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959 reviews/ratings
THOUGHT INDUSTRY - Songs for Insects Technical Thrash Metal | review permalink
THOUGHT INDUSTRY - Mods Carve the Pig: Assassins, Toads and God's Flesh Technical Thrash Metal | review permalink
NOKTURNAL MORTUM - Lunar Poetry Symphonic Black Metal | review permalink
CARACH ANGREN - Where The Corpses Sink Forever Symphonic Black Metal | review permalink
KING CRIMSON - In The Court Of The Crimson King Proto-Metal | review permalink
MEGADETH - Rust in Peace Thrash Metal | review permalink
QUEENSRŸCHE - Operation: Mindcrime Progressive Metal | review permalink
INFECTIOUS GROOVES - The Plague That Makes Your Booty Move... It's the Infectious Grooves Funk Metal | review permalink
BEHEMOTH - Demigod Death Metal | review permalink
KYUSS - Welcome To Sky Valley Stoner Metal | review permalink
METALLICA - Master of Puppets Thrash Metal | review permalink
METALLICA - ...And Justice for All Thrash Metal | review permalink
SLAYER - Reign in Blood Thrash Metal | review permalink
DARKTHRONE - A Blaze in the Northern Sky Black Metal | review permalink
BROCAS HELM - Black Death US Power Metal | review permalink
BROCAS HELM - Defender of the Crown US Power Metal | review permalink
BUMBLEFOOT - Ron Thal / Hermit Progressive Metal | review permalink
BUMBLEFOOT - Ron Thal / The Adventures Of Bumblefoot Progressive Metal | review permalink
EDGE OF SANITY - Crimson Melodic Death Metal | review permalink
BUMBLEFOOT - Hands Progressive Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Non-Metal 143 2.95
2 Alternative Metal 118 2.94
3 Progressive Metal 75 3.96
4 Avant-garde Metal 74 3.92
5 Hard Rock 69 3.34
6 Black Metal 51 3.52
7 Metal Related 50 3.38
8 Heavy Metal 46 3.78
9 Thrash Metal 30 3.53
10 Technical Death Metal 29 4.05
11 Death Metal 21 3.93
12 Proto-Metal 19 3.79
13 NWoBHM 13 4.15
14 Glam Metal 13 3.62
15 Industrial Metal 13 3.81
16 Folk Metal 10 3.70
17 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 10 4.25
18 Funk Metal 10 4.10
19 Power Metal 10 3.70
20 Symphonic Black Metal 10 4.20
21 Technical Thrash Metal 8 4.13
22 Sludge Metal 8 3.75
23 US Power Metal 8 3.63
24 Atmospheric Black Metal 8 3.81
25 Death-Doom Metal 8 3.38
26 Hardcore Punk 8 3.44
27 Metalcore 7 4.00
28 Brutal Death Metal 7 3.64
29 Groove Metal 7 3.50
30 Doom Metal 6 4.08
31 Melodic Black Metal 6 4.17
32 Grindcore 6 3.33
33 Gothic Metal 5 3.50
34 Neoclassical metal 5 3.40
35 Heavy Alternative Rock 4 3.50
36 Drone Metal 4 3.38
37 Speed Metal 4 3.38
38 Stoner Metal 4 4.13
39 Symphonic Metal 4 4.13
40 Deathcore 3 2.83
41 Melodic Death Metal 3 4.17
42 Mathcore 3 4.00
43 Heavy Psych 2 4.50
44 Goregrind 2 2.50
45 Funeral Doom Metal 2 4.25
46 Traditional Doom Metal 2 3.75
47 Stoner Rock 2 4.25
48 War Metal 2 4.00
49 Nu Metal 1 2.50
50 Rap Metal 1 1.00
51 Depressive Black Metal 1 3.50
52 Crossover Thrash 1 5.00
53 Crust Punk 1 2.50
54 Melodic Metalcore 1 4.00
55 Metal Related Genres 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

OZZY OSBOURNE Black Rain

Album · 2007 · Heavy Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
After 1988’s “No Rest For The Wicked,” the record company started cleaning up OZZY OSBOURNE’s bad boy image, which hard to believe by the standards of the 21st century, was quite the iconoclastic rage in the 80s with every televangelist and religious pundit lambasting the madman as public enemy #1 in the fight against moral deprivation and Satanic influences in popular music. This rebranding began with 1991’s “No More Tears” which after two decades of occult imagery and bat head biting antics depicted a clean and sombre OSBOURNE with an angel wing sprouting from his shoulder sporting a look of contemplative retrospectiveness. This was about the point when new high tides of heavy metal music were sprouting off from the parent source like a big bang and suddenly OSBOURNE’s role as heavy metal innovator suddenly shifting to godfather status where his legendary status as a solo artist and as lead singer with Black Sabbath overshadowed any musical contributions from this point on.

“No More Tears” also proved to be a huge commercial success proving that the OZZMAN could reinvent himself after his initial peak with Randy Rhoads and after this point he would never look back and try to repeat those years of classical innovation but instead veer off into the world of his Sabbath roots updated into a more alternative perspective but never missing the mark of OZZY’s quirky idiosyncratic nature. From this point forward, albums were mere supplemental to the hugely successful Ozzfest that institutionalized big ticket multi-band arena metal for the rest of time and in all of the 90s only the studio album “Ozzmosis” would find its way into the hands of fans. As the touring of OZZY’s rich canon of material continued to attract new followers, OSBOURNE’s interest in new music was so tamped down that he only released 2001’s “Down To Earth” and then only by the constant demands of his record label. And that’s where everything began to change forever!

Soon thereafter, OSBOURNE would go where no hostile preacher or heavy metal fan of his 1980s heyday would have ever suspected and that was into the world of reality TV in a show aptly called The Osbournes which starred his entire family thus essentially becoming The Brady Bunch of the 21st century and giving the good ole USA a much needed upgrade in portraying the national family values that had been stuck in rut from decades past not to mention a major boost for an MTV that lost its way many years prior. The show was a major hit and lasted a total of four seasons and showcased OSBOURNE more as a worn out drugged out family guy as opposed to the rock’n’roll rebel from another era. Of course between the hit series and the lucrative touring schedule meant OSBOURNE was not motivated in the least to release new material and during the show’s tenure the only album to hit the market was the repugnant cover album titled “Under Cover.”

At long last in 2007 a new album saw the light of day and OSBOURNE’s 10th studio album BLACK RAIN was released and took on a more serious tone than any albums that preceded. Proving that OSBOURNE’s cult of personality was solidified for time immemorial, the album debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts despite mediocre critique and a mere drop in the sea of music that had become a veritable metal universe of diversification. The album was released with two covers. In the US it came out in a brown cardboard slipcase with only a stylized log of OSBOURNE’s name whereas elsewhere a dark image of OSBOURNE standing under a stormy sky, getting soaked while fires burn in the background. BLACK RAIN saw the return of Zakk Wylde on guitars while Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin stuck around after the nauseating “Under Cover.” A new bassist in the form of Rob “Blasko” Nicholson was recruited and a new lineup was born.

Despite the seven year gap, BLACK RAIN sounds much like its predecessor “Down To Earth” with Sabbath infused traditional doom metal riffing more tailored for the alternative metal crowds presented in a bouncy stomping grind albeit with a considerably more robust production and mixing job than any album in the past. The liberal use of dynamics and stereophonic techniques gives BLACK RAIN a healthy boost of crunchy metal riff distortion with clever uses of silence as well as instrumentation and synthesized embellishments that seamlessly blend together making BLACK RAIN a seemingly exact science in perfect heavy metal extraction. Songwise, this album is another matter altogether. The album starts off with three exquisitely strong tracks. “Not Going Away,” “I Don’t Wanna Stop” and “Black Rain” which all hearken to OSBOURNE’s past both melodically and lyrically but with an upgrade in sophistication. They blast onto the scene and shout out that OZZY is back with a vengeance alongside Zakk Wylde delivering one heavy bluesy metal groove after another with the expected soloing and technical bombast with the title track even finding OZZY play the harmonica, something he hadn’t done since his Sabbath days.

The rest of the album is somewhat of a mixed bag though. BLACK RAIN contains the suspected ballads: “Lay Your World On Me” and “Here For You” which are particularly sappy and lackluster even by OZZY’s standards. While the rest of the tracks are classic heavy metal sounding they lack the oomf of the three standouts that lead the pack. “The Almighty Dollar” has a nice bass groove with interesting production and the remaining tracks are all decently done but OSBOURNE definitely sounds like he’s settled down and no longer interested in creating the most outrageous and earsplitting music possible. While once the madman turned in the godfather. This sounds more like the godfather has taken the next step and become the grandfather of heavy metal and that is by no means a bad thing. Having nothing to prove, OSBOURNE instead proudly does what he does best and that is create guitar riff driven metal that center around his poetic critique of the world around him which in this case takes on corporate capitalism, environmentalism as well as declarative stances that he’ll NEVER leave the metal world.

BLACK RAIN while a mere footnote in the lengthy and successful career that OSBOURNE has enjoyed for several decades (he was almost 60 at the time of recording) is by no means a throwaway album as it has plenty of interesting tracks to warrant an inclusion in anyone’s heavy metal collection. While it’s true that this one will do little to attract younger fans who haven’t already jumped on the bandwagon, neither will it cause anyone to jump ship in disdain. In the end, BLACK RAIN does play it a little too safe in many ways and i could personally jettison the ballads but the album sustains a driving grind from the beginning despite tapering off towards the end. The album could’ve used another strong track or two but for what it is, i have listened to this one many times and the tracks that have struck me as good continue to get better. OSBOURNE proved he can continue on well into the 21st century and although most likely retired from breaking any new grounds hardly shows any signs of falling of his godfather precipice any time soon either.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Metal Madness: Vol. 1

Boxset / Compilation · 2018 · Metal Related Genres
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
VARIOUS ARTISTS - METAL MADNESS: Vol. 1 https://wisteriatn.bandcamp.com/album/metal-madness-vol-1

Rate Your Music's own Abishai Smith is back for another huge colossus of a project on his newly created Wisteria Records and this time he’s not holding back (um, well maybe he never has!). While it’s hard to believe, Bishopboy1999 (his site user name) puts out a punishing behemoth of a compilation in the form of METAL MADNESS: Vol 1 which includes a whopping 66 tracks by no less than 39 artists from all over the globe spanning the entire subgenre aisles at your friendly metal superstore. Yeah, that’s right. You name it. Progressive, death, black, sludge, technical, screamo. It’s all here! Ok, sorry you glam metal lovers. That didn’t make the final editing sessions. The album swallows up 388 minutes of your life to get through but when all is said and done…. THIS FUCKING COMP ROCKS!!! Although it took me only a mere two months to sift through ten tracks at a time for a few listens. It was definitely worth it as there are indeed MANY metal bands with great talent out there lurking in the shadows. Do yourself a favor and check them out on this handy one-stop listening center.

The comp starts off with two tracks from the sequencer and MIDI based POSITRON (France) which harnesses elements of black metal and industrial to create hyperactive little electro-metal pieces. The music is based more on the industrial elements with a rather polished metal backing. OK, but not my favorite style of metal.

HEDNINGER (Canada) brings the headbanging elements on board with a rather Amon Amarth-esque take on melodic death metal with Viking march styled melodies, soaring guitar riffs and pummeling percussive drive with a nicely placed bass part that doesn’t get buried in the din. The vocals are angry and shouted with emphatic warlike charge. Three tracks from these guys.

THRASHING MOSSDOG (US) takes the brutality to the next level with some stellar brutal death metal that offers a unique mix with blackgaze as a pummeling death oriented guitar riffs and percussion ascend from a blackhole of noise haze with the vocals screaming and still barely emerging from the gravitational pull of the chaotic din. Compositionally the track sounds more like black metal as well, so this is some sort of blackened deathgaze, perhaps? Cool stuff. 2 tracks from these guys.

Next up, SCOREDATURA (Australia), uh whaaat? Do you know what datura is? It’s a hallucinogenic drug that will make you jump off buildings and shit. And it sounds like this is the soundtrack! Taking a completely different detour, this band pumps out 2 tracks of fine djent-rification laden progressive instrumental metal with sizzling neoclassical guitar solos, thoughtful compositions and sounds like something that would’ve emerged on the Shrapnel Records label had it come out two decades prior as it’s prime finger melting wankery of the highest calibre. Animals As Leaders fanatics will eat this up!

THE BLUE PRISON (US) aka Keigo Yoshida only contributes one track but what a killer one it is! What would i call this? Sounds totally unique. “Patriot” is characterized by a military march percussive style, sizzling neoclassical shredding techniques and a tear inducing ambient synthesized background that evokes the fallen angels haunting the heavens above. The guitar work is absolutely outstanding and the emotional tugs are equally compelling. One of my favorite tracks on the entire comp. Thematically chilling and technically executed to perfection.

Next up, MOLEKH (Ireland). Now these guys have conjured up some of the absolutely wickedest sounding metal since Deathspell Omega scared the shit out of us with their trilogy of jangly Satanic liturgies over ten years ago. This band pummels with unrelenting percussion, similarly scary jangly atonal guitar riffs and franticly possessed shouted vocals that sound like several exorcisms ravaging the vocalist at the same time. The atmosphere is just plain creepy with strange theremin type guitar runs creating strange sounding effects. MOLEKH is another favorite discover as they have nailed the creepy technical black war metal sound like very few have. A true talent i’m anxious to hear more from.

LIGHT DWELLER (US) follows with four tracks of brutal blackened death metal mayhem. A great followup with similarly blackgazy death metal pummelation of unrelenting percussive fury, downtuned guitar string abuse, tortured shouted vocals and technically challenging compositions that allow harsh dissonance and steady stream rhythms to bombard the senses with the occasional break into bleak bouts of slowed down guitar parts for contrast. They also utilize the creepy atonal jangle guitar effect for maximum brainfuckery and it soooo works. Their debut EP is called “Nullity Of Light” but their music could easily fall into the “Nullity Of Sanity” category as well. I love it!!

Named after a birth defect in which the baby’s intestines extend outside the body, GASTROSCHISIS (US) deliver a short one track of pure adrenaline goregrind with the expected adrenaline infused grotesque nature that one would expect. Fast and furious and to the point.

DEVICE (Brazil) offer 4 tracks of an old school death metal sound bringing more of a classic era Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse or Bolt Thrower style to the table. Superbly executed with snarling vocal growls, classically themed deathened drum rolls and nicely delivered guitar riffs from below hell with a semi-melodic underpinning. Evil yet just enough sweetener to get through. Nice.

FRAYED ALIVE (US) deliver one track of brutal slam death metal goods on “To Dwell In Time” with deep growled unintelligible vocals the almost sound like a demonic frog croaking with subdued guitar riffs, blastbeat percussion and nice atmospheric passages that make this sound quite unique. A nice mix of dark ambient, sludge metal tempos and death metal overall feel. Awesomely evil sounding!

THE HORN (Australia) deliver a strange blackgazy sort of metal with “Spell 8” that has a heightened dark ambient fuzz with a murky mix of heavy black metal riffs, tales from the crypt vocals and a relentless percussive driven groove that allow a subdued melodic guitar run to creep through the sonic brume. “Spell 30a” follows suit but offers Egyptian sounds similar to Nile only these guys are more groove oriented in a weird galloping way. “Child In Time” is completely different as it covers the classic 1970 Deep Purple song and completely brings it up to date. Beginning with a demonic spoken word intro it slowly ratchets up both the dark ambient melodic backdrop as well as the ever encroaching guitar presence until it bursts into full metal fury. The keyboard work is extremely impressive. This is one helluva cover track! These guys are another favorite. This is another outstanding evil as fuck sounding band that released an astonishing number of albums dedicated to The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Three tracks from these guys.

NTIZKVM (Philippines) kill it with a primeval lo-fi indie sounding war metal track with “Dark Ends Of Eternity.” Sloppy guitar and drum action, psycho killer vocal ranting. All the makings of a great underground kvlt classic. Particular interesting is the drummer’s use of cymbals which accompany the pummeling blastbeats. Nice blackened journey into the underworld!

NON EST DEUS (Germany) only present one track but at nearly 10 minute long is one of the longest of the compilation. Another black metal band although this one reminds me more of the second wave 90s bands like Rotting Christ with a steady fast beat but not blastbeats. The vocals very much remind me of Hellenic black metal as do the guitar riffs which are rather boogie-woogie oriented like AC/DC on speed. While i’m reminded of those other bands, this is really rather unique in how it’s presented. Very digestible for black metal as it’s melodic but also badass. Kinda has a Violent Femmes folk punk groove to it as well.

Æthĕrĭa Conscĭentĭa (France) immediately brings Metallica’s “One” to mind as the opener seems to simulate the opening riff of that track and when i see the name of the track is “The Exalted Ones,” it almost seems like a given that that intro was used as the basis for its development however don’t worry because it branches off into totally different arenas. This is atmospheric black metal and sounds like it. Buzzsaw guitar distortion at mid tempo. Creepy deranged vocals and a dark ambient fuzz. Melodic with tremolo guitar parts. Kinda has a touch of Doors psychedelia in the keyboard department. The guitar becomes thrashy at times. Also becomes very noisy and changes things up including an unexpected sax presence toward the middle. Cool track.

CULTOR NOCTIS (Belgium) continue the black metal streak with more dungeon synth oriented bleakness. Quite a downer and depressive with guttural howling of keyboards with downtuned guitar arpeggios that lead. Brings Sweden’s Shining to mind as the actual metal kicks in but while Shining is a slower drudging band, these guys aren’t afraid to unleash some wicked speed and heft in their depressive black metal. Nice chord changes offer a semi-progressive metal workout. The subdued frigid vocals convey the ultimate nadir of bleakness. Very effective.

THERESIA (Japan then Canada) offer another dose of depressive black metal only with higher octane and more agression. The percussion pummels the blastbeats, the tortured vocals scream from the pits of hell while the buzzsaw guitar. While the track plods along in a straight forward manner, i have to say that the violent vocals pleas make this the most unhinged track on the entire comp.

INNER SUFFERING (Ukraine) continue the depressive black metal show with four tracks characterized by heavy drumming, atmospheric backdrop, jangly dissonant guitar riffs and a doom laden dirge effect which offers an interesting hybridization of styles. More subdued screaming vocals from the pits of hell. While stylistically similar, the lengthy near twelve minute “Slow Dance On The Ashes Of Failure” take a funeral doom metal detour with echoey doomgazey ambience and slow dirge driven tempos glazed with atmospheric gloom that takes a lengthy journey into the darkness and never relents as it becomes slower and darker and even bleaker and more depressive. Oh god. Keep me away from that gun!

SADAEL (Armenia) continues the dirge driven doom laden melancholy with dissonant guitars and bleak atmospheres conjuring grim reapers for dark rituals in a near ten minute dark march into a mid-tempo metal excursion. The semi-spoken, semi-growled vocals provide a rather grim narrative of sort that exacerbates the darkness. One one track from the Armenians.

MOONDWELLER (Russia) provides another two tracks of atmospheric black metal that takes more than a few cues from Darkspace with thick atmospheric complexities and heavy pummeling guitar riff based black metal aggression. Instrumentally this is well executed but the production seems a little off for my tastes. The keyboards have a rather cheery vibe to them that clashes with the metal aspects.

DONARHALL (Germany) continues the atmospheric black metal but only one track with more emphasis on the atmospheric part as it straddles along with arpeggiated guitar chords heavily amplified for a lengthy period of time before breaking into black metal bombast mode. Honestly, this one is a little too generic for my tastes and doesn’t really distinguish itself from the legions of similar sounding acts.

COMA (Austria) brings back the depressive blackgaze with wrenching heavy distortion only the oddest vocals are delivered on at the 14 minute plus “Dance, Burning Butterly” with guest Narbengrund (of Totengeflüster) who sounds more like a Goth rock singer instead of the expected raspy evil sounding vocals associated with black metal. The track turns into a weird noisy psychedelic trip with a faint piano providing some sort of melody but then when the metal returns it becomes angry, bombastic with stomping power chords and furious growls from the pits of hell. This track continues to alternate between a sort of sound collage with clean arpeggiated guitar and the distorted black metal. Pretty cool. Their second track “Ghosting” sticks to the atmospheric black metal with the deranged growly vocals, dark ambient backdrop and heavy buzzsaw guitar. The time signatures are quite progressive though. This is another favorite band of this comp.

REMOTE (Russia) dish out one track of heavy duty sludge metal that marches around at a mid-tempo stomp with nice beefy type distortion and screamed vocals that bring a sense of impending despair. The sludge riffs are thick like an oil spill on the ocean’s surface and the melodic prance brings a quickened Black Sabbath vibe to the forefront. Nice filthy raw sludge metal here.

DEKONSTRUKTOR (Russia) delivers another dose of Russkiy sludge metal from the land of frozen tundra and vodka. Their one track takes a more lo-fi approach and a high energy galloping guitar riff and heavy percussion that makes this one border on death metal however the vocal style is definitely in the same camp as sludge metal bands such as Neurosis or Eyehategod. Nice aggressive sludge metal albeit nothing tremendously out of the ordinary either.

SMOKE (US) deliver another one track of American sludge metal all the way from the sludgy swamps of southern Louisiana. The track “BMF” makes me think “Big Monster Fuck” as the sludgy creeping guitar riffs that allow as much sustain as possible slowly build up for full attack. The track builds up to more of stoner metal vibe in the vein of Kyushu but the vocals take it to the twisted world of black metal as raspy vocals scream from the abyss. Nice.

SUNDRIFTER (US) dials things down a bit from the extreme metal universe but continues the stoner vibe as a tribal drum starts things off. The heavily distorted guitar has a Sabbath sort of feel as do the bluesy shuffles. The vocals are what ground it to the stoner rock world as they are clean and sound a bit like Jim Morrison of The Doors. This band sounds more like Danzig than a bona fide metal band but the heavy guitar, bass and drum are ferocious enough to get them in this club.

THE SLEEPER (Germany) changes the direction with their one track into the world a more progressive metal sound with a rather alternative Alice In Chains sound from the “Dirt” era. In fact Steven Jost’s intro vocals sounds very much like Lane Staley but the track takes on a heavier melodic metalcore stance as the Between The Buried And Me type style merges with a Linkin Park sort of piano riff. This is an interesting mix between alternative metal, metalcore and even touches of nu metal.

yrs. (Germany) is one of those newer band that just refuses to use capital letters in their name. What’s up with that guys? These guys dish out two tracks of eerie atmospheric sludge metal with depressive background ambience, a melodic guitar riff attack and anguished vocals screaming from the abysmal bottom of hell. The band name makes me think “years” which brings to mind some sort of sentencing and condemnation to a jail cell in some dark torturous location. If the tag depressive sludge metal existed, i’d definitely use that since this is a sludge metal equivalent to the anguished black metal of Shining and similar bands. We get two tracks from this band.

EMPRESS (Canada) cranks out four tracks of their unique style of atmospheric sludge metal which has a more evil sort of take on 90s Neurosis. They provide a heavy distorted groove, tribal drumming patterns, gazy atmospheric mix and a subdued shouting vocal effect emerging from beneath the heavy distorted din. When the guitar drops the incredibly evil sounding bass is allowed to shine which is my favorite instrument for these guys. Bouts of shoegaze type psychedelic meandering also occur. With four tracks they are one track away from featuring their entire debut EP “Reminiscence.” While sounding a bit like a more aggressive version of Neurosis, these guys have a firm command of their murky atmospheres married with heavy guitar sludgery. Nice tones they achieve and the instruments don’t bleed into each other too much leaving enough independence to be heard. Definitely an up and coming talent here.

APE CAVE (US) continues the sludge metal attack with a progressive edge with heavy guitar riffs that have an angular edge unleashing jittery time signatures and an edgy sort of percussive bombast. In fact the drummer is highly skilled with blitzkrieg lightning fast drum rolls. The vocals alternate between depressive clean and anguished angry growled screams. Their one track alternates from clean guitar led calmness to heavy distorted sludge outbursts. Nice attention paid to the details which makes this a pleasant mix. Another up and coming band ate watch out for.

TALLER THAN TREES (Belgium) provides two tracks of atmospheric sludge metal more in the post metal vein of bands like Isis and Pelican with repetitive grooves, lazy percussive backing and sludgy distortion. The vocals emerge as growly screams more in the vein of Eyehategod or early Neurosis. Not the most original band but passable. Needs work on variety the monotonous riffs become generic.

BESTIA (Poland) continues the sludgefest with a fierce heavy dual guitar assault that allows a bassier riff to cruise along with a higher registered one. This is also a band that blurs the line between metal styles. While the guitar riffs are based in sludge metal, the growly vocals are more akin to old school death metal such as the Morbid Angel years. The tracks have a more melodic alternative metal sort of approach that sound a little like accessible 90s grunge however it’s all balanced very nicely as not to be too saccharin and have enough metal ballsy gusto to feel like i want to run down the streets beating my chest and growling like a fucking animal! Nice semi-dissonant arpeggios and just off enough to have an edge yet grounded in traditional compositional structures. These guys have an instantly addictive mix of styles that will remind everyone of some band or other but really don’t sound like any other. Nice two tracks from the Poles.

LEFT TO WITHER (France) offers one of my least favorite types of metal hybridization and yeah that means screamo, an offshoot of hardcore punk meets math rock but this may be that i haven’t really delved to deeply into this little nook of the hardcore universe. It’s usually the vocals that drive me away (and i’m saying that as an extreme metal fanatic.) OK, on this French band’s two tracks, we indeed get a nerdy math rock that is heavily distorted with the expected unintelligible emotional outbursts that in this case emerge as the expected angry screams. Touches of atmospheric sludge metal make this a littler more digestible for me. Heavy sludge riffing, hardcore drum assault and a decent amount of slide guitar and interesting changes make this a nice set of headbangin’ hardcore.

SATURNIST (Finland) present just one track on this comp but these Finn’s know how to make an impact with this almost twelve minute doomfest. These guys take the traditional doom metal route with immediate Black Sabbath connections from the getgo as the tintinnabulation of bells and a bass gently usher in an incrementally more aggressive stance. The riffs are very Sabbathy as they churn on but close to the three minute mark a distorted atmospheric break allowed guitar sustain to transmogrify the music into a more 90s based doom metal not unlike Candlemass or Saint Vitus. Although it takes almost five minutes to introduce the vocals, once they hit, they are nicely unique not sounding like any of the aforementioned influences and instead convey more of a clean vocal style that sounds most like bands like Slough Feg rather than a doom metal band but it’s a nice contrast. Although the track plods along, this is indeed a nicely done doom metal track although not really groundbreaking in any way.

DEATHBELL (France) delivers the next round of doom metal with the expected nonchalant flows of distorted guitar riffs, lazy percussive backing and gloomy marches to infinity. What’s not expected is the vocal style of Lauren Gaynor who makes use of a high clean vocal style that is melodic and rises above the bass heavy instrumentation. Over their two tracks, they implement Sabbath-esque chord changes only dragged out into near funeral doom arenas but yet retain a sort of Kyuss styled stoner vibe to the mix. Rather catchy for doom metal but delivers all the doomy, gloomy goods.

SWALLOWED WHOLE (US) provide a rather unique soundscape on their one track. Straddling somewhere in the ether mix of black, industrial and death doom metal, this Seattle based band deliver an ominous assault on the senses with somewhat catchy melodic riffs that have a black metal guitar, a cymbal laden percussive backing and a freaky deep gargling vocal style. The melody is somewhat catchy but kind of teeters in and out of tune in an apparent dissonant / consonant tug-of-war. With a name like SWALLOWED WHOLE, their unique sound does kind of convey that they recorded this track at least in the belly of a whale! Now wouldn’t THAT make a killer recording studio? LOL

V.H. CLEANER (Australia) is the odd band out on the mix. They really aren’t a metal band at all but rather are more known for vaporware, plunderphonics, electronic and dark ambient. However, here they do implement some mean guitar distorted riffs that although echoing and writhing about like land locked octopi, they do provide a darkened ominous assault on the senses. A very short track that not exactly metal still fits the overall vibe.

SZAR (US) deliver the only drone metal track on the comp. This Louisiana based act is really the alter ego of Thomas Dwayne Hargrave who plays all instruments but don’t get too impressed. Drone metal is the easiest metal to play with virtually zero effort, however it is about the right atmospheric dynamics and SZAR does provide a nice romp through glaciated guitar sustained distortion with minimal drumming and more chord changes and faster tempos than frozen in time acts like early Earth. Drone metal is not my favorite in the least but this is decent.

Our metal circus ringleader saves his own contribution for the very last and while that alone doesn’t surprise me, the fact that this is not metal at all really does. ABISHAI ends the long journey through this comp with a little bit of a pallet cleanser. Instead of dishing out yet one more dose of heavy guitar distortion and growly vocal attitudnal misalignment, Mr Smith ends with a dark ambient track titled “Immortality And Hatred Within The Zealots.” While i would’ve loved to hear ABISHAI’s own metal concoction, this one is a nice grounding piece that keeps the darkness churning on til the very end.

CONCLUSION: Bravo to Abishai for creating a fan-damn-tastic METAL MADNESS comp! I do hope that the VOLUME ONE part of the title refers to a future Volume Two and beyond because this dude has proven to be a veritable talent magnet that has turned me on to some totally ripping good times here. Granted there are ups and downs on this one and everyone who can fantasize what their favorite type of comp should be, probably has not worked through the painstaking processes of compiling what is available for them to work with. While i’m sure everyone could think of a better way to do it themselves, the fact is they didn’t and Abishai shows a mature way of compiling some veritable contemporary talents in the underground metal world. Sure i would’ve loved to hear more power metal, more thrash or even more technically based avant-garde weirdness but i do have to say that there is more than enough here to please any extreme metal fan even if they don’t dig every single track. Although some tracks are stronger than others, there are really no throwaways either. This was a pleasure to experience 66 tracks worth of dark underground metal even though it took me forever to get through it a few times. I mean, wow. This easily could’ve been broken up into six volumes, so this could easily be considered a box set of sort had it come out before the digital age. EXCELLENT album! More of these please ;)

ARENA Pepper's Ghost

Album · 2005 · Metal Related
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Although only formed in 1995, ARENA had became one of the great prog revival bands of the decade by imitating Fish-era Marillion and then quickly latching onto a veritable sound of their own as Clive Nolan found a new niche away from his other neo-prog bands Pendragon and Shadowland. A decade after the formation of ARENA, the band changed up their sound yet again on their sixth album PEPPER’S GHOST which after many lineup changes in their earlier years emerged as the third album in a row with the same cast members. At this point the collaborative songwriting efforts of Clive Nolan (keys), Mick Pointer (drums) and John Mitchell (guitars) was in full swing as they once again as they independently created their own parts and then adapted them to a band setting which surprisingly combines well into another album of thoughtful constructs that deliver another epic concept album.

The concept of PEPPER’S GHOST revolves around five different individuals who travel through time to defeat a demon all of which is narrated through a comic book included in the packaging. For a tale so tall it connotes a stylistic upgrade in sound and on PEPPER’S GHOST, the band ramped up their decibalage and tempo to the point this blurs into heavy rock territory for much of the time without ever feeling like a metal album so i guess it could be considered heavy neo-prog or something of the sort. The term PEPPER’S GHOST comes from a projection technique developed by John Henry Pepper, a 19th century inventor whose technique casts the illusion of ghostly objects fading into and out of existence in a room but can also “magically” transform certain objects into totally different ones. How this term and storyline weave together is beyond me but arcane enough to accept blindly without question.

Musically PEPPER’S GHOST carries on where “Contagion” left off. There is no significant deviation to the stylistic approach, the interplay or any sort of song structures as with other albums, ARENA craft seven tracks with the final “Opera Fanatica” being the most ambitious and lengthy at time run of of just over thirteen minutes. Despite the similarities, there are several differences as well. First is the abrupt heaviness that makes PEPPER’S GHOST the most hard rock leaning album up to then with crunchy guitar riffs and even more ambitious solos that occur from time to time however ARENA have lost none of their atmospheric prowess as Nolan conjures up beautifully powerful ambient backdrops to accompany the more aggressive guitar and bass. Ironically the drumming does not take on a more aggressive role as Mick Pointer creates more subtle drum rolls that add rhythmic contrasts. Rod Sowden delivers another brilliant vocal performance as always however this time around his lyrics seems submerged beneath the heavier production and guitar dominance.

Another difference is the type of melodic developments. The album begins with circus music that finds itself reprising throughout the album’s musical development which adds a sort of gypsy jazz swing element dispersed throughout the album when least expected. For some reason PEPPER’S GHOST doesn’t seem to be as well revered as previous ARENA albums and that’s quite the shame because i find PEPPER’S GHOST to be just as compelling as any of the earlier albums minus the magnificence of the perfection of “Contagion,” however ARENA doesn’t shed their origins on this one, they merely augment them with a more diversified palette that allows more extreme dynamics, faster tempos and more ambitious lyrical themes in their concepts. Personally i find this one to be slightly more addictive in the melodic hooks in comparison with some of the earlier albums. For anyone avoiding PEPPER’S GHOST on account of the lower ratings, i have to say do check this out for it’s on par with any of the other classic neo-prog albums of the era.

JOAN JETT Joan Jett

Album · 1980 · Hard Rock
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Of all the members of the all-girl glam punk band The Runaways, it is without question that the one member who went on to have the greatest successful solo career after their brief sensation (especially in Japan) was lead songwriter and guitarist JOAN JETT who throughout the 80s enjoyed a string of hits and a major breakthrough like none of her former bandmates did. And along with her backing band the Blackhearts she spawned a number of hits including the worldwide phenomenon #1 hit “I Love Rock ’N' Roll.” However before JETT would hook up with her Blackhearts she would release this one solo album that originally emerged as an eponymous release but was retitled as BAD REPUTATION the following year which set the tone for JETT’S tough girl image that was backed up by her unmistakable shouted vocal style that rode the wave of the contemporary punk movement while appealing to the hard rock crowds with catchy pop hooks augmented with thundering guitar distortion and power chords.

JOAN JETT offered a new twist on the heavy rock music of the day. BAD REPUTATION was a mix of self-penned originals which covered short of half of the entire album as well as a whole slough of various covers spanning the 50s, 60s and 70s pop word and showcases JETT’s long love affair with 70s glam rocker Gary Glitter with her covers of “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah) ” and “Doing Alright With The Boys.” On BAD REPUTATION, JETT mixes a unique mix of 50, 60s and 70s pop with a unique early 80s touch of punk attitude and hard rock bombast which took the approach of The Runaways and added a bit more gusto. Of the majority of non-original material JETT covered disparate styles ranging from Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” (which would be released as the single), the Isley Brother’s “Shout” and “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs.

Even from the beginning JETT was totally at the helm of her creative output but on this album just before the existence of the Blackhearts, she predominantly utilized the backing talents of a band called the Roll-Ups but a huge list of guest musicians ranging from the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones and Paul Cook to Blondie’s Clem Burke and Frank Infante which in the end added up to 23 individuals including JETT on all instruments and vocal contributions. The album once independently released as eponymously sold more than expected and the reason the album was picked up by Boardwalk Records and re-released with the title BAD REPUTATION. The album has since been remastered and includes the unreleased material from the era as bonus tracks. This is the album that gave JETT the momentum to conquer the world with vengeance on her sophomore album “I Love Rock ’N” Roll.”

While not conquering any dangerously new territory, BAD REPUTATION is a gleeful little journey into JETT’s unique ability to give easy on the ears pop tunes a serious bad girl makeover with snarling vocals, heavy guitar heft and enough punk attitude to raise Sid Vicious out of the grave. Somehow JETT exudes a 50s American rebellious schoolgirl feel to her style all the while utilizing a punk glazed frosting to bring it up to date. These elements all swirled up into one proved to be irresistible to a pop music loving public who craved an outrageous edge to their melodies. While i’ve never been the hugest JOAN JETT fan, i’d have to say that this debut is probably my favorite. It offers the best of 50s rock ’n’ roll with boogie-woogie rhythms alongside sizzling sax solos with hard rock heft and punk rock errancy, 60s and 70s pop glam pop and contemporary heavy rockers. The tracks are surprisingly addictive and JETT proves she can rock like the big boys but offers a batch of cutesy tracks as seed material. Somehow i don’t want to like this album but once i listen to it, can’t help myself regurgitating the addictive earworms for the next week.

SMOHALLA Résilience

Album · 2011 · Avant-garde Metal
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Wriggling sonic worms rippling through the undulating waves of the cosmos.

What are they putting in those macaroons? France has always been a nation that has taken the arts to places no one thought possible and that’s not only true in the kitchen with French food registering high on the yum-o-meter but in the 21st century, this is the nation that has been killin’ it in the extreme metal market all across the board but especially in the cross-pollinating fertile possibilities of black metal and beyond. Emerging somewhere from the Normandy region a band called SMOHALLA formed in 2006 and presented a new strange form of metal that gives credence to a new subgenre that could be penned “psychedelic metal” since despite it’s black metal connections, takes the listener into the far reaches of the space rock continuum and just happens to add a touch of metal gusto in fully adrenalized fashion. The band got their name from a 19th century Native American prophet from the Northwest region of the USA and the name means “dreamer” in the indigenous Sahaptin language. And what a perfect name for this band that exemplifies the most surreal of soundscapes that simulate the dream state more than anything remotely traditional compositionally speaking.

After two EPs the band that consists of Slo who handles the guitar work, percussion and vocals, Camille Giraudeau who handles bass and A.L. who conjures up the electronic wizardry and programming, finally released their first full length album RÉSILIENCE in 2011 and takes their space cadet ride presented on the first two releases goes for the jugular. Once again SMOHALLA boldly goes where no other metal band had gone before and created a bizarre concoction of dark ambient, operatic classical, progressive black metal and trip hop, only they take it to even stranger world as if the multiverse is collapsing on itself and various genres of sound are battling it out to dominate the successor of the throne. Seriously folks, music does not get more bizarre or surreal than this experimental and psychedelic sonic feast of avant-garde run amok. Imagine musical constructs that flow more like clouds slowly in the sky with subtle variations deviating from what preceded in a never changing structured yet formless march through time. That’s exactly what SMOHALLA deliver and on RÉSILIENCE they take these attributes to even more extremes.

Musically speaking, SMOHALLA develop small melodic riffs that blossom into an infinite number of variations that take form. Much like second wave black metal that utilized a simple riff that in the case of SMOHALLA seems mostly derived from Western classical sources but as the repetitive blockchain of riffage oscillates into the future, liberties are taken to differentiate the time signatures, dynamics, instrumentation and focus which at any time can bleed into another totally unrelated musical motif. While similar to the previous EPs, RÉSILIENCE is more relentless in its brutal attack and layering of styles over each other to create an extremely busy and surreal effect. One of the main elements includes progressive and tremolo picked angular black metal riffing which sometimes exhibits angry and raspy vocalizations and also employs clean Enslaved like vocals on their most progressive 21st century releases with similar chord progresses that are funneled through the schizoid grinder and given a healthy dose of acid blotter for good measure. The other major player is the atmospheric bombastic accoutrements that echo an epic soundtrack of clashing worlds while subdued choral utterances struggle to break through the caustic din.

The whole album flows with a trip hop sort of backbeat and even feels like it flagellates like a paramecium in a petri dish as the rhythmic pulses undulate like waves and exhibit the same unpredictability that the ocean does as it pummels the coast. Dream states come to mind when half baked ideas sputter into nothingness and suddenly drift off into completely new territory but not in a startling way but more in a connective way that creates bridges between randomness. Very strange stuff on this one and one that is perfect for those who crave totally tripped out metal that takes the listener on one of the farthest reaches of surrealistic sonic journeys. This is one of those albums that i can never quite grasp. It’s like wrestling a giant jellyfish in a bathtub and never knowing what’s really within reach. It’s just tangible enough to grasp rhythmic patterns and melodic embryos yet somehow leapfrogging counterpoints distract and disorient all reality. If you want WEIRD metal, then look no further than SMOHALLA. This will surely be too bizarre for most but recommended for those who crave the most intense WTF experiences possible.

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