Metal Music Reviews from The Block

DREAM THEATER A Dramatic Turn of Events

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.86 | 112 ratings
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Ever since I first heard Octavarium, my first Dream Theater album, I was hooked on them. Since then I’ve come to own every single one of their albums. So when I heard that they would be releasing an album this year I couldn’t wait until it was released. Then the news came that Mike Portnoy, their drummer since the beginning, was leaving the band. As a fan, I really didn’t know what to think. Who would be their new drummer; could they replace who I think was irreplaceable? As time went on I was that, yes Dream Theater can still go on without their fabled drummer. When it was announced that Mike Mangini was to be their new drummer I was ecstatic. Since they filmed the auditions and made them into a mini series titled “The Spirit Carries On” I was able to see who the drummers were that tried out, and out of all of them Mangini was definitely my favorite. This album, the first album without the line-up that made the legendary Scenes From a Memory, returns to the sound leading up to and including Octavarium, which is my second favorite Dream Theater album, so that in itself is a huge plus. The song writing has also taken up a lighter sound that is also reminiscent of the Octavarium and before era. Unlike Black Clouds and Silver Linings, which was very dark, and depressing in spots, this album is very cheery and definitely reverts back to Dream Theater’s distinct progressive metal sound that many fans have loved for the past 25 years.

This album tells a story, maybe of them losing Portnoy and getting Mangini as the title suggests, and as John Petrucci states, “When you listen to it your whole experience will be more of a rollercoaster ride”. This roller coaster ride is definitely a light one, so if you enjoyed Black Clouds a lot, then this album will definitely be a whole different world. I tend to like Dream Theater’s lighter passages on their past albums, so with this album being mostly lighter progressive metal it adds a lot more enjoyment when I listening to it. A good thing with this album being lighter is that Jordan Rudess is spotlighted much more often. With the last couple of albums, DT has focused more on John Petrucci and Mike Portnoy, and now with Portnoy gone and there needed to be someone else to take the front seat, and thankfully that was Jordan Rudess. A lot of the keyboard and synth sections on this album also remind me a lot of his awesome synth lines on Octavarium, which were some of my favorite. Another thing about this album is that the drumming isn’t the main focus as it sometimes was during the Portnoy-era. Since Mike Mangini wasn’t there for the writing of the album, Petrucci, I believe, wrote most of the drum lines, so they are a bit toned down compared to past efforts. Also, up until this album I never really noticed John Myung’s bass playing that much. I always knew he was good, but I never expected this much personality from him, and this is definitely one of his best efforts on bass.

Right from the start this album is extremely melodic, especially the opening lines of “On the Backs of Angels”. This song, which was released as the only single off of A Dramatic Turn of Events, is definitely a signature Dream Theater song with very nice rock oriented rhythms and great choruses. “Build Me Up, Break Me Down” is really the weakest song on the album but it’s still a pretty good song. The catchy chorus makes it really good, but there are some industrial metal sections in it that make it a little weird. I don’t really know why they put those sections in it, but overall it’s not that bad. James Labrie’s voice on this song and all the other’s is absolutely superb, and probably the best it’s been since Octavarium. I never really got the people who didn’t like his singing, I think it’s very good and can never find much wrong with it. This album also features four epics, which are all quite amazing. “Lost Not Forgotten” starts with a great keyboard and drum intro the segments very well into some of the darker moments on the album. The guitar solos on this track are also very well done and mix perfectly with Labrie’s great vocals. “Bridges in the Sky” is yet another very riff driven track that excels in every way possible and features great bass parts by John Myung. The best epic on the album is definitely “Breaking all Illusions” because it returns to Dream Theater’s roots, or more specifically “Learning to Live”. This song features many of the melodies from the song before it, “Far From Heaven” so it adds very nice flow to the album. The technicality of the song is amazing, and each band member is at their greatest on “Breaking all Illusions”.

A lot of people have complained in the past about the production of Dream Theater albums, mainly because the band produced them, and they really didn’t like the tone of the albums, or something like that. I, for one, have loved the production on all Dream Theater releases, except When Dream And Day Unite. This album is no exception. The drums aren’t nearly as prominent as before, but that is to be expected with the absence of Portnoy. The bass, as I mentioned earlier, is finally noticeable and Myung’s talent shines through, for the first time in a long time.

This was definitely my most anticipated album of 2011 and it did not disappoint at all. Though this album might take time to grow on some people, though not on me, it is well worth the purchase. My love of Dram Theater has resurfaced after a brief decline since Black Clouds and Silver Linings. This album has jumped to the top of my 2011 charts, which I expected, and probably will stay there for the rest of the year. I really didn’t want it to be so easy to put it there because I’m such a big fanboy and I didn’t want to put it there just based on my fanboyism, but this album was so good that, fanboy or no, it is the easiest 5 star album I’ve given out in a long time.

REVOCATION Chaos of Forms

Album · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 9 ratings
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Revocation is an American thrash metal act that’s been around since 2006. They play a sort of melodic thrash metal, which sounds really good and suits the band very well. The album is really an all around effort with three out of the four band members contributing on vocals. This thrash metal band displays a bunch of extras to go along with their standard thrash sound that include some funky slap bass lines, melodic guitar passages that aren’t usually found on thrash metal releases, and even an organ section or two.

Usually thrash metal, at least for me, gets kind of boring after awhile, especially on the longer albums, but with this album that doesn’t happen at all. Though some of the songs sound very similar there is enough difference that it makes it highly enjoyable. The guitar solo to open up “Conjuring the Cataclysm”, for example, is absolutely killer, but other parts of the album sound kind of repetitive. The title track is another great track, perhaps my favorite on the album, with a bunch of awesome guitar solos and great drumming as well. Speaking of the drums, which are played excellently by Phil Dubois-Coyne, the drums on this album are very fast and they meld very well with the guitar work which is lightning fast as well. Besides great drumming and fast guitar work, this album also has some great vocals too. As I mentioned before, three of the band members sing so sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s singing, but the different vocal styles really help this album out. I really like the vocal parts where all of the band members sing together, even though it sometimes doesn’t fit the songs. On a couple of tracks, such as No Funeral, the harmony vocals don’t quite fit, but I still like the songs.

This album is in your face right from the start of the album, and it doesn’t pull always until the last chord of “Reprogrammed”. Filled with cruising guitar lines and staccato riffs that really add flavor to the album this album is highly recommended for any metal fan especially those of the thrash variety. Chaos of Forms easily deserves 4 stars.

LOCH VOSTOK Dystopium

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.02 | 3 ratings
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Loch Vostok is a progressive metal band from Sweden. As with most modern death metal, especially progressive death metal, their sound centers around the Gothenburg sound, which seems to be making a huge surge throughout the metal community. The fast riffs and harmonic guitar lines that have made the Gothenburg style popular over the past couple of years is very evident on this album, and is quite possibly the biggest factor of the album itself.

The music itself is very good, and comes in two versions. Some of it is simple guitar driven songs with blast beat drums to accompany it, while others are more complex and intricate prog melodies. The guitar work is absolutely excellent on this album and encompasses many styles from traditional heavy metal melodies to more djent flavored riffs. One thing I’ve noticed about newer progressive metal bands is that more and more of them are using this djent sound, which I’m not that big a fan of. On this album, though, it blends right in and I actually like what it does for the album. The vocals on this album are another high point. Like most Gothenburg style bands they use both clean and harsh vocals. The growls on this album are really cool, and well done, while the clean vocals kind of out there in terms of style. I enjoyed them a lot, but for some people they might take some getting used to because they really aren’t fit for the genre that much. Usually the clean vocals are deep and dark while these vocals tend to be a bit higher, and don’t have as dark of a tone. I love how they go with the music though so it was a big high point for me. One thing that stuck out to me the most about this album was the use of blast beats. Sometimes there would be blast beats during slow sections, like on “In the Wake of Humanity”, and this added a cool element that isn’t usually found in this style of music.

Any fan of melodic death metal would be as pleased as I was with this release, and many progressive fans will find this a good listen as well. The progressive leanings mixed with the djent riffing, and melodic death metal passages provide a great listen and an album well worthy of 4 stars.

ILIUM Genetic Memory

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.26 | 5 ratings
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Of all the genres out there it seems, at least to me, that power metal can be the most inconsistent. Mainly this can be because it has so many genre clichés or that bands don’t feel the need to gain any new ground, and just are fine with sticking with the same old routine. That’s why sometimes it’s hard to really find power metal albums that are consistent, except for the proven bands like Symphony X. But Genetic Memory is the second power metal album I’ve gotten in a week that is very good, and doesn’t fall into too many clichés.

Ilium has been around since 1998 and has yet to really hit it big, so to say. But Genetic Memory has that chance. This Australian based power metal group definitely has a more European power metal sound than an American sound, which I tend to enjoy more since it’s much more grand and symphonic, mostly. The use of keyboards on this album by Adam Smith, who also plays bass and guitar, really adds to that image of grandness. Ilium really brings something good to the table that doesn’t fall into every cliché that there is. The only problem with this album is that it’s pretty long for power metal without progressive leanings, averaging out at just over an hour long.

Overall this is a very good release from this rather tenured power metal group. The vocals are great, the riffing is superb, and all in all this is one heck of an album. I’m glad that there is still power metal out there that can break the mold, and isn’t the same old thing that’s been done for the past 20 years.

DEVIN TOWNSEND Deconstruction

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.90 | 51 ratings
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As weird as this may sound, Deconstruction was my introduction into the wacky and wonderful world of Devin Townsend. Though, I guess nothing is as weird as Deconstruction itself. Being new to this type of metal, I had no idea what to expect from the album itself, so I was definitely flustered the first time I listened to the album. But eventually it all came together, and I saw what a fantastic album this really was. Unlike most new music that you can either say you like or dislike right away, or after a few listens, Deconstruction took me a long time to actually appreciate it. After I finally started to enjoy the album, I found out what it was about; a man who receives a cheeseburger from the Devil, but can’t eat it because he is a vegetarian. If you’re like me and you immediately said, “What?”, you’re as equally as confused as I was. With all these weird topics, strange noises, and soaring guitars Devin Townsend almost reminds me of a metal version of Frank Zappa, with equal amounts of genius and craziness

Deconstruction was released along with a much softer, un-crazy Ghost, which is no where near as creative as the former. I’m glad that Devin Townsend put all his craziness into this one album because it makes it all the better. Also he put all the heavy stuff on this album while leaving the lighter stuff for Ghost. This I think is a brilliant idea because it provides two totally different albums from one person. Deconstruction, besides being very out there, has an almost avant-garde feel to it in spots to go along with its main genre, prog metal. Of the two epics on the album, “Planet of the Apes” and “The Mighty Masturbator”, “Planet of the Apes” is probably my favorite. “Planet of the Apes” has some great soaring guitar parts, especially some of the solos, and the vocals by both Townsend and Tommy Giles Rogers, of Between the Buried and Me, are absolutely amazing. “The Mighty Masturbator”, which you can probably guess the topic of the song, is another great track with more awesome vocals and colorful vocals. The only thing about “The Mighty Masturbator” is that, to me, it seems a little drawn out, but in the end it is still a fantastic song. My favorite track, though, is probably the title track. This is the song where our main character finds himself confronted by the Devil and offered the cheeseburger. This song is perhaps the craziest of them all, filled with great lines, complex guitar riffs, and fart noises. Yes, fart noises. At first I was skeptical about them, but they fit into the song just fine, and add to the overall weirdness level. All the other songs are just as good, and there truly are no weak spots on this album at all.

What surprised me the most about this album where the guest vocalists. I just assumed Devin Townsend worked on his own with a few studio musicians, but I was wrong. And these aren’t your run of the mill guests either. There’s the above mentioned Tommy Giles Rogers, Ihsahn of Emperor, Floor Jansen, who also works with Arjen Lucassen, and most notably Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. All these vocalists are superb, and when mixed with the great compositions on this album, a great record is made.

After putting aside my skepticisms about this album to start off I discovered the genius that is Devin Townsend. This album is full of craziness, but there is control on this album too that keeps it grounded and easy to listen to. It might take some time to get into this album, but once you do you’ll enjoy it just as much as I have. This is yet another great release of 2011 and easily deserves 4.5 stars.

CAVE GROWL Something Drunk

Album · 2011 · Folk Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 3 ratings
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I’m not a huge fan of folk metal. Granted I said this about black metal, too, when I first really started to listen to black metal. And now I like black metal, in fact my top release of 2011 so far is black metal. I was hoping that something like that would happen with folk metal, too. Well, let’s just say it didn’t go totally as planned. French folk metal group Cave Growl’s debut, Something Drunk, didn’t really impress me too much, to say the least. Centered on getting drunk at a local tavern this album is a more of the same over and over again, with few bright spots.

Granted this album could’ve been a complete disaster with just songs about drinking, drinking, and more drinking and no sense of good music at all. But thankfully Cave Growl focuses on the music throughout this album, so it is somewhat bearable. I really shouldn’t be too harsh on this album; it is for free off their website and it shows plenty of talent, especially in the drums, but it’s hard to find a lot that I like about it. For one the vocals are almost shouts, and they never really find their place on the album. They’re not quite growls, but they aren’t screams either. The best way to explain it is a mix between the two (plus a couple of drinks thrown in). The riffs on this album are pretty decent, especially the Scottish themed ones on “Captain Blackbeard”. The musicianship on this album is definitely very fine, but the whole drinking song atmosphere kind of drags this band down. I would love to see this band find something else to sing about, and I’m sure they will have great success.

The production of this album is another down point. This is a self released album, but I’ve heard much better production on self released albums, but I’ve also heard worse, though not much worse. It definitely isn’t polished, but in a way it fits the feel of the album. The only problem with that is that I don’t really like the feel of the album that much.

Overall this is an okay debut from the French folk metal act, but nothing too impressive by any stretch of the imagination. This definitely isn’t the ideal place to start with folk metal, but if you enjoy drinking songs this might just be your cup of tea. Anyway, Something Drunk gets 2.5 stars.

HOLY FORCE Holy Force

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 4 ratings
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Holy Force’s debut is easily one of the best power metal releases of 2011. With most of their members originating from progressive and heavy metal backgrounds the music on this album takes the best of both traditional, power, and progressive (albeit not much, though) and blends it into a great album. The power metal sections of the album definitely lean towards European power metal, which immediately indicates epic riffs and catchy choruses, swirled around neoclassical leanings. Another great thing about this album is Mike LePond. If you recognize his name, you should. He’s the bassist of Symphony X, and a great one at that. Besides him there’s Ango Chen, the mastermind behind Holy Force, and Mark Boals, who have both played with Yngwie Malmsteen. Rounding it off is former Manowar drummer Kenny Earl, who definitely makes this a supergroup of sorts.

The music is pretty guitar driven, which is understandable considering the lead man, Ango Chen plays guitar. That being said, everyone gets their chance to shine on this album and overall this album is very balanced. The shredding on this album is absolutely tremendous, and comes in both classic and neoclassical form. Most of the songs are heavy driven, powered by great drumming from Kenny Earl, but there are a select few songs, such as “Sky Etude” which a happy, cheery, and upbeat. One weird thing about “Sky Etude” is that it’s a piano etude, which is very good and all, but no one on this album plays piano, at least it’s not noted anywhere. That brings up the question, did they program it? Hopefully that is not the case, but I don’t know.

Overall the musicianship on this album is top notch, and it’s made all the better by the great compositions that make up the album. Any fan of power metal or heavy metal should definitely look into this great 2011 release, and I’m sure they won’t be let down. 4 stars is surely deserved here.

HUMAN ZOO Eyes of the Stranger

Album · 2011 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.67 | 4 ratings
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Human Zoo is a German traditional heavy metal band that has finally had a break through album with the release of Eyes of the Stranger. Unlike most bands that fall under the melodic heavy metal genre, Human Zoo is not a Scandinavian band. Besides great melodic passages fitted together with great rock and metal compositions, Human Zoo has more than a few tricks up their sleeves. One of those is the addition of a saxophone. The saxophone, which is evident on most of the songs, adds a nice 60’s/ 70’s blues rock type feel to the album. This is especially evident on the opening of “Everything Changes”, which could’ve been taken straight out of the 70’s.

Eyes of the Stranger is definitely very light metal, leaning very closely towards hard rock, but there are enough heavy metal tendencies to win over fans of the metal genre. Though this isn’t your typical traditional metal release from the likes of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and other old, and new heavy bands, this release is great listening and it has some great moments on it too. Mostly the guitars provide the enjoyment, though sometimes it’s the keyboards or saxophone. This album never gets too heavy in a general sense, but it does have its heavier moments. Like in the beginning of “The Answer” where the main guitar riff could’ve been taken straight out of Operation: Mindcrime. Also there are some power metal tendencies in the drums, though not often.

The musicianship on this album is no doubt superb on this album. The saxophone playing by Boris Matakovic is great, and being a sax player myself I can really appreciate how good of a musician he is. Everyone else on the album is equally as good, especially the singer, Thomas Seeburger, and the guitarist, Ingolf Engler.

Overall this album is very finely produced and performed. Though this album is a bit commercialized it provides entertainment, and every track is a great melodic heavy metal composition. Eyes of the Stranger easily gets 3.5 stars.

SYMPHONY X Iconoclast

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.19 | 75 ratings
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So far this year one of my most anticipated releases already turned out to be a dud. That is definitely not the case here. Iconoclast is perhaps one of my favorite albums by Symphony X, with V: The New Mythology Suite at the top of the list. Since V was my introduction into Symphony X it will probably stay at the top of my list, but Iconoclast definitely comes in a close second. One thing I like about this newest Symphony X album is that it is really dark. V was very symphonic and grand, so to say, and then Paradise Lost was a little darker, and now Iconoclast is perhaps the darkest of them all, but is still like V in a way because of its grandness and dark symphonic melodies.

Being the fanboy that I am, I had to get the deluxe edition 2-CD set, and am I glad I did. The three extra songs (“Light up the Night”, “The Lords of Chaos”, “Reign in Madness”) are all exceptional, and I can’t imagine the album without them. My favorite of the three is definitely “Reign in Madness” which Michael Romeo, Symphony X guitarist, says “is the proper close to the album”. Also, of the three, it seems more symphonic while the others seem to be straight up metal. If you haven’t gotten this album yet, the 2-CD package is definitely the way to go; it also is some really cool packaging.

As always the musicianship is absolutely superb on this album. But, to most fans of the band this shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. The keyboards on this album, played by Michael Pinnella, are some of the best I’ve heard in some time, and the wonderful heavy, yet symphonic guitar work from Michael Romeo really backs up Russell Allen’s great vocals. As with most of Symphony X’s albums you can expect some cheese, but to me it actually adds to the album. Their sound is so original, and well thought out that the cheese, which there isn’t much of, makes this album all the better.

My favorite track of the album is “Children of a Faceless God”. I just love the riffs and melodies throughout this piece, and Allen’s voice is yet again superb on this track. This track is also a very original sounding power metal gem that combines both heavier riffs to go along with softer sounding choruses. Another great track is the prog epic “When All is Lost”. The organ work on this song is awesome, to say the least. This album definitely has enough to satisfy any power or prog metal fan out there. Through its 80 some minute play time it stays strong and never gets boring, ever.

I’m happy to say that Symphony X has put out one of the best albums of this year. There is no doubt that this is the best progressive metal release of the year, and definitely one of the best metal releases as well. It has everything a prog metal fan could want; great vocals, complex song structures, very clean production , and wonderful soaring riffs. 4.5 stars are well deserved here for this great album that has landed Symphony X as one of my top bands ever.

INEVITABLE END The Oculus

Album · 2011 · Mathcore
Cover art 2.83 | 3 ratings
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The Oculus is the second release by Swedish metalcore act Inevitable End. Released by Relapse Records in May, this album brings nothing new to the table and hardly ever differs from your normal run of the mill metalcore. Like most albums of the same genre The Oculus runs a pretty short time, 35 minutes, compared to the number of songs on the album, 13. In a way this helps the album because if I had to listen to this for a longer time, it definitely wouldn’t get as high of a score.

Right from the start of the album all the way to the end, Inevitable End throws everything at you, with heavy riffs, screaming vocals, and lots of distortion. After a while it’s very easy to get tired of the album, mainly because all the songs sound similar and follow the same structure. First comes the screaming vocals, though sometime they are death growls, then some dissonant chords followed by distortion, and this trend continues throughout the whole album. I find myself wanting to turn it off by at least halfway through the album just out of pure boredom.

What saves this album is the musicianship, not the creativity. There is no doubt that Inevitable End has some very talented players in it, it’s just that they need to branch off a bit, and do something that no one else has done before; then they will release something that is worth buying. But until then they get 2.5 stars for this release.

DYING FETUS History Repeats...

EP · 2011 · Brutal Death Metal
Cover art 2.99 | 4 ratings
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I was never a really big fan of Dying Fetus, but after Relapse re-issued their entire discography earlier in the year I decided to look into them more and see if they are the death metal masters everyone has made them out to be. To be honest, I personally don’t like them that much, but it’s hard to say they don’t have skill because they obviously have a lot of it. “History Repeats…” is their newest EP which features cover songs of other bands that have influenced them in the past. These bands include Dehumanized, Napalm Death, Broken Hope, Bolt Thrower, Pestilence, and Cannibal Corpse. While they are covering these bands, Dying Fetus puts their own unique spin on every song, but they never stray too far away from the original song. To go along with the six cover songs, Dying Fetus also put an original, grindcore type song on “History Repeats…” called “Rohypnol”, which I’m not a huge fan of.

This release is a good collector’s item for fans of Dying Fetus who are already pretty established with the band. I’m glad I got some of the Relapse re-issues earlier in the year because this isn’t the ideal place to start for new fans of the band. Overall it’s not a bad album and it should provide some enjoyment from hardcore fans, but for me it was kind of bland and uninspiring.

MORBID ANGEL Illud Divinum Insanus

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art 1.88 | 24 ratings
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Every person who calls themselves a metal fan knows, or at least should know, Morbid Angel. When I heard the death metal masters were releasing a new album this year I was ecstatic. And to say this release landed with a thud would be an understatement. This is the same band that release “Covenant” and “Altars of Madness”, and somehow they’ve also released an album like “Illud Divinum Insanus”. This is their 8th studio release, and by far the worst. There isn’t much that I can say now that already hasn’t been said in countless other reviews, but there is still something I would like to say.

No, I do not like this album at all, but I can appreciate where Morbid Angel is going with this album. This new, industrial type metal that has become prevalent on this album isn’t that good at all, and I don’t like it at all, but if Morbid Angel can perfect this approach to their music I can see future releases being pretty good. I do wish that they’d go back to the raw, untamed death metal that made them famous back in the 90’s, but miracles don’t always happen.

Another thing that I would like to mention are the hilarious song titles. Of the many, I believe that “Too Extreme!” is definitely the worse. Besides being an almost techno metal song, it is also the worst song on the album in my mind. And really David Vincent, you had to add the exclamation point? Besides being very inconsistent, the album is kind of confusing. At first they have some industrial metal, than techno metal, and the rare appearance of actual death metal. Of the eleven tracks on this album only two, "Blades of Baal" and "Nevermore”, are actual, straight up death metal tracks.

As with all their releases the musicianship is very good, and professional, but it lacks the drive that they had on their earlier albums. The drumming by guest drummer Tim Yeung is very annoying at times, especially with the techno-like production on the album.

I waited a long time to review this album, for the simple reason that I was hoping it would get better with time, as some album do. And I was dead wrong. This long awaited 2011 release by Morbid Angel leaves me wanting more, much more of their great 90’s style death metal. Metallica did this with “St. Anger” and now so did Morbid Angel. Thank god we still have an Opeth and Dream Theater release coming out later this year.

ASHEN REIGN An Angels Burden

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 5 ratings
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Ashen Reign is a one man band from the United States. Brent McDaniel is the mastermind behind all this, and he shows great talent on a various range of instruments, from the keyboard to the guitar and even the drums too. That in itself is a major achievement, but the music that goes along with all this is also another great achievement from Brent McDaniel.

“An Angels Burden” is the second release by Ashen Reign, coming after his 2008 debut, “Immortality”. Though the style of this album is clearly power metal there are also slight hints of other types of metal, such as progressive metal and traditional metal, added in to create a better all around feel to the album. The compositions of the songs on the album lend themselves very well to the style of music that Brent McDaniel plays and provide for great riffs and kind of catchy choruses. One thing that is a little out of place on this album is his voice. Granted, it’s not a bad voice, he is actually a very good singer, but it doesn’t seem to fit well with power metal. Most of the time power metal vocalists use powerful choruses and driving vocals, in general, but McDaniel’s voice seems a bit soft and doesn’t always provide that same power. On the more progressive tracks this is a huge plus, but it is a hindrance on the heavier songs. Power metal for me needs strong vocalists such as Russell Allen or Jon Oliva. Other than that, though, this album is pretty flawless.

All the songs on this album are very good, especially the ones that draw on the more traditional metal style such as “Broken Heart” and “Fear of the Snake”. Brent McDaniel is very adept at all of the instruments he plays, especially the guitars. His wonderful riffs on the instrumental track “The Sparrow” are great as are most of his guitar solos as well. Though many people associate power metal with fast, shredding guitar solos, this album doesn’t have tons of them, and a lot of the time the solos tend to be more melodic than shredding.

The production isn’t that bad, especially considering that Brent McDaniel did that too. He really is a one man band, and he really did do everything on this album from start to finish, and it shows through on the final product. I had great joy listening to this album, with all its catchy riffs and great solos, and look forward to Ashen Reign’s next release. For now “An Angels Burden” gets 3.5 stars.

JOURNAL Unlorja

Album · 2010 · Mathcore
Cover art 2.00 | 1 rating
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While I love both concept albums and video games, the two definitely don't go together. Unlorja, a self proclaimed 'Nintendo Metal Band', created this album as the story of two brothers who get at odds with each other and then the one brother kills the other with the sward which is aptly named 'Unlorja'.

Now the music is definitely not something that I would like to listen to while I'm playing my video games by any stretch of the imagination. The almost chaotic thrash/groove metal that Journal plays is ok for most of the time, but after a while it starts to wear down on my patience. Granted it does have some wicked guitar playing during a lot of the album, but the vocals are absolutely horrendous. The album goes back and forth between trash and grindcore the whole time, and that is not a combination that is kind to the ears in any sense. What's different about this album is that every once in a while there's a soft song to break it up from the ear splitting madness that is Unlorja.

The one good song on this album is the outro, a 30 minute epic that is very progressive and concludes this Nintendo inspired story. Thankfully the only vocals on this track are spoken and while this might seem a little weird to most people it is really cool especially with the underlying guitar work during the whole song.

While all this might sound great to some people, I found it a little too rushed and chaotic. I didn't get much enjoyment out of this one, but some people might if you like fast, screaming, chaotic music. But from me it's getting 2 stars.

REINXEED 1912

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 5 ratings
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Well it’s a year after the release of “Majestic” and it seems that Reinxeed is still on the same path. Granted they have removed some of the cheese from their previous effort and added some more direction to their music, but there’s still enough there that makes you wonder if they learned from their last release. I enjoy some genre clichés in my music, but the amount that Reinxeed puts in unnerves me a bit. This album doesn’t have an overwhelming amount but it’s way more than enough. A good thing about this album is that, as I said before, it has direction to it. “1912” is, as you might’ve guessed, about the tragic tale of the Titanic, its maiden voyage, and its end. While it’s an odd topic that I’ve never heard before in music, let alone metal, it provides for a good story line. But, you probably don’t care for a history lesson so onto the music.

The title track starts right off with a clichéd beginning, with epic synth lines and drums but it eventually settles downs to a lower pace rhythm that is pretty enjoyable. But eventually, like with most of their stuff, it resorts back to pretty cheesy power metal. Tommy Johansson’s vocals on this song and throughout the album are pretty good, but as was with the last album, they are pretty silly when you listen to them. But all in all they sound good and I enjoyed listening to them, though by the end of the album I was just a little sick of them. One thing about the story line that’s weird is that it seems to jump around a bit. First it starts with boarding the boat then there’s a song about the crash and then it goes back and forth between getting saved and the boat crashing again. The cool part about the concept is that at the end the songs seem to take you through different people’s reactions, and what happened to different people.

The guitars on this album are pretty good, also, but as with most cheesy power metal and symphonic metal releases they go on long cheesy guitar riffs that are repeated over and over again. While I do enjoy some of these riffs for their apparent simplicity, if Reinxeed would just cut down a little on the technicality on some songs and slow things down they would have much more diversity on their albums. The production one this album is very crisp and clean. It layers the vocals and guitars almost perfectly, making for a nice feel.

As I said with their last release, if you like very cheesy power/symphonic metal go ahead and pick this up. But, otherwise beware of this album. There are some very good moments on this album, but if you don’t want to sit through a bunch of clichés to get there this album definitely isn’t for you. Reinxeed once again gets 3 stars.

LYCHWAY In Search

EP · 2011 · Metalcore
Cover art 3.54 | 3 ratings
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Lychway is a very new band forming in early 2011, and this is their first release as a band. Already they’ve made a name for themselves over in England touring with many bands up until of the release of their new EP. Due out in August, and offered up for free online, Lychway is already a step ahead with their music, and trying to reach an even greater audience.

Metalcore is almost never something I enjoy on first listen, and if I ever do get to enjoy it, it usually takes some time. But “In Search” is a very quality release so it was easy for me to get into it early on. Songs such as “Opening Remarks” and “Hellbound” are among my favorites on the EP because of the fact that they are pretty melodic. Both songs start out with great guitar riffs and then transfer into okay vocal sections. In “Opening Remarks” the vocals come in pretty smoothly, especially for metalcore, and are kept low in the mix at first almost like a warm up to the actual vocals. This is really cool, and I actually enjoy some of the lyrics on this album, even though I don’t really know what they’re saying, but that’s ok. Another good song is “Space Inbetween (Interlude)” which is totally instrumental, not something you find much in metalcore, and features some very good playing overall by the band.

The amazing thing about this release, though is that is includes keyboards. Most metalcore bands that I’ve heard in the past are your usual meat and potatoes mix of guitar, bass, and drums and not much else besides vocals. The addition of this fourth instrument adds a nice touch that makes the album more enjoyable than most other releases of this kind. The production is pretty clean, and suites the album very well.

Lychway definitely has a bright future ahead of them and has shown great musicianship on this album. I can not say it enough, but metalcore doesn’t garner much love from me but this album is amongst the best that I’ve heard in awhile so Lychway gets 3.5 stars.

JOHANN WOLFGANG POZOJ Birth of Pozoj (Trilogy Part 1)

Album · 2011 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.38 | 4 ratings
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“The Birth of Pozoj” was Johan Wolfgang Pozoj’s first album that the band released in 2007. The most recently they released another album titled the same way and featuring two songs from the earlier album: “Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes” and “Queen Emeraldas”. The only difference is that is was totally re-worked and re-recorded, so it was basically a completely different album.

Since this album only has two songs many people would believe that it would be relatively short. If I were to tell them it’s longer than a 10 track album they would think me insane, right? Well it is. Featuring a 20 minute song and a 30 some minute song, this album is almost an hour long! Originally the band had 5 songs on the first release but cut it down to two, and I quite like that since I don’t know if I want to sit through almost two hours of atmospheric black metal. Now onto what people actually want to know about, the music.

“The Birth of Pozoj” is a completely atmospheric black metal album which features great playing and wonderful dark passages. “Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes” is a great song, and has very good flow to it. Starting off slow and deep it eventually builds and builds to a monster of a song. You can really tell the almost avant-garde approach to this album in this song especially, and sometimes the conflicting time signatures are really cool. When the growls come in there is a nice change in the music and the guitar riffs become shorter and more prevalent. The growls are exceptional, especially mixed with Marko Balaban and Filip Fabek’s guitar playing. The end of “Bellum Omnium Contra Omnes” is probably my favorite part of the album because of its dark and rich guitar riffs.

The last song, “Queen Emeraldas” starts off much more upbeat but soon transfers back into the dark tones that ended the first song. The growls on this song are also very well preformed by Ivan Borcic. The production of this album isn’t really polished, but at the same time it isn’t that raw style that some may expect from black metal.

“The Birth of Pozoj” is a wonderful album that any fan of Burzum, or older black metal will enjoy thoroughly. Featuring great guitar playing, and very good growls Johan Wolfgang Pozoj have definitely found their way to the top of black metal with this release which gets 3.5 stars from me.

NORRIS The Great White North

Album · 2011 · Metalcore
Cover art 2.50 | 1 rating
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Norris is a metalcore act from Canada, and they have recently released “The Great White North” witch Year of the Sun Records. “The Great White North” is their first full length album after the release of two EP’s released in 2005 and 2008. Thick grooves and very dry playing lead this album to and fro across the metal spectrum, and never seem to stay in the same place. Now I don’t want to discourage anyone with this next comment, but to be honest it sounds really bad.

Now in saying this many people will think that I didn’t enjoy this album at all, but I did at some parts. I very much enjoyed Justin Sillman’s guitar playing, it’s just that mixed with everything else it sounds kind of crappy. The reason it doesn’t seem to fit with everything else is because Norris plays a very spastic brand of metalcore that relies on random beats and hard hitting drums that pound in your ears. This style of playing makes this album very hard to listen to at times, and causes much of my dislike for the album. The songs in general are full of sharp rhythms and random stops and starts that tend to throw me off every time I listen to the album. Now this may sound confusing, but Norris does right some very good riffs, and lines but the problem is that they will play them for a couple seconds than immediately switch to something different. Something I look for in metal is the ability to stay on one certain chord, riff, or line, and do something with it to progress your music and make it sound harder and more technical than it is. But, sadly Norris puts all their skill, which they obviously have, to waste with their spastic playing.

The one part of the album that I thoroughly enjoyed was the song “Peasant” which had very melodic overtones, and is a great piano piece. The problem, like with almost everything on this album, is that it didn’t go anywhere. It crescendos and then drops back down, and never really grips your, which seems to be a problem for Norris.

To be honest, Norris is a very skilled group, but they lack the maturity to stay constant on one idea. I feel that they are trying to get all their ideas out in one song, or album, and will have nothing left afterward. If they could do that, spread out their ideas, make them longer, and make them better they will have a very promising future. But, until then they get 2.5 stars for this one.

ANNAPURNA I am A Leaf

Single · 2011 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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When I first received this very short single I wasn't hoping for a lot. But, as it turns out, I really enjoyed this single. Going into this I, like many people probably, had no idea who Annapurna was or what they played, but after listening to this for a few times I gained some respect for this relatively unknown band. That is not to say that this album is ground breaking at all, it isn't, but it is very well played and Annapurna has really shown some talent in creating this single.

I am a Leaf starts off with a synth and guitar intro section that decrescendos and then crescendos into a more complicated guitar riff accompanied by some drums. For such an unknown band, Annapurna has shows a lot of talent especially in the heavier parts of this song. About half way through it gets a little heavier, but then settles down for the rest of the track. Vocals on this track are non-existent until the last couple of minutes and they come through pretty clearly, offering up a pretty good sound. This single isn't too complicated or technical but it's still very interesting especially in the middle.

Overall this single is sure to bring many eyes and ears to Annapurna, and I can't wait to see what they will make of this single in the future. But for now they get 3 stars.

SEPTICFLESH The Great Mass

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.14 | 20 ratings
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Septicflesh, hailing from Greece, has been around for about 20 years leading up to this release, yet never once have I heard their music. That being said, this sure was a great introduction. Mixing brutal death metal with brilliant orchestra sections, Septicflesh has created their own unique brand of symphonic death metal. All throughout “The Great Mass”, blast beats and powerful guitar riffs also adorn the beautiful orchestration. Though this may be a turn off for some metal fans, it adds a different, yet great aspect to the music that, at least to me, adds to the overall enjoyment of this album.

“The Great Mass” is an almost perfect balance between symphonic metal and death metal. Take, for example, the first track “The Vampire from Nazareth” which, besides being a great intro, starts out very symphonic and almost atmospheric and then transfers into heavier riffs in an almost seamless fashion. The death metal sections of this album definitely lean towards the melodic side of death metal rather than the straight up, hardcore death metal fashion. While most people might not be used to this combination of music, many will soon figure out that it is, in face, quite good.

Another thing that I like about this album is that there are both harsh growls and clean vocals. The growls of Spiros Antoniou are pretty normal, yet they contribute very well to the bands style. This is especially evident on “Five- Pointed Star”, which is definitely one of the best songs on the album. Sotiris Vayenas’s clean vocals are a whole other matter. His voice is very odd, leaning into a weird almost crazy pitch during most of the album, but it sounds really cool with the rest of the music. Perhaps the best part of this album is the keyboards, played by Sotiris Vayenas, which add a nice over tone to the whole album.

While being a relatively old death metal band, Septicflesh has still found a way to continue to release very good material. “The Great Mass” isn’t necessarily ground breaking but it provides lots of enjoyment through its music. The orchestration on this album is fantastic, and the production of it is clear and crisp, making everything much better. For a great release Septicflesh gets 4 stars.

MURDER THERAPY Molochian

EP · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 1 rating
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Murder Therapy is a fairly obscure band, which has yet to really get much attention in the death metal world. “Molochian” is their third release, and second EP. Mixing a raw brand of death metal with large doses of progressive metal, Murder Therapy’s newest release is a great listen.

Ranging from hard core prog/ death metal to softer doom metal Murder Therapy embraces the whole spectrum of metal. They show great skill going from fast paced blast beats to much softer atmospheric songs such as “Di Luci e Negazioni”. Sean Worrell has a lot going for him vocal wise, but the production of the album kind of kills it. That tends to happen with most of the musicians on this album, whether it is the drums, guitars, or bass; the production takes most of the powerful sound from it. That being said, the musicianship is very good, even if it is hindered a little. My favorite track on the album is definitely “Di Luci e Negazioni”, which is by far the furthest Murder Therapy ventures into the prog metal spectrum. With its great melodies and nice, heavy sounding under tones it is a perfect way to round out the EP.

Other than that, though, all the other tracks seem to blend into each other. The melodies of all the songs are pretty similar, except “Di Luci e Negazioni”, and they all are relatively short. Speaking of short, this EP is only 18 minutes long. Granted these types of albums are usually short, but I would’ve enjoyed a longer introduction into Murder Therapy.

All that being said I did enjoy this 2011 release by Murder Therapy. Their heavy, dark tones are pretty awesome and they show a lot of promise in the future. For now though I think they should focus more on getting better production on their albums. But, for a good release they get 3 stars.

DEATH VALLEY DRIVER Choke the River

Album · 2011 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Death Valley Driver’s name implies it all; heavy, brutal metal that will attack you with tons of violence and keep you interested throughout. That is not to say that this is the best groove-type metal release out there, but it sure is an interesting, and promising release from a relatively new metal band.

The album, though only around 30 some minutes, is enjoyable and not that harsh to the ear. Granted it is very heavy, but everything is kept at a rather acceptable level so it doesn’t over power you all at once. Right off the bat, the title track “Choke the River” shows Death Valley Driver’s talent. The distorted guitars are perfect, and the bass licks add to an overall brutal sound. One cool thing about this album is that while being pretty brutal it still isn’t way over powering. A lot of the times with new thrash and death metal bands, the groups are way to overpowering, and all that over runs their musicianship. That doesn’t happen at all on this album.

Dan Hodgson’s voice is very good and heavy throughout the album, and is definitely worthy of note. While his voice style is pretty normal, I like it because I can actually understand it. His growls come through really clean, even for their unrelenting fierceness. The drums, played by Ryan Gallant, are typical of thrash/ death metal, and fit very well with Death Valley Driver’s sound.

The production of this album is very good, with just a few minor blemishes, but those are easily overlooked in relation to the whole album. As I mentioned earlier, the vocals are very clean, and the production on them is very good.

For a debut album “Choke the River” is a very promising release. While the band could work on a few things such as originality, for most of the songs sound the same, they are pretty much on track. The heavy guitars and nice bass licks really round this album out behind Dan Hodgson. For a good release, Death Valley Driver gets 3.5 stars.

HYPERBOREAN The Spirit Of Warfare

Album · 2011 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.54 | 3 ratings
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Channeling the Spirit of Warfare

Swedish black metal act, Hyperborean has been around since 2000, yet this is their first full length release. Since 2000 they’ve released a couple of demos, but so far they have released nothing near the quality of this album. Bordering on straight up death metal this very melodic black metal album has a deep dark atmosphere that is punctuated with fast blast beat drums and wailing guitars.

The music, especially the fist track “Channeling the Spirit of Warfare”, almost reminds me of Death in a way. The guitars on the first track are almost identical to Chuck Schuldiner’s, and I mean that in the best way possible. Though classified by most as black metal, I find myself thinking it leans more towards death metal. With the occasional keyboard accompaniment, this album can become very technical, especially in the guitars and the above mentioned keyboards. Andreas Blomkvist, who plays both on the album, is an excellent musician, and throughout the album it really shows. Magnus Persson’s vocals on this album are also quite superb. Bordering on a black metal growl, while also incorporating a death metal type tone to it, Persson’s voice is killer on all the songs, and is carried above the band very well, especially on “Viper” and “A New Sun Rises”.

Most black metal or death/black metal in this case, would not have that so called ‘bite’ if it weren’t for the deep underlying tones of the bass. When the two are played together the contrast in sounds really bring out the two instruments, giving the music that sound. This album in no way lacks that and that is extremely evident during the guitar solo on “A New Sun Rises”. Max Lindberg lays down some great background figures to back up Andreas Blomkvist, who is equally talented.

The production of this album is expertly done, with a dark, foreboding feel that really brings out the best in the band.

Hyperborean has really got something going for them, and it shines through in their first full length album. This album is in no way that harsh, threatening style one is used to when thinking about black metal. No, this album offers up some harsh melodies, by its also melodic in its own way. For a great release, Hyperborean gets 4 stars.

LOST IN THOUGHT Opus Arise

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.80 | 10 ratings
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Over the past couple of years the progressive metal scene has been over run with Dream Theater clones. And eventually I thought they would all go away since many newer, and sometimes better, bands were popping up. But it seems that they will never go away. Not saying that I don’t like Dream Theater clones, I do like some of them, but can’t bands be a bit more original? Dream Theater is one of my favorite bands because I like their style and their sound so I find it hard to dislike a band that sounds similar to them. Lost in Thought is one of those bands. They have a great sound, but almost no originality. Hailing from the United Kingdom, “Opus Arise” is their first full length album and it has some very sections, but what they have in musicianship they lack in originality.

Already I seem to be beating a dead horse with this originality issue, but it’s one of those things that I think is a key element in music. It is amazing, though, how well Deane Lazenby copies James Labrie’s voice. Whether it is by accident or not, right off the bat you can tell it. ‘Beyond the Flames’ starts out with a signature Dream Theater guitar and bass riff that soon transfers into some good singing by Deane Lazenby. Even the song structures remind me of Dream Theater. The counter rhythms and melodies are exactly like Dream Theater’s down to the last note. While Lost in Thought has lots of skill, namely guitarist David Grey, their lack of originality kills them.

Lost in Thought seems to bridge all of Dream Theater’s albums on “Opus Arise”. ‘Beyond the Flames’ could be taken straight out of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence while songs like ‘New Times Awaken’ and ‘Lost in Thoughts’ could easily be taken off Dream Theater’s newer albums. The drumming on this album doesn’t even come close to Mike Portnoy’s, but Chris Billingham tries, especially on ‘Lost in Thoughts’ were the drums sound just like the ones used on ‘Pull Me Under’.

The production is especially good, with a warm 70’s prog style to it.

While “Opus Arise” features some great musicianship, it takes a downfall because of its lack of originality. This album would’ve been an easy 4 star album if Lost in Thought could’ve found their own style. With their talent, Lost in Thought can easily make a much better and more original release in the future, but for now they get 3.5 stars.

NEGURĂ BUNGET Poartă de Dincolo

EP · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 10 ratings
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When one thinks of Romanian metal, most people usually think of Negură Bunget. Though I’ve never heard much of the band, besides some videos here and there, they have seemed to make huge waves in the black metal scene. After releasing the full length “Măiestrit” only last year, they have come back with yet another release, and though this definitely isn’t there best work, it is still a pretty awesome EP.

Going into listening to this album I expected to find myself not knowing what to give it after a few listens, as with most black metal. But, to my surprise this one jumped out to me right from the start. Though their lineup has changed dramatically over the years, they still sound almost the same, at least from what I have heard of their earlier stuff. “Poartă de Dincolo” starts out with a nice slow paced track in ‘Hotar’. This song features some nice clean vocals by Ageru Pământului, and also some cool black metal growls. Black metal growls are a lot higher pitched then regular growls, and that tends to upset some people’s ears, but I’ve grown to like them a lot. This song is full of high and low points, especially near the end when the growls slowly crescendo up to a great guitar melody. The keyboards on this song, and on the whole album, are played expertly by Gădineţ, and that really enhances the bands sound, especially during the atmospheric sections.

My favorite part of black metal is the atmospheric break down sections. Negură Bunget is great at implementing these sections, and they greatly add to the overall feel of the album. ‘La Marginea Lumii’ and ‘Frig in Oase’ both feature these great drawn out sections, but they add their own touch. With added instruments that include xylophones, kavals, rulas, pan flutes, and tulnics the atmospheric sections are definitely the best part of this EP. Even though I have no idea what a kaval or a tulnic is, they sound really cool, so I’m definitely glad Negură Bunget included them.

The production on this EP is absolutely perfect, and the deep, dark almost creepy sections of it really stand out. What’s great about black metal is that bands usually go out of tune on purpose to create a darker, creepier sound, and the production is so good on this that when they do it, it doesn’t sound horrid at all, but quite fine.

Four songs and 28 minutes after listening to this wonderful EP, the listener will definitely be deeply entranced in “Poartă de Dincolo”. With great instrumental and atmospheric sections combined with nice heavy black metal, Negură Bunget has definitely released yet another quality album. This EP easily deserves 4 stars, and leaves me wanting another release quite soon.

AUCKENROSE Physis

EP · 2011 · Deathcore
Cover art 3.43 | 8 ratings
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Inhale Silence

Rhode Island death metalcore act Auckenrose formed in early 2009 and this is their first release since then. Starting out as a solo project, Auckenrose soon developed into a complex, and very good three piece band. Metalcore is definitely not one of my favorite genres, and I don’t end to look into much from the genre, but Auckenrose put “Physis” up for free download and how could I refuse? Today it is important for people to hear your music so that they can get to know your band, especially when you’re a newer band such as Auckenrose. By doing so bands get a wide audience and I hope that is what happens here.

The music on “Physis” is very sound and compliments the vocals well. This EP reminds me a lot of Between the Buried and Me’s “The Great Misdirect”. Not only does Auckenrose sound similar to them, but the format of the EP is quite similar also. “Physis” starts out with a cool, slow track, ‘Inhale Silence’ much the same as “The Great Misdirect starts out with a slower song, ‘Mirrors’. ‘Inhale Silence’ is a very cool track that is different from all the others on the EP. Not only is it all instrumental, featuring great guitar work from Daniel Tonski, but it isn’t metalcore at all. After the first couple of seconds this becomes quite self evident and the song eventually takes on an alternative metal sound, which is really cool.

The rest of the album is pretty standard metalcore, with great drumming from Andrew Lima and also some nice bass licks. An out of the ordinary thing that I picked up was the interesting jazz section on ‘Cognitive Dissonance’. That really added flavor to the album, cleanly dividing the heavier ‘Awakening (Your Truth)’ and the almost death metal ‘Archaea’. One thing about this album though is the vocals. While I don’t hate them, I definitely think they could be improved on. They seem a bit muddled, I don’t know if this is because of the production or not, but that is my one complaint.

As I just said the production is one downside of this EP. Granted, it was put up for free download and all that, but I would’ve appreciated more zing, or power, from the guitars. Also, as I said before, the vocals could be brought higher up in the mix because they are a bit muffled.

Besides from those production issues, though, this EP is a great start for Rhode Island metalcore band Auckenrose. Combining great death/metalcore sound similar to Between the Buried and Me and softer less intrusive metal, Auckenrose has put out an EP that is not only good, but free. For this release Auckenrose gets 3 stars, but I can see future releases easily eclipsing this one.

THE SHADOW THEORY Behind The Black Veil

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.61 | 13 ratings
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A Symphony of Shadows

After a successful start with Psychotic Waltz, and more recently the band Deadsoul Tribe, Devon Graves has come back for thirds in one heck of a way. The Shadow Theory consists of not only Graves but also Arne Schuppner (Complex 7), Johanne James (Threshold, Kyrbgrinder), Demi Scott, and most notably, ex-Pain of Salvation bassist Kristoffer Gildenlöw. This cast can definitely be deemed an all-star cast, mostly made up of progressive metal artists, and it shows in every way.

Not only is Devon Graves a great singer, but he plays flute exceptionally well. Flute playing in metal was definitely one thing that intrigued me while listening to the album. Beforehand I assumed that it would sound too different, almost not right, but there is nothing wrong with it on “Behind the Black Veil”. Right from the beginning the flute stands out on the opening track, ‘I Open My Eyes’, where the great guitar counter melodies bring it out perfectly. The songs are mostly simple progressive-power metal compositions, except for a few like ‘A Symphony of Shadows’ and the opener. The feel of the album varies from heavier, creepier music to softer more soothing melodies. Also there are a lot of distinct differences in the songs, unlike most of Graves’s Psychotic Waltz stuff. ‘Sleepwalking’ is a great example of this because it sounds very much like a Pain of Salvation song, probably because of Kristoffer Gildenlöw. With softer vocal sections mixed with some heavy bass influence, it almost feels like it came of an early Pain of Salvation album.

The vocals by Devon Graves, or Buddy Lackey, whichever you prefer, are exceptionally good. He has mastered many different styles and all that adds a lot to the album. Ranging from the Jethro Tull sounding ‘Selebrate’ to 'A Candle in the Gallery' which sounds very much like King Diamond, this becomes quite self evident. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the drumming of Johanne James, which is very good and heavy, yet very articulate.

The production is very good, packing a heavy sound that enhances every bit of the album. Everything sounds perfect, and I especially like the way the bass and keyboards are put into the mix.

If you don’t already have this masterpiece from 2010, then you should definitely pick it up. Any fan of Pain of Salvation, King Diamond, and of course Psychotic Waltz will really enjoy this great piece of music. The heavy atmosphere conveyed throughout the album leads to a great feel that keeps me interested every time I listen. For a great release the Shadow Theory gets 4 stars.

EVERGREY Glorious Collision

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.20 | 17 ratings
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Leave It Behind Us

In the not to distant past Evergrey has released some amazing albums, most notably “In Search of Truth” in 2001, but with this album they’ve seemed to leave it behind them and by doing so this album is a little weak. Granted, I still really like this album, but I definitely think that it could be better. The songs are quite simple for most of the time, and the couple of songs that are very good get drowned out by the rest. Also “Glorious Collision” seems to be a little repetitive for its hour long time span.

Of everything on the album, my favorite thing would probably have to be Tom Englund’s, which sounds a lot like Fish, from Marillion. Being the huge Marillion fan that I am, this adds a lot to the album, especially on songs such as ‘The Phantom Letters’ and ‘Free’. His voice blends in very well with Evergrey’s sound, and is a lone highlight on most of the songs. If I were to just listen to the first couple of songs this album would hold no interest to me at all, but, thankfully, the last six songs are really good, and salvage the album. Starting with ‘The Phantom Letters’, “Glorious Collision” takes off on a new, and better path that would interest a listener much more than the first half.

The keyboards on this album, played by Rikard Zander, are very good and highlight the melodies very good with their lighter sound. That’s the one cool thing about Evergrey that has stayed the same; they know how to infuse different genres into their music. In the past they have released both progressive and power metal albums, and, in my opinion, “Glorious Collision” is a good mixture between the two. With more progressive sounding songs such as the ballad ‘...And The Distance’ and ‘Free’, they show their diverse talent, while they also show they can get the job done with nice, heavy power metal songs like ‘Frozen’ and ‘I'm Drowning Alone’.

The production is very polished, and almost too perfect, but I find my self liking it. Englund’s voice sounds great with it, and the guitars sound pretty good, too.

While hardcore Evergrey fans will probably be disappointed with this new release, there’s not too much to complain about. It has great musicianship, wonderful choruses, and great melodies. I found myself liking this album a lot, but as I said before, if you’re just getting into Evergrey this might not be the place to start. I got this at around the same time I got “In Search of Truth”, my first introduction to Evergrey, and it was amazing at the difference. For their good, yet lacking release Evergrey gets 3 stars.

ARKAN Salam

Album · 2011 · Folk Metal
Cover art 4.10 | 5 ratings
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Call From Within

By itself oriental death metal is a very cool genre, with very complex sounds and intricate melodies that are usually closely tied with Arabic music. But, French death metal act Arkan takes it to a new level with the release of “Salam”. Throughout the album it becomes quite evident that most of the band members are originally Arabian, and this adds a great touch and authenticity to the music.

The best part of this album is definitely the Arabian touches, which mostly come from Foued Moukid who, in addition to drums and percussion, plays bendir, derbouka, tablas, cajon, and Mus El Kamal who plays both the oud and guitar. The oud is probably my favorite of all these for its diverse sound and great ability to blend with Arkan’s sound. A great example of this is the beginning of ‘Origins’. The oud provides a great couple of opening riffs and flows awesomely into a more metal drum and guitar riff. That right there is the basis of most of “Salam”, and it totally great. Though, the oud is only used sparingly throughout the album, in place of guitars, the scales and chords that are played on it blend very nicely with the style of metal that Arkan plays. “Salam” isn’t totally covered in oriental and Arabic melodies, and that is what makes it so good. Personally, if it was all oriental death metal, I wouldn’t like it nearly as much because it would lack diversity between regular metal and oriental. Arkan has found that happy medium between the two that will both engross listeners and keep them interested.

The vocals on “Salam” are also very good and well sung. I especially like the difference between the dark, harsher growls of Florent Jannier and the clean vocals of Sarah Layssac. Besides the obvious difference that Jannier is a man and Layssac is a female, both of their vocal styles are completely different; growls and clean vocals, respectively. Even though their so different they go together perfectly on the album, and provide exceptional sound. ‘Inner Slaves’ and ‘Sweet Opium’ are perfect examples of this.

The production is very good and compliments Arkan’s style very well. One thing I don’t like about this album, though, is that the last song, ‘Amaloun Jadid II’, is way to long. I don’t know if this was the bands intention, or just the promo copy I have, but there is about two minutes of music in the beginning and then four minutes of music at the end. This might not seem odd, but the song is 17 minutes long! So in between there is eleven minutes of dead space where nothing is playing, at all. I’ve turned my speakers up as far as they go and yet I’ve yet to here a thing during that eleven minute ‘intermission’. The band might’ve intended for this, but I don’t know, all I know is, is that I don’t like it. But, other than that the album is perfectly fine, and pretty awesome at that.

Arkan’s second full-album release, “Salam”, is a great piece of oriental death metal, and a must get for all metal fans. With great metal riffs infused with Arabic flavors “Salam” is an awesome release by a relatively new death metal act. For their great release Arkan gets 4 stars.

CRUCIFIED MORTALS Crucified Mortals

Album · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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The Séance

Crucified Mortals has been around for 10 years now and this is their first album. Up until this point they have released a variety of EP’s and splits, but have yet to put out an album. Now that they have, they sure released a good one. Composed of eleven horror stories that they made into songs, Crucified Mortals has definitely shown a creepy, haunting, and even a kind of disturbing side to their music. But that, in its own way, makes the music more enjoyable.

Though for most of ‘Crucified Mortals’ it is thrash metal, there are parts of it that have death metal tendencies, and the album is at its best when the two genres mix. It combines to make a wonderful mix of speedy riffing and raw, harsh sounding melodies. The opening to “Sordid Treachery” showcases this with great opening lines accompanied with heavy, almost pounding drums. That’s basically what this album is; Riffs led by pounding drums that are accompanied with harsh thrash vocals. ‘Crucified Mortals’ is in no way different from most standard thrash acts, but their overall energy, and great soloing lend for a nice, if you can call dissonance and disturbing lyrics nice, sound.

One thing that seems to happen a lot on this album, though, is that a lot of the songs sound the same. This makes the album seem a lot longer than it really is, and detracts from the album. One thing is for certain though; headbangers everywhere will enjoy the sound that Crucified Mortals have put into this album. One thing attributing to that would definitely be the soloing. Zack Rose, who I believe does most of the soloing, does a great job on all of his solos, and lead singer Craig Horval, who also plays bass and guitar, puts down some fantastic bass lines to back him up.

The production is very clean and not at all like what I expected when I first received this album. Just glancing at the cover, which is really kind of cool, and some of the lyrics I assumed that the production would sound almost “underground”-like with fuzzy guitars and vocals that were way too low in the mix, but I was wrong. Everything is perfectly balanced, and it sounds great.

For people who have bee disappointed with more recent thrash releases this album is definitely for you. With harsh vocals, pounding drums, and killer solos Crucified Mortals has put forth a great effort with this album and definitely deserve 3.5 stars.

JAG PANZER The Scourge of the Light

Album · 2011 · US Power Metal
Cover art 3.79 | 11 ratings
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The Book of Kells

It seems that today’s metal world is over stuffed with progressive, death, and power metal. With all this it is hard to find a band that is original, plays good, and makes you want to listen to them. After being around for 27 odd years, Jag Panzer has still found a way to do all these things, and it has accumulated into this: “The Scourge of the Light”.

With traces of bands such as Savatage and Iron Maiden it is hard not to like this album. What’s great about it, though, is not the sound, but the style. Jag Panzer plays power metal like the heavy metal of the 1980’s, but with a few twists such as great keyboard work by Mark Briody, that brings in an Iron Maiden like feel, and some nice clean guitars by Christian Lasegue. Another thing that I like about this album is that it is not cheesy at all. Every single one of the songs on this album are well thought out and don’t fall into any genre clichés that many bands seem to find themselves trapped in these days. But, I guess since Jag Panzer has been around for so long they can easily bypass these things.

One complaint I have is some of the songs, like ‘Union’ for example, seem a bit repetitive. They repeat the chorus a little too much and make the song just one big chorus. But, the vocals by Harry Conklin are top notch on this track, so it basically wipes out any complaints that I have. The 8 minute mini-epic ‘The Book of Kells’ is perhaps my favorite song on “The Scourge of the Light” mainly for the small bit of progressive leanings it has. The beginning vocals by Harry Conklin are top notch and blend nicely into the harmony section with what sounds like a chorus in the background. The guitars are also very good in this song, offering up a nice drive to it. The tempo of this song is also brought way, way down, really changing up the feeling of the album, and creating a nice creative tone.

The production is perfectly done by Jim Morris of Morrisound Studios, so there’s nothing more to say there except great job.

Not only has this album given me reason to look at Jag Panzer’s earlier albums, but it is also the best power metal I’ve heard this year. It has something for every fan of traditional heavy metal, power metal, or even progressive metal. For this great release Jag Panzer gets 4 stars.

ABYSMAL DAWN Leveling the Plane of Existence

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 8 ratings
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Our Primitive Nature

Not to say anything bad about Abysmal Dawn, who has released one heck of an album, but overall the album is pretty unoriginal. Besides a few songs here and there most of it is you normal run of the mill death metal. It is in no way brutally heavy, but there is a sense of grandness to it that makes it a very enjoyable listen.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is “The Age of Ruin” because it is a totally different song from most of the rest of the album. The bass and guitar opening is very sinister, and one of the high points in originality on the album. The whole song, though barely two minutes, is a great opener and shows off great musicianship especially by Mike Cosio and Charles Elliot. Another short, but good, song is “Our Primitive Nature” which, as you can tell by the name, is a very basic, yet enjoyable song. It provides a nice interlude on the album and has some nice Congo work by Scott Fuller. The song is a nice lead up to “Perpetual Dormancy”, and is one of the only other creative songs on “Leveling the Plane of Existence”.

As I’ve said before, this album isn’t really all that original, but even though it still produces some great riffs and melodies. The opening of “Manufactured Humanity” could have been taken right out of “The Sound of Perseverance”, and has a nice electric guitar opening, but from there it levels out to a more plain sound. Most of the melodies are reminiscent of late Death work and also Morbid Angel. The solos are also pretty good, especially on “Manufactured Humanity” and the beginning of “In Service of Time”. The slow sections, such as those on “The Sleeper Awakens”, are very well played and add a nice touch to the album.

The production is pretty standard of the modern U.S. death metal scene, but it goes with the album fine. Relapse Records has, once again, struck something good this year and have really shown how good of a label they are.

“Leveling the Plane of Existence” is a nice effort from Abysmal Dawn, and any fan of their past releases should definitely consider picking this one up. Even though at times it can fall into some genre clichés, “Leveling the Plane of Existence” is a very good album with nice drum work, cool solos, and overall good musicianship. For their good effort Abysmal Dawn gets 3.5 stars.

OBSCURA Omnivium

Album · 2011 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.22 | 31 ratings
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Celestial Spheres

Obscura’s latest album is definitely the best death metal albums I’ve heard so far this year, and is also one of the top overall albums, too. Sometimes utterly brutal and other times softer, though I find it hard to classify any of this as soft, Obscura has reached their peak in both creativity and musicianship. Not only have they released a great album, but they’ve redefined technical death metal once again and, in my mind, reached to the point of other technical death metal greats such as Atheist and Cynic.

From the first listen of the album I enjoyed it, especially the great guitar work by both Christian Muenzner and Steffen Kummerer. The solos on this album are absolutely awesome and increase the enjoyment of listening to this album a lot. On songs such as “Aevum” the guitars set the tone and carry the melody perfectly, providing a nice, even feel that is hardly paralleled in today’s metal scene. Though mostly a guitar and drum driven album, Jeroen Paul Thesseling’s bass work is top notch and really drives the album. This is especially evident on tracks such as “Euclidean Elements” and “Septuagint” where his 6 string bass shows how diverse Obscura is, and how they don’t suffer from many of the genre clichés.

One thing that I wasn’t sold on from the beginning though was the drumming. Unlike bands such as Atheist, Death, and Cynic, Obscura’s drumming changes sound and texture throughout the album. At first I wasn’t sure I really like that, since it sounded kind of artificial, but after a while I began to see it really added to their overall sound. On the track “Septuagint” this is especially shown in the beginning when it is a nice acoustic section that has the normal drum sound, but it then transfers into a technical death metal melody in which the drums change and become hollower sounding, so to say. That may sound bad, but it offers up a great sound that is really enjoyable and fits right in. Also, the acoustic sections on this album are very good and help distance this album so many others. The vocals are also very good. Steffen Kummerer has a knack for growling and it is really depicts Obscura’s image.

The production is excellent, clean, and clear. It really helps the quality of an album when the production is good, and that is what we have here. Not only is it a great production, but a great album as well.

If you like technical death metal, just a little bit you will be blown away by this album. Not only is it a genre defining piece but it has great musicianship, wonderful production, and great creativity. This album is a must have for any metal fan and definitely one of the best releases of 2011. For this fantastic album, Obscura gets 4.5 stars.

FEN Epoch

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 33 ratings
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Of Wilderness and Ruin

To say that I like black metal even the slightest would be a bit of an over statement. Up until “Epoch” I had only found one black metal album that I generally liked and that was “Hvis Lyset Tar Oss” by Burzum. Taking that into account, before I even listened to Fen’s newest album I had listened to the hype and expected great things. And I pretty much got what I wanted. With great atmospheric passages and heavy riffs replacing each other seamlessly “Epoch” almost immediately caught my attention and kept it there every time I listened. Needless to say Fen has created an amazing album that is almost a lock to take “Album of the Year 2011”.

One thing that really made me like this album was the musicians on the album. They catch your attention right off the bat with a great atmospheric opening to the album in the title track “Epoch”. The synths, played by Æðelwalh, are absolutely superb throughout the title track and the whole album. One thing that Fen does exceptionally is transfer from light airy melodies to killer heavier riffs that are so good. This difference between dark and mysterious and light and innocent sounding tracks makes for a very enjoyable experience. One of the best things to do when listening to this album is sit down in a quiet place and immerse yourself in the music and just soak it in and absorb the full potential of the album. The little things are really what make this album very special. The little bass and guitar counter melodies really make the synths pop out and leads to a much more enjoyable sound than most of the recent black metal that I have listened to. Another song I would like to point out is perhaps my favorite track on the album, “The Gibbet Elms”. First off it is an epic, averaging out at 11 minutes, and the music on it is awesome to be simply put. The drums really carry this song and this track is one of the first songs where you can really tell the presence of the drummer, Theutus. Also this song is has great peaks and valleys that make the song have lots of movement. But the reason why I like this song the most is because of the clean vocals.

The reason why I am usually turned off by black metal is because I despise the vocals. The normal black metal screams are few and far between on this album, and instead are replaced by death metal growls, chants, and yes, clean vocals. As I mentioned before “The Gibbet Elms” has great vocals, and this is because it features the cleanest vocals of any song on the album. Towards the end and in the beginning The Watcher shows off his real voice and it is a thing of beauty. His lower sound blends on perfectly with the synths and guitars to make for a great sound that would be pleasing to all ears. Another song that has good vocals on it is “Of Wilderness and Ruin” because is changes it up a bit. Besides the normal growls and screams there are some chants thrown in there that really change up the feel of the album, and increase its worth. And this review wouldn’t be complete without this writer saying something about the black metal screams. I have already stated before that I take no liking in them at all, but for this album I have made an acceptation. While they don’t enhance the album in my eyes they don’t detract from it at all, and that is good enough for me.

The production on this album is fantastic, mixing the highs and lows perfectly while still leaving room for the middle songs such as the bass and such. The sound on this album is almost reminiscent of early prog recordings but with a metal spin to them.

There’s not much more to say about this album other than, if you don’t already have it you should get it. Fen has made a great album that anyone could, and hopefully will enjoy. It’s amazing that we’re only in the third month of the year and I am almost positive that this album will stay in my top two of 2011. An easy 5 star rating is warranted here.

MONSTERWORKS The God Album

Album · 2011 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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Everything you believe is…a lie!

“This work is not about God. It is a criticism of the socio-political system which is a consequence of having belief in a supernatural being, namely: religion… If this set of songs achieves anything the hope is that it will make the listener question the source of whatever belief they have in order to feel comfortable with what they include and, most importantly, not to be afraid of that conclusion.”

Reading that, most people would expect a very heavy and dark, depressing feel to this album, but in all reality it is relatively light sounding. While it does have its heavier moments, there are some very excellent songs on “The God Album” that are softer, namely “(Hymn of) Fire”, in parts, and well that’s it. The one thing that this album lacks is some originality. Granted, it is very creative, but most of the songs sound the same and lack difference. But other than that, this album is very solid and enjoyable in parts. The guitars, played by Jon are very good, especially in the rhythmic sections, and on the occasional solo. His guitar skills also nicely compliment his vocals nicely like on the track “The Enemy of My Enemy”. One problem I have on this one, though, is that the vocals seem to be a bit rushed and hurried. Also, while on the topic of vocals, I would like to point out that his growls are much better than his screams. Showing off a bit of talent, Jon also travels into the clean vocal range, something you don’t hear everyday in thrash metal. These vocals are probably my favorite of all his since they fit down right in with the guitar and bass.

The drummer, James, on this album is also very worthy of mention for his consistency throughout the whole album. Of the songs on the album the one that showcases his skill the most would probably be “False Miracle” because, after a very good, but short slow acoustic section he quickly switches up the tempo and it turns it into a good death/ thrash song. There are some low points on this album that almost turned me completely off of it, though. Namely the first track, “Everything You Believe is a Lie”, which is very clichéd and completely unoriginal in the beginning. The opening line is song kind of acapella and states, most surprisingly, “Everything you believe is… a lie!” Thankfully the rest of the album makes up for this one bad part, and it turns into a very enjoyable album.

The production on “The God Album” is standard, but good and compliments the album nicely.

Overall, minus a few mishaps, this is a very good album by thrash veterans Monsterworks. Though only 30 some minutes it gets the point across and delivers a nice sound for listeners. One thing I will say is that the messages on this album might offend some people, but most will be able to pass by them. For a good release, Monsterworks gets 3 stars for their newest album.

CREATION'S TEARS Methods To End It All

Album · 2010 · Gothic Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Parody Paradigm

Another gothic metal band, yet a totally different sound. Though gothic metal bands that seem to do really well usually have a female singer, Creation’s Tears has put forth a very good album even though they don’t specifically fit the mold. With “Methods to End it All”, Creation’s Tears has out together both a prog and gothic metal based album that, if in the mood can please anyone willing to listen.

The musicianship on this album is one thing, which no matter what mood I’m in, is enjoyable throughout. Right from the start with “Another Collision” they set the tone with a fast paced song with great guitar work and thick bass lines. Brian Eddie Reynolds does a spectacular job with the guitars all throughout the album, especially in his solo to begin “I Fail”. After his great solo, the song takes up a more prog feel, driven mostly by the bass and drums. This song has a very Dream Theater like feel which puts this song out in front of most of the other, at least for me, and makes it one of the most enjoyable on the album. Not only does “I Fail” offer up a great solo opening but throughout the track there are also some small samplings of great solos interspersed. Another great song is “Odyssey (Opus IX)” because it features a more acoustic centered sound in the beginning rather than the heavier sound on most of the other songs. One thing that I like about “Methods to End it All” is that through the 30 some minutes it’s on it never gets boring. Granted, it is only around 30 minutes, but it still shows that Creation’s Tears has a lot of talent and originality, and their debut really shows that.

One thing that also adds to the album is the vocalists. Brian Eddie Reynolds, who I mentioned earlier for his guitar work, also doubles as the bands vocalist. His style blends very well with the rest of the band and it sounds very good. Creation’s Tears also enlisted some help from ex-Cradle of Filth Singer Sarah Jezebel Deva who guest performs on the track “Creation’s Tears”. I like this because it changes up the feel of the album from a more progressive gothic metal approach to straight up gothic metal for this song.

The production is also quite good, too. It’s very professional sounding and has a little edge to it that is really nice.

“Methods to End it All” is a superb debut from Creation’s Tears, and it definitely warrants a listen from any metal fan out there. With help from the all ready mentioned Sarah Jezebel Deva and session drummer Lee Morris of Paradise Lost, Creation’s Tears really helped their chances of becoming a great metal band. For this great release they get 4 stars.

MALISON ROGUE Malison Rogue

Album · 2011 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.74 | 3 ratings
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Everything Fades

For me it has been traditional heavy metal. Recent traditional metal albums that I’ve heard have hardly impressed me at all, but now new heavy metal is making a come back. With the release of “Malison Rogue”, a self titled album, Malison Rogue has renewed my interest in newer heavy metal. This album is a great blend of genres that range any where from regular traditional metal to power metal, and progressive metal.

One thing that really brings this to life is the guitars. They remind me a little bit of “Killers”-era Maiden guitars mixed with a wave of progressive intonation. This offers a great feel to the album, that when mixed with the drums make for a very raw sounding piece. The beginning of “Friend or Foe” really exemplifies this and expands on it with great guitar solos and bass licks. Another thing that I would like to point out is the way Malison Rogue seems to play different genres at the same time. While the drums and bass are mostly in a retro heavy metal groove the guitars are very progy at times but it still seems to blend well, so that right there is a huge thumbs up from me. Malison Rogue also seems to pull on other strings of metal, such as in the beginning of “The Pain You Cause” where it is very “Operation: Mindcrime” sounding. I like this, a whole lot, because I absolutely love Queensrÿche and when their type of sound is mixed with traditional heavy metal, it offers up a very enjoyable sound.

The vocals are also quite superb on this album. They mix very well with the guitars and are quite excellent in of themselves. Lead singer Zeb has an uncanny talent to alter his voice a bit but still have the same tone and quality to it that has really made me enjoy this album. Though at first listen his voice sounds like it is better suited for power metal it still fits in with Malison Rogue’s sound. One other thing vocally that Malison Rogue employs well is the use of harmonies. Songs such as “The Griever” and “Scars” were it really adds to the songs appeal. Speaking of “Scars”, my favorite track, I love how Malison Rogue really sounds together. They are raw, but not so raw that it detracts from the album, which is just the way I like it.

The production by Mats Levén (ex. Yngwie Malmsteen, Therion) is really terrific and flawless. The mixing is also done quite superbly and adds to the overall appeal of the album.

This album comes highly recommended for fans of Iron Maiden, and those who like their heavy metal mixed with a little prog and power metal. “Malison Rogue” has every thing listeners can want, fast tracks (“We’re All Born Sinners” and “The Pain You Cause”), slower songs (“The Griever”) and great epics and ballads such as “Scars” and “My Mistakes”, respectively. For a great debut, Malison Rogue gets 3.5 stars.

DIVINEFIRE Eye of the Storm

Album · 2011 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 4 ratings
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The worlds on fire

Even though there are myriad amounts of power metal bands out there, especially with religious leanings, Divinefire stands out just a bit. Yes, they do sometimes fall into that clichéd power metal sound but for the most part they sound pretty original and creative. Even at its lowest points it puts forth both god sound and effort. And, for those who are a bit tentative about lyrics with religious leanings, don’t despair that much, they aren’t that prevalent.

The musicians on this album are very good, and there are some very good guests, too. They include Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall), Markus Sigfridsson (7Days, Harmony & Dark Water), Andreas Passmark (Royal Hunt & Narnia), CJ Grimmark (Narnia, Rob Rock & Full Force), and most notably Thomas Vikström (Therion, Candlemass,7Days & Mehida). Besides these great voices, the instrumental sections stand out, too. Both the keyboards and guitars mix very well throughout the whole album and especially well on “To Love and Forget” and “Send Me Out”. The guitar solo near the end of the latter really exemplifies great musicianship and control. These two elements are what really make this album stand out a bit more than the rest of the field. While most power metal is mainly a chorus and then maybe some solos and such, “Eye of the Storm” mixes these elements around to create a unique yet constant feel. Through the 50 some minutes that this album lasts it does tend to get a little repetitive in the middle and towards the end.

One thing that keeps this album interesting is the vocals. Christian Liljegran is very good at both singing and creating the lyrics. His voice is both crisp and clear while still having a metal feel to it. Also what I like about his compositions is that they tell a story, and each song is a mini story which I find really cool. Even if you don’t like the religious themes, which don’t at all detract from the album, it’s hard to discredit him for a wonderful job putting this all together. Jani Stefanovic is another person I would like to point out for his multiple talents. In the credits he is said to be on guitars, bass, keyboards, and drums. Not only does he play those four instruments superbly he also orchestrated the whole thing and contributed on the vocal parts with some growls. While the growls aren’t superb it is a very nice effort and I do like his style.

The production on this album is very good by once again Jani Stefanovic. The production is warm but still very heavy and powerful while be very clean and precise.

“Eye of the Storm” is an album I would recommend to any fan of majestic or melodic metal. This is another great release from Liljengran Records so far in 2011 and I think it is safe to say that almost everything coming out of its label is well worth picking up. For their very good release Divinefire gets 3.5 stars.

OPETH Watershed

Album · 2008 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.85 | 111 ratings
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Heir Apparent

My introduction to Opeth was this album. For me they had to stand up to the greats, in my mind, which were Dream Theater and Pain of Salvation, though I only had “The Perfect Element” at the time. At first I was telling myself to turn it off every time I got to “Heir Apparent”, the first song I had ever listened to with growling. But in the end I began to like this album, and then, all of a sudden, I loved it.

With songs such as “Coil” with its great acoustic flavor, and “Hessian Peel” it’s hard not to like this album. “Coil” starts off the album on the right foot with great acoustic guitars and very nice clean vocals by Mikael Åkerfeldt that lead nicely into “Heir Apparent”. Right from the start “Heir Apparent” offers nice heavy riffs that bolster the melodies very nicely. This song has great contrasts in it, going from soft, lightly placed beats to heavy metal laden riffs that transfer perfectly into Åkerfeldt’s growling. The keyboards on this album are also quite superb, showcased in “Burden” a long with many others. “Burden”, besides having really cool keyboard solos, has some great guitar work by both Mikael Åkerfeldt and Fredrik Åkesson.

Now the vocals are what really make this album, and Opeth what they are today. They, and more specifically Mikael Åkerfeldt, are the pioneers in progressive death metal with their signature sound. Since Opeth has been going from clean vocals to death growls in the same song many bands have caught on and incorporated this technique in their albums, such as Haken’s “Aqurius” which just came out recently. Another reason why I like the vocals on this album is that now they are almost the standard for most of the metal and progressive metal that I listen to. Mikael Åkerfeldt is a complete genius in everyway, and his vocals show that.

The production on this album is great, providing great boosts to the highs and support to the lower sounds. Opeth’s ability to transfer from dark to light in one song can be credited to the production a little bit since you can hardly tell the difference all throughout, providing a nice smooth feel.

“Watershed” opened my eyes a long time ago and I can see it doing the same to anyone who is a bit tentative about heavier progressive metal. If you don’t already have this album I propose that you stop reading this review and go out to your local record store and buy it. For a great album Opeth gets 4.5 stars.

VANDEN PLAS The Seraphic Clockwork

Album · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.96 | 22 ratings
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Rush of Silence

Vanden Plas had never caught my attention enough to get any of their albums. But, once “The Seraphic Clockwork” came out, I was instantly enthralled in their great sound and talent. “The Seraphic Clockwork” is a little over an hour long and it never once gets boring, sporting great riffs, choruses, and overall perfect technicality. Every thing mixes well and the musicians are absolutely superb.

The guitars are nice and heavy on this album and when mixed with the drums offer up a great sound that any metal fan will enjoy. On the track “Rush of Silence” where the guitars offer a great starting point for both the song and the vocals, this is especially apparent. The harmonies on this song play a key role in it being one of my favorite on the album. The vocals by Andy Kuntz are so crisp and clear that when they are harmonized it sounds almost as if it were on voice which adds so much to the overall great feel of the album. The bass, played by Torsten Reichert is absolutely superb and you can really here how good he is on the ballad like song “Quicksilver”.

Another great thing about Vanden Plas is that they play prog metal in one of its simplest forms. Of course simple and prog metal is kind of like and oxymoron, but in this case it is true. They focus more on being technically sound than playing fast of even insanely hard things that if not played right would sound bad. Even if Vanden Plas did play any of the above, though, they would still sound excellent.

The production on this album is another high point, featuring great transitions between light and heavy, drawn out and tight. In a way it is some what similar to a lot of recent prog metal albums that I’ve listened to, but it is still great production.

Vanden Plas is a superb band that deserves every credit that is thrown there way. In the past, they have released some great material, and they have continued that tradition here with “The Seraphic Clockwork”. It took me awhile to realize how good this album was; around 3-4 more listens than usual, but many progressive metal fans will be able to tell how good this album is with in the first couple of listens. For a great release Vanden Plas gets 4 stars.

SHROUD OF DESPONDENCY Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion

Album · 2011 · Atmospheric Black Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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Seeing one last ray of light…

I was pretty much about to give up on black metal, but then I listened to this album and I gained a whole new perspective on black metal. I still am not a huge fan, but this album has turned me onto, hopefully, a very good genre. Shroud of Despondency mixes heavy, dark riffs with long drawn out atmospheric chords to make this album very nice and soothing, while still being dark and dreary. In “Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion”, Shroud of Despondency makes great use of mixing different genres that include folk and a little bit of progressive to go along with black metal.

One thing that I still have a hard time getting over is the almost screamy vocals. In some of the acoustic songs such as “Flicker of the Ardent Light” and “Seeing One Last Ray of Light” the vocals are nowhere to be found and it adds up to a very enjoyable sound. The guitars are especially good on these tracks, showcased of course since it is all instrumental. These songs are the ones that you just want to sit down, close your eyes, and just imagine as you listen to them. They are so soft and smooth, contrasting sharply with the other songs a lot, but they still somehow blend and mix in. Shroud of Despondency also has some heavier songs, and even though they are very good instrumentally, the vocals detract just a little. My favorite of the heavier songs is the epic, rounding out at 12 minutes, “To Glisten In All the Colors of Distress”. It has superb drumming and guitar work to go along with the vocals. The vocals in this one really blend well with every thing, but on a level that makes it creepy and a little disturbing. But, that is the feel that I have come to expect from black metal, and this album delivers it seamlessly.

The production on this album is absolutely fantastic! It blends the darker, heavier side with the lighter side very well and gives the guitars quite a boost in most of the songs. The feel of this album is somewhat light at times, but also has its darker side.

Throughout this album I never once got bored. It stayed original and very good throughout, which is a huge plus to any album I listen to. The cover of this album says it all: dark, dreary, and very interesting. I recommend this to anyone, like me, who is hesitant about black metal; it will change your mind. For their very good release Shroud of Despondency gets 3.5 stars.

GOLDEN RESURRECTION Glory To My King

Album · 2010 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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Gods Grand Hotel

As soon as I was booked into Gods Grand Hotel, I tried to check out before I had to listen to the vocals again. In all seriousness, the vocals are very well sung; it’s just that they are so very cheesy. Golden Resurrection is a very good in terms of overall sound and the way they play symphonic metal; it’s just that their sound is kind of mainstream, and unoriginal. Also it is very power metal, in the way of drums, guitars and overall sound. Besides that, there are also the vocals, which definitely need some work both for there cheesiness and simplicity.

With lines such as “…You rose from the dead, I’m proud to wear the Holy Cross” and “I am ticked into God’s Grand Hotel, where the music lives forever…”, it’s hard to really get into and enjoy Glory to My King. The first couple of times that I listened to the album I really liked it, but after a while it stated to get old, and pretty cheesy. Beside Christian Liljegren’s voice sounding the same in almost every song, as I said before, the vocals are very cheesy, which detracts a lot from the nice feel of the album. On the good side, the vocals blend very well with the rest of the band, especially the guitars and keyboards.

Talking about musicians, there are many good ones to pick from on this album. The guitars are very good, taking the occasional solo such as the one in “Gods Grand Hotel”, which adds a very nice feel to the album. Also, the keyboards add a nice dimension to this album. They layer nicely with the guitars, but are about a half step lower in the mix, creating very nice texture and flow to the album. The drums are very good, but pretty standard for a power/symphonic metal album. Golden Resurrection has a vey nice sound that comes and goes between certain musical styles that make them sound very much like Symphony X and even Dream Theater in spots, like on the track “Never Look Back”. They have really good drums to open the songs, and then they transfer into a kind of complex drum structure that is very similar to Dream Theater’s, and Christian Liljegren sounds a lot like James Labrie, though not enough to sound like a complete copy.

The production on this album is solid, and I have nothing to say otherwise about it other than that it is very professionally done.

Glory to My King is a pretty good album by Golden Resurrection with very good musicianship for the likes of Tommy Johansson (Guitar and Keyboards) and Olov Andersson (Keyboards). For those who like kind of cheesy power metal, this is for you. Also if you like ReinXeed, which also features Tommy Johansson, than you will enjoy this one, too. AS for me Golden Resurrection’s good album gets 3 stars.

SOULSPELL The Labyrinth of Truths

Album · 2010 · Power Metal
Cover art 4.17 | 3 ratings
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The labyrinth of truth

Soulspell really dipped into the talent basket on this great album. With great guests such as Jon Oliva (Jon Oliva’s Pain, ex. Savatage), Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex. Helloween), Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle, ex. Savatage) and Germán Pascual (ex. Narnia) Soulspell really made this album something that many people will like, and enjoy. One of the many reasons for this is the great musicianship on the album.

Every musician on this album plays absolutely superbly. The great riffs in guitars mix really well with the underlying tones of the keyboards. The song that shows this off the most is the all instrumental song, “The Entrance” which, as the name suggests, leads right into the album. It’s kind of like a pick up mote to a measure providing a preview of what is to come on the rest of the album. The drums are a bit typical for power metal albums, but some thing else in the mix, whether it be the guitars or keyboards at times, make them sound much more original and different. Guitarist Rodolfo Pagotto is one of my favorite musicians on the album. He brings so much talent to the album, especially in his solo sections like the one on “Dark Prince’s Dawn”.

The vocals on this album are top notch. Since it is a metal “opera” type album, with tons of guests, there are so many good vocals to listen to. Everyone who sings does a perfect job throughout the whole entire album. I really like the song “Adrift” where one of the many male singers trades lines with off and on with Daisa Munhoz, the only female singer. Besides her higher pitched voice blending with the lowness of the rest of the band, I really like how they utilize this, unlike many other power metal bands that have no women vocalists. “The Verve” is another great example of this, too. Perhaps my favorite song on the album, “Into the Arc of Time”, features one of the best known singers in progressive power metal, ex-lead singer of Savatage, Jon Oliva. You can definitely hear his influence here, since it sounds like it was taken straight from one of Savatage’s albums. His gravely voice and minor notes on the keyboard, add a whole new sound to the album, which wasn’t there before.

The production by Tito Falaschi and mixing by Heros Trench is pretty good except for a few instances on the album were it sounds just a bit cheesy, but it is easily overlooked.

This album comes highly recommended to any fan of power metal of progressive power metal. Also if you are a fan of bands such as Ayreon or Star One, you will really enjoy this album, since all three of these bands are made up of a bunch of high quality musicians playing together. Soulspell includes a great, all-star cast to make this one of the best recent power metal albums that I’ve heard. For their superb release they get 4 stars.

THE PROJECT HATE MCMXCIX Bleeding The New Apocalypse (Cum Victriciis In Manibus Armis)

Album · 2011 · Death Metal
Cover art 4.12 | 4 ratings
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Summoning majestic war

Most albums cease to impress me after a couple of listens. Some still amaze me, but I can never find new things that I like about albums after enough listens. But, The Project Hate MCMXCIX’s newest album, Bleeding The New Apocalypse (Cum Victriciis In Manibus Armis), still has new sounds/things that still impress me, and I keep finding new things that I like about this album. Even up until this listen right now, I find it amazing that this band can switch from a keyboard ballad type sense to death metal, all in one minute, like on “Bring Forth Purgatory”.

“Bring Forth Purgatory” is perhaps the best example of great musical talent on this album. As I said before, the opening keyboard lines are quite spectacular and flow right into the death metal section. The great part about this section, though, is that the keyboards crescendo to what seems like the climax, but then drop back down. I still can never be ready for when the death metal part comes in, making this song so lively and unpredictable. The guitar work on this album is also pretty good, too. Like most death metal albums, Bleeding The New Apocalypse (Cum Victriciis In Manibus Armis) is very guitar and drum driven, and both are played very well by Lord K. Philipson and Tobben Gustafsson, respectively. The most unpredictable part of this album, of course, was a women vocalist.

I never thought that a women vocalist would sound good in heavy metal, let alone death metal. But, Ruby Roque proved me wrong. Her voice blends very well with the musicians, even though they are playing much heavier and darker riffs compared to her singing. And yes, it is actually singing, not growling; they have someone else to dot the growling. Though much deeper, Jörgen Sandström’s growling goes very well, hand in hand with Ruby Roque’s singing. This gives, Bleeding The New Apocalypse (Cum Victriciis In Manibus Armis) a unique feel to it that is hard to find anywhere else in the death metal scene.

The production by Unisound and Dan Swanö is pretty good and I really enjoy it. I don’t know if they intentionally wanted the production to be a bit raw, but I did notice some small rubbing sounds throughout the album.

But other than that, this is a very solid album. I have to say, my introduction to The Hate Project MCMXCIX has been a great one! For fans of technical of just plain old death metal, this is a must have. For their really good release The Hate Project MCMXCIX gets 4 stars, and an album that might stay in my top ten of 2011.

IMAGES OF EDEN Rebuilding the Ruins

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 5 ratings
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Dreams Unbroken

Before I even listened to this album I had very high expectations. For one, it was a concept album, so I assumed that “Rebuilding the Ruins” would have very nice flow to it. Also, from what I had heard, the musicianship on this album was very good. I was not let down on either point. Images of Eden have produced a very solid album that is very enjoyable.

Everything that they play sounds good. Usually, a band has at least one part on an album were they don’t sound as good as the beginning, but Images of Eden sounds good all throughout. It starts in the first song “Crosses in the Sand” where very cool sound effects transfer into a pretty good guitar lick which is very tight with the drums. Something unique about this song is that the drums are kind of muddled in the beginning, which makes it have a funkier sound to it. Since the drums are more out of the picture, it leaves room for great solos by Dennis Mullin. The guitar solos on this album are very drawn out and make it much more progressive than metal, unlike many new progressive metal bands which, in my opinion, focus much more on metal. This puts them apart from the other new progressive metal bands out there. Since it is a concept album, “Rebuilding the Ruins” has many repeating themes that the band employs very well throughout. The themes seem to be mostly in the drums, guitars, and sometimes the bass guitar. The flow of the album is very nice, especially when it goes from the first half of the album, to the second half. What’s cool in this case is that, it gets heavier, and faster, adding new interest in the album.

The second half of the album starts with the title track, “Rebuilding the Ruins”, which features a very “Black Clouds and Silver Linings”-era Dream Theater sound. After the heavier parts it transfers to a lighter, airier part in which the vocal harmonies become more evident. It moves between the harmonies and deep, dark vocals. Gordon Tittsworth really has great vocal skills and he shows it throughout the album. He uses at least three different styles of singing that he employs throughout the album. One of them, which is my favorite, is an almost Fish-era Marillion sounding style that he uses a lot, and is definitely the one that matches best with Images of Eden’s playing style. My least favorite is very nasally, but he doesn’t sing with it that much, so it doesn’t detract that much from my overall enjoyment of the album that much. Another cool one that he uses when the songs get heavier and darker is a deep, almost growl style that is really interesting.

The production is almost perfect. Eric Zimmermann (Fates Warning, Limp Bizkit, Deftones, Buckcherry, and Suicidal Tendencies) does a very good job of integrating all the music together, but there are some slight discrepancies. The only noticeable one is during some of the guitar solos the sound is a bit chintzy, though that might be the sound they are looking for.

All this being said, “Rebuilding the Ruins” is still a very good release from Images of Eden. I would recommend this to any fan of progressive metal in general, and also to fans of lighter metal, too. So for their great new chapter in their story Images of Eden gets 4 stars.

EDGE OF SANITY Crimson

Album · 1996 · Melodic Death Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 99 ratings
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For the king had shown them it could be done when his woman gave birth to the sacred one.

Hail the King of death metal, Dan Swanö. I’ve waited a long time to review this album, since it was so complex, with its neat structures, changes in genre, and overall greatness. Crimson is one of, if not my first death metal album, that I had ever listened to, and am I ever glad I did. There is so much going on in this song that it’s hard to put in words what exactly I like about the album.

One thing that I like so much is the changing of the tempo and genre. Even within the first couple of minutes Edge of Sanity goes from medium pace progressive death metal to slower acoustics with regular vocals. All throughout the album they keep doing this, which makes it very complex and insanely good. The musicianship on this album is also some of the best I have ever heard in death metal. Mikael Akerfeldt, the man behind the greatness of Opeth, does a superb job on guitars, leading to a very enjoyable sound that carries throughout the whole album. He’s also exceptionally good on the acoustic sections. A cool feature that EoS employs is right after the acoustic sections of the song, they transfer right into straight out death metal, creating a very unique sound.

This being my first death metal album, even if it is progressive, this was my introduction to growling. At first I was like, “Yeah, yeah speak normally please”, but then after some listens I began to see the brilliance of Dan Swanö. His vocals are very deep, and blend in great with the melodies of Mikael Akerfeldt and the superb drumming of Benny Larsson. His regular vocals are also very good, to go along with his growling.

Sometimes I can’t come up with words to describe how awesome this album is. The licks, melodies, and riffs are top notch, and blend well with the excellent vocals of Dan Swanö. For one of the best progressive death metal albums that were ever released Edge of Sanity gets an obvious 5 stars.

REINXEED Majestic

Album · 2010 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 4 ratings
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Sword in cheese

I tried to be King Arthur and pull the sword from out under all this cheddar, but King Arthur has no place in the land of Reinxeed. Focusing mainly on the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien, Reinxeed paves their way through waves of cheese. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy this album a lot, but it’s some of the cheesiest power metal out there.

One of the main accomplices to this cheesy album is the song “Never Lie”. The musicians on this track are very good, but they fall into the usual power metal rut that started with the first song and goes throughout the whole album. The drums are constantly good, but very identical to that of most other power metal albums. The guitars are very good to open it up, but they end up in the same rut as the drums, droning on in a very cheesy fashion. The chorus is what really gets me every time, though. The vocals are very crisp and clean but I can’t get over the words which are “…never lie, it will affect your destiny…” In my opinion, it doesn’t get much cheesier than that. But, as I said before, even though it’s king of unoriginal and cheesy, it’s very enjoyable.

Songs like “Atlantis” offer great vocal harmonies that really show how talented Tommy Johansson and Kerry Lundberg are. Also the solos on this album are pretty good. One song that portrays this well is “My Paradise”. Besides great vocals in the beginning, it has great guitar licks that fit right in sync with the drums, offering a semi cheesy, yet enjoyable feel to it. Also about halfway through there’s a great electric guitar solo, making this one of my favorite songs. Another thing that makes it one of my favorites is that is doesn’t have many cheesy vocals on it.

The production one this album is very crisp and clean. It layers the vocals and guitars almost perfectly, making for a nice feel.

So, if you’re a fan of cheesy power metal, go right ahead and pick this one up. But, if you don’t want to labor to wade through all the cheese, I wouldn’t recommend it. Fro their pretty good release Reinxeed gets 3 stars.

APPEARANCE OF NOTHING All Gods Are Gone

Album · 2011 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.84 | 14 ratings
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The rise and hopefully not the soon fall of a great prog metal band

So far this year, and at the end of last year, there has been a plethora of bands that have gone with the flow, and sounded like every other prog metal band out there. But, Appearance of Nothing has shown that not all bands strive to be normal. With a great group of guests that include Dan Swanö of Nightingale and Edge of Sanity, and Devon Graves of Psychotic Waltz and Deadsoul Tribe. This album is a great mix of genres that include prog and hints of power metal. Though it’s early in 2011, this has a huge chance to make my top ten, or even top five albums of the year.

The musicianship on this album is top notch. I especially like the guitar style of Peter Berger, which blends in very well with Appearance of Nothing’s great prog sound. One song that showcases this is “The Mirror’s Eyes”. Peter Berger and Marc Petralito show off bursts of electric power that is highlighted by the drums, which back up the vocals very well. The bass lines on this album are also very nice, and thick, backing up the guitars and blending in with the drums evenly. The solo to begin “2nd God” by Peter Berger is superb, and it offers a nice transition into a nice vocal section highlighted by great drumming. This is a testament to how well both the production is and how great these guys play together.

The diversity of this album also sets it apart from other recent releases, and adds to its greatness. Songs like "The Mirror's Eyes", "... I said Silence" and "2nd God" swing between dark symphonic prog metal and death metal. The way Appearance of Nothing was able to incorporate Dan Swanö into “All Gods Are Gone” shows how good they are as a band, too. “The Mirror’s Eyes” is a prime example of the diversity of this album with since it also has hints of power metal in it, too. After the death vocals, it transfers into the power metal section with much faster drumming and resonating lead vocals by Pat Gerber and Omar Cuna. Those two work together so well, that they almost sound like one voice. “Sweet Enemy” changes up the feel of the album, with Devon Graves on lead vocals and a much slower feel with a lot less drums than normal. What’s great about it is that it doesn’t feel out of place at all, it blends right in with the rest of the album. One thing that was unexpected on this album was that it also had techno elements in it. I know many people don’t think that techno would fit in with prog metal, but surprisingly it does. On the track “The Call of Eve” the keyboards start the techno riff, but it is soon taken up by both the drums and guitars. Then it flows seamlessly back and for the between metal and techno until the vocals, which as with every other song are superb.

I can say absolutely nothing about the production of “All Gods Are Gone” because it left me speechless. It is flawless and smooth, another reason to pick this one up.

Some of the best progressive metal comes from Sweden, but now some people will have to turn their attention to Switzerland. Appearance of Nothing has brought everything I love to the table in their newest release; great vocals, originality, great sound. With hints of power, and prog metal they will capture the ears of many listeners. For their grand release Appearance of Nothing gets 4.5 stars.

NEUROMIST Move Of Thought

Album · 2010 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 3.71 | 9 ratings
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Reason Crusade

There are many reasons to like Neurmist’s first full length album. Whether it be the rock solid guitars, beautiful drums, or Vladimir Ghillien’s vocals. One other cool thing about this album is that the songs blend well into each other, creating a nice fluid sound. Occasionally this fluid sound is broken up with sharp drum beats that intervene every so often, or a screaming guitar lick. The sound is a cross between Death and Opeth, especially in the song “Lost Grip” where some of the vocals are very Opeth like.

“Lost Grip” may be my favorite song on this album since everything seems evenly balances. In most of the other songs the growls seem to be, not exactly in the major key, but fairly close to it. In this song, however, the growls are at least a half step lower and deeper; instead of the higher pitched vocals that they usually use that more closely resemble later Death-era vocals. Kirill Zmurciuk really shreds up the guitar here, complimenting Mike Grigorash’s drumming very well.

On this album they also use their fair share of weird sound effects. One of the, ironically enough, being in the song “Bizarre” where after the Opeth like beginning they use swooshing sounds to transfer into some great vocal pieces. The growls have a nice crescendo to them, but then at the end, slowly fade into some ok bass and guitar work.

The production on this album is very clean and crisp. But, in this way, it is also very much like every other newer death metal act out there, too. I don’t know if it would’ve sounded better with a less crisp feel, since it sounds so good already, but it would’ve been interesting to hear. Especially, if the growls were lower in this mix, if would’ve had a much eviler sound to it that could have made it better.

This band also did something very smart. They released this album for free download. Now people can get to hear their sound, get into it, and hopefully buy their next album. In this way I hope it reaches more people like me, who thoroughly enjoy their sound, very much. For their great debut, Neuromist gets 4 stars.

LOOK TO WINDWARD The Assemble

EP · 2010 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.25 | 2 ratings
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Looking forward

“The Assemble” is an EP from new progressive metal artist, Look to Windward. The three songs on it are from their other 2010 release, “Fortunes Haze”. It includes a good progressive metal sound mixed with decent vocals and some growling. It also includes some avant-garde feel in it. The first song “Vad Åskan Sade” starts off with a very avant-garde feel, with sound effects and some good drumming and guitars. The drumming on this EP is very solid, providing a good beat to support the underlying tones of both the acoustic and electric guitars.

The vocals on this album change a lot from one song to the other, even though there are only three songs on the entire EP. The first section of “Vad Åskan Sade” has very light and drifty vocals to it, which go along nicely with the deep guitars. Andrew McCully makes decent use of the keyboards, making long drawn out note values with it. This blends in with the vocals, in that light feel. Then the song drifts into a more metal phase, with much heavier guitars in it. The movement of going from softer metal to much deeper, heavier metal adds to the songs overall feel.

The growling on this album is ok, to say the least. It has a lot of movement to it that is punctuated with deep guitar licks, and powerful drumming. The second song, “Assemble”, is mostly all progressive death metal; it’s driven mostly by Benjamin Morley’s growls, which are much better on this song. This song features almost no keyboards, which I tend to like with my death metal, especially when it is progressive. This song sounds a lot like Death would if they were much more progier.

The production on this album is very clean and much like the rest of today’s modern prog bands. Nothing in my mind sets this apart from other EP’s or albums that I’ve listened to in the past, making it an average at best album. The band has lots to look forward to, since both Benjamin Morley and Andrew McCully have good talent and sound. For Look to Windward’s good, but promising EP, they get 3 stars.

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