Brendan Schroer
MMA Special Collaborator · Prog/AG, Death, Alt
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 21 hours ago

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1475 reviews/ratings
CRADLE OF FILTH - Dusk and Her Embrace Symphonic Black Metal
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS - Siamese Dream Heavy Alternative Rock | review permalink
OPETH - Still Life Progressive Metal
CORRUPTED - Paso Inferior Drone Metal
GOJIRA - The Way of All Flesh Death Metal
SYMPHONY X - The Divine Wings Of Tragedy Progressive Metal
METALLICA - Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
KREATOR - Pleasure to Kill Thrash Metal
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal
CYNIC - Focus Technical Death Metal
CYNIC - Traced in Air Progressive Metal
QUEEN - A Night At The Opera Proto-Metal
QUEENSRŸCHE - Operation: Mindcrime Progressive Metal
MEGADETH - Rust in Peace Thrash 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 Heavy Alternative Rock
SADIST - Tribe Technical Death Metal
L7 - Bricks Are Heavy Heavy Alternative Rock | review permalink

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 148 3.87
2 Hard Rock 118 3.53
3 Non-Metal 118 3.52
4 Thrash Metal 109 3.78
5 Heavy Metal 105 3.51
6 Death Metal 87 3.84
7 Alternative Metal 77 3.68
8 Heavy Alternative Rock 67 3.72
9 Power Metal 58 3.72
10 Melodic Death Metal 50 3.68
11 Metal Related 48 3.82
12 Technical Death Metal 45 3.94
13 Metalcore 42 3.01
14 Nu Metal 37 3.30
15 Deathcore 36 3.36
16 Proto-Metal 21 4.02
17 Melodic Metalcore 20 3.73
18 Hardcore Punk 20 3.85
19 Technical Thrash Metal 19 4.32
20 Groove Metal 18 3.25
21 Mathcore 18 3.97
22 US Power Metal 17 3.76
23 Black Metal 16 4.06
24 Avant-garde Metal 14 4.04
25 Funk Metal 12 4.04
26 Gothic Metal 12 3.71
27 Sludge Metal 12 4.17
28 Symphonic Black Metal 11 4.00
29 Grindcore 11 3.45
30 Symphonic Metal 10 3.55
31 Rap Metal 10 3.75
32 Glam Metal 9 3.44
33 Brutal Death Metal 8 3.88
34 Crossover Thrash 8 3.69
35 Industrial Metal 8 4.06
36 Drone Metal 7 4.29
37 NWoBHM 7 4.07
38 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 6 4.50
39 Speed Metal 5 4.10
40 Traditional Doom Metal 4 4.25
41 Cybergrind 4 4.13
42 Folk Metal 4 4.38
43 Atmospheric Black Metal 3 4.00
44 Melodic Black Metal 3 4.00
45 Heavy Psych 2 4.00
46 Goregrind 2 3.50
47 Death-Doom Metal 2 4.00
48 Stoner Metal 2 4.00
49 Stoner Rock 1 4.00
50 Viking Metal 1 4.00
51 Doom Metal 1 4.50
52 Funeral Doom Metal 1 4.50
53 Death 'n' Roll 1 3.50

Latest Albums Reviews

ILENKUS The Crossing

Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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A lone man walks into a sea of people. He looks quite unassuming, adorned with a hoodie, jeans, and a pair of headphones. He looks like he’s about to spit some bars to the unsuspecting crowd… but then the unexpected happens. Suddenly, we - and, by association, the people around him - are met with a barrage of piercing screams and aggressive shouts. This man, clearly having balls of steel, has opted not to lip-sync his vocals but instead belt them out at the top of his lungs. The public looks on in equal parts terror and awe, probably wondering if the dude is possessed. It’s an absolute spectacle, to say the least.

What I just described is the video for Ilenkus’ single “Over the Fire, Under the Smoke”, and its chaotic energy is complimented perfectly by the music itself. The Irish outfit’s second album The Crossing is basically the twisted bastard child of The Dillinger Escape Plan’s progressive mathcore and Cult of Luna’s dense atmospheric sludge metal, and the results are pretty breathtaking. Combine technical riffs, blackgaze-esque blast beat sections, incendiary vocals, and contemplative quiet passages, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you’ll find here. Much like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Ilenkus are compelling in their ability to come off as controlled and focused while also sounding as utterly vicious as possible. And of course, if we’re gonna talk “vicious”, I need to bring up the individual I was referring to in the first paragraph: Chris Brennan. This guy’s vocals are absolutely savage. His inhuman screaming is an excellent fit for the music, especially during the more “blackened” passages in which he lets loose his most intense wails. This isn’t to say that he uses these vocals all the time - he does opt for cleans during the more reflective moments - but his harsh ones are certainly his most impressive.

Still, the other members rise to the occasion as well. One of the biggest marks in The Crossing’s favor is its diversity, and much of that is attributed to the musicians’ versatility and willingness to experiment. Opener “Devourer” is a perfect example of this, as its unpredictable, turbulent nature makes it both unnerving and exciting - especially when you’re hearing it for the first time. What begins as an all-out barrage on the senses, complete with riffing and drumwork ripped out of the Jane Doe-era Converge playbook, turns into a musical labyrinth that’s equal parts mathy and melodic; hell, the middle section of “Devourer” is so serene and calm that you almost forget just how violent and brutal everything started out. But that’s what I love so much about The Crossing - the fact that these songs really feel like journeys, replete with stimulating twists and turns.

The title track explores these dynamic contrasts even more, and is perhaps the closest thing to post-metal on the entire record. The entire first half is a bleak, doomy Neurosis-esque buildup that merges beauty and bleakness while highlighting the guitarists’ abilities to create atmosphere and intrigue. Brennan, Sam Ellis, and Josh Guyett all contribute to the guitar work found on The Crossing, and if you want a good insight to both their technical prowess and synergy, listen to the title track in its entirety; the way the trio transform the piece from a pensive melodic piece into a tightly-controlled blast of math/sludge fury is impressive as hell. As for drummer Rory Guyett and bassist Robin Van Der Klooster’s collective presence on the record goes, I would refer you to the aforementioned “Over the Fire, Under the Smoke”; it’s the most consistently intense track on The Crossing, and its knotty twists and turns create a wonderful musical playground for the rhythm section to mess around with… most notably, a goddamn black metal section in the middle, in which Guyett gets to show off some killer blastbeats and double bass work.

Yet, as we close things out with “Goodbye Denial”, there’s a strong sense of melancholy. Beneath all the brutality and chaos that pervades much of The Crossing, the underlying vibe is one of decadent, sorrowful beauty - something that even the harsh black metal screams and technically impressive performances can’t fully mask. And this closer is a fitting way to bring it all back home, as even its most vicious moments are imbued with the same desolate aura that defined its quiet intro. Unfortunately, “Goodbye Denial” would also be a fitting title for the band’s last song: after several years of inactivity, Ilenkus finally broke up in 2022, with The Crossing being their final full-length record. It’s a real shame, as I consider this album to be somewhat of a forgotten classic; it absolutely belongs in the same company as Converge or Neurosis’ upper-tier work. And the fact that a band could actually merge such disparate influences as sludge metal and mathcore in the first place? That’s fucking awesome.

AUTOPSY Morbidity Triumphant

Album · 2022 · Death Metal
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Death metal trends may come and go, but Chris Reifert is one of those special musicians you can (almost) always rely on to keep the flame of the old guard alive; after all, we’re talking about the same guy who performed on Death’s classic Scream Bloody Gore and helped spearhead the first wave of the genre. Through thick and thin, Autopsy’s vile brand of death/doom riffery has remained largely unchanged (excepting Shitfun, but let’s not talk about that). If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Just give me some disgusting gutturals, brutal riffs, and stank-face breakdowns, and I’ll be happy. Still, even in the context of Autopsy’s recent string of successes, I get the sense that the boys felt they had a bit more to prove on 2022’s Morbidity Triumphant.

To put it plainly, this is the most energized and inspired the band have sounded in years. The core ingredients of their sound are still as present as ever, but – and I know it sounds a bit trivial – the riffs are just better this time around. Take “Stab the Brain” for instance: the synthesis of brutality and groove here is just undeniable, as the opening salvo of speedy riffage gives way to an infectious doomy swing. And much like any great Autopsy record, there’s just a certain filth and rot to the music that’s palpable through the speakers. The slow, murky intro to “Final Frost” immediately conjures images of decaying zombies rising from the crypt at night, only reinforced by the sickening growls of Reifert and guitarist Eric Cutler. Of course, this doesn’t last too long, as eventually the track transforms into a furious affair with rapid-fire drumwork and nimble fretwork. And this leads me to one of the best aspects of Morbidity Triumphant: how well each disparate section connects with each other.

The band’s “death/doom” tag can be taken quite literally, as some parts are pure old-school death metal and some sections are pure doom metal. However, the connective tissue between these distinct tempo changes is generally butter-smooth. “Born in Blood” is a perfect example of this, as the atmosphere and feel of the song never changes, no matter what pace the band are playing at. You’ve got your funereal opening crawl, a thrashy midsection, and a return to the doom metal at the end; still, the same agonized vocals, grimy guitar tone, and overall adaptability of the musicians prevent each transition from sounding forced or awkward. And while we’re on the subject of the talent on display here, each band member gets plenty of time to shine. Obviously Reifert is still the star of the show, but the dynamic guitar duo of Cutler and Danny Coralles remains highly potent here. Whether it’s the groovy Sabbath-esque riffage of “The Voracious One”, the creepy melodic harmonies on “Flesh Strewn Temple”, or the fierce thrash-laden carnage of “Knife Slice, Axe Chop”, they know how to rise to any occasion or mood the music calls for. Combine that with the solid chemistry in the rhythm section of Reifert and bass newcomer Greg Wilkinson, and these songs are in some damn fine hands.

With all of that said, it’s not like Morbidity Triumphant innovates in any major way. If you didn’t like previous Autopsy records – or old school death metal in general – this will absolutely not change your mind. But with that kind of album cover, were you really expecting there to be any major stylistic changes here from their previous stuff? This is just a brutal, grimy, fun death metal record – simple as that. And while a bit more variety would certainly be welcome on the next album, Autopsy’s familiar formula hasn’t been executed this well in quite some time.


KING'S X Three Sides of One

Album · 2022 · Hard Rock
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If I could sum up the majority of King’s X’s output in one word, I would call it “reliable”. Their signature blend of hard rock, progressive rock/metal, and alternative metal really hasn’t changed much over the years, despite a few experimental releases here and there (Please Come Home… Mr. Bulbous immediately comes to mind). But in all fairness, their sound never really needed to change in the first place; despite only bubbling up beneath the mainstream, you’ll find no shortage of musicians who have praised them over the years. From Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament proclaiming that they invented grunge to Devin Townsend including Gretchen Goes to Nebraska in his list of the “Five Albums That Made Me”, King’s X have garnered a reputation as “your favorite band’s favorite band” for a reason. With that said, the last decade hasn’t exactly been kind to our rock trio: in the time since 2008’s XV, drummer Jerry Gaskill and frontman Doug Pinnick had suffered their share of health issues, including two heart attacks in the former’s case and a lymph node infection in the latter. Combine that with the members’ respective solo projects, and it was understandable that production on Three Sides of One would be a slow and difficult process. But now that it’s finally out, how exactly does it stack up against their previous works?

Right from the get-go, opener “Let It Rain” makes it apparent that these guys haven’t lost a step since their absence. It’s a warm, inviting midtempo rocker with all the spiritual imagery and charismatic vocals that you would typically expect of a King’s X song. You have to give it to Pinnick as well: the dude is in his 70s now, and yet his vocals sound like they did in the band’s early days. His singing manages to range from low vibrato sections to high impassioned wails, as if he’s still exalting the music he heard in “Over My Head” all those years ago. Meanwhile, Ty Tabor is cooking up all sorts of diverse guitar tones and techniques throughout the record; you’ve got the absolutely nasty sludge-influenced intro to “Flood Pt. 1”, the bluesy crunch found in the riffs of high-octane rocker “Give It Up”, the gorgeous clean tones of power ballad “All God’s Children”, and much more. While Pinnick and Gaskill provide an excellent rhythm section as always, it’s Tabor who brings much of the stylistic diversity on Three Sides of One.

What’s especially welcome about the record is the presence of the gospel and soul elements that defined the trio’s best works. “Take the Time”, for instance, is rife with lush vocal harmonies and an overall life-affirming atmosphere; the whole song just exudes feel-good vibes. The aforementioned “All God’s Children” is another good case of this, as even its heavier sections retain the reverent spirit of its subdued acoustic moments; of course, having lovely vocal interplay between Tabor and Pinnick helps too. But if there are any genuine surprises found in Three Sides of One’s tracklist, they’re in the metal side of things; seriously, this record gets startlingly heavy at times. “Flood Pt. 1” and “Swipe Up” are both marked by sludgy downtuned riffs that channel the likes of Alice in Chains or Melvins, although the former does ease up in its verses. Elsewhere on the album, we get the proggy off-kilter riff that introduces “Holidays” and the down-and-dirty southern grooves of “Watcher”, displaying a band who aren’t afraid to express their heavier side in new ways 43 years into their career. However, it would have been nice to have just a few more of such experiments on the record. Much of Three Sides of One is just business as usual for King’s X, the tracklist largely being occupied by midtempo melodic rockers in the group’s traditional style without a ton of surprises; a little dose of unpredictability could have strengthened the experience as a whole.

Still, having a new record by these guys is like hugging an old friend you haven’t seen in years; even after such a long absence, there’s still a warm familiarity you get as a King’s X fan when putting the album on for the first time. The classic Beatles-esque melodies? The soulful vibes? The rock-solid musicianship? The heavy semi-proggy riffs? They’re all here, and all get their due spotlight over the course of the album. Three Sides of One doesn’t reinvent the wheel in any major way, but it serves as a nice continuation of the band’s career after such a long gap between releases; moreover, it’s just incredibly satisfying to see them finally putting out new material again.

OCEANS OF SLUMBER Starlight and Ash

Album · 2022 · Metal Related
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"It’s going to be more experimental." "We’re taking our established sound and expanding it." "This will be our darkest record yet." So many bands make these claims before a new release, only to backpedal and make the exact same album as before. However, upon hearing the first few songs on Starlight and Ash, it became very clear to me that Oceans of Slumber would stay true to their word and do something different this time around. Instead of continuing on with the progressive doom sound that had become their signature, they decided to pare things down and draw inspiration from the very land they were formed upon. Now, I need to make something very clear: this doesn’t mean the sextet have abandoned everything that made them who they are. You still get Cammie Gilbert’s expressive vocals, frequent dynamic shifts, and the same melancholic atmosphere the band have always been known for. However, the way they approach these elements has changed significantly.

So what do I mean by “the very land they were formed upon”? Well, it’s actually very literal: Starlight and Ash takes the members’ Texan roots and brings them closer to the forefront. The death growls and epic song lengths have all but disappeared, making way for lean cuts of southern gothic doom rock – yes, most of the metal has been stripped away on this project as well. Once in a while you’ll get a song like “Star Altar” or “Just a Day”, both of which harken back to the band’s earlier material, but the majority of Starlight and Ash is spent exploring previously uncharted sonic territory. Single “The Lighthouse” was certainly a sign of things to come, marked by an acoustic guitar motif that must have been ripped straight out of an old spaghetti western movie. But other songs go even further to establish the band’s newfound experimentation, such as the hypnotic gothic rock of “The Hanging Tree” and the lovely solo piano piece “The Spring of 21”; these tunes retain Oceans of Slumber’s usual brand of melancholic beauty while taking them into exciting new directions.

The band members themselves have also scaled back their performances, and nowhere is this more important than with our two main songwriters, the spousal duo of Gilbert and drummer Dobber Beverly. Instead of frequently relying on the dramatic belting of the former and the over-the-top drum fills of the latter, both have opted for a more understated approach this time around. In the case of Gilbert, this serves to make the climaxes even more powerful; opener “The Waters Rising”, serves as a prime example, as she finally lets loose midway through the song after two minutes of anxious buildup. Combined with the ever-quickening tempo, it’s a legitimately exciting payoff. Beverly, meanwhile, has revamped his playing style to compliment each song without being too flashy; occasionally you’ll still get overly technical flights of fancy, but they’re not nearly as prominent as before. Of course, I also can’t downplay how effective the shortened song lengths are on Starlight and Ash: despite the relative lack of metal on the record, the tightened song structures and arrangements ironically give the material much more urgency. “The Hanging Tree” and “Hearts of Stone” are just as slow and doomy as what you’ll find on previous records, but because of how much content they pack into just four minutes each, nothing comes across as meandering – a common problem with their earlier work.

With all of that said, there’s still room for improvement. For all the praise I’ve given the group for their willingness to experiment, some of the results don’t quite hit the mark. The cover of “House of the Rising Sun” is probably the worst offender, as it simply seems out of place; in fact, aside from some nice violin work, there’s not much to speak of. The song doesn’t build up to anything particularly interesting, instead opting to remain in generic ballad territory throughout its runtime; if there’s any song on the record that could have benefitted from an explosive climax, it’s this one. Still, I have to commend Oceans of Slumber for even attempting an album like this. I suppose only time will tell whether Starlight and Ash ends up being a transitional record or a one-off experiment, but what we received in the meantime is quite the compelling experience. Even if you’ve been disappointed with the group’s past efforts, I still suggest giving this one a try; it might just convert you.

DEATH Symbolic

Album · 1995 · Technical Death Metal
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I remember when I first heard the phrase “adventure metal”; guitarist Chris Letchford used it to describe his band Scale the Summit. And it’s not like I can’t see where he’s coming from, either. Scale the Summit use atmosphere and shifts in mood to take you on a journey, an expedition of sorts. At the same time, though, it’s not like they were the first band to come up with such a concept; countless acts, from Opeth to Gojira, have gone great lengths to make their music feel more like an excursion than mere tracklists. But today, we’re going to talk about a band who had to evolve to get to this point: the almighty metal giants Death. To put it simply, it’s hard to believe that the same band that wrote such a primal display of death metal fury as Scream Bloody Gore could come up with an incredible mixture of aggression and sophistication. Despite this, Symbolic proved to be the pinnacle of Death’s steady evolution into the realm of progressive extreme metal. With a new lineup of guitarist Bobby Koelble, bassist Kelly Conlon, and returning drummer Gene Hoglan, Chuck was ready to redefine metal once again… this time achieving the strongest results.

From the opening notes of the title track, Symbolic sounds like a daunting undertaking, as if you’re actually scaling a mountain. Those monumental octave-jumping riffs, combined with the classically-inclined melodies arched above, show just how much Chuck Schuldiner had grown as a songwriter over the years. It’s not enough anymore to just have meaty, brutal riffs, but now they’re all embellished with little ornaments that flesh out the atmosphere and diversity of the recording. That melodic opening riff in “Without Judgment” sounds pretty cool; what more could they add? Well, some intricate and progressive drum fills courtesy of Gene Hoglan should do the trick. That chunky Drop-D intro to “Crystal Mountain” is aggressive and driving; how about that one? Get Schuldiner and Bobby Koelble to bring in some classical harmonies straight out of a Dream Theater album to round it out! Despite the progressive influences, however, the technicality and ambition never get overbearing to the point that they get in the way of a good riff or a good groove. On top of that, songs like “Misanthrope” and “1,000 Eyes” still pay respect to the band’s thrash-driven past with harsh and relentless arrangements that round out the variety on Symbolic.

Now, let’s get back to that first statement I made: the one regarding “adventure metal.” That may sound like a really stupid term (and, to be honest, I’d agree), but it’s still a great way to describe Symbolic. The way each song shifts and adjusts to each change in mood and tone is ridiculously natural, and gives off the true sense of embarking on a journey. “Perennial Quest” is probably the best example, especially in how it concludes the record with a soft acoustic portion that somehow doesn’t sound out-of-place on a Death album (then again, there’s also “Voice of the Soul”...). Many of the riffs and melodies here are adorned with an emotional punch that’s lacking in a lot of today’s technical metal; just listen to the quiet introduction to “Empty Words” and the subtle melancholy it wrings out of the clean guitar progression. On a similar note, check out the beautiful clean section of “Sacred Serenity,” which provides a nice contemplative break from the metal frenzy without breaking too far away from the band’s signature style. The lyrics are equally thought-provoking too, touching on themes of religion, hypocrisy, deceit, misanthropy, as well as many depictions of inner contemplation and soul-searching. The poetry on the record brings nice accompaniment to the more advanced musical arrangements, to say the least.

Death’s followup The Sound of Perseverance might be even more adventurous, and Individual Thought Patterns might have been more technical, but neither of them pulled these qualities together as meaningfully as Symbolic did. If you were to ask me why Symbolic works so well, I could answer that in just a few words: songwriting and storytelling. They sound like simple ingredients, but Death elevated them to such lofty heights that very few death metal or progressive metal bands could keep up with the sheer ambition and focus of this epic. Symbolic is beautiful, immersive, elaborate, brutal, and a stunning testament to just how emotionally and artistically accomplished heavy metal can be.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 1 year ago in Andrew W.K. (United States)
    Alright, just forwarded your request to the hard rock team, so we'll see what they say 
  • Posted 1 year ago in Andrew W.K. (United States)
    Personally I agree, although I think it'll be a matter of taking this up with one of the people from the hard rock team. Honestly, I'm actually a bit surprised that he isn't on the site yet. 
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in My New Classical Composition!
    I posted this on ProgArchives as well, so I'll copy and paste what I typed there:So I've recently been writing a lot of my own music, including composing some pieces. I figure I've been reviewing long enough that I'd might as well incorporate my influences into some original music. Anyway, this is a piece I just wrote the other day; I'm starting to experiment more with different time signatures and extra instrumentation. Hope you enjoy! The play button is on the score itself when you click the link Necrotica2021-02-02 20:16:23


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