Metal Music Reviews

ESOCTRILIHUM Mystic Echo From A Funeral Dimension

Album · 2017 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.48 | 5 ratings
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Warthur
The rather hard-to-pronounce Esoctrilihum is the solo project of one Asthâghul. Bedroom black metal projects run a wide gamut from lo-fi howling to more sophisticated symphonic or atmospheric black metal efforts, and Esoctrilihum firmly leans towards the latter here. It's not going to offer a whole lot you haven't heard before if you're into atmospheric black metal - particularly the cutting-edge material of the sort put out by I, Voidhanger labelmates Mare Cognitum - but it's certainly a competently put-together album with plenty of synthesiser, buzzsaw guitar, and all that sweet atmosphere you come to projects like this for. On the whole, a solid basis from which I hope Esoctrilihum are able to build on.

OBSCURA Diluvium

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.59 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
According to MMA, Obscura are a Technical Death Metal Band, while according to PA they are Tech/Extreme Prog Metal, and needless to say the truth probably falls somewhere between the two. I can understand why they are classified as Tech Death as that is definitely the majority of their sound, but they are also bringing in many other elements, although whether I would classify it as progressive is another matter altogether. I know that there are many people out there who feel that Obscura are one of the most important bands around, but I’m definitely not in that camp. I recognise that Linus Klausenitzer is an amazing bassist, and his use of a fretless in this style of music should be admired, but to my ears it just doesn’t work. It has also been mixed in a way that is often above the twin guitars, and it all becomes quite disconcerting. The guitars are being rough, ferocious and incredibly staccato with lots of palm muting, and then there is a warm fat fretless which provides a totally different sound and feel. When the band slows down then of course it makes sense, but with their style of attack I would much prefer a fretted bass with a pick, to drive that hard edge.

Consequently I find myself becoming incredibly distracted, and instead of admiring what is undoubtedly a masterclass in musicianship, I find it grating. Of course, that means that I soon have issues with the rest of the album, with the touches, nuances and sojourns into different styles becoming something of distraction. I soon started wishing that the guys had just kept it simpler in some ways, got solidly behind, and put all of their energies into that. This isn’t a poor album, far from it, but it is not for me.

METALLICA Garage Inc.

Album · 1998 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.37 | 90 ratings
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martindavey87
Released in 1998 during the heyday of their alternative rock phase, ‘Garage Inc.’ is a two-disc compilation of covers by heavy metal legends Metallica. Regardless of your thoughts on the band cutting their hair, Napster, Lars’ drumming, selling out, Kirk’s wah pedal, James being a table, or the countless other things the band have had thrown at them over their careers, one statement that holds up true is that Metallica have always done an incredible job at covering other artists songs.

Of course, part of that is probably the fact that about 95% of these bands would be absolutely unheard of if it weren’t for Metallica in the first place. But regardless, Metallica have an incredible talent of doing covers in their own way to truly make the songs their own. With beefier guitars, production and Hetfield’s trademark vocal style, pretty much all of these tracks are better than the original.

The first disc consists of covers recorded for this album in 1998, and while the song list is a little hit or miss, for the most part it’s a solid effort. Well produced, well performed, and special mention to Hetfield’s strong vocals here. The likes of ‘Die, Die My Darling’, ‘Turn the Page’, ‘Astronomy’, ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ and ‘It’s Electric’ make this an interesting listen.

The second disc is a compilation of any covers the band had recorded in the past, either for various EPs or as singles b-sides. Some are better produced than others, but overall they’re a solid bunch too. ‘Am I Evil’, ‘So What’, ‘Blitzkrieg’, ‘Helpless’, ‘Breadfan’, ‘Last Caress’ and ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ are more-or-less Metallica songs now. Such is the quality of these covers when compared to their original counterparts.

‘Garage Inc.’ came out at a weird point in Metallica’s history. After going alt rock with ‘Load’ and ‘Reload’, but prior to working with an orchestra and all the drama that would follow with Napster and ‘St. Anger’, this album just kind of sits there, a small, subtle reminder that despite everything, Metallica were still metal fans at heart, who’ve never been afraid to wear their influences on their sleeve. At an excessive two and a quarter hours in duration, this can be a pretty enduring listen, but there’s enough decent material here to make ‘Garage Inc.’ as vital a part of Metallica’s discography as any of their studio releases.

AGE OF SILENCE Complications: Trilogy of Intricacy

EP · 2005 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.84 | 4 ratings
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martindavey87
“Meh”.

I bought this CD in a shop in Germany for 50 cents or something equally daft. I’d never heard of Age of Silence (and apparently, neither had anyone else, since they were in the literal bargain bin), but it was a metal CD, so why not?

Labelled as avant-garde metal... whatever the hell that means... this sounds a lot like something Devin Townsend would do, complete with obscure, gloomy cover art and unusual song titles. Age of Silence have a big sound, with multiple-layered guitars overproduced to give each of the three tracks a huge feeling about them. But otherwise, these songs are fairly dull. The overbearing “big” guitar chords are heard through each track, leaving me feel like there’s been an ongoing chord played throughout the entire EP.

But it doesn’t stop there. It starts to overshadow the vocals, any lead parts, the drums... the whole lot. I don’t “get” this kind of music. I understand it’s based more on ambience and what-have-you, but for the most part this is just pretty boring and repetitive. There’s one or two moments where something might sound catchy or interesting, but as a whole, considering this is only a three-song EP, it’s not really anything I’d come back to.

The shop I’d bought it from was probably relieved to be rid of it.

METALLICA Nothing Else Matters (S&M version)

Single · 1999 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.08 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
In an age where CD singles are extinct (or at the very least, nothing more than collectibles for die-hard fans), ‘Nothing Else Matters’ serves as nothing more than a three-song sample of Metallica’s 1999 album, ‘S&M’.

‘S&M’, a live album which saw the metal legends collaborating with Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, is an outstanding release, and holds up well to this day for its fantastic performances and sound. It’s well worth checking out, and mostly makes this CD single redundant.

But with that said, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ are done incredibly, with the orchestra perfectly adding to the metal classics, without being either underwhelming or overbearing. And ‘-Human’ (pronounced “Minus Human”), a new song exclusive to the album, is a great addition, and is a nice little extra for this CD, and shows that even in 1999, amidst their alternative rock lunacy, that Metallica could still out heavy most bands on the planet.

While this is redundant today, especially to fans who already own the S&M album, it’s still a nice collectible for anyone that has to own everything that Metallica has ever put out.

METALLICA The Memory Remains

Single · 1997 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 2.14 | 3 ratings
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martindavey87
One of the better singles from Metallica’s often underrated and wrongly dismissed 1997 release, ‘Reload’, ‘The Memory Remains’ is pure hard rock at its finest. With plenty of hooks, catchy sing-along lyrics, and “that vocal melody” (one of the few Metallica songs with a guest vocalist, British singer Marianne Faithfull), it holds up well as one of the better songs from the album.

Included with the title track are two demos. The first, ‘Fuel for Fire’, is a demo in progress of arguably the records most popular and well-known track, ‘Fuel’. Admittedly, the lyrics are pretty laughable, but then, it’s easy to say that when comparing it to the finished version we all know and love.

Then there’s a demo of ‘The Memory Remains’, which is pretty terrible. Overly long, with very few distinguishable lyrics, most of it is just James Hetfield singing ‘la la la’ and ‘na na na’ over and over. Still, it’s a rare look at what the band originally had intended, and if nothing else, this is what singles are made for.

Decent enough single for collectors only.

DEATHSPELL OMEGA Kénôse

EP · 2005 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.46 | 11 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
Starting with their third album “Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice,” the French black metal band DEATHSPELL OMEGA went from a rather run-of-the-mill second wave clone going through 90s Darkthrone inspired motions and undertook a major leap of sophistication with their Satanic liturgical distortionfests with hitherto unthinkable experimentalism and progressiveness that catapulted the entire black metal world to a completely new level.This was also the beginning of the trilogy of albums that tackled metaphysical theology from a Satanic perspective with lyrics inspired by the French philosopher Georges Bataille.

Sandwiched in between the three albums “Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice,” “Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum” and “Paracletus” were many EPs and splits. KÉNÔSE emerged as the first “in-between” release and although technically classified as an EP, runs slightly over 36 minutes. During this period DEATHSPELL OMEGA, while black metal in menacing sonic demeanor, structured their albums more like progressive rock albums of the 70s. The official trilogy albums themselves mimicked the structure of vinyl double albums whereas some EPs such as this could count as fully fledged albums within their own right.

KÉNÔSE was intended to be supplemental material to accompany the “Si Momvmentvm” album. The term KÉNÔSE is French for “kenosis” which itself emerged from the Greek language (κένωσις, kénōsis), refers to the self-emptying of Jesus’ will and becoming receptive to the God’s divine will which refers to the Biblical passage in Philippians 2:7. This release pretty much perfectly fits between the newly adapted “Si Monvmentvm” and the even more challenging and experimental “Fas - Ite.” While similar, KÉNÔSE exists in its own universe and delivers one of the most terrifying banterfests of DOS’ avant-garde black metal career.

This EP consists of a mere three tracks simply titled “I” “II” and “III” with the opener serving as the longest and casting an ominous spell with a four minute death march that slowly ratchets up the tension before bursting into the more famous jangle black metal dissonance that DOS have made their frightening signature sound. “II” continues the indecipherable vocal litanies with ever changing mixes of guitar riffs, time signature changes and hypnotic percussive bantering until it reaches a frightening angularity of complete rhythmic breakdown by the end. “III” calms down a bit with a Gregorian chant type of vibe dressed up in a dissonant blackened doom metal wrap. The track hypnotically lollygags in a near nine minute rant that ends the EP leaving a feeling of despair and sadistic sacrifice of the soul.

KÉNÔSE ups the ante manyfold. The musicianship is off the chart with the guitar and bass mostly existing as a single super instrument and the drumming all interacting in staggering complexity like the aural specter of the entire jazz, classical and metal universe unleashing the darkest forces of the underworld in unison. The production is perfect as it allows the more subdued build-ups to hypnotically seduce complacence before the full metal fury unleashes the full Satanic theological rage about esoteric theological rants about hypostasis and philosophical quandaries. In short, this is the absolute perfect example of an authentic progressive black metal album.

M.O.D. Surfin' M.O.D.

EP · 1988 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.14 | 3 ratings
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UMUR
"Surfin' M.O.D." is an EP release by US crossover act M.O.D.. The EP was released through Megaforce Records in 1988 and bridges the gap between the band´s debut full-length studio album "U.S.A. for M.O.D. (1987)" and their second full-length studio album "Gross Misconduct (1989)". Four of the tracks featured on the EP had already been featured on the "Surfin' U.S.A. (1988)" single, but here those four tracks are accompanied by three additional tracks, and a 23:33 minutes long track titled "The Movie", which is a spoken word piece which features the music tracks from the EP in between the spoken parts. So side 1 of the original vinyl version of the EP features "The Movie", and side 2 features the seven music tracks without the spoken word sections.

Although the tracks are generally slightly more goofy and rock´n´roll oriented than the material on the debut album (which at times were also pretty goofy), this pretty much sounds like a natural successor to "U.S.A. for M.O.D. (1987)". The spoken word part of the project provides it with a slightly experimental touch, but this is at it´s core still crossover thrash. The biggest attraction here is probably the cover of "Surfin' U.S.A." by the Beach Boys, but honestly even that track isn´t that great (although not completely without it´s charm). Billy Milano struggles to hit the right notes, which gives the cover a pretty raw and flippant sound, but pretty it ain´t. To my ears the highlight is "Surf´s Up", which is a nice little catchy crossover track.

The band are relatively well playing, and the sound production is also acceptable, so "Surfin' M.O.D." is overall a decent release by M.O.D.. There´s little here which really makes my blood boil, but a 3 star (60%) rating is still deserved.

CROWBAR Obedience Thru Suffering

Album · 1991 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"Obedience Thru Suffering" is the debut full-length studio album by US, New Orleans based sludge metal act Crowbar. The album was released through Grind Core International in September 1991. It wasn´t an album that gained them international attention (that would come with the next couple of albums), but it did put them on the map. Crowbar was formed in 1989 under the Slugs monicker, but changed their name to the current one in 1990. They are often refered to as one of the seminal sludge metal acts.

Stylistically the music on "Obedience Thru Suffering" is a combination of crushingly heavy doomy riffs and rhythms, and the aggression of hardcore (especially the vocals point in the direction of the latter style). The material is very basic vers/chorus structured and solely feature basic instrumentation of bass, guitars, drums, and vocals. If the heavy music didn´t convey it, the depressive lyrics dealing with pain, loss, betrayel, and other dark human emotions and actions, make sure that the listening experience is bleak beyond bleak. When Kirk Windstein sings it´s like being dragged into a dark hole of depression and despair. He is a very expressive and passionate vocalist, who is able to convey both aggression and despair through his raw yet still melodic tinged vocals.

The material on the 10 track, 43:00 minutes long album are generally well written and quite consistent in style and quality, and there are few standout tracks but a couple of tracks into the album things start to flow together a bit too much. The tracks simply sound too much the same. It´s not a major issue as there are no bad quality tracks featured on the album, but "Obedience Thru Suffering" surely could have prospered from more variation between tracks.

"Obedience Thru Suffering" features a fairly well sounding and very heavy sound production, which is raw and powerful, and suits the music well. So "Obedience Thru Suffering" is in many ways a very promising and for the time rather original sounding debut release, and while the songwriting could have been more varied, and it´s a slight issue that it isn´t, I still think a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

SOILWORK A Predator's Portrait

Album · 2001 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 9 ratings
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UMUR
"A Predator´s Portrait" is the 3rd full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal act Soilwork. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2001. It´s the successor to "The Chainheart Machine" from 2000 and features the exact same lineup who recorded the predecessor.

The material on "A Predator´s Portrait" are melodic and pretty polished melodic death metal with thrashy riffing. The polished sound is very much due to the omnipresent keyboards, which add a lot of depth and atmosphere to the sound but also take away a little of the savage power of the first two albums. Every possible space in the music is filled with background keyboards and the music is often not given much time to breathe (which is up to the ears that hear if that is a good or a bad feature). So the listener is treated to a wall of sound type of soundscape. The guitars play some relatively fast melodic thrashy riffing and even enters neo-classical territory at times. There are some pretty impressive sections here and there if you take a close listen. Lead vocalist Björn Strid handles both aggressive high pitched snarling vocals and clean vocals too. Strid is a skilled singer and his clean vocal delivery adds lots of melodic memorability to the tracks. "A Predator´s Portrait" is the first Soilwork album where he combine his raw vocals with singing clean vocals (having exclusively performed raw vocals on the first two albums), and although he would develop his clean vocal style on subsequent releases, his performance here is of high quality too.

Highligts to my ears are "Like the Average Stalker", "Neurotica Rampage", "Grand Failure Anthem", and the title track (the rerecording of "Shadowchild" from the Japanese/reissue version of "The Chainheart Machine (2000)" is also worth a mention), but all tracks are almost on an equally high quality level. Some tracks are a bit too formulaic and predictable and a bit more rawness and less polish could also have elevated the album to a higher level, but all in all "A Preditor´s Portrait" is a quality product. The sound production is professional and the performances are high class all around, so upon conclusion "A Predator´s Portrait" is another high quality release by Soilwork and because of the inclusion of clean vocals an important step in the development of the band´s sound. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

SLAYER South of Heaven

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 115 ratings
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martindavey87
When it comes to the “big four” of thrash metal, I’ve always been a huge fan of Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax, yet, for reasons unexplainable, I’ve never been able to get into Slayer. 1986’s ‘Reign in Blood’ is often hailed as one of the all-time greatest metal albums, though, other than it’s absolutely killer opening and closing tracks, I find the record to be mindless drivel (ooh, controversial...).

Yet here we are; 1988’s ‘South of Heaven’, the album where the band infamously “slowed down”. Admittedly, the songs are a bit more polished here, and the riffs are more than just open-string chugging away. Although the album as a whole is still pretty repetitive, and doesn’t sound any different than anything the band have done before.

Still, I’ll give Slayer their due. ‘South of Heaven’ is better than anything they had released beforehand, and if vocalist Tom Ayara could somehow implement just a little bit of melody in his singing, they could really be onto something. Instead, as always, while the musicianship is of a high standard, I find the vocals tend to just sit on top of the riffs, without really fitting in too well.

If I had to pick any highlights out, I’d say the title track, as well as ‘Silent Scream’, ‘Live Undead’ and ‘Mandatory Suicide’ are all decent enough, and there’s ‘Behind the Crooked Cross’, which I instantly recognized due to its use in 8-bit midi glory in the video game ‘Doom’ (a game I played religiously in my childhood, years before I should have been allowed to). But as is always the case with Slayer, I’m just not that big a fan, and would much rather listen to any other member of the big four.

NICKELBACK Silver Side Up

Album · 2001 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.95 | 14 ratings
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martindavey87
It’s always the ones you least expect, right?

Who’d have imagined at the start of the year that Nickelback would be coming out of 2001 as one of the biggest bands on the planet? After two studio albums which had started to bring some minor success, the band unleashed this nugget upon the world, with a beefed up production that slowly steps away from the Seattle-grunge sound of their previous efforts, they were a much harder and heavier rock band, and with one of radios most played rock songs of all time, they were ready to become household names.

Stylistically, ‘Silver Side Up’ isn’t too much different than its predecessors, but the sound of the album has giving the band’s music a much more anthemic vibe. Featuring ten tracks, each one simple in structure, with hooks aplenty and catchy choruses, Nickelback had their formula, and mainstream success came in abundance.

Of course, the lyrics can get a bit cringeworthy and the songs can begin to sound repetitive at times, but let’s be honest here, this isn’t music meant to be studied and scrutinized. With pounding guitar riffs and a booming rhythm section, this is hard rock, pure and simple. And it sounds bloody massive!

Highlights? Well, there’s ‘Never Again’, ‘Too Bad’, ‘Money Bought’, ‘Just For’ and ‘Where Do I Hide’ for starters. Oh, then there’s ‘How You Remind Me’, only one of the most famous and well-known songs since the turn of the century. Reaching number one on the Billboard charts and helping ‘Silver Side Up’ sell in excess of eight million copies worldwide, it has widely been estimated as being the most played rock song on radio stations. Not bad at all.

While Nickelback aren’t to everyone’s liking, there’s no denying the success of ‘Silver Side Up’. Granted, it may have a couple of filler tracks, but otherwise this is a pretty solid effort, and as it’s since elevated the band to superstardom, it’s no doubt one of the more pivotal albums to come out of the early 2000’s rock scene.

SABATON The Last Stand

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Just two years after their last studio album, Sabaton were back in 2016 with ‘The Last Stand’. Although not a concept album per se, all of the songs take inspiration from “last stand” military battles. The title song is about the Stand of the Swiss Guard , which took place during the sacking of Rome on May 6th, 1527, when the Pope's Swiss guards held off troops loyal to the Habsburgs long enough for Pope Clement to escape. “Rorke’s Drift” is, surprisingly enough, about the Battle for Rorke’s Drift while “Last Dying Breath” is about the Serbian defence of Belgrade. The album starts off as solidly as one would expect from Sabaton – there are rarely going to be many surprises, this band is Ronseal, they do exctaly what it says on the tin.

But, third track in, and I was just blown away by “Blood of Bannockburn”, as this is not only at a faster pace than quite a few Sabaton songs, but it is incredibly commercial with hooks aplenty. They are renowned for writing songs for fans to sing along with, but this is insane, and I love it! This high energy and pitch is then thrown into disarray with the next song being a spoken piece from an unknown soldier in World War II, with some music behind. This really throws the album into stark relief, almost as if Sabaton are saying that they know that the previous song was fairly light-hearted in its approach, yet war and battle is always something to be taken seriously, and puts the listener back down quite hard. Overall, this is yet another incredibly epic album from Sabaton, one that hits absolutely every single mark. This was the final release to feature Thobbe Englund, who left after its completion, but he departed after yet another amazing release. These guys are at the very top, and show no sign of falling.

SABATON Heroes

Album · 2014 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.80 | 7 ratings
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Kev Rowland
This 2014 release was the first since the stunning ‘Swedish Empire Live’ set the previous year. For me that was Sabaton at their stunning and pummelling best, so I was always intrigued to understand if they had managed to keep up the pace and power when back in the studio, but I needn’t had worried. In some ways Sabaton have a very simple formula, research battles or wars and use that as a basis for the lyrics, pit that against crunching power metal with a few keyboards and an over the top choir to provide backing vocals and that’s it. Simple, eh? Well, if it was that simple then they would have been copied for years, but as it is the Swedes are a long way ahead of any pack that are daft enough to try to chase them. Hannes Van Dahl is as solid as a rock at the back, but also knows how to drive the band forward in a manner not too dissimilar to the mighty Gene Hoglan. He ties in with Pär Sundström to create the foundation of the sound, a driving rumble that allows guitarists Thobbe Englund and Chris Rörland to either keep on the riff, solo independently or together. They are sometimes just keeping it tight and piledriver Judas Priest heavy, and at others they are playing around the melodies. Added to that are the keyboards and incredible vocals of Joakim Brodén, whose voice seems to be as broad as it is deep, so that one feels that one can saddle the notes coming out of his throat and go for a ride. Add to that the choir providing the perfect backdrop, and yet again this album is a real thing of beauty.

Sabaton have proved to be incredibly consistent since they released their debut back in 2006, taking power metal, blending it with some symphonic elements, and then mixing it into a whole new level. Simply put, there is no-one else quite like Sabaton, and that in itself is quite a statement. It may have taken me too many years to get across this album, but I am so very glad that I did, and if you enjoy metal then you should too.

MADBALL Hardcore Lives

Album · 2014 · Hardcore Punk
Cover art 3.42 | 2 ratings
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Kev Rowland
‘Hardcore Lives’ was released on June 27th 2014, and was the first album from Madball in four years. Tracked and engineered by famed Unearth guitarist Ken Susi and mixed & mastered by long-time collaborator Zeuss (Hatebreed, Agnostic Front, Soulfly, Terror, Whitechapel...). The band that started life as an Agnostic Front side-project, with Roger Miret’s young half-brother on vocals, has become totally synonymous with hardcore, the two are interchangeable with the difference being that although there are many bands who can call themselves hardcore, there truly can only ever be one Madball. They truly understand that there needs to be far more than just shouted vocals and punk aggression, and they cram their songs and albums with hooks as well as passion.

Singer Freddy Cricien, explains the album title as follows: “I shouted "Hardcore Lives" on MADBALL's first release, ‘Ball Of Destruction’ - I was twelve then. It wasn't pre planned or written down... it was an ad-lib that I just threw out there and we kept it! Back then there was no choice really, not the way we were recording - two track live at Don Fury's... NYHC style! I feel the sentiment behind the expression still holds true today, maybe even more so. Hence the reason we finally chose to use it as a title. Sure, it's about waving the flag for our genre/culture, etc. - I've always felt that "we as a scene" had to scream just a lil louder... to be heard! That said, “Hardcore Lives” at least to us, is not just about a cool "catchphrase" - it's about that rebellious spirit that doesn't give in... In life, music, whatever. It's about growing, evolving, and maintaining your integrity in the process. It's about family, overcoming adversity, and respect. All the things that matter inside and outside of the music realm. It's for everyone and anyone with an open mind and heart.“

I don’t think Madball know how to release a poor album, and more than 25 years on from the early days and a twelve-year-old singer, they still know exactly what they need to do to satisfy both themselves and their fans. More metal than what many would consider to be “pure hardcore”, this is great. 



ANDROMEDA Playing Off the Board

Live album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.36 | 3 ratings
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martindavey87
‘Playing Off the Board’, released in 2009, is a live album by Swedish progressive metal band Andromeda. Like many similar bands, Andromeda are not very widely known, and as such, don’t tour very often. So the fact a live recording of such high quality was done at all, is incredible.

Like many prog metal groups, it’s pretty much a prerequisite of the genre that everyone needs to be an absolute virtuoso on their respective instruments, and Andromeda are no exception. The set list, which features all the major tracks from their first three albums, is played immaculately, with each member being given ample opportunities to truly shine and display their technical prowess.

The production is of a high quality too! This literally could pass for any of their studio albums, if not for the few nuances and slight alterations made to the odd solo or two. However, there is one major detriment to this album, and when it comes to live recordings, I didn’t know how much I’d appreciated this until it wasn’t there.

This is not an Andromeda audience.

The DVD of ‘Playing...’ is absolutely beautiful. The auditorium looks fantastic, with its huge stage, incredible camera angles, seated fans with empty seats dotted around everywhere... this feels like it was some kind of showcase, or maybe part of an all-day event where Andromeda had a slot and some unfortunate souls were wrangled into watching a band they’d never heard of (to be fair, the band is awesome, so shut up and stop complaining!). The crowd, which sounds like it’s about twenty people, don’t react excitedly to any song, and applause to the endings with the enthusiasm of an escalator. It’s obvious nobody here really knows who Andromeda are, and it’s a huge shame, because it’s the only real complaint I have with this album, but it makes a much bigger difference than I thought it would.

With hits such as ‘The Words Unspoken’, ‘Periscope’, ‘Two is One’ and ‘Inner Circle’, this is still a decent live album, and these guys are absolutely phenomenal musicians, but the audiences lack of enthusiasm kills it for me. It’s a decent enough album though, but I’d highly recommend the DVD instead.

DREAM THEATER The Making Of Falling Into Infinity (International Fanclub Christmas CD 1997 / Official Bootleg 2009)

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1997 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 1.17 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
Dream Theater’s Official Bootlegs series has always been a nice touch for collectors, whether it’s demos, live recordings, compilations, or reissues of previous fan club CD’s (which is actually what this one is), they’re usually pretty cool little nuggets of joy for die-hard fans of the band.

And occasionally, there’s utter nonsense like this.

‘The Making of Falling Into Infinity’ is completely and utterly pointless. Not containing any full tracks, the entire album is nothing more than snippets of songs. Guitar riffs, the odd vocal harmony, someone working out a part or someone saying something. It might be interesting for some tech nerd who wants to look into the process of writing and recording an album, but without any commentary or narrative, this CD really is unlistenable.

I can understand with demos that at least it’s interesting to listen to how songs were originally intended to sound and how they’ve evolved to become the finished product, but this is completely useless and doesn’t even show us that. Die-hard fans who must own everything will probably resent having to purchase this, and I’d know, because I’m one of them.

RAMMSTEIN Live aus Berlin

Live album · 1999 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 4 ratings
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martindavey87
Here’s an album that just hasn’t aged well. I’m pretty sure I enjoyed Rammstein’s ‘Live Aus Berlin’ when I was younger, but hearing it now, it just doesn’t do the band justice.

The thing is, anyone that knows Rammstein knows that they are all about being “huge”. They sound huge! Their stage show is huge! Their image is huge! Everything about them is bombastic and over the top, and this album, released in 1999, just doesn’t live up to what the band would go on to become.

With only two studio albums released at the time, the set list is pretty solid, but again, when compared to the bands later output, it’s pretty lacking now. Still, it’s a decent enough look at the band in their early days, even back then, with only two albums under their belts and speaking their native German, they were a live force to be reckoned with.

The production as well, is pretty weak, and just doesn’t compare to the studio albums. All the early hits are here, including ‘Du Hast’, ‘Engel’, ‘Sehnsucht’, ‘Heirate Mich’ and ‘Du Riechst So Gut’, but none of them can compete with their studio counterparts.

Rammstein are one of my all-time favourite bands, and ‘Live Aus Berlin’ by its own merits is not a bad album, but as I started my review by saying, it just hasn’t aged well, and today it’s pretty irrelevant. I’ll stick to the studio albums.

BUCKETHEAD Pike 275 - Dreamthread

Album · 2018 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
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B U C K E T H E A D ~ Pike 275 - Dreamthread

2nd album of 2018

EIGHT tracks that clock in at 29:41

All instruments played by the chicken lover himself

After several years of a seemingly endless output of material with the years 2014-15 having found 178 Pikes alone, 2018 has been quite the surprise as we enter in the month of August and B U C K E T H E A D is only releasing his 2nd PIKE of the year titled DREAMTHREAD.

The main reason for this absence of new music has been due to a heavy touring schedule finding BH at a coop near you which i found myself viewing the chicken lover in a live setting for the very first time in lovely Berkeley, CA.

I was beginning to wonder if the folks at KFC tired of the blasphemous use of their greasy grub packaging donning BH’s head for so long and put a lock on the coop and stealing his guitar. Lo and behold the eclectic one is back just in case you missed a new album every day :o

The opener “Hypnagogia” by definition is the experience of the transitional state from wakefulness to sleep such as in the phrase “hypnagogic state of consciousness” and BH gently lulls out the perfect sleepytime nightie night night music. Much like the mellow PIKEs of the past, this one somnambulistically meanders on placidly with a gentle rhythm, background ambience and delicately strummed guitar strings.

And then the true surprise! Just when i thought this was going to be one of those mellow only PIKEs, “Thread 1” becomes one of those shapeshifters starting out with a heavy metal thunder and then alternating between weird electronica and free form rock that mixes it up with energetic metal outbursts. Yeah, this is the BUCKETHEAD that i was waiting for! Nice Jedi mind trick with the opener! This track is pretty much all over the place and i love it!

“Thread 2” changes the mood to a slower metal piece but then erupts into a guitar solo and electronica frenzy. Another shapeshifter as it ventures into funk and then thrash metal and there’s really no need to continue track by track since the “Thread” series jumps all over the place ranging from the hypnagogic dreaminess of the opener to funk metal to thrash metal to hyperactive jittery electronic freakiness. Guitar riffs are aplenty as are solos. Rhythms, timbres, dynamics and tempos shapeshift with no rhyme or reason.

This is my favorite type of BUCKETHEAD album but i have to admit it’s not adding anything new to his overall collective of styles on his PIKE series. He’s simply recycling all his tricks and trinkets that he’s always relied on. The tracks are all performed brilliantly and the production is totally cool. I love listening to this even if it’s not breaking any new ground and great to finally see a second BH PIKE emerge from the egg factory.

RHAPSODY OF FIRE Legendary Tales

Album · 1997 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 31 ratings
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Known as the pioneers of fusing power and symphonic metal into epic fantastical journeys, Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli created their progressive neoclassical driven band all the way back in 1993 in Trieste, Italy under the moniker Thundercross before finally changing it to the more familiar RHAPSODY, only then to be altered once again to RHAPSODY OF FIRE in 2006 due to trademark issues. Really? It took someone ten years to figure out they didn’t deserve the name? Geez.

Riding in the wake of power metal bands like Helloween, Running Wild and Blind Guardian, RHAPSODY was all about fantastical voyages into the world of mythical creatures, wily wizards and the eternal battle of good and evil and their debut album LEGENDARY TALES the band began the lengthy and never-ending epic journey into their high fantasy musical world of “The Emerald Sword Saga” which spanned over five albums ending with “Power Of The Dragonflame.”

Fantasy and mythology are nothing new in metal of course and traverses throughout the entire metal universe with bands like Summoning devoting their entire subject matter to Tolkien inspired themes. RHAPSODY took a similar approach only changing things around a bit to create their own mystical folklore that finds the similar Middle Earth approach between the battle of good and evil in a glorious bravado.

The album takes the frenetic energy infused riffing of power metal and applies rich symphonic and emotionally dense segments that include flutes, recorders, harpsichord, violins, cello, mandolin and a rich eight piece choir (tagged as the Choir Of Immortals) along with the expected metal instrumentation of guitar, bass, drums and classic operatic over-the-top vocals. The sheer scope of the journey is performed with technical wizardry and easily takes the listener to the epic lands far away from the reality we experience in the here and now.

Yeah, power metal can be a bit cheesy at times but when it’s done right, it is grand and intense. The problem usually arises in that the band in question doesn’t quite have the chops to pull off their visions. RHAPSODY is chock full of virtuosic talent focused on Luca Turilli’s speed-drenched guitar wizardry, Alex Staropoli’s keyboard gymnastics and excellently constructed compositions that focus on all aspects of the music without any particular style or genre stealing the show. These guys have mastered the art of musical foreplay and climax like few others in the metal world yet deliver all the metal goods in ample doses.

While the metal riffs are primarily based on 80s Manowar taken to more ambitious extremes, the neoclassical solos reminisce of Yngwie Malmsteen’s classically charged shred wankery. The keyboards on the other hand exist in a neo-Baroque universe that compliment the guitar segments but often find moments of expressing unadulterated J.S.Bach glory. Mountains of melody emerge through carefully constructed flute and recorders while choirs caress the soundscape with harmonic bliss.

RHAPSODY’s debut LEGENDARY TALES truly took metal’s most virtuosic and ambitious aspects to new heights with outstanding musical performances within perfectly drawn out journeys that fleshed out emotional depth with a stellar performance by vocalist Fabio Lione whose vocal range shatters glass when on fire and yet carries a perfectly calm demeanor when poetic prose is in order. It’s no wonder RHAPSODY has been so successful starting from this not so humble beginning. All the elements have already gelled with the band’s vision having been crystal clear by mapping out a complete five part saga for their debut.

The excellent performances are even more stellar with the superb production job from Gate-Studios in Wolfsburg, German with Sascha Paeth of Heaven’s Gate and Angra fame at the helm. This is a stunningly rich collection of ten outstanding tracks that contain no samples or synthesizers. All instruments heard are the real deal. While i am blown away by LEGENDARY TALES it falters only in the more tightly composed epics that follow but consistency has been one of RHAPSODY (OF FIRE)’s strengths and this debut is certainly no exception.

ARCHSPIRE Relentless Mutation

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.81 | 5 ratings
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voila_la_scorie
A few months back, I watched a video review of this album on Banger TV on YouTube. I was intrigued first because the band is from Vancouver (my old stomping grounds) and second because of what the reviewer had to say about the music (I believe the rating was four and a half skulls out of five). I finally ordered it only a few weeks ago and only recently have I been able to lend some valuable ear time to this album.

I can’t believe how short it is! Barely 30 minutes! But then, there are only seven songs. Nevertheless, those seven songs make for one very complete album. By the time it’s all over, you might feel as though you just stepped of a rollercoaster ride, the kind that sends you careering through machinegun crossfire in an ashen landscape of smoke and fire before at times lifting you abruptly into peaceful, lulling and lush pastures, and then dropping you back down into bombast and mayhem.

But this is no ordinary mayhem. It’s super tight and quite remarkable that these lads can play at such speeds with so many stops and abrupt tempo changes. While tech/extreme metal is something I’ve only become acquainted with in the last year or so, I am truly amazed at the dexterity and timing skill bands like Between the Buried and Me, Protest the Hero, Decrepit Birth, and Obscura exhibit. Archspire easily fit into this kind of highly technical playing and composing.

One thing I really notice when listening to this album is that I can pick out each track from the others. Some death metal albums have an overall sound which is awesome but each track blends into the others with little variation. Archspire add some standard heavy riffing in breaks between the rapid-fire, single-note picking and just as easily they can slow down, ease off and go clean (those are the lush, pastoral parts).

Three things to point out specifically. Jared Smith’s bass playing is stunning. Dude can easily keep up with the guitarists in notes per second but with, what’s that?, tapping and hammering? Chords? Awesome! Spencer Prewett’s drumming is intense and pummeling and, to my ears, sounds really well recorded and mixed. It must be quite a feat to get the four musicians playing that fast and that tight live. Finally, Oli Peters vocals stand out because at times they sound like a percussive instrument or fill the role of percussion. Oh, yes, there’s the usual death metal growl and the modern obligatory reverse screaming that sounds like pig squeals. But he fires off the lyrics in ultra-quick staccato: chu-ku-ta, chu-ku-ta, chu-ta-ga. This is punctuated by blast beats, and it’s something I haven’t heard done quite like this. In fact, this very vocal style was highlighted during the Banger TV review of the album.

I get such a rush while listening to this CD. I think the band was very wise to make it so brief. Seven distinct songs of extremely fast, tight, technical playing with a number of surprises. I am so very pleased to hear a Vancouver band performing this challenging music at such a high level of ability. Stay tech!

FLESHWROUGHT Dementia/Dyslexia

Album · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Dementia/Dyslexia" is the debut full-length studio album by US technical/progressive death metal act Fleshwrought. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in August 2010. Fleshwrought is a two man act featuring Jonny Davy on vocals and Navene Koperweis on all instruments.

Stylistically the music is a very brutal type of technical death metal with jazz leanings. A bit of an unusual coctail really, but it generally works really well. It´s not often I´ve heard that combination work but these guys control the elements and manage to deliver some really powerful, very well played, and quite well composed music. The vocals vary between deep semi-intelligible growling and higher pitched screaming vocals. When the latter appear I´m often reminded of The Black Dahlia Murder, just played with a higher intensity and on a technical level above what their more famous fellow countrymen usually produce. Which should give you a good indication of the technical level of playing on "Dementia/Dyslexia", because The Black Dahlia Murder are not exactly known to play sloppy or known not to know how to play their instruments. The fierceness of the playing, the intensity of the aggression, and the incredible musical performances should leave most listeners with their jaws on the floor.

Featuring 10 tracks and a full playing time of 32:57 minutes the album doesn´t overstay it´s welcome, because while this is undeniably a great listening experience, the music is also so busy and energetic, that it leaves no room for the listener to breathe (the only breathers here are a couple of noisy interludes), and even seasoned tech death metal listeners could experience an increased heart rate and stress symptoms as a result of listening to "Dementia/Dyslexia". So this is mercifully quality over quantity (and that´s meant in the most positive way possible).

As mentioned the band often make use of jazz elements to spice up their brutal technical death metal. It´s most often in the form of jazzy guitar solos in the vein of Allan Holdsworth. Really fast-played jazzy solos, but always made to suit the otherwise really brutal music. The guitar riffs are predominantly ultra fast start/stop type riffs although there are tremolo picking parts in the music too. I´m a bit unsure if the drums are programmed or not, but they do sound like it. It´s one of those rare cases where it doesn´t matter though, as they suit the music perfectly. Razor sharp precision drumming to go along with the riffs.

The album features a powerful, detailed, and clear sounding production, which helps bring out the best in the music. Upon conclusion it´s hard not to be impressed by what is happening on "Dementia/Dyslexia". Fleshwrought are obviously professionals, but they don´t neglect to perform their music with passion and conviction, which makes this particular album stand out in a genre where many other artists go for a cold, clinical, and quite often emotionless delivery. This is über technical, yet still relentlessly aggressive, and at times even somewhat catchy (well...it might take a few listens). A 4 star (80%) rating is fully deserved.

ICED EARTH Enter the Realm

Demo · 1988 · US Power Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 3 ratings
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martindavey87
‘Enter the Realm’ is the 1989 demo EP for American power metal band Iced Earth. It was remastered in 2002 for the ‘Dark Genesis’ box set. Offering just six tracks, four of which would go on to feature on the groups self-titled debut album, the quality of this demo is remarkable, considering the year it was originally released, the bands budget and the music in which they played. It’s no wonder they were signed and went on to have the level of success that they did.

So why the two-star rating, you ask? Simple, really. This is a demo and really not all that worth owning unless you’re a fan who must own everything. The songwriting is pretty polished for such a young band (or songwriter, since pretty much all the credit goes to guitarist/leader Jon Schaffer), and the playing is of a high quality, but ultimately Iced Earth’s debut album would see these all get slight improvements in sound and in some cases arrangements and vocal melodies.

An impressive demo, which is certainly a collectable for fans if you can find an original cassette tape from 1989, but otherwise, just get the band’s debut album.

S.O.D. Speak English or Die

Album · 1985 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 3.75 | 12 ratings
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martindavey87
Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D... duh!), is a crossover thrash side project of Anthrax members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante, along with Nuclear Assault’s Dan Lilker (formerly of Anthrax himself) and Billy Milano of the band M.O.D. Their debut album, ‘Speak English or Die’ was released in 1985, and is mostly a metal album with a punk mentality, with plenty of short, minute-long songs featuring satirical, aggressive, and downright offensive lyrics.

The problem for me is that it’s not 1985 anymore, and most of the satire, irony and downright offensive material goes straight over my desensitized head. The music is fast and heavy, and when the band do play for more than 30 seconds, there are a couple of decent headbangers here. But for the most part, these are all comical tracks, recorded by a bunch of friends who had some leftover studio time to kill. Oddly, this would go on to be a hugely influential album. Wish I could get that lucky.

Ultimately, this just isn’t my cup of tea, and the only reason it’s in my collection is because I’m a huge Anthrax fan. For what it’s worth, the songs ‘March of the S.O.D.’, ‘Sargent ‘D’ and the S.O.D.’ and ‘Milk’ are alright, and I’ve always found ‘What’s That Noise’ a pretty laughable track, but otherwise this is mostly immature and juvenile, and that’s probably exactly how the S.O.D. intended it to be.

‘Speak English or Die’ is not an album to be taken seriously, and whilst I’ve never been under the illusion that it was anything else, it’s just not something I’m into.

ELECTRIC WIZARD We Live

Album · 2004 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 9 ratings
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UMUR
"We Live" is the 5th full-length studio album by UK stoner/doom metal act Electric Wizard. The album was released through Rise Above Records in June 2004. Although it´s only been two years since the release of "Let Us Prey (2002)" there have been some quite radical changes in the band lineup, as both bassist Tim Bagshaw, and drummer Mark Greening have left Electric Wizard, leaving vocalist/guitarist Jus Oborn as the only remaining original member. The new lineup consists of Jus Oborn (vocals, guitars), Liz Buckingham (guitars), Rob Al-Issa (Bass), and Justin Greaves (drums), making Electric Wizard a four-piece for the first time.

Stylistically the music on "We Live" pretty much continue down the same psychadelic tinged stoner/doom metal path of "Let Us Prey (2002)" though. There´s still an occult and dark atmosphere about the music (which is also obvious from reading songtitles like "Flowers of Evil a.k.a. Malfiore" and "The Sun Has Turned to Black"), and the distinct underlying aggression is present too. The riffs are crushingly heavy, and the rhythm section follows suit. There´s also a hypnotic repetitive psychadelic element to the music which is quite prominent, so while the music features regular vers/chorus structures, it often goes beyond that, and presents the listener with something a bit more structurally loose.

"We Live" is generally a very organic sounding release. The performance of the music flows naturally, the sound production is raw, earthy and analogue tinged, and the material is well balanced between structure and jam oriented sections. The 10:48 minutes long opening "Eko Eko Azarak: I. Invocation - II. Ritual" is a good example of the more loose psychadelic side of the band´s music, while the dark, crushingly heavy, and occasionally quite aggressive side is well represented in tracks like the title track and "Flowers of Evil a.k.a. Malfiore". That´s truly doomy darkness, yet still with a psychadelic touch. It´s however more a "trip gone wrong" type of psychadelic touch rather than a happy "hippie flower power" touch. "Another Perfect Day?" is another interesting track, as it opens in a pretty fast-paced rock´n´roll oriented style and then drops to a crushingly heavy doom metal style in the middle. It´s not only good for the overall variation of the album, but also works really well within the particular track. "The Sun Has Turned to Black" and "Saturn's Children" close the album in slow doomy style, and it´s only during those two tracks that it sometimes gets too repetitive and monotone.

Upon conclusion "We Live" is yet another high quality stoner/doom metal release by Electric Wizard. It´s not as surprising or innovative as some of the group´s early releases, although the psychadelic element has become stronger, and has changed the band´s sound a bit, but you can´t deny strong and memorable songwriting, excellent musicianship, and a professional, organic, and raw sound production. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

BONE GNAWER Scissored

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2010 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Scissored" is a 7" vinyl EP release by multi-national death metal act Bone Gnawer. The EP was released through Metal Inquisition Records in 2010. It´s not a stand-alone release though, and is only available as a bonus release with the vinyl version of the band´s debut full-length studio album "Feast of Flesh". The original version of "Feast of Flesh" was released in 2009, while the vinyl version wasn´t released until 2010. The "Scissored" EP only came with the first 99 copies of the vinyl version of "Feast of Flesh". The material from "Scissored" was ultimately included as part of the "Carved (2012)" EP, where it is more readily available.

Bone Gnawer was formed in 2008 by former Massacre frontman Kam Lee and prolific Swedish musician Rogga Johansson (The Grotesquery, Paganizer, Ribspreader, Demiurg...etc.), who handles the bass and do backing vocals on this project (he ususally plays guitar and performs lead vocals on his other projects). The two also work together in The Grotesquery. The lineup is completed by Morgan Lie on drums and Ronnie Björnström on guitars/backing vocals.

"Scissored" features 3 tracks and a full playing time of 7:30 minutes. In other words it´s very much a "to the point" kind of release. If you´re familiar with the material on "Feast of Flesh" (or with most other projects the four musicians are involved with) it will be no surprise, that the music style is old school death metal, which sounds pretty much like it was recorded in the early 90s. The music is very well performed (Kam Lee as always delivers some raw and organic, yet intelligible growling vocals) and produced though, and the songwriting is effective and catchy. This may be pretty brutal old school death metal, but Kam Lee is a master in including vocals hooks and phrases and repeating them enough times during a track, for the listener to be able to remember the song and in some cases even growl along. For example I dare you not to scream along to "Leave Her to the Cleaver" or "Back to the Butchery". As you might have guessed the lyrics and the general image are gore/horror themed.

So "Scissored" is actually a fine little EP release by Bone Gnawer, and it´s a bit of a shame it´s never seen an individual release. If you enjoy old school death metal and do come by the EP (or "Carved (2012)") I´d most definitely pick it up though. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

METALLICA S&M

Live album · 1999 · Symphonic Metal
Cover art 3.03 | 53 ratings
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FMOTP
S&M must be one of the most divisive albums in Metallica's huge discography. Some listeners seem to believe that Metallica has no business playing their most popular songs with a symphony orchestra. I obviously disagree. They're far from the first metal band to try this, but their innovative songwriting makes them more justified in this approach than most. James Hetfield has stated in Ultimate Guitar magazine, and other places, that the idea of combining Metallica with orchestral music started with Cliff Burton. How much, and how open-minded, of a Metallica fan are you? How tolerant are you of the musical experimenting that the band has done since the release of RIDE THE LIGHTNING? I think it makes a difference in the final rating of S&M. If your answer to these questions is "a lot", like me, you should definitely enjoy this album. I disagree with some of the MMA & PA collaborators whose reviews I respect and follow closely. I like James' singing. With all of his acknowledged flaws, I think his voice suits the band's music.

Metallica's setlist here wisely starts with RIDE THE LIGHTNING, when the songwriting began to improve and James began to learn how to sing. When it comes to individual highlights, I love the percussion in the second half of "The Memory Remains". It reminds me of John Adams' HARMONIELEHRE. "Devil's Dance" sounds like its name; it could be the dance before the ritual sacrifice in the soundtrack of an old horror movie. I do agree with the reviewers who write that S&M is too long at over two hours. But I'm a biased Aspie; I think that most albums over 45 minutes are too long! It helps to get the DVD version of this instead of the CD. Unusually, Metallica are a band that still seems to love playing live and getting the audience feedback, and it's apparent on the DVD. I now realize that I'm posting this review in the live album instead of the video section. I enjoyed both formats, but the DVD is really the one to get!

NICKELBACK The State

Album · 1998 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art 2.00 | 9 ratings
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martindavey87
Nickelback’s second album sees the Canadian rockers begin to step away from the Nirvana-wannabes that they were, and slowly become the band we’d all come to know and love (and mostly hate). While I found their debut too much of a grunge record way after grunge’s time had expired, ‘The State’ sees them develop a more traditional hard rock style, particularly with the guitar playing, and with frontman Chad Kroeger sounding more like himself than a fake Kurt Cobain.

The formula is simple. Four-minute songs with driving riffs and raspy vocals, simple structures and lyrics that focus on whatever usual drivel people sing about; Relationships, depression, politics etc. It’s not terrible, and it’s a blueprint that has worked for countless bands and will for countless more, but unfortunately ‘The State’ is still a pretty mediocre release. There’s a few moments that show the potential the band possess, but the production still gives it a bit of a post-grunge sound that doesn’t do the music justice.

‘Breathe’ and ‘Leader of Men’ are both pretty decent tracks, though. And if nothing else, they certainly show the direction Nickelback are headed in, and it’s a direction that would bring worldwide success. However, it will come at a cost. But listening to ‘The State’, who’d imagine they’re listening to one of the biggest and most (in)famous bands on the planet?

BODY COUNT Born Dead

Album · 1994 · Rap Metal
Cover art 2.69 | 5 ratings
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martindavey87
Body Count’s 1992 self-titled debut album was a pretty big success for the band. Granted, that success came about due to the infamy and controversy surrounding the song ‘Cop Killer’, but the record itself was a solid effort. When renowned rapper and actor Ice-T put together a metal band, not many people thought it’d last, seeing it as a one-off endeavour. So it was no-doubt intriguing to see a follow-up released, and how did they capitalize on the success of ‘Body Count’?

They didn’t.

Released in 1994, ‘Born Dead’ takes everything that made its predecessor so good, and does away with it completely. The rapping has mostly been replaced by Ice-T constantly repeating the same phrase over and over, with very, very occasional bits of talking. The Lyrics, which once had meaning and were incredibly angry, satirical and lashing out at everything, are now dull, juvenile and pointless. The music seems pretty bland, and hell, even the skits between the tracks are gone. What previously gave the album a loose narrative and plot, is now just one uninspired song after another.

There are a couple of brief instances where the production and sound of the album suffers from dips in quality. I’d guess that this was thrown together in between Ice-T’s rapping and acting careers, as some parts sound rushed and disjointed. And a cover of the Jimi Hendrix classic ‘Hey Joe’ seems so out of place here.

However, it’s not all gloom and doom. There’s a couple of moments which take me back to Body Count’s first outing, and reminds me why this band are so good. ‘Necessary Evil’ and ‘Born Dead’ are both decent enough tracks that prevent this album from getting a one-star rating, but overall, considering all the publicity the group had garnered with their debut, this is a disappointing follow-up.

OBSCURA Diluvium

Album · 2018 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.59 | 3 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
OBSCURA in a way carried on the interesting cross-pollinating potentials of Necrophagist after guitarist Christian Muenzner jumped ships and brought forth his virtuosic neoclassical shredding skills infused within the sensibilities in a death metal context. While Muenzner would move on to crank out some solo releases as well as hook up with various bands such as Spawn Of Possession, Paradox, Alkaloid and Eternity’s End, OBSCURA retained a great deal of the his influence, that being the delicate balance of tech death metal bombast with the reverie of classic progressive rock. Throughout OBSCURA’s history only founder Steffen Kummerer has remained the glue that keeps the band together but somehow through thick and thin he has proved to be quite the director of the ever rotating cast of stunningly brilliant musicians who cross paths with him. On OBSCURA’s fifth studio album DILUVIUM, a new lineup is in play with Tom Gelschläger taking up guitar duties following Rafael Trujillo’s departure after “Akróasis.”

Tech death metal in the 21st century is an increasingly complex beast with bands spiraling out in all kinds of directions and often fizzle out into unrecognizable territory and alienating the extreme metal fanbase before latching onto something tangible to grasp onto. OBSCURA has been the exception to this rule with each following album getting more focused and tighter than the last. While the band started out more as a simple brutal death metal band, their progressive tendencies ratcheted up to the point where “Akróasis” seemed like the band could go full-on prog but on DILUVIUM, they dial back the prog aspects a bit and instead hammer out some extremely heavy and tight death metal delivery with more direct riffing, more recognizable song structures that remind a bit of Necrophagist with easier to follow compositions that only judicially exercise the meandering tendencies into more complex departures. DILIVIUM is the final album of the four album concept series following “Cosmogenesis” (2009), “Omnivium” (2011) and “Akróasis” (2016).

As “Clandestine Stars” abruptly begins DILUVIUM, it’s clear that OBSCURA aren’t wimping out as they mature but rather place their wisdom in better musical constructs rather than less intensity however this album isn’t afraid to experiment or continue bold and daring bouts into the progressive metal world in the least. The opening track announces the bombastic return of Germany’s premier tech death metal band with a vengeance but soon begins the welcome contrasting sounds by incorporating some cool coded vocals that i personally haven’t really heard since Cynic’s debut “Focus” all the way back in 93, well at least not as well incorporated into a heavier metal sound and not just for one track but the coded vocal effects find their way scattered throughout the entire album. Unique for the band and the album for that matter is the track “Ethereal Skies” which utilizes some symphonic effects in the from of cello, violin and other string arrangements but don’t worry - this track is still a brutal beast with the full death metal bravado, neoclassical guitar wankery with the string arrangements simply adding a bit of ambience and a few moments in the spotlight.

DILUVIUM simplifies the compositional constructs a bit and there are less meanderings into the arcane prog world which the previous two albums dived into, however simplicity is not in OBSCURA’s vocabulary and new forms of complexity emerge with the riff changes, Sebastian Lanser’s technical drumming craziness as well as Linus Klausenitzer’s excellent fretless bass workouts. The return of V. Santura’s excellent production skills guarantee a continuation of the beautifully mixed subtleties that marry the sensuality and aggressiveness fitting for a 21st century extreme metal album. All of this is great news for those who dislike long drawn out bouts of spaced out sonic surfing into the sonicsphere and eschew the heavyhead banging bombast that fans of this stuff are utterly addicted to. Being both a proghead as well as a metalhead, i do not prefer one or the other finding both styles compelling but something about DILUVIUM screams seasoned metal band reaching new heights of glory.

After five albums, OBSCURA shows no signs of slowing down or toning down the ferocious intensity. Instead the band is more focused by cranking out precisely cut progressively tinged tech death metal candy like there is a bottomless wellspring of creative energy to be tapped. As i see it, OBSCURA is playing the cards exactly right. There is always the tendency for a techie band to go for the jugular and continue the journey into the inaccessible for the average fan but on the other extreme the temptation to tame the music down so much for greater exposure can mean that it becomes tediously inane. OBSCURA on the other hand simply changed the equation around a bit by not jettisoning any of their signature traits but merely rationed them in more intelligent proportions. The result is perhaps the most balanced album of their career, one that walks the tightrope between the tech death and progressive metal that they have juggled throughout their career. While some may like this more or less than the previous albums, i simply find this to be yet another satisfying edition to a solid canon of intelligently designed sci-fi fueled tech metal that satisfies from beginning to end. Well done, guys.

IRON MAIDEN Somewhere In Time

Album · 1986 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 4.37 | 153 ratings
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Fresh off of the success of 1984’s ‘Powerslave’ and the 1985 live album ‘Live After Death’, Iron Maiden were well and firmly at the top of the metal world, and their run of strong releases would continue with ‘Somewhere in Time’, an album which saw the band continue to enter progressive territory with their writing, with longer songs and the addition of keyboards.

However, stylistically this is still very much Iron Maiden. By this point the band have clearly defined their sound, and there’s not much point in tweaking what already works. With blistering guitar harmonies and wailing vocals, Maiden have clearly hit their stride by this point in their career. The use of keyboards adds an atmospheric, spacey feeling to the music, giving ‘Somewhere in Time’ its own identity amongst the bands discography.

With a solid production and some of guitarists Adrian Smith and Dave Murray’s finest guitar tones, the sound here is timeless. Even after all these years, the album holds up well for both its sense of melody and its metal edge. The lyrics are a lot more introspective than previously, a sign of the bands world-travelled weariness after their constant touring. But it also makes for some of their most sincere and personal songs, particularly in ‘Wasted Years’.

With highlights including the aforementioned ‘Wasted Years’, ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’, ‘Caught Somewhere in Time’, ‘Deja-Vu’ and ‘Heaven Can Wait’, there’s an abundance of quality material here, making ‘Somewhere in Time’ another in a string of classic albums.

CRYONIC TEMPLE Deliverance

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Before 2017, Cryonic Temple was a band I had enjoyed in the past, but I had never even come close to considering them a favorite. I was introduced to them with their third album, In Thy Power, which is generally considered their best and that one and its predecessor, Blood, Guts & Glory definitely impressed me, but they never quite blew me away. Obviously, their fourth album, Immortal, was a total disaster, which led to the band going away for quite some time, but even those more acclaimed albums, while being consistently entertaining, never quite hit me in the way any of my favorite power metal albums do. Everything changed in 2017 with Into the Glorious Battle, which saw the band returning from their long hiatus with a renewed focus, as well as changing to a more melodic but still epic and intense sound. I was instantly blown away by the melodies throughout the album as well as the more dynamic and versatile songwriting compared to their past albums. Now with their latest album, Deliverance, the band has only taken things further, producing by far their most varied, yet also their consistently engaging album to date, making it a slight step above even its amazing predecessor.

Unsurprisingly, some folks were a bit disappointed with Into the Glorious Battle, as while it was an unarguably better effort than Immortal, some missed the more epic, heavier sound of their first three albums. At this point, I think it’s safe to say those days are over and they aren’t ever coming back, though, as the band has clearly moved towards a more modernized and more melodic sound, as well as breaking new lyrical ground with a multi-part Sci-Fi concept, which started on the previous album and continues with Deliverance. For those like me who loved the previous album, this one is sure to be an absolute treat, as it continues with the same melodic, guitar-driven sound, while at times getting slightly heavier and more intense, as well as occasionally being a bit more fun and pop-ish, with a couple tracks, in particular, having some pop melodies to them, as well as being more driven by keyboards and orchestras. In fact, the orchestral elements are in full force throughout this album, showing up on many tracks, and especially being noticeable during the two ballads, as well as on some of the lighter tracks. The best thing about the previous album was how it had a perfect balance between speedier tracks, slower, more melodic tracks, ballads and some nice, melodic mic paced tracks, and if anything this album is even more varied, never falling into predictable patterns and instead constantly finding ways to surprise, all while being consistently excellent the whole way through. There’s definitely a few excellent speedy tracks that should please classic power metal fans, as well as a couple ballads and a ton of surprises.

The area where I’m most pleased with this new era of Cryonic Temple is the vocals. While I enjoyed their first three albums and thought Glen Metal did a great job, I always found his vocals to be just a bit too over the top for my taste, while current singer Mattius Lilja has a softer and much more restrained voice, which puts extra emphasis on the melodies and really allows the choruses to soar, the way a great power metal vocalist should. At the same time, he does get a bit more intense at points on this album and does a great job of that as well, so it’s safe to say he fits the band’s current sound perfectly. I also notice some rather different sounding vocals at a few points on the album, which I’ll go into detail about below, but these are generally done quite well and I assume they’re done by other members of the band, as they certainly don’t sound like Mattias. Either way, though, the album has some amazing vocal melodies throughout, and they’re all performed perfectly.

After Into the Glorious Battle managed to be such a strong album in the songwriting department, I was excited to see what the band would do with a follow up, especially one that came so shortly after Thankfully, while the band has clearly continued with the sound they established on the previous album, they have managed to take things to the next level here, coming up with some even better songs than before including a few that stand out as sounding rather surprising and very different from anything they’ve done in the past.

The album gets off to an unsurprisingly strong start, with a nice intro track making way for “Rise Eternally Beyond”, which starts off with some soft guitar work before the rest of the band kicks in, along with the orchestra, and the track quickly turns into the kind of fast and fun power metal anthem fans would expect from the band. It’s a very fun and energetic track, which would have fit in perfectly on the last album, complete with verses that feel quite similar, though once the chorus hits it proves itself to be best and most melodic part of the track, with huge, soaring vocal melodies, to help kick the album off in an amazing way. The instrumental section is strong as expected and shows off the kind of excellent, very melodic guitar leads that have become an important part of the band’s sound in their current form, with some excellent leads and solos throughout the album, and this track is a great example of that. Next is “Through the Storm”, a more surprising track, with a slight cinematic feel to it. The intro to the song is quite interesting, with heavy keyboard effects as well as some rather eerie sounding voiceovers, and the song itself is much more relaxed than the opener, moving at a more laid-back pace, while still having some heavy riffs, but it feels more driven by keyboards and orchestras, especially during the chorus where we enter into pop territory but in an amazing way, with some truly epic vocal melodies. The track is quite surprising, being somewhat heavy but also fairly laid back and extremely catchy and melodic. It’s definitely one of my favorites on the album.

A more typical track follows in “Knights of the Sky”, a fast-paced guitar driven power metal track, where the excellent melodic leads are on full display. It’s another very energetic track with a strong and very catchy chorus while having more power to it than the previous track. It’s probably the most traditional power metal track on the album, and it has another great series of solos in the second half. Next is the slightly unconventional title track, which moves along at a fairly upbeat tempo, but it has more of a classic heavy metal feel to it, with some of the heaviest guitar work on the album. It’s the chorus where the song really gets weird, though, as the smooth vocals of Mattias are replaced by some wild falsetto vocals, which I initially found off-putting, but over time they’ve grown on me quite a bit, and I find the track to be quite fun overall. One of the biggest strengths of the previous album was how well written the ballads were, as it had three of them and yet all of them were excellent and served as a change of pace, without stalling the momentum at all. This holds true for both ballads on this album, the first of which is “The Loneliest Man in Space”, a nice piano-driven ballad with some added orchestral elements and soft guitars. It moves along nicely during the verses, with some strong vocals, but it’s the chorus where Mattias really shines, delivering a powerful and emotional performance, which really brings the lyrics to life. The solo in the middle is very emotional and well done as well, and overall it’s simply a very well written track, which can’t always be said about ballads on a power metal album. And yet, this is actually the slightly lesser of two on this album, which I’ll get into a bit later.

Next up is “Pain and Pleasure”, perhaps the heaviest and most intense track on the album. It’s another very fast paced track, but the riffs have a slight thrash edge to them and the vocals throughout the track are more animated and slightly wild, especially during the epic and super catchy chorus. The vocals are quite surprising compared to the rest of the album, but they’re very well done and fit the more aggressive tone of the song perfectly, which helps to make the track another instant highlight. A softer track is next in “Temple of Cryonics”, which of course comes close to being a self-titled track. Either way, it’s the most epic and cinematic feeling track on the album, with a heavy use of orchestral elements. It’s a rather soft and slow-paced track, but I wouldn’t quite call it a ballad as it has some slight heaviness to it at points, and it’s also a bit more epic and eventful than what you’d expect from a ballad. It has another strong chorus, as well as an excellent guitar solo in the middle, and while it’s not one of my personal favorites on the album, it’s an excellent track and shows how dynamic the band has become in their current form. My favorite track on the album is next in “Starchild”, an extremely fast-paced, incredibly melodic track which blazes through its verses at a frantic pace, setting the tables one of the catchiest and most melodic power metal choruses I’ve heard in quite some time. It’s seriously so damn fun and energetic, it brings a smile to my face every time, and is definitely a perfect example of the genre at its finest. The guitar solo is very melodic and well done as expected, and overall the track is simply pure power metal perfection from start to finish.

Speaking of songs with insanely fun and catchy choruses, next is “End of Days”, which has an almost dance-like beat from the keyboards at the start, and is a very upbeat track, with a slight metal edge to it. It’s a fairly fast-paced and very melodic track, with a huge chorus that has a slight pop feel to it, but it’s so damn fun and catchy I certainly can’t complain about it! Another instant highlight and one of my favorites on the album, though it certainly sounds a bit light and more modern than anything the band has done before, so some folks may hate it. The second ballad on the album is next in the form of “Swansong of the Last Emperor”. It’s mostly led by soft guitars and pianos again, though its vocal melodies and lyrics are the most inspiring elements, for sure, as it’s a very emotional track with an insanely good chorus and an excellent performance by Mattias, which takes it to the next level. Both ballads on the album are great, but this one feels just a bit more epic and more inspired. Shifting gears once again, we have “Under Attack”, a fast-paced and aggressive track, with some of the roughest riffs on the album, as well as another fun and catchy chorus. It has a great use of the orchestras in the second half and is certainly a very fun track overall. The last main track on the album is also my least favorite, that being “Blood and Shame”, a slower paced and very hard hitting the track. It has a heavy metal edge to it, for sure, and while the verses are energetic and fun enough, the chorus gets a bit rough for my tastes and lack a real melody or hook, making it the weakest on the album. It’s still a good track overall, but it’s certainly not on the level of any of the other tracks here. Lastly, there’s a bonus track called “Insomnia”, which starts off with a very Iron Maiden influenced acoustic guitar intro, before picking up speed and turning into a fun, speedy power metal track with slight traces of classic heavy metal. It’s definitely a better note to end the album on than the previous track, so I’m glad the band included it as a bonus.

Overall, Deliverance is an amazing power metal album, which shows Cryonic Temple picking up where they left off on Into the Glorious Battle, and continuing their resurgence as one of the best current bands in their genre. It has a mix of everything fans of the previous album would expect, with some of the most varied and dynamic songwriting in the band’s career, while still delivering tons of great speedy and melodic power metal. It slightly edges out its predecessor to become my favorite Cryonic Temple album to date and is definitely one of my favorite power metal albums of 2018 so far.

Originally written for Myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/07/15/cryonic-temple-deliverance-review/

THERESIA An Invitation To Darkness

Album · 2018 · Depressive Black Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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After making their debut on the Wisteria Records Various Artists Compilation METAL MADNESS: VOLUME ONE, the Japanese turned Canadian depressive black metal band THERESIA make their true debut with their first EP release AN INVITATION TO DARKNESS. While the band formed in Japan in 2016 they moved to both the UK and Canada and somehow ended up in the unlikely setting of Regina, Saskatchewan.

All along the band was more into noise rock than metal but their influences also include Gothic rock like Christian Death as well as the Japanese band Sodom And Silencer. Somehow the trio found themselves more in black metal mode with hints of the noise, punk and Goth in the mix, however with pummeling distorted guitar riffs, angry shouted vocals and a muted bass that fuses with the murky guitar parts, there is no mistaking this for anything other than black metal with lyrics screamed out in both English and Japanese.

The band is led by vocalist Ikiryō with Misaki on both drums and guitar and Okiku on bass. This EP is way too short while although it has four tracks, the first and last are simply an ambient intro and a short crust punk outro. The short opener “Dear Kayo… An Invitation For Darkness” begins like the first Black Sabbath album with thunder and church bells chiming with some Japanese poetry being read.

The only two real songs are “Funeral Games” which nicely continues the bell chimes and breaks in true depressive black metal riffing along with pummeling percussion that isn’t exactly blastbeat style but certainly has energetic bursts of pummelation that equal the intensity. The vocals offer glimpses of bleak hopelessness and unhappiness perhaps obtained through all that moving from country to country and ending up in one of the coldest nations on Earth!

“The Graves Of Passion” has an even more disturbed sound with insanely crazy distorted guitars, a frenetic percussive pattern and even more unhinged vocals angrily vociferating through the din. The flow is very much of second wave black metal with a straight forward delivery and not overly unlike many other bands of the 90s and early 2000s. The final closer “Deathmask” sounds more crust punk but with a blackened veneer followed by a short snippet of spoken words at the end.

THERESIA shows promise with a strong drive and excellent delivery of black metal however the EP is way too short. I believe a debut should at least be 20 minutes long and offer a variety of tracks even if set in the same genre mode. While performed quite well THERESIA needs to work on some sort of way of differentiating themselves from the legions of other black metal bands out there. Definitely one to look out for but just getting their feet wet in the morbid metal games of the 21st century. Definitely worth checking out but it seems like it’s just getting started and then ends!

KHANATE Khanate

Album · 2001 · Drone Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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Sometimes understanding where a band got their name will tell you a lot about the overall vibe their trying to instill with their music. In the case of KHANATE, a so called supergroup due to the fact that the four band members vocalist Alan Dubin (Old, Gnaw), guitarist Stephen O’Malley (Sunn O)))), bassist James Plotkin (Old, Scorn, Phantomsmasher) and drummer Tim Wyskida (Blind Idiot God) all got their feet wet in various doom and drone oriented metal bands that had an impact on the metal scene. The name KHANATE is a term for a political entity that appeared on the Eurasian Steppe and most synomous for the time of Genghis Khan and his massive Mongol Empire. This is music of conquest indeed, the type that administers its bombast at a snail’s pace and unleashes all the torturous apparatuses to fulfill its goal.

While drone metal was derived from doom metal, many of the bands that fit into that child sub somehow managed to separate themselves completely. I mean, does anyone associate bands like Earth, Sunn O)))) or Boris with doom? Maybe only superficially but they certainly evolved into a more post-metal realm that utilizes all that fuzzy drone sludgery in a world all its own. KHANATE’s self-titled debut on the other hand totally embraces the doom metal roots from whence the drone sub spawned. Therefore this album contains four long sprawling terrifying tracks (and a short dark ambient one in the middle) that utilize all the grating layers of feedback, insane asylum shrieking and fuzzed out bass in conjunct with heavy doom laden riffs that flow like Antarctic molasses only they also have hints of their doom metal roots from the likes of Black Sabbath and Pentagram.

While drone metal is mostly a miss in my books as it is usually repetitive and sprawling to infinity, KHANATE found the perfect formula to create elongated timespans filled with AAAALLLL the frightening possibilities. First of all, Alan Dubin’s vocals are absolutely terrifying. In fact the whole album makes me think of scary dude from the movie Scream inviting all his buddies over to make some music. They shoot up a little heroin and the party’s on. It’s fright night with all the amps turned to eleven, intent to scare at full capacity and experimentalism is set to high with only the tiniest trace of established doom metal orthodoxy allowed to provide a somewhat shaky canvas to paint upon. Slasher metal anyone? These guys are great at keeping the tracks distinct from one another despite operating on the same set of principles, namely scare the holy crap outa anyone who gets near.

KHANATE couldn’t have conquered new territories if not for the outstanding production that graces this album. While the plodding rhythms flow like cooling magma down a only slightly sloped terrain, the guitar, bass and drums all conspire to create just enough variation to keep one’s attention span from teetering off into elsewhere. These guys paid attention to every small detail and the result is an addicting feedback fuzz laced with sludge celebration of slow, miserable and lugubrious outbursts of pure dread. I’m not sure why this hasn’t been lumped into the funeral doom world because it certainly evokes the same desperate depths of despair. The middle piece “Torching Koroviev” takes this to even more extreme levels as it eschews the metal aspects and creates a dark ambient gut-wrenching experience.

Julian Cope described this album as an orchestrated root-canal and you know, that’s not too far off the cuff. This music has a fuzz back feed that does remind of the dentist’s drill only it’s like going to the dentist on LSD where every seemingly banal move becomes a torturous tale of misadventure and every sonic change is a new demon invited to the party where you are the victim of demented torturous abuse. The album is good all the way through but the final two tracks “Under Rotting Sky” and “No Joy” really delve deep into a dark and unforbearing underworld that resonates as an eternity of suffering where no souls escape in a true tesseract of impending hopelessness. This is some of the coolest drone doom metal around as KHANATE mastered the emotional depth to pull it off. This is very different than any of the band’s other projects and totally recommended for those looking for the most extreme examples of doom based metal on slo-mo.

DEATHSPELL OMEGA Si Monvmentvm Reqvires, Circvmspice

Album · 2004 · Black Metal
Cover art 4.18 | 27 ratings
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The term “black metal” was simply born as a title of the 1982 Venom album who was one of metal’s first bands to venture into a more ambitious extreme new world but like Rosemary’s baby was just a mere sprout that morbid and fertile imaginations would transmogrify into the harsh and ugly wave of extreme metal that began in Scandinavia. While bands like Hellhammer and Celtic Frost nurtured this evil spawn through the toddler years, it was a fast learner and soon the Swedish band Bathory would unleash the first true black metal with its trademark fast tempos, shrieking vocals, heavily distorted buzzsaw guitars and tremolo picking. Originally the style began as more as a Pagan based rebellion against religious intolerance but soon it would attract a second wave of followers who would take it to absolute extremes.

Once the floodgates were opened, a whole legion of imitators followed and this extreme form of metal splintered into myriad directions. Atmospheric with ambient keyboard use, industrial black, war black, Viking, blackgaze and even hybrids with death metal and many other non-metal genres. The great evolutionary diversification splintered with subject matter ranging from hostile misanthropy, anti-Christian sentiments, Pagan folklore, romantic Gothic tales and depressive hopelessness. While bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, Satyricon, Emperor and Gorgoroth frightened the masses with their cacophonous din with some even having burned down a few churches in their wake, these face painted miscreants were more focused on adolescent angst and shocking appearances as the rebellious antithesis of Christianity rather than delving into the philosophical theology of true Satanism.

DEATHSPELL OMEGA were a part of this legion of imitators with two albums that sounded like countless others based in the second wave of black metal with their second album “Inquisitors Of Satan” sounding like it easily could’ve been slipped into the Darkthrone canon and no one would’ve thought twice about it. As if Satan himself had selected this mysterious and anonymous French ensemble, the band emerged from a rather generic epigone to one of the most experimental and intellectually developed outfits within the entire black metal universe. On their third album SI MONVMENTVM REQVIRES, CIRCVMSPICE (Latin for “If You Seek His Monument, Look Around You,) DEATHSPELL OMEGA launched the first of a trilogy of albums that focused on the Theistic Satanist’s perspective and one that ostentated that Satan is pervading every aspect of the physical and metaphysical universe and that Man’s relationship with Him should be one of reverence and devotion.

While lyrically entranced in Satanic metaphysics in a liturgical presentation, stylistically the works are heavily influenced by the 20th century French philosopher Georges Bataille. Musically DOS evolved significantly beyond the second wave tritone dissonance into a sophisticated progressive black metal band that utilized wide varieties of stylistic shifts interspersed with unpredictable time signature changes and even incorporated complete deviations from metal altogether into Gregorian chants that take references from the Christian Bible and fully invert them as heard on the beginning “First Prayer” that finds backmasking wrapped around the liturgical sermon. The album, like true Satanic ideologies, is rife with symbolism both visually in the album cover and liner notes but also with the juxtaposition of Christian philosophies with dark arts metaphysics. This is the real deal. A musical experience so dark and heavy that it makes Anton LaVey’s Church Of Satan look like a skit with the Church Lady on 80s Saturday Night Live.

SI MONVMENTVM REQVIRES, CIRCVMSPICE is a very long album. At 77 minutes and 47 seconds it was intentionally designed to mimic the structure of progressive rock double albums from the 70s with each fictitious side opening with a prayer with an additional lengthy devotion occurring with the eleven minute plus “Carnal Malefactor.” While the album doesn’t let up in its intensity for one second, the diverse elements that flow through manage to keep even the most attention span deprived metalhead from bouts of ennui. While segments flow and find repetitive segments of structure, the band’s approach is to change the instrumentation subtlety and also at time startlingly abrupt, by offering up new riffs, new drumming patterns or vocal rants. At times the band plays together as a cohesive unit in traditional black metal fashion but more often offers up the most avant-garde and mind bending displays of angular dissonance and progressive bombast. The overall impression of this album is that of a black mass from a fly on the wall perspective.

DEATHSPELL OMEGA took the entire metal world by storm with SI MONVMENTVM REQVIRES, CIRCVMSPICE, having created one of the most thought provoking and musically mysterious metal albums of the ages. This is the kind of blackened art album with the sophistication of great classical composers with every composition, production value and lyrical utterance casting a darkened cloud over the world and twisted into an unholy irreverence in an antithetically aligned manner that goes far beyond a flaming vitriol for Christianity but rather ups the game to become its equal. While DEATHSPELL OMEGA could be viewed as a pseudo-intellectual cauldron of mumbo jumbo, there is no denying that their craft has mastered the art of Christian inversion to its logical conclusion and utilized its own contradictory Biblical passages against it with a thoughtful and peremptory authority. While cleverly presented, DEATHSPELL OMEGA, the newfound masters of the great Satanic theological soundtracks hadn’t quite attained perfection as it would on the follow-up “Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum,” but it’s pretty damn close.

STEVE VAI Modern Primitive

Album · 2016 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.17 | 2 ratings
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For true STEVE VAI fans who have kept up with his output since the beginning, one of the most amazing transmogrifications in music history occurred between his debut album “Flex-Able” and his second “Passion And Warfare.” So much so that for much of the time both albums seem to have been recorded by completely different artists, however that’s somewhat of an exaggeration since both albums contain more than enough of the trademark VAI-isms that transcend compositional style as well as exhibiting his Zappa roots however the debut was more experimental whereas the sophomore release showcased a much more developed technical shredding style.

This evolution makes more sense with the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Passion And Warfare which hit the market in 2016. While VAI has always been generous in the addition of bonus tracks when he re-releases an older album, this one was the greatest gift of all as it came out as basically a double album called MODERN PRIMITIVE / PASSION AND WARFARE (25TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION). The unreleased album’s worth of material covers those mystery years between his first two albums when he scrapped solo albums in order to work with David Lee Roth and Alcatraz.

A double album indeed as the double CD release contains two cardboard sleeves attached and in yin yang fashion with each side acting as an independent album albeit in Siamese twin fashion. This review will only cover the MODERN PRIMITIVE album since PASSION AND WARFARE will be covered in its own review however i will cover the four bonus tracks attached to the end of P&W. While MODERN PRIMITIVE is indeed technically a bonus album for P&W’s 25th Anniversary release, it can also be thought of as an album in its own right since had destiny not intervened, this material very well could’ve been VAI’s second album.

The title MODERN PRIMITIVE refers to the fact that these tracks were started but never finished. VAI wrote “Flex-Able” between the ages of 20-23 and PASSION AND WARFARE between the ages of 27-29. The material on MODERN PRIMITIVE was started when he was between 23-26 but were never finished. At the age of 55, STEVE VAI finally found the time and the excuse to finally complete these tracks and release them as bonus material. Some of the tracks were destined for P&W but didn’t make the editing cut and thus sat in the vaults for two decades plus.

Many of these tracks emerged under the intent of being released in a period band called The Classified, a vocal jazz rock group that featured Sue Mathis on keyboards and vocals, Tommy Mars also on keyboards and vocals, Stu Hamm on bass and Chris Frazier on drums. This material was played live at many successful gigs but never recorded at all, so these recordings for the most part were written in the 80s and finally recorded in the second decade of the 21st century. While most of the musicians would return, Sue Mathis did not.

Like “Flex-Able,” MODERN PRIMITIVE still exhibits a healthy dose of Zappa influences, especially from the “One Size Fits All” era which becomes quite apparent as the schizoid vocal jazz scat opener “Bop” bursts onto the scene. Belying its title, there is nothing one would consider hard bop in the least but rather immediately provides a link between VAI’s first two albums as it retains all the quirky whimsical charm of the debut while developing the technical prowess of the second. How much of this resulted from its initial birth pangs and how much is the addition of VAI’s modern perspective will probably remain the biggest mystery of his career.

“Dark Matter” shifts completely in a Hendrix type rocker with a lot more wah-wah and shredding techniques added. Not to mention the PASSION & WARFARE production magic. “Mighty Messengers” musters up the funk bass groove but ultimately becomes a rather by-the-books vocal rock track that exhibits some guitar wankery and sound effects. “The Lost Chord” is one of those cheesy ballads that i find underwhelming and this one is no exception although Devin Townsend is the vocalist. It indeed sounds like some mellow track off one of his albums albeit with VAI’s sensual guitar antics. It’s ok but seems like a waste of Townsend’s dynamic vocal range. “Upanishads” is another chilled out progressive slow burner. It never really goes anywhere despite some guitar soloing. OK and that’s it.

“Fast Note People” is yet another chilled out rocker with some snazzy instrumental backing. VAI’s vocals turn me off but this has lots of backing vocals and turns into a more Zappa inspired fairy tale of sorts. “And We Are One” is once again a slow chilled out ballad with VAI and a female vocalist performing a duet. Yawn. “Never Forever” finally picks up some steam and sounds like one of those spacey P&W tracks with soaring guitar runs but VAI’s weak vocals ruin it for me. “Lights Are On” is finally a true rocker with some real good VAI guitar action going on. It reminds me most of P&W and seems like it was destined for that album but got nixed. It would’ve fit in perfect and better than weak tracks like “ I Would Love To.” “No Pockets” sounds completely different and is more of a garage rock track which is a Bob Harris track where he is vocalist.

The final three tracks are the “Pink And Blows Over Suite” with the second part hitting over the thirteen minute mark. “Part 1” slowly fades in with pleasant sound effects and then becomes a female vocalist ballad with lots of smooth backing vocals. Obviously part of the vocal jazz group years. Even this short intro to the suite is rich and dynamic with lots of VAI-esque time signature deviations at his most extreme and a rich lush production that offers beautiful counterpoints to the vocalists. “Part II - Mars Attack” continues seamlessly with the music melody from “The Nutcracker” backed by a deep drone in key. It remains ambient with whistles and in jazzified classical mode with electronic overtures. In fact it sounds more like a show tune piece than anything VAI would have released. There are some stellar classical piano runs but no guitar really. The tempo remains slow and the mood darkened. For an attack from Mars i would expect more musical drama! The shorter “Part III” closer finally picks up the steam and turns into a more festive jazz-rock-funk mood with VAI’s sizzling guitar soloing. It ends in the same vocal jazz style that began the three part journey. Probably the best part of the album.

PASSION AND WARFARE is included in its entirety. There was really no need for remastering since the album was cutting edge at its time of original release in 1990 and sounds modern even by today’s standards however there are four bonus tracks tacked onto the end. “Lovely Elixir” is a slow guitar ballad. It’s like many tracks distributed throughout VAI’s musical career and rather uninteresting. “And We Are One (Alternate Solo No. 2)” is pretty much just another version of “And We Are One” from the MODERN PRIMITIVE album. This version is just as slow and uneventful as the original. “As Above” is a resurrected demo and has a military march percussive drive with VAI’s soaring guitar sound. Sounds like something that may have been nixed from the original P&W lineup because it sounds a little like its opener “Liberty” but pretty decent overall. “So Below” is actually a Niels Bye Nielsen Orchestration and sounds more like a movie soundtrack in a classic John Williams fashion than a STEVE VAI track. Ok but nothing OMG.

It has to be remembered that this album is a combo package. Although i’m reserving my review for PASSION AND WARFARE on its own page, as a rating these two cannot be separated. P&W is a guitar classic but has some obvious flaws but one that i easily give four stars because the strengths far outweighs the weaknesses. The bonus material on this P&W 25TH ANNIVERSARY album is pretty much throwaway material but the MODERN PRIMITIVE does have some decent stuff on it although nothing that i would consider lost treasures therefore this disc really only deserves a two star rating but since this is a combo package i’ll give it all a three. If you already have PASSION AND WARFARE, there’s really no need to run and get this if you haven’t already. But as a true STEVE VAI fan i feel obliged to have all this extra stuff because of the few interesting tidbits and for those who want some historical context then this one does deliver the goods.

STEVE VAI Flex-Able Leftovers

EP · 1984 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.58 | 4 ratings
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STEVE VAI’s debut album “Flex-able” was the result of his time between several years as “stunt guitarist” for Frank Zappa and his future as a rock / metal guitar god once he joined David Lee Roth and Whitesnake which helped launch his career as one of rock’s greatest solo shredders of all time. The material presented on his debut album which appeared in 1984 was the result of two years of recording (82-84) of which only eleven tracks appeared but STEVE’s output was quite prolific. What started out as a project to record goofy nonsensical tracks only intended to be heard by his friends resulted in a debut album with the excess of eight more tracks appearing on the FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS EP that was released the same year.

This EP may be a source of confusion since it was released twice in 1984 by two record labels and then again in 1998 as a full length album with an additional six tracks recorded during the same period with all three releases sporting completely different cover art. Yikes! The first release of FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS appeared as a vinyl 10” with only 1000 editions appearing on the Urantia label which featured fairy tale cover art that had a yellow impressionist background with a hand tugging on a heart in water. The second pressing of also 1000 editions was released on VAI’s newly created Akashic Records and featured a similar cover as the original “Flex-Able” album cover with a jet black background with a pinkish purple logo and in the EP’s case a similarly colored VAI playing guitar. Both of these EPs had the exact same track order which was changed up for the 1998 re-release.

IN SIDE (aka Side One)

One "You Didn't Break It" Two "Bledsoe Bluvd" Three "The Beast of Love" Four "Burnin' Down the Mountain”

OUT SIDE (aka Side Two)

One "So Happy" Two "Details at 10" Three "Little Pieces of Seaweed" Four "Chronic Insomnia”

The EP was expanded to a full-length on Sony Records released in 1998 with a completely different track order which included six unreleased tracks that were recorded during the same period of 1982-84. This one was released on CD only and included one major change of recording live drums to replace the original drum machine on “You Didn’t Break It.” All the tracks received a complete re-editing and mixing. To make it even more confusing four of the tracks appeared as bonus tracks on the CD release of the “Flex-Able” album that appeared in 1988. These four tracks include: “So Happy,” “Bledsoe Blvd,” “Burnin’ Down The Mountain” and “Chronic Insomnia.” Whew! The 1998 track list is:

One “F.u.c.k Yourself" (Listed as #[email protected]! Yourself) (Bonus Ed. 1998) Two "So Happy" Three "Bledsoe Bluvd" Four "Natural Born Boy" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Five "Details at 10" Six “Massacre" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Seven "Burnin' Down the Mountain" Eight "Little Pieces of Seaweed" Nine "San Sebastian” (Bonus Ed. 1998) Ten "The Beast of Love" Eleven "You Didn't Break it” (Bonus Ed. 1998) Twelve "The X-Equilibrium Dance" (Bonus Ed. 1998) Thirteen "Chronic Insomnia”

These tracks contained many but not all of the same session musicians as “Flex-Able” with Mike Keneally and Stu Hamm joining in from the Zappa crowds. The instrumentation once again ranged from the standard guitar, bass, keyboards and drums to the more exotic which included coral sitar, violin, piccolo xylophone, bell lyre and vibraphone. Also in the mix were various vocal effects from many guests as well. While “Flex-Able” was a stand alone eclectic moment in the rock universe, FLEX-ABLE LEFTOVERS has even more bizarre concoction which include some of the most foul mouthed profanities that STEVE VAI has ever uttered in his predominantly PG-rated career therefore this is the one album that received the Parental Advisory label most due to the 1998 add on “F.u.c.k Yourself,” a shockingly hilarious critique on society and the world in general, guaranteed to either offend you beyond belief or have you rolling on the floor laughing so hard that tears are rolling out of your eyes!

FAVORITE TRACKS include: The opener “F.u.c.k Yourself” and the second track “So Happy.” A very bizarre WTF spoken word oddity that shows VAI’s uncanny ability to replicate spoken words in perfect pitch and tempo on guitar. “Massacre.” A bitchin’ guitar workout fretted over a techno beat that performs some of VAI’s best guitar antics of this era. “Little Pieces Of Seaweed.” OMG. This is just too much! This is INSANE!!! Yes, it’s got Zappa written all over it but it is filthy, raunchy, brash and experimental as hell. VAI unleashes all the production techniques including backmasking, torturous fret abuse and freaky compositional liberties. Aspects of VAI’s entire career can be heard in this one. The ultimate summary in one track. “The X-Equilibirum Dance” is a funky chunky bunch of proggy weirdness! The funk bass finds a guitar slinking in and out of sync with it and while the guitar goes to la-la land, so do the drums and bass join in offering a weird in-and-out-of focus strangeness. “Chronic Insomnia” is pure experimental guitar that would sound more at home in a no wave band like DNA. It’s actually quite frightening as a bunch of guitar sounds emulate an exorcist or something. It’s two minutes of pure mind f.u.c.k.e.r.y.

OK TRACKS include: “Details At 10.” Despite a quite cool track. This is too much straight outa the Frank Zappa playbook. Perhaps a rejected track from the “You Are What You Is” album. Nice but it’s not outstanding either. “Burnin’ Down The Mountain” is a slow acoustic guitar track with shakers that offers a pleasant melodic development but never really gains steam. “You Didn’t Break It” offers a Van Halen type of guitar riff. It was written by Bob and Suzannah Harris and features Bob on vocals. It’s not bad and VAI’s guitar adds some sizzle to an otherwise meh sort of rock song.

THROWAWAY TRACKS include: “Natural Born Boy.” One of those boring rock instrumentals that has no memorable melody and displays a generic lead over rhythmic guitar. “San Sebastian” is another one of those boring melodic tracks that chimes along and never really goes anywhere. “Beast Of Love.” One of those ballad type tracks with VAI’s awful vocal style. I can handle his voice when the track is interesting but this one is rather bland.

Overall, a great bonus for true fans. There is some excellent material on here that i could not possibly live without however this one falls short of the essential tag. As expected the term LEFTOVERS implies material that didn’t make the original cut for a reason. In many cases, it was because the material was obviously too weird and that’s the material i love the best, but some as stated are rather meh while some are just ok. However, the cream of the crop on here means this is well worth checking out if you love the most weird Zappa influences of VAI’s early work as well as his impeccable production and guitar playing skills.

STEVE VAI Flex-Able

Album · 1984 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 10 ratings
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STEVE VAI hardly needs an introduction after having played with Frank Zappa, Alcatraz, David Lee Roth and Whitesnake not to mention achieving a stellar success in his own right but while he would become the rock world’s undeniably most unique and proficient guitar shredder, his early years displayed a much deeper and experimental young VAI whose ties to progressive rock were at the forefront more than any pretensions of rock god status that would take place in a few short years as he would become one of the most technically adept shredders of the 80s.

Fresh out of several years as Zappa’s premiere “stunt guitarist” having played on albums like “You Are What You Is,” “The Man From Utopia” and “Jazz From Hell” as well as a string of successful live recordings from the “You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore” series, VAI managed to scrape enough money together to buy a small house in the LA suburb of Sylmar and with a mere 5000$ put together his first home studio where he would record a slew of goofy and off the wall music that initially was made for friends but was destined to become STEVE’s first album FLEX-ABLE along with the supplemental companion EP titled “Flex-Able Leftovers.”

Much of this was due to the fact of his fear of becoming famous and opted to simply make music that he wanted to instead of pursuing any commercial endeavors. Having stated he was simply living in the moment, he created new music to distribute amongst close friends with no preconceived notions of any sort. Released in 1984, FLEX-ABLE may come as a shock to anyone who encountered this zany album after growing to love STEVE’s more technical instrumental albums such as “Passion And Warfare.” This album in many ways sounds like a completely different artist with few clues as to the direction Mr. VAI would detour but it was this first album that made STEVE VAI a star in the rock and metal world for its unorthodox and hyper creative guitar playing.

VAI was inventive from the very start and FLEX-ABLE displayed a plethora of disparate ideas ranging from creative uses of the whammy bar, advanced hammer on abuse, alien sounding musical scales, compositional mastery as well as a healthy love of extraterrestrial life and all things spiritual, esoteric and eclectic. Add to that, VAI showed a mastery of the business aspects of music as well. FLEX-ABLE was innovative in becoming one of the first truly independent albums (another Zappa trait). While the album was deemed too personal for public consumption, VAI was convinced to release it but found that record companies not only wanted to usurp his publishing rights but would only pay mere pennies on the dollar in royalties. VAI opted to self-release and off this one album alone that has sold around 300,000 copies to date, STEVE has made millions.

As is commonly known, STEVE VAI was the ultimate nerd guitarist having studied at the Berklee School of Music and played with the late great Frank Zappa. FLEX-ABLE displays even more Zappa connections with fellow band members drummer Chad Wackerman, trumpeter Bob Harris and bassist Stu Hamm as well as a large extended guest list that make FLEX-ABLE the ultimate musician’s party album. Like any given Zappa album, the instrumentation was wide and varied and included not only guitar, bass, drums and keyboards but also more exotic instruments such as bell lyre, vibraphone, piccolo xylophone, clarinet, flute, sax and violin amongst other various chimes and bell-like percussion.

While originally conceived as gag gifts for friends, the idea was to press up a limited run of flexi discs (also known as phono sheets, Sonosheets or Soundsheets, a flexible vinyl sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove that played like a normal record). You know those think little bendies that are often attached in the middle of magazines and the like, thus the origin of how FLEX-ABLE got its title. A combo of a changed plan with the spirit of a can-do attitude and thus the ultimate description of one of rock’s most innovative guitarists indeed. After turning down the exploitative record labels, VAI created his own Akashic Records, found a distributor in the form of Important Records and received an unheard of amount of 4$10cents for each album sold.

And the album become a hit in the underground guitar world not only for VAI’s guitar playing technical prowess but for its sheer audacity to take the listener into VAI’s own universe designed by his own warped sense of humor. The album has since become a cult classic. It has been released with two album covers. Firstly with a cover donning a jet black background and a pink/purple hand tugging on an elastic pink/purple heart and then again with a cartoonish caricature of STEVE on an orange stage alongside an alien and rubbery guitar. The latter contained bonus tracks that would find their way onto the “Flex-Able Leftovers.” (these tracks include: “So Happy,” “Bledsoe Blvd,” “Burnin’ Down The Mountain,” “Chronic Insomnia” and was my intro to the album.

And the music! This album contains some of the wildest tracks ever! While STEVE’s virtuosic guitar shredding does debut here, it is limited in small doses with the highlight on the metal rocker “The Attitude Song,” which would eventually be included on the Guitar Hero video game series. However the rest of the album is completely different. One of my favorite VAI tracks of all time opens in the form of “Little Green Men,” the ultimate Zappa tribute complete with a frenetic off-kilter jazzified parade of whimsical satire and adroit virtuosity runs of vibraphones and time signatures run amok but also conveys a sophisticated yet playful story about how aliens are amongst us and kept from our knowledge through careful control of perception. Perhaps one of the most hilarious tracks of all time :P

“Viv Woman” displays hard rock attitude but also a healthy horn section whereas “Salamanders In The Sun” is another Zappa inspired flirtatious flute driven melodic track that is light and fluffy but also incorporates some stellar guitar playing. “Call It Sleep,” one of the most experimental tracks sounds like a sleepy guitarist waking up and having a hard time getting it together but ultimately prevails in a stunning guitar workout. This one has cool guitar slides and what sounds like tuning manipulations. “Junkie” begins like a music box, a vocal driven sorta jazzy track about a drug addict and includes some extraordinary unorthodox guitar weirdness. “Bill’s Private Parts” is a tiny snippet of percussive bombast whereas “Next Stop Earth” debuts VAI’s unique ability to make the guitar “talk.” It is 34 seconds of two guitars having a conversation, a technique fully utilized on future releases.

“There’s Something Dead In Here” is an atonal, non-melodic horrific sounding progressive rock on acid type of recording. This is probably the most “out there” track which is only for the most hardcore. The only two tracks that i’m not really found of are the corny combo of “Lover’s Are Crazy” and “The Boy/Girl Song.” These two tracks are prominent because they appear near the beginning of the album and are the most commercial sounding which for better or for worse debut another aspect of VAI’s music, my least favorite, the schmaltzy ballads with stupid lyrics. While i can understand the desire to keep the album from getting too wild, these two tracks just seem out of place.

While my first experience of the album was with the four bonus tracks which are some of my favorites on the whole album and some of the most creative, i’ll have to save criticism for them on the “Flex-Able Leftovers” album which is where they made their first appearance. FLEX-ABLE is a nerdy album through and through and will probably fly over the heads of non-musicians. There is nothing “normal” about this album. This was the creation of a highly developed musician making music on his own terms with little regard for public consumption. Luckily, this sort of music had a cult following with yours truly being a part of.

This was definitely a grower but perhaps the most consistent of VAI’s many lopsided albums save a couple tracks. While often cited as his low point, if you can get past the fact that this is not shredder’s paradise (and i’m a shredding fan for sure), you can experience a fantastically creative album unlike anything else ever made even by VAI himself. Historically speaking, FLEX-ABLE is a brief moment in time between the adventurous Zappa years and VAI’s metal god status with David Lee Roth and Whitesnake. It displayed ALL of VAI’s musical talents far beyond the lightning speed fret abuse he has become more known for. This is the dawn of not only a talented guitarist, but also a producer and business entrepreneur as well as composer and arranger of talents. A one of a kind album that deserves its cult status.

POWERWOLF The Sacrament of Sin

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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One question that frequently comes up among metal fans, is how long can a band go sticking to a familiar formula? Over the years, different bands have offered different answers to this question, even among power metal bands, with the likes of Iron Savior and Primal Fear mostly sticking to an established formula from album to album, while bands like Edguy and Sonata Arctica have branched out and tried many different experiments in their later years. One of my favorite bands that have up to this point managed to stick to an established formula is German band Powerwolf, who I discovered in 2009 with their breakthrough release, Bible of the Beast. Many of their fans may not know this, but their debut, Return in Bloodred, actually had a much different sound than what they are known for, going for more of a classic heavy metal sound, with their second release, Lupus Dei, marking the beginnings of their now famous anthem-like, super catchy power metal sound, featuring lyrics about werewolves, vampires and other nocturnal, otherworldly creatures, blended in with religious themes. With Bible of the Beast, they achieved perfection, and every release since has stuck to the same formula, with minor differences between albums, as the band continued to stick with what brought them success. Now with their upcoming seventh full-length release, The Sacrament of Sin, scheduled for release in the second half of July, can fans expect more of the same, or will the band finally change things up and try something different? Well, this time around, the answer isn’t so obvious, as it feels like the band has indeed changed things up quite a bit on some tracks, while still delivering their classic sound fans have come to expect on other songs. As a result, this is their most varied, most engaging and perhaps altogether best release to date. I think some fans may be a bit disappointed, if they’re expecting a certain sound to dominate the album, as usual, but most folks should be very pleased with it overall.

One thing I never expect to change when it comes to Powerwolf is their overall sound, in particular, the way they use keyboards in a unique way to create a church organ sound, which immediately gives their music its own atmosphere you won’t hear from any other metal band. This element is of course as present as ever on The Sacrament of Sin, with the organ being a driving force throughout many of the songs. In the past, I’ve seen some people mistake the band as being symphonic, due to affect the organs have on the music, but for the most part, the band has never really had many orchestral elements before, outside of intros or in quick bursts. That is one thing that has changed, as on this album the orchestras are out in full force, appearing throughout the album and giving the songs a strong symphonic element that was never there in the past. The orchestras blend in wonderfully with the organ, to create an epic, at times cinematic sound that takes the music to new heights, and if anything this album is even more epic than sounding than anything the band has done before, which is certainly saying a lot.

With all this talk about the organ and symphonic elements, though, I will say that fans of the band have nothing to worry about when it comes to anything else being removed or reduced, as the guitar work is still as present and as melodic as ever, and while the album isn’t especially heavy, there’s definitely some great riffs here as well as some nice melodic leads and solos. Songwriting has always been a strong point of Powerwolf, with their albums having some extremely catchy choruses, while managing to be addictive for their entire duration, and this is once again the case with this album, as tracks are shorter than ever before, but they flow wonderfully and breeze by at a pace that makes it very easy to get hooked and want to keep playing the album over and over and over again, something that’s always been the case with this band. As usual, there’s a mix between classic speedy power metal, as well as some slower, more melodic tracks, but fans expecting the former style to dominate may be in for a rude awakening, as unlike past albums, this one is actually quite a bit more restrained when it comes to the overall tempo on many tracks. Obviously, there are still a few tracks here where the band goes full speed ahead, and those songs are as energetic and fun as ever, but there’s actually a surprising amount of slow to mid-paced tracks on this album, including the band’s first attempt at a full ballad, which is something I certainly wasn’t expecting. I’ve always thought of Powerwolf as having some similarities to Sabaton and on this album that comparison is stronger than in the past, as while the organ helps assure the band’s sound is still recognizable, some of the beats and melodies in the middle section of this album remind me a lot of the Swedes, and it’s certainly a very melodic album, even by Powerwolf standards, while still being as epic and catchy as ever.

Of course, yet another standout feature of the band is the vocals of Attila Dorn, and that’s another aspect I never expect the band to change. As always, he’s in top form on The Sacrament of Sin, flawlessly mixing together his classical training with his rougher, more metallic vocals, and carrying already great vocal melodies and choruses to greater heights than just about any other power metal vocalist would be able to take them. I’ve always loved his deep voice and his unique singing style, and as much as I love the band overall, his vocals have always been my absolute favorite thing about their music, so it’s no surprise that on an album that leans more towards slower and more melodic songs, he has managed to reach new heights, and has delivered an absolutely incredible performance.

Songwriting has always been a big strength for Powerwolf, so every time I hear a new album from them I expect nothing but perfection. Unsurprisingly, they have once again delivered 11 songs that are absolutely phenomenal on their own, while flowing together perfectly. However, as I mentioned before, the pace is slightly different this time around, which may throw some folks off, though I certainly took no time to warm up to it. One thing’s for sure: If you don’t enjoy the opening track “Fire & Forgive”, you probably aren’t nor ever will be a Powerwolf fan, because if you are a fan, this is the exact kind of song that will knock your socks off! The track opens with some orchestral backing, before the organs kick in and Attila delivers some of his epic classical vocals, delivering the customary intro to a Powerwolf album, before the guitars and drums kick in, and the track starts moving at a blistering pace, delivering the kind of upbeat, hard-hitting but fun and epic power metal fans have come to expect from the band, highlighted by one hell of a catchy chorus, that I actually had stuck in my head for hours straight, after hearing it just once, that’s how catchy it is! That track seemed like an obvious pick for a single, and indeed it was the second single for the album, but the lead single is the much less obvious pick “Demon’s Are a Girl’s Best Friend”. This is a much lighter track than usual for a Powerwolf single, and it has a slight pop/rock feel to it, except that the organ and some epic keyboard effects are on hand to help give it a unique, somewhat creepy atmosphere. The track moves along at a nice pace, with the verses being fun and breezy, while the chorus is ridiculously catchy as fans would expect. While it’s not a hard-hitting track by any means, I really like the overall feel of it, plus that chorus is absolutely amazing, so I’m definitely glad they made it a single, even if it’s not the kind of song that will please all fans of the band.

Speaking of songs which may not please fans hoping for the usual Powerwolf sound, that brings us toward the middle section of the album, where the pace drops off quite a bit, giving room to a group of more restrained and melodic tracks, which still nonetheless manage to be as catchy and fun as usual. I mentioned earlier that I hear a fair bit of Sabaton influence on this album, and one needs to look no further than “Killers of the Cross” to instantly pick up on that, as it’s a mid-paced, very light track, where the drum patterns and overall rhythm of the music sound like they easily could have come from the Swedish band. Of course, it’s the organs and Attila’s voice that help make the track stand out, and it’s definitely as fun and epic as anything else on this album, with some absolutely terrific vocal melodies, and a great guitar solo. Next is “Incense and Iron”, another slower track, though this is one where the symphonic elements are in full effect to help give it more of an epic, cinematic feel, especially during the verses, where some cool chanting vocals are added in the background. It’s one of those tracks that isn’t fast at all but still manages to breeze by and have a ton of energy to it, with yet another spectacular and super melodic chorus, as well as another great guitar solo.

The biggest surprise of all is next in the form of “Where the Wild Wolves Have Gone”, the first real ballad the band has ever attempted. The symphonic elements are again out in full force, being one of the main elements along with some piano and of course the vocals. It’s a very epic, slow-building track where the verses help set the tone, and then the chorus absolutely knocks it out of the park, being one of the best and most epic choruses I’ve heard all year. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and say this may be the best metal ballad I’ve ever heard, and if not, its certainly the best one I’ve heard in many years, with the piano and orchestra setting the mood perfectly, and Attila absolutely kills it on vocals, putting his classical training on full display and showing why he remains the band’s MVP, despite the rest of the music already being amazing. The solo in the second half is just icing on the cake. Surprisingly, it’s my favorite track on the entire album. Another surprise is next with “Stossgebet”, another slower paced track, which starts off almost like a ballad, driven by vocals and the organ, before the track gets a bit heavier in time for the chorus. It’s a very moody and atmospheric track, while still having some wonderful melodies, as always, while once again using some symphonic elements. What makes it stand out, though, is the fact that it’s sung entirely in German, which is a nice touch, and allows Attila to excel, singing in his native language. Rounding out the middle section is “Nightside of Siberia”, the most typical sounding track of the bunch, which moves at a pretty nice pace without going full throttle, and it’s probably the track where the symphonic elements are most notable, really blending well with the organ to create some unique and epic melodies. It definitely has the fun and energy of a typical Powerwolf track, speeding up at some points without going overly speedy, and it has the kind of fun and addictive chorus fans would expect, as well as a pretty amazing guitar solo towards the end.

As we reach the final stretch, we enter the portion of the album where the band most relies on their usual formula, starting with the epic title track. Aside from some choral chants at the start, this is a very typical Powerwolf song, moving along at a frantic pace during the verses, with double bass drums going all out, and it’s a fast-paced, hard-hitting track with some great guitar work throughout, as well as yet another super addictive and catchy chorus. The song never relents and is definitely one of the fastest and most pure fun tracks on the album. Next is “Venom of Venus”, which follows suit, starting out with some epic classical flavored vocals from Attila, before slowing down a bit during its verses, but then speeding back up again for a super fun chorus, which sure to get stuck In the heads of many fans. It’s yet another super catchy and addictive track that is sure to please fans of the band. The slowest song during this part of the album is “Nighttime Rebel”, a track where the organ dominated early on, before giving way to guitars orchestra later on. It’s a fairly calm and slower track, but still has some excellent vocal melodies and a fantastic chorus, as well as an excellent and very melodic guitar solo. For the last few albums, Powerwolf has followed a predictable formula for the closing track, with a slow paced, slow-building yet super epic track that ends with a long fade out. Well, this time around they’ve changed things up with “Fist by Fist (Sacralize or Strike)” a track which comes firing out of the gates, only slowing down a bit during its extremely epic first verse where the orchestra is again on full display, with some inspiring melodies building up to a chorus that picks up the pace and again shows the band speeding along, with super catchy vocals and melodies, as usual. Once the song gets going it’s the exact kind of super speedy, super epic and just incredibly addictive power metal track fans have come to love from the band, complete with an excellent guitar solo in the second half. It’s a very high energy track which ends the album on a very high note and is certainly a welcome change of pace compared to how they ended their past few albums.

I always have high expectations whenever I hear Powerwolf is coming out with a new album, and they never disappoint me. With The Sacrament of Sin, the band has not only kept their winning streak going, they’ve produced possibly their best album to date, striking a perfect balance between giving fans what they want, and experimenting just a bit, creating some songs that aren’t quite what folks may be expecting from the band. I suspect fans hoping for a mostly fast-paced album may be a bit disappointed, though hopefully the high-quality songwriting will be able to win them over, but everyone else, whether they’re already a Powerwolf fan or just a fan of power metal, symphonic metal or melodic metal in general, should absolutely love this, and I’d definitely consider it a must hear for fans of the genre. Easily my favorite album through the first half of 2018, and I really don’t see anyone being able to top it any time soon.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/06/26/powerwolf-the-sacrament-of-sin-review/

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Album · 1984 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.67 | 5 ratings
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martindavey87
The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ 1984 self-titled debut shows us a completely different group to the one that would go on to become one of the biggest acts on the planet. It’s interesting to see how a band could come from such obscure and absurd beginnings, yet, through changing and evolving their sound, have managed to become mainstream superstars.

But alas, here we are; ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’.

Completely “out there” is one way to put it. For this album is really a smorgasbord of funky melodies and riffs thrown together in an almost incoherent fashion. Sure, the band would help pioneer what could describe as funk rock, but this right here is mostly a mess of ideas barely strung together by drugs and alcohol.

The album has a very raw production and rather directionless songwriting. However, there’s an abundance of energy, which shows a band who are clearly enjoying what they’re doing. And there’s one or two very (and I do mean very) brief moments that actually shine. ‘Get Up and Jump’, ‘True Men Don’t Kill Coyotes’ and ‘Out in L.A.’ are all relatively decent offerings. Though not overly memorable when compared to later material, there’s still something of merit here that shows a group of capable musicians who just need to tweak and refine their sound.

If you’re coming here expecting huge radio hits then this is not the album for you, and you’re better off sticking with later releases. But ‘The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ is an interesting look to see how the Peppers started out, and if nothing else is worth at least one listen to demonstrate that it’s possible for even the most unlikeliest bands to find commercial success.

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM Doomsday for the Deceiver

Album · 1986 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.38 | 37 ratings
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UMUR
"Doomsday for the Deceiver" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Arizona based thrash metal act Flotsam and Jetsam. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in July 1986. The band was formed in 1981 under the Paradox monicker, changed their name to Dredlox in 1982, then again in 1983 to Dogz, and finally in 1984 they changed their name to Flotsam and Jetsam. Flotsam and Jetsam initially received quite a bit of critical acclaim, but only ever achieved moderate commercial success. Outside their core audience they are probably mostly known because Jason Newsted played bass on this album before he joined Metallica...

...which of course is completely unfair, as what Flotsam and Jetsam offers the listener on "Doomsday for the Deceiver" is pretty kickass thrash metal with a lead vocalist in Eric A.K., who can actually sing, and who provides the music with a heavy metal/US power metal edge. Eric A.K. has a voice that sometimes reminds me of mid-range Rob Halford (Judas Priest) and a commanding delivery to boot. His piercing high pitched screams are also very convincing. Paired with strong songwriting which is relatively varied, and a sound production which is raw and powerful, yet detailed and clear enough for the listener to hear what´s going on, "Doomsday for the Deceiver" comes off quite a high quality debut album by Flotsam and Jetsam.

The original version of the album only featured 9 tracks, while the US CD version features the "Flotzilla" track as a 10th song on the tracklist. All quality material and it´s no wonder that "Doomsday for the Deceiver" is often mentioned in the same breath as other "classic" thrash metal albums from the 80s. I mentioned Eric A.K. above and praised his performance on the album and rightly so, but the rest of the band also deserve a mention. The rhythm section is tight and Newsted´s bass is placed deligthfully high in the mix. The two guitarists churn out one killer thrashy riff after another, but also some more heavy metal oriented ditto. The many blistering guitar solos and harmony leads also deserve a mention.

Upon conclusion "Doomsday for the Deceiver" is an original sounding US thrash metal release. I hear some nods toward early Metallica, Megadeth, and Judas Priest, but Flotsam and Jetsam have managed to forge a pretty unique and recognisable sound, which was no easy treat in those days, when the scene was overflowing with new thrash metal acts trying to make it big. The fact that this is a debut album, just makes the accomplishment even more impressive. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is well deserved.

CRIMINAL Victimized

Album · 1994 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Victimized" is the debut full-length studio album by then Santiago, Chile based thrash/groove metal act Criminal. The album was released through Inferno Records in 1994. Criminal were formed in 1991, and released a couple of well received demos in 1992, before being signed to record "Victimized".

Stylistically the music on "Victimized" is a groove laden type of thrash metal, not too far removed from what Sepultura did on "Chaos A.D. (1993)", although the material is generally a bit more aggressive and direct here. There´s a slight nod towards death metal here and there, but that´s only a secondary influence.

The material on the 34:35 minutes long release is generally well written and quite effective too, but it´s also a bit one-dimensional, and the album could have prospered from a more varied songwriting approach. The sound production is decent, but there´s something about it, which keeps me from calling it a high quality production. It doesn´t have an authentic organic sound. The musicianship is strong enough, and lead vocalist/guitarist Anton Reisenegger delivers a fierce and raw shouting vocal performance which suits the aggressive music well.

So "Victimized" is a good groove/thrash metal release in some departments, while it could have been better in others. I´d still say a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is deserved, and it´s certainly an album that´s recommendable if you need something with a nice aggressive groove (yet still rooted in old school thrash metal).

OBSCURE INFINITY Putrefying Illusions

Album · 2012 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Putrefying Illusions" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German death metal act Obscure Infinity. The album was released through Obscure Domain Productions in July 2012 and it´s the successor to "Dawn Of Winter" from 2010. Obscure Infinity were formed in 2007 with the declared goal to play old school death metal, and that they do on "Putrefying Illusions"...

...which continues down the same musical path as it´s predecessor. That means a traditional early 90s death metal style, which predominantly draws influences from the Swedish, Stockholm scene, but isn´t limited to sounding like a retro clone of that scene. The music is very retrospective though, and we´re exposed to just about everything that was great about the early 90s death metal scene. Deep and brutal, yet relatively intelligible growling vocals, downtuned distorted guitar riffs. Both tremolo picking, and longer sustained chords for crushingly heavy doomy effect, effectful lead guitars, either playing solos, or providing the music with gloomy and morbid themes, classical oriented acoustic guitar interludes, and an overall dark and mystic atmosphere. Add to that ethereal songtitles like "The Wilting Splendour", "From the Bleak Spots to Infinity", and "Ascension-Kenosis", and you should be able to easily figure out what territory we´re in.

That songwriting approach could have ended up being a generic and tedious listening experience, but Obscure Infinity manage to play the style with passion and conviction. They are very skilled songwriters too, and obviously know exactly which elements to put where, for most impact on the listener. The album is well produced too, featuring a raw, yet detailed sound production, which suits the material well. So upon conclusion "Putrefying Illusions" isn´t a very original sounding release, but it´s both skillfully performed, well produced, and well written, so a 4 star (80%) rating isn´t all wrong.

DREAM THEATER Live at Budokan

Live album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.25 | 43 ratings
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martindavey87
As if 2000’s ‘Scenes from a Memory’ wasn’t enough, here’s Dream Theater with another three-disc assault on the senses, with 2004’s live album from Japan’s world-renowned Budokan venue, aptly titled ‘Live at Budokan’.

Touring to promote 2003’s ‘Train of Thought’, ‘Live at Budokan’ sees the band storm through a set of highly energetic and crushingly heavy material. The format of the shows were simply “an evening with...” type affairs, which meant there were no support acts. Yet, despite the mind-boggling duration of the set, the band remains on top form throughout, and shows no signs of fatigue or letting up.

Focusing more on their later material, ‘Live at Budokan’ is three discs of some of the bands strongest material, played impeccably by some of the absolute finest musicians in the world. Millions upon millions of notes are hit flawlessly, with a number of noodles and jamming sections bungled in amongst the set, this is a highly entertaining live album, and shows an unparalleled chemistry between the highly-respected musicians.

There’s an abundance of highlights here. From newer tracks ‘As I Am’, ‘This Dying Soul’ and ‘In the Name of God’, to older classics such as ‘Pull Me Under’, ‘New Millennium’, ‘Only a Matter of Time’ and ‘Beyond This Life’, which features a near-ten minute jam section which is absolutely incredible and never gets boring. Then there’s the exclusive of this album, ‘Instrumedley’, a 12-minute instrumental medley of various parts of the bands discography. It’s genuinely mind-blowing and further demonstrates how these guys are the absolute best of the best at what they do.

‘Live at Budokan’ may lie a little on the heavier side of things, but this is truly a gem that belongs in any prog fans collection. With an absolutely banging production and top-notch performances, this will surely come to be recognized as a true prog classic.

SAVATAGE Commissar

Single · 2001 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
‘Commissar’ is a single by metal band Savatage, released in 2001 to promote their ‘Poets and Madmen’ album, it features three tracks that total at just over eleven minutes in duration.

‘Poets and Madmen’ is an absolute masterpiece in my opinion, and easily one of the bands best releases, so no doubt it’d be tricky to choose which songs to use as promotional singles. However, ‘Commissar’, with its bombastic intro, its intense guitar playing and Jon Oliva’s rapid-fire vocals, is a fine choice, and easily stands out as one of the more memorable tracks on the album.

Second track, ‘Drive’, is mostly a straight-up metal song, but highlights the bands ferocity. With lightning fast riffs and wailing vocals, this is also a noteworthy track that makes ‘Poets and Madmen’ an essential purchase, and gives guitarist Chris Caffery a chance to truly shine. And finally, there’s ‘Voyage’, a short, two-minute acoustic guitar track. It’s a nice little instrumental that fills out the disc well, but isn’t overly essential.

Overall, ‘Commissar’ is an all-round decent enough CD single for Savatage fans.

SKYGLOW Thousand Years Of Terror

Album · 2018 · Technical Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
In recent years there has been a prolific output of technically gifted musicians from behind the former Iron Curtain with Russia leading the way. Metal vocalist Alexander Mokin, having been raised in the city of Saratov found a connection with myriad extreme metal bands ranging from the classic era of In Flames, Be’Lakor and Metallica along with the more technically gifted wizardry on display with bands like Death, Dissection, Dark Tranquility, Necrophagist and The Chasm.

Mokin started to write his own music in 2012 and four years later was joined by long time friend and guitarist Vlad Kudryavtsev to form the band “Eyes Of Skyglow,” later shortened to SKYGLOW. Once Sergey Stepenenko from Excruciation By Silence replaced Kudryavtsey and handled both guitar and bass duties, the lineup was almost complete with drummer Dmitriy Kim filling the last spot.

In 2017 the band released a short two track demo called “Curse Of The Butterfly” and in 2018 they see their debut THOUSAND YEARS OF TERROR cast its shadow over an unsuspecting world. After a brief virtuosic performance of acoustic classical guitar leading the way, the music bursts into the full pyrogenic fury of technical thrash metal. These guys are riff monsters with a clear Vektor type of fury on display with a youthful energetic bombast, yet with a seasoned flare for dynamic shifts, alternating tempos and dramatic displays of neoclassical virtuosity strewn about.

The inspiration behind the theme of the album lies in Mokin’s analysis of government corruption that tells the tale of a millennium of the horrors of Russian history. While the music is firmly based in unrelenting tech thrash metal, there are health doses of Western classical music in the form of guitar and keyboards that crank out pleasant melodies that develop into fully formed thrash fury. While fitting well into the technical thrash crowds, this is melodic thrash metal that utilizes the lush compositional structures of classical music.

While the world is saturated with a gazillion metal bands as we approach the third decade of the 21st century, very few stand out amongst the ever increasing crowds. SKYGLOW is quite a different story altogether. This is a band that means business and pulls of the chops to accomplish their goal of the tech thrash metal soundtrack of Russian history in all its ugly regalia.

While a mere fledgling in the metal universe, SKYGLOW sounds like a seasoned band around for decades as THOUSAND YEARS OF TERROR not only exceeds in lyrical continuity but bedazzles with virtuosic prowess of the highest degree. The production is also noteworthy as it sounds like a bona fide professional release.

Fueled by shapeshifting time signature rich thrash metal riffs, choppy blastbeats meet jazzified percussive pummelation and brilliant classically rich intermissions accompanied by top notch thrash vocals, SKYGLOW is a band to look out for. On this debut album they display a maturity few bands muster up in a whole career. While the band claims The Chasm as their closest metal relative in stylistic terms, i hear a whole lot of Vektor inspired technicalities that show off their chops in perfect unison.

This is no clone band here. These guys really deliver one brutally satisfying track after another. So far, one of my favorite metal releases of 2018. Perhaps not quite to the level of finding a totally unique sound of their own, but they nailed the traditional classically infused thrash metal sound perfectly. Recommended.

DISTURBED Indestructible

Album · 2008 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 18 ratings
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martindavey87
Having already laid down the foundations for their post-nu metal career with 2005’s ‘Ten Thousand Fists’, Disturbed have finally shed the stigma that came with the subgenre, and established themselves as a legit and credible metal band with 2008’s ‘Indestructible’.

The band has managed to taken the groove-laden guitar style of the aforementioned subgenre whilst blending it effortlessly with an old-school metal mentality and vibe. As a result, ‘Indestructible’ is an album brimming with hooks, choruses and intense guitar work that can appeal to metal fans old and new alike, as well as more casual listeners too.

David Draiman’s melodic vocals work fantastically, his unique style has always given Disturbed their own sound. And they work in complete synergy with Dan Donegan’s guitar riffs, which perfectly capture the essence of traditional metal with the styling of nu metal. Donegan really lets rip a number of times on this album, and shows that he’s more than capable of shredding up the guitar when necessary, but can also show restraint when it’s needed.

Highlights from this release include ‘Indestructible’, ‘Inside the Fire’, ‘Perfect Insanity’, ‘The Night’, ‘Criminal’, ‘Divide’ and ‘The Curse’. The first three tracks in particular were all downloadable content for the incredibly popular 2007 video game ‘Rock Band’, which no doubt helped boost the bands popularity to no end around the time of this albums release.

With a number of stand-out tracks and an outlet for a whole new audience, ‘Indestructible’ is another strong outing by Disturbed, who have so far gone from strength-to-strength since the demise of nu metal, and have firmly cemented themselves as one of the standout metal bands of the 2000’s.

PARADISE LOST Lost Paradise

Album · 1990 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.34 | 27 ratings
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martindavey87
My introduction to doom metal legends Paradise Lost came about with albums such as 1997’s ‘One Second’ and 2007’s ‘In Requiem’. While the music itself is fairly straightforward, I found myself enjoying some of the grooving, yet melancholic, guitar riffs. With melodic and catchy vocals, along with keyboards that give the music more depth and atmosphere, this is something I could very easily get into.

Which brings me to this, 1990’s debut release, ‘Lost Paradise’. Despite being labelled as doom metal, and even death metal, I thought I’d at least give it a chance, seeing as I know what this band will evolve into, there’s no harm in at least trying, right?

But yeah, sure enough, I’m not into this at all

The death metal growls which are impossible to sing along to, the doom-laden guitar riffs that tend to plod along with about as much excitement as a root canal, and the muddy production that actually makes a lot of guitars difficult to really distinguish. Overall, this is a low-budget 1990 death metal album that sounds like a low-budget 1990 death metal album.

I do like Paradise Lost, and I know I’ll definitely be more receptive to their later albums, which seem more melody-driven, but this right here just isn’t for me.

PLATITUDE Nine

Album · 2004 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
Released in 2004, Platitude’s ‘Nine’ is the follow-up to their debut album, ‘Secrets of Life’, which was released just a year prior, and it’s evident in such a short time how much this band has matured and polished their sound.

Part progressive metal, part power metal, somewhat labelled as “melodic metal”, Platitude have that very distinctive European metal style down to a tee. Their songs are pretty easy to get into, with high-energy guitar riffs and beautifully melodic keyboards, this is essentially prog metal which doesn’t require a dozen listens to pick up. Vocalist Erik Blomkvist has an incredible voice, able to hit the high notes while keeping warmth in his tone when not wailing away, his is a voice I could easily listen to all day.

One major difference between this album and its predecessor is that while ‘Secrets of Life’ had a very neoclassical edge to it, with a huge emphasis on shredding and virtuoso guitar playing, ‘Nine’ has taken a step back and stripped down the number of acrobatics. This favours guitarist Gustav Kollerstrom heavily, as his style is more riff-oriented, and while he isn’t known by any means for being a guitar guru, his performance and songwriting is impeccable and consistently interesting, and the very few times he does truly let rip stand out even more because of it.

Some of the highlights from this album include ‘Skies of Xenon’, ‘Dark Mind’, ‘Trust’, ‘Halcyon Days’, ‘Oblivion’ and ‘Catch 22’. But pretty much every song on this release is of a high standard, making ‘Nine’ by Platitude an incredibly underrated hidden gem, by a band which sadly mostly stayed under the radar of fans of this genre. If you’re into melodic metal, then this, or its successor, ‘Silence Speaks’ are definitely worth checking out.

ENSLAVED The Sleeping Gods

EP · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 20 ratings
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FMOTP
The Sleeping Gods is one of Enslaved's best releases IMO, because of its variety and innovation. Aren't skill and creativity why we're here at MMA? It shows the band moving into previously unexplored territory. At the same time, it maintains Enslaved's typical high level of composing and performing quality. I give The Sleeping Gods an enthusiastic 4 stars. Enslaved doesn't put out junk, so this whole CD is quite listenable.

For those who aren't as familiar with Enslaved, "Heimvegen" is an fine, representative place to start. However, I'm going with "Nordlys" and "The Sleeping Gods". They strongly demonstrate Enslaved's customary willingness to try new things, which is probably the best thing about this EP. Some of the songs like "Synthesis" drag on a bit, and I wouldn't pick The Sleeping Gods as the first Enslaved CD to listen to. However, it's still an excellent addition to collection, if innovative metal is your cup of tea. thwok | 4/5 | 2014-9-6

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