second-rate trve kvlt black metal outfit out to mimic Darkthrone or whatever (later editions have somewhat more dignity), but the contents took a very different approach. Whilst their demos had been somewhat lo-fi, this was born of necessity rather than a deliberate and aesthetic, and as soon as they had their hands on a proper studio they used to craft this whirling vortex of black metal fury. Early-to-mid 1990s black metal tended not to put a high priority on musicianship, but Abigor were always one of the significant exceptions.

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