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DECONSTRUCTING SEQUENCE Access Code

EP · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Access Code" is the 2nd EP release by UK based (but Polish rooted) progressive extreme metal act Deconstructing Sequence. The EP was independently released in July 2014. Deconstructing Sequence was formed in 2012 by Tiberius (guitars, bass, vocals) and Morph (vocals, synth and programming) after their former band Northwail split-up. They are at this point essentially a two-piece, but they´ve enlisted J. Nerexo (Shadows Land, Torquemada, Phaeton) to do session drums on "Access Code". Something he also did on the band´s first EP release "Year one (2013)".

"Access Code" features 2 tracks, and a full playing time of 16:04 minutes. The music style is rooted in death metal and black metal, but there are elements from other genres too, and the music is generally very progressive both in structure and in execution. The tracks feature many different sections and atmospheres, from brutal and heavy, to mellow and atmospheric/melodic (the music features both growling, clean vocals, and spoken word sections). The lyrics are sci-fi oriented and the band often use spacey synths to compliment the lyrical themes, and to great effect I might add. Deconstructing Sequence really understands how to build a credible sci-fi atmosphere. The sound production is overall well sounding and suits the music, but the otherwise very well played drums, suffer from a slightly clicky and powerless sound, and there is a digital quality to the production which is probably an aquired taste.

Two tracks are not much material to go by if you want to know what an artist is about, but listening to "Access Code" it´s quite clear that the two main men behind the project are both skilled musicians and songwriters. This is not only innovative music, it also works incredibly well and doesn´t sound forced in any way (which is sometimes an issue with progressive music). Deconstructing Sequence is definitely a band worth following, and it´ll be interesting to see if they have enough good ideas to fill a full-length album with quality material like this. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

BODY COUNT Manslaughter

Album · 2014 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Manslaughter" is the 5th full-length studio album by US heavy/crossover metal act Body Count. The album was released through Sumerian Records in June 2014. It´s the successor to "Murder 4 Hire" from 2006. There were 9 years between "Violent Demise: The Last Days (1997)" and "Murder 4 Hire (2006)" so it´s safe to say Body Count aren´t exactly profilic when it comes to the number of releases they´ve put out since their inception in 1990. Of course lead vocalist Ice T also has his hip hop/rap and acting careers going (since 2000, Ice T has portrayed NYPD Detective Odafin Tutuola on the NBC police drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), so it´s probably hard to find time for Body Count too. The band has been plagued by untimely deaths among their original members too though (D-Roc died from lymphoma, Beatmaster V from leukemia and Mooseman in a drive-by shooting), and as Body Count was originally founded as a band of brothers playing together, that has probably also had an impact. Since "Murder 4 Hire (2006)" Ill Will has replaced O.T. on the drums, and Juan of the Dead is the new rhythm guitarist replacing Bendrix. Sean E Sean has also been added to the lineup on backing vocals and samples. The rest of the lineup is Ice T on vocals, Ernie C on lead guitars, and Vincent Price on bass.

It was never easy to tag Body Count´s music with a valid genre tag, and while it´s slightly easier on "Manslaughter" (it´s simply a more stylisticly consistent album than some of it´s predecessors), the band still mix as different musical styles as rap, blues, traditional heavy metal, crossover thrash, hardcore, and punk, and create their own style out of those elements. They´ve tuned up the heaviness and crossover thrash metal elements on "Manslaughter" though, and it´s probably their most metallic sounding release to date. Tracks like "Pray for Death", "Manslaughter", and "Bitch in the Pit" are very aggressive and especially in the latter case mosh inducing tracks, that´ll sit well with the band´s most metal loving fans. The same is probably true for the cover version of "Institutionalized" by Suicidal Tendencies. Ice T has re-written the lyrics for that one, and they are actually quite humourous, although I´ve heard the opinion from others that it´s silly.

As usual Ice T´s vocal performance and lyrics are a big part of Body Count´s sound, and on "Manslaughter" were treated to the trademark lyrical themes of social issues/commentary, violence, and explicit tales of sexual adventures. Especially "Black Voodoo Sex" and "99 Problems BC" describe the latter theme. "99 Problems BC" is a re-recording of the track which originally appeared on Ice T´s "Home Invasion (1993)" album. Alledgedly in an attempt to reclaim the classic track after Jay-Z had huge commercial success using the chorus. In other words making sure that people know that the track was originally written by Ice T and not Jay-Z. Ice T gets a bit preachy on "Wanna Be a Gangsta" and "I Will Always Love You", but other than that this is generally a both fun and thought provoking album.

"Manslaughter" is overall a heavy and quite aggressive album, and the powerful and clear sounding production suits the music perfectly. The band are also very well playing and upon conclusion "Manslaughter" is a great quality release by Body Count. All tracks on the 14 track, 50:29 minutes long album are memorable, and only few of them drag the overall quality down. To my ears it´s their best album since the debut, and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating isn´t all wrong.

BLOOD FREAK Squalor

Album · 2014 · Grindcore
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Squalor" is the 5th full-length studio album by US goregrind/death metal act Blood Freak. The album was released through Willowtip Records in October 2014 and is the successor to "Mindscraper" from 2011. Blood Freak has always been the brainchild of "Maniac" Neil Smith and he is also the sole remaining member from the lineup who recorded the predecessor as drummer Travis Ruvo has been replaced by Pierce Williams, and Tony Papasadero has been added as the band´s bassist, leaving Smith to only handle guitars and vocals (he also handled bass on "Mindscraper (2011)".

Nothing has changed in the musical department though, as the music style on "Squalor" is still goregrind/death metal with B-horror/gore movie lyrical themes and imagery. The quality of the material is generally a bit higher than the case was on "Mindscraper (2011)" though, and more comparable to the high quality of "Multiplex Massacre (2007)". Stylistically the music is a mix of Carcass influenced goregrind (the music for example features the classic high pitched aggressive snarl meets deep growling vocals) and old school US death metal and thrash (and even an excursion into stoner doom territory on "Sothoth's Sabaoth"). While especially the goregrind parts aren´t the most innovative or unique sounding, Blood Freak still manages to pull off playing a rather generic style in a convincing manner. There´s lots of bite and passion (and skill) behind the delivery, and the tracks are generally well written and relatively varied for the style (also featuring really well played guitar solos, and the occasional horror movie sample). It´s also almost impossible not to be charmed by songtitles like "Intestinator", "Tentacles from the Void", "God Is a Lawnmower", and "Discodeathbox". Now that´s the right kind of kitch in my world.

The sound production is powerful and raw, yet clear enough to easily make out what is happening in the music. A perfect sound for music like this. Upon conclusion "Squalor" is a nice return to form for Blood Freak, after the slightly less interesting "Mindscraper (2011)", and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MAGIC KINGDOM Savage Requiem

Album · 2015 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
Over the past few years Belgian guitarist/songwriter Dushan Petrossi has had great success with his heavy/power metal band Iron Mask, and for a while it seemed he was focusing all his attention on that one group, much to the disappointment of fans of his other highly regarded project Magic Kingdom. After releasing the massively entertaining but also greatly flawed third album Symphony of War, an album somewhat plagued by over ambition, it seemed the project had been put on hold for a while, potentially forever, but recently Dushan decided to continue with it, and so fans can now finally look forward a fourth album, titled Savage Requiem. After several listens, I can say it’s certainly worth the wait.

While both bands initially had a similar sound, recent years have seen Dushan branch out into more of a hard rock/traditional heavy metal infused sound with his Iron Mask albums, leaving much of the neoclassical elements behind, and even cutting somewhat on the epic power metal. Seeing as these two elements were always the main focus of Magic Kingdom, to continue in such a direction with this band would have likely been considered a big disappointment. Thankfully, that is not the case, as Savage Requiem feels like a nice mix between the the epic neoclassical power metal sound of Dushan’s earlier albums and the darker, heavier sound he brought on his fourth Iron Mask album Black as Death.

Indeed, there is something for everyone on this album. Fans of earlier Magic Kingdom albums have plenty of fun and upbeat tracks to look forward to, with tons of epic neoclassical flourishes and long instrumental passages where Dushan goes all out. The increased symphonic elements from Symphony of War are also very much present throughout. My personal favorite track here is “Ship of Ghosts”, an extremely fun and up tempo track where partway through he breaks out into Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”, which is pretty epic. Other tracks such as “Full Moon Sacrifice” and the title track showcase a much darker and heavier sound, very similar to Black as Death, though the melodies dominate throughout, and even the heavier tracks have epic choruses and symphonic arrangements.

One thing I was concerned about coming in was new vocalist Christian Palin. I had heard him before on Epicrenel’s 2013 debut The Crystal Throne, and to me he sounded very awkward on that album, struggling to hit the right notes and just generally seeming at odds with the grand and epic sound that band was going for. Well, on Savage Requiem I am much more impressed with Christian as he has a very strong and powerful voice that fits the heavier passages perfectly, complete with some occasional growls, such as at the end of “Full Moon Sacrifice”. He sings in a lower register most of the time, and even when he sings more cleanly, his voice sounds much smoother and more natural than it did on the Epicrenel album, allowing the as always outstanding vocal melodies to fully shine through.

After the mandatory (but fairly solid) intro track, album opener “Guardian Angels” slowly builds up momentum with a long but effective extended instrumental intro, before fully speeding up and turning into one of the better tracks on the album. This track basically shows off the full array of sounds you can expect throughout, as it’s a mostly a fast paced power metal track with a huge chorus, but it also has strong symphonic arrangements, heavy riffs and a nice neoclassical instrumental section in the middle. Other speedier tracks include “Rivals Forever”, which starts out with a very harsh and sinister sounding guitar tone before dialling it back and turning into a typically super melodic track, “Four Demon Kings of Shadowlands”, an extremely addictive track with a great buildup at the start as well as an amazing chorus,“With Fire and Sword”, which is probably the most neoclassical flavoured track on the album, and the super catchy closing track “Battlefield Magic”.

I tend to prefer the above mentioned tracks, as they’re much closer to what I expect from Magic Kingdom, though the slower songs are well put together as well. The best of these is the title track, which starts out slow and brooding, with dark and heavy verses that plod along, but then the chorus comes along and really kicks things into high gear, with Christian giving easily his best performance on the album. Actually, if not for that brief instrumental brilliance on “Ship of Ghosts”, the title track would likely be my favorite on the album. My least favorite track is probably “Dragon Princess”. It’s a nice enough song, but I find it just doesn’t do anything that the other two slower tracks don’t do better, and it drags on a bit.

After five years of waiting, Magic Kingdom fans finally have a new album to be excited about, and Savage Requiem definitely delivers, combining the epic neoclassical power metal and symphonic power metal sound of past works, with an occasionally darker and more aggressive sound, resulting in what is by far my favorite album Dushan Petrossi has released since his second Iron Mask album.

(originally written for myglobalmind: http://myglobalmind.com/2015/04/09/magic-kingdom-savage-requiem-review/)

VEXILLUM Unum

Album · 2015 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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DippoMagoo
It isn’t too common to find a power/folk metal hybrid anymore, but one country that has proven reliable for this style in recent years is Italy. Obviously, the leaders in that field are Elvenking, but over the past few years, up and coming band Vexillum have proven themselves to be quite the force as well. They emerged in 2004 under the name Shadow Vexillum, but never really took off until 2011, when they released their debut The Wandering Notes, which showed a ton of promise. The follow up album The Bivouac increased the folk metal elements quite a bit, and the release was a noticeable improvement in all areas. With their third release Unum, they have finally turned into an all out power/folk band, as opposed to a power metal band with folk elements as they were before, and this move has paid off for the band, resulting in easily their best work to date.

One thing that’s obvious about Vexillum right from the start of this album is how similar they are to Elvenking at times, especially that band’s debut Heathenreel and their most recent album The Pagan Manifesto. The blend of guitar riffs along with violins and bagpipes results in a very epic sound, and when you add the huge choir vocals to that, it only gets better. Musically, this album is a much more seamless blend of styles than their first two albums were, in that every song shifts between speedy power metal portions, and calmer sections where the folk elements dominate, and there are many times where the songs go from being very quiet to being much heavier. One of Vexillum’s biggest strengths has always been the energy of the music coming from all members of the band, and that is certainly true on Unum as well, as even the wilder and less predictable parts of the album work better than they should, just because there’s so much energy in the music and in the vocals. I will say, though, my one complaint is that the production is a bit weak at times, particular the guitar sound, though that’s understandable considering how much is going in the background throughout every track.

I’ve always had mixed feelings towards singer Dario Vallesi. His voice can be a bit irritating at times, and he always borders on being pitchy, and yet he delivers his lines with so much passion and excitement, that most of the time I can’t help but like him anyway. Two additional factors really help with the vocals on Unum: First off, this album has some of the best, and most unique vocal melodies I’ve heard on a power metal album in a long time. Just when you think they’ve pulled their final trick, they always find ways to surprise you with just how epic and how fresh sounding their vocal melodies can be. The other factor (or factors, I should say) comes from the guest vocals: Unum is actually a concept album, with Dario playing the main character, while the other characters are played by four guests, including Hansi Kürsch (Blind Guardian), Chris Bay (Freedom Call), Maxi Nil (ex-Visions of Atlantis) and Mark Boals (Ring of Fire). That is quite the impressive group of guests, and all of them are used very effectively, with each having a track built around them, while the last main album track “The True Beginning: Standing As One” features brief appearances from all four.

Songwriting is an area where Vexillum has improved greatly over the years, and Unum has some of their best songs to date. The opening track “The Departure: Blow Away the Ashes” begins with an extended instrumental section highlighted by the folk instruments, and the song plods along throughout the verses, but about halfway through the tempo picks up and the song becomes an instant winner. The last two tracks are also excellent, with “The Way Back: The Clash Within” being the fastest song to not feature any guests, and it has some awesome choir vocals during the chorus, along with some really cool chanting at the end, while the closing track “The True Beginning: Standing As One” is a fittingly epic end to the concept portion of the album, and it’s nice to hear all the guests back again.

Speaking of which, the real meat of the album is the middle part, with tracks 2-5 all being duets between Dario and a guest. First up is “The Jester: Over the Clouds”, a fun and upbeat track featuring Chris Bay (and I’m sure his fans will agree that this is the perfect role for him.) The song itself feels like a more folk driven version of his band, as it’s a very fast and very cheerful tune with an insanely epic chorus. Next is “The Sentenced: Fire and Blood”, which features Hansi Kursch. It’s here when Vexillum start to show their versatility, as well as their ability to the play to strengths of their guests, as this track is by far the heaviest on the album and it actually sounds like a Nightfall era Blind Guardian track, except with even stronger folk elements. Hansi sounds right at home, and he and Dario sound great together. I didn’t know what to expect from “Lady Thief: What We Are” as I’ve always found Maxi Nil to be competent, but not particularly memorable. Thankfully, the band managed to deliver again, as this track is more of a light and playful track with very strong folk elements, and it features very strong interplay between the two vocalists. And yes, Maxi certainly is memorable this time around. Last, but not least, we have “The Hermit: Through the Mirror”, a predictably weird but delightful track, which starts out with an extended acoustic section, and probably is the least heavy track on the album, with a bit of a folk rock feel to it, but it also features some truly amazing vocal melodies, especially towards the end.

After the concept portion of the album, we have two cover tracks (“ Spunta la Luna dal Monte” by Tazenda and “Run Runaway” by Slade.) I don’t know either original version so I can’t comment much, but while they do stand out from the rest of the album, it seems like Vexillum has put their own spin on both tracks, and they are both a lot of fun to listen to.

Aside from some minor production flaws and a very brief running time (38 minutes over 7 tracks if you remove the two covers) Unum is an excellent power/folk metal metal hybrid, which shows Vexillum continuing to be influenced by fellow countrymen Elvenking, while mixing in their own sounds and spicing things up with some excellent guest vocals. They keep getting better with each album, so I definitely look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

(originally written for myglobalmind: http://myglobalmind.com/2015/03/23/vexillum-unum-review/)

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DESPISED ICON The Healing Process

Album · 2005 · Metalcore
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"The Healing Process" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Canadian deathcore act Despised Icon. Despised Icon released their debut full-length studio album "Consumed by Your Poison" through Galy Records in 2002 and received a lot of praise for that album, which must have ignited the interest of Century Media Records who signed the band for the release of "The Healing Process" in April 2005 (and re-released "Consumed by Your Poison" in 2006).

The music on "The Healing Process" pretty much continues down the same brutal and groove based deathcore sound as was the case on "Consumed by Your Poison". Everything is just a notch better on "The Healing Process". The sound production is professional, clear and powerful, the musicianship is on a high level and the songwriting has also matured, which combined make "The Healing Process" quite the enjoyable deathcore album. With what seems almost effortlessly the band deliver a brutal punch in the face but at the same time understand how to vary their music and entertain their listeners, so that the album doesn´t become too one-dimensionally brutal. They´ve simply added more details and hooklines to the music, which were features I felt weren´t focused on enough on the debut album.

It´s pretty much deathcore by the book, with faster technical parts and crushingly heavy and groove based breakdowns, but these guys do it better than most other acts on the genre. Their brutal grooves are especially strong and headbanger friendly. The two lead vocalists in the band vary their vocals from brutal deep growling, to raw shouting, to higher pitched aggressive screaming, to piggy squeals. The latter vocal style is kept to a minimum on this album compared to how much it was used on the debut album.

At 32:08 minutes "The Healing Process" isn´t a very long album, but I´ll take quality over quantity any day and Despised Icon delivers quality deathcore during the full playing time, so there´s nothing to complain about there. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is warranted.

BABE RUTH Kid's Stuff

Album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Kid´s Stuff" is the 5th full-length studio album by UK rock/hard rock act Babe Ruth. The album was released through Capitol Records in the US and through EMI Records in the UK in 1976. A major change to the lineup occured before the recording of the album, as lead vocalist Jenny Haan left the band to be replaced by Ellie Hope. As a consequence of that there is not a single remaining member left on "Kid´s Stuff" from the lineup who recorded the debut album "First Base (1972)".

Regardless of the lineup change on the lead vocalist spot, the music actually still sounds like Babe Ruth even though a few funky elements have found their way into the band´s sound. The compositions are generally not very strong though and I´d only mention the rocking "Oh Dear, What a Shame", the pretty good "Welcome To the Show", the short instrumental synth track "Nickelodeon" which is the only track with ties to progressive rock on the album, the hard rocking "Keep Your Distance" and the power ballad "Living A Lie" as decent tracks on the album. The rest are either pretty bad or not worth mentioning at all. The comparisions to Wishbone Ash and Led Zeppelin still hold true, but think of the weakest material released by those artists and then this is still a bit weaker.

New vocalist Ellie Hope has a raw rock mama voice and does a decent job on the album, but she struggles to reach the heights of the fantastic Jenny Haan. The production is well sounding and suits the music. A warm, organic, and pleasant sounding seventies production. "Kid´s Stuff" isn´t a catastrophy to my ears but it´s not really a good album either. A 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted. Do yourself a favour and check out any of the band´s previous four albums before listening to this one. It would be wrong to form an opinion about Babe Ruth on the grounds of the material on this album.

THOUGHT INDUSTRY Songs for Insects

Album · 1992 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.98 | 4 ratings
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Unitron
Thought Industry-Songs for Insects

'Songs for Insects' is the debut studio album by avant-garde/thrash metal band Thought Industry. This is one weird band and album, and you may wonder how they got signed to a major label so quickly in their career. Well, Metallica's Jason Newsted brought their demo to the ears of Metal Blade Records and they were signed on. Thought Industry would continue to be pretty damn weird until their fourth release in 1997 when they moved in an alternative rock direction.

If you listen to this album once, you most likely won't fully understand it. However, the more you listen, the more the pure strangeness just sinks into your brain. This is no ordinary thrash album as you can most likely tell by the usage of Salvador Dali's 'Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonitions of Civil War)' as an album cover. This is a crazy avant-garde technical thrash metal album with a big smorgasbord of musical styles combined, and probably one of the most unique albums I've ever heard. While this is an album that needs a few listens to fully understand, the opening track 'Third Eye' is an instant gem. I fell in love with this song the first time I heard it, the fast-paced drum beats and the grooving stomp of the guitars opens this song perfectly. Once Brent Oberlin's vocals come in, it fits perfectly with the crunching guitar and just sends chills down my spine. Easily my favorite on the album.

The weirdness comes in with the next song, the title track. This nearly 10-minute song never stays in one place. From thrashing goodness, to menacing passages with meandering guitar, to crazy drumming combined with wacky bass slaps that would later be heard in Mudvayne's 'L.D. 50' album. My second favorite from the album is probably 'Cornerstone' with it's industrial groove. Oberlin gives some strange vocals here, with weird guitar and mechanical drum pounding. The avant-garde strangeness continues with 'Daughter Mobius', which enters in with what sounds like some folk dance before thrashing guitar comes in. Next is the beautiful acoustic track 'Alexander Vs. The Puzzle', before being assaulted with another wacky thrash song in 'Ballerina' with great unique vocals from Oberlin. As you can probably tell, the lyrics are mostly surreal and unconventional, matching the Dali album cover. The song 'Third Eye', however, has awesome political lyrics such as 'Someone lied about God and Country but I have a third eye politically. What will it take to tear it all down? What does it take to see the U.S. draft's a lie.'

Overall, this will most likely be one of the weirdest albums you'll ever hear. It may take a few listens to really enjoy it, but I highly recommend this album to anyone wanting something weird, avant-garde, and unique. If you like thrash metal, groove metal, industrial metal, or anything avant-garde, this has elements of all of those. Hope you found this review helpful.

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FREEDOM CALL Crystal Empire

Album · 2001 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 4 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
The German Melodic Power Metal band Freedom Call’s second full-length studio album, 2001’s Crystal Empire, feels very much like a continuation of their seminal debut album Stairway To Fairyland. Its got the same thunderous double-kicks, the same joyous uplifting choruses and the same tasteful lead guitar lines. Once again it was produced by Charlie Bauerfeind, who has worked with almost every Power Metal great you’d care to name.

Mainman Chris Bay has a tremendous vocal skill with a huge range, a lot of power and a real ear for melody… and that’s on top of the already excellent musical skills. The effortless sounding guitar lines stick in your head, the occasional chunky riffs that break things up, these things really elevate the album from just another face in the crowd to something noteworthy.

If you are into bands like Stratovarius, Blind Guardian, Edguy, Hammerfall or especially Gamma Ray and Helloween (and this album does feature guitar from Helloween’s Sacha Gerstner and drums from Gamma Ray’s Dan Zimmermann) then Freedom Call are a band that are seriously worth checking out. They are talented, passionate and consistent. They deliver exactly what you want… happy sounding Power Metal full of melody, bombast and mythical lyrics. The band have been described before as the world’s happiest sounding Power Metal band so you can imagine a sort of ballpark sound from that description alone.

Compared to their debut, this is a pretty similar affair. Its slightly more polished, slightly less complex and more commercial, but more or less in the exact same style, which is good news as their debut was absolutely fantastic. Clear production, excellent musicianship, stellar vocals and a general consistency and lack of weak tracks make this an essential purchase for anyone interested in the band. Add to that some genuinely enjoyable songs and you’ve got a bit of a rager on your hands.

Overall; if you like the band, get this album. If you haven’t heard the band but might like to, try this album. Highlights include: The concert baiting ‘Farewell,’ as well as the hugely enjoyable trio of ‘Call Of Fame,’ ‘Ocean’ and ‘Palace Of Fantasy.’ Check these out if you want to hear what the album is like.

KAYO DOT Gamma Knife

Album · 2012 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 13 ratings
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bartosso
He could not remember the dream

"Gamma Knife cuts through his skull as soon as he falls asleep. His vision is dim and blurred at first but it brightens with every second and he feels moved by the blissful, eerie spectacle that unfolds before him. The knife suddenly reaches his mind and the bubble bursts. All becomes vivid as the chaos spreads around and all calmness drowns in its foaming depths. How long did it last? Can time be measured in a place like this? He doesn't know. But as the edge of radiation withdraws, he is in a peaceful place again. Soft light soothes his senses as sounds of music sustain his slumber. And it all ends with silence..." Now that I lost most of you with my failed attempt at artistic writing, let's begin.

As by far the most obscure album by Kayo Dot, Gamma Knife is a negative of itself. An amazing case of an album that contradicts itself and yet, by the power of its overarching idea, works wonderfully as a whole. Now, if I just came down to earth for a moment... Gamma Knife is intentionally made that way to create an impact. The album begins and ends with stunningly beautiful and soothing, choral chamber music recorded in studio, but at its core are three tracks recorded live in concert. Could it go any weirder? Well, yes! In short, the middle part is as eclectic, avant-garde and extreme as it could get in less than twenty minutes. It's basically like a surreal 20s film where avant-chamber music meets jazz, RIO and black metal and have a shot of absinthe. The black metal side is somewhat reminiscent of Deathspell Omega and early maudlin of the Well. Compared to other avant metal acts like Ephel Duath, Gamma Knife sounds much more organic and bold in its exploration of avant jazz and chamber music. Strong psychedelic presence in the vein of Swans is also noticeable. However, what binds all these elements together to give them common identity, is the unmistakable Kayo Dot vibe that, like a totem spirit, animates every single album by this band.

I must admit that at first Gamma Knife didn't work for me as well as it does today, and I did not fully embrace its inner dualism until just a few months ago. Just like any other album by Kayo Dot, it's definitely not an easy one to get into but it's all the more rewarding once you do. Less focused on patient theme evolution of Choirs of the Eye and more on tight, aggressive experimentation known from Hubardo, Gamma Knife is a truly unique avant-garde rock ride. Let it sink in and you'll have one damn peculiar daydream every time you give it a spin.

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