Necrotica

Brendan Schroer
MMA Special Collaborator · Death, Thrash, and Prog Teams
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 32 days ago

Favorite Metal Artists

All Reviews/Ratings

1224 reviews/ratings
CRADLE OF FILTH - Dusk and Her Embrace Symphonic Black Metal
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS - Siamese Dream Hard Rock | review permalink
OPETH - Still Life Progressive Metal
CORRUPTED - Paso Inferior Drone Metal
ULVER - Nattens Madrigal: Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden Black Metal | review permalink
DEATH - Symbolic Technical Death Metal
GOJIRA - The Link Death Metal
SYMPHONY X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy Progressive Metal
METALLICA - Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
KREATOR - Pleasure to Kill Thrash Metal
INCUBUS (CA) - Morning View Hard Rock
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal
THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN - Calculating Infinity Mathcore
ALICE IN CHAINS - Dirt Alternative Metal
QUEEN - A Night At The Opera Proto-Metal
KAMELOT - The Black Halo Power Metal
X JAPAN - Art Of Life Progressive Metal
PRIMUS - Tales From the Punchbowl Funk Metal
RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS - Blood Sugar Sex Magik Non-Metal
FOO FIGHTERS - The Colour and the Shape Hard Rock

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Hard Rock 180 3.58
2 Thrash Metal 122 3.82
3 Progressive Metal 105 3.81
4 Traditional heavy metal 102 3.46
5 Non-Metal 88 3.54
6 Death Metal 74 3.69
7 Alternative Metal 66 3.72
8 Power Metal 54 3.68
9 Metalcore 44 3.34
10 Melodic Death Metal 40 3.58
11 Nu Metal 31 3.27
12 Deathcore 30 2.87
13 Technical Death Metal 29 4.09
14 Metal Related 23 4.00
15 Proto-Metal 20 3.90
16 Hardcore and crust 16 3.84
17 Grindcore 16 3.47
18 Avant-garde Metal 16 4.03
19 Black Metal 14 4.11
20 Groove Metal 13 3.62
21 Funk Metal 13 4.04
22 Mathcore 13 4.08
23 Sludge Metal 12 4.00
24 US Power Metal 12 3.63
25 Symphonic Black Metal 10 3.90
26 Symphonic Metal 8 3.63
27 Brutal Death Metal 8 3.88
28 Crossover Thrash 8 3.75
29 Glam Metal 7 3.50
30 Drone Metal 7 4.29
31 NWoBHM 7 3.86
32 Gothic Metal 6 3.25
33 Doom Metal 5 4.20
34 Speed Metal 5 4.10
35 Industrial Metal 5 4.10
36 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 5 4.40
37 Melodic Black Metal 3 4.17
38 Folk Metal 2 4.25
39 Death-Doom Metal 2 4.00
40 Atmospheric Black Metal 1 4.00
41 Death 'n' Roll 1 3.50
42 Funeral Doom Metal 1 4.50

Latest Albums Reviews

DARKHER Realms

Album · 2016 · Metal Related
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
One thing I've always loved about album art is how it reflects the music within. Of course the music should also speak for itself, but album covers can still give a taste of what's to come when done correctly. So, reader, I make this request: just look at the art for Darkher's debut album Realms. A woman with a black cloak looks down, as if in grief or simply melancholy, as she's enveloped in different shades of gray encompassing both the sky and the ground. A mass of storm clouds can be seen up above, and there's an aura of bleakness to the overall picture. After giving Realms repeated listens, I can certainly say that it lives up to its album cover in every way.

To clarify things, here's the deal: Darkher is considered the alias of a singer-songwriter known as Jayn Wissenberg, hailing from Yorkshire, England. In actuality, Darkher are currently a trio, the other members being guitarist Martin Wissenberg and drummer Shaun "Winter" Taylor-Steels (according to Facebook, at least). However, Jayn is definitely the heart and soul of this project; she's the vocalist, the primary guitarist, the producer, and the lyricist, so it's fair to say that she's the driving force. When you get to the music itself, Realms is a gothic experience with elements of doom metal, folk, post-metal, and ambient music; the atmosphere ranges from deeply melancholic to eerily unsettling, and there never seems to be an uplifting moment to be found. By far, the best aspect of the record is Jayn herself. Her vocals are simply wonderful, with a haunting and almost operatic quality to them, and they're layered over the music with a large amount of reverb. This works especially well in songs like "Hollow Veil" and "Wars," in which her evocative voice clashes with the metallic doom-laden guitars just perfectly.

Despite a consistently dark and grim atmosphere, there's still variety and genre-bending to be found. Realms happens to be one of those records in which the metal elements don't necessarily outweigh the softer moments. In fact, the intro "Spirit Waker" and the interlude "Buried Pt. 1" rely entirely on dark ambient instrumentation to establish the desired atmosphere; the latter is especially effective because of how Wissenberg's drawn-out vocals meld with the dreary soundscapes. Needless to say, it's a great fit for a song called "Buried." Of course, there's also "Buried Pt. 2," which builds on its predecessor with more frequent dynamic shifts and murky electric guitar riffing mired in incredibly slow tempos. But unfortunately, the one big problem I have with Realms has to do with the tempos in general. As much as the slow riffing and long instrumental buildups assist in enveloping the listener in the album's world, it also causes the record to be slightly homogeneous after a while. For instance, "Foregone" mostly relies on one particular motif as it builds and builds into a clangorous climax of pounding guitars and drums, but the sluggishly paced buildup feels a bit tedious and dull. At the very least, the track probably shouldn't have been the longest on the album at over 7 minutes. Regardless, the record still ends on a strong note with the fittingly-titled "Lament." It's one of the strongest pieces on the album because of its softer dynamics, and the acoustic guitar balladry is beautifully combined with Jayn's droning vocal performance. Ending Realms with something more somber and folk-influenced was a nice change in pace after the doom/post-metal material preceding it.

Honestly, as a debut, this is extremely impressive. It's gorgeous, intense, doomy-as-hell, and it takes pride in engulfing your ears in incredibly thick layers of darkness. Again, much of the album's quality comes from Jayn Wissenberg's sheer talent and charisma, especially behind the mic. Between her hypnotic vocal performances and the post-metal-oriented instrumental work, Darkher have proven that establishing a strong atmosphere and focusing on subtle songwriting shifts are among their strongest talents. The downtrodden beauty is really something to behold, and it'll be interesting to hear how they follow it up next time around.

WINTERSUN The Forest Seasons

Album · 2017 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
The forest is teeming with darkness.

I love the four seasons and the way they can change our understanding of the world. Every time they shift, it’s as if our moods and perceptions are shifting with them. And as such, they can each bring out a beautiful variety of emotions and vivid imagery in their wake. That’s why baroque violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi had such great success with his famous composition The Four Seasons. With every season, certain stylistic deviations were introduced to signify its characteristics; for instance, the sprightly and festive feel of the legendary “Spring” movement of the piece. Now, before I go any further, I’m not against someone in 2017 presenting us with a modern-day update of a timeless classic with a timeless theme. But when I heard that one of metal’s premier musicians and procrastinators Jari Maenpaa was behind the project with his primary project Wintersun, my eyebrow was more than raised… and not in a good way, really. I once loved Wintersun, a band whose first album was among my favorite modern metal debuts and provided a glimpse to a once-promising future for the band. But between the gradual dip in quality and the waiting time between albums, Jari seemed to be an artist who could only answer high expectations with false promises. But I’m always ready to keep my mind open and think positively, so I’m ready to dive into this new piece with open ears. Let’s go season by season, shall we?

Spring - The Season of Genre Cliches

We plunge into Spring, a bright and colorful season. But in the world of Wintersun, the skies remain as gray as ever. The cheap keyboards give a mood of cheap dollar-store melancholy, and the shameful production values seal the deal before the experience gets off the ground. I don’t even want to hear the rest, but I press on. The season of spring is apparently devoid of its usual life, and its generic cookie-cutter riffs are as recycled as they were on the last album. The percussion sounds like the drumset was wrapped in a giant paper bag to siphon it of all its power, then beaten senselessly over and over in the same two or three tempos. There are some “creepy” (I use this word hilariously lightly, hence the quotation marks) spoken word parts, I suppose in an attempt to enhance the atmosphere. But it’s remarkable how little Jari’s evolved as a singer, pretty much using his most familiar cleans and growls in the most predictable ways. The more I dig into the band’s discography, it seems ever more evident that Wintersun are only capable of conveying the season of their namesake (even then, not in very interesting ways). I only hear cold, distant, passionless blandness. If this is the sound of spring, I want to skip the season altogether.

Summer - The Season in Which Experimentation Meets Redundancy

At least there’s a bit more effort as we approach the season of Summer. There’s a decent acoustic guitar buildup in the intro, even though it bears a bit too much resemblance to “Sadness and Hate” in the notation and guitar tone. The tempo is more Opeth-like and the anthemic clean singing is neat, but there’s not enough to differentiate this season from the one preceding it. That is, except for the admittedly nice folk interlude in which folk and sitar sounds are integrated to add some atmosphere. Still, there isn’t nearly enough of a “wow” factor to any of this to excuse a 12-minute running time, and that’s a criticism seems to run through the entire recording. For the record, the lyrics are also a load of garbage. Check this out:

"In the dark ruin the grey mountains sing A sad song of winter and the howling wind Visions of the past in the haunting dreams Under the dead sky, under the withered trees"

If that cliched nonsense is Jari’s idea of high art, then my high school alternative rock band was full of Shakespearian poetry.

Autumn - The Season of Brooding, Brooding, and More Brooding… and Dark Riffs!

We kick off Autumn with some dark tremolo riffs to give an evil, black metal-oriented sound… spooky! Too bad the thin production makes the blast beats sound like trash. Beyond that, the mixing is so horrible that the drums overpower any of the riffing or other guitar licks we’re supposed to make out. I’m glad we’re finally listening to a song that comes a little closer to representing the weather and feel of its chosen season, but I’d like to actually hear the songwriting too! Granted, it’s nothing special. The keyboards are still bland and gimmicky, and the melodic death metal-inspired riffs are just as meandering and unengaging as ever. Somewhere around the middle, Jari uses a deep spoken word vocal style that makes him sound like Dani Filth… it’s somewhat interesting, but mostly seems like a means of distracting us from the boring 6/8-time riff and its directionless lead guitar work. The solo that follows is just some generic shredding too, so it’s really not very interesting. Just trust me: Autumn may try to sound sinister, but Jari’s not inspired enough to convey this properly.

Winter - The Season Wintersun Knows

We finally come to our final season, the season of Winter. And, lo and behold, this is actually the best piece in the collection. There’s some nice buildup in the icy synths, generating a mood both eerie and depressing. The actual title of the track is “Loneliness,” and the doomy tempo is a fine demonstration of such an emotion. The vocals are a bit melodramatic at times, but at least I’m hearing something other than the bland growls that have dominated the other seasons. Jari sounds more anguished and desperate here, fitting the theme of the composition and its blustery vibe like a glove. Alas, not everything is perfect here either. The tune seems to stick to the same tempo for most of its duration, making it a slog to sit through to the end. As usual, there’s not enough experimentation or new instrumental perspective on this season to justify a 13-minute closer to an already-overlong mess of an album. Also, the production is still pretty atrocious, but now I’m sounding like a broken record.

The forest is teeming with dread.

The four seasons can be open to such fruitful depictions and fantastic musical avenues, but Wintersun manages only to produce a small handful of these. Whenever I hear The Forest Seasons, I don’t hear the sound of fresh ground being broken. I don’t hear an exciting new aural adventure of both aggression and beauty. I don’t hear a band displaying a new or interesting take on a promising concept. I hear the sound of dread. I hear a project that has long passed its expiration date even after just three albums.

Most distressingly, I hear thousands of loyal Indiegogo funders being fucked by one egotistical Finn.

HELMET Strap It On

Album · 1990 · Alternative Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Imagine being crushed by a bunch of bricks. Imagine slamming headfirst into solid concrete. All while either of these events are happening, imagine you are also wading through a thick river of mud at the same time. Better yet, listen to Helmet's debut because it's the audio equivalent of having all that happen to you. It's a brutal, unpleasant experience; it's one that doesn't try to paint a pretty picture or have any polish from the production studio. But at the end of the day, that's exactly what makes Strap It On such a powerful gem of an album. It bridged alternative rock and metal, alternative metal with hardcore punk, and brought in some noise rock to tie it all together. It's still an uncompromising experience to this day and hasn't lost its punch over the years.

Helmet spawned from the NYC hardcore scene back in the early 1990, and instantly stood out from the rest of the metal bands of their day. They were often regarded as the "thinking person's heavy metal band" during their heyday due to their penchant for precise staccato riffing, unorthodox time signatures, and experimenting with jazz and noise rock. They also stood out from an image perspective, having a more earnest and "down-to-earth" look with t-shirts and jeans; there was no theatricality or grandiosity, nor were there any wankish or ridiculously flashy solos either. Now, I should mention that Helmet didn't hit their commercial stride until their second effort Meantime, which had their signature song "Unsung." But Strap It On definitely provided the building blocks of what would become the band's sound, while also being their rawest and most relentless piece of work. Much of what made Helmet so fresh came from frontman Page Hamilton, who still leads the charge today as the band's leader and figurehead. Also, if you're wondering where the jazz and blues influences come from, Hamilton actually studied jazz guitar in the Manhattan School of Music prior to forming Helmet. In any case, his guitar work is simply insane on Strap It On. His solos can range from showing off his technical skills ("FBLA") to becoming utterly incomprehensible nonsense at times to fit the song's mood ("Murder"), or be a mixture of both ("Bad Mood"), but his guitar skills allow him to bend a song to his will just by the way he plays and experiments with his instrument.

Strap It On may be a short affair (only thirty minutes), but just like Reign in Blood, it packs such a punch in that time that it warrants several replays. Right from the percussive bass/drum-centric intro of "Repetition," the album's production is instantly catches the ear with it mixes rawness and instrumental clarity. There's a thick wall of sound coming from the guitars during the more textural moments, such as the solo section of the slowly crawling "Sinatra" and the lengthy intro of the midtempo alt-metal number "Rude," but it's always punctuated by a punchy drum performance and tone courtesy of the legendary John Stanier. Then there are songs like "Bad Mood" or "Repetition," which are basically straight-up hardcore punk songs without any of the alternative metal elements the band is usually known for. But those are some of the best tracks on Strap it On as they're the best displays of a group who was young, pissed off, and (as I stated) uncompromising as hell. Perhaps the best thing about this album is that it mixes intelligence and strong talents with brutality in one fell swoop, something that would be lost in future records as Helmet would eventually get cleaner and more melodic. There are melodic flourishes here and there, as the guitar textures of "FBLA" and "Repetition" prove, but there's always something propulsive going on in the backing instrumentation so Helmet don't really linger on them for too long. But whenever the more emotive moments are on display, they're often incredibly gloomy or depressing; the bridge of "Sinatra" in particular is pretty hard to listen to for this reason, as the lead guitar work just makes it sound defeated... until the chorus kicks back in, that is.

Helmet made a number of brilliant records during their 90s heyday, but Strap It On is the one that just sticks with me the most. This just seems like the most impressive document of their sound, creating a perfect balance of alternative metal, hardcore punk, and noise rock in one complete package. It's short, but to the point. It's brutal, but coherent and melodic enough that it never seems too abrasive. Plus, it's still one of the most headbangable (is that even a word?) albums I've ever heard to this day. And on top of all that, there's not a bad song to be found here. If you're into punk, metal, alternative rock/metal, noise rock, or just 90s rock/metal in general, this (along with Meantime and Betty) is simply essential.

OPETH My Arms, Your Hearse

Album · 1998 · Death Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
The sky is dark and dismal, rain plummeting as if to cover every surrounding inch of earth. Soon, a lone piano enters to fully flesh out the mood. A few melancholic chords are played, and the scene is set. From the distance, a crescendo of cappella vocals gets stronger… stronger… stronger…

...and from this point forward, Opeth would rewrite the blueprints of progressive metal for the next decade.

My Arms, Your Hearse was a turning point for the Swedish metal act. It’s the very reason we were able to have masterpieces like Still Life and Ghost Reveries in the first place, as it’s the opus that cemented Opeth’s standing as one of extreme metal’s titans and foremost innovators. But beyond just its legacy, My Arms, Your Hearse still stands strong as its own powerful creation because of its near-seamless blend of death metal, black metal, progressive rock, folk, jazz, and blues into one cohesive offering. The twin guitar attack exhibited by Mikael Akerfeldt and Peter Lindgren got more fluid, and while Johan De Farfalla was sadly absent from this point onward, Akerfeldt himself filled in the cracks nicely on bass. On top of that, we also got a new longtime addition to the group with drummer Martin Lopez, whose musical chemistry with the rest of the band is staggering on this release (and most subsequent releases, I might add).

Whereas predecessors Morningrise and Orchid often seemed like a bunch of great ideas strung together in an arbitrary fashion, My Arms, Your Hearse builds upon much more conceptual and coherent groundwork. Because of this, the songwriting is often incredibly flowing and focused, with each idea progressing into the next in a logical way. This also makes for a lot of emotional peaks and valleys, especially when the band sways between death metal savagery and folk-like contemplations. Some of the quartet’s finest moments of melancholy and sheer melodic catharsis are on display here, such as the mindblowing finales of “When” and “Demon of the Fall.” But the reason these moments work so well is the balance of moods and dynamics on offer. For instance, the decision to have the reflective acoustic folk ballad “Credence” after “Demon of the Fall” provides a contrast that’s as beautiful as it is stark. The way it calmly rests as a lonesome trench between two of the album’s heaviest tracks provides a nice moment to sit back and rest before the brutality comes back. And even the brutality is multi-faceted in its own unique way, right from the jazzy a cappella chord that kicks off “April Ethereal” to the densely layered guitar chords in the doom metal portion of “The Amen Corner.”

Speaking of layering, the production values are spectacular. Frederik Nordstrom captured the essence of a raw extreme metal recording while letting each instrument move and breathe as if having a life of its own. The “clear-meets-murky” approach was a great choice, retaining just the right amount of melodicism and accessibility while still letting the sheer intensity of the heavy moments shine through. Case in point: during the chugging one-note riff in “April Ethereal,” check out how those lead guitars are playing at two separate octaves above the simple riff. The combination of the eerie leads and the crushing nature of the breakdown is exquisite, and the same goes for the complex riff patterns that cover a good chunk of “Demon of the Fall.” The harmonies are bleak and depressing, a good fit for the relentless guttural vocals and the aggressive rhythm guitar assault. There’s even some jazz influence in the guitar chords during its finale! Really, the only criticism I’d level at the record is that “Karma” and “Epilogue” weren’t quite the best pieces to end on. “Epilogue” feels like it could have been cut in half, and “Karma”’s death metal sections get a bit overlong and bland, particularly during its ending.

It’s fascinating to think we’d eventually (arguably) get an even more brilliant album with Still Life, but I like to consider My Arms, Your Hearse the album that made it possible in the first place. This was the true stepping stone, the record that brought Opeth to a new level in both their music and their acclaim as one of Sweden’s most promising metal acts at the time. My Arms, Your Hearse is a masterwork steeped in brutality and despair, and it hasn’t aged one bit with time.

NICKELBACK Feed the Machine

Album · 2017 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
I’m going to confront the elephant in the room head-on: no, this is not a grand reinvention of Nickelback’s tried-and-true style.

As much as many people want to see that (and seem to be expecting it), it might be too much to ask a band with such a recognizable comfort zone to immediately pull a 180-degree turn into new territory. But before you walk away from this review, keep listening. Feed the Machine, while pulling the same old stops for a Nickelback album, is easily the band’s most refined and energized product since their breakthrough hit Silver Side Up. Yep, after a whole 16 years of nonstop mockery and hate mail, Chad Kroeger and his band of post-grungers have decided to give us something a bit more dignified and well-written. And, all things considered, this is not a bad album by any means. If anything, it’s a somewhat solid mainstream rock offering with strong hints of alternative metal strewn about. One wishes the band’s potential could have been touched upon years ago, but you know the old saying: “better late than never.”

The oddest thing about Feed the Machine, and the reason that it ultimately falls short of greatness, is that it straddles multiple styles in a seriously imbalanced way. Hearing the heavy downtuned - and even surprisingly progressive - metal anthem “The Betrayal (Act III)” coupled with bland ballads like “Every Time We’re Together” and “Song on Fire” might end up causing rifts in Nickelback’s already-polarized fanbase, just as the varied levels of lyrical quality could as well. That said, the variety is still fun once in a while. The intro to the cheesy rocker “Must Be Nice,” while pretty standard for Nickelback’s typical cock-rock fare, is so groovy and bluesy that the flaws are much less noticeable by comparison. The heavier moments found on songs like the title track and “Coin for the Ferryman” are aggressive as hell in this outing, and they occasionally contrast well with the sappy balladry that causes the album’s tonal imbalance. The band have also upped their game on the musicianship front; while famed Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt has to carry the solo duties on “For the River,” Chad Kroeger and Ryan Peake are able to bust out some decent solos and melodies in their own right. While the rhythm section is as boring as it’s always been, the increased chemistry and personality of the guitar work were a neat surprise.

The truth is, the best moments on Feed the Machine are the ones in which the band throw their old mainstream shackles away and just embrace metal. The ballads here sound both tired and dated, and simply don’t suffice in a discography that’s already drenched in tired ballads. In fact, I swear the chorus of “After the Rain” rips off the main melody to “Club Can’t Handle Me” by Flo Rida. And as I mentioned, some of these songs sound ridiculously dated. The uptempo power ballad “Silent Majority,” while at least exuding some energy, sounds like it came straight from an old post-grunge edition of Now That’s What I Call Music that would have been popular in the mid-2000s. It offers nothing new or interesting, and just results in another skippable tune for the listener to filter out. With this in mind, I must still admit that some of the experiments on the album result in highly rewarding payoffs. The two biggest here are the chunky, aggressive riffing of “Coin for the Ferryman” and the progressive metal stylings of “The Betrayal (Act III).” These songs completely abandon the band’s old cliches to deliver something that’s honest-to-god fun and steeped in genuine effort. They’re heavy, they have memorable riffs, and they present the true stylistic stepping stones in this experience.

For the first time in quite a while, I didn’t really know what rating I’d give Feed the Machine or whether to recommend it. This is a classic case of Nickelback giving us really nice songwriting and concepts before shooting themselves in the foot for making stupid decisions at the cusp of greatness. I will say that the positive aspects of Feed the Machine are some of the best things I’ve ever heard from this band, but they really need to decide whether to move forward with these changes or to replant themselves in the past. This half-and-half deal isn’t quite going to cut it, and it might end up warding off more of their fanbase than the usual Nickelback record because of it. But, because of those positives, I think Feed the Machine deserves a slight recommendation at the end of the day. It may not sway ardent haters, but those who are genuinely interested in hearing the band touch up their sound and try some new things might find something they enjoy.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 5 months ago in Bricks are Heavy
    Had to go with Everglade, which is still one of my all-time favorite grunge songs. The entire album is a fucking masterpiece though
  • Posted 1 year ago in Now -- what are you listening to? V2
    [QUOTE=UMUR] http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/album/gojira/magma[/QUOTE] Nice! How are you liking it? I know a lot of people aren't too into it, but I think it's fantastic. It might be more simplistic, but the post-metal elements and emotional weight make it a really good record in my eyes (or ears, I guess) 
  • Posted 1 year ago in Punk recommendations?
    Bad Religion, The Exploited, Refused, At the Drive-In, Splendora, Big Black, Helmet (their early work is more hardcore-oriented), L7, Tijuana Sweetheart, Anti-Cimex, Discharge, Disclose, Turbonegro, The Bronx, Minor Threat, Against Me!, Supergrass (although they're more like a mix of Britpop and punk, they're absolutely fantastic), Dismemberment Plan (they combine indie rock, post-hardcore, and math rock), Urban Waste, Government Issue, Local H, Sleater-Kinney, Captain We're Sinking, The Dwarves, Botch, 7 Year Bitch, The Gits, and many more. I could go all day 

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