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HEMOTOXIN Alchemist

EP · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Alchemist" is an EP release by US, Pittsburg, California based death metal act Hemotoxin. The EP was released through Brutal Gear/Clandestine Records in April 2014. The EP is available in digital format at a "name your price" tag on Hemotoxin´s Bandcamp profile. Hemotoxin was formed in 2010 and released several demos and the "Divinity in Torture" EP in 2012, before releasing their debut full-length studio album "Between Forever... and the End" in 2013. "Alchemist" is the follow up release to that album.

The 5 tracks on the 19:53 minutes long EP pretty much continue the strongly 90s Death (the band) influenced technical/progressive death metal style of "Between Forever... and the End (2013)" except for the short intro and the closing track on the EP, which is a cover of "After Forever" by Black Sabbath. The musicianship are on a high level, with convincing aggressive growling vocals, fast aggressive death/thrashy riffing and drumming, pretty well played solos, and Hemotoxin are overall a tight playing unit.

The original tracks on the album are well composed although the Death influence is maybe a bit too obvious, and I miss more original ideas from the band. The cover version of "After Forever" isn´t that successful to my ears though. I´m not sure if it´s under rehearsed or if it´s the arrangement of the track that´s a bit off, but it doesn´t sound that great. The sound production is professional, clear, and powerful, and overall "Alchemist" is a quality product despite a few issues (mainly that the band almost clone ideas from Death). A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

MONGOL Chosen by Tengri

Album · 2014 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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"Chosen by Tengri" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Canadian, Devon, Alberta based folk/melodic death metal act Mongol. The album was independently released in July 2014 through the band´s Bandcamp profile and is available both as a digital download and on CD. Mongol was formed in 2009 and released their debut full-length studio album "The Altan Urug" in 2012. They were a four-piece on the debut album, but on "Chosen by Tengri" the lineup has been expanded to a six-piece.

Stylistically the music on "Chosen by Tengri" is extreme folk metal with elements from both black and death metal. As the band name may suggest, Mongol have opted to pursue their interest in the Mongolian Empire, both in their lyrics, in the cover artwork, and in the band image. While the basis in the music is often an old school sounding death/black metal hybrid, featuring both death metal growling and black metal style higher pitched snarls, folky elements are omnipresent, which provides the album with it´s folk metal tag. I´m not exactly sure the folk melodies, or the use of instruments like banjo, mandolin, and accordion, are ethnic Mongolian in nature, but they do provide the atmosphere of the album with a certain fantasy/old ages feel, that suits the concept pretty well.

The music can be both raw and more epic in nature. The latter helped along by keyboards and clean male vocals (and sparse female) and choirs. It´s all pretty well performed, and it´s obvious the band have some good compositional ideas, but overall "Chosen by Tengri" isn´t the most interesting release (the material simply don´t stick). That feeling is further enhanced by the sound production, which doesn´t exactly provide the music with much power. It´s decent, but not much more than that. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

MYRKUR Myrkur

EP · 2014 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 3 ratings
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Myrkur-Myrkur

Black Metal is a genre that I'm pretty new to, other then Myrkur and Burzum, I'm not familiar with much Black metal at all. Myrkur was actually my first full venture into the Black metal genre, and what an introduction!

Myrkur is a one-woman black metal band whose identity had remained a bit of a mystery until she was revealed to be Amalie Bruun. This EP was released only a couple months ago, and it seems she's already gotten quite a following in her home-country of Denmark. The style of this album combines very atmospheric ambient sections with menacing chamber-music vocals and elements, and raw yet flowing black metal sections with screams and raw guitar work.

The EP opens up with chamber-choir vocals that start off the track 'Ravnens Banner'. It soon transitions into pounding drums and flowing raw guitar work. During the bridge some menacing riffing comes in that reminds me of some of the guitar work in Pendragon's recent releases. The next song 'Frosne Vind', is a soft folksy track where Bruun's clean vocals really shine beautifully. It then goes back to heavy guitar in the next song 'Må Du Brænde i Helvede', where Bruun gives a powerful screaming performance over crunching guitar riffs. Next is the song 'Latvian Fegurð', which shows her mixing clean vocals and screaming over the heavy guitar and double bass. Then comes the beautiful and melodic 'Dybt i Skoven', Bruun's vocals feel very passionate in this song. The next song is the longest song on the EP and only single 'Nattens Barn', which is the first song I heard on the EP. After flowing raw guitar that has come to be expected on the EP, very menacing riffs come in that start playing under the flowing guitar. Crunching guitar also comes in, playing under the raw guitar as well. Certainly one of my favorites of the EP. The EP ends with the nearly 50-second 'Ulvesangen', which is a beautiful soft piece similar to the track 'Frosne Vind'.

Overall, this is one of the best EP's I've ever heard. One of the best releases of the year, and it makes me very intrigued to hear her release an album. I heard a couple Burzum songs before listening to this, but this makes me really want to delve a bit deeper into the Black metal genre. Highly recommended to any metal collection.

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ELLORSITH 1959

EP · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"1959" is an EP release by Scottish black/death metal act Ellorsith. It´s the band´s first official release and it´s available digitally on the Ellorsith´s Bandcamp profile at "name your price" tag. It´s also available on cassette tape limited to 100 copies through Caligari Records. "1959" was released in July 2014.

The music on the 5 track, 26:06 minutes long EP, features a combination of black- and death metal elements. Instrumentally the music can predominantly be tagged black metal with fast tremolo riffing and repetitive blast beat drumming, but the vocals are unintelligible death metal growling. In addition to the fierce yet atmospheric blast beat sections, the music also features heavy mid-paced parts with dissonant picked chord progressions. The closing track "Compelling Natural Force" is especially slow and gloomy. The EP is bookended by somber Gregorian choir sections, and Russian spoken words.

The music is generally incredibly bleak and reeks of darkness, pain, and death. Themes that go hand in hand with the lyrical concept of "1959", which revolves around the "Dyatlov Pass Incident". An incident which took place in the Ural mountains in 1959 Soviet, where 9 hikers led by Igor Dyatlov mysteriously died. There are quite a few theories regarding the incident, and everything from murder, to a compelling natural force (which was the official Soviet statement), to UFOs, to nuclear missile testing have been suggested (the group´s tent was tore open from the inside, and all 9 hikers left the tent without their shoes/boots in the freezing cold, and were found dead in odd positions on the mountain side). Ellorsith are very successful in bringing the right bleak atmosphere to their music to try and describe the mysterious and quite eerie events.

They are also a very well playing act, and the music and the vocals are delivered with great passion and conviction. It´s not cold precision playing, and it´s obvious that these guys have gone for a more organic playing style. That shouldn´t be misinterpreted as if they aren´t a tight playing unit though, because that would be far from the truth.

The organic playing is complimented perfectly by a very organic, raw, and quite lo-fi sounding production. It´s one of the cases where such a production suits the music well as it brings the right grim and bleak atmosphere to the music. "1959" is upon conclusion a very good quality release by Ellorsith, where everything from music, cover artwork, and lyrics work perfect together and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

JANE DARK Doors to Silence

Album · 2014 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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"Doors to Silence" is the 2nd full-length studio album by Serbian death metal act Jane Dark. The album was independently released in July 2014 through the band´s Bandcamp profile at a "name your price" option. Jane Dark was founded in 2000, switched name to Mortus Causa in 2004, but later changed back to the Jane Dark monicker. The material featured on "Doors to Silence" were predominantly written during the 2003-2005 period, and recorded between 2010 and 2013.

Stylistically the music on the album is a bit hard to nail, but there are quite a few influences from "Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991)"-era Carcass heard in the music. Especially in the way the vocals sound. Jeff Walker has definitely not lived in vain. The more you listen to the album, the less it sounds like Carcass though, and there are quite a few surprises to be found on "Doors to Silence". Mellow clean guitar sections, melodic solos, keyboards, and a generally adventurous way of thinking music, are some of the elements that set Jane Dark apart from other similar artists.

While the core of the band´s sound is old school sounding death metal, there are influences from both thrash, traditional heavy metal, goth, and progressive rock on the album too. The band are relatively well playing and the album features a decent sound production too (the bass drums feature a clicky sound that doesn´t suit the music that well though), so all in all "Doors to Silence" is a pretty interesting release by Jane Dark. I´m not completely blown away, but it´s relatively intriguing and at times even close to being original. A 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved.

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RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE Rage Against the Machine

Album · 1992 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 54 ratings
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VerticalUprising
From what I've seen and heard, rap metal may not be the most popular genre among metalheads. This could be due to the constantly painful thought of LIMP BIZKIT. Yet, there is a lighter side to the rap metal spectrum, and leading the helm was and still is RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.

I find it funny sometimes when an artist's debut is their most famous album. It just makes me laugh: an artists first release and first actual studio release to the masses just so happens to be more popular than all of their releases afterwards. Of course I'm not saying that this album is bad because/even though it is famous. Let me explain why I like it.

Even though rap does front the music, there is no doubt that the other instruments are far behind. Speaking of the instruments, the guitars as well as the drums retain a constant and heavy funky metal beat that grows depending on where the song goes or is going. The vocals usually dictate where the song is going to go, ranging from quieter BEASTIE BOYS-style rapping onto similarly BB yelling vocals. It certainly was the general rapping sound back in the 90's.

Some highlights of mine include 'Fistful of Steel', 'Bombtrack', 'Killing in the Name', and 'Township Rebellion'.

So overall, I would suggest any alt/funk/rap metal fans to check this out, it's a definite must.

Go give it a listen.

A DAY TO REMEMBER Homesick

Album · 2009 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.33 | 4 ratings
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VerticalUprising
Ever since ADTR came around, I've always liked them. Everything about them is appealing to me; from the the slamming riffs guided by clean/screaming vocals. and when it comes to HOMESICK, this is a perfect example of what metalcore artists should strive to be.

Most of the songs on this album are just pure metal, like 'The Downfall of Us All', 'I'm Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?', and my personal favorite ADTR song, 'Welcome to the Family'. Even though it is true that ADTR mixes the concept of popular (pop) music with the brutal metal style that they are known mostly for, I don't feel like it makes quite of a difference. There is their most popular track that spawned from this album, 'If It Means A Lot to You'. You won't find any metal on this track except for perhaps the very very end of the song, where the riffs quicken and become heavier, but overall it is not a track for metalheads. However, it isn't a bad little ditty if you like that sort of genre.

Even though ADTR can't really match what their earlier stuff gave to us (in the area of heaviness), such as the material from COMMON COURTESY (2013), they can totally make a superb album. There are probably the main reason why I ever started liking metalcore. However I feel sometimes that they are pushed under the rug in some circumstances, mainly because of the huge popularity of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, another famous metalcore band. But in my opinion, these guys totally took it to a whole new level, and this really shows it.

Go give it a listen.

PORCUPINE TREE Deadwing

Album · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 47 ratings
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Porcupine Tree-Deadwing

'Deadwing' is the 8th studio album by progressive/alternative metal band Porcupine Tree. After the success of the previous album 'In Absentia', which was consistently prog metal instead of the previous albums having a few metal songs here and there, Porcupine Tree decided to maintain the heaviness but Deadwing features a more alt metal-twinged sound in my opinion.

Deadwing opens up with the title track, which sets the pace of the album really well. Many well-performed transitions between heavy crunching riffs and mellower passages take place here. Unlike the previous album, Deadwing featured two singles that were pretty successful on modern rock radio; The heavy 'Shallow' and the ballad 'Lazarus'. 'Shallow' is one of my favorites on the album, with great heavy-soft transitions, an awesome Tool-like chorus, and a crazy bridge with tons of distortion. The concert-staple 'Halo' is another one of my favorites with a kick-ass bass-line by Edwin. Probably my favorite song on the album is the Tool-esque 'Open Car', which has some great riffing.

Of course I can't forget the epic 'Arriving Somewhere...but not Here', which has very beautiful lyrics and an awesome build up for some great guitar work. Also featured on certain editions of the album is a re-recording of the classic 'Shesmovedon' from 'Lightbulb Sun'. I actually prefer this version of the song to the original, it sounds cleaner and the production sounds better.

The lyrics on the album are very strong, 'Halo' having some of the best on the album. The lyrics of the aforementioned song are about using religion as an excuse to do cruel things and wage war, with such lyrics as 'God gives meaning, God gives pain' and 'I got a halo round me, I got a halo round me I'm not the same as you'. There have been plans for a movie based around Deadwing, not sure how that will turn out but it could be interesting.

Overall, Another Porcupine Tree masterpiece. I recommend this album to any fan of progressive metal or alternative metal. Porcupine Tree would come back two years later with one of their most critically acclaimed albums and rightfully so.

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ANTITHESIS Dreaming Reality

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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"Dreaming Reality" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US progressive/thrash metal act Antithesis. The album was independently released in June 2010. It´s been quite a few years since "Dying for Life (2001)" was released but the recording of "Dreaming Reality" actually already began in 2004. It wasn´t until late 2009 that the recording process was finished though. In the meantime two of the members who recorded "Dying for Life (2001)" had also been replaced. Matt Adkins had taken over the vocal duties from Ty Cook and Brian Glodde had replaced James Lewis on bass.

The music style is still the same as on the last album though. We´re treated to progressive US power/thrash metal played by greatly skilled musicians. The technical level of playing is very, very high. New lead vocalist Matt Adkins has a strong voice and a convincing delivery. He sings slightly more than his predecessor, who was slightly more raw sounding, but Matt Adkins can also sing harsher type vocals when that is called for. The instrumental part of the music is busy and technically quite challenging, which is pleasure to listen to if you´re a fan of acts like Charred Walls of the Damned and Control Denied. Just add a more progressive edge to the style of music that those two acts play and you´re half way there. Technical thrashy riffing, tempo- and time signature changes and just a generally powerful delivery.

"Dreaming Reality" is not only well composed and well played, it´s also well produced and overall it´s a high quality release. If I have to point out a minor issue it would be that the melody lines aren´t always that memorable and that the vocals themselves can be a bit hard to listen to over the course of a full album. And don´t get me wrong here because as I mentioned above Matt Adkins is a very skilled vocalist with a strong voice, but it´s like he delivers at full volume all the way through the album and I miss a bit more dynamic in the vocal delivery. With this minor complaint out of the way "Dreaming Reality" is still a great release by Antithesis and a 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

ALGOPHOBIA Algophobia

Album · 1997 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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"Algophobia" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by Italian technical/progressive death metal act Algophobia. The album was released through Pargan Music in 1997. Algophobia was formed under the Nemesis monicker in 1992 but changed their name to Algophobia in 1994. This is so far their only full-length release.

Algophobia play a technical/progressive death metal style influenced by artists like Atheist, Cynic, Pestilence, and their fellow countrymen in Sadist. The music features tempo- and time signature changes, aggressive snarling vocals, busy bass playing and jazzy soloing. Algophobia are well playing and the music is quite intriguing but seldom original when compared to the music of their influences. Out of the above mentioned influences they remind me the most of Sadist.

"Algophobia" is overall a pretty great debut release by Algophobia, despite not being that unique sounding. Had they stayed together they might have come up with a more original sound down the road. Because that´s what they lack here to evelate them from good to great. The musicianship is strong, the sound production relatively well sounding, and the songwriting pretty solid, but that´s about it. The album should however still appeal to fans of the 90s technical/progressive death metal sound. Just don´t expect the music to be as unique sounding as those who inspired it. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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