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1349 Massive Cauldron of Chaos

Album · 2014 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Massive Cauldron of Chaos (2014) is the sixth full-length album by Norwegian black metal act 1349. It's been four years since the release of their last album Demonoir (2010), which was the follow-up to the fanbase divider that was Revelations of the Black Flame (2009). I haven't personally heard a lot of 1349's work prior to Massive Cauldron of Chaos, though I was intrigued by the backlash that Revelations of the Black Flame received and gather from what I've read up on the group as research for this review that Demonoir was a much better received album.

Being my first proper experience with the music of 1349 I obviously wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I first stuck Massive Cauldron of Chaos on to play. I usually see the band listed as just a black metal act, sometimes with dark ambient influences mentioned, especially regarding the more recent work. What I found in Massive Cauldron of Chaos is indeed black metal, but black metal than has a very strong thrash metal edge to the guitars. I'm quickly reminded of some of Immortal's later releases. Damned in Black (2000) and Sons of Northern Darkness (2002) are definitely valid points of reference. 1349 frontman Ravn's growl can even remind me of Immortal's Abbath at times but it's musically that puts Massive Cauldron of Chaos in the same niche more than anything. This makes Massive Cauldron of Chaos not as raw or atmospheric as some black metal can be, but a more direct and aggressive piece of work.

There are eight tracks on the album with a total of about thirty-eight minutes of music. The duration feels about right for the style as the album doesn't vary itself too much. It doesn't outstay it's welcome in other words and certainly fills its running time to bring in an assault of riffs, riffs and more riffs. There are still some more traditionally orientated black metal parts to be found though, and the growled vocals are in that vein too. Massive Cauldron of Chaos is very thrashy but it is still a black metal album first and foremost. Mengele's is a good example of where things turn towards more of pure black metal sound while Slaves really shows off just how well 1349 infuse thrash metal into their music. They save the best song for last in the form of Godslayer. A real triumphant conclusion to a great album.

Overall this album isn't as strong as those Immortal ones I compared it to but as a fan of those Massive Cauldron of Chaos is good complementary material from 1349. 4 Stars are very much deserved.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/1349-massive-cauldron-of-chaos-t3818.html)

AXENSTAR Where Dreams Are Forgotten

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Where Dreams Are Forgotten (2014) is the sixth full-length album by Swedish power metal act Axenstar. The band has moved to Inner Wound Recordings for this release and it's the second album to feature the line-up that debuted on their last album Aftermath (2011); Magnus Winterwild on vocals, bass and keyboards, Joakim Jonsson and Jens Klovegård on guitars and Adam Lindberg on drums.

On Where Dreams Are Forgotten Axenstar play a brand of power metal where I can't shake the impression that I've heard it all before. Lots of speed and melody and some semi-symphonic keyboard use. I guess that's what happens when you listen to a lot of albums from a particular genre. You start to get selective. I can't say that Axenstar do anything wrong here as far as a power metal album goes but eleven tracks and approx fifty minutes later I simply haven't heard anything that manages to make the album stand out. The songs themselves are decent enough I guess but the album as a whole doesn't really offer up any surprises and I don't find that the album has as much energy to it as it possible could do, which is often the determining factor for me with a power metal album. The first couple of songs Fear and Inside the Maze are really quite good however, as is Greed later in the album, so it's not as if Where Dreams Are Forgotten is totally without highlights.

I haven't heard any of the previous Axenstar work to say how Where Dreams Are Forgotten compares to them, but as a first impression for the group it definitely comes up short, making the band seem very B grade to me. It is good album, but only one that will have appeal to power metal diehards. I count myself as such a person, but I do have to be objective here. The lasting impressions of the album are not great and don't encourage repeat spins. But it is competent if unremarkable work with good vocals and musicianship. 3.5 stars seems fair in this case.


(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/axenstar-where-dreams-are-forgotten-t3815.html)

MANES Vntrve

EP · 2014 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Vntrve" is an EP release by Norwegian experimental rock/metal act Manes. The EP was released through Debemur Morti Productions in August 2014. 250 copies were pressed on 7" vinyl but the EP is also available as a "name your price" option on the band´s Bandcamp profile. Manes haven´t released a studio album since "How the World Came to an End (2007)", but "Vntrve" is meant to be a teaser for their 4th full-length studio album "Be All End All", which is planned for release in october 2014.

"Vntrve" features 2 tracks and a full playing time of 8:45 minutes. "A Deathpact Most Imminent" is featured in the same version which will also appear on "Be All End All", while "Broken Fire" (which will also be featured on "Be All End All") is featured here in a "Slow Boat Alternative Mix".

You never know what to expect from a new Manes release as they´ve experimentet quite a lot with their sound since their early black metal days. Their next step was industrial/progressive metal and then a dark trip hop oriented sound with occasional use of rap vocals. A pretty interesting but at times also rather odd development in sound. The music on "Vntrve" is a dark experimental type of rock music with ambient electronic elements and a reference to Ulver is valid. While Manes are usually considered a metal act, you wouldn´t know that by listening to these two tracks, because there are few distorted guitars on the EP and if there are, they are not played in a riff oriented fashion. The tracks are both well composed and quite intriguing but not complex.

"Vntrve" is well produced. The sound production provides the music with the right dark atmosphere and "Vntrve" is all in all a solid and relatively promising teaser EP and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ENTOMBED A.D. Back to the Front

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

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

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

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

SCAR SYMMETRY The Singularity (Phase I: Neohumanity)

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

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

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

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

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Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.51 | 27 ratings
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"FWX" is the 10th full-length studio album by US progressive metal act Fates Warning. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in October 2004. "FWX" was recorded by the same lineup who recorded the two predecessors "A Pleasant Shade of Gray (1997)" and "Disconnected (2000)". This time around Kevin Moore (Dream Theater, Chroma Key, OSI) doesn´t guest on keyboards though. The keyboards and the programming are instead handled by guitarist/main composer Jim Matheos.

While the music on the two predecessors is among the most progressive the band have yet released, "FWX", for the most part, follows a different route. The album is generally more vers/chorus oriented and there´s a slight alternative influence on the album too. To my ears Some tracks sound closer to Ray Alder´s and Joey Vera´s side-project Engine than they sound like Fates Warning tracks. A track like "Another Perfect Day" reminded me quite a bit of Enchant, so "FWX" is generally a bit of a different sounding Fates Warning album.

The album is well produced although I think Ray Alder´s voice features a somewhat unpleasant metallic production. But that´s been the case on the two precessors too. What´s more disturbing is the quality of the vocal melody lines, which are not very catchy. That worked alright on the more progressive predecessors because the quality of the music was so high, but here the instrumental part of the music too often falls into anonymous territory. The musicianship is as always on a very high level, but it´s not often the band´s great skills are put to their full use.

So overall "FWX" is a bit of a disappointing release by Fates Warning. It´s a bit hard to follow what the band were aiming at with the album but the bottom line is that it isn´t really working. "FWX" features glimpses of greatness and there are definitely both memorable and enjoyable parts on the album, but they are generally few and far between. Still a band like Fates Warning never fall flat on their face even on an album where they don´t deliver their most well written or interesting material, so a 3 star (60%) rating is still deserved.


Album · 1992 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Mindwaves" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German thrash metal act Assorted Heap. The album was released through 1 MF in April 1992. Assorted Heap was a relatively shortlived act and they only released "The Experience of Horror (1991)" debut full-length studio album and "Mindwaves" before disbanding.

Compared to the relatively harsh US influenced death/thrash sound of "The Experience of Horror (1991)", "Mindwaves" overall comes off as slightly more sophisticated. The band still emphasize technical playing and to some extent structural complexity (check out a track like "What I Confess"), but the rawness of the debut album is not as present on "Mindwaves". In other words this is more "thrash" than "death".

The band are very well playing and the sound production is relatively well sounding too. A bit thin sounding maybe, but otherwise it does the music justice. So overall "Mindwaves" is a quality release by Assorted Heap and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

IRON MAIDEN Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son

Album · 1988 · NWoBHM
Cover art 4.40 | 137 ratings
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Iron Maiden-Seventh Son of a Seventh Son

After Iron Maiden's addition of synthesizers in the last great album 'Somewhere in Time', Iron Maiden was able to release the album that is often labeled as the godfather album of progressive metal. Even though I feel like since 'The Number of the Beast' Iron Maiden had been releasing five star after five star effort, like 'Powerslave', this album just seems to stand out among the rest.

The album begins with one of my favorite songs on the album, 'Moonchild', and it really sets the standard for the album. The fast-paced 'Moonchild' flows very nicely into perhaps my favorite from the album 'Infinite Dreams', which in contrast begins slowly and builds up. The bridge is pure classic Maiden, and there is a lot of tempo-changing. The shorter song 'Can I Play With Madness' can't be forgotten, and is a nice catchy break. 'The Prophesy' is another one of my favorite songs on the album, and wouldn't sound out of place on the last album. 'The Clairvoyant' is another Maiden classic, and is a great example of how well Maiden uses the synth. Of course the ten-minute title track cannot be forgotten, which is yet another classic. The chorus is easy to sing-a-long to, because of how well Dickinson's vocals flow. The bridge is slow and peaceful, yet also menacing and suspenseful with great use of choir.

Like in 'Somewhere In Time', the synth enhances the music instead of dominating. Again, Maiden proves they use the synth very well. In fact, it helps even more. It creates the perfect mood for the album, and fits the style of music as well.

'Seventh Son of a Seventh Son' is also a concept album. Similar to the lyrics to Powerslave's epic 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner', the concept of 'Seventh Son' is based around literature, specifically Orson Scott Card's 'Seventh Son'.

Overall, from 'The Number of the Beast' to 'Seventh Son' Maiden knew how to make flawless albums. It wouldn't be until 'Brave New World', however, till Maiden got back on track with making flawless albums.

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SCORPIONS Humanity: Hour I

Album · 2007 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.35 | 14 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Someone must have slapped these guys in the face and said to them “Guys, stop the crap and do what you do best” after a couple experimental albums gone awry. The SCORPIONS have mostly been a pop leaning metal band at least since the latter part of the 70s and here on their 16th studio album HUMANITY: HOUR I they bring back their catchy melodic metal however unlike all those hits and ballads of the 80s where the metal was more prominent than the pop, on this one the band focuses a bit more on the pop rather than the metal. Not to say there aren't some great metallic rockers on here but there are simply more tracks devoted to a softer sound for the SCORPS. What is totally new is that this album is a concept album with a very loose storyline about a world devastated by a war between humans and robots. Hmmmm. OK, seems like they had been watching the Terminator movies before they entered the studio. I'll admit i'm not into this one for the lyrics as much :)

This album is also a first for the fact they incorporated the songwriting skills of pop master Desmond Child who has probably written more hits than Dolly Parton and was responsible for many a pop metal hit back in the day including several from Bon Jovi, but also was a key ingredient in the comeback of both Aerosmith and Alice Cooper in the late 80s. He has a recognizable songwriting style and some of the tracks on HUMANITY sound a little like some of those of Alice Cooper's “Trash” in terms of song structure. What really stands out for me is how good this band can still sound when their in the element. Klause Meine despite being nearly 60 when this was released still sounds as good as he ever has with no hints of vocal wear and tear and the rest of the band hits all their notes in stride as well.

Overall this album has one catchy track after another with just enough twists to keep it interesting. Many a track reminisce of days gone by and they all hang together extremely well which is a major surprise coming from the SCORPIONS this late in their career. Although HUMANITY will never usurp the title as best album by these guys, it is a compelling listen with more than enough modern elements to keep it from being solely classified as retro. There are symphonic touches and a whole host of other influences on board including Alice In Chains type riffing in certain tracks as well a mishmash of different sounds and effects. One of my favorites is the title track which sounds the most like a crushing power metal anthem from the 80s only with a grungier approach. The song ends by an interesting Dixiland jazz version of the melody sounding like a scratched record. Pretty decent album for these classic musicians although maybe a few less poppy tracks and a few more metal ones. I'm glad they got out of the terrible rut they fell into during the 90s at least for this album.


Album · 2013 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.11 | 6 ratings
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Avenged Sevenfold-Hail to the King

This album gets quite a bit of disdain among fans of Avenged Sevenfold and the metal community in general. This is very understandable however, because unlike their amazing previous album 'Nightmare', 'Hail to the King' isn't very unique and even goes to the point of ripping bands off.

The album begins pretty well with the opener 'Shepard of Fire', but even at the beginning they are ripping somebody off. The beginning of the opening track sounds exactly like the beginning of AC/DC's 'Hell's Bells', and when I first put this CD into my computer I thought I might of put in 'Back in Black' by mistake. After that pathetic intro, the song gets better and has that classic A7X feel. Another song that blatantly sounds like another artist is 'Doing Time', which sounds very similar to Guns'n'Roses. Probably the song that will make most people angry is 'This Means War', where after a classic A7X intro it turns into an almost exact copy of the riffing in Metallica's 'Sad but True'.

The entire album isn't a rip-off though, songs like 'Requiem', 'Heretic', 'Hail to the King', 'Planets' and 'Crimson Day' all sound like A7X. My second favorite from the album is 'Coming Home', even though the beginning sounds a lot like Iron Maiden and there is a Maiden song bearing the same name, it isn't a blatant rip-off and more of just influenced. The title track is another of my favorites, with some great chanting of 'Hail'. My favorite song from the album is 'Planets', which is a very heavy and aggressive song.

Overall, the music is solid and well-played. Even though a few songs are rip-offs, I still enjoy almost this whole album. If you're a fan of A7X and don't mind hearing stuff being ripped-off then I'd say give it a listen.

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