Brendan Schroer
MMA Special Collaborator · Prog/AG, Death, Alt
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit 4 days ago

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1442 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
ALICE IN CHAINS - Dirt Alternative 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

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 131 3.82
2 Non-Metal 115 3.50
3 Hard Rock 111 3.55
4 Thrash Metal 109 3.77
5 Heavy Metal 102 3.48
6 Death Metal 87 3.82
7 Heavy Alternative Rock 81 3.66
8 Alternative Metal 76 3.67
9 Power Metal 58 3.69
10 Melodic Death Metal 47 3.65
11 Technical Death Metal 46 3.92
12 Metalcore 43 3.05
13 Metal Related 39 3.90
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 NWoBHM 7 3.86
37 Drone Metal 7 4.29
38 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 5 4.40
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 · 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.

KAMELOT The Black Halo

Album · 2005 · Power Metal
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As someone who grew up with classical piano training, I can’t overestimate how much that very genre influenced me in my upbringing. Even when I entered more aggressive styles of music such as metal, I often gravitated more towards progressive metal because of the long complex arrangements and overblown suites. Call it being pretentious if you’d like (it kinda was), but bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater, and Vanden Plas were a major influence on my development as a musician for those very reasons. But the problem with many of those bands is that they often lacked the more emotional side in favor of that complexity and technical skill (especially post-2000s Dream Theater, if we’re referring to the bands above). I was always looking for a group that balanced both the technical and emotional sides more equally, one that could be heard both holistically and in-depth.

Then Kamelot came along.

While Epica was an amazing leap forward for the band in its own right, The Black Halo is a different story altogether. Mixing elements of progressive metal, power metal, symphonic metal, and opera, the album is a bombastic declaration that Kamelot was willing to take the metal world by storm. But the thing that instantly makes it stand out is that the record’s story - a continuation of the Heinrich Faust story started in Epica - is told in a way that never seems over-the-top or cheesy. Vocalist Roy Khan (four albums in his tenure by this point) studied opera singing for three years, and it shows in his time with the band. His voice is consistently gripping and simply drips with emotion, whether he’s letting out intense wails or performing at a low whisper. The instrumental passages that compliment his vocal work, are also beautifully laid out for the listener, blending technical riffing with a dark and even gothic atmosphere.

It’s refreshing to see that The Black Halo knows when to end its songs too, opting out of the oft-used progressive metal approach of throwing in bloated epics just for the sake of it. The only track here that’s relatively long, “Memento Mori,” actually deserves the runtime because of the phenomenal piano intro and intense symphonic buildup into the meat of the song. The shorter songs - particularly “Soul Society,” “When the Lights Are Down,” and “This Pain” - are great examples of displaying the band’s incredibly tight songwriting and exploring their more aggressive dynamics. Thomas Youngblood’s guitar presence runs deep through the record, primarily in his intricate and nimble riffing over the solid rhythm section. But he’s often tempered by both Miro’s piano work and Roy Khan’s vocals, which brings a neat sense of balance to the record. This is best heard in “Moonlight,” where we hear a one-note riff that practically resembles a breakdown, until it makes way for the gorgeous piano verses and some subtle hi-hats in the background. It’s a fantastic contrast, to say the least.

But that’s what makes this album so great: contrast. Just as the album’s story is brimming with so many different emotions and moods, the band’s methods of conveying them are just as varied. Granted, a good chunk of this album is pretty melancholic and gothic in tone, but the diversity of the songwriting and instrumental work are great nonetheless. Just listen to the opener “March of Mephisto”; as the name implies, this is a downright stately and thunderous metal anthem that even features the legendary black metal singer Shagrath (Dimmu Borgir) on guest vocals to give the chorus a bit more grit. But it immediately transitions into the power metal majesty of the fast-paced “When the Lights Go Down” and that’s when you know the record won’t be one-note, something that’s solidified by the depressing power ballad that follows, “The Haunting.” But when it comes to the band’s softer side, I highly recommend “Abandoned,” quite possibly one of the most tragic and beautiful piano ballads in rock music. Khan’s vocals are so passionate and heartbreaking that the song simply becomes entrancing, only helped by Mary Youngblood’s guest vocals and the classical piano arrangement that anchors it all.

If Karma and Epica were high artistic achievements for Kamelot, The Black Halo is the album that represented them at their absolute peak. In fact, I’d argue that this is the best power metal album ever made, as well as one of the top five progressive metal albums ever made. The way it pours its emotions out to the listener while maintaining its composure and vicious instrumental prowess is fucking stunning. It’s gothic, it’s dark, it’s atmospheric, and the band members certainly knew how to convey those traits at the best of their abilities while retaining the qualities that can make progressive metal so enjoyable. I can’t say it enough: this is metal at its best.

KATATONIA Dead End Kings

Album · 2012 · Alternative Metal
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"At night, walking on the tracks, change my perspective..."

That is, indeed, a lyric from the album. However, it's also a quick summation of when I realized Katatonia's greatest strengths as a band. One cloudy evening, many years ago, I parked my car and proceeded to walk to a bass lesson by my jazz instructor. As I crossed the tracks, I listened to Dead End Kings for the very first time on my phone and headphones. As I looked at my surroundings, every color seemed to melt into a muted blend of gray and black through the sheer power of musical atmosphere. The mix of crunchy downtuned guitar riffing and cinematic keyboards found in opener "The Parting" felt like a gradual descent into a different state of being altogether; hell, I felt like I was just teleported somewhere else entirely. Now, keep in mind that I was already a fan of Katatonia by this point. I was a big fan of Viva Emptiness and The Great Cold Distance and the way they combined crushing alternative metal riffs with a melancholic vibe. But something about this experience was distinctly different.

On the more concrete side of things, the most notable aspect of Dead End Kings is that it symbolizes Katatonia's evolution into a progressive rock/metal act. There were always hints here and there, but this is the first time we get to hear those moments in a more fleshed-out way. Tempos are more varied, the rhythms are a bit more intricate, and as stated before, some cinematic synthesizers have been thrown in (and utilized more effectively than on Night is the New Day, as far as I'm concerned). Some songs practically ditch metal altogether, such as the soft palm-muted electric guitar chug of "The One You Are Looking For Is Not Here" or the melodious, textured doom rock (if "doom rock" is a real tag) of "Undo You." A few other experiments are brought on board too, like the strange piano-led swing rhythm of "Leech," the snare drum dominance of the more technically-challenging "Hypnone," and the fantastic inclusion of electronic ornaments to the music of "The Racing Heart." And what does all of this do for the band's sound? Exactly what it should be doing: giving us one of the most atmospheric releases yet by this band. It should probably be clear by this point that when I wrote: "Katatonia's greatest strength's," atmosphere was at the top of that list. And the reason Dead End Kings remains one of my favorite Katatonia albums is because the progressive elements gave them even more ways to experiment with the general atmosphere of their music. Add on top of this some of their most dynamic traditional bangers, such as "Ambitions" and "Dead Letters," and the experience is practically impossible to not recommend. A night on the tracks changed my perspective indeed.

BODOM AFTER MIDNIGHT Paint the Sky with Blood

EP · 2021 · Melodic Death Metal
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A lot of great musicians left us over the past year, but Alexi Laiho’s death hit me harder than the others. Growing up as a classical pianist, Children of Bodom’s second record Hatebreeder was the album that showed me just how well music theory could be integrated into metal. Amidst the soaring guitar solos and harsh vocals, there lay a goldmine of tightly performed melodies and intricate riffs that almost seemed progressive at times. Laiho was at the heart of it all, of course, and was just as influenced by the classical greats such as Mozart and Beethoven as he was by neo-classical guitar heroes like Yngwie Malmsteen. But it’s also important to remember how hook-laden these songs were (and are); despite the complexity and craftsmanship, albums like Hatebreeder and Follow the Reaper were anything but mere riff salad. Somehow the songs were just as catchy as they were technically impressive, and the gothic atmosphere definitely played into this as well. And while the band hit a rough patch of declining quality, 2013’s Halo of Blood and 2019’s Hexed gave me plenty of hope for their future. But alas, it wasn’t meant to last.

With that said, what we have here is the sole EP by Laiho’s newly formed band Bodom After Midnight, who understandably disbanded after his passing. Despite the change in band name, Paint the Sky With Blood is exactly what you would expect from a latter-day Children of Bodom offering. Power metal with harsh vocals, catchy but aggressive. The tracklist is very small, only featuring two originals and one Dissection cover; however, the material is still of a reasonably high quality throughout. The opening title track is a fun - if pretty standard - melo-death anthem with all the stuff you’d expect from a Laiho project: blazing solos, anthemic “FIGHT” chants, and a nice layer of synth action to cap things off. In fact, the slow bridge in the middle is quite reminiscent of the bridge in Follow the Reaper’s title track, which can only be a good thing as far as I’m concerned. Meanwhile, “Payback’s a Bitch” is more in the thrashy vein of Children of Bodom’s middle-era albums, but with a healthy dose of melodicism that saves it from being just a boring chugfest. The guitar and keyboard solos absolutely tear it up, and sound absolutely wicked when performed over the rapid-fire drumming. Finally, we have the cover of Dissection’s “Where Dead Angels Lie”, which manages to be a worthy cover while retaining the classic “Bodom” style. The dark and frigid atmosphere works especially well, especially during the whispered parts in the middle section; the song as a whole doesn’t do away with the sinister edge of the original track, instead expanding upon it with a more touched-up production and dark echo-swathed clean guitars.

Paint the Sky With Blood provides an interesting look into what kind of music we could have gotten if Alexi Laiho had lived longer. There’s some really solid stuff here, even if we didn’t get a whole lot of material to listen to. Fans of Children of Bodom will feel right at home with these fun melodic death metal tunes, and the accessible songwriting might just draw in some new fans as well. If you have 15 minutes to spare and want to hear some solid metal tunes with some neo-classic elements and a melodic edge, you can’t really go wrong with this album.

R.I.P. Alexi Laiho - 1979-2020

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 2 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 2 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 11 months 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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