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metal music reviews (new releases)

DARK FOREST Beyond the Veil

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.67 | 3 ratings
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Traditional heavy metal. It's the genre where this music that we love all started and evolved from. Many bands still fly the flag for it no matter how many new genres and sub-genres emerge as the years go on (in recent years we're been introduced to the likes of djent and blackgaze). However I find that few of these bands manage to consistently produce work of the kind of quality that can really stand up to the masters from the seventies and eighties, particularly those from the United Kingdom, metal's birthplace. Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and of course my personal favourite, Iron Maiden. Most newer heavy metal bands don't come close to acts of that calibre and probably never will, though they may make one or two really good albums. But there are a few who are proving time and time again that they are an exception. Over the pond in the United States is A Sound of Thunder who have consistently proved themselves album after album, while MorningStarlett produced a belter of a debut that firmly set them on the path to do the same thing, if only they'd get around to following it up. And here in the UK we have Dark Forest, who may just be the best traditional metal band the UK has produced in years. Beyond the Veil (2016) is their fourth album.

For the first time featuring the exact same line-up as the group's previous album, that being The Awakening (2014), Beyond the Veil sees Dark Forest beating many of their previous milestones. It's both their longest release to date at about 73 minutes, and it also features their longest track in the form of the closing The Lore of the Land, taking up just over 14 of those minutes by itself. With any lengthy album there comes the chance that it may end up being too overblown and thus get boring, but there is a reason why I rate Dark Forest as high as I do (putting them on the same page as the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest isn't done lightly): they are bloody good at what they do and like with Iron Maiden's later albums, the long running time isn't an issue on Beyond the Veil. Not in the least.

I got my first taste of Dark Forest's music with their second album Dawn of Infinity (2011). They'd been around a fair bit by that point, since 2002, and had released a demo and a couple of EP's in the lead up to the debut album Dark Forest (2009). Back then they were fronted by guitarist Christian Horton, who unfortunately clearly wasn't cut out for the frontman role and the decision to bring in a new singer, first Will Lowry-Scott and then current vocalist Josh Winnard, proved to be the best decision that Dark Forest ever made. But even back then in the early days, the band were proving themselves to be a force to be reckoned with. The weak vocals did drag it down but the self-titled debut was actually one hell of a strong heavy metal album. With the voice of either Will Lowry-Scott or Josh Winnard on it we may have even had a top tier release from Dark Forest back then, as the Will Lowry-Scott voiced re-recording of The Wizard of Alderley Edge from the Defender (2009) EP was quick to prove. Will Lowry-Scott ultimately didn't stick around, but with Josh Winnard now fronting them Dark Forest have possible found their classic line-up.

I did not find the previous album The Awakening to be quite the equal of Dawn of Infinity, but with Beyond the Veil Dark Forest's new line-up seems more settled and their game has been upped again. Like most of the best newer traditional heavy metal bands/albums, Dark Forest doesn't actually have a pure heavy metal sound and I think that may be what is required these days to really make the music stand out – not because playing straight traditional heavy metal with no frills attached is no good any more, but because it makes the music stand out more from the hordes of imitators. I've always felt that Dark Forest's music was heavily steeped in influences from the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, but they have other elements to their music that gives them balance and allows them to shine. Power metal most of all have played a large role in their sound and that's more true than ever on Beyond the Veil, but it's still just there for flavour and while there are times where it takes charge of a track, such as Autumn's Crown, there aren't any doubts where Dark Forest's loyalties lie. The band are also very clever with their melodies, which seem steeped in their native English culture and heritage, something which I worry that listeners from elsewhere may not pick up on. They even add a bit of actual folk to some tracks, including the Beyond the Veil title track.

Hitting on a good sound is only half the battle though. The other half and where Dark Forest really excel is delivering the songs to go with it and even on an album as long as this one they never once drop the ball. Particular standouts for me are the opening trio of On the Edge of Twilight, Where the Arrow Falls and Autumn's Crown and later there is also The Wild Hunt, Earthbound, Beyond the Veil and of course that closing epic, The Lore of the Land. The only track that does feel comparatively unnecessary is the instrumental Mên-an-Tol, which is the only instance where anything on Beyond the Veil feels overlong. Still it's not bad either.

This album doesn't quite manage to usurp Dawn of Infinity as my favourite album by Dark Forest, but it does come pretty close all told, which makes it another must buy release from them, further confirming my belief that these guys are the best UK traditional metal band of the last decade. Which of course is why its such a shame that it seems that these guys are getting so overlooked within the current metal scene. Maybe that's because many of the classic acts are still going strong and still putting out quality work like Iron Maiden's The Book of Souls (2015), but that's no reason to ignore the new blood who are standing up for the traditional heavy metal values. Come on people, it's time to wake up to how good Dark Forest is.

KRYPTS Remnants of Expansion

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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The Finnish death metal act Krypts have been going for eight years now and released their debut album Unending Degradation (2013) a few years ago. Now back with a two guitar line-up with the addition of Jukka Aho to the band, Krypts is back with their second full-length offering, Remnants of Expansion (2016).

A short album of just 33 minutes of music, Krypts have changed their song-writing style somewhat since Unending Degradation. Where on their debut album the band played old school death metal with some underlying doom leanings, with Remnants of Expansion we find a band who are starting to now bring their doom metal influences into the bigger picture. This is something that they waste no time in making apparent with the opening track Arrow of Entropy. At 10:51 in length this one song takes up a good chunk of the album all on its own, though in truth there are just five tracks in total here. Slow doom metal riffs are combined with harsh vocals to create a death-doom sound that comes over as heavy, menacing and sinister but other sections take the speed of the riffs up a notch in a nod to the old school death metal sound that is Krypts' roots.

Shorter tracks follow, starting with The Withering Titan where the older Krypts sound starts to re-emerge more in earnest, though still with some doom elements. The band impressed me with Unending Degradation with this kind of sound and that continues to be the case here, more so as a matter of fact due to the doom metal elements providing Remnants of Expansion with a stronger level of variety. I'm not one to usually appreciate what the intentionally old school sounding death metal bands have to offer, I find them bland and generic even - pale shadows of the actual death metal of the time they try to imitate/pay homage to. Krypts though... I have to say that these guys come across as being the real deal, holding my attention in a way that most other old school death metal acts completely fail at.

Albeit of course they're a real deal who show evidence of evolving into more of a fully-fledged death-doom act rather than a straight death metal act. My overall impression of Remnants of Expansion is that the death and the doom elements are being presented more or less evenly at this point, with not a track that doesn't at least give a nod to other prevalent style. It's a sound which works for Krypts here, but I find myself most intrigued by the prospect of hearing more stuff from them that is along the lines of Arrow of Entropy, which I see as their crowning achievement to date, and the short title track, which adds in some clean guitars to the sound that, if anything, only darken the atmosphere of the music even further, something that it didn't have an issue with already thanks to the decidedly unpolished production which suits the music perfectly.

Krypts do the old school death metal thing better than most, in fact I can't leave this review with calling to attention the excellent Entrailed to the Breaking Wheel which starts off with some doom influence before eventually turning into quite an aggressive composition, but I feel that their music takes on more of its own character when they start to really channel the doom. That's something which can only aid an extreme metal band like them in producing songs that stand out and stay with you after the album stops playing, which is actually the core of the problem I have with other old school death metal bands, though of course they do their more death metal based tracks better than most as well. Overall, Remnants of Expansion proves itself to be a highly accomplished album from Krypts and is surely their best work to date.

REVOCATION Great Is Our Sin

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 3 ratings
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Even going back to their debut album, Empire Of The Obscene, in 2008, Revocation impressed with skilled musicianship and an impressive collection of complex thrash metal. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength up to album number six, Great is Our Sin, arguably their best yet.

Nothing much has changed since 2014’s Deathless, it’s another thrash/death metal album with highly complex and technical arrangements and some of the finest musicianship you’ll come across in the genre. Always inventive and never sitting in one place for long enough to become stale, the eleven songs, including a faithful cover of Slayer’s Altars Of Sacrifice, twist and turn through numerous changes with an awesome collection of hard hitting riffs. Instrumental, The Exaltation is a proof in point that even without the vocals the instrumental work of these players is simply jaw dropping. The drumming of Ash Pearson is incredibly inventive with precision and speed with some impressive fills alongside compelling rhythmic work. Likewise the guitar work of David Davidson and Dan Gargiulo is equally so with an impressive barrage of riffs, heavy as hell, throwing in some Voivod style discordant riffs but heavier. On top of that there’s some fantastic solos injected with a strong sense of melody. Brett Bamberger’s bass is the rock solid bottom end, less obvious but equally impressive and essential for the tightness of this band.

Picking favourites is not easy but Copernican Heresy might just be it with its dissonant guitar arpeggios played at lightning speed whilst the complex off beat drum patterns and blast beats mirror them. Awesome stuff! To be honest though the album is full of equally impressive moments. The icing on the cake here is the injection of death metal heaviness into the razor sharp thrash riffs giving them a harder edge.

Great Is Our Sin is the best album I’ve heard in the thrash genre this year, even topping Vektor’s excellent Terminal Redux. It seems there’s no stopping these guys. Essential listening for thrash and death fans alike.

CONVULSE Cycle of Revenge

Album · 2016 · Death 'n' Roll
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Cycle of Revenge" is the 4th full-length studio album by Finnish death metal act Convulse. The album was released through Svart Records in March 2016. It´s the successor to "Evil Prevails" from 2013 and the second album since Convulse reformed in 2012. Convulse was one of the seminal death metal acts out of Finland in the late 80s/early 90s, but they split-up in 1994, only to reform 18 years down the line.

"Evil Prevails (2013)" pretty much continued the old school death metal style from the band´s 90s releases, but added an occasional rock´n´roll element (especially the guitar solos pointed in that direction), but "Cycle of Revenge" is a very different kind of beast. In fact the only thing the two albums have in common are the emotionless and unintelligible growling vocals. The vocals are about the only death metal trait left in the music, and instead of old school Scandinavian style death metal, we´re treated to a psychadelic tinged (and at times nicely atmospheric) heavy rock/metal style with growling vocals. At various points I´m reminded of artists like Tiamat, mid-period Gorefest, contemporary Tribulation, and Convulse fellow countrymen in Sentenced. So at this point I guess it´s fair to call the music death´n´roll (there´s a hard rocking stoner riff or two in there too).

The instrumental part of the music is very well executed and the material is generally well written and relatively varied, which means the 8 track, 33:57 minutes long album is entertaining throughout. "Cycle of Revenge" is also an incredibly well produced album, featuring a powerful and organic sounding production, which suits the music perfectly. Unfortunately the growling vocals sound completely out of place, and when the band experiment with spoken word passages or semi-raw clean vocals, like they do on "Ever Flowing Stream", you can hear great potential. So without knowing if Convulse are going to drop the growling vocals on the next release, I´ll go out on a limb here and call this a transition release between their old school death metal days and their new psychadelic tinged heavy rock/metal style, because I do expect them to drop the growls on future releases. They are so obviously out of place here, that not dropping them would be a crime.

So "Cycle of Revenge" is a bit hard to rate fairly, because I´m rather biased about it. On one hand I think the instrumental part of the music is of a high quality and it´s both powerful, adventurous, and intriguing, but on the other hand the growling vocals do drag my rating down a bit, so I think it speaks volumes about the rest of the music, when a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still warranted.

ENTHEAN Priests of Annihilation

Album · 2016 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.40 | 5 ratings
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"Priests of Annihilation" is the debut full-length studio album by US death metal act Enthean. The album was independently released in May 2016. Enthean was formed in 2012 and released the "Tones of Desecration" demo in 2013. They were initially a four-piece but opted to continue as a three-piece after bassist Adam Mast left in 2015. The lineup consists of Brian Kingsland (guitars, vocals), Adam Broome (guitars, vocals, bass, orchestration), and Mitch Moore (drums).

Stylistically the music on "Priests of Annihilation" is a combination of technical death metal and symphonic black metal with a progressive twist. While it doesn´t sound old fashioned, there are a lot of early 90s death- and black metal traits in the music (when Enthean strip their sound of keyboards, I am for example often reminded of early Morbid Angel), and the album is generally a bit more organic and raw sounding than many similar contemporary releases. The same can be said about the sound production which is also darker and more raw and organic, than what many listeners would probably expect. It´s not murky or noisy by any means though, and details are clearly heard in the mix. In addition to vocals, guitars, bass, and drums, the music also features keyboards. The latter sometimes enter a rather predictable neo-classical style, which is also true for some of the lead guitar themes, but it´s never overblown or too pompous, but instead tastefully epic. The vocals alternate between raspy black metal snarling and death metal growling. It´s a combination, which works really well for Enthean.

The quality of the material on the 8 track, 44:41 minutes long album is very high throughout. There´s not a single sub par track featured on the album, and most tracks stand out instantly. And that´s not because this is simple or wildly hook laden music, but Enthean are skilled composers and master the difficult balance of creating relatively complex music, which is still memorable and powerful. It´s great how Enthean successfully combine blasting symphonic black metal sections with more riff oriented sections of death metal brutality.

Upon conclusion "Priests of Annihilation" is a very impressive debut album. With that said it´s obvious there are still elements of Enthean´s sound which can be improved upon and tweaked a bit. Especially the sound production is a bit rough around the edges, and although I personally find it incredibly charming, and wouldn´t have it any other way, I can see other listeners craving a more polished sound. I´m not sure a more clear and clinical sound production would have provided the material with the same dark and majestic atmosphere, but I´m not blind to the fact, that some listeners may not feel the same way about it. To my ears though a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

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BUCKETHEAD Pike 66 - Leave The Light On

Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 66 - LEAVE THE LIGHT ON 25th album out of 60 in 2014 and 96th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one has 4 tracks that clock in at 30:44

“Leave The Light On” (13:07) commences with heavy guitar riffage and subordinate higher register guitar licks. The bass and drums are completely subordinate to the guitar. This one really picks up where the last track of the last album left off. It is basically a looped in melodic chord progression that has a guitar lick providing the changing it up around it sometimes erupting into virtuosic soloing and sometimes just being chill. These are my least favorite types of tracks from BH. I find these BBBOOORRR-iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-NNNGGG!!!! This track is a negative 5 stars and should be enough to cause leprosy in unsuspecting communities far and wide. Maybe an overstatement but i feel the life energy being SUCKED from me when i listen to tracks like this. This track alone is a full warning NOT to buy this freekin’ album. Is a dreaded 1 star rating looming? Hmmmm

“Hospitality” (7:15) sorta continues the sound, feel and tones of the alternative metal sounds from the first track. OMG! This is boring. And not the kind of boring that leads to gas extraction. This is fuh-fuh-fuh-king boring SHEE- *IT* that makes me wanna vomit on fly traps and eat edible undies on a sacred holiday. YaAaWwWnNnNnNnnnnnn……..

“The Bellman” (4:59) is a much more energetic type of track that has a more alternative metal approach with a melodic soloing foundation. However it is quite predictable and doesn’t amount to much, but does have some cool guitar slides

“This Room Sleeps One And A Half” (5:23) is a totally different beast. It starts off much more energetic in the metal department and then evolves into something more interesting. It has a nice unique mixture of metal, progressive rock bass extenuations and solo guitar. This is immediately the best track of the PIKE in about every way and the sole reason i give this PIKE a 2 star rating instead of 1. The previous three tracks are CRAP! and this is the saving grace making me feel that i didn’t waste my life listening and reviewing. This is the reason i sift thru these PIKEs. This track is totally cool with all the BH elements in full regalia. I love this! BH is a genius and tracks like this remind me of the fact. The rest of the album does not

BUCKETHEAD Pike 65 - Hold Me Forever (In Memory Of My Mom Nancy York Carroll)

Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 65 - HOLD ME FOREVER (IN MEMORY OF MY MOM NANCY YORK CARROLL) 24th album out of 60 in 2014 and 95th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one has 6 tracks that clock in at 28:37 This is obvious by title that it’s a tribute to BUCKETHEAD’s mom, Nancy Carroll and while i was expecting a tear jerking parade of instrumental covers of Celine Dion songs, i’m surprised that this is more energetic and upbeat

“N” (3:48) starts out with a sort of chicken clucking rhythm guitar riff with an accompanying bass and drums. This is basically one of those alternative metal type tracks that would be recycled to death on future PIKEs

“Y” (2:36) simply picks up the melody line from “N” and changes things up a bit but adding a stronger drum beat and more mellow break downs. It creates more harmonic counterparts to the melody as well but the basic clucking rhythmic guitar riff is the same

“C” (1:42) is the same track essentially only the tempo is sped up and the guitar begins to shred not only the rhythm part but with a melodic solo as well

“4” (4:49) sorta keeps the same melody going only morphs it a bit. They tempo remains fast but slows down a bit from “C.” There is a lot more crunchy thrashy guitar riffage here but still not quite thrash metal. It builds up to a sizzling solo and then backs off into metal riffage with a treble lick enshrouding it. The way things trade off is quite nice

“ev” (2:02) still continues the basic melody and simply changes things up a bit. None of the elements are really that different. Simply slight nuances in timings, rhythmic strutting and dynamics

“er” (13:38) continues the theme and melody with more emphasis on the sizzling virtuosic soloing around the crunchy rhythmic crunchy guitar riffage. The solos get more bluesy and frenetic. This one is also a preview of the many PIKEs that follow as it basically creates an infinity of soloing around a very basic looped melodic process and way before the halfway mark, things get very dull. I think this album is where BUCKETHEAD realized there is a market in music that can be totally cool for background music. Because this is totally cool music if you are focusing on something else. If one listens actively it gets fairly monotonous despite the virtuosic one-dimensional acrobatics at play. If one hears this secondarily it’s quite nice. Well, i don’t rate music according to if it is a secondary attention factor so i’m quite bored with this one.

Overall not a bad album but the last track which is half the album wears out its welcome pretty fast. I was actually expecting something more dynamic and unique for a tribute to his mother and all. So this was a bit of a surprise that this was sort of a run-of-the-mill type of BH affair. It was pretty cool up until after the first five minutes of the last track though.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 64 - Aquarium

Album · 2014 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 64 - AQUARIUM 23rd album out of 60 in 2014 and 94th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one has 5 tracks that clock in at 29:08

“Aquarium” (3:50) starts out as heavy distorted metal guitar riffage. Unlike the last PIKE this one is very accessible with traditional heavy metal and an alternative feel rockin’ the house. This is a relentless track with tons of distortion, crunchy riffs, heavy bass and pummeling drums. Nothing too special but heavy. The intro and outro chords sorta remind me of Rage Against The Machine

“Without Form” (4:33) begins a similar track to the first meaning heavy, distorted with unrelenting brutality. The tempo is super fast and the guitar, bass and drums are fully caffeinated with some extra ooompf. Once again this one is firing on full flames but sounds a little too similar to track one and the melody is only OK. It does have a slightly off alternative charm and has a few more ingredients to the mix but i’m still not blown away

“Attention Electric Cyclone” (6:08) is completely different. This reminds me of a glam metal band from the 80s. It has a rather repetitive rhythm section and a lead guitar solo that flitters around the riffs. After that intro it becomes more alternative metal sounding. It jettisons the high register lick and and becomes more bassy. It’s actually an interesting sort of evolutionary and historical type of metal development. It becomes faster and heavier, deeper bass and even has some echoes. It stays relentless in its pace and the melodic development is pleasant. My favorite track so far. There is also thrash stop and go chords, Van Halen type riffage and some intense riffing that is beyond belief

“Beyond The Windmill” (7:41) is a ska meets polka remake of a Celine Dion song. Just kidding! It’s another heavy distorted metal riff track although this one isn’t as relentless. It is slightly slower and has a more alternative metal feel. The song structure is more classic 80s metal at times with a noticeable Eddie Van Halen type of riff thang goin’ on. Sheeeet

“Hopper Feeding Mash” (6:56) is another energetic number, however while this one has a highly energetic alternative metal guitar riff, it has one of the cheesiest drum beats EVER. The drum is SOOOO annoying that i feel like this is the soundtrack for a box of macaroni and cheese at the discount store. This one is not only not good but highly annoying. There is always a spectrum of great to awful ways of mixing elements and i have to say that this is AWFUL. It should be unlawful. It sounds as if offal was served on a waffle. I just can’t get into it

BUCKETHEAD Pike 63 - Grand Gallery

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 63 - GRAND GALLERY 22nd album out of 60 in 2014 and 93rd overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one has only 2 tracks that clock in at 29:43

“Omplat” (10:02) begins with deep electrified dungeon synth sounds. Kinda like an electrical current that repeats a note for a while and then bends a bit and percolates in strange rhythms. This one very much is a precursor to the countdown to Halloween series that would follow in 2015. There seems to be a melody struggling to emerge from the abyss but just when it starts to take flight some strange jagged irregular sonic interference clips its wings and weirdness ensues. A weird succession of noises sounds like a couple of electronic keyboards “talking” to each other develops with guitar slides added for freak out’s sake. Sometimes it sounds like a cat being stretched in a torture device. For the most part this is totally non-musical. This is about as impressionistic and random as it can get and therefore will please very few listeners with some expectation of anything remotely connected to rock, funk or even what most would deem electronica. This is nothing more than a parade of noises that are quite startling and freaky. Think Coil only in cahoots with Nurse With Wound and you’ll be approaching the alienating effect. While i mostly love BH’s most experimental works, this one is a hard pill to swallow but amazingly effective for evoking the most surreal and alienating response. I do appreciate that! He’s simply done it better especially on the Halloween countdown series that follow

“Monster Zero” (19:40) after the jarring ending of “Omplat” this track begins with smooth and calm notes that sorta slide in and out of key. Then an echoey distorted industrial noise bursts into the scene. A guitar goes through some surreal gymnastics as it slides up and down the scale in unintelligible ways. A cello then takes over as it plucks over silence but then the jarring dissonance of the guitar scale comes back. Wow. This is weird stuff that is something between Karlheinz Stockhausen and Merzbow. This can only be classified as noise. There is no musical structure. Sounds are random and little melodic snippets punctuate the chaos of outer sonic space but it is all extremely Musique concrète. Edgard Varèse, John Cage and even Lou Reed would approve if they were around to give this a listen. There is obviously some kind of hidden structure to this. It’s pointillistic as hell. There is most likely some sort of obvious melody that has been totally obfuscated and painted over with a scaffolding of sound in the name of art!

This one has the power to scare of burglars, intruders and terrorists alike. Just put this on and clear any room in less than 30 seconds. I’m sure it would also repel rodents and tenacious insects alike, yet somehow i’m a glutton for punishment and find beauty in this seeming chaos. There’s simply something about the flow of it all that i find somewhat attractive. While i’m digging this i’m not loving it as much as some of the other similar albums BH created in 2015. This one is cool in its weirdness and all but isn’t as perfected as some of the ones to come. I’m sure very few will dig this. Think of Dedalus’ “Materiale Per Tre Esecutori E Nastro Megnetico.” If you like that kind of stuff only amped up a few notches in the weirdness department then this one is for you. For everyone else who wants “musical structure” that being recognizable patterns, scales, melodies and the most common things humans associate with music then run to the hills. This one is like a fire breathing dragon discharging pyromancy on your Pink Floyd or Porcupine Tree collection.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 62 - Outlined for Citacis

Album · 2014 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 62 - OUTLINED FOR CITACIS 21st album out of 60 in 2014 and 92nd overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one has 9 tracks (if you can call them that) that clock in at 29:56 All tracks are titled “Citacis” just like the previous PIKE except this one ironically is followed by numbers 63 thru 71 The tracks pretty much run into each other to form one long piece of “music”

“Citacis 63” starts things off with thunderous guitar chords, electronic whizzing effects, a funky bass and then some avant-garde soloing techniques. It’s a very noisy affair with everything playing a boisterous display of powerful and distorted angular rhythms flopping around like a loose garden hose. After a while it takes a complete 180 and turns into a dark ambient trippiness that would be a great spook soundtrack bringing the Halloween countdown series to mind. This very much in the vein of the previous PIKE only more adventurous as it can drift from funk to ambient to noise in a measure or two

In no time at all you realize that tracks are completely meaningless as is song structure for that matter. The album is simply a parade of style samples some familiar such as funk and metal solos and others just plain bizarre, startling or horrific. There is absolutely no rhyme or reason as to which sound is stitched to what follows. A calm ambient passage can be interrupted by a filthy grungy guitar riff and then break into an electronica dance party only to break into dungeon synth with a playful xylophone sound trying to make a melody but not quite accomplishing it. Then back to thrash metal, then echoey spooky clean guitar with squeaks and then something else completely new.

This is pretty much as extreme, bizarre and experimental as rock can be taken. It’s almost like a collage band like Faust meets early Sonic Youth, add early Boredoms, a little Funkadelic, a little Slayer, some Eddie Van Halen with a side order of Throbbing Gristle and then you can only begin to fathom what’s going on here. Definitely only designed for the absolutely insanely adventurous music freaks. Yeah, i’m one and i really dig this type of stuff. The utterly unpredictability is what makes this so freakin’ amazing. While not the first PIKE to tackle this hodgepodge stylistic approach, OUTLINED FOR CITACIS has its own personality for sure. This is so weird you simply just have to listen to it to comprehend for no words can come close to preparing a listener for the bizarre train wreck they are about to experience.

NAPALM DEATH Diatribes

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.41 | 10 ratings
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"Diatribes" is the 6th full-length studio album by UK death metal/grindcore act Napalm Death. The album was released through Earache Records in January 1996. The album was preceded by the the November 1995 "Greed Killing" EP, which featured 6 tracks from the same sessions that spawned the tracks on this album. The only tracks which are featured on both the "Greed Killing (1995)" EP and on "Diatribes" is the title track from the EP and "My Own Worst Enemy". Some limited editions of "Diatribes" come with the tracks from the "Greed Killing (1995)" EP as a bonus feature. Like the last couple of albums, "Diatribes" is produced by Colin Richardson but maybe more surprisingly, bearing in mind the unstable lineups of the past, the album features the same lineup as on the last two albums. Stability all over the line.

At least from the outside, because later in the year lead vocalist Mark "Barney" Greenway was fired from Napalm Death and replaced by Phil Vane from Extreme Noise Terror (who Greenway himself replaced in Extreme Noise Terror). It was a temporary lineup change though, as the two singers returned to their respective bands again in time for Greenway to perform vocals on Napalm Death´s 7th full-length studio album "Inside the Torn Apart (1997)".

The music on "Diatribes" has changed quite drastically from the music on "Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)", and despite holding the producing credits on both "Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)" and "Diatribes", Colin Richardson has crafted a very different sound for this release compared to the sound production on the predecessor. The sound on "Diatribes" is clear, professional, and completely bereft of the grit and rawness of "Fear, Emptiness, Despair". Napalm Death suddenly, and for the first time, actually sound house-broken and well...a bit tame. The music style has also changed quite a bit as the band now embrace large doses of groove metal riffing and rhythms almost to a point where I would call artists like Machine Head and contemporary Sepultura an influence on the music. One other thing that has almost always been defining for Napalm Death´s sound is also almost missing from "Diatribes". There are very few blast beats on the album!!! When the band speed up the mostly mid-paced groove oriented death metal, they don´t play nearly fast enough to call it blast beats (save for a very few times). At least not really fast-paced blasts as they are usually known for.

The quality of the material on the 12 track, 44:09 minutes long album, is decent enough, but not many tracks stand out. The opening track "Greed Killing" is one of the few highlights featured on the album. So upon conclusion "Diatribes" is a Napalm Death album, which divides the waters. I don´t think many listeners will contest that it´s a quality product when it comes to the performances (although Greenway does sound a bit tired/uninspired and his vocals often lack bite and aggression) or that the album doesn´t feature a professional sounding production, but the lack of memorable tracks and the new groove oriented death metal style and lack of grindcore elements will probably be an issue to some. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

NAPALM DEATH Greed Killing

EP · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.28 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"Greed Killing" is an EP release by UK death metal/grindcore act Napalm Death. The EP was released through Earache Records in November 1995. It bridges the gap between the band´s 5th and 6th full-length studio albums "Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)" and "Diatribes (1996)". "Greed Killing" features six studio tracks and one live track. The six studio tracks were recording at the same sessions that spawned the tracks for the subsequent "Diatribes (1996)" album. The title track from the EP and "My Own Worst Enemy" also appear on the "Diatribes (1996)" album while the remaining studio tracks are exclusively featured on this EP. The live track is "Plague Rages" from "Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)" recorded in New York in September 1994.

"Greed Killing" was the first release by Napalm Death to embrace a "softer", slower, and more "cleanly" produced death metal style. You won´t find many traces of the band´s grindcore past on this EP (except for a couple of rare blast beat sections) and this is basically groove oriented death metal. The tempo is mostly mid-paced and the riffs and the rhythms are groove influenced with a slight industrial touch. Mark "Barney" Greenway of course sounds exactly like he always does with his half growling, half barking vocal style so there are no changes in that department. The transformation to a more groove oriented style already began on "Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)", but it was ultimately still a pretty raw and dark release. "Greed Killing" is still the sound of an angry Napalm Death full of indignation over the state of the world, but the gritty darkness and despair of "Fear, Emptiness, Despair (1994)" is gone.

While the tracks are as such well composed, the Colin Richardson production professional and well sounding (objectively seen), and the band are well playing, it´s like the material on the EP lacks edge (including the live rendition of "Plague Rages"). The sound production may be both powerful and detailed, but it´s up for discussion if this type of production suits Napalm Death´s music. Personally I think the clear sounding production makes the music lose some of it´s rawness and aggression. It´s not that "Greed Killing" isn´t enjoyable but the above mentioned lack of edge is an issue and therefore a 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.

CHIMAIRA The Impossibility Of Reason

Album · 2003 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 8 ratings
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aglasshouse
The Impossibility of Reason was Chimaira's first record to transition the band from metalcore to groove metal, and it's obvious which genre fit the band more as subsequent releases followed the same line of thinking. It's not hard to understand why The Impossibility of Reason was such a breakthrough record for the band; it's almost perfect production quality bringing out never-before-seen qualities of Chimaira previously not seen under their banner.

Chimaira's 2003 album showcases a new and improved set of tracks, tuning down electronic elements to create a more clean yet powerful album. Rob Arnold has mentioned that bands they've toured with's influence on the band, these compatriots including the likes of In Flames (whose history is almost like the reverse of Chimaira's) and Soilwork. The influential melodic death metal style of these bands is evident on The Impossibility of Reason, an album littered with brash unforgiving sonorous riffs give way to energetic spectacles of raw power. The band holds a candle to the likes of Mudvayne, in fact this album in particular is very similar to Mudvayne's then-studio output (i.e. The End of All Things to Come), albeit with less experimental qualities.

The tracks are nearly all stunning. Not one misses a beat and keeps the sort of power-trip (funnily enough a track on the album) like theme of the album going. The dark, film-score like nature of the album's #1 single 'Down Again' is endearing, as well as the anger-filled 'Pure Hatred' (which I first heard on an episode of Mythbusters in 2004). It might be a bit cliche but Chimaira's closing epic 'Implements of Destruction' is an actual epic, not five minutes of music with eight minutes of silence/noise/sound effects, and is highly recommended. It goes through a variety of drum pattern and stylistic changes, all in an instrumental format. I'd suggest listening to the album to get a taste of it for yourself.

Lastly, the band itself. Chimaira's raw style is owed completely to Andols Herrick on drums and Rob Arnold on guitar. This as well as the Chad Grey-like Mark Hunter on vocals. The guitar section of Chimaira is where the band stands out the most, with the aforementioned Rob Arnold accompanied by Matt DeVries, both of whom would go onto play live guitar and bass respectively for Six Feet Under in 2011 and 2012.

A highly respectable release and a key contributor to the New Wave of American Heavy metal movement, Chimaira and their 2003 album are not to be underestimated. Mind your mind when entering this territory.

OBLOMOV Mighty Cosmic Dances

Album · 2005 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 10 ratings
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Time Signature
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016

Black metal has come a long way, and today's black metal landscape ranges from the raw and filthy end (e.g. Bahimiron and Nadiwrath) over the brutal variety (e.g. Svarttjern and Tsjuder) and the melodic variety (e.g. Darkenhöld and Denial of God) to the more elaborate and artsy end, where we find symphonic acts, such as Dimmu Borgir and Carach Angren, progressive acts, such as Enslaved, and avant-garde acts, such as Total Negation and Chryst. Oblomov's debut album "Mighty Cosmic Dance" belongs to the more artsy end of the black metal spectrum without being either avant-garde or weird.

The album opens with a spacey synth-based instrumental intro which explodes into 'Mentality Failure', and for a second, one might think that this is just going to be another black metal blastbeat-fest, but the song quickly goes down a path of variation and melody and culminates in an almost epic keyboard-enhanced final passage. The following track, 'Redefinition of the Past' opens with an extremely melodic section, which has more in common with traditional metal than black metal, but takes on a slightly more doom metal character for a while, before the tempo increases, as the song morphs into a blend of black metal and melodic thrash metal. By now, it is clear to the listener that Oblomov are not one of those black metal bands who only use two or three riffs, but a band who embraces variation.

The two first tracks are not bad at all, but it is only with 'Lost Between Emotions' that things get really interesting. In addition to the already varied and melodic style of Oblomov, this song features a really cool saxophone lead and even concludes with a very original combination of aggressive metal guitars and a folksy flute. At times bordering on the symphonic, the next track 'Starsend' also features a really cool saxophone lead and an epic choir. While less experimental, 'The Plague' is nonetheless also quite a musical experience.

After the sublime experience that is the triumvirate of 'Lost Between Emotions', 'Starsend', and 'The Blague', the heavier 'Nostalgic Idealization' feels a bit like a slowly deflating balloon, and 'Dreamworks' continues this trend. In all fairness, however, the latter features a very nice breakdown and subsequent instrumental section which together do blow a bit of air back into the balloon before the album is concluded by an outro which, like the intro, is a spacey synth-based instrumental.

The primary generator of melody is the band's use of melodic leads, be it guitar leads, saxophone leads or keyboard leads, but there are several instances where the riffs themselves seem to be inherently melodic. This is definitely something a person like me, who admittedly has never learned to appreciate the more barren and raw genres of black metal, can get behind. Moreover, I really like how much variation there is on this album, and it is clear that the band had a real artistic vision when they made this album. However, the things that I appreciate about "Mighty Cosmic Dances" are likely, I think, to be features that many black metal fans will reject. The variation might be seen as unfocused and the melodic orientation as poppy, and, overall, the album is probably as non-kvlt as can be. Thant again, who gives a fuck about that? But, even though I have a lot of appreciation for the album, it is not an album that I love without reservation. The high point is definitely the sublime triumvirate of 'Lost Between Emotions'/'Starsend'/'The Plague', but after that, the album quickly loses its energy and, sadly, limps out the backdoor.

Still, it's not a bad album, and I can see myself listening to some of the songs repeatedly in the future, but it is probably not an album I will listen to from beginning to end very many times.

OBLOMOV Mighty Cosmic Dances

Album · 2005 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 10 ratings
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Warthur
MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016

Bookended by spacy synthesiser instrumentals to establish the titular cosmic themes of the album, Mighty Cosmic Dances by Oblomov at first sounds like a comparatively standard melodic black metal album, if competently performed.

That said, it isn’t too long before certain differences emerge. For one thing, Oblomov seem much happier to throw in honest-to-goodness solos than your standard black metal act, and apply a clean production style so as to tease out the best of those rather than burying them in wailing distortion; indeed, some instrumental sections, such as the opening couple of minutes of Redefinition of the Past, resemble prog metal more than black metal.

Between that, the offbeat choice of subject matter (there’s a song inspired by Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, for instance, which is hardly a very black metal topic), and the way they don’t use pseudonyms and corpsepaint as a major component of their look, it’s clear that Oblomov aren’t too interested in being kvlt black metal purists, but as well as throwing in more accessible sections they’re also willing to experiment a bit with the format, tossing in the occasional instrumental solo which defies expectations.

You get this towards the end of Mentality Failure, with some pretty synth twinkling which by itself would sound naive but at the end of that track carries a certain gravitas; they really go to town with it on Lost Between Emotions, which combines some of the most ferocious playing on the album with lovelorn lyrics and honest to goodness saxophone solo with synthesiser backing - and then, towards the end of the song, what sounds to me like an honest to goodness didgeridoo, though rather than making it sound like a cod-Australian novelty track it instead (with the aid of the synthesiers) gives it a quasi-medieval flavour, like the didgeridoo is being used to make a sound not dissimilar to a crumhorn.

The saxophone returns again towards the end of Starsend, lending the conclusion a sort of Van der Graaf Generator character - not in terms of musical similarity, but in terms of using the saxophone as an instrument to express tension and anxiety, as happens in the most nightmarish VdGG tracks. (It also heralds perhaps some of the best synthesiser playing on the album, including either an honest-to-goodness mellotron or a decent facsimile of one). The subsequent tracks are more standard melodic black metal fare, but strong examples of the form by and large - and just when you think things have become predictable again, Nostalgic Idealization fades out on a gentle unaccompanied organ solo to keep you guessing, whilst closing song Dreamworks represents the heaviest song on the album but also includes some strange processed vocals towards the end that really help keep up the otherworldly atmosphere.

From what I have heard, the followup album Communitas (Deconstructing the Order) takes their genre-blending and use of unexpected instrumental ingredients even further, and this debut album certainly makes me want to explore that, but it also reveals them as a very capable melodic black metal unit who are able to let their experimental instincts spice up their compositions without upstaging them.

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