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metal music reviews (new releases)

SOULHEALER Up From The Ashes

Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Finnish band SoulHealer are back with their fourth album, their first since they went through a few line-up changes last year. What we have here is traditional heavy metal that contains huge elements of Saxon, Scorpions, Helloween and Blind Guardian. There are certainly times when I found myself smiling, and gently moving the noggin, but there are a couple of things that mean that this album isn’t as good as the band think it is. Firstly, the songs themselves are quite boring to be honest: there is the feeling that the get up and go has already got up and gone, and they could do with upping the tempo and providing more aggression. I certainly get the impression that the production has watered down their attack, and that live they would be quite a different proposition. That is also the place where I would more likely forgive singer Jori Kärki, as there are times when he goes for notes that he just can’t hit cleanly or with enough power.

The result is an album which most Metalheads will enjoy to a certain level, but it is unlikely that anyone will be frequently returning to it. Not bad, but certainly not brilliant either.

WATAIN Trident Wolf Eclipse

Album · 2018 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 3 ratings
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The Crow
After five years of silence, Watain are back!

And this straightforward album is a good sign that they have not lost punch through the years, offering a true ferocious and direct record with great riffs and dusty (intentioned) production.

Maybe this album is a bit less experimental than previous ones, being some kind of return to their roots. But at the same time, is also more accessible and directly enjoyable.

Sadly, not great in my opinion given the predictable songwriting and lack of surprises, but perfect to be played live, where this band really shines.

Best Tracks: Nuclear Alchemy, Sacred Damnation, A Throne Below, Towards the Sanctuary.

Conclusion: Trident Wolf Eclipse is raw, direct and perfect to be played live. Sadly, this return to the origins for Watain suffers from being too predictable, being unable to create true excitement to the listener.

However, fans of the band Will surely love it!

My rating: ***

RIVERSIDE Waste7and

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.05 | 2 ratings
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The Crow
After the sad passing of the guitarist Piotr Grudzinski, I'm sure that Wasteland was not an easy album to make.

For this reason, I consider this record a transition one while they let another guitarist to take part (hopefully) on their next record and bring some new ideas and sound. Because one of the first facts that we can clearly hear in Wasteland is that a true guitarist is missing. It's obvious that Mariusz Duda is not a professional guitar player, and because of that in almost all the songs the complex guitar work of previous albums is sadly gone, and the pedals used are also not the most adequate, making the guitar riffs sounds hollow and cheap.

And curiously the same can be said for the drums, which sounds too high pitched, lacking the deep and strength that the heavier parts of the album so desperately need! Why? I just don't know, because the Piotr Kozieradzki's drumming is awesome in other records from the band.

But apart from the production, the musical quality of the album is also a bit irregular. Some outstanding songs like Acid Rain, Veil of Tears and River Down Below are mixed with other average tracks like the not so exciting Guardian Angel, the repetitive The Struggle for Survival and the risky but not really successful Wasteland (I love the western influences though!)

This irregular songwriting makes the hearing of the album on its integrity a bit dull sometimes, and that's the first time that I feel something similar with a Riverside record. Is not a drama, but talking about one of the best prog-rock acts of the last decades, is some kind of a letdown.

Best Tracks: Acid Rain, Veil of Tears, Lament, River Down Below.

Conclusion: I must admit that the band has managed to overcome the death of their guitarist with a good album, which shows both the heaviest and mellowest sides of the band while maintaining the spirit of innovation that this musicians always had, diplaying some very good new ideas like the gothic and obscure Lament and the cinematic but flawed title track.

But in comparison to works like Second Life Syndrome and Anno Domini High Definition, Wasteland just pales.

My rating: ***

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

IMMORTAL Northern Chaos Gods

Album · 2018 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 4 ratings
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adg211288
When Norwegian black metal act Immortal first disbanded back in 2003 after seven studio albums, they left behind a pretty great legacy, ending on career high note Sons of Northern Darkness (2002). Their later reunion in 2006 resulted in a solid if not exceptional comeback album, All Shall Fall (2009), but then the band went another long stretch without a new album. Then, in 2015, something unthinkable happened: the band's two key members, Abbath and Demonaz (who hadn't been able to play with them since 1997 due to severe tendinitis, which was surgically corrected in 2013), had some sort of bust up. This resulted in Abbath going off to start his self-titled project, which released its debut album in 2016, and Demonaz officially restarted Immortal again in 2015, consisting of just him and drummer Horgh. Demonaz returns to his original instrument, guitar, and also takes over the lead vocalist role from Abbath, with bass handled by guest musicians Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy).

Now I for one was pretty sceptical about this whole thing, I admit it. Demonaz had previous laid down lead vocals in his self-titled project back in 2011 and didn't give the kind of performance that I personally felt would have fit in with Immortal's more aggressive form of black metal music. That's not to say that they were bad, just different, especially considering that Abbath has one of the most distinctive growling voices in the scene and has always been an aspect of Immortal's music that has set them apart from other black metal acts. Sure enough, on Northern Chaos Gods (2018), Immortal's ninth album and first and only without Abbath, Demonaz doesn't deliver anywhere near as distinctive sounding growls as the former frontman. They also fit in here much better than those on Demonaz's March of the Norse (2011) led me to expect they would. Combined with some really furious black metal riffing, Immortal's Abbath-less comeback may just be the most aggressive album they've ever released.

That's the good part. There's also a problem. And that's that with Abbath or without him, lyricist Demonaz has long written extensively about his own Blashyrkh theme and now that we're nine Immortal albums deep, he's starting to really show signs of scraping the barrel. Throughout Northern Chaos Gods and it's eight tracks, you'll continually hear phrases that have been heard before across Immortal records and even though the music itself provides an absolute beast of an album, it does feel just that bit stale now because of the lyrics. Even the title is taken directly from Immortal's popular track One by One, the opener from Sons of Northern Darkness while closer Mighty Ravendark was actually used before as part of Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark) on their third album Battles in the North (1995). Furthermore, there's also Gates to Blashyrkh on this album. It all feels a bit of 'been there, done that'.

In spite of that issue, it's clear that Northern Chaos Gods is a far superior album to Abbath's 2016 self-titled effort, so if nothing else, Demonaz most certainly wins round one of their post-collaboration careers. Immortal just needs a bit more originally in their lyrics in the future though, as for the first for me they prove a distraction when listening to their music, summoning memories of past glories with Abbath up front rather than allowing me to fully invest in this Demonaz fronted new incarnation of the legendary band, without otherwise does a damn fine job of proving itself a viable venture for Demonaz and Horgh. For the music alone, Northern Chaos Gods is still worth a respectable four stars though.

REESE ALEXANDER The Digression Theory Pt. One

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Cylli Kat
This is an impressive, dramatic debut album by any standard; but the fact that this is a one man show makes it all the more remarkable.

Mr. Alexander has adroitly covered a great many progressive bases with this release, reminding me at some points of Sold Out errr... Soul Doubt The Dance Of Light And Shade. I find it to be rather mature for a debut album, rich with well-crafted writing, the playing of a multi-instrument virtuoso, and rather well done vocalizing.

I'd recommend this for aficionados of Soul Doubt, Haken, & maybe also for Devin Townsend.

I have to give this 4.7 PA stars.

Looking forward to digging into Part Two!

Well done, Mr. Alexander.

As always, your mileage may vary.

Grace and peace to you all,

Cylli (Jim Calistro)

Originally posted at progarchives

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metal music reviews (older releases)

DØDHEIMSGARD Satanic Art

EP · 1998 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 4 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
After two albums of fairly orthodox and good old fashioned second wave Norwegian black metal, DODHEIMSGARD started to get a lot more experimental and playful with their demented and devilish musical madness. Serving as a tradition of sort, they released an EP titled SATANIC ART in 1998, two years after their second album “Monumental Possession” and a year before their third “666 Internation.” SATANIC ART finds the band at an interesting halfway point between their second wave black metal origins and their avant-industrial leanings that follow.

SATANIC ART finds not only another lineup change but a few guest musicians adding all kinds of interesting new elements to the band’s new fangled black metal smorgasbord. This EP despite its short duration offers many transitions and not only musically. Svein Egil Hatlevik aka Mr. Dingy Sweet Talker Women Stalker (Fleurety) would debut as keyboardist and Galder (Dimmu Borgir, Old Man’s Child) would pick up extra guitar duties but only on this one release. Cerberus replaced Jonas Alver on bass.

“Oneiroscope” introduces the new Dodheimsgard with a piano piece that sounds like demented carnival music in a minor chord or even a psycho-drama flick soundtrack piece with lots of murder scenes. While “Traces Of Reality” reverts into the super bombastic black metal of the past, it is punctuated by a “White Zombie-esque” sampling, eerie atmospheric keyboard effects and most surprisingly the guest musician Paganini virtuosity of guest violinist Stine Lunde. “Symptom” continues the black metal bombast but adds some underpinnings of industrial metal that would surface on “666 International.” “The Paramount Empire” also sticks to black metal a la “Monumental Possesion” but with a more loosy-goosy construct. The Finale “Wrapped In Plastic” is another piano driven outro.

Although this EP originally only clocked in at just under sixteen minutes, it exhibited more diverse elements than the first two albums combined. SATANIC ART has been virtually unattainable in a physical format at a decent price for two decades but has found at last a much needed rerelease in 2018 on Peaceville and adds a couple bonus tracks (“Black Treasure” and “Symptom (Alternate).” SATANIC ART is like dipping into the pool of avant-garde possibilities where obviously DODHEIMSGARD got the experimental bug and never looked back. Good for them because this is where they got really interesting and put themselves on the map in the metal world. Despite only being a little EP, this one is a monumental moment in experimental extreme metal.

DØDHEIMSGARD Monumental Possession

Album · 1996 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
DODHEIMSGARD jumped into the Norwegian black metal snake pit and became only one of many in the legions of Darkthrone imitators with their debut album “Kronet Til Konge,” which showed a group of angry misanthropic metalheads pulling off a really decent carbon copy version of albums like “A Blaze In The Northern Sky,” however quickly after they released their rather ho hum debut to the world, the band started to take itself a little more seriously and started upping their game by infusing more creativity into their second wave black metal shtick. While not quite reaching the out of the box approaches that would define them, on their second release MONUMENTAL POSSESSION some of the avant-garde explorations had already started to creep in but in the end this is a black metal album from start to finish.

While firmly steeped in the same black metal world as the debut, MONUMENTAL POSSESSION has a much more diverse palette of ideas this time around. Firstly there are more thrash leanings. While the trebly black metal tremolo picking is ubiquitous as are the blastbeats and buzzsaw guitar distortion, there are many periods of thrash riffing and even soloing. This is a stylistic fusion that would be abandoned in favor of heading down a more experimental industrial path but a blueprint for bands like Aura Noir to adopt in DODHEIMGARD’S stead. Initially released on the Malicious label before the band had become better known, this album had been rare and out of print prior to the 2016 reissue on Peaceville.

MONUMENTAL POSSESSION saw a lineup change, a feature common with many extreme metal bands. While Aldrahn and VIcotnik are back for a second round, Jonas Alver replaces Fenriz on bass and Apollyon joins the grew as second guitarist. Another aspect that makes this album much different than the previous is that Aldrahn, Apollyon and Vicotnik all share vocal duties with each having a distinct style that offers more variations in the vocal department than most black metal releases of the 90s. So in addition to the usual shrieked vocal style, Victonik offers his own bizarre croaked shouts not unlike the vocalist of Inquisition which offers a freakish sensibility to the mix.

The album is bookended by hellish sound collages that offer freaky ghoulish Satanic sounds accompanied by swirling dark ambient turbulence. It sets the tone for the album but the music is unapologetically brutal black metal with thrash elements sewn in for good measure. A huge step up from the debut and a clear link to the future is the fluid and frenetic percussive attack of Vicotnik who offers a much more varied array of drum abuse than the average second wave pummelation of skins. Avant-garde and jazzy, they point to some of the weirdness that would emerge on the most experimental albums like “666 International.” Overall, the music falls into the brutally melodic zone with distinct hooks that are augmented by the orotund bombast.

MONUMENTAL POSSESSION is a huge step up in terms of quality from “Kronet Til Konge” in every conceivable manner and while still firmly planted in the black metal universe is a surprisingly consistent and pleasant journey into the sickened Norwegian minds of these face painted miscreants. This is an album i actually enjoy and want to listen to. While this would be the band’s last true black metal album, it is one that displays their talents of pulling off more than a mere Darkthrone clone routine and finds the band coming of age just in time to jettison it for something else completely, a trait that would find DODHEIMSGARD drifting from album to album much like Ulver without ditching the metal sound altogether. Not as great as future releases but damn good for an orthodox 90s black metal release.

MASTER On The Seventh Day God Created... Master

Album · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"On The Seventh Day God Created... Master" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US death metal act Master. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in the fall of 1991. Master had a relatively long and complicated history before releasing their eponymously titled debut full-length studio album in 1990. That album earned them great underground success though, and they were more or less at the top of the world (well...in relative terms) at this point. Since the release of the debut album both drummer Bill Schmidt and guitarist Chris Mittleburn have left the band. They are replaced here by new drummer Aaron Nickeas and Cynic frontman/guitarist Paul Masvidal (who handles guitars on the album). Band founder Paul Speckmann is the only remaining member from the lineup who recorded the debut album. He handles vocals and bass on the album. John Tardy from Obituary makes a guest vocal appearance on "Latitudinarian" and "Submerged In Sin".

Stylistically the music on "On The Seventh Day God Created... Master" continues the old school death metal with strong thrash metal leanings of the debut album. The song structures, riffs, and playing style are predominantly simple and at least to some degree catchy. It´s hard to imagine that it took very long for a capacity like Paul Masvidal to learn the guitar parts for this album. His solos are also more simple and raw than what we´re used to hearing from him. The drumming is pretty simple too and a bit one-dimensional. Clicky double kick drumming almost constantly throughout the album, and only few tempo changes. Speckmann´s vocals are somewhere between growling and raw more thrash metal oriented vocals.

"On The Seventh Day God Created... Master" opens with a decent trio of tracks in "What Kind Of God", "Latitudinarian", and "Heathen", but it´s like the band can´t keep the quality of the opening tracks up throughout the album. There´s nothing terribly bad on the album, but quite a few of the tracks are unremarkable. Master´s version of the American national anthem "America The Pitiful" is one of the few other standout tracks on the album.

The album was recorded at Morrisound Recording in Tampa, Florida in August 1991, and features a rather time typical Morrisound production. It´s not as bass heavy as most of the other productions out of the studio from that time, but there´s still no mistaking where the album was recorded. It´s not a particularly well produced release though and especially the messy guitar sound and clicky kick drums don´t sound too great.

Upon conclusion "On The Seventh Day God Created... Master" is probably an album that´ll please fans of the band´s debut album, but viewed within a broader death metal reference frame, it´s not the most interesting release on the scene, and considering the amount of death metal classics released in 1991, this one drowns in mediocrity. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

MACABRA Blood-Nurtured Nature

Album · 2012 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Blood-Nurtured Nature" is the debut full-length studio album by Belgian/US death metal act Macabra. The album was released through metalhit.com in February 2012, and is available in both CD format and in digital format. Macabra were formed in 2011 and consist of Mark Riddick (all instruments), and Adrien "Liquifier" Weber (vocals).

The music on the album is old school death metal with unintelligible growling vocals and occasionally higher pitched aggressive snarling vocals. The concept is clear and there are very few moments of anything that breaks the boundaries of the old school death metal genre. The two guys in the band perform their parts relatively well, but none of them show any skills beyond what you´d expect on an album like this. The drumming might even be a little below standard.

The material on the 8 track, 35:20 minutes long album is decent enough while it plays, but it´s not exactly music you´ll be humming along to or remember much about when the album is done playing. Macabra knows all the right death metal tricks, but they have a very hard time coming up with memorable riffs or vocal phrases, and the whole thing quickly reeks mediocrity. Add to that a sound production which is just slightly below professional standards and "Blood-Nurtured Nature" does end up coming off a bit amaturish. It´s not bad as such, just very standard for the genre and a 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

LÄÄZ ROCKIT Prelude to Death

Demo · 1983 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Prelude to Death" is a demo cassette tape by US, San Francisco, California based heavy/speed/thrash metal act Lääz Rockit. It´s an independent release, and it´s the first release by the band. Lääz Rockit were formed in 1982 and while they were an important part of the early Bay Area thrash metal scene, they never achieved any notable commercial success. They were skilled musicians, and pretty clever composers too though, so their artistic output is widely awknowledged to be of a good quality.

Already this early on it´s obvious that the guys in the band are very well playing and lead vocalist Michael Coons is a real treat to listen to. He has a pretty raw delivery, but still performs with a melodic sensibility and great understanding for catchy phrases.

"Prelude to Death" features 3 tracks and a full playing time of 13:30 minutes. The opening title track is a pretty aggressive and relatively fast-paced heavy/speed metal track, while "Black Leather" is a more traditional heavy metal track greatly influenced by Judas Priest. "Silent Scream" also falls into the more traditional heavy metal style but is slightly heavier than the track preceding it. Only "Silent Scream" and "Prelude to Death" (titled only "Prelude" on the album) would make it unto the band´s debut full-length studio album "City's Gonna Burn (1984)".

As mentioned above the band are very well playing/singing, and the demo also features a pretty well sounding production considering that it´s a heavy metal demo from 1983, so all in all "Prelude to Death" is a relatively strong start for Lääz Rockit, which also helped them land a recording deal with Target Entertainment for the release of "City's Gonna Burn (1984)". While it´s obvious the band still lacks a clear musical direction, their talents are indisputable and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

ALCEST Souvenirs d'un autre monde

Album · 2007 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.90 | 29 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
ALCEST, although a complete band, wasn't always so. While founded by Neige in 2000 (about the same time he joined Peste Noire), the original band that consisted of Aegnor and Argoth soon imploded after the demo "Tristesse Hivernale. " The two members soon departed leaving Neige as a one-man band for eight long years before a new lineup would occur. This debut SOUVENIRS D'UN AUTRE MONDE ("Memories From Another World"), having been released in 2007 which is the year before a new band would emerge, is in effect a solo album by Neige. This is the Neige show where he tackles lead and backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards and drums. There is for a short time one guest vocalist, Audrey Sylvain, on "Sur L'autre Rive Je T'attendrai."

Since SOUVENIRS D'UN AUTRE MONDE is a Neige solo album in disguise, it is of no surprise that it sounds quite different than the albums such as "Écailles De Lune" that follow. While the band has been tagged as shoegaze, blackgaze, post-rock and experimental metal, this debut yields very little in the metal department and is in effect a post-rock album that happens to have a guitar chords that ruffle their feathers to look bigger than they actually are. Like most post-rock, SOUVENIRS relies on a hypnotic run of soft dreamy guitar arpeggios and riffs that ratchet up the tension and ultimately find some sort of crescendo. The overall mood of the album is dark, dripping in nostalgia, rueful regret and euphoric yearning for blissful peace.

It's hard for me to review this album because in all honesty because i find it utterly boring. While this debut has been lauded since ALCEST first hit the scene in the mid naughts, i have had a very difficult time understanding why this clicks with so many and yet leaves me as cold as a whale's ass in the Arctic Ocean. While the future albums are actually quite engaging, this one seems to juxtapose all the wrong elements together in all the wrong places, at least for my tastes. First of all, the vocals are the most annoying of all, sounding like some indie pop twee garage band from small town USA. Despite being tagged metal, there are no metal vocals whatsoever with completely clean vocals dominating the entire album's run.

Secondly, this album chugs along at a snail's pace and never really engages in any dramatic changes. This is a true zone out album if i've ever heard one. While i love post-rock, indie rock, indie pop, post-metal and all the genres this is purported to be, SOUVENIRS is simply mediocre all the way around. It is a lazy breezy type of album that just floats by on codeine with no dramatic passages really ever emerging from the nonchalant drifting through the proper post-rock expectations. Next complaint, the instrumental parts just don't work together for my liking. Neige attempts to deliver black metal attributes such as tremolo picking and guitar solos but performs them so half-assed that it sounds too ridiculous for black metal and likewise sounds too out of character for post-rock.

I can understand some music lover's infatuation with emotional content being enough to make a good album but that is not the case with yours truly. Emotional connections in a pool of mediocrity equals, well, mediocrity. Probably the most competent aspect of SOUVENIRS is the production and mixing job. I do have to admit that the atmospheric qualities work quite well and indeed in retrospect ALCEST was one of the big players that brought the term blackgaze into existence with their debut EP "Le Secret," however Neige got all wimpy with the black metal aspects without jettisoning them all together which creates a rather tenuous vacuous tinniness within the overall structure of the compositions. Well, i'm glad some people can find pleasure in this debut by ALCEST because i sure can't, but i'm all on board starting with the second album.

RIVERSIDE Memories In My Head

EP · 2011 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.79 | 15 ratings
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The Crow
After the stunning Anno Domini High Definition, Riverside managed to reach the quality of their fourth opus with this incredible EP.

Retrieving part of the atmosphere and the soul of Out of Myself but maintaining the complexity and great instrumental skills learned through the years, Riverside gave us a great present in the shape of three songs, a bit more of 30 minutes of pure prog-rock at its best.

Goodbye Sweet Innocence starts with an incredible bass and wonderful guitar melodies, great verses and a powerful instrumental interlude. Is a song in the Out of Myself vein, but with strong 70`s influence. A band's classic in my opinion!

Living in the Past has a rhythmic beginning with keyboards which give way to a wonderful melody of bass and guitar, later accompanied by keyboards again. The verses and chorus are pure genius, while the instrumental part is pure prog-rock which lots of changes, progressions where the whole band shines, specially Lapaj and his wonderful keys around minute 6. And what to say about the section "Even clowns..." Scary, brilliant, genius! The bass after 08:48 introduces another marvelous instrumental section very in the mood of Anno Domini High Definition.

Forgotten Land starts with a melody which in my opinion is a Little homage to John Carpenter! Just listen The Thing or Escape from New York... But after this Little section a piercing bass of Mariusz introduces the melody of another great song which again brings automatically Out of Myself to mind, with an intense vocal interpretation and a very atmospheric ending, delighting the fans of this side of the band.

Conclusion: Memories in my Head is maybe short, but everything is almost perfect. The three songs included here count among the best that the band ever recorded and should be played live in every concert they make. True modern prog-rock classics!

I hope that in the Wasteland tour that they will start after summer they retrieve one or two of this wonderful songs for their performances, because they are a must for every fan of modern progressive rock and should be never forgotten.

Best tracks: the three songs are just great!

My rating: *****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Love, Fear and the Time Machine

Album · 2015 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 12 ratings
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The Crow
Love, Fear and the Time Machine is maybe the most personal and controversial album of Riverside.

They showed here the most luminous and happy? side of their music, with some positivism that was not well receive amongst all their fans. But after some hearings most of the songs of this album start to dig deeper in your soul until you discover yourself hearing this record again and again. It's compelling, passionate and very well made. And it also contains some of the best lyrics of the band.

The overall sound of the album is also lighter, with cleaner guitars (lots of acoustics) and drums and not so heavy bass lines from Mariusz, who made his best vocal interpretation to date in my opinion here. Lyrically the title of the album is a good summary of what we can hear throughout the album, which is an exploration about the childhood's world where the origin of feelings like love, fear and friendship resides. Just beautiful!

And just like Shrine of New Generation Slaves was an homage to 70's music, this can be considered the same for 80's music, with even some The Cure gothic-sounding parts like #Addicted.

Best Tracks: Lost, #Addicted, Caterpillar and the Barbed Wire, Saturate Me, Discard your Fear.

Conclusion: if you are prepared to hear a slightly happier version of Riverside with a bit less of melancholy and desperation in their lyrics, then Love, Fear and The Time Machine is for you. Sadly, the overall quality of this album reaches not the level of their best works, but in my opinion was an improvement over (the also excellent) Shrine of New Generation Slaves and opened new and exciting horizons for the band.

Sadly, this was the last album that Piotr Grudzinski recorded with the band... We miss you, mate!!!

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Shrine of New Generation Slaves

Album · 2013 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.25 | 44 ratings
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The Crow
Four years after the outstanding Anno Domini High Definition and with another incredible EP in the middle (Memories in my Head) the best prog rock band from Poland released Shrine of New Generation Slaves.

This album is some kind of return to the origins for the band in songs like The Depth of Self-Delusion and We got Used to Us (much in the vein of the most intimate moments of Out of Myself and Second Life Syndrome) while they also explored some new territories in tracks like New Generation Salve and Escalator Shrine where they made their particular homage to the 70's rock with even some Deep Purple-sounding keyboards.

Sadly, some other tracks like the boring Deprived and the too commercial Celebrity Touch are not so inspired, but the overall quality of the album is high. I would highlight the very missed Piotr Grudzinski's work on this album, maybe his best and most ambiental, and the general lyrical concept of the album where the band shows an acid criticism towards the enslaver work rhythm of modern society, making this album some kind of conceptual sequel to Anno Domini High Definition (not so much musically)

Best Tracks: New Generation Slave, The Depth of Self-Delusion, We Got Used to Us, Escalator Shrine.

Conclusion: Shrine of New Generation Slaves is a conservative and innovative album at the same time, offering some typical Riverside songs while they also dared to explore new territories with strong outcomes, but sadly making a pair of mistakes in the process.

Nevertheless, this is another true excellent album of this incredible band which surely should be in every prog-rock collection.

My rating: ****

P.S.: this review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

SAOR Aura

Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.53 | 6 ratings
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Warthur
Saor's sort-of second sort-of first album (Andy Marshall, the man behind this one-man project, put out the preceding Roots under the project name of Àrsaidh before changing it retrospectively to Saor) offers a really nicely judged blend of atmospheric black metal of the most epic, sweeping sort, and carefully chosen aspects of Celtic folk music.

There's lots of folk/metal blends out there, but I find that a lot of them leave me a little cold because in coming up with the mixture the projects in question don't show much judgement when it comes to what to leave out, which I think is a mistake. Trying to incorporate all the metal and folk tropes and instrumentation into a composition at once just leaves you with a mess; instead, Marshall selects his folk incorporations carefully, a whistle there, a viola there, a bodhrán drum over there, and makes sure that the folk inclusions serve rather than disrupting the atmosphere thus established.

Lyrically speaking, Marshall manages to pull off the trick of expressing pride in his homeland of Scotland and in his Celtic heritage without making it sound like he's coming anywhere near more hateful territory, which gives stealth NSBM bands who try to muddy the waters by just claiming they're singing about ancestral pride even less of an excuse. (If it's this easy to get your message across without steering into ambiguously fashy territory, then if you've ended up there it can only be because you either didn't think carefully enough or you meant to end up there in the first place.)

On the whole, Saor deserve to take their place in the current pagan pantheon of British atmospheric black metal band simply on the basis of this masterful project, and I'll be making sure to hear more of their work when I can.

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