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metal music reviews (new releases)

OBITUARY Obituary

Album · 2017 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 3 ratings
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Nightfly
I must admit that I don’t usually get excited at the prospect of a new Obituary album, interested yes but rarely more than that. Considering their importance in death metal, one of the originals etc, I find this strange to say the least. First of theirs I ever bought was Cause Of Death back in 1990 (didn’t hear Slowly We Rot until later as it happens), generally regarded as one of their best and my penchant for Celtic Frost style guitar riffs certainly helped me enjoy that but John Tardy’s strangled growl wasn’t an easy listen for me, though time has tempered that feeling and his voice for that matter. Since then I’ve heard good and not so good Obituary and there’s at least a couple of their albums I don’t recall hearing at all. Now don’t ask me why but some reason my interest was piqued by this eponymous new release and I even pre-ordered a vinyl copy. I’m really glad I did as it’s brilliant!

There’s no particular reason why this self-titled album should be better than the last few as they haven’t deviated from their formulaic no-nonsense traditional death metal with groove approach. It’s Obituary doing pretty much what they’ve always done. That Celtic Frost guitar sound is still present - not quite as obvious as in the past, though there are moments where it’s unmistakeable and Tardy’s vocals are less extreme these days too. Why it’s so good is for starters the production is spot on - Clear and powerful with everything sitting well in the mix. Mostly though it’s a killer collection of songs that make it. Ten songs at only thirty three minutes is a short album but fortunately they don’t waste any of it. Brave and Sentence Day make a strong start. Both pretty pacey, packing powerful and memorable riffs and the pair of them all done in less than five minutes. There’s also the slower groove based stuff the first being A Lesson In Vengeance and features some fine lead work from Kenny Andrews. End It Now is the best of both worlds with its fast rolling triplet kick drum pattern though slowing down for a more groove orientated section. Without going into every song individually the rest of the album maintains the high standards set early on making it one of, if the not the most consistent Obituary album since the early days.

If you’re looking for innovation look elsewhere, there’s no great leap in style from past Obituary but if you enjoy this band this is an essential album for you. Right now I’m enjoying this more than any Obituary album and put it up there with their best no problem. My only complaint is at the length of the album the bonus track No Hope on the CD could have easily fit on the vinyl version too.

DYNFARI The Four Doors of the Mind

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Dynfari plays black metal influenced, heavily atmospheric music, and since their formation as a duo in 2010 this Icelandic has grown to become a full band. Their music shifts and moves between many different styles, and this their fourth album is also a concept, and one that so much thought has gone into it that the only way to explain it is to allow singer and guitarist Jóhann Örn do so himself.

“It would be a cliché to say that this album is a journey. But it explores a subject that's been an inspiration to countless heavy metal lyrics. Though here, instead of depicting pain, madness and death as something ugly or morbid, it is construed as something beautiful and important. Some would say that it's counter-intuitive that the first half of the album includes the most obvious black metal influences, while that part deals with the doors of sleep and forgetting, while the more mellow, beautiful second half is about madness and death. But it is quite logical and intentional. While sleep and forgetting are the first reactions to pain, sometimes they are not enough, and pain is still thriving. In such circumstances, it is not until you reach the doors of madness and death where you will ultimately find peace.

The last song of the album exemplifies this, where at first it seems as if death is something eerie or even scary, but it is then accepted and welcomed as something beautiful and inevitable. There is nothing to fear in a state of bliss and peace. This song actually used to have the working title "Geislun" ("Radiation") which is a concept closely related to illness and death, making sense in relation to the idea of acceptance of one's fate and in that process finding calmness through it.

Of course, the core of these ideas on the album's concept are not mine, but a combination of two sources. Firstly, the poetry of early 20th century Icelandic existentialist Jóhann Sigurjónsson, and secondly contemporary fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss' theory put forth in his novel "The Name of the Wind". Coincidentally, the archaic word "Dynfari" is a name for wind or storm. Furthermore, the Icelandic poet Jóhann Sigurjónsson has the same first and last name as myself. Seeing the similarities in comparing his poetry to the idea in Rothfuss' book, it just seemed too much of a coincidence not to do anything with it. The music we were creating at the time was very much in tune with these musings and heavily related to my personal state of mind. So, as I was finding it difficult to relate my own writing at the time to our music, this seemed to fit so perfectly that it was impossible to let it go.

Some might ask what makes an Icelandic man in his 20s to want to dabble in writings about pain and devote his music to the subject. The truth of the matter is that I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and as a by-product of it and its treatments I have endured pains that some medical experts describe as more painful than childbirth. I am quite healthy now, having found the right balance between three different kinds of medication. But I have found it difficult to not relate my music creation somehow to this fact and the philosophical mind games it induces. Even in the wake of intense pain, it is the battle against your mind that is the most challenging one. The battle for positivity is a constant one - and it is just a little bit funny that one of the most successful strategies on that battlefield, I've found, is accepting your fears, accepting your fate, and believing that while the current situation may be beyond bloody shitty and intense, there is ultimately peace to be found. It is the only thing that is certain. No matter what.”

It is a mesmerising album, full of depths and hidden layers in the music alone, before one starts considering the lyrical backdrop to all of it. There are small incidentals within the album, which refreshes the ears – cleansing the musical palette, before the band are back at full force. This lightness provides real contrast to the darkness either side, which reinforces the power and presence of the rest of the material. The combination of the two writers' thoughts is embodied in the union of the drive of black metal with more traditional soundscapes of acoustic guitar, accordion, flute and bouzouki.

If you are a fan of atmospheric black metal then this is essential.

THE CHARM THE FURY The Sick, Dumb & Happy

Album · 2017 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland


Four years on from their 2013 debut, Dutch band The Charm And The Fury are back with an angry record driven by a collective distaste for the state of the planet in the 21st Century. This is metal, straightforward brutal metal, obviously influenced by Pantera, driven by a female singer who has obviously been influenced by Angela Gossow more than she has by Doro, but can also sing sweetly when she wants to. The music comes at the listener like waves of heavy leaden slabs, but with loads of energy and passion, and a great deal of melody behind it. They may not be quite as poppy as The Wildhearts, but they have an instinctive understanding of what makes a song truly interesting and inviting.

There is a groove to this album that makes the body want to move, and a heaviness that makes the listener to keep wanting to push the volume up to 11. Drummer Mathijs Tieken is one of the most exciting talents I have heard in some time, and he drives the band forward with strong double bass drums when the mood is right, but also understand the need for restraint and adds to the overall sound by being punishing when he needs to be, but also provides the light to really demonstrate the shade.

The rest of the guys lock into that power, and combine to produce a metallic monster that many singers would fail in front of, but Caroline Westendorp is more than capable of taking this in her stride. The result is a modern metallic masterpiece, and if these guys can reproduce this on the live stage then they must be a band worth seeing.

ETERNITY'S END The Fire Within

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.62 | 6 ratings
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UMUR
"The Fire Within" is the debut full-length studio album by German power metal act Eternity's End. The album was released through Power Prog Records in March 2016. Eternity's End was formed in 2014 by guitarist/composer Christian Muenzner (Alkaloid, Spawn of Possession, Obscura, Necrophagist...). Muenzner enlisted drummer Hannes Grossmann (Alkaloid, Blotted Science, Obscura, Necrophagist...), keyboard player Jimmy Pitts (Scholomance, Super String Theory), bassist Linus Klausenitzer (Alkaloid, Fallacy, Obscura, Noneuclid...), and lead vocalist Ian Parry (Elegy, Consortium Project, Ian Parry...) to complete the lineup.

The concept of a primarily extreme metal oriented (although predominantly in the sophisticated/progressive end of the scale) guitarist forming a power metal act could have turned out in many ways, but in the case of the music on "The Fire Within", it turned out pretty much as you´d expect it to. The music on the album is Euro power metal with the occasional harder edged part, but this is by no means extreme metal oriented in any way. It´s melodic, neo-classical, epic, and anthemic Euro power metal played by very skilled musicians. Ian Parry has a strong voice and a convincing delivery, but if you´re familiar with his previous projects, there are very few surprises here.

The material on the 10 track, 55:51 minutes long album are well written, powerful, and memorable. Eternity's End aren´t a band who introduce much new to the genre, but they are highly professional and everything is delivered with seamless ease and great conviction. The tracks are also composed in a clever way to make them have as much impact as possible. It´s all packed in a powerful, clear, and detailed sound production, which suits the music perfectly, so upon conclusion "The Fire Within" is a high quality power metal album, and a very promising debut from Eternity's End. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

OVERKILL The Grinding Wheel

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 8 ratings
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Unitron
"I grabbed a tape from the floor of the car, jammed it in the dash it played Highway Star. With a foot of lead and that Chevy hop, never gonna stop!"

The Mean, Green, Killing Machine is back with The Grinding Wheel, so Let's All Go to Hades to listen to the Finest Hour. We listeners may get into some Goddamn Trouble while taking The Long Road, but forever Shine On. Come Heavy as The Wheel spins while the Red, White, and Blue waves. Overkill's back after a bit longer of a wait than usual, and it's worth it. As this is simply one of the greatest albums the band and music itself has ever produced.

Opening with the rampaging thrash of "Mean, Green, Killing Machine", this album pretty much never lets up with speedy rapid thrashings and groovy swaggering. The no-bullshit romp and stomp of the track "Goddamn Trouble" is essentially Overkill's own Highway Star and just makes you want to step on the gas and blast away to some tunes that are on absolute fire. This is a band that's been around for well over 30 years, but has more energy than most modern bands can claim to have. Take the rampaging punchy thrash that the band has been blazin' through since 2010's Ironbound, and mix it with a southern bluesy swaggering groove and a bit of Iron Maiden-esque epicness, and you got this killer record.

It's pretty much impossible to pick highlights, as every song slays and has an unbelievable amount of energy. Just try and not to get pumped and ready to conquer the world when listening to this album. Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth gives one of the greatest vocal performances ever, spitting both epic and energetic fun vocal lines. It's impossible to not chant along to songs like "The Long Road" and "Red, White, and Blue" with the delivery of lines like "We're goin' down the mountain, boys" and "Give us liberty, or we can give you death!". D.D. Verni's basslines are just as fantastic as always, and keeps a catchy as hell rhythm section with Ron Lipnicki absolutely walloping the drum kit like there's no tomorrow. Dave Linsk and Derek "The Skull" Tailer both shred and swing like the thrash masters they are, and are among the very best. The thrashings are brutal, the bluesy grooves are just swingin', and the epic moments couldn't be more epic. The title track that closes the album is the definition of a fantastic finale, it maintains the crunch and speed in places of the rest of the album all the while being a nearly 8-minute epic worthy of classic Iron Maiden or Rush's Cygnus X-1. The orchestration and vocals will send shivers down the spine at the end of the massive conclusion to The Grinding Wheel.

As much as some bands may try, nothing says consistent like Overkill, with only Anvil coming close to matching the classic thrash metal act's consistency. Overkill goes beyond consistency though, and makes one of the greatest damn albums ever made. It's an equal to The Years of Decay, which is another one of the greatest albums ever made. If you are a fan of real, no-bullshit metal, listen to this album. You know, even if you just need a reminder about what metal is, Overkill is metal in it's most powerful form. Even on their sixteenth studio album, Overkill continues to deliver the old school thrashing goods. Just like those lyrics from "Goddamn Trouble", Overkill ain't never gonna stop. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

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TODESSTOß Hirngemeer

Album · 2015 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
In the world of avant-garde metal there are many crazy albums. There are many downright weird albums. And there are also albums like Hirngemeer (2015) by German act Todesstoß, which sound like something straight out of a nightmare and are completely fucking unhinged. The release is the seventh full-length album released under the moniker, but the first with an extended line-up. Joining founder and previous sole member Martin Lang is Euer Gnaden (bass) and Flesh of L (vocals). Hirngemeer (apparently meaning Brainworm if Google Translate is accurate), contains just three tracks but lasts for a massive near seventy-five minutes of music.

The album should come with a warning sticker telling potential listeners not to approach unless they are feeling brave and open-minded. In every traditional sense of what music is supposed to be, Hirngemeer just isn't it. It's three tracks clock in at 28:25, 34:05 and 12:18 respectively and on the surface nothing seems particularly structured and certainly not good in the usual way that music is supposed to be, but it's all an illusion. Pay closer attention to what's happening and there's a method in the madness that's actually quite out in the open, with some true genius in the instrumental work from the two instrumentalists, especially the bass of Euer Gnaden. Martin Lang does everything else, including liberal use of a harmonica on opener Verwehung, while Flesh of L spews the German language lyrics, sometimes like he's been possessed by a demon, at others like he's desperately trying to escape its menacing clutches and is utterly terrified about what it might do to him. It's depressive black metal at its core, with many other elements detectable the more the album is listened to, notably funeral doom metal and ambient ideas, but seems more designed to drive its listener to madness than suicide.

That's the first track at least, the second and longest Narbenkäfig is surprisingly more restrained on its use of these elements, though it still maintains a lot of them and a general air of menace. And it goes on for such a long time that it really does present the impression that they'll be no escape from whatever hell Todesstoß are trapped in. Finally, the shortest of the three tracks is Strom der Augenblicke, which actually takes the album in a non-metal direction to finish the bizarre journey off but is of course no less dark and creepy for the lack of metal elements.

Hirngemeer is just too crazy to be an album that many could enjoy on a regular basis, but I admit to finding a strange kind of fascination with it. It's something that you could listen to a dozen times and still not really understand and I think that may even be the band's intention. You're not meant to understand the album. It's a window into a warped mind, one you wouldn't want to own but is kind of eye-opening to visit and an album that's quite unlike anything else I've ever come across, not even the other Todesstoß album I've heard, Ebne Graun (2017), which is comparatively sane and structured. Listen to this when you reach the point where you feel that you've heard everything else black metal has to offer.

MYRKUR Myrkur

EP · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 3 ratings
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adg211288
Myrkur (2014) is the debut EP release by Danish one woman black metal act Myrkur, which is both the name of the artist and the pseudonym used by its sole musician. There's been a bit of mystery surrounding the identity of Myrkur but most sources seemed to believe that it was the work of Amalie Bruun, a singer/songwriter and a member of the pop act Ex Cops (as well as a model), which seems to have now been confirmed. Her story is not your typical when discovering a new black metal act on the scene and fortunately the music on the debut EP of Myrkur tells a similar story.

The most notably thing about the music on Myrkur is that vocals do not play that much of a major role in the sound. Musically Myrkur treats her listeners to some well crafted atmospheric black metal that is actually pretty relaxing stuff to immerse yourself in, especially when you consider that what vocals are here are actually sung cleanly in a choral fashion rather than delivered in a black metal rasp. Not that those are entirely absent from the EP but Myrkur is definitely a case where the music is undeniably black metal but clean vocals outweigh the growls. Her vocals also feel like a part of the overall atmosphere of the music rather than the element that leads the songs. Like an extra instrument if you prefer.

I've heard music that had strong black metal roots but used clean vocals before but Myrkur is the first time I've found something that near enough fully embraces that mix, especially from the musical point of view. Not that Myrkur spends all of her time accompanied by raw riffs and blast beats, far from it, Frosne Vind for example isn't even a metal track, but a short folksy piece. The mix of ideas proves effective, making Myrkur an impressive first release from Myrkur. I think I'd like to hear her incorporate more of a traditional black metal vocal approach in addition to her singing in the future, but I'm eager to hear where she takes her music on a full-length basis, which is already being worked on. This is a nice little EP though as is so a 4 star rating seems fair.

MYRKUR M

Album · 2015 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.37 | 8 ratings
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adg211288
M (2015) is the debut album by US based Danish one woman black metal act Myrkur. It follows up the self-titled EP that was released in 2014. Initially surrounded in mystery, the identity of Myrkur's sole musician was quickly revealed to be Amalie Bruun, previously known as one half of a pop duo called Ex Cops. It's a pretty big jump she's made in her music career, to go from pop to black metal. On her first EP I thought she presented some interesting ideas, but also a fair bit of unrealised potential. However I did enjoy the Myrkur EP quite a bit so the release of M is something I've been looking forward to for some time now.

Before I move onto the music found on M proper, there's a little something I feel I need to address right from the get go. If you are in any way a black metal purist stop reading right now and go back to whatever uninspired lo-fi black metal act you currently find so kvlt and interesting: Myrkur's M will be beyond you and you may even find it offensive the way Myrkur thinks outside the box when it comes to black metal conventions. I've already seen this sort of narrow-minded criticism aimed at the album before it was even released and some have even called it hipster black metal and said things like 'the only people rating this are the same people who thought Liturgy's Aesthethica was any good'. That's probably the biggest insult that someone could say about M and also one of the most unfounded. I've heard Aesthethica and it's truly one of the worst black metal records I've ever come across. A completely messy and repetitive affair (even by black metal standards) with maybe enough good ideas on the whole record for them to have crafted one decent track. M is exactly the opposite. Worse still I've also seem some outright sexist comments aimed at Amalie Bruun, which is of course totally uncalled for, even if her take on black metal is not your thing. It's things like this that make me fucking ashamed to call myself a metalhead, especially one who appreciates black metal where the tolerance level seems to be at its lowest.

And it's really too bad if you are one of the people who has already written Myrkur off without a proper listen to her music, because in M she's produced one of the most interesting black metal records I've heard for quite a while. Not since Hail Spirit Noir's Oi Magoi (2014) have I been this interested in a new black metal release, the better part of two years ago.

One of the biggest ways that Myrkur changes up the way she does black metal is that she uses a lot of clean singing. Clean vocals certainly aren't unheard of in black metal, but here it's pretty much her main vocal style, though there are more black metal style screams on M than there were on the prior EP. Amalie's voice has this ethereal sort of quality to it, which works well against the atmospheric black metal backdrop, to the point that to my ears she actually makes it sound valid to use exclusively clean vocals in a black metal context. But she does scream too and when she does the music can turn pretty damn aggressive with it, such as in Hævnen. Her vocals are pretty much incomprehensible, but that's a problem a lot of growlers have, whether it's in black or death metal or another context entirely. I tend to think of them as being an extra instrument in the atmosphere that Myrkur creates, and her two voice styles work equally well in that manner, while also finding a perfect balance between the two.

Some folk influences creep into the sound, particularly during the first two songs. They are naturally of a darker and melancholic kind than the lively, happy kind of popular folk metal bands and are a nice addition to the music. There are also some forays into other metal genres that add variety to the atmospheric black metal sound. Hævnen has a kind of doom feel with its heavy, slow guitars but more notably is Mordet where Myrkur teams up with former Arch Enemy guitarist Christopher Amott to produce a much more in your face and direct metal assault that edges the music into thrash metal territory. Such a track may seem rather out of place on paper but I personally like it. It works to stir up the pace of the album effectively and as such doesn't harm the album's flow in any way. The combined atmosphere that has been created with all these different ideas is really easy to get immersed in. The actual instrumentation may often seem simplistic but that's black metal for you. It isn't about being showy and certainly doesn't need to be in order to be impressive.

M isn't an overly long album, just shy of 37 minutes, but I feel it accomplishes quite a lot in that time. It isn't perfect by any means; there's a bit too much of that 37 minute running time given over to interlude pieces like Vølvens spådom and Nordlys for one. There's quite a focus on piano and choral parts in such times, which work to a point but are slightly overused in my opinion. I'd like to have heard a few more actual songs because as it is I actually got to hear five of these in the run up to the album, which didn't leave overly much to discover upon release. M is however high quality debut album from Myrkur, even with its faults. 4.5 stars and quite possibly the best black metal release you'll find from 2015.

MYRKUR M

Album · 2015 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.37 | 8 ratings
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Unitron
Myrkur - M

"M" is the debut studio album and overall second release (excluding singles) from black metal musician Myrkur. I was absolutely blown away by Myrkur's 2014 EP release, so I was eagerly awaiting a full-length studio album from her. I initially loved it, then was a bit disappointed, now back to loving it.

"M" pretty much continues the atmospheric black metal-folk hybrid of the EP. A big thing that makes Myrkur stand out in the black metal genre is her extensive use of clean vocals, which appear in both the shredding black metal sections and Scandinavian folk passages. There is of course a mix of clean vocals and stark black metal screams but I'd probably say that the clean vocals appear more then the screams or at least equally, already giving it a unique sound.

While you may think that the folk passages and black metal sections are completely separate from each other, they actually play in unison often throughout the album. Just take a listen to songs like 'Hævnen' and 'Onde børn', the former being one of my favorites from the album, and you'll hear how both styles work together to bring a unique blackened folk metal sound. Speaking of folk, the short folk songs that transition to other songs are among the most beautiful on the album, some featuring great piano work along with Myrkur's calming vocals. There is some variation besides the black metal and folk, as the songs 'Skøgen skulle dø' and 'Jeg er guden, i er tjenerne' both have elements of doom metal which fit in perfectly with the rest of the sound of the album. The song 'Mordet', which features Chris Amott of Arch Enemy on guitar', is an amazing combination of killer thrash metal and stark black metal. This is probably my favorite on the album.

I usually don't mention other criticisms of albums in my reviews, but I feel like I should mention it here. I've seen a lot of comments about how this is "hipster black metal" and even some comments attacking Myrkur as a person. Regardless of opinions on the music here, I think the comments against her are very rude and mean-spirited and completely unwarranted. As far as the "hipster" comments go, I find this in no way "hipster", I simply see Myrkur as doing something new with the genre.

Overall, while I still prefer her debut EP, "M" is still an amazing album and I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoyed the debut, really enjoys black metal and folk, or wants to get into black metal. Myrkur's music really got me into the genre, and I can't wait to see where she goes with her next release. Hope you found this review helpful.

(Reposted review due to accidental deletion, originally posted April 2016.)

FILTER Short Bus

Album · 1995 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 2 ratings
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Unitron
In the land of industrial rock and metal, many bands get unfairly compared to Nine Inch Nails. While those who are more familiar with the genre will find that these comparisons are often silly and nonsensical, these are probably simply due to NIN being the one that really "made it big". Sure, other bands have had their fair share of popularity over the years, but NIN remains the most remembered and popular.

One of the many industrial rock/metal bands to get these comparisons was Filter. True, frontman Richard Patrick was a live guitarist for NIN before forming Filter, but Patrick felt there was something missing in Reznor's sound. Once you finish the first song on the album, the hit "Hey Man, Nice Shot", it's quite apparent. That which was missing was a crushing metallic slab of guitars, blended with menacing industrial soundscapes. This continues throughout most of the album, think less NIN and more Godflesh and Pitchshifter. The crunch of the riffing, drum grooves, and screeching industrial distortion all makes it fit right in line with the classic industrial metal sound, while also having just the right amount of that misanthropic angst that industrial music had at the time.

The aforementioned hit that opens up the album is of course probably the top highlight, but there's many other songs here that slam your face into the pavement. "Under" is one of the best of these, with an awesome pummeling groove. The two surrounding songs of "Dose" and "Spent" are also among the highlights and deliver with great force. All of these mentioned songs along with "Gerbil" and "White Like That", all have this absolutely massive guitar and colossal drum sound blended with Richard Patrick's raging screams, which is this album's strength.

Unfortunately, not all these songs display the power riffage and edgy screams that this album is great for. Right after a crushing number like "White Like That", you get a double-whammy of pathetic whimpers in "Consider This" and "So Cool" which both fall flat on their faces. The former has electric guitars, but they may as well not be there, while the latter is an acoustic ballad that sounds like a rejected Porcupine Tree ballad. "Stuck in Here" is another one of these tracks, but maybe a bit less annoying.

Despite there being a few terrible tracks, all the punchy groovy industrial behemoth tracks make up for those mistakes. If you're looking for an industrial metal album that balances out the heaviness and distortion of Godflesh and Pitchshifter with the extra edge of alternative metal, Filter's Short Bus delivers. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

GIGAN The Order of the False Eye

Album · 2008 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
After emerging from the chaotic primeval lava pools that spawned other surreal metal mayhem in the form of pioneer bands like Gorguts, Mithras, Portal and Deathspell Omega, the power trio who adopted the name GIGAN, the prime nemesis that made Godzilla have very, very bad days, released their debut EP “Footsteps Of Gigan” but quickly followed up the following year with their first full length album “THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE” on Napalm Records. This band is a power trio from Tampa, FL who can deliver a massive inundation of chaotic sound that gets lumped into the world of technical death metal mostly due to the usual death metal techniques such as insane growling vocals accompanied by heavy distortion all gussied up with palm muting, tremolo picking and the ubiquitous blast beat percussive drives however GIGAN have found a way to merge these aggressive extreme metal attributes into the surreal world of psychedelia with traces of electronica and drone noises to paint a surreal sonicscape upon which to display their extreme metal creations.

The trio consists of the seasoned veterans left-handed guitarist / bassist and founder Eric Hersemann (Diabolic, Hate Eternal), Randy Piro (vocals, guitars, theremin) and Danny Ryan (drums and percussion.) The music heard on “THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE” is the type of surreal metal madness that could drive the uninitiated utterly mad as the unrelenting noisefest is the name of the game only to be broken by periods of oscillating electronic pulses that seem to be the driving underpinning of the intergalactic journey and lyrical fascinations that GIGAN takes us on not dissimilar to the 21st century thrash metal kings Vektor. The opener “Undead Auditory Emanations” displays GIGAN’s full metal regalia displayed in relentless pummeling riffs and blast beats trading off with technical jazz drumming wizardry in strange new ways that keep the pace fast and driving with snarling angry vocals and Hersemann’s unique spastic guitar slides and technical bass workouts.

“THE ORDER OF THE FALSE EYE” is one of those albums that didn’t win me over upon a listen or two. No way. This one required a multitude of listens to allow its abrasive nature to percolate under my skin and only after nailing my attention span to the wall did it at last penetrate into my consciousness. This is not an album of catchy riffs or predictable song structures in any way, shape or form. This cacophony is almost formless in nature with only a solid rhythmic pulsation driving the music from beginning to end which finds itself most noticeable with the non-metal segments utilizing electronica and theremin sounds to create an ambient and oscillations of noise. Likewise the aggressive nature of the extreme metal simply flows over these underlying elements and creates a very bizarre stream of consciousness to say the least. Call it no wave metal if you will.

Upon first listen it does come off that the tracks don’t have enough variation to them but dig beneath the surface and it’s quite the opposite. While tracks do sound quite similar in the dynamics and tempos on display, the compositions actually have quite the variation of mangled and jarring progressively laced death metal riffs that have a blackened veneer with a psychedelic frosting which occasionally emerges from the din to send the listener into a pacified trance before the pummelation of the extreme metal once again arises from the abyss. This album consists of eight vocal tracks that are indeed quite similar in stylistic appearances but offer different glimpses into their psychedelic take on extreme metal and consist of 2/3 of the album. The final ninth untitled track is a 21 minute plus sprawling surreal metal fantasy instrumental which focuses on the pulsating electronics and abrasive guitar weirdness with lots of sliding and alienating licks while the drums exhibit periods of techy jazz outbursts and many moments of simple rhythm maintenance. This album was a hard one to win me over but it finally has and remains one of the absolute strangest of the strange in the extremities of surreal technical metal. Highly recommended for adventurous listeners who love to hear things that they had never even considered possible.

FLOOR Loanin' / Figbender

Single · 1993 · Doom Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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aglasshouse
Floor started their career in the year 1993, releasing their debut single 'Loanin'' to the local Miami music scene. What this particular song and it's B-side 'Figbender' presented was an unprecedented brand of heaviness, one that I believe remains unparalleled today. While not nearly as professionally mixed as their 2002 debut, a factor that greatly contributed to the massive sound and really allowed them to tune it down farther, what this particular single still shows a prototype of what Floor would come to be acclaimed for. Shrieking, dying-animal like screams (granted which got much more clean in the future),spine-crushingly heavy riffs, and the occasional tortured whine of guitar feedback. If this is what you got and you weren't expecting it, I just don't know what to tell you. A one Clint Sutton appears as the gargantuan skin-slammer on this record, but he was replaced with Jeff Sousa a year or two after this release. Either way, Floor shows that it still acted as an extremely cohesive unit even in their earliest days.

OPETH Morningrise

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 82 ratings
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voila_la_scorie
Opeth’s sophomore effort was released by Candlelight Records in June of 1996. It follows the groundwork laid by the debut, “Orchid”, and is very similar in style and sound. Basically, the same four musicians - Mikael Akerfeldt (vo/g), Peter Lindgren (g), Anders Nordin (dr), and Johan De Farfalla (bass) returned to Unisound Studios with Dan Swano as producer once again. As a year had passed between the recording and the release of “Orchid”, the band had already begun work on the material that would eventually surface on “Morningrise”.

Stylistically, both albums employ the same approach of composing songs of ten minutes’ length or more with the melodic heavy guitar riffs punctuated by acoustic guitar interludes and hoarsely screamed death vocals that occasionally permit clean vocal contributions. The songs tend to be more like journeys with the music of each song usually moving on to new territory rather than revisiting early riffs and melodies. The two differences that stand out the most for me is first that “Orchid” came with two short instrumental tracks while “Morningrise” instead delivers a 20-minute epic in “Black Rose Immortal” and the other is that the echoing reverb on the guitars of “Orchid” has been almost wholly dispensed with here. This reduced reverb makes the production sound cleaner and a bit more up to date as I felt “Orchid” came across more like a mid-eighties recording.

As with its predecessor, the songs on “Morningrise” follow a similar pattern of heavy-acoustic-heavy-acoustic so closely that you can almost set your watch to when the first acoustic break is going to come up. However, one subtle difference that I felt I picked up on is that “Orchid” tends more towards a simple and often sparse Mediaeval style most of the time while on “Morningrise”, it sounds to me as though the guitarists were more willing to let some beauty stand out front their plucking. As such, I found during my latest listen to the album that some acoustic parts offered more to enjoy. At first, a song like “The Night and the Silent Water” seemed over-burdened with acoustic passages but now I feel they serve their purpose more than I had first supposed. The final stretch of this song, from the 7:34 mark, reminds me a lot of Anathema’s “Alternative 4” and the final repeated guitar riff also brings to mind the 1970 album by T.2. “It’ll All Work Out In Boomland”, which I read that Mikael has in his drastically enormous record collection.

One of the things I like about this line-up of Opeth is that the bass guitar is often given a bit of spotlight time. Sometimes it takes a lead role over the acoustic guitars as in parts of “Advent” and other times the electric guitars just stop for a moment while the bass continues with the riff for a couple of bars. You can hear this at the 3:12 mark in “Nectar”. Another thing I noticed once again is how the two rhythm guitars will play harmonized riffs with one guitar playing a simple riff while the other follows the riff but with more emphasis on melody, utilizing other notes in the chords. Both albums feature this kind of melodic riffing and it shows that this death metal band are not content to simply churn out searing riffs for the sake of speed or sonic brutality.

The centrepiece of this five-track album is the epic number, “Black Rose Immortal”. This song receives a lot of praise from Opeth fans with one review stating it was the one track that made “Morningrise” worth having. As to be expected, the song is a blend of heavy and melodic metal passages bridged with acoustic sections. I had concerns that this track might not just come off sounding like an extended version of what Opeth had already established as their song-composition style. Interestingly though, I feel this song has more emphasis on the heavier aspect of the band towards the beginning, and then more on the acoustic guitars in the latter half of the song.

Actually, even though this song has failed to impress me as much as it has some reviewers and critics, I cannot deny that it includes some terrific music. There’s a Celtic-inspired riff around three minutes and the lead guitar at around 8:20 sounds like an eighties thrash band with an Iron Maiden influence. At 9:20, the band even reprise the volume dial guitar playing that I enjoyed so much on “The Apostle in Triumph” from “Orchid”. The instrumental sections in this track also carry on for longer, giving them a place in the track as a part of the lengthy composition rather than just a moment of repose before the next heavy segment. My one complaint is that the final minutes of the song go from acoustic stretch to short heavy sprint and then back to acoustic stretch and back to heavy sprint, the song wrapping up rather unexpectedly and unceremoniously with the final riff being reduced to a repeated melody on electric guitar that gradually fades into its own echo.

The true surprise for me is the final track, “To Bid You Farewell”. To start with, it plays through some simple but beautiful acoustic guitar melodies with the bass guitar following the six strings and the drums playing a simple snare drum rim tap. The acoustic guitars continue well beyond the beginning of the vocals and I am left wondering when the dual heavy guitar riffing will suddenly take over. Yet contrary to expectation, around the 2:50 mark and before the vocals come in, the acoustic guitars establish a new melody that begins to make the song sound more like a track from an early seventies folk/rock fusion prog band. This is no surprise as by this time in Mikael’s life, if I understand correctly, he was working in a record shop and his boss had turned him on to all kinds of seventies prog. By 6:11 a dreamy wah-wah guitar enters and we are really into the seventies’ trip. In a way, I almost feel like this was an early Iron Maiden number that never made the debut because “Strange World” took its place instead. At 7:05 the guitars at last become electric and the vocals are double tracked for a harmonized effect. The track wraps up peacefully and it is then that you realize with a degree of astonishment that the death vocals never turned up once!

I had initially pegged “Morningrise” as slightly less interesting than “Orchid” but now I feel both albums are equally strong and to a much lesser degree equally weak though the two don’t share the same weaknesses. These two albums are very different from everything and anything else Opeth would put forward thereafter; however, they do have a lot to offer for the curious music lover. I enjoy them both as the completed first chapter in Opeth’s album history.

AMORPHIS Under The Red Cloud

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 17 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Formed in Helsinki in 1990, Amorphis have moved from being a death metal act to one that has incorporated many different styles and textures. A song could be “straight” death metal, but also containing flute, or a rock song could be based around a piano and acoustic guitar, with a low baritone vocal instead of a gruff death growl. So, they have become a band that are masters of many sounds, and in 2015, they kicked off the celebrations for the 20th anniversary of ‘Tales From The Thousand Lakes’. Although they were touring hard, they kept retuning to the studio to write and record their twelfth album with famed producer Jens Bogren (Soilwork, Kreator etc.) etc.) at his Fascination Street Studio in Örebro. The result of this two-month recording session was once again a heavy, melodic statement, called ‘Under The Red Cloud.’ During the recordings, the sextet was joined by some famous guest musicians: Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie) played flutes on “The Four Wise Ones”, “Death Of A King” and “Tree Of Ages”, Martin Lopez (ex-Opeth) provided percussion on “Death Of A King” while Aleah Stanbridge (Trees of Eternity) sang guest vocals on “The Four Wise Ones”, “Sacrifice” and “White Night”.

The result of a band prepared to experiment, a producer who knows how to capture the best of guys prepared to play loud and hard, plus additional guest musicians, resulted in an album that is very special indeed. It is no surprise to see that they consequently toured with Nightwish and Arch Enemy on the same bill, as they are the perfect link between the two. They always maintain a high level of melody, and move between different genres (often within the same song), so that they can drop from folk metal into melodic death into metal and then even move into something softer if that is where the music takes them.

Released in September 2015, the album was viewed as a great success, with their first ever chart entry in United Kingdom and Australia, as well as their highest ever entries in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and France. In August 2016, at ‘An Evening With Friends’ at the Helsinki Festival in Huvila, the band performed a very special set list with guest musicians and friends “We were honored to take part in the Helsinki Festival in Huvila, so therefore we wanted to do something special for that particular night,” states guitarist Tomi Koivusaari. “The gig itself happened in a large tent in the very centre of Helsinki on a late summer evening. The Huvila-tent has quite long history, so there was already some excitement in the air beforehand. We wanted to invite some guests to be featured on that show - musicians we already had worked with during these years and musicians we have a huge respect for, so Sakari Kukko, Pekko Käppi and Anneke van Giersbergen joined us on that evening with friends. Originally, Aleah Starbridge was supposed to join as well, as she sang on the ‘Under The Red Cloud’ album, but sadly she passed away before that. It was surely a night to remember!”. These shows are now part of the new tour edition, as the original album »now has two additional bonus songs as well as the live tracks from Helsinki.

The live set starts acoustic guitar, violin, saxophone and piano, and one really does have to stop and realise that this is/was a death metal act. The vocals are certainly not one would expect from a band of that genre. This was a special night, and any time I can listen to Anneke van Giersbergen perform is going to be alright with me! This was already an excellent album, and the additional CD has ensured that those who haven’t already purchased this need to rush out and get it now, if not sooner.

IMPETIGO Buio Omega

EP · 1991 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Buio Omega" is an EP release by US, Illinois based goregrind act Impetigo. The EP was originally released on 7" vinyl through the The Whisper In Darkness label in 1990. "Buio Omega" bridges the gap between the band´s debut and 2nd full-length studio albums "Ultimo Mondo Cannibale (1990)" and "Horror of the Zombies (1992)". Impetigo were formed in 1987 and released a couple of influential demos in the late 80s. They are often mentioned among the seminal US goregrind acts.

It´s probably wrong to call an act, that is widely considered seminal in their sub genre, generic and lacking an original sound, but that´s more or less how I would describe Impetigo on "Buio Omega". The music, on the 4 track, 10:07 minutes long EP (All tracks were featured in their original versions on "Ultimo Mondo Cannibale (1990)"), is strongly influenced by the early releases by Carcass and I think I hear a couple of nods toward early Napalm Death too. Because of the goregrind image and lyrics Carcass predominantly comes to mind. Impetigo generally have a more humourous B-Horror movie way of writing lyrics which is also obvious from reading song titles like "Dear Uncle Creepy" and "Bitch Death Teenage Mucous Monster From Hell". Although this is undeniably gory and vile, it´s also supposed to be fun (in a bizarre way).

The musicianship are generally sloppy and the material sounds like it´s primarily written for shock value rather than for cathiness or longivity. The sound production makes the music sound muddy, dark, and noisy. The vocals are loud in the mix and vary between unintelligible deep growling, more aggressive intelligible growling, and higher pitched screaming. The pace varies between slow parts and eruptions of blast beat sections. Very noisy and unless you are into this type of goregrind also a bit hard to appreciate. Impetigo may be a seminal act on the US goregrind scene, but they quite frankly sound amaturish and I´m on the verge of calling this a poor release. I´ll settle with a 2 - 2.5 star (45%) rating and recommend that you listen to other US goregrind acts from that era before this one. Acts like Repulsion and Nuclear Death come to mind.

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