Metal Music Reviews

POWERWOLF The Sacrament of Sin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS The Red Hot Chili Peppers

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

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

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

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

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

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM Doomsday for the Deceiver

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

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

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

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

CRIMINAL Victimized

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

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

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

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

OBSCURE INFINITY Putrefying Illusions

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

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

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

DREAM THEATER Live at Budokan

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

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

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

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

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

SAVATAGE Commissar

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

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

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

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

SKYGLOW Thousand Years Of Terror

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DISTURBED Indestructible

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

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

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

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

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

PARADISE LOST Lost Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

PLATITUDE Nine

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

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

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

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

ENSLAVED The Sleeping Gods

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

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

INGESTED The Level Above Human

Album · 2018 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
Buy this album from MMA partners
Nightfly
Things have been a bit quiet lately on the new release front from my death metal favourites. Whilst I’m always looking to check out bands I’ve never heard before this current dearth has encouraged me to look a bit wider. One such album I’ve recently come across in my search is The Level Above Human by Ingested. It’s the fourth from this brutal Manchester bunch but the first I’ve heard by them.

Whether there’s any musical growth from their earlier releases I couldn’t say and maybe I should have done my homework and found out. What I can say though is while it doesn’t offer anything original, something that’s not necessary anyway if you’ve got the songs to back it up, if brutal/slam death metal and deathcore is your thing then you probably will find much to enjoy here. The playing is tight and pretty complex at times with tempos ranging from the expected breakneck blasts to slower breakdowns and slam death parts. There are plenty of strong riffs throughout though the opening riff of Invidious sounds like a rip off of Iron Strengthens Iron from the last Dyscarnate album, With All Their Might. Individually each song sounds fine but nothing jumps out particularly to distinguish it from the rest despite the bands efforts to inject plenty of changes into individual tracks. After a while one song tends to blend into another and after the full 44 minutes I was feeling like I’d had enough. The more melodic instrumental Obsolescent offers some welcome respite from the overall bludgeon and alternating growl/shriek vocals making a good choice for closing the album.

Overall then, The Level Above Human whilst certainly no classic is a pretty good album. I’m sure plenty of people will love it but my own preference for my death metal being served straight up makes it more an album I admire rather than love. One that I’ll be happy to give a spin from time to time though for sure.

DREAM THEATER Through Her Eyes

Single · 2000 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.14 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
Releasing singles to promote concept albums is always going to be tough. I mean, most often the songs are a small part of a larger narrative, but need to be able to work in the context of a single track. Dream Theater’s ‘Through Her Eyes’ does this well.

It seems a bit of an odd choice for a single to promote the phenomenal ‘Scenes From a Memory’ album, but the soft, gospel-inspired ballad is a catchy and emotional piece. This EP release comes with two different versions of the track, with an alternate mix having a more soulful feel to it. However, the track as a whole is actually probably one of the more subtle and possibly weaker moments from the record it’s promoting.

Then there are two live tracks, both of which come close to the 15-minute mark in duration. Now, Dream Theater are one of my favourite bands, but these recordings are pretty weak, and fairly poorly mixed, and coming at a time when James LaBrie’s vocals were suffering from a previous injury he’d sustained, they don’t really do justice to the band. A medley of moments from their first two albums, ‘When Images and Words Unite’ sounds like it should be an interesting nugget for fans, but it’s actually really not all that inspired.

Overall, ‘Scenes From a Memory’ is an absolute masterpiece, and is a highly regarded and highly recommended album, but ‘Through Her Eyes’ is definitely one for collectors.

BUDGIE Budgie

Album · 1971 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 30 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
If you’re serious about diving into the origins of heavy metal you will no doubt tackle the usual suspects such as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, but in the early gestation years of the late 60s and the fully formed heavy rock bands that provided the antecedents of the greater metal universe, there were quite a few contenders that didn’t quite attract the same level of success as the big three. The Cardiff, Wales based BUDGIE was one of the earliest such bands that was a seminal influence on the NWOBM scene that would emerge at the tail end if the 70s. While formed in 1967 under the less-than-metal moniker Hills Contemporary Grass, they changed their name to Six Ton Budgie before finally truncating it to the more known BUDGIE which is an informal term for “budgerigar,” an Australian parakeet which would become their mascot. This power trio of Tony Bourge (guitar), Tony Shelley (bass, vocals, mellotron) and Ray Phillips (drums, percussion) chose this name as a diametrically opposing term in relation to their bombastic bluesy rock bravado.

While Black Sabbath was in 1971 the heaviest band in existence, BUDGIE wasn’t too far behind. Their eponymous debut released the same year as “Master Of Reality,” followed the trends of the more successful bands and could be generalized as heavy rock straddling in between the heavy Sabbath riffing with Led Zeppelin inspired compositional constructs as well as Shelley’s Robert Plant inspired vocal style. The Sabbath inspired parts come to the forefront with the opener “Guts” which is a little too close to Sabbath’s own “Hand Of Doom” which sounds like a good case for plagiarism to my ears but the album quickly drifts off into their own unique middle ground between the great Sabbath and Led Zep. Many have cited as BUDGIE being the first version of the Canadian band Rush since they are a power trio and deliver a tight and compelling band sound out of only three musicians. On this debut they do indeed have that heavy rock gusto that Rush would unleash on their first two pre-progressive albums. Likewise BUDGIE, while rooted in ballsy blues rock with a more bombastic approach, did engage in progressively tinged compositional constructs.

While BUDGIE may have borrowed a lot from Sabbath and Led Zep, they have also been the influencers as well with tracks like the whimsically titled “Nude Disintegrating Parachutist Woman” a clear antecedent into Golden Earring’s hit “Radar Love” which also displays Shelley’s unique bass slapping style with a little funk technique and heavy rock groove with Phillips pounding out the supporting percussive drive accompanied by Bourge’s guitar antics. Very heavy stuff for 1971 indeed and progressive as it clocked in at 8:41 and meandered through a series of clever musical moves not common in the bluesy rock world of the day. “Rape Of The Locks” allows Bourge to show off some of his guitar tricks with a series of flashy solos before erupting into a boogie rock style that would become the staple of bands such as ZZ Top in the coming years. Tracks like “All Night Petrol” find Shelley doing his best Robert Plant vocal exercises but alongside a Sabbath inspired doom laden riff in a mid-tempo groove. “You And I” shows a mellower side with a short acoustic ballad.

BUDGIE created a very interesting sound for sure and although they didn’t quite have the over-the-top performance charisma that Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin delivered to the world, they provided a unique glimpse in between the musical sounds where those two bands existed. While parts of BUDGIE’s debut are clearly inspired by certain tracks from their influences, somehow they polish it out with their own unique stamp. The blues oriented hard rock riffing is more akin to 60s bands like Cream with Sabbath overtones (due partly to Sabbath’s producer Rodger Bain in the picture), but they crafted their compositions completely differently with more complex constructs that meandered into more unexpected territory. In other words less calculated and more free. While destined to be more of a footnote of history for providing the blueprints of heavy metal riffing that would be fully realized by bands like Metallica in the next decade, BUDGIE are well worth checking out in their own right. The synthesis of heavy rock with progressive touches makes this more than a historical artifact.

MORBID ANGEL Altars of Madness

Album · 1989 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.34 | 41 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
FMOTP
I rarely listen to death metal; Morbid Angel is the only "old school" death metal band I listen to regularly. I think my very high rating for ALTARS OF MADNESS has something to do with that fact. The creativity and musical skill that the band showed, starting with their first album, places them above almost every other band in the genre IMO. Although I'm far from the first person to say it, major credit has to be given to drummer Pete Sandoval. I can't imagine the skill it takes to play these constantly changing rhythms, even within individual songs.

Some have complained about the sound quality. I listened to ALTARS OF MADNESS on a decent pair of headphones (this is music that definitely requires attentive listening), and had no problems with the sound. Although Morbid Angel may have refined their approach on later albums, that takes nothing away from the brilliance of ALTARS OF MADNESS.

AMORPHIS Queen Of Time

Album · 2018 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.83 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Kev Rowland
After twelve albums, world tours, countless gold records, Amorphis are back with their mix of metal, folklore and rock. After their last tour they decided to take a break before going into the studio to rehearse the new album, so had a single day off, before starting the next chapter. This means that all the tightness and understanding that develops from being on the road and gigging were still very much there. In many ways it goes back to the early Seventies when bands were expect to either be on the road or in the studio, preferably releasing an album every 6-8 months. I remember reading an interview with Ian Anderson saying that all his downtime while on tour in the States was spent writing songs for the next Jethro Tull album as they had to be ready for the band to record before they headed back out on the next tour.

I have long been a fan of Amorphis, who somehow manage to bring together many different styles and influences yet make the music so complete and seamless that it always makes total sense. It doesn’t matter if there is a saxophone, or guitar solo, or choir, it is always exactly the right thing to move the music onwards. After their last album, ‘Under The Red Cloud’, some fans may have expected them to get even heavier, but here they have moved sideways and have brought in the likes Chrigel Glanzmann (Eluveitie) on pipes, laryngeal singer Albert Kuvezin and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, plus an orchestra and a choir, while also maintaining an incredibly heavy intensity. These elements deliver a dramatic and cinematic depth to the sound, making everything even more epic, even deeper, and even more meaningful than ever before.

As always, borne by Pekka Kainulainen's poetic lyrics, AMORPHIS penetrate deeper than ever into the thicket of folklore and cosmic contexts. "This time, Pekka tells about the cosmic powers that people believed in long ago in a very universal way: the rise and fall of cultures." This is also symbolized by the image of the bee on the album cover - the queen of time, as Holopainen explains the title of the album. "It represents the microcosm that can nevertheless trigger cataclysmic changes. The fall of world empires ushered in by a small sprouting seed. The butterfly that causes a hurricane." And as “Daughter Of Hate” needed a spoken part, lyricist Kainulainen also appears for the first time as a narrator. An excellent choice: His wise and venerable shaman-like voice is a perfect match to the music. Original bassist Olli-Pekka Laine, has also returned to the fold, following the departure of Niclas Etelävuori after 17 years, as the band look both back over what has gone before, and to the future with yet another stunning piece of work. From the production through to the quality and style of the songs, this is essential.

DREAM THEATER The Silent Man

Single · 1994 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 2.62 | 4 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
Taken from the 1994 album ‘Awake’, ‘The Silent Man’ is a bit of an odd choice for a single. A soft, near-four minute acoustic ballad, it’s a great song when heard in context of the album, but alone, as a single, it doesn’t quite have the same impact.

It’s not a bad song as such, and on the album it actually works well as the third part of a trilogy titled ‘A Mind Beside Itself’. But it just seems dreary and dull as a single. There’s plenty of other material from the ‘Awake’ album that would have made more sense to use as promotional material, and a better representation of what the record has to offer.

Still, it’s an okay song I guess. A demo of ‘Take the Time’ is a welcome b-side, though it sounds near-identical to the finished product, making it something only die-hard fans would care about. And there’s ‘Eve’. A short instrumental which the band had jammed out to at gigs, but this actual studio recording doesn’t really do anything for me.

This one is a bit of rarity these days, and since Dream Theater is such a beloved cult band, it’s likely this is still sought after by collectors, and as such, that’s all this is now, a collector’s item. Nothing more, nothing less.

AUTOPSY Shitfun

Album · 1995 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.27 | 5 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"Shitfun" is the 4th full-length studio album by US death metal act Autopsy. The album was released through Peaceville Records in September 1995. "Shitfun" was already recorded in Nov/Dec 1994 though. It was the last album released by the band until they reunited 2009 and a couple of years down the line released "Macabre Eternal (2011)". At the time of the release of "Shitfun", Autopsy had already disbanded and several of the members went on to form Abscess. For most of the recording sessions for "Shitfun", Autopsy functioned as the three-piece of Chris Reifert (Vocals, Drums, Bass), Danny Coralles (Guitars, Bass), and Eric Cutler (Guitars, Bass), but with some additional bass tracks being played by Freeway Migliore and Clint Bower. Both guests would be part of the early Abscess lineup.

Stylistically "Shitfun" pretty much continues down the filthy, old school US death metal path of "Acts of the Unspeakable (1992)", but still manages to sound vastly different from it´s predecessor. Not so much because of the music itself, but as a consequence of the very different sounding production. Where "Acts of the Unspeakable (1992)" features a rather thin sounding production, "Shitfun" features a dark, brutal, and rather meaty sounding ditto. The tracks alternate between faster deathgrinding parts, mid-paced death metal sections, and crushingly heavy/doomy parts. It´s often very simple, almost punk oriented, but Autopsy always incorporate little details to keep the listener interested throughout. The lead guitar work is for example very intriguing, and often the icing on the morbid cake. If you hadn´t guessed it by looking at the disgusting and perverted cover artwork, songtitles like "Humiliate Your Corpse", "I Sodomize Your Corpse", and "Shit Eater", should tell you that Autopsy is still as twisted and gore obsessed as always. This time around with an even more sick sexual twist.

The musicianship is a story in itself. Autopsy is just about the epitome of organic played old school death metal. The playing is skillful yet delivered with a great loose organic feel, that transports the listener right into the rehearsal room with the band. Chris Reifert´s growling vocals are relatively intelligible, and delivered in his usual deranged style, but it´s his drumming that deserves a special mention more than anything else. He is simply the master of this style of drumming. The other guys are well playing too.

The above mentioned sound production is very well sounding and brings the best out in the tracks. So upon conclusion "Shitfun" is a great death metal release by Autopsy. At 21 tracks distributed over a 55:38 minutes long playing time, the album is a bit too long for it´s own good, but taken track by track, there is a lot of quality to be found here. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

AT THE GATES The Red in the Sky Is Ours

Album · 1992 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 13 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"The Red in the Sky Is Ours" is the debut full-length studio album by Swedish death metal act At the Gates. The album was released through Deaf Records in July 1992. At the Gates was formed in 1990 after Grotesque disbanded. They were part of the very furtile Gothenburg scene of the early 90s, which also spawned artists like In Flames and Dark Tranquillity.

While At the Gates are often mentioned among the forefarthers of the melodeath style, the music on "The Red in the Sky Is Ours" is not melodeath by any means. At least only in very small portions. There are plenty of melodic guitar themes featured throughout the album, but the music on this particular At the Gates album is a much more eclectic size to be just labelled melodeath. The album features elements from technical death/thrash metal, melodic death metal, blackened death metal, and even a couple of nods toward folk metal. The latter is only true when the band incorporate the use of folky violin playing a couple of times during the playing time, but it´s there and therefore a part of the sound on the album. The blackened edge mostly stems from Tomas Lindberg´s singing style which is a higher pitched growl than your usual more deeper growl, but also as a result of the often dark and mystic atmosphere of the music. I´m sometimes reminded of artists like Unanimated and Necrophobic. But then the band also mix in melodic guitar themes and quite technical death/thrashy riffing/drumming, and it´s hard not to get the feeling that the album is a bit "all over the place".

Stylistic inconsistency can be a huge issue for some releases, but At the Gates somehow manage to pull it off convincingly. So even though it´s obvious the band were pretty immature composers at this point, they still have so many great intriguing songwriting ideas, and a passionate, skillful, and convincing delivery of those ideas, that "The Red in the Sky Is Ours" is overall a pretty strong debut album. I´m even ready to forgive the rather thin and not too well sounding production, because of the creativity on display here and a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

QUEENSRŸCHE Q2K

Album · 1999 · Hard Rock
Cover art 2.43 | 27 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
UMUR
"Q2K" is the 7th full-length studio album by US heavy metal/hard rock act Queensrÿche. The album was released through Atlantic Records in September 1999. It´s the successor to "Hear In The Now Frontier" from 1997 and there´s been one lineup change since the predecessor as original guitarist (and one of the main composers of the band) Chris DeGarmo has left and has been replaced by Kelly Gray. The latter played with lead vocalist Geoff Tate in his pre-Queensrÿche 80s band Myth. It was the first lineup change in the recording history of Queensrÿche.

The hard rock infused "Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)" was quite the big departure from the preceding more heavy metal oriented releases by Queensrÿche, and "Q2K" continues the hard rock oriented trend of its direct predecessor. It´s slightly sharper sounding than "Hear In The Now Frontier (1997)", but it´s still quite a polished and mainstream oriented hard rock/heavy metal affair. The tracks are vers/chorus structured and there are generally very few surprises during the album´s playing time.

Queensrÿche are as always well playing and professional, and although he is a bit more restrained in his use of high notes here than on the early releases by the band, Tate is still a force to be reckoned with. "Q2K" features a professional, detailed, and well sounding production too, so it´s the songwriting which brings the album down to a less interesting quality level. The material simply lack memorable vocal hooks, catchy hard rocking riffs and rhythms, and variation. Even after several spins I remember very few tracks from the album and that´s seldom a good sign when listening to something as melodic as this album generally is. A 2.5 - 3 star (55%) rating is warranted.

LINKIN PARK Crawling

Single · 2001 · Nu Metal
Cover art 2.25 | 2 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
‘Crawling’ is the second single released for Linkin Park’s monumental 2000 debut album ‘Hybrid Theory’. It’s a solid nu metal track which helped usher the subgenre to a worldwide platform, gaining popularity among rock and non-rock fans alike. With its quiet verses and massively dramatic and heavy chorus, it’s a simple track which highlights vocalist Chester Bennington’s incredible range.

Overall however, of the numerous singles released for the bands debut, this is probably the weakest. I do like it in the context of the album, but never really find myself playing this one on its own. A live radio performance of ‘Papercut’ accompanies the main track, and is a decent enough listen which shows a young, energetic and enthusiastic band in their early days.

‘Hybrid Theory’ is one of the albums I credit for rejuvenating a then-stagnant metal scene at the turn of the century, and is absolutely essential to any music collection. But since CD singles are a thing of the past, ‘Crawling’ is best left to the absolute most die-hard collectors.

SKELETAL REMAINS Devouring Mortality

Album · 2018 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
Kev Rowland
Taking their name from a song by cult NY thrash band Demolition Hammer, covering a song by Carcass on the album, along with it being mixed and mastered by Dan Swanö (Opeth, Bloodbath) and featuring cover art by Dan Seagrave (Entombed, Suffocation, Dismember), it is safe to say that with their third full-length album American death metal band Skeletal Remains are not showing any signs at all of slowing down. These guys have obviously been heavily influenced by Death, with a technical old school sound that is reminiscent of Schuldiner. One of the delighst of this album is the way that they mix tempos,. Not afraid to slow it right down almost to doom speed when the time is right, this allows them to hit back with real impact when they ramp it up, but also shows on songs such as “Catastrophc Retribution” that solos don’t have to be at the speed of light to have the corrcet impact.

There is a lightness within this, with the bottom end not always a sprevalent as it might be, but with Chris Monroy’s vocals not also being a guttural and brutal as one might expect, it actually works together really well. This is a really easy album to listen to, which isn’t something that one can always say of the genre, yet contains plenty of dynamic shifts which are always in keeping with the tone and allows the band to create a distinct sound within the genre. More melodic than many, and certainly not as abrasive, this is an album which is essential for any fan of the genre.

RUSH Fly by Night

Album · 1975 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.38 | 65 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
‘Fly By Night’ is the second album by Canadian rock legends Rush. Released in 1975, it’s the first album to feature drummer Neil Peart, and solidifies what is the definitive Rush line up, with bassist/vocalist Geddy Lee and guitarist Alex Lifeson, holding up all the way to the bands retirement in January 2018.

However, I don’t think this album is as good as the band’s debut. While there’s a few good songs, and Neil Peart’s drumming has lots of small touches that make him stand out from his predecessor, John Rutsey, I just struggle to really get into most of these tracks.

That’s not really a knock on the band though. I love Rush, especially their 80’s synth-driven era, and their self-titled debut was a solid hard rock album. But ‘Fly By Night’ just doesn’t quite work for me. It’s easy to hear the progressive elements coming into the trios sound, and the musicianship itself is fantastic. I’d just prefer to listen to ‘Grace Under Pressure’ or ‘Signals’ instead.

So what songs do I like? ‘Anthem’ is catchy, as is the title track and ‘Best I Can’, and there’s the soft, folk-inspired ‘Rivendell’ which I didn’t like initially but eventually it came to grow on me. But from a band with such a wealth of material to choose from, I can’t see myself coming back to these very often.

Rush are one of my all-time favourite bands, and with a career spanning over 40 years, there’s bound to be a couple of albums I’m not too keen on. This is one of them. There’s no specific reason, but they have so many other albums that I prefer much more over this one. Simple as that. Sorry guys!

PANTERA Far Beyond Driven

Album · 1994 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.24 | 47 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
‘Far Beyond Driven’ is the seventh studio album by groove metal band Pantera, and the third since their unofficial rebirth, having shed their 80’s glam days. It’s weird to me, however, that while the band were one of the most influential metal groups of the 90’s, and this release reached the number one spot on the Billboard charts, it’s really a fairly average release, and is brimming with subpar material.

The most notable difference with ‘Far Beyond Driven’ over its predecessors is the absolute brutality of the record. It’s by far heavier than anything the Texans had put out prior. But sadly this comes at a great cost, as most of the songs are incredibly lacklustre. While the album starts off promisingly enough, it very quickly becomes a rather repetitive affair, with most songs sounding like a bunch of riffs incoherently thrown together.

The production itself leaves much to be desired, with particular mention going to the drums, which at times sound programmed in. Phil Anselmo’s choice of screaming and shouting over singing has certainly upped the aggression of the album, but does nothing for me. The only real highlight is guitarist Dimebag Darrell, who’s influential guitar playing has garnered endless acclaim, however, even here, it feels slightly by the numbers.

‘Strength Beyond Strength’, ‘Five Minutes Alone’ and ‘I’m Broken’ are all decent enough tracks, and a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Planet Caravan’ actually works really well for the band (I’m not a fan of the original, but this one is pretty good). But overall however, none of these songs are all that memorable to me, and certainly don’t hold up well to the bands previous two releases.

It’s not the worst album I own, but for all the praise it received, it certainly doesn’t live up to the hype. Oh, and the song ‘Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills’ is an absolute abomination.

SAVATAGE Gutter Ballet

Album · 1989 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 42 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
martindavey87
While there’s always been subtle classical and theatrical elements to Savatage’s music, it wasn’t until 1989’s ‘Gutter Ballet’ that the band really started to take their sound in a more ambitious direction. Inspired by musicals such as ‘Phantom of the Opera’, there’s a much more grandiose feel to this album than anything they’d done before, and would only lead to the band transitioning from power metal to more progressive territory.

One notable change in the band’s sound is the more prominent use of pianos and keyboards. While there were always some keys lingering in the background, ‘Gutter Ballet’ sees them become a more integral part of the music. It works amazingly well, and really distinguishes Savatage’s unique identity.

Of course, the musicianship itself is fantastic. With each member, building upon the momentum they’d garnered with previous album, ‘Hall of the Mountain King’, being on top form. Jon Oliva’s vocals really suit the more theatrical approach well, and his guitarist brother Criss Oliva’s blistering guitars are as incredible as ever. Working with producer/songwriter Paul O’Neill, this was a time of growth for the band, and each member really plays their part to help the band mature.

With highlights that include ‘Gutter Ballet’, ‘When the Crowds Are Gone’, ‘Of Rage and War’, ‘She’s in Love’, ‘Hounds’, ‘Thorazine Shuffle’ and ‘Mentally Yours’, there’s an abundance of killer material here that constantly shifts from heavy to melodic, but never lets up in quality.

1987’s ‘Hall of the Mountain King’ may have been the album where Savatage hit their stride and started a run of successful (critically, if not commercially) albums, but for me, ‘Gutter Ballet’ is where they truly defined their sound and began a creative run that would see them continually release albums of high standards.

OZZY OSBOURNE Scream

Album · 2010 · Heavy Metal
Cover art 3.47 | 22 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
By the time the second decade of the millennium hit, OZZY OSBOURNE had more or less settled into a career of constant touring as well as America’s favorite deviant dad on the reality TV show The Osbournes. Despite it all, he still found time to head into his own home studio to record one more album, his tenth overall. Originally intended to be titled “Soul Sucka,” it was changed to SCREAM and was released in the summer of 2010 and to date remains his last solo album as he would hook up with his old buddies Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi to reform Black Sabbath (without Bill Ward). Jumping on board is newbie guitarist Gus G who replaced OZZY’s longest lasting guitarist Zakk Wylde who would focus on his Black Label Society. Also departing was Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin who would be replaced by Kevin Churko who also served as producer, engineer and mixer as he did on the previous release “Black Rain.” As Wylde also played keyboards on previous albums, Adam Wakeman, son of Yes’ own Rick Wakeman joined the crew to take over that part.

Despite OSBOURNE’s metal creds diminishing over the decades as more extreme forms of metal had long taken root and grown into veritable monsters, OSBOURNE still remains quite popular and his album hit #4 on the Billboard album charts. Part of OSBOURNE’s continued endurance is not only due to his reputation as the godfather of metal but a brilliant marketing strategy with SCREAM being promoted by downloadable content for the Rock Band video game series as well as public stunts at sports events. While not biting off heads of bats any longer, OSBOURNE proved he still had a knack for getting the word out. OZZY learned a while back that outside forces in the songwriting department were the breath of fresh air that he needed to spruce up his musical charm and therefore all eleven tracks were written by OSBOURNE and producer Kevin Churko with four of them finding extra help from Wakeman.

Stylistically SCREAM pretty much continues what OZZY began in the 90s with “Ozzmosis,” namely a blend of his 80s classic metal that utilizes heavy metal guitar riffing, bass and drums with a more down-tuned sort of 90s alternative metal approach finished off with OSBOURNE’s signature poetic vocal style. One thing about SCREAM that differs from previous albums is a more distinct use of industrial electronic effects especially on tracks like “Let It Die” and “Let Me Hear You Scream.” Gus G proves to be a more than suitable replacement but isn’t allowed to really shine in his own way as OZZY’s musical cast is more of a brand name at this point and the individuality isn’t allowed to let loose however he does shine a bit with a classical guitar intro on “Diggin’ Me Down.” Generally speaking, the emphasis of guitar solos that were prevalent in OZZY’s earlier years has been replaced by heavy thrashy riffing with the Zakk Wylde squeals still in play. In fact, i’d never know that this was a different guitarist if not for the credits.

Whether you can appreciate SCREAM depends on how well any of the albums after “No More Tears” worked for you. There is nothing substantially different and SCREAM is very much an OZZY-by-the-numbers affair with a few electronica additions that stand out. The tracks consist of the usual catchy melodic guitar hooks rooted in 80s classic metal and the production is bass laden with a continued alternative metal feel. Guitar solos do occur but are rather brief and there are more bridges and slower paced segments which add some needed contrast. Once again OZZY delivers a fairly decent album but certainly will never go down as his crowning achievements either. It does seem at this point OZZY was growing rather stale and despite mustering up an album’s worth of material, it was becoming apparent that it was time to move on to something new so when the Black Sabbath reunion took place, it was the perfect time to do so.

FABULAE DRAMATIS Solar Time's Fables

Album · 2017 · Avant-garde Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
Buy this album from MMA partners
voila_la_scorie
Fabulae Dramatis are a multi-national, Belgium-based avant-garde/progressive metal band formed in 2011. Their theme is story-telling through lyrics the myths and and beliefs of world cultures. Fabulae Dramatis was founded by Colombian-born Isabel Restropo when she recruited Hamlet of Transport Aerian and Colombian-born guitarist Daniel Dias to work on some material she had originally written while performing in a metal band in Honduras. Along with a host of guests, they released their debut album "Om" in 2012. Five years later, with a six-piece band in place, the sophomore album "Solar Time's Fables" was released.

With a bigger budget and two producers, the sound of the new album was seen as improved over the first. In my opinion, the album's sound quality is terrific. In fact, such quality is necessary to capture the charm of Fabulae Dramatis' music. Metal at heart, the band explore well beyond the traditional confines of a metal album by incorporating various instruments such as sitar, harmonium, saxophone, and djembe. But that's only part of what makes the band's songs and music special. On this album, there are four lead vocalists: Wesley Beernaert (growls and clean vocals), Isabel Restropo (classical/operatic vocals), Isadora Cortina (classical/operatic vocals and harsh vocals), and Hamlet (clean and harsh vocals). With each vocalist providing two different vocal styles, the songs benefit with a variety of voices and vocal expression. So, with a triad of diverse vocals, diverse instrumentation, and heavy metal, Fabulae Dramatis have established themselves as a band doing things differently. One could also point out some hints of Hamlet's prog noir style emerging here and there.

The first four tracks, showcase the band's metal side but with their other two talents strongly represented, particularly in the vocals. "Agni's Dynasty (Fire I)" was the first single and has a video on YouTube. For me, these first four tracks are an excellent welcome to the band and brings me back to the growled vocal style that I really got into the previous year. From "Sirius Wind" we take the first of many steps outside of metal. Clean guitar and saxophone are joined by bass and drums and then Isabel's vocals. There's almost a Renaissance (the band) feel to the song yet in an eerie and mysterious tone.

"Coatlicue Serpent Skirt (Earth)" opens with a suggestion of something different yet again but after 55 seconds the guitar leads us into another metal rocker with soaring vocals. Then there's "Nok Terracottas (Mud)", a short but once again haunting track with Isabel's beautiful voice and her whispers, "Sculptured figures talk". The song is a second diversion and although it is short, it is welcomed.

"Forest" is an instrumental track which is soothing and interesting. We get to hear Isabel's sitar playing on here. This is followed by "Roble Para El Corazon (Wood)" with an accordion intro and a kind of southern European serenade that becomes a bit more metal as the song progresses but still the melody of that accordion keeps its place. "Smoke for the Clouds (Anhuiran's Water)" reminds us that the band is very capable of being a melodic death metal band when they are up for it.

The final track "Barren (Gravel)" features some excellent vocals by Hamlet plus a duet by both classically trained women. It is slow, mournful, and powerful.

"Solar Time's Fables" has a terrific balance of metal and exotic sounds. Each song is created with some connection to an old myth or story, and as I mentioned above, having the variety of vocals on this album really adds to the freshness and intrigue. Unfortunately, "Om" is not easy to find on CD, but the download is available. I've been enjoying "Solar Time's Fables" for the last few weeks now and the album continues to captivate me.

SEVENDUST Home

Album · 1999 · Nu Metal
Cover art 3.29 | 3 ratings
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
siLLy puPPy
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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
Buy this album from MMA partners
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.

Member Zone

Username:
Password:
Stay signed in

Metal Subgenres

Artists Alpha-index

MMA TOP 5 Metal ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
Albums with 30 ratings and more
Master of Puppets Thrash Metal
METALLICA
Buy this album from our partners
Moving Pictures Hard Rock
RUSH
Buy this album from our partners
Powerslave NWoBHM
IRON MAIDEN
Buy this album from our partners
Keeper of the Seven Keys Part II Power Metal
HELLOWEEN
Buy this album from our partners
Rust in Peace Thrash Metal
MEGADETH
Buy this album from our partners

New Metal Artists

New Metal Releases

Tour EP 4 Stoner Metal
BIG BUSINESS
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Wayward And The Lost Sludge Metal
BENEATH OBLIVION
Buy this album from MMA partners
The Distance Between Metalcore
MOTHERSOUND
Buy this album from MMA partners
Beetlegork / Order Of Unukalhai Doom Metal
ORDER OF UNUKALHAI
Buy this album from MMA partners
Beetlegork / Order Of Unukalhai Sludge Metal
BEETLEGORK
Buy this album from MMA partners
More new releases

New Metal Online Videos

More videos

New MMA Metal Forum Topics

More in the forums

New Site interactions

More...

Latest Metal News

members-submitted

More in the forums

Social Media

Follow us

Buy Metal Music Online