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TEXAS TOAST CHAINSAW MASSACRE Reloaded

EP · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Vim Fuego
To say the reception for Metallica’s “Load/Re-Load” double-wide double-long duo was a little mixed is a bit like saying Charlie Manson and his family of followers were just a bit misguided. The meandering, rudderless albums were full of more filler than Dolly Parton’s bra. Long-time Metallica fans were confused and frustrated, having to sift through piles of horse shit to find a few gems. This pair of albums was so bad fans almost jumped for joy at the 1998 cover/compilation album “Garage Inc.”, because of the total contrast.

Hindsight has showed us though, that the negative fallout from the “Load/Re-Load" combo has been tempered somewhat by the total abortion that was “St. Anger”, and to a lesser extent, “LuLu”. It is possible, after a few beers, 3 days without sleep, and if you squint through your rose tinted spectacles, to say “you know, “Load” and “Re-Load” weren’t THAT bad, when you compare ‘em to…” Still, to many Metallica fans, it is a part of the band’s history best left behind.

So what do Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre go and do? Remind us it was only 20 fuckin’ years ago, and make us relive that perplexing era by covering a chunk of “Re-Load”.

Now, it seems the lads of TTCM, who would have been pre-schoolers running round pulling the cat’s tail and jamming crayons up their noses at the time of “Re-Load”’s release, have more sense than four of the world’s most famous musicians, who had cut their hair and changed their image to appeal to a wider audience. In what way more sensible? Well, these young fellas had the sense to cut out most of the superfluous shit from the album, and just covering five songs for an EP instead. So how did they get on?

Well, the mournful, melancholic “The Memory Remains” has been turned into a crossover thrash sprint from start to finish. The manic take on Marianne Faithful’s “la la” vocal melodies are fucking comedy gold, and her part sounds something like a cartoon ogre. Despite the potential silliness, the song seems to work out well, with the original riffs somewhat benefitting from a faster tempo. Actually, the song is two minutes shorter than Metallica’s version too.

Second track “Devil’s Dance” is one of those forgettable ones which is hard to remember until you hear the fucking thing, and then you wish you hadn’t. So here it is, revved up, retooled, and reinvented.

“Better Than You” is memorable for the wrong reasons. It was one of the worst songs on “Re-Load”. So these guys fixed it. Rather than sounding like a plodding Black Album reject, it becomes a crossover crusher, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Suicidal Tendencies’ “Join The Army”.

And then, just to really fuck with your mind, there is a very respectful and well-executed take on “Low Man’s Lyric”. This was one of the diamonds in the Metallica turd. The hurdy gurdy, the soulful, gentle rhythm, the jangling acoustic guitar, and the incredible guitar work of Hetfield/Hammett set this song apart from its peers. Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre don’t have Metallica’s deep pockets, nor Bob Rock twiddling the knobs in the studio, and it tells somewhat. This sounds a little rough round the edges, but it’s more than just an ambitious attempt at a tricky song by a band better known for oddball references to movie stars like Gary Busey. This comes off sounding like a production demo from Metallica themselves, no mean feat in itself.

“Fixxxer” was the pointless, over-long closer to Re-Load. Overindulgent in length, and a little sparse on actual content, the song did feature a classy vocal melody, reproduced quite faithfully here. This version sounds more chaotic than Metallica’s, which in this case is a good thing, because to be perfectly honest, “Fixxxer” is usually boring as fuck. This isn’t.

So... This isn’t a perfect cover EP, but nor is it a disaster. What you get here is 21 minutes of the best bits from an album which originally ran to a tedious 76 minutes. Listening to “Re-Load” is a feat of endurance. Listening to “Re-Loaded” is fun.

Note: If you’re able, drop Texas Toast Chainsaw Massacre a few bucks on this “name-your-price” download. Vocalist Josh is using any proceeds from it for cancer treatment for his dog.

BLAZE OF PERDITION Conscious Darkness

Album · 2017 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
Here's a story about me, your humble reviewer: black metal is my favourite genre of metal music. That means that more than any other genre I spend a lot of time checking out black metal acts, both old and new, to the point where buying used job lots of black metal albums on ebay is a thing that's happened several times now, all of them more or less blind. It's through this habit that I've greatly expanded my experience of the genre. I now believe I can safely say that I've heard most if not all facets of this diverse musical style, everything from the traditional to the melodic, atmospheric to the depressive, symphonic to the pagan and even a bit of the obscure war metal style and stuff that is so avant-garde that is sounds mentally unhinged.

This is not a boast, but the build up to this following statement: through listening to so much black metal music I've discovered it to be the genre of metal that, in my experience at least, is continually showing the most innovation, certainly more than most so called progressive metal bands do, which played a big part in it becoming my favourite. This year (2017) alone has served up the likes of oltreLuna by Progenie Terrestre Pura, which packs all kinds of unusual elements into it, from tribal beats to even dupstep. Then there is Futility Report by White Ward, which melds the blackgaze sub-genre with saxophone led jazz sounds. This is not to mention Ebne Graun by Todesstoß, an exceptionally creepy release that effectively melds depressive black metal, funeral doom metal and dungeon synth into a single 46:23 long song. So when Conscious Darkness, the fourth full-length by Polish black metal act Blaze of Perdition comes along and immediately makes a similar splash in the black metal waters to the above albums it should go without saying that my interest would be piqued and I'd make it a priority to check the release out to see what the fuss is about.

The fairy tale ending to this story would be that Conscious Darkness turned out to be just as much of, if not an even more creative release as those examples I highlighted in the previous paragraph. But this is where we've hit a major plot twist in our tale. In a year with both highly innovative albums such as those listed above and also exceptionally strong if less 'out there' ones like Wode's Servants of the Countercosmos and Fen's Winter, titles it's also mentioned in the same breath as, Conscious Darkness surprises by its sheer mediocrity. Maybe it has simply fallen victim to its own hype train; the phenomenon where an album is talked about by so many or is simply gushed over so much by a more niche audience that by the time you, who are a little late to the party, get to hear it, you subconsciously go into it with high and potentially unrealistic expectations that even the average 'very good' album isn't going to meet.

I have to say I do think that's what has happen here with Blaze of Perdition's Conscious Darkness, since I certainly don't mean to imply that I hear this as a terrible record. Not by any means. It even has some great moments, but they're counterbalanced by equally poor ones. Overall it's more like a listenable record that despite being able to hold my attention ultimately underwhelms by the time I've got through the four track, 43:03 long duration. For a while I couldn't put my finger on why that could be, because listening to it I couldn't honestly say I was hearing the kind of by the numbers generic black metal release that are all too common these days. The band's music though instantly recognisable as black metal doesn't have a typical sound. Their instrumentation sounds more, for want of a better description, chaotic, sometimes to the point of dissonance. It also seems apparent that the guys in the band were influenced by more than a single avenue of music when writing it and it's not hard to imagine that they've put a lot of thought into creating this release. So what exactly is the problem?

After a few listens waiting to see if the album would open up as familiarity set in (which it did to a point), it finally hit me. For all intents and purposes Conscious Darkness actually was a fairly typical black metal record, more so after you've scratched the surface of it. While this isn't a barrier to enjoyment – I noted a couple of fairly typical albums for their styles earlier on in this review that I have personally given high scores this year – there's an inescapable feeling when listening to this one that somewhere in the gears of this well oiled machine someone has left a wrench.

This is less evident in the opening track A Glimpse of God, which I'd say is the best on offer, but it certainly becomes apparent during the next one, Ashes Remain, which is the album's longest song. For a time it serves up much the same as the previous – nothing unusual for a black metal release there – but then the band dial back the metallic parts and throw in an extended softer section – again, nothing unusual for a black metal release there – but this is where that pesky wrench near grinds everything to a halt: this section is really not very good at all and serves to really highlight the problems with the rest of the release. Though softer and more atmospheric, things are still incredibly muddy during this section, not really allowing much detail to stand out. It's easy to backtrack then and realise that the album was much the same before this part kicked in. The real kicker during this soft section though are the vocals. Switched from the usual growl to a clean voice, they're delivered in little more than a drawling spoken word.

Even with this realisation Conscious Darkness does, overall, still manage to be a listenable black metal release. But it never transcends beyond that, it's most memorable parts being memorable for all the wrong reasons. Additionally with the longest two tracks lined up first over half if it is done and dusted by the time you've got through that non-metal section and to say that the album is derailed by that point is an understatement. The next two tracks Weight of the Shadow and Detachment Brings Serenity are better, but even though both are still pretty long it's just not enough time and material for the release to recover much in my regards. Ultimately what's left is an album that is neither worthless nor worthwhile, just something that exists slap-bang in the middle of the road, adrift within the seas of the mundane.

EX EYE Ex Eye

Album · 2017 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 7 ratings
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Unitron
By first look, it would be easy to mistake Ex Eye's debut studio album as some sort of atmospheric black metal album. However, you may notice by looking at its entry on this site, there are no vocals and rather horns. No bass either, instead using synth. So what should one expect from this? Well, you can't really expect much until you listen to it...

...and once you do, there's a bit of conflict that may come with a full listen. I must say, that when you first start the album, it's hard not to get addicted to the first song. Damn is it catchy, and gets you hooked. I'd describe it as space metal, sounding a bit like what may be a classic Hawkwind cut. The drums are the main star here, with a steady locked in groove that keeps the foot tapping and just the right amount of fills to give it the right amount of flavor, all courtesy of Liturgy's Greg Fox. The more you listen though, the more that the rest of the instruments stand out. It all blends together and grooves, but the horns, guitar, and droning synth bring in a nice chill vibe to the whole thing.

Unfortunately, this first song tricks you into thinking that this will be an amazing spacey instrumental metal journey of a catchy variety. The rest of the tracks (on the physical release), while retaining a similar atmosphere, are more of an avant-garde and slightly jazzy black metal sound. They just kind of drone on and don't have enough to differentiate themselves from one another. Occasionally there will be an interesting drum fill, but most of the time it's on black metal auto-pilot. This is at it's worse on Anaitis Hymnal, which is easily the worst song on the album. Ever want to hear really generic atmospheric black metal with no guitar to be heard? Then this is for you, as it is dominated by a synthetic yet blaring atmosphere with pretty constant double-bass drumming. The horns also sometimes present a problem. While barely audible on the aforementioned track, they are often too avant-garde for my tastes. I would have liked to hear some more catchy melodies, or more of the perfect blend of instruments from that first song Xenolith.

The physical release excludes the fifth song, don't ask me why as it could easily fit on the disc. This song is pretty great, and is easily the second highlight of the album after the first track. While the first few minutes sound like the horns are dying a painful death, skip ahead and it starts to sound like some cool experimental electronic track before letting the guitar shine in the style of an old school 70's rock jam. You don't hear too many awesome old school guitar jams these days, so it's welcome to hear. After that, you finally get to hear a return to the catchy space metal vibe of the first track, just a bit slower and doom-sounding this time around.

Overall, this is certainly an acquired taste. For those who love experimental space rock, the first and last tracks are probably some of the best of 2017 that you'll hear of that variety. However, the rest of the album is only for fans of avant-garde noodling or atmospheric black metal blandness, which I certainly am not one. Either way, avoid the physical release. Ordinarily, I would never say that, but in this case it's a rip off. Not including a song that could easily be included makes zero sense. If these guys hone in on the sound of the first and last tracks, I think they could make something really great next time around. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

TENGGER CAVALRY Die on My Ride

Album · 2017 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Sisslith
Folk metal is a very broad musical genre. It encompasses a wide range of styles, from "Celtic metal" (e.g. Skiltron) to "Mesopotamian metal" (e.g. Melechesh). I’ve listened to many different forms of folk metal, the last one being "Chinese metal" by Dream Spirit. But never before had I heard of a "Mongolian metal" band.

Tengger Cavalry, which means something like "cavalry of the sky god" (Tengger seems to derive from Tengri, a Mongolian and Turkic deity), have been in the metal scene for seven years. They are quite a prolific band since they have released thirteen studio albums so far. "Die on My Ride" is their penultimate offering, and it is an unusual one.

On the one hand, the instrumental work is the highlight of the album. Although most of the guitar riffs and solos are pretty basic and simple, some of them (the galloping riffs on Die on My Ride or the ones on Cursed, for example) are catchy and interesting enough to keep the listener’s attention. Nevertheless, a few songs, such as Independence Day and To the Sky feature several parts that are extremely dull and uninspired. To be honest, at those moments I just wanted to skip both songs.

Now then, not everything is doom and gloom. The folk passages are undoubtedly the best part of the record. For instance, the opener track, Snow, is perfect to set the mood: the igil and the morin khuur, accompanied by a delicate piano, create some emotive and slow folk melodies. It is also noteworthy how these instruments are effectively used on other tracks like Die on My Ride (my favourite song of the album), Strike and Me Against Me.

On the other hand, the vocal performance is the main flaw of this album. Throat singing is characteristic of Mongolia’s traditional music. It is a curious and odd way of singing, but in this record the raspy vocals don’t convey anything to me -definitely not my cup of tea. The auto-tuned vocals on Ashley (yes, you read well, auto-tuned) are the last straw. They are completely random after five Mongolian throat singing pieces and make the album feel rather messy, even though it’s just one song. The choruses, however, are great: they sound pretty epic and, oftentimes, give a vibe of nomadism.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this album after all. The positive aspects don’t make up for the bland and slightly haphazard songwriting. Die on My Ride features some notable songs and an extremely appealing folk sound, but Tengger Cavalry should improve many aspects of their music, especially the guitar riffs. However, music is one of the most subjective things and I am sure that a lot of metalheads might appreciate this record much more than I do. Lastly, I would recommend listening to this release if you like folk metal and want to discover different and distinctive sounds.

ENSLAVED E

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 7 ratings
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Warthur
Enslaved's latest release is E, as in "E bah gum, in't this one a beauty?" Once again it's sure to confound genre classification nerds (is this progressive black metal or blackened progressive metal), since like much recent Enslaved material it sits right on the dividing line, but what's particularly impressive is how Enslaved have been able to heighten both sides of that equation whilst still retaining the balance.

The prog is more progressive, the blackened parts are dark as a moonless night, and the dabblings in folk have lured Einar Kvitrafn of Wardruna out of the depths of the Dark Folk Forest to come and make little contributions here and there. In short, it's exactly the sort of frothing, Viking-themed genre cocktail that we've come to expect from Enslaved, but the taste is stronger and richer and more delicious than it's been for a while - and that's a high bar to hit considering their usual excellent standards.

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NILE Amongst the Catacombs of Nephren-Ka

Album · 1998 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 28 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
It was bound to happen eventually. When Iron Maiden released their landmark album “Powerslave” in 1984, it not only displayed a classic metal band in full form in the midst of their long creative peak that would span the rest of the decade but it also sowed the seeds that fertile imaginations could take several steps further. In other words, “Powerslave’s” album cover imagery insinuated a fully developed concept album about the world of ancient Egypt and the mythology and power structures that enabled it to endure for centuries, however in reality the album was a collection of unrelated tracks ranging from military airplane maneuvers to medieval sword fights. After the years went by, Iron Maiden never revisited the Egyptian themes again and finally in the 90s a young death metal band from South Carolina would release the mummies from their chambers and resurrect these themes and create an entire career based on the squandered opportunities of Maiden’s voyage into the land of the sphinx and Alexander The Great.

NILE started out as a mere old school death metal band and as evidenced from their demos were nothing out of the ordinary in the beginning. However somewhere in their nascent years the band discovered not only the fruitful possibilities of cross-pollinating Egyptian themes with intense and brutal technical death metal, but went several steps further and added orchestral segments to their music that incorporated the feel and musical scales of the far away lands where the pharaohs once roamed. NILE debuted with a bang on AMONGST THE CATACOMBS OF NEPHREN-KA where they immediately set themselves apart from other old school death metal clones and established a fascinating hybridization of the brutal death metal genre with music and lyrics inspired by Ancient Egypt history, mysticism, religion and arts coupled with healthy doses of H.P. Lovecraft sci-fi veneration.

The title of the album is a reference to Lovecraft’s “The Outsider” where NEPHREN-KA was a fictitious Egyptian Pharaoh who committed horrendous atrocities to fuel his cult worshippers that ultimately resulted in his actions to be erased from the historical records only to be unearthed in the CATACOMBS where he was buried. The music on the album mostly exudes the brutal technical death metal that NILE has become synomous with but also displays their knack of developing the orchestral instrumental parts that originated on Morbid Angel’s “Domination” and put an Ancient Egyptian spin on them. There are also classical inspirations such as the intro of “Ramses Bringer Of War,” a clear references to Gustav Holst’s “Mars Movement” from his best known works on “The Planets.” The Middle Eastern sound is quite strong with additional musicians lending a hand on bona fide thigh bone flutes, Turkish gongs, Damaru human skull drums and eerie sounding choirs. In fact, the whole affair somewhat comes off as a more technically developed Morbid Angel death metal album making an appearance on the Conan The Barbarian soundtrack as the orchestral parts remind me of that movie.

While NILE would continue to hone and craft their sound and ratchet their complexity and sophistication up several notches on the ensuing albums, their debut AMONGST THE CATACOMBS OF NEPHREN-KA is an excellent album in its own right with heavy distorted death metal chops blastbeating their way into your nervous system while Karl Sanders pummels away on the guitar with his death growl vocal style. In this early lineup of NILE, it was Chief Spires on bass and Pete Hammoura on drums and while he didn’t quite match the intensity of George Kollias’ speed, he more than displayed the adequate stamina to churn out satisfying death metal chops. This debut perhaps does not stand above the more accomplished albums that follow but is still one not to be missed. True that the tracks are generally shorter and more to the point without the compositional prowess of albums like “Annihilation Of The Wicked,” but AMONGST THE CATACOMBS OF NEPHREN-KA delivers the goods in a totally satisfying way that adds the mystique of the tales of another time and place with brutal death metal outbursts fortified with lush excursions to a feel of the silk road.

DEADSOUL TRIBE The January Tree

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 14 ratings
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UMUR
"The January Tree" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Austrian/US progressive metal act Deadsoul Tribe. The album was released through InsideOut Music in August 2004. While the band´s preceding album release "A Murder of Crows (2003)" was recorded by a full lineup, band leader Devon Graves opted to record "The January Tree" almost entirely by himself. He plays and sings everything except for the drums on the album, which are recorded by Adel Moustafa. So the two other members of the band are reduced to touring members. A concept Graves would also use on the next two Deadsoul Tribe albums.

The music on the album continues the predominantly vers/chorus structured progressive metal style of it´s two predecessors and doesn´t add much new to the band´s discography in the way of innovation. It´s an album were it very much feels like Deadsoul Tribe had found a music style they were comfortable with and therefore didn´t feel the need to develop upon. As a result "The January Tree" is a solid release but it´s also a very "safe" release.

Musically we´re treated to heavy distorted riffs, some acoustic sections, lead harmony melodies, rhythmic drumming, and Devon Graves distinct sounding vocals on top. The material is relatively well written, but few tracks stand out. I´d mention "The Coldest Days of Winter" and "Wings of Faith" as some of the highlights, but overall it´s more a solid release than an outstanding one.

The slightly flat impression I get when listening to "The January Tree" also has a lot to do with the way the album is produced. Considering how often Devon Graves (who acts as producer on this album) has spoken of his love for organic sounding artists like Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Jethro Tull, it´s odd how artificial this production sounds. The drums are clicky and flat sounding, and the rest of the instruments and the vocals has a digital tone to them, which isn´t very suiting.

So upon conclusion "The January Tree" is an album which leaves me a bit biased, because objectively it´s a solid release featuring a professional sound production, decent songwriting, and strong musicianship, but it´s like the sum of the parts, just don´t add up to an album that´s extraordinary. Less will do though, and "The January Tree" is overall a decent release by Deadsoul Tribe and a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is still warranted.

LETHAL Your Favorite God

EP · 1995 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Your Favorite God" is an EP release by US progressive/power metal act Lethal. The EP was released through Massacre Records in 1995 and bridges the gap between the band´s debut and second full-length studio albums "Programmed (1990)" and "Poison Seed (1996)". There´s been one lineup change since the debut album as guitarist Dell Hull has been replaced by David McElfresh. The original version of the EP featured 5 tracks, while the 1997 reissue features the bonus track "Balancing Act".

The music on the EP continues the progressive US power metal style of "Programmed (1990)" but adds a more heavy and dark edge to the band´s sound. Progressive metal had changed rapidly in the years between the band´s debut album and "Your Favorite God", and while Lethal still sound like themselves (guitar/vocal driven progressive power metal rooted in 80s heavy metal), they´ve clearly also listened to the contemporary version of progressive metal and developed their own sound with it. Hard edged chugging riffs weren´t exactly the order of the day on "Programmed (1990)", but you´ll find plenty here.

The musicianship is on a very high level, which is no surprise if you´re already familiar with "Programmed (1990)". Lead vocalist Tom Mallicoat is still a great asset with his high pitched singing style, but he is actually a bit more varied on this release using lower registers and a more raw singing style too. Lethal is a very sophisticated band in the way they arrange their tracks and in how they incorporate details, but structurally this is still pretty basic vers/chorus based tracks, with the rare excursion into more progressive territories. The first four tracks on the EP are heavy and dark, but "The Real", which closes the original version of the EP, is a power ballad type track, which is slightly lighter in mood.

"Your Favorite God" is a well produced release with a dark and heavy sound, which suits the heaviness of their "new" style well. While I´m not completely sure that I prefer this new heavier progressive/US power metal sound to the more melodic US power metal style of Lethal´s debut album, I understand the need to change with the times and add some heaviness to their sound. Not that it did anything for them commercially, and artistically they still lack a 100% unique sound to elevate them to a higher level. Still a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

LEMUR VOICE Insights

Album · 1996 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.24 | 7 ratings
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UMUR
"Insights" is the debut full-length studio album by Dutch progressive metal act Lemur Voice. The album was released through Magna Carta Records in 1996. Lemur Voice was formed in 1993 under the Aura monicker but soon changed their name to Lemur Voice.

The music on the album is "classic" 90s progressive metal highly influenced by Dream Theater. I hear a few nods towards 90s Fates Warning, and the more rock oriented sound of Enchant too, but it is Dream Theater I´m reminded of most often during the 8 track, 56:57 minutes long album.

The music is generally very keyboard heavy, but also features some very intricate rhythmic playing (tempo- and time signature changes are played with natural ease), heavy riffs and melodic solos, and a high pitched lead vocalist in Gregoor van der Loo. The music is very dynamic with both heavy rhytmically complex chugging sections, and more subtle piano/vocal sections, and longer instrumental sections. The band are very well playing and Gregoor van der Loo is a relatively skilled singer too. His vocal melodies aren´t that memorable though, and even though the music on "Insights" is very melodic in nature, it actually features very few memorable hooks.

"Insights" is relatively well produced, but the longer you get into the album the less interesting the sound becomes. I´m not sure what it is, but it´s like the production at times lacks a bit of punch and the whole thing comes off as a little too polished and nice.

Upon conclusion "Insights" is a hard album to rate fairly. On the surface it´s easily a 4 star (80%) rating, because of the professionalism on display. The compositions, the musicianship, and the sound production are all features of a relatively high quality, but when you dig a bit deeper, the music is actually a bit more shallow than what initial impressions might reveal and the band also lack an original sound. Still it´s a relatively strong progressive metal release and hardcore fans of the genre might find it more enjoyable than I do, so a 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong.

ADEMA Adema

Album · 2001 · Nu Metal
Cover art 1.86 | 6 ratings
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martindavey87
2001 was the year that nu metal had truly peaked, and as quickly as the subgenre took over the world, it faded away to become nothing more than a footnote in music history. During that brief time period, countless bands appeared out of nowhere to minimal fanfare, and after one or two minor hits they'd disappear back into obscurity, only to one day be looked back upon as nostalgia acts.

And no band better represents this than Adema.

Formed in 2000, and releasing their debut album in 2001, Adema were more of a record-label attempt to jump on the nu metal bandwagon than an actual, polished and seasoned band of musicians. Their major selling point at the time, of which the labels were no doubt trying to capitalize on, was the fact that vocalist Mark Chavez was half-brother of Korn's Jonathan Davis, one of metals most prominent figures around the turn of the century.

I remember buying Adema's self-titled debut when it was released, and other than the singles 'Giving In' and 'The Way You Like It', the album didn't really seem to have much to offer. So, looking back on it now, it's a pleasant surprise to see that, while a good portion of the record is definitely filler material, the band do still have a penchant for catchy hooks and a few memorable tracks.

The music itself is quintessential nu metal. Heavy, detuned guitar riffs with plenty of overlapping effects, short songs with simple structures, a lack of guitar solos and lyrics focussing on depression, angst, suicide, alienation and all the usual things we listened to in our youths when we sulked around wearing our baggy trousers and band hoodies. (I was never actually cool enough to wear baggy trousers, although in retrospect that probably wasn't a bad thing).

Other than the aforementioned singles, songs like 'Close Friends', 'Do What You Want to Do' and 'Everyone' are all fairly decent pieces. None of them are going to alter the musical landscape by any means, but they're certainly not as bad as most people would say they are. And then there's 'Freaking Out', which is admittedly, absolutely amazing, and is truly an underrated gem of the genre. It's upbeat riffs and rap-style vocals work really well, and anyone willing to give this band a chance today might be in for a surprise.

Adema were never fully established or polished enough to become heavyweights of nu metal, and like so many bands of the day, they were easy to dismiss. But listening to 'Adema' today serves as more than just a trip down memory lane, as it's actually a well-produced album with some competent songwriting, and shows a band who could, given time, go on to better things. It's just a shame that by the time the bands second album came along, the subgenre and most of its artists were already irrelevant.

BLACK FLAG Loose Nut

Album · 1985 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Warthur
Another fruit of the March 1985 sessions which rounded out In My Head and also yielded The Process of Weeding Out, Loose Nut finds Black Flag in a somewhat more accessible mode than the avant-hardcore of the former or the jazz experimentation of the latter. Essentially a concept album about being horny and frustrated (the guitar tone at points seems to point in the direction of the noisy experiments of Big Black's Songs About Fucking), it's a much more straight-ahead and accessible album than any Black Flag had released since Damaged - which isn't to say that the skewed, oddball direction that they'd taken since then isn't reflected, just that it isn't quite as much at centre stage. It's a lot of fun, but suggests that Black Flag broke up at the last time - after spending so long blazing a trail through uncharted territory, it wouldn't have been fun to watch Black Flag continue in this direction for much longer.

PITCHSHIFTER Submit

EP · 1992 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Unitron
Just a year after their debut hit the scene, simply titled Industrial, the band came back with an EP which already got the band into more of their own sound. While it is an EP, it is longer than the debut if including the silence on the last track. Even if you don't count those, it's only about 10 minutes shorter. While their debut could be a bit too derivative from Godflesh for some, Submit increases the thrash and death metal influences to make Pitchshifter a force to be reckoned with.

Apart from "New Flesh PSI", which isn't really much of a song, this album never lets up with crushing industrial fury that punches the listener to the floor. "Gritter" is a real teeth grinder, which sets the stage for all of the gritty and crunching riffs that permeate through the album. It's also almost impossible to not want to growl along. "Deconstruction" is probably the best on here, and one of Pitchshifter's best tracks in general. It really shows what was to come on the next album, with a driving nail of a riff and J.S. Clayden's chaotic vocal attack. "Dry Riser Inlet" is another one of the band's best tracks, which is a foreboding industrial death metal masterpiece. The bass is driving, but the guitar and vocals are stark during the chorus. The last song "Silo" is an instrumental sludgy dirge that is a great end to the album.

Submit has just the right amount of Pitchshifter's own flavor to make it stand out more than their debut. Some of the best death metal-infused industrial metal out there is on this record, and it should be an essential listen for any industrial fan. As fantastic as this EP is, the band would reach their peak with the following album. Hope you found this review helpful, feel free to comment!

BLACK FLAG In My Head

Album · 1985 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Warthur
Much of In My Head was actually recorded before the preceding album, Loose Nut. In My Head was recorded in sessions spanning from October 1984 to March 1985, Loose Nut was recorded as part of the March 1985 sessions along with The Process of Weeding Out EP, and some tracks from the cassette and CD versions of this album that later got an independent release as the I Can See You EP. However, In My Head was held back from release a little - partly because apparently Greg Ginn was contemplating releasing it as his first solo album, before the decision was made to just make it another Black Flag release.

So, what to make of the penultimate recorded and final released Black Flag album? (Let us not be fooled by the soulless cash-in which is "What the...?") Well, it's pretty much Slip It In Part 2, with the various unusual influences that Slip It In worked on incorporating into their baseline hardcore punk style further honed, and a decidedly Minutemen-esque sense of off-kilter experimentation continuing. It's somewhat more successful than Slip It In too - it doesn't have any missteps on the level of Rat's Eyes, for instance - making it perhaps the best album of Black Flag's experimental phase, just as Damaged was their best pure hardcore album and My War was their best proto-sludge/doom album.

BLACK FLAG Slip It In

Album · 1984 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Warthur
Slip It In was recorded in a single group of sessions in June 1984, just as My War was recorded in a focused set in December 1983. That may make it more palatable to some listeners, because whereas Family Man (which emerged between My War and this one) was made up of a mass of unusual material recorded at different times during a period of extensive musical development, Slip It In has a much more cohesive sound.

That sound is pretty much "My War, Side 1, Part 2" - whilst there's some shots of the doomier sound of side 2 of My War, for the most part the material here more involves an attempt to return to a hardcore-oriented sound but with the various other styles that Black Flag had dabbled in over the past year - doom metal and jazz in particular - more fully integrated into that hardcore sound.

The end result is a fascinating trip through a darker and more hard-edged take on the sort of territory that their buddies and labelmates in the Minutemen were exploring at the same time, filtered through some absolutely furious emoting from Henry Rollins. Rat's Eyes falls flat - it's almost a good song, mind, but the repetition of the chorus section is a bit excessive and just loses its power after a while, and it could have done with extensive tightening up on that front. On the other hand, You're Not Evil - especially its delirious outro - is so excellent as to forgive most of those sins, and the instrumental Obliteration might be the ultimate counterpoint to anyone trying to claim that the hardcore punk scene lacked for strong musicianship.

BLACK FLAG Family Man

Album · 1984 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 2 ratings
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Warthur
In some respects it's no surprise that Family Man doesn't quite get the props of the preceding My War or the following Slip It In. Both of those other albums were recorded at a particular time (December 1983 for My War, June 1984 for Slip It In), which gives them a nicely unified sound and sense of purpose. Conversely, the material on Family Man is a mixture of off-cuts from those sessions and a few other bits and pieces recorded in between them.

In principle, that only represents a gap in time of about six months or so - but for a band whose sound was evolving as startlingly rapidly as Black Flag's was at this time, that may as well represent six years. The end result is a rather disjointed album, offering three different flavours of fun.

The first flavour is the one which gets talked about the most - the Henry Rollins spoken word tracks that dominate the first side. They may well not be what many fans are after, but they're interesting poetry, and it's worth noting that whilst six of the 7 songs on the first side don't have any instrumental backing and just have Rollins talking, in terms of running time those are quite brief and take less than 8 minutes. The remaining 9 minutes of side 1 is given over to Armageddon Man, in which Rollins recites his poetry over an instrumental backing reminiscent of the doom metal/hardcore punk proto-sludge mashup of My War (the oft-overlooked second flavour here).

The third flavour consists of the second side, devoted to instrumental mashups of hardcore punk and jazz. This isn't something entirely unprecedented in the subgenre - the Minutemen put a great deal of energy into working jazz influences into their music - but those who yearn for the simple, punch-to-the-gut directness of Damaged or The First Four Years may feel a little lost here.

However, those who like me are intrigued by Black Flag's more experimental work will find that Family Man is a tasty triptych of material in various different styles. You might find that one part of it or another isn't to your taste - but if it is all to your taste, you'll be favourably impressed, and even if it isn't there may well be something here worth your time even if you tend to skip the rest.

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