Metal Music Reviews from The Angry Scotsman

METALLICA Lulu (with Lou Reed)

Album · 2011 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 1.58 | 67 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Oh my...here to begin?

When I heard Metallica and Lou Reed were doing a collaboration, I was intrigued to say the least. What on Earth would that sound like? While I had no idea what to expect, safe to say it was not this.

I have to have a bit of fun, there were some young, (my age) Metallica fans that started discussing Lou Reed, and I knew they had absolutely no idea who he was. I thus enjoyed their utter horror at this album, clearly having no idea this was never going to be a standard Metallica album.

Then there's the Metallica purists who haven't liked the band since "selling out" 20 years before, and the die hard Metallica fans, who hated this because it doesn't sound like Metallica. Some of course hate anything this band does, while fans of Lou Reed were also pretty displeased with this. Never have I seen such a diverse hatred for an album.

Well, what about the music itself? This has been a difficult review to write. I tried to free myself of all these outside influences, sat down and really listened to this, digested it and really wanted to think about the music. Keep in mind, I actually think St Anger isn't so bad, so I'd say I'm fair as possible. What did I finally come up with for "Lulu"?

Messy. Random. Boring. Laborious. Painful. Unrewarding. A failed attempt at being experimental.

"Lulu" is a lot of simple, boring music. Emphasis on a lot. 87 minutes! Most of it sounds random, like it was not even constructed but just thrown together and the songs drag on and on. Lou Reed does spoken word over this musical train wreck, and age has gotten the best of him. There's no way to put it: he sounds terrible. His singing is no better, and in all fairness I think James Hetfield doesn't sound very good either.

There is no hand holding, this album goes right into it. A nice acoustic guitar intro leads into Reed's nasaly, raspy voice delivering the fairly hilarious opener "I would cut my legs and tits off". There's a cool droning riff that kicks in with James howling while Lou continues on. It works, for a bit. It became quite boring though and felt longer than a 4 minute song should.

"The View" became a bit of an internet sensation due to the line "I am the table!" being shouted by James, but this song is actually pretty good! There is a simple, but cool, riff that plays as Lou Reed delivers spoken word over it, slowly and subtly building to a brief, moderately up tempo crescendo with James singing. It shifts back to Lou, building back up to another James crescendo and finishing off with some shred like soloing, transitioning back to that churning, chuggy riff.

The reason this song works is because it was well constructed. It never grows tiresome because it builds. There are some minor changes to the drum work as the riff drones on, there is progression opposed to simply going on without change. The crescendos hit hard, the settle downs feel more impactful, there are some solos and neat guitar work sprinkled throughout. There is variation, progress, a coherent song structure. Thus no part gets stale or feels awkward, and there is enough going on to keep you there.

Unfortunately this can't be said for the rest of the album. Sure there are good moments sprinkled throughout, but it's like dumpster diving to find them, a big dumpster and all you find are nickles. There's not much reward for all the work and filth. Whenever "Metallica" comes through, it's generally simple and uninteresting. Little technical skill or songwriting ability is displayed.

The album actually finishes on a pretty good note. The only other good song, "Junior Dad" is a 19 minute journey, and I don't use that word lightly. The song actually moves. Peaks and valleys, builds, some nice riffs, melodies and songwriting. There are many textured parts and the drumming is simple but effective, and throws enough unexpected moments and fills in there to keep your head bobbing. Much of the second half are just strings, but it's quite beautiful and is a fitting end to this slow paced, gentle yet moving song.

I wanted to emphasize those two songs, "The View" and "Junior Dad" to give this album some positive words. The pretty good pieces of bread that hold together this sandwich of minimalist droning, noise, spoken word, hard rock all smushed together randomly. I have read that most of this album is improv, and it shows. Kudos for the ambition, but it's not something I think Metallica proved very capable of doing.

I always applaud a band for doing something different, for experimenting and for challenging their fans. I understand this is what Metallica was doing with "Lulu". They have always been a band to try something new, no matter the criticism, and "Lulu" takes it to the nth degree. Metallica is saying we've been around for 30 years, sold 100 million albums, we have everything we could want so we're gunna do something different, something we want and no fucks are gunna be given. While I admire the effort, it is not successful. Just like how people shouldn't automatically hate something without giving it a fair try, a band experimenting doesn't mean it needs to win our approval just for doing so.

"Lulu" has 2 good songs, the rest of which is boring and frankly, terrible. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes painful, I am hesitant to give this album even a one star rating, because even a completionist will be A OK not having this album in their collection. Yes, it may not even be worth having solely to complete a collection, no one would blame you. That said, it's not 100% garbage so I can't give it a half.

ONE STAR

MEGADETH Dystopia

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 30 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
A standard album for Megadeth over the previous decade: Dave Mustaine has surrounded himself with very good talent, and managed to melt it all into a pot of mediocrity.

While Megadeth's last two albums were increasingly depressing efforts, I couldn't help but find myself intrigued by Dystopia because it's Megadeth...and I was impressed with the additions of Kiko Loureiro of Angra and Chris Adler of Lamb of God. I have long been a fan of Adler's drumming, and after exploring Angra it's no doubt Loureiro is a very talented musician.

Loureiro does lay down some nasty solos, (and damn impressive acoustic work), and Adler's drumming is solid, but his unique style has been shoved into the Megadeth formula...and that's really the way I'd describe "Dystopia". Formulaic.

The album isn't bad, though it isn't anything special, there are some great riffs, melodies, solos and moments sprinkled throughout, while the rest is filled with uninspired, generic music. It's modern Megadeth by the numbers: lots of mid temp chugging, mix in speed metal riffs and double bass chain drumming, some unique moments, shred solos and very rare thrashing. There's really just not much about this album that stands out either way.

Mustaine's vocals continue to show signs of age, but aren't too bad honestly. Recent attempts at singing have been abandoned for his trademark gruff, talk-singing style that does remind me of his classic days, though no doubt it lacks its past ferociousness and sarcastic bite.

"Dystopia" starts on a high note with "The Threat is Real" a very solid song, then "Dystopia" which may be the best on the album with its awesome riffs, melodies, solos and song structure...it really moves, never lingers too long or grows boring. "Fatal Illusion" is another good song that reminds me of classic Megadeth: dueling guitars, harmonized melodies, explosive solos and anarchic structure. After this 3 song burst the album goes bland, exception being the instrumental "Conquer or Die". This song competes for best on the album, opening with an awesome acoustic lick before launching into some wonderful dual guitar work. Spidery riffs, blazing yet varied solos all within a slowly building framework. Right out of the classic Megadeth playbook.

So what to make of Dystopia? There are some good songs, but nothing spectacular, which stand out in an album of generic, frankly uninspired feeling, music. Those who worship at the church of thrash shouldn't bother with this, those that enjoy the newer, modern metal style Megadeth, will probably like it. I don't feel it's thrash or nothing myself, I just believe Mustaine is not good at writing non thrash music, which "Dystopia" continues to prove correct. The two best songs sound like good ol fashion 80's Megadeth, while the rest spins its wheels in the mud that has been the band's 4 of their last 5 albums.

Overall, an OK album that won't blow anyone's mind. Fans of newer Megadeth will find it acceptable, and it's certainly better than the disaster that was "Super Collider". You won't find anything new, but nothing really bad. Fans of pre mid 90s Megadeth will find little to enjoy here.

TWO AND A HALF STARS

SYMPHONY X Underworld

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.21 | 32 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
The New Jersey Prog Metal Masters are back with their newest album "Underworld"

The album is an in between Paradise Lost and Iconoclast. It is clearly grounded in the bands new style: heavy and intense, (there are even a few blast beats thrown in one part!) darker, less progressive and less shred riffing/neoclassical insanity of their old days...however "Underworld" drifts a little more towards the style of "Paradise Lost" rather than "Iconoclast" meaning this album is a little more progressive, features more keyboard, less "hardcore" vocals and is just more varied in style.

While I am a fan of Iconoclast, I greatly appreciate the drift away from there and back to a more classic sound. Don't misunderstand, this is firmly within the band's new sound and you should not expect The Odyssey or V or Divine Wings here, but there are plenty of classic Symphony X riffs, melodies, sounds and staples to please any fan.

Style aside, all the musicianship is superb, as is to be expected, the songwriting tight and well composed, the audio quality is great and I particularly love the sound of the bass. The songwriting of Symphony X is what always struck me, their ability to create songs with great flow, surprise, technicality and musicianship but without wasting any of our time, and they have done so yet again. There are still moments that surprise you, and all the instruments, while getting to showcase the skill of the musicians, work together.

"Underworld" is not a perfect album, there are some weak moments, and there is nothing here really unexpected, but it's another great output that continues to walk the line of pleasing fans and originality, technicality and musician ship, heaviness and progressiveness, and they walk the line superbly. The vocals of Russell Allen are brilliant as always, displaying a great range, there are riffs galore, and Jason Rullo, (one of my all time favorite drummers) continues to increasingly show off his drumming prowess. Michael Romeo still solos like the best of them, and the composition is a bit more progressive than Iconoclast, with some truly beautiful movements sprinkled throughout.

Standout tracks are: Without You, Kiss of Fire and Legend.

Symphony X is one of the greatest metal bands of their time, and continue to prove it with yet another strong output. "Underworld" should be a great addition for Symphony X fans, and please prog metal fans. Excellent album.

FOUR STARS

MEGADETH Super Collider

Album · 2013 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 2.47 | 29 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
After their own thrash metal comeback album, "Endgame" Megadeth released the lackluster, though not really bad, "Thirteen" and this, (in addition to "Endgame" being weaker than both Metallica's "Death Mangnetic" and Slayer's "World Painted Blood") left me not terribly optimistic for their next album.

Unfortunately, my feelings were validated, and listening again now almost 2 years later, my opinions are unchanged. As it may be known I am a fan of all types of metal and music in general, I don't need a Megadeth album to be thrash. My issue with "Super Collider" is not "it's not thrash" it's just not very good.

"Super Collider" is a boring album, criminally so. Mustaine's vocals are poor, and yes...that is even for Mustaine. The music is simple, uninspired, lackluster, and boring. Sure, there are some good riffs, cool moments, and decent solos but it is not enough to redeem this boring, radio rock album.

While I never fault a band for doing different things, I just don't think Mustaine is capable of making good, non thrash music. Though unlike some of their 90s albums, "Super Collider" lacks any good songs, and even lacks good moments. I always found some good songs, or interesting/enjoyable moments on their non thrash albums even if not caring for them overall, but there is shockingly little to be found here.

"Don't Turn Your Back..." was the only song that found any resonance with me on the album. Though it was not anything more than "attending holding".

So maybe Mustaine can't make non thrash music, maybe I just expect more from him/the band with all their talent, regardless this is an album that leaves no impact. I can't give it a two star, because there is no guarantee a fan of the band would probably enjoy this album, I myself and many others I know don't. It's not garbage, there is nothing offensively bad with it, so I will give it a 1.5 and say there is no need to listen to this album aside from pure curiosity.

ONE AND A HALF STARS

EDGE OF SANITY Infernal

Album · 1997 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 15 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
After the release of "Crimson" a rift formed in the band, largely between Dan Swano and Andreas Axelsson, over the new progressive direction of the band. The rift is clear on this album, as half the songs are written by Swano, with the other half by under Axelsson leadership and the whole band doesn't even play together on every song.

Edge of Sanity appeared to have been a band in conflict and the result was this album sounding, well, conflicted.

"Infernal" is quite inconsistent and I have to be honest, the Swano songs are far superior to the others. They tend to be more diverse, progressive, better written and I think he is a better vocalist than Axelsson. The other tracks tend to be more directly death metal and frankly, less inspired and a bit boring.

Standout tracks are "Hell Is Where the Heart Is", "15:36" and "The Last Song" which seems to be, quite clearly, the last song Swano was to be part of for the band. Its somber piano intro, lyrics about struggling to write the very song, simply trying to complete it, (asking why we are even listening to his "empty words") and its slow, dirge like riffing, simple yet powerful melodic guitar soloing and churning drums gives it a powerful sadness, a real painful beauty of a song. Chilling and moving.

While those are Swano songs, and I find his other tracks superior as well, they are by no means perfect. "Losing Myself" is a fine track, but a bit lackluster and honestly forgettable. On the flip side, "Burn the Sun" is a very interesting and progressive song.

"Infernal" is an album written by a band splitting apart, and it resulted in an inconsistent and disjointed effort. It is by no means a bad album, just largely lackluster, but with some solid, interesting, songs and nothing that is egregiously bad. A decent, albeit sad, outing from EoS.

Three Stars

DREAM THEATER Dream Theater

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.47 | 53 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
While I have not been a big fan of DT's output over the preceding decade, finding these albums either hit/miss or lackluster, (and I admit I'm odd that I feel the band actually peaked with "Train of Thought") I was intrigued to listen to this album, since it would be the first to have Mike Mangini fully integrated in the creative process. Perhaps he would bring some new ideas, or spark a change I felt they long needed, and being a drummer I at least wanted to hear what he's got.

Well, it doesn't seem very different from anything Dream Theater has done before. Aside from shorter songs it seems a very standard Dream Theater affair. Mangini is clearly a talented drummer, though I can't say his work here was much "better" or even radically different from Portnoy. I would say he has a more "technical" style, and I do like his drumming, there's some impressive stuff.

The album has a good sound to it, I think the guitars sound good, heavy but not ridiculous, just have a good tone, the drums sound great, I am still not a big fan of LaBrie's vocals but they are fine, and not placed well in the mix. I hear a tiny bit more Myung but that's not hard considering I never hear his bass at all, it's still not prominent at all and missing on most of it.

While the music is typical Dream Theater, and still hit or miss for me, I do think this is a better album than any of their recent ones with some great standouts. The album opens with the awesome instrumental "False Awakening Suite" a keyboard heavy, fun piece filled with choirs, great melodies, drumming and instrumentation and moves into "The Enemy Inside" which may be the best song DT has made since Train of Thought.

"The Enemy Inside" is packed with great riffs, melodies and has a superb flow. It doesn't linger, it doesn't move at breakneck speed or with abrupt changes, just has a great pace. It's a very well composed song, with everything having its place, and getting show off, but working together, and the drumming kicks ass. It frustrates me songs this good, this well written, are possible but generally elude the band.

"Enigma Machine" is another standout. A classic DT instrumental bursting with epic riffs and virtuosic musicianship, it's compact and packs a wallop. Mangini's greatest display on the album. "Illumination Theory" is the other highlight, a 20 minute prog epic that features it all, "Metal Heaven" as I'd call it, great riffs, great flow and pace, and some awesome moments. There is a long interlude, and everyone gets to show off. I mean everyone, Myung has his section and even LaBrie shows some range and hits some real shockers. As always guitar and drums dominate, with Petrucci and Mangini really impressing. One of the better prog metal epics from the band.

Those were the highlights. "The Looking Glass" is a really good song and it's nice to see DT can be DT, but without lingering on and on or sounding stale. The rest of the album I find lackluster. Uninspired and boring. There are good moments of course but not enough to really call the songs good.

So what to make of the eponymous "Dream Theater"? There is nothing that will surprise you, nothing is added, or removed, and the album is inconsistent. The musicianship is good though, including a real coming out party for Mangini, and there are some songs that are quite good. The others, while not special, are not bad by any means. The shorter songs do of course mean there is less time to linger in the so so areas. So, I have to say this album is not a superb effort, but stronger than the last few DT albums and have some of the better songs they've made in a decade.

Three Stars

OPETH Pale Communion

Album · 2014 · Non-Metal
Cover art 3.68 | 39 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
A continuation of their last album.

By now we must assume this is a permanent direction for the band, (I was not smart enough to pick up on the hint dropped in their last album art)and given their age the change in direction is not surprising, not to mention the relief on Mikael's throat!

"Pale Communion" is indeed a continuation of their last album, "Heritage" which saw the abandonment of growled vocals and heavy music. The guitar work was more "crunchy" than heavy, the music was light, subdued and drenched in 70s prog style.

This continues on "Pale Communion" though this album packs a little more punch to it. "Heritage" was quite subdued and mellow, which I think was a turn off, (besides shock) to fans who maybe could accept lighter music as long as it had some impressive musicianship on it. There is plenty of that here, the guitar work is more prominent and impressive, as is the drumming of Axenrot, which did take a step forward on "Heritage", and the music just has a little "more" to it. While I enjoyed Heritage a lot, the more engaging music was quite appreciated here.

There's also a bit of a darker tone to "Pale Communion" though still quite warm and gentle, and has some more hard rocking, intense moments but is certainly no thrasher. Some standout songs are "Eternal Rains Will Come" "Cusp of Eternity" and "Voice of Treason"

So, this is the next chapter of 70s style prog rock Opeth, and a stronger effort than their last album. There is some more speed and musicianship mixed in with its subtle and textured songwriting, and packed with plenty of warm, gentle keyboard work, fun guitar and of course Mikael's beautiful vocals. There is good variety on the album and I think it's lighter nature may actually showcase the band's creativity even better, free of the brutally heavy/folky soft alternating style.

Very good album, recommended for any fan of prog rock, and most, though perhaps not all, fans of Opeth and prog metal should find it at least solid as well.

Four Stars

EXIMPERITUSERQETHHZEBIBŠIPTUGAKKATHŠULWELIARZAXUŁUM Promo 2013

Promos, fans club and other releases (no bootlegs) · 2013 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
I am not sure who found the band Eximperituserqethhzebibšiptugakkathšulweliarzaxułum, a technical death metal band from Belarus with just one promo out, but whoever did and however they did, we have to thank them for one of the craziest, and greatest, metal band names ever!

I can't lie, the name drew my interest, (also I personally never knew of any metal bands from Belarus)but I have to say, the music itself isn't too bad at all.

Their promo can be found on youtube, which consists of two short technical death metal songs. The music is pretty standard techdeath: technical or thrashy riffs that live in the low register, with random bursts all over the place, lots of technical, blast beat based drumming replete with fills, tremolo picking, explosions of technical prowess, stop and change moments, very guttural vocals and some pretty impressive bass playing.

Now, techdeath, (and death metal in general) is not really my cup of tea, though while this promo isn't really for me, if you're a fan of technical or brutal death metal, I'd check this out. The quality of the album is quite good, and there are some moments that really do rock, especially in the second song. So yeah, if you are a fan of the techdeath I'd say give this a try, it should be enjoyable to fans of the genre!

We shall await the band's debut album, if not for it's even more maddening title, because it may be a pretty solid album! Not my type of music, but it's well recorded, some impressive musicianship is displayed and it's a solid piece of technical death metal.

TWO STARS

PELICAN The Cliff

EP · 2015 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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The Angry Scotsman
Another Pelican EP, just enough to keep us satisfied, but leave us hungry enough to want more!

This EP consists of three remakes of their song, "The Cliff" released on their last album, as well as one original song, "The Wait".

The first remake, "The Cliff (Vocal Version" is just that, the original song but with vocals. This is of course shocking for the instrumental band, and unlike their only previous song with vocals which featured the singing in an airy, light style, this song features distinct, clear singing with lyrics such as "I'm gunna wait. I'm gunna wait here for you. You're running late. I'm gunna stay here for you. You're gunna love me someday." Honestly, I was a bit shocked...but it works. The vocals fit superbly and the lyrics, well they work! Also note the lyrics about waiting and the final song, "The Wait". Refreshing song.

"The Cliff (Justin Broadrick Remix)" is just that. Broadrick of Godflesh amd Jesu fame adds a noisy, industrial touch to the lengthened song, leaving it recognizable but clearly unique. The Palms Remix is done by Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer from Palms, as well as the legendary Isis, and features the first song, (complete with vocals) but with some extra touches to it, such as Harris' classic drumming, some electronic touches, and a recognizable though clearly redone section of "The Cliff" with a nice ending.

"The Wait" is a Pelican song with all that we've come to love and expect. Beauty, power, subtle textured songwriting building to a powerful climax and of course the clean/heavy dynamic and powerful drumming.

So what to make of this little EP? Any Pelican fan will like it, and while it doesn't add much at all to their discography, take it for what it is: a fun, simple snack. The star power on this small EP is an intriguing touch, and while small there is a bit of a story to all of it: the first song, simply vocals added to an older song, is redone itself later. The lyrics in that first song, add a bit to the last, knowing what exactly "The Wait" is referring to, and perhaps adds to it's power and movement.

If you like Pelican, give it a listen. If you've never heard the band, give it a listen. The former should find it a simple, nice and fun EP, the latter will hopefully be encouraged to try the band's other material!

Good but non essential

THREE STARS

AGALLOCH The Serpent & the Sphere

Album · 2014 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.70 | 16 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
The masters of atmospheric metal are back with their latest release.

"The Serpent & the Sphere" feels like a continuation of "Ashes Against the Grain" in that Agalloch continues to drift from their black metal tendencies, (even if they were always tempered with folk and prog) with more focus on black metal aesthetics, atmosphere and song writing. While Haughm's classic raw, gravely rasps remain, there are very few blast beats to be found, and indeed the overall album has a less intense pace and feel to it. The songs are mid paced and far more subdued than their last album, "Marrow of the Spirit". In fact, I'd say "The Serpent & the Sphere" is more subdued than their overall body of work, which has never been a stranger to tremolo picked guitar work, or bludgeoning. Not to say these aspects are absent, (there's even some good ol double bass chain drumming) but there just seems to be "less" of everything, if that makes sense. A more sparse, less heavy feel to the music. Certainly less intensity, and even more acoustic/light guitar. The balance between light, melodic passages and heavy, raw passages seems to have tipped definitively towards the former.

The tone of the music itself is cleaner and lighter than "Marrow of the Spirit", which admittedly took a bit of adjustment..I am used to Agalloch loud, buzzing, fuzzy guitar noise. My natural inclination upon first hearing this is "flat" or "lacking power" but of course it just is different sounding. I personally applaud the band for the lighter style.

This is perhaps not unexpected, as Agalloch was moving progressively in this direction until they released Marrow. So maybe the style is what we should have expected, is it successful?

Of course.

The songwriting as solid as ever. Textured, layered guitar work with riffs and melodies to die for, (even if they are lesser on this album than previous) and songs that move like a river, drifting but not without direction. There are a few other minor changes, such as more prominent bass, and a smidge "more" to the drumming than is typical. The songs are shorter than usual, and this album has a continuous flow to it, with segue pieces to connect the songs elegantly.

So overall, another solid, (if unspectacular) output from Agalloch, and as we know solid from them is better than most other bands could hope for. I will be sure to give this album many listens over the near future, and like all their other albums I'm sure this album will grow on me more and more.

Three and a Half Stars

PELICAN Forever Becoming

Album · 2013 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
After a four year gap, with a small, solid yet unspectacular EP thrown in there, Pelican is finally back...sans original member Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. The split seems to have been amiable, with new guitarist Dallas Thomas being described by the band as "meticulous" compared to their more "freewheeling" style, resulting in a good balance.

So what does this all mean for the album? Right off the bat, it's a darker feel than usual Pelican, which took some getting used to as I always appreciated their more upbeat, even warm feeling.

It is a very solid output, which underwhelmed me a bit at first, but grew after a few listens. It lacks Pelican's old style of lengthy, meandering epics but also lacks their newer style of more concise, powerful songwriting. This isn't entirely new, I found the balance of progression and power just right on "City of Echoes" and fell a bit off with "What We All Come to Need". This is not to say it's a bad album, not at all, just not the strongest effort put out by the band.

It still has all the Pelican staples, such as great riffing and melodies, guitar interplay and at times displays greater energy than I've ever heard from them. Especially in the drumming of Larry Herweg. Usually known for his metronome style, he displays his greatest diversity yet, and really hammers away with some major power.

At times it feels a bit lost, but after a few listens it all works together. The balance mentioned by the band really comes into play as passages vary from super drifty to tightly composed.

"Deny the Absolute" starts the album off in grand fasion, filled with energy out of the gate and is perfectly composed, moving steadily from start to finish, never hanging around to long but not moving forward to quickly. Packed with great riffs, melodies, guitar interplay and power. In my opinion the best song off the album.

Other standouts include "Immutable Dusk" with it's lighter section, "Threnody" another superbly written song that does it all, "Vestiges" has one of the best passages in the whole album, and “Perpetual Dawn” moves between loud and powerful, and soft and moving.

Overall, a very good album that does nothing wrong, punctuated with some standouts. While it may not “wow” especially at first, this is a fine album that any fan of Pelican should enjoy, as well as those into post rock/metal. Here's to more great music with the new lineup.

Four Stars

PAIN OF SALVATION BE

Album · 2004 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 59 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
An intriguing album that is a major break from the band's old style.

Considered by some as the bands masterpiece, by some as the beginning of the end for the great band, by some just a weird, difficult work "BE" is a unique piece of music that at least warrants a few listens to try and grasp it.

While Pain of Salvation's first 4 albums were well written, not too technical, emotional and unpretentious classics of prog metal, "BE" is a dense, difficult and pretentious album that is very low on the metal.

Not that it's a bad thing. While proud of their superior music, prog fans have proven they can be as stubborn as any. Frankly, I applaud the band's radical change in direction, even if it's not the best executed, and certainly not the most accessible. Wouldn't we all end up mocking the band if they just made 8 albums of the same thing anyway?

No doubt this is a challenging album. Besides the big drop in heaviness, the whole album works together as one big piece instead of individual songs. Each song flows into the next, and often the songs themselves feature stops followed by huge changes, like the work has moved onto its next part and the "songs" are random lines thrown down randomly not really marking a new piece.

Indeed this appears to be the case. In true prog rock fashion the album is really broken into 5 movements, subdivided into the songs and sometimes the songs subdivided into smaller segments. "BE" deals with human existence, the environment and especially the subject of God. It's a grandiose story that rivals Tool in being labyrinth like and purposely impenetrable. Could continue on with this stuff but onto the music itself before I get too distracted.

"BE" is an extremely diverse prog rock album. There are moments of heaviness, but its largely a mellow prog rock outing with an orchestral feel. Violins, cellos, brass, woodwinds, and church organ are all found throughout. While at first listen "BE" sounds quite minimal, like background to whatever wackiness is going on, if you listen all the way through there are some pretty awesome riffs, melodies and all the staples of Pain of Salvation: off beat syncopation, abrupt changes, gentle movements and rock out thrashing, and of course Daniel's varied always perfect vocal style. Though quite a few times they are over the top and silly, sometimes painful and you have to accept it as part of the whole experience, or grin and bear it.

There is heavy use of spoken word samples like real people calling "Gods answering machine" to say anything they'd like, news stories of various tragedies, a woman orgasming, it's all over the place. Which can be said of the music as well, all over the place. Rockin prog metal, folk passages, church like music and Broadway musical you really have no idea what this album will throw at you.

So I really can't accurately describe this album, not in a way to do it justice, so you just have to listen yourself. It's important not to skip, even if you're going crazy to do so. Just listen from start to finish, and do so several times. At first it will be a mess, I know I couldn't even figure out what was happening, but with time the music itself will appear and it's a pretty solid display of prog rock. Overly serious and wacky, almost to the point of self parody? Seems that way, but just give it a few deep listens. Some parts really are quite beautiful, like the worldly folk piece "Imago" and "Vocari Dei" featuring the people calling "Gods answering machine" is one of the more moving things you'll hear.

I am not sure how to rate this, each person can react to an album like this so radically different, and even though I quite like it, "BE" can not be called a metal album. Which is difficult to rate overall for a metal site. So I'll say it's a pretty good album at it's core, but only each of us can truly decide for ourselves how we feel. Regardless, it's an experience like few others.

Three and a Half Stars, but rate for yourself!

AGALLOCH Faustian Echoes

EP · 2012 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.05 | 17 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
New Agalloch EP? Composed of a single, 21 minute song and based off the legendary story of Faust? HELL. YES.

This was another quality output by the atmospheric metal gurus from the Pacific Northwest.

There is not anything groundbreaking here for the band, all in all it is more or less a standard Agalloch release, but as any fan will tell you a standard Agalloch release is a unique experience better than most music out there!

"Faustian Echoes" has it all: bleak, raw doom metal tempered with blast beat laden black metal, folk, light and dark passages, superb melodies, thrashy parts, melancholic chains of double bass and tremolo picking, and textured songwriting all moving in a perfect flow. Everything works together but never like a formula, but..well like the atmosphere, flowing together as one beautiful thing.

The vocals are raspy growls, familiar to any Agalloch fan. Unfortunately John Haughm never uses his clean vocals, which is shame since they are so good, and the change of pace would be nice. While not bad, the harsh vocals get a tad tiresome, thankfully the vocals are not a major part of this EP. The seem a bit dry as well, lacking that Haughm passion and intensity of the past. I fully admit though, over the recent years I've lost much of my taste for harsh vocals.

There are samples used throughout, from the 1994 film Faust. One of the best parts in the whole song is a section with gentle, almost indetectable electronic noises fluttering in the background while a sample of Faust speaking to Mephistopheles is heard. A gentle guitar melody starts up as Mephistopheles says, "Go bear these tidings to great Lucifer" and the music works with it so perfectly, it's hauntingly beautiful. What makes it so amazing is the sample used is spoken, but with an almost singing like quality. Perhaps it just seems that way due to the guitar melody playing, but the whole speaking segment just works amazingly.

The sound is also standard Agalloch, clean enough to hear everything but still raw and a bit dirty. It conveys the bleakness and abrasiveness of black metal but is not nearly as poor in actual quality. The guitars are more distorted than noisy and buzzing, like typical black metal.

Lyrically, this EP is based off the story of Faust, which most are vaguely familiar with at least, so briefly the famous story involved the man Faust, who sells his soul to the Devil for knowledge and desire...bored with his limitations on Earth.

This is a very solid, if fairly typical, Agalloch release and this is not a bad thing. It leaves me a bit underwhelmed, but there is not much bad that can be said. Any fan of Agalloch should find this enjoyable, at the very minimal, and any metal fan who has a taste for the progressive and harsh, I would recommend "Faustian Echoes" surely. Though it's not the strongest Agalloch release, it's very good.

THREE AND A HALF STARS

MEGADETH TH1RT3EN

Album · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.12 | 47 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Megadeth found their way, then got lost again.

Yikes, what happened? After the comeback hit that was "Endgame" and hearing that Dave Ellefson was returning how could a Megadeth fan not be excited?

The title "Th1rt3en" had me feeling a little sick but can't judge by an album by it's title, (Death Magnetic was pretty kick ass after all). Well this album was a let down. At first I thought it was horrid, but listening all this time later, it's really not bad. It's just not that great.

"Sudden Death" kicks off the album in a great way, honestly it's one of the better songs in the whole post "Rust in Peace" era. It was made for the game Guitar Hero, which makes sense since it's filled with solos, sweet riffs and melodies all in the frantic, progressive style Megadeth was known for.

This is the peak of the album sadly. As I said, it's not a bad album. There are some pretty good songs like "Public Enemy No.1", "Never Dead", and "Fast Lane" some not so good songs like "Wrecker" and the pretty dreadful "Guns, Drugs & Money" the rest are either kind of bland, or have some sweet parts mixed with some mediocre parts.

I finally have hit on what is the issue with this album, and it's not the album per se but your personal feelings. "Th1rt3en" is a more straightforward, hard rock/classic type metal album with thrash thrown in. Kind of like their middle material but overall a bit more thrashy. There are still occasional moments of intrigue like light guitar and really good song writing, but far less than their "classic days".

So it depends what you are into. If you prefer the more technical, progressive and intense side of Megadeth with Mustaine's intricate, and often fascinating, song writing then this will be nothing more than an OK album. If you prefer/are fine with the more straightforward, less frills but more rockin' Megadeth then you will surely enjoy this.

I prefer the former, but I can't hold it against the album itself. Few of the songs are truly bad, but most are just unremarkable. That's the best word for this album, unremarkable. Which doesn't mean bad, and there are more than enough moments to satsify a thrash fan, and even a more progressive oriented fan. So take it for what it is and decide for yourself, the quality of the actual album is good, but not essential.

Oh, and if you are one of the stuck in the 80s, worship at the house of thrash, fans...well there was little hope for you here anyway.

Good, not great. THR33 Stars

MORBID ANGEL Illud Divinum Insanus

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art 1.88 | 24 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
*cracks knuckles*

Oh man, where to begin with this one?

Well, this was the first Morbid Angel release in 8 years, and the first to feature classic member David Vincent in 16 years. So there was quite a lot of buzz throughout the metal world about it. The first thing I heard about it was on the cover of a magazine at my record store, before the CD released, calling it the band's "most controversial" album yet. I assumed it would be lyrically controversial, but as it turned out the music was the culprit. "Illud Divinum Insanus" is a radical departure from the band's discog, and was quickly hailed as "the new St Anger". While I, kind of, enjoy that album I get the comparison: This album was a colossal let down and "WTF?" for fans. Though while St Anger may be reviled by fans, at least you can see what Metallica was trying to do..."Illud Divinum Insanus" left us stumped even there.

So almost one year later, all the dust has settled and I can get to my review. It's terrible. Now I will say, I am not really a fan of Morbid Angel or most death metal in general, which allows me a pretty impartial listen. Since it's not really my cup of tea, another Morbid Angel death metal album would have almost certainly gotten a 2 by default, (at the lowest). This is worse though...as a metal fan in general this album is just heinous.

There is death metal to be found, more than it may seem from some reviews, but there are dives into industrial metal, as well as nu metal and frankly the death metal that is present just sounds like crud. The production is terrible, the guitars sound low in the mix and just not very good. The drums sound like absolute crap, I thought it was done by drum programming at first...really I was shocked to see a human played them. The vocals are pretty bad. So even if there are good death metal songs here, I'd still be turned off by how poor they sound. Of course, being death metal, they are bland anyway.

"Omni Potens" starts the album and it's actually kind of cool. Synths and militaristic drumming gives it a real dark tone, backed by some campy sounding tribal chants and random yells.

Sadly, the fun intro kicks right into the mess. "Too Extreme" starts with a painfully simple riff and single note drum hits. Really, it's the playing of an 11 year old hitting the bass, snare and tom all at once over and over. This continues for most of the song with an industrial style noise and sample repeated throughout. It's boring, very boring. Forget how laughable it is. There's a reason industrial metal doesn't appeal to me and that's how repetitive and dull it is. The drums sound atrocious.

"Existo Vulgore" starts a bit of a throwback, and while it's good to see the band hasn't lost its musical skill, it's still bland. Extreme metal song, but again the guitar and drums sound so bad and the vocals seem to be a parody of death metal itself at times. Maybe death metal fans will like it, but others wont...it's very repetitive and boring. Solo is cool.

"Blades for Baal" is more of the same, and seems to be one of the highlights for MA fans. Straight up death metal, in all it's double bass, blast beat glory. Again it sounds horrid as do the vocals and is dull for me.

"I Am Morbid" starts off with a groovy riff, and isn't too bad. The same problems sneak up though, boring and crap vocals, and it's unrelenting with both.

"10 More Dead" is one of the better songs, as it builds from a groovy riff to thrashing death metal and blazing solos. Can't say I like this song, but it's tolerable.

"Destructos vs. the Earth / Attack" well we're back to industrial metal, like that name didn't imply it? More laughably simple riffs and drumming ensue for almost the entire 7 minutes and 15 seconds. I'm tired of hearing all those single note drum slams.

"Nevermore" this song was released early as a single, but more like a cruel joke...it's one of the more "normal" Morbid Angel style songs. Surely, fans must've heard this with some hope, just to be let down when hearing all of IDI. Standard death metal song, should be enjoyed by fans of such. As usual it doesn't do much for me thanks to its unrelenting nature, machine like chains of double bass and tremolo picking. For MA and death metal fans though, another of the "highlights".

"Beauty Meets Beast" simple, repetitive, boring, terrible sound. Next.

"Radikult" this song became the joke of the internet, and rightfully so as it's the most grievous offense on the album. Back to those super simple riffs and drumming. Ahhhh so much single note pounding! The sound of that bass drum is like the sound of my brain throbbing in agony. Vincent crappily screams on and on about how hardcore and br00tal the band is, seriously it's the death metal version of rap. Especially with the chorus of "kill a cop".

Vincent yelling "WE'RE LIVING HARDCORE AND RADICAL" will forever be burned into my memory. I think this song is a joke, literally. The lyrics are a pastiche of itself. This song is a joke of death metal and MA, self parody. I'll get back to all that later.

"Profundis - Mea Culpa" holy hell...we've entered a mortal combat game. That intro just leaves you waiting to hear Vincent yell "Ready? Fight!" There's some real slow, boring parts that are alternated with that video game thrash music. The fakest sounding drums yet, and the worst sounding guitars...they've saved the best for last!

Wow, I'm glad that's over. So here's what we got: A poor death metal album, an industrial metal album, and a nu metal album were each being shipped when their trucks collided. The mess of broken CD bits were then glued together randomly to make this album. That's my sincerest opinion and simplest description.

I question what Morbid Angel was attempting to do here, and how does Pete Sandoval, (sidelined from this album due to surgery) feel about it? Was this the band's honest intent? Was it an experiment? Did they get frozen in 2003, to wake up 8 years later and think they were still in '03 where industrial and nu metal were hot? I can't help but think back to "Radikult" and wonder if this whole album is a joke. A purposely done, anti Morbid Angel sound to challenge, (or upset) the fans.

Lyrics from "Radikult" such as: "The walls are high we know, they've gotta come down", "we've been crossing the line since 1989", "the radicals are here to stay", and "because the boundaries are coming down" make me wonder if they were indeed going for a totally in our face, anti MA sounding challenge. Push the boundaries of their music and fans? Maybe after 20+ years they were tired of death metal. Regardless of the reason, this must look like a middle finger to the long time fans. Only the future will tell what exactly the intent was with "Illud Divinum Insanus"

One Star



PELICAN Ataraxia / Taraxis

EP · 2012 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.03 | 4 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
This is a difficult rating for me, because while the music is perfectly fine, it's not much of a departure for Pelican and it's a short EP. Clocking in at just under 18 minutes, this is a short but fine EP.

Musically there's not much to say if you're familiar Pelican. Their classic riffy and warm sound hasn't changed. Still heavy and atmospheric. Only thing that really stands out is how short the songs are. On their last 2 albums Pelican has gone for shorter songs opposed to their earlier epic ramblers, but these are even shorter...the longest just cracking 5 minutes. I did see one review comment they detected a bit of a stoner rock sound at times, and I'd say I notice it as well but it's just for a brief time.

"Ataraxia" is a very mellow, droning song. Minimalist and airy, very chill.

"Lathe Biosas" throws you right into it, almost sounds like mid riff, and is a classic Pelican song. Heavy, but not suffocating, valleys then peaks.

"Parasite Colony" is another straightforward Pelican song, though maybe a bit less riffy and more drifty. Both are cool songs.

"Taraxis" concludes the EP with acoustic guitar and light drumming, while electric guitar noises flutter around the background. It goes out with a bang though, with the heaviest stuff heard on the album.

So I'm not really sure what to make of this one. Is this just a snack to tide us over for a bit? Is it a sample of something we should expect to see in the future? (Shorter, lighter songs). Only time will tell, but as for "Ataraxia/Taraxis" there's really not much new here. Which is fine, a standard Pelican release is always a good thing! Any fan of Pelican, or lighter/progressive metal should enjoy. Note: a light snack always leaves you hungry, and with the break up of Isis...us post metal fans are still left starved. Hopefully the upcoming Cult of Luna album will finally fill the void.

A good, though unspectacular, and short EP...worth some listens but not essential.

THREE STARS

DREAM THEATER Systematic Chaos

Album · 2007 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.32 | 112 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
"Systematic Chaos" seems to be one of the least popular DT albums, and I understand why. It's more metal oriented, like "Train of Thought", which appears to be an automatic turn off to many fans. However, unlike "Train of Thought", this album is a bit commercial sounding, which of course is a turn of to fans of prog rock and metal in general. I'll admit, I used to be in that latter camp, but many years later I've re-listened and "Systematic Chaos" is a pretty decent album.

I feel a bit foolish taking the "accessible" pill, because it sometimes comes across like this is pop rock, which is quite obviously not true. There are certainly accessible, (or modern, as Portnoy tried to sugar coat) moments but this is actually a very heavy, technical album for DT.

Maybe it's a tad less progressive than standard DT, but it's still prog and really it becomes an issue of splitting hairs... So if you are one who gets caught on the "less progressive" thing, or demand your DT be more melodic in nature, well don't even bother with this one.

"In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 1" is the first part of a 25 minute song that book ends the album. It starts off, awesome. Real awesome: a heavy, progressive intro, intense drumming, lots of bass and keyboard and a frantic climax. After your mind is blown it moves to a slower, melodic section. The first 5 minutes are a killer intro. The song then alternates between a heavy wall of chords and spidery riff. The bass is pretty prominent, finally!, and there's a good dose of keyboard. Maybe the wall of chords is "accessible" but damn, call me a metal head: I like it! At least in small doses like this. Song can get a bit stale, but it's real solid and a great opener. Lots of intensity and technicality.

"Forsaken" is sadly quite bland, and I really don't like it.

"Constant Motion" is back to riff based prof metal, and damn are there some great riffs. The song is packed with them, and some are quite groovy. A real progressive song, again loaded with great melodies, riffs and technicality. Again, the bass is nice and audible, which still floors me since you can never hear Myung. Good song, and the few accessible sections don't hang around too long.

"The Dark Eternal Night" now this one is a trip. Some major off tempo grooving and thrashing right off the start. Unfortunately they use those distorted "evil" sounding vocals at times which kind of bug me. Still, gotta love that groove. There's a lengthy middle section that is insane and all over the place, it's awesome. A tornado of music. This kicks into a flat out thrash metal part, and it's pretty intense. That's what I'm talking about...some DT that kicks your ass! This song rocks.

"Repentance" gives us a break, and a pretty nice one. The next part in the twelve step suite, this a pretty mellow, spacey song. Dare I say, Pink Floyd esque? Well why not? Portnoy said so, really it's a pretty accurate description. It's a nice song, real drifty, somber but not too bleak. Featured are several spoken word contributions from some big names, apologizing or repenting to people they have wronged.

"Prophets of War" is a straightforward and riffy, mid tempo song. It's not bad but kind of drags on. A not too aggressively anti Iraq war song, complete with fan group cries. Alright but a little boring.

"The Ministry of Lost Souls" is a long, slower and melodic song. Well, it starts that way, picks up a bit at times and really kicks into high gear in the middle. Then follows some DT w**kery with many guitar and key solos. A bit DT by the numbers, but it's not a bad song. The slower parts can be nice but also drag at times. Nice ending, overall not too shabby.

The album ends with "In the Presence of Enemies Pt. 2" because every prog band needs an album with Pink Floyd style book ends. It picks where the opener left off, and slowly builds to peaks and valleys, before reaching the shreddery. Another DT song that is fine, I'd say even good, but leaves me a bit cold. Can't knock it though, has everything you'd expect and is well done. I'm sure some will knock the cheese factor, but as usual I say just take that cheese and make a pizza with it. This is prog metal.

So after some listens, this turned out to be a pleasantly surprising album. Not spectacular, but pretty good. If you can get over the "accessible" and "more metal" hurdles you should find it a fine album. Heavy, (very heavy) technical, progressive and intense. It has all you want, and done very well, including lots of bass! "The Dark Eternal Night" is killer, as is "Repentance" just in a different way. Stand out tracks in my book.

Three Stars.

DREAM THEATER Train of Thought

Album · 2003 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.89 | 120 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
This album seems to be one of the lesser liked in the Dream Theater discog, but I love it. In fact, it's my favorite DT album.

When I first heard "Train of Thought" I only knew the classic DT albums: 6 Degrees, Metropolis, I&W and Awake. So I was pretty shocked by this albums heaviness and profanity, (not that I care at all, but for DT it raised an eyebrow). "Train of Thought" is certainly more "metal" than most DT albums. It's heavier and bit less progressive than most of the band's output, but it is still progressive. A bit more riff based than standard DT, and there are some epic riffs to be found. There are plenty of blazing guitar and keyboard solos, a pretty good drumming display and fine vocals. While they never really wow me (and can sometimes grate), it seems I don't dislike LaBrie nearly as much as I used to.

"As I Am" is a bit straightforward, but a good metal song. Some cool riffs and moments.

"This Dying Soul" is more intense and progressive. Pretty cool song, though I don't like the distorted vocals that are used at times. Second half is pretty crazy and has some classic DT madness.

Then we get to the best 2 songs of the album.

"Endless Sacrifice" is an awesome song, heavy and progressive. The main riff/chorus part makes me rock so hard. The middle section is awesome, and topped off with doses of epic shreddery and technicality. Great song, and it leads into my favorite from the album:

"Honor Thy Father" Now this is some brutal prog metal. Heavy, groovy, intense, progressive, filled with epic riffs and melodies. Hefty doses of technicality, off tempo, solos and even keyboards are thrown around, and some pretty good drumming to boot. The song really moves and is hard to not groove or thrash around to.

"Vacant" gives us a breather with a somber keyboard and bass piece, with some cello too. Pretty but also quite melancholy, especially when taken with the lyrics about LaBrie watching his young daughter fall into a coma...some heavy stuff.

"Stream of Consciousness" is an 11 minute instrumental. Turn the volume up, because I love when the first riff hits you. Like any good prog epic it takes you on quite a journey, and you'll hear a bit of everything. Lots of keyboard, more than the previous songs as well as more of that famed DT wizardry then we've seen thus far. Not the best prog instrumental I've heard but a pretty damn good song for sure.

"In the Name of God" finishes the album with its longest song, at 14 minutes. It drags a bit at times, and for the first time on ToT LaBrie's singing kind of bugs me, (but it's not terrible) and is a good song still. With the rest of the album there are some sweet riffs, grooves and melodies throughout. A good song, but actually could've use a bit of trimming. "Stream of Consciousness" would've been a better finale in my opinion, especially since it fits with "Train of Thought" as an idea but ah well.

So after all these years I still love the more riffy, heavy DT. Some fans seem to be displeased with the more metal, less proggy sound but if you like metal, and if you like prog then I really don't see why you wouldn't like "Train of Thought". It's some heavy, dark and still progressive prog metal, what's not to love?

Four and a Half Stars

DREAM THEATER Black Clouds & Silver Linings

Album · 2009 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.57 | 124 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
This is my re-review of "Black Clouds & Silver Linings"

When I first heard this album I hated it, so much so that I proclaimed DT had truly lost it, and by this point they should just retire. That was almost 3 years ago, and I feel differently now. This is an alright album, it's not that good but it's not bad either.

It's not really much a departure for DT, it's heavy and progressive...though maybe with more of the progressive mixed in this time. Let's say it's a bridge between the light "Octavarium" and they heavy "Systematic Chaos".

The album has 6 songs, and whenever you have a few, (generally long) songs there is a risk of the album being boom or bust. Well, of the 6 songs I like 3, and the other 3 are kind of bland so I guess they managed alright. 3 good 3 not so good, that's about as middle of the road as you can.

The 3 songs I like are ironically start, middle and finish: "A Nightmare to Remember", "The Shattered Fortress" and "The Count of Tuscany". The remaining 3 are not bad songs at all, but just kind of boring. They don't really do anything for me and I find it hard to finish them, at least without feeling bored.

"A Nightmare to Remember" is quite a way to start the album: heavy, progressive and operatic. There's a pretty dark tone to the song. It starts with a rainy, somber intro but kicks into a dramatic section complete with some gnarly double bass. Actually this song is one of the more intense outputs from Portnoy. Anyway, that's how to describe this song, heavy, progressive and operatic. It is all those things, it never gets stale since no part hangs around too long, and unlike some other DT songs I get a real sense of movement. There are some groovy riffs, intense drumming, melodic parts, guitar and keyboard solos, it has it all.

I'm not a big fan of LaBrie's vocals but on this song, and the entire album, they are actually fine. Don't blow me away, but they are fine...and for some time "A Nightmare to Remember", during the the quieter part, I really like them. Later on are the infamous Portnoy "growls" and I say that because they are not growls. If so then they are a weak ass attempt at growls! Anywho, it's actually not bad more laughable than anything, but not so terrible if you just go with it. The blast beats near the end are real weird, doesn't sound right...kind of like they just stuck em in there. A pretty good song though overall.

"The Shattered Fortress" is the conclusion of the epic "12 step suite" about Portnoy's problem with alcoholism. It contains musical and lyrical references to all the previous songs, and at first I thought this was a bit of a cop out, (yeah just stitch the previous together) but it's really a good song. Heavy and quite progressive, I like it. It's without the grandiose, operatic touches of the album opener...more of a heavy metal prog song that reminds me of my favorite DT album, "Train of Thought". Some epic riffs and sections, a damn decent song.

"The Count of Tuscany" is the 19 minute finale, and my favorite on the album. It's the only song I liked originally, and I now can say it's my favorite post "Train of Thought" song the band has done. Truly progressive, there is a great flow and feel throughout. I am quick to say how DT aren't the best songwriters out there, and often leave me a bit cold, but not this time. The actual music and song structure are well done, a very well composed piece. It never gets too heavy, too epic, some real cool riffs and movements, it's perfection.

The lyrics are weird and silly, supposedly based on a true story where Petrucci, I guess, was offered a car tour by the Count of Tuscany. Then he meets his weird brother and the whole experience has him fearing for his life, I don't know it's weird but I never was one for lyrics. More important are vocals and again they are quite fine. Those Portnoy "growls" pop back up but they are backing and not solo, and actually work! I'll be honest I love when they yell "I!". Great music, song structure and a good vocal display from LaBrie.

So there we have it. I have a bit of a rep as a DT basher so I decided to focus a lot on the songs I like, (see I can be nice). The overall album is decent, I quite enjoy half the songs and the rest I can easily live without. That is a middle of the road album, but not a bad one. DT fans will like it, haters won't, casual/moderate fans should get some enjoyment.

Two and a Half Stars

MESHUGGAH Koloss

Album · 2012 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.42 | 27 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
I was very cautiously optimistic about this album, mainly due to claims from Meshuggah fans it was "different" but sadly I was quite let down, (which maybe shouldn't have surprised me).

I fully admit I'm not a big fan of Meshuggah but here's why, they have always bored me. Their fans (who have really grown in number over the years and have reached "fanboy" status) are quick and passionate to tell me how technical they are and I understand that and appreciate it. It's just boring. Meshuggah is of course technical in regards to their insane time signature use and polyrhythms but not so much in terms of musicianship and song writing. The shame is they used to display such tendencies, and their albums "Destroy Erase Improve" and "I" are awesome prog metal works in my book. They have largely abandoned this for whacking the crap out of a few djent notes, or repeating two riffs, for 5 minutes and purposefully anti tonal brutality. This generally upsets fans who repeat "technicality" to me and I again ask to understand something can be impressive and still boring.

That was not a rant for the sake of it, but basically how I feel about this album. More of the same. One person I know said this album was proof that all those who think Meshuggah just do the same thing need their sanity checked, or something like that. Well check me in to the asylum.

"Koloss" sounds like same old Meshuggah to me. This is perfectly fine for fans, but I am just confused as to where the difference is. Djent and brutality abound. Whacked out time sigs, sub drop A djent riffs, and intentionally unforgiving brutality are a plenty. Every song sounds like Meshuggah by the numbers to me, and I admit every song on "Koloss" is different, which is nice, but the songs themselves tend to be repetitive. I think it's bad when a song feels like it was twice as long as it really was...

A prime example of my beef with Meshuggah is the song "Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion". It starts off cool, and has one hell of a brutal riff. Then that one riff continues for more or less 7 minutes. There is one part when it lets up, and it's a decent section but man what an unrelenting song overall. Especially with Jens screaming away.

Jens' vocals are, as always, completely atonal, non pitched and anti melodic. I get it. I know it's what they want to do, and I applaud them for taking no prisoners, but I just don't care for it. No variation, no pitch no nothing...just shouting at the absolute max. I will say they actually seem to have toned down the vocals a bit, it's not as piercing as previous albums. I'm not a fan but I can at least tolerate them on "Koloss"

For some good news, this album is better than recent Meshuggah output. I like the song "Behind the Sun" because it actually feels like a song, it progresses. I don't get bored after a few minutes and it builds to a powerful climax!

"The Hurt That Finds You First" starts off nice and thrashy, which is welcomed, and the song really changes throughout. How nice!

"Marrow" isn't bad, nothing new to say but it does change it up a good bit and even has some classic Thordendal random tapping solos. OK, not to take away from the guy but seriously, youtube it...you can make a Fredrik sounding solo by finding a certain way to tap 3 notes all over. Not a bad song, some cool parts.

"Swarn" OK now this starts off kicking some ass. Unfortunately it gets repetitive quick. There are some pretty sweet moments, but they are like islands on a trip across the ocean. Also there's more of that Meshuggah guitar noise just floating around the background. An alright song.

"Demiurge" isn't too bad either. The epic brutal riff is a bit boring, but the song does enough to at least keep me from wanting to hit next. Though really, the changes aren't drastic, just difference in the brutal riff being played.

The album ends with "The Last Vigil" another Meshuggah classic, the clean song. Not groundbreaking but very relieving! A melodic, clean guitar song that drifts you away. Very nice.

So that's what we got. I stress I get the band wants to do, and appreciate their technicality, (Tomas Haake is still one of my favorite drummers) but I am just left cold. Maybe that's the intent. Another repetitive, by the book Meshuggah album, though admittedly better and a bit more varied than recent work.

"Koloss" will be a damn fine album for any Meshuggah fan, while those who are not will find nothing here worth buying. I find half the songs boring, the rest are decent and a couple I actually enjoy. So while I recommend "Koloss" only for Meshuggah fans, it's not a bad album by any stretch, and feel a 2.5 is fair.

TWO AND A HALF STARS

DREAM THEATER A Dramatic Turn of Events

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 112 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
I try to avoid hype, (whether it's music, movies, video games anything) to keep a clear mind and form honest opinions, and do so by avoiding said item for a while. So I really waited a good bit to listen to DT's "A Dramatic Turn of Events" but have finally gotten around to it. After giving the album some listens and fully digesting it, I can safely say while it's not a bad album at all, it's not anything great either. Like all their albums since "Octavarium" I was left a bit underwhelmed. It was a bit disappointing since I heard this album was a turn back to their progressive, melodic days.

The band does accomplish just that: the keyboards are way up, the heaviness is a bit down, and while still present the famed DT shreddery and technical w**kery are reduced. These are of course part of DT's appeal, but you have to change it up sometimes. I applaud the change, just the music itself left some to be desired overall.

The opener "On the Backs of Angels" I actually quite enjoy. A good blend of riff based and melodic based prog. It has a good flow and strong songwriting. It has a bit of all and is just very well done.

"Build Me Up, Break Me Down" has a cool spidery riff, and some nice heavy moments. The power chord chorus is a bit eh, but what can you do? Not a bad song.

"Lost Not Forgotten" is more "standard" DT filled with more technicality, w**kery, and riffing. I'm a fan of this, especially when put in a nice 10 minute prog metal song so this is probably my favorite on the album. Again, another well done song and not just a "by the numbers" which tends to be my issue with DT.

"This is the Life" is a nice light song. Keyboard driven, light guitar and drumming that builds to a melodic and powerful part. Nice to get some feeling, which despite liking the previous songs felt a bit absent of it. Pretty good song, though for the first time LaBrie's vocals get on my nerves, especially in soaring parts.

"Bridges in the Sky" starts with a quiet intro, featuring an attempt at throat singing which works semi well in my opinion. The song kicks into a heavy riff, and like the opener has a bit of everything. Good song.

"Outcry" is more of the same though I really like the middle section. A bit sluggish at times, it's not bad overall.

"Far From Heaven" a very light, keyboard and vocal driven song.

"Breaking All Illusions" I'm running out of different words to describe "more of the same" but this is actually one of the better songs on the album. Another straightforward though well done prog metal song.

The album ends with an acoustic guitar, keyboard and vocal song. Light and melodic, it's quite nice.

So I've used a lot of "good" and "a lot of the same" but that's the best way to describe "A Dramatic Turn of Events". It's a good album. Not great, but not bad, no real weak songs but none jump out at you either. It is generally well done prog metal. Good but not great, textbook definition of 3 stars in my book.

DT fans should like this, haters will find nothing to turn them on to it, and moderate/casual fans like myself will probably find it decent, and it's worth a listen.

Three Stars

NEUROSIS The Eye Of Every Storm

Album · 2004 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.63 | 18 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
With this album Neurosis takes a more standard post metal sound, though you can't knock the band for that, since they invented the sound.

I actually prefer newer Neurosis over old, simply put: atmosphere over aggression (as one person once told me). Of course atmosphere has been a Neurosis staple since '92, they've been belting out lengthy, atmospheric metal long before Isis or even Tool, but on "The Eye of Every Storm" they adopt a more heavy/light interplay style, and is greatly subdued. Their bludgeoning, sludgy guitar dirges are still around, but just much less. Neurosis has no problem utilizing melodic passages, and even minimalism.

Opening track "Burn" and "The Eye of Every Storm" have lengthy movements that are almost solely vocals, the latter being backed up a continuous "wub", psychedelic noises and splashes of guitar.

These two being standout tracks. "Burn" is, again, pretty standard post metal, though so well done. Heavy/light transitions, building to a powerful climax. His gruff, sludge metal vocals are so fitting...he does it in a more "singing" style and over soft, beautiful music it creates such an emotional, tortured feeling. Awesome song.

"The Eye of Every Storm" moves like a storm, gradually rolling in until it reaches a real moving part, before entering a long quiet section. A baritone talking takes the forefront, as mentioned earlier, backed up by various trippy noises. Really let it sink in, what he's saying, the ambiance, everything.

Another brilliant song is "Bridges". A steady, (though very distant) punk drum beat carries on while sparse piano, vocals, and fluttering psychedelic noises take the forefront. Picks up a bit before a schizo journey of drones and borderline silence takes over. Both parts are awesome, though it takes some patience to grasp all the subtlety in the quiet (on casual listen it'll sound like honest silence) before a rockin ending. Atmospheric, post metal to the nth degree.

That's really how to best describe whole album. A lot of quiet, spaced with heavy, (in their classic slow, even droning, nature) tons of little detail. Pretty heavy use of synth, though it's never prominent, just filler...another piece you may not hear at first but adds another dimension.

The vocals are still Neurosis' strained, sludge metal style though even here more subdued. He still lets it soar, but all the time and while I was never a huge fan, I like it much more here. The restraint does well, and of course makes it more powerful when he takes off.

No doubt, like most of the bands work this is a difficult album. Even I struggle a bit with some Neurosis. "The Eye of Every Storm" requires some patience and a fine ear. It's not the best for casual listening, as the long quiet parts would have to be boring, this is best for active listening. To really feel this albums power and absorb all the subtle songwriting it's best to sit down, do nothing, and let the album take you over. I like to put it on early morning after I wake up, sitting there relaxed playing this album, or doing so whenever I have some nice down time.

While it's extremely well done, the album is a tad formulaic and it's difficulty may be a turn off, (though I found it easier to get into then old school, crushing Neurosis). The gods of post metal have done it again, putting out a unique and superb post metal album.

Four Stars



PELICAN What We All Come to Need

Album · 2009 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.62 | 10 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
This album is a bit of a departure for Pelican, which is why I think (despite critical reviews) fans of the band don’t seem to care for this album, at least not as much as their other work. At first I was on board with that though I couldn’t put my finger on why. With time though “What We All Came to Need” grew on me, and while it may not be the strongest album the band has put out, it is still very good.

Before this album, Pelican switched from one slower, progressive metal focused label (Hydra Head) to another (Southern Lord) and while both specialize in the same general types of band, Pelican changed things up with this release. The emphasis on riffing, (one of their defining features amongst post metal bands) is subdued, as is the heaviness. Now, it is still undeniably heavy, but less “sludgey” less bottom heavy and outright pulverizing. So at first listen this album can be a bit underwhelming.

Though it’s just a different style, instead of riffing and pummeling this album is about texture, and atmosphere. I should say they are more the focus, as these qualities were always essential to Pelican. So it takes some getting used to certainly, but it has what you want from Pelican: guitar driven, upbeat post metal complete with amazing melodies, perfect guitar interplay, some awesome riffs, and while not as up tempo as “City of Echoes” still generally more so than most post metal. Progressive song writing still abounds, though it’s not as epic as previous work, and feels less structured overall and more drifty. There is also increased use of melodic passages on this album. This is a more cerebral and reflective Pelican.

Some notable songs are “The Creeper” which is the slowest, heaviest, most brutal song on the album, “Specks of Light” the riffiest, most up tempo song (and with some killer parts) and the finale, “Finale Breath” which features vocals! A first for Pelican. Instead of the harsh shouts or emotional singing customary to post metal, they opt for shoegazing like dream like vocals, fitting for the nowhere drifting nature of the song. The vocals are courtesy of Allen Epley (who I’ve not heard of personally) and some other guest musicians make an appearance, including Greg Anderson of Sunn O))) fame, and Aaron Turner of Isis.

A little less traditional Pelican and more traditional post rock/metal this is not the band’s best album, but it’s still a damn good one. With some time and listens it should strike you as a solid and well executed, if unspectacular, post metal album.

Three and a Half Stars

PELICAN City Of Echoes

Album · 2007 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 13 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
It generally seems to be that this album is not too well liked by Pelican fans, or that "It's OK but just not that great". Well to each their own but I love "City of Echoes" and it is actually my favorite Pelican album so far.

It has every staple of Pelican's sound: very heavy, dense and intricate guitar work, progressive song writing with awesome riffs and melodies. In fact it was the band's higher emphasis on riffing that always made them stand out to me from most other post metal bands. As well as their less reflective, (even brooding) more upbeat nature.

While all that is still present, "City of Echoes" is more streamlined than past work. The longest song is 7 minutes, with four of the eight clocking in the 5 minute range. While some die hards may automatically dislike this, I always love to see a band and change it up and see nothing wrong with more to the point, (dare I say....accessible) songs.

Don't worry, this is no pop album, the songs still move...but instead of drifting to the end of the river, it flows with more force. Maybe the climaxes and finales are not as mind blowing, but the songs may be more powerful, more energetic. Basically, it's all the good of Pelican but a little easier, a little more rockin. I'm OK with that.

This is all backed up by the drumming, which is a bit more up tempo and diverse than before. It gives a different touch to the music, some feeling, (always nice to sound human and not like a machine right?) and intensity. There's even some pretty quick double bass at times! It's still pretty straightforward, but better and as the band themselves have said, they are not trying to be Don Caballero here.

Of course the album is still guitar driven, and the riffs and melodies are the best yet. As always the dual guitar work is just awesome. Working in unison, as lead/rhythm, or diving in and out of each other. It's so well done. De Brauw and Schroeder-Lebec are guitar wizards.

There's also an increased emphasis on bass, taking a prominent role as another instrument instead of just bottom filler. I think it always gives the music a more textured sound.

The songwriting is great, perfect flow and progression. It's not always heavy either, dipping in the clean pool a good bit. Most importantly: great variation. Not just in song, but every song has a bit of a different feel to it. It's difficult to pick standout songs since they are all great, but the acoustic "Winds with Hands" is a good change of pace and "Lost in the Headlights" is my favorite. The most energetic on the album it also best does a little of everything said in the review above.

Amazing album, maybe some Pelican or post-metal fans will not care for it's less epic nature, but cmon a little different won't kill ya! An awesome listen, and should be enjoyable for any fan of progressive metal. It's even gotten enjoyment from non metal heads! If you can take some heavy guitar, I recommend "City of Echoes" regardless of what you like. It's also instrumental so don't worry about unpleasant vocals.

Masterpiece

Five Stars

CYNIC Carbon-Based Anatomy

EP · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.56 | 18 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
With this EP, Cynic continues their musical progression.

Another step from their metal roots, there's really none to be found here...and that is A OK. This is atmospheric, ambient progressive rock though there is still some heaviness, in a Cynic way and it still does sound like Cynic. Especially in the bass and drum work. As always the bass playing of Sean Malone is prominent and superb. Sean Reinert, (one of my favorite drummers) hits another home run here. His skittery, jazz infused drumming is sometimes light and spacious or pounding, but always perfect.

The guitar work of Paul Masvidal is notably different from past efforts. No longer is it heavy and at the forefront, but much lighter and soundscape style. At first I couldn't even tell there was guitar for some of it. Never taking the lead but just another instrument, another piece of the puzzle, that fits in to make the whole thing work. Lots of different sounds, not aggressive any more but atmospheric. Melody was never an issue of course with Masvidal and there is even still a solo or two to show off still!

The other huge change I noticed, also with Masvidal, is the robovox are gone! I could always put up with them, (at least enough) but I really did not like the robot vocorder type thing he did. Not sure if he never thought he could sing cleanly, didn't want to but regardless they have been dropped, and his voice is beautiful. Soaring and lovely, some I know have made fun of it for sounding "indie" (whatever that means) or for just being funny, but all a matter of opinion and I love them. A pleasant surprise from Masvidal on vocals.

The music is light, warm, textured and dense but without being pulverizing. The song structures are progressive, but not as strictly composed as many, but more drifty. Mixed in with the songs are some segues that extremely ambient and tribal sounding, topped with hauntingly beautiful female vocals. Very cool, very moving. The whole album moves perfectly, it all flows together like one large song.

The only real knock I have on this EP is that it's too short! I know, it's only and EP but still it's only 23 minutes, and the music is so moving and well done it's over before you realize it. It leaves me wanting so much more. If Cynic's next album is a longer version of this, (done just as well) it will be a masterpiece.

Great piece of music, I recommend everyone try this beautiful work of ethereal rock.

Four Stars

SYSTEM OF A DOWN Hypnotize

Album · 2005 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 39 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
The second half of the band's double album, "Hypnotize" pretty much occupies the same area as "Mezmerize". Its short, schizophrenic songs are packed with thrash metal, mellow middle eastern tinged movements, whackyness and enough political/social rage to fill 10 punk albums. As usual, the album's lyrics are cryptic, multifaceted and open to interpretation, (though usually filled with biting social and political commentary). Like "Mezmerize" this album is heavy but not the heavy of old school System of a Down. Along the exact same lines, this album also features more varied songs and less adherence to "poppy" song structures in much of the band's older material. However, this album is not quite as strong as its counterpart. Partially due to a slight lack of originality, though it's still a very good album.

The album opens with "Attack" similar to "B.Y.O.B." in that it's a very intense, no real debate anti war song, (can't get anymore in your face then "Attack all the homes and villages, attack all the schools and hospitals"). Thrashy, blast beat laden song with a few moments to let you catch a breath.

"Dreaming" is another intense song varying from mid tempo thrash to blast beat intensity (John was always a decent drummer that could mosh out, but really lets it fly on these latest albums). Similar song to above, but with a maddening trio of vocals in the chorus and a display of how Daron's singing can be very nice when restraint is used.

"Kill Rock & Roll" is a good song really redeemed by the nice middle section. Also by this point you'll notice that even more so than before Daron has lead vocals and there is almost always there is a harmony with him and Serj.

Things pick up with "Hypnotize" a slower, cleaner song with great guitar/vocal work. More high soaring vocals from Daron, some really cool drumming from John, and an awesome Eastern section with 4 layers of guitar. Powerful song.

"Stealing Society" is not a bad song at all, but just nothing new. Which is fine, but a little uninteresting and it's just a rare example of a weaker song on a SoaD "major" studio album. The exact can be said of "Tentative".

"U-fig" changes things up, a stop/go chaotic song that hits you like a whirlwind and with some of the crazier Serj vocals out there!

"Holy Mountains" the five and a half minute epic (Yeah, for System 5 and a half minutes is an epic). A very powerful song about a topic close to the hearts of the band, the Armenian genocide. Focused on Mt. Ararat, a symbol of pride and nationalism to Armenia, (and also "holy" as it's the supposed landing place of Noah's Ark)it paints a movie like picture of the genocide. People fleeing to the mountains and running "back to the river Aras" to escape. The song chastises the Turkish government (presumably) for maintaining it was all part of the general chaos of WWI and an "act of warfare" started by the Armenians. Then asking if they feel the "haunting presence" of what I take as murdered souls "resting on the mountainside".

I also wondered if perhaps the song has a more outright political motive, such as retaking lost land or at least the mountains. Regardless, it's a moving song that has a great flow, awesome drumming, some of the best vocals on the album, (including passionate cries of anger). A song I used to not really like back in 05, but later grew to become my favorite on the album, and one of my all time favorites by System.

"Vicinity of Obscenity" follows and what a 180. A silly, whacky song that is impossible to make any sense of. Pretty cool, and the noisy feedback outro leads right into "She's like Heroin" another Daron dominated song that has one of the more humorous moments, progressively shouting "ASS" louder! Quick song that builds to a long thrashy ending. About doing anything to get some cash for heroin, I always thought there was a dual meaning about being in love and feeling like you'd do anything for that addiction...

"Lonely Day" a very nice, clean song that is again dominated by Daron. His vocals are more restrained so they are much nicer then his high pitched soaring ones (though even those aren't too bad). Features a rare System of a Down guitar solo. A beautiful, melodic and powerful song. Really nice. While generally criticized, (and occasionally praised) for it's simple message, a lonely day as usual I think there's some more to it. The last 2 albums seem to have a flow throughout, and given the song to follow I think this one may have to do with going away/being at war. Regardless, very moving song.

"Soldier Side" is another powerful and emotional song, dealing with war and the sadness of leaving for war. "Young men standing on the top of their own graves, wondering when Jesus comes are they gunna be saved?" and the wonderful Serj/Daron harmony singing "They were crying when their sons left, god is wearing black. He's gone so far to find no hope he's never coming back" can't help but move you. Another clean guitar driven song that builds to an epic climax. Another great vocal display, and it ends with the starting melody of "Soldier Side-Intro" from Mezmerize. Thus completing (or re starting?) the cycle.

Another great album from System of a Down that has no real faults or flaws, though a bit standard for them. This should not be taken as bad, (not at all) but just another System album makes it tough to distinguish from the rest and indeed, aside from Holy Mountains, Hypnotize and the final 2 songs...the songs from this album don't really jump out at me. Still, a very good album the band left us with before their hiatus.

Four Stars

SYSTEM OF A DOWN Mezmerize

Album · 2005 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.16 | 56 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
2005. It was a good time to be an angsty American teen!

The George W regime was at its zenith, the war in Iraq was at the boiling point here, and System of a Down was releasing new material! A double album to boot! The first half of which was "Mezmerize". Man did I spin the hell out of this album, quite literally. Back when the easiest way to listen to music was on a CD player.

"Mezmerize" has the SoaD staples: heavy guitar, wild stop and go song structures, overall whackiness and multi meaning (what exactly are they talking about) lyrics. However, while undeniably their sound, things have changed quite a bit.

This album has everything they've done, but amplified. A progression. The music is more melodic, more intense, more progressive and aggressive, often all in one song! It's truly frenetic and chaotic, while still lovably accessible. The album borders on prog metal, crammed into mostly sub 5 minute songs.

"Mezmerize" is a lot more intense than anything the band's done before, with lots of thrash metal riffing and drumming, (including a decent helping of double bass). It's also more melodic with almost every song featuring a subdued section. Any desperate cries of "ew nu metal" have to be thrown away by now. Even the heaviness of the album is not the caliber of heaviness from prior albums... That bottom string, first 3 fret sound.

The other thing that really stands out from previous albums, Daron has a much bigger role vocally. In fact, the singing is pretty much an even contribution. It's not just all harmonized either, Daron has plenty of stand alone singing. Really shows off his weird, high pitched singing style. I like it, and while it almost wants to border on annoying it never does. Serj is of course brilliant, and all over the place.

Right off the bat we start with an...acoustic song. A lone, clean guitar melody plays while Serj and Daron sing a wonderful duet. Beautifully somber.

Then we're hurled into "B.Y.O.B." a thrashy song with a starting riff not like anything System has done before. There are some mellow parts and some absolutely explosive parts. They blow up the quietness of the song like a bomb blowing up the quietness of an Iraqi desert. Ooooooooo System of a Down I see what you did there. Its anti Iraq war lyrics are as direct as SoaD will ever be.

"Revenga" has an awesome machine gun riff that alternates with a simple riff under soaring vocals. A more singing oriented song that also has some cool drumming and powerful build to an awesome finish.

"Cigaro" is a crazy thrashy song with some of the more ridiculous, WTF lyrics on the album. Some really cool moments (what an interlude) and epic moshing. First heard this song when it leaked and was shocked to hear John's double bass drumming at one point!

"Radio/Video" contrasts with a more subdued song. Lots of clean, Middle Eastern guitar work and pretty sweet vocals. A long, Arabian Polka interlude (I think) that really builds in intensity is the best part. As usual, the lyrics are up to interpretation, but I do think part of this song is certainly about the band making it big and feeling like sell outs.

"This Cocaine Makes Me Feel Like I'm on this song" well that is probably the best way to describe this one! A whacked out song with crazy melodies, riffs, vocals and lyrics that I won't even take a stab at. Fun, silly, crazy song.

"Violent Pornography" is a catchy song with a crazy vocal duet and crazier lyrics. My stab at this one is the general degradation of society, like a non stop disco (it's just too much fun!) and how sickening the media is...as much as yeah, a violent pornography.

"Question!" is just an awesome song that is beautiful and powerful. The quiet sections are great and there is a great flow to the song, especially over the second half. Really moves.

"Sad Statue" is another thrashy, political song with some downright somber, bleak moments. Good music, but my god this is one of the most lyrically powerful songs I've hear. Early on I mentioned 2005 being the height of the Bush administration, and Iraq becoming a bitter taste and not just for fun. The whole album, but especially this song channels that time and feeling of anger so perfectly.

I took "Eloquence belongs to the conqueror" and "two pictures of time and space rearranged, in this little peace of typical tragedy" to mean that the reality of the War in Iraq (conquer)was twisted into a good thing (eloquence) to so many Americans. "Justified Candy" was the justification of taking candy from a kid...and that justified candy was "Brandy for the Nerves" so some could feel numb about it.

That, plus everything about the Bush administration and state of the countru, it will be known forever as a sad time for America. The line "You and me will all go down in history with a sad statue of liberty, and a generation that didn't agree" was always one that struck me hard.

"Old School Hollywood" has a dance feel mixed, (topped with some synth) mixed with its classic SoaD muddy feel. Another catchy song with a great structure and movement. It's about a celebrity baseball game Daron once attended and being a huge fan of baseball was just happy to hit around in the park, but realized he was with old school, washed up hollywood people and felt put off by their self absorbed, serious personalities. Leads perfectly into

"Lost in Hollywood" the most unique song made by System yet. Entirely clean, (yup not one heavy guitar note to be found), slow, melancholic and sung by Daron with Serj being the back up guy. A very mellow song musically, with Daron singing about Hollywood and how it's a dirty place that ruins people. A warning to the kids with dreams of being a star not to go, that they'll build you up and say nice things, just to use you and feed off you, as you slowly die. Like maggots would do.

To keep it SoaD style, some eye raising sillyness is thrown in "all you bitches put your hands in the air and wave em like you just dont care" which I know is a reference to some rap song...it's awkward and unusual and that's how they like it.

Amazing way to end an amazing album. Still SoaD though a bit different from their earlier work, another great display of the bands almost progressive metal, punk fueled yet always accessible style. This album has been called "schizophrenic" and there's no better way to describe it. Well, besides amazing.

Five Stars

SYSTEM OF A DOWN Toxicity

Album · 2001 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 90 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
This is an album I have long avoided reviewing, not because I dislike it...but in fact because it has such a meaning to me I was not sure I could be fair, or do it true justice, (or write anything better than how awesome it is). System of a Down was the first band I truly listened to, they got me into music, and the rest is history. This was the first album I ever heard, (as well the first I ever bought)back as a 14 year old high school freshman. Back then this album was barely a year old and still hot, with "Chop Suey" playing all over the radio, especially in weight room where I and the other lazy kids would avoid doing gym and rocked out to this instead.

Today, almost 10 years later I listen to this album and SoaD, and while unsure how I would feel...I love it more than ever! What was a heavy, angsty, political album that was kind of odd I can now appreciate for its music and composition.

Onto the music itself, while too many hear the real heavy riffing and 3 minute songs and instantly yell "nu metal!" that is far from the case. I mean, have any other nu metal bands cited Frank Zappa as influence? Korn could not even dream of these unorthodox song structures, packed with a variety of instrumentation and vocal styles, often stop and go in nature, with wild, (often abrupt) changes in tempo and style. All jammed into short songs, usually with political/social commentary. Punk ethos meets alt metal.

However, not all the songs are energetic moshes, some are mellow, some melodic and powerful. The lyrics are also some of my favorite, ranging from straight out political like "Prison Song" about the US Prison system and war on drugs... to how "Science has failed our world, science has failed our mother Earth". Now that's a trip. The lyrics aren't always so straightforward and usually are multifaceted or open to interpretation (a la Tool and Deftones) and sometimes make use of humor.

Serj's vocal display really pulls it together. His voice is just amazing, and he covers the whole spectrum. Clean singing, non pitched "thrash metal" screaming, growls, a harsher yelling. They are not excessive or too harsh, generally accessible for a metal audience, and he just fits the music perfectly and can hit so many tiny moments so well. One of the better vocalists in metal.

Serj is the guy, but there are also melodies with Daron, with his unique higher singing style.

Musically, this album is a bit deeper than what appears on the surface. There is tons of no frills, heavy, angry guitar playing and I do mean lots of it. The riffing is drop C, muddy, and bludgeoning. However, that is just the tip of the iceberg. Often simple, the guitar work is just as often cleaner, melodic and even a lot of the heavy stuff is thrashier than the norm. There are some really sweet melodies and riffs to be found throughout. SoaD also uses acoustic guitars, 12 stringers, sitars, and mandolins.

The drumming is pretty straightforward, but also jazz tinged and with a real sense of groove and feel. Yes, jazz tinged...heard in a lot of John's unorthodox beats and especially at the end of "Shimmy". Just a great feel drummer that can surprise you, with either melodicism or the occasional blast beat! Always fitting.

Shavo's bass is almost always audible, but never too prevalent. Just right and, like John's drumming, is something I never noticed when I was younger. Not mind blowing with virtuoso skill, but always appropriate, with lots of cool moments. Sometimes just "bottom filler" for the heavy parts and sometimes stand alone his bass playing is solid and then some.

I mentioned the variety of styles, with some notable examples being the very thrashy "Jet Pilot" inspired by one of their favorite bands, Slayer, "Science" which has a really awesome middle eastern sounding interlude, "Shimmy" has some prominent jazz influenced rock drumming, "X" is an intense song with a weird second half, and "Psycho" a funny song to the cocaine fueled groupies with a guitar solo! Yes. A melodic, powerful solo backed with sitar and other gentle instruments and a light drum beat. Amazingly moving piece. "Bounce" is another funny, weird song. Very weird.

I'll finish with my 3 favorite songs, starting with its most famous song "Chop Suey!" An acoustic guitar riff starts off, quickly backed by mandolin, clean electric guitar and a scattering drum beat before the heavy kicks in. Alternates between a staccato, distorted riff and a mellow, clean movement filled with strings. A nice thrashing leads to an extremely powerful ending, punctuated with keyboard. The songs famously cryptic lyrics have been attributed to suicide, the bible, child/domestic abuse. Maybe it's none of the above, or a little of it all. Very powerful, moving song.

'ATWA" is another powerful song, switching between quiet, mellow parts and beautiful harmonized singing with heavy, pounding sections and yelling. Moving piece of music, with a title alluding to the philosophy of Charles Manson: Air, Trees, Water, Animals dealing with the unity of all living things and ecosystems of Earth in a spiritual context. Could never figure out what the lyrics mean but I always thought it was either about man ruining the environment, nature watching us go on with our lives, or a different angle on Charles Manson. Still not very sure.

"Aerials" is my favorite on the album. A beautiful song, no other way to put it. Over 6 minutes long but the last half is actually one of those hidden songs, a tribal sounding Armenian folk song.

More varied than the bands debut album, though still unmistakably them, this is not only a classic of alt metal, but in all of metal. Released on the cusp of the scene's transition to metalcore, the album is a breath of fresh air to the dying alt metal scene, and in general. The band's blend of accessibility and experimentation, is a huge success. If you want to rock out to its epic heaviness or chill to its moving beauty, then go ahead. Just realize that musically, while this album is not about technical skill so much, it is a great display. The song writing, texture, melodies and subtlety can easily be lost.

Masterpiece. Five Stars







ALCHEMIST Jar of Kingdom

Album · 1993 · Death Metal
Cover art 2.67 | 5 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
The debut album from Aussie prog metal band Alchemist.

I say prog metal because while there is heaviness, intensity and growls o plenty, musically this is far outside anything in the realm of death metal. Death, Atheist, Cynic even Edge of Sanity never created such an out there product.

"Jar of Kingdom" is a blend of death metal influenced prog metal and psychedelia. There is also some very noticeable Eastern influence. It is an intriguing and ambitious effort that doesn't seem fully developed on this album. While I applaud the effort, (and am glad to know I'm not alone in thinking you can like extreme metal and Pink Floyd)it is just not fully "there" yet. The album is a bit inconsistent, and while Adam Agius' vocals aren't the worst by any means, I'm not really a fan. His shrill growls are actually a lot more energetic than the standard, but also can be as laughable at times. Not a turn off, but not the best.

Musically, the songs have very progressive structures that can range from blast beat death metal to spaced out, Pink Floyd style movements. The music can stop and start on a dime, usually with wild shifts in tempo and style. The guitar work features both heavy, death metal and psychedelic, trippy styles, often at the same time.

The guitar work and song structures are easily the strongest thing on this album, unique and unorthodox are the only ways to put it. As well as awesome. The drumming is fitting and more than servicable.

Just for a change of pace, songs like "Found" are mellow and feature female vocals, and "Whale" is an acoustic piece with some type of tribal drumming, xylophones (or synths) and the sounds of whales.

Some standout songs are "Abstraction" (with its relaxing and brutal movements and sweet psychedelic melodies) "Shell" featuring surprisingly nice melodies, and "Brumal-A View From Pluto" which has one of the best openings I've ever heard and is a particularly brutal and usual piece. I love the surf rock riff over blast beats and distorted mess of tremolo picking.

The finale "Worlds Within Worlds" is a true musical journey, which features some of the best melodies and writing on the album. While some other songs can suffer from a lack of cohesiveness, this one works perfectly for most of it, and is really one of the more unique things I've ever heard. Where else can you feel like relaxing in a Middle Eastern palace and headbanging in a doom metal show??

Very interesting album that makes me feel ashamed I never herd of this band until 2011. What Alchemist tried to do on this album is not easy, and indeed it sounds a bit chaotic at times. Not organized chaos though, more like 2 buses carrying a death metal and psychedelic rock band collided. Sometimes awkward but it also works and the musicianship and songwriting skills here are impressive.

Good, but not great, album that leaves you wanting a bit more.

Three Stars

40 WATT SUN The Inside Room

Album · 2011 · Doom Metal
Cover art 2.33 | 9 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
This is the kind of album I hate to review because it's really not a bad album in the slightest. However, it's not really my cup of tea and I always found it difficult to reconcile my personal opinion and how "good" the album itself actually is. I will give my personal review and let you decide for yourself!

"The Inside Room" is an intriguing album. It is funeral doom, which is just very very slow, doom metal. There are barely any traditional riffs to be found, the album is composed almost entirely of dirges. Heavy, droning chords that go on and on. It's really cool. Only issue is, it can get become a bit tiresome especially over the course of a whole album. I love the slow, heavy, droning thing but there is little variation to be found, (though there is some) and the songs don't even build to a powerful climax. Just keep droning on.

The guitar tone and style is pretty cool though, as the simple drumming pushes the songs forward with funeral pace. The song "Between Times" is shorter at 7 minutes and moves with the quickest pace (which is not very much so at all). I actually can slowly bob my head to that song.

The vocals were a surprise and perhaps the strongest part of this album. I was surprised, and thankful, to hear clean vocals. The crushing, slow music and soaring clean vocals are a nice blend and they are just plain good. Clean, understandable, and slow. They are a great vocal display. Also emotional, which is something I can appreciate in metal.

Maybe not to others, someone I encountered said this was a good album even though it's "emo metal" and all about "whiny relationship bulls**t". I guess, as usual I didn't even hear the lyrics, my ear tends to hear the vocals and tune out the words. I was more struck with the soaring, beautiful vocals than whatever he was saying.

A slow, heavy doom metal album with clean vocals. It's not for everyone and certainly doesn't make for good intent listening. Better for background or more casual listening. After so much repetition without really going anywhere I find it difficult to stay focused. Though I'd say I like the music, so I'm not really sure what to do with this. I'll give it a rating of 3 stars, but recommend you check this album out for yourself and decide!

RUSSIAN CIRCLES Empros

Album · 2011 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.92 | 13 ratings
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A throwback to their debut album.

Which also happens to be my favorite by them. The proceeding two Russian Circles albums are quite good, just different treading more into post rock territory, largely dropping their bass heavy, sludgy sound. This style however, makes a roaring comeback on "Empros".

I first popped this CD in and listened on the drive home from work, and it was so bassy I was afraid the car was going to fall apart! Rare time I had to turn the volume down, (maybe the first time out of fear, HA!). Seriously, that sludgy, bassy heaviness is back. In fact it may be their most bludgeoning album yet.

Before release the band claimed influence from legends Neurosis and Swans, so glad to see they delivered. However, this is Russian Circles and their beautiful melodies and mellow song writing are still very present, contrasted with the sonic pummelings, all perfectly woven together into atmospheric, progressive songs. Another post metal classic from the Chicago group.

The guitar and bass work is obviously great, and the drumming is great. Loud and intense. Like many "post" bands it is fairly straightforward yet appropriate, and powerful. It is more intense, however, than the standard post metal album. It is this more intense drumming that gave their debut that extra appeal compared to so many others for me.

Taking a page from the Book of Pelican, Russian Circles moves from instrumental island and throws some vocals on the final track. They are dreamy and drifting, what he's saying I have no idea, but the voice is another instrument filling in the space. We all know that's more the intent anyway, am I right?

"Empros" is a heavy, sludgy, post metal album that moves with its classic mid tempo pace through a slow crescendo. There is some great riffing, drumming and the songwriting is atmospheric and perfect. A bit less riff oriented then their debut, while I appreciate the ambiance the less variation holds the album back just a tad. Other than that, another good effort from Russian Circles.

Four Stars

MASTODON The Hunter

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.03 | 58 ratings
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A mix of old and new.

I will always be a die hard old school Mastodon fan, (Leviathan being one of the first metal albums I listened to) that over the top, mind shattering madness and, barely, organized chaos. I enjoy their later 2 albums, don't get me wrong, just not as much. The more progressive, streamlined, psychedelic and accessible style of sludge metal.

So I was pleasantly surprised upon my first listen of "The Hunter" to find it is a mix of old and new Mastodon. It's a bit of a throw back to crazy Mastodon, but still in the more streamlined style. It's psychedelic sludge metal, filled with a plethora of vocals, is still prominent. Indeed, the vocals range from clean singing to shrill screams, grungy singing and yelling. Dailor's drumming, though nothing like the fill laden, chaotic style I loved so much, touches upon said style at times. The guitar work is heavy, and runs the spectrum...covering everything from melodic to insanity.

"The Hunter" is also much hookier and overall accessible than anything Mastodon has previously done. For many progressive minded fans this may cause cringing, but fear not. Shorter, more to the point song writing is not a bad thing. Sometimes it's fine to just hang around town and not go on an epic journey. Besides, accessible is one thing but musically this is no pop album, technical skill abounds.

As noted by others, the album doesn't take itself too seriously either, always great to see some fun in metal, (or music in general) especially after the grandiose and powerful "Crack the Skye".

Oh, this has nothing to do with the music at all but sweet Jesus look at that album art! One of the best things I've seen in a while, it reflects the insane nature of the album and seems a bit silly almost, but I'm guessing that's the point. Also, it's pretty damn metal \m/

Another great album from Mastodon, "The Hunter" takes a bit of everything they've done and mix it up into one great meal, served in easy to handle dishes. I almost didn't hear it at first but there is some crazy guitar work going on, textured perfectly with more straightforward songwriting. Great vocal performance all around to boot. One of the top 10 metal albums for the year.

Four Stars

DRUDKH Пригорща зірок (Handful of Stars)

Album · 2010 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 16 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Drudkh, but with a more post influenced sound and cleaner guitar tone.

That is the simple review of this album. While the change in style was detectable on "Microcosmos" it really takes shape on "Handful of Stars". Much of the black metal is jettisoned and replaced with a much cleaner guitar sound, (there is still some distortion but not close to previous levels) and a more atmospheric, post rock structure, similar to Alcest. Some double bass thrashing and blast beats exist, and strictly harsh vocals, but that's about it. Obviously, the production is much improved, letting you hear every drum hit perfectly, and even bass!

This album has dense, drifty, subtlely changing walls of sound, subdued segments, and some great melodies. Even a guitar solo or two! All pushed forward with simple, yet effective drumming and topped off with gruff screams. They are not the most abrasive thing however, and work with the music.

Always glad to see a band change it up, (especially one from the dark depths of black metal) and this a great output from the obscure Ukrainian metal masters of Drudkh. Great songwriting that is truly moving, and ranging from hypnotic to powerful. Atmospheric metal.

Four Stars

PAIN OF SALVATION Road Salt One

Album · 2010 · Non-Metal
Cover art 2.99 | 45 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
A blues influenced, jam oriented rock album with a raw, "vintage" sound. What's not to like?

Well at first listen, a lot. Such a cool idea, and admittedly a cool sounding album, but was just...not that good. Though if there's one thing I've learned from post-Remedy Lane PoS, it's that patience is key. Sure enough, with time and listens this album grew on me, (though the seeds were already there) and while it's certainly not as strong as their "classic" albums, or even their previous 2...it is a decent album.

I gave kudos to PoS for changing it up and doing what they want. While different, "BE" was a dense, pretentious prog rock album and "Scarsick" was prog metal..."Road Salt One" however is something that truly flies in the face of PoS fans. As mentioned, this is a blues rock album, with little prog, (and less metal) to be found, and the band even took an unpolished, raw sound to make it feel vintage. If this sounds out of your league best avoid RS1 entirely. I like it personally. Like any radical change it did take some getting used to, and outside the feel I really didn't like the music much.

While it's much "simpler" as in there's less complex, progressive songs...replaced with more direct, "stripped down" ones it is challenging instead that it's a subtle album, (much like Scarsick). Not to mention a challenge to prog/metal fans! The music can at times be a bit repetitive and drab, but generally it gradually moves...building to powerful climaxes. The writing is subtle and keyboards are more prominent than previous albums, even if its often gentle.

As always, the music takes a back seat to Gildenlöw's vocals, whose powerful, emotional singing truly dominates this album, ranging from soft cries to powerful wails and loaded with the emotion and nuance that needs no explanation to any PoS fan. His singing really carries the album, though of course the music is not to be forgotten about.

More of an "album experience" rather than individual songs, though some do standout like the powerful opener "No Way". This is followed by the good "She Likes to Hide" and the more mellow "Sisters" which is not a bad song but one of the weaker. "Of Dust" is a choir segue which brings us to the middle of RS1 which is absolutely the strongest part.

"Tell Me You Don't Know" is a real cool, blues heavy song and the next 3 are more progressive songs, punctuated by "Sleeping Under the Stars" and "Linoleum" two awesome songs and the latter being my favorite on the album.

"Sleeping Under the Stars" has a circus type jig and gets kind of weird in the middle, in a great way, and has some humor, best seen in the line "Wait darling wait, you're the sh*t as they say in...where they say at...wherever they say that" ha! While "Linoleum" is just a damn awesome, heavy, proggy rock song.

"Curiosity" is another progressive song, notably more up beat while "Where it Hurts" is another mellow one that peaks and valleys. "Road Salt" is a vocal driven, light keyboard song before the finale "Innocence". A 7 minute song that is like a wrap up of the album, progressing through light, psychedelic sections and loud, heavy sections.

So, overall this is a good album. Certainly takes some getting used to and patience, but is worth it. Musically not the mot technical and complex thing made, even by the band, but instead it focuses on subtle songwriting and compositions that rise and fall, taking us on an emotional rollercoaster. The raw, blues rock sound is really cool and Gildenlöw's singing is, as always, some of the best. It fits the feel of this album even more than ever, and shows why he is one of the top vocalists out there. Some parts drag and are a bit drab, and isn't an anytime listen but a good album nonetheless, and I applaud PoS for doing what they want and challenging the fans.

Three Stars

TOOL 10,000 Days

Album · 2006 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 72 ratings
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1,813 days in the making

Or about 5 years, in typical Tool fashion.

Time to eat some crow: At first, I didn't like this album and said stuff like "This sounds like Tool minus all the good" and it felt "10,000 days long", but I was 17 years old then. Years later, I listened again and really loved it. "10,000 Days" is Tool beyond question, it has the heavy guitars, prominent bass, trance like drumming and creative lyrics we expect from Tool, yet is a bit different from previous albums.

It's much less aggressive, both musically and vocally. There is not a harsh vocal to be found here. The post-rock/metal style touched upon with "Aenima" and "Lateralus" is really evident on this album. Atmospheric songs that gradually build to powerful climaxes, this is a very introspective album. It takes a bit of patience.

No surprise about this, as the foundation for the album is the 27 years, about 10,000 days, that Maynard had to watch his mother struggle through before passing on in 2003. Heavy, somber stuff for sure. There is a 17 minute, 2 piece movement dedicated to this, "Wings for Marie, Pt. 1" and "10,000 days (Wings, Pt. 2)" both of which build to powerful, emotional crescendos. Beautiful, moving music here.

Another 2 piece movement comes later on, "Lost Keys (Blame Hoffman) which must be a reference to LSD creator Albert Hoffman, and "Rosetta Stoned". The first part is a cool, spaced out song where a nurse and doctor talk about a mysterious patient with no physical trauma. Ends with the doctor saying "What's happened? Tell me everything" and we jump into "Rosetta Stoned" which tells us everything.

Maynard speaks quickly and some effect is used on his voice, so I had to look up the lyrics to understand most of it. When I did, a wild story unfolded about some guy tripping on Ecstasy and DMT outside Area 51 who is told by an alien he is the chosen one, who must spread the message to everyone. Too bad he forgot his pen. Fearing he's gone insane and was dying, (much like Hoffman's experiment with LSD) this is probably why he stumbled into the hospital with no ID and physically fine. Another lengthy post influenced song that takes some patience but is oh so rewarding.

The other songs are the rocking "Vicarious" about our obsession with seeing death and tragedy, long as it's not first hand. "Jambi" is a cool song with an awesome talk box guitar solo, "The Pot" is perhaps the weakest song, but still a good one for sure. "Intension" is a real mellow song in the same building style, though for a change of pace reaches a cool, trippy and melodic peak instead of a heavy intense one.

"Right in Two" is one of my favorite Tool songs, with truly great lyrics about how angels must look at us talking monkeys with bewilderment at how we use our gifts to kill each other over "pieces of the ground" and not realize that "Eden has enough to go around". Song has a beautiful tabla solo from Carey and ends on the album on a great note.

At least for me since I have removed the finale "Viginti Tres" from my computer. It's 5 minutes of noise, seriously. What an odd way to end an album, until you remember this is Tool so it's probably intended to be played with another song...my guess was "Wings for Marie, Pt. 1". This sync up was on youtube and it did work really well! Apparently, the true intention is to sync up Wings for Marie, 10,000 days and Viginti Tres all at once. After looking this up on youtube it really did work amazingly well, and kudos to these people but I simply don't have the care to do so.

Thankfully, Tool cut back on the deliberate filler here. "Lipan Conjuring" isn't bad actually, but just useless. Unless it's supposed to sync with another song which could be the case...if someone cares enough to find out let me know.

So, a more subdued, patient and psychedelic Tool album "10,000 Days" is another fine output. As usual the songs are all good and the purposely made filler/pretentious wankery is a bit of a buzzkill but that's Tool for you, and the music is top notch. Relaxing and powerful, humorous and deep this is another great album from Tool.

Four Stars

BLACK SABBATH Vol 4

Album · 1972 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 110 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
After releasing 3 albums in a year and half, as well as extensive touring and drug use, Black Sabbath was starting to break down and this was manifested in the music.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fine album (and could've been better as I'll explain) but it sounds unfocused and just simply isn't as strong as their previous 3 albums.

The classic Sabbath sound is still present: sludgy, stoned out guitars, playing at mid tempo, but there are also some departures. The song "Changes" is an entirely piano and mellotron ballad. It's not really a bad song, but it doesn't do anything for me either. The is followed by "FX" some weird, space rock type noisy segue. I actually don't mind it, but again really doesn't do much for the album.

"Laguna Sunrise" is a warm, acoustic instrumental that is actually quite nice and does make for a good segue. I always give a band kudos for at least experimenting, even if some don't work out, but there is a larger problem with this album: the production.

It just sounds weak. The guitars are thin, the bass lacks that Sabbath punch, the drums have no power. Even Ozzy's wail is lackluster. You hear the music and that's just it...where's the bludgeoning!? This album lacks power, and the sound does detract a bit from the music. Most likely due to the fact Sabbath spent half the budget on drugs.

On top of that, the band sounds a bit uninspired. Songs like "Tomorrows Dream" and "Snowblind" are largely boring and some of the songwriting is just bland. It's not all bad though.

The opener "Wheels of Confusion" is awesome, starts with a crying bluesy guitar intro, followed by great riffing and a bit of a progressive song structure. Mellotron in the background adds some extra texture. Great song, with a really great second half complete with wild solos.

"Supernaut" is packed with more sweet riffs and solos, and a pretty cool percussion break in the middle. "Cornucopia" is a pretty good song with some nice sections but also drifts a bit at times, while "St. Vitus Dance" is a short but sweet song with a more upbeat guitar melody and feel.

This is contrasted with the finale "Under the Sun" a true doom metal dirge that does pick up at times, and with an interesting song structure, awesome song.

Volume 4 is a good album that suffers from poor production and some mundane songwriting. A more powerful sound quality really would help tons, the thin guitars especially kill. Decent album nonetheless.

Three and a Half Stars

BLACK SABBATH Master Of Reality

Album · 1971 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.39 | 154 ratings
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After releasing 2 epic albums, (including the genre defining "Paranoid") the fathers of metal release their third, "Master of Reality"

Here Black Sabbath don't add anything to their sound, in fact they just reinforced it. Tony Iommi who hurt his fingers long before detuned his guitar to relieve the tension, the result was an incredibly heavy sound unlike even the Sabbath albums previously. Bassist Geezer Butler followed suit.

Musically, "Master of Reality" is what we expect of early Sabbath: Heavy, mid tempo songs, bluesy guitar solos, complete with punchy bass and Ward's powerful drumming. Ozzy's powerful wail tops it all off.

There are some breaks: the almost classical sounding "Embryo", the acoustic ballad "Orchid" both of which are segues, and the full length song "Solitude". They are all nice, and "Solitude" is really a great song. Quiet, peaceful, and relaxing...filled with light guitar, flute, piano, and soft vocals. A nice change of pace and outright great song.

This is followed by the riff-tastic "Into the Void" which brings up a point that really doesn't even need to be mentioned, the riffing. While a true band effort, this album, (like any good metal album) is based on the riffs. Iommi's classic heavy metal riffing defines the album, some which are the best you'll hear.

Lyrically, things stay in the same general area, though note: "Sweat Leaf" is a powerful heavy metal love song about the plant that was obviously near the hearts of the band, while "After Forever" is actually Christian song, of sorts...posing various questions and portraying it in a way that is not in your face, and actually a bit ponderous. A nod to Butler's faith but perhaps also to help shake the notion of Sabbath being satanists.

"Children of the Grave" is another song about war, though unlike many metal bands of later, it's an anti-war piece. While "War Pigs" was more focused on politicians and those responsible, "Children of the Grave" is a bit more "hippieish".

"So Children of the world, listen to what I say, if you want a better place to live in spread the words today. Show the world that love is still alive you must be brave, or you children of today are children of the grave." OK, ends on a dark note but can't you see some long hairs with acoustics gently singing that? I can, except it's Ozzy and over a chugging riff!

An absolutely classic heavy metal album, this has it all. Awesome riffs, solos, powerful vocals, great songs. Not much else to say. Even for the band "Master of Reality" has a very heavy, sludgy, stoned sound, built around slow to mid tempo songs, which has influenced countless bands: Of course every heavy metal band, especially doom and sludge metal, stoner rock and even grunge. A truly important album that is as good as its legacy is huge.

Five Stars

OPETH Heritage

Album · 2011 · Metal Related
Cover art 3.49 | 92 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Perhaps Opeth's most controversial album yet.

There was a lot of talk about it before we even got a listen, how it was going to suck, how could Opeth just rip off 70's prog rock, how it was going to be either a totally mellow album or jazz fusion (something I'd like to see)! Sure enough upon its release there was plenty of criticism thrown at it, either due to the lack of growls and death metal, that you might as well just listen to 70's prog, that it's aimless and incoherent and even that you shouldn't bother because Opeth has been a "hipster band" ever since after Still Life.

I only say all this because it pains me to see that one of my all time favorite bands has gotten to a point where so many seem to have stopped really listening/look to find reasons to hate it... but onto the review.

"Heritage" is the superior clean Opeth album,(and I really like "Damnation"). If you need growls and death metal heaviness, well you won't find it here. However, this is NOT a Damnation 2, it's quite different from it actually. There is still heaviness, in a 70's way, and sometimes even outright (though never death metal levels). There is even double bass drumming and lots of rocking out.

Musically, Opeth has done it again, with great guitar work from all over the map. The keyboard/mellotron is quite prominent as is the bass, (usually not high in the Opeth mix). Mendez can really be heard on pretty much every song. Also the drumming is quite good. Axenrot had a tough seat to fill replacing the awesome Martin Lopez, but his work on Watershed was just too straightforward. He is much improved here, with flavorful jazzy tinged drumming and there are quite a few drum breaks, like Akerfeldt made a point to defend and showcase him.

I personally don't find the music aimless and incoherent. With all songs under 9 minutes, and 8 of them under 7 minutes, I'd think they'd be a bit more direct actually. Opeth fans are used to the clean/heavy/clean/heavy format, which has been abandoned on "Heritage" and instead the songs are more genuinely progressive.

I'm glad, because while unique and successful, by the time "Watershed" came around the band could use a change of pace. Some songs do indeed sound drifty, but I like that. I guess if you crave structure and obviously crafted songs you may feel a bit lost, but the driftyness is relaxing and often beautiful. Also, be certain that all these songs are definitely composed and move somewhere.

I'll admit, on first listen "Heritage" can be sound a bit underwhelming, especially with it's pretty prominent use of silence at times, but there is a lot going on. Not only are the songs more progressive, they are pretty textured. The song structures are good, with great melodies, rhythms and sections, and shorter lengths actually allow it to get to the point a bit quicker and not ramble.

So, "Heritage" is still Opeth but just a bit cleaner and lighter, but with songwriting just as strong. There is no weak song, but some standouts are the awesome and progressive "I feel the Dark" and the rocking "The Lines in My Hand". There is good variation as "Slither" is more up tempo while "Nepenthe" is quite mellow. The album starts with the piano ballad title track, and ends with the light, acoustic guitar ballad of "Marrow of the Earth" (which unless in name only, does not appear to be a tribute to Agalloch).

A different, but strong output by Opeth. Fans of the band, I urge you to listen with an open mind and keep any talk/rumors out while you form an opinion, and do give it some time. Most fans of Opeth should be pleased. Now if they would just make a jazz rock album my dreams would truly be granted.

Four Stars

MINSK The Ritual Fires of Abandonment

Album · 2007 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 6 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Noisy, psychedelic post metal

It took a few listens for this album to grow on me, but what a great experience when it finally did. Atmospheric, sometimes lengthy, songs that often start light and melodic, building to a sonic pummeling and filled with layered synths, tribal drumming and droning, echoing vocals.

Minsk obviously worships at the church of Neurosis, and the influence is quite evident. The building, atmospheric songs, extremely sludgey guitars, strained singing (though sometimes clean)but there is some more to it. There is heavy use of synths and not just some filler, but very prominent in the songs, often layered. The vocals have an echo on them and are layered as well at times, this all gives the album a very dense, bludgeoning feel. However, it also adds a psychedelic feel that I havn't personally seen in any other post metal band. The tribal drumming, echoing vocals and occasional "trippy" guitar also add to the feel.

Oh, there's also some saxophone for a nice bonus, (courtesy of Bruce Lemont from Yakuza).

The album is 59 minutes long and composed of 6 songs, 3 over 13 minutes in length, the others under 6 minutes (acting as nice transitions between the epics). The long songs rise and fall over their journeys in true post metal fashion. The end of the 15 and a half minute "Ceremony Ek Stasis" is a doom metal dirge, but damn it made me rock so hard that my shirt was saturated from sweat.

This album is heavy, dense, crushing yet also hypnotic. Let it sink in and drift through its trippy, powerful and emotional songs.

Four Stars

BLIND GUARDIAN At The Edge Of Time

Album · 2010 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.99 | 42 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Blind Guardian's best album yet!

"At the Edge of Time" is not only the best album created by the band, it's a really great album on its own. It was one of my top 10 metal albums for 2010, and was even knocking on the door of top 5. While I like Blind Guardian better than most other power metal bands, they suffer from the biggest problem of the genre: sameyness. The music speeds forward, every song shredding along unrelentingly with lightning riffs and solos and double bass drumming. It can get quite dull after a while.

However, Blind Guardian really put out a different album this time! The music is very progressive and melodic, still with plenty of speed and melodies and songwriting to die for.

Just to clarify, while I do love progressive music, (and that trait usually is a notch up in my book) it's not just because it is so, but generally because it's more interesting. This is exactly the case here, every song sounds different, lots of variation and progressive songs that keep it fresh and interesting. Blazing musicianship is still abundant, tempered with great songwriting, and packed with awesome sections of music. There's no other way to put it, the music is well composed, epic and just really damn good.

One area where Blind Guardian always stood out was at vocals. While most power metal singers live at a high pitched wail that can become too much, Hansi displays great variation and a gruff, hard edged tone. He can of course nail the soaring high notes and the German accent is just wonderful. On this album Hansi's vocals are brilliant yet again.

So with "At the Edge of Time" we see a new Blind Guardian, a more progressive one, loaded with melodies, musicianship and songwriting that are just stellar. Capped off with a great vocal showcase from one of the better singers in metal. All the songs are quite good and there's no real weak one. Two standouts are "Curse my Name" an epic folky tune and "Wheel of Time" a truly awesome song that has some middle eastern sounds and just about everything I've mentioned about this album, woven into a brilliant 9 minute song.

Great Album

Four Stars

SLIPKNOT Mate. Feed. Kill. Repeat.

Album · 1996 · Alternative Metal
Cover art 3.91 | 14 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Slipknot's forgotten, and disowned, debut album

I'm not too surprised, most fans of Slipknot would wonder what the hell was wrong with the band, and the band has since changed their opinion of M.F.K.R. from their debut to a "demo". It's a shame because I was extremely surprised when I first heard this album, in a good way!

Heavy, (often very) guitar and harsh vocals are still abundant, but many of the songs feature very unorthodox, often progressive song structures, with some incorporating jazz, funk, slap bass and even happy tropical sounding stuff with various vocal styles ranging from growls to rapping, clean and strained singing. What??

There are guitar solos and melodic songwriting. Slipknot fanboys usually flood every drummer youtube video with comments about how they suck and Joey Jordison is the man, much to my chagrin. While it's not mind blowing, I was a bit surprised by Joey's drumming on this album. Usually nothing but speed, with a random feel to it, the drumming here is a pretty decent output.

"Slipknot" is an extended with a long noisy intro that builds, until the bulk of the song kicks in with lots of slow heavy riffing and harsh vocals. It's not too bad and middle section features a solo and some nice melodies.

"Gently" has a very nice melodic intro, followed by peaks and valleys of chugging riffs and slow melodies. The song has an unusual structure and a powerful ending. Drums have a tribal sound and his vocals are pretty good all around.

"Do Nothing/Bitchslap" has a slap bass intro, ironic (or maybe not)followed by death metal guitaring, jazzy interludes, a very long funky disco section, good drumming and vocals, and some impressive bass playing.

"Only One" is more a "typical" Slipknot song and while largely heavy pounding metal it still has some varied styles. "Tattered & Torn" is a bassy, noisy song that gradually builds to a powerful, pummeling climax.

"Confessions" is largely devoid of any metal, mainly jazz influenced with warm, clean guitar tones and a rapping/grunge singing style that has great flow. Impressive playing by Jordison and especially Paul Gray on bass, with an impressive guitar solo thrown in and an awesome final minute and a half.

"Some Feel" throws us back to a heavy, alt/nu metal style. Not a bad song, when sprinkled in with an album like this. The album ends with "Killers are Quiet" a 20 minute song (including the hidden song "Dogfish Rising"). Still, an almost 11 minute song from Slipknot? Indeed, and it starts with very quiet and slowly builds and builds before easing back down and launching back into a metal dirge. Though not for too long and the song ends with a pretty lengthy quiet section, featuring pounding tribal drums and sparse bass notes, punctuated with occasional bursts of percussion. Holy sh*t was Slipknot taking a page from the book of Neurosis???

The final/hidden song (whatever you want to call it) "Dogfish Rising" is an industrial rock type song, very experimental, going on for 9 minutes with loud industrial noises, distant and distorted guitar with very unusual, often layered, vocals and surreal lyrics, more like ramblings.

So is this is the same Slipknot we now know? Yes, same band and except for a few differences it's largely the same members! Very unknown album and largely abandoned by the band, this is an intriguing and pretty good debut album. Shame they took the nu metal route instead of staying with this progressive influenced alt metal style, maybe they would've gone on to be the only other band to rival System of a Down as the popular metal band of the 2000's with talent and taste.

Three and a Half Stars



SLAYER God Hates Us All

Album · 2001 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 2.32 | 43 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
The low point in Slayer's career

Like some of their fellow thrash metal kings, Slayer fell into a major slump during the 90's and early 2000's, and had to hit rock bottom before recovering. The easiest way to describe this album: It is everything Slayer has done badly, with very little of what they've done right.

The band's exploration into nu metal continues, with even lower tunings and general weirdness. Not in a good weird way, just that weird nu metal feel that makes you kind of sick. However, they also pound out some high motor thrash, and it's an awkward combo. The album just feels like a mess. Unlike it's balanced predecessor, "God Hates Us All" uses too much from both sides.

The music doesn't really work and the sound quality makes it worse. It's just bad quality, it sounds sloppy and downright painful. The whole album sounds very loud, (yes metal can be too loud) its unrelentingly loud and messy. Tom's voice is horrid and hurts to listen to, actually hurts.

Lyrics were never Slayer's strong suit and I really don't care about them, but I am compelled to point out even for Slayer these are some poor lyrics. I also feel lyrics can be a gauge for a band's environment and internal workings, so it should be no surprise in this weak period of Slayer we get "God Hates Us All", "I keep the bible in a pool of blood so that none of its lies can affect me", enough profanity to make a sailor blush and frankly, an overall tone that sounds like it was written by a rebellious 14 year old. The album cover of a bible with "Slayer" burnt into it, nailed shut and covered in blood doesn't help either, though King also complained about it so I hold some faith the label helped make this album so ridiculous.

There are of course some good riffs, cool sections, awesome drumming from Paul Bostaph and I do like the song "Warzone" though that's about it. A train wreck of an album all around.

One Star

NEUROSIS The Word as Law

Album · 1990 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 3.51 | 7 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Neurosis in transition

Far more familiar with their later stuff I was quite surprised upon my first listen to "The Word as Law". At first it sounded like nothing more than your typical crossover thrash album of the period. Maybe because that's pretty much what it is, but for Neurosis specifically this marks a transition from their original hardcore roots to their slow, sludgy metal to come. Of course they are not the first hardcore band to go slow, idols of the band, Melvins, did so before them as did Black Flag even earlier. That being said, in 1990 this may have not been much but looking back in time it's obvious this was a stepping stone for the band.

Also, it's not a bad album at all. May be quite atypical compared to the band's later material but I like thrash, I like punk. What's not to like about crossover? This is a fun album, not very challenging and good to rock out with. Sometimes, you are just in the mood for that over thinking about the music! Although even this is a bit different from the run of the mill crossover album. Alternating between slower sections and quick thrashy ones, with lots of punk riffing and prominent bass. However, it's actually a lot more moderate than most crossover. Instead of abrupt transitions between slow and crazy fast, the thrash here isn't too extreme. Really, it's a pretty mid tempo album with some variations in speed throughout.

Still, quicker than anything you'd expect from Neurosis, even with a solo or two thrown in and different vocals. Here there is a more yelling, punk style opposed to their later strained, sludge style. I prefer the vocals here to be honest, and also fits the quicker punk influenced music.

Not technical or mindblowing, and not brooding, atmospheric and challenging this is a fun album from old school Neurosis. Walking the middle between the two extremes of crossover thrash, their is some much slower, even building, music here especially the last song...indicating the future road the band would take.

Good Album

Three Stars

NEVERMORE Dead Heart in a Dead World

Album · 2000 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 20 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Nevermore's second best album

"Dead Heart in a Dead World" is another great output by the Seattle prog metal band. A tad overlooked/underrated by Nevermore fans I was never sure why until many listens, when I realized while absolutely Nevermore style, it is a bit different from most of their work. It has all we want from them but is overall a bit less intense, more progressive, and melodic than a lot of their discog. Their progressive songs do have the heavy tremolo riffing, shred solos and thrashiness Nevermore fans crave, but not to much. This is in stark contrast to their upcoming album which is a flat out face melting speed fest.

The album starts out with "Narcosynthesis" which is a fairly standard but pretty decent Nevermore song. "We Disintegrate" is a slower, heavy song with some wonderful harmonies. "Inside Four Walls" is a high point of the album.

A mid tempo, thrashy song about the US government and injustice of the prison system, specifically drug law. About "a friend" who was "taken away" the song has some of my favorite lyrics by the band with lines such as: "Can anyone tell me why violent crime means far less time?" the chorus "Inside four walls my friend, they took away your freedom, and the pigs still preach their lies" and an interlude bluntly stating that drug offenders in the US serve more time than rapists, child molesters and murderers, asking is this American way? Ends on a powerful note, with Dane yelling out "they took away your freedom, but they'll never take your mind!"

"Evolution 169" is a very slow, melodic song and a nice change of pace. "The River Dragon has Come" is perhaps my favorite on the album, a progressive song with some awesome writing, it's packed with great riffs, powerful solos, lots of variation and a great structure. Another powerful ending, going with the highest wails I've heard Dane reach! Awesome song.

"The Heart Collecter" is another slow, heavy song that is packed with emotion, very moving song. Followed by the speed laden "Engines of Hate" and an intriguing cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" which is the most intense song on the album. "Insignificant" is another slower song which leads to the powerful "Believe in Nothing" featuring some normal singing, soaring vocals and a scathing critique of religion, but done in that tasteful Nevermore way, with great lyrics that elude so many metal bands.

The album ends with the title song, a haunting yet beautiful guitar melody, static and chilling lyrics burst into an awesome and crazy song. Not much more can be said, this is perhaps the bands most balanced album. Featuring some of it all: epic riffing, mind blowing guitar solos and power metal movement but also lots of slower stuff and some of the most powerful and emotional music the band has written. There's no bad song though "We Disintegrate" is probably the weakest, while "The River Dragon has Come", "The Sound of Silence" and "Believe in Nothing" are the standouts.

Great Album Four and a Half Stars

SLAYER Divine Intervention

Album · 1994 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.40 | 51 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Slayer being Slayer

Is the best way to sum up this album. After 2 intriguing releases, Slayer backslides with this one. Back to no frills, straightforward thrash. This is great for most fans, but not so much myself. It is, however, a wise and probably conscious move. By this point thrash was extinct, replaced by the alt metal scene. Slayer responds by going back to the glory days, giving a finger to the new wave instead of embracing it like Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax.

This is not a bad album at all, it is competent and solid thrash metal. Indeed, most fans of Slayer enjoy it and I understand why. Personally, it's just a little bland and uninspired. My biggest beef with it though is the production. Ironic since usually production doesn't mean much to me, but this album is one where the production kills. The guitars are very thin, they lack any punch. The drums have no power, (and the bass drums are weak thuds) and the vocals are just painful. They just sound bad, no other way to put it, bad.

This issue is not mine alone, as Kerry King, Tom Araya and Paul Bostaph have all voiced displeasure with the production with this album.

Very poor production, and the lackluster songwriting couldn't be helped by the entrance of Bostaph. His work with the more melodic and progressive thrash metal band Forbidden meant nothing here. In fact he worked on speed and endurance to sounds more like Dave Lombardo. The drumming is not very exciting but still a bit more than Dave's style.

It's not completely hopeless, I do like the song "Killing Fields" which is probably the best on the album. More rhythm then the rest of the album is just really awesome. I can even tolerate the trash sounding solos and horrid vocals. Some other good songs are "Sex. Murder. Art.", "Circle of Beliefs", "SS-3" and "213". The last song being Slayer's first love song, but not exactly as expected... its told from the eyes of murderer/necrophiliac/cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer.

A solid, straightforward thrash album that should please most fans of Slayer. I'm a bit underwhelmed by it's uninspired formula and really turned off by the terrible production. It's weak, and when not...it's painful. If this album was remastered I would enjoy it more.

Two Stars



SLAYER Diabolus in Musica

Album · 1998 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.12 | 43 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
"As experimental as Slayer got"

These are the words drummer Paul Bostaph used to describe the album. Now don't get to excited, or worried, for Slayer "experimental" isn't anything earth shattering...but for them this album is a pretty stark departure. This is why I like it best from their "dark ages" period.

Whether the band was just tired of relentlessly thrashing, or trying to cash in on the alt metal scene, "Diabolus in Musica" incorporates nu and groove metal influence. Featuring lots of heavy, (drop D) and more simplified riffing, vocal effects and "weird" guitar solos it also has lots of mid tempo, groovy riffs backed up by complimentary drumming. There is still thrash on this album, and crazy soloing, but overall it's pretty mid tempo and even the thrashy parts aren't generally as intense as usual. Heavy groove influence a la Pantera. While hardcore Slayer/thrash fans may disappointed, and I originally was, this album is a welcome change for the band and isn't too bad an album. Also, the sound quality is great. A vast improvement from the thin and horrible quality of "Divine Intervention" you can hear every note and drum hit perfectly. Even some bass!

"Bitter Peace" starts with some churning riffs and cool drumming, makes you slowly bob your head before a bassy interlude builds to some old school Slayer thrashing, tremolo picking, wild solos and double bass abound. Awesome song. "Death's Head" takes a lot of flak from fans, but I love it. A continual, churny riff and groovy off tempo drumming(!) is spaced with slower, fill heavy sections, crushing rhythms, a tremolo effect, and bass segues. Lots of variation, very cool. THIS is experimental Slayer, and it works.

"Stain of Mind" has more spidery and simple riffing, the main one is really just single note picking, with more groove drumming. Not a band song, varied enough and builds to a pretty powerful climax. "Overt Enemy" has a bassy and sample intro, really building into a doom metal type lumbering, I like it and there's really good drumming. Some points have double giving it an intense feel, cool guitar solo/rhythm parts and it all builds to a groovy thrash. More building? Yes, it appears Slayer can write songs more than just brutal thrashing! Only knock are the "effect vocals" which are annoying.

"Perversion of Pain" is a thrashier song with some of the best drumming on the album, and some parts are the most intense on the album. Vocals a little annoying, but not bad. After a good start things start to fall off with "Love to Hate" which isn't so bad, but boring. Drudges along, though it's short and some decent solos and a surprise keep it going well enough. Same can be said for "Desire" it's not bad, but a tad boring and Tom's vocals really hurt though some mid tempo thrash and pounding rhythms, also an unusual intro to kick it off.

"In the Name of God" picks things up a bit, another varied song with some thrash. The noise solos are a bit annoying. "Scrum" picks up even more. Pounding song with lots of classic Slayer thrash. "Screaming from the Sky" is a low point, very dull and uninspired by this point. Heavy effect vocals for lots of it make it almost un-listenable. "Point" kicks off strong and is packed with lots of thrash, solos, epic drumming and some breaks to keep it fresh. Great end to album.

Slayer's foray into groove metal isn't a bad outing. Much less thrash and mile a minute riffing, replaced with rhythm and groove, which is not a bad thing. Sure, much of the riffing is samey and unimpressive but technicality is not king here, and it's OK because a lot of it just sounds good and will make you groove. It's not all midtempo, and thrash is prevalent enough and well placed.

I've mentioned the drumming a lot because it's awesome, and really holds this work together. It adds the feel that is critical to this album, always fits and has bursts of madness. Paul Bostaph will never get the credit he deserves since he is not Dave Lombardo, shame because he is leagues better than Dave. Bigger shame his work was on the band's worst albums. It's great though and much like Vinnie Paul of Pantera, is what makes this album. Also like Pantera, Tom's vocals, which are a near constant top volume scream, help push the album though it can be a bit much at times, also the vocal effects were a mistake.

Underrated and relieving experiment from Slayer.

Three Stars

HANZEL UND GRETYL Über Alles

Album · 2003 · Industrial Metal
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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The Angry Scotsman
Wagnerian Space Metal Opera at its finest

WHAT!?

That is what the CD had itself labeled as. This is the type of quality music you can only find in the used bin of a random store in South-Central Pennsylvania! So what have we got here?

This is an industrial metal album to the core. Repetitive songs with crushing guitar riffs, synths, powerful and straightforward programmed drumming, use of samples and harsh vocals. This is pretty much it, don't expect much else, (with some exception).

Thankfully, the songs are pretty short, so while it may not be very good, and can be boring...it doesn't last too long. Some of the riffs are damn catchy, as well as the melodies produced, (this is some fairly dense music). Vocals are generally screamed, sometimes lower register singing and spoken word. The lyrics are simple, short lines generally repeated over the song. All of it in fairly poor German accent and pronunciation.

It needs to be noted this album is a joke, literally. It starts off big with the song "Third Reich From the Sun" which took me a bit to realize the gag in that name...and is made better with the main verse: "Third Reich, from the Sun! Revolution!" and "Das ist mein Krieg, Das ist mein Blut, Das ist mein Reich!" (This is my war, this is my blood, this is my empire) and add a...German rally speech into the mix.

OK, for humor even this is tough to swallow. Made worse by the fact the song is somewhat catchy. Another winner is "SS Deathstar Supergalactik" which is as catchy as it is painfully titled. It's awesome riffing and dancy drumming really make me want to dance around. Some electronic punches are a cool lil touch. Thank goodness, makes it easier to block out "Deathstar Universe. Join the fight. Blitzkrieg galaxy" if you choose to.

They are good at making you rock and groove out to the more ridiculous songs, more examples being "Transplutonian Annihilation" and "Let the Planets Burn". "Mein Kommandant" is a pretty groovy and trippy song, with sitar, groovy bass and a pretty spaced out feel.

I really don't know what to do with this one. Pretty generic industrial metal, which by its very nature is lackluster and bland...though this album can be undeniably catchy and some songs are pretty good. At first the lyrics are horrifying, both for their content and surrealism, but quite obviously the concept is for kicks. Not sure what the concept is, I think a futuristic outer space WWII for the galaxy?? I hope the laughably poor German accent is part of it. This is self parody, campy metal in its most grandiose!

A stupid fun album (emphasis on both) that if you take purely as is, may provide some enjoyment...if not for its catchy rocking out at least some awkward laughs?

Two Stars



EDGE OF SANITY Cryptic

Album · 1997 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 2.61 | 14 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
Swano may be gone, but his influence couldn't be removed!

The thought of EoS without Swano just seems wrong, and for hardcore fans is probably blasphemy, but this really isn't too bad an album and I'd say his time left a mark on the rest of the band.

I will grant this is not quite up to the standard of other EoS albums, and the songwriting may take a bit of a hit but when compared to death metal overall, "Cryptic" is still fairly atypical! I would also dare to say it's not very far removed from earlier EoS material.

The loss of Swano vocally is not an issue, while he was great Robert Karlsson does an excellent job and I really like his vocals. As for the music, "Cryptic" started just as I feared...with straight up blast beat death metal. Expecting this for the next 34 minutes, I was floored with what I heard next! A slow, kind of trippy section. Followed by a mid tempo groovy melody and a soulful and emotional guitar solo.

The intro "Hell Written" is an awesome song, and had me wondering what was next after that pleasant surprise. "Uncontoll Me" starts with a melodic and groovy rhythm that continues along, mid tempo, for a while. Sweet riffing with some awesome breakdowns which builds to a thrashy section, and another melodic solo. Another cool song and has a real sense of movement!

"No Destiny" is not really death metal, more a melothrash song, punctuated with a classic melodic rhythm and some slower, groovy breaks. Another winner. "Demon I" continues in this fashion, ripe with good riffing and drumming. "Not of this World" is another melothrash song with varied speeds and groove.

"Dead I Walk" is of the same fashion, decent song. "Born, Breed, Bleeding" is more intense than the rest, bordering on black metal speed at times, but still alternated with different sections, making those blast beats really intense feeling.

The album ends with "Bleed You Dry" another mid tempo song with some good, sometimes intriging, riffing. Varied tempos and feels, Larsson's tasteful drumming, (never over the top, sometimes powerful and always fitting) and less intense vocals. The growls are mixed up with "talking" vocals. Goes out with another somewhat rare EoS guitar solo and fades away.

So that's what we have. A largely mid paced album that really doesn't dive into death metal very often, (a third of the album I'd say)and is laden with melodic, groovy song writing and variation. Not outright progressive, since many of the sections repeat, but it is varied and the songs are short enough that they never really get stale. Besides, it is that variation, along with melodic and groovy touches, that separates this album from the vast majority of death metal, and is also why it's better. All that is also fairly comparable to early EoS material as well.

If you are new to the band I think you'll find this a refreshing change from the standard death metal, and EoS fans should be satisfied as well. You may just have to get over the fact Swano is not here and not compare it to works like "Crimson", but once you do you will see this is a fine album. Not spectacular but good and under rated.

Three Stars

PAIN OF SALVATION Entropia

Album · 1997 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 52 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
An extremely impressive debut!

"Entropia" sets the stage for what is to come. One of the more innovative albums in prog metal, though it seems like a pretty standard sound. Why is this album so damn good? It's songwriting! Unlike so many prog metal bands which are built around their virtuoso skill or avant garde tendencies, this is a melodic album and not too challenging. Not to say it's simple by any means! No 12, 15, 20+ minute songs with mindblowing displays at every instrument or wild, unnatural song structures.

No, "Entropia" is melodic and textured. Dense, intricate walls of music that fit together perfectly, with truly progressive songs that can swing abruptly or smoothly flow, jam packed with a variety of different styles and sections. There is heavy syncopation and use of off time signatures, all pushed forward by powerful drumming. While they are impressive musicians, it's not so much about technical skill here. It's about melody, every piece working together and creative songwriting that WILL keep you on your toes.

All serves as a back up to Daniel's vocals. Ironic, I tend always enjoy "music driven" stuff over "vocal driven" but this is an exception. All the music takes a bit of a backseat to Gildenlow's vocals, which are some of the very best. Great range and emotional. It's that emotional aspect which helps separate PoS even more from the crowd, and Daniel nails it. Powerful, emotional and always driving the content forward. His soaring and over the top vocals may be a bit much, but damn they are wonderful.

All the track are unique and great, but some standouts are the intro "! (Foreword)" and "People Passing By" one of my favorites. A melodic, restrained, powerful and emotional driven album...this is a breath of fresh air from the sutffy and stagnant prog metal scene. It also sounds honest and sincere, avoiding the cheesiness and pretentiousness that often comes with prog metal. I am a huge fan, of course, of 20 minute prog metal epics with crushing guitars and shredding solos from all the members, but "Entropia" is a welcome change of pace, and a superb album.

Four and a Half Stars

EDGE OF SANITY Crimson

Album · 1996 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 99 ratings
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The Angry Scotsman
WOW

That's all I could say after first listening to this album. The sheer scope of what just hit me had left me floored, but later the greatness sunk in as well. After taking small steps away from traditional death metal, Edge of Sanity makes a huge leap with this one. "Crimson" consists of one, 40 minute song. Yes. This is the king of prog metal epics.

The album kicks off strong, with crushing guitar and Swano's powerful growls. However, don't expect it to last long...or anything for that matter. "Crimson" really moves. No part lasts longer than 2 minutes, before its on to something else. Sometimes abrupt, sometimes flowing smoothly, indeed the best part of this album is its construction. Keeps you on your toes, and never grows stale over 40 minutes. Everything that can be thrown at you will be: Edge of Sanity's classic melodic death metal riffing, blast beats, acoustic guitar, growls, clean singing (both of which are great but Swano's growls really are superb) slow and mid tempo sections, crushing guitars, solos and a few surprises thrown in. That's all I can really say, this album is a progressive death metal epic that twists and turns, never too quickly but never waits too long either. How this album moves is its strongest victory, and its power and melody really help back it up. Never technical or complex, "Crimson" makes up for it in these other ways. The music and composition is perfect, Swano's vocals are amazing and fit the music. That's all I'll say, and that you really need to just try it for yourself.

Fans of death metal and old EoS may want to approach this cautiously, as it can be challenging and is way out of left field than anything else out there. For fans of prog metal though, this is a must. Even non prog metal heads should absolutely give this a try, since it does move around quickly. Brilliant work.

Masterpiece

FIVE STARS

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