Warthur

MMA Metal Reviewer · Metal Reviewer
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1779 reviews/ratings
BLACK SABBATH - Black Sabbath Heavy Metal | review permalink
BLACK SABBATH - Paranoid Heavy Metal | review permalink
THE STOOGES - Fun House Proto-Metal | review permalink
THE STOOGES - Raw Power Proto-Metal | review permalink
BLUE ÖYSTER CULT - Secret Treaties Hard Rock | review permalink
KISS - Alive! Hard Rock | review permalink
JUDAS PRIEST - Sad Wings Of Destiny Heavy Metal | review permalink
RUSH - A Farewell to Kings Hard Rock | review permalink
RUSH - Permanent Waves Hard Rock | review permalink
MOTÖRHEAD - Ace of Spades Heavy Metal | review permalink
RUSH - Moving Pictures Hard Rock | review permalink
IRON MAIDEN - The Number Of The Beast NWoBHM | review permalink
MERCYFUL FATE - Don't Break the Oath Heavy Metal | review permalink
METALLICA - Ride the Lightning Thrash Metal | review permalink
IRON MAIDEN - Powerslave NWoBHM | review permalink
METALLICA - Master of Puppets Thrash Metal | review permalink
CANDLEMASS - Epicus Doomicus Metallicus Traditional Doom Metal | review permalink
SLAYER - Reign in Blood Thrash Metal | review permalink
KING DIAMOND - Abigail Heavy Metal | review permalink
TROUBLE - Run to the Light Traditional Doom Metal | review permalink

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Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Non-Metal 160 3.90
2 Heavy Metal 148 3.64
3 Progressive Metal 145 3.61
4 Black Metal 124 3.80
5 Hard Rock 118 3.52
6 Thrash Metal 81 3.76
7 Power Metal 79 3.41
8 Metal Related 78 3.70
9 Atmospheric Black Metal 64 3.86
10 Death Metal 59 3.95
11 Gothic Metal 57 3.34
12 Doom Metal 55 3.76
13 Proto-Metal 52 3.60
14 Traditional Doom Metal 45 3.87
15 US Power Metal 41 3.46
16 Stoner Metal 38 3.78
17 Avant-garde Metal 38 3.78
18 Industrial Metal 33 3.44
19 Symphonic Black Metal 30 3.20
20 Technical Death Metal 25 3.84
21 Melodic Death Metal 25 3.94
22 Death-Doom Metal 23 4.13
23 Melodic Black Metal 22 3.91
24 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 20 3.98
25 Hardcore Punk 19 4.21
26 Heavy Psych 16 4.06
27 Funeral Doom Metal 15 3.70
28 Folk Metal 14 3.32
29 Symphonic Metal 14 3.04
30 NWoBHM 13 4.23
31 Alternative Metal 12 3.25
32 Technical Thrash Metal 12 4.13
33 Sludge Metal 11 3.95
34 Speed Metal 11 3.73
35 Depressive Black Metal 10 3.75
36 Drone Metal 9 4.00
37 Funk Metal 9 3.78
38 Groove Metal 8 3.63
39 Viking Metal 8 3.63
40 Crust Punk 7 2.93
41 Brutal Death Metal 5 3.70
42 Grindcore 5 4.10
43 Death 'n' Roll 4 4.50
44 Crossover Thrash 2 4.50
45 Glam Metal 2 2.50
46 Pagan Black Metal 2 3.50
47 Nu Metal 2 4.00
48 Metalcore 2 3.00
49 War Metal 2 3.00
50 Stoner Rock 2 3.50
51 Neoclassical metal 1 4.00
52 Heavy Alternative Rock 1 3.00
53 Mathcore 1 3.00

Latest Albums Reviews

THE NEAL MORSE BAND The Similitude of a Dream

Album · 2016 · Metal Related
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The first Neal Morse Band album was a deliberate exercise in Neal Morse shifting gear from his usual approach to making albums. Don't have a plan, don't have anything pre-prepared, just go into the studio as a group and cook everything up collaboratively.

To my mind, it was a major success - and clearly enough people thought the same to make it worth giving the Neal Morse Band idea another shot. This time, however, things seem to have shifted a little, with Neal taking on a bit more of a "band leader" role - seeing how it's his name on the cover and all - whilst not totally abandoning the collaborative approach of the group.

In particular, The Similitude of a Dream is based on a concept decided by Neal (it's an adaptation of The Pilgrim's Progress), with lyrics all written by Neal, and in a format which was ultimately decided by Neal. (Reportedly, he and Mike Portnoy had a disagreement over whether it should be a 1CD or 2CD release - Mike favoured a shorter album to prevent the concept from wearing thin - and Neal eventually got his way.)

That isn't to say this is a reversion to the approach of Neal's solo albums, or the time he spent as leader of Spock's Beard - an era when he'd write more or less all the music and lyrics and everyone else was there to execute his vision and did only minimal songwriting of their own. Once again, the credit for the music goes to all the band members - and once again, you can hear that, with more nods to pastoral-era Genesis and Pink Floyd (for example) than is typical for Neal's usual writing approach, plus some even wilder stylistic curveballs (there's bits of Draw the Line which seem almost nu-metal influenced, in terms of having a hard, funky instrumental basis which you could imagine a nu-metal vocalist rapping over at points). All this is the the sort of thing which also felt novel and interesting on The Grand Experiment, and so seem likely to be the contribution of other band members.

The shift here, then, seems to be that Neal has taken on the responsibility for providing the broader structure and concept, whilst the band as a whole take that framework and put the meat on the bones. It's a change which makes a lot of sense; The Grand Experiment was successful, of course, but it's the sort of thing which can only really be truly novel once. Coming into the studio with at least an outlined concept to hand is the sort of thing which focuses the mind, and having that sort of focus saves the album from being a mere rehash of what came before.

Using The Pilgrim's Progress as a concept also makes a lot of sense in terms of Neal's wider career; although Neal seems to be more open than he was back in the 2000s to be involved in projects producing music which is secular, or at least not overtly and explicitly Christian, he does like to involve his religion in his art. One of the things which is genuinely good about the prog albums in his solo career is that he doesn't just restrict himself to the same very limited set of themes which more conventional Christian Rock artists tend to rag on about over and over again. He's aware that Christianity has a rich cultural history behind it, and he'll use that to do concept albums based on obscure parts of the Bible, or Church history, or - in this case - Christian allegorical fiction.

In addition, the whole "weird allegorical journey" thing which The Pilgrim's Progress is based on is, of course, exactly the sort of thing which has been the substance of a bunch of great prog concept albums of the past - The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis is exactly that concept, in particular. (For that matter, so's Spock's Beard's Snow...) Basing the album on the structure of the original story means that John Bunyan is, in effect, an additional collaborator - because in his lyrics Neal is interpreting Bunyan's characters and plot, rather than coming up with his own story from whole cloth.

The end result is something which is both different from what Neal Morse would have come up with adapting The Pilgrim's Progress all by himself and then just handing down the finished compositions to the band, and different from what the Neal Morse Band would have come up with just wandering into the studio with no fixed plan for a second time. As such, despite all the retro-prog influences on it, the album still seems fresh in the context of Neal's prog discography, and helps to continue the revitalisation of that side of his output which the Neal Morse Band represents.

KING CRIMSON Absent Lovers: Live In Montreal

Live album · 1998 · Non-Metal
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The final concert of the 80s incarnation of King Crimson is recorded here in decent sound quality, and finds the band in dynamic and energetic form - lending a bit of drive to compositions which at points were slightly sluggish on their respective studio albums. (The Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair material particularly benefits). The emphasis, obviously, is on material from this lineup's three studio albums, but the couple of oldies slipped into the setlist - Larks Tongues In Aspic Part 2 and Red - are a real treat, particularly in the way that the new lineup reworks the old material such that it fits in with their style whilst simultaneously shining a light on how their sound is a natural progression from the mid-1970s lineup's. Definitely one of the more interesting King Crimson live releases.

KING CRIMSON Happy With What You Have To Be Happy With

EP · 2002 · Non-Metal
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This EP from King Crimson does the same job for The Power To Believe album as VROOOM did for THRAK - act as a preview of the material being worked on for the album and a general indication of where King Crimson's heads were at. In this case, the answer to the latter is "favourably impressed by the young padawans Tool and King Crimson", since the heavy metal-influenced prog of those bands influences the title track here (yet another King Crimson rumination about the process of making music itself).

On the whole, it's a pretty decent EP, reflecting what the band were concentrating on at the time - namely, dividing their attentions between workshopping material for The Power To Believe (they weren't going to make the same mistake they made with The ConstruKction of Light and go into the studio without a set of material which had received careful refinement and polishing in the leadup to it), and revisiting the material from The ConstruKction of Light to tease out its better aspects. (The version of Larks' Tongues In Aspic Part IV here is excellent, and knocks the version on ConstruKction of Light out cold.)

SPOCK'S BEARD Snow Live

Live album · 2017 · Metal Related
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It was one of the biggest shocks to hit the early 2000s prog scene: no sooner had Spock's Beard released Snow, an ambitious double concept album, band leader Neal Morse (who had composed a substantial majority of their material to date - including almost all of Snow) quit. His declared reason at the time was that he wanted to focus his time on making solo work exploring his religious beliefs, and didn't think it would be right to expect the band to follow him down that particular rabbithole; as he would later allude to on the Testimony 2 concept album, a health scare involving his young daughter may well have prompted him to want to pull out of band projects altogether and stay at home more. Ambitious plans to perform Snow live were shelved, never to see fulfillment...

...until 2016, that is. After shocking the prog world by quitting all his existing band projects in 2002, Neal shocked it again in 2009 by returning to band work, reforming Transatlantic. Between that, the brand new Flying Colors project, and The Neal Morse Band (in which, despite the name, songwriting duties are shared much more evenly than on Neal's solo albums), it became evident that Neal was now comfortable with working as part of a band again, even on projects which didn't have an overt, explicitly stated Christian focus.

He'd even make appearances with Spock's Beard, joining them onstage at a festival or two and even making contributions to the Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep album, though being careful to be credited as a guest rather than a full member of the band. This was a classy move, because that album was the debut of Ted Leonard as the group's full-time frontman (after filling in for a departing Nick D'Virgilio on some live gigs), and it's clear that whilst Neal was happy to stop by to help out, he was also humble enough not to upstage the new singer right when he needed that spotlight.

Snow Live, however, represents perhaps the biggest and most significant reunion of Neal and Spock's Beard to date: a full live performance of the album, performed at Morsefest. (Morsefest is Neal's homegrown fan convention, a bit like his version of Marillion's weekend bashes - one likes to think of him chatting with his Transatlantic bandmate Pete Trewavas between takes in the studio, picking his brains about the logistics of running such things.) This consists of the full Snow epic, plus two encores - old favourite June and Falling Forever, a track previously recorded by Neal and Spock's Beard for the First Twenty Years compilation album.

Inevitably, such an undertaking involves Neal being prominently featured front and centre - a de facto reunion, even if just for this show (and a repeat in Europe a short while later). Snow was an extremely personal concept for him - it's basically him working through his feelings about quitting the band before he actually quit the band, he wrote almost all the music and lyrics, that's just inevitable.

Nonetheless, Neal and the band do a grand job of making the show less about Neal coming back and acting as frontman for one more night, and more about a celebration of the band's entire history. Far from sitting this one out, Ted Leonard is included in the show, the group doing a fine job of finding ways for him to contribute some lead performances as well as assisting with the backing vocals where it would serve the concept to do so. Likewise, Nick D'Virgilio came back for this gig, with the band using a two-drummer setup to allow him and Jimmy Keegan to play together, and he also contributes some vocals too in keeping with his role of frontman for the run of albums between Neal leaving and Ted Leonard joining.

(Having multiple vocalists on hand, in fact, turns out to be not just a bonus, but essential - after all, as with much early Spock's Beard stuff, there's some moments where they get into intricately intertwined vocals reminiscent of some of Gentle Giant's experiments in that vein; you might be able to do that solo in a studio by multi-tracking your voice, but you need a bunch of vocalists on hand to do that live!)

In other words, the album doesn't just include Neal Morse playing with Spock's Beard again - it also includes every single person who'd been an official member of Spock's Beard on a studio album up to this point. (Original bassist John Ballard isn't on it, but John was only in the band fairly briefly, departing before they recorded The Light.) The result is a performance of Snow which is somewhat warmer than the chilly title implies - and it works an absolute treat. Some credit has to be given to the delightful acoustics of the venue - it's Neal's local church, which gives the whole thing a nice, intimate sound, and on the whole I actually think the resulting performance sounds better than the rather clean, precisely-produced studio album.

The execution is absolutely spot on; despite the fact that neither Spock's Beard nor Neal's solo backing bands have performed all this material like this, they really nail it, like they've been playing this setlist regularly since Snow originally released. Or perhaps it sounds even better than that - maybe letting the material sit fallow for this long gave Neal and the group the appetite to really get their teeth into it now this wonderful opportunity had arisen. The fact that they deliberately only planned to play this show a very limited number of times, rather than doing a full Spock's Beard And Neal Morse Play Snow tour, might have also added a certain helpful frisson - nothing like knowing that you've got limited chances to get this right to focus the mind!

Of course, it'd be foolish to write off the possibility that Neal and Spock's Beard will perform this set again in future, or otherwise collaborate again - the very existence of this live album proves that all bets are off and "never say never" should be one's motto. But at the same time, if this is the last major collaboration between the two parties and it's just occasional guest appearances on a song here and there from here on out, this is a magnificent way for the Neal Morse-fronted incarnation of Spock's Beard to bow out, and does a fantastic job of providing the closure we never got back in 2002.

OPETH Sorceress

Album · 2016 · Metal Related
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Sorceress finds Opeth continuing the run of nostalgic prog albums that began with Heritage and continued through Pale Communion. As on those two albums, the band show a keen appreciation of not just the prog rock bands of the past, but also the sounds which were influencing and inspiring those bands.

Pale Communion had its moments where it took on influence from the heavier end of psychedelic rock, and Sorceress finds the band deepening their appreciation of and drawing on the psychedelic sounds which the early prog scene coalesced out of. Indeed, one song is named The Wilde Flowers, after the band which would, post-fracture, spawn Caravan and The Soft Machine, and whilst I wouldn't say the band go full Canterbury here, I would say there's passages on here which aren't entirely incompatible with that.

Other tracks, such as Will O the Wisp, have a folky air to them and a general production approach highly reminiscent of Jethro Tull from the early 1970s, or heavier moments. The band have still more or less exited the metal sphere on this album, but Chrysalis is hard rocking enough to suggest a potential route back, with a pulsing intensity which puts me in mind of Hawkwind.

Whilst many Opeth albums took a while to grow on me, Sorceress gripped me from the start, and I think it's an excellent further improvement of the approach of Heritage and Pale Communion.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 17 days ago in Scott Kelly (Neurosis) retires from music
    Coming to this late but echoing what other people have said: I don't trust Kelly's statement an inch.I've known people who've gotten into a cycle of regularly making big dramatic apologies for their behaviour and spurting all sorts of promises they're going to change... but actually, the apologies and promises are what they do instead of working on themselves. They just use them as a delaying tactic to convince people to give them a bit more time before writing them off entirely.Apparently, this isn't the first time Scott's done this particular dance - just the most public one - so it smells like a similar situation to me. If the band don't see any reason to back him up on this - and they might have been out of touch with him a while, but they surely know him better than me - I don't see any reason to differ.
  • Posted 11 months ago in A name for "progressive metal punk?"
    If most of the examples LightningRider's thinking of are usually described as some flavour of 'core, why not just go with "progcore"?
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in Sean Reinert R.I.P.
    An ugly coda to the story: despite strongly believing in organ donation, and despite the fact that he was clean of STDs, Sean's wish to donate his organs was denied simply because he was a gay man with a normal, active sex life:https://www.metalsucks.net/2020/02/11/sean-reinerts-organ-donor-request-was-denied-because-of-his-sexual-orientation/If any of us want to do some small thing in Sean's memory, I'd say making a monetary donation to a charity that supports transplant patients wouldn't be a terrible idea.

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Stephen wrote:
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agree, welcome to the site and please keep them coming friend
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You write some really good quality reviews. I hope to see more from you in the future.

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