Metal Music Reviews from Time Signature

OBLOMOV Mighty Cosmic Dances

Album · 2005 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 3.60 | 11 ratings
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MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016

Black metal has come a long way, and today's black metal landscape ranges from the raw and filthy end (e.g. Bahimiron and Nadiwrath) over the brutal variety (e.g. Svarttjern and Tsjuder) and the melodic variety (e.g. Darkenhöld and Denial of God) to the more elaborate and artsy end, where we find symphonic acts, such as Dimmu Borgir and Carach Angren, progressive acts, such as Enslaved, and avant-garde acts, such as Total Negation and Chryst. Oblomov's debut album "Mighty Cosmic Dance" belongs to the more artsy end of the black metal spectrum without being either avant-garde or weird.

The album opens with a spacey synth-based instrumental intro which explodes into 'Mentality Failure', and for a second, one might think that this is just going to be another black metal blastbeat-fest, but the song quickly goes down a path of variation and melody and culminates in an almost epic keyboard-enhanced final passage. The following track, 'Redefinition of the Past' opens with an extremely melodic section, which has more in common with traditional metal than black metal, but takes on a slightly more doom metal character for a while, before the tempo increases, as the song morphs into a blend of black metal and melodic thrash metal. By now, it is clear to the listener that Oblomov are not one of those black metal bands who only use two or three riffs, but a band who embraces variation.

The two first tracks are not bad at all, but it is only with 'Lost Between Emotions' that things get really interesting. In addition to the already varied and melodic style of Oblomov, this song features a really cool saxophone lead and even concludes with a very original combination of aggressive metal guitars and a folksy flute. At times bordering on the symphonic, the next track 'Starsend' also features a really cool saxophone lead and an epic choir. While less experimental, 'The Plague' is nonetheless also quite a musical experience.

After the sublime experience that is the triumvirate of 'Lost Between Emotions', 'Starsend', and 'The Blague', the heavier 'Nostalgic Idealization' feels a bit like a slowly deflating balloon, and 'Dreamworks' continues this trend. In all fairness, however, the latter features a very nice breakdown and subsequent instrumental section which together do blow a bit of air back into the balloon before the album is concluded by an outro which, like the intro, is a spacey synth-based instrumental.

The primary generator of melody is the band's use of melodic leads, be it guitar leads, saxophone leads or keyboard leads, but there are several instances where the riffs themselves seem to be inherently melodic. This is definitely something a person like me, who admittedly has never learned to appreciate the more barren and raw genres of black metal, can get behind. Moreover, I really like how much variation there is on this album, and it is clear that the band had a real artistic vision when they made this album. However, the things that I appreciate about "Mighty Cosmic Dances" are likely, I think, to be features that many black metal fans will reject. The variation might be seen as unfocused and the melodic orientation as poppy, and, overall, the album is probably as non-kvlt as can be. Thant again, who gives a fuck about that? But, even though I have a lot of appreciation for the album, it is not an album that I love without reservation. The high point is definitely the sublime triumvirate of 'Lost Between Emotions'/'Starsend'/'The Plague', but after that, the album quickly loses its energy and, sadly, limps out the backdoor.

Still, it's not a bad album, and I can see myself listening to some of the songs repeatedly in the future, but it is probably not an album I will listen to from beginning to end very many times.

MEDEVIL Conductor of Storms

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.50 | 2 ratings
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Enter the "medevil" times

Genre: traditional metal / US power metal

Enter Medevil from Chilliwack in Canada. Their debut album "Conductor of Storms" is to be released on August 2016 by the band themselves.

Stylistically, "Conductor of Storms" combines traditional metal with US power metal, peppering it with a bit of thrash metal. The listener is treated to classic-sounding heavy metal riffs packaged into compositions that slightly update the traditional metal sound and add the oomph of US power metal, which is especially present in 'Nightwalk' and 'Machination Factory' as well as in 'Escape'. 'A Sacrifice' is more of traditional metal track, rich in guitar harmonies and galloping rhythms. A very good example of the thrashier side of the album is 'An Empty Glass' which falls is more of a power-thrash affair. 'In the Distance' is an instrumental which strikes me as being almost cautious compared to the rest of the album. In a way, that does create an interesting sense of dynamics. The ballad 'The Angel of Rain' deviates even more, as it appears to be considerably inspired by 90s alternative rock. That's not a bad thing. It's just different. The magnum opus on the album is the epic 12-minute track 'The Fabled Uxoricide' in which Medevil venture unscathed deep into progressive territory, treating us to twists and turns as well as complex layers of harmonies and melodies.

The production is pretty good, and the sound is round and warm rather than sharp and cold. The guys in the band display solid songwriting skills and an admirable level of musicianship across the board. Liam Collingwood's vocals might be an acquired taste, but, seeing that his voice sounds like a blend of Udo Dirkschneider, Mark "The Shark" Shelton, and Biff Byford, there's no doubt that hi singing style suits this kind of music very well.

Overall, "Conductor of Storms" is a pretty strong debut album indicating that this band has great talent and great potential. Fans of traditional metal as well as US power metal should definitely invest in this album. It is definitely an album I will listen to again.

DEAD EARTH POLITICS The Mobius Hammersmith

EP · 2016 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Where groove meets melody...

Genre: melodic modern metal

Dead Earth Politics have chosen to release their material in small packages, this being the most recent in a string of EPs and just one full-length effort. Well, I guess the principle that good things come in small packages applies here.

The listener is treated to five tracks which, true to Dead Earth Politics' style, combine melodic elements from traditional metal with groove metal and a tad of thrash metal. All five tracks are considerably melodic and, rather than just churning out one pentatonic riff after another, Dead Earth Politics deploy melodic twin guitars and somewhat sophisticated song structures. Just check out 'Balancing the Broken Scales' or 'Wretched Things'. The choruses are also very melodic and have a certain sing-along appeal. In fact, while there are groovy elements, this EP has much more in common with both traditional metal and melodic modern metal than your stereotypical groove metal.

For a self-released EP, the production is very good, and professionalism emanates from the release. The songwriting displayed on the album is top notch, and the band's affinity for melody is particularly attractive. The vocals have a dark feel to them and are perhaps best described as falling somewhere between black album era James Hetfield and "Draconian Times" Nick Holmes peppered with a couple of growls and screams.

I was very positively surprised with this EP. Fans of melodic modern metal should definitely check this one out.

SLUDGEHAMMER The Fallen Sun

Album · 2016 · Groove Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Carnivorous forest...

Genre: death-thrash / power-thrash / groove metal

Sludgehammer are not, despite what their name might indicate, a sludge metal band. They are a thrash metal band, and "The Fallen Sun" is their debut full-length album.

Stylistically, Sludgehammer's music combines power-thrash and death-thrash, sprinkling it with groove metal influences every now and then. On paper, this might sound like a blend that doesn't work, but in practice, it works very well. Sludgehammer seamlessly combine fast and aggressive thrash metal riffage with more melodic guitar figures (some of which even venture into traditional metal territory - 'Carrion Eater' even has sequences that sound like Slough Feg), and this blend is reflected in the vocals, which are a combination of guttural growls and a more melodic rock or traditional metal singing style. It may take a couple of listens for this to sink in, but the two singing styles actually complement each other very well. Drawing on influences from the likes of Lamb of God, Sludgehammer's brand of thrash metal is riff-centric, and their riffs work to great effect.

The guys in Sludgehammer are very proficient musicians and skilled songsmiths. The guitar solos in particular are very good without being show-offy. The production is pretty crisp and well defined which suits the music itself very well.

This is a very strong debut album and it should appeal to most fans of thrash metal who don't mind a bit of melody, a bit of groove, and a lot of brutality.

RINGWORM Snake Church

Album · 2016 · Crossover Thrash
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Brotherhood of the midnight sun...

Genre: crossover

"Snake Church" is the latest offering from the crossover band Ringworm. This being their seventh full-length effort (in addition to countless underground releases) from a band that was formed in 1991, one might expect to hear inklings of fatigue on the album.

Well, if that's what you expect, you're wrong. From beginning to end "Snake Curch" is an onslaught of aggressive and angry crossover thrash which - to my ears - leans a bit more to the hardcore side than to the thrash side. The listener is bombarded with uptempo simple, but effective, guitar riffs accompanied by fast drums and a crunchy bass. The barrages of aggressive speed are punctuated by well-timed heavy hardcore-style breakdowns which re as moshing-inviting as anything can be.

The production is pretty good, with the guitars being crunchy, yet well-defined, and the drums packing a wallop (in particular the bass drum is like a kick in the guts). The songs themselves are relatively short but still long enough that the listener can get into the groove. Admittedly, there is not too much variation on the album, and the angrily yelled vocals do not add much melody either (the guitar solos are very melodic though). Then again, that's not the point of this album. This album is all about aggression and energy. And, in that department, it delivers.

While probably not something that appeals to all metalheads, those of you who like hardcore and crossover thrash should find this a very enjoyable listen.

THE EMBODIED Ravengod

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Land of the midnight sun...

Genre: some kind hybrid of power metal and modern metal

"Ravengod" is the second full-length release by the Swedish metal band The Embodied, whose debut full-length was released back in 2011.

Style-wise, this albu is hard to pin down. The Embodied has been classified as a melodic metal band, a power metal band, and even a melodeath band. In a way - at least on this release - they are all of the above and neither of the above. There are melodeath elements in the riffage and the overall energy which are particularly prevalent in passages of tracks like 'Praetor Sorrow', 'I Suffocate of Anger', 'Battle of the Mind', and in particular 'Death By Fire'. Still, this is way too "undeath" to be melodic death metal (apart from a couple of screams every now and then, the vocals are clean and more rock-oriented). Maybe, it's post-melodeath, which can be applied to those bands who have taken the Gothenburg sound and extrapolated it into other metal genres, removing the death elements but retaining the other elements (other bands who have done this are Amaranthe and Evergrey among several others); this is essentially, in my opinion at least, what characterized modern metal. In this case, the Gothenburg sound has been combined with power metal elements, and it mostly works quite well without being overwhelmingly original or mindblowing.

The production is crisp and well-defined, as it should be with this particular type of music, and The Embodied are definitely good songsmiths who understand the power of melody.

Overall, fans of more modern metal, including melodeath and melodic metalcore, as well as power metal fans should find this album a satisfying listen.

ATTICK DEMONS Let's Raise Hell

Album · 2016 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Glory to the demons...

Genre: traditional metal with power metal elements

The second full-length effort by the Portuguese metal outfit Attick Demons, "Let's Raise Hell" is released on Pure Steel Records in august.

Musically, the album is probably best described as traditional metal with power metal elements. While some classify Attick Demons primarily as a power metal band, I think they operate more at the traditional metal end of the gamut than at the power metal end. Anyway, that the end of the day, what matters is whether or not the music is good. And it's pretty good. Obviously inspired by Iron Maiden, Attick Demons utilize several traditional metal tropes to great effect, including 80s style classic metal screams and twin guitar leads. As mentioned, there are elements of power metal in their style, so the energy level is taken up a notch, and an slightly epic scope is added.

The songwriting and musicianship showcased on the album are both solid. The most striking aspect of the album is probably how much Artur Almeida's vocals sound like post-2000 Bruce Dickinson. At times, he sounds frighteningly identical to Dickinson. Some might find it lame that the vocalist seems to imitate another singer rather than finding his own voice. I must admit that I don't find it lame. I find it fascinating. Production-wise, I think the album sounds pretty good. It's not polished, but in no way rough or lo-fi.

Fans of traditional metal and US power metal should find this album a pretty good listen, and Maiden fans should also check it out. Personally, I find it an enjoyable listen.

ENTHEOS The Infinite Nothing

Album · 2016 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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An ever-expanding metal...

Genre: prog-tech death metal

Featuring members who have been involved in the likes of Animosity, The Faceless, Animals As Leaders, and Inferi, Entheos is not a wet-behind-the-ears affair although "The Infinite Nothing" is the band's debut album.

The cumulation of the individual members' experiences definitely makes itself felt on the album. From beginning to end, the listener is treated to impressively complex and sophisticated, yet heavy-as-fuck death metal. From crunchy riffs and heavy breakdowns (that kick the ass of any deathcore out there) through odd time signatures, crushing drumbeats, syncopations and growls/screams to melodic and at times jazzy guitar solos, the listener is taken on a mind-boggling musical journey. To top it off, there are hints of electronica every now and then which actually fit very well into the overall picture.

While probably not everyone's cup of tea, Entheos' "The Infinite Nothing" is definitely a very good tech death metal album which should appeal to any fan of the genre.

REVOCATION Great Is Our Sin

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.23 | 5 ratings
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Theatre of metal...

Genre: death-thrash

After five critically acclaimed albums, the masters of tech death-thrash are back with their sixth full-length effort in the form of "Great Is Our Sin".

Once again, the album is a lesson in how to make tech thrash which never becomes too high-brow to retain the primal aggression that characterizes the thrash metal genre. At the same time, as on the previous albums, the compositions on "Great Is Our Sin" is sophisticated and varied enough that it should keep most listeners interested through the entirety of the album. While undoubtedly a death-thrash release, "Great Is Our Sin" features influences from several different subgenres of extreme metal, and a certain melodicism also pervades the album without it ever becoming poppy like much melodic metalcore has become.

The production is crisp and well defined. Needless to say, the musicianship and songwriting skills showcased on the album are impeccable.

Like pretty much all other output by this band, "Great Is Our Sin" is a well-wrought thrash metal album, and fans of the band should definitely check it out. Fans of thrash metal more broadly, and tech thrash as well as death-thrash more specifically are also likely to enjoy "Great Is Our Sin".

DUST BOLT Mass Confusion

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.51 | 3 ratings
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Masters of thrash...

Genre: thrash metal

"Mass Confusion" is the third outing by the German thrash band Dust Bolt and the follow-up to the critically acclaimed "Awake the Riot" from 2014.

So, does this third album hold up? Yes, it does. From the crossover-inspired opening track 'Sick X Brain' to 'Masters of War' which concludes the album, the album is one barrage of awesome thrash riffage after another. As with the previous two albums, this album has a retro feel to it without being hopelessly old-fashioned, and there is plenty of variation in terms of thrash subgenre influences, ranging from crossover over tech-thrash and death-thrash to traditional thrash metal. While there ae a few breathers in the form of melodic intros, the album is mostly a merciless thrash metal attack.

The musicianship is impeccable and the production is crisp without being polished. The band yet again show that they are accomplished songwriters who really understand thrash metal. All the thrash metal tropes are there without the album seeming like a rehash of what thrash bands before Dust Bolt did.

If you really consider yourself a thrash metal fan, you will be doing yourself a favor by buying this album.

BAT Wings of Chains

Album · 2016 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Total wreckage...

Genre: crusty speed metal

Following up on the 2013 EP 'Primitive Age', the crusty speed metal outfit released their debut full-length effort "Wings of Chains" earlier this summer.

They pretty much continue in the same vein as "Primitive Age". That is, the listener is treated to raw speed metal with a good dose of influence from crust punk and crossover thrash as well as elements from traditional metal and a very slight hint of melody every now and then. Most songs evolve around primitive riffs most of which fall under the rubrics of crust punk and speed metal. This combination works pretty well, and the uptempo drumming - rich in d-beats and primal energy - and rough vocals fit very well into the overall picture. By the way, no less than four tracks from the 2013 EP "Primitive Age" appear on this album too - namely 'Code Rude', 'Primitive Age', 'Rule of the Beast', and 'Rule of the Beast'. Now, four tracks are ordinarily quite a lot to recycle from one release to the next, ut they're actually pretty good songs, so what the hell? If you didn't buy 'Primitive Age', then here's your chance to hear them.

The production is deliberately retrospective without being too lo-fi, so both old timers and younger metal fans who were introduced to the crisp and pristine production value of much mainstream post-2000 metal might enjoy the production.

Rough-edged speed metal with crust and old school metal influences, this album is decidedly retrospective and should appeal to fans of the likes of Iron Dogs, Nuke, Explorer, Children of Technology and other bands who embrace the more primitive side of speed metal.

NUKE Nuke

Album · 2016 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Nuke me baby...

Genre: speed metal/thrash metal/crossover

A Detroit band, it is perhaps fitting that Nuke's eponymous debut is full of references to Robocop 2 (which is an underrated film in my opinion). Just like the gritty universe of the two first Robocop films, Nuke's style of music is raw and dangerous. Just like the Nuke-crazed Cain, Nuke's eponymous debut album is a destructive force of nature.

The listener is treated to considerably raw speed-thrash metal which nonetheless has melodic leanings. The opening track 'Nuke Me Baby' is a fast, furious and pretty straightforward onslaught of speed-thrash metal with a slight punky edge. The second track 'Meta Inferno' is more in the vein of traditional metal, featuring influences from NWoBHM in the form of twin guitar leads and old school metal riffage. The fast-paced 'Marching Undead' goes back into speed-thrash territory, while 'Hellrider' is another outing into traditional heavy metal. 'Dead Space' takes its starting point in NWoBHM and offers plenty of melody and twin guitars, and slightly reminds me of a combination of early Iron Maiden and early Helloween.

As mentioned above, the music on the album is considerably raw, which makes itself felt - not only in the music itself - but also in the production. The guitars are crunchy, and the guttural vocals are not polished. While the guitars have a sharp treble edge to them, they are counter-balanced by a rather robust bass which prevents the entire production from drowning in reverb and treble. This type of production might not appeal to fans of post-2000 metal, but fans of 1980s extreme metal might enjoy it, if for no other reason than nostalgia. 'Rip Ride' is more uptempo and has a feel of old school thrash metal to it, and 'The Queen' is a speed metal attack that occasionally borders on hardcore punk and crusty d-beating. Slowing down, 'Flame of Desire' treats the listener to galloping guitars, and the album closes with 'Murder Troops' which combines a Motörhead influence with traditional heavy metal.

Nuke's "Nuke" is not for everyone, but if you like raw heavy metal with a punky edge and a deliberately retrospective production, it should be right up your alley. Personally, I find it an enjoyable listen.

DIZZY MIZZ LIZZY Forward in Reverse

Album · 2016 · Hard Rock
Cover art 5.00 | 1 rating
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Dizzified in Paradise...

Genre: alternative rock / hard rock

One of the biggest hard rock names in Denmark in the 1990s, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy broke up in 1998 after only two albums in the form of the critically acclaimed "Dizzy Mizz Lizzy" and "Rotator". While rich in talent, the band members were too young to handle the fame and pressure that came along with the success and, while main songwriter Tim Christensen continued in the music business as a solo artist, the drummer Søren Friis and the bassist Martin Nielsen went on to more mundane jobs. The band briefly reformed in 2010 to play a major string of shows. Fast forward four years, and the band is reformed yet again, but this time in a more permanent form: this time they were working on new material which amounted to a full-length album "Forward in Reverse" which was released earlier this year.

So, is it any good or is it just a rehash of their golden age albums?

Well, in a way it is a rehash in the sense that Dizzy Mizz Lizzy return to the style for which they were known in the 1990s - that is melodic hard rock that combines influences from the alternative rock/metal of the 1990s and from The Beatles. The album title 'Forward in Reverse' is likely to be a reference to the album's retrospective outlook. But is this looking back to the past a bad thing? Fuck no! This album is awesome! To be honest, I found Tim Christensen's solo output a tad too boring for my taste, so hearing new material from Dizzy Mizz Lizzy which has the same energy and finesse as the two albums they released in the 1990s is great. Also, in all fairness, which the style on the album is decidedly retrospective, the trio does bring new things to the table.

The opening track is an instrumental in the form of the considerably heavy 'Phlying Pharao' which, not surprisingly, has a slight Middle Eastern feel to it and which, in my opinion is a bona fide heavy metal track. This is followed by the title track, which is an uptempo yet melodic hard rocker that emanates hard rock energy wrapped in Dizzy-esque sophistication. The next track 'Terrified in Paradise' combines a heavy, almost punky verse with a groovy and catchy - and memorable - chorus and features a very Dizzy-esque bridge accompanied by a groovy short instrumental section. 'Brainless' stays in groovy territory, as it evolves around a heavy main riff (reportedly originally written as a parody on death metal before the trio softened it up considerably) and a very melodic chorus. A ballad more in the vein of Christensen's solo material, 'Something so Familiar' is a softie, but it's pretty good and makes for a nice breather between the heavy rockers 'Brainless' and 'Love at Second Sight'. As with the other tracks on the album, 'Love at Second Sight' features a catchy sing-along chorus. Combining a melodic verse with a heavier chorus, 'Made to Believe' is yet another track that zeroes right in on what made the two first Dizzy albums so great. 'Frey' is a mellow acoustic instrumental, which gives the listener a chance to rest before the boogie-inspired groove-fest that is 'Mindgasm' - antoher instrumental - kicks in. 'Mindgasm' is followed by another uptempo rocker in the form of 'Fly bove the Radar'. The penultimate track is 'I Would If I Could But I Can't' and, while it is characterized by the trio's trademark melodic sensibilities, it is perhaps the band's heaviest track, as it builds on a groovy 90s alternative metal-inspired riff. The album concludes with another fine ballad entitled 'Say It To Me Anyway'.

The songwriting and musicianship are both top notch and, while Tim Christensen has definitely matured as a songwriter, the songs on this album have the same youthful character to them as the songs on "Dizzy Mizz Lizzy" and "Rotator". Of interest to metalheads is the fact that legendary metal producer and mastermind behind Invocator, Jacob Hansen, has worked on the production of this album and has been very successful in capturing the same twangy sound and overall production value that characterized the band's two 90s albums.

While there are metal elements on the album, "Forward in Reverse" is not a metal album. It is a bona fide hard rock album, though, that homes right in on the unique style of rock music with which Dizzy Mizz Lizzy laid Denmark, Japan, and parts of Germany to waste in the 1990s. To be honest, listening to this album, it's hard to believe that there's a 20-year gap between it and 1996's "Rotator". Fans of Dizzy Mizz Lizzy's first two albums are bound to enjoy this one, and - if you are into melodic hard rock generally - you should definitely give this album a listen.

NERVOSA Agony

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.39 | 7 ratings
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Surrounded by serpents...

Genre: thrash metal

Holy shit! I just had my ass kicked so hard I won't be able to sit down for a week! Nervosa is a Brazilian thrash metal band, whose debut album "Victim of Yourself" was released in 2014 and received much praise from critics. "Agony" is their sophomore album and, well, it kicks ass.

All tracks are fierce and aggressive, at times even bordering on pure brutality. While definitely describable as no-nonsense thrash metal, Nervosa still manage to incorporate ingredients from neighboring genres. Thus, the listener is treated to a pure speed metal attack in the form of 'CyberWar', while 'Arrogance' and 'Theory of Conspiracy' draw on death metal. There are even nods to traditional metal in the chorus of 'Wayfarer'. There is no weak track on the album, and the listener can expect to be left completely exhausted by the end of the last track 'Wayfarer'.

The three women in the band are highly skilled thrash metal musicians whose performance is tight as fuck. The production is brutally crunchy and complements the compositions very well.

Nervosa's "Agony" is a brilliant thrash metal album and should appeal to anyone who likes super aggressive thrash metal.

MORTILLERY Shapeshifter

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.50 | 5 ratings
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Age of metal...

Genre: thrash metal

I really liked Mortillery's debut album "Murder Death Kill", and their sophomore effort "Origin of Extinction" is also magnificent. So, does their third album "Shapeshifter" hold up?

The answer is: "Duh! Of course it does".

Like its predecessors, "Shapeshifter" is a lesson in how to do thrash metal right. Every track on the album exudes aggression while at the same time showcasing the musicianship of the band. Every song features strong riffage and, while not exactly overly technical, there are enough things going on to keep the listener interested. Compared to "Murder Death Kill", which I am more familiar with than "Origin of Extinction", this album features just a tiny tad more crossover elements. For instance, 'Age of Stone' is quite oriented towards hardcore, and there are also some quite punky passages in 'Radiation Sickness', and 'Bullet'. While the emphasis is on aggression ('Mantis' even features a couple of blastbeats) a couple of tracks are surprisingly melodic, such as 'At the Gates' and the title track.

Mortillery are very skilled songwriters, and the level of musicianship displayed on this album is impeccable. The performance is tight, and the guitar solos, while not flashy, are full of gusto. Cara McCutchen's insane vocals suit the music perfectly and are a major contributor to the aggressive feel that characterizes the album.

"Shapeshifter" is a brilliant thrash metal album which should appeal to anyone who likes solid old school thrash metal.

CIRCUS MAXIMUS Havoc

Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 4 ratings
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After the fire....

Genre: progressive metal

Carcus Maximus is one of Norway's premier progressive metal bands, and "Havoc" is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed "Nine" from 2012.

Further exploring the vistas of melodic metal, Circus Maximus treat the listener to a collection of melodic tracks. The album has a distinctively modern sound, drawing on influences from as diverse sources as alternative rock/metal, pop rock, power metal, hard rock and new age rock a la U2. That is not to say that Circus Maximus have abandoned progressive metal. All tracks are dynamic in structure and feature impressive instrumental work, and the music is challenging in places without ever being inaccessible.

Fans of melodic metal and more emotional progressive metal should find this album quite appealing.

ZARPA Dispuestos Para Atacar

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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I want more...

Genre: traditional metal / power metal / speed metal

You may not have heard about Zarpa before if you are not a Spanish speaker. However, these guys have been around since the late 1970s are are bona fide metal veterans. They are insanely productive, and are known to release several albums within the same year (they released no less than four albums and an EP in 2012). "Dispuestos Para Atacar" is the first Zarpa-album I have heard, and, if this album is an indicator of the overall quality of their music, I definitely have to check out the rest of their discography.

Genre-wise "Despuestos Para Atacar" belongs to the traditional heavy metal genre. Still, the Spanish band reach out beyond this genre, as they integrate speed and power metal elements into their music. The songs on the album are generally very well composed, and rich in layers of guitars which generate an epic sound. The vocal melodies are very catchy, and, although, I am not exactly proficient in Spanish, I find myself singing along to most of the choruses. The production is extremely good as is the performance and songwriting displayed on this album.

Fans of traditional metal and power metal should find this album a very enjoyable listen.

ASSASSIN'S BLADE Agents of Mystification

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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The demented force of metal...

Genre: traditional heavy metal

Featuring members who are or have been involved in the likes of Exciter, Portrait, Cult of the Fox, Void Moon, and Goatess, Assassin's Blade is a band of seasoned metal veterans. Their debut album "Agents of Mystification" was released earlier this year on Pure Steel.

While definitely traditional heavy metal, the songs on the album have a darker feel than what you might normally expect from this genre. For instance, the title track even features very slight inklings of black metal influence, while the darkly epic 'Dreadnought' could be the satanic kid brother of Priest's 'Metal Gods'. The uptempo 'Transgression' is punky and aggressive. Despite the dark feel, traditional metal fans will be happy to know that there are galloping riffs and twin guitars as well as heavy metal screams and a lot of melody on the album (just check out a song like 'Autumn Serenade').

Given how experienced the musicians involved are, it should be no surprise that the level of musicianship and songwriting is quite high. These guys know their metal, and, while obviously masters at their craft, they understand the power of restraint and simplicity. No solos go overboard and no song gets too technical. Much like the incredibly underrated Tim Owens, Bélanger's vocals combine sneering with heavy metal screams and complement the dark music very well.

"Agents of Mystification" should appeal to fans of traditional heavy metal, speed metal, and perhaps even dark metal. It is a very solid effort and a strong debut by a band consisting of very experienced musicians.

SALEM Dark Days

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Return to Salem...

Genre: traditional heavy metal

In 2013, the NWoBHM legends Salem released their debut album "Forgotten Dreams". Now they are back with a follow-up in the form of "Dark Days".

On "Dark Days", Salem continue in the vein of "Forgotten Dreams". Thus, the listener is treated to quality traditional metal with several NWoBHM elements. The opening track 'Not Guilty' is surprisingly emotional and ballady for an opening track on a metal album, but it works well. 'Nine Months' is an epic track that combines galloping guitars with eastern influences, and features a guitar solo in the vein of Ritchie Blackmore's solo in 'Gates of Babylon'. Come to think of it, while definitely its own song, 'Nine Months' is similar in atmosphere and epicness to 'Gates of Babylon'. This track is definitely one of the finest songs tracks on the album. The track is followed by another stand-out track in the form of the dark and heavy 'Complicated', which in turn is followed by the uptempo rocker 'Lost my Mind', which is rich in twin guitars and features a catchy chorus. 'Dark Days' and 'Second Sight' are solid traditional metal tracks, while there is a certain aggressive groove to 'Tormented', and 'Fallen Angel' combines hard rock grooves with moody ballad parts. 'Toy Story' is a ballad, and 'Prodigal Son' also belongs to the softie department. The latter features some nice twin guitar harmonies, some of which have a slight neoclassical feel to them. Lastly, 'Tank' is a heavy hard rock track, whose chorus is pretty awesome. I mean, who doesn't like singing along to the words "tank oh-oh"?

"Dark Days" is a pretty strong album which is solidly positioned in the traditional metal genre. Still, it contains elements from hard rock and AOR, and 'Nine Months' even features some nods to more progressive music. Upon listening to the album, the listener will realize that these guys are highly experienced and seasoned musicians and songwriters who understand heavy metal and hard rock. Every song is accessible and emphasizes melody. Simon Saxby's vocals are a tad reminiscent of Biff Byford and fits the music very well.

A strong album and a lesson in heavy metal, "Dark Days" should appeal to fans of NWoBHM and traditional metal.

The album does not click with me as much as the predecessor did, but it is still a very strong and enjoyable listen

SPLIT HEAVEN Death Rider

Album · 2016 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Destroyer of the night...

Genre: Speed metal

With a handful of releases of different types under their belt, Mexican speedsters Split Heaven released their fourth full-length effort earlier this year in the form of "Death Rider".

I must say that this album strikes me as leaning more towards traditional heavy metal than all out speed metal. Sure, there are fast-paced tracks like 'Death Rider', 'Sacrifice', and 'Descarga Letal', but you also have tracks like 'Awaken the Tyrant', 'Battle Axe', and 'To the Fallen' in a row, which are much more in the vein of Judas Priest-informed metal. To my ears, the latter represent the majority. Regardless where you want to place this album genre-wise, all tracks are solid and well-composed, emphasizing elements such as melody and larger-than-life catchiness.

While all tracks are good, my two favorites are 'Descarga Letal' and 'Destructor', both of which feature Spanish lyrics. Voth are catchy as hell, and, even if you don't speak Spanish, I am sure you will enjoy singing along to "Descarga Letal, ¡es puro metal!" and "Destructor, destructor, destructor de la noche".

Well-composed and well-performed, "Death Rider" dosplays solid musicianship. The production is in no way lo-fi, but still rough-edged enough that it is not too polished. Jason Conde-Houston's vocals may be an acquired taste, and at times he sounds slightly inspired by Kai Hansen, but I think he does a good job, and his singing style fits the music very well.

While not the most original album in the world, "Death Rider" is solid, catchy and very enjoyable to listen to if you like speed metal and old school heavy metal.

CONDITION RED Illusion of Truth

Album · 2016 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 3.00 | 2 ratings
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Let it all come out...

Genre: progressive metal/rock

The third album by guitar virtuoso Lars Eric Mattsson's project Condition Red, "Illusions of Truth" follows up on 2003's "II". Drawing on a number of influences, this concept album reaches out beyond the metal universe while still retaining several heavy metal influences.

Stylistically, the album is a bit of a mixed bag with influences from a range of different genres of music. For instance, the opening track is a heavy progressive metal affair with a very dynamic structure. This is followed by a subdues and moody, but quite interesting, track in the form of 'Never Be the Same'. The third track starts out with some funky guitar sections, but morphs into a progressive metal affair with some pretty heavy sequences. 'Labyrinth' is an instrumental in which Mattsson delivers a long blistering guitar solo on top of a combination of drums, bass, keyboards, and sitar. 'It's not a Crime' is a ballad of sorts and emphasizes emotion over heaviness, although a heavy guitar kicks in after around six minutes. 'All on our Own' is another ballad of sorts while the instrumental 'Shake Off' combines jazz rock and hard rock. 'Everywhere I Look' and 'Can't Seel You Lie' are slightly reminiscent of some of Cynic's softer tracks, and 'Final Beginning' is a psychedelic instrumental bordering on soundscape.

Naturally, we are dealing with a high level of musicianship, but I feel that the production could perhaps be better at times. Mattsson's raspy vocals may not be for everyone, and, while I do not mind his singing style myself, there is a digital-sounding edge to his singing that kind of annoys me a tad. Maybe it is just my ears playing tricks on me. Anyway, needless to say, the listener is treated to some pretty impressive guitar work, as Mattsson generously treats the listener to guitar solos galore. I think it is a shame that the drums are as underplayed as they are. They could be given a bit more room, I think, and sound a tad too mechanical for my taste, and I think a slightly more organic and technical drumming style would fit the music much better. Despite my reservations, Condition Red deserve praise for retaining a sense of atmosphere throughout the album even at their most technical.

"Illusion of Truth" is an interesting album. While different from most mainstream progressive metal, it is progressive without a doubt, and there are plenty of metal and hard rock elements to satisfy your progressive metal desires. It is not a perfect album and there are several elements that do not appeal to me, but it is still an enjoyable listen overall.

CANDLEMASS Death Thy Lover

EP · 2016 · Doom Metal
Cover art 3.75 | 4 ratings
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Sinister n sweet...

Genre: traditional doom metal

The Swedish legends of doom metal are back, treating you to a nice little four-track EP in the form of "Death Thy Lover".

The EP opens with a mostly uptempo affair in the form of the title track, which does go into heavier territory in the bridge. While the verses and chorus are fine, my favorite part is the bridge which consists of a series of different sections, thus generating a sense of variation. The second track 'Sleeping Giant' is slower and more in the vein of traditional doom metal, revolving around an Iommi-esque riff and doomtastic chorus which is really the epitome of all that's great about old school doom metal. Unlike the title track which was more of a traditional heavy metal song with doom metal elements, this one is all out doom metal. 'Sinister N Sweet' continues in the same groove, offering some crushingly heavy riffage combined with a doom-ladden, yet melodic, bridge. Lastly, there is the instrumental 'The Goose', which is another heavy doom-ladden track - perhaps the heaviest and most atmospheric track on the EP.

Compared to most of their previous output, "Death Thy Lover" is not very epic. I think this owes to Mats Levén's more raspy and rock-oriented singing style. Levén is a very experienced vocalist who has performed with a host of bands since the 1990s, including Abstrakt Algebra, and who has had tenures with Candlemass before, so I totally understand why they went with him as a replacement for Robert Lowe. The guy is an accomplished rock singer, but it will some time getting used to his singing style on top of Candlemass' musical compositions - in particular when one is used to more operatically oriented singers like Robert Lowe and Messiah Marcolin or the legendary and very emotional singing style of Johan Längquist who sang on the legendary classic "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus". I have nothing against his singing style; it's just different. When you think about it, all the vocalists that Candlemass have had actually sound very different from each other anyway.

The four tracks on the EP are well written and well performed, and the production is pretty good without being polished. I like that the EP is structured such that it gets progressively heavier and doomier with each song.

Overall, "Death Thy Lover" is a fine and solid release by one of the most influential doom metal bands around. Fans of traditional doom metal are bound to enjoy it.

ASSASSIN Combat Cathedral

Album · 2016 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Slave of metal...

Genre: thrash metal

Assassin are among the pioneers of the Teutonic thrash metal scene. Despite their seniority on the thrash metal scene, "Combat Cathedral", which follows up on 2011's "Breaking the Silence", is only the band's fifth album.

Solidly positioned in the thrash metal genre, "Combat Cathedral" is a thrash-fest from beginning to end. Featuring fierce drums and breakneck thrash metal riffage. The key element that defines the album is aggression, and most of the songs emphasize speed. That is not to say that "Combat Cathedral" is not a heavy album. The crunch of the guitars and the overall production of the album add a dimension of heaviness and even quasi-brutality at times.

Overall, the compositions are strong, and the album is very solid. It lacks a bit in the variation-department, but I am not sure variation is what people want from the album anyway. Also, it should be pointed out that we are not at all dealing with monotonous music here. There are changes in tempo and enough compositional finesse that the album remains interesting.

The performance is rock solid, and the production is crisp. As mentioned above, the production supports the music very well. The vocals. which fall somewhere between Lemmy and Phil Anselmo, may perhaps not be in everybody's taste, but I kind of like it.

Overall, this is a solid and fierce thrash metal release which should appeal - not just to fans of Teutonic thrash metal - but to fans of thrash metal as such.

GOATSODOMIZER The Curse Rings True

Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Sodomized till death...

Genre: thrash metal

Enter the aptly named Swedish metal act Goatsodomizer. I guess they like goats a lot... I won't judge them. Anyway, they have been sodomizing goats in the underground since 1995 and have just released their debut full-length "The Curse Rings True".

Now, the name and the cover art might suggest black metal, but "The Curse Rings True" is actually more of a speed-thrash metal album. There are black metal elements every now and then, to be sure, but the thrash metal influence is dominant. Even more surprisingly perhaps, there is a considerable influence from hard rock as well. This is felt in the guitar solos, for instance, which sometimes even border on being bluesy. At times, the album reminds me a bit of Entombed's "Wolverine Blues"; that is probably because of the rock influence. An interesting track is their rendering of Gary Glitter's 'Sidewalk Sinner' which, in Goatsodomizer's version is groovy as hell. Overall, this album works pretty well, and Goatsodomizer have found a nice balance between the genres they draw on, with thrash metal being dominant at the end of the day.

The production is actually pretty good, and the songs are well put together. Overall, this is an enjoyable album.

DIVIDED MULTITUDE Divided Multitude 2015

Album · 2015 · Progressive Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Immortal multitude...

Genre: progressive metal

Norway is primarily associated with black metal, but, over the last ten to fifteen years, a pretty interesting progressive metal scene has been established there as well. One of the veterans of this scene is Divided Multitude.

The album "Divided Multitude 2015" was released in - duh - 2015 and is the follow-up to the successful "Feed on your Misery" from 2013. "Divided Multitude 2015" like the predecessor represents the heavier end of progressive metal and actually starts out with a progressive thrash metal tune in the form of "Immortal", which is pretty cool. The rest of the songs are less aggressive, but still considerably heavy and nicely complex in structure without being overly inaccessible. There is a generally epic albeit dark feel to the album, which generally works quite well.

Fans of progressive metal should definitely check this one out.

BLAZE BAYLEY Infinite Entanglement

Album · 2016 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.00 | 3 ratings
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The voice of a thousand years...

Genre: traditional heavy metal

When the Maiden thing did not work out, and Dickinson was brought back into the band, Blaze Bayley launched a career as a solo artist, first as Blaze and then as Blaze Bayley. Ironically, all his solo albums are, in my opinion, light years better than "The X Factor" and "Virtual XI". His latest solo album is "Infinite Entanglement", which is the first installment in a trilogy of science fiction concept albums; the album is conceptually related to "Silicon Messiah" and "The Tenth Dimension" as well.

While solidly positioned within the traditional metal genre, the album nonetheless manages to be epic in all the right places, as heard in, for instance, the opening title track with its power metal sensibilities and epic background choir. Similarly, "A Thousand Years", "Solar Wind", "Calling You Home", "Dark Energy 256", and the riff-tastic "Human" are massive, energetic, and at the same time incredibly melodic. In fact every song on the album features super melodic and sing-along-friendly choruses and, of course, Blaze's trademark oh-oh-ohs. "Work of Anger" has folksy undertones and ends up an anthem of oh-oh-ohs and memorable melodies across the board. Anthem-wise, it belongs up there with Priest's "United". Another folsky tune is the rather beautiful ballad "What Will Come" which features classical acoustic guitars and violins. I guess I'm known for not liking ballads, but, if they're good - if they're well crafted - I can enjoy them, and this track is no less than fantastic. Another noteworthy track is the atmospheric "The Dreams of William Black" which features the voices of Blaze Bayley's own fans saying 'Where are you' in English and other languages, which I think is a pretty awesome thing to do. Blaze knows how fiercely loyal and supportive his fans are, and giving some of them the opportunity to actually appear on his album is pretty cool.

The musicianship is impeccable, and the album is characterized by admirable professionalism. The songs are very well composed and performed. A lot of work has obviously been put into making each song the best it can be. Chris Appleton delivers some sweet guitar solos, and the entire instrumental section is crushingly tight. Production-wise, the album sounds very good. The sound is well-defined without being too polished, and it carries the music well. Blaze's voice sounds as massive as always and better than ever. He has come a long way from the Wolfsbane days, but his voice has the same unique quality that made me pick up and buy "Down Fall the Good Guys" so many years ago.

"Infinite Entanglement" is a brilliant album. It is solidly positioned in the traditional metal genre, but still manages to be epic in scope and rich in sound and atmosphere. I am sure that many will find this to be the best album of Blaze's career - not just as a solo artist but over his entire career as a professional musician. For my money, it belongs up there with classic metal concept albums such as "Operation: Mindcrime" and "Abigail". I really look forward to hearing the sequel albums.

Blaze Bayley has broken away from the shackles of the music business and is now an independent artist. You can purchase this album, merchandise, and his other releases at blazebayley.net. I would definitely recommend that, if you are interested in this album, you buy it from his webshop. Support independent artists!

STRIKER Stand in the Fire

Album · 2016 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.78 | 3 ratings
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Out for blood...

Genre: heavy metal

Striker are mostly considered a speed metal band, but on this album, they seem to deviate somewhat from the speed metal course.

Rather than emphasizing speed, Striker take their music in a more melodic direction, exploring traditional metal to a large extent on this album. Most of the tracks evolve around classic metal styled riffage and guitar melodies, and 'Too Late' even features elements of melodic hard rock. Some tracks are fast, such as 'Stand in the Fire' and 'The Iron Never Lies', but, overall, these tracks still mostly emphasize melody. The latter features a nice melodic guitar solo.

Although musical scope has been focused on melody and traditional metal this time around, this is still a very strong album, and I, for one, actually like this musical direction very much. The musicianship is top notch as is the songwriting. There are some very good guitar solos on the album, and 'Out For Blood' even contains a brilliant saxophone solo.

Fans of traditional metal should definitely check this one out.

OBSCURA Akróasis

Album · 2016 · Technical Death Metal
Cover art 4.34 | 10 ratings
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World sea...

Genre: prog/tech death metal

The champions of progressive death metal are back with another onslaught of mind-boggling death metal. To be released in a couple of days, "Akroasis" - like its predecessors - showcases the incredible musicianship that is contained within the entity that is Obscura.

From beginning to end, the listener is bombarded with insane blastbeats and exciting fretless bass figures. Accompanying these are virtuous guitar solos and guitar riffs that range from the melodic over the brutal to the dissonant. Every composition on the album is complex and contains several changes in time and tempo. This is progressive death metal indeed.

If this sounds like a description that could apply to any Obscura album, well then it is because there are no changes in musical direction on this release. That is not a bad thing. With music such as that created by Obscura, each song in itself is full of so many twists and turns that it is not necessary for the band to reinvent their sound in order to keep the listener interested.

Fans of Obscura should of course invest in this album as should any person who claims to be a fan of progressive and/or technical death metal.

PRONG No Absolutes

Album · 2016 · Groove Metal
Cover art 3.65 | 4 ratings
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Still snapping necks...

Genre: groove / crossover thrash

Prong's "Cleansing" album from 1994 is probably their most well-known release and arguably among the seminal releases within the groove metal genre. Sadly, despite this status, the band - like so many other metal bands in the 90s - got fucked over by their label (Epic Records, I believe) and broke up in 1996. They kinda reformed and operated on and off in 2000 and ultimately returned in full force in 2007, having consistently released full-length albums since then. 2016 sees the release of "X - No Absolutes".

Like the previous full-length "Ruining Lives" (I'm ignoring the collection of cover songs that is "Songs from the Black Hole), this album offers up a blend of groove metal tracks, such as the opener 'Ultimate Authority' and thrash metal songs, such as 'Sense of Ease' and 'Cut and Dry'. The album strikes me as more diverse than you might expect with 'Ultimate Authority' and 'Soul Sickness' being in the vein of "Cleansing" and 'Belief System' being crushingly heavy and reminds me of metalcore breakdowns before the metalcore bands lost their imagination and all started sounding the same (in other words, it sounds like goo metalcore breakdowns). 'Sense of Ease', 'Cut and Dry', and 'In Spite of Hindrances' are uptempo thrashers with the former being more of a crossover thrash affair. 'Worth Pursuing' is more of a midtempo thrasher as is 'Without Words' although the latter is considerably melodic. In fact, there are some surprisingly melodic tracks on the album, such as 'With Dignity', 'Do Nothing' and the title track.

As always, the tracks on the album are rock solid, and sense of diversity makes for an enjoyable listen. Prong definitely will not let their fans down with this album.

ABBATH Abbath

Album · 2016 · Black Metal
Cover art 3.63 | 9 ratings
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Count the dead...

Genre: Errr.... Abbath metal, I guess

After his controversial exit from Norwegian black metal giants Immortal, Abbath formed his own band under the moniker Abbath. The debut album of this outfit will see the light of day later this January.

Musically, the album in a way pick up where Immortal's "All Shall Fail" left off, but goes in an even less black metal-based direction. This does not mean that we are dealing with a weak pop album in any way. There are several extremely heavy passages and many blastbeats as well. However, it seems that under his own name, Abbath can stretch a bit further in the heavy metal landscape, incorporating a bit of melody here and a bit of death metal there; some old school metal influences here and some thrash metal there. I think that is pretty cool, and it makes for an enjoyable listen for someone who might be interested in black metal but not yet ready for the really filthy stuff.

The production is pretty good, and the songs are well put together, and overall, I think this is a pretty enjoyable album.

RESURRECTION KINGS Resurrection Kings

Album · 2016 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Not so silent wonder...

Genre: hard rock / classic metal

To be released January 29 this year, Resurrection Kings' eponymous album is the band's debut album. However, that does not mean that we are dealing with a new band of green musicians. No, Resurrection Kings is a four-piece supergroup whose members have playes in Black Sabbath, Dio, Dokken, Quiet Riot, Foreigner and the likes.

This debut album contains 11 very solid and enjoyable hard rock tracks which have all you want from a classic hard rock band, from big sing-along choruses over heavy and groovy riffage to blazing guitar solos. While melody is at the heart of Resurrection Kings' style, several tracks have a certain heavy edge to them, owing both to Craig Goldy's riffage and Vinny Appice's solid drumming. Most of the songs on the album are solid, but my favorite has to be 'Fallin' for You' which is actually a much heavier track than its title might suggest.

As can only be expected, the musicianship on this album is consistently top notch. After all, these guys are pros and have four lifetimes of experience. The production is clean and crisp, but with a few references to the classic 80s metal sound (in places, the guitar sound reminds me of Fate's "Scratch 'n' Sniff" album.

FAns of classic hard rock with hints of traditional metal should definitely give this album a listen.

DOCKER'S GUILD The Heisenberg Diaries – Book A: Sounds of Future Past

Album · 2016 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Docker's alive?!?...

Genre: Nerd rock

Following up on the impressive progressive hard rock debut "The Mystic Technocracy - Season 1: The Age of Ignorance" from 2012, Docker's Guild's second full length is a collection of Docker's Guild style covers of themes from science fiction and fantasy TV series and films.

Thus, we are treated to a funky rock version of the theme from the first season of "Space 1999" and a saucy, kinda cheesy, rendition of the theme from "Barbarella" (note that the original version, like the film, is extremely cheesy, so Docker's Guild have simply managed to capture that cheese, for which I congratulate them). There is also an epic metal version of the theme from one of my all time fantasy flicks "Neverending Story" as well as catchy version of "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" entitled 'Suspension' (this is another cheesy sci-fi TV show that I really enjoy). Another guilty pleasure of mine is "Flash Gordon" from 1980 (you know "Flash dun-dun-dun-dun-dun aaahhhh ahhhhh!"), and in a suite Docker's Guild tackle Queen's original soundtrack. I prefer the original, but Docker's Guild's version is indeed interesting and enjoyable. Fans of prog power metal will enjoy the progressive metal rendition of the theme from season two of "Space 1999". Among other goodies on the album is a heavy version of the theme from "Dr Who" (which also reminds me a bit of the theme from "Airwolf"). All tracks on the album, although they are cover versions, are performed in the Docker's Guild style of spacey, epic and progressive hard rock.

I think that the best predicate to use here is "interesting" rather than "good" or "genius". That is not to say that the performance and interpretations on this album are not good - because Docker has allied himself with some very good musicians, and many of the tracks on the album are very enjoyable - but rather that the whole concept is an interesting idea and that it is this 'interestingness' which is the main attraction point of the album. So, yes, the musicianship is top notch, and the production is crisp and clean.

The target audience of this album are either old farts like myself, who grew up with the films and TV series whose themes are covered on the album, or perhaps younger members of the so-called geek culture who just happens to like hard rock. Overall, I really like this album, and I caught myself whistling along to 'Suspension', 'Flash Gordon Quite', 'The Neverending Story' and other themes that I grew up with. I was actually very pleased to find that they had covered the wonderful cheesefest that is 'Suspension'. I was disappointed, though, to not find a version of the theme from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and 'The Imperial March' from "The Empire Strikes Back"... oh well, maybe next time.

Geeks and hard rock fans, check out this fun release.

BLACK TRIP Shadowline

Album · 2015 · Hard Rock
Cover art 4.27 | 3 ratings
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The storm...

Genre: traditional heavy metal / hard rock

Released in August last year, Black Trip's "Shadowline" is the follow-up album to 2014's brilliant "Goin' Under".

Like on the previous album, the Black Trip look to the late 70s and early 80s for inspiration. Thus, the listener is treated to a solid rock album with plenty of hard rocking riffage and Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden style twin lead guitar melodies. While NWoBHM is indeed still a major aspect of Black Trip's music, it seems that Thin Lizzy in particular has had a major impact on the band members when they engaged in the songwriting on this album. Just check out the vocals, lead guitars, and riffs in the song 'Danger'.

Like the predecessor, this is a brilliant album, and fans of 70s hard rock and metal should definitely check it out.

SPEEDTRAP Straight Shooter

Album · 2015 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 2 ratings
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Glory found...

Genre: Speed metal

Following up on their debut album "Powerdose", one of Finland's premier speed metal bands - Speedtrap - released their sophomore full-length effort "Straight Shooter" in September of 2015.

They pretty much continue where they left off on the previous album. This means that the listener is treated to retro speed metal, drawing inspiration from the time before it branched into thrash metal and power metal. On other words, many of the songs sound like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest played at Motörhead speed. That said, this album is perhaps a tad more catchy than the predecessor, and there are probably more traces of traditional heavy metal as well than on "Powerdose". This does not mean that "Straight Shooter" is impotent at all, just let a track like 'Torches Ablaze' kick your little ass.

The production is rough around the edges, but in no way lo-fi, and the musicianship and songwriting skills are impeccable and characterized by professionalism. Of course, there is nothing original about the album, but you should not expect that from a band who set out to compose old school speed metal. Then again, one kind of original aspect is constituted by the vocals, which seem more inspired by Robert Plant and Eric Wagner. And you know what, speed metal with rock 'n' roll screams and throwback 70s rock vocals is fucking awesome.

Fans of speed metal and old school metal as such should definitely check out this fine album by Speedtrap.

SHALLOW GROUND Embrace the Fury

Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Brace for impact...

Genre: thrash metal

Are you ready to thrash it up? You better be, because Shallow Ground are a bona fide retro thrash metal band. Although "Embrace the Fury" is only their second full-length album, they have been at it since 1994, and that is evident on this album.

From the fierce 'Once Again' over the heavier 'Brace for Impact' and the mosh-friendly 'Human Flame' to the brutal 'Slayer of the Gods', the listener is treated to old school thrash metal like daddy - in some cases, granddaddy, used to make it. Every song on the album is a solid thrash metal attack and a deliberate throwback to the original thrash metal scene of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The production is pretty good, and the musicianship is excellent, as is the songwriting. Shallow Ground deliberately aim at an old school thrash metal sound, so they do draw extensively on genre features and clichés of that era. Thus, if you're looking for originality, this is not the album for you, but if - like me - you want some ass-kicking solid authentic thrash metal, Shallow Ground's "Embrace the Fury" is a good place to go.

REVOCATION Empire of the Obscene

Album · 2008 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.48 | 5 ratings
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Metal from the crypt...

Genre: Tech thrash metal

Originally released in 2008, "Empire of the Obscene" was reissued on Metal Blade in November, 2015. In addition to the album itself, the reissued version contains three demo tracks from 2006.

All tracks on the album are strong. They're well written. They're well produced. They're well performed. While technical, the thrash metal on this album still grabs you by the ankles and slam you against the wall. There are plenty of crushing riffs and there is loads of energy on this album. So, while it is technically impressive, it is still an album that has the anger that defines thrash metal.

The three bonus tracks on the reissued version are from the "Summoning the Spawn" demo. They probably appeal most to die-hard Revocation fans, seeing that the demo itself is very difficult to get a hold on. I think that casual listeners can live without these bonus tracks. Still, if you don't own the album and are looking to buy it anyway, you might as well purchase the reissue.

The songs on this album should appeal to fans of Invocator's debut album as well as fans of the likes of Target, Dark Angel, and Voivod.

STARQUAKE Times that Matter

Album · 2015 · Hard Rock
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Here I go again...

Genre: Hard rock / traditional metal / progressive rock

Starquake is a hard rock project revolving around singer Mikey Wenzel, who has released one album under the moniker of Mikey and two albums under the moniker Spiritus Mundi. "Times that Matter" is the first release under the Starquake moniker, but it features many of the same musicians as the other releases do.

When I first heard the intro of the first tune 'Scenes from a Revolution', I must admit that I groaned. It sounded so cheesy with 80s synthesizer effects. After this, my hopes were not particularly high, but when the rest of the instrumentation kicked in, I was taken completely by surprise. The song turned out to be an epic hard rock track with references to Iron Maiden and 70s progressive rock. Another epic track with 70s prog rock elements is the closer 'Fairytale'. Going straight from a song about failed revolutions to a hard rocking song about UFO sightings, the album has the quirkiness of 70s hard rock. 'I'm Going Mad' seems more inspired by Queen and Gentle Giant with its multi-layered vocals. 'Here I Go Again' is a metallic hard rocker with an awesome sing-along chorus, and a verse line that sounds a lot like the verse line of Iron Maiden's 'Wildest Dreams'. Well, let's give Starquake the benefit of the doubt and classify this as inspiration and not plagiarism, shall we? In any case, it's a nice straightforward track to have following the 21 opus 'Rise and Fall' (which incidentally is my least favorite track). Another Maiden-inspired track is 'No More Hate' which pays homage to 'Wasted Years' and tracks like 'The Clairvoyant'.

The production is not polished, but a tad fuzzy which gives the album a nice organic character. The combination of heavy metal guitars, hammond organs, and spacey 70s prog rock synths works very well, and "Times that Matter" is a fine tribute to 80s metal and 70s prog and hard rock. Some tracks have a slight Deep Purple feel to them while others are ore inspired by Iron Maiden. Mikey Wenzel deploys a singing stye similar to Bruce Dickinson after Dickinson returned to Maiden, but his voice has a slightly rawer quality to it to the point of being a it volatile at times (in particular in the opening track). But it is this rawness which gives the album an extra injection of energy, I think.

The album, while not all tracks appeal to my taste, is an enjoyable listen, and I actually look forward to more output my Mikey & co. Fans of Iron Maiden, Deep Purple, and 70s prog rock should definitely check this album out.

BLIZZARD HUNTER Heavy Metal to the Vein

Album · 2015 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Heart of fire...

Genre: Traditional heavy metal

Hailing from Peru, the heavy metal four-piece act, Blizzard Hunter recently unleashed their debut full-length upon the world in the form of the aptly titled "Heavy Metal to the Vein".

Stylistically, the album falls under the rubric of traditional heavy metal which seems particularly inspired by Iron Maiden, early Queensrÿche and Helloween. The tracks on the album are decidedly retro, as the listener is treated to old school heavy metal riffage and soaring vocals, which remind me of "Warning"-era Geoff Tate. That said, there are some speed metal and power metal elements scattered across the album's ten tracks.

While the production leaves a bit to be desired the musicianship is top notch. The guitar work in particular is impressive, and all all guitar solos on the album are extremely well executed. The problem with the production is that the guitars, bass, and vocals have a slightly retro fuzzy sound, but the drums sound polished and mechanistic, and are way too loud in the mix. I suspect that the drums are programmed as no drummer is listed in the line-up (I could be wrong of course), and that is probable why the drums sound mechanical and soulless. Apart from these issues, the album is very enjoyable, and, as mentioned, the guitar work is fucking awesome.

Fans of old school metal, in particular Iron Maiden and early Queensrÿche, should find this album an enjoyable listen.

EVIL ARMY Violence and War

EP · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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My rage unleashed...

Genre: thrash metal

The warmongering madmen in Evil Army are back with another onslaught of fast and fierce thrash metal dive bombs.

As on the previous EP, this five-track affair offers up fast and dirty thrash metal. Based on crushing riffs played at breakneck speed, the music on this release should appeal to fans of old school thrash metal. There are elements of Slayer and 80s Teutonic thrash metal as heard in the opening track 'Army of Doom'. While the production is fuzzy and lo-fi, we are not dealing with dumbed-down or deliberately simple music, as each track is a plethora of fierce and solid thrash metal riffage wrapped in rage and attitude. Fans of old school thrash metal will be happy to hear the guitar solos of the same chaotic quality as in early thrash metal. In a slight break from the thrash metal style, 'My Rage Unleashed' is more in the vain of hardcore punk, but still fits into the overall sound of the release.

Fans of dirty and edgy thrash metal with an old school feel should check this release out.

PRO-PAIN Voice of Rebellion

Album · 2015 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Voice of rebellion...

Genre: hardcore / groove / crossover thrash

Pro-Pain never lets you down. They've released a string of concrete-solid albums over the last couple of years, all of which awaken that "fuck-yeah" feeling that makes life just a tad better when you listen to the album.

"Voice of Rebellion" continues this trend, as the listener is treated to crushingly groovy metallic hardcore the way that only Pro-Pain makes it. Rooted in grooves that go straight to your heart (or feet), the songs are - in true Pro-Pain style - spiced up with thrash metal elements, hardcore anger, and very well executed border-line virtuosic guitar solos. Some might say accuse Pro-Pain for releasing the same album for the fifteenth time, but this is what Pro-Pain sound like, and it works. This is what they do, and it's no less awesome than the last time around. Nobody does it better than these guys, and, believe me a lot of people have tried. A lot of people have failed.

The production is well-defined, and the crushingly heavy downtuned guitars are brought to the front and given an edge that makes the grooves seem even more groovy. The bass is nicely audible, and the drums - especially the bass drums - have quite a powerful punch to them.

Once again, Pro-Pain show that they are masters of groove, and the album is pure unadulterated Pro-Pain, the Pro-Pain that we all know and love.

REVENGE Harder Than Steel

Album · 2015 · Speed Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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At the gates of hell...

Genre: speed metal

Revenge are an extremely productive band. Formed in 2002, they have around 20 releases under their belt, six of which are full albums. "Harder than Steel" is the most recent of these. Their mission has always been to churn out awesome speed metal.

And speed metal is what you get on this album, as you are treated to one 80s speed metal inspired track after another. You can hear influences from early Helloween, early Blind Guardian, and other European speed metal acts on this album, with the difference that Revenge are less epic and more rough. So, there are plenty of double bassdrum pulses and chugging guitars. That said, there is plenty of melody in the form of a considerable Iron Maiden influence, and there are low more traditional metal-ish parts.

Generally, there is a tendency in retro speed metal to opt for a lo-fi production. However, Revenge have not gone down that road, as this production on this album is actually very crisp and well-defined, which I appreciate. The musicianship and songwriting are pretty solid, and this is something that is foregrounded by the production.

This album should appeal to fans of speed metal and is definitely such an enjoyable listen that fans of related genres such as traditional metal, power metal, and thrash metal might like it too.

NIGHTSHOCK Nightshock

Album · 2015 · Hardcore and crust
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Nothing will remain...

Genre: crust-doom-metal

Nightshock is an Italian metal trio whose style of music is described as 'speed doom'. This label struck me as a bit of an oxymoron, but it also intrigued me a bit, so I decided to check out their eponymous self-titled album.

And I immediately understood what was meant by 'speed doom'. After an ominous and doom-laden intro in the form of 'Into the Night (Off to War)', all hell breaks lose in the form of the Motörhead- and Discharge-inspired crusty d-beat attack "Nightshock". 'Roots of the End (Total Fucking Death)' similarly juxtaposes crusty d-beats with doom metal passages, adding some traditional heavy metal sensibility into the mix. The same approach is heard in 'Nothing Will Remain'. A few tracks on the album are crunchy mid-tempo affairs, such as 'Black Demise', 'Cemeterial City', and 'Funeral Train'. And I must say, what sounds ridiculous on paper (i.e. 'speed doom') actually works incredibly well in practice! Kudos to Nightshock!

The production is not polished, but still pretty professional and makes the songs on the album just a bit more enjoyable to listen to. Musically, the strengths of this album are the riffs and the band's successful blend of various genres as well as the songwriting skills demonstrated on the album: all songs are solid and well written with no whistles and bells. Some might complain that, with a playing time of 30 minutes, the album is too short, but I think tat the brevity actually fits the d-beat-based high-octane energy level of the album very well.

Nightshock strike a nice balance between crusty d-beats, speed metal, thrash metal, and traditional heavy metal and doom metal as well. The songs on this album are dynamic and energetic and, while the music is not complex or anything like that, it is still varied. Fans of the likes of Children of Technology, Hellhammer, Carnivore, Motörhead, and Discharge are likely to enjoy Nightshock's debut.

XENOFANES Pissing In The Holy Grail

Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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Spitfire inferno...

Genre: thrash metal

I had never head of this Swedish band before, but it turns out that they're actually veterans and pioneers of the Swedish extreme metal scene, having been formed in 1993. After a string of underground releases and a hiatus, the band finally released their aptly titled debut full-length album "Pissing in the Holy Grail". I must admit that what drew me to this album was the delightfully hilarious and blasphemous title.

But what sort of music does this band have to offer? Well, the tracks on this album are perhaps best described as relatively primitive thrash metal tracks. I use 'relatively' because, while there is a sense of rawness to Xenofanes' output on this album, we are in no way dealing with simplistic and deliberately low quality black-thrash. The tunes on the album are nicely balanced in terms of the simple and the more complex. A good example is the opening track 'Soulthirst' which starts out simple, with crunchy riffs and budda-budda drums but morphs into a slightly more technical bridge. This characterizes pretty much every song on the album. The major strength of "Pissing in the Holy Grail" are the riff. Every tune is crushing old school thrash metal riff upon crushing old school metal that riff, accompanied by considerably harsh vocals. However, the listener will perhaps be surprised to find melodic elements every now and then with some tracks having a slight melodic black metal feel to them such as the brilliant 'Next Stop Purgatory'.

The production is not lo-fi as such, but it is quite fuzzy. Some will probably consider it organic, and I would be inclined to agree here. The rhythm guitars have a nice retro crunch to them, and the bass is nicely audible. I can live with the production, which reminds me a bit of the demo tapes I used to listen to in the 90s. That's fine. It's authentic. It's underground. Still, I think it's a bit of a shame that the guitar solos are lower in the mix than the rhythm guitars, making it almost sound as if the solos serve as the background to the rest of the instrumentation.

Overall, this album is an organic sounding onslaught of old school thrash metal riffs and should appeal to fans of underground metal - in particular those who enjoy the sound of the 90s underground metal scene.

ARTIZAN The Furthest Reaches

Album · 2015 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 4.50 | 1 rating
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On spaceships and melodic metal...

Genre: melodic metal with a progressive touch

Having released two very good melodic and memorable metal albums (the chorus of 'Rise' from their 2011 debut full-length still sticks to my brain), Artizan are back with a third effort in the form of a futuristic sci-fi album called "The Furthest Reaches".

This time around, the music is, while still as melodic and accessible as always, slightly darker in tone, as reflected in the cello-based intro of the title track - which by the way is super epic and quite progressive. In fact, the Floridan band really seems to have embraced epicness this time, and that is a smart move, because, of course sci-fi narratives about spaceships and supernovas should be epic. 'Hopeful Eyes' is a nicely melodic and epic affair with massive vocals and melody galore, and there is even a wee touch of Thin Lizzy in the form of some sweet twin guitar harmonies. The heavy 'The Cleansing' is another dark track which open with an ominous evil laughter and then takes on an almost Solitude Aeturnus-esque epic doom metal-like character. The following track is strangely uptempo and melancholic at the same time, while 'Supernova' combines a sense of apocalyptic aggression with soaring vocals and 'Into the Sun' concludes the album on a musically uplifting note (and pays homage to Randy Rhoads in the process).

The songwriting on this album is of very high quality, as the band manages to combine hard rocking metal with melody and sophistication without every gong over the top. The performance is also very solid, with Ty Tammeus' clockwork drumming meshing in well with the melodic guitars, driving bass and Tom Braden's crystal clear singing voice. With guest performances by Matt Barlow and Sabrina Cruz, this album should be attractive to power metal aficionados. While this album does not contain a song as memorable as 'Rise', it does overall have a slight edge over the two preceding albums which, as mentioned, are already very good. I think one factor here is that the production on "The Furthest Reaches" is a bit better.

In conclusion, this is another bull's eye from one of Florida's best melodic meta bands, and fans of both traditional metal and power metal, as well as progressive metal, should definitely check it out.

ILIUM My Misanthropia

Album · 2015 · Power Metal
Cover art 3.67 | 3 ratings
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Lingua franca...

Genre: power metal

Following up on 2011's "Genetic Memory", the power metallers in Ilium are just about to release their next full-length with the title "My Misanthropia".

As with the predecessor, "My Misanthropia" is more in the vein of US power metal than cheesy Euro power metal, as the tracks, while melodic and larger than life, are aggressive and powerful. Several tracks have slightly thrashy elements without every being power-thrash, and aesthetics of traditional heavy metal are ubiquitous on the release. As power metal goes, this is the type of power metal that I prefer, because it puts the power back in the metal, and it also inject a slight dose of darkness into the whole picture. I would even say that this album has a slight edge over the preceding album.

The production is interesting as it is not super crisp but has a slight warm fuzz to it. The musicianship and songwriting is top notch, and this is an album that those who like US power metal should definitely check out.

SORCERER In The Shadow of the Inverted Cross

Album · 2015 · Doom Metal
Cover art 4.35 | 6 ratings
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Heathens from the north...

Genre: epic doom metal

Over the last fifteen years or so, doom metal seems to be dominated by either crass and sloppy down-tuned sludge doom acts or pseudo-psychedelic stoner bands, and that's fine, but the best doom metal to my ears always has been and always will be old school doom metal and epic doom metal. The Swedish band Sorcerer - formed in 1988 and reformed in 2010 - operate within both of these genres, and "In the Shadow of the Inverted Cross" is actually their debut full-length.

Crushingly heavy - the old school way - are tracks like 'Pagans Dance' and 'Sumerian Script''. And the opening track clearly shows that these Swedes have the same D(oom)NA as the guys in Count Raven and Candlemass. It is clear that Sorcerer belongs in the upper echelon of of Swedish doom metal. The magnificent 'Lake of Lost Souls' captures all that is good about doom metal with its oppressive, yet lush, heavy textures. The title track is a heavily pumping affair with a nice stomping rhythm and soaring vocals. Others like 'Through the Gates of Hell' and 'Exorcise the Demon' are uptempo hard rocking tracks, and both feature elements from both traditional metal and hard rock. And 'Prayers for a King', holy fucking shitfuck! Pardon my French, but this track is perhaps the best doom metal song I have ever heard in my life. With heavy beats, multiply layered guitar harmonies and clean, melodic vocals, this song is the epitome of epic doom metal.

Upon the very first listen, it should become apparent that these guys are veterans. Featuring band members with backgrounds in Tiamat, Speaking to Stones, Section A, Therion, Demonoid, and 220 Volt, the members of Sorcerer have years of experience with various subgenres of metal, including death metal, traditional metal, progressive metal, and Gothic metal, and this album is characterized by professionalism and focus in terms of both performance and songwriting. All compositions are very strong, and it is very obvious that these guys know exactly what they are doing. the guitar solos are kind of virtuousic without being mindlessly shreddy, which is a bit refreshing, and Anders Engberg's vocals have a nicely hard rock edge to them as well as a the soaring quality that suits epic doom metal so well. Engberg is perhaps a name that people associate with progressive metal, given that he sings in Section A and has contributed to Speaking To Stones, but he was actually an original member of Sorcerer, and his voice is just perfect for this kind of music.

Needless to say, this is recommended to all fans of epic doom metal. It's a near-masterpiece, and I am already looking forward to their next album!

INCULTER Persisting Devolution

Album · 2015 · Thrash Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Pastoral slaughter...

Genre: thrash metal

Only in their late teens, Norwegian thrashers Inculter have already released an EP and a split, and now they are about to unleash their debut album upon the world.

I have seen the band described as cult blackened thrash band, and that description is perhaps not totally imprecise, but the songs that this album contain are more than just blackened thrash metal. There is enough of Slayer worship to go around (particularly reflected in the frantic guitar solos), to be sure, but the songs on the album are all dynamically composed and contain several parts, and the level of technicality is higher than on your average blackened thrash metal album. There is just as much, if not more, influence from Teutonic thrash as from black metal on this album. The main attraction of this album is the sheer aggression that every track harnesses.

This is not merely blackened thrash metal. It is fast and aggressive, but there are also enough things going on to keep fans of more complex thrash metal interested. In my book, this is a very strong debut album, and, given that the guys in the band are just kids, who knows what glorious thrash metal masterpieces the will create in the future.

THUNDERHEART Night of the Warriors

Album · 2015 · Traditional heavy metal
Cover art 3.50 | 1 rating
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On the shoulders of giants...

Genre: traditional heavy metal

Thunderheart is a Spanish traditional heavy metal trio. Although formed in 2014, its members are by no means noobies and have been involved in several bands, such as opus Dead, Calibre Zero, Steel Horse, and Wild.

And their experience definitely shows on Thunderheart's debut album "Night of the Warriors". It is very clear that this band know exactly what they are doing and what they want to achieve, as the songs on this album feature all the aesthetics of 80s metal. Every song is a tribute to the likes of Judas Priest, Running Wild, Iron Maiden, Saxon, and Accept. And, as heard in the chorus of 'Killing My Fears', there is a slight touch of power metal, while 'Rules of a Lie' pays homage to Black Sabbath.

There is not much originality on this album, but that does not mean that the songwriting and musicianship are not up to scratch... because they are. Every song is solid, and this album definitely does justice to the legacy of the giants of 80s metal - in terms of composition, performance, and production.

Fans of 80s metal should definitely check this album out.

FORGOTTEN TOMB Hurt Yourself And The Ones You Love

Album · 2015 · Melodic Black Metal
Cover art 4.00 | 1 rating
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Bad dreams come true...

Genre: groove/doom metal

Once a depressive black metal band, Forgotten Tomb have really undergone a transformation. On the previous album "... And Don't Deliver Us from Evil" from 2012, that transformation was already in progress, as that album was a blend of black, gothic, and doom metal.

The transformation seems to be complete on "Hurt Yourself and the Ones You Love", which features next to no black metal elements. Apart from a sense of dissonance which is probably inherited from black metal and a couple of blastbeat sections (notably in 'Bad Dreams Come True'), this album is much more of a bled of doom metal groove metal, and death 'n' roll. And I must say, this is pretty good. The production is solid, and the songs are crushingly groovy and doom-laden, and the growled vocals add a feel of death metal to the mix.

Fans of crushingly groovy doom metal should check this album out.

RANGER Where Evil Dwells

Album · 2015 · Speed Metal
Cover art 3.83 | 3 ratings
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Defcon 1...

Genre: speed metal

The debut full-length by Finnish speed metallers, Ranger, "Where Evil Dwells" follows the two EPs "Knights of Darkness" and "Shock Skull" as well as a bunch of demos.

The style delivered on this, rather short album (7 tracks, 38 minutes) continues down the same road as on the two EPs. Thus, the seven tracks on the album fall under the rubric of old school speed metal. While the tempos are fast, and there are a few thrashy moments, the songs on this album are best described as traditional metal played at high speed (think old Overkill meets Iron Maiden). And this (still) works very well, as the listener is bombarded with guitar melodies, Dave Murray-ish solos, fast drums, and really hysterical vocals that fall somewhere between Paul Baloff and Bobby Blitz.

The seven songs are very good and extremely well put together, and there is nothing at all wrong with the musicianship. The production is a bit rough around the edges, but it adds an authentic retro feel to the album.

The "Shock Skull" release took the quality a tad down from "Knights of Darkness", but on "Where Evil Dwells", the quality is taken up a notch again. In other words, this is a friggin' nice speed metal album, and fans of early Helloween, Maiden, Whiplash, early Metallica and the like should definitely check it out.

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