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QUEENSRŸCHE Condition Hüman

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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With their previous album, the self-titled one, American Progressive Metal band Queensrÿche had the eyes of the world on them due to the much publicized split with Geoff Tate and the existence of two competing Queensrÿches. There was the intrigue of a new singer, and the “they’ve gone back to their Metal roots” tagline to get everyone’s attention. Luckily, It was a brilliant album, but people would’ve been paying attention anyway. In 2015, with all the dust settled, and no more special taglines, the band have to sink or swim solely on the merits of the music.

Like their previous self-titled effort, Condition Hüman was crowdfunded, and if like me you pledged I’m sure you’ll already be very familiar with the first three tracks which the band let you download while you waited for the full album to be released. As it turns out, these three tracks are actually a pretty fair cross-section of the album proper and display the different moods explored on the record quite adequately. Opening with ‘Arrow Of Time’ which is now firmly in the band’s live setlists, the band show off their Heavy Metal roots, going for a “remember, we wrote ‘Queen Of The Ryche’ and ‘The Needle Lies’ too you know!” sort of feel. Promotional single ‘Guardian’ is next which I would say is the average sound of the album overall, so go out and listen to the song and watch the video because I think it is a pretty clear indication of what you can expect from the band nowadays. Then comes the slower, darker, less conventional ‘Hellfire’ which explores the progressive side of the band – never going so far as to have a 7-minute keyboard solo or songs about flowers developing split personalities in space, but certainly finds the Seattle group putting more thought into structuring, dynamics and unusual ideas than your average bread and butter Heavy Metal bands would. It wouldn’t feel too out of place on Promised Land beside ‘Damaged’ or even Hear In The Now Frontier beside ‘Hit The Black’ at a push but there’s a more modern feel too it… making it feel more like a logical successor to the type of music the band were writing on Operation Mindcrime II (an underrated album in my opinion).

The band do explore more of their overall discography on this one, which feels fair to me. It was unquestionably good to go back to the EP-Empire days, but it would also be a shame to outright ignore the best parts of what came afterwards and keep an artificial boundary in place forever. This album seems to be a reconciling of the previous Todd-fronted album with the post-Empire material to excellent effect; ‘Selfish Lies’ for example sounds at first like a bit the Tribe album, then goes a bit Empire-esque towards the end once the delicious album-highlight guitar solo comes in. ‘Eye9’ opens with a nice Tool-esque bassline and heavily processed vocals that reminds me of a mixture between ‘I Am I’ and ‘The Hostage’ from previous releases, but the song takes so many twists and turns in its duration it crosses all sorts of territory from American Soldier to Rage For Order, and when the (also album highlight) guitar solo came on for the first time it made my already high estimation of the song double or even triple (the lead guitar on this album is simply joyous!). Most surprising of all, ‘Just Us’ is an acoustic-flavoured, jangly Alternative Rock song that wouldn’t be out of place on either Hear In The Now Frontier or Q2K and even though the thought of that is off-putting to a lot of the fanbase, well, the rejuvenated band show us how good it can be, (and hey, when you’ve not got a full album of it, it works as a nice contrast) injecting an almost Houses Of The Holy feel into the proceedings and elevating it to something special.

The album lasts twelve tracks long, (with one of those just being an intro for the final song), and clocks in at 54 minutes, which is a lot more substantial than the trim and cheerful album which the Todd-lineup debuted with. Not only is it in the addition of more tracks that this extra length manifests itself, but the individual tracks themselves are all a little longer…the previous record’s tracks all lasted between two-and-a-half to four minutes in length and this album sees that average shift to something like between four and five, with the final track lasting almost eight. What you get for your extra invested time isn’t simple repetition or wasted time or filler… you get extra guitar solos, more thoughtful and sophisticated song writing and the ability to work in slower tempos alongside the fist-pumping Metal. You could make an argument that it isn’t as lean and focused, but you could also make the argument that there’s more depth.

Yes… my two favourite songs are predictably ‘Arrow Of Time’ and ‘All There Was,’ (which just happen to be the two most traditional songs on the record and the closest that the album comes to Speed Metal because I’m dreadfully predictable) but the band’s experimentation here is a profound success… with the record’s most progressive moment, the album-closing Title Track being not only one of the best songs on the album but one of the best songs the band have written in years and years, ending on an almost Voivod note and showing the guys still aren’t afraid to try new things.

All the background history and discography comparisons certainly get you to adjust your expectations, to guess what type of music might be here and get you interested in talking about it… but its all for nothing unfortunately, if the actual music is cack. Well, to put your mind at ease, it isn’t cack. Not by a long shot… stick on ‘Hourglass’ and just drink in those vocals, stick on one of the aforementioned guitar solos and bathe in the whip’s distinctive playing, pay close attention to the drum fills and hi-hat teasing from the unique and enjoyable Scott Rockenfield (in my opinion, one of the most important things in separating Queensrÿche from their peers). Yes, the musicianship is out of this world, with the same renewed passion and energy as the last album but more time to show off in! On top of that, the production job is better, with a more satisfying, less harsh sound and a clearer more balanced mix.

Overall; Condition Hüman was a surprise to me, but a really welcome one. I love the Todd line-up and I’ve loved their previous album so much that I still can’t stop listening to it ahead of numerous other classic releases, so when this record abandoned the formula slightly it could’ve been a bad move for this particular listener… but hey, the whole point of Queensrÿche was that they evolve between every album, never sounding the same twice. This album is not only another evolution, but a reaffirmation of everything that worked with every era of the band’s prestigious history, and its an album I’ll be listening to for a long time to come. Get yourself a copy without delay!

NILE What Should Not be Unearthed

Album · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 3 ratings
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What Should Not Be Unearthed is the first album from USA technical death metal band Nile since 2012’s At The Gate Of Sethu. Guitarist/vocalist Karl Sanders said on the band website before release that on the new album the goal was for sheer epic brutality with an emphasis on the riffing. Well I’d say that pretty much any Nile album is sheer epic brutality but I can see where he’s coming from as they’ve come up with some of the best riffs of their career.

Fans of the band need not worry – perhaps there is an emphasis on writing strong songs over technique for techniques sake but What Should Not Be Unearthed is clearly another album in the great Nile tradition with shredding a plenty, the Egyptian themes, complex arrangements with awesome musicianship with incredible speed and dexterity from all. George Kollias’s drumming is as jaw dropping as ever, clearly evident from the off as opener Call To Destruction kicks in with typical Nile speed and brutality. This man is the finest death metal drummer ever in my opinion and he’s up against some pretty stiff competition. Equally impressive is the guitar work of Karl Sanders and Dallas Toler-Wade who hold true to the promise of strong riffs without sacrificing anything of the technique they’re famous for. It’s difficult to imagine that Nile could get any heavier but these songs suggest they’ve excelled themselves in this area, perhaps due to riffs being more memorable and getting under the skin easier than At The Gate Of Sethu, which fine album that it was suffered from a thin production with a bit of style over substance at times – certainly in comparison to Those Whom The Gods Detest, their previous album.

Like all great albums the strength lies in overall consistency making it difficult to pick out favourites but it doesn’t get any better than the incredible title track for sheer speed, heaviness and incendiary riffing. It always good to hear them slow down at times, which they do now and again, which only helps to emphasize the heaviness.

Those Whom The Gods detest was my favourite Nile album which for me encapsulated everything great about Nile. It’s early days and I don’t want to jump the gun but What Should Not Be Unearthed may even overtake it being a flawless piece of work. I said in a recent review of the new Sulphur Aeon album that the only death metal album I thought could surpass it this year was this one. Seems I may be right.

GRAVE DIGGER Exhumation - The Early Years

Album · 2015 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Exhumation - The Early Years (2015) is a re-recordings release by German heavy/power metal act Grave Digger. It collects songs from the band's original period of activity in the 1980's, before their split and later reunion. They released three albums as Grave Digger in that time and a fourth one after shortening their name to Digger. It's from the three Grave Digger releases that the track list of Exhumation is largely taken; Heavy Metal Breakdown (1984), Witch Hunter (1985) and War Games (1986), though there is also one song from the EP Shoot Her Down! (1984) and one from the Digger album, Stronger Than Ever (1986) included on the album. As bonus tracks the band have also recorded two new songs - unfortunately absent from my promo copy of the album - as a teaser for their next full-length studio album, due in 2016.

It doesn't take a genius to work out that re-recordings albums can be a very hit and miss thing. They invite questions too. Was there something so wrong with the original recordings that re-recordings had to be done instead of re-mastering them? Well, I have to admit that none of the early releases will ever be my personal favourite from the band, but I have been really digging Heavy Metal Breakdown recently. But I was hopeful about Exhumation when it was first announced, definitely. Has the band changed sound so much that the old songs need an update? Well, yes, Grave Digger did change sound when they got back together. They changed to a more power metal orientated sound compared to the traditional heavy metal with speed metal influences of the original recordings. Older Grave Digger songs updated to the current power metal sound definitely sounds appealing to me, so yeah, sign me up for that!

And that's exactly what Grave Digger don't deliver on Exhumation. Yep, you read that right, they don't bring these old songs up to date in any way so the first thing I have to wonder about the album is what the point was supposed to be? A bit of celebratory backslapping perhaps? Maybe frontman Chris Boltendahl (the only constant member between the originals and Exhumation) has earned that, but aside from the tracks Shoot Her Down and Stand Up and Rock, which some Grave Digger fans may not have heard due to being from an EP and the Digger album, I don't think that Exhumation is offering up overly much to the band's fans, a group I most definitely include myself among. The songs aren't even definitive versions in my view, in fact some seem to be distinctly lesser versions of the originals, as if the band were performing at half power. The energy of the songs from the Heavy Metal Breakdown album is distinctly stronger on the originals in particular. And quite frankly, since a vocalist's voice can change over the years especially in terms of power I don't find Boltendahl's vocals here on par with his younger self. I still like him on the band's newer material, in fact their last album Return of the Reaper (2014) was their best album in years and he still kicks arse on that, but Exhumation only serves to show his age. This isn't a criticism, it's natural part of life after all, but why do something that really highlights it? Return of the Reaper showed that Grave Digger are still a force to be reckoned with on the German heavy/power metal scene. Exhumation, sadly, makes the band sound as if they might be getting passed it, which I'm sure isn't actually true.

Re-recordings albums can be a really good thing for a band. I love, for example, Running Wild's The First Years of Piracy (1991) and consider it to be one of their most essential releases, but Exhumation - The Early Years marks the first time I've actually been really disappointed by a Grave Digger album. As a compilation it isn't a bad representation of their early years, but it does seem a rather pointless one. The versions represented here are either on par with the originals at best and lesser versions at worst, with the one exception being the Digger song Stand Up and Rock, which I find superior. As such Exhumation - The Early Years is the most fans only release that the band has ever put out, and as a fan myself I'd still think twice about buying it. This one really is for the total completionist. Since the Digger track is the best new version a more fruitful exercise would have been to completely re-record Stronger Than Ever, as opposed to what they've put out here, which only serves to prove that old songs can in fact sometimes be left well alone. As for a rating I'm going to go with 2.5 stars.


Album · 2015 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Dependable as always, the American Heavy Metal band Five Finger Death Punch return in 2015 with their sixth full-length studio album, Got Your Six, showing no signs of fatigue, letting-up or diminishing returns. The band have released another barn-storming collection of stompy, groovy, catchy melodic Metal equally as high in quality as the best of their existing discography to date. Five Finger Death Punch are the kind of slow-evolution band that don’t mess with their formula too much, if you liked their previous albums then you’ll love this because its pretty similar sounding, but with enough of a twist that it doesn’t get boring. Its not suddenly a jazz record or a dubstep album, but that doesn’t mean you’ve heard it all before.

The production job by Kevin Churko is excellent as usual, the man just gets this band and how they should sound. The musicianship is strong, with the lead guitars better than ever, singer Ivan Moody stretching himself and exploring new vocal ground, and the rhythm section delivering the same kind of powerful post-Pantera stomp the band is known for. Performance-wise this record is one of their most intense and exciting performances since their debut album, there’s a renewed enthusiasm and a bit of a harder edge than the last two or three records… its just got a little bit more of an umph.

Highlights include the excellent and varied Title Track, as well as the fun and fast-paced ‘No Sudden Movements’ which has a different feel than you’ve heard from the band before, as well as the very fun ‘Boots And Blood’ which is honestly one of my favourite songs the band have come up with to date. There’s also a fun little acoustic guitar solo in the middle of ‘Question Everything’ which is a delightful surprise and makes it stand out on the album.

Sure, the artwork is cheesy and the lyrics are adolescent (even I can’t defend them), but when the music is this good, the songs are this catchy and it sounds like a million bucks… who really cares? This is a damn strong, damn entertaining and completely reliable band, and Got Your Six is among the best of their output to date. If you hate them on principle it won’t change your mind, but existing fans need not hesitate for a moment – Got Your Six is excellent and worth a place in your collection without question.

If you can, try and get yourself a copy of the edition with bonus tracks by the way, because for my money, the bonus tracks are even better than the majority of the album… more in the direction of The Way Of The Fist; ‘You’re Not My Kind’ in particular is an excellent song and one that draws my attention. If there’s a negligible price difference, opt for that version.


Album · 2015 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.44 | 3 ratings
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"Genexus" is the 9th full-length studio album by US metal act Fear Factory. The album was released through Nuclear Blast America in August 2015. It´s the successor to "The Industrialist" from 2012, which was an album that received a lot of flak because of the use of drum programming istead of a human drummer. On "Genexus" the two main men behind the band Burton C. Bell (vocals) and Dino Cazares (guitar, bass) have brought in Mike Heller (Malignancy, System Divide, Azure Emote) to play the drums. Except on "Soul Hacker", which features Deen Castronovo (Journey) on drums.

Stylistically the music on the album is a combination of elements from a select cast of their previous releases. At various points during the playing time of the 10 track, 47:54 minutes long album (the digipack features 2 bonus tracks) I hear elements or parts that remind me of "Demanufacture (1995)", "Obsolete (1998)", or "Digimortal (2001)". It´s always hard to describe and define Fear Factory´s sound, but I´d call it a combination of death, thrash, groove, and industrial metal with a cold futuristic sci-fi atmosphere (also evident from the cover artwork and the lyrics). The vocals by Burton C. Bell are both aggressive semi-growling and clean. His cleans aren´t really that skillfully delivered (his range is very limited, and his melodies are therefore often similiar sounding and a bit monotone), but what he lacks in skills, he compensates for by having a unique singing style. You decide if that´s a positive or a negative. The riffs and rhythms are razor sharp and delivered with militant precision, while atmosphere is often provided by keyboards/samples placed in the back of the soundscape.

The material is well written, and quite catchy. "Soul Hacker" is probably the track which stands out the most (along with the closing atmospheric "Expiration Date"), because it relies more on heavy groove laden riffs and rhythms rather than on faster start/stop precision ditto.

"Genexus" is a self-produced effort, and Bell and Cazares have along with co-producer Rhys Fulber created the right cold, sharp, and futuristic sound for the music. So "Genexus" is yet another quality release by Fear Factory, but that´s really no surprise given the release history of the band. It may have been a bit up and down over the years, but their releases have always featured a basic high quality level and a distinct sound, which have carried them through, even when they weren´t at their most inspired. I´d place "Genexus" among their better releases, but not among their best. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

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Album · 2006 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
INTRONAUT is an extreme metal band from Los Angeles that formed in 2004 when former members of Anubis Rising, Exhumed, Uphill Battle and Impaled coalesced their respected talents into a new musical entity. The result is that INTRONAUT is one of those amazing technical adept bands that has done what few bands successfully pull off, that is take different aspects of music and fuse them together to make a cohesive whole resulting in a seemingly new species in the process. VOID is their debut full-length release after their EP “Null.” INTRONAUT chose its name to describe the inner traveler that encourages the listener to explore the inner mind and creates music that is both contemplative and designed to stimulate the listener’s technical leanings simultaneously. INTRONAUT has created sounds familiar yet somehow different by fusing together aspects of the death, sludge and post aspects of metal all the while steering it into progressive territory that rewards the demanding listener multifold.

Even upon first listen, this album struck me as a progressive extreme metal band that blurred the lines of various types of metal. VOID begins sounding a lot like a Kayo Dot album especially the dissonant chord jangles of “Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue,” but this is just a misleading intro as the music soon becomes aggressive and technical with deathened, tortured vocals that are scary enough to even separate a mother grizzly bear from her defenseless newborn cubs. Although there are a few different sounds going on on VOID, i find the general metal sound to be a kind of hybrid between the tech death of Gorguts with the progressive sludge of Neurosis but the Kayo Dot sound of some kind of alternate tuning system does ring true as well. The vocals are definitely in the death metal camp but the aggressive guitars and bass are clearly going for the sludge metal effect that can immediately bring The Ocean to mind. This is however dressed up in some of the most complex time signatures, jazzy drumming patterns and progressive polyrhythmic weavings that can remind one of compositions by more sophisticated bands like Cynic, Atheist or the aforementioned Kayo Dot.

This is not music for the faint at heart. This is hardcore music in every way showing no mercy with relentless pummeling angular rhythms, highly dissonant jangling of the strings (Sacha Dunable and Leon del Muerte on guitars with Joe Lester on bass) and an energetic, yet perpetually stimulating percussion (by Danny Walker) and vocals that would drive the insane to commit unthinkable crimes like run for political office in the USA. This is music that takes a few listens to sink in. Upon first encounter it will sound totally bizarre and off but the flow of the compositions actually makes sense once you can wrap your head around the whole thing. It is not as alienating as Gorguts’ “Obscura” but a bit harder swallow than any of Neurosis’ albums.

While not as accomplished in the perfection department as the stunning followup “Prehistoricisms” this debut album has more than enough intricacies and surprises to please the intellectual metalhead who lives for twists and turns that not only shock and surprise but also provide a smorgasbord of different hooks and dissonant melodies that can be deciphered. This is an excellent debut from INTRONAUT. If you already love Neurosis,The Ocean or Gorguts and want to take that arena of sludgy deathened metal even further then INTRONAUT will satisfy all those desires and no better place to get your feet wet than with their debut VOID. INTRONAUT is a totally under the radar band that IMHO deserves a whole lot more recognition because their talent is immeasurable. An acquired taste for sure, but one that i personally have acquired and savored ever since.

KISS Destroyer

Album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.95 | 35 ratings
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This is the album that changed my life.

I remember back in 1999, at the age of 12, I was watching a World Championship Wrestling show, when they had Kiss perform live. At the time I had never heard of Kiss, or listened to any rock music for that matter, but what I heard that night changed me forever.

Random fact: This was WCW's lowest-rated segment ever. I guess wrestling fans in 1999 just weren't into Kiss.

After falling in love with the song ‘God of Thunder’, I set out to buy my first Kiss album. I remember after I bought it seeing my parents shock at what I’d purchased, and them ‘warning me’ about it. "Oh, I don’t think you’ll like that, that’s rock music, very heavy stuff". Feeling slightly embarrassed I shrugged it off, claiming how much I loved Kiss, even though I only knew one of their songs. I was feeling sillier and sillier with each moment.

Thankfully my parent’s concerns were wasted, as I instantly fell in love with the album; ‘Destroyer’.

Before hearing this record the only music I was exposed to was whatever mainstream pop was on the radio. ‘Destroyer’ opened me up to the heavier side of music, and eventually led me to finding some of my favorite bands such as Dream Theater, Symphony X and Savatage. I sometimes wonder what I could be listening to right now if I had never come across this little gem. Or if I'd even be as passionate about music as I am.

As for the music itself, well, it’s a Kiss album. What do you expect? It's radio-friendly(ish) rock music covering all the cliché topics: partying, women, sex, partying, drugs and partying. It's all there. And if you're new to Kiss, you may as well start off with one of their best albums, with tracks such as ‘God of Thunder’, ‘Shout It Out Loud’ and ‘Beth’ being firm crowd pleasers. And then there is also possibly the greatest Kiss song of them all, ‘Detroit Rock City’.

Overall these songs are all great rockers from "back in the day", but since my musical taste has moved on greatly since the time I was first exposed to this band, it is mostly nostalgia that prevents these songs from dropping off my musical radar. I give this album a good four stars, but the fact that this was such a life-changer for me may have something to do with it.

And hey, we all have our guilty pleasures, right?

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OYSTERHEAD The Grand Pecking Order

Album · 2001 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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A line that I like very much from Oysterhead is from the title track of their album: "When all else has been done and said / here comes Mr. Oysterhead." I feel like this line really speaks to what Oysterhead really achieves here. It is quite different because of the very wide variety of musicians that perform.

The album in question is none other than The Grand Pecking Order, the only album by the super-group Oysterhead, from 2001. It's an interesting experience to hear hear Les Claypool sing with lyrics that belong in a Phish song (a band who is fantastic at creating inane lyrics), and that alone would be enough strangeness if it weren't for the fact that Les inputted alot as well. In all parts the album is surreal, funky, humorous, and everything in between. There's a healthy amount of tracks so a thorough experience is guaranteed. I'll quit my short-lived and tired ramblings now so you can go check these guys out. To think of it, that's a perfect analogy for the music, except these are much more structured then a blabbering sleep deprivated moron such as myself.

Hope you liked this out-of-the-ordinary review.

STONED JESUS Seven Thunders Roar

Album · 2012 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.95 | 3 ratings
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"Seven Thunders Roar" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Ukranian stoner/doom metal act Stoned Jesus. The album was released through Moon Records in March 2012. Stoned Jesus was formed in 2009 and released a couple of demos before recording their debut full-length release "First Communion (2010)". The lineup features (among others) singer/guitarist Igor Sidorenko who is also known for his work with Arlekin, Voida, Snakerider, and Krobak.

The music on "Seven Thunders Roar" is a combination of psychadelic rock and stoner/doom metal with the occasional touch of progressive rock. It´s a fairly diverse take on the stoner/doom metal style, which ensures that "Seven Thunders Roar" is an interesting listen throughout. To some there might be a minor issue with stylistic consistency though, but to the more adventurous listener who don´t mind eclectic music, that may not be an issue at all. In fact it might even be a strength. The Black Sabbath influence which was very dominant on "First Communion (2010)" is slightly less prominent on "Seven Thunders Roar". It´s still there and occasionally the worship factor is a bit too high (like the case is with many stoner/doom metal acts), but it´s obvious that Stoned Jesus have worked hard on creating a more personal sound on this release, and they are relatively successful at that.

As mentioned the material on the 5 track, 47:57 minutes long album, is relatively varied for the genre. The opener "Bright Like The Morning" features a lot of psychadelic tinged jamming, "Electric Mistress" is crushingly heavy and doomy (and at times reminds me of something written by Electric Wizard), "Indian" is short, catchy, and groove laden, the 16:04 minutes long "I'm The Mountain" is progressive and goes through many sections and moods, and "Stormy Monday" is heavy, atmospheric, and melancholic. To my ears one of the greatest strengths of the material is the adventurous song structures, which aren´t necessarily linear or vers/chorus structured (at least not in a conventional way).

"Seven Thunders Roar" features a well sounding organic production, which suits the music well. The band also play with an organic touch, which means the music is performed with the right authenticity. Lead vocalist Igor Sidorenko has developed his vocals greatly since the debut, and while there is still a whiff of Ozzy here and there, the vocals are generally delivered in a relatively personal style. So upon conclusion "Seven Thunders Roar" is a step up from the otherwise pretty good debut album, and while there are still places where there are room for improvement, this is a good quality release and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

HEXX Morbid Reality

Album · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Morbid Reality" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, San Francisco, California based death metal act Hexx. The album was released through Century Media Records in November 1991. Hexx existed from 1983 to 1995 and released three full-length studio albums in that period. They developed their sound greatly over the years, starting out playing power/thrash/heavy metal and ending in death/thrash metal territory.

The 5 years between "Under the Spell (1986)" and "Morbid Reality" have been spend working on changing the band´s original power/heavy metal style to a technical death/thrash metal style, but the change didn´t occur overnight. Hexx released the two EPs "Quest for Sanity (1988)" and "Watery Graves (1990)" to bridge the gap between the two full-length studio albums, but also to prepare the band´s listeners for their new death/thrash metal sound. Both EPs feature a raw and aggressive thrash metal sound that with occasional nods toward death metal. Since "Under the Spell (1986)" there have been a couple of lineup changes as guitarist Clint Bower has taken over the vocal duties in addition to playing guitars. He replaces lead vocalist Dan Bryant. Drummer Dave Schmidt has also jumped ship and has been replaced by John Shafer. The new lineup also recorded the two preceeding EPs.

Stylistically "Morbid Reality" is not a pure death- or thrash metal album but more a hybrid technical death/thrash metal type release. Albums like "Piece of Time (1989)" by Atheist and "Syzygial Miscreancy (1990)" by Hellwitch are valid references, but an act like Sadus also comes to mind several times during the playing time. The playing is fast, technical, and raw, and the compositions are relatively adventurous even though catchy riffing and fierce aggression are always in the high seat. The 40:30 minutes long album features 8 tracks. Only 7 out of the 8 tracks are new compositions though as the title track from the "Watery Graves (1990)" EP has been re-recorded and included on "Morbid Reality". A good choice actually as the re-recorded and more death metal tinged version is one of catchy highlights of the album.

Compositionally the album is relatively diverse and in addition to the more "regular" death/thrash metal tracks, Hexx manage to make a few excursions into other territories. A piano intro, a couple of traditional heavy metal parts, and the instrumental stoner metal tinged closing track "Spider Jam", are some of the elements that are a bit "off" on "Morbid Reality". It shows a band with the guts to experiment and that´s always praise worthy even though I´m not entirely sure if I think those elements are good for the overall flow and consistency of the album.

The sound production is raw and powerful. A sound that suits the equally raw and powerful music well. So there are many positive things to say about "Morbid Reality", and it´s definitely too bad Hexx didn´t get a chance to follow it up with a successor in their initial run. It´s not a flawless release by any means, but there´s something undeniably charming about the rawness and boldness of it all and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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