Brendan Schroer
MMA Special Collaborator · Prog/AG, Death, Alt
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 5 days ago

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1446 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
DEATH - Symbolic Technical Death 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
SLAYER - Reign in Blood Thrash 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
L7 - Bricks Are Heavy Heavy Alternative Rock | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 132 3.83
2 Non-Metal 117 3.50
3 Hard Rock 115 3.53
4 Thrash Metal 108 3.77
5 Heavy Metal 103 3.47
6 Death Metal 88 3.82
7 Alternative Metal 77 3.66
8 Heavy Alternative Rock 68 3.68
9 Power Metal 58 3.69
10 Melodic Death Metal 47 3.65
11 Metal Related 46 3.91
12 Technical Death Metal 45 3.92
13 Metalcore 44 3.07
14 Nu Metal 36 3.31
15 Deathcore 36 3.38
16 Proto-Metal 21 3.95
17 Melodic Metalcore 20 3.67
18 Hardcore Punk 20 3.85
19 Groove Metal 18 3.25
20 Technical Thrash Metal 18 4.33
21 US Power Metal 17 3.76
22 Mathcore 17 3.94
23 Black Metal 16 4.06
24 Avant-garde Metal 13 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 Symphonic Metal 10 3.55
30 Rap Metal 10 3.75
31 Grindcore 10 3.35
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 3.86
38 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 6 4.42
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


Album · 1992 · Alternative Metal
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Last month, I published one of the hardest poems I’ve ever had to pen. For me, writing a new piece always starts with one difficult question: “how much do I want to reveal to the reader and how much do I want to leave up to interpretation?” From the time my alcoholism started to the time it (thankfully) ended, I always left a few breadcrumbs here and there about the subject in my poetry. It’s as if I wanted to address the problem while skirting around it at the same time; perhaps it was a mechanism to maintain some subtlety in my writing, or perhaps I was unwilling to confront the issue directly. Yet it was always there, and no amount of avoiding it would have changed the fact that I’d need to confront it directly someday. As it turns out, 2022 was that someday; I wrote everything that needed to be spelled out to the letter, and it was gut wrenching. What finally inspired me to face the whole ordeal head-on? Dirt. Alice in Chains’ masterpiece served - and still serves - as proof that being open and revealing about personal conflict can be the best form of therapy in one’s darkest moments.

It seems as though Layne Staley never had a problem expressing such frankness with his lyrics and vocals. One listen to Dirt reveals a man constantly spilling his guts and bleeding out on record, as if he had nothing to lose any time he approached the mic. Very few albums are less open to interpretation than this one, and that’s what makes it one of the best records of its era; Nevermind might have been the flagship album of the grunge movement, but nothing expressed the subculture’s dark pathos or downcast nature quite like Dirt. Even the songs that aren’t directly related to Staley’s drug abuse, such as Jerry’s Cantrell’s war-themed “Rooster” or the tribute to early grunge icon Andrew Wood that is “Would?”, are delivered with the same brutal honesty and manage to stay consistent with the album’s overall theme: personal demons. Dirt has nothing to celebrate and no one to congratulate, instead focusing on how horrifying our real-life hells can be if we let them consume us. In the case of some of these songs, the outcome of these ordeals is even more harrowing - especially on “Junkhead”, in which our narrator finally succumbs to his addiction altogether and says “it ain’t so bad”.

Of course, a big part of Dirt’s twisted magic is that the music matches the subject matter so well. Any of the 80s influence that was found on Facelift has been completely wiped away in favor of a sludgy metallic murk, perfectly conveying the desert burial on the album cover. While there are a few songs that run at a quicker pace - the off-kilter groove of “Them Bones”, the punkish tempo of “Dam That River”, etc. - their chunky riffs and oppressive atmosphere ensure that they aren’t out of place with the rest of the tracklist. As for the slower tunes, many of them approach straight-up doom metal territory: “Junkhead”, “Hate to Feel” and the title track trudge along at a snail’s pace as they leave the listener enveloped in a thick haze of despair and dread. All of this perfectly supplements the messages Alice in Chains wanted to deliver on Dirt, as well as making them one of the only grunge bands to have crossover appeal with the metal crowd. More importantly, Dirt saw the full mastery of one of Alice in Chains’ biggest trademarks: the incredible vocal harmonies between Cantrell and Staley. These were on Facelift as well, but Dirt is where they really started to shine; songs like “Down in a Hole”, “Sickman”, and “Hate to Feel” simply wouldn’t have the same impact without them, especially the former and its soft, sorrowful verses.

In hindsight, however, the most depressing aspect of Dirt - much like the self-titled followup - was how prophetic it was. Staley knew he was digging his grave prematurely with every needle, and the lyrics of Alice in Chains’ 90s output make this distressingly clear. Yet it can’t be denied that he had one of the most unique and incredible voices of that entire era of rock; the way he juggled technical ability, emotion, and - as stated before - brutal honesty was only matched by a small handful of other artists at the time. Just watch the live performance of “Love Hate Love” at The Moore and it becomes clear just how much of a loss the rock world endured in 2002 with Staley’s passing. I like to see Dirt as the American grunge equivalent of Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible, in the sense that the album is every bit as much a tortured character portrait as it is a record. Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Starr might have been involved in the writing of Dirt (though the latter two only contributed to one song), but this really feels like Staley’s record first and foremost. It also remains his finest hour, serving as a foreboding message to those with personal demons: don’t let them drag you down and destroy you, or else you’ll find yourself in the grave before you can pull yourself back out.

~R.I.P. Layne Staley 1967-2002~

EVERY TIME I DIE Gutter Phenomenon

Album · 2005 · Metalcore
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After an experience as explosive as Hot Damn!, I suppose it was inevitable that Every Time I Die would start expanding their sound a bit with the followup album. While retaining much of the same musical DNA found in the band’s previous records, Gutter Phenomenon sees them treading upon more melodic and anthemic territory. Elements of southern rock and classic rock have now started making their way into the group’s signature sound, as Keith Buckley’s clean and screamed vocals are delivered more equally than ever. For many metalcore outfits, this would usually be regarded as a sellout move; however, the way Gutter Phenomenon juggles its contrasts makes for a compelling and even fascinating record.

Prior to the recording of the album, the members of Every Time I Die looked back at their previous releases and started contemplating ways that they could branch out their sound for the next project. In the end, it seemed like the best way to move forward was to look backwards; that is to say that they began wondering if classic rock had any possible place in hardcore or metalcore. However, if the brutality of opener “Apocalypse Now and Then” is any indication, it’s pretty clear that they weren’t going to fully abandon their roots; instead Gutter Phenomenon is the result of merging disparate styles together while still being surprisingly consistent and cohesive. In any case, the variety found on the record is highly welcome. On top of the melodic clean singing that adds a new dimension to Buckley’s voice, the instrumental passages are given much more diversity in both arrangement and performance. Guitarists Andy Williams and Jordan Buckley have greatly expanded their roles here, such as on the catchy-yet-unsettling leads on “The New Black” or the manic tremolo picking on “L’astronaut”. Of course, they don’t completely digress from what made them such staples in the metalcore world to begin with; there are still plenty of heavy-as-fuck breakdowns and angular riffs that make their way onto the album as usual. But it’s nice hearing the duo fusing other sounds into their preexisting style. Add the stellar drumming from Mike Novak on top of all this, and the lineup is in fantastic form on Gutter Phenomenon.

One of the most impressive traits of Every Time I Die is that they always managed to evolve their sound step-by-step without ever abandoning their roots along the way. Any stylistic shift that seemed poised to alienate listeners was always met with thick slabs of metalcore bliss to assure their fanbase that they hadn’t lost the plot. It’s difficult to walk that artistic tightrope, but Every Time I Die pull it off near-effortlessly; “Kill the Music” (featuring Gerard Way!) and “Pretty Dirty” may have their share of melody and accessibility in their clean-sung moments, but such moments are still accompanied by the same off-kilter riffs and intense screams that we’ve come to expect by the band. In other words, Gutter Phenomenon is an excellent synthesis of the expected and the unexpected. While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Hot Damn! - largely due to lacking the same pure, visceral thrill of that record - it still manages to be another solid entry in the band’s discography. Don’t let the clean vocals and accessible moments deter or fool you: this is still an Every Time I Die album in every sense of the word, and it’s a damn good one.

SOM The Shape Of Everything

Album · 2022 · Metal Related
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The first moments of The Shape of Everything’s opener “Moment” communicate the record’s vision and style perfectly. Warm clusters of shoegaze-esque guitar chords hover over a wide chasm of downtuned metal riffs, calling to mind the most atmospheric moments by Deftones and Devin Townsend while still retaining a unique identity. SOM’s self-proclaimed mission is to “leave this place better than we found it”, and through the lush melodies and positive vibes of their debut LP, I believe them. Fronted by Connecticut native Will Benoit, the group allow their shoegaze and post-metal elements to mingle and intertwine, merging into one cohesive sound; the record doesn’t act as a juxtaposition of the two styles as much as it proves the effectiveness of fusing them together near-seamlessly. If anything, the heaviness of the rhythm guitars acts as a side dish to the ethereal leads that provide the album’s true ambiance.

One of the most striking features of SOM’s debut from the get-go is its length: only 34 minutes, spread across eight tracks. It’s certainly a lean runtime, and there’s not much variation in the song lengths. However, rest assured that the band manage to make excellent use of the brief amount of time they have; The Shape of Everything remains consistently engaging and fresh, both stylistically and from a quality perspective. “Animals”, for instance, takes the hazy melodies and droning riffs of “Moment” and dives even deeper with touches of airy lead guitars and a distorted spoken-word segment. Meanwhile, late-album cuts “Wrong” and “Heart Attack” put a bit more emphasis on those cavernous metal riffs that anchor the experience as a whole; the latter in particular sounds quite reminiscent of the heavier moments of Deftones’ Saturday Night Wrist - “Hole in the Earth” and the closing riff of “Beware” quickly come to mind.

All of this is accompanied by highly detailed and ornate production values courtesy of Benoit himself. The Shape of Everything sounds pretty damn immaculate, providing a perfect balance between a metallic crunch and shoegaze textures; every time I’ve replayed the record, I’ve noticed small details that could have easily been missed upon first listen. For instance: the swirling guitar leads that hang over the climax of “Clocks” while Benoit is singing, or the incredibly subtle ebbs and flows in volume that mark “Shape” as a whole. Still, with all of this in mind, I do believe that more stylistic variation could benefit SOM’s work in the future. The 34-minute runtime does keep the music focused and tight, but I could see the record getting a bit boring and monotonous if it were longer and more sprawling. If Benoit and company are shooting for a more expansive tracklist (or more expansive arrangements for that matter) next time around, it might be wise for them to bring a few more tricks to the table - perhaps a few more aggressive riffs or soft ambient passages for greater dynamic contrast.

However, what they delivered here is still impressive. There’s something to be said for a band who decide to bring out the positivity and healing properties in a genre that’s generally known for intensity and distortion, and SOM accomplish this very nicely. The Shape of Everything is warm, inviting, and just plain beautiful; it may not be quite as sprawling or ambitious as some of its creators’ other post-metal contemporaries, but it still manages to be a compelling experience in the short runtime it has. There’s a bright musical future here, and one can only hope that SOM successfully capitalize on it.


Album · 1998 · Technical Death Metal
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Was anybody actually ready for an album like Obscura back in 1998? Watch any early live performance of these songs on Youtube, and what you’ll see is a crowd that’s practically motionless. They’re not moshing, instead just stunned and transfixed at the bizarre dissonance and calculated chaos playing out before them. In the same year that other tech-death landmarks such as The Sound of Perseverance were being released, Gorguts had already left the archetypal trappings and conventions of the genre far behind with an avant-garde metal masterwork that stood - and still stands today - as a monument to mental anguish and turmoil.

I get the sense that much of the confusion and surprise surrounding Obscura stemmed from the sheer leap forward from its predecessor. The Erosion of Sanity is more sophisticated than Considered Dead, sure, but it’s still a relatively straightforward death metal album. No one could have predicted something like Obscura; imagine if Death released Individual Thought Patterns immediately after Scream Bloody Gore. So what happened? Well… Steeve Hurdle happened. Luc Lemay might be the co-founder and bandleader of Gorguts, but he’s never going to find a better wingman than Hurdle. The duo’s combined artistic vision led to a level of experimentation and twisted chemistry that can’t be matched anywhere else in the group’s catalog; if you have any doubts of Hurdle’s involvement in this partnership, the liner notes credit both him and Lemay with the “artistic direction” of Obscura.

And what an artistic direction this is. All of death metal’s stereotypical traits and tropes have been thrown out the window in favor of abstract lyrics, strange chord structures, and ever-changing time signatures. Instead of being technical for technicality’s sake, however, Gorguts use their musical toolkit as a means of communicating intense feelings of dread, despair, and viscera. While the songwriting is impressive, the way these emotions and thoughts are conveyed through the songwriting is what makes it so effective. It’s as if every weird bout of dissonance and every alien guitar squeal is another layer of sanity being ripped away from the listener. Of course, the vocals are also a massive contributor to this. If Lemay sounds demented and savage - which he does - Hurdle acts as his tortured and agonized counterpart. Every time Hurdle lets out a lyric, even if it’s not particularly disturbing, he transforms it into a twisted and ugly affair with his horrible retching and heaving. And what’s so wild about all of this is that the record makes more and more sense with repeated listens; what seems like chaos starts falling into place once you let the deliberate nature of the songwriting and execution sink in.

Of course, I don’t want to leave bassist Steve Cloutier or drummer Patrick Robert out of the picture either; the fact that they can make sense of the musical madness on Obscura and play these crazy riffs so impeccably is a feat unto itself. Their precision and technical acumen is a perfect foil for Lemay and Hurdle’s insane ideas, leading to a lot of chemistry between all members. Everyone is locked in with each other, which is absolutely necessary for an album that could go flying off the rails at any given time. Obscura reminds me a lot of Calculating Infinity by The Dillinger Escape Plan in that regard; both records have a habit of letting chaos and control coexist in strange and creative ways. Sometimes the two mingle, and sometimes they clash with each other. Still, one thing is for certain: the members of Gorguts are ridiculously talented. As for the lyrics, they’re a substantial step up from the band’s previous output; the gore and social commentary of yesteryear were now replaced with writings on existentialism, spiritualism, and - you guessed it - despair. In any case, they prove to be just as abstract and peculiar as the music they’re accompanying, which seems appropriate.

But to answer my original question: no, people were not ready for Obscura back in 1998. There’s a reason Gorguts are commonly cited as pioneers of avant-garde metal; nothing sounded like this back then, in the technical death metal genre or otherwise. If the album had proven anything, it was that many of their contemporaries were already being left in the dust artistically. Because of Obscura, extreme metal would simply never be the same again.


Album · 2003 · Metalcore
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”Tonight, I’m coming home in a coma if it fucking kills me!”

With that line, Every Time I Die shot for the stars and never looked back. If Last Night in Town was a solid debut that showed a promising band in their infancy, Hot Damn! took the same formula and nearly perfected it. Over a lean runtime of only 27 minutes, the record runs the gamut from explosive hardcore punk outbursts to slow-burning riffs of warped majesty. “Romeo a Go-Go” immediately sets the scene, using the opening line above to launch into punishing riff after punishing riff; the intricate mathcore passages of the previous outing have now been replaced with an adrenaline shot of pure metalcore, an excellent move if these results are any indication.

What Hot Damn! really manages to nail is its identity; it’s clear that Every Time I Die knew exactly what kind of record they were setting out to make this time around, and it leads to a record that’s consistent and focused from beginning to end. Even the more experimental moments, such as the melancholic instrumental “In the Event That Everything Should Go Terribly Wrong” or the math-y guitar stabs of “Pornogratherapy” don’t feel out of place; if anything, they’re simply alternate methods of communicating both the brutality and bleakness of the album. Still, such moments are outliers. For the most part, Hot Damn! is pure, uncut insanity; if you were put off by “Romeo a Go-Go”, then you won’t find much solace in the relentless screaming and heavy breakdowns of its followup “Off Broadway”, nor will you find comfort in the manic drumming and sudden tempo shifts of “She’s My Rushmore”. Once in a while, singer Kevin Buckley will use clean vocals to vary up his style; however, they’re incredibly pained and out-of-tune. A perfect example comes in the form of “Ebolarama” which merges Buckley’s cleans with extremely dissonant and chunky guitar passages. The result is wonderfully off-putting and unsettling, as you know he could snap at any minute and revert back to his screamed vocals (which, of course, he does).

Of course, the other members are no slouches either. The only change in personnel from Last Night in Town is the addition of new bassist Stephen Micciche, and the returning members have all upped their game here. As I stated before, Hot Damn! is definitely not as mathcore-based as its predecessor; however, that doesn’t mean the playing is any less impressive. The guitar duo of Jordan Buckley and Andrew Williams continues to impress, as their interplay makes even the most chaotic moments seem controlled and collected. This is especially true of the fastest and most unceasing cuts on the record; every time the music threatens to go off the rails - as it so often does with this genre - Buckley and Williams manage to reel it back in at just the right times. The same goes for our new bassist, who gets plenty of time to shine; I’d like to highlight “She’s My Rushmore” in particular, which features a nice solo spot in the middle so Micciche can show off his chops. And of course Michael Novak doesn’t disappoint on the drums, as the intensity of his playing has been elevated from Last Night in Town - no small feat. But that really goes to explain Hot Damn! in general: faster, more intense and more focused. This record really isn’t for the faint of heart, but that’s what makes it so exciting and effective. It’s 27 minutes of chaos and brutality, occasionally tempered but never any less potent as it goes on. Last Night in Town was a damn good start for Every Time I Die, and with Hot Damn!, they brought their A-game.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 7 months 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 7 months 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 1 year 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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