Diogenes

Eric
MMA Special Collaborator · Honorary Collaborator
Registered 1424 days ago · Last visit 7 months ago

Favorite Metal Artists

All Reviews/Ratings

388 reviews/ratings
SEPULTURA - Beneath the Remains Thrash Metal | review permalink
DEATH - Symbolic Death Metal
DEVIN TOWNSEND - Ocean Machine: Biomech Progressive Metal
MERCENARY - The Hours That Remain Death Metal | review permalink
AMORPHIS - Skyforger Progressive Metal | review permalink
DREAM THEATER - Images and Words Progressive Metal
STRATOVARIUS - Episode Power Metal
DEATH - The Sound of Perseverance Death Metal
IRON MAIDEN - Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son NWoBHM
AUGURY - Fragmentary Evidence Death Metal
ISIS - Panopticon Sludge/Post-metal
SOUNDGARDEN - Superunknown Hard Rock
DEATH - Individual Thought Patterns Death Metal
AMORPHIS - The Beginning of Times Progressive Metal | review permalink
ATHEIST - Unquestionable Presence Death Metal
INSOMNIUM - One For Sorrow Death Metal | review permalink
RUSH - Moving Pictures Hard Rock
OVERKILL - The Electric Age Thrash Metal | review permalink
HOUR OF PENANCE - Sedition Death Metal | review permalink
DREAM THEATER - Awake Progressive Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Thrash Metal 96 3.56
2 Progressive Metal 70 3.98
3 Death Metal 69 3.83
4 Power Metal 48 3.53
5 Alternative Metal 35 2.86
6 Hard Rock 16 3.84
7 Traditional heavy metal 15 3.00
8 Metal Related 10 4.25
9 NWoBHM 9 3.83
10 Sludge/Post-metal 9 4.33
11 Metalcore 8 2.63
12 Avant-garde Metal 1 2.00
13 Symphonic Metal 1 4.00
14 Proto-Metal 1 4.50

Latest Albums Reviews

JAMES LABRIE Impermanent Resonance

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
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After finishing up the highly successful tour for Dream Theater’s A Dramatic Turn of Events, vocalist James LaBrie got back together with songwriting partner and keyboardist Matt Guillory to record the follow-up album to 2011’s Static Impulse. Even though the more abrasive style on that album came as a surprise to some who follow LaBrie’s musical career closely, it was received fairly well, and Impermanent Resonance is written and played in mostly the same vein as its predecessor, and yields mostly the same results.

You could call this album “Static Impulse II” and not be too far off base; if you’ve heard that album, not much on Impermanent Resonance will shock you. It’s a collection of shorter pop metal songs with a heavier edge, thanks to the modern and aggressive guitar tone of Marco Sfolgi and the growling vocals of Peter Wildoer. The centerpiece of the album is, of course, still the unmistakable singing of James LaBrie, though his clean singing and Wildoer’s growls are used extensively in a “call-and-response” fashion not unlike that of mid-era Soilwork and many other Gothenburg-style metal bands. That’s where the comparisons to the melodic death metal genre end, however, as both the album’s riffs and recurring electronic sampling lean towards accessibility rather than heaviness. Make no mistake about it; both Sfolgi and Wildoer know their ways around their instruments, but technicality is reigned in for the most part here.

Being the album’s main focus, LaBrie’s vocals are in fine form on Impermanent Resonance, as they have been on his two previous “solo” efforts. Though his higher register hasn’t been employed nearly as much on recent Dream Theater material, the vocals on this album sit even more comfortably in the middle of LaBrie’s range, as he sings possibly the catchiest group of vocal melodies I’ve ever heard from him. It’s pretty clear that Impermanent Resonance was written with this in mind, and they did a good job of it, as there are hooks en masse and some really great choruses on here; “Slight of Hand,” “Lost in the Fire,” and “Amnesia” are my personal favorites, though there is nary a song on this album that doesn’t feature a really poppy hook or vocal line of some sort.

As the sing-along moments of Impermanent Resonance are so prevalent, particular attention is drawn to the album’s lyrics; like on Static Impulse, they’re quite angst-y and personal, and this is where this album lets me down a bit. I don’t want to call the penmanship on Impermanent Resonance lame, but it’s a little weird to hear a veteran vocalist like LaBrie sing lines such as “Say you're mine, that we're not broken in two, say you're still mine, say it's me and you.” I’ll be honest: I find the album’s lyrics so polarizing that I shy away from certain songs that are otherwise pretty good just because the words are so cheesy.

Fortunately, that’s the only part of Impermanent Resonance that I can see anyone having a problem with. With its sleek, modern production and well-written songs, it’s an incredibly easy album to listen to, and for that reason I’d recommend you give it a try regardless of your opinion on LaBrie and/or Dream Theater (because apart from the voice, this album sounds nothing like the prog metal giants whatsoever). It’s a solid piece of pop metal that you should enjoy if you also liked the previous LP released under LaBrie’s name.

STRATOVARIUS Nemesis

Album · 2013 · Power Metal
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The youth movement of melodic power metal pioneers Stratovarius continued in 2012, as longtime drummer Jorg Michael departed after a lengthy tour supporting the band’s Elysium LP. Enter Rolf Pilve behind the kit. With 3 of the 5 band members being replaced since the last instance of their “traditional” lineup in 2003, the Finns went back to work, promptly recording and releasing their 14th studio album. That album, Nemesis, immediately blew me away; it might just be the best effort of Stratovarius’ long and storied career.

What grabs you about Nemesis right away is how fresh, energetic, and modern it sounds, as the songwriting combination of guitarist Matias Kupianen and bassist Lauri Porra show no intention of revisiting the band’s past clichés. Kupianen’s guitar tone, in particular, has a nice bite to it that compliments Jens Johansson’s crystalline keyboard melodies quite well; the bridge section of lead single “Unbreakable” is a good example of this, reminding me of some of Symphony X’s more recent works without deviating too far from the album’s power metal roots. I’d even go as far as saying that this is their darkest album (at least in quite a while, maybe since Dreamspace), as tracks like “Castles in the Air” and “Out of the Fog” portray an epic mood closer to that of a post-apocalypse than your usual medieval fantasy land. The choirs are used especially well in this sense.

This being power metal, though, the thing you’re looking for is mostly likely still going to be catchy melodies, uplifting themes, and sing-along choruses, all of which Nemesis features in spades. “Abandon,” “Nemesis,” “Stand My Ground,” and bonus track “Fireborn” all carry a sense of freedom and invincibility that is bound to please any power metal fan. After blasting through a series of vocal chord injuries and albums that featured some painfully high singing, Timo Kotipelto’s once-unlimited upper register is all but gone, but he still delivers a strong and emotional performance behind the mic; Nemesis is not an album short on catchy vocal melodies, and the warmer timbre makes them all the more accessible. This culminates in possibly the most infectious song Stratovarius has ever written: everything about “Fantasy” is just sickeningly catchy, from the dancing keyboard melodies to the massive chorus. Stratovarius exploring darker realms on Nemesis while also writing their most uplifting material in a very long time proves that once again, there is no substitute for excellent songwriting.

So many years after releasing some of the most influential power metal material ever, Stratovarius is in the best shape they’ve ever been. Nemesis is an album that both makes a killer first impression and features the songwriting that will keep it playing in your library for quite a long time. Without a doubt, one of the best metal releases of 2013, and a sure treat for any power metal fan.

ASCENSION Far Beyond the Stars

Album · 2012 · Power Metal
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Ascension is a fairly young band-you can hear it in their playing. Almost immediately, I got the same vibe from this album as I did from Sonata Arctica’s Ecliptica (so it’s no surprise that I like this too), and that’s pure, unadulterated power metal energy. Granted, Ascension goes about their business in a fairly different manner than the Finns ever did, preferring to front their assault with a twin-guitar attack rather than noodle around with keyboards, harpsichords, and what have you. Now, I’m as big of a fan of the Stratovarius method of power metal as anyone (well, maybe not ANYONE, but I like it), but the music on Far Beyond the Stars is certainly not without charms of its own. The lack of a real electronic presence means that there are riffs-yes, RIFFS!-heavily rooted in speed metal territory. Make no mistake about it; Ascension is just as adept at kicking your ass as they are at riding unicorns and slaying dragons (or whatever power metal cliché you wish).

Still, while this album isn’t a total cheesefest, the majority of the over-the-top power metal mannerisms that you’re bound to be sick of by now are here in abundance. Most of the songs are fast-paced, built on guitar harmonies that border on Maiden territory, and frequently break into melodic choruses that feature plenty of crotch-grabbing vocal moments from singer Richard Carnie (the dude can WAIL). Double bass drum patterns are used extensively, and the lyrics aren’t exactly gospel to anyone who’s familiar with the genre (freedom, self-empowerment; all of that good stuff).

In the end, though, I have to give it to Ascension; these guys have taken a formula that’s been beaten to death, beat it some more, and spit out a debut album that’s just plain enjoyable as all get out. Not once while listening to Far Beyond the Stars did I think “gosh, this sounds an awful lot like bands X, Y, and Z;” rather, my reaction was more along the lines of “If I was in a power metal band, this is EXACTLY what I’d want it to sound like”. Why? Because it has good songs! This album is simply full of great, catchy tunes that will go in one ear and stay there right from listen number one. It’s an album that just pounds you with energy from the get-go and doesn’t let up, while remaining plenty interesting to hold anyone’s attention through multiple plays in a row.

This isn’t luck, either. Ascension is clearly just good at writing catchy material. Part of this goes back to the overall energetic nature of the band; after all, that’s what should be expected from a power metal album, and it’s something that Far Beyond the Stars delivers in spades. Yes, there’s a lot of double bass, but the patterns played scream creativity and enthusiasm; they’re an actual boost to the songs instead of something that’s been thrown in there because this is power metal and that’s just what happens. In the big picture, though, Ascension obviously has a very clear vision of what they want to play, and they go out and play it with conviction. That’s really all you can ask for from an up-and-coming band, and sometimes it’ll yield some pretty impressive results too. This is definitely one of those examples; Far Beyond the Stars is one of the best power metal albums I’ve heard in a very long time, and is one more brilliant example of how songwriting is the great trump card.

THRESHOLD March of Progress

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
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The tragic passing of Andrew “Mac” McDermott last year left quite a few people (myself included) in shock. Though he had left Threshold long before then, it was a disheartening wake-up call for those who had come to love the band’s landmark albums of the mid-2000s, as that lineup would never be seen again. Of course, being the pros that they are, Threshold had already begun work on their next album, and now that March of Progress has finally seen the light of day, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s glad they’ve decided to carry on.

If you’re a Threshold fan, then the music on March of Progress probably won’t seem too foreign; it’s true that Threshold hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here, as many tracks on this album sound like they would be right at home on Dead Reckoning or Subsurface. Then again, if you’re a Threshold fan, chances are that doesn’t matter to you and you’re listening for highly polished, professional prog metal with a heavy emphasis on melody. Rest assured, just about everything that made Threshold’s previous works great is once again on display here in 2012.

What will probably be the most notable aspect on March of Progress are the vocals of Damian Wilson, who has re-joined the band after Mac’s passing. In comparison, Wilson sings in a much more operatic tone and has a charisma that won over a lot of people who listened to his previous guest performances (Ayreon, Star One, etc…but then, who hasn’t sung in an Arjen Lucassen project? Seriously), as well the earlier Threshold efforts featuring his voice. I must say that it will be a bit of a change for those used to hearing Mac’s vocals taking flight over Threshold’s sludgy guitar riffs, but in the end, if this record has a weakness, it’s no fault of Wilson’s; his singing here is easily up to par to whatever was expected of him. In fact, a few tracks into March of Progress, it’s hard to tell much of a difference at all; the vocal melodies are still top-notch and range from supplying a large array of hooks (the chorus of “Ashes” is just one of many examples) to majestically soaring (“Liberty, Complacency, Dependency”), all while carrying vintage Threshold messages of political protest and outcry.

Instrumentally, too, this is Threshold at its finest. Johane James might be the most unassuming prog metal drummer out there, but the dude hits his kit HARD and never overplays (something that I’m sure is appreciated by the detractors of so-called “wankery” out there). Karl Groom and Richard West are, as always, the dependable duo of songwriting, consistently putting out well-structured tunes that are rooted in strong melodies while still pushing the envelope technically. The interaction between the two is simply second to none. “The Hours” stands out almost immediately, filled with hooks and subtle texturing that might not stand out at first, but is bound to put some smiles on people’s faces once it does. Meanwhile, Wilson continues his workman-like effort behind the mic, delivering an emotional chorus and a seemingly endless supply of poetic lyrics (the inspiring “Don’t Look Down” is just fantastic in this regard), which should once again satisfy the “thinking men” of the metal crowd. It really can’t be stated enough how Threshold manages to draw all of these elements together on a consistent basis; while they’ve slowed their pace considerably since the ‘90s (their last album being released 5 years ago), they never fail to bring an abundance of material once recording time rolls around. In fact, if there’s anything negative to be said about March of Progress, it’s that it’s a couple of songs too long; they’re all good, but the album tends to drag on a bit in spite of how great the music is.

While it didn’t hit me as hard as Dead Reckoning did upon my first listen, March of Progress undoubtedly delivers the same goods that prog fans have been expecting from Threshold for the past decade and a half. It’s classy, well-produced, and mature; none of which should be surprising, but will be delightfully devoured by metalheads and progheads all the same. Another winner by the boys from Britain!

DREAM THEATER Awake

Album · 1994 · Progressive Metal
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Awake is, to me, the “prime” of Dream Theater’s career; perhaps not as musicians, but as songwriters. The band’s third studio album hits the “sweet spot” of a unique sound fallen far enough from the trees of influence, with plenty of creative juices still flowing. While there may not be an overarching concept or some of the technical wizardry that sent their later works into the metal history books, I much prefer a collection of well-written songs that retain a progressive core and melodic structure. This, Awake features in spades.

This is a landmark release for several reasons. Being the follow-up to Dream Theater’s breakout album Images and Words, Awake was written in a bit of a pressure situation, which resulted in keyboardist Kevin Moore’s departure from the band during the recording. Who the best Dream Theater keyboardist is will probably be a debate forever; while Jordan Rudess has flashiness (and now longevity) on his side, Moore’s case is made by tasteful, atmospheric playing an excellent compositional skills (as evidenced by Awake’s beautifully melancholic closer, “Space-Dye Vest”). Indeed, this album is at the bottom of the Dream Theater barrel as far as the complexity of the keyboard lines go (although they’re still very impressive, don’t get me wrong), but again, they fit wonderfully within the context of the music; on no Dream Theater album will you hear melodies as vivid as the ones fluttering through “Scarred,” “Caught in a Web,” and the stirring instrumental “Erotomania”.

Awake also boasts what is far and away the best vocal performance in James LaBrie’s career. It was recorded right before the infamous food poisoning incident (which was arguably the worst thing to ever happen to the band, as LaBrie’s voice has never been the same since), and the difference between the vocals here and, say, Train of Thought are startling; LaBrie’s high register is both powerful and emotive (think “shrieking” rather than “wailing”), actually driving the songs instead of just hanging there. There’s also a certain warmth in the vocals that really embellish the album’s softer moments; a complete effort in every sense of the word.

Song-wise, there are zero weak links here, which might be surprising at first considering how little fanfare Awake tends to get among prog fans. You have “Lie” and “The Mirror,” which are easily two of the heaviest Dream Theater tracks (from a time period in which they weren’t forcing such things), the tremendous opener “6:00,” which features an incredible chorus courtesy of LaBrie, and the fan favorite “Innocence Faded”. Then there are the two greatest Dream Theater ballads in “The Silent Man” and “Lifting Shadows off a Dream;” the former a slow, quiet number with an acoustic guitar lick that tickles the senses, and the latter an excellent showing of the build-and-climax formula that Dream Theater uses so sparsely. Both are equally uplifting and beautiful, and the fact that they stand out in a rather heavy progressive metal album just proves how meticulously crafted the songs here are.

Instrumentally, this is still undoubtedly the Dream Theater that we all love (or hate). It’s technically proficient, tight, virtuosic…whatever you want to call it. When compared to the crowd, though, Awake stands out in almost every category: production, songwriting, texture, and so on…it’s all there. The complete package, and a timeless progressive metal classic that I return to again and again.

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