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metal music reviews (new releases)

ANTHRAX For All Kings

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.76 | 7 ratings
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Anthrax - For All Kings

"For All Kings" is the eleventh studio album from legendary thrash metal band Anthrax. Five years after vocalist Joey Belladonna's comeback album with Anthrax, "Worship Music", Anthrax finally returns with power on full blast. This time it's heavier with a powerful punchy production.

While the previous album "Worship Music" had a balance between thrash and more classic heavy metal elements, "For All Kings" is pretty much a full-return to thrash albeit with classic metal and groove metal elements being mixed in. A good description would be a combination of "Worship Music", "Persistence of Time", and a bit of the John Bush-era sound. Before moving into the brutal thrashing of 'You Gotta Believe', the album harkens back to the classical strings of the beginning of 'Be All, End All' from 1988's "State of Euphoria" with the intro 'Impaled'. The political 'Zero Tolerance', which is probably my favorite on the album, sounds straight out of "Persistence of Time".

Anthrax must have been listening to a bit of Meshuggah, and one listen to the brutal skull-crushing riffing in 'Suzerain', showcases that. However, in typical Anthrax fashion, they combine that brutal crunch with soaring melody. 'Evil Twin', another favorite of mine, is also a real thrashing and groovy treat. The more classic metal elements come in with 'Breathing Lightning', 'Blood Eagle Wings', and the majestic Iron Maiden-esque opening of the title track.

Overall, there's not much else to say. This is a killer album, and any fan of Anthrax should give it a listen. Anthrax has always managed to get the perfect combination of thrash, melody, and groove into their sound like no other band has done quite like them. This album proves that Anthrax is still at the top of their game, and remains the most consistent of the big four of thrash. Hope you found this review helpful.

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ABORTED Termination Redux

EP · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Termination Redux" is an EP release by Belgian death metal act Aborted. The EP was released through Century Media Records in January 2016. Aborted have existed since 1995 and are among the most prolific death metal acts out of Belgium both in terms of popularity but certainly also when it comes to putting out releases and touring.

"Termination Redux" is the sound of Aborted as we know them. Brutal and technically well played death metal with snarling higher pitched aggressive vocals and deeper growling vocals. There is good rhythmic variation, sharp riffing, and melodic solos featured in the music. The material on the 5 track, 15:17 minutes long EP is of a high quality but also a bit one-dimensional and predictable. Aborted has a fairly distinct sounding death metal style, and that´s always great, but they only deviate very little from that core style, and a bit more variation in the songwriting department could have done the trick.

"Liberate Me Ex-Inferis" is a short intro and then three new original compositions follow. "The Holocaust Re-Incarnate" which closes the EP is a re-recorded version of "The Holocaust Incarnate" which originally appeared on "Engineering the Dead (2001)". "Termination Redux" features a sound production that´s in the better end of productions on Aborted´s releases, and the musicianship is also on a high level on all posts, so all in all "Termination Redux" is another quality death metal release by Aborted. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

VEKTOR Terminal Redux

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 4 ratings
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Nightfly
Vektor’s first two albums, Black Future and Outer Isolation were amongst the best thrash metal albums I’ve heard this century. Fast, incredibly intricate and precise but most importantly songs with captivating riffs that totally blew me away. Kind of a more technical Voivod backed up by the sci-fi nature of their covers and song titles bringing to mind classic thrash albums like Killing Technology and Dimension Hatross.

Album number three, Terminal Redux has been a bit of a slow burner. On the face of it nothing has changed. The songs are still incredibly intricate and precise but something was missing. A few plays have revealed some brilliant music but the first two tracks, Charging The Void and Cygnus Terminal, so important on album as a statement of intent were still leaving me underwhelmed. All the Vektor trademark ingredients were present and correct but they were still failing to get under my skin. Fortunately things greatly improved and more than make up for any shortcomings at the start of the album. From LCD the band launch into an upward spiral of excellence, each subsequent song seemingly better than the one before with side three of my vinyl copy from Ultimate Artificer to Psychotropia being a particular high full of ferocious riffing that’ll rip your head off. Charging The Void also finally clicked as I suspected it might, Vektor weren’t going to open with a low point were they, revealing a track that has much to offer with perseverance.

Collapse sees a respite from the full throttle thrash with vocalist/guitarist David DiSanto replacing his trademark high pitched snarl and almost singing. Some tastefully clean guitar arpeggios and chords add some welcome dynamics as well as some melody. At over nine minutes it clearly wasn’t going to remain so but still retains a sense of melody and restraint throughout. If you’re going to stick a thirteen minute plus track on your album it had better be damn well good. Fortunately Reaching The Void closes things in fine style and a summation of all that is great about Vektor, never losing its way and a myriad of changes, plenty of melody and dynamics mark it as another highpoint.

Much of Terminal Redux is as good as and sometimes better than anything Vektor have ever done. It’s a grower for sure and any initial reservations I had were dispelled though it took a few plays. Not sure if it’s my favourite Vektor album yet but it’s another excellent addition to their small but impressive discography.

PURSON Desire's Magic Theatre

Album · 2016 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 4 ratings
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Nightfly
When I first came across Purson a couple of years back, particularly with the name I was expecting another outfit in the vein of the current trend of female fronted occult heavy rock bands. I think one of the first things I heard was Leaning On A Bear from their debut “The Circle And The Blue Door” which didn’t dispel my original pre-conception but on hearing their debut in full it became apparent that Purson whilst sharing the psych tendencies of many of those bands were heading down a different road and a much more commercial proposition with an emphasis on catchy melodies. Sure, they had the heavier moments but they sat alongside retro pop a la sixties – early seventies style.

Desire’s Magic Theatre takes a further step away from heavy rock and is much more of a psychedelic progressive pop album in the vein of the Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake and The Beatles Sgt Pepper. Very much rooted in the sixties it reminds me of Thursday evenings as a child sat watching Top Of The Pops. This was in the days when you could be commercial and innovative at the same time. The album works best as a whole and full of catchy songs like the Glitter Band stomp of opening title track which could be what Goldfrapp might sound like if they used traditional instruments, that is until it shifts into more of a swing vein augmented by complimentary organ and flute work. Also high on my likes list is Mr Howard which from a Chicory Tip (Son Of My Father fame) opening goes into a trippy psych workout. Electric Landlady is about as heavy as it gets, which could have sat comfortably on their debut. Album Closer, The Bitter Suite stretches things out to seven minutes and twists and turns through many changes and is a snapshot of most of what this band is about. Frontwoman Rosalie Cunningham, a fine vocalist, is clearly in charge here and has a strong vision of how she wants her band to sound. In fact she plays most of the instruments herself barring drums and some guitar and bass work on a few tracks, presumably the rest of the band being there for live purposes only. Something that being a musician myself I would take objection too.

Purson are quite unique in today’s music scene, which sounds a bit contradictory when they sound totally retro but there’s not really anyone else I know of that are doing this kind of stuff these days. Fans of heavier music may find them a bit too poppy but if your tastes also stretch into prog and pop territory then you may find much to enjoy here. Desire’s Magic Theatre is a very good album which I enjoy very much but with no real killer tracks standing out I’m not blown away by it – pretty much like their debut in that respect, the superb Spiderwood Farm aside, the bands highpoint to this day.

NERVOSA Agony

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
Though active since 2010, Brazilian thrashers Nervosa are still a relatively new act on the scene, with Agony (2016) being only their second album. It follows on from Victim of Yourself (2014). The debut was an album that I liked a lot, but I've not since been able to shake the feeling that it didn't quite live up to the strengths of Nervosa's demo 2012 (re-released as the EP Time of Death), especially the track Masked Betrayer, which I consider a monster of a thrash metal track.

With Agony though Nervosa, which consists of three members in a traditional power trio line-up, seem to have really stepped up their game in all aspects, song-writing not least among them. But the real draw would have to be how fierce their brand of thrash metal sounds. Though it's a sound familiar from Victim of Yourself, every dial seems to have been turned up a notch, with some more overt death metal influences creeping into the riffs. It's not a flashy kind of thrash such as that portrayed on the recent Vektor album Terminal Redux (which is great, but I do kinda fear it will eclipse the strengths of the more straight up thrash releases of this year, which also includes Shapeshifter by Nervosa's labelmates Mortillery), but it's not meant to be. Instead it's an album will brutally pummel you, which makes it's title rather fitting. Vocalist Fernanda Lira tops the music with an utterly vicious snarl that is the perfect complement to the music, at different times bordering on both death and black metal standards.

Once you know what to expect there aren't any surprises to be found in the main album, just forty so minutes of aggressive thrash with more individually memorable songs than Victim of Yourself had. I'm personally especially drawn to tracks such as Hostages, CyberWar and Theory of Conspiracy. They still have some small issues of repetition though, Intolerance Means War being a prime example of that, but overall Agony is certainly a step in the right direction for the band. If there's a true fault to be found it's that they could still stand to vary up their style a bit more often than they do. There is something to be said for a focussed sound of course, but the small influences that do creep into Agony suggest to me that there's an even more interesting, yet no less aggressive, Nervosa album just waiting to be written.

This is a feeling somewhat reinforced by the bonus track Wayfarer, albeit it in a different manner than I would really want to hear from them as part of their main sound. I normally wouldn't bother to mention a bonus track in a review but here it is warranted as Nervosa have seized an opportunity to show that they can do things very differently when they choose to. Featuring cleanly sung vocals in a surprisingly bluesy style from Fernanda Lira (at least I presume it is her as the notes that accompany my promo copy don't mention any different) in addition to her usual snarls, including a completely unaccompanied section to close it, the song shows that although Nervosa seem content at the moment to just thrash away and kick arse (which they certainly do on Agony) that they're not a one trick pony and that they could, theoretically, reinvent themselves at any time. Of course Wayfarer is nowhere near as aggressive as the typical Nervosa track, so it's little wonder that it's listed as a bonus. Thrown into the middle of Agony and it probably would have actually disrupted the listening experience, but it does at least prove that a more diverse Nervosa release could be on the cards sometime, which makes looking forward to their next release all that more exciting. For now though I'm very content with what the three ladies have put together on Agony; it's a great refinement of what Victim of Yourself offered.

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BUCKETHEAD Happy Holidays From Buckethead (Pike 3 - 3 Foot Clearance)

Album · 2010 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
BUCKETHEAD is not only the master of confusion in categorizing his music due to his genre blender and musical smoothie approach of unorthodoxies but he is a nightmare for those even trying to categorize his albums in a database. This album is the perfect example of how crazy this dude’s discography is.

Originally released on 21 Dec 2010 as an untitled album with untitled tracks and then renamed HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM BUCKETHEAD (with still untitled tracks) that included a hand drawn holiday greeting card drawn by BUCKETHEAD himself as a limited edition. Each edition was an original hand drawn cover. It was basically a homemade dealie bop to give the fan an artist’s hands-on feel. This was released just before the beginning of the PIKE series and then the album was re-released as the regular edition and renamed PIKE 3 - 3 FOOT CLEARANCE under the BUCKETHEADLAND moniker on 17 Aug 2011 with the new album cover that fits into the PIKE series. The album is unique in the PIKE series for being one of the few to be significantly over the half hour mark by clocking in at 40:23

Of course if that wasn’t enough. The tracks are all the same but moved around depending on which edition it is and there were different versions of different editions. Someone give me an aspirin, please. THIS review covers the track order of the PIKE 3 - 3 FOOT CLEARANCE edition

“Griffin’s Spike” starts out as a heavy metal rocker with a classic metal riff that is powerful and loud. After building up the melody and rhythmic patterns we are treated to an outstanding tasty emotionally provocative guitar solo, the kind that sets BH apart from the others. This is a pretty decent opener although it’s not the most original thing he’s ever done. It still however reaffirms he can make “normal” heavy metal :P

“Rammellzee: Here Of The Abyss” Well, he couldn’t stay normal too long. This one starts out with a stop and go type of riff and a “chirping” sound. It’s definitely a heavy metal track but has more progressive time sigs. It continues the patterns and has some electronica flair ups and wah-wah guitar parts as well. It ends with a Hendrix inspired guitar riff. Another decent track.

“Floating Graveyard” starts off creepy and slow with an echoey guitar and background noises. It breaks into a slow tempo doom metal riff with a higher register lick and then speeds up to a nice bouncy metal rocker and then back to the doom riffage. It continues to alternate between the two styles adding bluesy solos.

“Ballad Of Jerry Mono” lives up to its name and is a slowed down number that starts out with clean echoey guitar with that jittery riffage BH is known for. The track develops melodically and remains slow with an uptick of speed at the end where a guitar solo shreds into the scene. The percussion is pretty busy for a ballad and follows the jittery echoed guitar’s lead.

“H.D. Autopsy” does a total 180 and we get an instant frenetic thrashy guitar riff and then some sizzling guitar soloing that sounds like wailing souls or angry ghosts. Not sure which.

“Droid Hunt” is weird. It is mostly electronic noises that sound like a machine malfunctioning and then joined in by a funky bass line with a cool funky guitar as well. The riff trades off with the “talking robot” effect of the electronically manipulated guitar(?). Very cool and very original. Strange time sigs and strange lead guitar that accompanies in the end. Ends franticly.

“Battlefields” is another rowdy metal rocker where guitars, bass and drum attack with full fury. It slows down a bit and carries out a more subdued riff for a while and then alternates with the speedy one. OK and kind of the type of track he’d do to death on future PIKES.

“Handprint Ornament” is another slowed down mid-tempo track with clean guitars and a bass that is more energetic. There is ambient keyboards in the background and the instruments take turns dropping out and letting the others have a chance to shine. The guitar solo is slow and melodic, not fast.

“Three Headed Guardian” starts out with what sounds like a harpsichord but then breaks into a jangly alternative rock sound which adds a bluesy guitar lick over the top and then the jittery riffs come into play. It eventually turns into a strange kind of mellow thrash and then a classic heavy metal sound and then fast guitar solos that become freaky.

“Harpoon The Goon” starts out as a hard bluesy rock riff, kinda like old AC/DC then breaks into a heavy bluesy rock riff with lots of percussion and cymbal action. Pretty much creates a blues rock melodic development. Nothing special but well done and then has some slower parts that remind me of ZZ Top breaks but becomes a bouncy AC/DC rocker again.

“Critical Leg Assignment” cranks out an avant-garde feedback scratching effect? This is the strangest track on here. It has a nice steady drum beat with an oddly-timed guitar doing strange chugging that follows. It manages to throw in a weird guitar solo. I love it! So original and BUCKETHEAD at his most freaked out state.

“Siamese Butterfly” is a short little heavy rocker that has only a guitar riff and a drum playing together in a strange time sig dance. It all changes it up often in different ways in its 1:56 playing time. Very original and pretty cool. Lots crammed into this one. Kind of a psycho-bluegrass feel to the whole thing.

“X-Ray” (0:49) is a strangely distorted guitar riff that stops and goes really fast and then goes really wild and then before you know it the album is done.

I love this one! This one crams the traditional with the zany. These early PIKEs rock!

OPETH Damnation

Album · 2003 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 99 ratings
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Necrotica
Immersion can be such a wonderful thing in literature and music. It’s great in movies and other visual mediums as well, but when you eliminate the visuals entirely and force the audience to let themselves envision the world the artist has created, individual interpretation has a magic of its own. I’ve often seen myself gravitating toward the atmosphere of an album because of this, as well as the fact that it creates a tangible environment to explore (so to speak) with the ears. With Morning View by Incubus, I imagine myself resting on a beach watching the waves go by. Homogenic by Bjork gives off the feeling of walking along an icy tundra because of its sweeping strings and the overall tone. Well, with Opeth’s Damnation, two themes always come through without a doubt: contemplation, and pure unadulterated melancholy.

After an impressive string of well-crafted progressive death metal albums, frontman Mikael Akerfeldt thought it would be interesting to create two polar opposites musically. Deliverance would focus on the band’s heavier side, going on to be one of their harshest and darkest recordings, while Damnation would be entirely devoid of death growls or any form of metal. I can only imagine how much this split the band’s fans at the time of its release, as Damnation’s tonal and dynamic shift was easily their biggest stylistic departure up to that time. Now we have Heritage and Pale Communion nodding to the band’s 70s progressive rock roots and stirring up the fanbase even more, but Damnation points to a palatable blend of classic progressive rock, folk rock, soft rock, and some symphonic elements here and there. It still remains Opeth’s most subdued recording to date, and the melancholic vibe is strong in this one that its presence seeps into every song in some way and enhances the emotional resonance beyond just the songcraft. In fact, the black and white album cover, depicting a doll and a wooden desk, is a perfect companion piece to the music within.

Steven Wilson is, once again, at the helm of production (as well as various instruments such as the keyboard and mellotron), and his work is immaculate here. The instruments blend together phenomenally, especially heightening the chemistry between the guitar and bass work throughout the record. For instance, songs such as “Windowpane” and “Ending Credits” are able to layer keyboards, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and bass work on top of each other without muddling the sound in the slightest. Despite this, the band still capture a sort of contemplative and sparse atmosphere that captures both a sense of bleakness and resignation. “Weakness,” which is an incredibly minimalist duet between Wilson and Akerfeldt, captures the vibe perfectly because of how the keyboard and guitar tones mix. Of course, we can’t forget Mikael’s strong vocal performances, either. His voice sounds dreary and calm, but never in a way that it sounds as though he’s lazy or careless. It’s simply subdued, and melds well with the soft dynamics of each piece; in fact, the harmonies on this album are just gorgeous! There’s one section in “Hope Leaves” that always strikes me as particularly beautiful, in which about 4 or 5-part vocal harmony actually fades into the next instrumental section after the chorus. Little subtleties like that go a long way on this record.

The other members are great as well; Peter Lindgren, Martin Mendez, and Martin Lopez (on guitar, bass, and drums respectively) display both restraint and a decent amount of technicality at the same time, which is a tough balance to effectively pull off. Mendez, in particular, gives a strong bass performance that’s in the foreground much more frequently than in most other Opeth albums; his work on “Windowpane,” “Closure,” and “Death Whispered a Lullaby” is especially strong. As for the lyrics, they’re a bit stripped down this time around in comparison to albums like Blackwater Park or Still Life, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. They might be simplistic and lack some of the incredibly detailed imagery of the past, but the more personal and intimate writings heard here seem very fitting for a softer and more somber piece of work. Even Steven Wilson’s lyrical contribution, “Death Whispered a Lullaby,” is pretty decent; if more Porcupine Tree songs had excerpts such as “Into the dark, there are eyelids closing/buried alive in the shifting sands,” instead of crap like “Xbox is a god to me/a finger on the switch, my mother is a bitch/my father gave up ever trying to talk to me,” I’d certainly enjoy that.

Unfortunately Damnation does get a bit repetitive and homogeneous after a while. The band do their best to try and shake things up, but songs such as “To Rid the Disease” and especially “Ending Credits” just don’t do much for me. The latter seems completely unnecessary, totally hampered by needlessly dull songwriting and highly uneventful passages. Not only that, but it seems bizarre that a song named “Ending Credits,” which sounds like the musical version of a curtain call (especially as an instrumental with a fade-in and gradual fade-out), is the penultimate song here. That’s not taking anything away from “Weakness”, however, which is a great closer. As for “To Rid the Disease,” it’s actually a decent song, but the second half is quite a drag compared to the first. The piano playing by Steven Wilson is a nice touch in the background, but the instrumental flourishes aren’t very interesting and become increasingly dull. “Closure” also has a long outro, but the drumming has become much more lively and the instrumental work is actually quite technically challenging in this section. With the exception of “Hope Leaves,” I prefer the first half of Damnation by a pretty wide margin.

Either way, I can’t deny that this album has grown on me over time. It’s flawed, certainly, but the atmosphere is beautiful in its somberness and the songwriting is top-notch in most of the songs. The reason I consider Damnation a better record than other classic prog Opeth albums like Heritage and Pale Communion is because it seems like less of a blatant throwback and more of a 70s prog-influenced piece with its own identity. Basically, it’s the same old Opeth meeting the old prog legends with a passionate love letter… it might pay tribute to the classics, but it’s still distinctly Opeth. If you enjoy classic 70s progressive rock or want to hear a softer version of Opeth’s typical sound, I suggest giving this a try. It might be a jarring shift in style for the band, but make no mistake: this is the same band, just adorning a different, refreshing coat of paint.

DEEP PURPLE When We Rock, We Rock And When We Roll, We Roll

Boxset / Compilation · 1978 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Deep Purple - When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll

"When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll" is a compilation album from heavy rock/metal band Deep Purple. Known as one of the forerunners of heavy metal along with bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple already had many compilation albums by 1978. This seems to be one of the most common though, and was actually my introduction to the band.

With ten albums under their belt by the time this compilation was released, there is no shortage of material to choose from for inclusion on a release like this. Unfortunately, there is only material from five of those ten albums, those ten albums being: "Shades of Deep Purple", "The Book of Taliesyn", "Machine Head", "Who Do We Think We Are", and "Burn". The final two songs, 'Smoke on the Water' and 'Highway Star' are live versions. It seems really odd that there were no songs from "In Rock" or "Fireball" included, as those albums are a couple of their most well-known.

Despite missing songs from the aforementioned two albums, the majority of songs included are great picks and serve as a great introduction to Deep Purple, which is what these kinds of releases are meant for. 'Space Truckin', 'Burn', 'Hush', 'Highway Star', and of course 'Smoke on the Water' are all classic tracks and still among my favorites despite being a whole lot more familiar with the band now. While 'Woman From Tokyo' is a less-known song, it is also deserving of classic status. The only songs that I could do without are 'Kentucky Woman' and 'Hard Road', which are from "The Book of Talisyn". The songs aren't that bad, but any songs from that album really aren't great picks for someones introduction to the band.

Overall, if you're new to Deep Purple, I'd highly suggest picking this up if you see it for cheap. I know it served as a great introduction for me, and at the end of the day that's what matters with a compilation album. If it can get someone into a sweet band, then it did its job. Hope you found this review helpful.

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NEUROSIS Pain Of Mind

Album · 1987 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 2.02 | 7 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
It’s always a pleasure to discover a band that hits your magic music spot and climbs to the top of your list in terms of quality, consistency and overall satisfaction in the diverse elements department. NEUROSIS is one of those bands for me that has amazed me time and time again with their unique take on the sludge metal elements of early Swans and progressively steered them in myriad directions. All the years i’ve been into this mostly post-metal sludge band from Oakland, CA i have only had the albums beginning with “Souls At Zero” on as my frame of reference. Somehow i just never seemed interested in the first two because they were described as hardcore punk and although i do indeed love various punk bands, i just never felt it a priority to infuse my senses in NEUROSIS’ style of hardcore. Well, i finally got the debut PAIN OF MIND and after listening to it a few times, now i wanna burn down buildings for no reason and spit fire in people’s faces and scream aaaargggghhhh!

Well, this debut is exactly as i expected. It is indeed hardcore punk in the vein of Discharge, Black Flag, Amebix, Die Kreuzen and all the other hardcore punckers who crave speed, distortion and most of all volume. Turn it up to 11 and then take it to 12 it seems. The album was originally released on Alchemy Records in 1987 and then picked up by Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles in 1994 and then finally moved over to the band’s own Neurot Recordings in 2000, which is when it was finally re-released with a bonus disc and much easier to track down. While this sounds like a totally different band if you’re accustomed to 90s NEUROSIS, it still has the main three members who have been on board for the band’s entire run namely Scott Kelly (vocals, guitar), Dave Edwardson (bass) and Jason Roeder (drums).

The music is very much the typical hardcore and crust punk with elements of crossover thrash as heard in bands like Suicidal Tendencies, however even at this stage there are a few elements that hinted at the future path the band would undertake however it would have been impossible at the time to predict they they would blossom into anything of merit. One example is how track 2, “Self-Taught Inflection” has a repetitive slowed down melodic riff as an opener that is a tiny clue to the direction that the band would continue in starting with “Souls At Zero” but after a nice run it ultimately succumbs to the gravitational pull of the hardcore punk and crossover thrash elements that dominate PAIN OF MIND. Tracks like “Reasons To Hide” have mellow almost classic 80s metal intros with arpeggiated guitars but they too soon turn to hardcore punk but retain dual guitar assaults with one guitar grunging it up while the other performs more thrash type riffs but it too strays into punk territory with the rhythmic chugging assault and shouted lyrics.

The album retains its energetic delivery throughout the entire run and at times really does sound like Discharge when at its most pure punk moments but it’s those little elements that differentiate them on the few tracks where they include them. As punk rockers they have the sound down pat and the energy level to match. All the punk boxes are checked appropriately and then double checked because that what punk rockers do i assume. Personally i’m glad i’m finally checking this one out but unlike some bands that lose the critics due to being overly experimental and turning out to be something i actually like a lot, PAIN OF MIND is basically a generic retreading of all the early 80s punkdom that came before. Whilst the smattering of unique ideas succeed in giving the band something to build off of for the future, they unfortunately are too few to give the album any true character of its own and ultimately sounds like any old punk band from that era albeit performed exquisitely. Ahh, NEUROSIS you have become one of my favorite experimental metal bands over the years but even you can’t make me love this one! Even the bonus disc on the 2000 re-release with live performances and unreleased demos isn’t enough to make this one essential by any means, however as a huge fan of the band, it is nice to have this one so very much a hardcore fan’s type of album unless you just have to own every punk album ever released.

SUFFOCATION Pierced From Within

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.59 | 16 ratings
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UMUR
"Pierced from Within" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, New York based death metal act Suffocation. The album was released through Roadrunner Records in May 1995. The receptions from fans and critics alike, regarding the band´s 2nd full-length studio album "Breeding the Spawn (1993)", generally weren´t that positive, mainly due to what many consider a weak sounding production. Roadrunner Records refused to pay for studio time in Morrisound Studios with producer Scott Burns (which was the band´s primary choice), and as a result there was a lot of turmoil surrounding the recording of that album. Turmoil that is reported to be one of the main reasons why drummer Mike Smith left Suffocation shortly after the release of "Breeding the Spawn (1993)".

In a strange turn of events Roadrunner Records allowed Suffocation to record "Pierced from Within" at Morrisound Studios with producer Scott Burns (although at the time the label were in the process of effecively getting rid of all their death metal artists), which resulted in one of the better death metal productions to come out of Morrisound Studios. The sound is thick, dark, and brutal yet all instruments are easily heard in the mix. It´s not often you notice the bass on death metal albums but here it is just right in the mix and you can clearly hear it.

The music on the album is brutal and technically well played death metal. The vocals are extremely brutal growling, but as it was also the case on "Breeding the Spawn (1993)", you´re actually able to catch words and phrases which make the vocal part of the album very effective. There are some really impressive precision playing on the album too and the tracks vary in pace between fast- to blasting- to brick heavy breakdowns. New drummer Doug Bohn is a competent and quite accomplished replacement for Mike Smith. The tracks are high quality death metal compositions and although not all tracks are easily accessible or instantly memorable, repeated listens reveal both hooks and infectiously catchy rhythms. There´s still next to no melodic content in the music though, so the hooks take time to discover. The tracks are quirky with lots of short breaks, 1-2 second blast beat parts (sometimes even shorter ones within riffs) and loads of tempo changes in every track. It never sounds forced though and there´s always the greater purpose in sight of creating relentlessly brutal and energetic music. Highlights include the opening title track, "Synthetically Revived", "Thrones of Blood", and the re-recording of the title track from "Breeding the Spawn (1993)" which closes "Pierced From Within". All material on the album is consistent in both style and quality though, and I could have picked almost any of the tracks featured on the album and called it a highlight.

So upon conclusion "Pierced from Within" is a high quality death metal album by Suffocation, which shows a more mature band that have honed their craft and now pack enough energy to tilt an elephant, but at the same time make your intellect work. The perfect marriage between relentless brutal energy and technical playing. It´s not that the band have changed their core sound much or that they´ve developed dramatically, but they´ve taken it up a notch here and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

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