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BEHEMOTH The Satanist

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 9 ratings
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UMUR
"The Satanist" is the 10th full-length studio album by Polish death metal act Behemoth. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2014. It´s been a few years since the release of "Evangelion (2009)" (the longest recording break between studio albums in the band´s career up until then), but the recording break has been due to frontman/guitarist Nergal´s leukemia diagnose, subsequent treatment of the disease, and a longer recovery period. Nergal´s strong will and determination made him soldier on and even tour during his recovery period, even though he has stated in interviews, that some periods and shows were hard to get through. It´s a perfect example of the kind of character Nergal is though. A man with a burning passion for his music, determined to bring that music to his fans, even during a period in his life, where he wasn´t at his strongest.

While a life threatening desease will probably leave most people paralyzed with fear and not able to focus on work, the experience seems to have fueled Nergal´s songwriting batteries, because "The Satanist" is among the most varied and strongest albums in Behemoth´s discography. Like the case is with most of the band´s output, "The Satanist" requires a couple of spins to sink in and upon repeated listens a wealth of details unfold. While the music on the album is still at it´s core technically well played death metal, there are so many layers of cleverly composed choirs and keyboards incorporated to that core death metal style, that "The Satanist" ultimately comes off as quite the adventurous and challenging death metal album. The two tracks that bookend the album are some of the best examples of how much Behemoth have developed their style and how well they incorporate symphonic elements, dark atmospheres, variation and brutality into one powerful package. "Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel" is a strong and varied album opener, while "O Father O Satan O Sun!" is among the most epic sounding tracks yet released by Behemoth. During the album we´re also presented with more aggressive and brutal death metal tracks, so "The Satanist" really is a varied death metal release. The tempos vary from heavy mid-paced grooves to blast beats and occasionally slower epic styled paces.

The sound production is slightly less polished than the case have been on the two direct predecessors, but it´s still in the more clear end of the sound production scale. It´s overall a very detailed, powerful and well sounding production, which suits the music well. The band are as always technically well playing with Nergal´s commanding growls in front. It´s the high quality of the songwriting that´s the real asset here though and what sets "The Satanist" apart from other less memorable releases by Behemoth. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

WITHIN TEMPTATION Hydra

Album · 2014 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 4.06 | 8 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
Within Temptation are a band I see as a bit of a guilty pleasure. I admit that albums like “Mother Earth” and “The Silent Force” are pretty much modern metal classics, but their more recent albums did have me wondering about the direction these guys are going in. The bands last album “The Unforgiven” was a mad concept album full of pretty interesting compositions, but at times songs that wouldn't go amiss on Eurovision. So on this album, the band have decided to kind of do something a little different.

Sound wise, the band have named their album “Hydra” in order to describe the multiple styles and genres that the band have covered over their long spanning career. So expect flourishes of older stuff emerging, including gruntal vocals and newer influences. The best way I can describe this album is that it is rather cheesy. But a good type of cheese. It belongs to a genre of music that I like to call fist (a genre made for putting your fist in the air and shaking it...like a polaroid picture).

For the past few years the band seemed to have gained a weird fetish for covering up to date pop songs. Now don't get me wrong, I do like a good metal cover of a pop song now and then, but there is a certain moment whenever hobby becomes obsession. So, surprise surprise there is a bonus disc on the special edition of this album containing a few covers. Now it is obvious that this new found hobby has influenced their sound. At the moment I'm saying it's a positive thing, but familiarity can breed contempt...

The opening track “Let It Burn” has to be one of their best songs in a long time. Powerful and anthemic, it is a perfect opening to the album with some pretty impressive vocals from Sharon.

The album's first single “Dangerous” is definitely a highlight on the album. Featuring vocals from Howard Jones (ex Killswitch Engage), the song is heightened by the combination of powerful male and female vocals. A killer riff throughout and pretty damn catchy too.

One of the album's most controversial moments on the album has to be found on the track “And I Run.” Mixing metal and rap with the help of Xzibit, the song is actually very enjoyable and flows very well with the mixture of 2 styles. To all the 'haters' of this song, don't fret, this has been done before.

The album's second single “Paradise (What About Us)” is another mammoth pop tune, showing off the bands original symphonic style with the help from Tarja (ex Nightwish) on guest vocals. Pretty catchy chorus and some pretty powerful vocals, the song is another powerful pop tune.

One of my persona favourite tracks on the album has to be “Silver Moonlight.” Taking a rather Celtic sounding musical approach and mixing grunts which haven't been heard since their first album, it really is something different for these guys, and a good little departure from the tone of the rest of the album.

One song that I really disliked on this album was “Dog Days.” Very repetitive, very annoying and pretty much a filler generic moment. Luckily this is the only real weak moment on the album.

The album's closing track “Whole World Is Watching” is cheesy as hell...but pretty damn great. Featuring guest vocals from Dave Pirner from from Soul Asylum, this song could easily be a Bon Jovi ballad.. But...Within Temptation bring this song to brilliant cheesy justice.

In conclusion, I have to say that I surprisingly really enjoyed this album. I do admit that the band's change to a more poppier sound does have their songs sounding rather cheesy, but I am a fan of the cheese now and then. For metal purists, this may be a bit too poppy for your liking, but for people like me who dreamed to have been born in the 80's, this is pretty much greatness for me.

8/10

ANUBIS GATE Horizons

Album · 2014 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 2 ratings
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Dougie
'Destined to Remember' starts the show off with a familiar edge for any of those that have been following the band's releases until now. In 2013, the band released a free digital EP whose centerpiece was an amped up version of Pink Floyd's 'Sheep'. This version of 'Destined to Remember' is a little different to what we were dealt up on the freebie, however in a more enjoyable way to these picky ears.

The band touch on some great melodic heights and have some beautiful ear candy that helps keep the album fresh compared to their corollaries with some lush acoustic sections that remain fresh at all times. The production team of Kim Olesen and Jacob Hansen is strong and commanding with a reasonable amount of dynamics. I initially became aware of their work on label leader Lance King's 2011 'A Moment in Chiros'. I was thoroughly impressed and the depth of the soundstage and the ethereal layers which are omnipresent on this album, although unfortunately not as well executed.

The band's performances shine on all tracks with a particular highlight to the intriguing keyboard layers. I do feel as though I want to like the sound more than I do as I feel especially vocalist/bassist Henrik Fevre's vocal is honest and competent but something about it just does not grab me which is confronting as I feel much of the instrumentation grabs me in a visceral way in many moments scattered across the album but it's few and far between that I feel the whole band explodes with groundshaking importance in a way that I always look for in releases. It's actually hard for me to believe the difference it makes when Henrik is singing softer sections as opposed to the more traditional metal vocals. He is really on the money and we definitely hear that in the 14 minute monster 'Dream Within a Dream' and the closing track which shows a vulnerable and tender side and is both a puzzling and satisfying closure to the album.

Progressive Music in general has many a promising release scheduled for this year and 'Horizons' is no exception to the mega-hyped anticipation that many prospering bands have been seeing such as Opeth and Teramaze. In some ways perhaps the hype had artificially raised my expectations of the release, and I have to admit I have not been the greatest follower of Anubis Gate's previous output with the exception of 'Andromeda Unchained' which I actually found to be a shining star of quality in the band's back catalogue. Horizons has caught my attention and changed some of my disposition towards the band, however I have to admit - I have not been fully captured. Whilst I see what many others are seeing in the band, the release does not connect me on the emotional level that I need to be completely transported to another dimension and height of auditory pleasure. A solid effort with some moments of greatness and some that don't quite hit the mark for me.

7.5/10.

TRANSATLANTIC Kaleidoscope

Album · 2014 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.25 | 4 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
The return of the international prog super group is back! And it's pretty much business as usual.

One their last album “The Whirlwind”, the band did the unthinkable and crafted a near 80 minute song with interweaving parts throughout. While this ended up as being the bands most successful release to date, I felt that the album was maybe just a tad overwhelming. Now don't get me wrong, I love mad prog epics more than the next guy...but maybe 79 minute songs are pushing it a little bit.

So...after the drama of Mike Portnoy's departure from Dream Theater had toned down, him and the rest of the guys (who avoid drama at the best of times) decided to finally bite the bullet after their big comeback in 2009 and finally release a follow up to the critically acclaimed “The Whirlwind.”

I have to say, at times this album did surprise me at times. After hearing a thousand copycat nostalgia prog bands doing re hashes of old Genesis material, it was a breath of fresh air to see Transatlantic doing something different. Now, this being their 4th release in 15 years, a similar pattern is emerging and certain generic traits are noticeable, but as entertainment showing off incredible virtuoustic talent, this pretty much hits the nail on the head. Musically the band haven't changed too much, but odd flourishes do grab my interest now and then. I also like how the shared vocal duties of the band have been more equally this time (with Neal mainly taking the reins most of the time on earlier releases). Now...Mike and Pete don't have the best voices, especially when compared with Neal and Roine, but there are moments on this album where they can suprise you.

The opening 25 minute opus “Into The Blue” is probably the album's strongest moment. Taking a more sinister feeling to their sound, it shows off a different side to the bands songwriting. The highlight on the song for me was on the section “Written In Your Heart” with guest vocalist and touring member Daniel Gildenlöw (who currently is unwell due to picking up a bacterial infection) providing some beautiful vocals.

The album's lead single “Shine” is a very nice country influenced ballad with some nice vocal harmonies throughout. The main attraction has to be Roine's ripping guitar solo in the mid section of the song.

One of the more enjoyable moments on the album is on the track “Black As The Sky.” A more upbeat rock infused song, the songs biggest highlight comes in the chorus showing of the bands use of four part harmony.

The weakest moment on the album has to be the albums title track, which clocks in at near 32 minutes. While it is still pretty enjoyable, it does drag on a bit at parts and is a rather lengthy affair. Other than that, it still does have some pretty great prog infused moments.

In conclusion, it's pretty much what you expect. I will admit that this album is better than their previous effort “The Whirlwind” it still doesn't match up to their magnum opus “Bridge Across Forever.” Still a highly enjoyable album with enough prog touches to entertain anyone into nostalgic prog and newer prog sounds.

8.2/10

SONATA ARCTICA Pariah's Child

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.93 | 2 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
Sonata Arctica have a been a band I have admired for a very long time. During a period of power metal popularity, these guys where very much in the background doing their own thing. The band have very much gained a cult following over these past few years with no real mass popularity.

The band's consistency in material has been all over the place in the past few years. Since 2007s very dark “Unia”, the band have had a rather confusing string of albums. While their past few albums have been interesting listens, it does almost sound like the band have had an identity crisis (could be due to the bands ever changing line up).

Apparently according to the band, this album is supposed to be the follow up to “Reckoning Night” (my personal favourite Sonata album) and it is noticeable. Now this statement is a bit of a stretch, with obvious sounds from “The Days Of Greys” and “Stones Grow Her Name”, but it is one of the most recent Sonata albums which bode well to their original sound.

One of the bands biggest attractions has to be Tony Kakko's fun word play in his lyrics. Edging on great storytelling, interesting humour and beautiful poetry. Musically the album jumps between hard rock based power metal along with more progressive and darker moments. But, the album is a lot more joyous than previous albums, going back to a more carefree moment in Sonata's career.

The opening track and first single “The Wolves Die Young” is pretty much a return to form for the band. Catchy chorus, nice melodies and a cheesy music video.

One of my personal favourite songs is “Take One Breath.” Slightly mad in it's arrangement, Tony shows off a wide versatile range to his vocals, going from the harshest of shrieks to the calmest of tones in the drop of a heartbeat. The sci fi inspired lyrics and fun wordplay are also enjoyable.

One of the bands most interesting songs on the album has to be “Blood.” With a rather sporadic arrangement harkening back to the material heard on “Unia.” With a lot of musical twists and turns, it's a very interesting moment on the album. This song also teaches you the exact definition of blood....cause metal isn't just for fun. You can learn stuff too.

The rather cheesy but fun power ballad “Love” is a rather interesting moment on the album. Even though it does have some rather cheesy moments, the statement and song is still very pretty. It's good to see these guys showing a more sensitive side.

The albums closer and longest track “Larger Than Life” is a mad explosive rollercoaster. Being mixed with a power ballad and an almost musical and operatic feel, the song is a very interesting piece, with great over layered vocals by Tony. Great ending to the album.

In conclusion, after a few confusing years of weird experimentation, Sonata Arctica seemed to have finally put their feet more firmly on the ground with a rather 'return to form.' A mixed blend of all of the bands strongest sounds, the album is definitely on par with their more classically renowned releases.

8.2/10

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CANDLEMASS Tales of Creation

Album · 1989 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 20 ratings
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arcane-beautiful
Doom metal is a secret love of mine. It's not a genre I am always having my nose in, but whenever I'm in the mood, a good bit of doom never does any harm. Especially, when a Candlemass CD is near.

The band's earlier career was met with some line up confusion. With multi changing vocalists, the band's most longest and frequent vocalist (and in my opinion the best) Messiah Marcolin's presence on this album sadly met a short end, due to this album being his last with the band (before his reunion with them for what I agree to be the bands strongest album).

Music wise the album is pretty much what you expect. Black Sabbath esque doom with a slower and more 80s feel to it, the sound does show a natural progression from their earlier sounds (with some slight surprises along the way too). Lyrically the album seems to be based around a concept. The basic story involves someone who dies and is able to go the afterlife. Creative in style and wording, the story isn't too in your face, but still is there for lyric buffs like myself.

The only real negative bone to pick with this album is the production. While musically the album is pretty good (nothing much you can really do with 80's style distortion), the vocals are probably the biggest problem. Messiah's voice is definitely one of the most unique and powerful in the Doom metal genre, so it is a bit annoying to hear his powerful warbles so low in the mix.

The real shining moment for on this album has to be the opening track “Dark Reflections.” A more upbeat moment for the band, the song has some pretty cooler riffs and a damn fine chorus.

One of the oddest moments on the album appears on the instrumental track “Into The Unfathomed Tower.” A neo classical style instrumental, almost done in the vein of Yngwie Malmsteen or Stratovarius, it is an interesting little interlude on the album, showing off the virtuostic talents on the musicians which isn't very much the focus usually of Candlemass' music.

A track which really shows off the vocals of Messiah has to be “The Edge Of Heaven.” Some pretty cool doomy riffs and some mad warbles gives this song an extra oomph.

One of the most interesting songs on the album is probably “Through The Infinite Halls Of Death.” Starting off with a slow doomy riff, the song soon turns into a faster and more aggressive song with some interesting twists and turns throughout.

The album's closing track “ A Tale Of Creation” is definitely one of the more epic moments on the album. With some poignant lyrics and a rather interesting arrangement, the song is a brilliant ending to this heavenly based concept album.

In conclusion, this album is pretty much classic doom metal at its best, done by one of the pioneering bands of the genre. While some of the production on this album can be rather weak, there are some blistering tunes on this album with the classic line up of the band being present. A definite must have for fans of doom.

8.2/10

THE SOUL EXILE Middle Of Extermination

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2013 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Middle Of Extermination" is a promo EP by Finnish, Tampere based death metal act The Soul Exile. The promo was self-released in April 2013 and is available for a "Name Your Price" option on the band´s Bandcamp profile. The Soul Exile were founded in 2003 and released a demo in 2009 before releasing "Middle Of Extermination".

The music on the 4 track, 16:00 minutes long promo EP is technical death metal. The band are very well playing, and even though I could have wished for a less processed growling vocal style, lead vocalist Eetu Keränen gets the job done too. The sound production is pretty professional sounding and powerful, so both musicianship and sound production are top notch for a promo release. It´s in the songwriting department where The Soul Exile could improve. "Middle Of Extermination" is as such an enjoyable and powerful release while it´s playing, but it´s not particularly memorable and it´s obvious the band haven´t found an original and distinct sound yet. They basically sound like a lot of other bands out there playing a similar style, and to succeed they will have to work on this part of their music.

It´s maybe a bit harsh critique, but it´s seldom technical playing and professional sound productions that make artists big. It´s the songwriting. Still "Middle Of Extermination" isn´t a bad release by any means, it´s just slightly unremarkable. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

THERION Of Darkness...

Album · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.95 | 6 ratings
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Warthur
Though it came out in 1991, apparently the songs on Therion's debut album were composed between 1987 and 1989. I can well believe this, since this is fairly primitive death metal material which is competently delivered - as you'd expect for songs Therion had been refining for a couple of years before they entered the studio - but which doesn't really display much in the way of creativity. More or less anything the band do here was done better by earlier death metal pioneers like Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Death - or, for that matter, the then-latest wave of death metal as represented by the likes of Deicide or Morbid Angel.

Though Therion would eventually find a distinctive sound through the incorporation of symphonic and gothic influences, there isn't a whisper of either on this album, leaving it a decent but disposable example of straight-ahead death metal which would probably have been entirely forgotten were it not for Therion's subsequent achievements.

IMPETUOUS RITUAL Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence

Album · 2009 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 3 ratings
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Wilytank
Atmosphere is something I really enjoy immersing myself in and describing in music. It's something I've found in many different forms throughout the heavy metal genre and there are plenty of examples I can write long metaphorical descriptions for. Although something that "sounds like Hell" or has a "Hellish" atmosphere might sound cliché, it's the best way I can describe the mood I feel for Impetuous Ritual's Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence.

And you know what? They get away with it. The cacophonous choir these guys make indeed sounds like Hell. The riffs are dissonant as as all fuck, and though that does make them harder to follow it doesn't matter much anyway because it just enhances the feeling of just pure chaos. Plus the guitar solos, while not the most memorable, are pretty good and thrown in at all the right places. Best of all though, the album flows nicely from start to finish and that's the best way to listen to this album, from beginning to end. None of the tracks feel out of place.

Actually, the best parts of this album are the first and last tracks, "Elegy" and "Dirge". Both of them are slower pieces with really dark atmosphere. "Elegy" features some diSEMBOWELMENT like chugging interrupted by some tremolo strumming with the steady drum beat making me feel as if I'm descending a spiral staircase toward Hell. "Dirge" on the other hand is an even gloomier sounding piece and the perfect track to end this album with; as an 8 and a half minute minute piece, I would hope so. It's really cavernous sounding that slowly trudges along. It steadily gets faster until the drums finally break into blast beating. The ending then is perfect: ominous chugging over double kick drums with some regular pauses slowly fading out.

Speaking of the drums, I don't know if Ignis Fatuus or Necros Craigos did the drums here, but whatever the case is the drums sound awesome. They're one of the biggest highlights on this album, outshining the guitar work the majority of the time. Just listen to the first minute of "Convoluting unto Despondent Anachronism". It's really awesome ferocious blast beating that also sounds perfectly on cue with the rest of the music. Even during they slower sections they sound great even with just the little things: kick drum fills, simply hitting the symbols and tom-toms during the low growl monologue on "Elegy", and the like.

Even the grim, deep growling vocals fit here despite lacking some depth. All things considered, Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence is a winner though it certainly isn't perfect. And yes, the Portal comparisons will be made especially with two members of this band later joining Portal, but believe me when I say Impetuous Ritual is a whole different beast. The drums certainly never sounded this good in Portal, plus whenever Portal does play slow they never sounded as heavy as Impetuous Ritual does. All of Portal's albums thus far are unique though and Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence is unique too and definitely worth a listen.

(86/100)

SUBTRACT Talk Minus Action Equals Nothing

Album · 2013 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
When it comes to population NZ rank 123rd largest country in the world, some 101 places distant to the UK (although by land mass we are 76th and the UK are 80th). So there aren’t many people per square kilometer, yet we have some incredible bands that have somehow stayed a secret to the rest of the world. Subtract are one of these, forming in 1997 they have long been at the forefront of the local metal scene and have opened for many of the top international acts who have remembered where NZ actually is on the map. They have honed their skills, turned up their amps and at the end of 2013 released their latest album. Given that 8 Foot Sative have also been active, they knew that they had to produce something very special indeed to show that they were still in the hunt for the title of NZ’s Best Metal Act, and that is exactly what they have done.

Bringing together thrash and melodic death with hardcore and an irrepressible groove, Subtract have yet again shown how they have managed to survive for so long in a country with such a small metal fanbase. This album reeks class from start to finish, is as heavy as hell, and grooves like you wouldn’t believe – extreme metal that gets the listener moving along and banging that noggin as if there was no tomorrow. Who needs Head & Shoulders when there is music like this to clear the dandruff (and any latent ear wax if the truth be told)? This is brutal, melodic, crushing and immense all at the same time. It isn’t the longest album in the world at only 42 minutes, but at least it then gives the listener the chance to go and get a fresh beer, then settle down and put it on again, but just that little bit louder. I am so glad that it is only the sheep that get upset when I play music this loud at home. If Subtract were a British or American band then everyone would know their name, as it is just us Kiwis know who they are, and we know just how lucky that makes us.

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