Metal Music Reviews

AGNOSTIC FRONT The American Dream Died

Album · 2015 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 3.69 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Agnostic Front have been licking up a hardcore storm for more than thirty years, mixing in thrash and punk when the mood takes them, and this 2015 album finds them mixing through the styles. The album commences with a great deal of sound clips, and immediately the listener knows that Roger Miret and the boys are going to be out there making a point. Sixteen songs at under thirty minutes in length, the old adage is true that if you don’t like something hang on a minute as there will be something else along in a minute. But, it does make for quite a disjointed album as when they are good, such as on “Test of Time”, they are very good indeed and there are few who can catch them in their hardcore thrash crossover mode. But, the songs such as the title cut have plenty of aggression from the singer, but not really being carried through by the band, and it just doesn’t contain the attack and passion that it should.

More good than bad, does it stand up against classic albums such as ‘Cause For Alarm’? Personally I don’t think so, but anyone who has been flying the hardcore banner for nearly forty years demands respect.

MOTÖRHEAD 1916

Album · 1991 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 30 ratings
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Vim Fuego
Motörhead’s “1916” came after four years of label problems, and other bullshit with the business side of music. That wasn’t what Lemmy was about. The man just wanted to play his own mutant version of rock and roll. The band’s previous album, simply called “Rock ‘n’ Roll” was not as well received as its predecessors, so expectations for “1916” were not high.

Fuck expectations. This is Motörhead. The band had occasionally dabbled outside the blues/rock/punk/metal mix. For example, “Orgasmatron” could be considered proto-doom-death metal, but most of their albums stuck fairly closely to the old formula. First track “The Ones To Sing The Blues” threw out the formula and shattered all preconceptions. Unlike a number of other Motörhead tracks, it’s not particularly bluesy, but thunders along, powered by Philthy’s legendary double kick drums. On “I'm So Bad (Baby I Don't Care)”, the blues does raise its leery head, along with Lemmy’s clever, incisive lyrics. What seems like a song full of tall story bragging actually reveals his inspirations. “Going to Brazil” is a blues boogie road song which only Lemmy could write. It has a bit of a story behind it. The band recorded four songs with producer Ed Stasium. When Lemmy listened to a mix of “Going to Brazil”, he asked Stasium to turn up four tracks, and on doing so heard claves and tambourines added without the band's knowledge. Stasium was fired and Pete Solley hired as producer. And thank fuck for that!

And next, a big step sideways. Judas Priest had faced a civil suit in 1990, around the time Lemmy was writing songs for this album, and one of the accusations levelled at the band was that they had hidden subliminal messages in their cover of Spooky Tooth’s “Better By You, Better Than Me”. Always one who stuck up against injustice when he saw it, Lemmy deliberately filled “Nightmare/The Dreamtime” with backmasked vocals and music, which were far from subliminal, giving the song a truly eerie vibe. And what did he actually say? Even that’s open to interpretation, perhaps proving once and for all that backmasking is rather an inefficient way of conveying a message.

“Love Me Forever” is a power ballad from an era when power ballad were ubiquitous, but it’s far from typical. For a start, it’s not weepy or self-loathing, instead showing both sides of love and relationships, a black/white, all/nothing contrast.

“Angel City” is a filler when you don’t write fillers. Like the “Going To Brazil” road trip, it’s a fun descriptive song of life in L.A. at the tail end of the glam era. It’s followed by another good time rocker in the form of “Make My Day”.

Lemmy was asked why he wrote the song “R.A.M.O.N.E.S.” The answer? “’Cos I like The Ramones”. Best answer ever to a stupid question. The Ramones liked the minute and a half long song so much they covered it themselves. Basically, it’s The Ramones put through a Motörhead filter.

“Shut You Down” is an “I’m outta here” break up track, in a fashion only Motörhead could pull off, like a metal “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”.

These ten tracks would have made a very good Motörhead album, showing some new musical facets, and more energy and drive than the previous album. But this is Motörhead. Expect the unexpected.

“1916” is unlike any song ever recorded by this or any other metal band. First, it’s not metal. Second, it is such a visceral, heart rending tale, it is more an accompanied epic poem than a song. Musically, it is part hymn, part sombre march, with simple orchestration, cello, a military snare, and Lemmy’s voice quavering with more sensitivity than you might think possible. While it is a song about World War One, it is so thought provoking and emotionally wrought it could come from any war, where young men think they are heading off for a great adventure, only to be dehumanized, ground up, and spat out by an unfeeling, unstoppable war machine. Like no other song, “1916” vocalises the true stupidity, futility, terror, and waste of human life of war.

It seems Lemmy understood how deeply emotionally and psychologically damaging war could be to those caught in the fighting. My own Grandfather fought in the Pacific Island during World War Two. In the 26 years I knew him, he spoke of the war to me only once, and then only to relate a funny tale of having to run flat out from tent to surf when going swimming, in order to avoid mosquitoes. In his last few lucid hours, he suffered nightmares and flashbacks to those days six decades before. Even though this song is of a different war, now a century past, it still makes me think of my Grandfather and the terrible things he may have seen and experienced, which are beyond my imagination and recognition. It took a special kind of bravery to have faced a mortal enemy, who was probably feeling very similar emotions and terrors, and then to return to civilization and lead a productive life, all the while keeping those horrors locked away. It may not have been the intention of this song to cause this reaction, but it does.

And so the song “1916” elevates the album “1916” from the realms of very good into great. It also secured Motörhead’s future, both financially and musically. The band finally had a decent record deal, and had explored some new musical avenues which opened new frontiers for the band to explore for the remainder of its existence. Albums like “Ace Of Spades” and “No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith” established Motörhead’s legendary status in rock and metal. “1916” cemented it.

SUMMONING Minas Morgul

Album · 1995 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 2.98 | 9 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
And just as the second wave of black metal had exploded in the metal underground, it seemed as if some bands were ready to move on almost from the very beginning. One such band is Austria’s SUMMONING that released their debut “Lugburz” in March of 1995 and by October released their followup MINAS MORGUL without their drummer Trifixion, were reduced to a duo and radically changed their musical direction. While “Lugburz” was an interesting debut, it was well within the mold of the second wave black metal template started by Mayhem and Darkthrone but beginning with MINAS MORGUL which takes its name from the fictional language of Sindarin in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe in fact means Middle-earth, that more generic black metal approach had completely transmogrified into something different.

It was with this sophomore release where Protector and Silenius, now a duo began to merge the dark ambient and dungeon synth atmospheric sounds of their side projects Ice Age and Die Verbannten Kinder Evas with their black metal antecedents as heard on their debut and the early demos prior. The result was one of the earliest significant deviations from the second wave orthodoxy into what would soon be tagged as atmospheric black metal since all that remained from the debut were the Tolkien tinged lyrics and the raspy unintelligible vocals. Oh the unholy horror of it all!

This is what i call their video soundtrack black metal debut and it was no surprise to learn that the album cover for MINAS MORGUL was taken from the 1991 video game “Ishar: Legend Of The Fortress.” And so began the next chapter of the SUMMONING universe where more relaxed epic symphonic marches with repetitive and quite catchy ear worms would become the focus of the hypnotic trance of eleven tracks that utilized the tremolo guitar distortion as a backing instrument and the role of Trifixion reduced to a more obsequious and programmable drum machine while Protector and Silenius shared the role of keyboardists, vocalists and strings.

MINAS MORGUL is a pleasant journey into mystic lands where anthemic and even Medieval folk tinged melodies prance about like chilled out pilgrimages over the mountains and into the valleys below like Hobbits on a mission to fulfill their destiny of ridding the world of the stranglehold of evil once and for all. Each track begins with a slow and repetitive keyboard based riff and then repeats ad nauseam to infinity at times however the subtle changes in the tempo and dynamics slowly fortify the overall soundscape to satisfying crescendoes with the guitar distortion ramping up while Protector delivers his famously frantic shrieks and raspy declarations of all things Middle-earth.

While i am quite fond of the debut album, i can hardly fault SUMMONING for tackling something so utterly unique at the time and ultimately successfully carving out a tiny niche all their own in the burgeoning and expanding black metal market. The template laid out on MINAS MORGUL was indeed an interesting one to explore and while many kvlter-than-thou black metalheads of the day may have run to Lucifer in utter contempt to complain, the overall success of this darkwave ambient dungeon synth mixed with black metal elements is quite addictive actually. Despite the recipe having been created, i don’t find MINAS MORGUL to be nearly as refined to the high quality perfection of the later releases as it’s a tad uneven in quality and the drum machines sound a little canned at times however they do effectively drive the monotonic mood setting steady pace that the duo were going for. An excellent experiment that would only continue to get better and kudos to these guys for making such a huge change.

NIRVANA Incesticide

Boxset / Compilation · 1992 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 10 ratings
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Vim Fuego
“Incesticide” is a rare thing. For a rapidly thrown together record label stop-gap, it is actually a pretty good compilation.

“Incesticide” was made up of demos, b-sides, unreleased tracks, and other extraneous material recorded between 1988 and 1991. Released a year after the revolutionary “Nevermind”, it was intended to be a high quality version of material which was already circulating in bootleg form. Geffen Records decided not to promote it heavily, in case fans suffered Nirvana burn-out. Yeah, right Geffen, so why release the fucking thing in the first place then? Despite this, it still went platinum in the US, UK, and Canada.

So why did “Incesticide” do so well? Simply put, the album includes some of the best material Nirvana ever recorded. It shows off the breadth of Nirvana’s influences and the diversity of the band’s sound. Was Kurt Cobain a misunderstood genius or an overrated junkie slacker? Who the fuck knows. He made some interesting, noisy music, then blew his brains out, and left it up to the rest of us to decide his place in history.

First song “Dive” came from a recording session for Sub Pop which was intended to be for the follow-up album to “Bleach”, and was released as the b-side to “Sliver”. Of course, we know the follow-up didn’t come out on Sub Pop, and this song would not have fit on “Nevermind” anyway, with a feel closer to “Bleach”. The song has a fatter, warmer sound than the “Nevermind” album. Like all things Cobain, the lyrics are either cryptic or nonsensical, depending on your own interpretation.

Just to get things ass backwards, “Sliver” appears after “Dive”, even though “Dive” was the b-side to this single. Anyway, “Sliver” has the most memorable hooks Nirvana ever recorded, both in the bouncy bass line and the “Grandma take me home” lyric which constituted the song’s chorus. The lyrics are trivial, but engaging, seemingly taken from a child’s point of view, remembering an evening with grandparents.

“Stain” has a rougher edge than the previous two songs. It was originally released on the “Blew” EP. It’s a shouty punk song, with a great discordant noise solo, and is basically musical simplicity itself, both catchy and compelling.

“Been A Son” is a later song, recorded for the Mark Goodier radio show for the BBC in November 1991, with "(New Wave) Polly" and "Aneurysm" coming from the same session. It has another of those trademark vocal hooks, with Cobain slurring his vocals a little.

"Turnaround", "Molly's Lips", and "Son of a Gun", were recorded in 1990 for the John Peel Show for the BBC. “Turnaround” is a Devo cover, but is a surprisingly forgettable and unlikeable song. The next two tracks are Vaselines covers, and have a seemingly happy, bouncy feel to them, despite the reasonably grim subject matter of addiction on “Molly’s Lips”.

“(New Wave) Polly” shows the band made an excellent decision by sticking with the acoustic version of the song for “Nevermind”. While not a bad song, the shock value, and raw emotion present on the acoustic version of the song are not near as striking on this version.

"Beeswax", "Downer", "Mexican Seafood", "Hairspray Queen", and "Aero Zeppelin" all came from Nirvana’s first studio demo, recorded in January 1988. These show a young but focused band, playing like their whole lives depended on it, with a feel of determination edged by desperation. It demonstrated an early incarnation of the grunge formula of mixing garage punk with classic rock and pop sensibilities, with the added ingredient of emerging slacker cynicism. “Hairspray Queen” in particular fully demonstrated the musical weirdness which could emerge from such a mix, with a simple, yet effective three note bassline from Krist Novoselic, while Cobain’s vocals vary between Bobcat Goldthwaite rant, a subterranean grumble, and a crystal clear coherence. “Aero Zeppelin” is a straighter style rock song, and is really the first time on the album things seem to drag. While quite a powerful track, it seems too safe and mainstream compared to the rest of these demo tracks.

“Big Long Now” was recorded during the “Bleach” sessions. It would not have been too far out of place on that album, but was probably too slow paced. It is a dragging dirge, and feels like trying to emerge from a deep, deep sleep, but the grip of Morpheus is not ready to let go.

Final track “Aneurysm” combines the band’s noisier aspects with a driving punk beat. Kurt Cobain’s vocals are at their raggedy, melodic best, and the song has hooks big enough to catch mako sharks.

For such a diverse collection of recordings, “Incesticide” is surprisingly coherent. At the same time, it shows the breadth of vision of a group of young musicians, led by a reluctant mouthpiece, who didn’t care for the rules of how music should be created or sound, and wrote their own rules. Then they broke them repeatedly, and the outside world came to embrace their vision. Whether the outside world ever understood that vision then or now doesn’t matter. The resulting music speaks for itself.

MARDUK Panzer Division Marduk

Album · 1999 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 11 ratings
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Vim Fuego
A black metal album with a fucking big tank on the front? Finally, someone gets it!

Actually, there’s two versions of this album, but both have a fucking big tank on them. One’s a Swedish Stridsvagn 104 main battle tank and the other is a German Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger heavy tank used in the Battle of Kursk in July 1943. But let’s not get hung up on tanks. This is still about the music.

Marduk is one of those black metal bands, like Immortal and Impaled Nazarene, which metal fans can get into without having to swallow the whole black metal schtick. Yes, it’s fast and anti-Christian, but there’s no deeper pretence about the music being anything but metal. Forget atmosphere, melody, and non-metal instruments, just write some evil fucking tunes, and play ‘em fast as fuck until yer balls are hanging out! That is what black metal should be.

So, what we have here is a 30 minute album full of war themed songs. Some are describing real events, which others are repurposing the theme for a blitzkrieg on Christianity. The first song and title track best illustrates this with the line “Panzer division Marduk continues its triumphant crusade/Against Christianity and your worthless humanity”. Glad we cleared that up...

Run through the rest of the songs and you get “Baptism By Fire” which uses bombing raid imagery as an attack by Satan on Christianity. “Christraping Black Metal” taunts Christ on the cross. “Scorched Earth” describes tanks racing back and forth through the Losheim Gap, the main invasion route into France and Belgium for the Germans during both World Wars, and the location of a famous tank battle during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. “Beast of Prey” and “Blooddawn” further explore the war/anti-Christianity theme.

"502" refers to the 502nd Heavy Tank Battalion, which was involved in the Siege of Leningrad. While the rolling Panzers must have been an awe inspiring (or dread inspiring, point of view is important here) sight, history has recorded what happened to this force. Despite destroying 2000 enemy tanks (according to the song - official figures put the number at 1400, plus 2000 guns destroyed) during the infamous 900 day siege, Russian forces eventually prevailed, and the Germans were sent into full retreat. The 502nd was eventually redesignated the 511th in early 1945, and continued to fight up until April 27, and finally surrendered on May 9.

The final track has the gloriously offensive title “Fistfucking God's Planet”. And as you can probably guess by now, it’s anti-Christian/pro-Satan. There’s nothing new about it, the music is still breakneck speed fast, but it’s still fun to listen to.

And that is the lasting impression of this album. It’s got bits about tanks and wars. It’s got bits about Satanism and how Christianity is bad. It’s heavy. It’s loud. It’s metal. Full fucking stop.

BLACK SABBATH Black Sabbath

Album · 1970 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 158 ratings
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FMOTP
The other reviewers have already stated it - this is as essential as a heavy metal record gets. I may listen to Master of Reality or Volume 4 more, but there's no denying the value of this debut. I'll only add a couple of points. First, many bands need an album or two to hit their stride. It's amazing to me how Black Sabbath was changing the face of rock music from the start. Every major innovation in hard rock until early 90's death/black metal was foreshadowed in Sabbath's first few albums. Second, Ozzy's public image has possibly prevented him from getting his deserved recognition as a singer.

MY DYING BRIDE Anti-Diluvian Chronicles

Boxset / Compilation · 2005 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The album was released through Peaceville Records in May 2005. The compilation was released as a 3-disc digipack featuring a poster and a booklet with an in depth interview with lead vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe. Each disc features more than 70 minutes long music, making "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" quite the comprehensive release. Although it features remix versions of some tracks (some of which also features newly recorded parts), and a couple of live tracks too, it is more than anything just a representation of the band´s music from their early days until 2004-2005, featuring a tracklist which covers most of My Dying Bride´s releases up until then. In that respect it´s quite different from the band´s earlier compilation albums, which focused more on rare and hard to get material. "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is more of a "best of" compilation, although that expression may be a bit vulgar when speaking of My Dying Bride´s music.

The compilation is build in reverse chronological order, which means that the tracks on disc 1 are the most recently released material (in 2005), while the tracks on disc 3 are material from the earliest part of the band´s discography. You can always argue about the choice of tracks for the compilation, but overall I think the chosen tracks serve their purpose well and provide a fine representation of what My Dying Bride is about. Although it´s always preferable purchasing the regular studio albums, and the few remix tracks, changes to tracks, and live versions on this compilation don´t change that, "Anti-Diluvian Chronicles" is still what I would label a successful compilation album with great quality material by a unique sounding artist and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

MY DYING BRIDE Meisterwerk II

Boxset / Compilation · 2001 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Meisterwerk II" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in June 2001. It´s the second part of a two series compilation. "Meisterwerk I" was released in November 2000.

"Meisterwerk II" features a combination of album tracks, rare demo/single/limited edition bonus track recordings, and the video for "For You" from "Like Gods of the Sun (1996)". Like the case was on "Meisterwerk I", the regular studio version tracks are a bit redundant, and it´s the rare recordings that are of most interest. The versions of "Vast Choirs" and "Catching Feathers" from the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo, "Follower" which is a bonus track from the Japanese version of "34.788%...Complete (1998)", "Some Velvet Morning" from the Peaceville Records "X" compilation, and the Portishead cover "Roads" from the Peaceville Records "X" compilation. Those five tracks and maybe the video for "For You", are the attractions here.

I´m sure most listeners can do without the regular studio versions of "Sear Me MCMXCIII", "She Is the Dark", "Two Winters Only", and "Your River", which on their own are quality material, but here work more like redundant filler. Therefore "Meisterwerk II" isn´t the most necessary compilation release, and upon conclusion the end product would have been much more interesting if Peaceville Records had compiled the rare recordings from "Meisterwerk I" and "Meisterwerk II" on one release and left out the regular studio recordings. As "Meisterwerk II" is now a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

MY DYING BRIDE Meisterwerk I

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Meisterwerk I" is a compilation album by UK doom/death metal act My Dying Bride. The compilation was released through Peaceville Records in November 2000. It´s the first part of a two series compilation. "Meisterwerk II" followed in June 2001.

"Meisterwerk I" features a combination of album tracks, rare demo/single/limited edition bonus track recordings, and the video for "The Cry of Mankind" from "The Angel and the Dark River (1995)". If you already own the studio albums, tracks like "The Crown of Sympathy", "A Kiss to Remember", "For You", and "Sear Me III", may seem a bit redundant and it´s probably the rare recordings that´ll be of most interest. The versions of "Symphonaire Infernus et Spera Empyrium" and "The Grief of Age" from the "Towards the Sinister (1990)" demo, "Grace Unhearing (Portishell Mix)" which was a bonus track on the limited edition of "Like Gods of the Sun (1996)", and "Unreleased Bitterness", which is a rehearsal version of the track "The Bitterness and the Bereavement", originally released on a single, which was limited to 1.150 copies. Those four tracks and maybe the video for "The Cry of Mankind", are the attractions here.

So while there is nothing wrong with the quality of the material, you still have to ask yourself, if you´re willing to purchase this compilation if you already own the studio albums. You´ll be paying for four tracks and a video, and quality wise those four tracks are the weakest of the tracks on "Meisterwerk I". Overall I find "Meisterwerk I" to be a bit of a confusing release and the idea to combine regular studio tracks with rare recordings doesn´t work too well. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

SOUNDGARDEN Louder Than Live

Live album · 1990 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.67 | 2 ratings
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Unitron
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a fantastic live album. Judas Priest's Unleashed in the East? Metallica's Live Shit? AC/DC's If You Want Blood? Gentle Giant's Playing the Fool? Daft Punk's Alive 2007? Whatever it is, there's plenty to choose from. While live albums can sometimes suffer from bootleg quality productions, there is a good handful of fantastic live albums that perfectly capture a band at their peak and in a sense brings you to the concert displayed on said album. An unfortunately forgotten live album that ranks as one of the best is Soundgarden's Louder Than Live. This was probably due to only being released on VHS and as a promotional CD/cassette/vinyl in 1990 and never being officially re-released since.

Now, this is a live performance. Like all the best live albums, it shows the band at their very best. Soundgarden is in their prime here, and deliver a crushing balls-to-the-wall concert that would scare off anyone who's too used to modern over-polished "extreme" metal. This is about as much energy as you can get without being at the concert yourself. Plus this is the only Soundgarden release where you can hear Jason Everman on bass.

With a setlist consisting mostly songs from the masterpiece that is Louder Than Love, the most doom metal song Soundgarden's ever done, one of the band's earliest songs, and a couple comedic covers, you know you're in a for a treat. It opens up with said doom metal song, the gargantuan behemoth that is "Beyond the Wheel". Like the original studio version, it's haunting and blisteringly heavy. Here though, it's extended to a much more fitting 7 minutes and you can hear it in all of it's glory. Unlike the garage quality of the debut, this has some extra grit in the riffs and Cornell has a bit more of a snarl.

As if "Gun" wasn't a massive beast of a song before, Louder Than Live has the song sounding like it's just going to grab you by the throat and throw you around in the pit until you're on your way to the hospital. You can hear the feedback, the amps sound like they're going to blow any minute, and it shows that Cornell was just as much of a screaming maniac on the stage as in the studio. The discordant "I Awake" sounds even more out of a horror film, and "Big Dumb Sex" opens with some hilarious stage banter. It all closes with covers of Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" and Cheech and Chong's "Earache My Eye". "Big Bottom" works in more ways than one, with Soundgarden having such a heavy bottom end. "Earache My Eye" turns into a heavy grungy biter of a track with total manic screaming and it's a real awesome rendition.

To me these are the best kinds of live albums, the ones that display a band in all of their raw and unbridled rage and musical intensity. It serves as a huge influence for budding musicians like myself, and pushes the drive to get out on a stage and give it your all even more. Watching the VHS brings the whole experience home even more, watching everyone swirl around in the mosh pits and bang their heads like madmen just as the band does themselves. If you can find it, treat yourself to one of the best live albums/videos the metal world has to offer.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/soundgarden-louder-than-live-review.html

VARIOUS ARTISTS (TRIBUTE ALBUMS) Ronnie James Dio - This Is Your Life

Album · 2014 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 2 ratings
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Vim Fuego
There was a time in the early 90s when Dio was a figure of ridicule and mirth. Jokes were made about his Elf-like height, his swords and sorcerers lyrics, and his over the top stage persona. Those doing the laughing had obviously never met the man.

Like no other figure in the history of metal, perhaps up until the death of Lemmy, Dio’s death was mourned by metal fans the world over. Ronnie James Dio earned respect like no one else in metal. Not expected or demanded, but earned. Why? Because he always had time for fans. He was famous for staying behind hours after shows had finished to meet and greet fans, sign autographs, talk to people about music, and just be a thoroughly decent human being.

No musician had a bad word to say about the man. He always helped out up and coming new bands. He never forgot where he came from. The proof? Every artist on this album, except Killswitch Engage, has a picture with the man himself, and he looks just as happy as the fans cum musicians he is with. And most of all, up until his death, he always, always produced incredible music. Look at the list of bands he sang with – Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell, and in his own right as Dio. The proof? Just listen to this tribute.

First up is Anthrax with “Neon Knights”: from Dio’s stint in Black Sabbath. It’s a fairly faithful version, benefitting from modern production values, and beefed up a little by Anthrax, but surprisingly, Joey Belladonna’s vocals don’t quite cut it. He seems to be straining and a little out of breath. Belladonna has one of the best vocals ranges in all of thrash, so this shows how good Ronnie actually was in his heyday.

“The Last In Line” by Tenacious D has their trademark silliness mixed with their respect for metal. As usual, Jack Black’s vocals are stupidly over the top, while Kyle Gass’s recorder solo actually made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it. That they won the Grammy for best metal performance in 2015 with this cover shows how out of touch and clueless the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences actually is, but that’s a bit off topic here.

Adrenaline Mob’s take on “The Mob Rules” is another very faithful cover. There’s nothing new added, but then you don’t want anyone fucking with perfection anyway.

Corey Taylor and his backing band featuring Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour, Soulfly), Satchel (Steel Panther), and Christian Martucci (Stone Sour) did what always should have been done with “Rainbow In The Dark” and made the fucking thing heavier. Ronnie himself hated the song, and was ready to destroy the original master tape of the song with a razor. The rest of Dio stopped him, the song became a huge hit, and the rest is history. As for the performance here, who knew Corey Taylor could fucking sing? I didn’t, but I generally avoid his music like I avoid genital warts. Oh well, you’re never too old to learn something new.

Halestorm’s “Straight Through The Heart” is a great rendition, and Lzzy Hale’s vocals are more than ballsy enough to do the song justice.

Now, who would have ever dreamed of Motörhead with Biff Byford on vocals? It’s a match made in metal heaven, with a modern... er, old school take on the Rainbow classic. Lemmy still growls along backing up Biff, but the song is the real star of the show here.

The Scorpions are the only band in metal which could even come near to Dio’s longevity, so it’s nice to hear their rendition of “The Temple Of The King”. It’s a change down in pace. Klaus Meine does a great job vocally, and the Schenker/Jabs guitar duo has the skill and subtlety to pull off Ritchie Blackmore’s solos without losing the feel of the song.

Doro makes “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” her own, a song she claims as one of her absolute favourites. Because she has such a good feel for the song, it sounds like it was written for her, and is one of the best performances on the album.

Confession time. As much as I dislike Killswitch Engage, and metalcore in general, I have to give them credit for their version of Holy Diver. It’s pretty good… Ah, fuck it. This is a confession. It’s fucking great! Howard Jones’s theatrical vocals are a great fit for the song, and the two blokes on guitar heavy things up, and manage to hit the solos pretty near on perfect. Killswitch Engage, you are both gentlemen and bastards, first for being so respectful of one of metal’s great anthems, and secondly for making me like you.

Glenn Hughes is one of the few vocalists of Dio’s generation still going who is still able to cut it. And cut it he does, on “Catch The Rainbow”. It is a beautiful rendition of a beautiful song, ably backed by Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright.

In 1989, Dio made waves in the metal world by replacing departing guitarist Craig Goldy with a 17 year old Rowan Robertson for the album “Lock Up The Wolves”. Long-time bass player and song writing partner Jimmy Bain also left the band. Fast forward to 2013, and the pair played together on this cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. This seems a bit of an odd choice of a song, but that doesn’t stop this mid-pace stomping song from being a great addition to the album. It’s a strange old world...

In something of a supergroup, a union of Rob Halford, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, and Vinny Appice produces an unusual version of “Man On The Silver Mountain”. Despite all the talent and years of musical experience, this lacks the drama and feel of the original. The guitar work from Aldrich is pretty fucking good though.

Metallica being Metallica, they decided one song wasn’t enough, so they stuck together a medley of four Rainbow songs. The medley comes in at nearly 10 minutes long, but who the hell is going to tell Metallica they need to cut things back a bit? No matter, like what they did with the Mercyful Fate medley on “Garage Inc.”, this Frankensong is pretty fucking good, not dragging or seeming like it’s 10 minutes long. It’s also refreshing to hear a band doing something a bit different with the music, as in adapting it to their own style, instead of sticking faithfully to the original.

And what better way to round out a tribute to Ronnie, than to include an atypical song by the man himself? Recorded in 1996, “This Is Your Life” is an almost operatic composition, backed by piano and strings, which affords the great man’s voice the space it needs to really flourish. The purity and clarity of sound on this track is almost never heard in rock music. More than anything, it shows that the others here, no matter their pedigree, are pretenders, existing in Dio’s shadow, even from beyond the grave.

There is a bonus track to the digital version of this album, with Jasta performing “Buried Alive”. It’s a bit jarring after the beautiful Dio track. Hardcore shouter Jamey Jasta proves he can sing, and his band can play more than just metallic hardcore, and this is a great, heavy version of the song. However, the person who came up with the idea of tacking this onto the end of the album needs a punch in the throat.

Tribute albums like this can come across as a bit half assed at times, but this is the exception. Often tributes make you long for the originals. This album does not. Everyone on here was a fan, and knew and respected the man in question, and loved the music. That love and respect shows through here.

DEEP PURPLE The Book Of Taliesyn

Album · 1968 · Proto-Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 44 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Recorded only three months after their debut, DEEP PURPLE quickly released their sophomore followup THE BOOK OF TALIESYN which continued all the traits of “Shades Of Deep Purple” with a mix of originals and covers, however despite the basic similarities that include different styles such as psychedelic and hard rock mixed with classical music arrangements interspersed throughout, THE BOOK OF TALIESYN nurtured these ideas even further with more sophisticated compositional approaches that are now regarded as some of the earliest proto-prog archetypes of the late 60s despite the fact that the album was mainly aimed at the hippie crowds in the US where it was released in October 1968. DEEP PURPLE surprisingly was completely ignored in the UK (where it was held back until 69) with their earliest albums until they became so popular in a few short years (with “In Rock”) that they could not be ignored any longer.

The album title is a slightly alternate spelling taken from the 14th-century Book Of Taliesin which is one of the most famous of all Middle Welsh manuscripts that were attributed to the bard which was famous for setting a wide number of moods in the Medieval courts in the days of King Arthur in Camelot. Likewise the album THE BOOK OF TALIESYN is a loose concept album attempting to evoke the same sense of diverse mood shifts that a bard would propose in the context of the situation. The album contains seven tracks that range from spunky little blues rockers such as the opener “Listen, Learn, Read On,” “Exposition” and other segments in different tracks which all all tinged with a period glaze of psychedelic keyboard embellishments that deviate into fantastic classical musical expeditions which finds Jon Lord dishing out some impressive keyboard playing that was only rivaled by Keith Emerson in The Nice.

The original tracks were composed by Ritchie Blackmore, original vocalist Rod Evans, Jon Lord and Ian Paice making the early episodes of DEEP PURPLE very democratic in nature. Ironically the album cover art (which is my favorite of the DP canon) was created by John Vernon Lord (no relation to the keyboardist). There are three cover tracks as well. The most popular track of this album is the Neil Diamond cover “Kentucky Woman” and the two part track that begins with “Exposition” cedes into a woefully out of place more bluesy rendition of the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out.” The final cover and in my opinion, the best track on the album comes as the closer and is an excellent cover of Ike & Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountain High” which introduces a new highly developed progressive rock approach to the band’s resume as it churns out over ten minutes of satisfying musical changes taken Ike & Turner’s funky soul domain into surreal psychedelic and classically tinged progressive rock territory.

At this point DEEP PURPLE was far from a household name and listening to THE BOOK OF TALIESYN these days give few clues to the world class act they would become in their Mark II days. While this album is satisfying on many levels, it feels like they were trying to pull off too many ideas that never feel resolved. The mix of psychedelic bluesy rock mixed with outbursts of classical keyboard segments display veritable exciting ideas gestating in the midst and there are even moments where the chugging of the guitar and riff sound like they are ready to break into such classics as “Highway Star” however for the most part the album soars along in psychedelic blues rock mode and while Rod Evans certainly had the perfect voice for the 60s hippie scene, he lacked the overall powerful effects that Ian Gillan added down the road. Fans of DEEP PURPLE should certainly check out these interesting origins even if all the proper elements hadn’t quite coalesced in a totally satisfying way. Not a bad way to get your groove on. The newer remastered versions are quite superior to the original as far as i’ve heard.

PAT TRAVERS Putting it Straight

Album · 1977 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Nightfly
It’s easy to forget in these days of the internet where it’s possible to hear just about any album you want via Youtube, Spotify etc, but back in the seventies (and even eighties and nineties) when Putting It Straight was released you didn’t get to hear an album unless you bought it or knew someone who owned a copy. If you were lucky you might get to hear a song or two on one of the radio rock shows and that would be about it.

For the reasons above Putting It Straight was an album that I didn’t get to hear in full until quite a few years later although I knew and liked the rest of his seventies output well. I knew Life In London and Gettin’ Betta which were both live favourites, both great tracks, the later in the Pat Travers funky rock mode and the former a driving rocker with a killer riff. When I did finally get to hear it, it was a big disappointment and falling short of his greatest seventies work. Time has revised my opinion somewhat but I still think apart from the two previously mentioned songs it’s his weakest album from that decade. Songs like Runnin’ For The Future and Speakeasy are okay rockers, Lovin’ You is verging on AOR and Off Beat Ride a mediocre Instrumental. Dedication is in two parts – starting with an Organ driven instrumental before descending into a rather dull ballad. Better is the syncopated rhythm of It Ain’t What It Seems though it still pales in comparison to his best work. The liner notes of the CD re-issue state that the band went into the studio with most of the songs not written so this goes to a long way to explaining why it’s not up to the usual standard being a bit of a rush job. Of interest to Iron Maiden fans, it’s the second of two Travers albums to feature Nicko McBrain. Apparently Travers was having (undisclosed) trouble with him at the time and replaced him with Tommy Aldridge shortly after the albums completion.

Overall then Putting It Straight is the least essential of Pat Travers seventies albums despite containing two classic tracks. Fortunately following album Heat In The Street was a great return to form and regarded by many as his strongest album ever.

MELVINS A Walk With Love & Death

Album · 2017 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"A Walk With Love & Death" is the 25th full-length studio album by US hard/heavy rock act Melvins. The album was released through Ipecac Recordings in July 2017. It´s the successor to "Basses Loaded" from 2016. While "Basses Loaded" is an album featuring material compiled from various recording sessions during the last decade, "A Walk With Love & Death" features freshly written new material.

"A Walk With Love & Death" is a double album release. The first part of the album is titled "Death" and the second part of the album is titled "Love". The "Death" part of the album (tracks 1-9) are individual tracks in the usual hard/heavy rock style that Melvins have played for now many years, while the "Love" part of the album (tracks 10-23) is the soundtrack to a short film by Jesse Nieminen, titled "A Walk With Love & Death". The album features various guest performances, but the main tracks were recorded by the three-piece lineup of King Buzzo (Guitar, Vocals, Theremin, Modular Synth, Assorted Noise), Dale Crover (Drums, Vocals, Assorted Noise), Steven McDonald (Bass, Vocals, Assorted Noise).

The heavy/hard rock part of the album is pretty standard quality Melvins. Some tracks stand out a bit more than others, but the "Death" part of the album is generally pretty consistent in quality and style. I´d mention tracks like "Euthanasia" and "Christ Hammer" as some of the highlights, but they aren´t major standout tracks. Overall it´s not Melvins as their best, but certainly not at their worst either, and the "Death" part of the album is generally entertaining enough.

The "Love" part of the album is another story. Some soundtrack albums feature "regular" vers/chorus pop/rock material and maybe some atmospheric sound collages/experiments, voice samples, and assorted noises (there are plenty of examples, but I´d mention "More (1969)" and "Obscured by Clouds (1972)" by Pink Floyd to make my point), but Melvins have opted to only include the latter type of material on the "Love" part of the album (with a few exceptions where they break the sound collage style with something which resembles regular songs). It´s probably an aquired taste if this type of music is something a listener can appreciate, but if enjoy atmospheric sound collages, you may be able to enjoy the 14 tracks on this part of the album.

Personally I find the "Love" part of the album completely redundant, and although the "Death" part of the album is good quality heavy/hard rock and "A Walk With Love & Death" features a well sounding organic production and Melvins are as always distinct sounding and very well playing, I have to evaluate "A Walk With Love & Death" as a full product, and in that regard the soundtrack part of the album does drag my rating down. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

MANOWAR Battle Hymns

Album · 1982 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 29 ratings
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martindavey87
Break out the loincloths and battle axes, it's time to delve into the sword and sorcery world of "real metal", as Manowar's debut album, 1982's 'Battle Hymns' shamelessly ups the ante on pure cheesiness and forces us to ask ourselves what it means to truly be a metal fan.

Kind of like America's answer to Judas Priest, Manowar's early albums seems more akin to hard rock than metal. It's got a bluesy, swinging feeling to it, that doesn't quite match up to the imagery of the band. But that's not going to stop them from preaching the gospel of the metal Gods.

But the thing is, while this might have been heavy and cutting edge in 1982... by today's standard, it's tame, light, and... well, it'll always be cheesy no matter when you hear it. Vocalist Eric Adams sings his heart out, and certainly possesses an impressive range. And guitarist Ross the Boss... yeah, that's his "name"... certainly has incredible guitar skills... just not very good songwriting ones.

Still, not all's lost, as there is some stuff here which is, well... alright, to put it bluntly. 'Death Tone', 'Metal Daze' and 'Manowar' (born to live forevermore, and don't you forget it), are all okay, nothing fancy, but certainly a precursor to the cheese that is to follow. Much like the Priest... their earlier material is pretty tame when compared to metal today, but Manowar's sound will adapt with the times and they will certainly improve on later albums, but otherwise, 'Battle Hymns' is a bit of a naff one, to me anyway.

FOZZY Remains Alive

Live album · 2011 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
'Remains Alive' by Fozzy was recorded live in Brisbane, Australia in 2005, shortly after the release of their third album, and their first as a "proper band". Having ditched the comedy covers gimmick, the group, fronted by wrestling superstar Chris Jericho, were touring to promote their 'All That Remains' album. Their first featuring only original compositions.

While the band are still relatively young here, it's apparent that they already have a penchant for live performances. Chris Jericho, thanks to years and years as a WWE performer, is a natural frontman. Confident on the mic and more than capable at engaging an audience, the few times he struggles vocally, he more than makes up for in charisma and stage presence.

Of course, being partnered up with members of rap metal pioneers Stuck Mojo means that this is definitely a band that was destined to excel when playing live. Guitarist Rich Ward and the rest of the guys are incredible performers, as well as incredible players. Ward has long been praised for his unmatched guitar tone, but at times things do sound a bit "sludgy" here.

Since this was recorded in the bands early days, the set does suffer a little. While all the songs here are bangers, Fozzy would go on to really adapt a feel in their music that was tailor-made for live settings. Having seen Fozzy a number of times, I can assure you their later material are live anthems, perfectly written to give audiences ample opportunities to get more involved with the music.

With that said, this isn't a bad album though, and like Stuck Mojo's 'HVY1' live release, the true joy of this recording is the energy and the banter between the songs. Jericho is a natural showman, and sometimes it's just fun to hear him talk and entertain. And all the bands early hits, including 'To Kill a Stranger', 'Crucify Yourself', 'Enemy', 'With the Fire' and 'Nameless Faceless' are played with pure enthusiasm and enjoyment. While this is certainly best saved for the absolute die-hard Fozzy fanatics, there's still some noteworthy things to listen to here, especially if you're a performing musician yourself.

Fozzy Fozzy Fozzy! Oi Oi! Oi!

SOUNDGARDEN Louder Than Love

Album · 1989 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 21 ratings
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Unitron
"Hands all over the inland forest. In a striking motion trees fall down like, dying soldiers."

Only a year after the band's phenomenal debut, Soundgarden came out with one of the greatest yet sadly underrated metal albums of all time. Louder Than Love, and that's what it is. Slamming hammers of sludgy headbanging riffage and rhythm rain down upon the listener like an erupting volcano, while Chris Cornell's screams have the forcefulness of a primal battle cry. This album is louder and heavier than pretty much anything else, and for me represents everything that is beautiful about heavy metal.

Where to start with this masterpiece? From beginning to end, Soundgarden gives the middle finger to weak moments and anything that isn't heavy. I guess "Hands All Over" is a good place to begin rambling about my love for this album. If you thought all environmental messages in music had to be 60's hippie sunshine pop, you're just wrong. This song will slam your face against the pavement with a chunky bass riff and guitar groove, massive and thunderous drums, and Cornell's primal screams of heartfelt fury. I've always loved Cornell's uses of metaphors with lines such as "turning eagles, into vultures" and the aforementioned one at the beginning of the review. This is easily the best environmental metal song you'll find (Though Testament's "Greenhouse Effect" from the same year is great too).

Louder Than Love has a perfect balance between heavy as fuck 70's-sounding grungy doom metal, massive slabs of sludge, and headbanging 80's metal. "Gun" is a perfect mix of sounds, and may be the best on the album. The lumbering drums that open up the track prepare you for the face-melting riffing that wipes the floor with any other song of its kind. The main riff is brooding, punishing, and wants nothing but to kick the listener to the floor in the mosh pit. It slowly picks up speed, and has one of the best progression flows I've heard in any song. The peak speed of the song occurs after Cornell's spit of "fuck 'em up", and is followed up with what should be known as one of the best guitar solos of all time where Kim Thayil just shreds in a swirling mass while Cornell's screams fade into the background. The song slows back down to the pure doom plodding for the end, with some agonized screams and finally one more bellow of "I've got an idea, of something we can do with a gun".

For the old school doom metal fans, Soundgarden channels Black Sabbath here better than any other band out there. Take a listen to a song like "Power Trip", and Kim Thayil is the one who really brought back the Tony Iommi riff back into metal, while blending it into his own unique guitar sound. His solos wail and screech, and he and Cornell deliver bludgeoning riff after riff. "Loud Love" should be more known as an ultimate headbanging anthem, with a colossal hook that is just instant with getting the head moving. "Get on the Snake" is another one that is just a massive stomp. The beast of an opener, "Ugly Truth", "Uncovered", and the beast of a closer "Big Dumb Sex" don't have any shortage of gargantuan hooks either.

The first three Soundgarden albums show every reason why Chris Cornell is probably my all time favorite vocalist. This album in particular, he rarely turns down the siren. Almost every song has him screaming at high levels of high energy, putting tears in my eye as I attempt to scream along to the red-faced and monstrous performances. When he's not unleashing his battle cry, he's either complimenting a slow doom crawl with stoner bellowing or snarling and spitting in "No Wrong, No Right". Just the delivery of the last lines in that song, 'No wrong, no right. Guilt admission, you've been bitten". It's so biting and somehow beautiful at the same time.

Of course, everyone contributes equally to this beast of an album, and the rhythm section is a huge part in the heaviness just like the rest. I already mentioned it when describing "Hands All Over", but Hiro Yamamoto's bass is almost always contributing to a massive groove, especially on that colossus of a song. When not grooving, it's a rapid thumping spitfire like on "Full on Kevin's Mom", or helping carry a haunting atmosphere like with "No Wrong, No Right". Matt Cameron is the first thing you hear on the album, as he opens up "Ugly Truth", right up with a drum fill. His performance is explosive and thunderous, and carries some real weight. Whether it be the crashing cymbals that open up "Gun", the rolls that open up "No Wrong, No Right", or the huge stomp that commands the whole album, he's got it.

Louder Than Love covers everything lyrically. From reflective, to blunt, to moody, its got everything. While hair bands play around with innuendo, Soundgarden doesn't have time for that in a song like "Big Dumb Sex". They just out right scream it, and there's no reason for questions. The speed metal-paced "Full on Kevin's Mom" gets beyond to the point, and flies right into the skin with heat-seeking bass and guitar runs. On the opposite end, you have the discordant and dissonant dirges of "I Awake" and "No Wrong, No Right".

While the debut had a pretty lo-fi sounding production, Louder Than Love has an absolutely massive sound that really makes it "louder than love". I don't think I've heard a sound quite like it, as it melds the warm and raw sound of 70's metal albums with the louder and larger sound of the 80's. I love the debut, but the band sounds just completely focused here and just wanting to deliver a crushing blow to the skull or bite into the skin on this album.

As you can probably tell with how long and detailed this review is, this is one of my all time favorite albums, probably in my top 10. Along with the next album, this is among what I would call a perfect masterpiece and one of the greatest things ever recorded. While sadly this one goes pretty underrated and somewhat forgotten, this is an album that anyone looking for a crushing, loud, and sludgy behemoth of an album should listen to. It's a true one of a kind release, and shows a band at their most raw and angry. In the world of heavy metal, there's nothing better. Thayil described the band's sound as "zen metal", and if beautiful heavy metal that's louder than love is how you enter a state of zen, sign me up.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/soundgarden-louder-than-love-review.html

DISTURBED Believe

Album · 2002 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.34 | 14 ratings
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martindavey87
Disturbed's second album, released in 2002, continues where 'The Sickness' left off. With groove-laden detuned guitar riffs and David Draiman's signature vocal style, the band show a maturity that will enable them to survive the dying nu metal scene.

The most notable difference between 'Believe' and the bands 2000 debut is that there's more emphasis on hooks, with the songs being catchier and with more focus on strong, memorable choruses. Unfortunately, like before, there's still a good amount of filler material here too. The good songs are really good, but the rest are entirely forgettable.

Dan Donegan's guitar work is great, however. We know he can shred by his work on later albums, but here he's restraining himself immensely. Whether for the good of the song, or simply because the nu metal fad didn't allow for guitar solos, either way, his riffs are heavy, yet melodic, and each flows into the next effortlessly.

While 'Believe' is still an average album at best, there are some notable tracks. 'Prayer', 'Remember', 'Liberate', 'Bound' and 'Rise' are all fantastic songs that make this worth at least one or two listens, and while the band are still pretty much a nu metal act here, there's potential to outlive the subgenre while appealing to both metal fans and radio alike.

SIGH Scenario IV: Dread Dreams

Album · 1999 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.22 | 10 ratings
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Warthur
Scenario IV by Sigh might be better entitled "Hail Horror Hail II", since it's largely a continuation of the general approach of that album, with extensive shifts of musical style and approach mid-composition being a regular occurrence. With a range of extreme metal styles and non-metal styles, as well as sections combining the two (there's bits which recall some of the more "black 'n' roll" segments of Hail Horror Hail, for instance), it's certainly as diverse an album as its predecessor, though the transitions here seem more abrupt and arbitrary than on that album.

It's still a very solid release, mind - "not as good as Hail Horror Hail" still leaves room to be very, very good indeed.

MIND KEY Journey Of A Rough Diamond

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 3 ratings
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martindavey87
'Journey of a Rough Diamond' is the debut album by Italian progressive metal band Mind Key. Released in 2004, it bears many similarities to a certain well-known band...

Now, I've always disliked the notion of so many progressive metal bands being labelled as "Dream Theater clones". Yes, Dream Theater are the pioneers of the subgenre, and have remained flag bearers to this day, having laid the foundations and defined the true aspects and qualities of the style. But God forbid, anyone being inspired by this and playing something similar! Why isn't every metal band in history simply regarded as a Black Sabbath clone? Or a Metallica clone? Or a...

Whatever... Back on track... Mind Key are one of "those bands".

Ticking off every cliché from the prog metal guidebook, the music here is highly ambitious, with long track durations, extended musical passages, unparalleled musicianship, and with a vocalist who mostly sings in a higher range. This is prog metal 101.

But is it any good? It's... alright.

I stumbled across Mind Key back in 2010 when I first heard and fell in love with the song 'Secret Dream'. I couldn't wait to hear the entire album, and when I finally managed to get hold of it, it didn't quite live up to expectations. It's good. But it's so incredibly average. I don't expect every band to reinvent the wheel, but for all the musical talent and production values this band has, there's just not a lot here that hasn't been done more memorably by other artists.

Still, there are some solid tracks here. Besides the aforementioned 'Secret Dream', (which is definitely the best the album has to offer), there's 'Love Remains the Same', 'Lord of the Flies', 'Without Ann' and 'Waiting for the Answer'. None of these songs are going to set the world on fire, but in fairness, while my review does seem a bit harsh, these are pretty decent compositions.

But Mind Key just fail to truly stand out amongst a sea of so many "Dream Theater clones". They're good though, and 'Journey of a Rough Diamond' is worth checking out if you're into your prog metal, but there's plenty of similar bands with more memorable and accessible albums.

SYSTEM OF A DOWN Toxicity

Album · 2001 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.15 | 93 ratings
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martindavey87
After gaining a huge cult following with their self-titled 1998 debut, System of a Down exploded worldwide with their 2001 follow-up, 'Toxicity'. With nu metal at its peak, the band's sound was perfect to appeal to fans both old and new, and with one absolute colossal hit, they were ready for worldwide mega stardom.

Following on from where their previous album left off, 'Toxicity' is a fast, furious and frantic release that refuses to let up for a single moment. The chemistry between the band members is incredible, with special mention to unique and eccentric vocalist Serj Tankian and guitarist Daron Malakian's erratic and intense guitar work. Right from start to finish this is a relentless assault on the senses.

Of course, this album is best known for one song, and we all know what that is, don't we? 'Chop Suey'. With its unusual lyrics and unique vocal style, 'Chop Suey', besides being one of the most well-known, beloved and recognizable metal songs of all time, transcends the metal genre. Such is its reputation that non-metal fans love it too!

However, there's more to this release than just one song, and 'Toxicity' is absolutely overflowing with hits. 'Prison Song', 'Science', 'Deer Dance', 'Jet Pilot', 'Bounce', 'Psycho' and 'Shimmy' are all incredible songs that are definitely worth a listen, and then there's the title track and closing track 'Aerials', which were both released as singles and, while not as well known as 'Chop Suey', have still gone on to become metal classics in their own right.

With the release of 'Toxicity', System of a Down became one of those few bands that are truly in a league of their own, and who's future will forever be defined by this album. A monumental success and one of metals most revered albums, there's really no excuses for not hearing this by now!

ACCEPT Breaker

Album · 1981 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 32 ratings
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Unitron
"You are down and out, when you're just being your self. We ain't down and out, MAN TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF!"

Like Rush did with the legendary 2112 back in 1976, Accept gave the ultimate middle finger to the record companies and producers that were pushing the band to be commercial and have hit singles. Vocalist Udo has said that the previous album I'm a Rebel was uninspired and had too many people trying to manipulate and influence the band. Biggest claim to infamy is the title track of that album which was written by Alex Young, eldest brother of Angus and Malcolm Young of AC/DC, therefore sounding like a reject AC/DC song.

After the failure of I'm a Rebel, the band said 'fuck it' and did what they wanted to do without any outside influence. They couldn't have made a better choice, as Breaker is the album where they immediately found their sound and cemented Accept as among the metal gods. Udo himself believes Breaker to be among Accept's best albums, and I completely agree with him.

There's a perfect blend of speed metal fury, hard rock swagger, metal ballad beauty, and neo-classical soloing throughout the album. Many credit "Fast as a Shark" from the next album as being the first speed metal song, but I believe this album's title track is actually Accept's first creation of that extra fast heavy metal. This and "Starlight" are fast and furious, with blistering leads that will have you air guitaring before you can sing 'He's a breaker'. Jörg Fischer's melodies and Wolf Hoffmann's solos and leads are absolutely amazing, and with the exception of Scorpions' "Sails of Charon" from '77, this was the first real taste of neoclassical metal before Yngwie Malmsteen. Just take a listen to that short but sweet minstrel sounding part in the middle of "Son of a Bitch", which is hilariously placed right before Udo screams 'COCK SUCKING MOTHERFUCKER I WAS RIGHT'

Bassist Peter Baltes does not get the appreciation he deserves, as his thick and chunky basslines really gives Breaker a heavy as hell bottom end. "Feelings" is where I think it stands out the most, and that's what I call groove. It really gives the song a mean swagger, and gives "Son of a Bitch" that extra thumping stomp. He can sing too, as he takes over the mic on the ballad "Breaking Up Again". Stefan Kaufmann's thunderous drum performance coupled with Baltes' thumping bass gives the band a fantastic rhythm section. Kaufmann really shines on the explosive "Down and Out".

Something I love about Accept is how beautiful they sound even when playing borderline speed metal, the title track and "Run if You Can" are perfect examples of such. This brings me to the voice of Accept, and one of the greatest and most unique vocalists in all of metal. Udo Dirkschneider is up there with Rob Halford and Chris Cornell, as one of the vocalists that can be screaming their heads off and create absolute tear-jerking beauty while doing such. The power ballad "Can't Stand the Night" as well as the aforementioned tracks in the paragraph, show Udo at among his finest moments. Of course, he can also be screaming his head off and just be completely pissed off and out for blood. Nothing is a better showcase than the anti-record label anthem of "Son of a Bitch".

Apart from being an absolute masterpiece and the first of many from Accept in the 80's, Breaker also stands with 2112 as an example of a band becoming bigger and better after a record label tries to meddle, proving that staying true to yourselves and your fans is the best way to go. I think the anger that the artists get just gives the performances that much more energy. It's what gives that extra edge for us to scream along as Geddy Lee shrieks about being a priest at the Temples of Syrinx and as Udo screams expletive after expletive at the labels and tells them to kiss his ass. All the beauty of heavy metal is right here. If you've missed out on Breaker, do yourself a favor and listen to an 80's classic.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/accept-breaker-review.html

BODY COUNT Murder 4 Hire

Album · 2006 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.00 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Murder 4 Hire" is the 4th full-length studio album by US heavy/crossover metal act Body Count. The album was released through Escapi Music in August 2006. Body Count took a longer hiatus after the release of "Violent Demise: The Last Days (1997)" and there have been quite a few lineup changes in the 9 years between the two albums. Beatmaster V, who died of leukemia shortly after recording "Violent Demise: The Last Days (1997)", has been replaced by new drummer O.T. and Vincent Price has taken over the bass duties from Griz. Rhythm guitarist D-Roc the Executioner died from lymphoma cancer in 2004, which stalled the recording of the album some until the band recruited Bendrix as their new rhythm guitarist.

9 years between albums and lineup changes doesn´t change the fact that the music on "Murder 4 Hire" sounds unmistakably like Body Count. With a charismatic singer like Ice-T behind the microphone it´s really not that strange, and the band´s usual combination of rap, hardcore/punk, heavy metal, crossover thrash, and rhythm´n´blues is also in place.

Despite a few decent tracks (the chorus to "The End Game" is for example really great), the material unfortunately feels a bit uninspired. Something the band themselves have also mentioned in inverviews over the years. But it´s not only the tracks which generally aren´t that memorable, it´s also the delivery, and the sound production which aren´t up to par with the band´s usual standards. First of all new drummer O.T. doesn´t do a very good job at replacing Beatmaster V. He has a drumming style, which sometimes makes me wonder if it´s actually a machine playing. Secondly the normally well playing Ernie C is a shadow of himself. There are not many interesting guitar solos featured on the album, and the riffs are pretty generic and lifeless sounding too.

Combine that with a weak sounding production, where only the vocals stand out in the mix (the instrumental part of the music is way too low in the mix), and you more or less have a recipe for disaster. Not surprisingly "Murder 4 Hire" is a self-produced effort with Ernie C and Ice-T acting as producers. In my experience it´s very seldom a good idea to self-produce your music (with exceptions), and "Murder 4 Hire" is proof of that.

When that is said "Murder 4 Hire" isn´t a total disaster and it´s still obvious we´re dealing with relatively skilled musicians, and the basic song material isn´t completely uninteresting either. It´s just a flawed album which clearly could have been better and the 9 years of waiting for a new Body Count album definitely wasn´t worth it. A 3 star (60%) rating isn´t all wrong.

BODY COUNT Violent Demise: The Last Days

Album · 1997 · Rap Metal
Cover art 3.43 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Violent Demise: The Last Days" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US heavy/crossover metal act Body Count. The album was released through Virgin Records in March 1997. There´s been one lineup change since "Born Dead (1994)", as bassist Mooseman has been replaced by Griz, who also handles loops and samples. "Violent Demise: The Last Days" would be the last Body Count album to feature drummer Beatmaster V, as he died of leukemia shortly after recording the album. The album is dedicated to him.

The music on "Violent Demise: The Last Days" is unmistakably the sound of Body Count. That means a hybrid rock/metal style which includes elements from rap, hardcore/punk, crossover thrash, traditional heavy metal, and blues. Calling this rap metal would be wrong, although several tracks on the album features rap style vocals, but Ice-T predominantly sings/shouts.

The 16 track, 46:09 minutes long album features both "regular" tracks and quite a few shorter intros/interludes. Typically with Ice-T talking about what the next track is about in a humourous fashion. The lyrical themes ranges from tales about gang violence/ghetto issues, social/political commentary, and bragging about sexual adventures ("Strippers" is for example quite explicit). The quality of the material is generally pretty high, and for the most part relatively metallic and aggressive in sound.

"Violent Demise: The Last Days" features a well sounding and powerful Howard Benson production, which suits the music well. The musicianship is also on a high level, and all in all "Violent Demise: The Last Days" is a pretty good quality release by Body Count. Definitely a step up from the rather disjointed "Born Dead (1994)". It doesn´t quite match the excellence of the debut album, but it´s still enjoyable in it´s own right and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

PAPA ROACH Infest

Album · 2000 · Nu Metal
Cover art 2.93 | 10 ratings
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martindavey87
We all remember these days, don't we? The new millennium is kicking in, and nu metal has taken the world by storm. Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach and Linkin Park were all at the top of the charts, and heavy metal was getting a much needed rejuvenation. And one of the biggest hits of the time? The profanity-ridden anthem about depression, self-harm and suicide, 'Last Resort' by Papa Roach.

Now, of course, achieving mainstream success and having a hit single that transcends all genres and appeals to everyone is pretty much a huge metal no-no, so obviously a lot of "real metal" fans hated Papa Roach and their brand of rap rocking. But behind the chart-topping four-piece are some solid chops and a knack for catchy songwriting.

'Infest', which was the bands major label debut (they had one self-released album prior to this), was released in 2000 and was the perfect soundtrack to the youth of the day. Hard, gritty and edgy. Lyrical themes that tackled issues on a personal level helped the music reach out to a whole generation of disgruntled youths.

Besides the aforementioned megahit 'Last Resort', there's 'Between Angels & Insects' and 'Broken Home' which also charted worldwide, as well as songs like 'Blood Brothers' appearing in multi-platinum selling video games, Papa Roach were on top of the world. And there's an abundance of great songs that get lost amongst all of that, such as 'Dead Cell', 'Never Enough', 'Revenge', 'Binge' and hidden track 'Tightrope'. While the musicianship isn't flashy, what the band lack in technical prowess they more than make up for with competence and enthusiasm.

Papa Roach will always live in the shadow of 'Last Resort', and while they have changed style quite a bit over the years, shunning casual fans and not winning over any metal ones, the bottom line is that 'Infest', if you can look beyond the hit singles, is a solid album that defined a generation and further established nu metal as a worldwide phenomenon.

HEIR APPARENT Graceful Inheritance

Album · 1986 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"Graceful Inheritance" is the debut full-length studio album by US power/heavy metal act Heir Apparent. The album was released through Black Dragon Records in January 1986. Heir Apparent were formed in 1983 and released a 1984 and a 1985 demo tape, before being signed by French independent label Black Dragon Records for the release of "Graceful Inheritance". "Graceful Inheritance" generally received positive reviews at the time of release, but as it took the band three years to release their sophomore studio album "One Small Voice (1989)", their window of opportunity had closed, and they never managed to fully capitalize on their good career start. Heir Apparent split-up in 1990.

It´s too bad, because they hit at just the right time with just the right music style. A type of US power/heavy metal with clear references to artists like Crimson Glory, Fates Warning, and especially Queensrÿche, who were all fairly popular contemporary artists (some more popular than others...). The material on "Graceful Inheritance" is in the melodic end of the US power/heavy metal scale and the tracks are generally quite accessible and hook laden. Hard rocking riffs, melodic lead guitar work, a solid rhythm section, and a high pitched and clear vocal performance by Paul Davidson in front. High level performances on all posts.

"Graceful Inheritance" features a clear and detailed sound production, which suits the material well, although by today´s standards it lacks some bottom end heaviness. While the quality of the material is generally high, Heir Apparent aren´t the most unique sounding act on the scene, and "Graceful Inheritance" therefore doesn´t stand out as much as the best releases fromt the contemporary artists mentioned above. It´s a solid release, featuring high level musicianship, and a professional and well sounding production, but a more distinct sound could have elevated the material to an even higher level. As it is "Graceful Inheritance" is still a quality debut album though and it´s recommendable to fans of the above mentioned artists. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SABATON Heroes

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.70 | 6 ratings
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DippoMagoo
Some albums are challenging and complex, meant to force the listener to spend several hours of their time with them, before fully opening themselves up. On the other side of the spectrum are albums which immediately engage the listeners from the first play, but do little to keep them interested over a long period of time. And then there is the rare masterclass album that manages to instantly impress on first listen, while still proving to be just as addictive and mindblowing as ever some 30 listens later. Honestly, I don't usually get to the 20 listen mark with most modern albums, not because I don't enjoy them enough, but because I spend so much time listening to various new albums every year, finding the time to go beyond that point is tough, and yet one such album that has managed to not only pull that feat, but go further and approach the 35 listen mark in less than four years, is Heroes, the sixth full length album from Sabaton, which also happens to be the last of their albums I have left to review, at least until their inevitable next album is released (and as of the time of this review it's already said to be in the works.) While the band has always been one of my favorites, with The Art of War in particular standing out as an exceptional album, Heroes is by far my most played of all their albums, and is also by far my most played overall since I started tracking that stat back in 2013.

Following the comparatively more complex and ambitious Carolus Rex, Heroes is a very simple, very quick and to the point kind of album, clocking in at just under 37 minutes (excluding bonus tracks,) and it's definitely the kind of album that works best when played around 3-5 times in sitting, so the songs have enough time to pound their way into your head and never let up. I've always found Sabaton's music to be extremely fun and catchy, even as far as power metal goes, but Heroes is by far their catchiest and most addictive album ever, with only two songs going past the four minute mark, and every song on the album is designed to kick in, impress with their fun riffs, melodies and choruses, and then end before even beginning to drag on. This is an album that's all about the flow, as it moves seamlessly from highlight to highlight, with no less than amazing moments on the entire album, and not even a single second is wasted. It does somewhat continue trend Carolus Rex started, of Sabaton moving more towards slower songs, but unlike its immediate successor, The Last Stand, which reaches a point where I get a bit tired of all slower songs after a while, on this album the track placement is so perfect, I'm always getting exactly what I want at every point of the album, with the faster songs being spaced out enough and slower songs kicking in exactly when they should, with even “The Ballad of Bull” kicking in at the absolute perfect point just past the halfway mark. While it's not a full scale concept album like Carolus Rex or The Art of War, the album does have a over arching concept, with each track being focused less on battles and more on individuals and squads who performed some particularly heroic deeds in battle. This leads to a very cheery tone to the album overall, which fits the music perfectly, and when you combine these lyrics with the catchiness, epic melodies and pure fun of a Sabaton album, you know you have an instant classic on your hands. I don't even need to give a full paragraph for vocals at this point, as my thoughts are obvious, as once again Joakim Brodén is absolutely perfect and the accompanying choirs are also amazing and help makes the choruses even more than they already are.

Moving on to songwriting, then, and that's where this album absolutely knocks it out of the park, without a single less than perfect song to be found. I already mentioned the album having a perfect flow, so it's no surprise that things get off to an explosive start with the super hard hitting, incredibly addictive opener “Night Witches” quickly pounding its way into your head. This track is of course about an all women military squad, which is pretty cool. After a brief tease at its chorus, the riffs kick in quickly and the track speeds up, moving at a frantic pace, with Joakim and the choirs leading the way, bringing us to one of the catchiest and most pure fun choruses I've ever heard, and every time it appears throughout the track I just get more and more into it every time. There's a really nice guitar solo in the middle, and overall it's simply a super fast, heavy and just plain ass kicking opener, that ranks right up there with “Ghost Divsion” and “Lion from the North”.

After that incredible opening, “No Bullets Fly” keeps the momentum going, moving at a reasonably fast, though slightly more relaxed pace, with some excellent melodic leads. This album on the whole strikes a nice balance between the heavier sound of their earlier albums and the really light, keyboard driven sound of The Last Stand, and this track is a perfect example of that, as it's not as heavy or intense as some of the band's work, but it still has some excellent guitar work, including an excellent solo and some nice riffs during the chorus, and it certainly has more speed and energy to it than most tracks on the latter album, while still having some excellent melodies and of course an absolutely epic and unforgettable chorus. Next is the unbelievably cheery and upbeat track “Smoking Snakes”, one of the most triumphant sounding metal songs I've ever heard, with some incredibly happy sounding melodies, while still hitting pretty hard with its riffs. It moves at a slightly faster pace than “No Bullets Fly”, though still not quite as fast as “Night Witches” and it's another super addictive track, with Joakim and the choirs completely stealing show during the chorus, where the title of the album appears, and it's possibly the very best chorus on the entire album, while the bridge section is only even more epic. This is a case where the song would easily be my favorite even on the absolute best albums by just about any other band, and yet here it's just one among ten masterpieces, which are pretty much all impossible for me to rank.

The pace slows down a bit with “Inmate 4859”, the darkest track on the album. It's a slower paced, more keyboard driven track, though keyboards take a more atmospheric sound to them than on most Sabaton tracks, and even the choirs are used to add a bit of a haunting feel to the song, with Joakim singing in an even lower pitch than normal. The track is very subdued, but still has some pretty heavy riffs as well some awesome melodies, especially during the instrumental section in the middle, and of course the chorus, while more laid back than usual, is still absolutely incredible. After that is the lead single “To Hell and Back”, which has a pretty upbeat and playful sound at the start, before settling into a nice groove, settling into a mid paced rhythm, with some fun verses where Joakim steals the show, before opening up for a huge, unforgettable chorus that stands as another one of the album's best. It's certainly energetic, fun and super catchy, making it the perfect choice for a single, and it only gets better during the final run through at the end.

Perhaps the most controversial track on the album is “The Ballad of Bull”, a track I've seen many people criticize, but it's actually one of my absolute favorites. It's a beautiful piano ballad, where Joakim's voice gets to shine throughout, and while the melodies, vocals, piano sounds and chorus already make it epic, the lyrics also help make it a big highlight. The track is about Australian Corporal Leslie “Bull Allen”, who saved twelve Americans during World War II, and hearing this amazing tale set to music and being sung so amazing by Joakim just makes all the more inspiring and epic. Plus, anyone who says it's out of place on the album clearly needs to look at the album name,“Heroes”, read the lyrics, and then understand exactly why the track fits in perfectly.

The pace picks up again after that, with “Resist and Bite” being another mid paced track that has a ton of energy to it, opening with a light intro with just Joakim and some lead guitars, before everything else kicks in over time. The verses are fun enough, but again it's the chorus that stands out for being super addictive, melodic and catchy, with an amazing use of choral vocals. It's a track like the title track of Carolus Rex, which uses minimalism in very effective ways, and is definitely another great pick for a single. The last speedy track on the album is “Soldier of 3 Armies”, a typically hard hitting speedy track from Sabaton, with a great mix of keyboards, lead guitars and vocals. The riffs hit hard, the melodies are great and the chorus is amazing, super melodic and catchy as always, making it another instant winner. After that is the slower paced but super epic “Far from the Fame”, which opens up with some nice drum rhythms, before settling into a nice groove. It again has some nice lead guitars, while also being one of the lighter, more melodic and more keyboard driven tracks on the album, with of course another stunning chorus, an amazing guitar solo in the second half. Lastly, we have “Hearts of Iron”, which opens up with a huge choral section that briefly teases at its chorus, before slowing down and settling into a nice groove, with some great drum work and awesome vocals from Joakim. It's another surprisingly laid back track for being the closing track, but then the chorus hits and is absolutely gigantic, with some incredible choir vocals, some insanely catchy vocal lines and an incredible performance from Joakim. In the middle of the track is an unbelievably epic choral section that brings the epic factor to its absolute maximum, and overall the track is the perfect ending to a perfect album.

While The Art of War stands as the best, most cohesive and possibly the most varied Sabaton album to date, Heroes has overtaken it to become my favorite, due to its super addictive, quick and to the point tracks, which strike the perfect balance between immediately engaging and still holding up perfectly after 30+ listens. It's by far the most addictive album I've heard since I've been actively listening to metal, and it offers a perfect mix of speed, energy, heavy riffs, great melodies and incredibly catchy and epic choruses, while also taking it to the next level with some inspiring and uplifting lyrics. I doubt Sabaton will ever top this album for me, but that's okay, because it would take a Timeless Miracle for any power metal band to pull that off again, I think.

ANTHRAX Stomp 442

Album · 1995 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.15 | 25 ratings
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Unitron
"RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS, RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS, VIIIIIIIIOLEENCEE"

Take one look at that album cover. It's pretty obvious what kind of album this is going to be when it's just a massive ball of heavy metal that towers over the lone man standing right by it. While most known for his work on the many legendary covers that graced all the Pink Floyd classics, Storm Thorgerson did his fair share of metal album covers. This may be his best album cover for a metal album, as this album is so damn colossal just as the ball that stands right in the center.

Stomp 442 is an interesting album in Anthrax's discography, in the sense that it blends together some of the band's most crushing moments with some of their most melodic. Opener "Random Acts of Senseless Violence" is one of the most pumped up openers I've ever heard, it immediately makes you want to kick some ass. John Bush's vocal performance is the biggest part in giving this song so much fucking attitude. The main riff helps too, but Bush's spitting lines and the infectious snarling of 'RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS, RANDOM ACTS OF SENSELESS' is really what makes this a perfect song for getting all that built up rage out. In fact, this album might include Bush's best vocal performances with Anthrax. The pre-chorus scream of 'SUCK IT' in "Riding Shotgun" is one of the most badass sounding things out there.

Scott Ian and guest guitarist Paul Crook's riffs are crunching and crushing, while contrasting the meaty sound with screeching and face melting bends. "Drop the Ball" is a spiral of crazy soloing and a riff that pounds your face into the ground like a hammer on a nail. Dimebag guests on "King Size" and "Riding Shotgun" for a couple delicious solos. The latter also has Frank Bello's basslines getting some shine time. You know those 90's music videos where the camera is just spinning out of control, going all over the place? That's what can be imagined while listening to "In a Zone", and it's absolutely amazing.

Despite the majority of the album being an explosive groove-thrash fest of brutality, "Nothing" and "Bare" are a couple of the most melodic songs the band has done. While I would say that these are the weaker songs on the album, they're still great and give the album a good contrast of sounds. "Bare" in particular sounds like it came right out of one of Alice in Chains's mellow/acoustic EP's.

Stomp 442 was an album that went under-promoted and forgotten, when it should have become regarded as one of the best albums groove metal had to offer. Along with Vulgar Display of Power, this is one of the best albums for getting all that built up anger out and also when you just want to bang your head right off. Along with We've Come For You All, this is the best of the Bush albums, and one that no fan of groove or thrash metal should miss.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/anthrax-stomp-442-review.html

IMMOLATION Harnessing Ruin

Album · 2005 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.92 | 9 ratings
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Nightfly
It just goes to show how important it is how you listen to your music. Until recently Harnessing Ruin was the only Immolation album not in my collection. I always intended to get it one day for completions sake but until I finally bought it I’d only ever heard it on the computer through crappy speakers or headphones and felt it to be one of their less essential albums. Having had the opportunity to crank it up on a good Hi-Fi, it proved to be a revelation with the sound really opening up and my opinion has changed considerably.

Released in 2005 it was on the tails of two of Immolations most highly regarded albums – Close To a World Below and Unholy Cult. Whilst it doesn’t reach the heights of those two classics it‘s more than a worthy follow up. By Immolation standards at least it’s a bit of an easier listen for the uninitiated than the last two, though of course this being immolation we’re talking relatively speaking. Whilst the sound here is generally a bit denser and muddier and there’s still plenty of their trademark dissonance on display but musically its slightly more melodic and accessible. Robert Vigna still manages to conjure up some incredible off the wall riffs aided by second guitarist Bill Taylor with new drummer Steve Shalaty, who remains with them to this day, filling Alex Hernandez’s shoes admirably as he lays the foundations for all the rhythmic twists and turns you’d expect from these death metal geniuses. Ross Dolan’s low register growl is another instantly recognisable factor, his bass is more felt than to the fore but none the worse for it. Whilst there are no particular stand out tracks it’s a measure of overall quality than weakness and it’s fair to say that in a career that goes back to the early nineties they have yet to release a bad album.

Harnessing Ruin still wouldn’t make my favourites list of Immolation albums but it is up against some pretty stiff competition and whilst not the best place to start in exploring them (for that why not try latest release Atonement) is more than worth a listen.

GAMMACIDE Victims of Science

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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UMUR
"Victims of Science" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Arlington, Texas based thrash metal act Gammacide. The album was released through Wild Rags Records in 1989. "Victims of Science" turned out to be the sole album release by Gammacide although they did release a 4 track demo in 1991, which is featured as bonus material on the 2005 CD reissue of "Victims of Science". That demo (which was originally only available to press and record labels) unfortunately didn´t get them a new label deal, and as a result they disbanded in 1992. They reunited shortly in 2004, and recorded two new tracks, which are also included on the 2005 CD reissue. So while the original album release featured 9 tracks, the reissue features 15 tracks.

Gammacide plays a furiously fast-paced and aggressive thrash metal style not completely unlike the sound found on albums like "Reign in Blood (1986)" by Slayer and "Darkness Descends (1986)" by Dark Angel. Fellow Texans in Devastation is another valid reference. So this is basically very raw, aggressive, and occasionally even brutal thrash metal played with great skill and conviction. Lead vocalist Varnam Ponville has a raw and passionate delivery, but it´s also slightly one-dimensional, and if I have to point out a minor issue it would be his voice and type of delivery. The lyrics are your typical social/political/environmental issues themed lyrics, so no surprises there.

The material isn´t especially varied, neither within or between tracks. Fast-paced thrashy rhythms, razor sharp riffs, screaming chromatic solos, and the occasional mid-paced breakdown. Nothing out of the ordinary for this type of music, but it´s the delivery, the razor sharp yet organic sound production, and some of the killer riffs, that sets "Victims of Science" apart from more standard quality releases in the genre. The relentless aggression is mosh inducing, and it´s impossible to sit still while this album is playing. Tracks like "Fossilized" and "Gutter Rats" are simply crushing, and the same can be said about most of the material on the album.

So if you enjoy some of the above mentioned albums/artists, I can highly recommend "Victims of Science". The bonus material on the reissue version makes a purchase of that version of the album more than worth it, as it´s of an equally high quality as the original album material. It´s not everyday you come across a thrash metal release of this high quality, and while the vocals drag my rating down a bit, I still think a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

IPERYT Totalitarian Love Pulse

Album · 2006 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Totalitarian Love Pulse" is the debut full-length studio album by Polish black/industrial metal act Iperyt. The album was released through Agonia Records in November 2006. Iperyt were formed in 2005, and released the "Particular Hatred" EP in August of that year. All members of the band are or have been involved in other acts like Voidhanger, Morowe, Herzer...etc.

The music on "Totalitarian Love Pulse" more or less continues down the same hate filled industrial extreme metal path which was initiated on "Particular Hatred (2005)". Iperyt is often labelled black metal, but their music also features elements from both death metal and grindcore, and reeks dark industrial atmosphere and coldness too. There´s no human drummer on the album, and all drums are therefore programmed and the addition of samples and effects/keyboards further enhance the futuristic industrial nature of the band´s music. The raw and snarling vocals are delivered with caustic aggression and great conviction.

Even for extreme metal this is a very extreme album, which takes absolutely no prisoners. From start to finish the band will assault your ears relentlessly, and even though most of the album is played in a very high, almost manic pace, there are occasionally heavier section included on the album but they are usually only short breathers (and most listeners probably won´t even think of those sections as breathers), before a new blasting attack sets in. This is the kind of album that´ll make your heart gallop in your chest. It´s simply a very stressful listening experience (in a good way) delivered with fierce aggression and great energy.

Tracks like "Abuse You", "Adoration of Social Demise", and "Scorched Earth Creed", are quite brilliant, and even though not all tracks stand out equally, the material on "Totalitarian Love Pulse" are overall of a very high quality. The bleak and haunting atmosphere and the high level musicianship are other great assets to the album. "Totalitarian Love Pulse" is also a very well produced album. The programmed drums are placed perfect in the mix, and they generally sound really great.

Overall "Totalitarian Love Pulse" is a high quality release by Iperyt and it´s proof that the promise which was heard on "Particular Hatred (2005", wasn´t just an empty promise. They´ve successfully followed up on the quality material from the EP, and I think "Totalitarian Love Pulse" is highly recommendable to fans of industrial tinged and highly aggressive extreme metal. A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

SEPULTURA Sepultura - Live in Sao Paulo

Movie · 2005 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 3 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
Sepultura have a good few options if you are into live material. There is the Chaos DVD with the Under Siege video on it with the band touring Arise and playing all their Thrash era songs. There is the Under A Pale Grey Sky cd with the last ever gig of the Max Cavelera line-up on it, playing a lot of material off of Roots and Chaos AD. There is the newer Rock In Rio DVD with the Les Tambors Du Bronx percussion group augmenting them. There’s also plenty of live material on bonus tracks and compilations.

Best of all however, is Sepultura Live In Sao Paulo. It was the first video album with the Derick Green line-up, the first time you got to see and not just hear live versions of material from Roots and Chaos AD and its the only place to hear straight up unaltered versions of material off the Derick Green albums. It was released in 2005 when they were touring Roorback, back when they were still a Gold-selling band.

You get to hear an amazing blend (21 songs!) of material all the way from their earliest EPs and albums with early material like ‘Necromancer’ and ‘Troops Of Doom’ beside the mega-hits from the ’90s like ‘Territory’ and ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ mixed in with more modern gems like ‘Choke’ and what has to be one of the band’s best ever songs in ‘Sepulnation.’ (For me, its in the top 5 songs they ever recorded, any era).

Visually, the album is great. Its really well shot and edited, with no fancy distracting weird camera angels or lenses and no too-fast music video style choppy cuts. The stage set up and tasteful circle of lighting around their tribal ‘S’ logo banner looks really great, and the soundjob and mix are perfect. Sometimes the guitars or the vocals can be too quiet in a live recording, or some times the drums have way too much reverb, or sometimes you can’t hear the crowd’s energy; but here everything is perfectly balanced hear and it all sounds thick and chunky.

The band’s performances are excellent and it really shows off what great musicians they are. I never ‘got’ how good a drummer Igor is until I saw this! I didn’t much care for Derrick Green as a frontman before I saw this an it utterly changed my mind.

It looks great, it sounds great, the tracklist is great and the band play great. What more could you possibly want? Oh well, if you still do want more there is an absolute tonne of extras, with music videos, more live songs, a short making of documentary and biography, a bigger documentary about the band from 1998–2005 and other stuff as well (photogalleries etc.)

Overall; this is a damn strong release from a very important band, and there’s so much on it its great value for money. If like me you were skeptical on them without Max in the band, go on youtube and check out live versions of tracks like ‘Chaos AD’ and especially ‘Sepulnation’ off of this and just try not to be converted! If you are new to the band altogether this is a great starting point blending the best parts of all the eras together.

JUDAS PRIEST Firepower

Album · 2018 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 13 ratings
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Kingcrimsonprog
18 studio albums in, and Metal Pioneers Judas Priest are still relevant. There are many bands from the past who are making great music nowadays. Kreator have been as good in the past 10 years as they ever were in the ’80s. You can add Saxon and Accept to that list. Queensryche since Todd joined too.

Priest’s best moments on Redeemer Of Souls and Angel Of Retribution were in that sort of sphere as well but not to the unquestionable level of the above mentioned renaissances. Judging from how magazines, podcasts, blogs and websites I care about have reacted to Firepower however, I was expecting seriously great things when pressing play for the first time.

I’ve been hammering this record non-stop in the car for about half a month now, repeat listening to it over and over again. Its taken a while to grow on me as I had such high expectations after the last Saxon album and also all the hype surrounding this, that it almost did more harm than good setting me unrealistic expectations, but after taking a good long time to really digest it and understand how I feel about it, I can definitely confirm Firepower is a bit of a banger.

There are a few moments of variety, such as the slower closer ‘Sea Of Red’ and the brief instrumental ‘Guardians’ but most of the material is just straight ahead well written classic heavy metal. Highlights for me include ‘Evil Never Dies,’ ‘Rising From Ruins,’ ‘Flame Thrower’ and especailly ‘Traitors Gate.’

That being said, its an album you can listen to all the way through, and its an album you can happily listen to on repeat. I once heard the phrase ‘an album you can get lost in’ and that’s exactly how I feel about Firepower. The performances pop. Rob’s vocals are more energetic than on the previous record. Travis’ drums are that little bit harder. The production is a lot sharper and more metallic as well. Everything sounds that little bit harder and heavier. Maybe its having that Andy Sneap involvment? Who knows, but everything rips. The band sound twenty years younger.

I wouldn’t go overboard and start heaping tonnes and tonnes of hyperbolic praise on this personally. I wouldn’t argue its better than Screaming For Vengeance or Painkiller. I like Angel Of Retribution and Redeemer Of Souls well enough already not to go down that ‘best album since Painkiller’ route, but I will say it is a worthy addition to the band’s catalogue and no disapointment whatsoever. A pedantic person may be inclined to argue it is a bit overlong, and that a few songs are a bit forgettable compared to the better ones, but those are arguments that can be made for pretty much every album nowadays. Iron Maiden fans are well used to it at this stage and it doesn’t stop us buying their albums.

After Nostradamus I thought this band may be hitting a downer period and after KK left the band it seemed quite unlikely they would be anything more than a nostalgia act but that’s two albums now they’ve proved that fear wrong. The band are arguably on an upward streak and they are starting to sound almost as fresh and relevant as the new Accept and Saxon albums have been. Considering by how long Priest pre-date those bands its even more impressive really. It isn’t just as amazing as I was expecting, but what I was expecting wasn’t realistic to begin with, but the more I play Firepower, the closer it gets to being a reality.

If you like Priest, get it. If you like Classic Metal, get it. Hell, if you like Metal at all, get it!

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Metal for Muthas

Album · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.55 | 2 ratings
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Vim Fuego
The New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Thanks a lot Geoff Barton, for one of the most awkward labels for a genre of music ever. NWOBHM. If you try to pronounce the acronym, it sounds like somewhere in North Africa where Montgomery and Rommel scrapped it out during World Ward 2, at the Battle of NWOBHM. Writing for Sounds magazine, Barton first coined New Wave of British Heavy Metal in May 1979. Is the term descriptive? Yes. An underground swelling of heavy metal bands popped up in Great Britain the late 1970s and early 1980s. They supposedly had a new sound, distinct from that of the old guard of heavy metal. Is the term accurate? Not really. Define the sound exactly. Was it Iron Maiden’s galloping riffs? Was it Diamond Head’s hard edged take on prog rock? Was it Angel Witch’s occult inspired freakouts? Was it Saxon’s working class denim and leather? All NWOBHM bands, but all that’s really similar in them is their British origin, and they all played metal.

“Metal For Muthas” was an attempt to catalogue these disparate sounds, and in doing so created an album both definitive of and symptomatic of the scene. Released in February 1980, the ten tracks on this album featured some of the best and worst of metal for the time and place.

“Metal For Muthas” is probably most famous for being the place where many a metal fan first discovered Iron Maiden. Maiden had released the single “Running Free” a week before this compilation came out, and their debut album was still a couple of months off. What was on offer here was early versions of “Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild”. These are far and away the stand-out tracks on this album, and it’s easy to see why Iron Maiden became Iron Maiden. In an odd twist, neither was included on the original version of Iron Maiden’s debut.

“Sanctuary” was intended to be a non-album single. It was recorded as a four piece, with Doug Sampson on drums. The band were most unhappy with the way it sounded, so re-recorded it for the single, and the re-recorded version was later added to the US and subsequent versions of the “Iron Maiden” album. However, the rougher “Metal For Muthas” version has a gritty charm all it’s own.

“Wrathchild” also sounds rougher than the version which would eventually appear on “Killers”. The guitars have a bit more bite, the solos are demonstrably different, and it doesn’t quite have the Martin Birch punch of the later version.

There’s more to this album than Iron Maiden though. Sledgehammer’s “Sledgehammer” just perfectly sets itself up for any number of hammering, pounding, thumping, or bashing clichés, so just pick your own one while you listen to Mike Cooke’s excellent melodic vocals and his powerful rhythm section. Like many of the songs here, it has a bluesy swagger to it, owing great debts to the likes of early Deep Purple and Status Quo.

E.F. Band kept the blues flavour, but upped the tempo somewhat, and completely fucked the British part of NWOBHM by having the temerity to hail from Sweden. Never mind, “Fighting for Rock and Roll” does just that, and there are some incredible solos mid-song.

Toad The Wet Sprocket borrowed their name from a Monty Python sketch, and you might almost think someone was having a laugh by including “Blues In A” on the album. The song reeks of boozy, smoke-filled barrooms, complete with someone tinkling the ivories, and vocalist Mick Mostafa wailed all over it. A great hangover song, but a bit of a momentum killer, and there was a vital element missing from it, namely THE METAL!

Praying Mantis had all the ingredients to have made it bigger than they did. After all, guitarist Rob Angelo wrote “Sanctuary” when he was in Iron Maiden. Yes, the same “Sanctuary” that led off the album. Angelo was paid £300 for the song and was well satisfied with it. Interestingly, he didn’t have a writing credit for “Captured City”, the song featured here. While not as quick as Maiden, this still has a similar bass driven feel, with some great memorable vocal harmonies.

Ethel The Frog... Not a promising name. Another amphibian from another Monty Python sketch, but it’s a matter of not judging a book by it’s cover. “Fight Back” is one of the heaviest songs here, and featured some Judas Priest-like guitar work.

And then on to Angel Witch. While Samson is probably more famous, Angel Witch would have to be second behind Maiden from this album for their influence on future metal bands. “Baphomet” is firmly rooted in the occult lyrically and thematically, and from this song come the roots of speed and thrash metal, with the likes of Mercyful Fate being obvious descendants of Angel Witch. This was also a big influence on Dave Mustaine, Chuck Schuldiner, and Tom G. Warrior. It is easily the best song outside of the Maiden tracks.

And so to Samson. Probably best known for featuring a pre-Iron Maiden Bruce Bruce (fucking good thing he changed his name from THAT!), it’s actually Paul Samson singing on “Tomorrow Or Yesterday”. Once again, it’s a blues rock/ballad, with some hard driving mid passages, but ultimately, it’s a bit dull.

The whole thing is rounded out by Nutz with “Bootliggers”. Nutz also didn’t feature the NWOBHM tag by not being new, as in they were an established band, with three studio albums behind them already. “Bootliggers” has it’s boots firmly rooted in the early 70s hard rock/glam rock sound. Dave Lloyd even lets rip with a Daltrey-esque scream. While not a weak song, it’s an odd finish to the album, complete with fake finale.

Geoff Barton, he who coined the fuckawful acronym for this genre called the album “A good idea abysmally executed”. Well Mr Barton, you were proved wrong. “Metal For Muthas” hit number 16 in the album charts, and is still loved by metal fans the world over, as much for its historical significance as for the actual music. Yes, parts of the album aren’t new, British, or even heavy metal, but it exposed an underground scene to a wider audience, which gave metal a huge kick in the ass, and boosted it to greater things in the 1980s and beyond.

ULVER Nattens Madrigal: Aatte Hymne Til Ulven I Manden

Album · 1997 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.74 | 26 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
While ULVER (Norwegian for “wolves”) has become synonymous with eclectic genre jumping between albums like virtually no other band in history of recorded music, in the beginning they at least attempted to create a series of albums in their “Black Metal Trilogie” which began with 1994’s “Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler.” However despite the supposed “black metal” part of the equation, even on their sophomore album, the wiley wolfy ones were pulling the old switcheroo by performing their second album in the metal-free zone of the dark Norwegian folk drenched “Kvelssanger.” For their third album they make a reprise and finish out the trilogy by bringing the black metal back to the forefront and on NATTENS MADRIGAL - AATTE HYMNE TIL ULVEN I MANDEN (translated from Norwegian as "Madrigal Of The Night – Eight Hymns To The Wolf In Man”), not only do they recapitulate the full fury of the debut but unleash the full fury of caustic black metal which races along like wolf pursued prey fleeing for its very life.

While the three albums are connected thematically, NATTENS MADRIGAL was the band’s international debut and most likely the first taste of the Norwegian wolf pack by the majority of the planet. The third installment of the trilogy is a concept that revolves around tales of the dark side of humanity that uses metaphors in the form of wolves in the moonlit night as depicted by the cover art. The album was recorded immediately after “Bergtatt” with no specific timeline for release but as the band got signed by Century Media in the late 90s, vocalist Kristoffer Rygg who is credited as Garm states that the band wanted to unleash their most abrasive and venomous attempt on second wave black metal as their international debut not only as a guidepost for their involvement in the early scene but also as a final farewell before they moved out of the black metal scene entirely. There was also a little shock value involved to freak out their new label as well.

NATTENS MADRIGAL is a relentless beast despite calm surreal interludes that incorporate ambient, industrial and other pacifying sounds. While these sounds are plentiful, they merely punctuate the main compositions that exude an overall abrasive and caustic second wave metal attack with adrenaline fueled blastbeasts, searing buzzsaw guitar riffs and lo-fi production that banishes the bass into Hades. As typical for the day, the din is fortified with vile, angry raspy shouted vocals typical of Darkthrone, Mayhem, Marduk and other similar second wavers of the 90s Scandinavian black metal scene. While the lo-fi aspects of NATTENS MADRIGAL are quite similar to the majority of over-adrenalized 90s black metal, ULVER excels in composing tight melodic constructs which at times such as in “Hymn I: Of Wolf And Fear” breaks out of the super aggressive mode and converts into melodic classical guitar with modern production before descending into the lo-fi hellfire pits once again.

While on the surface NATTENS MADRIGAL seems like a typical 90s black metal release, however it is in fact an interesting closer in their “Black Metal Trilogie” as it eschews the atmospheric and folk touches that the debut “Bergtatt” utilized and opts for a more primeval raw and angry evil as fuck sort of sound. While the fans of the day never could have predicted that after such an energetic and unrelenting display of black metal fury that constitutes the third and final installment of the trilogy, the clues as to where ULVER would take their next journey lay in the cracks between the caustic distortionfest. The ambient, industrial and psychedelic folk snippets between tracks would become the focus of the newer chapters of ULVER’s ever-changing journey. While i can’t say that i wish ULVER would have stuck to their black metal roots because so many other band’s were jumping on the bandwagon, i also cannot say that i don’t love the hell out of the early black metal albums that ULVER conjured up. On this one, they not only somehow managed to create beautiful melodies beneath the unbounded brutality but seeded the blueprint of their future musical adventures. NATTENS MADRIGAL is a satisfying adrenalized high octane 90s black metal release fortified with cool electronic embellishments.

SURRA Somos Todos Culpados

EP · 2015 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Tupan
"Somos Todos Culpados" (We Are All Guilty) is an EP from the brazilian hardcore band Surra.

Their sound is basically a blend of hardcore, crossover thrash and grindcore/powerviolence - the latter influences are more noticeable in the songs "Xerifão" (Big Sheriff) and Fim de Festa (End Of Party). It's also pretty evident the influence from other brazilian bands, like RATOS DE PORÃO and DFC.

It's a short release with only four songs, working more like an appetizer to the rest of their catalog. Bottom line, the music is pretty good and catchy, sometimes great, and, despite the language (all their releases are sung in portuguese), it's recommended to everyone who likes some violent hardcore with thrash influences.

DRAGON GUARDIAN Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~

EP · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sisslith
With an extensive discography under their belt, Dragon Guardian self-released an eighth EP titled "Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~" in 2016. This time, Arthur Brave, the founder and leader of the project, counted on the collaboration of guitarist Kouta and vocalist Manami, both members of the group Dragon Eyes, in which Brave also participates. Additionally, Leo Figaro lent again his fabulous voice to most of the songs.

First of all, the sound production of this album has been greatly enhanced and now is top-notch. Compared to previous works, Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~ sounds extremely polished and all the different instruments are distinguishable and perfectly audible. This is thanks to Ryosuke Yamada, who had already collaborated with Dragon Guardian, and to Takahiro Hashimoto -widely demanded by established artists, such as Kelly Simonz's Blind Faith or Gunbridge.

Despite the recurring, fantastical and cheesy lyrical themes in Dragon Guardian's songs, the content of the ones included in this record revolve around deeper subjects, like self-improvement, a sense of bleakness and hopelessness..., yet without leaving a fantasy setting. It is especially noteworthy how countless Japanese lyricists use similar metaphors in their words, and Brave is no exception.

The level of musicianship displayed here is obvious. The whole line-up comprises professional and veteran musicians who clearly know what they are doing. Leo Figaro seems to be very comfortable with the vocal phrases of every song; he does not exert himself, but still delivers. Likewise, Manami manages to show her powerful vocal range, although she only sings in the closing track. Moreover, Brave and Kouta do a damn fine job. For instance, listen to the masterful guitar solo in '時空の旅', or the stunning guitar licks in the following piece towards the end, after an elegant neoclassical counterpoint. In short, the guitar work is simply first-rate. Conversely, the bass lines and (programmed) drumming are pretty standard: typical power metal structures which serve for rhythmic purposes, but never stand out. The keyboards and orchestral arrangements, however, are effectively used throughout the record and, at times, are even cinematic.

Interestingly enough, Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~ seems to be quite influenced by Galneryus in a couple of songs. For example, the second track, 時空の旅, could have been featured in memorable albums like "Resurrection" and, above all, Leo Figaro sounds somewhat similar to Sho. On top of that, in ‘血塗られた聖職者’, there are several guitar parts that are reminiscent of Syu's wizardry too. Nevertheless, Dragon Guardian's own sound can be seen in the rest of the EP, e.g. the slightly progressive ‘鬼祟り’ or the appealing ‘古城への扉’.

Brave and his bandmates can be proud of this record. Even though it has some minor flaws and the formula has been used before, Ragnarok ~神々の黄昏~ is filled with high-quality symphonic power metal compositions as well as impressive performances.

VENOM Prime Evil

Album · 1989 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.54 | 11 ratings
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Unitron
Venom is one of those bands that's sadly more known for their influence rather than the actual music they created. Ask anybody, and they'll probably say something along the lines of "Oh yeah, Black Metal. What an influential album!" or "Welcome to Hell, maybe the first speed metal or black metal album!". Will anyone ever comment on the actual quality? Probably not, and if they do it probably would sound like this: "Ehh, it's okay". I probably wouldn't argue a whole lot if they had only made their first five albums (Though I do really like their first two). However, nobody seems to remember that the band's kept at it, and got 100 times better.

Enter 1989, and here is what I think is Venom's finest hour. Prime Evil is the first out of a few albums to feature Tony Dolan on vocals rather than frontman Cronos, who had left the band after the failure of 1987's Calm Before the Storm. You may be thinking how Venom would continue with the loss of their iconic frontman, but I honestly prefer Dolan's vocals. He maintains the spit and snarl of Cronos, while adding a bit of melody as well as that extra attitude needed for thrash metal.

You know what this album's got? It's got grooves, it's got hooks, and under Venom's command you will headbang. "Blackened are the Priests" has a simply killer groove made with the syncopation of the groove of the guitar riffs and the walloping of drums. "Parasite" and "Carnivorous" are pure thrashers, with the former being addicting as all hell and the latter having a bit of black metal guitar work for flavor. "Skeletal Dance" really shows off Anthony Bray's massive drum sound, with the bridge sounding absolutely colossal. That blended with the piercing guitar sound and screeching, it's like entering an ancient arena.

Usually a cover wouldn't be considered a main highlight, but Venom knocks it out of the park with their cover of Black Sabbath's classic "Megalomania". Man, I love the original, but Venom just gives it a whole new sound and brings such a fresh high energy to the beloved classic. "Harder Than Ever" brings in a more traditional heavy metal sound, especially with the main riff sounding right out of an early Motley Crue album. This is a should be metal anthem, it is just so fun.

While black metal fans may not be too happy, thrash fans like myself can rejoice for what's a real hidden gem that too few people even know exist. There's only one real weak moment on the album, and that's the ridiculously cheesy and somewhat forgettable "Skool Daze" which sounds out of place, but that doesn't do much damage to what's otherwise a flawless masterpiece. If you like your thrash both melodic and spitting, give Prime Evil a try.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/venom-prime-evil-review.html

DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA Sing Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious

Album · 2009 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.20 | 26 ratings
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Unitron
Along with heavy metal, another style of music that I had grown up listening to quite a bit was Big Band and Swing music from the golden age of film. Although there was some Benny Goodman in the selection, most of what I heard were from the classic movie musicals of the 40's and 50's. I can't say I used to be a huge fan of the vocals, but I always loved the dancing and music that went along with it. In fact, I'd still rank classics like Royal Wedding (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), and It's Always Fair Weather (1955) among my favorite films.

Despite my love of both classic metal and classic films, I'd never have thought "Hey, you know Fred Astaire's awesome jazzy Shoe Shine song in The Band Wagon? Let's combine that with heavy metal and see what we get.". Wrathchild America did the swing and metal combo first back in 1991 with their song "Spy", or if you want to go even farther, Megadeth had some pretty swing-sounding rhythm sections on their first two albums. However, Diablo Swing Orchestra is to my knowledge the first band to make swing metal into an actual thing.

...and holy fuck. When I first heard "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma", I had no idea that this was something I wanted and needed, but fucking hell yes it was. Opening with that total classic sounding booming big band drum sound, it honestly sounds like you did just put on a swing record. Then those sexy horns and grinding guitar come in, it just sounds like a combo made in heaven. It really feels like this is from a scene from one of those old musicals, just with metal instrumentation added. Everything is just so fun, energetic, and just swingin'. Oh, and those basslines, those are smooth as silk that swings.

While the singing was my least favorite part of those musicals growing up, I've since grown to appreciate the vocal styles used such as opera singing and crooning. Usually when people think of opera and metal combined, they think of the over-abundance of Nightwish copycats, but here you couldn't get farther from that. This is real opera singing and other styles right out of those musicals. There's also some tango, surf, and other styles thrown in as far as the music goes. The metal aspect takes from alternative metal, thrash metal, funk metal, and some surprising nu-metal sounding riffs. There is absolutely no pretense here, just tasty licks and delicious riffs a plenty.

"Bedlam Sticks" has thrashing riffs shredding through your skin, blended with bass wizardry and quirky vocals that sounds right out of a Primus album. The vocals are all over the place on this song, with a mix of the aforementioned vocals, opera, cabaret, and even some death vocals thrown in there. "Vodka Inferno" has some crushing hooks that sound right out of a System of a Down album. "Rancid Romance" is an addicting metal tango, "Lucy Fears the Morning Star" has some colossal grooves, and "Ricerca Dell'anima" blends the musical metal sound with some cool surf rock techniques. Towards the end of the song, it's impossible to not love the blend of piercing groove metal riffing with those amazing horns. "Memoirs of a Roadkill" is the one song devoid of metal, and is what I can only call acoustic funk.

Just like the album opened up with the mind-blowing "A Tap Dancer's Dilemma", it closes with the mind-blowing "Stratosphere Serenade". These were the first two songs I heard from the band, and what an introduction. It's hard enough to describe this album as a whole, but this last song especially, I'm at a loss for words. There's some amazing cello work, massive grooves, and beautiful vocals, but this is one that you'll just have to listen to yourself.

This is a tough album to talk about, because no matter what I write in my review, I can't do it true justice. I've made it pretty clear that I'm an old school metal and hard rock fan, most of my all time favorite albums are from the 70's, 80's and 90's. It takes a lot for an album from the 21st century to become one of my all time favorite albums. Clutch's Psychic Warfare did that simply by being an amazing all killer no filler old-school hard rock album, Chevelle's North Corridor did it by being a crushing dirge of alterna-sludge, and Diablo Swing Orchestra did that by being a game-changer that hasn't gotten the game to change yet. It takes two kinds of music that I hold dear to my heart, along with a bunch of other stuff, and just created an album that I never thought I was looking for. While DSO is still around doing stuff, they'll never be the same with the departure of vocalist Annlouice Wolgers. Who knows if swing metal will ever expand beyond DSO's sound. I sure hope it does, but if it doesn't, one thing can be said. Sing-Along Songs for the Damned & Delirious is a one-of-a-kind album, and there's really nothing like it. If you haven't heard this album, check it out with an open mind. In an era where amazing music from new bands is hard to find, make this an essential listen.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/diablo-swing-orchestra-sing-along-songs.html

BODY COUNT Body Count

Album · 1992 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.14 | 12 ratings
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martindavey87
When renowned gangster rapper Ice-T wanted to form a metal band, he hooked up with guitarist Ernie C, and thus, Body Count was born. Blending metal guitar riffs with rapping vocals, the band's music takes a huge inspiration from hardcore, thrash and punk music.

Spewing hatred and anger with lyrics touching upon subjects such as racism, corrupt politicians and gang warfare, Body Count made an immediate splash with the song 'Cop Killer' (sadly not included on my copy of the album), which was highly controversial upon its release. However, all it really did was serve to give the band even more publicity.

Foul-mouthed, and brimming with hardcore metal riffs, 'Body Count' is not for the weak hearted. It's dark and menacing, a huge contrast to the whiny, angst-ridden grunge bands of the early 90's, with Ice-T and company making no effort to hide their displeasure at the mistreatment of coloured people in America. And the music itself packs one hell of a punch. It's heavy and it's ballsy, oozing with attitude but never taking itself too seriously that the band can't afford to be slightly tongue-in-cheek from time to time.

With anthems such as 'Evil Dick', 'Body Count's in the House', 'KKK Bitch', 'There Goes the Neighbourhood', 'Momma's Gotta Die Tonight' and 'The Winner Loses', it's apparent that Ice-T is onto something special here. And his solo track, 'Freedom of Speech', which takes the place of 'Cop Killer' on censored versions of the album, fits in perfectly, both stylistically and lyrically. And there's plenty of skits thrown in between songs to keep the record flowing effortlessly.

This could easily be dismissed as rap metal, and in fairness that's an easy assumption to make, but coming out at the right place and at the right time, Ice-T and Body Count struck gold with this release, and if you're willing to look past the gangster rap stigma of the group, you'll find a pivotal album of early 90's metal.

PARADISE LOST Tragic Idol

Album · 2012 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 19 ratings
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adg211288
After a few more commercial albums, the gothic rock/metal One Second (1997), the completely non-metal Host (1999) and the alternative/industrial influenced Believe in Nothing (2001) and Symbol of Life (2002), Paradise Lost released a self-titled effort in 2005 as their tenth album. It was one of their more shaky records, though still solid gothic metal. After that they began a new incredible run of high quality albums starting with In Requiem (2007), which saw them starting to reintroduce doom metal to their sound, some that only increased on the following Faith Divides Us - Death Unites Us (2009). Most recent they've made their work noteworthy by reintroducing their early death growling style on The Plague Within (2015) and a full return to death-doom metal on Medusa (2017).

Stuck in the middle of these five albums is Tragic Idol (2012), Paradise Lost's thirteenth studio album. While not without a reasonable regard from fans, it does seem that out of the five albums released in the 2007-2017 period that it is the one that gets the least mentions, except perhaps for it's distinction as the last Paradise Lost (to date) to not use any death growling from vocalist Nick Holmes.

It's a shame that Tragic Idol seems so overlooked next to the other modern Paradise Lost albums and more so when putting it up against their earlier classic works like Draconian Times (1995), Icon (1993) and Gothic (1991), since for me this album actually represents one of the band's best works. Much like was with the case with fan favourite (and mine) Draconian Times, Tragic Idol comes equipped with an incredibly solid tracklist (here containing ten songs) where every single song is able to stand out and assert its own identity through memorable lyrics delivered with Holmes' varied and powerful vocal performance.

The album is more pure gothic metal in style that it's doomy predecessor and reaffirms why Paradise Lost are the kings of that sub-genre, though does overall have a different vibe to Draconian Times and Icon. This ability for their albums to stand out from each other is another reason why Paradise Lost must be recognised as one of the truly great metal bands to have ever existed. Very rarely does an album from them have exactly the same vibe as the previous one. What really sells Tragic Idol though is its songs. The excellent title track most of all, but also ones like Solitary One, Crucify, Fear of Impending Hell, Theories From Another World and The Glorious End all make this one of the band's most essential albums. The two prior albums were excellent but neither can claim that every song is as instantly memorable the way Tragic Idol can. I'd even rank this one above Icon for that alone.

Paradise Lost's thirteenth album may forever be known to me as the underrated one and that's the only really tragic thing about it. Fans of the band are advised to pay closer attention to this one.

PARADISE LOST Draconian Times

Album · 1995 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 35 ratings
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adg211288
With their first four albums representing a clear evolution from their beginnings as a pure death-doom metal act to a gothic metal act, Paradise Lost's fifth full-length album sees them delivering something as close to what could be considered their standard fare. Not that they really have one, as subsequent albums would go on to prove. Titled Draconian Times (1995), the album is probably the UK band's best known and well regarded release as is considered a seminal album of the gothic metal genre.

It's really got hard to hear why. Gothic metal can take a number of different forms and Paradise Lost's style is one that remains closest to its roots in doom and traditional heavy metal. As on Icon (1993), frontman Nick Holmes has now left behind any traces of growling vocals in the band's style and sings cleanly in a style that is actually not that unlike that of Metallica's James Hetfield. I've seen some describe the band as being like a meeting of that band with Black Sabbath. That's kind of accurate but only the bare bones of what they and Draconian Times actually sound like. This album has a quite polished and melodic sound but it's also dark and melancholy. There's still an element of the doom metal roots, but it'll be a long while again before Paradise Lost could be considered an actual doom metal band.

The songs themselves tend toward being catchy, memorable numbers that all easily number among the best that Paradise Lost has ever recorded. There are some clear highlights such as Hallowed Land, which features excellent use of piano and Forever Failure, which includes some spoken word samples from Charles Manson. They've a very good band at making their individual songs stand out as unique entities instead of just being part of a greater whole and Draconian Times is undeniably the best collection they ever put together, each one of them having claims to being a standout in its own right. I think it is maybe fair to say that the songs on the first half of the album have become a bit more well known, but the quality in the second half really isn't that different.

Although I've listened to gothic metal on and off for years and even had a couple of other Paradise Lost albums a bit longer than this one, it was Draconian Times that really sold me on the kind of quality that the genre has to offer when the band is a cut above the rest of the pack. Draconian Times is the kind of album that not only lives up to its hype. But also converted this previously sceptical listener into both a fan of the band and someone who now wants to active investigate other gothic metal bands.

MEGADETH Sampler 01

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
I found this 1999 promo CD in a second hand shop for £1 and, being the collector that I am, had to purchase it, even though it offered nothing I didn't already have numerous times over. Released as a digipak with a plain black cover featuring the bands logo, this unnamed sampler, which conveniently has 'Sampler 01' on its spine, consists of a handful of totally random Megadeth songs that don't seem to flow or show any coherence whatsoever.

But that's okay, right? I mean, it's only intended for promotional purposes. And while there's a couple of songs I'm not overly bothered about, there's still a good representation of the bands career, up until that point, of course.

The sampler includes 'Crush 'Em', the lead single of the bands then-upcoming 1999 release 'Risk', as well as classics such as 'Holy Wars... The Punishment Due', 'Symphony of Destruction', 'Peace Sells' and 'Train of Consequences', all are fan favourites, as well as the bands cover of the Sex Pistols classic 'Anarchy in the UK'.

No doubt you'd have to be a serious uber-fan to track this CD down at this point. Especially as there's countless compilations far exceeding this in song variety and duration. But still, it's Megadeth damn it! There's no denying the quality of the music here, and if you're a super nerdy collector like me, then picking this up for a £1 just to sit on the shelf is an acceptable price to pay.

MEGADETH Live Trax

Live album · 1997 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.43 | 3 ratings
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martindavey87
Megadeth's 'Live Trax' is an EP released exclusively in Japan in 1997, and it's a fairly mundane affair which I'm not going to dwell on for too long.

The sound is alright, although Megadeth have never really had such a great live sound, and it certainly doesn't convey well in these recordings, which are taken from dates in 1995 and 1997. Dave Mustaine's voice could be considered an acquired taste at the best of times, but he certainly struggles in a live setting, even in his younger days, as is evident here.

There's six actual tracks, although there's technically seven songs, as 'Reckoning Day' also has 'Peace Sells' tacked on afterwards. The song choices are fine, consisting of tracks like 'Angry Again', 'Tornado of Souls' and 'A Tout le Monde', and the musicianship is of a high standard, especially as this is the "classic" line up featuring Marty Friedman on guitars and Nick Menza on drums. However, to tell the truth, there's just nothing remarkable about these recordings.

Maybe I'm just taking the idea of these types of EP's too seriously, but this is a pretty forgettable release. It's nothing special, and other than some cool imagery (the look of the CD certainly fits in well with that era of the band's music), this is only worth getting hold of if you're a huge fan.

DRAGON GUARDIAN Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Sisslith
Do you crave some great fantasy symphonic power metal from the land of the rising sun? Well, this album is everything you need!

Led by Arthur Brave, Dragon Guardian are quite a prolific band that have been around in the metal scene for more than a decade. They are not very well-known out of Japan, but they have collaborated with many artists from their homeland. Dragon Guardian's fifth record, "Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom", was originally self-released in 2011. The subject of this review, however, is the limited edition released the following year through the German label IceWarrior Records. This very album is a re-recording of their debut "聖邪のドラゴン", and let me tell you in advance that it is a complete improvement.

Regarding the lyrics, all of them were written by Arthur Brave. Leo Figaro, who was recruited for the vocals and would later become the band's frontman, translated them into English. This is understandable since the aim of it was to reach a wider audience, but it backfires. As numerous Japanese singers, Figaro's English pronunciation is not the best, and the booklet contains a lot of grammatical mistakes. Therefore, it would have been better to leave the lyrics untouched. Anyway, the theme of these lyrics is enjoyable yet full of clichés, such as dragons, magic, treasure islands, soldiers and so on –which is a common characteristic of the genre.

The music is a different story; it is without doubt the highlight of this work. Arthur Brave is a fantastic guitarist as well as a versatile composer. He is clearly the brain behind this album: he is responsible for all the songwriting process and arrangements, and plays both guitar and bass on it too. One thing that I particularly love about Dragon Guardian is the melodic quality of their records. This one is brimming with catchy and epic melodies, which is especially noticeable on tracks like ‘Treasure Island’, ‘Requiem’ or ‘Book of the Magic’. There is also a considerable amount of slower sections and bridges with emotional pianos and neoclassical orchestral interludes that contrast with the raging power metal parts, e.g. in the glorious piece ‘The Never-Ending World’. Moreover, the thorough use of majestic and often baroque-flavoured synthesisers in almost every song complements the music perfectly.

Furthermore, Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom features a high level of virtuosity. Not only does Brave demonstrate his insane fretboard prowess, but also Kouta, aka “Johann Sebastian Bach” (Thousand Leaves), whose mind-blowing guitar mastery can be seen at the start of ‘Mountain of Sword’ or in the speedy ‘Holy Dragon vs Evil Dragon’. And this connects with the main flaw of the album: several songs sound pretty similar and it may seem that one is listening to just a long track instead of eight different pieces. Perhaps Figaro, albeit having an impressive vocal range, sounds rather monotonous, or some musical structures are overused. Nevertheless, there are enough and fairly appealing variations throughout the whole record that may oppose this view, like in the eponymous ‘Destiny of the Sacred Kingdom’.

While not a perfect album, Dragon Guardian’s fifth offering is undeniably satisfying from start to finish and highly recommended to any fan of the genre. The melodious and tuneful power metal passages interwoven with gentle neoclassical interludes make up for any flaw it might present.

RIOT Fire Down Under

Album · 1981 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.47 | 13 ratings
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Unitron
"Swords and tequila, carry me through the night. Swords and tequila, carry me through the fight!"

Riot immediately established their own unique sound on their 1977 debut, and continued delivering the goods on their second album two years later. Another two years later, and the band blasted into the 80's with one of the greatest classics of traditional heavy metal. Fire Down Under not only marked the last album with vocalist Guy Speranza and the final album of their masterpiece trilogy, but it also happened to be the best of the bunch and the band's magnum opus.

What makes Fire Down Under stand out from the first two is just how it does pretty much everything the first two did, but with all of it turned up to 11. Everything is just exploding with heavy metal fury, even the moodier moments have an electrified presence about them. From beginning to end, this album is 37 and a half minutes of pure metal energy, with not a single weak moment. The moodier songs on the album take the form of "Feel the Same" and "Altar of the King". These tracks manage to maintain the high energy of the album while being absolutely beautiful at the same time. "Feel the Same" especially, with its somber main riff and Speranza's stunning vocal performance. It even makes me tear up sometimes.

The album begins with the one-two punch of "Swords and Tequila" and the title track. The former has always been my favorite Riot tune, it has such addictive hooks and it's impossible to not want to sing along to it. The title track is a blistering piece of early speed metal that will shred your skin right off. "Don't Bring Me Down" sounds a bit like classic Aerosmith on steroids, while "Don't Hold Back" and "Run For Your Life" are treats of the classic galloping riff. The only song that takes a bit of time to get used to is the finale of "Flashbacks". However, once you get past the talking at the beginning and focus on the blistering distortion and later catchy riff, it closes out the album really damn well.

Even though Riot's terrible mascot is staring you right in the face on Fire Down Under, somehow it works this time around. It almost seems to speak: "Yeah, our mascot sucks, what you gonna do about it?". If that was the intent, you can't get much more metal than that. Even if you still can't get past the cover art, at least give Fire Down Under a listen. If you don't, you're missing out on an amazing classic album that no self-respecting metalhead should miss.

https://thewickednest.blogspot.com/2018/04/riot-fire-down-under-review.html

AUGURY Illusive Golden Age

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 2 ratings
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adg211288
It's been a long road for the Canadian technical death metal act Augury to reach their third album, Illusive Golden Age (2018). Band members have come, gone and come back again and nine years have passed them by since the release of Fragmentary Evidence (2009), which itself took five years since their debut album Concealed (2004). The band was formed in 2002 and has never been outright inactive, but three albums in sixteen years isn't the most consistent showing. Augury is forgiven for this of course due to how bloody good those first two albums were. Augury is, as far as this humble reviewer is concerned, the best death metal act to have ever existed. Concealed is the main reason for that belief, but Fragmentary Evidence also goes a long way to strengthen it. Still, making their fans wait almost a whole decade for this follow-up can't have kept them in everyone's good graces. It's been so long that now that the album actually has dropped many may have even forgotten that these guys were in fact still around and who can blame them? But the third Augury album is here now and it's time to find out if it was worth the wait.

Hell. Fucking. Yes. Yes it was.

Illusive Golden Age has the sound of an album that is both familiar if you've heard Augury's earlier work but also with a bit of a different spin on it. The more atmospheric sections of music that they like to use have seen a reduction here compared to Fragmentary Evidence, as have the clean singing vocals from frontman Patrick Loisel, who main sticks to mixing his deep growling and higher pitched screams. His clean voice is still used but don't expect a track like the previous album's Sovereigns Unknown to show up during Illusive Golden Age. After nine years away Augury seem to have made a statement that they're all about the death metal. I'm not sure that anyone ever doubted that about them as they've always had a heavy sound and Loisel's deeper growls have always been brutal as hell, but that's the best description of how this album feels compared to their previous one that I can come up with.

That's not to say that their sound has become lesser by reducing these elements of variation. After all they are still there being used to effect when needed and the level of technical skill on display seems to be higher than ever, if that was even possible, including the audible fretless bass work from Dominic 'Forest' Lapointe. This is so noticeable it's like the bass is being used as the lead instrument. Not to sell what may be some of the best and most intricate technical death metal guitar work ever recorded short here, but fretless bass guitar works so damn well in this genre that it's near impossible not to focus on it as the band's defining feature. Augury and by extension Lapointe's ventures with similar band Beyond Creation have always done this well and it really does feel like he gets to share the centre stage with the two guitarists, Loisel and Mathieu Marcotte. That's very rare for a bass player and for me it's what really makes Augury more than simply technical, but also progressive.

Due to how technical and progressive their music is calling this album straight-forward seems like the start of a bad joke, but the simple fact that matter is that Illusive Golden Age is undeniably a bit less unusual in terms of its song-writing direction, especially if you're comparing it to the often weird Concealed (which for me remains their best album) or the more atmospheric Fragmentary Evidence. I think maybe stripped back would be a more appropriate way to describe it in relation to their previous, but Illusive Golden Age can only be called generic at your own peril. Augury's ability to write coherent and mostly unelongated songs while still being so technical with their riffs should quickly squash any such thoughts you might be having about this release. They did not make their comeback as just another generic tech death act by any means. They've made their comeback with an album that still sounds distinctly like an Augury album that has its own identity from their previous two. I don't know about you readers, but I'll take it.

I haven't mentioned any specific songs from Illusive Golden Age yet and that's because of the eight it's difficult to single out any particular one and then convincingly justify why that one is better. It can't be done. At a total running time of 44:20 Illusive Golden Age is pretty easy to take in during a single listen and let it all in as a singular experience. I will say that Augury made a good choice in Mater Dolorosa as the first song released to promote the album as it is a great one for getting a feel of exactly what to expect from the album. I didn't personally have any doubts that Augury would deliver when they eventually managed to get a third album out, but this song certainly sealed the deal on a CD pre-order from me. Of course there was little doubt that I'd have bought it anyway, but that song was enough to know that I need this in my hands as soon as possible. This is the death metal album to beat in 2018. I have little faith that anyone will come close to what Augury achieved here though. The long wait is forgiven...though try not to leave it another nine years next time lads.

INTRUDER Escape from Pain

EP · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Escape from Pain" is en EP release by US thrash metal act Intruder. The EP was released through Metal Blade Records in August 1990 and bridges the gap between the band´s 2nd and 3rd full-length studio albums "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)" and "Psycho Savant (1991)". "Escape from Pain" features exactly the same lineup who recorded "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)". Jimmy Hamilton (Vocals), John Pieroni (Drums), Todd Nelson (Bass), Greg Messick (Guitars), and Arthur Vinnett (Guitars).

So it´s no surprise the musicianship is overall on a high level. A decent playing rhythm section, fast rhythmic riffing, blazing solos, and the high pitched vocals by Jimmy Hamilton in front. This is basically classic 80s Bay Area influenced thrash metal with a melodic inclined singer in front. I hear nods towards both early Metallica and Megadeth, as well as to Anthrax. Intruder doesn´t have the most original sound, but they do deliver their music in a relatively convincing manner.

"Escape from Pain" features 5 tracks and a full playing time of 29:25 minutes. "25 or 6 to 4" is a Chicago cover, but the remaining four tracks are originals. The quality of the material is overall decent, but seldom particularly memorable or above standard interesting. The 8:55 minutes long title track also features a song length, which ends up making it a bit of a tedious listen. So the material is generally alright but not really great.

Compared to "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)", the EP features a sound production which can´t match the one on the album. Especially the rhythm guitar features a flat and weak sound. Again it´s not a catastrophy, but it doesn´t really help on an already lurk warm impression of the EP. So upon conclusion this is a slight step down from "A Higher Form of Killing (1989)" and a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

NEUROSIS Enemy Of The Sun

Album · 1993 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.52 | 9 ratings
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UMUR
"Enemy Of The Sun" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/Post-metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacles in August 1993. It´s the successor to "Souls at Zero" from 1992. "Souls at Zero (1992)" was the album where Neurosis changed their original hardcore sound towards an atmospheric, heavy and doomy (although still hardcore influenced) music style.

That development in sound is further continued on "Enemy Of The Sun", and Neurosis also continue to add new elements and refine their sound. "Enemy Of The Sun" is a cold, harsh, and angry album. It´s drenched in a bleak and melancholic atmosphere. The ingredients of the band´s sound are a heavy yet rhythmically adventurous rhythm section, heavy doomy riffs, feedback and noise, raw shouting aggressive hardcore type vocals (and a few cleaner sung vocals), and atmosphere enhancing use of keyboards and electronics/samples. It´s completely uncompromising, original, and because of the unconventional nature of the riffs, the rhythms, and the atmosphere, probably a bit of an aquired taste (even for fans of heavy music).

It´s sonically challenging music, which most listeners probably won´t find immediately accessible, but the material are not without catchy moments. They just seldom appear in the form of a sing-along chorus, a melody part you can hum along to, or a harmony guitar part that you remember long after the album is over. In that respect the material on "Enemy Of The Sun" are a difficult listen. It´s gritty, menacing and ugly, and generally demand the listener´s full attention. It´s progressive music which hasn´t lost it´s aggressive hardcore authenticity.

"Enemy Of The Sun" opens with two stand-alone tracks in "Lost" and "Raze the Stray", while "Burning Flesh In Year of Pig", "Cold Ascending" and "Lexicon" seque into each other and appear like one long track. The title track and "The Time of the Beasts" follow (the latter is a crushingly heavy track featuring a section which sounds like a funeral march with violin and trumpet) and the album closes with the 26:34 minutes long "Cleanse". "Cleanse" (which is not featured on the vinyl version of the album) is a long hypnotic song featuring tribal percussion, shouting and yelling and samples. The last 8 minutes are a pretty harsh listen as it is a sampled shout repeated over an over again. It´s pretty surely the kind of track, which is an aquired taste. The same can be said about "Lexicon", which is an extremely noisy track. It sits on the verge of being avant garde.

"Enemy Of The Sun" features a suitingly harsh and raw sound production, which further helps the material shine. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Neurosis. While "Souls at Zero (1992)" felt at lot like a transitional album (and in that case, that´s not a bad thing), "Enemy Of The Sun" is an album featuring an almost fully developed new sound. I write almost, because the band would further develop and refine this particular sound on the next two releases, before making another change in musical style. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

RUSH All the World's a Stage

Live album · 1976 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.91 | 28 ratings
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UMUR
"All the World's a Stage" is a live album release by Canadian progressive rock act Rush. The album was released through Mercury Records in the US/Europe and through Anthem Records in their native country in September 1976. The original version of the album was a double vinyl release featuring a gatefold sleeve. It´s the first live album release by the band, and according to the liner notes it closes the first chapter of the band´s history.

Rush got their breakthrough earlier in 1976 with the release of their fourth full-length studio album "2112" and the material on "All the World's a Stage" were recorded at Massey Hall in Toronto on June 11, 12, and 13 during their tour supporting the album. "All the World's a Stage" naturally features some tracks from "2112" (including about 16 minutes of the normally 20 minutes long title track), but the band´s first three albums "Rush (1974)", "Fly by Night (1975)", and "Caress of Steel (1975)", are also represented by at least one track each.

Rush have always been an exceptionally well playing band, and that´s true for their live performances too, which "All the World's a Stage" perfectly documents. The album also features a powerful, raw, and organic sounding production, which suits the material well, so "All the World's a Stage" is a fine presentation of a 1976 Rush show (including a drum solo from Neal Peart). The tracklist is well picked, the sound production is relatively well sounding, and the performances are strong from all three members of the band. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

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