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metal music reviews (new releases)

SPACESLUG Time Travel Dilemma

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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adg211288
Just a year on from their debut album Lemanis (2016), Poland's Spaceslug, a name I can't think of without picturing Star Wars' Jabba the Hutt (which is likely in no small part due to Stars War influenced melodic black/death metal act Hoth having a song called Interstellar Gargantuan Space Slug), are back on Earth with their second cosmic offering, Time Travel Dilemma (2017).

The trio's debut album Lemanis has been described as a stoner/doom metal release and the same is more or less true of Time Travel Dilemma except that stoner metal by way outweighs the presence of any doom metal in this album and Spaceslug have really played up the psychedelic influences of the stoner genre, with sounds ranging from heavy psych to space rock. The result is a six track journey that has the heaviness of stoner/doom metal coupled with an atmospheric approach which along with softer passages of music is also reflected in the cleanly sung vocals, a role shared by all three band members, which are very much done in such a way that they're supposed to be heard as part of the overall atmosphere or as another instrument. Furthermore some vocals are spoken word/voice overs, including U.S. President John F. Kennedy's May 25th 1961 speech about putting a man on the moon during the track Parahorizon.

The whole aim of Time Travel Dilemma is obviously to take the listener on a trip and it's certainly a successful release on that front. The individual tracks, of which there are six, could perhaps stand to have more identity between them, but it's not too much of a detraction from the quality of the release as Spaceslug have produced a very enjoyable album that remains an absorbing work from start to finish, which is certainly the best way to experience their music.

MADROST The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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adg211288
It was only last year that the metal world was hit by storm by the technical thrash metal tour de force that was the third Vektor album Terminal Redux (2016). Now their US countrymen Madrost seem to be hankering for a bit of that kind of action, if the pulling out all the stops approach of their own third album The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh (2017) is anything to judge these things by. It's been a few years since Madrost released Into The Aquatic Sector (2014), an instrumentally accomplished but not full-on technical death-thrash metal album, but a few years and a 50% new line-up later they've really evolved into something much more complex. I'm sure most thrash metal listeners will be sceptical over any band being able to touch Vektor, who are of course absolutely insanely talented musicians who undoubtedly deserve the praise they have gotten to date, but here's the thing for me:

The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh is a much better metal album than Terminal Redux.

I didn't want to make this review all about Madrost verses Vektor, especially since technical thrash metal is hardly a field unique to the two of them, but it's simply too good a comparison to play with when describing how Madrost's music sounds, since I'm sure most people reading this have at least sampled the Vektor album, seeing as it was basically treated like the metal event of the decade last year. If you haven't then I'd guess that you either don't like thrash metal (in which case why are you reading this?) or have been living under a rock.

When considering how both The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh and Terminal Redux exist in the same genre and even play with similar influences beyond thrash metal, yet come across differently, I find that the phrase 'less is more' really seems appropriate. Terminal Redux is a massive release featuring about 73 minutes of music while with The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh you can flip those two digits around. The more precise running time if 37:39 (that's about ten minutes longer than Into the Aquatic Sector ran for). There are three less tracks than Vektor's album (giving this album seven) and all are written in a much more 'to the point' kind of way, though can still pass the six minute mark, as is the case with No Future and Dimensions. There is less music here in terms of tracks and length, yet it leaves a stronger impression in no small part because of that. The shorter total running time means that when the album concludes I think about playing it again much sooner, where Vektor's lengthy opus can easily be seen as overwhelming.

Madrost favour a raw and unadulterated aggression when it comes to their music, which is enhanced perfectly by the production which is professional yet not overly slick and polished. There is some melody to be found, but its used quite subtly. Their style retains the death metal element of albums past but they are certainly a case where the thrash metal elements are considerable more prominent than the death metal ones. While The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh can even get a little bit progressive as well as technical Madrost don't mess around with fancy frills and unexpected influences and just get the job done, happily kicking arse along the way via the occasional softer atmospheric 'breather' section, which really only serve to further highlight the intensity of the album when Madrost shift things back into fifth gear. It is, needless to say, a hard hitting and powerful album with insane musicianship that's technically proficient but never self-indulgent and that's exactly why it works so well. If I had to pick a few favourites from it I'd have to name Abstractions, Dimensions and Eyes of the Deceit but the remaining four certainly aren't lesser tracks in any way.

Madrost are obviously not anywhere near as well known as Vektor, yet, but if there is any justice in this world then The Essence of Time Matches No Flesh will be the album that changes that. Even if you ultimately disagree with my assessment that they have one upped Vektor with this album (something I would repeat even if you held a gun to my head), there's no doubt in my mind that at the very least Madrost have delivered 2017's response to Terminal Redux and perhaps even the best thrash metal album of the year.

SOUL ENEMA Of Clans And Clones And Clowns

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.93 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Although founded all the way back in 2001, the humorously named Israeli band SOUL ENEMA has only released a mere two albums beginning with 2010’s debut “Thin Ice Crawling” and at long last the follow up has emerged in 2017 in the form of OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS. Main man and founder Constantin Glantz readily admits he is the utmost perfectionist when it comes to creating his music and just like the debut, the listener is treated to an equally compelling eclectic musical ride with every element ratcheted up a few more notches. Glantz is the only common thread between the two albums and all other performers are completely new to the SOUL ENEMA scene. While the debut had five full time musicians and four guests, OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS still has five core musicians but has a whopping eight guests including Arjen Lucassen of Aeryon fame providing a cameo guitar solo on “Eternal Child” and fellow Israeli Yossi Sassi providing the unique sounds of his bouzoukitara on “Aral Sea II - Dustbin Of History.” The album took a staggering seven years to make and and therefore leaves no “i” undotted and no “t” uncrossed. This is a project of passion, a labor of love and despite the trials and tribulations involved in the making, turned out to be another resounding success.

Due to all the attention paid to every little detail, OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS comes off as a slick and serious project where every idea and composition is careful crafted and placed in the proper place as to create the perfect musical flow of ideas and energies. The emotional gamut runs from the apocalyptic “Aral Sea” three part suite to the silliness of the title “The Age Of Cosmic Baboon” and other moments of desipient amusement. Much attention is paid to the production as well and despite being rather complex and multi-layered, the album retains an organic spontaneous feel that surprisingly doesn’t sound overproduced at all and contains no excess fluff added for fluff’s sake. Right from the beginning track “Omon Ra,” SOUL ENEMA displays the same eclectic fusion of several genres all stitched neatly into a nice musical collage of styles and sounds. The heavy metal guitar riffs overlap with other polyrhythms including Middle Eastern sounds and symphonic prog style keyboard assaults. The diversity of the tracks keeps the album interesting with Noa Gruman’s vocals adding a more diverse range than her than her predecessor on the debut. Likewise there are many more elements lurking around every corner and at times even reminds of how The Beatles would layer contemporary rock over more traditional styles of music with one example of how “Spymania” takes its Vaudville tinged prog metal and allows a more traditional anachronistic musical form to emerge as the heavier parts fade out.

So many elements going on here it’s impossible to describe them all. The common thread is that much attention is paid to catchy melodic hooks that take on crossover prog possibilities. The heaviness alternates between full-fledged progressive metal riffing to calmer melodic rock to simple piano runs. There are many ethnic influences as well with tracks like “The Age Of Cosmic Baboon” sounding completely exotic with Middle Eastern rhythms and percussion with the added mystic flair of the sitar. The mix of the rhythmic elements with the atmospheric is utterly fascinating as they seamlessly weave around each other in perfect unison. Heavy guitar parts can abruptly shift to a more symphonic prog segment with folk fueled flutes fluttering away as one melodic segment cedes into another. The pace is perfectly set for each part to connect to what has already occurred and what is yet to come. While most tracks have a metal or rock feel in nature, some like “Last Days Of Rome” bring good old-fashioned piano rock to mind with artists like Carole King coming to mind although with a zillion other elements tacked on in crossover prog fashion of course! “Dear Bollock (Was A Sensitive Man) is another exotic sounding track with Glantz showing off his Japanese shamisen playing skills and although there are metal riffs added for bombast, it comes across as a mad rush down the silk road of some sort.

Despite the parade of ideas floating around on any given track, the three part suite “Aral Sea” is perhaps the most progressive rock in feel with three long suites that feature a diverse rotisserie of moods and represent the ultimate demise of the famous sea that went from Garden Of Eden fertility to the dusty barren wasteland it is today due to human carelessness. The suite begins with “Aral Sea I - Feeding Hand” that tells the tale of the fertile life giving sea that demands respect in exchange for provisions with heavy rock guitars, melodic piano runs and Noa Gruman providing one of her most dramatic vocal deliveries. “Aral Sea II - Dustbin Of History” picks up the pace a bit adding a bit more eclectic polyrhythms in a more Middle Eastern feel but quickly turns to sadness with dynamic electronic effects and heavy metal riffing suddenly simulate the once productive sea being siphoned of its life giving vitality. This second suite installment has a unique Far East vibe due to the presence of Yossi Sassi providing the unique sound of his bouzoukitara adding a truly exotic flair as the Middle Eastern meets metal riffs dance around one another. “Aral Sea III - Epilogue” has the expected ending of demise but performed with an interesting intro of discordant piano and percussion and ultimately sang out by Gruman’s powerful vox box. This finale has Sergey Kalugin of the Russian prog rock band Orgia Prevednikov making a cameo on acoustic guitar.

Glantz is an excellent self-promoter as he describes this album as a creative diverse rock / metal album that explores vast melodic and rhythmic territories that takes elements ranging from ABBA to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond between East and West and way beyond in a true progressive fashion. While those words are delivered in a slightly cheeky way, they actually ring true as well as Glantz is interested in making progressive prog instead of the factory line varieties. With more elements than the periodic table, SOUL ENEMA delivers an outstanding sophomoric epic journey that takes the best elements of prog, rock and the entire Putumayo World music catalogue and runs away with it! It truly is impressive and adventurous without ever getting weird for weird’s sake. It remains completely accessible while dishing out unorthodox exaltation. While “Thin Ice Crawling” was a major step in achieving something great, OF CLANS AND CLONES AND CLOWNS actually fulfills that mission and one of the best albums of the year that i’ve heard so far. It is fearless as it shamelessly throws the sensual and the bombastic in a cage together and let them duke it out. The result is a not a musical death match but rather a triumph of sonic cooperation that demonstrates the possibilities of musical genre blending when proper care is taken to the details. Unlike the debut album, this one at over 72 minutes doesn’t wear out its welcome by the the time the last tracks finally crank up. This album is quite the accomplishment. Bravo!

FIRESPAWN The Reprobate

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"The Reprobate" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act Firespawn. The album was released through Century Media Records in April 2017. Firespawn is a project band featuring several rather prolific Swedish musicians in lead vocalist LG Petrov (Entombed/Entombed A.D.), guitarist Victor Brandt (Entombed/Entombed A.D.), guitarist Fredrik Folklare (Necrophobic, Unleashed), bassist Alex Friberg (Necrophobic), and drummer Matte Modin (Defleshed, Dark Funeral). There have been no lineup changes since the release of the band´s debut full-length studio album "Shadow Realms (2015)".

Stylistically "The Reprobate" is pretty much a continuation of the death metal style introduced on "Shadow Realms (2015)". It´s old school at it´s core, but it´s not too derivative of past glories. With LG Petrov helming the project (and Brandt on guitars) an Entombed influence is inevitable, but he is predominantly a bit more growling and brutal when singing for Firespawn than he is when singing for his main act (and unfortunately also a bit one-dimensional and monotone in his delivery). The instrumental part of the music generally doesn´t sound like any particular Swedish or foreign country death metal act, but it´s not the most original sounding death metal style either (the main riff on the title track for example loans heavily from Morbid Angel). While the music is varied enough with great rhythmic changes, powerful riffs, and great melodic lead guitar work, you probably won´t come away from the album feeling like you´ve heard something you haven´t listened to before.

It´s not a major issue though, and one of the main reasons for that is the high level musicianship. Considering the involved parties, that´s not a huge surprise, but it deserves to be mentioned that these guys are incredibly well playing and deliver their music with great passion and conviction. "The Reprobate" is well produced too, and upon conclusion it´s a good quality death metal release. It may not shake the foundation of the death metal genre, but it´s another proof of how great the Swedes generally are when it comes to playing the style. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

ULVER The Assassination Of Julius Caesar

Album · 2017 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 3 ratings
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Warthur
You'd think that by this point in their career, after all the twists and turns they've taken us down, the prospect of Ulver trying out a radically different genre from their former work would be utterly unsurprising - I mean, this is the same band which bounced from kvlt black metal to dark folk across their first two albums, after all.

And yet, somehow The Assassination of Julius Caesar manages to be another whiplash-inducing swerve from Ulver, shifting into the realm of honest-to-goodness synthpop. The secret to it, which makes it perhaps my favourite Ulver release ever, is that this is a style of gothy synthpop which feels distinctly Ulver, particularly in terms of their electronic and ambient works of their post-metal era.

After all, Dressed In Black on Blood Inside verged on the electro-gothic, so this isn't an evolution entirely without precedent, and whilst 80s nostalgia synthwave stuff is in vogue at the time, Ulver are able to artfully defy expectations by making the most 80s-tastic cut on here a tribute to 1969. Moreover, just because they've gone synthpop doesn't mean they've gone simplistic with it; there's complex, ornate passages here which reveal hidden depths to their sound, and I'd urge anyone turned off by the synthpop approach to at least give cuts like Rolling Stone or Coming Home a chance before writing off this album out of hand.

Is this what we wanted or expected from the next Ulver album? Almost certainly not, but by this point we'd be fools to expect Ulver to do what we want or expect - better to simply let them do their thing, and celebrate it when that results in creative masterstrokes like this.

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FOZZY Happenstance

Album · 2002 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
With their debut album, Fozzy may have reclaimed their throne as the true pioneers of heavy metal, but sadly there are still many songs out in the open being used by other bands, and so Fozzy return once more to take back what was stolen from them by the likes of Judas Priest, Scorpions and Twisted Sister.

But seriously…

Fozzy are back with their second album, once again a combination of covers and originals, all under the fictional backstory that these are Fozzy compositions stolen from them whilst they were trapped in Japan due to contractual obligations. But while the first album may have been treading the waters to see if the group can get away with such a gimmick, with ‘Happenstance’ the band dive right in at the deep end.

Everything about this album is a step up from ‘Fozzy’. The band sound amazingly tight, and Chris Jericho really comes into his own as a vocalist, and will surely impress anyone who doubted a pro wrestler would be able to sing. However, the true highlights of this album are the four Fozzy originals. I’m not exaggerating here, but…

THESE ARE FOUR OF THE GREATEST METAL SONGS EVER!!!

Nobody would expect it from a band called ‘Fozzy’, but the four originals ‘To Kill a Stranger’, ‘Happenstance’, ‘Crucify Yourself’ and ‘With the Fire’ are all beyond words. Seriously awesome metal tunes, and this isn’t a case of "awesome because it’s so cheesy" or anything like that. This is straight up, ass-kickin’ metal. Rich Ward’s riffs blow away anything he ever did in Stuck Mojo (and I love Stuck Mojo), and Chris Jericho takes his place alongside the likes of Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford and Ozzy Osbourne. These songs should be heard by everyone.

The covers, as before on their previous album, may not have been my ideal choice of songs to do, but the band step up none-the-less and make such awesome renditions that it’s easy to forget these songs are covers to begin with. I know fans of W.A.S.P and Iron Maiden etc, will find this blasphemous, but yes, I think all these covers improve upon the original versions. But sadly, it's the covers that knock this album down from five stars to four (and that's only because I don't do 'half ratings').

Overall, I cannot stress enough how amazing the originals are. If you’re put off by this bands comedy antics, the fact their name is ‘Fozzy’ or their singer is the first ever WWE Undisputed Champion, don’t be. Get this album, and spread the Fozzpel.

FOZZY Fozzy

Album · 2000 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
Dio, Scorpions, Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister. All these bands have one thing in common: They’re thieves!

After twenty years stranded in Japan, the true pioneers of heavy metal have returned, Fozzy!

It was a careless contract-signing that left Moongoose McQueen and the rest of Fozzy stuck in Japan, and with demo tapes finding their way all over the world, bands like Iron Maiden and Motley Crue were more than happy to steal Fozzy’s songs and claim them as their own, thus, stealing the very genre Fozzy created from under their noses.

Okay, comedy aside, Fozzy is a fantastic band, and for those who aren’t familiar with the group, they are really a metal band formed by wrestling superstar Chris Jericho and Stuck Mojo mastermind Rich Ward, mostly playing covers but using their humorous back story as a way of separating themselves from other cover bands.

As a huge fan of both Chris Jericho and heavy metal, it was only natural that when this album was released I had to snap it up, and what an impressive debut album. Jericho has a great voice, though at times it does feel a bit weak, but he definitely shows a lot of confidence on the two Fozzy originals, where he obviously gets to sing his own style with a voice he is comfortable with.

Unfortunately, I personally find the choice of cover songs a bit hit-or-miss. Songs like ‘Blackout’, ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘Riding on the Wind’ are all great songs that in my opinion far surpass the originals, and whilst all the other covers completely dominate the originals material, the choices are quite lackluster. I have to be honest, but songs like ‘Stay Hungry’, ‘Eat the Rich’ and ‘Live Wire’ are not the first songs I’d choose to cover.

The two Fozzy originals are great as well. ‘End of Days’ and ‘Feel the Burn’ are amazing samples of what this band are capable of, and a sure sign of the greatness to come.

RIVERSIDE Rapid Eye Movement

Album · 2007 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.70 | 44 ratings
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The Crow
Compared to other Riverside albums Rapid Eye Movement is just average. But it's miles away over the average of prog-rock releases from the last decade!

Riverside tried to become a bit more accessible in this one, sacrificing their most progressive side in some tracks while maintaining their trademark of strong bass lines, atmospheric keyboards, detailed drumming, great riffs and solos, alongside with tortured lyrics. It was a bit shocking for the fans of the band back in 2007 and considered as a step back, but ten years after the release of the album we can appreciate the tremendous quality of the songs without prejudice and look at this record as the unique and especial step further in the career of the band that undoubtedly is.

Beyond the Eyelids, nevertheless, follows the path of Second Life Syndrome with an intricate and strong beginning, very progressive and even darker as their previous compositions. The chorus is great and so is the final atmospheric solo. Rainbow Box has a brutal initial bass which opens a song which talks about metal illness and the effects of its treatment. Intense, good and why not, with some Porcupine Tree influences.

02 Panic Room has some electronic basis in the vein of the EP Voices in my Head. The great chorus and the incredible final part polish one of the hits of the alum, with lyrics based on the splendid videogame Silent Hill 4: The Room. This two tracks are more direct, not so progressive and they brought a not very welcomed new style for Riverside. But I find both songs just awesome!

But for the fans of Second Life Syndrome, Schizophrenic Prayer brings the mood of this album back, with its insidious vocal melodies at the beginning. The rhythmic base is original and unique, and the ending of the song is a bit more conventional, but very good nevertheless. And also fantastic is Parasomnia, which contains the darkest lyrics of the album and one of the most progressive instrumental developments. I specially love the section after "Drugged from sleep?" Pure Riverside magic!

Through the Other side is a fine acoustic song in the vein of Us from Voices in My Head (this EP totally introduced the style of Rapid Eye Movements) which is a welcomed changed of intensity in the album. Sadly, Embryonic is another acoustic track but not so good this time, giving the impression that the album lost a bit direction at this point, despite the good guitar solo towards the end of the song.

Cybernetic Pillow tries to get the album back on track, but it's not as good as the first five song. The Tool-based riffs are just fine, and after the chorus we can hear a typical Riverside melody. Just Ok. But luckily Ultimate Trip saves the album from disaster, because is one of the best song included here, and also the most uplifting one. It has an outstanding instrumental work, even with some classic hard rock influences and another incredible final section, which contains the best guitars of the album and a very good bass line.

I had the luck to enjoy Riverside playing this song with my beloved wife in Madrid, back in 2011, and it was just unforgettable! Since then, I like Ultimate Trip even more.

Conclusion: Rapid Eye Movement is not perfect. It suffers from a clear drop after the just fine Through the Other Side because of two lackluster songs, and this gives the false impression that this album is worse than actually is, because it contains six other tracks which can easily be considered true Riverside classics. And taking in consideration the quality of this band that's just awesome.

In addition, the slight musical change to make some songs a bit more accessible was not very well welcomed by fans of the first two albums back in 2007. But after ten years I consider this album even more especial for that reason, despite the initial shock that we had the first time we heard it. And sincerely, it also contains some of the best and darkest lyrics of the band's history.

Best Tracks: the whole Fearless section plus Ultimate Trip.

My Rating: ***1/2

This review has originally written for ProgArchives.com

MORBID ANGEL Domination

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 27 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
One of the most beautiful things about MORBID ANGEL is that they never stagnated in their sound despite pioneering the world of death metal and taking that final step out of the thrash world which landed them the honor of being one of the most influential death metal bands to the plaudits of the critics. Although they took the early Slayer thing and put it through the brutality blender before they emerged with their groundbreaking “Altars Of Madness,” where they churned out sonic assaults about Satanism and occult themes, they quickly became more sophisticated in not only their compositions but in their subject matter. Beginning with “Blessed Are The Sick” they evolved their lyrical content in the realms of Sumerian gods while their technical chops became ever more tight and polished without losing one little bit of the fire and fury that made them one of the most successful extreme metal bands of all the early 90s.

After cranking out three beautiful beasts of unrelenting brutality, they took a rather left field turn and began to experiment with their sound. The result was their fourth studio album DOMINATION which not only expanded their sonic palette manyfold but also saw the debut of Erik Rutan as the second guitarist / keyboardist thus making the band a quartet instead of a mere trio. This would also be David Vincent’s last album for quite some time before he would rejoin in 2004. This album is quite distinct visually speaking as it is rare to find a death metal album cover graced in green and purple. The earliest CDs came in green jewelcases and there were plans to release a “Slime Pack” but was scrapped because of the toxic slime leaking from the albums before they were ever got shipped!

DOMINATION is quite the interesting listen and shows MORBID ANGEL diversifying its sound in many different ways. The first three tracks showcase the classic death metal sound but also add a new sludgy element to the mix with slower guitar riff tempos and even less frenetic drum parts. In the composition department the guitars are more atonal, there are multiple tempo changes and break downs and there is much more emphasis on creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere instead of focusing exclusively on brutality. Of course those squealing guitar solos still emerge from nowhere and the brutal riffs are still on board but something noticeably shifted on DOMINATION. “Melting” displayed a completely new side of the band with a theatrical soundtrack like a war march through some sort of ancient siege and as far as i know is the first of its kind in the death metal world. This sort of interlude music was adopted by bands like Nile who made it a staple of Sumerian and Ancient Egyptian folklore sounds but also has been adopted by other tech death bands like Gorguts.

The influences that led to an entire career that Nile (and even for others such as Gojira) are pretty much adopted from this album and are rather apparent on tracks like “Nothing But Fear” which have complex riffing, several time signature changes and differentiations in tempo and dynamics including passages where the drumming is on blastbeat mode while the atmospheric chord changes contrast with the brutality. Basically the blueprint for Nile albums such as “Seeds Of Vengeance.” The rest of the album pretty much follows suit incorporating the expected MORBID ANGEL magic through the mix of the down-tuned darkened pummeling dual guitar riffing of Azagthoth and Rutan, Vincent’s double bass line abuse and guttural vocals with Sandoval’s blastbeat drum abuse. However with the addition of dramatic war march doom metal sequences, more atmospheric keyboard touches and unexpected detours into sludge metal means DOMINATION is the most diverse MORBID ANGEL album of the early Vincent years. Personally i also find this to be the one i find most interesting. Despite all the brutality as well as being the pioneers of the genre, the first three albums haven’t aged quite as well as i would’ve hoped. DOMINATION on the other hand has all the aggression and attitude of a quality extreme metal album without the monotony of a ceaseless fire of riffs to infinity. An under-appreciated masterpiece me thinks.

STUCK MOJO Here Come the Infidels

Album · 2016 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
Eight years after their last studio album and Stuck Mojo are back to breathe new life into the rap metal genre which they helped pioneer in the early 90's. While I loved 2007's 'Southern Born Killers' and even 2008's 'The Great Revival', the more hip-hop oriented rapper Lord Nelson and the commercially tinted songs (full of gospel and pop influences) put off a lot of fans.

However, a 2014 reunion show which saw the return of classic Mojo vocalist Bonz had the band once again retracing their metal roots. And while the newly revived classic line-up wouldn't last, it did plant the seeds for a new album which would take the band back into a more heavier direction.

And heavy, it is!

With new vocalist Robbie J. Fonts, Stuck Mojo have truly released a beast of an album that takes them right back to their 'Pigwalk' days. Brutal, unrelenting and uncompromising, 'Here Come the Infidels' is a great record that perfectly blends metal and hip hop whilst trying to give the genre the integrity it deserves. Rich Wards guitar riffs are as killer as ever (check that guitar tone!), and long-gone are the lyrics about friendships and "mom's favourite song", we're back to the anti-political, anti-social, anti-everything Stuck Mojo that we all know and love.

And it is glorious!

The album starts off with some of the bands best material, however, towards the end it does start to slowly creep back into that commercial rock territory. While songs like 'Tambourine' and 'Blasphemy' aren't bad by any stretch, they kind of feel a bit out of place on a release that started off as an all-out metal return to form.

Still, with that said, 'Verbal Combat', 'Rape Whistle', 'Charles Bronson', 'The Business of Hate' and the title track, 'Here Come the Infidels', are all some of Stuck Mojo's best songs, and are all perfect examples of why rap metal crossovers shouldn't be so casually disregarded. And if nothing else, surely this makes up for 'The Great Revival'... right?

PANTERA Cowboys From Hell

Album · 1990 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.32 | 102 ratings
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martindavey87
Often mistaken for Pantera's debut album, 1990's 'Cowboys From Hell' saw a complete rebirth for the band, after four previous releases as an 80's glam band, they changed their sound to a heavier, more groove-based metal, did away with the spandex and hairspray, and with a big record label backing them, they really were a whole new band! And hell, you'd be forgiven for thinking so! I'd been a fan of the band for years before I ever knew they released albums before this one! Aw... the pre-internet days...

Hailed for keeping metal alive in the 90's, and highly regarded as the kings of what is known as "groove metal", as influential as this band would go on to become, I sometimes feel that a lot of the praise heaped upon 'Cowboys...' is almost hyperbolic. It's not a bad album, in fact it's very good, but I guess maybe it's become so highly revered by metal fans that when I came around to hearing it it'd been just a little bit overhyped.

Guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who would go on to become one of the most famous guitar players in metal, pumps out riff after riff, with the rhythm section of Rex Brown on bass and Vinnie Paul on drums perfectly giving the music it's famous groove. The icing on the cake is vocalist Phil Anselmo, who's brutal yet melodic singing can be enjoyed by thrash metal fans trying to cling to the 80's sound, or the more hardcore audience of the early 90's. Pantera had a versatile sound that helped them appeal to so many people.

With some groove-laden classics such as 'Cowboys From Hell', 'Domination', 'Psycho Holiday', 'Shattered' and one of the bands most famous songs, 'Cemetery Gates', it's easy to see why this record is so beloved! However, for all the good songs on offer here, there are a couple of absolute stinkers that plod along aimlessly, filling up space that would have been better left empty. And that's why, for all the love this album has received over the years, I can't see it as any more than "good".

But hey, a good album is still an album worth getting.

MACHINE HEAD Burn My Eyes

Album · 1994 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 25 ratings
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martindavey87
The early 90's was an odd time for metal. With most of the previous decades heroes being driven underground, going through a phase of substandard releases, or shamelessly trying (and failing) to latch onto the grunge scene that was taking the world by storm, heavy metal needed some fresh new faces to take the reins and steer the genre to pastures new.

With groove metal bands like Pantera standing tall, hardcore heroes like Biohazard bludgeoning their way into the action, and later bands such as Korn and Limp Bizkit taking the music in totally different directions, there was one band that fused elements of all these subgenres together, and so with the immortal lyric of "let freedom ring with a shotgun blast" did Machine Head burst onto the scene.

With some very fat, grooving riffs, plenty of middle-finger attitude and hard-hitting lyrics, Machine Head exemplified metal in the early 90's, when fans were care-free and passionate, ravenous for the next headbanging anthem. And there's plenty of 'em here! 'Old', 'The Rage to Overcome' and 'Davidian' (one on the bands best songs), are all reasons why Machine Head would be one of the bands to usher heavy metal into the post-grunge era of modern music.

The album does plod along at times and comes across as repetitive, which is why it only gets a three-star rating from me. Robert Flynn's vocals suit the music perfectly, although the overuse of harmonics (and in particular, stabs in the music with harmonics filling the gap) does become a tired trick after hearing it in the third or fourth song. But overall this is a solid debut, and 'Davidian' is easily one of the finest metal songs to come out of the 90's, so it's a damn good album just for that.

SOUL ENEMA Thin Ice Crawling

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
The peculiarly named SOUL ENEMA is the brainchild of the restless and productive spirit of the Russian born Constantin Glanz turned Israeli whose fascination with electric musical elements has made him a cu’ri’o'so in layering various elements together since the band’s inception all the way back in 2001. Despite having formed at the turn of the millennium, here it is 2017 and Glanz has created a mere two albums with entirely different cast members. THIN ICE CRAWLING which finally emerged in 2010 is the debut that garnered international attention in the progressive rock / metal crowds for deftly packaging up ample doses of melodic rock that unfold in very experimental ways and in the process incorporate all kinds of genres and styles often leaving the listener in the dark about just how in the world to categorize this eclectic cauldron of simmering extravagance. In the days when carbon copy clones are creeping in with a quickening pace as progressive rock and metal burgeon in popularity, once in a while a rare musical creation comes along that effortlessly stands out from the crowd with a sound so distinct and original that it manages to sweep away all the competition in its ambitious and unpredictable sonic peregrination.

While melodic hard rock with outbursts of heavy distorted metal riffing are ubiquitous trademarks on THIN ICE CRAWLING with an emphasis on the catchiest yet quirky melodies possible, the other musical elements are a total grab bag as SOUL ENEMA crafts a clever path through which metal and rock mix and mingle with European folk, jazz-fusion, Middle Eastern, Oriental and other elements which gleefully play together like musical United Nations poster children that somehow flirted with the theatrical flirtatiousness of Broadway all the while juxtaposing elements in reckless manners that find doves of peace coinciding with weapons of mass destruction. At this stage SOUL ENEMA consisted of main man Constantin Glantz on keyboards, sound effects and male vocals, Max Mann on bass, Oleg Szumsky on drums and the feminine beauty of vocalist Irina Sherr whose mezzo-soprano presence adds a stabilizing effect to the beastly guitar riffs of Yevgeny Kushnir and jittery keyboard fluctuations of Glantz. In addition to the regular cast members are a few additional performers adding various ethnic percussion instruments alto sax. Although no credits are given i’m sure there are violins as well.

THIN ICE CRAWLING is a true delight to sit through from beginning to end (although an adventurous listen). Having taken several years to construct and perfect, this album delivers a string of infectious melodic developments all decorated with some of the most unorthodox twists and turns that while remaining totally logical in how they connect, never fail to surprise in how they are connected. In many ways THIN ICE CRAWLING comes off as an Aeryon type album with a perfectly balanced tightrope act of sensuality, bombast and Vaudeville type charm. At times one element may dominate, at times they alternate and at times they all play together seemingly on recess from the lessons learned from the school text books that have been ossified into the orthodox rulebook. Surprise and sense of adventure is what SOUL ENEMA playfully conjure up on this hour plus listening experience. In retrospect SOUL ENEMA makes me think of a less frenetic, more melodic and incredibly structured form of Unexpect as Irina Sherr’s female vocals along when the violin led folk aspects dominate while the frenetic keyboards with the heavy guitars clearly bring Arjen Lucassen’s many projects to mind.

As SOUL ENEMA emerges from their slumber seven long years later with their long-awaited followup “Of Clans And Clones And Clowns” which perfects many of the musical aspects laid down on this debut, THIN ICE CRAWLING is not to be missed as it is every bit as addictive as the followup and despite Glantz being the only connection between the two albums, there is a very cohesive feel between the two releases thus demonstrating Glantz’ talents as a conductor who can eke out the potentials of his musical ensembles that he strings together quite well. As the main songwriter and arranger it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise however making a large group of musicians perform so well is equivalent to herding cats in a string factory. THIN ICE CRAWLING is an utterly brilliant piece of work that dexterously agglutinates a ridiculous amounts of styles and influences ranging from the melodic hooks of ABBA to the prog workouts of King Crimson and Frank Zappa with enough classical and metal to expand the possibilities even further. My only complaint is perhaps there’s too much of a good thing and a couple overlong tracks like “Unholy Ghost” and the lugubrious piano laden “Outro” (although i love the craziness after the silence) which fit in thematically don’t hold my interest as much by the time i get to the end. Still though, this is a minor quibble and overall this debut album is impressive even if somewhat exhausting in one go!

VEKTOR Terminal Redux

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 16 ratings
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The Crow
A brutal travel through space and death!

Hearing Terminal Redux is like being propelled through light years of heinous wars, apocalyptic starship crashes and obscure mythologies. The concept of the album is obtuse and difficult to understand, but also an adventure to discover, just like the music of Vektor. They proudly carry the banner of technical death metal today. And they deserve it!

The production of the album is also very solid, leaving space for every instrument. I would mention the guitars, which sound piercing and pristine, and also the powerful drums. Maybe the bass is a bit low for my taste, but that's usual in thrash and death metal anyway. But let's talk about the songs!

Charging the Void introduces us in a very powerful way in the style of the album. A very technical and fierce death metal but with tons of epic melodies, really catchy for adventurous listeners. The DiSanto vocals are pure black metal nevertheless, and they are accompanied in this song by splendid clean female choirs. A very solid, progressive and surprising song!

Cygnus Terminal is a bit more melancholic and melodic, but also powerful and it contains incredible drumming from Blake Anderson. LCD is even faster, with brutal lyrics with helps to define the concept of the record. And then comes Mountains Above the sun, a very wise track which introduces variety while being just an introduction for Ultimate Artificer, a song which is a bit more classic death metal, but it contains some of the best riffs of the album.

But hey... The second half of the CD is even better! Pteropticon is one of the most complete songs of the album with its devilish speed and brutal melodies. Is one of the best written tracks. Psycotropia increases the craziness level and it contains one hell of a bass solo. And Pillars of Sand follow the more straightforward line of Ultimate Artificer... At this point we start to feel again the album needs a change.

And then we find Collapse! A semi-acoustic and beautiful track with clean vocals which increases its intensity progressively bringing a beautiful moment when clean vocals and growls unite, making a very original and catchy section. The final part of the song is a bit more conventional, but also great. Another marvelous bass playing from Frank Chin!

Recharging the Void... If I had to introduce Vektor to someone, this would be the chosen song to do that. Over 13 minutes of epic melodies, haunting clean choirs, brutal guitars and incredible riffs. It's arguably the best song of the album and one of the highlights in Vektor's career. Just a must hearing song for every prog metal lover! Just like the rest of the album.

Conclusion: Terminal Redux has a pair of not so brilliant moments where the music can be a bit repetitive. But as a whole is just one of the best metal albums of this decade. Superb songwriting, cryptic concept and impressive instrumental skill which recalls the best technical death metal moments of the 90's while it achieves to sound different and very actual. If you are not scared by extreme metal and black metal vocals, you should give Terminal Redux a chance. It's a very impressive release from which confirms that Vektor are not the future of metal anymore. They are the present!

Thank you for this great experience, guys.

Best Tracks: Charging the Void, Pteropticon, Psycotropia, Collapse, Recharging the Void.

My rating: ****1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

RIVERSIDE Voices in My Head

EP · 2005 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.42 | 10 ratings
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The Crow
While lacking the quality of full length releases, Voices in my Head still delivers a unique experience!

Recorded after the release of Out of Myself and prior to the masterpiece Second Life Syndrome, Riverside consolidated its line- up with this EP which has a good production and some very good ideas.

Us follows the melancholic path of Out of Myself, but it contains a surprising acoustic guitars work. Acronyum Love starts with a beautiful piano which introduces a real classic of the band, with wonderful and very elegant guitars (we miss you, Piotr!) and a final accelerated part in the vein of Out of Myself.

Dna Ts. Rednum Or F. Raf, despite its weird title has introduces fine electronic rhythms and beautiful vocal melodies. The long instrumental part together with the electronic sounds is some kind of advance of what the band would do in the future with Rapid Eye Movement. The time I was Daydreaming is another acoustic song in the vein of Us, but this time with a glimpse of trip-hop in the guitars and rhythm, typical also from Out of Myself with another intense and dramatical ending. Stuck Between has also a bit of trip- hop influence and it has an excellent layer of keyboards and guitars, very good combined, together with a fine bass and very good harmonic voices. These voices are left alone at the end of the track to close this fine collection of new songs in a very good way.

After the new songs we encounter live versions of I Believe, Loose Heart and Out of Myself, very good played and with enough variations to be enjoyed despite being heard a thousand times in Out of Myself.

Conclusion: with this EP, Riverside experimented with more acoustic sections and more trip-hop melodies than in Out of Myself. This was a cult release these days, so they were allowed to do that without receiving the anger of fans. The result is a very interesting disc with four good songs and a true Riverside classic, which is Acronyum Love.

Maybe is not an essential addition for every collection, but it's obligated to hear this album if you like Riverside, because it's very important to understand their first years as a band and know their influences.

Best Songs: Us, Acronyum Love, The Time I Was Daydreaming.

My rating: ***1/2

This review was originally written for ProgArchives.com

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