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SOILWORK Beyond the Infinite

EP · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Beyond the Infinite" is an EP release by Swedish metal act Soilwork. The limited edition EP was released through Avalon/Marquee Records in September 2014 and is exclusive to the Asian market. "Beyond the Infinite" features five outtakes/unreleased tracks from "The Living Infinite (2013)" sessions. Believe it or not, but there were actually leftover tracks from that double album release.

Stylistically the five tracks on the 21:49 minutes long EP are pretty much in line with the melodic death metal tracks featured on "The Living Infinite (2013)", but with a little twist here and there, which makes it understandable but not wildly obvious that it was these five tracks which weren´t included on the album. There are just some small details, and in some cases a slightly less infectious chorus melody than usual for Soilwork, which points in the direction that the tracks on "Beyond the Infinite" were outtakes. Musically this is melodic death metal with both raw semi-growling/screaming vocals and many clean vocal parts, melodic lead guitar work and heavy and fast death/thrashy riffing, very fast precision drumming, and keyboards used for effect and atmosphere. In other words, the sound of Soilwork.

And that´s about it, because overall the material is very well written, incredibly well performed, and as well produced as the material on "The Living Infinite (2013)". So if you´re a fan of that album, "Beyond the Infinite" is definitely worth your time and money. a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ENSIFERUM One Man Army

Album · 2015 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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DippoMagoo
During my more experimental phase of trying to further evolve and refine my tastes in various types of metal, I would occasionally struggle with certain genres, until I found that one band that would eventually convince me to dig deeper. For anything relating to folk metal, that band was Ensiferum. As soon as I heard their album From Afar I was instantly hooked, and since then they have become not only my favorite band in their genre (as well as the band that opened the door for me discovering such excellent bands as Turisas, Equilibrium and Eluveitie) but probably one of a handful or so of my absolute favorite bands at this point. Some fans were disappointed with their more slowed down and melodic previous release Unsung Heroes, but I found it to be just as incredible as their previous two. With their upcoming sixth full length release One Man Army, they have kept their streak alive, with yet another brilliant album that both builds on their previous work, and throws in some big surprises on a couple tracks.

In case it wasn't made obvious in the opening paragraph, I’m very much in the minority when it comes to most Ensiferum fans, in that while I enjoyed their two releases with Wintersun frontman Jari Mäenpää, I find they really came into their own as soon as Petri Lindroos joined. Every album they've done starting with Victory Songs has been fantastic in its own way, with each release maintaining certain key elements while moving their sound into new and exciting directions. By comparison, One Man Army is their first one in a while that doesn't feel like a huge step forward. Instead, it largely feels like a spiritual successor to From Afar and it’s epic, speedy melodic death power metal sound, once again infused with tons of symphonic and folk elements, while occasionally mixing some of the slower sections that Unsung Heroes had, and introducing a few new tricks here and there. The opening track “Axe of Judgement” in particular feels like the closest they've come to being a symphonic power metal band, complete with an excellent section in the middle where the choir vocals and orchestras take over. The only thing separating them from having a symphonic power metal tag on that song is the fact that it still heavily features Petri’s excellent growls. Fans of From Afar should love that one as well as the equally awesome title track, which is pretty much a pure melodic death metal song, only sparingly using symphonic and folk elements.

As with any Ensiferum album, there’s a great range of different vocal styles on One Man Army. Obviously, the bulk of the load is carried by Petri Lindroos, who sounds as powerful and energetic as ever. In fact, on songs like “Cry for the Earth Bounds” and the later parts of “Descendant, Defiance, Domination”, he shows off a higher end to his growls than normal, and these vocals sound especially strong and epic. I almost wish he’d use that voice more often, it sounds that good. Clean male vocals are handled by guitarist Markus Toivonen and bassist Sami Hinkka. As always, the clean vocals sound great and help enhance the melodies, most notably on “Warrior Without a War”, which is another epic speedy track. Elsewhere, the choir vocals and various forms of gang vocals are still used frequently and sound as awesome as ever. Like with Unsung Heroes, a couple songs also feature clean female vocals and they sound great.

While most of the album feels closer to From Afar, and perhaps even Victory Songs at times, the song “Heathen Horde” is very similar to the title track of “Unsung Heroes”, in that it’s more of a mid tempo track where the folk melodies dominate, and the gang vocals during the chorus are quite epic. Other songs show their symphonic elements coming through even more strongly than they did on From Afar, most notably on “Cry for the Earthbounds”, where the operatic choirs sound especially epic. Later on in the song we have one of two instances on the album where a solo female voice is heard, as well as well as one late section in the song where Petri showcases those higher growls I mentioned earlier. On the whole, that track is a clear hi-light.

Of course, the biggest connection to From Afar comes from the tracks “My Ancestors’ Blood” and “Descendants, Defiance, Domination” which join together to make up a new chapter in the “Heathen Throne” saga. These tracks really do feel like one 16 minute epic (the first track even ends with some ambient keyboards which continue into the start of the second track) and once again Ensiferum has delivered spectacularly on that front. They do sound somewhat similar to the first two parts, with the first track being a bit more mid tempo and featuring a catchy chorus, while the second track is largely instrumental, at least in the first half, and features several tempo changes. Near the end Petri delivers more of his epic higher growls, but perhaps the most surprising thing about the track is the effective use of narration. I generally find narration in music to be very distracting, but in this case it’s used in very quick bursts and helps to push the music along, without ever getting in the way. The first half of the track does an excellent job of setting the tables, while the second half is some of the band’s best work to date.

And then we have the two oddball tracks. First up is “Two of Spades”, which starts off as a fast paced, rather straight-forward and super catchy power/melodeath song, but then in the middle it transforms into what I can only describe as some kind of weird retro dance music or something. I really can’t put it into words, but the music goes really weird for a while, and even the vocals sound a bit cheesy in a fun way, with the lyrics switching to Finnish, I believe. Whatever the heck they were attempting in that song, it worked, because it’s somehow one of the most addictive songs on the album, and it certainly sounds unique. The other surprising track is the closer “Neito Pohjolan”, another track I have a hard time properly describing. It’s a fairly upbeat track, but it’s not at all metal, and it features all female vocals, sung entirely in Finnish. My first reaction was one of utter shock, especially considering how strong a finale the previous two tracks would have made, but once I got over that I found it to be a rather fun and fresh sounding track. They even included an English version as a bonus track on the Digipak release, though this alternate version features a low singing male vocalist, and at least based on the name, the lyrics seem to be entirely different, but the music remains entirely the same. The other bonus tracks are also fun, with the appropriately named “Bonus Song” in particular being really fun and humorous.

While the previous three Ensiferum albums have shown the band constantly evolving, One Man Army feels more like a celebration of everything the band has become, with occasional glimpses into a lighter, more humorous side of the band. Fans of Victory Songs and especially From Afar should be very pleased with this one, while even those who preferred Unsung Heroes should find a lot to like. And of course, I highly recommend it to all fans of melodeath infused folk metal and symphonic metal. Overall this is yet another fantastic album from a band that has proven to be the best in their field time and time again.

(Originally written for myglobalmind: http://myglobalmind.com/2015/02/02/ensiferum-one-man-army-review/)

PELICAN The Cliff

EP · 2015 · Sludge/Post-metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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The Angry Scotsman
Another Pelican EP, just enough to keep us satisfied, but leave us hungry enough to want more!

This EP consists of three remakes of their song, "The Cliff" released on their last album, as well as one original song, "The Wait".

The first remake, "The Cliff (Vocal Version" is just that, the original song but with vocals. This is of course shocking for the instrumental band, and unlike their only previous song with vocals which featured the singing in an airy, light style, this song features distinct, clear singing with lyrics such as "I'm gunna wait. I'm gunna wait here for you. You're running late. I'm gunna stay here for you. You're gunna love me someday." Honestly, I was a bit shocked...but it works. The vocals fit superbly and the lyrics, well they work! Also note the lyrics about waiting and the final song, "The Wait". Refreshing song.

"The Cliff (Justin Broadrick Remix)" is just that. Broadrick of Godflesh amd Jesu fame adds a noisy, industrial touch to the lengthened song, leaving it recognizable but clearly unique. The Palms Remix is done by Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer from Palms, as well as the legendary Isis, and features the first song, (complete with vocals) but with some extra touches to it, such as Harris' classic drumming, some electronic touches, and a recognizable though clearly redone section of "The Cliff" with a nice ending.

"The Wait" is a Pelican song with all that we've come to love and expect. Beauty, power, subtle textured songwriting building to a powerful climax and of course the clean/heavy dynamic and powerful drumming.

So what to make of this little EP? Any Pelican fan will like it, and while it doesn't add much at all to their discography, take it for what it is: a fun, simple snack. The star power on this small EP is an intriguing touch, and while small there is a bit of a story to all of it: the first song, simply vocals added to an older song, is redone itself later. The lyrics in that first song, add a bit to the last, knowing what exactly "The Wait" is referring to, and perhaps adds to it's power and movement.

If you like Pelican, give it a listen. If you've never heard the band, give it a listen. The former should find it a simple, nice and fun EP, the latter will hopefully be encouraged to try the band's other material!

Good but non essential

THREE STARS

MEGASCAVENGER At the Plateaus of Leng

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"At the Plateaus of Leng" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Megascavenger. The album was released through Chaos Records in February 2014. Megascavenger is a Rogga Johansson project where he handles guitars, bass, and some vocals. The drums are handled by Brynjar Helgetun (who also sings on one track). On "At the Plateaus of Leng" all 9 tracks feature a different vocalist, which was also, to a lesser extent, the case on the band´s debut full-length studio album "Descent of Yuggoth (2012)". Among others Dave Ingram (Benediction, Bolt Thrower, Down Among the Dead Men), Martin van Drunen (Pestilence, Asphyx, Hail of Bullets), and Kam Lee (Massacre, The Grotesquery).

The dominant vocal style on the album is growling, but there are a few tracks included featuring more "regular" singing. The basis in the music is old school Swedish death metal, but "At the Plateaus of Leng" is at times also quite melodic, and generally a bit more varied than many of Rogga´s other projects. The fact that the album features so many different lead vocalists has the effect that it becomes a bit less cohesive than what is usually a good idea when you release a full-length album, but listened to one by one all tracks on the album are pretty good quality material. As it´s often the case with Rogga´s projects the material seldom reach excellence though. For that the riffs aren´t remarkable enough and some of the vocal performances not convincing enough.

"At the Plateaus of Leng" features a well sounding production, which suits the material well, and in many ways "At the Plateaus of Leng" is one of the more interesting Rogga related releases out there because of the varity of the material and the varity of the vocal performances, but the diversity is also the album´s biggest issue as the album feels more like a compilation of leftover tracks from various other projects (Rogga has collaborated with quite a few of the guest vocalists on other projects), than a planned album release. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved though.

VAMPIRE SQUID Nautilus World

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Nautilus World" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based death metal/deathcore act Vampire Squid. The album was independently released in September 2014. It´s available at a "name your price" tag on the band´s Bandcamp profile, and is also available on CD for a fixed price. Vampire Squid was formed in 2013, and "Nautilus World" is the band´s third album release in under 2 years.

The music on "Nautilus World" is a technical brand of death metal/deathcore with occasional progressive leanings. It´s generally quite the adventurous release played by technically skilled musicians. Tempo- and time signature changes, breaks, fast fretboard runs, and a varity of extreme vocal styles (growling, screaming, piggy squeals) are some of the elements which make up "Nautilus World". It´s not only the music which is adventurous, but also the lyrics, which song titles like "Deathstarfish", "Alliance Proposal to the Squids from Saturn", and "Big Fang Theory" are a testament to.

The material on the 11 track, 44:01 minutes long album is generally well written, but it takes a few listens before the tracks start to stand out from each other. And even then it´s not exactly music featuring the most catchy hooks, and it´s in that department Vampire Squid could improve. Because there´s lots of potential here considering the high level musicianship, and the rather adventurous lyrics and atmosphere surrounding the release. "Nautilus World" is pretty well sounding production too, but it does lack an organic touch, and occasionally sounds a bit too artificial. Still "Nautilus World" is an interesting release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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EXIMPERITUSERQETHHZEBIBŠIPTUGAKKATHŠULWELIARZAXUŁUM Promo 2013

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2013 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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The Angry Scotsman
I am not sure who found the band Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum, a technical death metal band from Belarus with just one promo out, but whoever did and however they did, we have to thank them for one of the craziest, and greatest, metal band names ever!

I can't lie, the name drew my interest, (also I personally never knew of any metal bands from Belarus)but I have to say, the music itself isn't too bad at all.

Their promo can be found on youtube, which consists of two short technical death metal songs. The music is pretty standard techdeath: technical or thrashy riffs that live in the low register, with random bursts all over the place, lots of technical, blast beat based drumming replete with fills, tremolo picking, explosions of technical prowess, stop and change moments, very guttural vocals and some pretty impressive bass playing.

Now, techdeath, (and death metal in general) is not really my cup of tea, though while this promo isn't really for me, if you're a fan of technical or brutal death metal, I'd check this out. The quality of the album is quite good, and there are some moments that really do rock, especially in the second song. So yeah, if you are a fan of the techdeath I'd say give this a try, it should be enjoyable to fans of the genre!

We shall await the band's debut album, if not for it's even more maddening title, because it may be a pretty solid album! Not my type of music, but it's well recorded, some impressive musicianship is displayed and it's a solid piece of technical death metal.

TWO STARS

PORCUPINE TREE Fear Of A Blank Planet

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.06 | 60 ratings
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aglasshouse
Porcupine Tree is definitely a band of many words. Fronted by the one and only Steven Wilson, it's hard to guess what their next sound (although usually temporary) will be. This sort of way of musicianship is rather homogeneous with Wilson's acts, which range from noise and shoe-gaze to art rock and experimental rock. Very interesting man as well as the band he occupies. When asked, people in our present society may have partially forgotten PT, but those who do have an inkling of what they are know this album is their proclaimed best effort.

This band, as I stated before, has obvious similarities between Wilson's releases and their own in the fact that you don't know what they're going to do next. Antecedent to it's release, Porcupine Tree had already well moved on from the alternative spacey prog rock that was present on albums such as Lightbulb Sun. In Absentia of 2003 was most likely the turn-point of the bands musical ideology, moving into whole different sounds that contained heavy crunching riffs. The thing that was clear is that the band liked the new sound they developed, and quickly became one of the flagships of the progressive metal industry along with giants like Dream Theater and Opeth. But this album is something else. It balances both the anger of In Absentia and Deadwing with Lightbulb Sun-esque art rock, making for a decent mix.

My thoughts when I first heard this weren't that great. I've never been a huge fan of progressive metal in general, as stated in my previous reviews. Snark-y art metal seemed inane to me, and wasn't enjoyable in the least. I will admit that coming back to this, however, was actually much more impressive than the first. Wilson's monotone vocals coincide awkwardly with his own guitar and Edwin's base at times, though the quality and care put into the tracks outright redeems it pretty quickly. As an overall effect, this album does extremely well. I give kudos to Wilson and friends; they've impressed me this time.

(rating rounded from 3.5 to 4)

ACCEPT Russian Roulette

Album · 1986 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.10 | 25 ratings
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Losimba
After the great Metal Heart album, expectations were high among Accept fans for its successor. For me, those expectations were fully met by Russian Roulette, which is the culmination of the band's development from a rather simple Heavy Metal band to a more complex style of music.

Of course, there is no Beethoven solo played by Wolf Hofmann on this album, but the sound has matured, as have the song structures and lyrics. Yes, there are still simple, driving songs like Monsterman or Another Second To Be, but on the other hand little gems like Stand Tight or Walking In The Shadow. But none of the songs can be called weak which is a huge feature for Accept whose biggest problem has always been and still is the big gap in quality between the songs of their albums. And then there are two true pieces of art, namely the title track and Heaven Is Hell. I'm not sure whether I've heard refrains with real melodies and four different lines on any other Accept album.

So this is definitely the best studio album by Accept, if only by a narrow margin above Metal Heart. The gap in quality between the songs is, as I wrote before, pleasantly small, but too big for a 5 star rating. But I'm happy to give 4.5 stars.

KAMELOT Eternity

Album · 1995 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 11 ratings
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Unitron
Kamelot-Eternity

'Eterntiy' is the debut studio album by symphonic/power metal band Kamelot. With a new Kamelot album on the way, I thought it would be a good time to start reviewing through their discography. Before Kamelot gained critical acclaim with some of their following albums with Roy Khan on vocals, Mark Vanderbilt was vocalist.

Musically, this album set the groundwork for Kamelot's signature sound. The opening title track starts the album off with orchestral instrumentation before some great drum work by Richard Warner signals in the powerful driving riffing. The song has pretty much everything I want in my power metal, a powerful vocalist, fast melodic hooks, symphonic elements, and as a bonus Warner gives a stellar drum performance. I can hear a lot of early Queensryche influence, especially the next song 'Black Tower' which sounds like Queensryche with some symphonic elements. The third song however, 'Call of the Sea', is much stronger and has that 'power' that's needed. The crunching riffs fit perfectly with Vanderbilt's vocals melodies. The chorus is great, with a very memorable wail of 'The sea is calling me!'. 'Red Sands' stands out too, being a very fast-paced track. Another memorable chorus is found here, not detracting from the speed of the track. The bridge transitions the song into a much more atmospheric place, before re-gaining speed.

My favorite on the album has to be 'Fire Within', which has great use of the Phrygian scale. While the song begins using it slow and menacingly, it gets fit into the heavier crunch of the powerful guitar. Vanderbilt's vocals also fit perfectly with the melody of the song. The album does end on a strong note with a grand finale of 'The Gleeman'. It's melodic hooks get stuck in your head, and Vanderbilt's vocals again really fit in with the melody with his melodic wails. The bridge has excellent guitar work, and a solo that really sings. Overall, a great finisher.

Remember when I compared the song 'Black Tower' to Queensryche? Well, that's really the only real big flaw about this album. Sometimes it sounds TOO Queensryche, Vanderbilt's voice is powerful and great, but again a little TOO Geoff Tate. Thankfully, there is enough power and symphonic elements to make some songs stand out on there own. While a great vocalist, knowing Roy Khan would come join later on, Vanderbilt pales in comparison. While Khan has a similar vocal style, it has a lot more polish and power to stand on it's own then Vanderbilt's.

Overall, it's certainly great for a debut. While not immediately up to standards, it has some great underrated songs, and it's interesting to hear how Kamelot began before they became the powerhouse they are now. Recommended to fans of early Queensryche.

Hope you found this review helpful.

Feel free to comment!

TOXIK World Circus

Album · 1987 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 8 ratings
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UMUR
"World Circus" is the debut full-length studio album by US power/thrash metal act Toxik. The album was released through Roadracer Records in 1987. "World Circus" was recorded in the now legendary Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida with Jim- and Tom Morris handling the production. Toxik was founded in 1985 and released two albums before disbanding in 1992. Despite generally good reviews and positive fan reactions, the band never broke through in their homeland, but had a decent following in both Europe and Japan.

The music on "World Circus" is technically well played US power/thrash metal with occasional progressive metal leanings. The riffs are intricate, sharp and fast-played. There is no doubt that guitarist Josh Christian is a brilliant guitar player and that his contributions to the music is what elevates it to a higher level. The rhythm section is very skilled too. The production leaves much room for the bass, so it´s very audible in the mix. Lead vocalist Mike Sanders is incredibly skilled too, but pretty surely an aquired taste. His extremely high pitched screaming vocal style is probably hard to appreciate for some while others will praise his vocal acrobatics.

Musically it´s artists like Target, Realm and Watchtower that are references although I also hear nods toward early Annihilator (check out the riff in "Heart Attack" that sounds like the riff from "Human Insecticide"), Fates Warning and King Diamond in the music. Quality wise Toxik are also on the same high level as the mentioned artists. While most tracks are energetic, fast-paced and thrashy, the band do occasionally venture into more progressive territories. "47 Seconds Of Sanity/Count Your Blessings" is the best example of this, but there are intriguing ideas featured in most tracks.

"World Circus" is simply through and through a quality technical US power/thrash metal release. The vocals might challenge some people beyond their limit, but if you are able to enjoy them, "World Circus" is a near brilliant release. The sound production could have been slightly better, but it´s a minor issue and overall a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is fully deserved.

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