Metal Music Reviews

SEVENDUST Home

Album · 1999 · Nu Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 3 ratings
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martindavey87
While Sevendust’s second album, 1999’s ‘Home’, is a step up from its predecessor, it’s still a fairly average album at best. There’s a noticeable improvement in the band’s sound and performance, and a number of solid tracks make this album superior to the group’s debut.

With nu metal on the rise, Sevendust’s “alternative” brand of metal was starting to gain the band some recognition, with a good balance of groove, heaviness and melody, the Atlanta-based five-piece are starting to sound a lot more polished with their sound. In particular, vocalist Lajon Witherspoon’s interesting mixture of singing, shouting and rapping is starting to really suit the music better than before. The guitars are also sounding a lot more confident, with the twin-guitar format being utilized to full effect.

Personal highlights for me include ‘Headtrip’, ‘Rumble Fish’, ‘Licking Cream’, ‘Denial’, ‘Bender’ and the title track. While a number of songs on this album seem similar and repetitive, these ones stand out, and show a band that may have finally stumbled upon a sound that’ll give them their own identity.

‘Home’, ultimately, isn’t a bad album, and has its fair share of memorable moments. But it’s just not an album I’d consider coming back to very often. Sevendust are certainly showing potential for greater things though, and with the nu metal subgenre on the verge of taking over the world (this is back in 1999, remember), it’ll be interesting to see if the band can fulfil that potential on later releases.

BONE GNAWER Feast of Flesh

Album · 2009 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Feast of Flesh" is the debut full-length studio album by multi-national death metal act Bone Gnawer. The album was released through Pulverised Records in June 2009. Bone Gnawer were 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 performs backing vocals on this project (he ususally plays guitar and performs lead vocals). The two also work together in The Grotesquery. The lineup is completed by Morgan Lie on drums and Ronnie Björnström on guitars/backing vocals.

The music on the album is old school death metal combining the best from the Swedish and the American scenes. Unlike the horror concept story themed albums of The Grotesquery, which is a project that musically shares a lot of similarities with Bone Gnawer, the lyrical themes and imagery on "Feast of Flesh" are focused heavily on gore and on cannibalism in particular. Song titles like "Cannibal Cook-Out", "Sliced & Diced", "Feast of Flesh", and the reference to the 1980 Italian Joe D'Amato directed cannibal movie "Anthropophagus" ("The Grim Reaper" in USA) in "Anthropophagus Beast" also tell that story.

Musically you get everything you´d expect from an old school death metal release. Crushingly heavy doomy parts, mid-paced death metal grooves, and faster parts too (no blast beats). Kam Lee is one of the more distinct sounding death metal vocalists out there, and his intelligible deep growling and higher pitched screams suit the music well. The material are generally well written and for the most part infectiously catchy. Although it´s certainly both dark and brutal like you´d expect from a death metal release, there´s also an occasional humourous edge, that I think works in the the band´s favour. Particularly the way Kam Lee performs his vocal lines on "Cannibal Cook-Out" stands out as good B-Horror movie fun. Some might find it to be bad taste, but if you enjoy campy, then this certainly applies.

"Feast of Flesh" is well performed and well produced too, and upon conclusion it´s obvious that the combination of Kam Lee and Rogga Johansson is a winner (also if you take into consideration the high quality of their Grotesquery output). So if you enjoy old school death metal with intelligible growling vocals, and gore/cannibal themed vocals, delivered by skilled musicians, and written in a catchy memorable style, I can highly recommend "Feast of Flesh". A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ILLDISPOSED Retro

Album · 2000 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"Retro" is the 4th full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Illdisposed. The album was released through Diehard Music in 2000. The cover artwork was created by Joe Petagno (who is known for his work on several Motörhead album covers as well as a wide varity of creative work for other artists).

"Retro" is a covers album, mainly with Illdisposed´s versions of classic tracks by death- and thrash metal artists like Carcass, Venom, and Obituary, but the album also features a couple of more surprising covers in "Killed by Death" by Motörhead, and "Beating Around the Bush" by AC/DC. The quality of the performances, the sound production, and the arrangements of the tracks are generally on a decent level, and Illdisposed manages to put their own mark on the material, although they are not themselves the most original sounding act, so that of course also has some impact on how the covers sound.

As mentioned all tracks on the 11 track, 51:53 minutes long album are of a good quality, but I´d mention "Cromlech" by Darkthrone, "Reek of Putrefaction" by Carcass, and "Out of the Body" by Pestilence as some of the highlights. Overall "Retro" is pretty good covers album by Illdisposed and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

PYRRHON Fever Kingdoms

EP · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Tech metal is one of those nebulous areas of music that i still find very difficult to figure out why some bands totally work for me and others don’t despite all the tech chops being checked off like clockwork. While bands like Deathspell Omega and Gorguts have soared to the top of the charts for their innovative and creative avant-garde take on established sub-genera of the metal universe, others sorta fall between the cracks. PYRRHON is one such band that despite cranking out all the expected techy aspects in abundance, sorta fail to inspire beyond a certain level and that is no more apparent than on their debut EP release FEVER KINGDOMS which came out in 2010.

The band was founded all the way back in 2008 when guitarist Dylan DiLeila and bassist Mike Sheen met by happenstance on a subway platform and then found drummer Alex Cohen to join the crew. Along the way they found Doug Moore to join in as vocalist. While PYRRHON has in recent years upped their game and joined the ranks of the more known ranks of the tech death metal universe alongside other surreal noisemakers such as Portal, Ulcerate or Mithras, on FEVER KINGDOMS they take a rather generic sounding approach with a sound that somehow finds itself somewhere between death metal with the gutteral growls and frenetic angular riffs but with more of a mathcore in yer face grind that churns on relentlessly in full extreme metal fashion.

While these elements are not that bad within themselves, this EP unfortunately lacks any sort of variety or attention grabbing ideas. And along with that, i find the drumming style of Alex Cohen a little lackluster for the type of tech death they are trying to capture. Another band that is similar is Gigan who master the surreal and detached psychedelic metal sound that they strive to create. In their case the musicians are bombastic and unapologetically ferocious and have the chops to pull it off as well as an imagination that allows a flexibility that is needed for the cosmic metal ride. FEVER KINGDOMS seems to just plod along predictably with each of the five tracks sounding alike with the same riffs recycled.

What it boils down to with PYRRHON’s debut is that something is woefully missing to give this sonic noise parade some sort of spirit. It plods along checking off all the boxes of extreme tech metal but doesn’t deliver in anything that is very satisfying. In the tech death universe where sonic maelstroms can easily resemble any other, the differences are very subtle and the tight wire act between something outstandingly original and woefully cliche and lackluster can be a very small margin of differences and in the case of PYRRHON’s FEVER KINGDOMS falls short of the interesting mark and leaves me quite unsatisfied especially after experiencing their more mature albums first.

PORCUPINE TREE Coma Divine II

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1999 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 3 ratings
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FMOTP
I consider it a tragedy that these 2 or 3 songs (I would call it 3) were not on the original COMA DIVINE album. The only reason might have been that they wouldn't fit on the CD. Luckily, that problem was rectified with the DELERIUM reissue, where you can hear the studio versions. It obviously has nothing to do with the quality of the songs. This is great music. I would guess that this EP hasn't been reviewed by others because these songs are easily available in other formats. Apparently, these tracks are also part of the COMA DIVINE reissue. I would also guess that a lot of people just don't bother with EP's or singles; I personally prefer 30 or 40 minutes of music. Prog Archives labels Porcupine Tree a "heavy prog" band, which is an apt description. PT hadn't started incorporating a lot of metal into their music yet; that wouldn't happen until a couple of albums later.

I've used up enough words not talking about this music! Anyone who listens to enough Porcupine Tree probably knows these songs, if not these versions, so I won't discuss them at length. I'm rarely effusive in my reviews (or in my life generally), but this live version of "The Moon Touches Your Shoulder" is amazing. The guitar playing is unbelievable. "Always Never" is almost as good. Two considerations prevent me from giving COMA DIVINE II a 5-star rating, which is something I rarely do. First is my opinion that "Up The Downstair", as good as it is, isn't on the same level as the other two songs. The other consideration is the possible low interest level, due to the running time, of this EP for a lot of Porcupine Tree fans. IMHO everyone with an interest in Porcupine Tree would be well served by listening to this.

MEGADETH Still, Alive... and Well?

Boxset / Compilation · 2002 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.50 | 4 ratings
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martindavey87
‘Still, Alive... And Well?’ is a “compilation” released by Megadeth in 2002. It features a selection of six live tracks and six studio recordings, and is a completely pointless and irrelevant album to own. There’s no reason at all for this to exist save but one... in 2002 Dave Mustaine suffered an injury that forced him to retire and disband Megadeth (don’t worry... they’d be back a couple of years later). However, contractual obligations meant he still owed Sanctuary Records one more release.

Which brings us to this little nugget of joy...

‘Still, Alive...’ starts off with six live cuts from Megadeth’s final two shows (pre-retirement, anyway). The choice of songs is a bit odd, and none of them flow. The sound is also pretty bad, especially with regards to the fact that Dave’s guitar seems louder than anything else. The liner notes sees MegaDave claiming to be honoured to share these songs with us... but we can all read through his lies. This album is a quick fix to a legal problem. Aw well...

The second half of the album contains six songs from the bands previous studio release, ‘The World Needs a Hero’. The likes of ‘Moto Psycho’, ‘The World Needs a Hero’ and ‘Dread and the Fugitive Mind’ are all good songs, but aren’t enough to save this supposed compilation. And the fact it’s six tracks all from the same album is a bit of a slap in the face. Whatever...

Not worth the price for the live songs, and the addition of the studio recordings makes this a bit of a mockery to fans that paid for it. Overall, ‘Still, Alive... And Well’ is barely passable as something for die-hard fans, and otherwise is something to completely ignore and forget it ever existed.

GOTSU TOTSU KOTSU 魍魎 (Mouryou)

Album · 2009 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"魍魎 (Mouryou)" is the debut full-length studio album by Japanese death/thrash metal act Gotsu Totsu Kotsu (or 兀突骨 in Japanese). The album was released through Bang the Head Records in 2009. Gotsu Totsu Kotsu features among others (at the time) Defiled bassist (and on this project also vocalist) Haruhisa Takahata.

The music on the album is a raw and brutal form of thrash metal with growling vocals. It´s energetic, aggressive, and organic in execution. In many ways similar to other brutal thrash metal acts out there, but one thing sets Gotsu Totsu Kotsu apart from other artists playing the style, and that´s the bass playing of Haruhisa Takahata. He plays a brutal and busy slap bass (so no funky sounding slap bass here) throughout the album, which provide the music with some originality. If you´re familiar with his contributions to Defiled´s material the distinct sounding bass playing is no surprise though.

The material is slightly one-dimensional but solid and relatively catchy throughout, so overall "魍魎 (Mouryou)" might not be a revelation, but it´s still a very enjoyable thrash metal album in the more brutal end of the spectrum. a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

DEATH Scream Bloody Gore

Album · 1987 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.27 | 57 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
When it comes to metal music legends, the story of Chuck Shuldner’s epic journey with his influential band DEATH has to be one of the most enduring as Schuldner is not only regarded as the godfather of the entire death metal subgenere but one of the most innovative musical influences in the entire metal genre period ( . ) with each album in his all too short career taking massive leaps of evolution over what came before. When it comes to the origins of death metal, the endless debate will surely revolve around who really created it and the answer will forever exist in the morbid murky nebulous annals of history and the idiosyncratic definitions of when and where the death metal sub actually split off from its parent thrash metal. I have developed my own take on this and instead of assigning a clearcut definition, i prefer to view it from a rather biological evolutionary perspective since musical developments occur in much the same manner as do animal and plant species. One species clearly could not exist without branching off of another and each slight differentiation may or may not constitute a relabeling of its characteristics and corresponding nomenclature.

In the case of death metal, there can be absolutely no doubt that the underpinnings of the sub originated with the English heavy metal pioneers Venom whose macabre and bantering din laced with the first vociferations of harsh shouted vocals would ultimately blossom into what would later be called extreme metal. In the beginning Venom was in a metal limbo or rather a somewhat embryonic extreme metal stage where thrash, black and death metal were all nestled within the very DNA of the caustic sonic waves that emerged from their baleful expressions of societal contempt and verbal vitriol wrapped up in distorted decibelage and breakneck speed outbursts. Out of this primordial cesspool sprang forth other early degenerates such as Celtic Frost, Slayer and Kreator as they began to diversify the intensity and focus of their bombastic approaches. These could be considered the proto-death metal bands that not only launched the nascent beginnings of the thrash scene but also were ultimately influential for the evil contorts of Bathory which would hatch the wretched spawn of black metal, death metal’s evil twin.

The next phase in the development of death metal is undoubtedly the Bay Area’s own Possessed who took Slayer’s extreme speed and demonic gore to even greater extremities with lightning fast blitzkriegs of thundering riffing, bantering percussive drive and Jeff Becerra’s guttural vocals, a style that to many, defines the very essence of the death metal sub entirely, however musically Possessed were very much still a thrash metal band as they hadn’t quite taken that final step into low-tuned tremolo picking riffing accompanied by the double kick blastbeat drumming that utilized the ugliest aspects of minor keys, atonality and wicked chromatic chord progressions. They were still a few baby steps away from what we would call death metal today, but personally i find them to exist in that crucial phase 2 development of death metal much like a tadpole (which would be Venom and friends) would development limbs (the Possessed phase) but still not quite the frog that is free of its fully aquatic features and thus keeps it from being a full fledged amphibian, the completely liberated death metal stage.

Chuck Schuldner’s DEATH is where that very amphibian phase of death metal finally came of age. Schuldner had been unleashing his sonic terror onto the world with his many demos (released under the moniker Mantas as well as DEATH) but these too were somewhere in the Possessed camp of proto-death with thrash leanings. Always the visionary even at the young tender age of seventeen, Schuldner set out to evolve his own brand of extreme metal into something even uglier, taking his primary metal influences of Possessed and Slayer to the next level. In the search for the musical talent to take him to this new level, Chuck had one helluva time finding anyone to fill these roles and after moving from his native Florida to the San Francisco Bay Area and then to Canada and then back to the Bay Area. After placing an ad or two, Schuldner finally found promise in the 17-year old drummer Chris Reifert but was unsatisfied with the music scene as nobody else fit the bill to fill the shoes of his new musical vision.

Undeterred, Schuldner opted to record his debut DEATH demo “Mutilation” completely by himself with only Reifert along for the ride, therefore Schuldner performed all lead and rhythm guitars along with bass and vocals. Although John Hand had briefly joined the band, he didn’t play on any recordings or participate in any live settings either. “Mutilation” proved quite the hit on the underground cassette trading community and caught the attention of the fledgling extreme metal label Combat Records which enabled Schuldner and Reifert to record their full-length debut SCREAM BLOODY GORE. The process proved to be more trouble than expected as the album was recorded once in Florida and then by record company demand had to be re-recorded once more in California with Rnady Burns as the producer. While many tracks such as “Infernal Death” and “Baptized By Blood” had appeared on prior demos, half the tracks on SCREAM BLOODY GORE were completely new and therefore the album has an interesting range of primal to more sophisticated, albeit nowhere near as complex and crazy as DEATH would become with each subsequent release.

Point blank, SCREAM BLOODY GORE was a shout out to the metal universe that something new had emerged and that something was the equivalent to a nuclear bomb being dropped at a Bon Jovi concert turned horror movie where audience members’ body parts rained o’er the blood stained lands. And so it was. Death metal was born on 25 May, 1987 as SCREAM BLOODY GORE made its debut to an unsuspecting public that while unheard by the masses has only gained its legendary status as the following decades ensued. Like many metal fans, i myself had only come to experience the magic of DEATH in a posthumous Chuck Schuldner reality. Despite being the DEATH album with the least finesse, there’s a certain rawness and assured certainty in the powerful delivery that infuses the ethos of hardcore punk with the provident shock and awe for an entire branch of the metal universe to spiral off of. SCREAM BLOODY GORE has to be one of the most ferocious sonic attacks of all the 80s, taking the frenetic bantering of Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” and adding a sense of brutality and offensiveness never heard before. Much of the subject matter was inspired by horror movies such as “City Of The Living Dead,” The Beyond” and “Zombie” and Schuldner pummeled the senses with a sense of sonic horror hitherto unmatched.

When all is said and done, one can only bow down to the metal god that was Chuck Schuldner and pay reverence to his pivotal role in the great big bang of the death metal scene. Perhaps other acts such as Morbid Angel or Obituary would have eventually reached similar musical conclusions, but it was Chuck Schuldner who relentless strived to exercise extreme creativity that would ratchet every single album he touched into higher levels of musical expression in his ceaseless reach for the stars and beyond. While no one could ever conflate the magnanimous progressive achievements of albums such “The Sound Of Perseverance” with DEATH’s earliest offerings, there is also no denying that no one quite dished out the old death school charm like Schuldner did on SCREAM BLOODY GORE with not only its landmark old school death metal cover art but also with the pummeling guitar riffs, the frenetic skin punishing percussion or the grim growly gusto of Schuldner’s vocal style.

While this debut may not be the my first album of choice for repeated listens out of the septet of DEATH’s canon, it is clearly the one that deserves the most respect for paving the way for everything death metal related to follow and remains as enigmatic today as it must’ve sounded all those decades ago. THIS is truly one of those “must hear before you die” sort of albums not only for its immortal legendary status of ushering in one of the most popular metal styles of the 90s but must be experienced for its punishing ear assaults that crank out one addictive mutilated groove after another. After recording SCREAM BLOODY GORE, Schuldner would move back to Florida leaving Reifert behind as he would opt to remain in California to create his own band Autopsy. And so the tradition of a new lineup for every album was born along with an entirely new subgenere that continues to evolve in a post-Schuldner world but still carries on his musical DNA in the tapestry of every fiber of the death metal universe.

DREAM THEATER The Astonishing

Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.97 | 34 ratings
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Uknowntoall
Ok...I know there is a lot of confliction about this record and people have their different opinions on its execution, but I am one of those who is not afraid to admit that I quite liked this record...I'm not saying that its a bad album or a great album, I think it sits somewhere in middle ground along with albums like 'Falling into Infinity' and 'When Day and Dream Unite', which in turn weren't really Dream Theater's strongest moments or that's what I think. Getting back to the album itself I found that this had a different curve on the music as it seems to be more dominated by Piano, Keyboard and orchestration rather than the extreme guitar and synth work Dream Theater is better known for, I'm not saying different is a bad thing though as bands tend to change music styles to suit a particular audience to attracted new fans while trying to keep old fans interested and coming back for more, but it seemed that this lighter approach put off a lot of old DT fans sadly. The only thing I was disappointed with was John Myoung's bass lines couldn't be heard and Mike Mangini's druming was a little too simplistic in places, but I enjoyed the concept of the record, I will say that when you first listen to it you really need to have the lyric book open so you know which character James LaBrie is portraying in turn and you really need to have alot of focus/concerntration for this record due to the duration of it...131 minutes worth of music and lyric content over 2CDs...glad I did have focus for this album...I would only say listen to this if you have the time and patience for it.

MY DYING BRIDE A Map of All our Failures

Album · 2012 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 11 ratings
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FMOTP
A Map of All Our Failures is one of MDB"s better efforts IMHO. If you're an MDB fan, which I am without a doubt, everything they've done is at least worth a listen. I particularly like what Aaron Stainthorpe is doing lately, so A Map of All Our Failures is a 4 star album for me.

I like the way that Aaron's singing has developed over time. His bass/baritone has become more expressive and interesting. He has also pretty much done away with the growling. There is a bit of the death metal growling on "The Poorest Waltz", but I don't miss it. I think his lyrics have improved. They used to be mostly a group of violent descriptions of doom and suffering. Now there's more structure. One of my favorite tracks is "Hail Odysseus", which is clearly based on The Odyssey.

The only thing I could think of to complain about is the length of the songs. Eight songs grouped together for a little over an hour's worth of music is a bit much. However, the tempo changes in each song make them more interesting. I wouldn't put MDB's CDs on the greatest albums list, but A Map of All Our Failures is fully worthy of 4 stars.

OVERKILL From the Underground and Below

Album · 1997 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 14 ratings
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UMUR
"From the Underground and Below" is the 9th full-length studio album by US, New York based thrash metal act Overkill. The album was released through Steamhammer Records in September 1997. It´s the successor to "The Killing Kind" from 1996...

...and if you are familiar with "The Killing Kind (1996)", "From the Underground and Below" pretty much continues where that album left off. It´s groove oriented thrash metal with a very heavy sound production. The band are as always very well playing and Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth delivers his raw vocals with conviction and passion.

The material is generally well written and relatively effective, but the songwriting is not exactly adventurous and there aren´t many tracks featured on the album which are catchy beyond what is usual for the band´s material. "Long Time Dyin'" has since become a live stable for the band, and it´s one of the highlights on the album, but it´s probably "Promises" which stands out the most on the album, as it´s a power ballad type track, which you won´t hear often from Overkill.

As mentioned "From the Underground and Below" features a very powerful sound production, which provides the music with an ultra heavy sound. There´s a metallic tone to it (especially the bass), which suits the music well. Upon conclusion "From the Underground and Below" is another quality release by Overkill and while it´s not the strongest release in their discography and you´ll have to be able to appreciate the groove metal element (which is something I´ve learned a lot of old school thrash metal listeners have a very hard time doing), it´s still a pretty good album deserving a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

TRIPTYKON Eparistera Daimones

Album · 2010 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.35 | 21 ratings
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UMUR
"Eparistera Daimones" is the debut full-length studio album by Swiss extreme metal act Triptykon. The album was released through Prowling Death Records Ltd. in March 2010. Triptykon was formed by former Celtic Frost vocalist/guitarist Thomas Gabriel Fischer, after the Swiss extreme metal pioneers folded in 2008 for the second time in their career. Fischer teamed up with V. Santura (guitars, vocals), Vanja Slajh (bass), and Norman Lonhard (drums, percussion) who complete the four-piece lineup.

The music on "Eparistera Daimones" pretty much takes off where Celtic Frost´s "Monotheist (2006)" left off, new bandname and lineup or not. That means an eclectic style of extreme metal which features elements from death, thrash, black, doom, and gothic metal, but ultimately aren´t any of those. The atmosphere is dark, bitter, and at times quite aggressive. The riffs and beats are predominantly brick heavy yet rhythmic, which means that a doom metal tag it only occassionally valid, and there are faster paced parts on the album too.

The material is generally very well written, and the at times repetitive song structures don´t become tedious, because they are implemented to create a dark ritualistic effect. Something which works wonders for the band. From the first notes of the 11:00 minutes long opener "Goetia" to the last notes of 19:00 minutes long closer "The Prolonging", "Eparistera Daimones" is a very entertaining and relatively diverse album, which screams high quality and not the least passion, skill, and conviction behind the delivery. The vocals are predominantly raw yet fully intelligible, but there are both male and female clean vocals featured on the album too (although in smaller doses).

The sound production, which was handled by Thomas Gabriel Fischer and V. Santura, is also a great asset. "Eparistera Daimones" is simply an incredibly well produced album with a powerful, dark, and heavy sound. Especially the guitar sound is menacing, but the bass is also given a lot of room in the mix, which provides the sound with a lot of heavy bottom. So all in all it´s hard to find any flaws to mention and that´s almost always a sign of high quality, and a 4.5 star (90%) rating is fully deserved.

PANZERCHRIST 7th Offensive

Album · 2013 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"7th Offensive" is the 7th full-length studio album by Danish death metal act Panzerchrist. The album was released through Listenable Records in July 2013. After a longer hiatus Panzerchrist released "Regiment Ragnarok" in 2011 but although "7th Offensive" was released relatively shortly after that (2 years between albums is pretty normal these days), a lot has happened to the lineup in those few years. Panzerchrist was always a pretty unstable band when it came to the lineup, but this time around there have been more changes than usual as only band founder Michael Enevoldsen (here using the alias Panzergeneral) remains from the lineup who recorded "Regiment Ragnarok (2011)". New faces are Simon Schilling (drums), Nils Petersen (guitars), and Søren Lønne (vocals). Enevoldsen handles bass and keyboards.

The music on the album is relatively brutal death metal, but it´s not without melodic moments, and it´s actually relatively catchy for the style. New vocalist Søren Lønne is a pretty standard deep growling and relatively unintelligible singer, and his singing style suits the music well. The musicianship is overall on a decent level, but to my ears new drummer Simon Schilling´s drumming style is a bit of an issue. Maybe he has been instructed to not play any fills or to play as lifeless as possible, but he sounds so much like a machine, that I initially thought that the drums were programmed. An assumption which was further fueled by the artificial drum sound. Especially the cymbals/hi-hat and the snare drum sound like they were programmed, so there´s an issue with the sound production too.

The material is generally well written and for the genre relatively varied, and as usual the lyrics focus on war, which songtitles like "Panzer the 7th Offensive", "The Stronghold of Hill 666", and "Napalm Alarm", are a testament to. If I have to compare the music style on "7th Offensive" to some of the band´s previous releases, it would be the first couple of albums that I think about, and neither the direct predecessor nor the Bo Summer fronted albums.

So it´s an album with both good sides and bad sides, but overall it´s a decent quality release and if the monotone drumming doesn´t bother you, you´ll probably enjoy it a bit more than I do. Personally I expected a bit more, and I definitely don´t count "7th Offensive" among the band´s best releases, but a 3 - 3.5 star (65%) rating is still deserved.

GIGAN Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescense

Album · 2017 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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GIGAN (ガイガン) took a five year hiatus from the studios but after fan speculation as to whether or not Godzilla finally won the final battle, the mystery is solved as the Tampa, FL tech death metal champs release their fourth album UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE, which once again finds founder and main creative director Eric Hersemann ushering in yet another new lineup of the band. While drum abuser in chief Nathan Cotton joins the cast for a reprise following 2013’s “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science,” vocalist Ethan Browne is out and newbie Jerry Kavouriaris is in. However, to be honest despite the rotating cast of vocalists and musicians since the band’s inception, all manage to fit their respective roles perfectly and therefore one would be hard pressed to differentiate one vocalist’s ghoulish growls from another.

While tech death metal bands in the 21st century are aplenty and many fade into the generic backdrop of this boisterous and noisy nook of the musical universe, GIGAN (ガイガン) have proved themselves as rising above the din drudgery and taking the extreme metal by storm with their utterly unique mix of tech death chops, jittery angularities of mathcore style guitar riffage all packaged with dissonant Gorguts styled progressive freeform compositions laced with exuberant brumes of psychedelic haziness glistening over the bombastic aggressiveness that will somewhat bring other avant-garde noisemakers Pyrrhon, Portal or Cephalic Carnage to mind but only in a “nearest family tree” sorta way.

GIGAN (ガイガン) had been ramping up both their progressive and aggressive metal assaults on each subsequent album and IMHO peaked with their approach on their previous album “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science” with their hyperdrive relentless speed, churning angularities and psychedelic infusions that created the perfect speed metal mediation session. Hersemann steers his plangent progified beast into somewhat new directions with UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE. One of the most noticeable differences is the abstaining of speed of light tech antics for the entirely of the space metal roller coaster ride.

While Cotton has proved himself to be one of those unbelievably blitzkrieg fast types of drummers who can navigate the percussive constructs like a caffeinated squirrel with an adrenaline rush, on this one he is much more selective in how he unleashes his fury. In fact, much of the time the drumming is more akin to sludge metal bands like EyeHateGod or post-metal bands like Isis. Same goes for the down-tuned guitars and overall feel of the album. It seems that there were no new limits to breach and the only place to go was to retreat to some sort of more familiar grounds and therefore the tempos have been tamed with speedy outbursts only occurring for periods of contrast. “Ocular Wavelength’s Floral Obstructions” is the perfect example of this. A down-tuned distortion-fest that runs the gamut of chilled out distorted heavy sludge metal that jumps into tech death overdrive and back.

While poising themselves more into an accessible arena that allow certain segments to breath, GIGAN (ガイガン) perhaps are trying to widen their appeal for only a small sliver of us freaks thoroughly enjoy music that pushes the triumvirate aspects of tech metal, progressive constructs and psychedelic detachment to break orbit into freeform destruction, but personally i find that is exactly what GIGAN (ガイガン) achieved with resounding success. For me UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE is somewhat of a step down as far as exploration of taking the aforementioned elements to their extremes. Having disconnected from the world’s consciousness being achieved, it seems GIGAN (ガイガン) is more susceptible to finding that happy medium between freeform freedom and audience connection.

As with all GIGAN (ガイガン) albums, UNDULATING WAVES OF RAINBIOTIC IRIDESCENSE requires a number of listens to really sink in for even hardcore and jaded prog saturated metalheads such as myself can barely grasp this on a single spin. There are simply too many elements to keep track of and only patience can yield the proper results even if the process is equivalent to taking a census of hostile asteroids hurling through space in myriad directions. My first impression was of disappointment with the new stylistic approach but subsequent listens have me more impressed with the diversity that has blossomed from the new developments. Jazz infused tech drum rolls still grace the angular sonicscape, the expected guitar squeals still there but simply surrounded by less frenetic Gorguts-ish avant-garde sludgery. Yes, it grew on me. Another winner.

MOTORPSYCHO Lobotomizer

Album · 1991 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 4 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
MOTORPSYCHO is one of Norway’s most prolific and diverse sounding bands having racked up much critical acclaim for their ambitious stream of never-ending albums that feature genre-blending stylistic approaches and are most recognized in the world of progressive rock. However in the beginning when the band was founded by vocalist / bassist Bent Saether, guitarist / vocalist Hans Magnus Ryan and original drummer Kjell Runar Jensaen, the band was firmly grounded in the alternative heavy metal and grunge that was taking over the world in the early 90s. After a couple of warm-up demos, MOTORPSYCHO made their debut in 1991 with LOBOTOMIZER which found the band at their rawest, least progressive and as the cover suggests rooted in a stoner-tinged psychedelia or more appropriately called stoner metal.

LOBOTOMIZER fits somewhere in the murky area between hard rock, grunge and alternative metal. Most resembling Soundgarden in their earliest years with heavily distorted down-tuned guitar riffing, chunky bass and that now famous grungy drum along stylistic percussive drive, MOTORPSYCHO also exhibit a heavy speedy drive that keeps the music churning along with only a couple tracks like “Wasted” and “Eternity” slowing things down a few notches. While the heavy rock still retains a rather bluesy compositional approach not dissimilar to Alice In Chains, Melvins or Monster Magnet, the band was already a little more sophisticated than the average grunge band even at the very beginning with more dynamic compositional approaches that were displaying progressive tendencies albeit unfulfilled.

While most of LOBOTIMIZER is on hard rock overdrive, “Eternity” stands out as one of their most psychedelic offerings with lush acoustic guitar strumming, electronic swirling effects reminding me a bit of Hawkwind and more tripped out electric guitar antics. “Hogwash,” one of their crowd favorites in live performances extends over eight minutes and provides a cool psychedelic jam that utilizes a heavily distorted guitar groove and Geir Nilsen’s guest appearance on Hammond organ bringing a veritable 60s vibe to the table. The best and most accomplished track is reserved as the the closer with the near twelve minute “TFC” which takes both aspects of heavy grungy rock and psychedelia and churns out a lengthy mind bending trip into the alternative promised land with all kinds of Krautrock-ish freakouts thus flaunting their freak flag creds.

While LOBOTOMIZER is heavily steeped in the early 90s regalia of grunge and alternative metal, it’s clear in retrospect albeit probably not at the time that MOTORPSYCHO was more sophisticated than the average grunge band on the block. Snuck into the mix was the use of violins and other sound affects to augment the trippiness effect and the interesting mixes themselves evoked an extreme sense of thoughtfulness absent from the major players of the day. While MOTORPSYCHO would score big in their native Norway all throughout their alternative 90s years, success would escape their clutches on a global scale. Although LOBOTOMIZER is often ranked as the band’s weakest effort, i find this to be a truly satisfying slice of early 90s alternative metal / grunge that offers a lot more sophistication than the average Nirvana album for sure. Will Saether’s vocal antics evoke the 90s, Ryan’s guitar feedback and fuzz just as easily bring the 60s to the forefront. Perhaps not their best but not one to be skipped either.

AT THE GATES To Drink From The Night Itself

Album · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.62 | 3 ratings
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Nightfly
AT War With Reality, 2014’s comeback album from At The Gates was criticized by some for being too safe and clinical sounding. Personally, I had no problem with it at all and welcomed the bands return to the upper echelons of melodic death metal. In fact I thought it so good I voted it my album of the year on this site and felt that many songs such as The Night Eternal and Eater Of Gods, to name just two, were showing the band at the top of their game.

No such criticism is likely to levelled at To Drink From The Night Itself. It’s a heavier, darker and murkier sounding album. In fact my eyebrows were initially raised over the production where the vocals and drums sound like they’re coming from the opposite end of a very long room to the rest of the band which took a bit of getting used to. I must admit that initially I was a little disappointed but after spending quite a bit of time with it my opinion has changed a hell of a lot. The biggest concern prior to the album’s release was how much of difference it was going to make to the band’s sound minus original guitarist Anders Björler who left in 2017. Fortunately, none at all. This is clearly the sound of At The Gates – the melancholic and melodic riffs, tremolo picked guitars and of course Tomas Lindberg’s distinctive high register growl. New guitarist Jonas Stålhammar has fit seamlessly in, no doubt an advantage having already played in The Lurking Fear with Lindberg and drummer Adrian Erlandsson.

As I said earlier this album did take a few plays to fully reveal itself, in part down to the production. The title track was the first song I heard when the band released it 2 or 3 months back. I must admit that despite being good I wasn’t blown away by it, it being pretty much At The Gates by numbers. It has since grown on me more but there’s much better on offer here, the second half of the album being particularly impressive where they barely put a foot wrong, with songs like In Nameless Sleep and The Mirror Black, after a slow start, having a vibe similar to The Night Eternal, my favourite song from At War With Reality with their use of guitar arpeggios and Erlandsson’s triplet double kick pattern. The latter closing the album in a similar fashion until the strings kick in at the very end. The first half still has some impressive moments though with A Stare Bound In Stone and Palace Of Lepers being particularly good.

To Drink From The Night Itself may bring nothing new to the table, it may not be better than At War With Reality overall, but that’s more to do with my love of that album than any weaknesses here and the production was certainly better last time around. It does however prove to be a consistently excellent album and contains some of the bands finest moments. I keep getting drawn back to it and I can’t give it a better recommendation than to say it’s my most played album since it was released.

GIGAN Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science

Album · 2013 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
GIGAN (ガイガン) forge ahead and create another dose of 21st century technical space death metal on their third album MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FRACTAL-SORCERY AND SUPER SCIENCE. And as the name implies this is indeed a twisted space age fantasy world run amok fortified by the marriage of pummeling brutal progressive death metal bathed in an icy cold space ambience that offers a glimpse into the farthest reaches of the galaxy as if the sonic resonance of an obliterated world had somehow transmitted its fractal based coding into musical form.

GIGAN (ガイガン) for all intents and purposes is really the baby of Eric Hersemann who covers most ground here. He contributes guitar, bass, synthesizers, theremin, xylophone, lyrics and production. Album number three finds two new members join ranks as Nathan Cotton replaces Kesava Doane as drum abuser in chief and Eston Browne taking the vocal parts away from John Collett II. Despite the new team players on this surreal death metal galactic journey, the band continues undeterred as GIGAN (ガイガン) spawns one of their most brutal, most progressive and most surreal psychedelic space metal releases of their career.

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FRACTAL-SORCERY AND SUPER SCIENCE is in effect a refinement of the style that GIGAN (ガイガン) had begun to develop on their debut EP “Footsteps Of Gigan,” that being a definitive style of pummeling brutal yet technical death metal that utilizes aspects of math rock angularity with ridiculously jittery and unrelenting progressive time signature deviations yet soars along at a million miles an hour in a rather calculated manner. Sandwiched in between tracks is the sonic iridescence of frigid spaced out ambience that at it’s most intimidating sounds much like when a CD is skipping and when at its most placid more like a space fog or some sort of precognizant whale song being sorted out deep within a beluga’s brain.

Either way, the underlying psychedelic ambience seems to anchor the brutality thus keeping it navigating in a comprehensible stream rather than lash out viciously in unpredictable behaviors although the riffs crest out in peaks and troughs like schizophrenic sine waves on steroids. While classified as death metal due to the unintelligible animalistic bantering, screams and guttural growls, the guitar takes many liberties as once it establishes a clear path of ear canal destruction with pummeling extreme metal riffs, it takes little side journeys into angular alley with frenetic finger breaking workouts more akin to mathcore legends Psyopus or Behold….The Arctopus.

Hersemann had had extraordinary luck in attracting some of the most technically sophisticated drummers in his GIGAN (ガイガン) project with each ridiculously talented member dishing out one pummeling jazzy percussive variation after another as well as bantering blastbeats from the underworld and back. MULTI-DIMENSIONAL FRACTAL-SORCERY AND SUPER SCIENCE finds the overall sound of GIGAN (ガイガン) reaching its creative apex as the fragile production that melds the hyper-surreality of the ambience and the muddled ferocity of the technical death metal find the perfect unison which allows the hyper-frenetic sonic sadism to enter the realms of transcendental metal mediation especially when the seductive riffing repetitions offer the ultimate escape on the zenith of this ultimate GIGAN (ガイガン) album experience.

METALLICA ...And Justice for All

Album · 1988 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.33 | 191 ratings
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FMOTP
AND JUSTICE FOR ALL... is almost Metallica at peak performance. For my money, MASTER OF PUPPETS takes the gold medal. Only a couple of songs on AND JUSTICE FOR ALL... hold it back. Therefore, this release is a 4 star album for me. One of the complaints often made about AND JUSTICE... refers to the sound quality. Although it could be a lot better, the sound quality does not ruin this album for me. Yes, the drums sound flat and you can hardly hear the bass. However, I'm not an audiophile; I don't care about song quality as long as I can hear the instruments. I usually listen to my music with Windows Media Player. The graphic equalizer is the best feature, and takes care of any sound quality issues with whatever music I have playing.

Now that I've probably spent too much world wide web space not talking about the music itself, let's talk about the music. I think we can agree that AND JUSTICE... is a key album in the history of metal. There's a reason that "One" and "And Justice..." are so familiar to millions of people. Metallica has stretched thrash metal to its breaking point here. This is one of several Metallica albums that exerted a huge influence on the course of heavy metal. For me, the only weak tracks are "Eye of the Beholder" and, to a lesser extent, "The Shortest Straw". I could easily live without them.

These two songs suggest an issue I'd like to comment on. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL... was originally released as a double album. I can't be the only one bothered by double CD releases that are barely longer than the running time of a single disc! Do the record companies really need to release double discs just to make more money? I personally think getting rid of "Eye of the Beholder" would make AND JUSTICE... a shorter, better album! Most of the songs on AND JUSTICE... are Metallica at the top of their game. That's what earns AND JUSTICE FOR ALL... an excellent rating.

DIMMU BORGIR Eonian

Album · 2018 · Symphonic Black Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
It has been way too long since Dimmu Borgir last released a studio album, and I felt the only way to be able to understand how this fits in the canon was by playing a few tracks from this and then dip into ‘Death Cult Armageddon’. This was an interesting exercise, not least because I always felt that a major part of their sound (at least for me) was the clean vocals of ICS Vortex, but of course he departed long ago. Vocalist Shagrath, as well as guitarists Silenoz and Galder are still there providing the material, while drummer Daray has been there for a decade, keyboard player Gerlioz has been there since 2010, so there is only one new boy, bassist Victor Brandt. Deciding to take their time on the songs has obviously been worthwhile, as there is far more breadth and depth to this than anything that have released previously. They have moved far more into the orchestral and symphonic arena, while still playing black metal like no-one else.

A special mention must be made of Gaute Storås and his work on the choral arrangements for the Schola Cantrum Choir, as it isn’t possible to overstate the impact they have had on the album as a whole. This is very much a metal band, but one that is attempting to create a genre of their own making, taking black metal and forcing into something that is far deeper, heavier and orchestral than anything they have managed up to this. The production is simply superb, incredibly clear while also very heavy indeed, allowing the band to spread their wings and show that when it comes to this style of music there are very few in the world who can even approach the majesty and dark beauty of what they are producing. It has been way too long since these guys have provided us with a new album, let’s just hope that the world tour to follow is just that, and that they make their way down here, as that would be a show not to miss.

CIRCLE OF SILENCE The Crimson Throne

Album · 2018 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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DippoMagoo
Power metal is often known to be a very melodic and lighter genre compared to most types of metal, but there are some bands out there who like to play a more aggressive, thrashier version of the genre, most notably coming out of Germany. One of the better bands to emerge from this side of the genre in recent years is Circle of Silence, who impressed me a lot with their previous release The Rise of Resistance, a very in your face kind of album, loaded with tons of punishing thrash riffs, speedy power metal rhythms, and great choruses. After taking a long break in between albums, the band is finally back almost five years later with their third full-length album, The Crimson Throne. With this album, the band has picked up where they left off, giving listeners some of the most brutal and intense power metal possible, while still managing to mix in a ton of great melodies and vocal sections.

For those who’ve never heard Circle of Silence before, they play a very rough brand of power metal, with a ton of thrash elements in their music, as well as some very aggressive vocals at times. They do a good job of varying the tempos, with a nice mix of faster tracks and more mid-paced tracks, as well as occasionally changing things up partway through a song. For the most part, The Crimson Throne feels very similar to their previous album, though a couple tracks felt surprisingly lighter to me at times, with some heavy metal style melodic guitar leads at points, which add a bit of extra flavor, and these are quite effective. At the same time, this is definitely a very hard hitting album overall, and the heavier, speedier passages are definitely when the album is at its best. For the most part, it’s a consistently engaging album, with no weaker tracks to be found, though it doesn’t quite have anything that matches the masterpiece “The Architect of Immortality” from their previous album.

One element that took time for me to get used to the first time I heard a Circle of Silence album was the voice of vocalist Nick Keim. He fits the band quite well, to be sure, but he has a very deep voice and rough voice that’s a bit atypical for the genre, and he can at times be very in your face with his vocal delivery. He certainly delivers some fiery vocals that match the intense thrashier portions, though, while being able to rein himself in a bit and deliver some big vocal melodies during the chorus. While his vocals took some time for me to get used to, I now think he’s a great singer and he fits the band’s sound -perfectly, with this album especially doing a good job of letting him showcase both his more aggressive vocals and his smoother, more melodic vocals.

Another area where I’ve sometimes struggled with the band is in the songwriting, though thankfully that has proven to be an area where they’ve improved a lot over the years, with their debut The Blackened Halo being very inconsistent, while The Rise of Resistance was a mostly consistent album with one huge highlight, and now The Crimson Throne is their most consistent album to date, to the point where it’s hard to pick a favorite, not because there aren’t any great tracks, but because every single track is in very good to great territory, with nothing quite on the level of the best track from its predecessor, but the majority of the tracks here are slightly better than most other tracks on that album.

The band does a great job of letting listeners know exactly what to expect within the first few tracks, as following a brief but nice intro, the first three full songs all cover different elements of the band’s music quite nicely. The first of these is “Race to the Sky”, the most classic power metal sounding track here, though with a slight edge to the riffs. Still, compared to most tracks on this album, it’s both speedy and melodic in ways fans of the genre would expect, with some great riffs, nice melodic leads and an excellent chorus. The extended solo section in the middle is amazing, and overall it’s an excellent track. Next is “Destroyers of the Earth”, one of the hardest hitting songs out of the bunch. It immediately charges out of the gate with some pummeling riffs, and this keeps up throughout the verses, where Nick delivers some of his most fiery vocals. There are some great melodies during the pre-chorus section, but then the thrash edge kicks in again and the chorus is short but intense, and the most melodic section of the track is during the solo section, which is quite good. After those two faster tracks, the pace slows done a bit for the first time with “The Chosen One”, a slightly heavier metal influenced track, which moves along at a decent pace, with some great melodic leads and some of Nick’s smoother, lighter vocals. It has one of the most epic choruses on the album and is definitely another great track.

While I enjoy all elements of this album, I especially prefer the thrashier tracks, as these are more unique for a power metal band and Circle of Silence has always excelled at them. After the first group of songs, the next real hard hitter is the title track, a slightly more mid-paced affair, which nonetheless brings back some of the powerful thrash riffs from “Destroyers of the Earth”, and it again has a nice melodic vocal section leading into an intense chorus, though this time around even the instrumental section is quite vicious, and overall it’s a very hard hitting and satisfying track. Right after that is “Into the Fire”, a more upbeat song with an epic and more melodic chorus, though it too has some excellent thrashy riffs, and is quite a heavy track overall. In the same vein as the title track is “A Kingdom Divine”, another more mid-paced track with some very hard hitting riffs, though it has a slightly more modern sound to it, and well as occasional points where the vocals come very close to death growls. It has an insanely epic and catchy chorus, as well as a great solo section, and it’s definitely one of my favorites on the album. The last real heavy track here is “Possessed By Fire”, where the verses start off a bit slow but pick up speed as they go along, all while being heavy and intense throughout, while the chorus is frantic and intense right from the start, with some great gang vocals. It’s definitely another great thrash infused power metal track, which delivers exactly the kind of sound I want from the band.

On the more melodic side, we have “Lionheart”, which starts off with a great melodic guitar section, before speeding up quickly, and it actually starts off feeling like it’ll be another power/thrash hybrid track, but it actually get much lighter and more melodic as it goes on, with the second half being almost entirely instrumental and having some classic heavy influences. The chorus is a bit weak, but otherwise, it’s a great track overall. A few tracks after that is “Endgame”, which starts off with some beautiful guitar melodies, before picking up the pace and turning into a more mid-paced power metal track, with an excellent chorus, featuring some of Nick’s best vocals on the album. The closing track is “Wild Eyes”, a mostly mid-paced track, with another excellent chorus, though its highlight comes in the second half, during a speedy instrumental section which gives way an epic final run through the chorus, to the end the album in an extremely epic way.

Overall, The Crimson Throne is another great album from Circle of Silence, which delivers more of their hard-hitting brand of thrash infused power metal while mixing in a few more melodic sections every once in a while. I’d say it’s slightly better than their previous album overall, and I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the band, as well as any power metal fan who prefers the heavier, more guitar-driven side of the genre, with no presence of keyboards whatsoever.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/03/31/circle-of-silence-the-crimson-throne-review/

TESSERACT Sonder

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.69 | 4 ratings
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DippoMagoo
Out of all types of metal, one genre I’ve long struggled with and only managed to enjoy in quick bursts over the years is djent, a particularly rhythmic, repetitive and at times overly harsh sounding offshoot of progressive metal, which of course is one of my favorite genres. The band many consider to be the pioneers of the genre, Messhugah, have certainly never impressed me, while other famous bands like Periphery and Textures have managed to hook me in on occasion, but never entirely. So far, the one band in this style that has managed to keep me interested over the course of multiple albums is British band TesseracT, who I first discovered with their excellent second full-length release, Altered State, in 2013. Their next release, Polaris mostly eluded me, though I did eventually give it a listen and quite enjoyed it as well, so while their upcoming fourth full-length album, Sonder, wasn’t one of my most anticipated releases the year or anything, I was interested to see how it would turn out. In the end, if their previous albums hadn’t already won me over and convinced me that djent can work on a consistent basis when done correctly, then Sonder surely would have been the one to do it, as it manages to be equal parts accessible, hard-hitting and atmospheric, and it’s easily the most engaging and consistently impressive release I’ve heard from TesseracT to date.

One aspect of djent I tend to not be too fond of is the constant use of repetitive chugging guitars, which can grate on my ears badly if done the wrong way, with even a band such as Periphery sometimes falling into that trap. Thankfully, TesseracT have always been good at knowing just how far to take their heaviness, without pushing it to the point where it gets irritating, and they also do a great job of letting the guitars and drums settle into a nice groove, that allows the atmosphere and vocals to take and over and really push the songs to the next level. Which brings me to one aspect of the genre I do enjoy, and another thing TesseracT does amazingly, and that is the contrasts between the rough, aggressive sections, and the dark but rather calm and atmospheric, sometimes even ambient, sections. On Sonder, TesseracT have really perfected that side of their music, with almost every track seamlessly switching from loud and violent to calm and more introspective seemingly out of nowhere, and they handle these transitions perfectly. There are many extended softer portions on this album, where the electronic elements are used nicely along with more melodic guitars to add atmosphere to the music, and this goes along nicely with the lyrics, which deal with themes of insignificance, and it is definitely a very emotional album, with very strong performances all around. At the same time, fans looking for the more aggressive side of the band’s music still have a lot to look forward to, especially on tracks like “King”, “Juno” and “Smile”.

Another aspect I often struggle with is the vocals, as djent is a genre often known to use a ton of screaming, metalcore style vocals, and those are the kind of thing that can often grate on my nerves if done poorly, which I sadly find to be the case a lot of the time. Thankfully, that is yet another trap TesseracT manages to avoid, as vocalist Daniel Tompkins only uses screams in quick bursts, often during some particularly intense and powerful sequences where that kind of approach is necessary. When he does use them, he sounds fittingly intense, but certainly never grating or irritating. For the most part, he uses clean vocals and he is certainly one excellent singer, seamlessly going from high notes to low notes within the same sentence, with his lower range especially sounding very smooth and really fits the atmosphere of the music, though his high notes are also very nice, of course. He sings very calmly during the soft parts but can get his voice to sound rough and intense without screaming during some of the heavier parts, and this is used to great effect throughout the album. Overall, he simply does an excellent job and puts a ton of emotion into his performance, which helps to enhance an already great album even further.

One last area where djent can often be hit or miss is in the songwriting, as I find there isn’t really that many bands can do while sticking to their overall sound, so often times the songs will blend together, with few standouts. This is again an area in which TesseracT delivers, as while there is a consistent feel to the whole album and everything flows together perfectly, each track can definitely stand on its own, and it certainly never gets boring. Opening track “Luminary” does an excellent job of setting the tone, opening with some brief atmospheric electronic effects, before the dissonant guitars kick in, and then the music calms down again and Daniel enters in on vocals. It’s a great track which does a great job of briefly showcasing the heavier side of the band, while overall being a very melodic and surprisingly accessible track, with a very strong chorus, and a great use of atmospheric sounds throughout.

The first big standout is “King”, the longest track on the album at just under 7 minutes, and it’s a mammoth track, entering in with some very overpowering riffs that set a dark and ominous tone right out of the gate, and this is one of the tracks where Daniel showcases his screams, seamlessly mixing them in with his various types of clean vocals, with everything sounding perfect, of course. The track is definitely one of the heaviest on the album, getting especially intense during a screaming section in the second half, though it still manages to throw in a ton of calmer and more atmospheric moments both in the middle and ending of the track, and it has another strong chorus. After that is the interlude track “Orbital”, a brief but very nice ambient track, which uses some nice electronic sounds in the background, while Daniel sings very softly. It manages to be an emotional track, while also being very quiet, and despite being only 2 minutes, it is quite memorable. The next full song is “Juno”, which starts out heavy before settling into a nice groove, with some pretty nice guitar work as well as some cool electronic beats, that add a nice rhythm to the track throughout. This is one of the grooviest tracks on the album, for sure, and it moves along at a nice pace and manages to represent somewhat of a middle ground between the heavier tracks and the calmer tracks, and it does so quite wonderfully.

The second half begins with “Beneath the Skin”, a very dark and mostly soft track, which has an extended atmospheric section early on that uses minimal sounds very effectively, creating a thick atmosphere with very few sounds used, and it is quite the interesting track overall. It does get heavier as it goes on, with the typical djent chugs and grooves kicking in later on, though it’s still one of the slower and more melodic tracks on the album, with some wonderfully smooth clean vocals from Daniel, as well as an excellent chorus, once it shows up in the second half. Another soft track is next in “Mirror Image”, which is the closest this album comes to having a full ballad. It’s another track which uses some nice electronic effects and vocals to create a dark atmosphere, and it’s certainly one of the most vocal driven and melodic tracks on the album, with another very emotional and powerful performance from Daniel. It gets slightly heavier in the second half, and the guitar work towards the end is amazing, but it’s definitely a surprisingly calm and beautiful track overall. The last real heavy track on the album is “Smile”, which again starts with some dark and heavy riffs before settling into a nice groove, with a nice use of electronic effects to set the tone for the music. It’s somewhat similar to “Juno”, except a bit darker and more intense, with a very sinister feel to it, and the guitars have a very aggressive, alternative metal feel to them throughout the track, which is somewhat on the rest of the album, but it’s especially noticeable here. The screamed section towards the end is extremely intense and epic, and overall it’s definitely one of the highlights of the album. After such an intense track, closing number “The Arrow” is a suitably mellow and atmospheric track, with haunting vocals and very dark lyrics, as well as some beautiful but twisted sounding melodies. It has a slight heaviness to it but is another surprisingly soft and calm track for this style of metal. While it’s one of the shortest tracks on the album, it’s also one of my favorites, due to the vocals and lyrics working together so effectively with the music.

Overall, Sonder may be the best djent album I’ve heard to date, and while that’s not saying a whole lot, it definitely is an excellent album in its own right, with an excellent mix of heavy, punishing guitar work, a great use of atmosphere, and some very powerful vocals. Fans of the band are sure to be pleased, and anyone like me who has previously found this genre to be a bit too rough on the ears to handle may be pleasantly surprised, this is a very nicely balanced album that certainly has some excellent melodic and calm portions, to go along with the expected intense bursts. I was expecting to enjoy this album, but it greatly exceeded my expectations and become one of my favorites of the year so far, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to hearing anything else TesseracT does in the future.

originally written for myglobalmind.com: https://myglobalmind.com/2018/04/21/tesseract-sonder-review/

SACRED REICH The American Way

Album · 1990 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.20 | 11 ratings
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UMUR
"The American Way" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, Phoenix, Arizona based thrash metal act Sacred Reich. The album was released through Hollywood Records in May 1990. So there are 3 years between the release of the band´s debut album "Ignorance (1987)" and "The American Way", which was an unusually long time between a debut and a sophomore release in those days. Sacred Reich wasn´t inactive in those intermediate years though, as they toured but also released the "Surf Nicaragua (1988)" EP and the "Alive at the Dynamo (1989)" EP to bridge the gap between the two full-length album releases.

Musically quite a lot has happened in those 3 years too. The aggressive and rather obviously Slayer influenced thrash metal sound on "Ignorance (1987)" is all but gone on "The American Way", which introduces a more humourous (although not silly, and still with serious social/environmental/political commentary) and more varied sound. It´s still unmistakably the sound of Sacred Reich, but that´s mostly because of Phil Rind´s very distinct sounding voice and singing style than anything else. He sounds even more like the Jeff Bridges of thrash metal on "The American Way" than he did on "Ignorance (1987)". As a singer he is probably very much an aquired taste, but he undeniably provides the vocal side of Sacred Reich with a unique sound.

And unique is exactly the right word to use about "The American Way", which despite that it features standard thrash metal trademarks, like fast and heavy rhythmic riffs/rhythms, blistring solos, and a relatively high level of aggression, still manages to sound quite different from other thrash metal releases from that time (and in general). Bill Metoyer and the band have done a great job on the production too, which is clear, powerful, and again...relatively unique sounding.

The material on the 8 track, 35:24 minutes long album is generally of a high quality and all tracks are memorable and stand out from each other. Highlights are probably the iconic title track (which the band did a promotional video for), and the anti-suicide anthem "Who´s to Blame", but you can name almost any track off the album and call it a standout track. Although the closing and quite funky track "31 Flavors" is aimed at opening the musically close-minded to other musical styles, I´m gonna go out on a limb and call it a bit misplaced, and not really consistent with the rest of the material on the album (yeah alright you can call me concervative). It´s not bad by any means, just a pretty odd way of closing an album. To my ears it´s a track which would have been better suited on the B-side of a single or as an EP track. But that´s Sacred Reich in a nutshell. They always did exactly what they felt for, and didn´t cater to anyone else. Although I don´t agree with what they did here, I generally greatly respect the artistic integrity they show by such a boldness.

So "The American Way" is for the musically adventurous thrash metal listener. It´s not technical thrash metal (although some tracks actually feature some relatively technical playing), it´s not old school raw thrash metal, and it´s not Bay Area influenced thrash metal either. It´s thrash metal done the Sacred Reich way! A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved despite a few issues along the way.

CALIBAN Elements

Album · 2018 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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Kev Rowland
Caliban have been creating quite a noise in the metalcore scene since their inception in the late Nineties, and with the quintet managing to keep the same line-up together for fifteen years now is quite an achievement. Here they are back with the follow-up to 2016’s ‘Gravity’, and they seem to have increased the intensity in all areas. “’Elements’ is a logical progression from the last album,” says guitarist Marc Görtz. “But we definitely expanded the range of music we wanted to incorporate on ‘Elements’. It’s going in extremely different directions. It’s heavier, but also more melodic. Also, Andy is doing all the vocals—harsh and clean—on the new album.” This last is a change, as those duties are normally shared between Andreas Dörner and guitarist Denis Schmidt with competing styles, but here Dörner provides both melodic and gruff. Görtz says that when he started putting together the initial riffs for the album he was trying really hard not to listen to any other music so that he wasn’t influenced, but bands such as Meshuggah, Whitechapel and Trivium all seem to have made their way into his psyche.

It is the intensity that really blast out of the speakers and pins the listener against the far wall – if ever the States want to militarise music then they should look to this album to start with. That the band go between incredibly light and tremendously heavy only emphasises the difference between the two styles. They can keep it low and groove-ridden, suddenly knocking down the guitar tuning, or keep it riff-laden as if they are a new Cannibal Corpse before becoming a next generation Linkin Park. This is all over the place, so much so that one never knows quite where the musical journey is going to lead, except that it will be a fractured and enjoyable road to get there. Caliban are showing no sign at all of slowing down, and this may just be their finest release yet.

AT THE GATES To Drink From The Night Itself

Album · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.62 | 3 ratings
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Kev Rowland
Although there have been some substantial gaps in their career, the line-up of At The Gates has been incredibly stable, having been the same since 1993. So, it was quite a blow when guitarist Anders Björler decided that it was time to move on. But, the band knew that they still had a great deal to offer, and called in old friend Jonas Stålhammar who they had known for almost thirty years. One rehearsal later and he had the job. It was important for the band to bring in someone who knew what they had been going through, had followed a similar musical journey, and also came from the same musical influences. Russ Russell was brought in as producer, and the result is one of the standout metal albums of the year.

By now most people would think that At The Gates would have nothing left to prove, having been at the forefront of the Swedish Death Metal scene for so many years, but while other bands have moved on and often changed their musical path ATG have double down and are bringing forth melodic death metal that is as heavy, violent and so damned enjoyable as anything they have released in the past. The band formed back in1990, yet here they are in 2018 showing all the young guns how to do it. The groove, they move, they mix incredibly light and delicate aspects into the thunderous sound, yet when the time is right they all lock in and bring it home. Tomas "Tompa" Lindberg still sounds like the angry young man he used to be, but now with more presence and command. He is at the forefront of what truly is a metallic monster casting all before it. Whatever anyone may want from a metal album, I can pretty much guarantee that this one has it. From the first note to the very last all I wanted to do was to keep turning it up time and again. It has been four years since the last album, let’s just hope that it isn’t so long until the next one.

KISS Hotter Than Hell

Album · 1974 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.45 | 27 ratings
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martindavey87
Impressively released barely three months after their debut, Kiss are back with their second album, ‘Hotter Than Hell’. While I admire a lot of these early rock bands from back in the day for their non-stop work ethic which saw them chug out so many releases in such a short space of time, the end result is usually average at best.

Take Kiss’ early days, for example. Mediocre, sleazy rock ‘n’ roll, at its very finest. I guess. I didn’t really enjoy the bands self-titled debut, and this certainly isn’t any better. From the rather dreary riffs to the forgettable lyrics, the only real shining quality about this album is the apparent chemistry amongst the band members, in particular, guitarists Paul Stanley and Ace Frehley. While it’s nothing remarkable by today’s standards, there’s definitely a synergy between the two, and if nothing else, it’s reassuring to know that these guys will go on to release much better material in the future.

‘Got to Choose’ and ‘Parasite’ are the only two songs I’d even consider passable, and the latter is mostly thanks to Anthrax’s cover of it. There’s a couple of decent guitar solos, but not decent enough that I remember which song I heard them in, and I have no desire to go looking for them.

While Kiss’ early works probably fare better if you were around in the 70’s, or you were exposed to it at an early age, to me, ‘Hotter Than Hell’, much like its predecessor, is a fairly rubbish album. It lacks the energy and bombast of later efforts, and just tends to drag along boringly with no real passion. Mercifully, it’s barely half an hour long.

THE QUIET ROOM Introspect

Album · 1998 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.58 | 4 ratings
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martindavey87
‘Introspect’ is the 1998 debut by American progressive metal group The Quiet Room. I came across this album on eBay back in its heyday (do people still shop on there?), when searches would often have it come up, being advertised by sellers as similar to prog metal pioneers Fates Warning. That was enough to pique my interest, and to be fair, the similarities in their sound are uncanny.

However, the one resemblance they don’t share is quality. Following the typical prog metal blueprint of ambitious song structures with extended musical passages and wailing, high-pitched vocals, The Quiet Room don’t really offer anything that hasn’t been done better by someone else.

The musicianship is fantastic, and these guys are all more than capable at playing their instruments, but sadly not so much at song writing. Everything seems pretty jarred and disjointed. Oftentimes songs wonder off into aimless territory, twisting and turning in ways that lose my interest instead of engaging me. It’s a shame, because the album starts off pretty strong, with opening tracks ‘A Different Scene’ and ‘Grudge’ being respectable enough, but anything after struggles to keep my attention longer than a couple of minutes.

No doubt progressive metal was still mostly an underground subgenre at this point, and with only a handful of bands breaking into the mainstream, The Quiet Room are one of many lost causes that were destined to become obscure, forgotten hopefuls.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY 3 From Wiseblood

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 1996 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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FMOTP
For most folks like me, WISEBLOOD was a slight step down from DELIVERANCE. Of course, tracks like "Heaven's Not Overflowing" and "Albatross" are pretty tough competition. This 3 song promo is no slouch, according to the fine All Music website and the Chicago Tribune. "Drowning In A Daydream" was a top 30 radio hit, and was nominated for a 1998 Best Metal Performance Grammy Award. Not bad for a band that's usually known only to dedicated metal fans.

The playing is terrific as always, and I think Pepper Keenan is a big step up in the vocal department. For instance, the variety the rhythm section brings to "King of the Rotten" keeps the song interesting. These are some of my favorite songs on the album. Has anyone else noticed that early Red Hot Chili Peppers sounds a lot like late 90's COC, especially in Mike Dean's bass playing and Keenan's vocal delivery? It's just one example of Corrosion of Conformity's far-reaching influence. Over all, this is an excellent listening experience, if you're looking for a short taste of the band's music.

TRAUN Deleted Scenes

EP · 2017 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
Ex-Estradasphere drummer Dave Murray’s TRAUN project only has three EPs that tell this tale:

“The world of Traun is in peril after a flying health spa arrives at the outer rim of their star system. At the helm, a despotic tycoon named Voss ignites a trade war with the neighboring planets to acquire the water he needs to fill his baths. The capitol of Traun—the Fruitless Kingdom—has launched an offensive against Spa 9, but they have not been able to evict the illicit resort, nor regain control of their water supply. At this rate, life on Traun may be on the brink of extinction. But there may be hope brewing from within the sinister relaxation empire. The daughter of Voss—the Black Metal Princess—has been devising an elaborate ruse that will hopefully save the world of Traun, restore balance, and rescue her father from his own destruction.”

There are, however, four EPs that were released and the fourth one is titled DELETED SCENES which is exactly what the name says, a bunch of leftover tracks and various different drafts of tracks from the TRAUN trilogy.

The four EPs are to be heard in this order:

The Lilac Moon The Black Metal Princess Escape From Spa 9 DELETED SCENES (bonus tracks)

Musically DELETED SCENES runs the same gamut as the other EPs with frenetic shapeshifting of genres that are classical music one second, jazz the next and maybe even some downtempo or heavy metal thrown in. They not only take the expected genre blending into extreme arenas but they also often incorporate extreme avant-prog avenues with crazy time signature changes as well as sudden start / stop tempo changes. Everything from dynamics, genres, tempos and moods mix it all up and often.

Seriously unless you really adhere to the story on TRAUN MUSIC dot com then this is really just a fourth album because i can’t figure out from the music alone that any storyline exists behind it all. It’s one of those series where you can just enjoy the music or actually add more intrigue by delving into the actual meanings behind the accompanying sounds. While the other EPs hover around the 20 minute mark, this one actually extends past the 31 minute mark making it the longest of the four. This one is just as good as the others and if you want to check these out, you really need to go for the whole shebang. Very cool stuff obviously catering to the Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Estradasphere and Atomic Ape crowds.

TRAUN Escape From Spa 9

EP · 2017 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
This Dave Murray is not the guitarist from Iron Maiden but a drummer who has been involved in a number of interesting musical acts including Estradasphere, Tholus and Sculptured however before he was getting all wild and crazy in the avant-garde rock and metal universe he started out with a grander vision of what would become a project under the name The Deserts of Träun which began all the way back in the 90s. It was designed to be a conceptual sci-fi journey through several albums about the world of TRAUN which according to the website TRAUN MUSIC dot com:

“The world of Traun is in peril after a flying health spa arrives at the outer rim of their star system. At the helm, a despotic tycoon named Voss ignites a trade war with the neighboring planets to acquire the water he needs to fill his baths. The capitol of Traun—the Fruitless Kingdom—has launched an offensive against Spa 9, but they have not been able to evict the illicit resort, nor regain control of their water supply. At this rate, life on Traun may be on the brink of extinction. But there may be hope brewing from within the sinister relaxation empire. The daughter of Voss—the Black Metal Princess—has been devising an elaborate ruse that will hopefully save the world of Traun, restore balance, and rescue her father from his own destruction.”

After working with Tholus, Murray decided to bring his fantasy universe to life in musical form and recorded a rather out of sync sequel as his debut release titled “Part III: The Lilac Moon” under the moniker The Deserts Of Traun but was never happy with the weak production and video-gamish outcome therefore decided to reboot the whole series which brings us up to the modern day where he simultaneously released four EPs in 2017. Three of them are part of the series and the fourth is the leftover bonus tracks. Since the project took more than 20 years to complete, this is quite the ambitious effort and the fact that each EP hovers around the 20 minute mark make them quite accessible and the painstaking process of recording the wealth of sounds and styles with modern day technology makes these EPs substantially better than the 2003 album. Because this is a reboot, much material from that album was recycled and incorporated into the new releases.

The four EPs are to be heard in this order:

The Lilac Moon

The Black Metal Princess

ESCAPE FROM SPA 9

Deleted Scenes (bonus tracks)

``````````````````````````````````````````````````````

EP #3 - ESCAPE FROM SPA 9

This one doesn’t quite hit the 20 minute mark and most tracks are barely over a minute long but pack in an album’s worth of ideas at times. “The Deserts of Traun” begins the genre jumping journey with a sombre violin and classical piano in avant-garde fashion. “Making Haste” goes into frenetically paced jazz-fusion that alternates between slow and fast tempo. “Mayor Of Ghost Town” starts with a storm and a suspenseful mystery crime show theme style. This one has vocals and what sounds like a theremin. Police sirens and other noises jump in and out. “The Lone Coachman” spends a while in electronica land only to burst into heavy metal guitar riffing with an atmospheric backdrop droning away. “Pirate Stronghold” begins as a mellow classical string piece but turns into a cartoonish sounding form of accordion rock reminding me of Mr. Bungle.

“Lizardback” begins as a mellow acoustic guitar sequence that has a country vibe with slide guitar with some unexpected Tuvan throat singing. The title track is the longest and exceeds three minutes. It begins with some ambient noise and then bursts into crazy brutal prog with heavy guitars, electronic noises and ridiculously challenging time signatures. It goes through bursts of excitement and then calms down to nothing. The heaviest track on board and the most complex. “Vampire Invasion” is another classical / lounge jazz piano with violin in a tango type form. Some operatic vocals pop in from time to time with some death metal growls making an appearance at the end. “Flight Of The Water Baron” is a symphonic metal piece with heavy guitars, piano and then becomes a violin led classical piece and then they join forces. “The Fruitless Kingdom” is all over the place as well. Bouncy electronica cedes to mellow classical and then symphonic metal. “Mel’s Home” ends the short album with jazz funk keyboard riffs.

At this point i still find no sings of an overall theme that connects to the music but it really doesn’t matter. This music is like taking a long journey abridged into a short time span. This album is only 19 minutes plus of music but has a ridiculous amount of elements and complexity in its playing time. Very cool stuff obviously catering to the Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Estradasphere and Atomic Ape crowds.

GIGAN Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.08 | 2 ratings
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siLLy puPPy
The beauty of the pummeling technically infused extreme metal of GIGAN (ガイガン) is that despite the band’s best efforts to unleash every possible form of sonic brutality in the playbook, somehow they create an underpinning that keeps drawing me back to explore their music on a deeper level in an almost subliminal nature. Well, come back i do and by doing so i have found GIGAN (ガイガン) creeping up on my list of favorite über-extreme musical acts as each subsequent listen ratchets them up the list ever so slightly more. And despite the almost shoegazy effect of juggling the tech death metal elements with grindcore, progressive rock and dark space ambience that hypnotize as well as bombastically lambaste, GIGAN (ガイガン) prove they have the musical hook equivalents of the arch-enemy of Godzilla in the movie that was the first foe to inflict damage on our favorite walking lumpy lizard only the tortuous assault is tantamount to a sado-masochistic romp into the sonic assault world of this power trio from Tampa, FL, yeah the cradle of US death metal.

It took three years but the triumvirate power force of Eric Hersemann on bass, guitar, synthesizer, theremin, xylophone and newbies John Collett on growling death vocals with Kesava Doane as one of metal’s most technically skilled drummers rivaling the likes of Behemoth and Nile, return with a newly formed band that carried on mainman Hersemann’s tortuous metal antics and upgraded in pretty much every way while retaining the same identifiable features that were unleashed all the way back on 2007’s “The Footsteps Of GIGAN (ガイガン) EP.” The second album QUASI-HALLUCINOGENIC SONIC LANDSCAPES continues the sonic bombast and angular dissonance and takes the journey even further into uncharted GIGAN (ガイガン) territories.

While the monster in the movies was clearly land bound, this band of the same name is clearly aiming for the stars with their spaced out surreality as evident in their multi-syllabic song titles in the form of “Mountains Perched Like Beasts Awaiting the Attack,” “ Suspended in Cubes of Torment,” “The Raven and the Crow,” “In the Tentacled Grasp of a Buried Behemoth”, “Transmogrification Into Bio-Luminoid,” “Skeletons of Steel, Timber and Blackened Granite,” “Vespelmadeen Terror” and "Fathomless Echoes of Eternity's Imagination”

While the metal approaches would take a turn on the next album “Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science,” the underlying musical approach on QUASI remains the same. GIGAN (ガイガン) dishes out the expected pummeling brutality which is based on old school death metal conformity but expedites the onion effect with layers of realities that have a hierarchical level. While the brutal death metal attacks clearly takes precedence with their sonic supremacy, it seems that the underlying psychedelic suaveness of the theremin, synthesizers and atmospheric backdrop that only emerge in brief interludes between tracks and pauses within. The tension that is created between the utterly chilled and the bombastically frenetic is a very strange tension indeed much like eating fried ice cream in a vacuum packed anti-gravity chamber.

GIGAN (ガイガン) is certainly a tough nut to crack and only the most ambitious who crave the most ruthless metal assaults married with the angular avant-garde prog and nerdy space oriented sci-fi themes laid out in paramount elixir will dig this, because of the fact that this music is laced with avant-prog sensibilities and exhibited in full tech death metal regalia. The psychedelic accoutrements are displayed in not only the ambient backdrops between tracks but also in some of the extraordinarily weird guitar riffs that occur in the higher registers with iterating almost robotic whizzing up and down the scales somewhat reminding me of math metal wizards like Psyopus or Behold…. The Arctopus. Did i mention the drumming? Fucking phenomenal. My arms hurt just listening to this shit. Solid as a fucking rock. GIGAN (ガイガン)!!!!

IMMOLATION Here in After

Album · 1996 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.58 | 15 ratings
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UMUR
"Here in After" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US death metal act Immolation. The album was released through Metal Blade Records in February 1996 and it´s the successor to "Dawn of Possession" from 1991. In those days 5 years between albums was a very long recording break, but Immolation were dropped by Roadrunner Records (along with quite a few other death- and thrash metal acts) before they were able to release a follow-up to the debut. It took quite a few years to find a new label, but eventually Metal Blade Records signed Immolation for a three-album deal. In the meantime Repulse Records took the opportunity to release the "Stepping on Angels... Before Dawn (1995)" compilation, which features both demo tracks by Rigor Mortis (the band´s original name) and Immolation, and live tracks by the latter mentioned.

Stylistically the music on "Here in After" continues the dark and brutal death metal style of it´s predecessor. The blashemous/anti-christian lyrical themes are also in place, which songtitles like "Burn with Jesus", "Away from God", and "Christ´s Cage", are a testament to. The music is technically well played with a decent amount of tempo changes, brutal and mostly unintelligible growling vocals, and an almost complete lack of anything resembling a melody. In that regard the music is completely uncompromising. But then again you don´t listen to an Immolation album to find something to hum along to, but rather to listen to something dark, twisted, and brutal. When that is said, there are memorable parts here and there, but it takes time and repeated listens before they settle.

"Here in After" is well produced. Powerful, dark, and mean sounding, which is a sound which suits the music perfectly. So overall the 5 year recording break was worth it. I wouldn´t say "Here in After" is a better release than "Dawn of Possession (1991)", but it´s about equal in quality and another great album in the band´s discography. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

ABYSMAL DAWN Programmed to Consume

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"Programmed to Consume" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, California based death metal act Abysmal Dawn. The album was released through Relapse Records in May 2008. Abysmal Dawn were formed in late 2003 and released a well received demo in 2004 before signing to Crash Music Inc. for the release of their debut full-length studio album "From Ashes (2006)". From there they gained the attention of Relapse Records, who signed them for a multible album deal. There´s been one lineup change since "From Ashes (2006)" as Michael Cosio has been hired as a permanent solution for the bassist position replacing session player Mike Bear.

The music on the album pretty much continues down the same technically well played death metal path which was initiated on "From Ashes (2006)". There are few signs of development, but as the music on the debut album was more or less an effective and well played package, the band probably didn´t feel the need to change a winning formula. That also means that the issue I had with the debut album and it´s lack of originality is also an issue on "Programmed to Consume". Abysmal Dawn write and play well sounding and instantly enjoyable death metal, but the material is generally not that memorable after the album is over. And that has a lot to do with the band lacking a personal sound.

"Programmed to Consume" is well produced (slightly more raw sounding than the debut, which suits the band´s music well), and overall it´s another quality death metal release by Abysmal Dawn. So if you enjoy technically well played US death metal, "Programmed to Consume" is a recommendable release. I still think Abysmal Dawn lack the defining songwriting skills to make them stand out in the genre, but other than that "Programmed to Consume" is a great quality release and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

WITCHERY I Am Legion

Album · 2017 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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UMUR
"I Am Legion" is the 7th full-length studio album by Swedish heavy metal act Witchery. The album was released through Century Media Records in November 2017. That´s almost exactly one year after the release of "In His Infernal Majesty's Service (2016)", and after a couple of years of relative inactivity before that, the band have indeed said in interviews that they would pick up the pace and record and tour more the next couple of years. With "I Am Legion" they keep that promise. "I Am Legion" was recorded by the same five-piece lineup who recorded "In His Infernal Majesty's Service (2016)", so no changes there.

Stylistically "I Am Legion" is slightly different from it´s predecessor though, and a little less formulaic than what we´re used to from Witchery. Witchery were always a band who were hard to define as their heavy metal basis sound features quite a few influences from genres like black metal, thrash metal, speed metal, and a little death metal too. Some of the previous releases featured an almost traditional heavy metal sound (although in the harder end of the spectrum) but with blackened snarling vocals, but on "I Am Legion" the scale tips a bit more to the extreme metal side of the band´s sound. The structure of the songs and the songwriting are also a bit less anthemic and a little more loose and intentionally chaotic, which is both a strength and a weakness.

It´s a strength because it´s always great to hear when an established act with a signature sound try something different. It shows a band which haven´t stagnated and who are still hungry to prove themselves and who still have the boldness to evolve. I applaud that...but it´s also a weakness in terms of "I Am Legion", because the infectiously catchy sing-along (well...shout-along) choruses from the previous releases are few and far between on this release, and those choruses were always a big part of what made Witchery such a charming act.

I´ll put on the positive glasses here though, as I think Witchery make their less formulaic and more adventurous approach to songwriting work really well, and it´s not like there aren´t any catchy moments on the album. In fact there are plenty of memorable tracks and catchy moments featured on the album, so it´s not a major change of the band´s sound, but more an adjustment towards a more creative songwriting direction. Witchery are as always a very well playing band and lead vocalist Angus Norder shows again, that the band made the right decision to add him to the lineup on the predecessor. "I Am Legion" features a dark and fairly organic sounding production, which suits the new musical direction perfectly, and upon conclusion "I Am Legion" is yet another high quality release by Witchery. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

TRAUN The Black Metal Princess

EP · 2017 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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This Dave Murray is not the guitarist from Iron Maiden but a drummer who has been involved in a number of interesting musical acts including Estradasphere, Tholus and Sculptured however before he was getting all wild and crazy in the avant-garde rock and metal universe he started out with a grander vision of what would become a project under the name The Deserts of Träun which began all the way back in the 90s. It was designed to be a conceptual sci-fi journey through several albums about the world of TRAUN which according to the website TRAUN dot com:

“The world of Traun is in peril after a flying health spa arrives at the outer rim of their star system. At the helm, a despotic tycoon named Voss ignites a trade war with the neighboring planets to acquire the water he needs to fill his baths. The capitol of Traun—the Fruitless Kingdom—has launched an offensive against Spa 9, but they have not been able to evict the illicit resort, nor regain control of their water supply. At this rate, life on Traun may be on the brink of extinction. But there may be hope brewing from within the sinister relaxation empire. The daughter of Voss—the Black Metal Princess—has been devising an elaborate ruse that will hopefully save the world of Traun, restore balance, and rescue her father from his own destruction.”

After working with Tholus, Murray decided to bring his fantasy universe to life in musical form and recorded a rather out of sync sequel as his debut release titled “Part III: The Lilac Moon” under the moniker The Deserts Of Traun but was never happy with the weak production and video-gamish outcome therefore decided to reboot the whole series which brings us up to the modern day where he simultaneously released four EPs in 2017. Three of them are part of the series and the fourth is the leftover bonus tracks. Since the project took more than 20 years to complete, this is quite the ambitious effort and the fact that each EP hovers around the 20 minute mark make them quite accessible and the painstaking process of recording the wealth of sounds and styles with modern day technology makes these EPs substantially better than the 2003 album. Because this is a reboot, much material from that album was recycled and incorporated into the new releases.

The four EPs are to be heard in this order:

The Lilac Moon

THE BLACK METAL PRINCESS

Escape From Spa 9

Deleted Scenes (bonus tracks)

``````````````````````````````````````````````````````

EP #2 - THE BLACK METAL PRINCESS

Each track has a storyline about how it relates to the concept. This is detailed in great artistic form on the TRAUN dot com website. This album, much like the Estradasphere albums Murray played on, runs the gamut of dreamy psychedelic ambience, electronic wizardry and heavy metal to bursts of jazz, folk and classical plus lots of ethnic influences as well. “The Voyage Home” begins with a mopey disoriented beat with guitars that sound like they’re going in and out of tune. Very soundtrack feeling as with “The Lilac Moon.” Ends with surf guitar incorporated. “Preparing The Pit” begins with sounds of an ominous storm but becomes echoey guitar with reverb. Piano and weirdness ensue with evil sounding vocalizations joining in and then metal guitar, bass and drums. These short tracks really are all over the place and nothing hangs around for too long.

“A Stranger In The Landing” jumps into avant-garde hard bop with a Latin flare. It quickly becomes symphonic prog and then adds heavy guitar and flutters around in freeform style. This second installment is much more surreal than the first and that’s saying something! Once again it’s amazing to realize that this is a huge project with thirteen musicians delivering rock (guitar, drums, bass, keys), classical (violin, viola, bassoon, cello, upright bass), folk (accordion, acoustic guitar, flute, mandolin) and jazz (baritone and tenor sax). “An Undisclosed Location” alternates between speakeasy lounge jazz, avant-prog and 60s psychedelic pop with a few spoken words to convey storyline details. “Looking For Clues” provides a marching band feel with military drums but becomes quirky and well, very weird! It goes all over the place with dreamy pianos, rock guitar, classical. Ideas last about five seconds on this one but it all strings together. This one actually lasts more than three minutes and goes through jazz, downtempo etc. “The Terrace Computer” begins as creepy ambience and then becomes angelic harp-like ambience. This one stays fairly consistent but still has outbursts of energy but remains fairly electronic oriented with guitar coming in.

“Miriaun Crossing” is a classical piano riff with violin and remains that way for the entire near two minute run! Very tranquil and a lull in the sonic storm that is this album! “Mel Function” jumps into a loungy jazz mode with a sultry sax and a rather normal sounding generic delivery and stays that way. “Passage Through The Mire” begins with crickets chirping and arpeggiated guitars creeping in with jittery electronica. It becomes ominous soundtrack type music with a sombre cello and raspy ghoulish vocals in the horizon but morphs again into rather Middle Eastern sounding rhythms but remains somewhat on a leash although rock beats. This is rather unique but conjures up a hellish overall feel that finally unleashes the black metal aspects although they only peek in before disappearing into the classical symphonic backdrop. Excellent orchestration here with even some surf guitar coming in at the end. The title track ends with a mellow folky vibe orchestrated with piano and harp that picks up with black metal elements and freaky ghoulish vocals. This album is only 22 minutes plus of music but has a ridiculous amount of elements and complexity in its playing time. Very cool stuff obviously catering to the Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Estradasphere and Atomic Ape crowds.

TRAUN The Lilac Moon

EP · 2017 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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siLLy puPPy
This Dave Murray is not the guitarist from Iron Maiden but a drummer who has been involved in a number of interesting musical acts including Estradasphere, Tholus and Sculptured however before he was getting all wild and crazy in the avant-garde rock and metal universe he started out with a grander vision of what would become a project under the name The Deserts of Träun which began all the way back in the 90s. It was designed to be a conceptual sci-fi journey through several albums about the world of TRAUN which according to the website TRAUN dot com:

“The world of Traun is in peril after a flying health spa arrives at the outer rim of their star system. At the helm, a despotic tycoon named Voss ignites a trade war with the neighboring planets to acquire the water he needs to fill his baths. The capitol of Traun—the Fruitless Kingdom—has launched an offensive against Spa 9, but they have not been able to evict the illicit resort, nor regain control of their water supply. At this rate, life on Traun may be on the brink of extinction. But there may be hope brewing from within the sinister relaxation empire. The daughter of Voss—the Black Metal Princess—has been devising an elaborate ruse that will hopefully save the world of Traun, restore balance, and rescue her father from his own destruction.”

After working with Tholus, Murray decided to bring his fantasy universe to life in musical form and recorded a rather out of sync sequel as his debut release titled “Part III: The Lilac Moon” under the moniker The Deserts Of Traun but was never happy with the weak production and video-gamish outcome therefore decided to reboot the whole series which brings us up to the modern day where he simultaneously released four EPs in 2017. Three of them are part of the series and the fourth is the leftover bonus tracks. Since the project took more than 20 years to complete, this is quite the ambitious effort and the fact that each EP hovers around the 20 minute mark make them quite accessible and the painstaking process of recording the wealth of sounds and styles with modern day technology makes these EPs substantially better than the 2003 album. Because this is a reboot, much material from that album was recycled and incorporated into the new releases.

The four EPs are to be heard in this order:

THE LILAC MOON

The Black Metal Princess

Escape From Spa 9

Deleted Scenes (bonus tracks)

``````````````````````````````````````````````````````

EP #1 - THE LILAC MOON

Each track has a storyline about how it relates to the concept. This is detailed in great artistic form on the TRAUN dot com website. This album, much like the Estradasphere albums Murray played on, runs the gamut of dreamy psychedelic ambience, electronic wizardry and heavy metal to bursts of jazz, folk and classical plus lots of ethnic influences as well. Just within the first track “The Crystal Caverns” many of these genres are present. However while the first track is more on the aggressive side, the second in line “Aervallis” is more of an airy Celtic folk song with busy Disney-esque classical leanings that leap into heavy progressive rock and back to dreamy folk. It takes no time at all to realize this is a huge project with thirteen musicians delivering rock (guitar, drums, bass, keys), classical (violin, viola, bassoon, cello, upright bass), folk (accordion, acoustic guitar, flute, mandolin) and jazz (baritone and tenor sax).

“The Broken Barge” continues with a speakeasy jazz lounge feel while “Inn Of The Dreaded Hippy” is right out of the Mr Bungle playbook with crazy keyboard workouts and time signature rich prog jumping in and out of metal with every other crazy idea thrown in for good measure. “The Thieving Wall” only continues the eclectic output with crazy heavy prog rhythms angularly darting out all over the place at breakneck speed with a slight surf rock vibe. Sort of like Secret Chiefs 3 on steroids. “Greywater Hideaway” is sombre and piano rich as well as slow and sumptuous and short like all the track which all hover around the two minute mark with the exception of the opener which hits three. The title track is flute rich prog folk rock track with more Celtic feels while “Errands Of Captain Yargh” is an explosive death metal explosion with industrial overtones.

“The Old Road” is back to prog folk only in a love affair downtempo electronica. “Valeriana” begins with mandolin and sounds like Renaissance music but quickly incorporates heavy rock guitar stomping and then morphs into classical soundtrack music. Damn, it’s hard to keep up with this ever-changing sonic feast! “Brig To Nowhere” begins with a pulsating electronic noise with a guitar playing in mono in the background but it becomes extreme metal guitar chugging with steady riffing but morphs into more progressive technicalities. Occasional breaks reveal a symphonic backdrop. “Embers In Snowfall” is a slow ambient folk outro. This album is only 21 minutes plus of music but has a ridiculous amount of elements and complexity in its playing time. Very cool stuff obviously catering to the Mr Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3, Estradasphere and Atomic Ape crowds.

ABYSMAL DAWN From Ashes

Album · 2006 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 5 ratings
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UMUR
"From Ashes" is the debut full-length studio album by US, California based death metal act Abysmal Dawn. The album was released through Crash Music Inc. in April 2006. When Relapse Records signed Abysmal Dawn for the release of their second full-length studio album "Programmed to Consume (2008)", they also opted to buy the rights to "From Ashes", which saw a Relapse Records reissue in 2011, featuring three bonus tracks. Abysmal Dawn was formed in late 2003 and released a well received demo in 2004 before signing to Crash Music Inc. for the release of "From Ashes".

Stylistically Abysmal Dawn deliver a technically well played type of death metal on "From Ashes". Abysmal Dawn is generally quite brutal, but they also embrace melodic moments, although that part of their sound is not a dominant feature on "From Ashes". The material is skillfully executed, and the album features a relatively well sounding production, and as such "From Ashes" is a quality death metal album. When that is said the songwriting isn´t the most interesting nor distinct sounding, which results in "From Ashes" drowning a bit in the vast number of relatively standard quality death metal releases on the market. So it´s not exactly a release where it´s easy to single out any tracks as highlights, because there are generally very few standout moments on the album. Instead it´s a very consistent album both in terms of the quality of the material and the musical style.

So at this point it´s safe to say that Abysmal Dawn lacked an original sound and more memorable songwriting to elevate their otherwise decent quality product to a higher level. It´s not always enough that you got the chops and a sound production which displays your music in a good light, if said music isn´t particularly memorable nor unique sounding. A 3.5 star (70%) rating isn´t all wrong though, as this is still a greatly entertaining quality death metal album while it plays, and for a debut release it does show promise.

YNGWIE J. MALMSTEEN Rising Force

Album · 1984 · Neoclassical metal
Cover art 4.17 | 42 ratings
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Yngwie Malmsteen’s 1984 debut, ‘Rising Force’, is the album that inspired a whole generation to grab a guitar and learn how to play it really, really fast, as well as giving birth to what’s known as the neoclassical subgenre, a hybrid of metal guitar playing with classical music themes. It’s a highly influential album. But does it hold up well today?

Not really.

I went into this album with some intrigue. The outspoken Malmsteen has never been too modest to tell us underlings of his superior musical abilities, so I was interested to see what the fuss was about. And to be honest, I find it pretty boring. Don’t get me wrong, he plays with absolute precision and intensity, and no doubt in 1984 this was groundbreaking stuff. But by today’s standards, it just sounds like the same recycled classical lick played over and over.

There are a few songs with vocals which aren’t too bad, ‘Now Your Ships Are Burned’ and ‘As Above, So Below’, and in this aspect Malmsteen’s playing suits the music well. But for the most part, I just find this album dull, with all the songs serving as a self-indulgent excuse to play the same guitar scales as fast as possible.

Except for one song; ‘Icarus’ Dream Suite Op. 4’.

Wow! Where did this come from?! I can tolerate mindless shredding here, because the melodies when the song slows down are incredible. The clean guitar playing, the keyboards, everything here just comes together perfectly! This song itself is pretty damn amazing, and while ‘Rising Force’ generally bores the hell out of me, this song alone is enough for me to at least come back for more and see what else the master of men can conjure up.

No doubt this is highly regarded by fans, and in particular, by other guitarists, as a classic. But it just doesn’t work for me.

GIGANTIC BRAIN The Invasion Discography

Boxset / Compilation · 2004 · Grindcore
Cover art 2.16 | 4 ratings
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"The Invasion Discography" is a compilation album by US, Virginia based experimental grindcore act Gigantic Brain. The album was released through Razorback Records in July 2004. Gigantic Brain was formed by John Brown in the early years of the millenium, and was at this point a one-man act. "The Invasion Discography" is a compilation featuring all material recorded by John Brown up until then.

The music on "The Invasion Discography" is one crazy mix of blasting grindcore, electronic effects/samples, programmed drums, assorted types of extreme vocals, and a futuristic sci-fi atmosphere. Most tracks are between a half minute to 1 minute long and with 63 tracks distributed over a 59:16 minutes long playing time there is a lot to dig into. The sound production is obviously created on a home computer, and while it´s fairly well sounding for that type of production, it´s clearly not a professionally produced product.

The music is quite adventurous with many shifts in style and genre within each track, but they are also rather chaotic and fragmented. So it´s definitely not a boring release, but it´s not exactly the most well written one either, if you appreciate memorability. This sounds a lot like it´s written and recorded to satisfy John Brown rather than to cater for an audience. It´s highly experimental and the more "regular" sounding grindcore parts are always followed by an atmospheric ambient part or something more experimental sounding.

Upon conclusion "The Invasion Discography" is probably very much an aquired taste. Some listeners will probably enjoy the crazy sci-fi concept, the home recording idea, and embrace the fragmented experimental grindcore style, while others will miss a bit more conscise and memorable songwriting, and a professional sound production. Personally I lean towards the latter opinion and a 2.5 star (50%) rating is warranted.

GIRLSCHOOL Demolition

Album · 1980 · NWoBHM
Cover art 3.40 | 8 ratings
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"Demolition" is the debut full-length studio album by UK hard/heavy rock act Girlschool. The album was released through Bronze Records in June 1980. Girlschool was formed in 1975 as an all girl rock covers band under the Painted Lady monicker, but after some lineup changes, they changed their name to Girlschool in 1978. They released the "Take it all away" single in 1979, which came to the attention of Lemmy from Motörhead, who helped them get the support slot on Motörhead´s 1979 "Overkill" tour. After the tour Girlschool signed with Bronze Records (at the time also home of Motörhead).

Stylistically the music on "Demolition" is sweaty and raw, badass rock´n´roll played by girls. Especially the instrumental part of the music takes no prisoners, and sounds like a combination of AC/DC, The Runaways, and Motörhead. So basically über amplified blues based hard rock. To my ears the female vocals lack a bit of grit and rawness, and takes away from the otherwise raw power of the music, but they are skillfully delivered, and it´s overall obvious that these girls can play/sing.

The material on the 10 track, 34:35 minutes long album is consistent in both quality and style. Vers/chorus structured and quite catchy rock´n´roll songs with few surprises, carried by a strong playing band and a well sounding and organic production. All tracks feature a great energy level which is one of the great assets of the album. I´d mention the Joan Jett influenced "Breakdown" as one of the highlights. "Demolition Boys" which opens the album and "Baby Doll", which is a live recording also stand out. Overall "Demolition" is a pretty great listen if you enjoy female fronted hard rock and had the vocals been a bit more raw I would probably have given a 4 star (80%) rating, but as it is the vocals drag my rating down to a 3.5 star (70%) rating.

IN FLAMES Lunar Strain

Album · 1994 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 20 ratings
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"Lunar Strain" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish melodic death metal act In Flames. The album was released through Wrong Again Records in April 1994. In Flames was formed by guitarist Jesper Strömblad (also drums and keyboards on this release) in 1990 as a side-project where he wanted to explore a more melodic version of death metal. Something he wasn´t able to do in his then main act Ceremonial Oath. After leaving the latter in 1993, he started assembling a lineup for In Flames, but initially wasn´t able to find a suitable vocalist and therefore Mikael Stanne from Dark Tranquillity sung on the 1993 demo. An arrangement which was continued on "Lunar Strain".

The music on the 10 track, 36:43 minutes long album is indeed melodic oriented death metal. Loads of harmony guitar themes, leads, and an overall epic atmosphere. There are also quite a few folk elements featured in the music like the occasional use of violins and acoustic guitars. The vocal style is an aggressive and relatively high pitched growling type of vocals, and they provide the music with just a slight touch of black metal (there are a few female vocals featured on the album too). A track like "Upon an Oaken Throne" even touches thrash metal territory, so In Flames are relatively eclectic on "Lunar Strain". Artists like Necrophobic, Dissection, and Unanimated aren´t completely wrong as references, although In Flames doesn´t embrace blasphemous/anti-Christian lyrics, but instead opt for a fantasy universe.

The quality of the material is very high throughout and "Lunar Strain" overall features a relatively good flow too. The sound production could have been better, but the album is still relatively well sounding, and the sound suits the music pretty well. The band is well playing too, and upon conclusion "Lunar Strain" is not only a promising debut release by In Flames, it´s also a very high quality release in it´s own right. Especially considering that it´s a debut release. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

OZZY OSBOURNE Black Rain

Album · 2007 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.66 | 20 ratings
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After 1988’s “No Rest For The Wicked,” the record company started cleaning up OZZY OSBOURNE’s bad boy image, which hard to believe by the standards of the 21st century, was quite the iconoclastic rage in the 80s with every televangelist and religious pundit lambasting the madman as public enemy #1 in the fight against moral deprivation and Satanic influences in popular music. This rebranding began with 1991’s “No More Tears” which after two decades of occult imagery and bat head biting antics depicted a clean and sombre OSBOURNE with an angel wing sprouting from his shoulder sporting a look of contemplative retrospectiveness. This was about the point when new high tides of heavy metal music were sprouting off from the parent source like a big bang and suddenly OSBOURNE’s role as heavy metal innovator suddenly shifting to godfather status where his legendary status as a solo artist and as lead singer with Black Sabbath overshadowed any musical contributions from this point on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

PARKWAY DRIVE Reverence

Album · 2018 · Metalcore
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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For their sixth studio album, Parkway Drive had a hell of a lot to live up to. After absolutely perfecting their formula with the popular Horizons and Deep Blue albums, and utterly reinventing themselves on the astounding Ire album, the Australians would have a hard time releasing anything that good. What should they do? Return to the old formula? Try and repeat the triumph of Ire?

What they decided to do was a bit different. On Atlas, the great but less-popular follow up to Deep Blue they decided to try and balance their formula with new ideas like choirs, strings and DJ scratching with more variety of fasts and slows. The band weren’t going to limit themselves or stay in their own little box, they already did the perfect version, so its time to try some new ideas.

Reverence, to me, feels to Ire as Atlas did to Deep Blue. Its not a rehash of the past formula but a pushing of the envelope. Its taking that general idea but broadening it. There’s some pretty inventive and new sounds for Parkway on this album, from quiet spoken word bits, no almost Ghost-eque latin sounding chants (‘I Hope You Rot’), and film-score sounding orchestration. And while Atlas all sounded cataclysmic like a disaster movie, Reverence sounds epic and biblical.

Musical direction is one thing, but of course its all for nothing if the quality isn’t there. Fortunately Revereance is not only interesting, but it is also excellent. There are some absoltuely fantastic songs, amazingly catchy choruses and damn enjoyable guitar lines. There’s parts that’ll stick in your head for days (‘I’ve got the whole world swinging from the end of a chain,’ gets me every time). Some of those drum fills and leads are demading of a good air-instrumenting. Some of these songs will utterly crush live!

If you only want Parkway at their absolute heaviest and don’t want any clean singing, or any atypical instrumentation, then maybe chose a different album as your first. If you like the band, especially the shift in direction that started with Ire, then you don’t want to be missing out on Reverance. It is one hell of a record, strong all the way through, creative, interesting and thoroughly entertaining.

Highlights include the single ‘Wishing Wells’ as well as ‘Shadow Boxing’ and the dark ‘The Colour Of Leaving’

Its too early yet to rank it in their discography, but I can tell you right away from first impressions it certainly aint in trouble of being in the bottom half. I got this on release day (for some reason it was signed, which didn’t cost any extra, hooray!) and have absolutely pasted it every since. I can listen to this five times in a row and not be sick of it. It is a truly joyous album. If you are a fan don’t hesitate, get in on this ASAP.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY No Cross No Crown

Album · 2018 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.82 | 3 ratings
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"No Cross No Crown" is the 10th full-length studio album by US metal/heavy rock act Corrosion of Conformity. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in January 2018. It´s the successor to "IX" from 2014 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as lead vocalist/guitarist Pepper Keenan has returned to the fold after leaving the band after the "In the Arms of God (2005)" album and not being part of the lineup who recorded the 2012 eponymously titled comeback album nor a part of the lineup who recorded "IX (2012)". Both mentioned albums were recorded by the three-piece lineup of Mike Dean (Bass, Vocals), Reed Mullin (Drums, Vocals), and Woody Weatherman (Guitars, Vocals).

It was never ruled out that the three remaining members wouldn´t work with Keenan again, and in late 2014 Corrosion of Conformity indeed announced that they would be reuniting with Keenan to write and record at least one album and tour in support of it. Initially the plan was to release the album in 2015, but touring commitments and the temporary dismissal of Mullin after an alcohol abuse related seizure postponed the recording and release plans.

While the two predecessors featured a more hardcore influenced heavy rock/metal style, which harks back to the early beginnings of the band, "No Cross No Crown" more or less picks up where "In the Arms of God (2005)" left off. So the listener is treated to a catchy stoner metal/southern influenced heavy rock style featuring healthy doses of both aggression, groove, and melody. Keenan is a skilled vocalist with a distinct sounding voice and delivery, and he just brings that something extra to Corrosion of Conformity´s sound. The instrumental part of the music is also performed with great skill and conviction. The band are an organic playing unit, who obviously know each other well and connect on a musical plain. Nothing sounds forced here and the band appear to have a good time playing, which isn´t always the case with reunited artists.

So it seems that the band have reunited with the right intentions in mind (because they like playing together and not just because they could make a lot of money). That can also be heard in the quality of the material on the 15 track, 57:37 minutes long album, which is relatively high throughout the album. I wouldn´t call "No Cross No Crown" the band´s strongest or most memorable release, but it´s a powerful, groove laden, and heavy and hard rocking album, featuring mostly memorable and catchy songs. The whole thing is packed in a raw and organic sounding production, which suits the material well, so upon conclusion "No Cross No Crown" is a quality comeback album for the Pepper Keenan-fronted Corrosion of Conformity. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

VARIOUS ARTISTS (GENERAL) Metal Madness: Vol. 1

Boxset / Compilation · 2018 · Metal Related Genres
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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VARIOUS ARTISTS - METAL MADNESS: Vol. 1 https://wisteriatn.bandcamp.com/album/metal-madness-vol-1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISTURBED Ten Thousand Fists

Album · 2005 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.69 | 17 ratings
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martindavey87
Disturbed’s third studio album, 2005’s ‘Ten Thousand Fists’, sees the band finally hit their stride, adapting a more contemporary sound while somewhat maintaining their groove-based nu metal style. With that particular subgenre of music being dead and buried, this was a pivotal album for the band to show that they could hold their own outside of that scene, with an album that would appeal to fans of metal old and new alike.

Having focused on the highlights of their previous releases, catchy choruses in particular, ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ has an abundance of hooks that makes every track memorable, and with its monstrous production and simple song structures, Disturbed’s music sounds a lot more accessible and mainstream.

Guitarist Dan Donegan’s guitar playing is brilliant here. With skull-crushing precision, his riffs are heavy, yet groovy, and fit perfectly with David Draiman’s melodic vocals. In fact, Donegan lets rip in a couple of tracks with some very slick guitar solos, showing that he had the chops all along, but either left them out to further conform to nu metal trends, or simply that there was no need for them. Either way, he’s finally cutting loose, and it sounds great!

Highlights include the thunderous hit single ‘Stricken’, the huge and epic-sounding ‘Overburdened, and a cracking cover of the Genesis classic, ‘Land of Confusion’, as well as ‘Just Stop’, ‘Guarded’, ‘Sacred Lie’, and ‘Pain Redefined’. And then of course, the title track itself, which is an absolute anthem that will literally produce a sea of raised fists for a metal call-to-arms. The musicianship on these tracks is fantastic, with exceptional performances from everyone involved.

Overall, while ‘Ten Thousand Fists’ isn’t quite a masterpiece, it’s a solid album that definitely helped Disturbed shake off any nu metal remnants, and established them as a legit heavy metal act. It holds up well today, and marks the band as one of the more important acts to burst onto the scene at the turn of the century.

SLEEP The Sciences

Album · 2018 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 4 ratings
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Warthur
After all this time, and particularly considering that its members had gone off to do other projects, did anybody expect Sleep to ever put out another album? No - but good things come to those who wait. A full decade after reforming for very occasional live gigs, Sleep woke up in a bleary haze on 4/20 and passed us some of the good stuff - namely, a set of six songs in the classic Sleep vein. Nothing here is quite as mind-crushingly heavy as Dopesmoker, but that's only to be expected - nothing is as heavy as Dopesmoker - but I'd say in general it's consistently heavier and slower than, say, Sleep's Holy Mountain. If you know your stoner doom, you already know what to expect from Sleep, and they deliver it here as though they'd never been away.

XANTHOCHROID Of Erthe and Axen Act II

Album · 2017 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.92 | 3 ratings
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Warthur
This is the second half of Xanthochroid's two-part concept album, the two between them detailing the origin myth of their homebrewed Dungeons & Dragons world (I think). As previously, we're in a blackened progressive metal territory here, with folk touches and an overall concept which seems to combine the storyteller's theatricality of the Decemberists with the fantasy worldbuilding of Immortal. To my ears, it sounds like it has a bit more fire and fury than its predecessor, in keeping with being the exciting climax of the story. On the whole, the two-album set was an ambitious project to undertake, but it has at least paid off in terms of prompting a maturing and development in Xanthochroid's sound.

CLAWFINGER Use Your Brain

Album · 1995 · Rap Metal
Cover art 3.08 | 2 ratings
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martindavey87
1995’s ‘Use Your Brain’ is the second album by Swedish rap rockers Clawfinger. It follows in the same vein as its predecessor, ‘Deaf Dumb Blind’, with similar compositions and a nearly identical sound, but it seems to lack the same youthful exuberance that made the latter such an engaging listen.

Mixing rapping vocals with metal guitar riffs long before the likes of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park gained worldwide fame, Clawfinger’s groove-laden music has always been about uncompromising, in-your-face attitude. With a dirty, gritty sound, and lyrics that spit in the face of political correctness, they’ve never been afraid to put themselves on the line.

Utilizing simple, yet striking guitar work with electronic samples, the band have an effective and fairly distinctive sound. Vocalist Zak Tell’s rapid fire delivery, which blends rapping with hardcore and punk rock elements, goes well with the music, and certainly paints a picture of an angry and frustrated band.

But unfortunately, ‘Use Your Brain’ just simply isn’t as good as the band’s debut. While it’s not a bad album, ‘Deaf Dumb Blind’ was consistently strong throughout, while here, we’re treated to a few moments of sheer genius being smothered by an abundance of filler material. But despite the weaker tracks, songs like ‘Power’, ‘Die High’, ‘Do What I Say’ and ‘Pay the Bill’ are all strong enough to stand next to anything the band have done before, and are all good reasons to at least give this album a chance.

KATATONIA The Fall Of Hearts

Album · 2016 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.29 | 16 ratings
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Necrotica
A common thread you wind up finding in every Katatonia album is that every one of them exhibits a different kind of melancholy. Each expression of that one emotion changes with each stylistic shift or altered lyrical approach, but either way, the melancholy still returns in some way. Perhaps it comes in the form of desperate wails and screams over crushing doom-laden riffs (Dance of December Souls). Maybe it can be found in gritty imagery involving the ills of crime and street life (Viva Emptiness). Alternately, the looming darkness of orchestral strings and mellotrons could seal the deal (Dead End Kings). But when it comes to The Fall of Hearts, the dreary atmosphere is expressed somewhat… differently. It might come down to a lack of metal influences this time around, but there’s an unusually surreal and dreamlike touch to the music. The songs are sad, yes, but also given a sort of levity and weightlessness by the shimmering clean guitars and light piano melodies that coil around the increasingly progressive rhythms. Jonas Renkse has channeled his sorrows through more passionate vocal passages (just listen to the chorus of “Last Song Before the Fade”!) while the music surrounding him has become more abstract compared to past efforts.

Really, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not like this progressive influence is just out of the blue; the last few records, especially Dead End Kings, were already hinting at this bold new direction. But I suppose the fascinating thing about The Fall of Hearts is just how well they pulled off those influences. Instead of the crunchy, churning alternative metal riffs that dominated a good chunk of the band’s career, there’s now more respect and care given to the atmosphere than ever before. If you ever hear a downtuned metal riff (“Takeover,” “Passer,” “Serac,” and “Last Song Before the Fade” still bring the heaviness to a degree), you can be sure that a beautiful slow passage will be just around the corner to counteract the aggression. “Serac,” for instance, brings a fresh melding of progressive metal and soft rock that’s not too dissimilar to Opeth’s best works from the early 2000s (minus the growls, of course). Then you have “Passer,” which kicks off with a shredding guitar solo over a rapid-fire galloping snare rhythm before it almost immediately dies down to give us one of the most emotionally potent verses the band have ever concocted. It’s not that the band have lost their edge, but that they simply reserved it for the best moments this time around. And really, a lot of that can be attributed to the fact that Katatonia didn’t really subscribe to a set songwriting formula this time around. The arrangements are quite labyrinthine and unpredictable compared to what we’re used to from these guys, and the opening 7-minute track “Takeover” is an immediate example of this. This mini-epic takes you in so many directions in such little time, from a beautiful dreamlike intro/refrain to a rousing metal section to a deeply orchestral chorus to a stunning piano break. Add to that a killer guitar solo from newcomer Roger Ojersson on top of that, and you’ve got one of the best openers in recent memory.

In fact, let’s talk about those newcomers for a second. Guitarist Roger Ojersson and drummer Daniel Moilanen were a huge asset to the sound The Fall of Hearts would ultimately adopt and cultivate, as their technical proficiency allowed the band to work outside of their typical framework a bit more. The solos in “Takeover,” “Passer,” and especially the harmonized portion of “Serac” are incredible ways to build on songwriting that already takes pride in taking listeners on a real journey. Meanwhile, Daniel absolutely kills on the drumkit. His grasp of varying time signatures and subtle dynamics is just impeccable, and he can shift styles with ease to fit each mood perfectly. As for the songwriting, however, you may notice in the credits that it’s all Jonas Renkse and Anders Nystrom as usual. Maybe that’s the most fascinating thing about The Fall of Hearts, really. Just the fact that these two had it in them to make this record all along, but they simply needed the right circumstances and band members to make it happen. If you want a good marker of just how much they’ve evolved as songwriters, just take into account the fact that “Pale Flag” and “Shifts” are minimalist folk rock ballads with almost none of the band’s typical sonic trademarks present, and yet they’re not out of place in the slightest. But then again, nothing on The Fall of Hearts is out of place; it’s just the sound of a fully-evolved, fully-realized Katatonia that was always trying to break free from the mire of comfortable familiarity.

MEGADETH Crush 'Em

Single · 1999 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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martindavey87
July 5th, 1999.

Megadeth were performing on an episode of World Championship Wrestling’s Monday Nitro. It seemed odd that a metal band would perform at a wrestling event, and much like Kiss did a few weeks prior, it bombed. Nobody wanted to see it. Nobody did see it. And it accomplished nothing.

Except for changing my life.

Performing ‘Crush ‘Em’ to coincide with the return of wrestler Bill Goldberg from a break (Goldberg starred in the movie Universal Soldier: The Return, of which this featured on the soundtrack), the song played repeatedly over the following weeks, and 12 year-old me was absolutely hooked!

‘Crush ‘Em’ itself is a huge departure from Megadeth’s typical sound. With the 90’s coming to a close, Dave Mustaine tried his hand at writing mainstream rock songs, hoping to appeal to bigger audiences with the album ‘Risk’. He failed. Big time. But ‘Crush ‘Em’ served one purpose, and it served it well. It was intended as a sports anthem, with hopes that it’d be played in arenas at games, and for a while, it was. With its pounding bass line and thunderous guitars, the chanting of “Crush! Crush ‘Em!” is tailor-made for getting crowds psyched up. It’s simple, it’s catchy, it’s effective.

As for this single release however? Meh. There’s just two songs. An album version, and a radio version, which basically skips one verse and the outro. Nothing special, nothing fancy, no gimmicks or novelties. Just two different versions of ‘Crush ‘Em’. Fantastic song, and I genuinely mean that. But don’t bother getting this single unless you’re a huge, huge fan that absolutely must own everything regardless of how pointless it might be. Just get the ‘Risk’ album instead.

And yeah, that is a recommendation for ‘Risk’. That album is awesome!

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