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metal music reviews (new releases)

BUCKETHEAD Pike 240 - Chart

Album · 2016 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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B U C K E T H E A D PIKE 240- C H A R T 21st album by BUCKETHEAD in 2016 (released on Dec 2) Clocks in at 28:24 ALL instrumental

“Chart” (7:41) starts out with some speedy distorted heavy metal guitar riffing with a bass and heavy drumbeat following suite and goes through a series of riff changes all the while ratcheting up the intensity ever so slightly. Slower breakdowns occur that utilize distorted arpeggiated chords and then back to riffage with some more adventurous guitar shreds. The riffs get crunchier and thrasher after a couple minutes while the melody just seems to loop around really going nowhere. The track has an 80s speed metal feel to it. About half way through there is a key shift but it follows all the same patterns. This one is well executed but fairly standard for this kind of PIKE track and have heard this many times before so i’m not overly excited about it

“Granite Track” (10:04) begins with a slow and echoey guitar that is in true space rock territory. A contrasting bass and drums drops in and builds up speed and then drops out and then comes back as the strange guitar effects sort of swirl around and sustain. A more subdued guitar comes out of the void and arpeggiates for a bit and then back to the heavier spacey rock. This one has a spooky feel to it as the ambience has a haunting sort of sound to it. The guitar marches forth and throws in some licks that are recognizable as BH trademarks. This one is pretty cool and unique. It takes the basic instrumental approach on many PIKEs and adds a more space rock layer to it which combined with some cool guitar innovation makes for an interesting track

“Glowing Gate” (10:39) and after a long dramatic pause between tracks this one starts things off with a clean guitar that hesitatingly plucks slowly away until it adds a little distortion as the bass and a hand drum come into play. The melody is quite familiar if you’ve heard your share of PIKEs. The distortion drops out and the speed remains slow and easy. Then power chords come in and slowly add some oomph without picking up the speed but when they drop out all we hear is an ambient background and clean delicate guitar notes in a sequence. It finally picks up steam but not too much tempo as the rock guitar comes into play and it chugs more as the bass and drum pick up intensity. It does manage to pick up speed a bit and carries the melodic developments further into slight improv territory. It always finds resolution in little breakdowns where it slows down and recallibrates again. This one is OK but not OMG.

With the exception of “Pike 238 - Attic Garden” i haven’t been too excited about any PIKEs past the 200 mark but this one is fairly decent although many elements have been done before and often. This one is a pleasant listen but other than the second track nothing extremely unique

OPETH Sorceress

Album · 2016 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.67 | 10 ratings
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Ever since making the decision to embrace a more progressive rock based sound full-time, the Swedish one time extreme progressive metal act Opeth has certainly been dividing opinions. Quite right to, as their output since Heritage (2011) has been quite far removed from what many deem to be the classic Opeth sound. For this reviewer's part I did like Heritage but it hasn't stood the test of time as well as I'd expected and though I do appreciate it in its own way, I've never been too fond of the following Pale Communion (2014), which I found to be much more stripped down on influences, making it the least interesting Opeth album. Sorceress (2016) is the band's twelfth album and up to its release it was anyone's guess as to what Opeth would be doing this time.

I'll say it right off the bat, those hoping for Opeth to return to the sound of albums like Ghost Reveries (2005) and Blackwater Park (2001) are going to be left disappointed once again. Opeth in 2016 is still first and foremost a progressive rock band. However they have brought some metal back on Sorceress, as well as a whole load more influences including psychedelic rock and folk rock, which immediately makes it come across as a much more varied album than Pale Communion, with a lot more changes between heavy and light sounds. An early highlight comes in the form of the Sorceress title track, which blends heavy psych with metal riffs to create something that could even be called a kind of doom or perhaps stoner metal. The following The Wilde Flowers is an even more varied track collecting multiple influences into one coherent piece, including a quite fast metal section to close. You won't catch Mikael Åkerfeldt dipping into Opeth's death metal roots at any point (and perhaps those days are behind the band forever), but Sorceress is best shot the metalheads will have at getting into a modern Opeth album. There are softer tracks like Will O The Wisp included here, but it's altogether a much more rocky release.

I'd say that since Opeth stopped being a full on metal band that Sorceress is their best release. Like Heritage it chops and changes its style a fair bit, but it sounds like its done much more smoothly this time. Everything feels more natural. That it has more influences to its progressive rock sound makes it a lot more interesting than Pale Communion was, but it's how well its done that makes it such a quality release. The metalhead in me obviously feels inclined to say that the metal and hard rocking moments are when its at its best, but the band is doing the softer stuff really well too. It's a release that's all about the balance between all the styles, and Opeth have done this one right. I think that for the first time I can really say I'm on board with the direction these guys are going in now. A pleasant surprise.

WARHAMMER Visual Antagonism

Album · 2016 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Visual Antagonism" is the debut full-length studio album by Indonesian death metal act Warhammer. The album was released through Brutal Infection Records in April 2016. Warhammer was formed in Yogyakarta in 2011. They released a promo in 2015 before signing to Brutal Infection Records for the release of "Visual Antagonism". In the years 2009-2011 they were known under the Genital Cavity monicker.

The music on "Visual Antagonism" is late 80s/early 90s influenced death metal. The growling vocals are predominantly doubled with higher pitched screaming, and Glen Benton (Deicide) has probably been an inspiration on lead vocalist Adin. The band are generally well playing and the material relatively varied in terms of rhythmic diversity, so there are both fast-paced and heavier tracks/sections on the album. To my ears one of the greatest assets of the band´s sound are the many well played guitar solos, which occur pretty often throughout the tracks. They are for the most part of the pretty typical atonal screaming kind, but I like how they seem to come out of nowhere and break down the structures of the tracks. It provides the music with a raw chaotic edge, which is greatly enjoyable.

The album is relatively well produced, although both drums and guitars could have prospered from a bit more punch. Upon conclusion "Visual Antagonism" is a pretty solid death metal release of the old school variety, and while it certainly won´t win any prizes for sounding original, a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.

HATEBREED The Concrete Confessional

Album · 2016 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.05 | 2 ratings
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"The Concrete Confessional" is the 7th full-length studio album by US hardcore act Hatebreed. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Entertainment in May 2016. It´s the successor to "The Divinity of Purpose" from 2013 and features the same lineup as the predecessor. "The Concrete Confessional" was produced by Chris "Zeuss" Harris. "Zeuss" has produced every album by Hatebreed since "The Rise of Brutality (2003)".

Stylistically "The Concrete Confessional" features few surprises if you´re already familiar with the last couple of albums by Hatebreed. It´s aggressive and groove laden hardcore featuring quite a few thrash metal styled riffs (Slayer often comes to mind, when isolating the riffs). Lead vocalist Jamey Jasta has a powerful and raw delivery, which is slightly one-dimensional (save for a short clean vocal part on "Something's Off"), but very effectful. In true hardcore style the lyrics are dealing with subjects like corruption, political issues, social injustice, and how to overcome personal problems.

The material on the 13 track, 33:28 minutes long album is generally memorable and well written. Most tracks are instantly catchy and you can shout along to them almost immediately. The quality is generally high but there are some tracks which stand out more than others, and some tracks which aren´t fully up to par with the best material on the album. It´s not that there´s anything bad on the album, but some tracks just feel a bit like filler. But maybe it has more to do with the relatively one-dimensional nature of the tracks, and the fact that my attention begins to wander about half way through the album, because of lack of variation between tracks. So it´s a more overall stylistic issue than an issue with individual tracks. When that is said the short playing time and generally short length of the tracks help "The Concrete Confessional" to be an entertaining album through most of the playing time. I´d mention the two opening tracks "A.D." and "Looking Down the Barrel of Today" and the closing track "Serve Your Masters" as some of the highlights of the album.

The sound production is clear, detailed, and very powerful. The massive heavy sound is perfectly designed for the music. Upon conclusion "The Concrete Confessional" is another quality release by Hatebreed and they prove once again why they are such a prolific act on the scene. As mentioned I could have wished for a bit more variation in the songwriting department, but it´s nothing too serious and looked upon individually every track on the album is entertaining and well written, so a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is fully deserved.

SYMPHONITY King of Persia

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 3 ratings
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Writing a negative review is never fun, but one thing that can be equally frustrating is reviewing an album that feels like it has huge album of the year potential, but ends up falling a bit short, due to some serious drawbacks. Such is the case with King of Persia, the second full-length album by symphonic power metal Symphonity. If anything, this album is a special kind of frustrating, because on paper it seems like it should be one of my top 10 albums of the year, but while it certainly shows signs of reaching that level, it doesn’t quite get there, due to reasons I’ll mention below.

Symphonity made their debut in 2008 with Voice From the Silence, a pretty nice album that fell on the more melodic side of the genre, and it featured moments of brilliance as well a very strong vocal performance from Olaf Hayer, who I’ve always been a fan of, especially during his time with Swedish band Dionysus. For unknown reasons, Olaf hadn’t been heard on an album since Magic Kingdom’s third album Symphony of War, released in 2010, so knowing he was back in the game was enough reason for me to be very excited for King of Persia. My excitement only grew more when I heard that the band had recruited Sinbreed vocalist Herbie Langhans to be a co-lead vocalist on the album, which is why I had such incredibly high expectations. Well, long story short, about half of the tracks are truly magical as I was hoping for, but the rest of the album leaves something to be desired, and unfortunately there is a predictable pattern that explains why some songs are better than the rest, which I’ll get to in a bit.

Musically, Symphonity tends to lean more towards the power metal side of their genre, with the symphonic elements mostly being secondary and more in the background, outside of the title track. There’s some much heavier riffing on this album at times compared to on their debut, and there’s also slight progressive leaning at times. For the most part, though, this is definitely still on the more melodic side of the genre, with a ton of soaring choruses and memorable vocal sections, and even the guitar work is still very melodic at times. This is quite the varied album, with a nice mix between faster and slower tracks, and there’s a pattern as well where Herbie tends to sing the most explosive tracks, while Olaf tends to only take lead on the more laid back tracks. This makes sense, as Herbie has a very powerful voice that’s well suited to faster, harder hitting songs, though Olaf has excelled at singing power metal in the past, and Herbie has shown himself to be capable of singing ballads before, so there’s already some mixed feelings there.

Moving on to the songwriting, we have the title track and then we have the rest of the album. By that, I mean that the title track is one mammoth of an epic where it feels like the band threw in everything they had to create the most epic song possible, and it truly is the highlight of the album and one of my favorite songs of the year. It opens with some atmospheric keys before giving us a brief preview of the heavy riffing that appears later on, immediately reminding me a bit of Symphony X with how the guitar sounds and the track definitely have some strong progressive leanings throughout. Verses are mostly slow and Olaf does a nice job with his more theatrical approach, but things really pick up once we get a first taste of the chorus, where guest vocalist Jana Hrochová provides some excellent mezzo-soprano vocals to go along with Olaf, and this makes for an amazing effect. The track also has some excellent instrumental sections where the guitars and orchestra take over, but it’s the speedy version of the chorus that appears later on where the track really reaches takes off, and while Olaf is the lead singer for most of the track, Herbie shows up later on and really steals the show with his powerful voice.

Speaking of which, the tracks where Herbie takes lead are without a doubt my favorites on the album. The first of these is “The Choice”, a speedy track where the guitars again have a bit of edge, though it’s certainly not as heavy or as complex as the title track. Instead, it’s a more straight-forward power metal track with an outstanding chorus, where Herbie’s vocals are the clear highlight. While he sounds as powerful as ever on this album, he also shows an ability to tone it down just enough to let the melodies shine through, and this is especially noticeable on more melodic mid-paced tracks like “Live to the Tale” and “Flying”, with the latter having a huge vocal section towards the end where Herbie provides the most powerful moment of the entire album and probably the best vocals I’ve ever heard from him. On the faster side of things, “Unwelcome” and “Children of the Light” are both instant winners, with the latter especially having yet another outstanding chorus, though it also has some extended instrumental work and there’s a slight neoclassical feel to the track. All in all, that track is definitely one of my favorites on the album. On the whole, I have to say this album may be the best performance I’ve heard from Herbie, and so at least on that front, the album delivered big time.

It’s been all positive so far, and things continue to look promising with “In the Name of God”, the first track where Olaf sings by himself. His more dramatic vocal style works very well during the mid-paced verses, and he does a great job of getting the lyrics through, while the chorus is great and overall it’s a very melodic track with some excellent guitar work. Perhaps the only negative thing I can say about the track is that it doesn’t quite have the same spark the tracks with Herbie have. After that, though, things go a bit downhill as “A Farewell Meant to Be” is the first ballad and while Olaf sounds decent on the chorus and the guitar solo in the second half is amazing and helps save the track, the verses are not so pretty, to say the least. This is the first case where we hear Olaf struggling a little bit, as his voice seems much lower than it did in the past and he’s clearly struggling to hit some of the notes here during the verses, his dramatic approach not quite working the way it should be, so as much as I’ve liked him in the past, it pains me to say he’s clearly the weakest link in the band at this point. Likewise, his performance on “Siren Call” is downright embarrassing at points, where his voice just clearly isn’t there anymore. I hate to say it, but I would have much preferred the album if those two tracks were either removed completely or if Herbie had sung them.

So in the end, Olaf Hayer’s big return ends up being a bit of a disappointment, though at the same time with how good he sounds on the title track, it really leaves me with mixed feelings on where Symphonity should go, as he still shows signs being great. That little bit of negativity aside, though, King of Persia is still a quality symphonic power metal album I could easily recommend to fans of the genre, and fans of Sinbreed who would like to hear more from Herbie Langhans have a lot to enjoy here, so it’s still a satisfying album overall, even if it feels like it could have and should have been even better.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: http://myglobalmind.com/2016/12/03/symphonity-king-of-persia-review/

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BUCKETHEAD Pike 101 - In The Hollow Hills

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 101 - In The Hollow Hills 60th album out of 60 in 2014 and 130th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:01 and has four tracks

“In The Hollow Hills” (7:51) begins with a slow tempo and clean guitar riff with a slight echoey Floydian guitar tone. The bass and drums are equally chilled and a background atmospheric synth resonates. It has a very slight spaghetti Western feel to the whole thing but in a spacey type of way. Or maybe i be trippin’. It never really develops into anything and stays calm and spacey. The melody is the looped variety and well, i’m just not enthralled by this one

“Ghost Of Broken Eggs” (13:23) begins with a bendy note type of blues guitar and then a second guitar lick delivers some higher register blues. It’s one of those cool cat numbers with the bass delivering a never-ending recurring four note to five note loop and the guitar simply performs predictable blues runs that sound more like B.B. King or other classic old school blues cats from the past than BH. This is all fine and dandy but nothing really too exciting and more than wears out its welcome clocking in over the thirteen minute mark. Nice background music though. Would be perfect for a movie soundtrack as well

“Bumper Cars” (1:29) picks up the steam and delivers a grungy alternative rock riff that gets even more feisty as it becomes more funkified grungy rock. The guitar drops out and it becomes simply a bass and drum show and then just like that….. poof! it’s gone

“Seas And Stars” (6:18) begins with a bending reverberating ambient synth tone that is joined by a super slow and mellow clean guitar and as the synth swirls around, the guitar develops a melodic run. It remains on super chill mode. The ambience swirls while the guitar only intermittent plucks out a few notes that have a somewhat bluesy feel. There is no bass or drums on this one. It’s ok but nothing outrageously interesting either

This PIKE i neither love nor hate. It’s just average

BUCKETHEAD Pike 100 - The Mighty Microscope

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 100 - The Mighty Microscope 59th album out of 60 in 2014 and 129th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:59 and has three tracks

“The Mighty Microscope” (13:57) begins a quick paced tempo with a funky guitar that sounds like something out of the 70s with a subordinate bass and drums. Guitar has a wah-wah effect and creates a fairly simple danceable melody which repeats frequently but around the two minute mark we finally get a little break and something new begins to emerge as it changes and then the guitar gets a little looser and free flowing with more licks and solos spewing out of the jive turkey guitar tones. The guitar solos become more bluesy and remind me a bit of 80s Guns N Roses types that Slash used to churn out. They don’t last long enough and back 2 da funk rock! Yeah just hard rock. Not heavy enough to qualify as metal. As the track goes on it basically keeps the same beat, same rhythm and same overall melody while the guitar offers slight variations of the overall theme. It’s all nice and listenable although i think a near 14 minute is a little excessive for what’s offered here. We'll played and all is OK but not OMG

“Phase Yellow” (5:21) begins more subdued with a slow down-tuned bluesy type of sound with a bass lick followed by a Hendrix like type of squealing guitar line. It’s a cool cat type of sound that makes me think of a blues based speakeasy in Chicago in 1969 or something. While the bass line stays silky smooth and chilled out, the guitar gets all freaky and spastic and delivers some rip roaring sizzling bluesy solos. The drum is chillin’ with the bass so it’s two on codeine while the other is on caffeine. The solos offer some interesting uniquenesses but overall pretty standard blues stuff. Still i find this one really cool and a fun listen

“Inner Space” (10:41) begins even slower and mellower with clean guitar, bass and snail-paced lazy drumbeat. This immediately starts sounding like a million other slow sappy ballads in the BH canon. Nice echoey guitar effect and melody not bad but like other similar PIKE tracks doesn’t evolve past the recurring chord sequences and despite ratcheting up the tempo and dynamics to make it more rockin’ it’s still one of those deja-vous tracks that sounds all too familiar because it’s been done to death and this one adds no new spins to the recurring theme whatsoever. Meh

First track is decent, second track is actually pretty cool. Third track makes me wanna lose my lunch so unfortunately not my favorite PIKE of the lot

BUCKETHEAD Pike 99 - Polar Trench

Album · 2014 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 99 - Polar Trench 58th album out of 60 in 2014 and 128th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 30:37 and has four tracks

“The Light In The Fog” (9:56) begins things with clean mellow guitar, sleepy slow bass and cymbal action. It picks up into a slow rocker. The melody is pleasant but it’s also one of those been-there-done-that type of tracks that are common the the slower subdued PIKEs. As the track progresses it contains a background rhythmic guitar riff and a bluesy slow treble lick. Although it ratchets up to mid tempo it never presses on further. The lead lick is very pleasant and so are the drum and bass interaction but it’s also very cliche and not many new ideas are presented here. For those who really love the slow and melodically mellow, there is plenty to like here. It’s actually decently done but “Passageways” spoiled me for the slow PIKEs. It was done quite well while this feels more by-the-numbers

“Polar Trench” (8:59) turns things around with a heavy funk guitar driven riff before it drops out and a funky bass with wah-wah jumps in and does a little dance before the funk driven heavy guitar riff comes back for a little stroll down the cat walk. Bass stays funky while the lead guitar delivers some bluesy guitar solos on high adrenaline. While variations of the major theme do occur, the track is essentially funk bass driven with the guitar nosediving into hyperdrive on many occasions but never getting to virtuosic and staying in heavy blues rock territory. This one is also okayish but rather outstays its welcome since there is no need for it to be nine minutes long

“Heiro” (2:15) is the short little track here. It is a hyperactive funk guitar driven little monster with the slap bass just as jive turkey punk ass caffeinated. I like this one. Short but sweet and to the point. Excellent heavy funk rock track

“Glyphics” (9:27) is another heavy funk rock track with a slap smackin’ bass line and guitar bustin’ it out with the drums. When the guitar steps out of funk mode and into lead action, the bass also joins in and becomes more rock oriented. This track essentially alternates between straight up hard rock and funk rock. The bluesy melody pretty much stays the same with some minor variations and soloing here and there. This one is intense in its deliver but is fairly predictable and not the best slice of funk rock the chicken lover has dished out. Hendrix inspired solos are aplenty but another that doesn’t need to churn on for over nine minutes. Okay but not outstanding

IRON BUTTERFLY Metamorphosis

Album · 1970 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 2 ratings
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Every time I've seen Iron Butterfly's history, their profile has a whole, and the music they've created, I've always thought of them as steadfast. In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, for all intents and purposes, should not have been as successful as it was. An 18-minute long acid trip jam? Many others at the time tried to achieve the same thing and failed, but these Californians somehow managed to turn such a product of the times into a product that stands the test of time (and made a boat-load at that). Something as miraculous as this is hard for anyone to followup, let alone a half-stoned shit rock band like Iron Butterfly was. They managed it though, the following album Ball (1969) charting even higher than it's predecessor in the U.S.

Iron Butterfly managed to make magic happen twice. I guess the obvious question that should and was asked was: "can they do it again?" Yes and no.

There's a difference this time around. Metamorphosis, released the following year after Ball, charted at 16 in the U.S. Now, in any other circumstance this would be laudable, because obviously it's not easy to whip up a record that charts in the first place. But for Iron Butterfly, this was practically dismal. Granted, 'Easy Rider' did chart 66 on Billboard, being I.B.'s biggest hit since 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida', although I personally owe this more to the success of the latter and name recognition as opposed to song quality (who knows, the 70's were easily pleased). So, financially-wise, Iron Butterfly were sort of able to hit the gold once more. However, musically-wise, Metamorphosis is different from all of it's predecessors, even including Heavy. What I was saying about Iron Butterfly's seeming fragility comes into play here, because the band slowly started going downhill after their monster-hit, and Metamorphosis was the last album regarded at least decently by critics. On this particular album, the original line-up is broken, with guitarist Erik Brann parting ways due to band conflicts. Replacing him, flatteringly enough, was four different session guitarists. Mike Pinera of Blues Image and Alice Cooper (as well as Ramadam, a supergroup formed with Mitch Mitchell of Jimi Hendrix Experience), Larry Reinhardt (future Captain Beyond along with Dorman), Bill Cooper, and even producer Richard Podolor on the twelve-string.

Metamorphosis is really the culmination of Iron Butterfly's slowly building up musical consistency since In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. This applies for musicianship (because honestly they weren't the greatest players), production, and songwriting. The production is much higher, and allows for a more dynamic sound in both the experimental and traditional departments. Speaking of experimental, critics tend to refer to Iron Butterfly post-Vida as being more and more musically adventurous, and I would tend to agree. Metamorphosis puts a much greater emphasis on the progressive/space rock side of the band, something I've always found remarkably endearing when it comes to them in particular. Mostly this is on the smash epic 'Butterfly Bleu', a masterpiece of proto-metal and prog music that rivals even I-A-G-D-V (except is much more structured and, dare I say, intelligent?). Still retaining a spaced-out, pseudo complex attitude, 'Butterfly Bleu' manages to be heavy, emotional, and eclectic all in on package. It also funnily enough features one of the earliest uses of a talk-box (yeah, that thing Bon Jovi used on 'Livin' On a Prayer' to make his guitar go "rwoworwowrwow") during a gritty section on the latter half of the epic. Of the traditional we have 'New Day', a Steppenwolf-esque song headed off by a disarmingly good catchy riff. 'Shady Lady' is, at times, your standard brand of funky blues-rock, but it delves into extremely dark tonal shifts at certain areas. The rest of the album is rather expected of Iron Butterfly, being basically cheesy rock n' roll tunes molded by quasi-hippie zeitgeist ('Soldier In Our Town'), but I suppose the big single 'Easy Rider' has it's moments as well.

The band itself does very well for itself on this particular album. As aforementioned, four different multi-talented guitarist make themselves well-known on Metamorphosis. Mike Pinera's (presumably) part on 'Butterfly Bleu' with the talk-box always makes me smile ever time I hear it. It really makes the song have a bigger personality (of course his vocals on the rest of the song is good as well, putting on a zealous, emotional performance). The Iron Butterfly themselves are nothing to scoff about of course, But it's clear that the talents of Ingle, Dorman, and Bushy are not without merit. The band's made their abilities clear ever since 'Vida' in '68, and here they meld almost perfectly with their session musicians.

Some may get turned off by Iron Butterfly's material, but for me Metamorphosis is nothing short of a wonderful surprise. People wanted the Butterfly, and they got the Butterfly.


Album · 2014 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.71 | 3 ratings
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La Gárgola is the seventh studio album from alternative metal band Chevelle. Returning from a three-year gap after the good but inconsistent Hats Off to the Bull, Chevelle came out with another masterpiece that is not only even darker than before but even heavier as well. The band steps into sludge metal territory as well as brooding post-rock ambiance, the aforementioned styles blending right in with the band's depressive alternative metal sound.

After the menacing chimes that open up the album, your skull is blasted with the crushing riffing of "Ouija Board". It's one of the most blistering tracks of the band's catalog, as well as one of my favorites. Plus, the brooding bridge of this sludgy song sounds like it came straight out of a Mastodon album, which is a very fitting and welcome addition to the band's sound. La Gárgola perfectly comes together as an album, with the aforementioned track going straight into another masterpiece, "An Island". This song's got absolutely crushing grooves, with some amazing subtle bass playing as a syncopated drone. "Take Out Gunman" was a perfect choice for a single, fitting in with the dark and crunching heaviness of the rest of the album while having a catchy hook to get listeners (like me!) invested.

That's just the first three tracks! This album is just packed with skull-crushing, blistering, rampaging, sludgy, and punishing riffing, rumbling bass, and heavy beating of drums. Just take a listen to the ending riff of "Choking Game" for proof of that. Pete Loeffler gives some of his best vocal performances on this album. "Hunter Eats Hunter" and "Under the Knife" are up there with that opening song as my favorites. Loeffler's screams on these are stark and brutal, and the guitar grinds its teeth while beating the listener over the head with a sludge-hammer (get it?). The latter provides great contrast however, with Loeffler singing some calmer vocals in between delivering his gruff screams with much conviction.

The album isn't without it's softer moments though, like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, the band never leaves their softer melancholy sound behind. "One Ocean" has an almost U2-esque sound to it, and it's okay, but it's certainly the only song on the album I'd call a bit on the weaker end. "Twinge" on the other hand, the other softer song, is an absolutely beautiful finale to the album. This brings in the post rock ambiance that I mentioned, but mixes with some very beautiful melancholy melodies that bring tears to my eyes.

This album is a masterpiece, if you like depressive alternative metal with a strong sense of brutality, this is essential. It's hard for me to pick a favorite Chevelle album, but this may very well be it. This is the album that got me to love the band, and it's among their best albums either way. One of my favorite albums of all time, from one of my favorite bands of all time. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 98 - Pilot

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 98 - PILOT 57th album out of 60 in 2014 and 127th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:14 and has nine tracks All tracks are titled “Pilot”

“Pilot 1” (2:51) begins with a startling electronic buzz followed by funk guitar and then funk bass. The time sigs change it up and it sounds like a 70s p-funk track trying to battle it out with Kraftwerk or something. While the guitar and bass do their funk thang, electronic whizzing and hyperactive drums come into the picture as do strange freaky sounds. The bass changes it up often with different types of funk lines and the guitar and other accoutrements follow suit. The track continues to change things up often in the most avant-garde of ways. Really freaky but mostly funky!

“Pilot 2” (2:59) continues without missing a beat and begins with a water drip and more industrial noises that irregularly march forth with off-kilter time sigs and then a freaky electro-funk synth turns into terrifying and horrific weird noises over an industrial drone sound. Enter the funk once again with dissonant trebly tones and then more weirdness. Random and jarring that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Ministry album

“Pilot 3” (3:25) more synth funk for ya with slightly off guitar parts but quickly becomes spooky ambient down tempo with industrial sounds coming at ya randomly but they vanish and are replaced by funky bass and cheesy drum machine. Then they disappear and it becomes spooky ambience again. A subdued guitar joins in with a monotonous strum and then a brash turntable type of scratchy groove. This one is just plain wwweeeiiiiiirrrddd!!!

“Pilot 4” (3:21) begins with a demented piano, keyboards, strange noises that create strange rhythms. Very avant-garde but turns to a more funk style for a while and then a freaky ambient meets tortured guitar part. Picks up a bouncy freaky groove only in full weird zone and then the groove breaks down into proggy time sig frenzy while the bass tries to be funky. It keeps going changing things up often and in a million directions. More wild and totally unpredictable stuff

“Pilot 5” (5:06) has a very strange background while a clean guitar delivers a somewhat normal soft melody and then totally displaced by a funky bass and drums. After the funk struts its stuff for a while it becomes a weird church bell type of ambience briefly and then starts another weird guitar meets industrial synth and changes up dynamics as well as time sig breakdowns occurring. Once again. This one is all over the friggin’ map and only gets weirder and wilder creating sounds that i can’t even describe really

“Pilot 6” (3:42) at this point there’s really no meaningful use for tracks. It is imperceptible as to which track is which and ideas whiz by so quickly that no song structures exist at all although the snippets of ideas are based in a general musical genre but some things are just so experimental that their is no vernacular capable of capturing their weirdness. Funk still alternates with industrial and whatever the whim of the chicken lover has in store

“Pilot 7” (3:07) actually bursts into something new. No, it’s still weird and wild but it has dissonant guitar chords with dystopian ambient synthesizers that sound like possessed church organs. It continues changing things up often in totally unforeseen directions and continues to ratchet up the mayhem by making everything ever more alienating and jarring to the ears. Even the guitars and bass are totally in their own world only to join in together briefly in horrifying ways and then back to total musical breakdowns

“Pilot 8” (2:00) is different in that it is soft with a normal clean guitar line and freaky hyper electronica in the background. It also has a sort of funk meets industrial thing going on but changes things up often and steers the instruments in disparate directions

“Pilot 9” (2:43) is exclusively a freaky ambience track that feels more like early Klaus Schulze but a clean guitar finds its way into the lost soul department and creates a detached echoey contribution to the swirling sounds around it. A violin sound joins in and then all ends

Wow! This album is a true trip. It is one of the most wild and unexpected pieces of free style experimental rock there is to be heard. BH has done a few of these and this one is truly one for the most uninhibited musical listeners who love those rides at the amusement park that move in multiple directions while on a roller coaster. You have to be quick to stay on this BH ride or you might lose you lunch and ruin your freshly cleaned clothing. Weird for weird’s sake. Wild for wild’s most unimaginable journey. This is truly one of the most bizarre slices of avant-garde music ever. No metal on this ride but lots of funk, ambience and even the kitchen sink!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 97 - Passageways

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 97 - PASSAGEWAYS 56th album out of 60 in 2014 and 126th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 29:05 and has five tracks All tracks are titled “Passageway”

“Passageway 1” (5:24) starts out with a slow dreamy ambience and a clean guitar plucking notes slowly. Bass only joins in reluctantly after the minute mark and no percussion to be heard. A nice dreamy melody slowly unwinds. What? This is one of those super slow and sappy PIKEs. But wait. I’m actually liking this one. The melody is soft and sensual as are the synth and guitar tones. It has sort of an epic soundtrack quality to the whole thing and it isn’t ruined by out of place sounding phony drumbeats

“Passageway 2” (2:51) continues unperceptibly with the same background ambience only the guitar ratchets up the intensity a bit and a drum joins in for the uptick in speed but then drops out as it slows down and a lead guitar begins a somewhat Floydian meets Celtic Folk type of mix. Cymbals take over as percussion and all remains soft, sensual and dreamy with an addictive melody whisking my attention away. Full percussion joins in but it is done in a complementary way and works quite well. Love this

“Passageway 3” (6:50) also begins imperceptibly but changes it up with a new clean guitar line with background ambience and shortly picks up speed a little with cymbal action and bass but not too much faster, just slightly. A second guitar joins in and the two parts complement each other well as does a symphonic type of synth part. It picks up speed as the different instruments branch out their melodic parts creating a more harmonic experience. This one might go on a bit too long but it’s a rather pleasant blend of melodic developments with varying dynamics

“Passageway 4” (3:44) also begins simply by extending the previous track’s flow and then changes it up slightly to technically create a new track. This one is exactly the same in that consists of background ambience, a clean melodic guitar and then picks it up slightly to include a bass and drum. The guitar becomes more bluesy and has that semi-Floydian type of feel without hinting of any direct influence.

“Passageway 5” (10:14) also picks up right where the previous left off only whilst maintaining the guitar line, it picks up a little speed and the drums and bass are a little more pronounced and then becomes heavier than it has been the entire run of the album including electric guitar riffs as well as the solo which picks up a little distortion as well. The bass becomes more accentuated and the percussion is in the legit rock format now. The track continues the basic riff and goes on several more minutes. This is about the time the track starts becoming less interesting but just when i’m ready to give up, the guitar picks up intensity and everything else ratchets up accordingly. It

“Passageways” is the way to make one of this mellow albums good. It successfully ratchets up from a soft, sensual and ambient passage to a full fledged rock workout towards the end with each subsequent track ratcheting up the intensity a little bit more. The melodies are more pleasant than other similar PIKEs and despite this being my least favorite type of style in the PIKE series, this one works perfectly as every element is thoughtfully juxtaposed to the other and the net effect is a very pleasant listening experience. Yay!

BUCKETHEAD Pike 96 - Yarn

Album · 2014 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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BUCKETHEAD - PIKE 96 - Yarn 55th album out of 60 in 2014 and 125th overall All sounds brought to you by Buckethead and all instrumental This one clocks in at 30:15 and has three tracks “H.V.” (6:29) immediately bursts into grungy heavy alternative style metal with down-tuned guitar and beefy bass with jittery drum patterns. An energetic guitar solo comes soon after and then it slows down a bit and subdues heaviness. The melody is often supplanted by a riff stomp effect that just keeps the beat and is often not even realized until the solos come in play. Solos are usually short and trebly guitar riffs also trade off with the bass side of the equation. The groove is a tad monotonous but hypnotizing and the treble aspects are what keep it from going on too long. Not bad. Nice rhythmic grooves with touches of melodic embellishments are key points. Well constructed and heavy as bleep with some electronica surprises towards the end along with some stellar guitar performances

“Spindle 1” (13:23) begins totally different with a synthesizer creeping in slowly and turning into ambient tones sustaining and then dropping out only to be replaced by a totally heavy metal guitar riff with some electronic effects and processed vocals screams or something. The rhythms are irregular and offer some proggy time sig gymnastics. When the metal totally drops out it exposes the weird ambient electronic atmosphere that exists in the background noise. The track basically contains dreamy types of ambience that become drowned out by intermittent metal outbursts that also include some hyperactive electronic contributions. Once again the guitar performances are top notch. This one also has periods of a bouncy monotonous grooving that last a short duration and then become replaced by the opening riff or some strange avant-garde guitar displays. This one is pretty cool as well. Lots of interesting twists and turns while maintaining accessible riffs and melodies. It doesn’t even outstay its welcome because it changes things up enough and has enough recurring elements to give it some sort of continuity at least for BUCKETHEAD. The guitar shredding towards the end is dizzying

“Spindle 2” (10:23) starts with jittery heavy guitar that dances around strangely and then breaks into an energetic solo. The bass is steady as are the drums but the guitar is just plain freaked out like a spooked horse galloping through a parking lot of hissing locusts. Not as melodic as previous track. More frenetic and really frantic. The guitar shredding is just as off the hook and begins much sooner. The frenetic shredding is sometimes suppressed by an electronic industrial type of section but always comes back more feisty than ever with unbelievable finger workouts, wild off-kilter proggy time sigs and more than a taste for the avant-garde. The track keeps chugging along at full speed until the end and my fingers hurt just listening to this one. Whew!

This one i like a lot! Heavy as hell. Feisty and defiant. It’s BUCKETHEAD at his most metal magic and even the lengthy tracks don’t get old. There is a lot of interesting unexpected surprises and enough recurrence of themes to keep the listener from becoming alienated. Enough progginess to please the headier crowds and enough straight rhythmic drive to bang yer head most of the time. Another decent PIKE

DETEST DeathBreed

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"DeathBreed" is a demo cassette tape by Danish death metal act Detest. The demo was self-released in October 1992 and is the band´s first release. Detest were founded in 1991, but quickly became one of the most prolific Danish death metal acts of the early 90s. "DeathBreed" is to my knowledge still one of the best selling Danish extreme metal demo tapes. Expectations were therefore high to their debut full-length studio album "Dorval", which was released in 1994 through the Progress Red Label, but somehow "Dorval" failed to provide the band with the same high profile success as "DeathBreed" did, and after releasing a promo tape in 1995, they disbanded in 1996. Maybe times had changed (in 1994 death metal was already in decline), or maybe the quality of "Dorval" simply didn´t live up to the high expectations that the fans had after listening to "DeathBreed". Having listened to both releases back when they came out and again today, I lean towards the latter explanation. "DeathBreed" is simply a better quality release than "Dorval".

It´s not often you´ll come across demos that are better than the succeeding studio album, but "DeathBreed" is one of those few exceptions to the rule. The music on the 4 track demo is old school death metal. It´s not highly original but it doesn´t belong to any particular death metal school either (old school Swedish death metal, Florida scene, New York scene...etc.). It´s brutal, it´s catchy, it´s heavy (and mostly mid-paced) and edgy, and it´s generally very well played. Considering the fact that these guys had at this point only played together for little over a year, they were already pretty skilled and tight playing. Lead vocalist P. Jørgensen delivers a convincing deep growling performance and occasionally visits more aggressive snarling vocal territory too, which is great for the variation in the vocal department.

So both the songwriting and the delivery of the music are satisfactory, but it´s the professional, raw, and powerful sound production that puts the icing on the cake. Because of the strong sound production "DeathBreed" could easily have been released as an EP instead of a demo, and overall it´s just a high quality demo in every way possible. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is well deserved and might even be a bit too low.

DARK ANGEL Leave Scars

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.30 | 9 ratings
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"Leave Scars" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US thrash metal act Dark Angel. The album was released in January 1989 through Combat Records in the US and through Under One Flag in Europe. There have been two lineup changes since the recording sessions for "Darkness Descends (1986)" as bassist Rob Yahn has been replaced by Mike Gonzalez (the change happened immediately after the recording sessions for "Darkness Descends (1986)") and potentially a bit more disturbing lead vocalist Don Doty has been replaced by Ron Rinehart.

The latter mentioned does a great job here though, performing his vocal parts with both passion and conviction. He is a raw sounding vocalist and his voice isn´t miles away from Don Doty´s voice. Stylistically the music on "Leave Scars" more or less continues the raw and generally fast-paced thrash metal style of it´s predecessor. In the 3 years between the two albums, Dark Angel have become a bit more compositionally sophisticated though. The lyrics have more depth (mostly written by drummer Gene Hoglan), than on the predecessor and the tracks are generally longer (5 out of 9 tracks are longer than 7 minutes in length) and feature more different riff sections, more guitar solos, and are structurally more complex.

In a lot of positive ways "Leave Scars" is the natural successor to "Darkness Descends (1986)", but not everything are pure bliss on "Leave Scars". First of all the sound production lacks power. The guitars are too low in the mix and the drums often drown in the mix when they play faster parts. The bass drums also have a thumb sound to them that doesn´t bring much power to the music. It´s too bad because it´s obvious that "Leave Scars" features about a million powerful, fast-paced, and edgy thrash metal riffs and some really great drumming by Gene Hoglan, that deserve better. Fortunately the voice production is decent. Another issue is that while the riffs on the album are generally of high quality and nicely aggressive too, some of the tracks feel too long and tedious as a consequence of them featuring too many sections. Especially the 7:20 minutes long instrumental "Cauterization" is a bit of a snore fest. Although pretty short, Dark Angel´s take on the Led Zeppelin classic "Immigrant Song" is also a bit of a showstopper as it doesn´t work well for the overall flow of the album and isolated seen it´s just not a very good cover version.

On the positive side tracks like the opening trio "The Death of Innocence", "Never to Rise Again", and "No One Answers" are aggressive thrash metal tunes delivered with fierce conviction, that fully showcase what Dark Angel were capable of in those years. To be honest I´m a bit biased towards "Leave Scars", because on one hand it´s an album full of the metal virtues I love like fast-paced thrash metal riffing, technical/powerful drumming, and aggressive vocals, but on the other hand it has a tendency to occasionally become a bit overblown and tedious and the muddy sound production doesn´t exactly do the music any favours either. So as much as I would like to rate "Leave Scars" higher, I can´t give more than a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

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