Metal Music Reviews from Phonebook Eater

KYLESA Ultraviolet

Album · 2013 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 4.01 | 5 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

Purple Sludgefest.

Since the 2006 album “Time Will Fuse Its Worth”, Kylesa’s straightforward sludge-feasts have appealed to me. The great banquet arrived with “Static Tensions”, a monster of an experience that can be nothing but a treat for the senses of a serious metal-head: an LP that consistently keeps you hooked thanks to its thick stoner atmosphere and catchy songwriting. Other fans, however, are more drawn to the follow-up, “Spiral Shadow”, whose sound glides towards more adventurous pathways, losing a bit of heaviness down the road. 2013’s “Ultraviolet” to me feels like a return to the catchiness of “Static Tensions”, displaying however a whole new brand of contrivances, which assembled together construct an album unlike anything Kylesa has brought to life before.

The new production understandably has turned off some fans; but it is the main game-changer. Thanks to some rough reverberation, a vividly psychedelic vein flows throughout each song. It is this vein that makes Kylesa’s groovy pulses sound so different. Furthermore, I must add that I’m sensing a greater sensibility towards melody than usual, which drives these Stoner Metal vibrations on even smoother ground.

Once again, Kylesa stick to one of their best talents, which is being able to remain consistent in terms of impact throughout the album, by spicing things differently for each track. But even when the distortion levels are turned down, there’s still a good life pulse that brings the music on such high planes of energy. Weak spots for sure are not absent, and some of the songwriting either trips or gets lost in the haze of the production. But songs such as “Exhale”, “Unspoken”, “Long Gone”, “Vulture’s Landing” and “Drifting” are episodes not to be missed, and greatly contribute in constructing another steady and pleasant Kylesa record.

THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN One Of Us Is The Killer

Album · 2013 · Mathcore
Cover art 4.35 | 15 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

Fluent Like A Falling Feather.

Metalcore and Mathcore are the two genres that most frequently split the metal community right in two: some love it its complexity and mixture with Hardcore Punk, others loathe it. But The Dillinger Escape Plan are one of the few bands that always had a great amount of fans and relatively small amount of haters. “One of Us Is The Killer” is the band’s fifth studio album, and is what some call a game-changer: by far, it is the most mature album of theirs yet, their first LP that has greatness all over it, without ever getting lost into pretentiousness or instrumental wankery.

For starters, the production on “One Of Us Is The Killer” is some of the most lush and polished heard this year, that however doesn’t let the distortion and the heaviness lose the fierce momentum that is characteristic of Dillinger Escape Plan. But the big bonus that makes this album really stand out is a well-developed sense of melody and an overall more mature level of songwriting. Then, there’s the aspect for which the band risked the most, as for every album, to sound pretentious or over-the-top: the Mathcore side of the equation, the odd-time signatures and improbable riffs that usually sound way too over-studied. While a lot of thought was undoubtedly put on these riffs as well, here these flashy moments are fun to listen to and obviously showcase a great deal of talent on behalf of the musicians, even because they miraculously sound spontaneous and well-placed, with the exception of a few spots here and there.

There is not one dull moment throughout the short period of time in which this album prolongs into, not only thanks to the catchiness and all those positive points I mentioned earlier, but because of a quality most albums these days lack: a flawless, perfect flow, that seems to understand when enough is enough, when it’s time to turn things down, or slow the tempo down to a more straight-forward groove. Right off the bat you get two heavy, fast and Mathcore-to-the-core tracks that immediately grab the listeners attention: but the title track right after turns it down a notch, and for the first time in the album some melody is introduced. It’s not necessarily a loud-quiet formula all of the time, because there’s also the fast and Mathy tracks rigorously alternated with ones that manifest quite a bit of melody: “Hero Of The Soviet Union” followed by “Nothing’s Funny”, followed by the multi-faceted “Understanding Decay” is an example of the clever pacing OFUITK pulls off. As far as further individual highlights go, “Paranoia Shields” is almost a radio-friendly metal track, while “Crossburner” slows things down in tempo but not in volume.

Probably one of the few Mathcore albums in existence that manages to sound fierce and technical and at the same time that gives the impression that it was an effortless achievement for the musicians. With an excellent boost in songwriting and sense of melody, Dillinger Escape Plan now have the respect they deserve.

IN VAIN Ænigma

Album · 2013 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.08 | 12 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

Overly Familiar, But Executed With Well-Intentioned Energy.

It might sound derogative, but it’s the way things are: right now In Vain are just another Death Metal band hailing from Norway with a polished-sounding production and constantly clean/growl vocal pattern. It’s a formula that has been used countless times in the last fifteen years or so in metal music, and a lot of times bands like Opeth and Enslaved find great success indulging in this style. But in more recent years there have been a great deal of downright copycats; sadly, In Vain sounds just like one of them.

At their third album, “Aenigma”, it seems they don’t make an effort to try different approaches. The one thing they do that is admirable is that they’re able to use both Death Metal growls and Black Metal shrieks and make them cohabit in the same track very well. This is in fact a talented band, with great musicians and with evidently a lot of points of reference, which is not necessarily a bad thing. But I’m yet to hear from them something that sounds just a little bit different from the prototype of Progressive Metal band who likes to turn it up a notch vocal performance-wise.

But even if the album somehow did manage to have its own distinct sound, the songwriting is half-forgettable, even though In Vain manages to structure a few songs quite well and to put some nice, quieter instrumental bridges within a stracks. I could start drawing comparisons here, but they’d be useless. In terms of dissecting a song’s core, and spreading some diversity here and there, the band can do that well, and that’s one thing that matters. Tracks such as “Times Of Yore” and the closing “Floating Of the Murmuring Tide” are perfect examples, and also happen to be very well executed. Another highlight would be the opening track “Against The Grain” easily the most memorable and melodic track here. But the rest of the album, sadly, is bland and pretty much flavorless.

Saying that In Vain is not a good band is a ridiculous statement, because there is a lot of potential in their music. They’re talented musicians and I’m sure they’re capable of making more original and less borrowed-sounding music eventually. But for now, they can’t help but being stuck in the vast, painfully homogeneous sea of Scandinavian bands that haven’t gained much success.

CULT OF LUNA Vertikal

Album · 2013 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.27 | 13 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

Pixillated Sludge Metal That Still Rocks.

At their sixth album, Cult Of Luna once again keep their roots solidly untouched, experimenting more with sound and exploring new sonic territories they’d yet to venture in. “Vertikal” hasn’t pleased all fans because of these reasons, or because it’s been thought that these new ideas haven’t been developed in a better way. Opinions vary, but in my eyes this is one of the better albums by the Swedish band, and it’s good to see that experimentation in Metal bands today is still very embraced.

On this new album, Cult Of Luna take a step forward especially with the sonic decorations, these bursts of electronic layering that in the past were present, excellent, but not essential, are now pretty prominent, and sound quite different as well: the rough production creates these razor-sharp synth pulses that come and go throughout the album, some of them are not at all accompaniments and play a major, if not completely essential role for a track. This peculiarly rough production compliments also the crushing guitars, here more crushing than any other Cult Of Luna LP so far, and that is saying a lot.

But Cult Of Luna have not distanced themselves from their original style enough to not sound like Cult Of Luna: the riffs are overall crafted in the same fashion as their previous compositions, and anyone who has heard their previous work can confirm.

As for the album itself: it’s an album that at first feels a little generic and familiar, but with further listens, it reveals a sophistication that was heard only on the band’s better albums. Every song has its unique role, and they all do the job done well, some times, excellently. “I, The Weapon” and “Synchronicity” are the catchiest and at the same time better structured songs, in spite of the eighteen minute monster “Vicarious Redemption”, which is nicely arranged and structured but doesn’t quite justify its length. “Mute Departure” has nice, heavy moments, “The Sweep” is an interesting divisive interlude of the album and “Passing Through” closes everything quite well, a calm, tense piece that ends it all with a suspended note.

“Vertical” is the living proof that Cult Of Luna have not stepped down their game just yet, and are willing meander into new paths and directions, sounding a whole lot more interesting than many Sludge Metal bands today, who merely model a sound that is perhaps too familiar nowadays.

CULT OF LUNA Eternal Kingdom

Album · 2008 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 11 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

A Rock Solid Shell.

After the success of 'Somewhere Along The Highway' Cult Of Luna come up with 'Eternal Kingdom' two years later, an album that was inevitably anticipated because of its predecessor, and unfortunately inferior in quality. More straightforward and much less atmospheric than their previous two albums, this is an LP focused mostly on songwriting and musicianship, which, although always right on spot, was never an especially highlighted characteristic in Cult Of Luna's music. Because these musicians have talent, the second quality works fabulously, leading to an interplay between group members that was not heard before by them, because of how they've now gained much more experience in working with each other. The song-writing, however, is relying less on emotion, more on logic. In other words, 'Eternal Kingdom' has a lot less heart than other Cult Of Luna albums, even though there's not really a bad song here.

CULT OF LUNA Somewhere Along the Highway

Album · 2006 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.04 | 29 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

Desolation In Its Roundest Body.

"Somewhere Along The Highway" is recognized as the magnum opus of Swedish Sludge Metal band Cult Of Luna. Although an album like "Salvation", which was the band's previous effort, would be a good competitor to the honorable title, this fourth album showed a quality that "Salvation" didn't have in great abundance: a distinct, extremely original sound that can only be of COL. Turns out in the end that "Somewhere Along The Highway" is not only the best Cult Of Luna LP so far, it is also THE Cult Of Luna album by definition.

This is one of those albums in which every song stands out for being different from the rest of the tracks, in some form or the other, and one of those albums that has an extremely peculiar structure. There are as usual strong, heavy moments alternated with softer ones, but there is a greater sense of dynamism and interplay than in what was heard in "Salvation", making it an even more elaborate listen. In its more atmospheric moments, the music brings to life feelings of loneliness and despair, without ever being depressing, almost as if it were an album that has accepted its solitude long ago, and is simply manifesting it to an audience.

From the syncopated claps that begin "Finland", the second track of the album, the listener already familiar with the band's previous work notices the change in direction COL has faced, and appreciates how high the level of finesse the band has reached in both production and song-writing. This song might just be the best thing Cult Of Luna has ever done, and this is just starting the whole experience. "Back From Chapel Town" is another excellent track, with a handful of smooth transitional moments and an explosive middle piece. "And With Her Came The Birds" is the song that separates the two halves of the album, a tense, quiet track that however unveils a sense of beauty Cult Of Luna probably never have shown before.

Now the second half of the album is inferior to the amazing first half, but it has the advantage of having " Dark City, Dead Man", probably the most well-arranged and structured song the band has recorded so far, extending across a impressing arch of fifteen minutes.

The so-called Atmospheric Sludge Metal/Post-Metal movement owes a lot to this album. It's one that many can find themselves loving even though not necessarily being fans of either the band or the genre. Calling it a landmark in 21st century Metal music would probably be close enough to enclose its stellar value with one sentence.

CULT OF LUNA Salvation

Album · 2004 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.91 | 14 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

Tides Of Distortion, Waves Of Emotion.

The first two albums from Cult Of Luna were interesting and promising, but missing of sophistication, maturity, and overall replay value. Many Metal bands start with releases of this sort, even the great bands. Cult Of Luna as a matter of fact might just be one of these bands; in 2004, only a year after their sophomore album, “Salvation” hits the metal community like a thunderbolt.

Like many Sludge Metal bands, the Swedish decided to fill their music with shades of Post-Rock and mixing them with their basic Sludge roots, resulting in a music that has been labeled by some Post-Metal, with acts such as Isis and Neurosis being principal pioneers. Cult Of Luna’s music now is distinct and unique, despite not being particularly innovating. The length of the songs has stretched, the recording is clean and generous to details, but not clean enough to ruin the body-crushing riffs that domain most of this album. The songwriting here is the massive improvement, as songs such as the opening track “Echoes” clearly proves, an eleven minute monster that for the first five minutes beautifully builds up to an eventual climax. It’s a perfect summary of what the remaining hour of the album has to offer, which is a complex pattern of Post-Rockish crescendos and bursts of crunchy riffage, occasionally veiled by bold electronic sounds to further enrich the music.

Other noteworthy songs include the towering, eleven-minute, rhythm-heavy “Vague Illusions”, The long build ups of “Waiting For You” and “Crossing Over”, and the shorter, to-the-point catchy and heavy songs like “White Cell” and “Leave Me Here”. Then there’s “Into the Beyond”, the final settlement, one of the best moments Cult Of Luna has ever accomplished, full of ups and downs and emotional swings.

“Salvation” doesn’t deny its influences from bands like Isis, but its sound is fresh enough and its level of musicianship is high enough for it to be generally considered to be one of the most successful, complex, and elaborate Sludge Metal albums ever released. Also, the fact that Cult Of Luna still today have other great things to say makes them one of the best Sludge Metal acts.

CULT OF LUNA The Beyond

Album · 2003 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.02 | 9 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

An Average Transitional Album.

Swedish Sludge Metal band Cult Of Luna release their second album, “The Beyond”, in 2003, two years after the band’s debut. Little however seems to have blossomed quality-wise: the band’s style hasn’t changed its ways, but some influences, such as Post-Hardcore and Metalcore, are a little less felt. Also a better production, and a greater focus on arranging the songs more ambitiously, are clearly a top priority. “the Beyond” is overall a step forward towards a more mature and developed sound (which will be acquired with 2004’s “Salvation”), as the band clearly goes towards a more Progressive-related sound, with longer songs, greater relevance to slower moments, and interesting electronic/ambient sounds. The step forward is admirable and unquestionable, but the album itself lacks a lot of memorable material, furthermore, it drags on for an inappropriately long time (almost 75 minutes), and the sense of boredom might catch up on the listener more than a few times throughout.

CULT OF LUNA Cult of Luna

Album · 2001 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 2.83 | 5 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

Mediocre Beginnings.

Swedish act Cult Of Luna already had their roots planted in their debut album of the same name. Like many debut albums, however, “Cult Of Luna” has nothing but a skeleton, a basic sound, and no original skin to cover it, to make it appealing. Casually produced, this album shows an interesting and somewhat promising blend of Post-Hardcore, Sludge Metal, and Metalcore and together assemble a few interesting tracks such as the closing “The Sacrifice”, definitely the most multi-faceted and well structured out of the entire LP, or “Circle”, which proudly earns the compliment of heaviest song here. Looking at the album as a whole, it’s easy to see the talent, but the casual production dooms the LP down to very average levels. Only for the fans.

OM Pilgrimage

Album · 2007 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.26 | 5 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

Feverish Visions.

Om’s third album, “Pilgrimage”, is a noticeable improvement to their usual overly-repetitive formula: throughout the album instead of being monotone in every sense of the word, they bring in the mix much more distinct and perfected quiet-loud swings, that their previous album, “Conference Of The Birds”, had, but used a bit too predictably. These swings sound more harmonious in “Pilgrimage”. Furthermore, the songs themselves are much catchier and well written, especially the title track, which is completely clean. The heavy follow-up, “Unitive Knowledge of The Godhead”, is the opposite, with a perfect Stoner Metal essence. “Bhima’s Theme” however is where the album falls a bit quality-wise: way too long and flat than what it could have been, it has the same faults of the tracks that permeated the band’s previous albums. The album redeems itself with the reprise of the main themes from the title track, to give a certain circularity to the listen. The lyrics are also to mention: in their extreme abstractness, they’re incredibly well written, as they offer strong, poetic imagery of strong biblical, spiritual, and apocalyptic themes.

ARJEN ANTHONY LUCASSEN Lost in the New Real

Album · 2012 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.08 | 15 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

Lucassen's Lowest Point So Far.

"Lost In The New Real" is a 2012 album by multi-instrumentalist Arjen Anthony Lucassen, a.k.a. Ayreon, the name of the project his man has been most successful with. Even though it is the same person writing the songs, the result is no way near as memorable as Ayreon's material, when Arjen was capable of forging landmark Prog Metal albums such as "The Human Equation".

Lightly played Progressive Metal has been Arjen's trademark in his music, and apparently still is: the crunchy, distorted guitars are here, but so are the abundant lead synthesizers that give to the music a strong spacey feel a-la-Star Trek. It is no surprise as a matter of fact that there is a strong Space Opera feel, not only in the album's flow but in the lyrics, which honestly can be either incredibly cheesy or kind of interesting, not really for the quality of the writing itself but the concepts/ideas that Lucassen can come up with. He puts in his stories a little bit of silliness, but for the most part, it ends up not being that entertaining, compared to the lyrics of another Prog Metal classic with a Space Opera concept, Devin Townsend's "Ziltoid The Omniscient".

The songwriting is hit-or-miss, some songs can be quite catchy and memorable, other borderline pathetic in their over-synthetic production and cheesiness. Another big flaw is the various inconsistencies of the album's natural flowing: especially due to the fact that this is a concept album, the result ought to be a coherent piece with a good climactic ending and with a solid succession of songs throughout; instead, a lot of these songs seem to be very loosely connected, especially in the second half of the album; plus, the ending is anti-climactic to the extreme, causing the final moments of the album to sound rushed and destined to end with an abrupt bump the album really doesn't deserve to have.

Lucassen is a great musician and has done some great music in the past, but his subject material was a bit risky, meaning that it could have fallen into full out tackiness, and it never really did. But now, "Lost In The New Real" falls in that ditch, something that had to happen eventually. Hopefully, just a temporary visit down there.

OM Conference Of The Birds

Album · 2006 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 9 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

Exaggerated Repetition Compressed A Little More On This Second Album.

Om is a American Stoner Metal band, formed by members Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius, both of the them belonging to the former Stoner Metal outfit Sleep. Om’s debut album had an interesting formula going for it, but the result were not at all deserving of much praise, being the entire fortyfive minutes of it extremely flat and monotone, in so many ways. With the second album, “Conference Of The Birds”, there is a bit more variation as a whole, since the first track is almost all clean, while the second one is all distorted. Another improvement to be noted is the managing of the running time of the LP, which has been shortened to a half hour long, a more reasonable amount of time to spend on for this kind of music. But the overused repetition, the instrumental flatness and the ridiculously generic songwriting are all still there. “Conference” also feels very incomplete when listened to as a whole, not to mention the fact that it doesn’t leave to the listener anything memorable within him/her.

RUSH Clockwork Angels

Album · 2012 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.94 | 62 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

Some Talent Never Dies.

“Clockwork Angels” is the nineteenth album by legendary Canadian act Rush, one of the greater Progressive Rock/Hard Rock bands of the late seventies to early eighties. Albums such as “Permanent Waves”, “A Farewell To Kings”, “Hemispheres”, and especially “Moving Pictures” have sculpted the history of the genre, in one way or the other. The band continued making music during the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, and never made a terrible album since, although they became more and more generic with time passing, as they tended to be heavily influenced by the current music styles of the time. The last album before “Clockwork”, 2006’s “Snakes and Arrows”, was a pretty successful attempt to gain a new sound of their own, with a lot of Hard Rock influences. This 2012 album pretty much takes off where the previous album did.

“Clockwork Angels” is quite the simple, straightforward album, no fillers, no killers. It’s an album composed of Songs with capital S, meaning that that attention for album flow that was felt in their old classics is pretty much gone, in favor of a greater focus on songwriting skills. Of course, the songs don’t go anywhere near the levels of the classics, but they still accomplish to be catchy and fun.

Here we have a band that has arrived to a point where they don’t care anymore that much to craft an album that could be a potential game-changer; they just want to have fun, and you can tell by listening to “Clockwork Angels”, this is just something they did out of their personal need, to get some music out of their system, no matter what the actual results would be. But since we are talking about some of the most talented musicians alive, this results is very satisfying nevertheless.

Rush manage to write quite the catchy tunes on this album, like the opener “Caravan”, the title track, “The Wreckers”, or the more ballad tunes like the beautiful closer “The Garden” or “Halo Effect”. The rest of the songs are pleasant, and miraculously, not even one goes close to being a bad song. Sometimes, simplicity is the way to go.

OM Variations On A Theme

Album · 2005 · Stoner Metal
Cover art 3.18 | 7 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
4/10

Intelligent and Spiritual, But Way Too Flat and Empty.

Om is an American Stoner Metal duo from San Francisco, and “Variations on a Theme” is their debut album, released in 2005. The two musicians, Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius, were the rhythm section of cult Stoner Metal band Sleep. Later on Hakius left the band, and was replaced by Emil Amos, drummer of the band Grails. But this earlier period of the band was for sure more primitive, repetitive, and tribal sounding, while the latter works tended to be more varied in terms of song structure, with more clearly diverse musical passages.

“Variations on a Theme” certainly is the album that, in a sense, better reflects this duo’s art. First of all, the only instruments that are audible in these 45 minutes are a heavily distorted bass guitar, drums, and vocals. With such a minimalistic set, you can’t expect much richness in the music: the songs are extremely long, extremely stretched out, and with as little variation as possible. For all three of these tracks, there is one, main riff that is played for each song, and the variations that are being applied to that are ever so slight, perhaps a faster or slower tempo, or a tiny variation in the melody. Even the lyrics are the same and the vocals sound the same every time the section in which they sing on reappears during the track, once again. Because of the very slim instrumentation, the sound and production can’t really do anything much, and the music as a result is incredibly monotone; between the beginning and the end of the album, there isn’t really any sonic difference.

Now, this formula was for some people successful, and Om actually turned out to be a very beloved band among the Stoner Metal community, for their unique and extreme approach to the genre. And it certainly is a unique idea, the one to reproduce the structure of old, Byzantine chants and reinterpret them for hypnotic purposes. And “Variations On a Theme” could have certainly worked, since the concept of such an album is very original. But these 45 minutes end up being extremely forced, boring, and unproductive. All three riffs that are being played are very generic sounding, reminiscent of the typical, or rather stereotypical sounds of the Doom Metal genre. There really is nothing to really like in this album except for the concept and idealization of it, but the actual execution is very scarce and disappointing, to say the least.

Om managed to keep the same formula with their following albums, and fortunately, with greater success. But this first experiment was a miss, however, a miss necessary for hitting it right in the future.

DORDEDUH Dar de duh

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.57 | 5 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

It Sounds Like It's From Another Age, But It Can Be Better.

Dordeduh are a Romaniam Atmospheric Black Metal band, and this debut album of theirs, “Dar De Duh”, was released in 2012. The band is a side project of the more popular Romanian BM band Negura Bunget, and the two acts share in common a musicians like Hupogrammos and Sol Faur, as well as a fairly similar musical style. Like Negura Bunget, Dordeduh are one of those Black Metal bands with a great fascination for nature, Paganism, and the occult: musically, they are influenced by Romanian Folk music, but they also like to insert a lot of primitive, tribal-sounding percussion.

The production on this album is probably its best general quality: it doesn’t sound like it was recorded in 2012, it sounds like it was recorded in a forgotten cave, 3000 years ago, hypothesizing they had the equipment and technology to record the music. The production gives an impressively authentic sensation that you’re hearing music coming from an ancient era, and the Metal side of it also feels like it comes from another time. The incredible wonders of the album however stop here: The songwriting is not nearly as memorable as it was back in 2006, when Negura Bunget released an album called “Om”, honestly one of the best Metal albums of the last twenty years. But on “Dar De Duh”, the structuring of the songs and of the album of the whole is still quite impressive, and the band proves they can skillfully translate from one musical passage to another, smoothly and logically: the album itself has a good and consistent flow, and does have a roundness to it.

But the songs themselves are missing; they feel way too distant and not that engaging, and often repetitive instrumentally speaking. A lot of them furthermore are quite lengthy, the longest one (the intro) being sixteen minutes long. This is an album where moments are superior to songs, and this is said even though the songs are well planned: it’s just that some passages fail to impact as much as other ones. The album as a whole is not at all a bad experience, because of the saving graces like the production and those moments here and there that are quite the special treat. It’s no harm hoping however that this project next time comes up with an album full of great songs, an achievement Dordeduh can certainly be capable of.

RIVERSIDE Shrine of New Generation Slaves

Album · 2013 · Metal Related
Cover art 4.01 | 43 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
9/10

A Perfect Balance.

“Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is the fifth album by Polish Progressive Rock/Metal act Riverside, one of the last decade’s most beloved European bands of the genre. They started off with a trilogy of albums, which begun in 2003 with “Out With Myself”, continued with “Second Life Syndrome” and ended with “Rapid Eye Movement”. These albums all had a very similar sound that combined heaviness with Pink Floydian atmospheres, with a greater dose of the latter. 2009’s “Anno Domini High Definition” was a complete direction-shifter, thanks to a sharper, more modern sounding production, more futuristic and advanced sounds, and more Metal. This last release stunned me completely, and I still keep it dear to my heart for it is now one of my favorite albums. “Shrine Of New Generations Slaves” at this point has quite a bit on its shoulders. Luckily, the band proves they are still in great shape, and that they can still amaze.

In many ways, this is the album that should have been midway between the trilogy and “Anno Domini”: the production is a good mix between the two, because while we still have the Floydian atmospheric sounds, there is still a lot of sharp, modern sounding Metal. Like also the trilogy, there is a lot organ playing to give thickness to the guitars and keyboards, and there are quite a bit of piano bits, synth pads, and some additional instrumentation such as the sax or the flute. In fact, this album is again another pleasantly varied piece of work, instrumentally speaking. But the variation doesn’t end here: in terms of mood, this is also quite a diverse album, as we find melancholic songs, but also fun, heavy ones, and some others veiled with a shroud of mystery. But it never feels like a mixed bag, everything is so perfectly in balance, and when a different mood does kick in, it comes in just in time.

The depth of “Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” is really outstanding, almost to the levels of “Anno Domini”, in the sense that the music brings you deep into a world, very similar to ours, but where a melting pot of emotions is an everyday thing, where social discomfort reigns, in a time where every one is closed in, and where everything happens from within and never coming from the outside. It is a very introspective album, and the flow of it almost feels like an unconscious stream of emotions, a strongly linear journey with a beginning, and with a pleasantly suffused ending.

Particular highlights that mark this beautiful journey are songs like the wonderfully complex “ The Depth Of Self-Delusion”, the meditative calmness of “Feel Like Falling” the more urgent, fun pieces like the single “Celebrity Touch”, or “Deprived”, and the second-to-last track, “Escalator Shrine”, which has the most powerful closing minutes Riverside has ever managed to write.

“Shrine Of New Generation Slaves” ought to be remembered as one of the finest examples of Progressive Metal, and to be part of that still-growing bulk of masterful releases coming out of this decade. Its approach is very new, the atmospheres are very innovative, and the level of sophistication is extremely high; with these attributes, there is no reason for this to not be part of the best of the best.

GOJIRA L'Enfant Sauvage

Album · 2012 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 20 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

A Fun and Heavy Record, But There's Some Deja Vu.

“L’Enfant Sauvage” is the fifth studio album by French Progressive Death Metal band Gojira, released in 2012. Their previous work has already made a great impact in the metal community, for their catchy, heavy and groovy rhythms executed with excellent musicianship and songwriting, seen especially in their sophomore release, the 2005 “From Mars To Sirius”, which incorporated a sludgy and primitive production that made the music sound so visceral and earthy. 2008’s “The Way Of All Flesh” had a much cleaner production, which gave the sound a greater Progressive Metal feel. “L’Enfant Sauvage” unfortunately feels no different from its predecessor. Same production, same kind of grooves, same kind of occasional experimentation. But the reason why this is not necessarily bothersome is because, well, it’s a formula that works.

Songwriting wise, the band has stepped down a tiny bit, because some of these songs simply don’t have the kick they should, for not being that memorable. Others however, such as the fierce and potent intro “Explosia”, “Pain Is the Master” or “the Gift Of Guilt” give us some of the best musicianship in 2012 Metal, without abandoning those catchy riffs the band are popular for. “Born In Winter” gives a nice touch of variation to the whole picture, and “The Fall” gives a strong ending to the album. The second part of the LP does in fact gain a whole lot of momentum in comparison to the first half; almost all of the tracks shine, while in the first part you’ll find good riffs here and there, but never anything that will particularly impress your memory.

It’s unfortunate that Gojira didn’t step out of their comfort zone on this one: “L’Enfant Sauvage” however ends up being a guilty pleasure, but in a completely different sense than what usually the meaning of the term is: this is a very good record nevertheless, that has much more ups than downs, because of the groovy rhythms that are always present, even though perhaps the songwriting is toned down; it’s a good listen, despite the static state in which Gojira seem to be stuck in.

IHSAHN Eremita

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.87 | 13 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

Ihsahn's Most Progressive Effort Yet.

“Eremita” is Ihsahn’s fourth full length studio album, the follow-up to “After”. Ihsahn is most known for being the vocalist and guitarist of legendary Norwegian Black Metal band Emperor; his major characteristic is his “pig squeal” shriek, one of the most distinct, unique and rare type of vocals in Black Metal. They make him stand out from all other vocalists of the genre. But after Emperor, Ihsahn on his own had started a decent solo career, in which he got more and more Progressive in his compositions. “Eremita” represents his most Progressive point, although there still is a great chunk of Black Metal influences.

Once again, Ihsahn surrounds his music with an incredible production, much cleaner and polished than some of his previous works, and with incredible musicians: he himself does a terrific job in every track, with both the shrieks and the clean vocals. But in general, letting the songs flow one by one, it’s noticeable that something is missing in “Eremita”. The songs are a bit too cold, too calculated in their Progressiveness, and most importantly, not that catchy or memorable, with a few great exceptions like the second track, “The Paranoid”, or the sixth one, “Something Out There”. Other songs are simply appreciable for their intelligence and structure, like “the Eagle and The Snake”, “The Grave” and “Departure”.

In Ihsahn’s work, the most noticeable trademark (other than the voice) is the frequent use of saxophone, usually there to give a touch of madness, or some genuine cacophony. On “Eremita” this instrument is extremely well-used and placed, and gives that nice feeling of diversity. Ihsahn also surrounds himself with a few, precious guest musicians: Eidar Soldberg from Norwegian band Leprous gives a great performance on the opening track, and Devin Townsend puts in the song “Introspection” so much of his character, and Jeff Loomis does some great guitar playing and solos on “The Eagle and The Snake”. But when Ihsahn plays by himself, it’s evident that everything is toned down quality-wise: as if Ihsahn had the need to have a special guest’s support, because without anyone he would wander almost shapelessly across the album. It would explain why he himself is so present as a guest musician in so many other albums.

Although the songs are Prog-oriented, and a certain level of maturity can be felt, Ihsahn doesn’t seem to have put the heart in some of these compositions, and it is frequent that they simply pass by without lingering in the listener’s head. Maybe, Ihsahn is more of a perfect guest star character, than a full-time songwriter.

FEN Dustwalker

Album · 2013 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.16 | 11 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
4/10

An unfortunate, missed attempt to evolve Fen's sound.

Fen is an English Black Metal band, and Dustwalker is their third full length album, the follow up to the beautiful and emotional Epoch, most definitely one of the most unique and precious albums of 2011. However, listening to Dustwalker was an immense disappointment; it looks like the band has stepped down to being an average Black Metal band that uses reverb and atmosphere as nothing but a pretentious gimmick.

Although the production remains more or less similar to the band's previous works, the really good musicianship persists, and there still is a progressive attitude in terms of song structure, the band has lost the most important thing on their way to accomplishing Dustwalker: good, memorable songwriting. None of the songs have that touching beauty that embraced so many spots of Epoch, despite a few nice, gentle guitar passages and a few pleasantly thick atmospheres. The melodies are way too generally written to be memorable, and as a result boredom dominates the listener easily.

The song that stands out the most is "Hands Of Dust", which boasts a beautiful first half that reminds of some moments from the band's previous album, and a decent second half that goes full-on aggression. The following track, "Spectre", tries to repeat the same formula but doesn't feel as effective, because of the songwriting. After an interesting interlude diving the seven tracks into two different parts, songs that are part of the latter part of the album are incredibly weak in terms of melodic passages and although the band's execution is still very good, there really isn't much to execute that will linger in the listener's head.

On a personal point of view, Dustwalker is much of a disappointment, considering how of a great impression Fen did to me two years ago with Epoch; such a good one in fact that I'll certainly continue to follow this band, regardless of this decline of theirs. Hopefully, it's just a brief parenthesis of their career.

IN MOURNING The Weight Of Oceans

Album · 2012 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.88 | 10 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"The Weight Of Oceans" is the best In Mourning release so far.

In Mourning are a Swedish Melodic Death Metal band: “The Weight Of Oceans” is their third full length album, following 2010’s “Monolith”. Personally, that listen was not at all rewarding, and I wasn’t looking forward to further In Mourning material to listen to. But, as I saw that this new album was getting much more attention, I picked it up, and the band did a complete 180 for me.

There is a huge, massive improvement over that sophomore release; while that seemed to be a mere Melodeath album with not much boldness nor originality accompanying it, “The Weight Of Oceans” has both of those characteristics in great abundance. There is also a broader palette of influences that can be heard, of different kinds of metal, from Gothic, to Doom, to Progressive Metal. The band is still pretty much fixed on Melodic Death Metal, but it seems that this time around, they’re appreciating a wider amount of music. The grand majority of riffs they compose and bring up are extremely catchy: In Mourning also structure their songs very cleverly, in a way similar to Prog Metal (at this point, Opeth is in fact another obvious influence, not only strictly musically speaking, but also when it comes to assembling the flow of one track). With cleverness and catchiness mixed so well together, we get nine, mammoth tracks that are hard to forget.

Boasting a terrific flow, (although one small letdown for me is the fact that the songs are some times too close to each other, without omitting that gap of air that can be essential for the listener to take a deep breath before plunging into the next track) In Mourning throw at the listener a handful of amazingly fresh, memorable tracks, starting from “Colossus”, the opening act: running for nine minutes, this track is a perfect gathering of great riffs and moods, fused together appropriately and ordered in a way that keeps the listener attentive constantly. The second track, “A Vow to Conquer The Queen”, is driven in mainly one direction, but it goes straight up that path without hesitating: it’s completely condensed into heaviness and technicality, without not being unique sounding. “Celestial Tears” is a wonderfully melancholic, somber, atmospheric semi-ballad, while the track following that is possibly the best of the entire album, “Convergence”, which includes a Doomy-rhythmed passages in its core, and is surrounded by a relatively virtuous Death Metal feel, mixed with some evident Prog Metal influences. The band goes so far to even sound sludgy at times, with the final track “Voyage Of a Wavering Mind”, where even Post Metal brushes can be heard in the background.

“The Weight Of Oceans” is an epic collection of tracks that have an equal amount of muscles and brains. The wide and eclectic range of influences prove how In Mourning like to experiment with their Death Metal, creating a beast that is theirs only. A possible candidate for Death Metal album of the year.

MOONSORROW V: Hävitetty

Album · 2007 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 22 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

A world of pain and loss, but triumph will somehow take shape.

Moonsorrow's final, great album so far is 'V: Havitetty', the most ambitious, mature, and complex albums by the band, and that is to say a lot, being followed by a masterpiece of intricacy such as the epic 'Verisakeet': But the band push their boundaries even further, and create something that a listener would never forget.

This is an album of details. Details are the elements that build 'Havitetty'; it's like creating a castle not with immense milestones but with small pieces of rocks that together nevertheless make an incredibly solid effort. And it is a castle that is quite hard to destroy. It's a solid, almost hour long album, where ambition is the first word that comes to mind. More synthesizers, even more Folk elements incorporated; there is in the slower, quieter moments, even some Prog Rock sparks. But Black Metal is still the core of Moonsorrow's music: it's not a cerebral, polished BM like it was in 'Verisakeet', but it is a raw, abrasive one reminiscent of an earlier period for the band.

The element that attracted much more ambitious metalheads to this release (and perhaps distanced the ones who like their metal played safe) is the fact that this is a two song affair, both of them reaching nearly the half-hour length. The first one, 'Jaasta Syntynyt/ Varjojen Virta', more melancholic, sad, hopeless, but of an amazing beauty especially in the first seven minutes or so, where atmospheres a-la-Pink Floyd take place, before exploding into a bunch of different, unique, and carefully arranged Black Metal riffs (with shrieked vocals) that take turns in hopping up in front of the listener. With lyrics concerning the death of our world, due to stupidity of man ( immense frustration is felt in the poetry of lyricist), and the preparation to a war that will give nothing but further loss to us. But if the first track is resigned and helpless, 'Tuleen Ajettu Ma' is the revenge, the anger, the hope. Starting almost right off with heavy riffs, it has in the core of the song slower passages. The feeling here is more triumphant, more epic almost. The hooks thus are even more memorable, and often even hauntingly gorgeous, like in the last, final minutes of music. Both of the tracks wonderfully complement one another, and together create an album that couldn't have possibly felt more rounded and complete.

It won't be an easy listen for many people because of it's highly ambitious nature, in terms of structure but also of the music itself. Although not as seminal as previous Moonsorrow works, 'V: Havitetty' is an album that will always be regarded as one of the finest, most interesting and successful achievements of Folk Metal

MOONSORROW Verisäkeet

Album · 2005 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.89 | 15 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
9/10

Folk Metal's greatest achievement so far, where the word epic acquires a new meaning.

Moonsorrow's masterpiece "Kivenkataja" ended up being the tip of the iceberg: the follow up to that album is "Verisakeet", an album that is just as haunting and well done, although the two are completely two different beasts. But it is definite now that Moonsorrow are one of the best cult Metal bands of all time, thanks mostly to these two landmark achievements, and have not, so far, released an album that was less than really good.

Like it was mentioned, "Verisakeet" is completely different than "Kivenkantaja": the songs are significantly longer, less in quantity, richer in instrumentation, and boast beautiful production and polished sound. There is a more progressive approach in structuring these long winded, complex and diverse songs, where there is an even larger use of exotic, Nordic instrumentation. All of the instruments(flutes, acoustic guitars, flutes, or synthesizers) individually have a prominent place, somewhere here, in this more than an hour long experience. But there is also a significant amount of blast beats and traditional Black Metal here, and a certain passage can go on for several minutes without there being any Folk elements. Nevertheless, this is compensated by the moments in which these Folk elements are present, and they become absolutely essential for that particular passage. There are also, in the beginning and end of each song, some nice nature recordings: this last element gives the impression that legends, with the passing of time, fade in and fade out, but nature remains the same.

Compared to other Moonsorrow albums, "Verisakeet" is the one in which there are more nature themes; it is the most earthly LP of the band, still somewhat focused on battles, but more emotions, such as fear, are heavily connected with the lyrics, in a time before or after a tragic war. If "Karhunkynsi" narrates the pre-battle and how it is not wanted by the people fighting it, "Haaska" is about the devastating aftermath, describing the bleak battlefield, and how futile the event was. "Pimea" is the most pessimistic track, depicting a dying world, another typical latter Moonsorrow theme. The final words that to me are interesting in this album are the ones sung in the intimate "Kaiku", a brief elegy of forefathers.

Musically, each one of these songs is amazingly done, starting from the huge opener, the fourteen minute epic; possibly the heaviest, more Black Metal driven song, but it has massive riffs which reoccur in a beautifully studied way throughout the track, thanks also to great production and musicianship. The second track is less accessible but almost as high of a level and just as long, with more additional instrumentation ( the acoustic guitar gives the main hook for the entire song), more complex, more triumphant, but still of supremely high quality. "Pimea" is still another very long and intricate listen as a whole, with the glossy keyboards giving a strong addition to some melodies, but it has a handful of quite beautiful Folkloric moments, as well as haunting hooks played with either guitars or exotic instruments. "Jotunheim" mixes a huge amount of sounds together, as well as another handful of successful riffs, and amazing musicianship. What differs in this track is that it has a more climactic nature, but also it boasts the most emotionally challenging riffs of the album, them being very desolate sounding. When the final moments of this track, consisting of the routined nature recordings, blend in with the starting moments of "Kaiku", the final track, it is obvious that this amazing journey is coming to an end: this last track is a melancholically campfire-set acoustic jam between an intimate chorus of vocals and acoustic guitar.

"Verisakeet" is possibly the most complete and successful Moonsorrow release; it's possibly also the greatest, most important Folk Metal of all time. With more and more years increasing the album's age, it's quite possibly going to become a Metal classic. For now, this remains stuck in a somewhat cult status, but that doesn't diminish its quality one bit.

MY DYING BRIDE The Dreadful Hours

Album · 2001 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.26 | 19 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"The Dreadful Hours" is the soundtrack to the last moments before a storm of evil washes away all hope.

My Dying Bride’s last great album so far, “The Dreadful Hours”, was yet another release that had strong roots attached to the conventional Death Doom Metal style, giving it however a twist of uniqueness that is only of this album. Followed by a decent return-to-old-style sort of album (“The Light at The End Of the World”), this 2001 release manages to become one of the key albums of the band’s discography and of Death Doom Metal in general.

The unique twists are a few: the use of a clean atmosphere smothered in various effects is much more prominent, and is very often a great part of a composition; it wouldn’t be surprising if the band picked up a bit of Post-Rock during the period this album was being recorded. The alternative moments to these, which obviously are the Doomy ones, are relatively much more fast paced (much alike “Light at The End Of the World”) than other works of the band; the vocals are more tended towards Black Metal-ish shrieks, when they don’t have the plaintive, clean nature Aaron Stainthorpe usually delivers. There also seems to be a larger use of keyboards, really great additions to especially the more atmospheric passages.

The themes presented in “The Dreadful Hours” are very similar to the ones we find in other My Dying Bride lyrics: a strong presence of God ( a savior or condemner?), as well as the figure of a poisonous, life-sucking woman who often symbolizes some deeper allegories; in other examples, she is simply an object of desire for the persona, who feels a suffered love for her. Among the lyrical highlights, the title track is about an infant as it is rejected by the parents, while “Le Figlie Della Tempesta” describes—once again—a divine female character that disillusions and tricks people with lies. “the Return to The Beautiful” has the longest and possibly most challenging lyrics of the album, with it’s brief, enigmatic Latin phrases and again an evident theme of deception, darkness, but also irresistible beauty.

Even with one hour and ten minutes of total length time, “The Dreadful Hours” rarely loses its impact, starting from the first episode, the title track: a two minute, atmospheric Post Rock/Metal kind of passage opens up to another one of a relatively faster pace for My Dying Bride, binging in memorable riffs and vocals. “Le Figlie Della Tempesta” is another great highlight, with pretty much the same structure of the previously mentioned track, but perhaps darker, more desolate, and more tense; the calmer moments remind of a storm coming towards the listener’s way. “Black Heart Romance” is again a really excellent example of great songwriting, where plenty of feelings are condensed in one song, without any one of them overlapping another. Then, “The Return to The Beautiful” is the fourteen minute epic finale, by some considered (including lead singer) the best track the band has ever released. The other songs, too, are not inferior in terms of quality; they are more solemn, and typical tracks you’d expect from My Dying Bride, in a good way.

“The Dreadful Hours” is a sublimely crafted piece of Doom Metal; the band does not hesitate however in finding new ways to enrich their sound, with a more frequent use of keyboards, vocal choruses, and Post-rock brushes. Still today, this is regarded as one of the key moments of the genre and of the band’s discography.

MOONSORROW Kivenkantaja

Album · 2003 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 16 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
9/10

"Kivenkataja", for it's beautiful profoundness, should be considered a landmark Metal album of the new millennium.

Moonsorrow are one of the greatest Metal bands of the new millennium and have proved to be so with several albums, one of them is the masterpiece “Kivenkataja”, the third album, and the first album that is part of a trilogy of excellent works (the second one would be 2005’s “Verisakeet” and the final chapter 2007’s “V: Havitetty”.) This 2003 release proves how Moonsorrow in two years have shown a great difference in songwriting skills, structuring songs and arranging them: “Kivenkataja” indeed is a 100% Moonsorrow album that shows all of the band’s essential and best characteristics.

On one side, the style isn’t different: we’re talking about the usual, Pagan Black Metal/ Folk Metal influence here. But it’s so much more complex, profound and epic than the previous two releases, (beating even the wonderful “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta”) due to it’s superior instrumentation, more progressive influences, and overall perfected songwriting skills. All this together makes up something more than just great album: “Kivenkataja” rightfully should be considered a landmark Metal LP of it’s era, because of it’s uniqueness, richness, and especially, it’s haunting and evocative nature. Sure, Folkish instruments like the Jew Harp, accordion, flutes and many others were present in previous albums, however here, they have a major, essential role, and dominate completely some of the passages here, creating a well balanced equilibrium between the lush Folk moments and Black Metal influenced ones, which still have melodies driven by traditional Scandinavian canons. The Lyrics, being this Pagan Metal, although having pretty much the same themes as the first two albums, this time around are proposed and written in a much more poetic and vivid way: instead of focusing on battles and warriors, there is more detailed descriptions of nature, like in the opening track “Rauniolla”. The tone is more the one of a lonely, forgotten bard of the North, instead perhaps of a drunk one from a noble palace telling hackneyed stories of warriors and battles fought. It basically feels more of a realistic point of view.

The album starts off with the thirteen minute epic “Rauniolla”, quite possibly the best thing Moonsorrow has ever created: the melodies are, instead of being triumphant and full of testosterone, melancholic, a little resigned, solemn. Structured almost as a mini-suite, it features extremely diverse moments, from heavy riffs to beautifully evocative Folkloric ones. “Jumalten Kaupunki”, the second track, is heavier, with less atmospheric moments, and with a more triumphant tone, however still maintaining an impressive level of complexity and depth. The following track is yet another sort of mini, ten minute suite, using however completely different formulas from the ones used in the previous two tracks, giving the structure of the overall album a great flow so far. The title track is more of a traditional Folk Metal track, more ballzy and in-your-face, but it also shows explicit Prog Metal influences especially in the frequent rhythm changes; “Tuulen Tytar” is a mostly instrumental piece, half calm, half distorted and loud. It certainly is the odd one out of these six tracks, and gives yet again another touch of variety in the sound. The album closes with the short but gorgeously crafted “Maktan Lopussa”, a sad, beautiful, and very surprising song on behalf of Moonsorrow.

“Kivenkataja” has an amazing set of songs that together make one, solid and consistent album, despite the great amount of changes that distinguish one song from the other. One of the culminating peaks of Folk Metal music, a perfect model for all of the bands that are minimally interested in the genre.

MOONSORROW Suden uni

Album · 2001 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.07 | 16 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

"Suden Uni" although feeling like a collection of drinking songs, is a fun and consistent listen.

“Suden Uni” is legendary Finnish act Moonsorrow’s debut album, which will be shortly followed that same year by a much more well developed album, “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta”, one of the most solid releases of the band’s discography. In fact this album does not stand at the same level as the sophomore LP, however, it is proof that Moonsorrow have taken a further step ahead from the previous demos, towards the path of maturity.

Moonsorrow adapt a cleaner production for their full length, compared to the rawness of the EPs/Demos, and start to incorporate a lot more Nordic Folk influenced melodies in their music, as well as exotic instruments like the accordion and the famous jaw harp, but also several keyboards are used. But compared to future albums these folkish instruments are used in a much more subtle way, and serve the sole purpose to enrich the sound; they don’t play a particularly important role within a song. This said, it’s easy to imagine how much less atmospheric and more straight-forward this LP is, again compared to the complexity of future Moonsorrow albums, thus more riff driven and melodic.

“Sudden Uni” means “A Wolf’s Dream” in Finnish: by only the title, you can tell what Mooonsorrow’s lyrics deal with, and, if you’re familiar with the band, it will be very easy to guess the main themes of the album: Viking./Nordic wars, proud warriors, Gods, but also normal people and their sense of honor. the first track is probably the one that is the oddest of all, seemingly coming from a completely different style: “Son of the God Of Thunder” (English translation) is about a young, teenage God who gets expelled by his father from the clouds, because of his futile and reckless behavior. Other than that, the lyrics deal with the above mentioned themes in a casual way, without being particularly evocative.

Because of it’s straight-forwardness, “Suden Uni” in some points seems to be a collection of drinking songs, instead of profound, epic poems of music. This impression obviously does not occur in every song: for example, in the eleven minute “1065: Time”, there are some good doses of epicness in the songwriting and the structure of the song is fantastic, which includes also more ambient friendly passages, mostly in the first few minutes. But the rest of the songs offer little variation, and some are not at all as memorable as they should be: “As Eternal” and “Son Of The God Of Thunder” come a little close to annoy me, however, standing in the middle of them (according to the tracklist) is “Pakanavedet II”, much more accessible and interesting, thanks to the massive presence of the Jew Harp and fun, heavy rhythms. . “Home Of the Wind…” is a little too simple and banal for my taste, but it still has interesting arrangements overall.

“Suden Uni” can be a fun listen for sure, and even if some melodies come a little too close to being corny and clichéd, it’s still a solidly structured release for Moonsorrow, an album that is the natural predecessor of “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta”, which uses a more complex and solid formula.

KYLESA Spiral Shadow

Album · 2010 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 9 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

"Spiral Shadow" is a big mix of emotions and musical variety.

American Stoner Metal band Kylesa’s 2009 release, “Static Tensions”, was one that was hard to follow, because of its use of successful formulas mixed together well. But “Spiral Shadow” comes right behind it in terms of quality, and in some points, there is even a slight improvement: however, overall it’s not as solid and enjoyable as the previous album.

There are pretty noticeable changes in direction the band takes on this new album: the distortion has lost a bit of its original impact, favoring however a more atmospheric sound, cleaner passages that include diverse guitar effects and more rich arrangements; this way, many of these moments are remindful of Sludge Metal's more atmospheric side, except for the fact that Kylesa have always been straight to the point and have always done the job quickly, and it is no different here. The type of impact the band delivers is also very varied; from tense, anxious moments, there are also more optimistic and cheerful ones, or angry, violent ones. Previous albums by the band have had more of a monotone attitude and never changed their perennial state of anger.

Again with a short 40 minute album, Kylesa with “Spiral Shadow” show they can blend many things into one another in order to make a more different, elaborate and musically luxurious sound. But they're making the album as a whole a little less solid and a bit more sparse. The great songs are still here, like the opener “Tired Climb”, which is nauseatingly aggressive for the most part, but it also has a cool, tense and anxious build up. “Crowded Road” has a Doomier, heavier feel, while the guitar tapping of “Don’t Look Back” almost reminds of Math Rock, with a somewhat strange and very subtle Pixies influence in the songwriting. The second half of the LP, while it still has a few good moments like the solemn closing track, is a little less emotional and impactive, focusing more on showcasing interesting filter effects rather than concentrating on the songwriting.

An album with a very wide range of sounds that still however remains faithful to Stoner Metal. Although a bit one sided (superiority of the first half to the second), it remains enjoyable pretty much all the way through, and delivers excellent songs that will become, in my mind, Kylesa classics.

KYLESA Static Tensions

Album · 2009 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.77 | 7 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"Static Tensions" is one of the most enjoyable Stoner Metal releases of the last few years.

Kylesa are an American Sludge/Stoner Metal band; 'Static Tensions' is their fourth album, the LP that finally brought them up to popularity among the stoner metal community, after a few, more average and disappointing albums.

The first thing you notice in 'Static Tensions' is how different it sounds compared to previous Kylesa material: it is clear the band have found their own, original take on this kind of music. They have massive Sludge Metal/Hardcore Punk influences in most of the vocals , as well as in the heavy, crunchy, and extremely loud guitars; but the original aspect of the music is probably the rhythm section, which often incorporates more exotic percussive patterns that replace simple drum fills. However, the drummer in this band does not hesitate in blasting bursts of velocity, making Kylesa basically sound like the more drugged out, intense and in- your-face cousin of Mastodon. The great thing about this new style is that slower, clean moments are not rare, and still hint at that Psychedelic feel that is just as powerful as in the more intense moments, especially thanks to the clever addition of female vocals and the hazy production chops.

'Static Tensions', in it's most intense passages, reminds not only of the Hardcore flashes but also of clever, well structured Sludge Metal. Despite this raw blend, Kylesa manage to be extremely accessible in every single song, proving amazing songwriting skills. It is pretty rare to find a band that can successfully write catchy melodies, be adventurous, and surround you with total, blissful distortion, all at the same time.

With only forty minutes 'Static Tensions' is by far the most solid Kylesa album. Although each song maintains a similar style (the clean moments though are all different from one another), they never bore all together, and together shine as one. Of course, there are specific highlights, like the amazingly face-bashing first track 'Scapegoat', the more dualistic (soft and aggressive) nature of 'Running Red', the hypnotic atmosphere of 'To Walk Alone', or the straight-forward catchiness of 'Almost Lost'. Each and every one of these songs has a different character, many of them present a different structural form, and all together they form a quite functional family of tough boys.

'Static Tensions' is an extremely enjoyable, fun, catchy, and aggressive listen, despite not being the most cheerful camper out there. Yet, the solemnity of this band's music could add some new canons to future traditional Sludge Metal.

MY DYING BRIDE The Light at the End of the World

Album · 1999 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 16 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

"The Light At The End Of The World" is a decent return to a style that is more traditional of My Dying Bride.

My Dying Bride are one of the most well known and respected Doom Metal acts of all time. With such a high reputation, this band has managed to consistently release some great albums over the years, in particular their third album “Turn Loose The Swans” and it’s follow up, “The Angel and The Dark River”, both of these released in the mid nineties. After a few, more disappointing albums, the band return to shine, in the eyes of many fans, with 1999’s “The Light at The End Of The World”.

This release of theirs is quite unlike what they have ever done; this is thus far the darkest, most unsettling and disturbing album the band has released. The desperation of previous albums seem to be almost a joke compared to this extremely emotionally difficult album. The sound itself hasn’t drastically changed, but there is a more frequent use of subtle synthesizers, more extreme vocals (which seem to be more Black Metal influenced this time around), and a bit faster-paced melodies. While it may not be the Doomiest album of the band, it is the grimmest and most pessimistic, despite only slight stylistic changes.

The concepts brought up are not estranged to other Doom Metal material, nor to other My Dying Bride lyrics: pain, suffering, revenge, hopelessness, and quite a few religious themes are what the lyrics portray, and there are some interesting stories depicted too; in the title track, the story is of a man who is forced to guard an everlastingly deserted sea from a lighthouse on an isolated island. He begs his divinity for one night only with his woman, which he does get; but the following day, he will stay eternally in solitude on the island, without ever seeing a man or woman. The lyrics of the other songs are not as epic, but a couple still have an intriguing nature: “She Is The Dark” incarnates deceit and pain into a woman, while “Edenbeast” is about a feast of sin that takes place in Eden, possibly a metaphor of the presence of corruption and greed in the most unexpected places.

The songs on this release are extremely evocative, especially in the first half of the album; songs like “She Is The Dark” and “Edenbeast”, other than having dark, haunting melodies, also bring to the listener the feeling of being in front of an abandoned, dark plain, where man’s sins and defects are laid down and exposed. However, it is sad to see that some of the songs, during the second half of the album, are not nearly as powerful as they should: “Christliar” has an interesting structure, but does not give any emotional impact whatsoever, just like the compressed intensity of “The Fever Sea”, the title track (despite it’s majestic lyrics) or “Into The Lake Of Ghosts”. They are not really bad tracks, they simply aren’t able to accomplish the task (that is admittedly hard to do) to stay as haunting as the emotional concepts in the lyrics.

“The Light At The End Of The World” is a unique album for My Dying Bride, being also their first album, after those more experimental albums preceding it, to return to the more traditional style. However, this return isn’t as successful as I would have liked; “The Dreadful Hours”, the following album, will have done the job in a much more satisfactory way.

JUDAS PRIEST Painkiller

Album · 1990 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.43 | 117 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
9/10

The shape of Heavy Metal to come.

Judas Priest are one of the great Heavy Metal bands of all time, and they were so even before 1990. “Painkiller” then was the icing on the cake. One of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed albums by the band, this album represents a milestone in Heavy Metal music because of it’s broad influence it had on bands that followed.

“Painkiller” is definitely the heaviest, fastest, ground shaking album of the band: the drums are of a pounding nature, the guitars are beastly heavy and don’t hesitate in delivering chaotic, messy solos, for the most time perfectly executed. Halford’s screams have never sounded so sincere and ideal for the moment. The resulting music is a sort of Speed Metal sound, because of how relatively faster this album is compared to the other Judas Priest albums, where there was much more of a NWOBHM influence, especially the albums of the eighties.

With ten tracks Judas Priest bring together an amazingly solid album, full of fast moments; but they never sound the same one another, and there is a lot of variety between the melodies, and each song sounds different. Starting from the opening song, the title track: there is the perfect handful of potent rhythms, amazing drum section, chaotic guitars, and a perfect pitched Rob Halford; this track is now a milestone for Judas Priest fans and an immense Heavy Metal classic. The other tracks are not of lesser quality: “Metal Meltdown” is extremely catchy, yet strong and powerful in terms of sound, “All Guns Blazing” is probably the fiercest, most alarming track, while “Hell Patrol” and “Leather Rebel” have more traditionally paced rhythms and less shouted vocals. The second half of the album too presents great gems, like the emotionally daring “Touch Of Evil”, and “Night Crawler” and “Between The Hammer and The Anvil” are catchier, more melodic songs that still don’t loose the punch.

With such a bunch of tracks, “Painkiller” cannot be less than a masterpiece: a landmark album for Heavy Metal music, in particularly because of the shaping it did to a lot of the music to come.

VEKTOR Black Future

Album · 2009 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 35 ratings
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8/10

"Black Future" is a toxic, fast, and catchy beast that emits a cheerfully dystopian light.

Vektor are an American Thrash Metal band: “Black Future” is their third studio length LP. By most of the Thrash community highly praised, this band is unique thanks to their spacey themes and peculiar, Black Metal influenced vocals. “Black Future” is, so far, the album that most faithfully and best represents their attitude and philosophy, becoming one of the best Thrash Metal albums this reviewer has ever heard in recent years.

The thing that you first notice in this colossal album is the clean production, a characteristic that doesn’t usually suit neither Thrash nor Black Metal: but here, it does nothing but compliment the music. The guitars are edgy and loud, the vocals have been mentioned for the most part, except for the fact that they are very varied and different sounding every time; sometimes they’re more like ghostly screams, other times they are raspy and lower pitched. Then the rhythms are pretty standard for the genre, but they are constantly changing, giving a pretty strong technical feel to the compositions. With these characteristics, Vektor play around with some progressive-like structures and mix in some slower, usually guitar driven passages, as well as some futuristic-machinery sound effects.

In most of the lyrics, there is an evident science fiction/dystopian theme, usually of something that has or is dominating earth, physically or psychologically: whether it be nuclear explosions, asteroids, dark nebulas, or genetically modified creatures. Exceptions include “Forests Of Legend”, the narrating of a once fantastic forest, where Giants and massive creatures lived. Anyhow, there’s almost always a sort of changed-as-we-know-it end of our world.

Over an hour long, “Black Future” never manages to bore or to exasperate the listener: the songs are elaborate and complex but not hard to follow. The pillars of the album are definitely the songs that pass the ten minute border: “Forests Of Legend”, “Dark Nebula” and “Accelerating Universe”. Within these ten minutes Vektor bring chaos to earth, as if zombies just came out of a spaceship and are running around,destroying everything they see; they also manage to give some calmer, slower moments within them, making them even more interesting. The remaining six songs however are not less effective: “Asteroid” is fast, catchy, and technical, just like the more Black Metal influenced title track, or “Oblivion”.

An album like no other, “Black Future” is sure the LP that should stick in the minds of Thrash Metal fans for quite some time. This is a great alternative to bands like Metallica and Megadeth; Vektor are a band that perhaps should be learned more of, even by the people who don’t care about Thrash.

KYLESA Time Will Fuse Its Worth

Album · 2006 · Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.30 | 4 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

"Time Will Fuse It's Worth" is a well constructed album that however gets old pretty fast.

Kylesa is an American Stoner Metal band that has received much attention from the Stoner Metal community, later on in the first decade of the new millennium, with albums like “Static Tensions” and “Spiral Shadow”. Before the times of popularity, there was “Time Will Fuse It’s Worth”, an album positioned at the core of the band’s discography, being a follow-up to two more obscure and more average sounding albums.

Even though it shows significant improvement over Kylesa's past releases, the sound on "Time Will Fuse It's Worth" is far from being mature: By listening to the entire thing, it comes obvious that the band has not yet found its distinct style. The result is a cluster of Stoner/Sludge songs that sound standard and generic compared to other, groundbreaking material from the same genre. The slower moments give a little tease of uniqueness, but it's not long lasting.

Unfortunately the album, despite its relatively short running time, gets old pretty fast, it becomes easily predictable and boring. But good songs are here, especially in the case of “Between Silence and Sound”, the only track where there is a loud and clear burst of uniqueness. Other songs, like “Ignoring Anger”, “The Warning” and “What Becomes and End”, although having generic sound, are proof of great songwriting on behalf of the band. The presence of an intro, intermission and outro give the album an interesting impression of experiencing a mad-circus show, one at times good and at times frustratingly flat.

“Time Will Fuse It’s Worth”, despite its flaws, promises an overcoming of mediocrity on behalf of Kylesa (unlike, let’s admit it, a lot of albums). It turned out of course that Kylesa actually did step up with their game; today, they're one of the most respected Sludge Metal bands.

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM Two Hunters

Album · 2007 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.41 | 20 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"Two Hunters" provides an image of the dark corners of the world.

Along maybe with bands like Agalloch, Wolves In Throne Room is now one of America’s most recognized Black Metal bands: in 2007, they released “Two Hunters”, so far the absolute pinnacle of their career and one of the best albums of the scene.

“Diadem in 12 Stars” was their debut album which had a very unique take on Blackgaze; the sound was very ethereal and harsh at the same time. “Two Hunters” perfects that atmosphere by a whole lot, with much more brave, shoegazey and unearthly passages soaked in reverb, which gain a touch of beauty when female vocals, that seem to come from heaven, are added. Then we still have the grim, electric passages. But, despite the great amount of Black Metal in this release, everything sounds much more clean and less raw than in “Diadem”: the reverb is possibly the greatest reason why it doesn’t feel that heavy, but it’s also the fact that WITTR on this one decided to focus much more intensely on the atmosphere.

The lyrics are probably the most enigmatic and fascinating aspect of the album: “I Will Lay Down My Bones Among the Rocks And Roots” is a sort of a dying wish of the persona: he wants to be left in the woods, so that he becomes one with nature, entering, this way, into a new life. Then “Vastness and Sorrow” is more complex: it involves a dark rider who rules the world, as he is the only living being there. The world moves to his horse’s steps, as he passes through ruins of a once great civilization, a symbol of failure of mankind. “Cleansing” seems to describe an encouragement to have a ritual act of purification through singing, in order to be saved from the dark rider, who is mentioned.

With only four tracks, “Two Hunters” provides the listener, in less than fifty minutes, a vivid image of dark, hidden corners of the world where man has not yet visited; A damp, black cave, in which there is a waterfall of the purest of waters. “Dia Artio” is the intro the starts off this unique journey, where the reverb-soaked clean guitars set the stage. The twelve minute “Vastness and Sorrow” is a gloomy Black Metal piece that finds no pause, no mercy, managing to be the darkest track on the album. “Cleansing” starts off with a vein similar to the intro, but then explodes into yet another Black Metal passage. The final, eighteen minute track is home of a bunch of solid, solemn and somber riffs, occasionally purified with the watery clean moments. As the music dissolves, at the end of the album, the sound of birds comes in , giving more coherency to the lyrical concept of the song, by this point of view one of the great closers of Black Metal history.

“Two Hunters” will be remembered as a Black Metal landmark album, an album that will be, over the years. a point of reference for many bands; even today, the Blackgaze movement is, although mostly underground, increasing exponentially, and will possibly domain most of future Black Metal. When that happens, Wolves In The Throne Room have a reserved place in the Olympus of legendary Metal bands.

MOONSORROW Voimasta ja kunniasta

Album · 2001 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 12 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"Voimasta" is a perfectly balanced interconnection between the Viking muscles and the guiding hand of Nordic Folklore.

The (possibly) greatest Finnish band of all time, Moonsorrow, in 2001 were able to release two albums: the first one was “Suden Uni”, the second one, “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta”. The latter is possibly the most mature one and the first album by the band that is immensely successful in terms of quality: although maybe not the most recognized and famous release of these Folk Metallers, it is definitely one that opened the path to all of the following Moonsorrow albums and all the other bands that followed them.

Folk Metal’s basics are all down here in an incredibly precise way: here we have the epic feel and melodies of the rough guitars, the Black Metal shrieks, the additional, folkloristic instrumentation (flutes and accordion mostly), the atmospheric synths, and the straddling rhythms. So many Folk Metal bands have used only a portion of these characteristics, but most of the time, the best result will occur if all of these elements are properly incorporated. The songs themselves are structured in a very thought-provoking way, because of the shifting tempos and passages ( from a folkloristic one to a harsh, black Metal burst, enlightened moments later by elaborate, acoustic instrumentation).

The spirit of all Moonsorrow albums is here found in great abundance: the Northern lands, the Vikings, the battles, the Gods. In “Voimasta Ja Kunniasta” there seems to be a more frequent and specific theme of battles, plunders of villages, pride and honor of warriors. “Aurinko Ja Kuu” is however the odd one: its an interesting description of a man who roams in the woods without ever encountering men, and that sleeps in the beds of bears. In 50 minutes of length, “Voimasta” manages to stay quite consistent, and at the same time, the songs have enough variation one another to have a fluent flow. Nearly each one of these six songs can be considered a highlight: “Sankarihauta” and “Kylan Paasa” are generally more muscular, raw, and harsh songs, which still do not lack of intelligence. “Sankaritarina” however, the thirteen minute closer, has a great riff that echoes throughout the entire song and still manages to have the most thought-provoking and elaborate structure here. The remaining two songs, “Auriko Ja Kuu” and “Hiidenpelto” are great as well, incorporating more folkish elements yet without losing the grit.

“Voimasta Ja Kunniasta” can be considered essential listening not only for Moonsorrow lovers but also for Folk Metal fans; an album that uses all of the canons and brings them up at a quality that not many other bands of the genre can do.

DISMEMBER Like an Everflowing Stream

Album · 1991 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 17 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"Like An Ever Flowing Stream" is an ear-crushing landmark album for Death Metal.

Dismember are a Swedish Death Metal band from the nineties, and are praised as some of the most influential and important bands of the genre, mainly because of their debut album “Like An Ever Flowing Stream”, one of the key LPs of old school Death Metal.

Like a lot of similar bands, Dismember were focused on giving a brutal impact with their music: the first thing that pops up about these compositions are the crushingly heavy, distorted guitars. Hearing them makes you think of mountains crumbling down in fast motion. The vocals also are greatly guttural, nasty, and fierce. With the typical old school DM sound, the music is rough sounding and thrashy, and gives the perfect touch to the tracks. Sometimes a vocal chorus might subtly come in, to give a more unearthly feel, really giving the idea of this music, visceral as it is, coming strait from the center of the earth, born from the lava and rocks.

It’s thematic nature also is not different from the one of most Death Metal bands: what make the lyrics interesting is that the persona seems to be the same, but his actions and characteristics change from song to song, as if a story narrated his changes: on the first track, this narrator seems to be reluctant yet resigned about dying and to go to hell, but by the second and third track, he gets progressively more sadistic in his actions. Then in “Skin Her Alive” it almost looks like he’s somewhat guilty of his killings, yet with the track following he continues his work of evil. On the final track, it’s a sort of goodbye to the audience.

With only thirty minutes of length, “Like An Ever Flowing Stream” features eight tracks, all of them extremely consistent to the sound and to the attitude. This truly is like an immense, fuzzy ball of mayhem and destruction falling down a hill, and disintegrates every single thing that comes in its way. It leaves quite an impact on the listener, who despite the short life of the album is overwhelmed by the intensity. Starting with the powerfully memorable “Override To The Overture”, the album doesn’t lose it’s quality throughout it’s length, emphasizing the impact: from the shorter episodes like “Soon To Be Dead” and “Skin Her Alive”, to the more stretched out ones like “In Death’s Sleep” and “Dismembered”.

Thanks to it’s sheer brutality, “Like An Ever Flowing Stream” is still today regarded as Death Metal milestone; for any fan of the genre, this is a must.

JUDAS PRIEST British Steel

Album · 1980 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 102 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
9/10

"British Steel" is inevitably part of Heavy Metal history due to it's timeless hymns to rebellion.

One of the reasons why Judas Priest are one of the most important bands of all time is because of “British Steel”, the album that brought the band to a huge level of popularity and that showed everybody how NWOBHM was done.

With the previous album, “Hell Bent for Leather”, (aka “Killing Machine”) the band incorporated officially their leather-based image, became less dark and were more about the fun of it. That album was musically going in a direction that “Stainless Class” was really aiming for, but it had the attitude that “British Steel” perfected. Even strictly musically speaking, the band changed, influenced by some mainstream genres of the time; metallically precise rhythms, low-end guitars, cheerful melodies. A package of metal anthems that will inspire almost any metal band after that.

These anthems are full of a spirit that is almost reminiscent of the Arena Rock kind of sound, because they do sound invincible, immortal, and timeless. The lyrics can’t be completely denied, as they contribute to this sort of feeling: some cite rebellion and a tough-guy image, like in “Breaking the Law”, “United”, “Living After Midnight”, “You Don’t have To Be Old To Be Wise”. “The Rage” though is an interesting, brief description of someone getting angry, and “Metal Gods” seems to tell the story of robots taking over mankind a-la Terminator.

An album full of immense hymns to rebellion, classic songs that will bring Judas Priest up up with the great bands of music history: “Living After Midnight”, “Metal Gods”, “Breaking The Law”. The less known songs maintain just as high levels, like the immediate intro “Rapid Fire”, a more aggressive, pounding track that gives an excellent feeling right at the beginning. Later on, “United” or “You Don’t Have To Be Old To Be Wise” are still excellent dishes, as well as the last track that closes the album, “Steeler”. But “the Rage” is easily the most different song, because of it’s more stretched out nature, not as in your face but still quite intriguing in songwriting.

“British Steel” is a Metal masterpiece that will go down in history as one of the most important of it’s genre: in not even forty minutes, Judas Priest create something that still today is fun, rebellious, and daring.

JUDAS PRIEST Stained Class

Album · 1978 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.20 | 106 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"Stainless Class" is easily the darkest Judas Priest album.

Judas Priest’s “Stainless Class” opens a new era not only for the band, but also for Heavy Metal in general. If the first three albums of the famous quintet had more of a Hard Rock/ Proto-Metal image, this fourth album is the first one where they are incorporating heavier guitars, faster rhythms, and more screamed vocals by Metal titan Rob Halford. Although not an immense landmark album for the genre as a whole (that is, not as much as something like “Sad Wings Of Destiny”, “Painkiller” or “British Steel”), it symbolizes nevertheless a turning point for one of the greatest bands of Heavy Metal.

As said previously, “Stained Class” has, in comparison to previous Priest works, a heavier sound much more similar to the golden eras of “Screaming For Vengeance” or “British Steel”. Basically, an approach much more towards the famous NWOBHM that was blossoming right during the period this albums was released. The compositions and the production of the album though are extremely peculiar and recognizable as part of this LP only: the sound is very clean, yet it has abrasive guitars, and more sparse and loose rhythms, (instead of the metallic, rigid rhythms of future albums) to give a more hellish and uneasy mood.

“Stainless Steel” remains possibly the darkest Judas Priest effort, not only because of the infamous trial of the two kids who, ten years later the LP was released, committed suicide, inspired by a presumed subliminal message in the song “Better By You, Better Than Me”: also, because of the lyrics themselves, frequently dealing with death, afterlife, underworlds, futile heroes, and unearthly demons. “Stainless Steel”, with such a background to the music itself, can’t not be massively influential to all of those bands that followed 1978 and went on the road Judas Priest paved.

This album is home of some of the greatest, most famous and celebrated JP songs, from the energetic, fast-paced opener “Exciter”, a massively influential track for many bands to come, to the gorgeous, gloomy semi-ballad “Beyond The Realms Of Death”. Then, others like the Spooky Tooth cover “Better By You, Better Than Me”, the title track’s elegance and cool, the straddling rhythms of “Savage”, or the darker “White Heat, Red Hot” are other tracks that will deeply impact the mind of a fan, and of anybody who is at least a tiny bit interested in Heavy Metal.

“Stainless Class” not only has a peculiar style and mood, but it also contributes in creating the NWOBHM and in letting it become what it did become. One of Judas Priest’s most accomplished works.

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM Diadem of 12 Stars

Album · 2006 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 16 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

"Diadem In 12 Stars" has interesting traits and promises great things for Wolves In the Throne Room.

American Black Metal for some is just a joke. That is, for the Black Metal (pretentious) purists. But Wolves In The Throne Room prove how these people are wrong. Their debut album was “Diadem In 12 Stars”, an album that shows the uniqueness of the band and how, even though not having extremely solid roots in the Scandinavian scene, they are credible, and loyal to the genre.

Even from the start, WITTR have received attention because of their sound: this debut album of theirs distances itself from the more traditional side of BM, incorporating different styles and making them mesh one another: there are a great amount of shoegazey guitars, female clean vocals, audible melodies, atmospheric acoustic passages, and quite a bit of dynamicity. Their music is hypnotic but not repetitive, complex but easy to follow. The richness of the textures, the variety, and the carefully structured songs make Wolves a much more progressive influenced band in comparisons with other Atmospheric Black Metal bands like Burzum or early Ulver, also because of the unusually different rhythms, more syncopated and elaborate than the stale ones of the more traditional bands.

“Diadem in 12 Stars” is one of those albums whose cover perfectly reflects the music of the album: with a cascade surrounded by trees and by fog, it brings the listener right in front of that spectacle: in the more hypnotic moments, one finds himself directly underneath the cascade, bathed by ethereal, silvery water that falls either smoothly or harshly. There is in fact a strong feeling of ethereal, dreamy nature in the compositions and in the lyrics, that echoes throughout the entire album.

With only four tracks and an hour worth of length, “Diadem In 12 Stars” is an extremely consistent album in terms of structure: it’s biggest gripe is the fact that these songs are made out of the same ingredients, and the resulting cake tastes the same. Even though the variation is of course undeniable within the songs, there is no variation from track to track, and the formulas are just repeated again, becoming a little stale when reaching to an end to this LP. The songs, studied individually, are all good, pretty entertaining (even though some moments feel simply passive and not as engaging as they should), and well planned. It seems though that the album as a whole does not feel like that as much.

“Diadem In 12 Stars” is a decent start-off point for Wolves in The Throne Room. Already received a cult status among the lovers (non-purists) of the genre, this debut release is a promising one, and clearly the promises the band gave here came true later on in 2007 (one year later) with “Two Hunters”.

JUDAS PRIEST Sin After Sin

Album · 1977 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.94 | 99 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

Although not always consistent, “Sin After Sin” is a fun and underrated excerpt of Judas Priest’s glorious discography.

“Sin After Sin” is Metal titans Judas Priest’s third studio album, the follow-up to one of the greatest albums of all Metal, “Sad Wings Of Destiny”. Being a hard album to follow, “Sin After Sin” nevertheless is an enjoyable experience that offers great, fun songs that still today are very well respected by Priest fans.

Compared to “Sad Wings Of Destiny”, SaS has a very similar kind of heaviness; this album though is a little less varied, more focused on delivering one kind of style and sticking only to one or two formulas, without adding much to it. The result however is not at all monotone or boring, because of the excellent songwriting the band always manages to have. That is not to say that all the songs are the same: a few of them are humble and honest ballads, instead of being rebellious, upbeat tunes. The guitars have the same kind of Hard Rock crunch they had on the previous two albums: with the album following “Sin After sin”, “Stained Class”, those guitars will be substituted with ones much more Heavy Metal oriented. Rob Halford though, in my opinion the greatest Heavy Metal vocalist of all time, still remains his own self, delivering both high and low pitched vocals.

Even though Judas Priest’s lyrics are not exactly popular in any way, there are still some nice images the lyricists portray, especially in the love songs: “Last Rose Of Summer” is a melancholic little declaration of love and of the change of seasons, while “Here Come the Tears” is even more blue, where the loneliness of the persona narrating is really highlighted well. The rest of the lyrics aren’t exactly memorable in any way, perhaps mildly entertaining in the description of a demonic figure (Sinner), or of an angelic figure of hope (Starbreaker).

The first half of the LP is a true gem: “Sinner”, the first track, is a colossal classic, sort of in the vein of “Victim Of Changes”, only slightly less emotional. “Starbreaker” is a fun and entertaining bridge between the powerful Joan Baez cover “Diamonds And Rust” and the beautiful ballad “Last Rose Of Summer”. The second half however disappoints because of some inconsistencies in the songwriting, noticeable even in the six minute “Let Us Pray/Call For the Priest”. “Raw Deal” and “Dissident Aggressor” don’t have the same impact as the previous songs, same thing said for “Here Come the Tears”, not nearly as haunting as the other ballad.

If “Sin After Sin” obtained a more solid and consistent flow, it would have been a guaranteed Priest classic. Yet, it’s sort of falls into the shadow of all the other albums the band has released over the years, being by the audience generally considered neither excellent or poor, but just in averagely decent.

SPAWN OF POSSESSION Incurso

Album · 2012 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 13 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

"Incurso" throws at the listener so many things at once, that none of them end up giving an impact.

Spawn of Possession are a Swedish Technical Death Metal that over the years have been gaining an increase in popularity. But with “Incurso” the band reaches the attention they never really had: they now are generally extremely well respected among Death Metal enthusiasts. This third album of theirs, “Incurso” is being somewhat praised by Metal fans, not really for the songwriting but more for the amazing technical aspects.

Like the vast majority of modern Technical Death Metal, “Incurso” has no sense of melody whatsoever: everything is focused on are flashy guitar riffs, extremely fast-paced and complex rhythms, everlastingly changing hooks. But the thing about Spawn Of Possession is that in their music these technicalities are done extremely well: each and all of these musicians play like musical demons, especially the drummer, Henrik Schonstrom, who many times delivers truly amazing fills. The bass played by Erlend Caspersen is wild and virtuous as well, with all of it’s slappings and slidings. Of course the music is very hard to follow because of all the things that are coming and going at once, and that is one of the main problems I seem to have concerning modern Technical Death Metal.

The lyrics, like many Death Metal lyrics of the early days, are graphic and violent. But what makes them especially gruesome is that most of them are stories: some include hints to necrophilia (“Bodiless Sleeper”), possession and Satanism (“Deus Avertat”), demonic raping and futile revenge (“Spiritual Deception”), sadistic surgeons (“Servitude Of Souls”). But the most twisted story of all is possibly the explicit one narrated in “The Evangelist”, where a man remembers being dialy raped by a priest, and finds out, sitting next to his sickly mother, that she too was daily raped by the same priest and that the protagonist is actually the son of the priest.

The album as a whole, because of it’s style, is one that drags on and on, and since there are no sort of melodies or stand-out moments, it feels like a huge, lengthy song that never ends. This impression is strengthened even more with the fact that all of the songs use pretty much the same formulas, almost never there are any moments that somehow differ from the rest. A slight exception is the last track, “Apparition”, where there is much more instrumentation--mostly orchestral--, a slower passage, and an overall more varied feel. But the rest of the tracks, even though they are constantly changing hooks and rhythms, feel monotonous anyhow, which is the last thing that should happen in this kind of music.

“Incurso” has an excellent production, amazing musicianship, and disturbing themes in the lyrics, but there is no natural flow from song to song: no matter how flashy everything is, there are really few moments worth remembering. But maybe this is just me.

MOONSORROW Tämä ikuinen talvi

Demo · 1999 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.10 | 2 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

"Tama Ikuinen Talvi" is a decent demo that, although still having some flaws, is a promising piece of music for Moonsorrow.

Finnish Folk Metallers Moonsorrow, at the time of their first demo, had already released the extremely lo-fi, twenty minute EP “Metsa”, which wasn’t exactly one that promised the immense epicness of the future albums. This 1999 release, though, is a big improvement and it goes towards a direction that is much more accessible, haunting, and well developed.

For starters, the production is much less lo-fi than the first EP, even though still maintaining the very rough sound typical of Black Metal recordings. The music in fact for the most part of that kind of Metal: however, there are instant sparks of Folk Metal, and more than a few moments of Symphonic ones, thanks to the glossy, enigmatic, and quite atmospheric keyboards, much more dominant than in “Metsa”, where they were extremely subtle. Acoustic moments aren’t really present, but the orchestral/ambient/sample-based ones have a few spots here and there, especially in the beginning and the end of the demo.

Although not quite at the levels of the next albums, this demo has some of the epic, triumphant atmospheres typical of the band, however they never feel accomplished nor developed enough. Instead, there is a stronger Symphonic Black Metal influence, because of the mentioned keyboards: the atmospheres they create are desolate, at times anxious too. Other times, they sound like they’re completely drowned in the production, fusing with the big melting pot of the rhythm section and the guitars. This kind of result comes out in several moments of the demo, and when it comes around, it feels like a snowstorm is surrounding the listener, disorienting him completely.

Moonsorrow start off with the best song off this album, “Taistelu Pohjolasta”, a sort of a mini suite that has as an intro an Ambient/ Orchestral section, until it blasts into a dense, enigmatic track with more than a few fiercely fast moments. The second track is another huge surprise, being the track that more than any of these five songs brings up a lot of Folk Metal passages, all of them extremely memorable (although still smothered in the particularly rough production). Starting from the third track however things start to go downhill in terms of variety and innovation, and even more so for the fourth track, where the melodies are very flat and unexciting. The closing piece is a short epilogue in the same vein as the opening minutes of the album.

Overall this first demo, called “Tama Ikuinen Talvi”, is an interesting start for Moonsorrow, a piece of work that still has some flaws, but, in the end, it’s really only a demo, so no extraordinary things can be expected, especially when a band is at such an early stage.

MY DYING BRIDE The Angel and the Dark River

Album · 1995 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 14 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"The Angel And The Dark River" is another My Dying Bride milestone that would influence a great deal of the Doom Metal to come.

My Dying Bride’s career had a sudden twist, with the release of their sophomore LP, “Turn Loose The Swans”, for some people the masterpiece of the band. But the third album, “The Angel And The Dark River”, got just as much recognition: now, fans are sill debating which of these two early records is the magnum opus of the act. Anyway the debate goes, this 1995 release still keeps incredibly high levels from every point of view, and has risen up to be considered one of the key albums of Doom Metal.

Compared to the ethereally gloomy atmosphere of “Turn Loose The Swans”, “The Angel And The Dark River” is almost more bright in terms of sound: the levels of despair and hopelessness are not at all as extreme as they were with the band’s second album. The music in this third LP generally is much more fast-paced, more dynamic and lively. There seems to be a much stronger focus on the songwriting itself: the amount of effects used (that is, keyboards, guitar effects and what not) is minimal, although some peculiar elements that were present in the previous efforts, like the violin or the lamenting clean vocals, still persist and are a great part of the album. But another great, noticeable change is the almost complete absence of Death Metal growls (with the exception of the last track), a factor that made My Dying Bride such a unique band at it’s origins. However, “Turn Loose the Swans”, because of its slight change in direction, shows how the band had reached a sort of independence from the point of view of artistic freedom, even if it was really early in their career.

The themes present in “The Angel and The Dark River” are more or less the same we see in other Doom Metal bands and in other My Dying Bride releases, including loss of hope, desperation, but also more religious elements, like the strong presence of God in the lyrics. This sort of gloominess though on this album is much more human and rational than the more extreme tones of TLTS, and feel also more credible.

With seven tracks, My Dying Bride once again bring a solid album structure together: the twelve minute opener “The Cry Of Mankind” is already a track where the change in direction is pretty obvious, because of the lively guitar riff that Agalloch probably kept in mind eleven years later, while writing songs for “Ashes Against The Grain”. This riff is the heart of the piece, and is accompanied by the rest of the instruments, including a piano. The last few minutes of the track are somewhat Dark Ambient driven, another aspect that is new for MDB. “From Darkest Skies” is an even more emotional piece, where there are strong alterations between feelings: if one part sounds resigned and lost, the next one is angry and revengeful. “A Sea To Suffer In” is of a noticeably heavier nature, because of the overwhelming crunch the guitars have, enriched by the intense melodies and the extremely urgent feel. Then “Only Two Winters” is half clean, half electric: in the first part, a gorgeous, deep guitar melody that holds even a bit of nostalgia in it, in the second part, a sort of catch-up to the heaviness. “Your Shameful Heaven” is the most violent song yet, proof of how progressively strong the sounds get as the album flows. And then, the album finishes with “The Sexuality of Beaverment”, the only song where there is a return to the “Turn Loose The Swans” feel, especially thanks to the growls, and the slow rhythms. Overall, this last piece is a great closer and gives an epic end to the previously mentioned progression.

“The Angel And The Dark River” has now received a status as a Doom Metal classic: it has terrific songwriting, that overcomes the need of atmosphere and studio effects, and an intriguing, gloomy romanticism, that is unique only of this band.

PALLBEARER Sorrow and Extinction

Album · 2012 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 4 ratings
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6/10

"Sorrow And Extinction" is an honest Doom Metal tribute, with some hints of originality here and there.

Pallbearer are a fresh band from Arkansas, USA, and “Sorrow And Extinction” is their debut album, with of a well received EP/Demo released in 2010 behind their backs. While they are not the most original Doom Metal band out there, they still put in their music some personality that makes them distinguishable.

The Doom Metal Pallbearer play is really Traditional: slow, low octave riffs, slow rhythms, and a pretty standard pitched voice. The production of the album though makes everything sound huge and extremely heavy, a heaviness that could be accomplished only in these recent years, making Pallbearer something a little more than a nostalgic Traditional Doom Metal band. Very few are the variations in terms of sound, with the exceptions of the first and last track, both of them including more diverse instrumentation and an overall slight change in direction compared to the other three tracks. The atmosphere this huge sounds gives is an arcane, somewhat mystical one. The feeling of the entire LP in fact is one that is almost liturgical, a prayer for nameless divine figures. The lyrics, besides being about sorrow, graves, rivers, sacrifices, always incorporate isolation, and strange encounters with some sort of ancient divinities, that end up symbolizing either direct or indirect causes of man’s evil. These are lyrical themes that are familiar for Traditional Doom Metal and many other genres; Pallbearer lyric-wise seem to be almost giving a tribute to these themes, even though they never manage to feel too old or clichéd.

With almost fifty minutes of music and five long tracks, “Sorrow and Extinction” is an extremely solid release in terms of structure: the first track, the twelve minute “Foreigner”, starts with an acoustic passage and develops into a burst of heaviness, giving the track some appreciable variety. But the following three songs have no particular changes going on throughout them, making the listen a little more monotonous, considering also the fact that none of them are in any way memorable, and more or less simply get the job done by delivering an interesting and consistent atmosphere. The last track redeems a bit all the monotony, adding to the sound much more keyboards, a nice chorus, and an overall more progressive feel.

“Sorrow And Extinction” is an pretty, standard, Traditional Doom Metal album, but the energy and freshness of Pallbearer are undeniable, and, like it was mentioned, they do have a slightly unique approach mood-wise, thanks to the great crunchiness of the guitars. If the band incorporate more instrumentation and clearer melodies, they would be one of the golden bands of today’s Traditional Doom Metal.

MY DYING BRIDE Turn Loose the Swans

Album · 1993 · Death-Doom Metal
Cover art 4.09 | 24 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"Turn Loose The Swans" is a gothic masterpiece of hopelessness intertwining with crushing beauty.

My Dying Bride’s sophomore album puts the band high on the Olympus of Doom Metal bands; still today, this band is one of the most respected acts of Metal music, receiving something like a cult status.

Doom Metal in 1993 wasn’t exactly the most popular kind of music that was metal-oriented: this genre though has been one with a very interesting fan-base, and a genre that has a well-respected history that goes way back, from the early Black Sabbath days. My Dying Bride is a major symbol of evolution in Doom Metal, a band that distanced themselves from the “Traditional” Doom Metal sound typical of bands like Pentagram, Candlemass or Trouble. Although there were bands that incorporated Death Metal and keyboards slightly before the arrival of My Dying Bride, the British band, along maybe with diSEMBOWLMENT, was the first to make Doom Metal more recognized.

“Turn Loose The Swans” has all of the traits of the genre: low-octave, slow, heavy riffs and desperately gloomy lyrics. But the bluesy, retro-feel Traditional Doom sound here is nowhere to be found. Instead, we have an excellent production, Death Metal passages,--usually the heavier ones-- and a great dose of atmosphere, created by keyboards or various effects. Another important addition that really gives a touch of elegancy to the songwriting is the violin, very frequent even in the heavier moments, or the piano driven moments. All this together makes My Dying Bride’s “Turn Loose The Swans” a very ambitious, almost progressive album, with many twists and turns, short and long cuts that still aim towards a precise and effective scope.

Starting with the seven minute, piano driven “Sear Me MCMXCIII”, a desolate, grief-inducing introduction to the general atmosphere of the album, My Dying Bride go full force with “Your River”, where they vent extremely intriguing songwriting, great performances, and a desperate feeling that might even discomfort the listener. The desolation persists especially with the twelve minute “the Crown Of Sympathy”, one of the key moments of the album, a wonderfully arranged, complex, and multi-parted track that is haunting as well as terrifying. Some of the heavier moments, like “The Snow In My Hand” or the title track, are more focused on actual songwriting instead of creating gloomy auras, but the closing track “Black God”, as beautiful as it is, is more repetitive and once again more focused on the atmospheric delivery.

“Turn Loose the Swans” is one of the key Doom Metal albums of all time; essential listening for whoever is into Metal music. It's almost unearthly despair still give the chills today.

MOONSORROW Metsä

EP · 2001 · Folk Metal
Cover art 2.30 | 3 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
4/10

"Metsa" is a messy, but still somewhat promising (at the time) EP by Moonsorrow.

Moonsorrow’s first effort as a group has been criticized a great deal by even the most die-hard fans of the band. Mostly, because of it’s ridiculously immature sound that is so distant from the glories to come of the Finnish band.

The production is in fact almost a joke: one of the most lo-fi productions I’ve heard, where the guitar melodies playing are barely recognizable, being extremely noisy and suffocated by the constant buzz. Then, there’s the most controversial element of this demo/EP: the vocals. They really do sound like a cat screaming, and can be really annoying. The crispy keyboards are in my opinion the redeeming characteristic that give the music a strange yet unique atmosphere, an atmosphere however still buried in a wall of noise.

With just three tracks in the course of less than twenty minutes, “Metsa” is still able to build in a somewhat climactic way: after the brief ambient intro, the extremely noisy “Fimbulvetr Frost” kicks in. It’s frankly a mess of a track because of all the details being corroded by the abrasive production; the only things really recognizable are the okay hooks and the vocals. “Hvergelmir” is a slight improvement, although the ten full minutes could have been cut a little: but the melodies and the song-writing are noticeably at a higher level, the vocals are slightly less annoying, and there is an interesting acoustic/folk passage that closes the piece, as well as the EP.

“Metsa” is really something only for the fans, even though it has some occasional bursts of talent, bursts that will be much more frequent in following albums.

DRUDKH Вічний оберт колеса (Eternal Turn of the Wheel)

Album · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.91 | 11 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
6/10

"Eternal Turn Of The Wheel" is a traditionally executed, yet pretty effective Atmospheric Black Metal.

Drudkh in 2012 are already considered Black Metal veterans. But the problem with veterans is that they get so used to the fact that they reach this status, that often they don’t try as hard to make good music. Though it does, after a while, come out pretty naturally. “Eternal Turn of the Wheel” indeed feels almost effortless, in a good way, but you can tell that some of the excitement of the earlier albums is gone.

With the usual, rough production, the band delivers a pretty standard, typical Atmospheric Black Metal album, that remains extremely consistent with Drudkh’s style. There is an overall less emphasis on the keyboards, which are used much more subtly. The vocals are probably the biggest change: much lower-pitched, less shrieked and a bit more human sounding, in contrast with the banshee vocals of the previous albums, a definitely interesting and quite different approach.

One of the darkest albums of the band, “Eternal Turn Of The Wheel” has a really intriguing, fascinating and gloomy atmosphere that reminds of a nocturnal, spectral, and especially, sylvan sight, where ancient ghosts roam around. The five tracks that together are only slightly more than thirty five minutes long, all feel very connected to one another, not only length-wise but also in terms of atmosphere: “Breath Of Cold Soil”, “When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls”, Farewell To Autumn’s Sorrowful Birds” all feel like windy, crispy tracks that aren’t at all estranged from the rest of the band’s discography. They still deliver great, memorable moments and haunting atmospheres.

The closing track, ”Nights Woven Of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Star” feels a lot sludgier and crunchier, still however maintaining the chilly aura of the previous tracks. “Eternal Turn Of The Wheel” is a interesting and enjoyable Drudkh album that offers hints of originality occasionally; tradition though is a big aspect of this record, and as a consequence it doesn’t feel that different or distinguishing from other releases of this legendary Ukranian band, who I personally will always follow, no matter how habitual they might become.

GOJIRA The Way of All Flesh

Album · 2008 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.98 | 35 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
7/10

"The Way Of All Flesh" is a ferocious grip, fast-paced like no other album by the band.

Gojira's fourth album is the first one after the seminal “From Mars To Sirius”, and shows that they still are a strong band that can release solid efforts. While not as well developed and written as the previous album, “The Way Of All Flesh” is nevertheless an album enjoyable from beginning to end, with only very few, slight bumps during the ride.

This last effort is a somewhat return to the band’s older days: a more thrashy, groove metal influenced take on Death Metal, with extremely tight compositions and a high level of technicality. Joe Duplianter’s vocals are, as usual, perfect growls, strong, powerful, and mighty, and give yet another touch of violence to the sounds. The production is top notch, better than ever before, with almost flawless mixing (some moments I wish the vocals were louder).

With more than an hour of music and with twelve, average-length pieces, “The Way Of All Flesh” keeps the entertainment rate high, starting with the first two tracks, “Ouroboros” and “Toxic Garbage Island”, this last one definitely the best, most brutally technical song of the record. Then, we have songs like the energetic, quasi-metalcore feeling of “All The Tears”, “Vacuity”, the tribal “The Art of Dying”, or the mighty title track that boasts amazing performances by all the musicians. Some songs like “Wolf Down to Earth” or “ A Sight To Behold” are little too plain and don’t add much to the album, same for “Yama’s Messenger”, a plain, destructive episode that simply doesn’t add anything at all.

Despite the few flaws “The Way of all Flesh” is another extremely impressive piece of work from Gojira, a band that so far has shown immense talent and absolutely worthy of their reputation.

GOJIRA From Mars to Sirius

Album · 2005 · Death Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 33 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
8/10

"From Mars To Sirius" is Gojira's best release so far: a modern Death Metal classic.

Gojira are one of the main Progressive Death Metal acts of the new millennium also because of “From Mars To Sirius”, the extraordinary third album. This French band had been active for nine years before this release, but it is known that great albums take time and a certain level of maturity.

Compared to earlier albums, “From Mars To Sirius” has a much rougher production: everything sounds incredibly large, wide, and spacey in this album, contrasting the tight compositions of the early days. Even the technical point of view has toned down quite a bit, in favor of a more sludgy take on Death Metal: the guitars are strongly reminiscent of bands like Mastodon, Neurosis, or Isis. But the typical Gojira vocals, by Joe Duplianter, never leave the stage, and still give that touch that brings together all releases from the band.

The album presents a bunch of solid, well-written and executed songs that, put together, maintain a strongly consistent level throughout the entire hour this albums lasts: the more famous, classic Gojira songs like the Post-Metal vibes of “Flying Whales”, the fiercely dramatic guitar tapping of “Global Warming”, or the energetic “From The Sky” are stuck into the imaginary collective of modern Death Metal. But the other songs present here are not less powerful: “Ocean Planet”, the album’s opener, is an almost devastatingly executed song with one of the sludgiest riffs of the entire LP, “World To Come” and “Oceanbone” simple songs with excellent riffs and songwriting. The more technical, thrashy moments are still present here and there, like in “The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe”, one of the most intense songs Gojira has ever created.

An album with little imperfections, with a tremendously engaging flow, and with a consistent high level of execution, “From Mars to Sirius” shows all of Gojra’s talent, and remains a key album for Progressive Death Metal.

PRIMAL FEAR Unbreakable

Album · 2012 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 8 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
5/10

"Unbreakable" holds tight the usual cliches of Power Metal, without adding much spice to the compositions.

Primal Fear are a Power Metal band from Germany, and have been in the scene since the mid-late nineties, managing to keep a pretty decent level of popularity among fans of the genre. “Unbreakable” is the tenth studio album these guys have released, and it’s pretty much the same thing over and over, the same formulas, probably even a few riffs are the same too, although some are fun and enjoyable.

If there is something that can’t be denied about this album is that its production is incredible, extremely polished and clear. The guitars, thanks to that, sound particularly heavy and in-your-face, and, being Power metal we’re talking about, they are fast and accompanied by the strong, ballzy vocals by Ralf Scheeper that remind a bit of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, and the fast paced rhythm section.

However, everything in the album seems overdone, and every single riff I hear, even though some are truly good, are just not at all new to my ears. This band looks like they’re not even trying to be original, and they rather stick to the usual clichés of Power Metal, which is already a genre I personally am not always fond of, especially because of it’s cheesy melodies, which are not really abundant in “Unbreakable”, but still present, and do not pass unnoticed, unfortunately.

Some good moments are detectable, like the song “Rise” or the softer “Metal Nation”, but the rest of the tracks sound extremely over the top, overheard Power Metal anthems that don’t really differ one another.

“Unbreakable” might be the bread and butter for hardcore Power Metal fans, because of it’s faithful, strong roots, but, as an occasional listener of the genre, I must say it’s a listen that didn’t do much, nor proposed any new approaches or sonic adventures. And you don’t need much more to be slightly different from the rest.

BURZUM Filosofem

Album · 1996 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 47 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
9/10

"Filosofem" is a milestone album for Black Metal, and its influence is noticeable in many acts today.

The follow up to “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” is another masterpiece on behalf of Burzum, at this point one of the best Black Metal artists of all time. “Filosofem” is not quite as praised as the previous LP, which is a landmark album for Metal music in general; however, “Filosofem” is still considered another Black Metal classic and an essential release for fans of the genre. This album, the last one before the imprisonment of Varg, is one of the biggest stones that supports the castle.

Again, I will say that Varg Vikernes’ actions and philosophical believes will not be mentioned in this review, because of course they don’t relate directly to the music, not even to some of the lyrics, which are more focused on isolation, desperation, pain, darkness, and admittedly, evil, mentioned in more than a few spots. This however is not a good reason to relate it to something like Satanism or being anti-religious in any way. Filosofem, in fact, means Philosopheme in English, proving how Varg is much more than what he shows to be.

The album’s production is famously raw and lo-fi: Varg, for his guitars, didn’t even use an amplifier, instead he decided to plug them in his brother’s stereo, and record them with again the cheapest equipment he could find. This shows how passionate and determined Vikernes was in attempting to do something quite abnormal, unsettling, and anti-aesthetic. The abrasive instruments, meaning the guitars and drums, at all times, like in the previous album, are accompanied by cold, enigmatic synth sounds that give the music an arcane and surreal imprint. It seems like in “Filosofem” however the keys are much more used overall, and the dedication to Ambient/non Black Metal pieces are much more than in “Hvis Lyst Tar Oss”. But the Metal moments are priceless, hypnotic, and especially dark; in all of it’s distorted fuzziness, “Filosofem” finds unquestionable beauty even in its ugliest places.

Burzum, being the most important artist of Atmospheric Black Metal ( “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” being the absolute zenith of such genre), continues on with his vision with “Filosofem”: he concentrates almost entirely on creating a dark, haunting, and thought-provoking atmosphere rather than writing memorable songs with catchy riffs. But if in the 1994 release those forty five minutes seemed short and compressed, this 1996 release is the opposite, stretched out to almost 70 minutes, almost forty of which intensively atmospheric, giving to the LP a feeling of completeness by the overwhelmed listener.

The album starts off with the track “Burzum”, a perfect example of a typical song by the artist: repetitive riffs, subtle keyboards, shrieked vocals, and the unforgettable production. Same thing goes with “Jesus’ Death” and “Beholding The Daughters Of Firmament”, although this last track is much slower, much more melodic, eloquent and memorable, surprisingly enough. The more atmospheric part of the album (the point where the drums are no longer heard) starts with “Decrepitude 1”, a Black Metal song with no beats, a song suspended in air, giving an extremely gloomy atmosphere that is however one of the most fascinating ones of the entire album. The twenty five minute Dark Ambient track that follows has been subject to much controversy over the years, because of it’s extreme minimalism and repetition. But once again the aura Varg creates with his keyboards is sublime, and in this particular track I’m dared to say has the best atmosphere on this album. “Decrepitude 2” is the instrumental based entirely on the first part, with some slight modifications overall.

“Filosofem” is nothing less than a Metal masterpiece, that while not having the historical importance of “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, still maintains a superb quality, even in the songwriting, and maintains pretty much the same levels as Burzum's official magnum opus.

BURZUM Hvis Lyset Tar Oss

Album · 1994 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.89 | 52 ratings
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Phonebook Eater
10/10

"Hvis Lyset Tar Oss" is one of Metal's pinnacles, a landmark achievement that gives Black Metal an ideal model of an album.

A year after “Det Som Engang Var”, Burzum returns, with the ultimate Black Metal masterpiece, “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss”, the model and paradigm of the genre’s albums. Everything about BM is in these four tracks, that cover only 45 minutes of time, which pass by quite quickly. But HLTO leaves a permanent stain in one’s heart that will never leave him.

Burzum has always been one that preferred atmosphere over melodies and riffs: when it comes to these elements, he doesn’t put too much effort in the songwriting, all four tracks have simple hooks that immediately stick with the listener. Instead, with the addition of the keyboards that accompany the buzzing guitars and tortured-like shrieks, Burzum creates an extremely unique, scary, yet haunting atmosphere, and keeps this atmosphere constant throughout the entire album. The production is always lo-fi (Vikernes bought the cheapest recording equipment in order to obtain the worst quality possible), giving the atmosphere a more foggy, gloomy and necrophilic touch.

The album starts off with easily the best Burzum song He’s released; “Det Som En Gang Var”, a fourteen minute epic piece that mixes repetitive guitar riffs, accompanied by icy, mysterious keyboards. The song unfolds it’s few hooks only just before the end of the song, all of them being so stretched out in monotony. Burzum’s vocals are once again rough, a perfect addition to the arcane atmosphere. The title track is much more guitar driven: it’s the song where repetition is the strongest factor, because the main, extremely simple riff never changes much except for some variations occurring. Because of it’s atmosphere, it just never gets boring, one of Burzum’s magic tricks. The third track is even better; more hypnotic, it has as a whole much more variation, almost like it was divided in parts, like the opening track. “Tohmet” is the fourteen minute ambient piece that closes the album, as a sort of relaxer after all of the aggressiveness. Some moments on the track are simply beautiful and some even remind of New Age music.

Say anything you want regarding the persona of Varg Vikernes, and there’s no need to mention all the things he is and the things he did, because they have nothing to do with the music. “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” is an album-model for many albums later on, a piece of work that redefines the concept of the Black Metal and gives it a twist that makes it an even more intriguing genre. Thank you, Burzum.

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