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A SOUND OF THUNDER The Lesser Key of Solomon

Album · 2014 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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adg211288
The Lesser Key of Solomon (2014) is the fourth full-length album by US heavy metal act A Sound of Thunder. A Sound of Thunder are one of those bands who seem to be an unstoppable force with their output as it's only actually been a few years since their debut album Metal Renaissance (2011) was released. I've personally followed them since their second album Out of the Darkness (2012) and have never failed to be impressed by their work and their last album Time's Arrow (2013) was just about everything I wanted from the band after first experiencing Out of the Darkness. Needless to say that makes The Lesser Key of Solomon a release that I've been highly anticipating since it was first announced.

It's clear right from the first spin though that The Lesser Key of Solomon isn't the instant love affair that Time's Arrow offered. The mood of this album seems darker than the previous two A Sound of Thunder efforts I've listened to, which may explain why it needs a little time to sink in. I guess the band were also due an album that was less immediate though, needing time to grow on the listener and I feel confident to say that's certainly the case here. I can actually track my reactions to each spin I've given the album starting from this is good, but... to I may have to settle on a lower score than Time's Arrow for this one to hmm...I think I've been misjudging this one so far.

The music on The Lesser Key of Solomon is essentially yet another take on A Sound of Thunder's traditional heavy metal sound and that's exactly what I expect to hear. I still need to hear their debut but they haven't made the same album twice since I've been listening to them. Though The Lesser Key of Solomon has proved to need a few listens to get into this was one thing that was never in question. I do think though that the actual elements in the sound, in terms of the amount of different genres being drawn on, that The Lesser Key of Solomon is actually the least diverse I've heard A Sound of Thunder so far but to counteract that rather than drawing a little bit of several genres they instead draw more extensively on progressive metal, which has now become the most common the most common secondary element I can hear in their music, followed by power metal which to my ears is absent on this record.

I would go as far to say that the progressive elements make The Lesser Key of Solomon a progressive heavy metal album. That is to say that it's not a progressive metal album in the sense that the term is used for bands like Dream Theater or Ayreon but it's also significantly more than a straight up no frills attached traditional heavy metal album too. This is the same niche that I'd put Iron Maiden's later records in as well as their classic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) album. In fact a comparison to the later Iron Maiden albums isn't wrong in other ways too. Particularly the mix of longer and shorter songs has later Maiden written all over it.

As the album grew on me more and more it became clear that The Lesser Key of Solomon is easily A Sound of Thunder's most consistent work to date. Early standouts should be mentioned as Elijah and Blood From the Mummy's Tomb, which are two of the album's longer tracks. The of course there's Udoroth, the first full long on the album after the doomy intro piece Nexus of Realities, which is a real beast of a song. The other songs all definitely reach the same level after a few spins too. Even the more ballad orientated parts are top quality work and not all metal albums can claim that.

The Lesser Key of Solomon may be a grower but it's often the case that such albums end up the better regarded works and after giving it a few listens I'm happy to report than my early fears of it being a step down from Time's Arrow were unfounded. In fact just as Time's Arrow was a step up from Out of the Darkness so too is The Lesser Key of Solomon a step up from Time's Arrow. This is the finest traditional heavy metal release I've heard from 2014 and a top tier rating is most definitely well earned. The first of hopefully many for A Sound of Thunder.

98/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/a-sound-of-thunder-the-lesser-key-of-solomon-t3806.html)

HANNES GROSSMANN The Radial Covenant

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"The Radial Covenant" is the debut full-length studio album by German artist Hannes Grossmann. The album was independently released in January 2014. Hannes Grossmann is quite a prolific name in metal circles having contributed his drumming to recordings by acts like Blotted Science, Necrophagist and Obscura. On this album he handles the drums and rhythm guitars, while a host of guests contribute lead guitars, bass, keyboards and vocals. Among others Linus Klausenitzer and Christian Münzner who at the time were his bandmates in Obscura, but also prolific names like Jeff Loomis and Ron Jarzombek. Triptykon guitarist V.Santura is one of the guest vocalists on the album and he has also handled the mixing and mastering of "The Radial Covenant".

Not surprisingly the music on "The Radial Covenant" is technical/progressive death metal which is very similar in sound and execution to Obscura (the Obscura track "Euclidean Elements" is included in a piano version, which closes the album). The musicianship are on an impressive high level and the material, which were written over the course of two years and recorded in July/August 2013, are of a relatively high compositional quality too. It´s a sci-fi concept album. The vocals are growling and the music features tempo changes, blazing solos by the many guests, and fast-paced riffing. There is the odd progressive idea here and there like a latin music section with handclaps, but other than that, "The Radial Covenant" is a relatively consistent album both in style and in quality.

Hannes Grossmann is first and foremost a drummer and therefore it´s only natural that the drums are pretty dominant in the mix. Not in a tasteless way tough and the sound production is professional, clear, detailed, and powerful.

Compared to some of the other acts that Hannes Grossmann has been involved with, this solo project is ultimately just a notch less interesting. When it comes down to it, it´s the compositions that lack a little something to elevate them from solid to brilliant. Fans of the above mentioned acts and especially fans of Obscura, should definitely check out "The Radial Covenant" though. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

KOBRA AND THE LOTUS High Priestess

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 4 ratings
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Unitron
Kobra and the Lotus-High Priestess

'High Priestess' is the follow up to Kobra and the Lotus's amazing self-titled album, and their overall third studio album.

'High Priestess' expands on everything that was set in place on the previous album, adding in thrash elements while maintaining the traditional/power style of the previous album. It begins with the fast and powerful 'Warhorse' which sets the mood of the album very well. The song 'I am, I am' is fully-blown thrash metal, which sounds very Helstar-like with the music combined with Kobra Paige's powerful vocals. My personal favorite song is 'Battle of Wrath', which can sound very menacing at times. 'Soldier' is another favorite, having great lyrics and melody and a great music video.

Unlike the previous album, there is much more of a balance between fast and angry tracks and more flowing tracks. Songs like 'Heartbeat', 'Hold On', and the finale 'Lost in the Shadows' have a softer and more flowing aspect to them.

Overall, all I can really say is that it's everything the previous album was and more. I recommend it to any fan of power metal or traditional metal, and definitely anyone who enjoyed the previous album.

Hope you found this review helpful.

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FALLUJAH The Flesh Prevails

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.30 | 5 ratings
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adg211288
The Flesh Prevails (2014) is the second full-length album by US death metal act Fallujah. It's been three years since the release of their debut The Harvest Wombs (2011) but they did put out an EP called Nomadic (2013) in that time. They've changed line-up slightly since Nomadic though with the introduction of new guitarist Brian James, who replaces Rob Maramonte.

I have not yet managed to hear The Harvest Wombs but I have heard Nomadic and the three songs that EP contained were more than enough to make me very interested in where Fallujah may take those ideas in a full-length context. The music found on The Flesh Prevails on the surface is well played technical/progressive death metal with deep growling vocals. Catch the album at one of those moments and it may come across as nothing you haven't heard before many times over and you could almost be forgiven for putting it down as something that can be safely ignored.

Almost, as that would be an absolutely dire mistake.

Because that's really just the surface of The Flesh Prevails. Once scratched the more atmospheric details emerge, particularly ambient and post-rock influences, many of them pretty overt in their use. Calling The Flesh Prevails an atmospheric death metal album is in many ways more accurate than technical death metal or even progressive death metal. Whatever you want to call it though, it's abundantly clear that this isn't a normal death metal album of the tech/prog kind by any means. The ideas heard on Nomadic have been further honed and the end result is one of those albums that is instantly remarkable, fresh and a genuine pleasure to stick on for repeated spins.

As I said in my last Fallujah review for Nomadic, as far as extreme metal goes it's usually black metal acts that push the boundaries of their genre more. In recent years though the death metal acts seem to be catching up. We've had several symphonic death metal acts making names for themselves such as MaYaN, Fleshgod Apocalypse and of course Septicflesh and with an album like this one Fallujah look set to more than ever make atmospheric death metal a thing. As far as genre development goes The Flesh Prevails may just be the most important release I've heard this year.

It's certainly one of the best death metal releases as it is, with a near perfect flow across the nine tracks and the various ideas that go into Fallujah's sound. Nothing ever seems forced or unnatural. The atmospheric parts are equally powerful as the most aggressive passages of the music. Instrumental sections such as the ones that open and make up the bulk of final track Chemical Cave are especially a treat. There's no valid reason why The Flesh Prevails should not be counted among the upper echelons of 2014's metal albums.

98/100

(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/fallujah-the-flesh-prevails-t3801.html)

MORGOTH God Is Evil

Single · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"God is Evil" is a single release by German death metal act Morgoth. The single was released through Century Media Records in August 2014. "God is Evil" marks the studio recording comeback for the German death metal veterans and features the first new original material recorded by the band since "Feel Sorry for the Fanatic (1996)". Morgoth initially disbanded in 1998 but reunited in 2010, playing sporadic gigs, and in 2012 they released the "Cursed to Live" live album, which mainly focused on the early old school death metal part of their discography.

Therefore it´s not surprising that "God is Evil" does not continue where the industrial rock/metal tinged "Feel Sorry for the Fanatic (1996)" left off. Listening to the 2 tracks on the 7:48 minutes long single, it´s obvious that the band have gone for a sound that´s as close as possible to the sound of their most celebrated release "Cursed (1991)". So this is pretty much "classic" old school US, Florida influenced death metal and references to acts like Obituary and late 80s Death are as obvious now as they were back when "Cursed (1991)" was released. Actually to a point where I was unsure if it was Obituary playing when the title track kicks in, but Morgoth soon start to play their signature riffs and Marc Grewe also settles on a more personal vocal style.

Quality wise the title track is a memorable, raw, and brutal death metal track, fully on par with their late 80s/early 90s material, while "Die as Deceiver" is slightly less interesting. It´s less catchy and overall just a bit more standard in quality. The sound production is raw and powerful, and suits the music well. The single is arguably an enjoyable old school death metal listening experience, but it´s overall slightly less interesting, than I had hoped for. Still it´s a promising recording comeback for Morgoth and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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ATHEIST Piece of Time

Album · 1989 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 33 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
ATHEIST released their debut right at the time when death metal was sufficiently distancing itself from thrash to become a distinct subgenre and here on PIECE OF TIME it sounds like a bridge between 80s thrash metal and the emerging tech death metal from the 90s. For the most part we get more of a tech thrash sound than a true death metal album, however Kelly Shaefer's vocals on verging on the death style and ATHEIST was one of the major transitory acts to usher technical death metal into the 90s along with acts such as Death, Cynic and Nocturnus. This album was actually recorded in 1988 and was released in Euroope in 1989 but not until 1990 in the US due to the label Mean Machine Records going bankrupt. With relentless gallops and sudden progressive time signature changes, ATHEIST proves from the getgo that they had what it took to stand out from an ever increasingly crowded room of Morbid Angel clones.

Although nascent in the tech department there are signs of more complex jazz-fusion and progressive learnings of the next two albums coming into play. This album means business as far as bombastic and fast played riffage goes. The music is brutal with high tempos but exhibits the high quality songwriting that was inspired by Rush. The album flows well from beginning to end with no songs ever outstaying their welcome. In fact by the time the album is finished I want MORE!!! Despite the excellent technical skill of all the musicians involved I have to say that it is Roger Patterson's bass playing that really knocks my socks off. It is he in fact who is the backbone of the band's highly skilled sound for he can pound those four strings like no other. Sadly he was killed in a car crash while recording the next album and his loss may be one of the main reasons that ATHEIST opted to pursue the more progressive route since Patterson's technical bass skills were impossible to replace in terms of both skill and speed.

ATHEIST Beyond

Demo · 1988 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
There are demos and then there are ATHEIST demos! BEYOND is one of those rare demos that shows how proficient this band was from the start. The material on here is so strong and of album quality that three out of the five tracks made it onto the debut album “Piece Of Time.” “Brain Damage” also appeared on the “On They Slay” demo leaving “Choose Your Death” the only track to never go any further. The music on here is just superb! I just love the raw and unfiltered sound that this demo exhibits. I find that this raw sound works so well with a naturally talented metal act like ATHEIST with their passion burners turned up full blast. This demo has been remastered and is available as bonus tracks on the remastered version of “Piece Of Time.” This is so excellent I actually prefer these tracks to the better produced album versions!

ALICE IN CHAINS Sap

EP · 1992 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.66 | 16 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
After their slow burner “Facelift” had made ALICE IN CHAINS a fairly huge band after a lengthy tour, they set forth to start recording material for a follow up album but in the midst of it all ended up recording five acoustic songs. Following a dream of drummer Sean Kinney that told him they must release an EP called SAP, they did. And in the process not only surprised a newly found fan base by their different dark folk sound but also by the fact that this was some damned good material. Beneath the grungy aggressive metal sounds this band had some serious soul and Layne Staley proved his vocal versatility. The band also incorporated some guest vocalists on this little gem. Ann Wilson from Heart lends her voice on “Brother” and “Am I Inside” and Chris Cornell also makes a few appearances as well a few other less knowns.

There are four beautifully constructed acoustic tracks here that are melodically brilliant but really fit into the depressive downer style that ALICE IN CHAINS was so adept at. There is also a hidden fifth track that sounds more like something off a Mike Patton related project as it sounds like a group of musically gifted ghosts with a megaphone rockin' out. I have always loved this EP as much as the much more popular symphonically oriented “Jar Of Flies” EP. The guitars are unplugged but this is definitely ALICE IN CHAINS and in retrospect a perfect little creation in between their debut and their magnum opus “Dirt.” Don't miss this one!

GOREFEST Rise to Ruin

Album · 2007 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Rise to Ruin" is the 7th full-length studio album by Dutch death metal act Gorefest. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in August 2007 (September 2007 in the US). It´s the band´s second release after their comeback with "La Muerte (2005)". The regular edition features 9 tracks, while the limited digipack edition features two bonus tracks.

The music on "Rise to Ruin" pretty much continues where "La Muerte (2005)" left off although the music on "Rise to Ruin" is generally a bit more brutal than was the case on the predecessor. Gorefest have left behind most of the "alternative" elements that were also a tiny part of the sound on "La Muerte (2005)" and "Rise to Ruin" is a more "pure" death metal release. The music on the album is the sound of Gorefest to the bone. Heavy riffs, varied drumming/rhythmic variation, melodic guitar solos, and the distinct sounding semi-growling barks by Jan-Chris de Koeijer. The political and social themed lyrics are also present and accounted for. The playing is as usual on a high level and the album is well produced too, featuring a strong and powerful sound.

Tracks like "Revolt" and "The War on Stupidity" are killer death metal tracks (or how about the brick heavy "A Question of Terror"), but most of the material can deservedly be labelled that. Compared to "La Muerte (2005)", which in many ways is a similar sounding albeit slightly more diverse album, I think "Rise to Ruin" is overall a bit stronger. Maybe because it´s more consistent in style, but no matter what it´s a greatly enjoyable album which proves beyond any doubt that Gorefest´s comeback was artistically successful. It probably won them back a few old fans too, who had turned their backs on the band during their alternative/heavy metal period in the mid- to late nineties. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ATROPHIA RED SUN Fears

Album · 1997 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Fears" is the debut full-length studio album by Polish death metal act Atrophia Red Sun (if you don´t count the "Painfull Love...(1995)" cassette tape as their debut. The album was released through Morbid Noizz Productions in 1997. It´s worth a mention that Atrophia Red Sun was at that point the home of later Decapitated vocalist Adrian "Covan" Kowanek.

The music on the album is melodic death metal. The band feature six members including a keyboard player (who also handles samples) and therefore the music is rather keyboard heavy and at times very atmospheric. Lead guitar themes also play a big role in the music and I actually think there are quite a few influences from an act like Amorphis in the music albeit without the ethnic/folk influence. To my ears "Fears" features a more futuristic sounding atmosphere. I hear quite a few goth/doom/death influences in the music too and acts like Cemetary and Tiamat come to mind there. The vocals alternate between intelligible growling and other less raw vocal styles.

The band are well playing and the sound production is decent. It could definitely have been stronger and more powerful, but it´s only occasionally a distraction. It´s definitely the weakest link here though. If the sound production was of better quality I would probably have given a 3.5 star (70%) rating, but as it is now a 3 star (60%) rating will do.

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