Brendan Schroer
MMA Special Collaborator · Death, Thrash, and Prog Teams
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 30 days ago

Favorite Metal Artists

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1222 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 173 3.57
2 Thrash Metal 122 3.82
3 Progressive Metal 101 3.80
4 Traditional heavy metal 97 3.45
5 Non-Metal 88 3.54
6 Death Metal 74 3.69
7 Alternative Metal 70 3.74
8 Power Metal 58 3.70
9 Metalcore 44 3.34
10 Melodic Death Metal 39 3.62
11 Nu Metal 32 3.28
12 Deathcore 30 2.87
13 Technical Death Metal 29 4.09
14 Metal Related 22 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 US Power Metal 15 3.63
20 Black Metal 14 4.11
21 Groove Metal 13 3.62
22 Funk Metal 13 4.04
23 Mathcore 13 4.08
24 Sludge Metal 12 4.00
25 Glam Metal 11 3.59
26 Symphonic Black Metal 10 3.90
27 Symphonic Metal 8 3.63
28 Brutal Death Metal 8 3.88
29 Crossover Thrash 8 3.75
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

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.

SOUNDGARDEN Superunknown

Album · 1994 · Hard Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
The death of Chris Cornell was a tragedy for many rock fans across the globe, but in my case, it was an especially devastating blow to the gut. On the day of his passing, nostalgic images suddenly rushed back to my mind. I recalled my time as a young teen back in California playing the classic Superunknown over and over again on the car stereo. Those hazy summers were the perfect time to listen to some sentimental alternative rock records, but Superunknown was truly unlike anything I’d heard before (or since). Suddenly, the sludgy and grimy world of grunge was colorful and expansive. Aggression married grandiosity, and the moments of punk rock fury were paired with moments you swear you’d hear as a funeral dirge. Then psychedelia, stoner metal, 70s classic rock, and even some progressive rock were piled on as icing on the cake. And now with Cornell’s suicide fresh in people’s minds, the dark atmosphere and frequent mood swings that define Superunknown seem even more real and relevant than ever.

Truth be told, calling Superunknown a grunge album is a massive oversimplification. The 70-minute behemoth is packed with so many shades and flavors of rock music that it’s tough to know where to even begin analyzing it. But I can say one thing right off the bat: as great as the individual songs are, this album is best heard as the entire experience. It may be long, but trust me, it doesn’t feel that long despite how draining it is. There’s an overarching sadness to the record, but the emotional contrasts can add a layer of deception. For instance, “The Day I Tried to Live,” with its hopeful title and relatively upbeat (if a bit off-kilter) riff suggest an optimistic message, but the lyrics tell a different story altogether. Cornell’s charisma on the mic shines through, yes, but the transformation of imagery in the first verse is bizarre and even jaw-dropping. It goes from “seize the day” to “watch the rolling heads” in a matter of seconds, and yet Kim Thayil’s fantastic guitar leads continue to drive the piece along. Other songs bring on the aggression like a parade of bulls, such as the energetic punk jam “Kickstand” or the tight Drop-D riffing found in opener “Let Me Drown.”

But it’s the slower numbers that truly bring out the best in Superunknown. Whereas 90s grunge peers Alice in Chains would use doom metal to create a feeling of horror or sickness, Soundgarden brought the style to more grand and deeply profound places. “Black Hole Sun” sounds almost mystical in the way Thayil’s dreamlike guitar leads blend with the down-to-earth and even minimalist rhythm section, as if some spiritual being is being anchored and weighed down by reality. It’s wonderful that the band could maintain melodic sensibilities while at their darkest, which turned out to be one of their defining traits. The same goes for the closer “Like Suicide,” a song that’s recognizable by an unsettlingly cheery guitar melody while Cornell is singing about smashing a bird with a brick to end its suffering. The subject matter on Superunknown is portrayed and expressed with so much personality, even it reaches its darkest moments. Perhaps the most gloomy and deeply uncomfortable song on here is “4th of July,” a song that fully embraces the most grim and distraught aspects of grunge music and puts them on full display. The slow tread of the riff sounds like you’re watching a portrait slowly decay and melt with time, and the distortion is so thick that it puts many sludge metal bands to shame. Add to that a heavy Drop-C tuning on the guitars and the whole experience is a sound to behold.

The band members are simply fantastic here, no one truly being a weak link. I’ve already touched on Chris Cornell and Kim Thayil a bit, but bassist Ben Shepherd and drummer Matt Cameron deserve their share of praise as well. These guys had so many diverse sounds and knotty time signatures to work through, and they somehow made it sound as natural as any of the other grunge bands at the time who were always playing in 4/4. For the best showing of Cameron’s talents, I highly recommend his amazing performance in the rhythmically complex “Spoonman,” in which he has an inventive drum solo alongside somebody literally tapping spoons (known as Artis the Spoonman!). “Limo Wreck” is also great, if you want to hear how creatively he works around slower tempos. For Ben Shepherd, my favorite moment would be his incredible chemistry with Chris Cornell on the main riff of “Mailman,” an octave-hopping affair with a dreary and somewhat bluesy motif. He also kicks ass on the title track and “Kickstand,” which exhibit his (and Matt Cameron’s) speed and precision more than usual. Every member brings a great level of personality and chemistry to these tunes, and Chris Cornell’s vocal performances here are among the best he’s ever recorded. Just listen to those soaring verses in the title track, as well as those beautifully subdued moments in “4th of July”! Truly a legend.

But it’s truly heartbreaking to see him gone, as well as the fact that we probably won’t get another Soundgarden record ever again. The grunge legends of the 90s seem to be slowly dying out, and Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam is now officially the last of the Big 4 frontmen to still be alive and kicking (unless you count Jerry Cantrell). But much like Alice in Chains, Soundgarden were significant in the fact that they were able to be a bridge between grunge and other genres, especially metal. The band’s style wasn’t just black and white, but allowed to have breathing room and a wealth of diversity in the middle. Simply put, they were an incredible rock band with a distinct style, and Superunknown is their crowning achievement.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Did you feel the shifts? The shift in the tempo, the shift in the style or the shift in the vision of the punk-turned-doom act Neurosis?

Was the eerie Wicker Man-inspired album art a strong enough indication of the change? Or did we have to wait until we heard the content within?

The content within, I must state, is terrifying. Sludge and hellish distortion crush the ears like a trash compactor; the songs are longer, the compositions more complex, and seemingly inching toward the progressive or avant-garde;

"To Crawl Under One's Skin" sets a grim tone, its creepy intro sample a sinister indicator of the following horrors; and what follows? A brilliant mixture of post-metal, doom metal, post-hardcore, and sludge metal with enough menace in its tone to make a seasoned metal fan buckle.

Did you feel the shifts? Did you experience the sea change? Listen to the way the acoustic and electric guitars of the title track bicker and contrast with one another; an cold, tenuous relationship forming a dreary masterpiece of atmosphere as the bizarrely paced piano chromatics seal the deal.

Once in a while, the speed picks up and yet the tension never truly dissipates. The two chords that encompass most of "Flight" rely on instrumental textures and tortured vocals until the acoustic guitar beckons us back to the void.

The content within, I must admit, never ceases to be draining. The further you delve into it, the more it takes from you. Some quiet moments occur, such as the acoustic intro to "Stripped," but it never feels like a respite. The heavy moments plow through like a sledgehammer to the skull and the reflective moments are woeful and depressing.

But that's also the beauty.

Souls at Zero is something of an entrancing horror; much like Requiem for a Dream or Eternal Darkness; the vivid hell it portrays is intoxicating. And just one listen to outro "Empty," with its uneasy acoustic melodies and melancholic electric leads, and you'll feel both gutted and wanting to brave the whole journey again.

Do you feel the shifts? Did you hear the rise of a remarkable force towering over you? Have you heard the utterly disgusting majesty of 90s metal in its prime?

With Souls at Zero, you'll feel it.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 3 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][/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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